Saturday 28 March 2020

Many years ago now I had a blog called 'The Inner Sphere' entirely devouted to EPT. Events in James Maliszewski's 'House of Worms' campiagn has reminded me of something I wrote about the nefarious workings of the temple of Ksarul, so I have dug it out.

All of the following is non-canonical, but if I am GMing EPT excpet some of the nonsense below to be true in my game...

Ksarul, Ancient Lord of Secrets

Ksarul is the Tsolyani god of secrets, mysteries and magic. Like all Tsolyani deities his religion is a complex business with 62 different recognised aspects (plus a few local ones), a close relationship with his 'cohort' Gruganu and his 27 aspects.

Ksarul goes by numerous epithets; the most common is 'The Doomed Prince of the Blue Room', alluding to his aeons long imprisonment in a room hung with deep blue curtains, permanently asleep, surrounded by ten impregnable magical walls. Even in this comatose state Ksarul is a mighty god.

Expanding Universe: Scarabomancy



This religion is a mystery cult writ large. Believers accept that the 'Outer Doctrines' as taught to lay members are essentially false, and that as a priest rises within the temple more and more of the true 'Inner Doctrines' are revealed to him. 

What constitutes real promotion in the temple is complicated by the presence of three major mutually mistrustful sects and the presence of the secret 'Inner Sphere', the membership of which is unknown and which directs the actions of the temple through secret meetings and subtle pressures.

The Temple of Ksarul operates on a paradox - everyone is expected to behave with utter faith and sincerity, doing what their higher ups tell them is the will of the Doomed Prince at all times and without question, while at the same time making it perfectly clear members of it's clergy are not only expected to tell lies to those below them in the hierarchy, it is their religious duty to do so.

This is Zen Stalinism, deliberate belief in a dictatorship that you know is lying to you, in order to gain sufficient knowledge and power to become a liar yourself. Add to that the fact that there are several different interpretations of what the will of the Doomed Prince actually is, and that it is difficult to know precisely who your superiors are when the most important ones - the Inner Sphere - lurk within the temple as spies on their own people.

Never, ever question whether a superior is telling you the truth. He is probably lying and certainly keeping various salient facts from you, possibly for your own good, possibly not, but never come right out and say it to their face, or even subtly imply that you do not trust the smiling goon as far as you can throw him/her. 

However Ksarulites are not gullible, far from it, the religion values intelligence (as opposed to wisdom, the domain of Thumis). And thus ambitious types are always on the lookout for opportunities to work out what kind of conspiracy is really going on, to spy on each other, steal documents, use blackmail and so on in order to ensure that they on the inside of any conspiratorial cabal pissing out and not one of the urinated on.

Of course all temples are like this to some extent (even those snivelling Thumis wimps) but with the Ksarulites it is tacitly accepted, and a follower caught in the act of any number of petty treacheries and misdemeanours will get off comparatively lightly - and might even be marked for promotion as being a person with a bit of flair and ambition and a suitably change deity attitude to stuffy stablity-favoured things like precedent and hierarchy.


Ksarulite Masks

Priests of Ksarul wear black robes with silver masks depicting the blandly smiling and friendly face of their deity, and square mortarboard like head-dresses, female priests have black wooden masks of the same kind. 

This kit is stiflingly hot, and unless they are attending a ceremony most priests will just wear the hat with a black and deep blue collar and a black kilt with a silver belt. Unlike priests of other religions Ksarulites do not usually wear insignia depicting their Circle rank; you often have no idea if you are talking to a junior clerk or a temple commandant, and given the vagaries of the Inner Sphere system the junior clerk may in fact have more real authority.

When they talk to the laity or say a chant or prayer in their role as a priest or priestess they use a droning sing-song voice that makes it hard to tell one from another. You will know whether it is a priest or priestess, but that is about it.

It is a tale the Ksarulites like to spread that the truly powerful among them like to circulate among the lower clergy and laity incognito and with deep cover indentities. That sweeper who works in the lower cloister, with a cast in one eye and muutters to himself? May well be the Chagun Hikkolei, Commander of Energies and Powers, a sorcerer outranking the High Priest himself... 


Sects of Ksarul

There are three major sects within the temple, each with its own spin on the theology and mythology of Ksarul; the reasonably open Society of the Blue Light, the ultra secretive Refulgent Blue Curtain Society which dominates in Tumissa and the Chakan provinces and the feared Ndalu society which conspires to gain greater political power for the temple. (See the Temple of Ksarul netbook and Mitlanyal Vol 2 for further details.)

There are numerous lesser sects, three of which are detailed below.

Cartographers of the Luminous Pylon

This is a group of two dozen adherents of Ksarul and Gruganu (and one of Dlamelish) based in Tumissa who are trying to map the many alternative demon planes. They are seeking to do this not through visiting these mostly lethal places, but through visions and scrying. They are of the opinion that it ought to be possible to use psychic methods to look into the other planes just as it is possible to use clairvoyance and telepathy; it is just a matter of getting your mind into the appropriate state of consciousness. They mostly do this through immoderate use of drugs. They communicate their findings through pictures and poetry, trying to capture the true otherworldly essence of the places they have seen in bizarre abstract paintings and incantations that appear to be gibberish.

Serious magicians regard them as dangerous loonies and disdain their methods and loathe the provocative and ungrammatical way they express their ideas, but the Cartographers are sure that they are onto something, perhaps the biggest revolution in magical theory and practice since Llyani times. The temple hierarchy will not stamp them out however; perhaps they secretly think the Cartographers will produce something useful, perhaps they are useful to the temple as a fertile source of false and confusing doctrines to baffle the uninitiated as to what Ksarul worship is really about.

The Cartographers have no hierarchy as such, just a charismatic leader, Zuthau hiTlekku of the Dark Fear clan, who pays for much of the 'work' out of his own pocket. Meetings of the Cartographers take place at Aubshoi's Palace of Alchemy shop in the Arcade of Three Lamps. They often start out like poetry readings or art exhibitions, proceed into drugged and drunken debauches and fairly frequently end in fist fights over disputed aspects of transplanar theory. Once in a while they will try an experimental incantation, which even more rarely will, after a fashion, work. 

They were banished from the temple proper when a particularly annoying plague of demonic teleporting crickets spewed forth from one of their nexus gates and infested the temple for weeks.

Stalkers of the Indigo Night

A secret organisation dedicated to protecting Ksarul and Hru'u pilgrims on the road to the shrines at the ruined city of Hmakuyal. Most people are well aware of the shrines, but the official line is that they are secret, and certainly no non-worshipper is allowed into the underground complex beneath the city, and access for most lower order clergy and lay members is seriously restricted. The Stalkers are made up of members of the Temple guard from Ksarul, Gruganu and Hru'u, and given the sinister nature of these cults are likely to have other functions as well as policing.

Whisperers in the Velvet Dark

This is an order of dedicated seers. Every major city temple will have a few such and a special secret chapel and cloister housing them. The fully initiated Whisperers are not allowed to be in the presence of light of any kind, if they are exposed even to lamplight they lose their gift of prophecy and incur an arduous period of re-purfication. Their apprentices are sometimes seen around the ordinary lamp-lit levels of catacombs, flitting to and fro unmasked but with their eyes sewn shut, touching the wals to feel the carvings that guide them around the temple. The novices stumble about even on the upper levels at night blindfolded learning this craft.

The priests of this sect are needed to perform the Acts of the Velvet Dark, and also perform divinations for the higher priesthood. Rich laymen may also consult them, being led blindfold through unlit labyrinths by the apprentices and allowed to listen in on their whispering rites from adjacent cells. 

Once a year they issue an almanac of prophecies for the laity, a nice little earner for the temple scriptoria, but since the originals are written by blind people working in total darkness and in black ink on black dyed vellum made from the hide of unhatched Shuoleth demons scribal interpretations are by neccessity a little free.


The Inner Sphere

The most important institution in the Temple of Ksarul is the Inner Sphere, a temple within a temple, the knowers of the most secret secrets and paracticioners of the most potent magics.

This is not be confused with the 'Inner Temple' - this is merely the holiest part of a physical Temple, the sanctuary made in the form of the Blue Room and its subterranean adjuncts like the Cloister of the Velvet Dark, the Hall of Encroaching Nullity and Halls of the Priesthoods of Shadow.

Nor has it anything directly to do with the 'Inner Doctrines', the succession of secrets a priest may be initiated into as he rises from circle to circle in the 'Outer Sphere' of the temple, its outwardly apparent hierarchy.

The Inner Sphere is a network of cells within the temple and occasioanally extending to the laity. Each member will know a few bits of spycraft that enable him to stay in touch with his cell. He or she probably not know the identities of his fellow cell members with any certainty, as they only ever meet masked and robed and using tricks and magic to disguise their voices. Each cell will have a grandiloquent or utterly mundane title like 'The Jilted Lovers of Kriyag', 'Zanatl's Hidden Blades', 'The Thirteenth Day Luncheon Club', 'The Collectors of Ji-Flies' or some such.

One member of a cell will the the 'First' and will be a member of a higher cell. Some will in turn be the first of a lesser cell with people to reporting to them. The orders passed down to each cell are every much on a 'need to know' basis, and allegedly utlimately originate at the Doorway of the Blue Room, where demons sit in communion with the mighty dreaming mind of the Doomed Prince himself. In addition each cell may make local adjustments to plans, submit reports to higher cells and manipulate the action of lower cells. 

And there are plenty of False Spheres, those who are told only fake secrets and given meaningless rites and tasks to perform. A given worshipper will never know whether they are in a real Inner Sphere cell or one of the False ones. There are quite defintely spheres made up of only the stupid and least adept at spycraft to create a lot of silly so and sos sneaking about as a diversion from the real secret societies. 

One of the few religious crimes the Ksarulites will act upon (through secret assassination of course) is the heresy of suggesting that all Spheres are false spheres, that the whole arrangement of cells is circular and the secrets passed about no more than 'Livyani whispers', spin and distortion piled on rumour forever recirculating and that the Doomed Prince is in fact dead and says nothing.