The Obelisk Prophecy
Spiritual Beliefs of the Akiri
Spiritual Beliefs of the Akiri Beyond the swirling mists lies Har’Akir, an endless sea of sands smouldering beneath the scorching rays of the merciless sun. Beneath the burning dunes lie the ruins of a great civilization, buried beneath centuries of decay. Only a few obelisks and temples remain, slowly eroding to the onslaught of time. Of the builders of those monuments, there remains only a scant few survivors. After centuries of decline, only the tiny city of Muhar remains of the great civilization. Though few in number, the Akiri still cling to their ancient culture. Their memories stretch beyond the centuries and sadly recall the Golden Age of their ancestors; a time where the Gods walked the earth as men and their glory was immortal. Even in their age of misery, the Akiri treasure their amazing beliefs, in the slim hopes that their world is not doomed.
Ma’at Ma’at is the core concept of Akiri thought; it is the force of harmony, truth, wisdom and law. All of an Akiri’s actions are devoted to maintaining Ma’at in his life, to make his own corner of the world peaceful and orderly. Ma’at is a universal force; indeed, it is the force that maintains the very cosmos. Each individual contributes his or her own Ma’at, adding to the harmony of the community, and through that, the order of the universe. Ma’at is not a force of good in the strict sense; it is a necessity for life. Only in an orderly, harmonious world can life flourish, thus all life depends on the maintained of Ma’at. The Gods were once the guardians of Ma’at; centuries ago they sent kings and priests to maintain harmony in the universe. At present, the Ma’at of Har’Akir is broken. The cosmic discord is palpable on the wind, crops are sickly and life is miserable. The last pharaoh to rule the Akiri committed such atrocities that the gods forsook the people and doomed the universe to a slow death. Without the presence of the Gods, Ma’at is impossible to maintain. In an attempt to cleanse the universe of Ankhtepot’s evil, the gods have unleashed the force of entropy so that this universe may perish and another might arise. With the royal blood extinguished, the only link to the Gods remains the priests. Led by the priestess Snefru, these clerics make offerings in the attempt to draw the attention of the Gods. It is the last hope of the Akiri that the Gods will show mercy to the people and return harmony to the world.
Ka Ka is the animating force of the body; it is the spirit of the person and the essence of their being. The Ka of a person is believed to be the centre of personal power; it is the reservoir of all authority, charisma and strength. In the ancient times it was believes that only a pharaoh possessed a Ka, but as time passed this quality was attributed to all people. An Akiri’s ka is often confused with the concept of a soul, though the Akiri make the distinction. The Ka is not consciousness or personality but merely the force that drives the mind. Each person possesses a ka, unique to that individual, specially chose by the gods. The Akiri believe that the individual, to maintain ma’at, must obey the will of his ka. Pharaohs were believed to have a divine ka, which would give them the ability and the drive to maintain ma’at in society. The most ancient writings declared that these god kings were animated by the ka of Horus, the divine son of the Gods Osiris and Isis. The pharaoh was assumed to act as the Ka for all of civilization, with his divine power as the source of all society’s strength and his laws acting as the conscious of the Akiri. Current Akiri thought holds that the last pharaoh, Ankhtepot, abandoned his ka, which led to the decay of society. Some believe that the ka of Horus still exists somewhere, waiting to be found by the next pharaoh.
Ba While Ka is the source of personal power, it is Ba that expresses force. Ba is the link between Ka and reality; it is the mechanism by which an Akiri affects the world around him. The Akiri believe that after death, a person’s Ba lives on in the body and may even travel across the world. The Ba is often depicted in paintings as a bird with the head of a human, though it is believed that the Ba is naturally invisible. In the past, the Ba was only associated with Kings and Gods. The Ba allowed these beings to exercise physical force in the world, giving them an unending reach over the earth. In his age of decline it is believed that the spirits of the dead have power, not unlike the gods. Thus, all Akiri are believed to have a Ba of their own.
The Ba is an animating force in the body until death, when it becomes free. During the day a Ba is free to roam the earth, acting out the will of the deceased. By the fall of night a person’s Ba must retreat to the safety of the tomb, where it slumbers. A person’s Ba requires the body to survive in the afterlife. This Ba is a guardian of its tomb and the treasures within. When someone trespasses into a tomb or disgraces a body, the Ba has the power to return to the mortal realm and seek revenge.
Society in Decline Akiri society is indelibly marked by the decline of their civilization. The atrocities of Ankhtepot occurred centuries ago, and since that age the Akiri civilization has withered like a delicate lotus beneath the merciless rays of the sun. Crop yields plummeted steadily, as did the birthrate. Pestilence and disease periodically struck, and mysterious raiders destroyed the rule of divine law. Most damaging of all was the despair that ran throughout Akiri society, without the guidance of their gods, the Akiri gave in to their destruction with little resistance. As time passed, the cities of Har’Akir became deserted and were buried in the rolling sea of sand until only one settlement remained.
By the year 755, by the Barovian Calendar, the people of Har’Akir face oblivion. For generations the Akiri have known that their world is slowly ending, each generation faces the rising tide of time and feels the numbing sting of the eroding winds of change. Though the Akiri want for little, the ruins of the civilization of their ancestors surround them. Each man, woman and child knows that their people are doomed, they will never rise to those lofty heights again, and one day will vanish from the earth. Optimism is as precious as water, and many time more rare. The Akiri are a reserved people, speaking sparingly even to their closest friends. They live, labour and love in silence, hoping not to draw attention to themselves and their slow doom. The birth of a child is often a sullen occasion, though the birth of each succeeding child becomes more and more festive as the family grows in size. Few families are blessed by more than two children, though the occasionally large family offsets the losses from stillbirths and accidents.
The Pharazians In the year 590, by the Barovian Calendar, the domain of Pharazia formed in the mists. The domain held a culture not unlike that of the Akiri, indeed it seemed as though the nomads of Pharazia might have once been part of the Akiri civilization, conquered during the first century of decline. Thought these nomads worship the same gods as the Akiri, their culture is very distinct. Despite the oppression these nomads face from the tyrant Diamabel, these nomads are not gripped with the same melancholy that plagues their Akiri cousins. Even still, the nomads share the Akiri view that Har’Akir is the centre of the universe, and is thus the most important place in the entire world. The nomads sell the Akiri slaves and supplies at a low cost and generally try their best to assist the Akiri people. The nomads act as the military for Har’Akir, patrolling their border and watching over vulnerable tombs. The nomads believe that if they can restore Har’Akir to its former glory, Diamabel will lose his grip upon their land.
The nomads have added influences from Pharazia to their religion. Amon Ra is seen as the chief deity, who serves the role of Osiris, Horus and as the Sun God. The other gods are viewed as celestial servants of Ra, not as Gods in their own right. Borrowing from Diamabel’s doctrine, the nomads believe in the theory of a single soul, which exists independent of the body. The remains of a human remain sacred to the nomads, and while they do not mummify their own dead, they fanatically protect the ancient tombs of the Akiri.
The ancient writings of Har’Akir say that their land is the centre of the universe. The Cosmos, they say, is a vast disk that stretches into infinity. Har’Akir is the most critical point in the universe, and any disturbance that occurs in their land is sure to spread discord throughout the world. The decline of Har’Akir heralds the end of the present universe, slowly the sands will burry everything within the cosmos, ending only after Muhar is buried. The Akiri people still hold their belief, and apply it to all of their foreign relations. The Akiri are often taken agape when a traveler stumbles upon Muhar and knows nothing of their land, describing strange places filled with such ridiculous things as castles or forests or snow. Despite the fictitious tales of travelers, the Akiri know that the entire universe revolves around them.
The Akiri revere a large pantheon of Gods, all of whom are interrelated by marriages and reincarnation. The position of chief deity has changed over the many centuries that the Akiri civilization has existed, though since Har’Akir was drawn into Ravenloft, the pantheon has stabilized.
Anubis: Though he is often confused with the god of Death, Anubis is associated with the preparation of the dead. The jackal-headed god oversees the transition of the living into the afterlife. The priests of Anubis prepare bodies by mummification and weaving intricate spells over them to ensure safe passage into the afterlife. Anubis is worshiped by all Akiri at funerals and given offerings in exchange for the service of mummifying the body of the deceased.
Though a well-respected god, there is a virulent strain of Anubis cultists. These deviants see Anubis as the chief deity and associate him with plagues, murder, age and any other factor related to death. Naturally, the priests who rule Muhar consider this worship heresy. All priests who express these views are slain, so only a few cloistered cells remain of this cult, hidden in the wastes of Har’Akir and Sebua. So devoted are these priests that it is even rumoured that they have been remade in the image of Anubis, “blessed” with the feral head of a jackal. I n Muhar, Anubis enjoys a large temple, disproportionate for his small following. This temple is used to prepare the dead for burial, so it doubles as a morgue. The temple consists of an ornate inner sanctum, surrounded by the “ibu”, the place of purification. It is in the ibu that bodies are embalmed and prepared for burial. Offerings to Anubis are made as donations to the temple, in exchange for services. Anubis is true neutral and possesses the domains of death, magic and repose. Those who worship in the depraved, neutral evil cults of Anubis gain the domains of death, evil and repose.
Hathor: Hathor is the cow headed goddess of agriculture. Since her work is critical to the survival of the Akiri, many worship her. A great festival is held in her honour each year at harvest, praising her for sustaining their culture for one more year. There are three shrines to Hathor, and one moderately large ziggurat dedicated to the cow goddess. Offerings to Hathor include fatted calves and bundles of grain. In most cases the offerings are distributed to the priests, though on special occasions the offerings are burnt in a great fire. There are many priests of Hathor, many of whom directly oversee the farming in Muhar. Hathor is neutral good and has the domains animal, good and plant.
Horus: Son of Osiris, Horus avenged his father’s death by slaying Set. Horus became the second pharaoh of Har’Akir, beginning the tradition of divine blood and reincarnation. Horus is depicted as a falcon headed man; all birds of prey are considered his heralds. Priests no longer worship Horus, but the priests of Ra honour him in writings. Horus does maintain a following amongst the guards who serve the clerics of Muhar, who see him as their master in the absence of a true pharaoh. There are no priests of Horus, though the temple guards maintain a tiny shrine at the foot of a hill in the centre of Muhar. Horus is lawful good and has the domains air, good, law and protection.
Isis: The wife and the sister of Osiris, Isis is the feline goddess revered by most Akiri women. It was Isis who rebuilt Osiris as a mummy and latter cast the spells to resurrect him. The cat is a symbol of Isis and a sacred creature to the Akiri. Isis and her cats are considered the guardians of the afterlife, responsible for resurrecting the dead so that they might live on in the afterlife. Isis worship has evolved into a cult of womanhood. The vast majority of her priests are women, who take the role of educators and midwives. The temple of Isis is located near the centre of Muhar. It is a lavish building, filled with statues and other monuments. Offerings to Isis include grain and other goods, with luxury items such as silk or perfume fetching the highest blessings from the clerics. The clerics of Isis breed cats and sell them to their congregation. Isis is neutral good and possessed the domains animal, magic, and luck.
Osiris: Osiris was the first of the chief deities of Har’Akir, also known as the first pharaoh of Har’Akir. Slain and dismembered by his vile brother Set, Osiris was resurrected and returned to the living world as a god. Depicted as a green skinned man, Osiris is the god of the afterlife, the eternal guardian of Ma’at and the source of divinity of pharaohs. Each pharaoh held the “Ka” of Osiris, and with each death his ka was reborn in the succeeding king. Like a real pharaoh, Osiris would latter be succeeded by his son Horus.
Osiris is worshiped by a small following of clerics. As the lord of the afterlife, the clerics of Osiris oversee the final rituals of funerals, where the spells are cast to see the dead to their afterlife. Osiris’ clerics are known to watch over the tombs of the ancients, protecting them from those who would desecrate their sacred tombs. These guardians are feared throughout the Amber Wastes for the punishments they meet out to grave robbers. Osiris has one major temple on the edge of the city, and two shrines in the most populated area. Laws passed by the Priestess Snefru dictate that the priests of Osiris receive their offerings only from the clerics of Ra, as a means of subjugating Osiris to mighty Ra. Osiris is neutral good and his domains are good, protection, repose and water.
Ra: Also known as Amon Ra, he was a newer God, introduced shortly before Ankhtepot’s atrocities. Amon Ra is the God of the Sun, an ever-watching guardian of truth, justice and ma’at. Though separate from Horus, Ra is considered to be the father of each king and the source of their divinity. Ra is the chief deity of Har’Akir, and naturally he is the most popular. Each morning Ra is reborn and pilots his solar boat across the sky, issuing justice and fostering Ma’at throughout the day.
Sadly, the priests of Ra feel the constant scorn of their god. Pharaoh Ankhtepot’s atrocious assault on the Gods enraged Ra, so much so that the sun god has refused to reincarnate himself and allowed Har’Akir to dissolve. The priests of Ra fervently hope that their pleas will be heard and Ra will return to them. Until that day, Ra grants his servants spells, if only to prolong the suffering of Har’Akir. Worship of Amon Ra is a grand affair, by Akiri standards. Ra possesses a great temple built upon a hill in the centre of Muhar. On holy days the stone statue of Ra is carried in a procession around the city. Offerings to Ra are mostly grains, collected as tithe from the Akiri. All people taken, as slaves for crimes are the property of Ra’s clerics, though additional slaves can be given be wealthy Akiri seeking Ra’s wisdom. Ra is lawful good and has the domains of air, good, law and sun.
Set: Also known as Seth and the Gnawing Serpent, Set is the dead god of treachery, entropy and serpents. Ever jealous of his brother Osiris, Set attempted to destroy his brother’s universe so that he might create one in his image. Slain by Horus, Set is trapped in eternal torment in the afterlife. The goal of Set is to destroy the universe so that he might escape and build his own realm. The followers of Set are hidden throughout Akiri society. While Ra has forsaken his people, Set seduces the greedy and perverse with promises of power and luxury when Set arises once again. His priests often pose as the priests of other gods, sowing discontent and chaos throughout society.
It is rumoured that followers of Set have created a stronghold somewhere in the Wastes, where they have marshalled forces for nearly a millennia. Rather than wait for Akiri society to vanish from the earth, Set’s minions hope to conquer it by force and free their dread master. Assassins, grave robbers, thieves and all forms of human scum worship set. Worship of Set is always a bizarre affair; in most cases it is limited to whispered prayers, though human sacrifice is not unheard of in the isolated corners of the Wastes. Set worshipers are known to keep serpents as pets, including deadly asps and cobras. Set is lawful evil and has the domains of death, evil and trickery.
Sobek: The crocodile headed God; Sobek is lord of the rain, rivers and oasis’s that sustain all life in the Amber Wastes. Though he is a bringer of life, Sobek is seen as a malignant creature. It is Sobek who withholds the water from the Amber Wastes, letting the land bake beneath Ra’s merciless rays. Rather than let mankind die quickly, Sobek sends the rains once a year, just enough to sustain the Akiri. These deluges flood the land, causing mudslides, collapsing houses and spreading havoc everywhere. In the wake of rain comes the endless plague of ravenous mosquitoes, which make life in the desert unbearable torture. Just as Ankhtepot tortured the priests of the Gods, so too does Sobek torment the people of Har’Akir.
Despite his evil, Sobek is worshiped by a tiny following. The people recognize that Sobek is a necessary evil, issuing the punishment prescribed by Amon Ra, so he is honoured accordingly. Most farmers give Sobek a token offering, in the hopes that he will be merciful and choose not to punish them. Sobek has one shrine, built into the shore of the oasis. Offerings to Sobek include calves, grain and fish that are given to Sobek’s priests. Sobek’s priests also sell mummified crocodiles, most of which are faked. These mummies are good luck charms, designed to protect the owner from the crocodile god’s wrath. Sobek is chaotic evil and has the domains of destruction, evil and water.
Thoth: Thoth is the God of knowledge and scholars. All professionals, from architects to doctors, worship Thoth. At the time of Ankhtepot Thoth worship was abandoned, but a few remaining scholars pay him tribute. The ibis god has only one shrine dedicated to him, and though it is well cared for, it is rarely visited. Thoth worship is limited to a few daily prayer rituals, practiced by a professional before he begins his daily work. Thoth is neutral good and has the domains of knowledge, magic and protection.