The Dry Season
Religion in the Islands
Perhaps because of the widespread presence of arcane magic, organized religion has little hold in the Islands. The Gnomes hold shared beliefs in their creator star, but no specific system of worship or prayer. Indeed, they believe the stars represent a class of beings greater than the gods – a position which may be a result of their ongoing disputes with the deeply religious dwarves and lizardfolk.
Amongst orcs and elves most of spiritual life is dominated by ancestor worship. Humans typically follow the same ideas as the culture they live in, though some uniquely human traditions remain, and there are often important differences even in Orcish and Elven lands.
The orcs believe the dead join the great kingdom of the heavens, their positions in the celestial order determined by how well they served the order of the Celestial Kingdom in life. Only those families whose ancestors were truly in harmony with this order – and this usually means that they were members of the Imperial family, great generals or skillful ministers of the bureaucracy – have any direct contact with their ancestors’ spirits, and even then rarely call on them to interfere in the affairs of the living. Rather, it is believed that good fortune and prosperity are often signs that an ancestor has asked heaven to intercede on behalf of their descendants, and that famine and misfortune are a sign that an ancestor has been offended enough to ask heaven to curse the family.
The elves ancestor-worship is more direct – the ghosts of dead family inhabit their homes, and in a home that contains many generations of ghosts, will often guard the family from harm – few elven families with ancestral lands or homes find it necessary to lock their doors to ward against thieves, and some of the oldest families can even call their ancestors to take on a semblance of physical life, wielding magical weapons and armor in defense of their living family members. It is not clear how they are able to do this – it is not something innate to the elves, for humans who follow the same rituals and practices receive the same protections. Indeed, because they pass through generations more quickly, a human family may have a home better-protected than a far older elven one, though the home itself will rarely be as impressive.
Two unique forms of human religion have arisen: one, a belief whose adherents believe it predates human arrival in the islands, holds that humans have a uniquely strong connection the natural world and the spirits that inhabit it. The druids who lead these believers are adept at hiding and sustaining small communities wherever they may thrive, but the humans have grown too many and too used to city life, even as poor and unwanted city-dwellers, for many to see any serious hope in his way of life.
The second blends the ancestor-worship common to the islands, the human belief that once they ruled a grand empire, and the all too common tendency of human enchanters to try and bind demons to their will. These men and women, called the Coursers, believe that as the ancient human empire collapsed, the priests of the empire turned to a demon lord named Vriga and offered up their entire people as his servants if he would save them. The demon lord refused, repulsed by the weakness of humanity, and so the high priest challenged him to combat. Though his doom was swift, the high priest wounded the demon lord before he fell, and so Vriga relented, and allowed that those humans who showed sufficient strength would be his hunters in the mortal world. Strength is shown through courage and skill in combat; many of the Red Crows count themselves as Coursers, seeking the power of a demon lord to threaten the Celestial Kingdom.