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September 7, 2007, 9:37 pm

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Cloister of the Empty Table

By:

Come ye who HUNGER!

I have faith in you Oh Emptiness.
I have faith in the Eternal Fast.
I have faith in the Infinite Thirst.
Ayyoshas suffering be praised! Overcome any bitterness that may have come
because you were not up to the magnitude
of the pain and suffering that was entrusted to you.
Like Ayyosha, the Mother of Hunger
who carries the pain of the world
in her heart, each one of us is
part of her heart and therefore
each is endowed with a certain measure
of cosmic hunger
You are sharing in the totality
of that suffering and are called upon
to meet it in joy instead of
self-pity.
Only when you purge yourself of all sustenance
can you begin to tread the path of enlightenment.

Oh Emptiness that I come from,
out of which all things come,

I love you more than all the fires
that fence the world,
for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone,
and then no one outside learns of you.

But the Emptiness pulls in everything,
shapes and fires, beasts and men.

How easily it gathers them,
powers and people.

It is possible a great energy is moving near us.
I have faith in you Oh Emptiness.
I have faith in the Eternal Fast.
I have faith in the Infinite Thirst.
  
Ayyoshas suffering be praised!

   excerpts from The Gospel of Ayyosha

The Beginning

As the concepts and tenets of the One True Faith became fully forged among the halls of the One-King of Haracon and his cronies, the priests and ambassadors of the new religion began to expand their beliefs and extend their tendrils of influence across the lands. The idea was simple. Regardless of what anyone believed or who or what they worshipped, all the people needed to recognize and heed THE SOURCE of everything. The single point of focus, from which all gods, goddesses, and demons came from, was the heart of all belief according to the newly formed church. The myriad gods and religions of the people needed to be re-calibrated and centralized. There was no other effective way of governing such a diverse and widespread populace. At first, nominated popes of the One True Faith preached passive conversion. Believe in what you will, they preached in their sermons, but understand that your gods come from THE SOURCE. Eventually, and unsurprisingly, the agents of the One True Faith turned toward a more sinister approach to conversion. The word Pagan was introduced into the worlds vocabulary, and soon, all the gods and goddesses of men were being denounced and supplanted by the evolving, rigidly monotheistic One True Faith.

Often, wherever the Faith spread, violence and rebellions soon followed. The final hammer blow, from the One-King of Haracon, came in the form of The Inquisition. The popes and priests of the city of Waod, in northern Haracon, were selected and appointed the purveyors and enforcers of the Faith. These men and women became the favorites of the One-King in their ardor and ruthlessness, and proceeded to ring in a new age of torture and despair among the populace over the next half-century. In almost every sense this Inquisition was not unlike the one in Europe during the middle ages.

This is the story of one such Inquisitor, the vile Sastanimoq of Waod, and Ayyosha, a young sister of a local pagan order of the town of Juosel, what transpired between them thereafter, and the new order which she gave rise too.

Ayyosha belonged to a nameless, humble monastic order, which venerated the Inner Gods. This group believed in the Self, and eschewed worship of gods of the outside realm. The order preached nothing more than self-respect, self-preservation, and self-enlightenment. They believed the gods dwell within the individual, and worship was one of focus on ones own inner strengths and weaknesses as well as the pursuit of self-improvement through abstinence and the necessary suffering of the body and soul to achieve salvation in the next life.

Sastanimoq of Waod, was one of Haracons most vile and nefarious inquisitors. A man who was born to cause pain and suffering upon the less fortunate or the powerless. He took to the One True Faiths crusade of conversion with great relish and false conviction. Sometime during his traveling crusade he came upon the town of Jousel, and the small Cloister of the Inner God. Predictably, when the members of this monastery refused the conversion to the One True Faith, Sastanimoq went to work. Burning the chapterhouse and chapel, he then proceeded to round up the members and torture them, until they either accepted the Faith or died horribly. A few men and women escaped Sastanimoqs wraith. One of those original escapees was Ayyosha, a brave and willful young woman. Not only did she escape but she returned to Juosel under cover of darkness with a few comrades, as Sastanimoq and his torturers were preparing to have their supper feast. Through great guile, Ayyosha had the meals of the inquisitor and his cronies poisoned. Many Hammers of the One True Faith perished that night, but Sastanimoq survived. Learning of the treachery and the identities of the conspirators behind the act, he did not rest until they were all found, including Ayyosha.

Sastanimoq had infinite torture techniques at his disposal, but as punishment for the surviving members of the Inner God, he chose starvation. The monks and sisters of the Cloister practiced fasting as part of their rituals, and Sastanimoq was gleeful with his decision to make the survivors endure the ultimate fast. Six members were slowly straved to death. All but one, denounced their pagan beliefs before the bitter, excruciating end. Only Ayyosha suffered in silence. Throughout her torture, she had only one moment of weakness. Toward the end, Sastanimoq brought her feces to eat, and being delirious and maddened by hunger she partook of the excrement much to Sastanimoqs delight and amusement. Still though she did not renounce her faith. Nor did she beg. What happened next was a miracle of sorts

Ayyosha did not die, but was instead transformed. Sastanimoq saw her pale skin, the darkness around her eyes, and thought that she had perished as rose up as a shambling undead. Such things had occurred before and he was equipped to deal with them. Unfortunately for him, Ayyosha was no shambling corpse. Displaying increased strength, she took the holy symbol of the One True Faith from him and sent the Inquisitor running. He would not recall that she touched him and filled him with a great and terrible hunger. Sastanimoq was found the next day, dead, in front of a table of half-eaten food. After gorging himself to fill the emptiness his stomach burst and the Hammer of the One True Faith was undone by a roasted capon, bowls of lentils, and several loaves of crusty bread.

The Real Story

Locked in a small cell, surrounded by cold stone with only her hunger as a companion, Ayyosha refused to accept the false faith of the One True Faith. She cried out in her soul, weeping for vengeance against the men who had brought low her world, who had tortured her friends, her family. And she was answered, and was changed. She was the first to experience the Purgation as a fragment of the Arch-Demon of Famine wove itself into her body. With great effort of will, the almost dead Ayyosha vomited up her own stomach, giving the black motes of infernal power a place to nestle inside her torso.

The fragment of demonic essence allowed her to live on without consuming food or liquid, though Ayyosha was left to deal with the constant pangs of hunger. But as the gospel of Ayyosha saith; with prayer and meditation, the pain of hunger fades. Ayyoshas metabolism has completely stopped, and she has no need to even breath, but does so out of convenience. She is powered by the shard of demon power within her abdomen, which fuels itself by geomantic respiration (what do you think all that meditating is for) as well as leeching life force from those living around her. This power extends further out to curse people, spoil food and crops, and cause the stillbirth of livestock.

Armed with this new found vitality, Ayyosha returned to the old site of her home, and only the three story block-house that was the old monastery remained. Stone wouldnt burn no matter how much Sastanimoq tried to light it. She began to preach her own Gospel, revealing herself as a living saint of true divinity rather than the false dogma of the One True Faith. Soon, the Cloister of the Empty Table grew from Ayyosha alone to include the Thirteen Disciples and even more to come.

The Cloister

The Cloister of the Empty Table was originally a small monastery that was abandoned by the Trinitine Faith after the ruin of the Cathedral of Haracon. In their wake, the monastery was occupied by Ayyosha and her pagan fellows. It was here that she returned after escaping Sastanimoq. What transpired between the two is unknown, but his body was found the next day stone cold dead. In front of him was found the remnants of enough food to fill six mens bellies. Some whisper that Ayyosha gave him the hunger she held within her own body and he ruptured his stomach trying to fill that hollow ache.

The monastery has a heavy and uninspired architecture. The building is three stories of rough cut gray stone, a massive block with adjoining towers at each corner. The towers are square, and should the monastary come under siege, the walls will be easily breeched. A large set of double doors grant entrance to the main chapel, and a servants door grants entry to the rectory.

The ground floor houses the main chapel for prayer. It has abundant room, but many stone columns, divide the chamber into rows. Hanging between the columns nearest the wall are an array of shadow shrines. The typical shadow shrine holds symbols of self denial, prayer, and devotion. There is also a pulpit, the priest’s rectory, as well as the storage pantry for communion-y things, hymnals, candles and other such items. The rear two towers serve as private staircases to the second floor. One tower door is the main entrance to the high priest (Ayyosha) private chamber. The other leads into the library and archive.

The library and archives for record keeping, as well as the priest’s private chamber and guest chambers are located on the 2nd floor The guest chambers can comfortably accommodate as many as 16 guests, four to each of the austere but spacious rooms. The monastery was built with the tenets of hospitality and asylum in mind, and while there are few nobles and clergy who make use of the room, Ayyosha seldom has vacancies. Many young girls, especially young noblewomen are drawn to the rail thin nuns in response to their own inadequacies. Those afflicted with eating problems gravitate to the Cloister where they are shown kindness and the Gospel of Ayyosha.

The 3rd floor houses the private chambers of the 13 of her devoted disciples, each of whom has gone through the Purgation. There is also a sanctum where the ritual Purgation, the vomiting of the stomach and the accepting the shard of the infernal in its place, is performed. Access to the third floor is very tightly restricted to only the Disciples and Ayyosha herself.

The grounds surrounding the monastary are used to cultivate and grow flax. This crop has really no nutritional value, but is valuable for producing flax oil for making ink and dye, as well as weaving the plant fibers into linen. Rotation crop is basic fodder for the few animals kept to pull plows and to provide roughage for the mounts of those who might visit. The old grain mills have been converted to press the flaxseed for the oil, and the rest to drive looms to help spin and weave the linen. This way the monastary survives, has income, and isnt considered a font of unholy evil.

"Evil dear? Dont be silly, evil people dont make bedclothes."

wikipedia.org/wiki/Flax

Ranks

Ayyosha is the Priestess of the Cloister. Her control is unchallenged by any of the Disciples. Most fearsome of all, Ayyosha and her Thirteen Disciples have the powers of ruination when it comes to foodstuffs. They have largely misunderstood and truthfully unknown abilities, which allow them to spoil meat with a touch, or rot crops and vegetables, even befoul fresh water. How these powers work is a mystery even to the sages who secretly study the Cloister. Lastly, the monks are known to always travel in pairs, and dread usually accompanies the sighting of two of the Thirteen disciples travelling together. They are often mistaken for zombies, loosley wrapped mummies, ghouls, or other various undead.
 
Many people might think the Disciples are all very much alike. Most people would be wrong. Presented in brief description below are four of the Thirteen.

Zizkanis- the first of Ayyosha’s Thirteen. Zizkanis never leaves the Cloister’s Keep. He is the called "The Second Sufferer" by the other monks and sisters. It is Zizkanis that makes sure Ayyosha’s Gospel is followed at all times, and he is the one that leads all the sermons and prayers within the compund. Ever so secretly, he hungers (hehe) for ultimate power and one day hopes to supplant Ayyosha herself, in leading the world into the throes of starvation.

Kuphsa- only twelve years of age, when she first turned up at the door of the monastery, Kuphsa suffered from severe bulemia. Taken in by the Cloister, she showed an almost unmatched fervor for the cause immediately and a mere three years later was initiated as one of the Thirteen. She is known as "The Vomiter" or "The Waif", and can often be seen expunging greenish bile from her mouth. She is wholly and completely devoted to Ayyosha, and fanatical in her beliefs.

Megiz Mott- this inventive and crafty monk was found by the order, on the verge of natural starvation, in a nameless non-descript swampy village. He had been punished by the village elders for denouncing the One True Faith, and was left to die in the swamp, until found by the monks and returned to the Cloister. It was Megiz Mott who introduced and developed the idea of flax seed farming, enriching the poor monastery, and achieving great respect among the Cloister for his expertise in growing the crop. He is known as "The Harvester"

Yomua -  While Zizkanis rules the roost as Ayyosha’s second in command, it is Yomua who presides over the stomach-churning rituals and initiations. The old crone is known as "Sister Husk", among the Cloister’s members. She is more gaunt, putrefied and decrepid than any other member of the Thirteen, and is the one most often mistaken for a ghoul or decomposing mummy.

Beneath the Thirteen Disciples, there are the Initiated, who are the next cantidates for the demonic Purgation. These few are exceptionally devout in their denial of food, but are allowed a meager penance of water, and flaxseed. These are the clerks and clergy of the Cloister.

Beneath the Initiated are the lay-folk. These commonfolk were more than likely local before the monastary, and work the land. They have adopted some of the Cloister’s ideals, denying themselves meat, wine, cheese, deserts and the like, but still eating a fairly solid diet of grains and vegetables. They are of course looked down upon by the dissapproving Disciples.

Travelers, especially nobles and clergy are extended hospitality, though this is out of tradition and fear of drawing the wrong sort of attention. Guests are well treated, poorly fed if at all, and given the good and pious tour of the grounds. Those who probe too far might find themselves poisoned in their next greedily eaten and rancidly spoiled meal. There are those, however, which the order takes in willingly and with relish. Sufferers of Bulemia and Anorexia are whole-heartedly welcomed to the Cloister’s halls. Though these afflictions are unnamed and unknown medically, they do nevertheless exist, and there are girl and boys, quite often from noble families, that find there way to the Cloister suffering from various eating disorders. These supplicants and wayward souls are often preferred over others by the disciples when it comes to conversion to Ayyosha’s teachings. Where as in most monasteries these malnourished youths would be greeted with "Poor creature! come, we will fatten ye up with bread, and fruit, and fish" the Cloister greets such supplicants with "Ayyosha has been calling to you! You have done well to answer her summons, child of Emptiness"

The Feast of the Excrements

While most folk in Haracon ring in the autumn harvest with the Feast of Plenty, The Cloister stages a perverse panegyric of their own at this time of year. The Feast of the Excrements serves twin purposes. The first is the commemoration of the suffering of Ayyosha at the hands of Sastanimoq of Waod, and the deplorable extremes he resorted too during her slow starvation, by offering the delirious woman feces to consume, as a final mockery. The second purpose serves as a right of passage of sorts for the initiates, to judge who is truly ready for the Purgation!

Ayyosha herself, somewhat ironically, enters from her private chambers into the main hall, where the entire Cloister is gathered, and proceeds to gorge herself on some of the heaping piles of freshly steaming feces, both human and animal, laid out on a long spartan table. She then speaks some words of gospel and proceeds to return to her chambers, as quickly and silently as she came. It is then that the actual Feast commences, as the entire Cloister digs in, some with relish, some emotionless, and some of the newer initiates with obvious revulsion. The lay-folk that live near and around the Cloister have the unenviable task of procuring the necessary nourishments each year leading up to the Feast. They can often be seen visiting cattle-herders and public outhouses of nearby towns and cities in late summer, and returning to the Cloister, steering foul-smelling wagons, buzzing with flies. Wahtever is left over from the feast is used as fertilizer for the vast flaxseed crops.

The Rite of Purgation

The Rite of Purgation is the only things that separates the Disciples from the Initiates, and only the fact that Ayyosha was self-granted the rite elevates her over the others. The Rite follows the Feast of Excrement. The hopeful, and likely nauseated Initiated to the sanctum located on the third floor of the monastary. The chamber greatly resembles a prison cell, though the floor bears the markings of a great many sorcerous and not quite divine rituals. Splatters of candlewax litter the floor, and a large brass bowl.

An avater of the dark aspect of Famine, a demon if you will, is summoned for the ritual, a sacrifice of the greater power for the initiate. The Initiate is given a liquid concoction to drink, the contents of which are more foul that the previously attended feast. Aftering draining the vessel, the initiate begins to chant the Gospel of Ayyosha, also known as the Empty Sutra as the liquid courses through his body. During this time, the body and soul are both weakened enough for the fragment of the supernal demon of Famine to enter the body.

The change is sudden, and violent. Everything the supplicant has eaten is discharged. The brass bowl catches the mess, a mixture of poison drink, partially digested excrement, and after several painful minutes, the supplicant’s stomach. Once the organ has been expelled from the body, the pain ceases, and the shard of Famine finds a place to rest. The majority of supplicants simply perish as their will is insufficient to deny death’s call. The rare few who do endure enter the ranks of the disciples.

"Woe is upon you oh worker-of-the-earth, oh butcher of the beasts, oh consumer of foul nourishments, for Ayyosha cometh to lead the way to Emptiness!"

- Zizkanis preaching from from his pulpit

Plot Hooks

Merry Men We - The PCs are traveling through the area and try to find a place to sleep for the night and only the monastary is close by. How do they fare when facing the almost corpselike nuns and monks, and the very obvious, if questionable faith? How do they handle no supplies or provisions?

Princess Problems - tasked with finding and returning a runaway princess, the PCs track the girl to the Cloister, and not only have to confront the nuns, but the fact that the Princess is unhealthy and anorexic because of the demands placed on her by family and tradition, she has taken to the teachings of Ayyosha.

The Strange Sisters - The PCs are hired by a pair of Disciples as bodyguards for a long trip. The PCs must contend with their odd charges, their demands for privacy, and a holier-than-thou attitude any time they try to eat anything. They will try and convert any clerics.

Dont Spoil It For Me!- The PCs are summoned by a local magistarte who complains to them about failing crops, and sickly livestock. He has no doubt that the cause of this ruination and blight is the Cloister. He hires the PCs to weed out the demonic befoulers.

Join Us- Perhaps a PC, *shudder* gets the gruesome notion of actually joining the order ("Hey, I dont eat that much anyway"). Let them! They asked for it!

This is another Muromax release



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Comments ( 18 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted MoonHunter
April 4, 2006, 23:18
0xp
This should almost be two or three posts. One for religion (as you don't do a Deity for this one), One for the cloister, and One for the NPC.

Still nicely done across the board.
Murometz
April 4, 2006, 23:35
0xp
Ayyosha is the 'resident deity' of the Cloister, and OTF has no god. THE SOURCE is a RUSE! Its a mind control cult (shhh, dont tell the people)
manfred
April 5, 2006, 4:07
0xp
I have to admit this religion, or sect or what is the proper name has quite surprised me.

Of a particular interest is the demon. A demon of Famine gaining his own cult... a surprising twist not likely in many world (except maybe in ours, with models as worshippers ;) ).

It shows nicely what can follow after a monotheistic religion starts to push all other out... and there can be other newly awakened cults. Is there any political resistance, from countries where the rulers are well-connected to 'their' religion, and see their powerbase threatened? Or could some enterprising ruler turn the story, and start to spread his own 'view on the things', keeping the One True Faith idea with tiny changes (and his own religious hierarchy of course). It is never easy to take over the world, you know. :)


*starts a fanclub for the Muromax Studios*
Murometz
April 6, 2006, 23:31
0xp


hmmm....this might be difficult to explain properly. We wanted to minimize the demon influence and maximize the strenghth of human WILL! Ayyosha's will. An exaggerated take on what the human spirit is capable of, when faced with ultimate desperation and hopelessness, so to speak. Ayyosha achieved a new state of being due to some unknown universal force. The demon was added to make this easier to digest as an rp concept. Of course there is resistence to the One True Faith! Stay tuned! There are many that twist the nebulous ideas for their own design. Thats the OTF's beauty. Easily altered and recalibrated. See Earl Garmon Cabbagestalk in Qacha's Neck to name one such miscreant. And your damn right! It aint easy taking over the world! Passively-aggresively or otherwise. I'm sure Scras will have his own take. Thats the pleasure of working with him! We dont step on each other's toes

Voted manfred
April 5, 2006, 4:09
Only voted
Voted CaptainPenguin
April 5, 2006, 14:39
Only voted
Voted Roack
April 5, 2006, 22:09
0xp
I officially join manfred's club!
Voted Cheka Man
April 6, 2006, 20:05
0xp
Not a place that I would like to visit.
Scrasamax
April 7, 2006, 16:10
0xp
I will admit the Cloister is intimidating, almost alien to us in our rather soft and decadent westernized lives. In a sense this was an attempt to reach back into the collective history of organized faith to find those people who have gone to great lengths to demonstrate their piety. Ayyosha, while certainly not pleasant, and certainly not generous, has much in common with the fakir who rests on a bed of nails, monks who take vows of silence, chastity, or even modern folk who abstain from all meat.

I guess the basic though is that people are more than willing to go to extremes for the things that they feel are important.
Voted Ria Hawk
April 10, 2006, 22:27
0xp
Okay. This is faintly horrifying, but only because of the outlook these people have and what they go through. I like it as a group to expose my players to. *shudder* There are so many fun things to do with this...
Voted Ancient Gamer
April 11, 2006, 10:43
0xp
Okay. This was a hard one. The first story, about Ayyosha, was a true 5.0. The second part, about the cult, was a 4.0.

Distracting feature: When I began reading this I had gone into "imagination-mode" and the ode to Scrasamax was highly frustrating. I realize I sometimes have done the same, but I think I will begin to put such praise at the end of the post.

Overall this is well written. True craftsmanship shines through in a sometimes grisly post. The post is very long and I think you could have split it up in two parts (history/lore and cult/organization), and I would have given the first part 5.0 and the second part 4.0.

Additional plot:
Murder most foul - The local priests have begun dying and are found dead in the temples, their stomachs burst from excessive eating. Now a new priesthood has moved into an old, abandoned warehouse building and has declared that the wrath of their god is upon the city. In the beginning people scoff at these lunatics, but as the priesthoods are thinning out, and even ordinary citizens (most often food merchants and the like) die too, the despairing population begin turning to the newcomers for salvation.

The last remaining Arch Priest of a major temple summon the PCs into his temple besieged by angry converts. Can the PCs discover the relationship between the cult and the deaths, or will they too wither at the hands of the disciples of famine?

Yeah, I know the above plot needs grammar restructuring, but I am lazy :p
Voted Mourngrymn
April 21, 2006, 15:53
0xp
I like it... I want to vote much higher but something about this doesn't sit well with me, no pun intended. Perhaps it is a cult of people subjugating their own demise... which wouldn't be the first time I would venture to say, but something doesn't really sit right in my liking of this.

I do love the history section however. The last paragraph is what did it for me the most. It was very detailed and heavily visual to me. The muromax duo have done a wonderful job yet again.
Voted Pariah
April 29, 2006, 21:28
0xp
I yearn for more posts like this.
Voted Iain
May 28, 2006, 7:58
0xp
Another brilliant submission by Muromax!
Voted Arminas
May 31, 2006, 21:18
0xp
Okay... it may be because I am as twisted as Muro... but I LIKE this one.

No offense Muro, you understand I mean that in the best sense of it. The way I see it I get half of my ideas from being... morally odd.

Anyways, 5, man.
Voted Siren no Orakio
May 31, 2006, 23:32
0xp
Excellently executed.
Voted the Wanderer
December 19, 2006, 16:14
0xp
:)
Murometz
December 19, 2006, 16:30
0xp
Umm, ok, I guess :)

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