The Goddess of War, quite unlike other divinities, has been manifest a number of times through out the last thousand years. Through accounts and artwork collected at Axum, a comprehensive and rather accurate image of this violent goddess can be seen. Terat in avatar form* appears as a humanoid female half again as large as a normal human. Her skin is a pale gray to livid purple in color, and she wears a full suit of articulated plate armor that is predominantly red, but inlaid with gold striping. The breastplate is particularly shaped to demonstrate the fact that she is indeed a goddess with an associated bosom. Her hair is long and black and her eyes are molten iron. Most fearsome of all is the Ghrect, or iron face plate, she wears. Unlike a helmet, the Ghrect is secured in place with four iron spikes that snag the flesh and set in the bones of the face.
In the time of the Old World, Terat was a muse, a minor goddess associated with the Painters and Sculpting guilds of the Imperial City and it’s environs. Terat was the child of Ixia, the silver clad goddess of artificers and smiths and Alexskandr, the Falhathian god of justice and honorable combat. During those long years, she enjoyed a soft and pampered life of worship from artists, decadenti, and other dandies and fops. That would all change in a week of screams, death and blood.
The Nightmare War
This violent cataclysm almost destroyed Terat. As it was, her pool of worshippers was completely decimated, few cared about pretty paintings and murals when monsters roamed and famine sank it’s claws into empty bellies. Worse still was the death of Alexskandr, her divine father. Beheaded by some extraplanar horror, his divine corpse was rescued from being devoured and laid in a silent tomb atop Mount Axum. Bereft of faithful, and seeing an opening, Terat hesitantly took her father’s place as a divinity of war, granting her meagre blessings to those who still bent knee to him.
The next two centuries saw Terat betrayed by her mother, and tempered in the flame of battle. Terat adapted and grew to fill her father’s shoes and was surprised by the intensity of the faith of those who prayed to her. She grew beyond her old power as men flocked to the red banner of the new Goddess. But Terat was not Alexskandr, her path to war was not guided by a just code of honor or a desire for chivalrous combat. Terat fought to win, no matter the cost. This would prove the key to her survival as her followers fought not duels or at the lists, but fought tooth and nail against horrors not banished at the end of the Nightmare War and their monstrous half blooded offspring.
While Terat’s followers gathered others to their banners and provided the fresh goddess with followers and offerings, Ixia plotted another design. Without warning the silver clad Goddess of the Forge fled from Axum, drawing away her followers of artificers and craftsmen south to the growing power of Sangia and his Gold Talon cult. Bereft of a steady supply of quality arms and armor, the Cult of Terat suffered losses until the Goddess found a new way to arm those who served her. While many of her followers perished in desperate battles, she provided them with iron weapons and armor looted from the halls of Axum, and the necropoli of the Old World. Their faith burned at a fever pitch and Terat swore unending enmity between her mother and herself.
The Temple of the Bones of Heroes Remembered
With Axum deserted by Ixia, Terat quickly made the manse there her own. While Ixia and her followers had emptied the place of food and other supplies, they left behind their arms and armor, the forges and the stockpiles of iron and silver. These things were too heavy to carry and deemed replaceable by Ixia. Terat brought many of her Devoted to the mount and bade them to make the temples there her own, and the palaces there their own. This was to become their heart and base of operations.
Those Devoted who battled and fell were wrapped in shrouds and brought to Axum, their bodies laid in vast catacombs within the mountain. Between the divine manse atop the mountain, and the bones of the revered dead entombed within, Axum became a doubly holy place. It was not long before Terat discovered the technique of harvesting souls. Those who died in battle with her name on their tongues were gathered up and brought to the Temple as their mortal remains were. They remained in the manse above, ghostly warriors promised an afterlife of glorious combat, ancestor worship, and feasting in the Great Halls.
In proper fashion, these warriors were gathered as a warhost that would once again take the field when the time came. As Terat gained in power, she discovered the cyclical nature of time, and knew that an event like the Nightmare War would come again. Against this end, she gathered the virtuous souls of warriors to stand and fight in this forthcoming, yet unknown apocalyptic battle. In eschatological terms, the Cult of Terat refers to this coming time of trials as the Edonil, which roughly translates to the ‘Coming of Twilight’.
Conflict and the Trinity
While the Cult of Terat blunted the rage of beasts and mutated barbarians spilling out the ruined Wastelands that were once the heart of the Empire, it was assaulted from behind. Following the end of the wars between Ozea and Sangreal, the Trinity had time to consolidate it’s power and expand its borders. Initially, the Cult of Terat believed the armor clad Falhathians to be allies to help hold the borders of the Wastelands, instead their were shocked to find those very men attacking their camps, throwing down their temples and shouting the glories of the Trinity.
The next decades were a brutal time for the Cult as they were harasses from both sides. The barbarians and unclean creatures from the Wastelands were relentless as always, but the Cult was split between protecting their holdings at Ankara and Dreifach, as well as fighting said monsters. During that time, thousands of Devoted perished in battles with Trinitine forces. On the other side, tens of thousands died on the Trinitine side as the gold and silver clad paladins could not match the brutal fury of the Devoted, nor could their swords and shields resist the might of Terat’s war swords.
After nearly a generation of battle, the Wastelands had grown for the first time in a century, and the Cult was close to being decimated. On the Falhathian side, several orders of the Arms Militant were annihilated and sentiment supporting the war with the Cult was faltering. Saint Logan intervened with the Diet of Hashmal. There, Logan negotiated a peace treaty with the Cult, granting it independence from the Trinity hierarchy. Terat would be allowed to continue as she had, but would be forced to recognize the spiritual soveriegnty of the Trinity as well as relinquish her dominions over Ankara and Dreifach.
While this rankled the Goddess, she knew that to join into the hierarchy of the Trinity, being demoted to a status equal to a saint was to abandon everything she had fought for and gained since the end of the Old World. Fighting the Trinity would do little better as her followers would be slain to the bloody last, leaving nothing to stop the Edonil. Terat accepted the terms, but retained full control over Axum, founding a new city of Bewahren there, as well as reorganizing her followers into a more regimented society.
The Goddess Today
The Trinity holds dominion in Ankara mostly in name. The Goddess Terat and the older agricultural deities such as Al-Vur the Lord of Cattle, Karliik who tends the Crops, and Sik-Seren, Lord of the Sun and Flame enjoy widespread if underground worship. The Devoted display their faith openly, wearing their brutally stylized armor and bearing oriflammes of the Goddess’ colors of red and gold. Tensions are often high as the initiates of Sangia wish to add the Devoted to their ranks and Sangia desires Terat as a warrior-bride and consort. Contrarily, Ixia wants Terat removed from power so that she might return in divinity to Axum and oust the filthy barbarians that have sullied those ancient halls. Belex, god of iron and death cares little either way, Terat’s Devoted ensure a steady stream of souls through his chambers for judgement. Belex also understands Terat’s concern about Edonil and despite loosing a number of souls to her harvesting, makes no objection.
Terat still considers the borders of the Wastelands her primary priority, though her Devoted have ranged as far east as Soixane to fight the Ogres and as far west as the Elven lands to battle enemies ancient and sanguine even there. Unlike the other gods, Terat has no fear or compuction about manifesting and leading her hosts into battle, but only in the face of overwhelming odds.
While summoning the Goddess is considered easy compared to the manifold demands and requirements of the other divinities, the cost is also quite easily the highest. Before entering a battle, her Devoted are required to completely don the Ghrect, their iron war masks. Normally these masks are worn with leather straps or helmets hold them in place. To don them completely requires the Devoted to have the metal prongs heated and the metal hammered into their flesh. The number required for this is variable, as a lone warrior against great odds can summon the Goddess alone, an entire warhost would have to have almost half of it’s members don the Ghrect to gain her physical might.
Terat appears with the sounding of the war horns and drums, her form ripped from the earth and the bodies of the gloriously slain. Armed with her two war swords Pielek and Phalar, She leads the Devoted into savage battle, often battling non-human foes such as dragons, demons, other divine avatars and the like. After the battle, most will have fallen, to be gathered and sent to Axum in spirit and in shroud. All who donned the Ghrect will fall lifeless to the earth, their spirits riding to the Great Halls to become officers of the Twilight Army there.
Pielek and Phalar - This pair of matched war swords are named for Suffering and Death, the gifts of Terat to her foes. Twice mortal hands have carried one of these blades, Pielek both times, into battle as gifts from the Goddess. In mortal hands, these blades are irresistible in battle, able to break shields, sunder weapons and split armor like overripe fruit.
Terat’s Ghrect - The Iron war mask of the Goddess, this mask was forged originally as a funeral mask worn in the times of the Old World. While containing no terrible powers, the mask was donned to seal her new role as a goddess of war, and to hide her beauty that Terat now considers a wasteful vanity.
The Crimson Aegis - as a war deity who disfavors shields herself, Terat has armor of incredible strength. Taken from her father’s body and reforged to fit her smaller frame, Ixia considers this to be one of Terat’s unforgivable sins.
Renor - A monstrous black stallion, Renor is Terat’s mount when she rides into battle rather than walk or run. His mane is tied with knots, each one ending with a bead of soulstone, containing the spirit of a virtuous warhorse. His breath is fear, and flames flicker in his hoofbeats.
The Twilight Army - Terat’s retinue of war ghosts numbers in the thousands, and being composed entirely of berzerkers, barbarians, savage paladins and other brutal warriors would be an incredible force on any field of battle. In rare occasions she sends contingents of these soldiers to aid the living Devoted, but for the most part they remain in reserve at the necropolis at Axum, within the Great Halls erected for them.
The Sindossal - The war concubines of Terat, these graceful and beautiful figures are all that remain of Terat’s past as a Goddess of Art. As such, they are lovely to look upon, are talented singers, dancers, and performers. Despite this, Terat crafted them both as homage to her ancient position, as well as to be rutting trophies for the Twilight Army. Promised an endless feast, glorious battles, and ample female flesh, Terat is seldom lacking for new recruits.
The Zahur - Much like the Valkyrie of Norse Myth, the Zahur are Terat’s messengers and harvesters of souls. Appearing as women with wings of steel clad in scant armor and bearing weapons of sharp edges, the Zahur are equal parts warrior angels and succubi who gather the spirits of the Devoted dead. Zahur can be summoned easier that Terat, though the unvirtuous summoning them are in for an unpleasant experience.
*Avatar Form refers to the corporeal form assumed by a divinity when manifested in creation. While it is common to assume that only powerful gods and goddesses have avatars, this is quite untrue. Any spirit capable of manifesting a physical presence in the material world has an Avatar form.