One of the defining traits of Man is his need to invent gods to match and define himself; like a warped, stained mirror into which Humanity can look down into its own dark, twisted depths.
Locastus, City of Mirrors, is no different. With its many diverse ethnic groups, there is a contrasting welter of faiths and religions; from the schamanic arts of the Grassdancer tribes to the cold and distant Patron deities of the Acitans, from the harsh and elemental spirit-faith of the Molochii to the near-pornographic pantheon of the Aquurian nomads.
While the Acitans, the haughty, supremacist rulers of Locastus, are not an overly religious race, they all pay homage to Maug, the Bitter God, the Wavefather, the Lord of Salt and Ruler of the Ocean
The Lord of Salts
....and he cried out in anguish, then, as the gigantic wave towered over the fleet. And lo, so terrible was his cry that the mindless rage of the seas faltered, reached out to him and wove him close into its embrace, transforming him, remaking him its own image.
The man was destroyed, what rose in his stead was a creature as harsh and powerful as the sea, a personification of the storms.
Standing like a statue at the helm, his eyes the iron hue of the angry sea and his hair and beard floating around his head like kelp in the currents, green ghostlights playing over his features, he piloted the flagship Maelstrom out of the crushing embrace of the ocean.
Afterwards, when his shipmates approached to thank their savior, they recoiled in fear. For the seas had accepted his sacrifice; he had been turned into an effigy of salt…
The Lay of the Storm Lord (Old translation), p. 104
No one can remember exactly when worship of Maug began, except that it was in the early years of Locastus, when the now great City was no more than a few seal-skin huts behind a flimsy palisade of sharpened stakes, filled with the scurvied, exiled Acitans.
The church of Maug began as a small sect among these bedraggled fugitives, fearfully huddling together on these strange, unchartered shores. In time, the small gathering worshipping the Lord of the Sea grew, eventually gaining official status and the patronage of Admiral Marus Dohl himself. In itself, nothing remarkable.
What is remarkable, however, is that the Bitter God was once a mortal man, a helmsman during the time of the Exile, who, faced with the destruction of the entire Acitan fleet, made a deal with the wild magic of the sea itself, sacrificing himself to save the ships.
From this accidental fusion of mortal mind and immense elemental power, something new was born, something with the power of the sea itself but also the narrow-minded, predjudiced flaws of a mortal.
After the Acitan made landfall, prophets began to appear, preaching the gospel of Maug and claiming to receive visions from this new entity. The most prominent of these mad, raving seers was Amodo Akel Turik, who collected all the prophesies of Maug into a single volume, the Book of Salts.
In time, Maug was worshipped as a patron saint and then a god - and faith lends substance.
Soon, the effigies of Maug´s three aspects began to appear in the fledgeling City: The Wave, The Hammerhead shark and His human aspect, a bearded, imposing man with a face both burningly passionate and chillingly, inhumanly remote.
Under the patronage of Marcus Dohl, the Church of Maug quickly grew and by the time of Dohl´s death, in the year 69, construction of the great Cathedral of Maug had begun. It would take almost fifty years before it stood ready, constructed of the salvaged, barnacle-studded stones of the submerged, cyclopean ruins in Locastus Bay.
The Gospel of Maug
"Give me not compassion or forgiveness.
Give me not leisure or comfort.
Do not protect or shelter me.
Give me a sword and the strength to wield it, and I will achieve those things on my own…"
Prayer of the Abyss; The Book of Salts, Ch. 9, v. 31 (Motto of the Sea Wolves)
Maug is not a kindly god. He is as uncompromising, harsh and ruthless as the sea itself, extending neither protection nor absolution to His worshippers - only challenge. His only gift to man is the chance for him to test himself, a life-long trial by ordeal in which a stronger, harder man may be forged, a man worthy of standing before Maug on the day of his reckoning.
Forgiveness, humility and compassion is not the way of Maug, after all, the sea possesses none of these emotions.
Maug´s Holy Book, the Book of Salts, is filled with long-winded passages on the subject of natural selection, on the right of the strong to rule and a profound, chilling indifference for those too weak to fend for themselves.
Maug sets no codes of conduct, instead His gospels holds a strong suggestion that the end justifies the means. Each of His worshippers must look to their strengths to come out ahead, make the best use of what talents and abilities they are born with.
His message is simple, those strong enough to live will do so, and the weak will be culled.
Upon their death, Maug gather to Him the souls of His worshippers, either incorporating them into His own consciousness or, in the case of a few, more notable individuals, keeping them as separate personalities, demi-gods in their own right, but with a connection to Himself.
As such, the Church of Maug functions as an umbrella organization for the worship of ancestor spirits and the Acitan equivalent of "saints", among them historical figures such as Marcus Dohl, Remus Maal and the rest of the Founders.
Maug´s priesthood (of both sexes, but mostly male) wear dark grey robes, belted with a black sash and dye their hair grey with alkali salts, worn in a long braid down their backs.
While all anointed priests wear the Holy Symbols of Maug a compass and a container of salt on their belts, the common clergy also wear an intricately carved hardwood fish on a leather thong around their necks.
The Higher Clergy, the Patriarchs (of which there are 22) wear the same grey robes, but also a black skull cap, and exchange the carved fish for a gold compass rose pendant. The Archimandrite, the supreme leader of the Church, wears a novice´s white cassock, but complements it with a red sash.
An offshoot of the regular clergy is the Sea Wolves, the military arm of Maug´s priesthood. While of the regular clergy in the sense that they are all anointed priests of Maug, they also conduct themselves as an independent organization within the Church, an order charged with the protection of the Faith, its temples and its priesthood.
The Sea Wolves wear spartan, high-necked uniforms of black cloth, with the symbol of their Order, a white hammerhead shark, embossed on the left breast. They are extremely proficient in the use of many weapons, adept sailors and, most important of all, have a burning fanaticism that fuels them in combat.
The Church of Maug in Locastus
The gigantic Cathedral of Maug towers over Bonetown, the financial and administrative heart of Locastus. Its shadow, infiltrative and subtle, also falls over the power balance of the great City.
By tradition involved in many of Locastus´s key enterprises and heavily endorsed by history and Dohl´s own letter of patronage, The Church is a power faction to take into account.
Moreover, the ruling circles of Locastus has made deals with the priests of Maug for centuries, buying political support and Military backing, whatever the need at the time.
The Sea Wolves, on an official Locastrian contract, has been of outmost importance in taking and securing the various overseas colonies and holdings currently under Locastrian rule. At the same time, the priesthood of Maug has had an exclusive right to convert locals, at gun point, if need be.
The current Archimandrite, Tegus Ikand, is a shrewd and ambitious man, with an eye for politics and, perhaps, an agenda that includes much, much more than just spreading the Faith…...
My Acitans, the xenophobic rulers of Locastus, are a harsh and unpleasant lot. I felt they needed a bit more depth than just a bred-in-the-bone racism, so I came up with this religion as a means of getting a glimpse of how their mind works…
Hope you´ll enjoy it!