In a hidden valley, ringed by weeping larch and laughing oak, surrounded by the Sharp-Stones and King’s Cliffs, lies the small, rarely visited town of Olwsden. Besides the bi-annual tax-collectors and occasional Hammer-of-the-Faith inquisitors, Olwsden is mostly left alone by the distant empire.
Two thousand souls call Owlsden home, and on the surface, life here is not much different from life in the other somewhat isolated towns and villages of the Sister-Vales. Woodsmen, furriers, trappers, and silver-miners scour the vast forests, hills and mountains, while weavers, carpenters, and candle-makers work quietly and diligently inside the sturdy stone walls of the town proper. Owlsden is governed by a small council of aging merchants and craftsmen, as well as a mayor and a sheriff.
But beneath the surface, and unbeknownst to most visitors, Owlsden brims with secrets. A certain segment of the population belongs to a cult so ancient and forgotten, that its origins and roots no longer grace the pages of any historical tomes. Owlsden is one of the few places (or perhaps last) left in the world where the reverence for the Hidden Pantheon survives to this day and in particular the worship of the demi-god Qollotch, Silent One, the Keeper of Secrets. Qollotch (who is also called Qossotch) is represented by wooden-carved idols depicting an owl-headed man garbed in gray robe and cowl. Where an owl’s beak would be is a blank space, indicating Qollotch never speaks. In one of his hands he clutches a wooden bell with no tongue, further symbolizing his silence, and in the other, a closed book with two spines, indicating his unknowable mysteries. Around his waist is clasped a snake eating its own tail, signifying a thing that has been kept a secret through silence.
Elaborate, silent rituals, unrecorded, and enacted by rote, take place in private homes and select few inn cellars by night unbeknownst to the rest of the populace. Qollotch (who is known as Ekkik in some parts), is a demi-god hanging on, a being that was once worshipped by any, but who found himself on the losing side of divine war, and eons ago, withdrew from reality, only rarely sticking his talon into the affairs of men, and even then, for secretive and inexplicable purposes. But secrets being what they are, a few do know, or at least think they know. Such are the members of the Qollotch cult of Owlsden.
Qollotch preaches (or so they say) secrecy above all else. His names and titles are many, though his true-name is unknown or forgotten. Qollotch’s collect secrets and never repeats them. He expects the same of his worshippers. To worship Qollotch is to believe in the power of knowledge, which is known to only one or a few. Knowing that which most do not, is indeed in itself a power, according to the Qollotchites.
The cult of Qollotch has its peculiar inconsistencies in-between dogma and practice. Qollotch teaches secrecy and the best kept secret is the Secret-of-One. Folk of Owlsden however, band together to form a secret circle of like-mindedness, their common social urges over-riding the faith’s code of “supreme secrecy”. They are merely human, and incapable of matching the Silent One’s willpower. Despite this tight-knit community does seem to have the Silent Ones favor.
The Six Hidden Secrets of Qollotch
There were originally known as the Nine Hidden Secrets, but the three were somehow lost and forgotten. It is said that the final secret reveals all of the world’s mysteries, but is unattainable without the knowledge of the first eight in succession.
Qollotchites spend their time gathering secrets. A secret can be anything as long as there are those who do not know. The less that know any given secret learned by the Qollotchites in their travels, the greater that secret’s power. The more secrets gathered, the more the power of within the Qollotchite grows. At first and for a long initiation period that acquired power does show itself in any way. But eventually there is a pay-off for biting one’s tongue and biding one’s time. For every so many secrets gathered and shared with no one but Qollotch, the Silent One rewards his followers with a “secret” of his own. These secrets manifest as individual magic or spell-like abilities, which become innate powers possessed by the Qollotchites.
- Secret of Fire
- Secret of Flight
- Secret of the Unseen
- Secret of Nothingness
- Secret of Light
- Secret of Everything?
A word on dogma and creed
Qollotch’s worship is mysterious and esoteric by design. No two Qollotchites would agree on all points of their own strange religion, and the tenets and details of this faith are left utterly vague on purpose. Qollotch’s message is obfuscated, and wrapped in riddle. A GM can manipulate and recalibrate Qollotch’s faith as needed, befitting a Lord of Secrets. Qollotch’s ultimate goals and desires are unknown after all, incomprehensible to human minds. Yet a few cling still to his ancient teachings, whatever they may truly be. Perhaps part of the attraction for a player to try a Qollotchite character could be that the PC would get to form his own beliefs and interpretations of Qollotch ways and true message. Unbeknownst to most (naturally), there are those which the Qollotchites call “Hidden Ones”. These are the few Qollotch followers who have taken on ‘second lives’, and can be found adventuring like any other priest or monk, except that they are secretly worshippers of Qollotch, taking on pre-conceived personas of priests or monks of all the different gods or goddesses of their realm. They are expert chameleons in the art of assuming different faiths, fooling even their fellow adventurers (PCs) indefinitely. All the time they gather secrets, bits of knowledge and the unknown, and the more they keep inside, the more they grow in power.
There is one anecdotal secret that can be shared. “Shush”, the universal language of asking for or demanding quiet, originated so long ago that no one knows the sound’s true meaning. Shushssh is one of Qollotch’s secret names, but this information is long forgotten, as is Qollotch (who is also called ‘the Unspeaker’), by almost all.