The Decay was quick the day when the Gods died. The People of The Civilization had spent millenia trying to match the Celestial Bureaucracy. Priests utilized the power of the Gods to build and maintain The Civilization. Those powers were intergrated into society: its rituals and functions. Try as they might, the Priests could not contain the fact that something was wrong… that divine power was no longer residing in The Priests AND the Worldy Bureaucracy of The Civilization. It was the end of the world.
People prayed that they might be taken into the Celestial world before they and their soul were trapped in the Material world. Some committed suicide in an attempt to reach there before the Grand Gates closed. Then there were riots (as people believed they were denied the celestial rewards that were theirs…). Many were killed in the riots and mayham. Mobs killed a number of people that manifested actual demonic powers. Many died from lack of healing and clerical care. Others died from lack of fresh food or water (created by clerical abilities). Many just died of dispair.
A few people in The Bureaucracy managed to impose order. While the clerics were useless, some of the administrators kept hold - trying to keep a semblance of The Civilization going. They put out the fires, formed militia to keep the order, kept people focused on their needs… and not on the end of the world as they knew it. The cities and towns managed to get some order, while the country went uncontained a bit longer, but eventually fell into the cycle of work. All hoped The Great Bureaucracy would solve the problem, so they huddled in their homes and waited.
The Clerics were lost, their Gods were unable to answer.
The man that would be known as The Falcon Mask was one of those clerics. Civilization needed the Divine Powers to run properly. But unlike the others, he realized that any spirit who could grant those powers would be preferable to no Divine Powers at all. He knew the lore of the non divine ways, but no text survived on how to perform such things. He did what he could. He took a Shadow Name. He drew a circle. Then he did all that he knew how, he prayed out to any being that would answer. He prayed out in the traditional format, “Grant me this and I will do x and y for you”. And a Power answered. Ba’An granted him the skill and the powers needed to help restore his city. Thus that poor cleric became the first Bargainer: The Falcon Mask.
Many clerics would rather die than give up their gods. Eventually they did.
Others realized for The Civilization to survive, they too would bargain with the Power.. with Ba’An. Each took a Shadow Name like the sorcerers of old. Rather than sell their souls like the sorcerers, they would just make bargains with this “power” Ba’an. Their “worship” was a bit more legalistic than it used to be with the Celestial Order, but it was a secret worship. No one would publicly claim their worship. Privately, they knew the shameful thing they did. Publicly all used the term “A Power”, but in secret they knew he is a Demon God that had destroyed the Celestial Order.
These new Bargainers took the place of the Celestial’s Clerics. They interceded for mortals to the lone higher power that would answer them, and brought the word to the peoples. Rather than be part of the Great Bureaucracy as the Clerics had, Bargainers had to be outside of it. They functioned as “Lawyers”, “Consultants”, and “Contractors” for the now non-clerical government of The Civilization. They provide healing and guidance for their clients. Occasionally they provide other magical services as well.
The common people were left adrift in all this. Only those who follow this demon upsurper, who has destroyed the celestial order, had access to The Power. Some still worshipped the Celestials. However, only those Gods that bowed down and knuckled under survived. They were not proud Gods, they lied to hold their now limited power and their existence. They granted a trickle of power, but only at the whim of Ba’an. Humanity has been tricked by those Gods. The Gods are not what they said they were. The very foundation of The Civilization was shaken. Where once there was bliss, honor and faith, there is now cynicism, legalism/ deal making, and self interest (some of it even enlightened self interest).
With Bargainers as “priests” interpreting the Power’s will for the People, The Civilization continued. In some ways the faith of the “Old Bureaucracy” has been replaced by a more secular and pragmatic faith of Ba’an the Power, Ba’an the Demon Lord. Now even common folk “bargained” (prayed) with Ba’an, hoping for little advantages to help them get through these turbulent times.
If you need a handle on The Civilization as it is now, think of a cyberpunkish dystopia. There are now too many people. Resources are scarce. Business and legal relationships are more important than people (or faith). Humanity is nothing, only Civilization important. Here, odd bits of clerical magic take the places of technology. While things are publicly “great”, important things are done in the shadows and the reality is often a lie. In short a non techical roughed edged place.
The Message did not reach here yet. When it does things might change. However, it might not. This culture has been turn on its head by the destruction of the Celestial Order. It is possible they had a Messenger of their own, but that person was lost to the riots. The first people who manifested clerical powers, but were not priests, were obviously killed by the Mobs of the riots. Because these people panicked and reacted the way they did, they lost their chance to accept Ba’an as he really is. Their worship of Ba’an is colored by their old traditions as they really refuse in their hearts to accept that the world could change.