Cult of Terat
If you wake up in a field of green grass, looking at a woman of flesh and steel. Be glad, you are dead. If you wake up covered in blood and shit, be gladder still. For you are alive and your time is not yet come!
Known from east coast to the west, the Devoted of Terat are known and feared for their prowess in battle, their brutal forms of self-mutilation, and their absolute refusal to give even an inch in battle. Many a foe has surrendered the field upon learning that his foe flies the red and gold oriflamme of Terat, the Goddess of War.
The Cult of Terat can be marked into three distinctive historical eras. The first era began when Terat accepted the then disenfranchised Followers of Aleskandr. During this time, the cult was small and tended to follow the forms of honor and chivalry laid down by the older god. Constant battles with monsters and hordes of waste mutated human barbarians and savages showed the many flaws of this enlightened form of combat. During this time, the old white and silver motif of the Old God of War was phased out in favor of Terat's red and gold. This is summed up in the motto 'Red with blood, under the golden Sun, Life is Glory.'
The Second Era begins after Terat fully asserts herself as a Goddess of war, reclaiming Axum and raising the Great Halls to collect the souls of the Devoted who fall in battle. During this period there are few records other than long and obviously exaggerated death epics. It is certain that violent skirmishes were happening along the Wasteland borders a dozen or more times a year and that if the Cult had not been riding against these foes, Ankara and the northlands of Falhath might not have recovered from the ruination of the Nightmare War.
The Third and current Era began after the Diet of Hashmal, and Terat and her high clergy created a more organized form for the cult. Until that point, the cult traveled in the same fashion as a barbarian horde and used much similar tactics, often to great effect against the unwashed and uneducated foes of the Wastelands. Against the disciplined regiments of Falhath, this tactic was less effective and a new set of tactics evolved between barbarian fury and marching discipline.
The Cult of Terat has five tiers; Initiate, Devoted, Doyen/Doyenne, Warlord, and Warmaster.
Initiates make up the bulk of the Cult, they range from fresh faced youths looking starry eyed for glory and wealth to older troops who have the desire to serve the Goddess but are not willing to give their lives entirely to her. These form the bulk of Terat's levies and support the other Devoted when they ride into battle. It is rare that the Initiates are expected to ride first into battle, but in those times, the chaff is separated from the wheat and many rise from those lowly ranks to become full-blooded Devoted.
Devoted are the rank and file of the Cult, armed with War swords patterned after Terat's as well as round shields, plate armors and the Ghrect iron war masks. The Devoted are said to be the match for 10 mundane warriors, and their fierce devotion to the Goddess ensures them a place among the Twilight army.
Doyen and Doyennes are the elite of the Devoted, and are entrusted with the command of Devoted war companies. Few in number, the Doyens and Doyennes are said to be able to battle supernatural foes and win. Leading their companies, they are considered to be nearly unstoppable on the battlefield. Most are thankful that there are few of these units as a single company of Devoted can often defeat and rout armies many times their size.
Warlords are rarer still. A Warlord is a Doyen/enne who has called together a war host, a force of Devoted and other warriors large enough to rampage across a human nation. It is whispered that to become a Warlord is to become a paramour of the Goddess herself, a feat that only the most worthy and arrogant would ever attempt.
Warmasters are the rarest, usually there is only one given Warmaster at any given time, but at the current time, there are two, and at the most there have been six. A Warmaster is able to call upon the entire might of the Cult of Terat, and in it's long history, the Warmasters have called upon Terat for direct intervention and aid. Two have even bore her vicious war swords in battle.
Valor and Cowardice
To outsiders, the Cult is nothing more than a band of blood-crazed sword-biting monsters and savages. While this image is certainly true to an extent, the Cult has virtues that are unknown by the commoner. These are known as the Words of Valor and Cowardice.
I. Battle is a sacrament to Terat, Glory to the Goddess!
II. Slay not the innocent, insane, infirm, or weak. There is no glory in an unworthy foe.
III. Speak words of truth, lies are the language of cowards and the weak. Suffer not a liar.
IV. Respect thy superior, respect thy elder, respect thy Goddess. Be worthy of respect in battle and leadership.
V. There is no retreat, no surrender. such things are vessels of cowardice. Fear not Death, for it's hold is light.
VI. Seek the greatest foe to prove thy might before the Goddess to gain her favor. The Goddess never favors fools.
VII. Devoted before Initiate, Doyen before Devoted, Warlord before Doyen, Warmaster before Warlord, Terat before all.
VIII. Bards tell tales, not Warriors. Let others boast of your deeds.
IX. Destroy that which is abominable, slay that which is wicked. Preserve that which is beautiful, protect that which is pure.
The Great Halls
The rewards of the afterlife are plums hung before the hungry souls of the Devoted. those who serve Terat in life, and in their last breath are drawn up by the Zahur, the warrior-servants of Terat. They are taken to Axum in spirit where they join the spirits of the Victorious Dead. In the Great Halls, the new recruits of the Twilight Army practice their fighting skills during the day.
When evening comes, their wounds are cast off and they entreat into the Hall for a great feast of endless slabs of honey bread, platters of great beasts roasted on a spit and bottomless flagons of stour black beer. To sate other hungers, Sindossal servants provide music, dancing and any sort of carnal recreation desired by the Twilight Spirits.
In the material world, the bodies of slain Devoted are carried to the Necropolis under Axum. There, their bones, cleaned of flesh by flame, are laid to rest. Each is left clad in his or her armor, weapon clasped in hand.
The War Sword and the Ghrect
The War Sword is a hand and a half sword with a 40 inch long blade that has a triangular profile. The blade itself is quite wide at the base, usually five to six inches side, tapering to a wicked point at the end. Both edges are sharpened and the blade has a full length blood groove. These swords were previously common in the region before the Nightmare war, and the initial stock came from Old World stockpiles. The newer blades were made in imitation of the style and have since remained remarkably popular.
The War Swords of the Devoted tend to be larger, usually two handers, with the blade extended as much as another foot and the base and inch to two inches wider. However, unlike mundane war swords, these swords are often fetishes. Most Devoted petition the Keeper of the Bones to visit the Necropolis to find a spirit willing to enter his or her war sword and 'enchant' it with their combat experience and wisdom. Such swords tend to be lighter and faster in combat, but only in the hands of a Devoted. In other hands, their combat bonuses become negative modifiers. Once the holding Devoted perishes, the spirit is released from service and the blade becomes wholly mundane again.
OOC - these fill out the ranks of the usual Sword+(1D6-1) found in fantasy games.)
The Ghrect is a special item only granted to Devoted and higher ranks. This iron mask is worn over the face in place of a helmet and is often made with a fearsome visage, with skulls, demons, or animal motifs being common. This is most often held in place with a set of straps that wrap around the head. The Ghrect also has four metal points that can be heated and bent inwards to fix the mask directly to the face of the wearer, often being embedded in the bone by hammer blows. Like War swords, many Ghrects are enchanted with magics, most often charms of evasion and protection, since shields and full helms are rather rare among the Cultists.
(OOC - The Ghrect replaces the boring rings of protection with Iron Mask of Protection+(1D6-1). If the prongs are set into the skull, this protection doubles, but removing the mask them deals an equal amount of damage if it is removed.)
There are certain to be legendary and unique war swords and Ghrects, but they will not be detailed here.
The hosts have gathered, legions eye barbarians across a barren field, the generals stab daggers into their maps, the WAR QUEST has arrived.
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? Responses (13)
I think this is a brilliant submission. You've fleshed out the subject really well and your idea if solid and adaptable. It could be implimented in other worlds easily.
I am curious though. Do the cultists fight with other armies or do they just fight any military force they set eyes upon. Would they act like mercenaries?
Primarily the Cult faces monsters that come out of the Wastelands, but they are certainly willing to serve as mercenaries, or elite troops within a larger army.
A well-detailed description of the War Goddess' followers. Interesting and well-conceived.
It is okay. Berserkers with a chivalric touch - or is it the other way around?
I like especially their Code of Honor.
Good fleshing out of a barbarian horde. Is that all they do then? Raid? How about their family aspect as I can't see anybody not born to it wanting to join it. The family unit and the ability to have children should probably be pretty important else they slowly die out through attrition.
Attrition is a serious concern, but while the Cult started as a barbarian horde, it was somewhat civilized by the Trinity. An initiate likely has another profession, be it farmer, blacksmith, peasant, or the like, but when the call comes from the Doyen, they gather their arms and march for the Goddess before King or Country. Family is very important to the cult, both in terms of providing food, new recruits, and supplies, it is one of the things that the Cult exists to protect. Being an initiate of the Cult of Terat is generally no more intrusive than belonging to any other systematic organized religion, other than the fact that rather than turning the other cheek, the cult settles things with steel and blood.
I like it. This tells a tale that fits well behind the Goddess Terat. It is a little more generic that I like when dealing with a cult, however I can understand that when the cult itself seems to be created and maintained by the Goddess herself. Unlike your average cult groups. I would like more information on Axum though. It has peaked my interest when reading both this and the Goddess sub.
Axum brings forth images to my mind of the City of the Dead Gods in one of the books that I frequently read. Superb. Good job once again Scras.
Not much to add. A nicely done war cult.