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Against the Shadow  |  Articles  |  The Sorshef and the Sahi Priests: an Outlook on Sarcosan Religion
The Sorshef and the Sahi Priests: an Outlook on Sarcosan Religion
This article is an attempt to present what were the sahi priests like at the time of their activity, and what they would likely have become during the Last Age. It also introduces new concepts as to the nature of the Sorshef.

The Sarcosan afterlife

“When they die and take their hashu, or “heaven ride”, Sarcosans believe they will be challenged by the god riders of the Sorshef. If they are found wanting, they will be thrown from their mounts and forced to walk forever in the dark spaces between the stars, horseless and dishonored. If they find favor, they will ride as part of the starry host of the Sorshef and shine as examples of virtue and honor to mortal Sarcosans”

- Midnight 1st Edition excerpt.

Actually, there is a secret few know and fewer even understand.

The Sorshef are Greater Spirits. That is why they are not "true" gods, and thus don't answer prayers.

They are however very special spirits, since they embody the energies of the stars, and as they cannot easily be reached, are very distant to the concerns of their mortal followers (the sorshef priests and believers).

Some rare souls who are not corrupted after death to become Lost or Fell and who are not reincarnated or "bound" to the world (see Whisper Adepts for an example) can manage to see their iron will rewarded by becoming a new star, thus losing a part of their humanity and effectively joining the sorshef. The light they radiate shows their purity of mind, but also covers another secret...

They then live a Greater Spirit life, with the privilege that their domain is not invaded by Izrador or his minions. Unknown to most, the sorshef spirits are each "holes" made in the Veil, and sometimes they can reach another, strange, shining plane...

A secret prophecy of the sahi priests is that, when the sky will be filled by stars, the Veil will be torn asunder and the Gods will once again come to the world to defeat the evil once and for all.

As they live in the far outer space, they are usually out of reach of the mortals’ prayers. Keep in mind also that they are not gods per se, only greater spirits of the stars –some would call them Celestials, although their usual alignment is far from always being good.

The Star Towers were built to reach them more easily, in hopes they would hear the people’s prayer. Of course it didn’t work that way, and instead they were used as astronomical observation points.

Sometimes a star falls from the sky (most often in the case of meteorite rains). It is usually seen as an omen of great importance, as the metals gathered from the celestial fall are used for forging special artifacts. One prophecy states that one day, a member of the Sorshef will fall on earth to help the people in their struggle against Izrador. Or that only doomed or traitorous stars are thus expelled from the skies, to fall on earth. The Sorshef Sahi is particularly cryptic on this topic.

Locating a meteorite’s impact point, gathering the smoldering metals, and forging them into artifacts of power were primary duties of the Sahi Priests in the time of their grandeur. It is said that many legendary weapons (cedeku), armors, and magical items were crafted in this way, and were reputed to give the Sorshef’s guidance to their owners. The Priests had a special order of blacksmiths or legendary reputation for crafting star-items. Most of those were lost to time, destroyed by the armies of King Jahzir to feed his master’s black mirrors, but some were taken by fleeing sahi priests and forgotten by all. It is rumoured they were hidden in special caches, only to be discovered by heroes in times of great need.

The Sorshef, or The Riding Host

“Each deity is attributed with specific domains of knowledge, skill, virtue, but only the priests seem able to keep all of them straight”

- Midnight 1st Edition excerpt.

Each member of the Sorshef is the equivalent of a star, and exemplifies a particular virtue. As there are many stars, there are many such “godlings”, which usually exemplify very minor and specific virtues, such as repairing a pale alezan’s hooves in the middle of a desert during a sandstorm… Calling on them is not to be recommended, as they would not listen, but trying to impress them (and knowing which member of the Sorshef to address) is usually a feat in and of itself, and sometimes, a star will shine brighter in the sky if a Sarcosan performed an action that satisfies it.

Such extraordinary actions could usually only be performed by very pious Sarcosans, who knew very obscure rituals to attract the specific star’s attention, and always were attempted by starlight for better chances of success. Historically, a DC 30 skill check Knowledge: Religion (sarcosan) was used for gaining the Sorshef’s attention (along with a specific ritual performed only by a Sahi Priest), and then an insanely high DC check in the specific skill was required in order to impress the Spirit. Such feats were usually held in particular occasions, especially during festivals, or at a wedding or for ceremonies for a newborn baby.

No one knows if such rites are still performed in the Last Age. It is believed that the last Freeriders have themselves lost the ancient ways, and very few remember the proper rites, that are transmitted from generation to generation. But only a handful of individuals remember them properly and understand them. Fewer dare perform them for fear of attracting the legates’ attention.

It is rumoured that Khalif Saida recently gained a new advisor who claims to be a lost Sahi priest, who performed rituals of the old time to attract the Sorshef’s favor on the freeriders’ band. None can say for sure.

What is known for certain is that the Sorshef , when successfully contacted and impressed, show their favor in indirect and subtle ways: short-time bonus for a specific skill, short-time gain of a feat, etc. This by no means grants any clerical or paladin (or ven druid, for that matter) spell.

The Sahi Priests of Old

Exegetes, Scholars and Prophets

“The countless members of the Riding Host are gods or goddesses unto themselves and continually ride across the heavens on enigmatic quests reflected in the paths of the constellations. Their adventures are recorded in the Sorshef Sahi, an endless series of parables from which the Sahi priesthood garner lessons of wisdom and codes of behavior for the Sarcosan faithful”

- Midnight 1st Edition excerpt.

Traditionally, the Sahi were Sarcosan philosophers and wise men.They were most of the time, rather than priests, scholars who studied the wisdom contained in their sacred texts, and by studying the star’s patterns. They were not aloof people, instead sharing their knowledge and wisdom with the common man, for such was their duty. Their advice was sought by sussar and sheol alike, and indeed it was this aspect of their functions that earned them the most admiration in Sarcosan culture. They also took great delight in riddles that were used to enlighten their flock’s minds.

They also studied the parables of the Sorshef, and were able to discover secret prophecies hidden in the book’s text. During the Third Age, several old sahi devoted their lives to decrypt its arcanes in order to gain more knowledge against Izrador. So far, the Book has successfully predicted the fall of the Old Empire, the fall of the Free People and Jahzir’s betrayal. It is only too sad that the old sages could only understand the riddles once it was too late. Anyway, the sahi priests were deeply respected for their high intelligence and interpretation of the Sorshef Sahi, in order to make predictions. Only the highest ranking members were allowed access to the sacred texts, as they were the only ones supposed to be able to interpret them in order to make prophecies.

In the Last Age, such treasures of lore and wisdom are supposed forever lost. However, some of their numbers are rumoured to be at the origins of the Chandrahaal, and there are definitely connections between the last surviving (and hiding members) of the Sahi and the secret society. And of course, some copies of the lost books must still be exchanged in secret between hiding scholars, but unfortunately, it is yet unknown if anyone is able to perceive its secret and hidden meanings. Such a feat could be a great boon for the resistance, as the stars were reputed reliable tools for prediction.

Teachers, Supporters and Advisors

They have (…) always been considered strict teachers, concerned only with providing their faithful harsh lessons that serve to cull the unworthy”

- Midnight 1st Edition excerpt

In Sarcosan tradition, the Sorshef were humanity’s teachers. The sahi priests gathered their gods’ knowledge in parables or fables, and tried and adapt them to current, practical and pragmatic situations. If successful, they were rumoured to be able to detect lies and treachery, no matter what the circumstances were. This ability could have made them the darlings of the court, although they shunned it. Few Kalifs ever could obtain the wise men’s advice, for unknown reasons. They kept saying that the stars forbid such interference of mystical power with mundane power. In recorded sarcosan history, only corrupted sahi ever became councilors for sussars or kalifs.

In the Last Age, however, there are many so-called sahi priests who actually can barely read a scroll, that are used as advisors for false sussars. Their lifespan is usually even shorter than their masters’, but the most cunning ones can provide the Shadow convenient and obedient replacements, should the puppet princes ever earn the Night King’s displeasure.

The freeriders currently have no such scholars in their ranks. It is thought that they are forever lost to the last free sarcosans.

The sahi also used their religious knowledge to find laughter and hope even in the grimmest of situations. You can’t be a good Sarcosan if you falter at your gods’ tests. Thus, there were sahi priests in Sarcosan military units, and especially in the doomed battles of the Third Age, to provide these troops much-needed resilience and hope in the face of adversity. Such abilities are sorely missed, although a few people kept their rituals honored among the freeriders and are able to provide some small measure of morale boost before battle is joined, but nothing comparable to the feats the priests of old could achieve. This usually takes the form of a common silent prayer, under the stars, on the eve of important events.

Master Astrologers

“The Sahi Priests are expert stargazers (…) They believe that every event can be predicted by the patterns of the night sky and that the positions of the stars determine fate and fortune”

- Midnight 1st Edition excerpt.

Of course, astrological knowledge allowed the priests to try and forecast the future, albeit with no guarantee of success. These were most of the time only educated guesses made after the stars’ pattern.

However, some sahi were channelers, and even sometimes wizards, with access to divination magic. These wise men have of course gone into hiding, as the occupation troops are not too fond of the hope their predictions give to the common people.

Some are also rumored to be prisoners of puppet princes and forced to tell them the future. If they predict doom, they are executed. Gradually, these priests were replaced by professional astrologers, most of them being charlatans, due to the ambiant lack of knowledge in the Last Age. These people have access, if only for a short time before their masters get rid of them, to the luxuries of court and rich food. Most often, just showing literacy will be enough to impress a minor false sussar and be taken to his court. Those weak bastards are so afraid to lose their life, either in a rebellion or because of their masters’ discontent, that they are only too eager to find some comfort in predictions of glorious deeds and long life…

The Sahi Priests in the Last Age

“The Great Badrua – a tall star tower built of red stone cut and shipped from the shores of the Island of Asmadar. The tower once held the fabled book of the Sahi and the army of acolytes and priests that studied its teachings. It now stands empty and sealed by order of the false sussars. Under the dominion of the Shadow, worship of any god but Izrador is punishable by death and the priests are long fled with the holy artifact. No one knows where they now hide”

- Midnight 1st Edition excerpt.

The Star Towers

These were always mysterious places, even at the peak of the sarcosan religion. They were used both as temples to the sorshef and astrological observation points, and many rituals whose meaning is now lost were performed in such places, always at particular dates or astrological conjunctions. Built from the most noble components, they always had the same architecture, and were rumoured to gather the starlight’s energies to fuel the priests’ magical powers.

In truth, if correctly reattuned and reconnected, the Star Towers can be used a Power nexi with a focus on Star Magic (see below). Such knowledge has of course escaped to the legates, who otherwise would have installed zordrafin coriths inside to capt their energy.

Such an event could have cataclysmic repercussions, for it would deprive the Sorshef of their powers, and they would no longer be able to ride in the sky. In mundane terms, this would provoke a major starfall on Aryth, and the sky would lose many stars (and much nightlight, which provides people a measure of hope, a fatc that very few people are aware of).

Hiding priests could ask the PCs to “recapture” a lost Star Tower (it could have been turned into an altogether different building in the Last Age, maybe the residence of a local legate?), in order to use its powers to create badly-needed covenant items.

The Book of the Sahi

This legendary item is a book of knowledge, prophecy and mysteries, mixed in with riddles and jokes. Its sentences are mostly cryptical, and few are able to understand it (Decipher Script DC 30, Knowledge: Religion [sarcosan] DC 40) to gain some measure of its wisdom. It can be used to remove Corruption points, Despair points and even to remove curses. It also is known to allow its users to see the future, although intepreting correctly the visions thus gained is a different matter altogether.

There is only one known copy, and it is the one the fleeing sahi managed to take with them from Sharuun when the city fell. All attempts to perform exact copies have always met with failure.

Priests in hiding

Of course, the obvious choice for sahi to flee was, given their weird sense of humour, the Forest of the Sahi. Coming from all parts of Southern Eredane at the signal of their Archonte, they were greeted by human druids, who had remained aloof from othe rhumans since the first Dornish invasions. The local forest spirit had foreseen the invasion of Eredane, and strangely, was willing to shelter the fleeing wise men. The druids, protectors of the forest, knew better than to contradict their master’s wishes.

For a century, the forest has carefully been avoided by the Shadow’s troops, as it is rumoured to be a haunted place and no one who entered it ever was seen again. The local druids and wildlanders,helped by dire animals, did an astounding job for that.

In the forest, a hidden star tower was built, that held a clandestine scholar school. In this place, prophets, astrologers, and keepers of lost artifacts are gathered (they number no more than twenty people in all). Of course, they lost much of their knowledge during their flight from the Shadow, and many rituals are now but distant memories.

Even the sarcosan freeriders have not heard of the lost wise men, who are thought extinct in the Last Age of Aryth. Curiously, once every few years, a young sarcosan will feel some strange urge to explore the place and will be let in. He will then join the small community that hides there.

The Sorshef priests are technically druids, with a knack for astronomy and astrology (and maybe a few levels as channelers with access to divination spells). The Star Towers of the Sahi were attempts for easier access to the Sorshef, and in truth add a small bonus spell energy (+2) for any spells cast inside or around (50 meters) them.

It is possible for them to "reach" the sorshef, in the rare events of falling stars or other major and rare astronomical events. This does not in any way mean that the Sorshef will answer to a prayer made during that time, since their mindset is too alien to really understand what humans would be asking for them. It usually means instead they gain a higher caster level (+2) during such rare events, and only for specific magic schools, depending on the Arc during which the event happens.

The magic of the stars

Sahi priests can gain levels as channelers and then druids, or more rarely (for the wisest ones) as wizards (such rare individuals are rarely high ranking members who have completed the Druid PrC and are allowed to read the Book of the Sahi to make predictions out of it).

They were practicing rituals (no “normal versions” of these spells were ever created) in the following domains:

  • Far-seeing (telescope, etc.)
  • Regain hope
  • Divination
  • True sight (see beyond illusions, see past lies, detect magic, detect invisibility, etc… all “detect” effects)
  • Light / illumination (both mundane & mystical)
  • Healing/ purifying (remove curse, heal corruption/taint)
  • Knowledge (decipher script, languages, etc.)
  • Advice/wisdom imparted

When a Meteorite Falls

An adventure adaptation of the classic D&D adventure “Fallen Angel” by Ramon Arjona, downloadable for free on WotC’s website.

On a moonless night, a bright light appeared in the night sky above the small hamlet of Elton (this is a place seemingly forgotten by the local Shadow troops, as it is located far from any road and is a very poor and uninteresting – and almost starving- peasant community). The brilliant celestial event awakened the residents of the village, who emerged from their dwellings to marvel at a starfall. Upon reaching the village common, the villagers found a young man, barely more than a boy, lying naked and shivering on the ground. Though he resembled an elf, there was an almost unearthly beauty about him. They asked him who he was, but his reply came in a musical tongue they had never heard before. This stranger was in fact a newly-risen Sorshef member, who had accidentally fallen from his steed’s saddle and fell on earth. Of course, he has no memory of what happened or who he is. The people of Elton knew nothing of the stranger’s nature, but they did understand that he was weak, cold, and in need of help. So they found clothes for him and provided him with food and shelter. Calling him “the gift of the star,” they accepted him into their community. Over the course of several weeks, the young man began to learn the language of his benefactors. He accepted Elton as his new home and did his best to fit in. His benefactors named him Arithel, as the poor man had no idea what his name was.

Meanwhile, sinister plans were afoot in the nearby hills. A wandering legate called Brath, intrigued by the starfall, decided to investigate the anomaly further and see whether any of its effects could be turned to his advantage. He followed the light to Elton and took up a hidden position where he could see what transpired. He witnessed the boy’s adoption by the villagers and heard his first words. Having no idea what the language was, he decided that the boy must be a celestial—albeit a puny one—that had been torn from its home in some mysterious way. Realizing that a young celestial lay practically within his grasp, Brath hurried back to nearby caverns to make plans. His order’s evil tomes revealed that the tears and blood of an angel could be used to create powerful weapons of evil. With such weapons at his disposal, he might become an important member of the Order of Shadow and rise above his undeserved modest rank. He could perhaps even rule all the lands nearby himself! Thus, he became determined to kidnap the young Sorshef, extract as much useful material from him as possible, and then sacrifice him to a dark power. Such a sacrifice, he hoped, would grant him power and prestige far beyond that normally attainable by an ogre mage of his tender years.

Adventure Synopsis

Of course, the PCs are now in the service of the Sahi from the Forest of the Sahi. Their masters too have spotted the exceptional starfall a few weeks ago, and decided to send the PCs to further investigate the matter. After weeks of study, they managed to determine the exact location of the impact point; the village of Elton, in the southern Eredane. They are to go there, and if possible gather the metals from the meteorite that has fallen on earth, and bring it back so that the priests may forge a “magic” item.

Unfortunately, the day before their arrival, Brath, who meanwhile managed to cower a local orc band, led them in an attack on the village of Elton. The town was plundered, but only one resident was carried off—Arithel. The surviving townsfolk are desperate, and they appeal to the PCs for aid. Surprisingly, however, they are more concerned about ensuring Arithel’s safe return than they are about getting their own possessions back. The PCs must find and penetrate the lair of the orcs, fight their way past the guards in the caverns, and finally defeat Brath himself before they can rescue the fallen Sorshef.

Author: smeagol

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