Friday, July 18, 2014

Gods of Tel-Avi: Shed

Yet another deity inspired by music and baby-rocking, Shed draws on elements of the movement This Little Babe, from Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols, and the Egyptian god of the same name.

This little babe so few days old,
is come to rifle satan’s fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake,
though he himself for cold do shake;
For in this week unarmed wise
the gates of hell he will surprise.

With tears he fights and wins the field,
his naked breast stads for a shield.
His battering shot are babish cries,
his arrows look of weeping eyes.
His martial ensigns Cold and Need,
and feeble flesh his warrior’s steed.

His camp is pitched in a stall,
his bulwark but a broken wall;
The crib his trench, haystalks his stakes,
of shepherds he his muster makes.
And thus as sure his foe to wound,
the angels’ trumps a larum sound

If thou wilt foil thy
foes with joy, then
flit not from this
heavenly boy!

Shed, alternately referred to as “The Boy”, “The Babe”, or “The Child God”, is the preeminent war deity of Tel-Avi. Despite his depiction as an infant in swaddling, Shed is a master of wild beasts and of all weapons of war, and a dire foe of the demons that hold sway over much of the world. Called, “the savior” or “he who rescues”, Shed is often invoked by the common people to save them from illness, misfortune, inimical magic, or danger.

Shed is often viewed as a helper for those in need when state authority or the king’s help is wanting. For the most devout it is said that his help extends to saving a person from the underworld, even to providing a substitute, and lengthening a persons time in this world.

Shed is worshiped alternately as a god of war, valor, martyrdom, protection, and child-birth. Shed is usually depicted a child or young man, most often with a bald or shaved head and sometimes sporting wings. He goes naked or wears a kilt, sometimes with a broad collar and a quiver slung over his back. He may grasp serpents and wild, symbolically noxious animals while standing on the back of one or more crocodiles.

Shed, the deity, is said to be reborn every 18 years. His divine power and martial might is said to be at their greatest immediately after his birth and to wane as he ages until, upon reaching at the age of adulthood, he inevitably succumbs to the demons against which he constantly struggles, only to be born again the next day, more powerful than before. It is said that in the end of times, the perpetual cycle will end when Shed’s power has grown such that he will reign forever victorious over the demon armies and finally be allowed to grow old.

Shed is always accompanied by his heralds and aides, the personifications of the Cold of winter and the Deprivations of war. These two beings are said to serve as his midwives and wet-nurses, helping usher the newly born Shed into the world so that he might resume his wars. Just before Shed’s death, they are said to appear to a faithful woman who will bear the next Shed, and to stay with her and watch over her until Shed is reborn. It is said that if no faithful woman can be found, then Shed’s rebirth will be stopped and the world will be overrun by the armies of demonkind.

Symbol: Sheddites, as Shed’s faithful are called, use a variety of symbols. Depictions of Shed are common, and many temples will be covered on every surface with paintings and carvings of the winged, infant Shed. Priests typically carry bows and military trumpets, and garb themselves in cloth wrappings and soft robes reminiscent of swaddling.
Tears also serve as common symbols among the faith and are the primary divine focus for Shed’s priests. Many Sheddites will tattoo a single tear just below either eye or where tear-dropped shaped pendants.

Prayer: Sheddites pray often. They pray in the morning when they awake, before each meal, and at night before going to sleep. They are expected to pray whenever they are in need or in danger. Failure to pray for Shed’s aid before a battle is said to guarantee certain defeat. Shed’s priests pray to receive their spells each morning when they break their fast, offering at least half their meal as a burnt offering to Shed so that “the babe may not starve”.

Martial Service: All followers of Shed are expected to serve in a martial capacity, either for their church, village, nation, or for a professional company. The priests ensure that all young Sheddites are trained with sword, spear, bow, and fists and the temples keep well-stocked armories. A Sheddite who goes through his life with no opportunity to test himself in battle is said to have been forsaken by Shed, and thus many young men and women of the faith take up at least short adventuring careers to test their valor in Shed’s name.

Calendars, Holidays, and Childbirth: Sheddites observe a strict 18-year cycle of worship, beginning on the Vernal equinox, Shed’s day of birth, and ending the day immediately prior to the Vernal Equinox, his day of death. While all births among Shed’s faithful are met with joy, only children born on the Vernal Equinox have any chance of being the next incarnation of Shed. As such, many female Sheddites go out of their way to carefully plan their pregnancies during the eighteenth year of the cycle, the “Year of the Rebirth”, hoping that their child will be born on the correct day. Thus, the Summer Solstice is celebrated as the “Conception of the Lord”, with numerous private celebrations as Sheddite women attempt to conceive a child. When a child is born on the correct day of the correct year, all Sheddites in the area will rejoice with great celebrations punctuated by drinking, bonfires, and blaring martial music.

The Afterlife: Much as Shed is continuously reborn, Shed’s faithful believe that they too will be returned to the cycle of life. Sheddites believe that there are a finite number of souls in the world and that those that are faithful to Shed have always been faithful to Shed. A “convert” is simply the reborn soul of one of Shed’s faithful returning to the faith. The faithful dead are believed to be given immediate rebirth and remembrance in their new lives of Shed’s blessings. The truly pious, it is believed, will be protected by Shed and granted an extended lease on their current life, so that they might fight at his side longer.

Alignments: As a child, protector, and enemy of the demons, Shed is firmly Good-aligned, with no particular leanings towards law or chaos. His worshipers may be of any non-evil alignment.

Races: All races are accepted in Shed’s faith. Halflings, in particular, are considered blessed by Shed due to their ageless youth, and often hold positions of prominence within the religion. Women, particularly women of child-bearing age are also highly favored.

Classes: Shed is served predominantly by Clerics and Paladins. A small handful of Oracles and Inquisitors all claim Shed as a patron, especially among the halflings. Shed’s worshipers can also be found among the people of Seregond, where he is served by several orders of Monks. Shed does not count druids among his faithful.

Favored Weapons: Shed is often shown bearing a bow. Clerics and Inquisitors of Shed choose the shortbow as their weapon of choice. Alternatively, Clerics and Inquisitors may choose “unarmed strike” as their chosen weapon, gaining Improved Unarmed Strike as a bonus feat in place of the weapon proficiency.

Unique Magic: Regardless of class, all spellcasting worshipers of Shed can cast pup shape as a 2nd-level spell. This spell is added to their class spell list and to their spells known or spellbook (if appropriate). In addition, when summoning a creature via a Summon Monster or Summon Nature’s Ally spell, followers of Shed can choose to apply the Young template to a creature to reduce the level of the summoning spell required by one.