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    Cult of the Celestial Arch
    Posted on Tue, November 20, 2001 by Toran
    Taras writes "Years ago, the City of Greyhawk was wracked by a horrible series of kidnappings of the children of the city's nobility. Investigations led to the conclusion that the wizard Murq was behind them, although few realized just why he was having the aristocratic children of the city kidnapped, and what happened to them...few knew of the splinter cult Murq led, and what aberrant beliefs they held.

    Author: Taras Guarhoth




    The Cult of the Celestial Arch
    (Splinter from the Church of Celestian)

    by Taras Guarhoth (montand@canonfire.com)
    Used with Permission. Do not repost without first obtaining prior permission from the author.

    Location: Greyhawk City
    High Priest: Murq, Holy Prophet of Celestian
    Holy Book: Liber Caligo
    Symbol: An arc of 7 red stars, with a bright red circle within the arc, all on a circle of black.

    The Cult of the Celestial Arch is a splinter cult from the Church of Celestian in Greyhawk City. In the year 561 CY, they were outlawed for a number of atrocities committed upon the wealthy and noble families of the city by their Prophet. Murq escaped, and his current whereabouts are unknown. It is believed that the cult fell apart after this, but, this didn't happen. Instead, the cult hid itself, and has been in contact with Murq. It is possible that the cultists have some kind of revenge planned against the leaders of Greyhawk City...

    History: The Cult of the Celestial Arch was formed in 527 CY, when a mercenary wizard known as Murq of Fax found the Liber Caligo in the remains of an Aerdi temple of Celestian near the Bright Desert. He then headed to Leukish, where he caused a rift in the local Church of Celestian. After things started to turn violent, in 531 CY, the cultists fled for Greyhawk City. For many years, the cultists remained peacefully within the walls of Greyhawk City. No one noticed if a few urchins disappeared every now and then. In 561 CY, Murq interpreted a comet to mean that Celestian would appear if the proper sacrifices were made. The cultists then began to abduct the children of the wealthy and nobility of the city. That is when the authorities cracked down on the cult, and chased Murq out of the city. Many of other leaders in the cult were rounded up and executed, but most of the cultists managed to escape.

    The Temple of the Celestial Arch

    Clergy: Wizards, Astrologers
    Clergy's Alignment: NE

    All clergy of the Celestial Arch receive Astrology as a free proficiency. Clergy are required to take Languages, Modern (Aerdi).

    Dogma: In the past, the prophets foretold the coming of Celestian to the Oerth, and a great cataclysm that would follow. Those who believed were saved by Celestian, while those who scoffed were destroyed in the Invoked Devastation. These same prophets also foretold that in roughly 1000 years, another cataclysm would occur, and that the faithful would have to prepare the way for Celestian to come once again to save them. That time is rapidly approaching, and Celestian needs sacrifices in order to open the gateways between the Oerth and his Astral home. Once enough sacrifices have been made, Celestian will manifest on the Oerth, and save the faithful from the coming cataclysm. We are those faithful, and we must keep making sacrifices to Celestian. He allows us to interpret the signs in the sky, giving us glimpses into the future. And only he can give us salvation from the cataclysm. We must keep sacrificing to him, and continue to read the stars until he gives us a sign that the time for his manifestation has arrived.

    Day-to-Day Activities: The clergy of the Celestial Arch spend their days employed as astrologers, professors, and diviners.

    Important Ceremonies/Holy Days: Services are conducted every Starday night, and involve charting the stars, making predictions, and reading passages from copies of the Liber Caligo. On nights when Luna is new, the cult gathers and a human sacrifice is made to Celestian. A human sacrifice is also made when Celene is new. When both Celene and Luna are new, 7 sacrifices are made.

    Major Temple: The main (and only known) temple of the Celestial Arch was located below the Grey College, but that was sacked by Greyhawk's authorities and is currently abandoned. The cult currently meets on a hilltop several miles outside the city, where stone (bloodstained) altar is concealed, with the symbol of the cult carved on all sides of it. Murq surely maintains a sanctuary somewhere to the north, but no one knows where this is located.

    Priestly Vestments: The clergy of the Celestial Arch wear black robes with the symbol of the cult (7 red stars arranged in an arch, with a bright red circle within the arch) embroidered on the front and back.

    Hierarchy: Murq is the head of the Celestial Arch. Below him are 2 priests, who are responsible for overseeing the cult during Murq's exile. They are the ones who receive messages from Murq, and respond to them. Other priests exist, but they mainly perform menial tasks for the cult (such as copying the Liber Caligo for new cultists). Recently, one priest left Greyhawk City, and moved to Dyvers. It is unknown if he'll start a cult there, and if he does, how it will interact with the Greyhawk City cult...

    Liber Caligo and Expanded History: The Liber Caligo is an ancient book, dating back to before the Twin Cataclysms. It was written by an astrologer and follower of Celestian living near what is now Ull. Shortly before the Invoked Devastation, he wrote this book, based on visions he received, and then led his followers to safety. This small group of refugees migrated to the Abbor-Alz, within the boundaries of the Duchy of Urnst. There, they remained, on the frontiers of the Aerdi Empire. When the Empire began to crumble, the cult slowly began to dwindle, until it was completely forgotten by 400 CY. The original Liber Caligo was written in an obscure dialect of ancient Oeridian, and is possessed by Murq. All priests have a copy of it, written in Aerdi. Their copy is only partially complete. Normal cultists have copies written in Common, and theirs are very incomplete, and incomprehensible in places (due to translation errors). The original is a confusing work, rambling on, and containing bits and pieces of history, myth, religious doctrine, star/planet/comet information, and prophecy randomly mixed together throughout the work. Intelligence checks are required to properly understand any part that is read (at full INT for the original, if the dialect it's written in is known, at half if just ancient Oeridian is know, at one third for copies written in Aerdi, and at one quarter for copies written in Common).



    Note: Celestian, Greyhawk City"
     
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    Re: Cult of the Celestial Arch (Score: 1)
    by Scottenkainen on Thu, November 29, 2001
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    I would have liked to read more about this schism, and how Murq was able to subvert Neutral (Good) followers of Celestian into an evil cult...



    Re: Cult of the Celestial Arch (Score: 1)
    by Taras on Thu, November 29, 2001
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    While I would love to give further detail to those particular things...I never used this in a campaign, and probabily never will (given that I don't campaign in that area of the world). So...such detail is unlikely to be forthcoming from me. Now, if someone else wanted to do it...

    And before anyone asks, I don't recall the exact circumstances that drove me to write this piece, but I seem to recall it being something about the expandability of some of the older materials (in this particular case, the adventure ideas from the old '83 Boxed Set).


    ]


    Re: Cult of the Celestial Arch (Score: 1)
    by chatdemon (chatdemon@hotmail.com) on Mon, December 03, 2001
    (User Info | Send a Message | Journal)
    I'm wondering about the so called atrocities against CoG's nobility. What exactly took place? Why does the cult harbor some ill will toward the nobles?

    I've been toying with ways to further integrate some of my new and/or converted gods into the campaign wide pantheon (as opposed to my suloise pantheon alone) and it seems this might be a nice little hook for some interaction between followers of Murq and the followers of the Devil Hadriel, whose dogma teaches of the divine right of noble women to rule the Oerth. The opportunity for two fringe cults to go at each other under the 'no evil gods' crap that Greyhawk city has turned into is just too good to pass up.



    Re: Cult of the Celestial Arch (Score: 1)
    by Taras on Mon, December 03, 2001
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    Well, according to the Glossography from the '83 boxed set:

    "Fifteen years ago, the city of Greyhawk...was plagued by a series of strange disappearances among the youth of the noble families. The children simply disappeared at night, never to be seen again, though sometimes they were replaced by simulacrums that committed vile blasphemies and had to be destroyed."

    I have further detailed these "atrocities" beyond what was in the article.


    ]


    Re: Cult of the Celestial Arch (Score: 1)
    by chatdemon (chatdemon@hotmail.com) on Sat, December 08, 2001
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    Ok, I've done a bit of scheming, and taken the liberty of doing a tie in idea between this cult and one of my converted devil lords, Hadriel.

    Hadriel's cult is fairly new to Greyhawk city, being popular among the young and middle aged nobles, especially women (and masochistic men), after being introduced by various refugees who entered the city during and shortly after the wars. Hadriel's name was unspoken and almost unheard of during Murq's era.

    In 561, the year of the "atrocities committed upon the wealthy and noble", I theorize that Murq made a strange interpretation of a stellar alignment he was studying, and prophecized the coming of a 'maiden dark, yet pale, who shall over us prevail'. His communing (and possibly delusions) did however lead to a fairly correct prediction; a twisted cult would rise in popularity among the children of the nobility when they came of age. The truth of his assumption that this cult would somehow trouble his own will likely never be known, since he decided to have many of the noble children he suspected would become his enemies kidnapped, tortured and murdered, leading to his own exile from the city.

    The current members of the cult of Hadriel have mostly forgotten about the horrors inflicted upon their peers in their youth (some 30 years prior), and even those who remember have yet to make any connection between their cult and ravings of an exiled prophet, so a reappearance of Murq or someone close to him could lead for a very interesting and chaotic chain of events in the city.

    I'm still waiting to see how my players warm to this plot thread, so I haven't developed it further than that yet, but hopefully it gives at least one direction to take it in terms of further developing Murq and the Mist Golem adventure hook.

    My apologies if I've taken too much liberty with your idea though :-)




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