The Church of Ish-Tarri is an ancient religious organisation that survived relatively unchanged through the various incarnations of the Empire of Akanu, and then when Akanu and Unther merged it transferred to Unther and lasted until the present century continuing in its duty to the Mulan people.
At the turn of the 14th century DR, Gil-Geamesq’s policy of persecuting the other religions of Unther finally included the Church of Ish-Tarri and the Church of Ram-Manu (which previously had been too powerful and popular to act against). Since then their ancient temples have been closed, the duties of their ensi have been restricted, and the entire upper echelons of the church have been executed.
It is unknown if the Church of Ish-Tarri will survive another decade with or without the interference of Gil-Geamesq, but even if it does survive, the church has already changed dramatically, beyond recognition to many of its clergy.
The Church of Ish-Tarri was officially founded with the Empire of Akanu in -1871 DR, although the House of Ish was founded long before then and Ish-Tarri and her family had been tending to the agricultural needs of the Mulan people that would form Akanu as they wandered north of Unther and west across Chessenta.
When the ranks of the godkings of Akanu and Unther were massacred during the Orcgate Wars, Ish-Tarri’s church took over the roles and responsibilities from other churches (such as the tracking the lunar cycle from the Church of Sin-An’na). Finally when the Empires of Akanu and Unther merged, and Gil-Geamesq became the God-King of Unther, the Church of Ish-Tarri gradually migrated its bases of power to Unther. Since then the Church of Ish-Tarri has had it’s centre of power in Niz’Jaree, and has concentrated its efforts on providing food enough for the citizens of Unther while tending to their pastoral needs as well.
Gradually Gil-Geamesq drove away all the other gods and churches of Unther (anything that might one day grow to threaten him or his rule), until only the Church of Ish-Tarri and the Church of Ram-Manu were left. Ish-Tarri and Ram-Manu’s churches were incredibly popular among the people of Unther and any act against them could have caused mass riots and demonstrations. Gil-Geamesq believed his opportunity to destroy the last of his rivals finally arrived in 1318 DR when a devastating plague arrived in Unther, spread rapidly among the population, and killed many of the infected.
Gil-Geamesq and his ensi deliberated on the cause of the plague for many years before deciding that it was ultimately the fault of Ish-Tarri and Ram-Manu and their clergy which allowed the plague to spread so rapidly. It was an attempt to demonise the church to their most faithful supporters, a tactic employed many times before, but Ish-Tarri and her church were so popular it did not have the desired effect.
Heedless of the damage done to his own reputation, Gil-Geamesq restricted the activities of the two churches, preventing the clergy from converting followers of other churches (namely anyone who might be worshipping Gil-Geamesq), and stopping them from performing the age old practice of flooding the Napi’Ther Eqlu (Green Fields) to improve the fertility of the soil. Crop yields began to decline and famine spread in Unther but the opinion of Ish-Tarri remained constant while Gil-Geamesq’s declined.
Gil-Geamesq then prevented the building of temples (including the rebuilding of old temples), and a spate of sudden accidents befell the many temples of Ish-Tarri across Unther over the next few years. The most notable of these incidents was late in 1338 DR when the Font of Life; the then high temple of Ish-Tarri, was devastated by fire. Shortly after this Ish-Tarri’s church declared she had entered voluntary seclusion in her last great temple; The Spring of Eternal Hope in Shussel.
Finally in 1346 DR, Gil-Geamesq declared the senior ensi of the Church of Ish-Tarri and the Church of Ram-Manu to be guilty of worshipping TiaMa’at (a crime punishable by death). All the clergy were rounded up by the masate of Unther (leading to some spectacular battles with the ensi of Ram-Manu who often held commanding and supporting roles within Unther’s armies) and publicly executed, although some were unaccounted for and may have fled Unther or gone into hiding.
The Church of Ish-Tarri was suddenly thrown into total chaos as the entire hierarchy of the church was destroyed. However, rather fortuitously, the Mulhorandi had been keeping a close eye on events unfolding in Unther and around 80 priests of Isis were sent to Shussel to assist the failing Church of Ish-Tarri. In the ensuing chaos of executions the priests of Isis were integrated into the church (claiming to be Mulan from far flung settlements or former provinces of Unther) and many of them were experienced priests who quickly achieved positions of power within the Spring of Eternal Hope and the Church of Ish-Tarri in general.
Today the priests of Isis within the church are concentrated in Shussel and nearby Nissel (Red Haven), they are careful not to draw attention to themselves lest their true allegiance be discovered. The priests of Isis are a secret kept from everyone in Unther including others in the Church of Ish-Tarri, however, Ul’Aen (High Lord) E-Kurre has discovered the secret and is blackmailing the priests of Isis into keeping the Church of Ish-Tarri in Shussel out of taking action against his unpopular rule, and occasionally supporting his edicts. In keeping this bargain, the Spring of Eternal Hope is becoming unpopular with other clergy in the church outside of Shussel, who feel they should resist the tyrannical rule of Gil-Geamesq and his lords as Messemprar has begun to do.
Headquarters: Shussel, the Spring of Eternal Hope
Members: 113 ensi of Ish-Tarri all formerly junior members of the church, and 76 priests of Isis from Mulhorand.
Leader: Ish-Tarri (really a Mulhorandi woman called Nemskis of the House of Thulhani) acts as the now distant figurehead of the Church of Ish-Tarri. Ish-Ibalpiel is the true leader of the Church of Ish-Tarri.
Religion: Ish-Tarri / Isis
Symbol: A female hand clutching a glowing crystal rod (casting the shadow of an ankh on the ground) in front of a bright star. The old symbol of a female hand clutching a glowing crystal rod has been gradually phased out since 1346 DR although it is still used in Unthalass and Messemprar.
The Church of Ish-Tarri is very strict in structure although this structure has changed dramatically since 1346 DR. All the old ranks and titles accorded to ensi have been officially abandoned in favour of new ranks (that are closer to those of the Church of Isis), and the number of ensi manning each shrine has been reduced. These changes have supposedly been made in the name of appeasing Gil-Geamesq, but it is also an attempt by the priests of Isis to bring the Church of Ish-Tarri closer in structure and dogma to that of the Church of Isis in Mulhorand.
The current ranking in order of seniority (highest to lowest) is; The Unity of Life (previously the Meeting of Rivers), The Harvest Master (previously Mother of The Wild), Raindancer (previously The Reaper), Flowing Waters (previously The Planter), The Farm Maiden (previously The Seed), Seedlings.
Important shrines are manned by Seedlings and overseen by The Farm Maidens with a Flowing Waters roaming between settlements (or permanently stationed in the larger cities). The only official remaining temple to Ish-Tarri is the Spring of Eternal Hope and that has a full hierarchy in place, Messemprar has an unofficial temple hidden in the Port District of the city with a Rain Dancer presiding over the temple. Unthalass’ temple was destroyed in an accident involving Gil-Geamesq in 1341 DR during a celebration where he battled a gigantic bull and accidentally threw it into the temple. The clergy of Ish-Tarri in the Unthalass remained, despite the lack of official premises and have refused the reforms implemented by the priests of Isis so they are sticking to the old hierarchy in an affront to their supposed superiors.
As yet the clergy in Unthalass have not declared a high priestess (Meeting of Rivers) to rival the “Unity of Life” Ish-Ibalpiel, but they no longer respect the commands from Shussel and it may only be a matter of time before the ensi of Ish-Tarri in Unthalass secede from the church and act against Gil-Geamesq’s rule.
Dogma / Motivations / Goals
The Church of Ish-Tarri teaches that nature is the most powerful force, except for Gil-Geamesq (an amendment to the original ethos that he demanded be included). Like all powers, nature is uncaring of the needs of those weaker than itself and so the Church of Ish-Tarri is there to make up for nature’s shortcomings.
The ensi of Ish-Tarri are charged by tradition and Gil-Geamesq, to oversee rivers, the weather, agriculture, fertility, the moon, and magic (many of these responsibilities were inherited from other churches of Unther whose godkings perished or were exiled). The priests assist farmers in growing food, oversee the marriage of lovers, help those in need, other tasks used to be the province of the church of Ish-Tarri (such as flood defences and registering magic users) but are now entrusted to the Church of the Sky Father and the government of Unther.
The official commands from “The Unity of Life” Ish-Ibalpiel in Shussel are that the clergy of Ish-Tarri are to take no actions against Gil-Geamesq or his rule, nor aid those who take action against him. Instead they are to focus on providing aid to the poor and starving in Unther, with the Church using its own funds to cover the cost. Many of the clergy in Unther (outside of Shussel) are unhappy with this command and are either considering defying the order or have already done so.
Like most churches that serve nature related deities, the Church of Ish-Tarri holds festivals that coincide with the change of seasons.
The Seeding: This festival is celebrated on the first day of spring (held much earlier here than in northern Faerun), but the exact day varies each year according to the predictions of the high priest (whose ability to hold the office is often dependent upon the success of these predictions).
The festival is a moderate affair with a limited feast of winter vegetables held at each shrine. Young maidens are often married during this festival and the conception rates from these marriages is often unusually high. Much singing and dancing heralds the arrival of spring, and if it rains during the festival it is seen as a very good omen.
The Reaping: This festival celebrates the first day of the harvest with a lavish feast and the sacrifice of many livestock (although nowadays the feasts are much more meager). Occasionally, as the situation warrants, a human sacrifice is offered on this day, but only if a criminal already sentenced to death is available.
Membership / Recruiting
The Church of Ish-Tarri is populated with clergy that, up until 10 years ago were all junior members of the church (or clergy in another church). As a result of Gil-Geamesq’s machinations, many of the secrets of the church have been swept away along with many of the old traditions as well. The church is now happy to welcome anyone into it’s ranks, and if not for the edicts of Gil-Geamesq, it would have done so already.
Gil-Geamesq has decreed that the Church of Ish-Tarri and the Church of Ram-Manu may no longer recruit people that already worship another of the godkings. One of his many other decrees has declared that all citizens of Unther must worship Gil-Geamesq above all other gods (punishable by enslavement, death, or the arena). Thus the Church of Ish-Tarri may not convert anyone within Unther to the worship of Ish-Tarri and so has trouble recruiting any new clergy (Untheri that declare themselves worshippers of Ish-Tarri devout enough to devote their lives to her worship are also admitting they love Ish-Tarri more than Gil-Geamesq – a dangerous thing to admit).
Recent events have however thrown the Church of Ish-Tarri a lifeline. Those of Mulan birth from outside of Unther and who can claim descent (with proof) from the godkings of Unther may still declare themselves the faithful of Ish-Tarri. The latest recruits into the church come from Threskel and settlements on the Mulhorandi side of the River of Swords, or settlements within the Shaar, the Wizard’s Reach or the Yuirwood, an idea suggested by the priests of Isis hidden within the church, and so far not opposed by the Church of the Sky Father.
As it stands the secret priests of Isis hold all the senior positions of the church within the settlement of Shussel, with native Untheri priests of Ish-Tarri holding the junior and middle positions. Outside of Shussel the native Untheri hold the senior positions of the few manned shrines of Ish-Tarri while those of Mulan descent from outside of Unther hold the junior positions.
Ensi of Ish-Tarri are not allowed to attempt to convert people within Unther so they are being sent abroad into neighbouring foreign lands to find new devout followers.
The Church of Ish-Tarri has traditionally been allied with the Church of Ram-Manu, but following the events of 1345 DR the Church of Ram-Manu was all but destroyed after a series of very violent conflicts between the masate (soldiers) of Unther and the ensi of Ram-Manu. There is now no real Church of Ram-Many left to continue the alliance between the two organisations.
The Church is supposedly allied with the Church of the Sky Father, but most ensi of Ish-Tarri would rather die extremely painful deaths than aid or call upon the aid of any ensi of Gil-Geamesq. The feeling among the ensi of Gil-Geamesq is similar in that they would rather inflict extremely painful deaths to Ish-Tarri’s clergy if given the chance.
The church is effectively allied with the Church of Isis (a secret known only to the most senior of clergy in Shussel), and it can draw upon the enormous resources, funds, and manpower of one of the major churches of Mulhorand as needed. In fact the Church of Ish-Tarri is secretly using large amounts of money from Mulhorand to buy food in order to feed the poor and needy of Shussel and the rest of Unther.
The Church of Ish-Tarri has one true enemy now and that is Gil-Geamesq. It’s members are forbidden to take overt action against this enemy (or support anyone that is doing so), but many are now contemplating or actively disregarding this order, and it is only a matter of time before the Church of Ish-Tarri wholly (or in parts) takes side against Gil-Geamesq in the coming revolution.
The church also considers the Cult of the Queen of Chaos to be its enemy, but this is more out of tradition and because of TiaMa’at’s hatred of all the godkings of Unther. No hostilities have occurred between the two organisations in recent years (since it’s reappearance) and this stance of default hostility may change with time if the cult would soften it’s opinion of the Church of Ish-Tarri.
Ish-Chana (Neutral, Human – Mulan, Expert 3): Ish-Chana is the last survivor of the former temple of Ish-Tarri in Messemprar (known as the Ford of the River) which collapsed suddenly 5 years ago. Ish-Chana has spent years hiding among the slaves of Messemprar and has now established a makeshift temple amid the Port District controlled by the Free Unther movement.
Ish-Ibalpiel (Good, Human – Mulan, Magic User 7): The reigning high priestess of Ish-Tarri is a known pacifist, and like many of the ensi of Ish-Tarri in Shussel, speaks halting Untheric with a strange accent. She is in reality a priest of Isis from Mulhorand that is helping to prop up the failing Church of Ish-Tarri, while at the same time steering the church towards worship of Isis. She hates violence and despises E-Kurre, but recognises that he may need her help as much as she needs his.
Ish-Utuhegel (Neutral, Human – Mulan, Magic User 2 / Expert 3): Utuhegel is the Mother of the Wild for the Napi’Ther Eqlu (Greenfields) region. She commands the loyalty and respect of all ensi of Ish-Tarri south of Shussel and has chosen to remain true to the old traditions of the church rather than embrace the reforms implemented by Ish-Ibalpiel. Ish-Utuhegel spends most of her time in Unthalass overseeing preparations there, but can be found further south during harvest time.
Nemskis Thulhani (Good, Human – Mulan, Magic User 10 / Expert 5): Nemskis Thulhani is a member of the noble House of Isharia of Mulhorand and a maternal descendant of Isis herself. She is a towering 6 ft 4 inches in height with long flowing golden hair and sapphire blue eyes. Nemskis has been masquerading as Ish-Tarri in the Spring of Eternal Hope in Shussel since she arrived in 1349 DR to help maintain the belief among the people that Ish-Tarri is alive and well.
Sin-Luan’Na (Good, Human – Mulan, Expert 1): Sin-Luan’Na is one of the last remaining ensi of Ish-Tarri in Niz’Jaree, tending to her shrine (a natural moondial) on the northern side of town. Sin-Luan’Na feels abandoned by her deity and so has taken to using her original family name once more.
Sphere of Influence
Unther: As a major church of Unther, the focus of the Church of Ish-Tarri is almost exclusively within the borders of Unther. The people of other lands have long since abandoned the worship of the Untheric pantheon that was forced upon them during the expansion of Unther’s empire.
Messemprar: A stronghold of worship for the Church of Ish-Tarri, the original temple (the Ford of the River) recently collapsed and killed the entire attending clergy (almost). The sole surviving clergy (a junior and inexperienced ensi) has rebuilt the temple as The Soiled Pearl, hidden in the cellars of the Port District where it has sided with the Free Unther movement against the rule of Gil-Geamesq. Thankfully the secret existence of this temple has spared the rest of the church from any backlash due to their treasonous activities.
Niz’Jaree: Formerly the headquarters of the Church of Ish-Tarri at the Font of Life. This high temple was suddenly burned down 1338 DR, prompting the removal of almost all resources in Niz’Jaree to the next greatest (and surviving) temple; the Spring of Eternal Hope. Niz’Jaree is now home to a single ensi attending her favoured shrine (supplemented by wandering priests during the year who visit the remaining shrines)
Shussel: The headquarters of the Church of Ish-Tarri, this city is home to a secret revolution within the church as most of its members are actually Mulan from Mulhorand who worship Isis and are here to transform the church to prepare it for future Mulhorandi expansion. This transformation has put it at odds with much of the rest of the traditional Church of Ish-Tarri (what remains of it).
The Church of Ish-Tarri was at one time one of the richest institutions in Unther. The past century has seen much of it’s stockpiles of wealth stolen, or destroyed by “accidents” and the machinations of the ensi of Gil-Geamesq. What little could be recovered was moved to the Spring of Eternal Hope in Shussel, however, decades of poverty and high taxation have emptied the coffers of this last temple to Ish-Tarri.
There may be a few items secreted away in the shrines dotted around Unther, but as far as the faithful of Ish-Tarri are concerned they must rely on their own resources and resourcefulness when needed. Equipment relating to their agricultural duties are in a poor state of repair, other equipment (especially weapons and armour) are almost non-existent. Things are a little better in Shussel thanks to the secret patronage of the Church of Isis in Mulhorand, the coin of the Mulhorandi (using old Untheric currency to avoid suspicion) are used to buy items (mostly food) that is then distributed to those most in need.
Oil of Eternity: This oil has been a wonder of the southern lands for over a thousand years. It has been an exclusive secret of the Church of Ish-Tarri, sold to An’Ular of power and wealth in order to keep them young and extend their life.
The oil has been increasingly difficult to come by since Ish-Tarri supposedly fled Niz’Jaree and entered voluntary seclusion in Shussel, and later all senior ensi of Ish-Tarri and Ram-Manu were executed for being followers of TiaMa’at. It would appear that the remnants of Ish-Tarri’s church do not possess the knowledge to create the oil or are unable to do so without Ish-Tarri herself because the only oil of eternity appearing on the Great Market of Unthalass are those vials hoarded by noble families for later use (and which are now fetching exorbitant prices).
In truth the Oil of Eternity was created in a manner similar to Serthe, requiring the blood of Ish-Tarri herself to be mixed with crushed blossoms from the firetrees and other unknown but rare reagents. Depending upon the concentration, amount used, and application location, the effects varied from removing wrinkles and signs of ageing (applying to the skin), to halting the ageing process for a time (ingestion without vomiting the oil, which was slightly toxic), or even restoring youth (a dangerous use requiring injection of this toxic substance which had occasionally resulted in the subject reverting to a defenceless infant or dying in agony).
This oil was often given as a gift to those performing a service to the church (or providing a large donation), when vials appeared on the open market it was not unknown for them to be sold for several hundred Ilguz or Sheku (gold pieces). With supply restricted even further, the last Oil of Eternity was sold for nearly 3,000 Ilguz for a tiny vial containing a few drops only 2 years ago.
Internal Feuds: The Spring of Eternal Hope in Shussel is home to the senior hierarchy of the Church of Ish-Tarri, and almost all of these ensi are secretly priests of Isis from Mulhorand. The Spring of Eternal Hope is attempting to transform the Church of Ish-Tarri into something more in line with the teachings and hierarchy of the Church of Isis, it is also seeking to reduce the suspicion of Gil-Geamesq and his ensi by actively preaching that all followers of Ish-Tarri should obey Gil-Geamesq and make sure not to take any action against his rule or aid anyone else who might take action against his rule.
The actions and orders of the ensi of Ish-Tarri in Shussel does not sit well with the remaining clergy in the rest of Unther, many of whom grew up with the church’s old teaching and who have suffered much under the actions of Gil-Geamesq and his followers. Most of these traditional ensi ignore the new edicts coming out of Shussel, but a few are actively disobeying the orders and are essentially independent of the main hierarchy, it is only a matter of time before the traditional and reformed arms of the church come to blows over differing ideology.
Ish-Utuhegel in Unthalass is likely to be the first to rally the traditionalist members of the Church of Ish-Tarri to her banner. Her first act (apart from taking action against Gil-Geamesq and his followers) will almost certainly be to try and find information that could discredit the reformed members in Shussel, in order to maintain secrecy Utuhegel will use one of the Seh’Nis to contact the adventurers when they are in Unthalass and promise gold in return for the adventurers to investigate the ensi in Shussel.
The ensi in Shussel will likely hire the adventurers to deal with those traditionalists who are acting against Gil-Geamesq or who are conspiring with radical groups in Unther, they will want the adventurers to kidnap the ensi and bring them to Shussel so they can be imprisoned.
The ensi of Gil-Geamesq will be looking to get information on either the traditionalist or reformed ensi of Ish-Tarri (not really understanding or caring for the difference). It is possible the Seh’Nis may betray Utuhegel and the adventurers to priests of Gil-Geamesq in order to gain citizenship (he or she will instead find their reward a painful death), with many ensi and masate interrupting any meeting with the adventurers and the Seh’Nis, or with the adventurers and the temple in Shussel.
Recovering Artefacts: There are several temples of Ish-Tarri in Unther that now lie in ruins thanks to the machinations of Gil-Geamesq and his ensi. The priests of Ish-Tarri desire to recover whatever relics lie amid the rubble of their former temples, these relics will likely include sacred texts (with spells), magical items, Serthe, and clues that implicate Gil-Geamesq and his followers. The adventurers will need to evade the watching masate and ensi of Gil-Geamesq, while accessing the cellars of the temples and dealing with whatever undead or monsters now inhabit the ruins.
Ish-Chana is especially interested in recovering the relics beneath the Ford of the River, which is mostly unplundered. The Font of Life in Niz’Jaree is relatively free of relics, but heavily infested with monsters and exotic animals.