The cult of the old gods is an amalgamation of people who have devoted themselves to the long lost godkings of Unther and Akanu and seek to restore them to prominence in the lands of Unther once more.
Since the founding of Unther and Akanu around 3000 years ago, most of the godkings that helped establish those empires have long since perished or vanished. The absence of these godkings inevitably resulted in the slow decline of the faithful followers of these legendary heroes until they were all but forgotten. Gil-Geamesq’s policy of restricting and then outlawing the worship of non-sanctioned faiths has continued this decline.
In recent centuries as Unther itself notably diminished in power, and Gil-Geamesq became increasingly tyrannical, people have begun to secretly embrace ideas outlawed by the God-King of Unther. The worship of other gods is just one such idea that has spread amongst those who no longer support Gil-Geamesq’s rule.
As Unther nears collapse in the 14th century Dalereckoning, ensi have begun to appear (in regions where Gil-Geamesq’s rule is light) who openly declare faith with the old gods.
Members: 59 ensi
Religion: Varies (E-Anu, En-K’ihh, Kal-Zarein, Sin-Anna, Ass-Uraqn, Amar-Du’uk, T-Uttu, Ner-Gaql, E-Nlil, Da-Mmusqi, Gir-Ubil, Ina-Ninaki, Kre-Nerra, Nin-Lliaruk, Shu-Mmatq, Teu-Nasabu)
Symbol: A shining khopesh
The Cult of the Old Gods has no organization to speak of. The ensi of any of the old gods recognizes that he is outlawed in Unther and so will always render aid to another ensi of the old gods. Seniority depends upon experience an ability during any meeting of ensi of the old gods and so leadership of small cells varies from meeting to meeting.
There is no formal hierarchy, no ranks, no official duties or vestments or appointments of office. The Cult of the Old Gods is a loose alliance of people of different faiths that have agreed to cooperate in order to survive in a land dominated by the worship of Gil-Geamesq.
The Cult of the Old Gods will accept anyone who professes a deep devotion to one of the old gods, but members are constantly wary for deceivers and agents of Gil-Geamesq.
Dogma / Motivation / Goals
The Cult of the Old Gods has no formal dogma (unlike most other religious organisations), because it is made up of many ensi who follow different faiths, and even those who follow the same faith do so in different ways.
The over-arching goal of the Cult of the Old Gods is to restore worship of other godkings to prominence in Unther, currently that puts them at odds with Gil-Geamesq, the Church of the Sky Father, and the government of Unther, but removing Gil-Geamesq and his rule is part of the goal only so long as religious practices are restricted.
The ensi of the old gods wander between the minor settlements of Unther, taking care to avoid the major settlements and anywhere with an official presence), preaching the word of whatever old god they follow (and the existence of the other old gods) and attempting to convert lay worshippers towards one of those gods. As part of their preaching they see to the needs of lay worshippers by administering herb lore to the sick and injured, providing education, performing marriage unions, and giving guidance and advice.
Each ensi preaches the dogma of his god in his own way, interpreted from ancient legends and childhood stories (the original dogma of the faiths of the old gods having been lost centuries or millennia ago). Ensi of the same god tend to preach the dogma in different ways unless they were apprenticed to the same teacher (and even then differences occur). So far the Cult of the Old Gods is so small that different sects for the same god have not yet grown powerful enough to cause internal strife but this may occur as the cult grows.
Holy Days: Holy Days vary from ensi to ensi (as does the dogma), but there are two celebrations common to all. The first is known as the Day of Death and marks the beginning of the Orcgate Wars (according to Unther), this starts on Kythorn 1 when the armies of Unther landed in the Priador. The second is known as the Day of Departure and marks the ascent of Gil-Geamesq to the rule of Unther and also starts on Hammer 1. None know if these dates are accurate (except for perhaps Gil-Geamesq himself if his deluded mind cared to recall the truth), but they have been accepted by the majority of cultists.
The Day of Death and Day of Departure are a celebratory remembrance of the last days of the godkings during which time a feast is held and the epic poems of Unther and Akanu are recited (in their unedited versions as much as they have been preserved in folklore) which recount these historic events. Gil-Geamesq is only mentioned in accordance with the original versions of these poems (not the fictional accounts he has altered over the years). The feast and celebrations lasts for an entire day and the final hours of daylight are spent praying for the return of the absent godkings and sacrificing the remaining foodstuffs to them in homage.
Membership / Recruiting
The Cult of the Old Gods recruits from any who seem receptive to the old ways. Typically they preach to the laity in small, border settlements where the rule of Gil-Geamesq is light (or absent) and the people are poor and uneducated. Those who show a willing devotion to the old gods are usually taken as apprentices by the travelling ensi preaching at the settlement. After a few years training in the ways of the old gods (usually the one particular god the ensi favours), the apprentice takes up the mantle of travelling preacher himself.
The travelling ensi of the old gods have to be wary of those loyal to Gil-Geamesq and the ambitious looking to gain favour with the authorities (by reporting those who violate the will of Gil-Geamesq), and must move on regularly before the authorities catch up with them.
The Cult of the Old Gods has no official allied organisations, no affiliated military or monastic orders, and no powerful patrons to call upon in times of need. The organization is outcast in Unther and can expect no help from government sanctioned organisations, it’s small size also makes it unimportant to the Faerunian religions that wish to gain a foothold inside Unther.
The Cult of the Old Gods is however generous and helpful to other religions and to the common folk. They have a good reputation amongst the rural citizenry of Unther who will often shield them from the masate and ensi of Gil-Geamesq, whilst ensi of other religions will provide succor and shelter (unofficially) to those requesting it as long as they do not advertise their illegal affiliations to others.
As an illegal religion in Unther the Cult of the Old Gods is opposed by Gil-Geamesq, his ensi and masate, and the government of Unther. The ensi of the old gods do not reciprocate the hatred other than seeing Gil-Geamesq as a blocker in their goal of spreading the teachings of the old gods to all in Unther (if the laws were changed the cult would likely be content under Gil-Geamesq’s rule).
Kre-Emin (Neutral, Human – Mulan, Magic User 9): Kre-Emin is acknowledged among the cultists as the most powerful ensi of the old gods and the defacto leader in any gathering. He has established a settlement in Chessenta where the worship of any god is allowed (although the old gods of Unther and Akanu are favoured) and it from here that he seeks to send preachers into Unther to gather converts.
Spheres of Influence
Chessenta: Chessenta is a major area of concern for the Cult of the Old Gods because half its population now worships gods from the Faerunian Pantheon and worship of the Mulho-Untheric Pantheon is in decline, a decline that the Cult of the Old Gods seek to reverse. More importantly however, Chessenta is free from Gil-Geamesq’s rule and religious practice is not restricted (although the old gods are not favoured by the population any longer).
A number of ensi of the old gods have attempted to establish a headquarters in Chessenta, near the borders of Unther to provide a place of safety for wandering ensi where Gil-Geamesq and his agents cannot strike at them.
Asraru (Hamlet, 89): The Land of Freedom is a fledgling settlement in the Hills of Maerth that was established by Kre-Emin who is regarded by most in the cult as the most capable ensi of the old gods. It is populated by the few ensi of the old gods that reside here and a number of settlers that have been converted to their worship.
Unther: The primary region of focus for the Cult of the Old Gods, where the untheric gods are still worshipped and are receptive to the old ways, the only obstacle is Gil-Geamesq and his rule. The Cult of the Old Gods seeks to spread the word of the old ways to the populace and bring about revolution so that the old gods may be worshipped once more. Another primary reason for the interest in Unther is that Kre-Emin has advised the cultists to seek out the Kimaru of the godkings and attempt to recover the bodies and relics of any deceased gods so they can be revived somehow. The cultists search tirelessly for the location of Ikkadinal (the Valley of the Gods), not realizing it is located in the Shaar, nor that it is not the final resting place of the dead gods of Unther.
Dalath: Dalath is a rough, frontier like settlement in Unther, it is largely ignored by the authorities, even the local lord visits but once a year. The settlement is populated mostly by slaves who have no love for Gil-Geamesq or his laws. This place is a prime candidate for conversion to the old ways and some of the slaves are receptive, unfortunately the repeated, failed rebellions and scouring of all slaves makes long term conversions difficult, but the Cult of the Old Gods are hoping that one day a rebellion will succeed and they will have a settlement full of converts.
Ssintar: This military encampment is ruled by Ul’Aen Sin-Gudea, who strictly applies the Code of E-Nlil and the Will of Gil-Geamesq to the people of Ssintar. However, for at least 3 months of the year Sin-Gudea is absent from town and his deputies encourage illicit activities. During the absence of the High Lord the worship of the Old Gods grows and many cultists arrive to preach their faith to the locals, and are finding many converts among them.