The Custodians of Khazath

The religion of the pantheon known as Shedoleth, or "The Custodians", is an ancient and mythical one. It began in the oldest and furthest south of the kingdoms - Khazath, where the sunlit marble towers of Tael Leilan belie the foreign heritage of those who dwell there. As the people of Khazath spread across Leng, they brought their religion with them, and so the Custodians are worshipped by the nomads of the Plains of Dust and the plainsmen of the Borderlands and of Qolor. Few know from where the Custodians came, but their tales and myths are most curious indeed. All the tales of the Custodians are from a time when the history of Khazath's ancestors was poorly kept, stories of a distant, untamed and barbaric land. The myths are strange because the Custodians seem to be gods one moment, men the next. Some tales describe them as all-powerful entities that wield terrifying potency. Others speak of some among their number dwelling in Tael Leilan, acting as kings or advisors, or performing great quests across the lands. Some of the most holy sites of the Lamplighters are ruins where one of the Custodians is reputed to have dwelt. Stranger still are the myths which seem to equate one to another, and speak of them doing bizarre things that make little sense for either man or god - such as the tale of Choran, who wedded a great dragon.

Of all the mysteries that surround the Custodians, the greatest of all is that of the Citadel of Penance. Tael Leilan in the south of Khazath is a massive city, and so it is strange to think that a large portion - and arguably the most beautiful - is left empty. But this is indeed the case. At the very center of the city is a great structure, a massive palace and the oldest building in the city. It is sealed by great doors, held impassable by powerful wards placed by the Lamplighters, and has remained so for centuries. The wards that hang about it are powerful, and it is virtually impossible to enter by stealth or sorcery. The wards are so powerful that the Lamplighters themselves would have trouble removing them, and they are so old that some claim they were laid down by the Custodians themselves. Only one entrance is passable, the great double doors that stand tall as a giant. These doors are protected at all times by the Khemreth ("Hawk-Keepers"), a vigil of 99 holy warriors charged with guarding the entrance to the Citadel. For as far as they are concerned, they guard the entrance to heaven itself; the old tales name the Citadel as the dwelling place of the Custodians, and it was said that in times of old the Custodians walked amongst men and gave them their counsel. Some claim that the doors should be opened so that gods and men could be one again, but this is a view that holds much controversy. The proponents of opening claim that those who hesitate are simply weak in their faith - they fear that they will open the doors and find the Citadel empty. Nevertheless, the sacred traditions and the oath of the Company of the Hawk has held the doors closed for as long as any can remember.

The pantheon now known as the Custodians are actually the remnants of the group that would be properly called "The Second Gods", the oldest group of deities on Leng. For more information, refer to the events of the Age of Mysteries.

The Shedoleth Pantheon

Dain of the Sunrise

Dain represents the holy sun itself, and all it brings. All who stand within his holy presence can feel the warmth of the sun upon them, and his very gaze is shining light. But though Dain burns with holy fire, it is too hot for any but Ouran to withstand when unchecked. Though those in his presence can feel the warmth and heat of his power, this is in truth a mere shadow of his strength, for he wears a suit of shining golden armor at all times. It is removed only when he is alone with Ouran.

Just as the sun warms Morus past untold thousands of miles of empty space, Dain is at all times unreadable and distant. His power and wisdom is immense - said by some to be greather than the sum of the other Custodians - but he rarely involves himself in the affairs of others or deigns to pass judgement. When he does, his decisions are often confusing - but the other Custodians bow to his wisdom and judgement. Dain is the ultimate leader of the Custodians and patriarch of the pantheon.

Ouran the Infernal

The wife of Dain of the Sunrise. She is depicted as a woman with fiery red hair, often depicted as being composed of actual roaring flames. She is always depicted surrounded by roaring flames. Her true visage is surrounded by mystery - she is strongly associated with serpents and lizards, and is sometimes depicted as having the lower body of a vast snake, or even of a dragon. Some legends refer to her as the Serpentine, while others speak of her melting solid steel with her fiery breath or changing into a serpent, and all snake-kin owe allegiance to her. She is the counterpart of Dain, who is the far-off warmth of sunrise, wise but infinitely detached and distant. She is a maelstrom of fire and passion, constantly calling her followers on some crusade or another and seeking to redress some slight.

Choran the Dragonfriend

Choran, the Dragonfriend, is the father of Ouran the Infernal. His place amongst the Second Gods (who would become the Custodians) was one of exile: he committed the ultimate heresy in befriending and falling in love with a linnorm - a primeval dragon and the enemy of the ancient gods. Ouran the Infernal is the result of this pairing, but the mother was hunted down and destroyed by the First Gods. As such, Choran is filled with bitterness and anger, and a deep hatred of tyranny, censorship, and strict systems of social class.

Choran is the one renowned for having, in ancient times, brokered the peace between the First Gods and the linnorms, the primeval dragons. In his youth he was a trickster and a quick-witted sorceror, buying secrets with secrets and relying on his tongue to keep him from harm. As time has worn on, however, he has become more jaded - especially since the death of his lover, the linnorm Deep-Strider. Now he is a cunning tactician and a shrewd manipulator, who walked amongst the charges of the Custodians before they sealed themselves away and searched for any threat to his fellows. It is said that, through his love for Deep-Strider and his blood ties to his daughter Ouran, all creatures that bear scales owe their allegiance to him, and they operate as his eyes and ears throughout Leng.

Lugh the Longarmed

Lugh the Longarmed, thrower of spears, is the enforcer of the gods. When the First Gods pursued the Custodians over the great Boiling Sea, it was Lugh who ensured their safety by grasping Vakh, the Great Serpent, and casting him into the sea. When Hoghn and Voghn, the Eagles of the Gods, flew high above the Custodians and defied their attempts at escape, it was Lugh whose great spears pierced their breasts and send them tumbling into the depths.

Despite his bravery, however, Lugh is filled with shame, for it was his own clumsiness that, in the fighting, caused the Great Soul to fall into the sea. If it was not for Lugh, the Boiling Ocean may not exist, and the Custodians may have come to Leng with the fabled Great Soul in their hands. As the Great Soul is the source of mortal life on Morus, and the reason that Morus was bounded and became a planet in the first place, this loss fills Lugh with sadness. He counsels often with Dain, his closest friend, but cannot overcome his grief. In truth, however, Dain is glad that the Great Soul was lost - for its tempting power was too great for it to remain in the world. Now that it has dissolved into the seas, souls can come from any place into newborn creatures, and cannot be hoarded by the gods.

The old legends of the early days, before the Custodians had imprisoned themselves in the Citadel of Penance, tell of Lugh as a wanderer of the wilds. Lugh can forget his shame only when he is striding the wilderness and using his martial skill, and then his laughter booms throughout the plains and there is no insult than can bring him anger. He ranged far and wild with Mielekkar the huntress - he would pierce dragons in the sky with his spear, and wade in the dark and deadly places of the world with mirth, dragging the foul creatures that dwell there up with his bare hands and laughing at their hatred of the sun.

Like the other Custodians, Lugh is now said to dwell in the Citadel of Penance, but he takes more interest in his servants than any other god. His arms, it is said, are still long, and simple barriers such as earth and stone are no impediment to his spears. When a bolt of lighting strikes from a clear blue sky, it is said that one of Lugh the Longarmed's spears have come to rest.

Mielekkar the Huntress

A close friend of Lugh the Longarmed, Mielekkar the Huntress has always roamed Leng restlessly. She is attended at all times by her Wild Hunt, ordinary beasts granted great strength and immortality by the power of the Great Soul. They are her advisors, companions and entourage as she rides across the skies of Morus.

While Lugh the Longarmed stalked evil creatures to overcome his guilt and protect humans, Mielekkar views hunting only as a pastime - a means to prove herself. She was far too proud to be shut in the Citadel of Penance for all time, and refused Dain's summons. Instead, she and her Wild Hunt remained on Leng to slay monsters. Although she professes to have little interest in humans, she has been known to guide the lost through dangerous lands and even to draw the souls of sleeping humans into her Wild Hunt so that they may prove their worth by fighting alongside her.

Mielekkar is the weakest of all the Custodians, on the level of a powerful demigod. Furthermore, she insists on continuing to use her energies to defeat powerful enemies, or to draw worthy humans into her Wild Hunt and grant them power. As such, she is weakening over time.

Khemri the Hawk-Rider

Khemri the Hawk-Rider is the patron deity of the Khemreth, the Company of the Hawk who guard the Citadel of Penance. It is said that Khemri was the one who designed the Citadel of Penance, and who first proposed the idea to Dain of the Sunrise. He has always been distant, preferring to fly far above the earth and view the turning of the world from far above. He is the friend of all birds and master of the winds themselves.

Before entering the Citadel of Penance, Khemri acted as the eyes and ears of the Custodians. Hoghn and Voghn, the two Great Eagles, served him faithfully and still do, sending him news of the world. It is said that - even if it was his idea - being constrained in Tael Leilan rankles with him. He sends his spirit out on the wind and possesses flying birds to learn of what is going on in Leng. A tactician at heart, Khemri watches the maneuvering and machinations of the world's nations with interest - and frustration, knowing he is forever denied the world around him.