Belief is one of the most powerful forces in the Known World. Living mortals wield this power, and it has far-reaching consequences in the afterlife. Only mortals who go through the trials and tribulations of earthly life can generate Belief. It can empower beings of spirit, who would just be ghosts or demons. Mortal tales say that belief can move mountains or turn water into wine. Immortals know that these tales are true, as every deity, from the highest elder god to a new god of mankind to Leviathans who prey on humanity, depend on such powers from mortals. After death, a mortal’s powers of Belief fade. Without belief a person is dead.
Belief comes in two types, Faith and Terror. The first type is sometimes called faith, but usually just Belief. It is beneficial for everyone. Followers of any sort of god, whether he is a cruel and sadistic being or a benevolent and loving protector, expect some sort of reward for their faith, and wise gods reward their followers with Miracles. Mortals can express faith in many ways, but all these ways stem from belief in a god who will take care of them in times of need. Indeed, the gods are products of the mortal need to have benefactors in the heavens who ensure their well-being. Belief creates gods, not the other way around.
The second type of Belief speaks of fear of pain and the unknown. It is called Terror. It is an irrational, reactionary belief that drives people insane. Like faith, spirits can feed on Terror. It is an intoxicating form of belief that eventually drives spirits and demons mad. Leviathans feed off Terror exclusively. A god may feed from it as well, but risks madness and the possibility of becoming something monstrous and ungodly: a Leviathan.
Spirits, demons, gods, and Leviathans receive Belief in various ways. Spirits and demons who are trapped on the Known World or have access to the Veil of Dreams may interact with humans directly, allowing them to create faith or terror. Gods gain faith from their priests, their followers’ prayers, and the belief of people who worship in their temples. People wearing symbols of the god or marking areas with the god’s symbol can also build faith for him. A god, spirit, or Leviathan generates Terror through direct contact or through dreams.
Belief is the most powerful force in existence. With it you can create universes and destroy many lives.
One type of spirit that escapes the constant cycle of rebirth and the Well of Souls is called an ancestral spirit. This soul is a mature spirit that has spent many seasons on the Known World. Ancestral spirits can be of good or evil humor, but are typically larger-than-life figures that have made impacts on their tribes. People believed in a person in life, whether she was a hero, hierophant, shaman, scoundrel, outstanding citizen, or cutthroat. As legends grow about her, she becomes more famous or infamous than she was in life. She has become an ancestral spirit.
Upon an ancestral spirit’s entry to the Spirit World, she goes directly to the Courtyard of Fate. Here the soul has a personal meeting with Fate to discuss the afterlife. This meeting can last several days and is a crucial turning point for the spirit. The ancestral spirit has several options: she can return to the Known World as a guide for her people; she may pass on to her god’s abode in heaven (or hell); she might return to the Well of Souls; or she might linger in the Celestial Gardens as a caretaker for Fate.
Ancestral spirits tend to be lawful in nature, but many break this rule. If they return to the Known World, they can talk directly to those in their tribes and can sometimes possess these people—especially their blood kin.
An ancestral spirit may attain yet greater power; as belief in her legends grows, as well as her influence from the grave, she can even attain godhood. These spirits can also become Leviathans; such a corruption of the soul is rare in people who have enjoyed blessed lives, but those whose lives were difficult may become more bestial in the afterlife.
Another type of spirit to escape the path of the dead is the raging soul. A raging spirit arises from a person who has been wronged or has done wrong in life. Such a soul is a spirit looking for vengeance, looking to murder and cause pain and suffering to everyone it finds. These spirits terrify the living, making uncomfortable and fearsome environments wherever they may lurk.
A raging soul may speak to anyone near him and can possess people as well. A raging soul is trapped in one location but can break free by increasing his power, which he does by spreading terror.
Once these souls have tasted fear, the need for more is overwhelming. Like drug addicts, they continue to cause terror, gaining Terror (a form of both Belief and belief) much like an ancestral spirit gains Belief. Fate’s Grapplers and most tribal gods deal harshly with raging souls, hoping to destroy them before they gain too much Terror — for raging souls who increase their power by causing terror can become Leviathans: spiritual beasts able to cast Miracles that cause even more fear and widespread panic. Such monsters cause even gods to take note. The last war in the heavens was fought over the increasing presence of the Leviathans in the Known World. Even though Fate and the gods are now allied against Leviathans and the raging souls that evolve into them, many damned spirits still gain enough power to become these beasts.
A third type of spirit—which most consider abominations, but some few consider pure spirits—is the demon. This creature is a spirit that escaped the Well of Souls without entering a spirit stream; some spirits who vanish into the Well return to the Known World as demons, having escaped Fate’s cycle. Everything a demon knows is from the Well of Souls and some experiences in the Known World.
Demons hide in the Celestial Gardens and the Veil of Dreams. Fate considers them wanted souls, and if Fate or its Grapplers capture a demon, it returns to the Well of Souls.
Demons take on many wild and various forms, conforming little to the world around them. They can choose their genders. They are chaotic in nature and temperament, with wild and ambivalent attitudes. Demons can possess weak-willed people and thereby taking on corporeal forms. If a demon spends enough time in a mortal body, it can transform it to its whims. Some demons have achieved godhood, become Leviathans, or serve gods as messengers or avatars.
Spirits are collections of thoughts and energies swirling around an identity.
Written by Richard Leon