The Cult of Vual is a secretive religious body devoted to the veneration of Vual, a personification of death, disease and fear. The cult's presence is strongest in cities such as Ayansi, Kalsa and Gharam; the greater presence of disease and infection in these warmer climes contributes to the cult's power.
Members of the cult readily accept that death is the end destination for all things, except Death itself. Following from this, only Death is eternal and thus only Death is worth venerating. Oblivion and nothingness are therefore goals in and of themselves, and a deep form of thoughtless meditation in imitation of oblivion is a common practice among devotees.
Life exists as a necessary abomination; Death requires the living upon which to feed, and the sole purpose of living is to die in service to Vual's endless hunger. However the cult does not openly advocate murder and assassination, although accusations of both have been laid at their feet. Rather, the cult teaches that Death comes to a person at the right time for him or her; this belief is deeply fatalistic. While cultists often have great skill as healers, they put these skills to work on non-fatal injuries and illnesses. The palliative state is a blessing to the cultists, and they will not alter it. Cultists are therefore potentially fanatical in combat, having no fear of death and no reason to avoid it.
Legends involving the undead often reference the cult in lands where it has long has a presence. Popular opinion on the cult's role in these legends vary. Some believe the cult to be villainous, practitioners of necromancy, and their tales feature cultists creating and maintaining the undead as true agents of Death. In the beliefs and legends of others, the undead are anathema to the Cult, and are an unnatural aberration; their very (un)existence an attempt to rob Death of his due.
Devoted priests and priestesses of the cult dress in dark, usually black apparel in remembrance of the nothingness they seek. They frequently grey their faces and hands with ashes gathered from fire places or preferably and when possible, from funeral pyres. While the inner practices of the priesthood are held apart from the general membership, and fiercely guarded from all outsiders, rumors have escaped that speak of bloodletting, animal sacrifice and assassination. It has been suggested that the outward disdain the cult expresses for such actions is a mask, held up even to cult members, and lowered for the priesthood alone. If this is so, it is possible that the priesthood of Vual may represent a vast network certainly considered criminal in most lands.
The priesthood of the cult is also known for its skill in healing injuries, illnesses, and other afflictions. They are also often petitioned to intervene with Death, outsiders often believing the priest/esses can turn his all-seeing eye away from them. Whether this is true or not, they accept the money of petitioners and work their rites as promised.
Priest/esses of the cult practice a strange form of divination one might call cicatromancy, or divination through scars. A priest/ess will examine a subject's scars, paying particular attention to their locations, size, shape, coloration, and so on. From these characteristics the character of the subject, and it's future, can be determined. Scars caused through violence or nearly fatal disease are considered the most revealing.
There is an odd astrological tradition among the cultists as well. Constellations, inherited from ancient traditions, are considered the great scars of the sky; it is their shapes and forms, and the stories behind them, that provide the templates for the general cicatromantic practice. Within these general forms lies the room for individual interpretation, wherein lies the true art and skill.
Members of the cult gather in small groups to venerate Vual. Collective meditation and chanting the name of their god are common features of these gatherings. Rites of passage are held for the dying, who are venerated as passing into oblivion and attaining the final goal of worship.
Relationship with Other Faith Traditions Edit
In many of the lands where it has a strong presence, the Cult is still a minority in the face of Tharan. The followers of Great Ulaan and the Veshyaar are generally opposed to the Cult's beliefs, but persecution does not generally exist where Tharan is dominant.
Hittah Damwena Edit
The Serpent Cult exists in fierce opposition to the Cult and all it stands for. The Serpent Path venerates the dead as spiritual beings--especially ones' ancestors--and views death as a transition, not an ending. Its emphasis on life encourages healing of all injuries and illnesses whenever possible, and the apathetic approach of the Death cultists towards palliative care is viewed as horrifyingly immoral.
The Serpent Cult holds a dominant position in very few lands. Within them the Cult of Vual is a deeply underground one, and is driven out wherever it is found.
The High Path Edit
In general the High Path is opposed to the Cult of Vual. Within the Path followers petition death as Saint Maryah the Black, who is not seen as a ravenous being, but a sometimes compassionate one. The afterlife holds a paramount position in the belief system of the Path, and its denial by the Cultists is considered heretical. Despite this, the presence of the cult is generally tolerated, so long as its profile remains low. In such cases the cult often takes the blame for outbreaks of plague or other diseases and finds itself under deadly threat.
The Druids of Keledon and the people of that realm have very little experience with the Cult, being separated geographically from its homelands. A small and transient presence has been known in Kalabar, being a large port city. The Keledoni believe strongly in the Otherworld and in a continued existence after death. They tend to view the cult as dark, overly morbid and strange but dismiss it as yet another example of foreign nonsense.