“I have the thing you requested. But don’t seek me here again, for I won’t be this way again in your lifetime. What’s that? Now that your need is met, suddenly you have questions, you worry and distrust? Don’t let it trouble your mind, for it troubles mine no longer. I am one of those that once was great like the eagle, and now is lower than the lowest snake. When your captain is found dead, you won’t tell them you poisoned him, will you? Wonder loudly if a snake bit him, for that is the truth, after a fashion.”
Image credit Yuri Chemezov https://goo.gl/5jhbpl
Viskani are a vile race, and the Game Master is encouraged to think carefully if they want to allow Viskani player characters in their campaign. The Viskani are universally hated and abhorred, and they may be killed on sight in many locations in the Five Free Cities.
The Viskani conquered the world in the Age of the Manticore, and saved the people from the Ogre hordes from Xistaxan and Garrigaxan in the north, driving them to the edge of extinction. However, they ruled cruelly, and were in turn wiped out, when themountain above their great city was shattered in an earthquake. The remainder of their kind were hunted by their revolting slaves, and what few remain retreated to the edges of the world, to the Thieves’ City, and to their underground home of Arota Zoth.
The Viskani loved rich foods, filled with spices. The rumors of Viskani cannibalism true, but incomplete. Until the end of their Empire, when their traditions broke down, the flesh of sentients was reserved for recurring annual religious festivals, and only consumed by the priesthood, but some nobles indulged themselves on a more regular basis, considering the flesh of “lesser” races a delicacy.
The Viskani resembled the other races, but they were generally very pale. A small minority of Viskani had bluish skin, ranging from a pale sky-blue to a deep royal blue. In build, they were thin and tall, vaguely resembling elves. Both Viskani and elves took great umbrage at suggestions of a relationship between them, interestingly enough. They typically had vivid red or blue eyes, and in the Five Free Cities to this day, people with blue eyes are mistrusted because “they may have Viskani blood.”
Viskani reproduced like Humans, and although they considered it impolite to acknowledge, often took Human and elvish slaves to their beds. No one can prove based on historical records that Viskani and other races can produce viable offspring, but it’s generally taken as read.
Viskani may be male or female. Early on, Viskani duties were fairly rigidly separated by gender; males waged war and supervised slaves, while Viskani females handled affairs of state and acted as priestesses. This varied from time to time; during the Denrak Dynasty, when a male sorcerer-general seized the throne, it became more common for males to hold positions of power, and for women to lead units into battle.
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The Viskani had two primary languages, Low Viskani (spoken by slaves and commoners) and High Viskani (spoken by nobles). Rarest was Old Viskani, only spoken by wizards and clerics in their debased rituals.
The Viskani words for their written language translates as “venomscript”. They originally used manticore toxin for ink, and captured messengers were to eat their written messages, so the messenger would die and the message wouldn’t fall into enemy hands. The Viskani worried greatly about symbols and ideas. This is part of why they wanted to conquer the Elves; they feared their songs. Malthireoni, the Human language, is a corrupted version of Low Viskani.
The Viskani had two orders of gods.
The Earth Gods
The least important were the Earth Gods, members of their own race that had attained godhood through blood magic. The Earth Gods are said to dwell in dismal but grandiose city under the Earth, ruling like kings forever.
These deified Viskani were worshipped, and often founded great houses. Their number included the legendary Emperor Rijalls XII the Unredeemed, the beautiful and deadly Empress Jiasthra Talon-Song, the assassin Sheirus Darkhand, and the wicked sorcerer Odromos of the Nine Ways.
When a Viskani died killed their closest servants were also murdered, to serve them in the afterlife.
The Star Gods
The second and most important order were the Star Gods, monsters said to come from the sky once per Age to destroy the world, cleanse it of its impurities, and prepare it for the new Age. The Star Gods belief seems to stem from Elvish religion and astrology, but there may be some truth to it, as well.
Because the Earth Gods live underground, Viskani temples were always underground also. As deference to the minotaur-god Mukram, Viskani initiation rituals always involve some kind of maze, full of traps and puzzles.
The Earth and Risen Gods were said to live below the surface, in the dim and baroque city of Arota Zoth. Here, the gods dwell forever, ruling over the slaves killed to serve them. One day, in the penultimate age, It’s said that Arota Zoth will rise to the surface, and the Viskani will rule the world once again, before the universe is finally annihilated. Of course, the ambitious Viskani are certain that with enough blood and sacrifice, they can hasten the coming of the age of their new dominion.
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Long before, Arota Zoth was known as Arota Lan. It was the City of Harmony, home to elves and dwarves and humans, before the Ogre Wars. At some point, to protect it, Arota Lan was submerged below the earth with mighty sorceries, and its mightiest mages sent scouts above to secure magical materials for them. Those below grew changed in time, the elves dark of heart and skin, the dwarves cruel, the men sorcerous and callous. When the Viskani came, they took Arota Zoth for themselves, and it became their fortress, perhaps the most foul and corrupt center in the world … even to today.
Viskani Ritual Magic
The Viskani practiced all forms of magic, including forbidden ways of blood magic, in order to further their progress in the Long Ascent. There is a standing rule in all Free Cities that any who are found with Viskani writings, let alone practicing blood magic, are to be put to immediate death. The only exception are the Fraternal Order of Cinnabar, and those working for them.
One of their major rituals rendered a noble Viskani literally heartless, as part of their quest for godhood. In the Viskani adulthood ritual, their hearts were removed from their bodies and sacrificed to their god of fire and blood; only high-caste Viskani could afford the components for the ritual. It was rumored that an order of Viskani forswore all gods and embraced complete pacifism, the Bearers of the Moongraal, but the Viskani Empire used the order as a dumping ground for the old, the feeble-minded, and utter failures.
The priests of the Viskani called themselves the Apostles of the Eight Beast-Gods. The Viskani were a fatalistic people, but a people with endless ambition. The future was shaped by the procession of the Beast-God constellations, and it was the goal of the Viskani to grow stronger and become immortal by sacrificing many others of the lesser races.
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The Viskani believe in a cycle of eight ages, each of which is dominated by a monstrous Sky God. The gods have three aspects: the beneficial aspect, the Archon; the neutral aspect, the Wind, and the malevolent aspect, the Strife. Through the course of an age, the god goes from Archon to Wind to Strife, and during this time, the influence of the previous god tails off and the influence of the god of the next age begins to take hold.
In each age, a different race, and different beliefs, must dominate. Naturally, they felt that although their age was waning, the current era was theirs, and so it was their religious duty to rule the world and lord over all other races. The constellations are each some form of dangerous monster, most recently Iskanix, the Manticore God, lord of poison and treachery.
After the eighth age, all of the Strifes will rise together and destroy the world. When it’s destroyed, they will consume one another, and from their bodies will once again spring forest, stars, seas, and wind.
At the beginning of each Age, the Viskani believe, one race rises to power, but all races stand in threat of being wiped out. That’s part of why the Viskani saw themselves as “doomed heroes” rather than “horrific oppressors”; by stepping forward and saving Humans, Elves, and Halflings during the Ogre Wars, they volunteered for their own, eventual annihilation. Of course, the Temple of the Sun and Moon teach that the Viskani were annihilated for their sins. Maybe both are correct.
Regardless, there are a lot of monsters wandering out there, and some of them were either created, or brought to Thressa, by the mad Viskani.
The Cycle of Ages
Blaash-ke -> Ajalti -> Dastaan -> Mukram -> Iskanix -> Nisha Taa -> The Black Stag -> Ualth Aarith -> The Devourer.
- Goddess of Birth, Lust, Passion, and the First Age.
- Ajalti often appears as a beautiful, naked woman, with red wings, surmounted by flames. Ajalti was worshiped by Viskani consorts and concubines. Temples to Ajalti kept large numbers of slaves from the most beautiful of the conquered races for the Viskani to enjoy at their leisure.
- Ajalti is the First Mother of the Viskani, and her father was Blaash-ke, the primordial slime from which organic life springs.
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Blaash-Ke, the God of Excrement
- God of Excrement, Nonsense, Filth, and Lesser Races.
- The Viskani taught that all gods apart from their eight deities were just different faces of Blaash-ke. The Viskani word for ‘slave’ means ‘worshiper of Blaash-ke.’ Although the Viskani held Elves and Dwarves in some favor, ascribing gods to them, other races like halflings, humans, giants, and gnomes were held to be mistaken failures of the gods, the product of Blaash-Ke.
- Blaash-ke appears as a slime creature, covered with eyes, mouths, and tentacles. In his depths are seen the stars, the depths of the Dark Void from which the primordial beginnings of life spring.
- Blaash-ke is not ascribed to an Age of the cosmos, because it is the offal of the great Beast-Gods. It comes info being between the last Age and the First, and from its dross, Ajalti comes into being. Cast off and thrown away in each cycle of the universe, always inferior to all the other gods, Blaash-ke is unwanted but necessary.
- God of Forests, Wilderness, Pestilence, Dreams, and the Sixth Age.
- The Black Stag is the god of wilderness, both the untamed wild places of the physical world, and the dark depths of the Astral Plane from which nightmares spring.
- The Black Stag appears as an immense, statuesque black elk, with monumental horns with hundreds of points, his entire body overgrown with vines and thorns.
- The Viskani ascribed Orcs to the Black Stag, believing that as society collapses and chaos reigns in the Sixth Age, Orcs, humanoid monsters from nightmare, would conquer the world. When Iskanix desired wisdom he’d hunt, slay, and devour the Black Stag, only for Ajalti to resurrect him once again.
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- God of Secrets, Lies, Transformation, Murder, and the Second Age.
- Dastaan is the sibling of Iskanix and Nisha Taa. Dastaan is the god of constant transformation, while Iskanix is the god of form, and Nisha Taa is the goddess of formlessness. All that which has an indeterminate form, or that can change forms at will, is the child of Dastaan.
- The Viskani traditionally represented Dastaan as an immense chimera of black stone, but Dastaan continually changed materials, from blue-gray steel to bleeding, flensed muscle and bone, to beige marble, to ice, to wind itself. It was a thing of all elements, barely holding to one form.
- The Viskani associated Dastaan with the Elves, for their mercurial temperament, as well as with doppelgangers and lycanthropes. Assassins prayed to Dastaan, seeking the ability to take any form, to speak any lie, to change what is into what was.
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- God of Tyranny, Law, Order, Punishment, and the Fourth Age.
- Iskanix was the pre-eminent god of the Viskani pantheon, the god of stern rulership.
- The Viskani believed in conquering a people through power and subterfuge, integrating them into their empire in a way that best befit their strength. A manticore destroys its prey with claws and poison, and it is itself made up of many unwieldy parts, fused into a terrifying, cohesive whole.
- Their god Iskanix was seen as the father of the Viskani race. Iskanix was seen as a Manticore made of iron, with feet of gold, and eyes of silver, and wings of brass. Covered with spikes dripping the same green venom as its immense tail, its voice rushed to the edges of the universe, and though it seldom spoke, everything Iskanix said came true instantly, for it held the uttermost secrets of cosmic rulership whispered by the mouth of Ualth Aarith.
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- God of Conquest, Slaughter, Strength, and the Third Age.
- Mukram was one of the first gods the Viskani worshiped, and as a result, all of their temples were underground mazes. A temple to a specific god always had traps and riddles specific to that god, but they were temples to Mukram, too. In a way, one could say Mukram was the god of initiation.
- Mukram the bull god razed cities with his axe and hammer, and the Viskani donated statues of Mukram to the dwarves as a kind of twisted tribute.
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- Goddess of Chaos, Decay, Terror, and the Fifth Age.
- Nisha Taa was the goddess whose gaze causes all form to give way to formlessness. Not only form, but meaning also, gave way to Nisha Taa, and she was seen as a close ally of Blaash-ke.
- While Nisha Taa takes joy in bringing all to nothingness, and schemes to bring all to ashes, Blaash-ke knows nothing of form, or meaning, only the void that has and never had a use or meaning. Nisha Taa is a rebel and anarchist, and Blaash-ke is a wild beast, an insect, a worm.
- In the Age of Decay, civilization falls apart, and chaos rises. Viskani oracles believed that indestructible Trolls will rule the Age of the Gorgon.
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- God of Magic, Mystery, and the Seventh Age.
- Ualth Aarith the Dragon god is a god of magic and mystery to the Viskani. He taught Iskanix most of the magic he knows, and he continues to serve as steed and master of blood magics for the gods. He appears as an immense silver dragon, surrounded by runes of blood, hovering in a circle around his head like an arcane, bloody halo.
- Ualth Aarith is believed to be the equal of any god, a cosmic being of immense power only surpassed by the Devourer, but it cares only for experimenting on living things, creating new monstrosities with which to plague the world. In the Seventh Age, beings of magic and science rule, golems and robots and magical mutants, and natural-born species are driven to extinction.
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- God of Universal Strife, Endings, and the Eighth Age.
- The Devourer is the god of death and the end of the universe. It appears as the tarrasque, a dragon-like beast with a body like a bull, the size of a mountain. In the Devourer’s jaws, the cycle of the soul comes to an end, magic comes to an end, everything comes to an end before being reborn.
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