Ember: Fire and Wind
The Powers That Were
It is said that long, long ago, a quartet of deities brought the first people to Ember*. The four were Isis, Nephthys, Hathor, and Bast. Legend tells us that they wanted a peaceful desert world for their followers to inhabit, for the ancient world they had come from had too many conflicting gods.
At the time, it worked well; the people felt an inner comfort in their few, matronly deities. Isis held her place as the most powerful goddess in the pantheon*; she commanded over magic, fertility, water, and life itself. Nephthys was the mournful goddess of death, which inevitably comes to all things. Hathor presided over love, music, art, and the home. And the cat-goddess Bast championed the fight against evil with ferocity and vengeance. The quartet ruled well; the fire-serpent Apophis posed the only evil divine threat, and his few followers gained little ground amidst the matronly benevolence. However, the goddesses were powerless against the raw forces of the desert itself. . .
The Winds of Change
Although the four goddesses of old tried to instill peace and serenity in the hearts of their people, their calm benevolence was no match for life in the harsh desert. Soon, the people prayed for divine intervention against the burning sands. Powerful though they were, the four goddesses could not change the environment of the world itself. Isis and her kin fell out of favor, and the people began to turn elsewhere.
With waning belief amidst the harsh environs, the people of Ember turned their faith to the world around them – they began to worship the four elements. The people prayed to the Air to cool the lands and to the Earth to secure their footfalls. They prayed to the Water for the magic that was Isis’s domain, and the selfish prayed to the Fire to save themselves and sear their enemies.
Out of this new faith a differing pair of element dichotomies emerged: Water became synonymous with magic and the supernatural, Earth embodied the physical world; Fire brought heat and death, Air was relief and survival. Water vs. Earth; Fire vs. Air. Additionally, Fire became associated with those with Evil in their hearts, while worshippers of Air were generally the benevolent protectors of others.
Of Elementals and Channelers
With the rise of element worship came another set of powerful beings to replace the goddesses of old: the Archomentals. Being near-deities themselves, the Archomentals are the paragons of the four elements. And each of the four elements was exemplified by a pair of such beings, one good, one evil. Given the disposition of the worshippers, it was no surprise, then, that the first Archomental to take notice of Ember was Imix, Prince of Evil Fire Creatures, Lord of Hellfire.
With Imix gaining followers, it wasn’t long before other Archomentals each developed a presence of their own (either out of jealousy, competition for worship, or desire for power). Soon, the spiritual leaders of Ember were almost wholly converted to worshipping the elemental Princes and Princesses. As before, the conflict between Fire and Air took center stage; at times the clerics of Imix and Chan (Princess of Good Aerial Creatures) would even battle openly. [See the Deities page for more information.]
Whether due to the direct supernatural influence of the Archomentals, or the divine power originally brought by the old goddesses, a small group of Ember’s population began to develop natural abilities to mold and shape the four elements. These abilities manifested at different ages for everyone, and in people with no apparent connection to each other. Those affected were accepted by some communities and completely shunned by others. In either case, those who embraced their abilities were known as Channelers.
The people of Ember have been through many ordeals, both physically and spiritually. Today, the dominant religion is that of the elements and the Archomentals. However, clerics of the old ways still worship Isis and her kin. Other deities have small followings on Ember, as well. Channelers surface in each generation; some of them devote themselves to a deity or Archomental, others just focus on their individual element.
Channeler or not, most of the inhabitants on Ember believe in something beyond themselves. Whether element, deity, archomental, or for some other being, the beliefs of Ember are varied and complex. They shift and move like the sandy dunes, and their presence is as consistent as the desert heat.
*Footnote – Kikanuti, Isis, and the Bhuka
The bhuka people believe that they were the first people on Ember, born from the womb of the world under the guidance of their mother goddess, Kikanuti (see the Deities page). To them, Isis, Hathor, Bast and Nephthys were latecomers to Ember. Some tribes even claim to have found ancient bhuka carvings depicting the arrival of Isis and her people, well after the origin of the bhuka race. However, during Isis’s heyday many bhuka worshipped her instead of Kikanuti; the goddesses are very similar, and the clerics and missionaries of Isis did their best to convert the bhuka people. At the height of Isis’s popularity, the bhuka people had been convinced that Kikanuti was merely an aspect of Isis.
Then, with the decline of Isis, the bhuka people ‘rediscovered’ their mother-goddess Kikanuti. While there may be a few isolated tribes that still believe in Isis, almost the entire population has reverted back to Kikanuti. The entire affair was not without consequences, however: to this day, the bhuka people still regard worshippers of Isis with some distrust.