- 1 Overview
- 2 Beliefs
- 3 Repudiation
The religion of Axos appears based on one fundamental "truth" - a truth completely at odds with the Way. it posits that the Creator is an actively malign force, and that the Labyrinth exists to torture human souls. Reincarnation is a cruel trick - because the process strips a human of all the knowledge they have accrued in life, constantly forcing them to begin the process of seeking enlightenment - or transcendence - from scratch.
The Malign Creator
The Creator is not an entity that should be revered, but a cruel tyrant who hates and fears humanity (and possibly the orcs as well). Death is the wicked tool that the Creator uses to ensure its power is never threatened. The malignancy of the Creator is obvious in the mortal world which is full of pain, hardship, suffering, and pestilence.
The Axou agree that powerful spiritual forces exist, which many refer to as "virtues." Humans can wield these spiritual powers with liao and other substances that allow a person to gain the correct spiritual state. The virtues are the manifest power of human spirits, however - they are nothing to do with the Labyrinth. Quite the contrary. To many Axou, the virtues are the touch of dead human spirits. This is most commonly manifest in the dreams which are a way of offering guidance that every properly trained priest knows - the put the target in touch with their ancestors who offer advice and support.
What the Empire calls virtue are just a seemingly random selection of the spiritual forces that exist. Most Axou don't differentiate between them the way the Empire does. The various religious orders regularly combine the auras that they produce in service of their goals and beliefs. For example, in Imperial terms, the Order of the Ivory Cup regularly draws on auras of Courage, Wisdom, and a force they call understanding - which seems unsettling familiar to some Imperial theologians.
Axou use the same spiritual ceremonies that Imperial priests use. Liao is not cultivated in Axos - rather their people use a number of expensive, hard to create narcotics and drugs to achieve the correct spiritual state to wield their powers. Liao is both more effective and significantly easier to create - leading to a great demand for it among the priests of Axos. Sadly, the priests must compete with the necromantia (magicians) for every dose of liao - for liao has use in several of the magical rituals they use to speak to, bind, or create ghosts.
The Eternal Torture Chamber
The Labyrinth is a trap and a torture-device put in place by the Creator. It exists to grind away the personality of a human so their soul can be reborn, mewling and shitting, with no ability to access its prior experiences. Thus the Creator keeps souls recycling forever and prevents humanity achieving its true destiny.
It is the duty of human beings to fight against the Labyrinth. The natural state of humankind is to be immortal in body and spirit, but the Creator opposes that. Thus the Axou fight to keep the spirits of the dead out of the Labyrinth so they remember who they are.
A very few people are strong willed enough to either avoid the Labyrinth or resist the tortures of the Creator that destroy memory. Ghosts are one example of this but there are also ancestral spirits such as the first six Sorceror-Kings who maintain their personalities after death. Faithful Axou hope they will manage to avoid the Labyrinth and stay in the world to help their descendants.
The Imperial Synod serves the Creator by convincing people that reincarnation is a good thing. Worse, they enshrine the idea that getting through it quickly is a good idea - while in fact all it means is that people get their personalities destroyed quicker.
All Axou trace their lineage, and most can follow it back to the six great Sorceror-Kings who founded the citadels. Axou treat revered ancestors in much the same way the Empire treats exemplars - but with the twist that it is possible for some Axou to physically speak to those ancestors that linger as ghosts in the catacombs beneath Axos. Many Axos who experience spiritual auras, or dreams guided by priests, speak of encountering the spirits of their ancestors, or feeling their ghosts watching over them. Indeed, unlike pilgrims of the Way, the Axou regularly offer prayers to chosen ancestors, asking for them to offer strength or even mundane assistance with their nebulously defined "spiritual powers".
Axou mystics use all manner of divinatory methods to seek to communicate with the spirits of the dead - cards and runes are common, especially runes carved from the bones of dead people. They are also known to pursue visionary trances, and in the past have sought access to liao specifically to seek contact with dead spirits. Even the most sensible-appearing Axou will make offerings to the spirits of their dead ancestors who they appear to believe cluster around their living descendants at all times - the most common offerings appear to be alcohol and food mixed with the fresh blood of the offerer.
Priests are not particularly powerful or influential in Axos, but the entire nation is known to have an odd relationship with death, and the spirits of their dead. They are known to dig vast mausoleum warrens beneath their citadels where the dead are interred.
It is important to the Axou that the bones of the fallen are taken back to the citadel - parallels are drawn with the Marcher desire to be interred in Marcher soil. Historically, after skirmishes with the Empire the Axou have been known to pay for the safe return of their fallen soldiers. They are known to honour every agreement they have made with Imperial troops designed to allow themselves and their opponents to recover the bodies of the dead and injured. On the rare occasions that Axou mercenaries have fought alongside Imperial troops, this single-minded desire to recover the bodies of the dead has lead to occasional problems - Axou troops will often take foolhardy risks in their pursuit of their dead comrades.
Axou religion and orcs
Axos theology recognises that orcs are probably people, and that they probably don't have souls in the way humans do. It is likely that the Creator has its own malignant, hateful plan for them and ways of ensuring they do not avoid the trap of death. For the most part they do not concern themselves with the beliefs of orcs, being more interested in ensuring they do not destroy them. Most Axou have no experience of orcs other than the occasional invasion by the Druj, after all.
Since visiting the Empire, Axou priests have become aware of the Doctrine of the Ancestors (which they find very interesting indeed for obvious reasons), and the Doctrine of the Howling Abyss (which they point to as yet more proof of the malignancy of the Creator and the hatefulness of death).
In explaining their religion to Imperial scholars, Axou priests use a series of repudiations, designed to demonstrate where the Way has gone wrong. Each repudiation is a response to one of the Doctrines of the Faith. It must be stressed that these are not Axou doctrines - the priests do not seem to have formal doctrines in the way the Empire does. Rather they are devised as a "teaching tool" to show the differences between the Way and the faith of the Axou.
Repudiating the Doctrine of Reincarnation
The human spirit is immortal. It does inhabit mortal flesh, and while doing so it gains knowledge and enlightenment. Mortal flesh dies because the Creator is jealous. The spirit is cast into the Labyrinth where it is rendered down until all knowledge and enlightenment is stripped away, then it is cast back into the world as an ignorant child to begin again.
Repudiating the Doctrine of Human Destiny
Human spirits do not gain strength, knowledge, or enlightenment through rebirth. These things are stripped away through death and the Labyrinth. The paragons do not reincarnate and there are two explanations – that they have escaped the Labyrinth or that they have been rendered to nothingness by it.
Repudiating the Doctrine of Seven
There are many spiritual forces that arise from the human soul. Any of them can grant strength of purpose and will, and help a human being to fight against death and the jealous Creator. The Empire has arbitrarily picked seven that they use to enslave human beings to their incorrect vision of how creation works.
Repudiating the Doctrine of The Paragons
There is only one certain way to escape the Labyrinth. That is never to enter it and remain in the world of material things. Some very rare spirits are powerful enough to free themselves from the Labyrinth and they guide their descendants as best they can.
The Doctrine of the Creator
The Creator is a jealous, hateful fool. It dominates humanity through the monstrous world it has created, and the torture chamber that is the Labyrinth. Humans must hold the Creator accountable and reject everything it has created. Happiness comes only from human endeavour – everything else in creation is either a trap, or a punishment.
The Doctrine of the Labyrinth
The Labyrinth is a place of pure spirit where the dead are tortured and rendered down until they forget everything. It is all that waits beyond life. Death is the cruel punishment of a jealous Creator. It is the duty of all human beings to fight against death. Whenever we can, we must preserve the spirits of the enlightened so that their wisdom can guide us towards finally destroying the Creator and freeing every human spirit.