Shar

Mistress of the Night, Lady of Loss, Dark Goddess

Symbol: Black disk with deep purple border
Home Plane: Plane of Shadow
Alignment: Neutral evil
Portfolio: Caverns, dark, dungeons, forgetfulness, loss, night, unrevealed secrets, the Underdark
Worshipers: Anarchists, assassins, avengers, monks (Dark Moon), nihilists, rogues, shadow adepts, shadowdancers
Cleric Alignments: CE, LE, NE
Domains: Death, Trickery
Favored Weapon: “The Disk of Night” (chakram)

Aliases: Ibrandul (Calimshan, the Shining South, Waterdeep/ Undermountain)
Allies: Myrkul, Talona
Enemies: Selune, Lathander, Amaunator, Shaundakul

Shar_symbol.jpg

Loss is the nature of Shar (SHAHR). One of the Dark Gods, she is a deeply twisted and perverse being of ineffable evil and endless petty hatred and jealousy. She rules over pains hidden but not forgotten, bitterness carefully nurtured away from the light and from others, and quiet revenge for any slight, no matter how old. She is said to have the power to make her devout followers forget their pain, yet what occurs is that they become inured to the loss, treating it as a common and natural state of being. The basic inanity of life and foolishness of hope are the cornerstones of Shar’s being. She revels in the concealed, in that which is hidden, never to be revealed. She can always clearly perceive every being, object, and act performed within darkness.

In temples, representations of the goddess are either a black sphere outlined in racing, magically animated flames of purple or paintings of a beautiful human with long, raven-black hair dressed in swirling dark garb. She smiles coldly and her large eyes have black pupils and are otherwise solid purple.

Shar is the mortal enemy of Selune and battles her ceaselessly on many planes through mortal worshipers and servitor creatures. The undying enmity between the two goddesses is older than recorded time.

During the Time of Troubles, Shar killed Ibrandul, a lesser power of caverns, dungeons, and the Underdark worshiped in Calimshan, the Shining South, and even Waterdeep, for daring to subvert those who venerate the dark away from her. She appropriated his portfolio. She continues to grant the clergy of Ibrandul spells in Ibrandul’s name. She is quietly delighted that she is able to use this puppet church to subvert the worship of Selune without drawing attention to her most faithful worshipers.

The Church

All priests of Shar may see as well in natural or magical darkness as in light. Shar is worshiped by blinded, nocturnal, or subterranean-dwelling humans and allied beings and by those who hate the light, such as goblinkin and their allies. She is also worshiped by many who favor dark surroundings or who must undertake deeds or do business in darkness. She is venerated by those who are bitter or are grieving over a loss and wish to find peace (especially through vengeance) and by individuals who want to forget. She is also placated by those who know their wits have been harmed and want to find peace or those who have been mentally harmed and want to remember fully or be restored in their minds. Many in Faemn fear nightfall, the casting of the cloak of Shar, because of the dangers that lurk in its folds.

The church of Shar is largely composed of underground cells, rather than an overt, uniformed body of priests working from temples. As such, its adherents have a covert, widespread, and complex hierarchy wherein every full priest serves a direct superior, an overpriest responsible for a large area, and beings (both human and otherwise) who know the priest’s Own Secret (the personal name Shar gave them and the dark deed they performed for her in order to demonstrate their loyalty and win that name). Clergy members revel in secrecy, and cells of the church are organized around small congregations of worshipers who know and are led by a single priest. Many priests may operate in the same area, and although they may know of and aid each other, they work independently. In this way, should one cell of the church fail, the others can still flourish in its absence.

Most Sharran clergy use such titles of address as “Brother Night” or “Sister Night.” To superiors, they say “Mother Night” or “Father Night,” and lay worshipers address them so. Their formal titles include Adept of the Night (a novice), Watcher (the least senior ordained priest), Hand of Shar (a battle-tested priest who leads a force of priest-adventurers or oversees several cells), Darklord/Darklady (a senior priest able to proclaim local policy), Nightseer (the overseer of all faithful in a realm or other large geographical area) and Flame of Darkness (archpriest or personally trusted servant of the goddess).

Priests of Shar are called nightcloaks. Until five years ago, they were called nightbringers, only existed outside the standard church hierarchy, and served as contacts, messengers, and enforcers of the Dark Lady’s will. They still perform such detached liaison and enforcement functions, but some nightcloaks have now become integrated into the cell structure/ hierarchy of the church, especially among the clergy of the Dark Embrace, discussed below.

Shar’s hatred of Selune extends to her clergy and their relationships with the church of Selune. The two faiths war continually, and jihads and assassination plots against Selunites are common where Shar is strong. One of the reasons the church of Shar remains so small is a byproduct of this endless war. Several holy wars and vendettas led by Sharrans against more powerful forces of Selunites have resulted in many Sharran casualties.

Dogma

Dark Followers (the faithful of Shar) are instructed to reveal secrets only to fellow faithful and to never follow hope or turn to promises of success. They should quench the light of the moon (the faithful of Selune and their holdings, deeds, and magic) whenever they find it and hide from it when they cannot prevail. Above all, the dark should be a time to act, not to wait.

Faithful of Shar are not supposed to hope and are therefore forbidden to strive to better their lot in life or to plan ahead except in matters directly overseen by the clergy of the Dark Goddess. Consorting with beings of good alignment who actively serve their deities is a sin unless undertaken to take advantage of them in purely business dealings or to corrupt them from their beliefs into the service of Shar. Devotees of Shar must not speak out against clergy of the goddess, nor interrupt their devotional dances for any reason. Lay worshipers must prove their faith by obedience to the clergy and by carrying out at least one dark deed ordered by a priest of Shar every year—or bringing at least one being to believe in, and worship, the Dark Goddess.

The lower clergy of Shar must obey their superiors in all matters, short of following orders that will lead to their own death—Shar desires to gain followers, not lose them. To win new followers and to keep the faithful truly loyal, clergy must see that some of the dark desires of worshipers are fulfilled (such as the elimination of business rivals).

Day-to-Day Activities

The clergy of Shar seem to pursue practical, local goals designed to further the power of the priesthood and of those who worship Shar, rather than to openly oppose other faiths (save that of Selune). Shar desires to bring all humans under her sway by promoting general lawlessness and strife. In this way, most folk will suffer loss and turn to her for peace (especially through vengeance), and the influence of all other faiths will be lessened.

Specifically, Sharran clergy are enjoined to work covertly to bring down all governments, particularly within cities, and to publicize Shar’s patronage of avengers so that the desperate and despairing humans of other faiths turn to her to get revenge and not the weakened demipower of vengeance, Hoar. Sponsorship of thieving guilds and hedonistic clubs of all sorts is a key part of this assault on order, as is the encouragement of political intrigue everywhere. Widespread war and slavery are things to be avoided; Shar wants to gain followers, not see their lives thrown away for no gain. Shar’s love of secrecy is strong. Her clergy work toward fulfilling her desire for secrecy by always acting through manipulation and behind-closed doors intrigue. They also work through and promote shadowy cabals and organizations that appeal to human desires to be a part of something elite and important, to keep secrets, and to be involved in the mysterious. Fifty or more false cults that have arisen in the past two decades have been born of secret clubs and cabals begun by Sharran priests to corrupt the peace and lawfulness of various cities.

Holy Days/Important Ceremonies

As so many devotees of Shar keep their faith secret (and this secrecy is encouraged by senior clergy), the Sharran faith has no set holy days aside from the Feast of the Moon. To Dark Followers (the faithful of Shar) this holiday is known as the Rising of the Dark. They gather on it under cover of the more widespread venerations of the dead to witness a blood sacrifice and learn of any plots or aims the clergy want them to work toward during the winter ahead.

The most important Sharran ritual of worship is Nightfall, the coming of darkness. Clergy hold this ritual every night. It consists of a brief invocation, a dance, a charge or series of inspiring instructions from the goddess spoken by one of the clergy or by a raven-haired female lay worshiper, and a revel celebrated by eating, drinking, and dancing together.

Lay worshipers must attend at least one Nightfall (or dance to the goddess themselves) and must perform—and report to their fellows—at least one small act of wickedness in salute to the Lady every tenday. On moonless nights, Nightfall is known as the Coming of the Lady, and every congregation must carry out some significant act of vengeance or wickedness in the Dark Lady’s name.

The most important ceremony of the priesthood of Shar is the Kiss of the Lady, a horrific night-long revel of slaying and doing dark deeds in the name of the lady that ends with a feast at dawn. Kissmoots are scheduled irregularly, whenever the priests of Old Night decree. Increasingly the rival clergy of the Embrace have been proclaiming that this ritual be celebrated at different times than those decreed by the temple of Old Night.

Major Centers of Worship

The Temple of Old Night in Calimport is the oldest, haughtiest seat of worship to Shar. It is a subterranean complex underlying much of the eastern city ruled by the highest-ranked known mortal servant of Shar: the aged Irtemara, the Dancer Before Dawn, a debauched and jaded Calishite woman famous for her revels and murderous whims (which, over the years, have brought about at least six changes of government in various realms across Faerfln). Irtemara is loyally served by three male priests who work covertly against each other. They will undoubtedly break into open battle for supremacy when Irtemara dies.

The Temple of Old Night vies for supremacy over the Dark Followers with the Dark Embrace, a temple founded not quite 40 years ago by clergy of the Dark Goddess dissatisfied with the leadership of Old Night. The Embrace perches atop a crag in Amn, overlooking the midpoint of the trade road linking Imnescar and Esmeltaran. Its policies are more ruthless than those proclaimed in Calimport—the faithful of the Embrace are more openly active in local politics wherever they operate, employing assassinations where intimidation and the fulfillment of dark desires fail.

The Embrace is led by a small circle of clergy whose leader seems to be the Eye in the Flame Aubert Heldynstar. Most clergy of the Dark Embrace are nightcloaks.

Affiliated Orders

The church of Shar sponsors no fighting orders or knightly orders. Crusaders who serve the faith are attached to particular Sharran cells and temples, not the faith in general. Clergy of the faith who have killed one of the clergy of Selune are rumored to gain access to an honorary order or secret society known as the Dark Justiciars. Many thieves’ guilds have connections to Sharran cells, and such affiliated groups use each other for their particular plots mercilessly.

Priestly Vestments

The colors purple and black are used extensively in Shar’s church and among her followers. Most Sharran clergy dress in black cloaks or soft, silent dark garb with purple trim, piping, or accessories during rituals. High ceremonial dress for those of rank or taking a special role in a ritual is a long-sleeved robe of deep purple over black tights or a black velvet chemise. A black skullcap covers the entire head, except for on women with jet-black hair. Such hair is seen as a symbol of the Dark Lady’s pleasure and is left to flow unfettered and long. Less commonly encountered versions of Shar’s symbol than the one mentioned above are of a glistening purple eye outlined in black with a black pupil or a cowled hunting cloak of unadorned black stretched out flat.

Adventuring Garb: Sharran clergy wear practical clothes in the fashion of the land they are in while pursuing day-to-day life. They are fond of jewelry fashioned from obsidian, black onyx, amethyst, and purple jade, but they are not required to wear it. When entering a situation where they might encounter hostilities, they wear armor and take appropriate protective measures.

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Shar

Tales of the Bloodstone Lands Autumnfyr