The Aspect of Ymir's duality, Athelios is credited to govern either conflicting or complementary domains. Light and shadow, the sun and the moon, law and crime, justice and mercy. Depictions of his mythos may vary, those foreign or even contemptuous of his worship believe his history is a sordid and deceptive one, yet the main branches of Athelios worship view him as a benevolent redeemer and the one guiding light to true cosmic balance. Some that remain in the middle believe the cloaked god masked in black and white to be a mix of the two, after all he's often portrayed bearing two separate personalities that shift with the setting and rising of the sun.
Of Ymir’s ten Aspects, Athelios took to a different crowd than most in his presence on Meranthe. Though most of his siblings would bless and guide those that already sought to fit their image of perfect followers, Athelios looked beyond those already on his desired path. He took to criminals and outcasts, finding the morality of man fascinating with the complexity of a person's psyche. In doing so, he'd learned more of their capabilities and talents, using them to convert more and more. Humanity’s capability to sin was a part of them. Those who fall into the shadows turned out to be the most suited to bringing about change in favor of the light.
Warden of Helheim
When it became time to leave Meranthe and govern the spirit world, Athelios sought the most challenging role of his siblings. He became Helheim's warden, shouldering the responsibility of the darker spirits and souls his siblings would rather not deal with. Helheim called to the souls of strife, the ones with darkness in their hearts and proclivity for sin from their previous life. Athelios attempted that which he always had, providing stronger organisation and order to those weary souls, working to cleanse and repurpose some of that darkness for their rebirth.
All who would die with tainted souls would find their way to Athelios, some seemingly too far gone for redemption. Helheim itself drew them there, as it was intended to, but it had also begun working against Athelios in that same vein. A realm meant to house and attract all the world’s evils could no longer stand for its ruler’s attempts at expunging it.
The Marquis of Helheim formed, summoned by a malignant force that pervaded all corners of the realm. Athelios sought to staunch the spread of chaos that worked to usurp his appointed position, but there were few allies on his side and an ever growing force in opposition.
The defeat and betrayal struck at Athelios to his core, depictions of how he handled the encroaching conflict within his realm vary. Some say his failure was due to his strict adherence to his ethics when his enemies were the lack of which personified. Some say this is where Athelios’ second personality began to form, adopting the cruelty of his enemies in a desperate bid to push them back, some go as far as to say he even resorted to forming and relying on his own Nethradin, but stories that go to these extremes are often disputed by worshippers.
Regardless, Athelios’ delve and development of a more sinister personality that had been forming since his time exploring the darkness of the world is generally believed to culminate to its most extreme point in this conflict. Athelios could not fully abandon his beliefs and personage, instead shifting towards that festering cruelty within the night as he returned to his senses during the day. Some claim the shifting of personality has none to do with the time of day though, believing the persona to sometimes pretend to be the merciful for an edge.
The Citadel Upon the Edge
Athelios' devoted believe him to have retreated to a castle that orbits upon Helheim's edge, between the remaining light of existence and the absolute limit of the dark lord's reach. It is said that within this realm in between, he mounts the gathering of humanity's most capable, from the noble to the redeemed, to eventually rid Helheim of the encroaching culmination of humanity's sins beyond redemption. Learning that his mistakes have escaped into the land he once called home, beckoned and summoned by witches and riftmancers that further violate the cosmic order of the cycle he hoped to perfect, Athelios created his race of devotees, the Faceless.
The Faceless represented his accumulated guile and knowledge of organization and secrecy. Crafted meticulously to be the epitome in espionage and subterfuge, acting as effective spies and deadly assassins, the Faceless were tasked with ridding the world of the vile filth that the stolen Helheim spewed, as well as growing and strengthening the Athelios faith on Meranthe to further strengthen the deity for an eventual taming of Hel, leading to an operation which lead to the founding of the kingdom of Aphros, still lead by an Oracle of Athelios since its formation.
Their ability change appearance and identity was not only incorporated to mimic the deity or for its practical use, however. They, and all of his followers were tasked not only with cleansing, but learning.
He'd learned that there existed evil that rendered some like the takers of Helheim beyond his redemption, yet it brought about conflict within Athelios. When was a soul beyond that teaching he sought to share? When does one escape that cycle of betterment, where they've fallen so far that they could only fall further? Athelios held the perspective of a god, he could not make this assertion on his own with a perspective that differed from theirs. If he was to judge when those gifted with mortality have completely absconded that cycle, it could not be done without the input of those very same mortals.
So Athelios beseeched his progeny, his followers, his faithful and devoted, the faceless and all other mortals. To not only cleanse their lands of the invaders he could not hold, but to learn from them and from one another. To look into the many lives of their fellow mortals, to see the light and shadow within their souls, to discover where that line was and to share their answers with him.
He beseeched them to join them after death in the Citadel Upon the Edge, as warriors, as members of the court that would judge the souls they'd sent to him. To see whether they could be redeemed, or whether they deserved that redemption. Whether they too would join the Citadel's ranks in the battle for Helheim, or if their souls too had belonged there all along.
Athelios was pushed back within his own realm, not only that, but the usurpers even took to invading the mortal realm he once dwelt in as well. Still yet blaming himself for Helheim’s state, still yearning to return it to the order he sought to maintain; he incorporated the knowledge gained from the cruel and cunning both in his life on Meranthe and in his time guiding the souls of Helheim into the creation of a race of his devotees.
Crafted meticulously to be the epitome in espionage and subterfuge, acting as effective spies and deadly assassins, the Faceless were tasked with ridding the world of the vile filth that the stolen Helheim spewed, as well as growing and strengthening the Athelios faith on Meranthe to further strengthen the deity for the taming of Hel.
The Faceless’ role as infiltrators and assassins demands secrecy, as such the accuracy of their name is a highly debated topic. The prevailing thought is that the faceless are born in the image of Athelios, none granted a true face of their own, only a mask of black and white that resembles his. That mask of theirs shifts when they don another’s persona, becoming nigh indistinguishable from those whose faces they steal.
Others believe that underneath said mask, the Faceless have a true face of their own, one that becomes lost in the slew of identities they’ll grow to acquire in their life. Having a proper identity that hasn’t been stolen is not out of the question for Faceless, but such a thing is likely to be abandoned if it proves beneficial to do so.
The formation of Aphros was in large part due to the efforts of the first Faceless. Unbeknownst to most, within the central lands of Delphinia they would begin to rise through political and military ranks. Be it by exemplary work, or by replacing high ranking threats. They worked to spread the Athelios faith far and wide, gaining loyalty within those central lands and working from the beginning to secure the conditions for later separation from the greater Delphinia. Once they’d secured the beginnings of Aphros, the Faceless took on an advisory role as the rest of Athelios’ faithful whom they’d gathered marched further into their kingdom to expand what they’ve built.
Ever since, the Faceless work to assassinate enemies as well as remain well ingrained in every political sphere they can. Under Athelios’ teachings, they will under no circumstances allow what they’ve built to fall into the same disarray and chaos that Helheim had. If a would be dark lord or their marquis would hope to sprout within Aphros? No mercy or leniency would be spared this time, no chaotic incursion would be allowed to grow. When necessary, they fully embraced the cruelty of Athelios’ second half, removing even those of Aphros when they stepped out of the meticulously maintained order and replacing them when necessary.
The Faceless are born, but they can also be made. Devouts of Athelios that seek to serve as his devotees through the gifts he can grant occasionally take part in rituals to allow the deity to influence and change them, or a subject of their choosing.
If it is necessary to work within the shadows to ensure humanity may still thrive in the light, then there will always be those willing to take on that duty.
With a land so deeply intertwined with faith, where the blood of the worshipped primordials still runs through the veins of some that walk among the rest, so many interpretations of worship are bound to spread. Yet for Athelios, no practice and collection of his faith and virtues is as widespread as the main doctrine, the Ordinance.
The Ordinance is mainly a doctrine of the Athelios faith, but the guiding philosophy of its followers is generally concerned with the spread of a cosmic order and truth, the attaining of a truly perfect cycle of life, growth, death, and rebirth. Followers of the Ordinance believe that existence in its current state, while beautiful, is flawed. The progress of humanity through the many cycles they endure across time is under threat of invaders, an encroaching void and fel demons and nethradin that seek to rip their souls from that cycle for an eternity of perpetuating harm.
The first step to overcoming the folly of man is to conquer our own inner darkness, to learn to control it rather than be consumed by it, a quest that many scholars and opposing clergy consider self-destructive... But to Athelios, Mankind’s ability for sin and redemption is a gift.
A lie, though a wrong action on its own, can bring about a much happier and just world and even turn people onto better paths. Still, some lies can bring about chaos, harm, and destruction. Followers of the Ordinance, while many of them still hope to remain virtuous in fear of straying too far into darkness, are encouraged to seek out and explore the darker parts of humanity. Espionage could be used to defeat the vile enemies that threaten the cosmic balance and order. Sometimes, the law may be twisted to operate under better efficiency, some immoral angles may be explored and learned from to achieve better outcomes.
The existence of this philosophy makes outsiders wary of the Ordinance, yet the followers still self-regulate to ensure they do not go too far. Black Magic acquired through fel pacts rip apart one’s soul from the cycle they aim to protect, and so practitioners are dealt with harshly and immediately, regardless of whether they believe it to possibly produce a greater good down the line.
Dogmata of the Devout
The Self, all mortals are expected to value their life and live them to the fullest. Though crusades and pursuing the cosmic order is valuable, so is the development of one’s own soul. Whether it’s strengthening one’s own virtues, or exploring the darkness within one’s heart and mind to develop the skills and knowledge the insidious have so long held a monopoly on, followers are expected to still explore life itself. This tenet inspires festivities and self interest, and also guides itself into The Question.
The Question, A tenet based upon the exploration of existence and mortal life, but one often left to be upheld by a society’s scholars. The cosmic balance needs correction, yet neither Athelios nor any god that is not part of the mortal cycle can make the ultimate judgement of when it is time to rend a soul from it. This is why the mortal followers must explore the question, when is a soul too far gone? What is the formula to achieve cosmic truth and order? Scholars are implored to explore philosophies, the devout are implored to examine their fellow man and record their stories, the faceless are implored to live many lives to learn more of the human experience to discover the difference between a would-be marquis of Helheim and a soul fit for growth and redemption. Yet The Question is not one that could be explored by individuals alone, for many of them still form collectives. Therefore, for The Question to be explored, there is a need to maintain The Civilization.
The Civilization, though not a concern of the rare hermits and isolationists, is still something every participant within it must work to uphold. A collective of mortals is known to be capable of so much more than the individual, their capacity for good and evil becomes exponential relative to its size and progress. Therefore, even atrocities impossible for one to commit become simple for a civilization to passively enact. Even Helheim under the administration of Athelios fell into chaos, leaving the largest blemish on the cosmic balance since time began. As such, it is the duty of all who participate in civilization to respect order, to work to ensure it never falls into chaos. Hierarchies are to be respected, but anyone that threatens the stability could bring about ruin. It is everyone’s role to ensure something as potent as civilization doesn’t fall into disarray as well, lest it threaten The World.
The World, While they inhabit it, it is everyone’s duty to stem the tide of chaos and infection in the world itself. Gatherings of evil that have gone too far need to be expunged, cosmic mistakes can not be allowed to infest and corrupt the living. The cleansing of witchcraft and demons is commonly agreed upon, necromancy also despised to the point where it can only be practised in complete secrecy, with some debates springing about in regards to occultism. Regardless of one’s final judgements, they must act to stem the spread of what they deem to be irreparable evil and chaos. When one works to cleanse the world, they also better prepare The Beyond.
The Beyond, At the end of one’s mortal life, their soul will be drawn towards the realm that suits them most. Carrying the accumulated sin and virtue of their lifetimes. Followers of Athelios and the Ordinance will be drawn to joining him at the Citadel Upon the Edge. Where they are judged, and either returned to their cycle once again until they are ready, made to join his court or the greater citadel to aid in judging or the retaking of helheim… or in extremely rare instances, the soul is deemed to have crossed the threshold of redeemability with a balance of light and dark that could never be repaired. The fate of those souls remains a mystery. Regardless, followers of the ordinance have the duty to strengthen their souls for the beyond to eventually join Athelios’ citadel proper, or at the very least to remain honest participants of the mortal cycle. There is a duty to cleanse the beyond as one cleanses the world, but the only way to prepare for this eventuality is through the strengthening of The Self.
Followers of the Ordinance believe they have roles in existence themselves, the level at which one applies themselves and looks forward to these tasks vary based on their devotion. Some followers are happy to propel society forward, they understand the need to expunge true evil, but they may look forward to reentering the cycle immediately rather than devoting themselves to the Citadel Upon the Edge wholly until the balance is restored.
Notably, these main tenets of Ordinance belief form an ouroboros. One’s adherence to one priority strengthens their adherence to the latter… but it is also said it may cause problems within the former. For example a stronger self has more experiences and has delved further into the corners of life to allow them to better handle the answering of the question, yet if the self’s experiences are so varied to have delved into and experienced evils far too great, it damages their duty to the beyond. A strong civilization that is orderly and just is more equipped to cleanse the world, but if it is too effective at preventing the exploration of darkness then it inhibits exploration of the question. A cleaner world is one that has taken care to expunge the evils of the beyond, but a successful crusade against those forces may exhaust the civilization, leaving its citizens hungry and restless from the war effort. The beyond loops back to the self in accordance to the mortal cycle. A stronger soul balanced and good will be able to explore more of life’s intricacies upon rebirth, but some believe such a prioritisation of one’s own soul and self can come at the cost of neglecting their duties to the world. A belief that has spread in reference to some of the faithful that choose hermitude, or remaining within one’s walls, strengthening their faith and virtue while others fight their battles for them.
In summary, the tenets of ordinance faith are a guiding philosophy, an ouroboros representing priorities of grander scale that will eventually coalesce into the self upon rebirth. Followers believe balance in priority is key, to approach the improvement of all these aspects as a whole as the focus on only one or a few tenets can lead to ruination and straying.
Again, there are some things without a doubt agreed upon to threaten the cosmic balance.
Witchcraft and allying with demons and Helheim’s nethradin is nigh indefensible. Necromancy is an unsanctioned violation of the cycle, and is as such viewed as indefensible as well. Occultism and other forms of questionable combat magic is debated, allowed only in Aphros by taking vows to Athelios to allow one’s fury to be controlled. Some crimes are considered indefensible by some, but not by others. Some believe drug production and distribution to be an effective means of societal control, others believe it to be a poisoning of others and a practice of spreading the same chaos and hedonism that lead to Helheim’s fall.
In cases of disagreement on what evils are explorable, some choose to practise those evils in secret. If they are discovered however, those that believe them to be a threat to the tenets have a duty to expunge them as well. Even in the most indefensible cases of the black arts, devotees with souls too dark stray and believe they may yet be paths to the cosmic order. Their path to Helheim paved with good intentions.