|Domain:||Disease and Death|
|Deity Alignment:||Neutral Evil|
Othniel is depicted as a darkly handsome god, quite similar in appearance to Torodin. He is tall and slender, with shoulder-length dark hair, a neat mustache and goatee, and narrow, dark eyes. He is generally shown smiling, but his laughter seems somehow cruel or gloating. Othniel dresses as a mage might, in dark robes adorned with silver, and wears a belt of ivory skulls. Often a raven, his favorite creature, perches upon his right shoulder. The Dagger of Soulstealing gleams at his belt. In his left hand he often holds the Staff of Wasting, a staff of twisted dark wood.
Othniel is an evil deity who seems to take great delight in forming elaborate plots and outwitting his enemies. He is proud and intelligent, some would say arrogant. Patient, cunning, and with a darkly twisted sense of humor, Othniel seems to treat his battles against the other gods as a game played out for his own personal amusement. Unlike Athelstan, the causing of pain and suffering is not his goal, but a mildly entertaining by-product of his machinations. Othniel enjoys corrupting others, and in maneuvering his enemies into acting against their true natures. As the Soultaker, Othniel seems bent on collecting as many of the departed souls as he can, towards what dark purpose no mortal can say.
Othniel´s worshipers are a hidden brotherhood, who in Hurva must keep their forbidden allegiance a secret. Some of the leaders of the faith are those with positions of power among the nobility and the wealthy, who share their dark master´s delight in manipulation and deceit. Assasins and murderers often worship him, particularly those who take great pride in their skill at dealing death, especially by poison. There are rumors of a cult of Othniel´s worshipers who, in return for being saved by the priesthood from a fatal disease, are now bound to devote their lives to spreading the contagion they still carry. (Some say this was the origin of the infamous Red Plague of Pylum in 1042 ). Druids and forestfolk respect and even revere Othniel, for death is a part of the natural cycle of all things. The common folk say prayers to Othniel not out of honor, but out of fear, for all hope to keep death far from their door step.
Othniel seems to resent Estereal more than hate him, and has repeatedly claimed that The One lacks the wit to lead the pantheon. There is no question that Othniel believes he should hold Estereal´s position as the supreme leader of the gods. Othniel is wary of Estereal´s power, but taunts him for his lack of wit, his serious nature, and his devotion to the useless ideals of truth and justice. Othniel finds Estereal tedious in the extreme, and can´t understand why the other gods put up with him. Othniel likes to taunt Estereal´s honor, and enjoys humiliating him.
Despite his claim of being The Great Warrior, Azkal betrayed him because he did not have the stomach to follow through with their clever plans. Othniel thinks of Azkal less as a brother and more as a powerful force that Estereal wields against him. Azkal is stupid, predictable and boring, and Othniel tends to leave dealing with the Great Warrior in the hands of Athelstan, who enjoys the physical conflict. Othniel finds Azkal´s pride misplaced, and enjoys seeing him humiliated almost as much as Estereal.
Though Wajen has numbered herself among Estereal´s allies, Othniel seems bent upon disputing his claim. Many believe that he truly loves Wajen, and love and passion were the root of their centuries-long relationship. Others believe Othniel uses Wajen as a tool, but many more argue that the Soultaker is perfectly capable of both loving and using the same individual. His feelings for Wajen may be complicated, but it seems clear that he respects her wisdom and her power, for the two have made numerous secret deals and bargains over the centuries.
Othniel is the only one among the elder gods who does not share a child with Soltana. Some say that Soltana is the key to Othniel´s plans, and one day she will serve as the sacrifice to fuel a spell that will bring about a Second Great Jihad in which Othniel and his allies will emerge victorious. Other than his plans to make use of her, Othniel seems to give little thought to Soltana´s powers. He pokes fun at her lack of intellect and dismisses her as insignificant. She is little more than window dressing for Estereal, a mere token of Estereal´s power over the other gods. Othniel sees use even in this, for their love makes Estereal vulnerable.
Jvelto is also often dismissed in Othniel´s plans. This is not out of lack of respect -- Othniel at times has been impressed by the Oceanlord´s powers. However, he knows that Jvelto never starts a quarrel, and the best way to keep Jvelto out of the fight is often to leave him alone with his wine and his women.
Othniel´s relationship with Torodin is somewhat more complicated. The two closely resemble each other, and not just in appearance. Othniel has claimed that Torodin is the only one among the gods whose intellect matches his own; he enjoys matching wits against the Shadowlord, whether the stakes be life and death or just a simple game of chess. One of Othniel´s greatest achievements was enslaving Torodin for a century, and an important goal has always been to win Torodin over to the side of the dark gods. Othniel has claimed that Torodin himself is just a step away from true evil, and that sooner or later he will realize that he has been fighting on the wrong side.
Athelstan is Othniel´s most powerful ally and a valued resource, but there is little evidence that any affection is spared between the two. Othniel has insulted Athelstan repeatedly when his brother is not present, claiming that The Torturer is slow-witted and reckless. Athelstan is committed to Othniel´s goals, which is appreciated, but lacks the intellect to see the whole picture, and has sometimes ruined carefully laid plans by his impatience, and giving in to opportunities for mere rape, torture or violence at the expense of more important goals.
Othniel uses the lesser gods as tools, but seems unwilling to associate with them for any length of time. He seems to view them as subjects and potential subjects, whose lesser power and intelligence make them unworthy of his companionship.
Churches of Othniel by necessity are hidden away, often in swamps, isolated wilderness areas, beneath cemetaries, and under city sewer systems. Many temples are combined temples to both Othniel and Athelstan, but the High Priest is always a disciple of Othniel. In order to direct the complex and far-reaching plots of the brotherhood, leadership is rigidly structured, and discipline is severe. The temples themselves tend to be dark and shadowy places, adorned with statues of mortals in various stages of disease and death. Sanctuaries are dimly lit, and altars are created from the skulls of mortals. In contrast, the living quarters of the priests are quite opulent, as Othniel believes in rewarding his priests for their devotion in this world, as well as the next.
The priests of Othniel come from a variety of backgrounds, but most are those hungry for power who were denied such in the world of mortals. They now work for the greatest power of all, and delight in manipulating events from behind the scenes. Forced to keep their identities a secret, priests never wear their own vestments in public, but disguise themselves as soldiers, merchants, messengers, and so forth. They are not only permitted but encouraged to wear the vestments of the priests of the other gods. In these guises the disciples of Othniel infiltrate all the powers of the land, manipulating kings, wealthy leaders, soldiers, merchants, and even priests of other gods without their knowledge.
Priests always take their orders from an immediate superior, to whom they report back as often as possible. For secrecy´s sake, the Church is organized in a cell structure, with each priest knowing the identity of only a few others. If captured, the priests are expected to use their powers to end their own lives rather than betraying their brothers and sisters of the faith.
Priests of Othniel are justly feared throughout Hurva. They are hated by the other churches and the secular authorities, who will hunt and kill them on sight. The common folk shudder at the mere mention of the Othniel´s name, and can easily be cowed into doing the Church´s bidding. In fact, the Church of Othniel has long manipulated the commonfolk and divided their enemies by spreading rumors, encouraging certain common beliefs and fostering ill will. They´ve fostered the notion that elves have earned their long life-spans by spreading disease among humans. They´ve made people realize that it is clear to any intelligent observer that Torodinites, who wear the same colors as Othniel, really do work for the God of the Dead -- that is why they hide in their temples, and why their strange prophecies and frightening powers are not to be trusted. In recent years, disciples have worked hard to keep the story of the Paragons´ treachery against the crown alive in the memory of the Hurvan people.
The priest of Othniel works towards the day when the Soultaker will take his place as the rightful leader of the pantheon, and the world will be remade in his image, with the faithful as the new kings and rulers of the land. As such, duty to one´s mission and the orders of superiors must always be the priest´s first priority. Even a small and seemingly insignificant task may be a vital part of the greater puzzle, and nothing must be allowed to distract the priest from his assigned mission.
This does not mean that the priest should not be alert for opportunities. Othniel delights in corruption of the body, of the mind, and most especially of the soul. Every good soul that turns towards evil strengthens the power of the Soultaker, and all those who die unclaimed by a divine patron become Othniel´s property. Disease of the body and mind is not an end in itself, but a way of making the soul weaker and more easily influenced. A human beset with suffering and facing death will make most any deal to delay their own demise.
With this in mind, priests of Othniel are encouraged to seek out opportunities to tempt, persuade and threaten good folk into starting down the path of evil. Their special targets should always be priests and devoted worshipers of the good gods, particularly the leaders of the faith, and those priests possessing exceptional intelligence or insight. An exception is made for the priests of Wajen. Due to an ancient deal between Wajen and Othniel, priests of the Soultaker are forbidden to cause physical harm to one of the Great Mother´s disciples.
Unlike most of the other gods, the disciples of Othniel are rewarded for faithful service in this life as well as in the next. Each time a priest does something that pleases the Soultaker, his life-span is increased; there are rumors among the church of a High Priest who is over three hundred years old. In addition, priests are encouraged to seek every earthly comfort they desire -- as disciples of the greatest of the gods they are entitled to wealth, power and all of creation´s pleasures.
Forced to live among those who despise them, most priests of Othniel are unable to attend worship services or seek the companionship of their brothers and sisters in the faith. Their reverence for their god must be shown through prayer, respect for their superiors, and through the faithful carrying out of their assigned duties. In addition, during each cycle of Reeba´s moon, every priest must take one life, or cause disease in one person. In addition, priests are encouraged to accumulate wealth for the order and simultaneously corrupt others by taking large sums of money or important favors in return for raising dead, dispensing wills, or carrying out the last wishes of the recently deceased. Most of the priests´ time, however, should be devoted to gathering intelligence and carrying out their assigned missions.
The largest temples to Othniel are in or near large cities, so that the priests have easy access to souls to be corrupted. Also, those with power tend to be found in large cities, and plots and schemes are best hatched in these places.
For ceremonies within the temple, all priests of Othniel dress in dark, hooded robes adorned with silvery jewelry and skull-shaped ornaments. The higher-ranking members of the Order wear stoles embroidered with symbols proclaiming their status.