“I offer you a chance, an opportunity to free yourself from the chains of fate.”
Tenets: Hope, Justice, Truth; these are the great lies of mortal existence, chains of the soul from which you must free yourself and others. Only with the destruction of the old can the new be born, only from ashes can salvation be found. You must free yourself from your shackles, whatever these may be. Cast aside the lies and failings which chain you and you shall reach a new perfection. Keep a keen eye for the flaws in others, and seek to guide them to their perfection. Only the weak chain themselves with what they should and should not do; the strong only choose and act.
Za'arel is the god of destruction and self-renewal, the quest for perfection. They are also the god of the Neverborn – also known as Demons – and stand in opposition to most of the main gods. The core of Za'arelean belief is that destruction is necessary for renewal, and that this particularly applies to mortal character. A mortal will always be born with, or develop, flaws that hold them back; Za'arel teaches that these flaws must be destroyed in order for a mortal to reach their true potential. The most common flaws highlighted are belief in justice, morality, truth and hope – these are, by Za'arelean doctrine, blind faiths that are based on what are ultimately lies, which lull the unsuspecting into a sense of complacency. To become perfect, this complacency must be shaken and the flaws banished.
Needless to say there are some aspects of Za'arel that make them an extremely unpopular god in civilised lands, though this is not necessarily always the case. Some cultures view them as evil, others as merely amoral. The faithful of other most other gods view them with loathing, but a sad truth is that many of Za’arel’s followers come from the ranks of their rivals, priests and paladins disillusioned with what they have come to see as the flaws in their own doctrine. These unfaithful are viewed as traitors by their former brethren, and their apostasy rarely goes without attempted punishment – when it is discovered.
Among the main pantheon Za’arel is an exile, openly opposed by most of the gods and viewed with wariness by the rest. The outcast nature of Za’arel and its reason is the subject of much speculation, myth and legend in most lands, particularly whether it is due to their teachings, or whether the teachings arose later. The casting-out itself is physical as well as actual, as it is common knowledge that Za’arel makes his home among the Neverborn instead of in the heavens. The faithful of Za’arel claim this is through choice rather than banishment, and hope to join them there upon their deaths. Most others view it as a punishment or imprisonment, though one single reason cannot be pinpointed.
In Ilmarin, there is little in the way of organised worship of Za’arel thanks to the influence of the elves and the suspicions of the dwarves. As with Thaurea therefore (a god sometimes confused with Za’arel by the less educated, much the anger of the former and the amusement of the latter), what gatherings there are and prayers offered are usually done in secrecy. This is an attitude their god encourages, as honesty and openness offer insight to one’s enemies that can be exploited. For this reason even the powers granted by Za’arel remain shrouded in mystery, though it is likely that at least one grants the ability to influence minds or create illusions, depending on which stories are to be believed.
Though many conflate the worship of Za’arel with demonic practises, this is not strictly true. Though becoming a priest of Za’arel can open doors to knowledge of demonology, it does not grant automatic control over demons. The quest for self-perfection that most go on means that worshippers of Za’arel tend to be solitary and introspective in nature if not in practise. The more powerful ones have a poor reputation as manipulators (assuming they are foolish enough to make their devotions known) who encourage “self-improvement” in others, usually for their own ends. Though not always anarchists, many incline that way due to what most Za’areleans see as the stagnation or blindness of modern nations.
Iconography and Trappings
The most common symbols associated with Za’arel is the empty star, a deliberate parody of the symbol of Aurvandil. Yet Za’arel is deceptive, and encourages deception in their worshippers as a strength, which means that the symbol is rarely used openly. A dragon is also sometimes used as their symbol, as a destructive symbol of great power.
It is not commonly known what rituals to Za’arel entail, but rumours persist of the sacrifice of symbols of weakness at their altars. These could be treasured material possessions, or other, darker things.
A breakdown by nation of those who follow Za'arel.