Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Folk Saints: St. Hermas

St. Hermas, clad in dragonscale, gifts a loyal adventurer with cash and loot.
Yes, the pious wanderer prays to the canonical St. Seraphina of the Wandering Stars. But the quest for adventure and treasure in Mittellus has led to the popularity of the folk-saint Hermas, wherever chancers gather to wrest long-lost treasures from the oblivion of the earth.

Hermas, so the legend goes, was a fearless soldier in the North in the times of Invictus and Amalthea. He was anointed into the Revelation by Amalthea herself, and performed many useful services of a special nature for them and their followers. In the wars against the monsters of the Far North that followed the death of Amalthea, Hermas preferred to stay off the battlefield, conducting perilous infiltrations at long odds with only a hand-picked band of misfit comrades.

The tales told of him are as many as the notched and worn copper pennies that fill a fifty-pound sack. How he killed an ogre with a nail; reversed the flow of a river and drowned a whole kobold lair; made a false prophet tear his own head off in a game of dares and forfeits; convinced a dragon to yield its cache, one coin at a time.

True to form, his final adventure was as audacious as it was doomed. Finding a doorway to Hell, he slew devils left and right before finally meeting his martyrdom at the hands of the Evil One. In some versions of the legend, he tricked the Devil by offering his own soul in exchange for a companion's, knowing himself to be incorruptible; then fought to get it back, achieving that goal just before he died. Therefore he is also known as Rescuer and Ransomer of Souls.

As a folk-saint, Hermas appeals to adventurers, highwaymen, smugglers and other enacters of desperate deeds. His symbol is the X of crossed swords, and he is often depicted wearing dragonscale armor, raising two swords with mounds of treasure at his feet. His cult is controversial in the Church; some tolerate it, seeing it as a way to keep otherwise unreachable individuals thinking of the World Beyond, while others damn Hermas as a fiction and pagan relic who encourages theft and murder in a holy name. Those of the tolerant persuasion often pair Hermas with the canonical saint Seraphina in their oaths and prayers.

Many shrines and temples to the Saint have been erected by wealthy adventurers, and it is there that his powers manifest directly, for he has no holy order. Such a shrine will always have an object by which a band of adventurers can swear the Oath to St. Hermas. The Oath's form of words varies but usually enforces cooperation and fair sharing among the band, with oathbreakers subject to supernatural comeuppance of a dire and unspecified nature.

The Saint brings ruin to breakers of his oath.

Some shrines also feature small practice dungeons, cemeteries for adventurers killed in the line of duty, shops or training halls where affiliated professionals sell goods and services of interest to adventurers, or libraries where the collected wisdom of explorers and warriors can be read for a fee. Many are the stories of small and capricious miracles the Saint has performed in his shrines to reward the faithful and generous. His word and gospel is that of earned prosperity, and that alone is enough to earn him his steady following.

(Info on the historical St. Hermas here. Often confused with St. Hermes.)

2 comments:

  1. Love these posts. Such rich material for a campaign!

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  2. You are a genius!

    ReplyDelete