Shrines & Soul Pits
The old gods draw their power from Between, absorbing a portion of the energy that dying mortals release back to that plane with their souls. A soul that dedicated its life to worship of one of the gods is an easier source for that god, and as such the old gods expend much effort on increasing their religious base on Athien.
The old gods actively take a hand in the people of Athien, influencing the multitudes where they can and controlling the weather, in return for worship.
Fortunately for mortals, the influence of the old gods on the people of Athien is limited by the separation of the three planes, they cannot simply grasp the mind of a person and force them to do their bidding. In fact they cannot directly influence behaviour at all, except through a punishment and reward system that is often muddled by the actions of the other gods in competition. What they can do is gift power to a mortal directly. Gifting power is not difficult, however, getting that power back again is extremely difficult, as such the gods do so sparingly.
When a mortal is granted power by the old gods, that power fuses to their soul and is carried with them through their life. It may manifest in a thousand ways, as strength of arm, charisma, ability to persuade others, hardiness in harsh conditions, or even in extreme cases, explicit powers, such as the ability to make the earth shift, the weather change, or objects catch on fire. These people are considered “fate-touched” and inevitably the most powerful are marked out for a unique life. As a result of that moniker, that energy or power became widely referred to as Fate. That name aptly reflects both its effect upon a person’s life, in potentially dooming them to a war-torn fate, and the power it grants that person to alter their own fate.
The gods cannot control what a person may do with the Fate they have granted, they instead aim to reward with more power when the person’s actions match their desire. Since there are four old gods with different goals, it is very common for a single person to be rewarded by multiple gods over the course of their life, as they act in ways that harm or benefit each god differently.
Because of this unreliability, fate-touched are most common within the priest-hoods of the elder gods, where the gods feel they have the highest likelihood of a beneficial effect. Often they will imbue their high priests and priestesses with power to sway the masses to their worship, repaying the investment of power many times over their lives by devoting more Souls to their god.
When one who is fate-touched dies, their Soul returns to Between, as all Souls do. There, it is much more easily pulled to feed the god they worshipped in life and as such the Soul energy is usually very quickly dissipated.
The energy that the gods imbued in that person cannot be reclaimed so easily. Typically, it will coalesce in the Between, forming a crackling symbol that is related to an aspect of the dead person’s life. This symbol is material in the Between, often a glowing statue or standing monument, which is called a Shrine. The energy will slowly dissipate from this Shrine and can be gathered by denizens of the Between, or by those who have been summoned there, if they are able to concentrate and control it. This is the raw energy of the gods, a quasi-material in Between, that can be used to greatly empower a presence on that plane, used by the Summoned to fuel their most powerful abilities, or to bestow new strength, agility or speed.
The symbol is always shaped by some vestige of the dead person’s life or personality. A great warrior might produce a Shrine in the shape of a gigantic rune-inscribed hammer, or perhaps a statue of two mortals locked in conflict, or herself with sword and shield. A priest will most commonly form a Shrine that is clearly dedicated to their god, perhaps a fountain if they worshipped Wellin, a giant stone plinth for Eldir, an ever-burning pillar of flame or a standing tornado for Forin or Arden.
Typically, these Shrines do not actively do anything, they are simply a decaying symbol of the life that was lost, slowly dissipating energy back to Between. Those that are clearly dedicated to one god or another can show other characteristics, as some aspect of the personality or their god is still able to direct that power, influencing the events in Between to some limited extent.
Due to the nature of time in Between, it is very difficult to match the timing of a person’s Shrine in Between to the time of their death on Athien. As a result, the Summoned may find themselves fighting over the Shrine of a great warrior from their past, who died hundreds of cycles ago, or just as often a great leader, who they have never heard of and who will not walk on Athien for another hundred cycles. The amount of power imbued in a person, by the gods, is reflected in the size and duration of the shrine that forms in Between.
Soul Piits are the point in Between where Soul energy is leaking onto the plane faster than it would naturally be absorbed. This is most common when large numbers of people or animals die in a brief period of time on Athien, flooding the crossing between the two planes with energy that coalesces into the Souls that are seen in Between and can be gathered by the Summoned.
Due to the nature of the fate-touched, it is very common for their death to be accompanied by the deaths of many other people on Athien. Whether it be a war, a religious purge, a great plague or a natural disaster, it is rare for these fate-touched to die alone. As a result, it is common for Soul Pits to appear adjacent to Shrines or vice versa. In fact very rarely does one appear without the other, for there are many fate-touched and it’s rare that a major world event would not involve them