The religion of the shadow elves is monotheistic and pervasive in the life style and in the history of this people. It was founded by the first subterranean elves contacted by Rafiel in 1104 BC and it is based on the respect of the so-called Fourteen Sacred Verses, the commandments that according to legend Rafiel carved in the Refuge of Stone, the holy sanctum guarded in the
- Verse of the Gathering: Before the Great Rain of Fire, I was Rafiel, and I watched over my people. I gathered them into the palm of my hand, and I guided them to this refuge of stone. I, Rafiel, will guide you.
- Verse of the Name: I am Rafiel, and you are all my shadow. As I move, so you move. As I stand, so you stand. As I live, so you live. Thus shall you be shadow elves, and I, Rafiel, will guide you.
- Verse of the Refuge of Stone: Let all my children learn these words, the words that guide you and give you life. Daily honour these fourteen verses and I, Rafiel, will guide you.
- Verse of the Shaman: I, Rafiel, mark with my own hand those whom I empower. Let all respect be accorded these, my chosen servants. They it is who will have the power of life and death over you. Follow their teachings, and I, Rafiel, will guide you.
- Verse of the
: In the fullness of time, I, Rafiel, will show my shamans the secrets of the crystals that have the power of life and death and life everlasting. Guard these crystals carefully, and I, Rafiel, will guide you. Crystals
- Verse of Birth: If any child be born among you that is not whole, let them be brought before me, and I, Rafiel, will guide their path.
- Verse of the Wanderers: Keep the strength of the shadow elves, and let none who is weak remain among you or follow after you. Turn these to me, and I, Rafiel, will guide their path.
- Verse of the
: Here build before me a city, and a great temple, and within it offer up to me all good things, and I, Rafiel, will guide you. Temple
- Verse of Food and Cleanliness: Let your food be pure and clean. Keep also yourselves pure and white before me, and let not your souls be spotted with wrongdoing against me, and I, Rafiel, will guide you.
- Verse of Days: I will teach my shamans the goodness and badness of each day. Keep the good days fasti, and the bad days ne fasti, and I, Rafiel, will guide you.
- Verse of the Army: I will send fire against you, to strengthen you in my own forge. Let every man and woman among you see battle and I, Rafiel, will guide you.
- Verse of the King: I will guide my shamans to choose from among you a king, who will serve as long as I wish him to serve. Let all my people obey this king and I, Rafiel, will guide you.
- Verse of the Other Peoples: If any other peoples desire to live among you, let a clan adopt them, and keep them separate from you lest they offend me, and I, Rafiel, will guide you.
- Last Verse, The Verse of Promised Bounty: I am Rafiel. If all my children follow my way and the Way of the Shamans, then all good things will come to them, for I, Rafiel, will guide you.
The cult of Rafiel is not however simple, since its doctrine and practice include symbolic truths, paradoxes and enigmas that the shamans must decipher and resolve in order to be able to progress in spiritual enlightenment and along the hierarchical scale. The progression from acolyte to Radiant Shaman is outwardly shown through a change in clothes that each rank is called to wear. This tradition is based on the belief that the purer the souls of the faithful become the closer they get to the idea of Rafiel, nevertheless the clerical tunic doesn’t go from dark colors to white, but from the simple white of the Acolyte to the white garment but full of colored ribbons and embellishments of the Radiant Shaman. This isn’t an incongruity, since according to the cult it is the purity of the spirit that is important to Rafiel, so that when he achieves the perfection of the Radiant Shaman will in vain wearing a habit that can imitate the same candor of the soul: the thing is impossible, and moreover not necessarily to the eyes of Rafiel, therefore also to the eyes of the faithful. In practice, the look and the soul of every shaman are therefore complementary: while at early levels the shaman is still immature it is right to present himself to the outside in the purest way possible (white clothing) in order to contrast to the opacity of the soul, while as he advances in the enlightenment and purification of the spirit, the vestments assume darker colors in order to reflect that their inner being to be cleansed and purified. This is only one of many mysteries which the philosophies of the cult of Rafiel are worried about, skillfully inserted by the Immortal in order to distract the thinking of his clerics from the most important and hidden truth, which were revealed only to the eyes of the most worthy and prepared along the road towards perfection.
In fact, Rafiel also has other plans connected to the existence of the shadow elves, a secret project that began at the moment of his apparition to the first subterranean elves and to the construction of the Refuge of Stone. This project implies that the study of the energy is the door to Immortality, the Radiance, and in particular a reconstruction of the Nucleus of the Spheres from which the Radiance had originated. This replica has been renamed by the elves the Chamber of the Spheres, and is guarded in the lower levels of the
The shadow elves mystic traditions say that Rafiel teaches that the Soul crystals are receptacles that contain the souls of future elves who are still to be born in this world. It is therefore a duty of every good follower, to gather these crystals and give them to the shamans, the only ones authorised to manage them and to harness their power (every shadow shaman in fact can only cast spells if he has on himself one of these special crystals). The shamans are therefore tasked with conserving the crystals, but don’t tell the faithful the whole truth about the real use that was made of these materials. Not even the clerics of the first three levels know anything about the true mystery that hides the crystals, and this knowledge is only revealed to them in degrees, like advancing in the ecclesiastic hierarchy.
In fact, the crystals don’t contain at all the souls of those must still be born, and the shadow elves are born like every other living being of Mystara. In reality, these stones are natural receptacles of magical energy; solidified emanations of the Radiance similarly spread everywhere, especially in the underground of the Broken Lands following the disaster that created it in 1700 BC, caused precisely by the detonation of a Blackmoorian machine activated by the elves.
On the surface, using the power of the Radiance is difficult and often dangerous, since the energy risks corrupting the flesh of those who invoke it with a devastating sickness (magical-nuclear radiation) that not even mortal magic is able to cure. This doesn’t happen to those who possess the soul crystals, since thanks to the magic placed by Rafiel on the crystals, the corrupting effect doesn’t influence those that use the stone but manifests itself in the future generations of the shadow elves. Here is explained the reason for why so many shadow elves continue to be born deformed, despite the millennia that have passed since the Great Rain of Fire. These deformities are the price paid by the elves for the use of the Radiance, but naturally this fact is known only to the White Shamans and to the Radiant Shaman and is another of the secrets never revealed to the faithful.
Also the effect of decreasing of the magic of the world, which is usually the result of evoking the Radiance (see GAZ3), is instead avoided through the use of the soul crystals, since the Immortal curse that involves the reduction of magical energy in Mystara is linked solely to the Nucleus of the Spheres, and not to the crystals or to the Chamber of the Spheres. The crystals are themselves minor artifacts, portable receptacles that permit the evoking of the power of the Radiance in any place or moment. Nevertheless the fact that the shadow elves (compressing the less powerful shamans) consider the holy stones in which are kept the souls of as yet unborn elves makes them extremely precious, and every shadow elf does everything possible in order to avoid damaging or losing them and in order to remove them from any individual non elf who possesses them (in practice he would be considered a kidnapper of the parents of the future generations). Furthermore, the crystals are particularly fragile because of their nature and of the energy contained there: in effect, any crystal carried to the surface is immediately weakened by the solar radiation and is reduced to dust in just a few seconds. Given that it is necessary for them to be in contact with the skin of the shaman in order to be used, this makes their use in the light of the sun (both of the surface and of the Hollow World) absolutely absurd (and given that the shamans must necessarily use a crystal for casting spells, this makes it impossible for them to use clerical magic on the surface). Furthermore, they are also kept in a dark place during the day that doesn’t protect them for long, given that the crystals fall to pieces after 1d4 hours.
The members of the clerical hierarchy below the rank of the White Shamans believe that the crystals harness the power of the souls saved in them. When they cast a common divine spell, in reality the souls aren’t damaged, according to the Rafielite mysticism, since the magical energy derives from a fusion of the spiritual power of the cleric, of the soul in the crystal and of the life strength of the same Rafiel. However, when they invoke one of the special powers of the shamans, that is the spells linked to the Radiance, the power of the spell draws energy from the crystal and weakens it, since also according to the dogma of the cult, these spells tap into the power of the soul and the will of Rafiel in order to manifest themselves. For this reason all the shamans of Rafiel are loath to evoke the spells of the Radiance and only use this magic if they are forced to, since they don’t want to risk of damaging or destroying the souls of the unborn in order to avoid the extinction of future generations. This satisfies the need of Rafiel of reducing the use of the crystals to a minimum in order to assure that the majority are conserved and used at full power in the Chamber of the Spheres. This need of finding soul crystals brought the shadow elves (both shamans and simple believers) to ceaseless holy research that ended inevitably with the delivery of the recovered crystals to the leaders of the temple and their conservation in the Chamber of the Spheres.
The Test of Rafiel and the Shamanic Order
The cult of Rafiel is unique in its genre, and totally different from the type of cult to which the surface demi-humans are accustomed. It includes bizarre, enigmatic, at times paradoxical ritual formulae, and is thought in order to put seriously at test the mind and the will of a shaman, since Rafiel only accepts the most brilliant and devoted elven minds among his disciples.
However, not all can become shadow shamans, but only those that have the so-called “Mark of Rafiel”, which is a purple pigmentation of the skin of the face (often of geometric form), which the shadow elves have learnt to recognized as the sign that Rafiel uses in order to mark those who are his favorites among the subterranean elves. Those pre-selected were already identified since little by the shadow shamans, who have contacts with the parents so that, once they have grown sufficiently (about eighty years), the pre-selected (who in 70% of the cases are female) are entrusted to their care and receive the adjusted training in order to serve Rafiel to the best of their ability. Once he enters into the caste of the shadow shamans, an elf loses his right to belong to a specific clan, since from that moment he serves all the shadow elves indiscriminately. This also means that if the shaman should settle in a certain city (usually that of his parents), he no longer has exclusive obligations towards just one clan, but must serve the interests of all the shadow elves, and carry the word and wisdom of Rafiel to all indiscriminately. He must only be obedient to his superiors of the
Every shadow shaman is called during his life to accomplish the will of Rafiel in many ways, and it is imperative for every priest of this cult to always be able to pass any test before taking his posts, with the knowledge that the experiences he undertakes serves to mature him and change him physically and spiritually. It’s no surprise that every acolyte who has been presented to the
If the Test of Rafiel was successfully passed, the acolyte returns to the temple accompanied by his mentor and become to all effect a member of the
Once he has passed the Test of Rafiel, the elf enters directly within the clerical hierarchy of Rafiel, which is made up of 7 orders (exactly half of the 14 verses, one for each level of the
- Marking Shamans
- Death Shamans
- Life Shamans
- Colourless Shamans
- White Shamans
The Marking Shamans, besides preparing the acolytes to enter into the clerical community, perform the day-to-day rituals in the smallest temples and travel daily through the shadowlands in order to lend their own service where the will of Rafiel requires it. It is among the ranks of the marking shamans that are numbered those wandering priests who end up joining a band of adventurers in order to explore the subterranean caverns and also the surface world, since Rafiel attends to them himself not only in order to defend his word and his miracles, but also for spying on the races that surround the subterranean elven lands and to oppose the enemies of its people.
The Death Shamans instead have the power of life and death in the elven society. It’s up to them the grave task of taking the new-born deformed or sick and abandoning it tens of kilometres of distance from the place where it came into the world, leaving them only in the less traversed tunnels, after having completed the ceremony that should attract on them the blessing and the protection of Rafiel. In fact, Rafiel teaches that these newborn must be abandoned outside of the elven lands, and only a sufficiently powerful shaman is therefore able to take on this important task and return safe and sound to the temple. In the same way, the death shamans preside at the ceremonies in which the Wanderers (elves too weak and old to be able to live according to the laws of Rafiel) are exiled from their clan and homes. However, at the centre of the ceremony their place is taken by a life shaman, and this is symbolically extremely important, since it shows that the wanderer has been prepared to enter into a new phase of his life under the sign of the resurgence.
The Life Shamans instead represent the balance that exists in all of creation. They are dedicated body and soul to the study of medicine and of the healing arts, practicing healing especially thanks to their divine spells. They frequently serve in the army in order to cure the wounded, and can even frequently find themselves on the field of battle in order to help the suffering regain their strength and continue to fight for the glory of Rafiel, even if they don’t personally inflict death on the enemies of Rafiel. Furthermore, the life shamans also act as the historians of the elven race: they are the historic memory within whom live the memories of the ancient deeds of the people of the shadow elves, and are the only ones to know exactly the authentic version of sure facts that instead are told as a form of myth (or however partially modified) to the common people, becoming depositaries of the more obscure secrets of the line of Rafiel.
The Colourless Shamans are thus called since they think that, reaching this level, they have by now purified their souls from any guilt before the eyes of Rafiel, even if keeping this state of grace costs effort and sacrifice. In fact, the colourless shamans lead a life of meditation, prayer, contemplation and study, and are rarely removed from their temple, in order to avoid contaminating themselves and of regressing in the difficult rise that leads to the final communion with Rafiel. Those that belong to this rank, according to the religious belief, are immediately reincarnated once dead and they have a good chance of possessing the mark of Rafiel, a sigh that the favor of the Immortal accompanies him through all his existence. According to the cult of Rafiel, they are authorized to bring back from the death only the souls of those that are experts of violent death (and the most exalted case is clearly that of a shadow elf who sacrificed himself in order to defend the temple of Rafiel or the elvish lands), and only after having verifying that the individual in question is given of optimal health and vigor (in these cases it is possible that a council formed by a death shaman, a life shaman and a colourless shaman is called to decide on the question, with the final word naturally up to the highest in level).
Finally, the White Shamans are at the top of the hierarchal scale of the shadow shamans, and are the only ones who are allowed the use of the most powerful divine spells. The white shamans are not only becoming pure to the eyes of Rafiel, but according to the clerical tradition, they embody the model of the perfection in following the 14 Verses of Rafiel. They certainly aren’t perfect (only Rafiel can be that), but represent the highest state of perfection that a mortal being can attain. Because of this the power of the White Shamans in the society of the shadow elves is great, seeing that they always have the last word on the interpretation of the Way of Rafiel, and their advice counts as orders to any level of the bureaucracy and of the elven nobility. They eagerly seek any type of information regarding every aspect of reality, not only of that of the elven people but also of the surrounding world, and constantly promote the research and the examination of new acolytes in order to expand the ranks of the faithful of Rafiel. The thing that most distinguishes them from the other shadow shamans is the fact that they have access to the Chamber of the Stars, the most secret room built in the final level of the First Temple of Rafiel (which is in the City of the Stars), and for this reason they have begun to understand that the soul crystals aren’t totally all they seem, since the technological nature of the reliquary has little to do with the elven spirituality. Rafiel indeed progressively reveals to them the truth on his final design in order to not destabilise their faith or provoking their resentment. Until he finally also reveals to them the existence of a spell so powerful that it enables them to transcend their own mortality (the definitive spell of the Radiance, Transcend Life Force) and they understand that Rafiel guides them towards Immortality, as told in the Verse of the Crystals: “In the fullness of time, I, Rafiel, will show my shamans the secrets of the crystals that have the power of life and death and life everlasting. Guard these crystals carefully, and I, Rafiel, will guide you!” At this point the devotion of the White Shamans attains a new peak of ecstasy and gradually comprehend that all the preceding beliefs that have been taught them by Rafiel has the only aim of preparing them to greatly appreciate the magnitude of his final end. They still don’t know the complete truth about the Chamber of the Spheres, naturally, since only the Radiant Shaman (the most faithful and powerful among the followers of Rafiel on Mystara) is allowed to be party to this secret.
The Radiant Shaman, the most devoted and worthy priest who leads the
Built at the centre of the Temple Square, in the heart of the City of Stars (the capital of the Shadowlands that rises in the Refuge of Stone), the Temple of Rafiel over the rest of the city since it was built at the top of a series of 30 meters high stalactites that hang from the ceiling (given that the particularity of the City of the Stars has been constructed in a grotto in which the gravity is twofold, given that it is found at the centre of the line of gravity of the planet known as the Worldshield). Carved directly from the rock, with colorful reliefs of limestone, quartz, marble and mosaics, the temple is an architectural marvel. There are seven levels in the temple (half of 14, that is one for each order of shamans), with the highest level (at the top of the temple) defined as the First Level. In order to reach it, it is necessary to ascend the 14 Levels, which in realty are so high that each has been subdivided into another 14 levels of normal size and made of progressively lighter stone with one of the verses of the Refuge of Stone engraved. There are therefore 196 true steps to be covered before reaching the entrance of the First Level.
The steps lead to a great hall in which the devoted are collected in prayer, asking aid of the acolytes who live in this level and bring offerings to the
At the end of the hall, a staircase descends within the building and leads to the Galleries of the Second Level, unto the Chamber of the Refuge of Stone, where the 14 Verses, cut on the bare stone of the grotto by the hand of Rafiel, are kept. This chamber receives daily the visits of hundreds of faithful in search of a miracle or of a personal thanks (a safe birth, a happy marriage, the health of a parent, etc.), and it is here that the most special public ceremonies are held (like the weddings of the royal family, the passage of an Acolyte among the ranks of the Marking Shamans, or the nomination of a new Radiant Shaman or General, and so on). The acolytes stationed in this room with pitchers of water for the more weary and thirsty pilgrims, in order to assist all those that feel faint at the sight of the holy sanctum, and in kind in order to keep everything clean and in order. Many acolytes (those that have already faced the Test of Rafiel) live in the “open area” of the Second Level. Part of the Second Level moreover houses the Galleries, where the works of religious art are exhibited; in particular those that recount the continuing struggle of the shadow elves against their eternal enemies: the humanoids. In fact, it is common opinion that all the victories and the military conquests are a sign of the will of Rafiel, and thus the Galleries are the proper place for conserving these memorials. However, only the most expert acolytes and the Marking Shamans can pass through the bronze doors that from the Galleries lead in the heart of the Second Level. Here is found a small library, reading and teaching halls, a hall of meditation, and halls for food preparation. There are always diverse Marking Shamans to supervise the acolytes present in this level, and at least one White Shaman stationed in this area, in order to examine the babies born in the City of the Stars that exhibit the mark of the shaman. The White Shaman doesn’t live in the First Level for security reasons, but must be accessible for each question and is therefore stationed in this level, with an acolyte that has the task of serving his every need (an extremely ambitious task, so that all the acolytes always seek to make a good impression on the Marking Shaman with the task of selecting the attendant of the White Shaman).
In the Third Level live the Marking Shamans, and here are found many halls of registration, since these shamans must act as judges in legal and commercial matters, and they therefore have several registers at their disposal. Here is also present a tribunal hall, where the more complex disputes are judged by the Marking Shamans or by a White Shaman, based on the importance of the case. The shadow elves that are tolerated on this level are always blindfolded and are first purified with rituals appropriate to the First Level of the Temple (unless they are shamans of Marking rank or higher). Conserved in the coffers of the Third Level there are also stocks of soul crystals of low level, together with gems and gold nuggets.
The Fourth Level is the abode of the Shamans of Life and of Death, which occupy the halls at the extreme opposite ends of the temple. The heart of this level is however shared by both the orders for meditation and prayer (even if separate chapels and common chapels exist), and refectory halls.
In the Fifth Level live the Colourless Shamans, and its most important characteristic is the Hall of the Conclave, where the White Shamans gather on the occasion of the election of a new Radiant Shaman or of a new sovereign (when it is necessary). The hall is situated in this level of the temple since it symbolically invites the White Shamans to get away from their isolation and to come closer to more of the people for the more important questions regarding the common good. The Colourless Shamans also guard a small library dedicated to the study of the “magic of Rafiel” (that is the spells of the Radiance), to works of particular religious devotion and to additional treaties on the elvish theology (like the Concordance of the Way of Rafiel, the Songs of Nasnaefel, and the Verses of the Soul of Jacquafarel).
There’s an extremely extensive inhabited complex in the Sixth Level, even if currently there are no more than 13 White Shamans in this area (the number has oscillated in the past between 9 and 20 individuals). Here can be found the parchments that conserve the more potent magic of the shadow shamans, the reserve of higher level crystals (3rd or higher) and a copy of all the religious texts of the
The final level of the temple, the Seventh, houses the Chamber of the Sphere and is found two metres below the floor of the Sixth Level, sunk in the Mystaran crust and magically protected from any type of intrusion from those who doesn’t belong to the caste of the White Shamans. Only Porphyriel, the Radiant Shaman, has the magic key necessary to gain entry to the Chamber, even if Randafien (a White Shaman) has conserved in code the note that enables him to deactivate the magical traps and enter, if something should happen to the Radiant Shaman. The Chamber is full of droning machinery, metallic cylinders, boilers, pipes and metal frames, and at the centre of the hall of the enormous shining spheres within in which the suspended crystals whirl around. The soul crystals can be found incorporated in the machinery at many points, as if they are an integrated part of it. The Chamber of the Spheres is a magical nuclear reactor that combines scientific and magical principles in a unique manner, a rare example of functioning techno-mancy in Mystara. Furthermore the things that have been built by the elves, have an extremely particular aesthetic that reflects the gusto of this race, so that is given the semblance of a sinister grace. Even the most common pipe in this chamber is decorated with golden etchings and numerous spiral forms along their length. Every shadow shaman protects with their life the entrance to this sanctuary, even if the White Shamans know the danger and the volatility of the elements present in the Chamber and therefore trying to not to resort to conflict or offensive spells, but rather attempting mind control or persuasion in order to avoid irreparable harm.
*taken from the Vault of Pandius, Codex Immortalus by Marco Dalmonte
*taken from the Vault of Pandius, Codex Immortalus by Marco Dalmonte
- Alignment: Lawful Neutral
- Symbol: A book with a star on its cover
- Portfolio: Shadow Elves, Techno-mancy, Radiance, Magic, Science
- Spell Domains: Cavern#, Elves#, Knowledge, Law, Magic, Planning#, Retribution#
- Preferred Weapon(s): Longsword