Ashur, Great Dragon of the Void ("Tzet-Askhari")
Favored Race Shuddeni
Element(s) Void
Home(s) The Outer Void, Amidst Nothingness
Alignment Lawful Evil
Symbol(s) A black dragon, a black scale
Portfolio The Void, Demons, Death, Apocalypse, Silence, Finality
Worshippers Shuddeni, Void magi, nihilists, demons

History in Avendar

One of the three overgods who created the world of Avendar, it was Ashur's contempt for what the other two had wrought which inspired Its own offering: death. While Iandir's effort manifested the physical world, and Jolinn's work harnessed primal chaos to produce life, Ashur sought to preserve the pristine state that preceded both. After the Compact, proposed by Iandir, prevented the immediate unmaking of the Prime, Ashur remained unsatisfied. Its contact with the first race, the ancient alatharya, increased as their jealousy of sister-races blossomed. It no doubt relished the Sundering as the ultimate statement of Jolinn's creative failure. Life, however, continued to exist in lessened form, and it was then that Dragon's influence came over Its child-race, the shuddeni.

Tzet-Askhari's actions grew more overt during the War of Night, during which It poured many resources into the demonic servitors of Its children. It was completely remorseless in attacking, desiccating, and consuming those Outer Planes which were not already aligned with the Avendarian pantheon. As the Dragon devoured, so also did the shuddeni devour the Prime. In what would prove a grand stroke of cosmic irony, Ashur's destruction of the ch'taren home plane would set in motion the end of Its children's meteoric ascent.

In the centuries since the War of Night, Ashur has not moved so visibly. Some say that It was weakened by Its defeat and has lapsed into long torpor. Others whisper that the Dragon yet marshals Its forces secretly, in preparation for the end of all that is, was, and ever will be.

Goals and Methods

The subject of Tzet-Askhari's motivations could fill volumes of philosophical treatises. Without a doubt, Its intellect is the most alien and enigmatic of the Three, and It seems to have the least connection of any with the mortals of Avendar. The presumption is that It feels that organic life, or even matter, is an unsightly mar on a perfect, endless void. It is also possible that Ashur has a completely different vision of the Prime and is dissatisfied with Iandir and Jolinn's creation of an imperfect reality. As a refinement of this idea, it is also possible that Ashur views Itself as the ultimate standard of perfection, and wishes that the entirety of the multiverse reflect Its own mind; that it does not is the ultimate aesthetic tragedy.

Today, it is thought that Ashur indeed desires a sort of "inverse transcendence" for the multiverse: every place like the Void, and thus, every place a reflection of Its mind. It might wish to make all things more like the Void as a transitional state toward creating a better (qua Its own metrics, of course) multiverse, or that the Void is the most perfect of all final states. Eventually, scholars fear, It might despair of this attempt, realize that total unmaking is the final solution, and act accordingly.

While it is a popular conception that demons exist in mockery of true life, knowledgable magi suggest that this is not precisely the case. It may be more correct to say that Ashur created them as an answer to the aesthetic plague that is Jolinn's creation. Whether or not they are more, or absolutely, perfect is something only It knows. One might view the Void and its denizens as a great mechanism for turning the essential "wrongness" of the Prime, with its ties to the Weave and Being in general, into a more tractable form. Souls who come in contact with the Void are made more demonic, or are expended in demonic pursuits; demonkind who come to Avendar strive to make it more as the Void, and in turn, more in keeping with the world Ashur wishes.

Organizations and Followings

While Ashur is honored in most dark rites, those who feel drawn to the Great Dragon as a personal god typically feel the need to bring either themselves or the world closer to the Void and the end of all things. The three largest 'sects' of this are as follows:

The Diviners of Silence
"Within me, I shall create the kingdom of stillness."

Those who internalize the inevitable end find themselves among the Diviners of Silence. They seek to become as the Void, but do so in seeking their own personal oblivion rather than eternity beyond the Veil. Claiming serenity in the Dragon's primal, cosmic perfection, Diviners strive to snuff out that which binds them to the Weave: their feelings, desires, and all dreams save that of death. In doing so, they believe they can break the cycle of reincarnation which will again return them to the living, and spend what mortal time they are allotted stilling themselves for that moment of sublime ending. Hermits and ascetics are often among those who embrace the Diviners' creed, although heavily weighted toward those who study the Void as a profession. Caladaran void magi, in particular, find acceptance among these ranks.

The Asur-Rjakket
"Forgotten gods hold no sway."

If the gods would rise up against the Dragon's apocalypse, then the gods themselves must be destroyed. Failing that, the Asur-Rjakket know well the Compact to which all gods adhere: they may take no direct action, and must instead work through mortal agents. Thus, they seek to obliterate the faiths of all other gods, be it through the destruction of their holy texts, desecration of their shrines, or the slaughter of all who serve them. The Asur-Rjakket claim that if there remains no trace of a religion, then it might well have never been. Because of this, they despise beyond all others Chadraln's Researchers of Avendar, who by their nature seek to record and preserve the histories of all. The Asur-Rjakket would burn their books unread, lest they contaminate their own minds with the seeds of infidel faiths.

The Naskuekka
"The end comes… beyond chaos."

Some scholars claim that when the slumbering Dragon wakes, the Prime will be consumed by Its wrath. Those who seek to bring about Tzet-Askhari's awakening call themselves the Naskuekka, a bastardization of the shuddeni word for "apocalypse". The infamous Maevis'Hra and their unholy alliance to raise the fiery monstrosity, Kzroth, are among this lot. They often believe that other gods hold no true power before the entity who destroyed the Outer Planes and brought ending to the mortal tapestry of Avendar. Scheming is common, although each schemer may find himself at odds with the failures of those who have come before: he must always seek a greater, more spectacular expression of death with the hopes of rousing That Which Devours Life. Despite Ashur's connection to the Void, this sect is often the most accessible to those whose talents fall outside of the norm. A keen wit, megalomaniacal aspirations, and ultimately a fanatical, unhinging devotion to wiping clean the slate of the multiverse are all traits found among the Naskuekka.

Individual Followers

Despite, or perhaps because, of Ashur's unwillingness to respond to the prayers of the faithful, It has become the most commonly-worshipped of all evil gods. Rites and statuery giving praise to the Dragon of the Void are displayed openly in both Earendam and Var Bandor, with the Temple of Darkness showcasing with chilling banality the social acceptance of Its worship. Cruel merchants who wish plagues upon their rivals offer praise to Ashur in doing so, as does the warrior who knows no master save death. Because Ashur offers no response, there is no personal gain for such worship, but nor are they struck down for failing to serve Its ineffable wishes.

Most followers of Ashur find themselves divorced from moral codes and common religious platitudes; after all, those who espouse the end of tomorrows see little need to limit themselves today. This creed is particularly embraced by the shuddeni, who during the War of Night became known to other mortal races as the "Children of the Dragon". In modern times, direct Ashurian worship has fallen somewhat out of fashion in shuddeni strongholds. However, there are few among them who would not instantly heed the call of their Father.

Ashur marks no followers, for to bear the weight of Tzet-Askhari's attention for even the scantest moment would drive any mortal irrecoverably mad.

Relationships

Ashur commands the fear or respect of all the gods of Darkness. Each, in their own way, prepares the world for the Dragon's arrival, though doubtless they all believe themselves able to survive and thrive in the wake of such a victory. Amongst the neutral pantheon, Ashur is seen as a counterbalancing force to the goodly gods, though certainly none would seek to aid him in unraveling creation. Amongst the lords of Light, It is universally reviled as the bringer of ends. Its is the black heart that spawned the evil which they war against every day. Ashur is Pestilence and Horror. Ashur is Death, the Ender of Tales. When all is past and only darkness remains, all will be Ashur.

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