The Broken Bough
|Symbols||Broken branches, twisted branches and trees, deep roots, outstretching boughs of leaves, hands cupped around a candle flame|
In order to enter the Prayer state, an adherent of the Broken Bough must do one of the following:
These devotees know that truth and wisdom are not always apparent, and often lie in wait behind the words on a page or in the echoes of the sermons of the devout. And while some say that in wine lies truth, those of the Broken Bough know that this is only the starting point of the path. Altered consciousness, especially when properly guided, allows those of their movement to seek enlightenment unfettered by the moralistic dogma and strictures that guide most of Salgothic life.
While their critics argue that the cult is no more than Benalians indulging in secret excess who do not want to be restrained by societal niceties and outdated customs, those within the cult have a different viewpoint. While they do eschew conventional worship, their goal is not simply a loss of control or a bit of fleeting joy. Rather, they take the Salgothic art of alchemy and push it to its furthest limits in order to seek deep understanding of the universe. They believe that wisdom is imparted to those who enter these states of altered consciousness and trances. They teach that true knowledge of the self: what drives you, what heals you, and what destroys you, is imparted, as well as insight into the lives of others. Many adherents swear that when they feel lost or unsure of what to do next, these intense, meditative experiences almost always offer guidance.
But the practices of the Broken Bough are not solely for their own enlightenment, and they certainly are not for the purposes of simple recreation or escape. They believe that this path they walk is for the good of the world, and that by opening themselves up to visions and dreams which include the darkness and terrors of the world, they can protect those who have not yet been tainted by the horrors they have witnessed. Followers of the Broken Bough say that their visions give them the tools they need to turn back the malefic creatures of the night and other monsters- and that they sacrifice their own innocence so that they may save and protect the innocence of others.
Many adherents to this cult become priests and Malefic fighters, believing that they possess unique insight and tools in the battle for humanity’s salvation. They willingly sacrifice their sleep, their peace, and sometimes their sanity that they might understand what lies at the roots of this world and how it may be healed.
This idea is perhaps most illustrated by one vision that those who have followed the Broken Bough for some time all eventually experience: the vision of the creature known as the Rootbound King.
Everyone who has seen this figure knows that he appears on his own time, but his general appearance is almost always the same: a man fused with a broken tree so that his feet and toes are stretched and travel through the earth like roots, and his upwards-reaching arms spread out to form branches. The details of the vision can vary – sometimes with blood running from the tree in rivulets, sometimes eyes appear in the branches like unsettling fruit, but the Rootbound King is never passive. The pain he experiences, the strange connection with the broken tree, it is clear to all who experience this vision that he has chosen sacrifice and pain in exchange for truth.
Once the visions of the Rootbound King begin, they tend to increase in frequency and clarity through the altered consciousness trances the Broken Bough engages in. The cult teaches that this specific vision is a guide of sorts, and that once you have seen the Rootbound King, you are firmly on your path towards enlightenment. Those who see the King find themselves changed by the experience in one way or another, and it is often difficult for them to return to or continue the life they once lived.
The Broken Bough pays homage to this figure and their practices through the leafy designs and twining branches that adorn their attire, such as bracelets of twisted branches worn on the left wrist. While those who chase the Rootbound King may appear distracted, distant, and quite possibly exhausted, they see themselves as seekers and shields against the unfathomable darkness. They value strength of will, gaining insight and wisdom through meditation and hallucinogenic substances, sacrifice for the good of others, and a sincere desire to heal the world.
Alchemical concoctions which produce altered states, herbs with euphoric or hallucinogenic traits, wreaths of branches of named woods, lightning-struck wood, sleep, and beeswax candles. It should be noticed that if one is to offer up an alchemical preparation, they must pour half onto the altar, and drink the rest, so that they are linked with their offering and may allow any wisdom gained from it to infuse their being.
Adherents of the Broken Bough swear to: Consume a hallucinogenic potion and experience it at least once an event by nightfall on Saturday. Should they fail to do so, they suffer from -2 Intelligence for the duration of the next three event days or until they properly atone for their broken vow and make an appropriately impressive sacrifice, whichever comes first.
Should the follower accept their punishment and end the next three event days without rectifying their broken vow, they are no longer considered a follower of the Broken Bough, and will be unable gain a benefit from offerings until they have made amends through atonement and a precious offering.
Make an Offering
It is believed that boons and wisdom, perhaps from the Rootbound King himself, are given in exchange for offerings. Anyone may gain the benefits of offerings to the shrine, provided they swear the following Oath in order to become a follower of the Broken Bough:
“I beg to see Truth when I close my eyes. I wish nothing more than to gaze upon the splendor of true meaning, whether it brings me pure ecstasy, or terrifies me to my bones. I wish to know all that sacrifice yields, and I wish to see the roots that penetrate deep below and the branches that reach ever outward to encompass all.”
Swearing this Oath places them under the Vow of the Broken Bough
The following must be written into the dedications book as if it was a prayer. The use of an Altar or Shrine spends the user’s daily prayer ability:
Common Offering – If one offers an herb with euphoric or hallucinogenic traits, a non-human essence, or a lit beeswax candle, the follower may enter a trance-like state where their own safety becomes a secondary concern to protecting others from the Night Malefic. If an individual has been targeted by Malefic creatures for any reason, for one night the Broken Bough adherent may become the focus of the creature instead.
Rare Offering: Whispers of the Wood – If one offers a prolonged sacrifice of sleep or nourishment (and is thus Miserable), a wreath made of three branches of named woods, or an item tied to a Malefic creature, alongside an altered-state alchemical preparation into which the adherent has mixed a Malefic essence, the adherent may gain insight into a specific Malefic creature by being granted a vision of the creature’s Instincts (one positive and one negative).
Precious Offering: Music from the Roots – If one offers their health in a way to bring themselves close to death, or lightning-struck wood in combination with consuming an alchemical or religious concoction which induces sleep or blackout, they may receive a memory of a wound in the world that has occurred in the area. This may be a terrible sin, the cause of a malefic, or a painful memory that has given weight to the world. This offering may only be made once per character per event, and the boon will be delivered by staff.
Requirements of an Altar
In addition to offerings at a Shrine, one may make a common offering to the Broken Bough at an altar dedicated to him. The Altar must contain a representation of the Rootbound King, two named woods, and an unspoiled alchemical preparation that is euphoric.
Dedicate Rootbound Shrine
Dedicate a shrine to the Rootbound King
“What drives you?
I’m not asking what others expect of you, I’m not asking what the mold that has society has poured you into demands of you, I’m asking for your true meaning. Your path, unburdened by the world. When you peel back everything that is not you, the family history, the trauma, the demands of your name and your form, what remains at your core?
What part of your life remains?
What are you?
I see him. I see myself. I see him! Oh, glorious King, I am weeping, and I see your scarlet tears fall at your feet. You bring me the purest joy. I am terrified for my life. You look right through me to my marrow and press me until I bloom under your gaze like a spring flower. “
~Except from the diary of Elianus, heritage stricken
Focus: The Shrine is formed in front of a large tree with exposed roots or a masterwork depiction of a large tree with exposed roots.
Offering: A beeswax candle is lit in front of the tree or depiction.
Offering: A collection of curved branches, but no less than three, of named wood should be arranged in a circle with the candle at their center
Offering: All adherents present must consume an alchemical potion with the hallucinogenic trait
Liturgy: All adherents present must recite the words:
“I bow in supplication, honoring god and this creation through the gifts you have provided me. My body is merely a shell. My mind is constructed of gates. Let me make right what has been wronged, whether it is my fault or not. I beg that the gates be opened. You deserve a doorway big enough to let you through.”
Offering: Another alchemical potion that produces some form of altered state is left in the center of the branches.
Creates a Rootbound Shrine of the Broken Bough that may be used to give offerings for effects. Anyone can trigger the shrine, as long as they swear the Oath and use the prayer ability.