|Symbols||A broken circle, a flame with a hand placed above it, ravens, and shed serpent skin.|
In order to enter the Prayer state, an adherent of the Hooded Flame must do one of the following:
Can you not hear her cry, child?
Listen to the wind as it weaves through the trees,
To the earth as it shifts with the worms,
To the water as it falls off the eaves,
To the flame in your heart as it burns.
This is not the world that was intended for us.
This is not the way the world wants to be.
~Acolyte Creidhne, Hiddenspear Clan
Despite what appears on the surface to be an inherent drive towards self-destruction, human beings also possess a similar innate ability to adapt and continue with their lives no matter the circumstances. Even in times of disaster, danger, terror, and stress, life goes on- and even the most terrible of fates can eventually become the norm. And when misery is increased by gradual degrees, it can even be difficult for people to realize that things ever once were different. It takes a significant act of will to stop and look beyond the world that one was born into and admit that things are not as they should be. It takes even more to push back against the pressures the world places on an individual, and work towards a different one.
The Hooded Flame is a newer faith, having formed only within the last couple generations, and some believe it represents the passion and fire of youth, eyes open and learning, seeking to change what no longer suits it. The origins of the cult began when Danand Flamewhisper walked out of the woods exactly when the sun was at its zenith, and into a Valleyward settlement. The girl’s clothing was burnt nearly black so that her clan’s colors were unknown, although she bore no burns herself on her skin. It took several days to coax any information out of the teen aged youth, and she refused to answer any questions about her past or her clan.
When Danand finally did speak to answer questions about the state in which she had been found, she spoke of what sounded to be visions rather than reality. She said that she had been walking in an expanse of starless darkness, lit only by a burning blaze that was both within her grasp and thousands of miles away. The flame seemed to dance with a thousand different sounds, a cacophony of voices and calls that still somehow worked together to form a melodious chorus.
But as she continued to walk, something changed, and the flame was buffeted down- dimming and quieting, the voices reduced to soft murmurs, until all that was left was a small ember struggling against the surrounding darkness. She felt compelled to pick up the small light to save it from the encroaching shadows, and she was shocked when she was able to reach out across the expanse and actually cup it in her hands. There, it hummed as the glow danced in spirals out along her skin, and it whispered to her in words she could barely remember, though she had already known what was going to be said.
In that moment of infusion with the ember, whoever Danand had been was no more, and all that was left was Danand Flamewhisper. Those of the Valleyward tried in vain to find her people; to learn more of her circumstances, but it was fruitless. With no visual cues remaining upon her, and no tattoos or markings, they only had her words to go off of, and Danand was not interested in answering such queries. She often said that her past was burned away in the song of the fire, and that whoever she had been was no more and irrelevant – only the future mattered. For the rest of her life Flamewhisper would hold that she had walked with the Goddess Vecatra herself, and been shown a great truth. The world was not as it was intended, and Vecatra herself, the great wheel of birth and death, was broken. The fires of creation were dimmed, and the song of the world was gasping and choked off. But hope was not lost- for in mankind was a key to strengthen the flame and bring back the cycle to its proper place.
The cult which formed around her was the Hooded Flame, and acolytes gathered to join in on a sacred mission: to help understand death in all its forms, and the reasons why humans return and lose their minds in the process. Taking every opportunity to chronicle and study what was lost in death, as well as the circumstances of return, the Hooded Flame began to develop a reputation of crossing the line of what was acceptable. Forgotten Ones were, and are, extremely disapproving of return from the grave, as it goes against the natural order. To investigate those who had dared to violate this order seemed to border too closely on encouragement of this behavior. The Valleyward were quick to sanction her and her followers, arguing that they were following false gods and that their obsession with death was an incomplete understanding of Vecatra, and would lead them down the same path as the Lazarines. But Flamewhisper and those of the Hooded Flame argued, and argue to this day, that they still follow the path of Vecatra. Unlike other Vecatrans, however, they believe there is something more that must be done beyond simply resolving Malefic entities and living in accordance with the laws of Vecatra. There is something else that humanity needs to unlock and understand; something more that needs to be done before the world can begin to blossom into what it was supposed to be.
While Danand herself eventually met her final death within a lit wicker man, her followers remained behind, and those of her cult take great pride in continuing her work. They believe that the blessings they receive from offerings to their shrines are proof that Vecatra approves of them. Unlike other Vecatrans, they believe that dying and returning from the dead is – while unnatural- a task that they must undertake in order to understand just what is wrong with the world. They take care to record their experiences of death as well as the experiences of others, and observe and record those malefic creatures throughout the world as well. It is not uncommon for them to interrogate those who have experienced death and record their findings, as well as to interview all those involved in a resolved malefic and detail the story of that malefic creature as much as possible.
While those of the Hooded Flame may be slightly more agreeable to Blight than other Vecatrans, they can be rather fervent in their defense of Vecatra and what remains of the great cycle. Their punishment of those who disrupt the natural world tends to be with even greater ferocity than that of other Vecatrans. It is because of this fervent belief, as well as their shared study of death and its nature, that the Hooded Flame have an intense hatred of those who follow Lazarolth. It is not spoken of often outside of the cult, but among the Hooded Flame there are those who make it a point to hunt Lazarines and extract information from them via whatever means are necessary. Those that succeed tattoo a ring on their upper arms, both as a mark of pride as well as a way for others of the cult to keep track of how much risk of contamination they might be under. The Hooded Flame already has to potentially deal with suspicion and disapproval from their own people, and they cannot afford to be more closely tied to the Lazarines and their foul practices.
The Hooded Flame makes offerings of bones, items tied to malefic creatures, objects tied to fire, herbs with neurotoxin effects that cause the mind to fade, and memories of death and resurrection.
Those who follow the Hooded Flame promise to document the experience of someone’s death every event. If they are unable to document another’s experience, they must experience death themselves and document it. They cannot document the same experience of death twice, meaning that two cultists cannot document the same experience, nor can the same experience be recorded on multiple occasions.
Those who fail to do so by the end of the next three event days find their health stricken as their vitality starts to leave them. They spend the entirety of all three days at the next event with all physical attributes at a -1, unless they properly atone for their broken vow and make an appropriately impressive sacrifice by the end of the next three event days.
Should the follower accept their punishment and end the following three event days without rectifying their broken vow, they are no longer considered a follower of the Hooded Flame, and will be unable gain a benefit from offerings until they have made amends through atonement and a precious offering.
Make an Offering
Hooded Flame followers receive the following gifts if they leave offerings at their dedicated shrine. Anyone can trigger the shrine, once they have sworn the following oath to the Hooded Flame to follow their vow, by presenting the proper offering and using the prayer ability:
“I swear by the three faces,
He who acts,
They who prey,
She who knows,
That I will hold my faith in my heart like a hidden flame.
I will nourish it,
I will support it,
I will hear it,
And in the end, I shall bring it to its fullest glory.”
Swearing this Oath places one under the Vow of the Hooded Flame.
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 – By burning an offering of a herb with a neurotoxin effect, a beeswax candle, or the remains of a human or animal at the bowl of the shrine, the follower is granted slightly more control over the process of resurrection. Should they die before the next dawn, they can choose which of their touchstone memories they lose in death.
Complex Offering: Echo of the Flame – By presenting an item attached to a resolved malefic, amber, or something related to a snake, a follower of the Hooded Flame may help keep the restless dead from deteriorating. If there is an individual currently awaiting resurrection, the followers of the Hooded Flame may tell three stories about the person’s life, one for each face of Vecatra, and prevent the loss of one touchstone memory from that resurrection.
Precious Offering: Light’s Return – By placing a Vecatra’s Aspergillum, evidence of an destroyed Lazrolth shrine, or ashes of a Lazarine on a shrine to the Hooded Flame, a follower may have one of their touchstone memories which they lost in death returned to them. This does not allow them to have more touchstone memories than their cap, but they may fill an empty slot if they do not currently have their maximum number of memories.
Requirements of an Altar
In addition to offerings at a Shrine, one may make a common offering to the Hooded Flame at an Altar dedicated to them. The Altar must contain a journal with at least one recording of an experience of someone’s death, a clay bowl filled with tallow, and a representation of the broken circle.
Dedicate Shrine to the Hooded Flame
Build and dedicate a Shrine to the Hooded Flame.
“Others love Vecatra as a child does, without thought, without care, without action. We love her just as much, but we also know that love is a path. It runs both ways, and we must take action to demonstrate our devotion.
-Danand the Flamewhisper
Focus – A box containing a journal with at least one recording of an experience of someone’s death is brought to a location where it will be safe from the elements, typically a cave or natural outcropping.
Offering- Using a set of woodworking tools, the symbol of the broken circle is carved into its outside surface, and the corpse of a bird is placed inside.
Offering – Atop the box a shallow bowl is placed, and oil or tallow is poured into the bowl and lit aflame.
Offering – A branch of named wood is set within the bowl so that it catches alight, and allowed to smoke before the cultist uses it to draw a triangle of smoke over the shrine while repeating the following words.
Liturgy – “The cycle is broken, yet the world remains. As long as we can perceive, as long as we can act, as long as we can remember, we have a chance to complete the circle. As long as I can think, as long as I can act, and as long as I can remember, I will work to feed Vecatra’s flame, and restore creation to its fullest strength.”
Creates a Shrine to the Hooded Flame that may be used to make offerings. Anyone can trigger the shrine by expending their daily Prayer ability, provided they have sworn an oath to the Hooded Flame to follow their vow.