The Church Of Mask

MASK (Lesser Deity)
Master of All Thieves, Lord of Shadows

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Symbol: Black velvet or silk mask tinged with red
Alignment: Neutral Evil
Portfolio: Shadows, thievery, thieves
Domains: Darkness, Evil, Luck, Trickery
Favored Weapon: "Stealthwhisper" (longsword)

Mask (mask) is self possessed, confident, and fond of intricate plots, though his schemes are always getting him in trouble. The Lord of Shadows is wary but cool, never loosing his temper, and he always seems to be holding back a mocking comment. Mask's ever changing appearance serves him well: His true form is unknown.

The church or Mask is widely feared, not so much for its supposed cruelty as its thievery and penchant for stalking the shadows. Most outsiders view it as little more than an organized guild of rogues cloaked in the veneer of religion - a surprisingly accurate depiction. In political circles, the Lord of Shadows' reputation for intrigue lingers on, and astute observers have noted that his church often acts as a network of spies for hire as well.

Clerics of Mask pray at night in the darkness or shadows. At least once a month, each major temple performs the Ritual of the Unseen Presence to acknowledge Mask's constant scrutiny of all deeds, no matter how well hidden. This involves hymns, chanted verse, and offerings of wealth. Lay worshipers and Maskarran also participate in daily Sunset Prayers, in which they kneel, worship before the central altar, and proffer coin. In recognition of the wry humor of Mask, who so often makes the high low and the low high, junior clergy give money to senior clergy, and the highest ranking cleric gives coin to the lowest-ranking. Clerics tend to multiclass as assassins, bards, divine seekers, guild thieves, rogues, shadowcasters, spell thieves or shadow dancers.

History/Relationships: Mask's penchant for intrigues and larceny has cost him not only potential allies but, of late,a great deal of power as well. During the Time of Troubles, the Lord of Shadows assumed the guise of Godsbane, the sword the mortal Cyric used to slay the Bhaal, Lord of Murder. After the Avatar Crisis, he betrayed Leira to Cyric, enabling the Dark Sun to seize the portfolio of illusion. Mask's multilayered plots ultimately resulted in his reading of the Cyrinishad, a mistake that nearly destroyed him, cost him much of his divine power, and allowed Cyric to seize the portfolio of intrigue. To make matters worse, the Lord of Shadows earned the enmity of Kezef the Chaos Hound, a powerful extraplanar entity. Mask finally got Kezef off his trail after acquiring Houndsbane, a powerful magic sword crafted by the Lady of Mysteries. Should Mask ever loose that weapon, however, Kezef will renew his pursuit immediately.

Mask has made overtures to Bane since his return regarding a possible alliance, but the Black Lord is well aware of the true nature of the Master of All Thieves. Mask hates Cyric for stealing part of his portfolio and endlessly schemes to regain that which he considers rightfully his. Ironically, Shar, who wishes to steal the portfolio of shadows from him, is now watching him. By nature, Mask is opposed to Waukeen and Helm, although deities such as Deneir, Oghma, Torm, Tyr, and Selune work to thwart his plots as well.

Recently, all-out war has sparked between the Sharran and Maskarran clergy. Mask seeks to regain a great deal of his lost power from his first chosen; Kesson Rel, now known as Volumvax, Shar's divine servant. Mask's new chosen, Erevis Cale and Riven, now actively work to reclaim their god's divine essence and destroy Lord Sciagraph (Volumvax). Their quest has, unfortunately, drawn the attention of Mephistophilies, bringing another powerful extraplanar entity into enmity with the Lord of All Shadows.

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Dogma: All that occurs within the shadows is the purview of Mask. Ownership is nine-tenths of what is right, and ownership is defined as possession. The world belongs to the quick, the smooth tongued, and the light-fingered. Stealth and wariness are virtues, as are glibness and the skill to say one thing and mean another, twisting a situation to our advantage. Wealth rightfully belongs to those whom can acquire it. Strive to end each day with more wealth than you began it, but steal what is most vital, not everything at hand. Honesty is for fools, but apparent honesty is valuable. Make every truth seem plausible, and never lie when you can tell the truth but leave a mistaken impression. Subtlety is everything. Manipulation is better than force, especially when you can make people think they have done something on their own initiative. Never do the obvious except to conceal something else. Trust in the shadows for the bright ways make you an easy target.

Clergy and Temples: The church of Mask is second only to the church of Waukeen (goddess of merchants) in wealth. Members of the clergy can call on untold wealth stolen in the past and hidden away in secret places. Maskarran do not hoard or gloat over their takings like dwarves croon over gold; they actively use it to buy agents, bribe officials, sway agreements, and manipulate folk. Clerics work behind the scenes to achieve mysterious ends. This may take several attempts, perfectly acceptable as long as it does not become too obvious who is behind them. It is the advantage of such seasoned conspirators that many folk think Mask is dead and his worship reduced to scattered cults.

From day to day, Maskarran typically tend to their plots and provide support to and collect tithes from individual thieves and thieves' guilds. Each temple has its own policy about reporting unaffiliated thieves: Some provide aid but covertly inform the local guild, others refuse aid and inform, and still others help whoever pays the proper tithe and inform no one. Maskarrans strive to keep hidden, sometimes holding services in underground shrines beneath local thieves' guilds. In areas with a single strong guild, the temple is usually connected to the guild hall via underground tunnels or sewers. In large cities with competing guilds, the temple is considered neutral ground by all sides. The central Altar of the Masked Deity is always a massive stone block with a mask of black velvet, fur or silk floating above it or a wall mosaic inlaid with precious gemstones behind it.

Ceremonial Maskarran dress consists of tunics and trousers in a colorful motley. The tunics sport ballooned sleeves and cuffs and bright embroidery to display wealth. The entire outfit is covered with a full-length, hooded gray cloak that can be drawn shut to hide the colors beneath. A black cloth mask is worn beneath the hood. In areas where Mask's worship has fallen on particularly hard times, only the gray cloak and mask are worn as a symbol of his favor. Inside the temple, the masks are of black gauze and do not conceal the identity of the wearer; in public, such masks are usually heavy, black wool or double-thick silk and cover most the face (and beard, if necessary.)

Historically, the church of Mask has consisted of a loosely linked web of independent operators, individual temples, and regional organizations. While that structure has not fundamentally changed, recent reverses suffered by the faith have prompted leading clergy to work toward greater cooperation within the church as a whole. As a result, many secrets are being passed along to where they can best be used to the church's advantage. This has, at least for the moment, stemmed the faith's loss of influence to the church of Cyric.

The Shadowmasters of Telflamm are known for their devout worship of the Master of All Shadows and house an opulent temple within their guild hall. The church also boasts a modest set-up in Bezantur, Thay.

paraphrased from the Forgotten Realms campaign setting 3.0 Illustrations by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Brom

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