We've already discussed the layout of the city itself and how it is ruled. Now its religions.
What gods the Nasna might currently worship are few, and unknown. The Magi rarely dabble in religion but some of them do revers the Tree of Chaos, (of which, more of the few known details are below), though this may be a form of ancestor worship or simple history, rather than religion.
While Syr Darya, in its prime, was home to as great a cavalcade of temples and shrines as any city in Yoon-Suin, in the present day, most stand ruined, empty or barely surviving on the interest of Pura tourists, traders, visitors and the occasional Nasna.
The three main surviving temples are that of Sanco Hunhos, Lobhi Pas and the vast ruined Vatican of Tato Sampa.
Sanco Hunhos – He Who Restores
The closest thing Syr Darya has to a temple of healing, Hunhos is associated with restoration and regeneration. Whether this is a primary interest of the God or simply a side-effect of more abstruse motivations, only the Gods Priests truly know.
The Priests of Sanco Hunhos are often called ‘Clackers’ because of the small, jointed semi-puppets of Sanco Hunhos they wear around their necks, which clack and clatter as they walk about. You can always hear them coming. Some think this is an attempt to make them less frightening.
The Clackers are necromancers as well as healers, equally interested in life and death. The Clackers can be hired to heal many harms and ailments and can end many curses and sorrows.
It’s a common element of a contract with the Clackers of Hunhos that the means of ‘ending your sorrow’ do not include letting you die and raising you as a revenant.
Payment is requesting in the form of Citrines, and other yellow gems. (Or in frogs and toads). But the Clackers will pay you in turn, to watch you die, or to observe the progression of a disease or curse. They will pay again for the body of the deceased and this is a path taken by some in poverty or despair.
The Clackers are defended by hooded and bandaged figures almost everyone assumes to be revenants of some kind (some suspect that the higher echelons of the priesthood are undead, behind their Mantis masks) and are rumoured to be the primary suppliers of non-living guards, workers and servants to those Magi who desire such things.
Hunhos hates (or perhaps loves?) amphibians due to some obscure divine conflict. The only sacrifice he will accept is that of amphibian life and delivering strange, large or rare amphibians to his temple is a high-status gift. At least 100 Frogs must be sacrificed to Sanco Hunhos every day and all his Priests live in terror of what will happen if supplied run low. The Priests rear Frogs on the grounds. If the situation is dire, arriving with a large load of Frogs or Toads can buy you more goodwill than you might expect.
The temple itself is a huge, sopping, steaming greenhouse/bathouse/hospital/laboratory. Its one of the warmest, and dampest, places in Syr Darya. Yellow light blooms from behind its façade at night from the greenhouses on its roof and in its grounds. The temples glass windows are always fogged. Flies drift out and sometimes frogs escape by hopping out the front door, usually chased by a low-level Clacker.
Before the temple, glowing in the yellow lambency of its lanterns and beaded, quite dramatically, by the evaporating fogs that spew from its door, stands a huge statue of the Great Mantis himself in polished yellow calcite.
A huge statue of a Mantis-God in polished yellow calcite. Foggy glass windows (rare). Clattering priests. The croaking of Frogs. Huge escaped frogs. Greenhouses. Flies. The dying and the undead.
Properly, the Temple of Sanco Hunhos, He Who Restores. Syr Darya has few doctors (the Nasnas are immortal and the Magi rarely sicken) and the closest it gets to a hospital is the Temple of the Mantis.
Lobhi Pas - The Vulture God
Depicted as a Vulture with two heads, Lobhi Pas is actually twin gods; Lobhi (male) and Pas (female), who look backward and forward from any act of violence and who therefore reconcile the nature of violence and destruction to the necessary continuation of life.
Lobi Pas is/was originally a god of one aspect of time, the edge of the present moment that divides the future from the past.
Very few people give a shit about the theology any more because what Lobhi Pas has evolved into is the God of Mercenaries and Paid Violence.
The temple of the God(s) is a tiered fighting-pit, with a court of judgement and cells, rooms and other functions wormed into its sides and nearby buildings.
Before the Temple is a huge blue-stone statue of the twin-headed vulture. The Gods wings are spread and are pinned with bountys, messages, threats, IOU’s and various violent promises and requests.
Before the statue are armed men, women, Nasnas, even Crab-Men. River tribesmen. Hundred-Kingdoms fighters. A Bird-Man. One with a huge Velvet Worm. Malmukes. Plantation Guards. Ex (and current) slaverhunters. Ex (and current) slaves. Anyone with a weapon.
This is the place to hire, and be hired as, mercenaries and harm-doers (or harm-stoppers) of every kind.
The place is full of shouts, posturing, threats, side-eye, testosterone, sword oil, martial arts, halberds, stamping, drums. Blood. The screams of an animal being sacrificed. (The God(s) technically do not require sacrifice but the idea has caught on and the Priests of Lobhi Pas need to eat like anyone so they have not supressed the practice). Nasnas cleaning away the blood. MEN SHOUTING OATHS. (At the rear is a famous butchers shop.)
Nearby and in the local streets, child Nasnas, child slaves and ex-slaves sell blotch-printed pamphlets and flyers about the Theology of Lobhi Pas (One Silver).
Behind the statue is the stepped open pit that is the Court of Lobhi Pas (the ‘Crab Court’).
The armoured, Bird-Masked priests of Lobi Pas seem, and generally are, Tough Motherfuckers. Even if this were not the case, they often go accompanied by a Crab-Man bodyguard, either white crabs, or those dyed white to fit the role. These Crab Men usually have their sacred duty caved into their shells in the manner of a slave contract and effacing, or forging one is a high crime.
As previously stated, the Temple of Lobi Pas is the least and lowest Court of Syr Darya and tends to settle disputes by cutting things off.
Technically, any worshipper of Lobhi Pas can ask for Trial by Combat but since too many people were doing that and it was slowing down the court you now have to answer some basic questions about the Theology of Lobhi Pas. Since the court tends to police the poor and foreign, few can answer these questions. Better grab a flyer, and also be able to fight.
The fights are scrupulously fair, against handicapped opponents, as the Priests take this stuff seriously. Finding, or handicapping exactly the right opponent for an accused can be very difficult. Its important that those facing off are as exactly physically equal as possible so that the God(s) can show their decision clearly. If a prisoner or accused has a distinct build or missing limb, or any other active physical quality, the Priests will do their best to track down someone very similar to match them.
Prisoners can be kept for a long time in the cells of Lobhi Pas, awaiting an exact match. Degredation in their physical and mental state means they have to be continually re-assessed. Helping out the Priests gets you free medical treatment (at the Temple of Sanco Hunhos) and can get you serious cred with them. You do have to really fight though. If you fake it they will know.
The Priests pay well for service and PCs might be asked to assist.
(This happened to two of my PCs, it got them an invitation to the Dragon Market (of which more later.)
Fights can be to the death for serious crimes. More usually they are to first blood, maiming or surrender (women are often allowed to surrender).
Tato Sampa – The Dead God of Pleasure
In the great days of the Rajas, before the Shikk, the rulers of Syr Darya worshipped Tato Sampa, who proclaimed;
“Joy brought to others is the fruit of the world.”
“We are judged in death by the pleasure that we birthed in life.”
“Measure is the root of wickedness.”
True devotees might argue that Tato Sampa was not exactly a pleasure goddess but a Goddess of Pleasure as a Moral Good.
For thousands of years, the Rajas and their predecessors added to and endowed the gigantic temple to Tato Sampa in the exact centre of the city. The cult grew so powerful that it spread over the whole of Yoon-Suin and, at one point, was the closest thing to a unifying faith in the whole land. Every major town had a temple to the Bringer of Pleasure.
Though never actively (officially) supressed or made illegal, when the Magi took Syr Darya and the City became what it is, she was quickly abandoned by the now-Nasnas. In other Oliarchies, and throughout Yoon-Suin, the upper classes rapidly dropped the Failed Goddess to avoid judgement by the new rulers of Syr Darya and the Shikk (though neither seem to care at all).
Many of the Nasnas loathe her now. Most are simply disinterested.
Still, her Temple remains. Too sacred to pull down or re-purpose, too hated to be restored. The Snake in the Eye itself. The rotting empty spiritual core of Syr Darya. Said to be the largest and oldest (remaining) Temple in Syr Darya, and in Yoon-Suin.
It’s the size of the Vatican City and 99% abandoned. In the central building is an vast inner dome, said to be ten stories high (its more like eight), and within, lit by shattered statues of glorious stained glass, is a statue of the Goddess, a many-coloured snake curling upwards around a pink lily. A little like a caucadus.
Under the statue is a bird-bone boudoir – an ossuary of birds where the Rajas were meant to spen their wedding nights, and an altar.
A handful of priests remain, though most are Pura backpacker types after ancient wisdom. There are usually a handful of artists and tourists, foreign flakes, randos, Slug Men scholars etc hanging around sketching the murals of parties and sculptures of interlaced limbs. Sketching the Temple is a popular part of a young Slug-mans education and many monographs have been written on it. Together they provide just enough cash to stop it totally crumbling into nothing.
The roof of the temple is utterly overgrown, infested by Peacocks and Karaweiks, Tamasic men and roof goats, which are hunted by seasonal Snow Leopards.
The gardens behind the main building, the sub buildings there and the giant labyrinthine interior of the main temple have become inaccessible over time, haunted by Dust Nymphs, Gejigels and more dangerous things. Those who claim to be priests of the Goddess barricade themselves in beneath her statue at night as they fear whatever lurks in the darkness.
Rumoured contents of the building and its environs include The Tumbling Pools, The Floating Lake, The Botanical Gardens, The Zoo, The Great Arena, The Great Baths, The Slug Baths, The Great Salon, The Orphanarium, The School of Medicine, the Carnival Preparation Halls and storage areas, The Halls of Remission, The Porcelain Forest, The Tombs of the Rajas, The Fifty Two Theatres, The Temples of the Jovial Gods, The Schools of Joyous Magic and the Great Libraries.
Very recently, a group of adventurers claims to have penetrated and made safe a central part of the Great Library.
The rest of the temple remains as it has been for a millennia, a huge semi-sacred ruin in the centre of the city.
Various other small faiths of Syr Darya and its hinterland have come to light;
Many of the Ogre Magi claim to be descended from a vast black Chaos Tree, and to be the fruit of this tree. How metaphorical this is intended to be is unknown but many of the more conservative Magi do incorporate the tree into their heraldry.
The underground river of glacial meltwater that feeds Syr Darya is associated with the Cold Naga, a being who may be a personification of the river, or actually real. In Yoon-Suin its hard to tell.
Chandra Khanevala, the Goddess of the Eaten Moon, was worshipped at a small temple at the western borders of Sughud, right on the Ice Line of the Mountains of the Moon. The properties of this strange goddess are largely unknown though she tends to be associated with mystic visions and is opposed to the underworld. Her temple was recently destroyed and the individual who may be her final prophet is currently on a successful book tour in the Oliarchy of Damodar.