written by Gabriel Cormier
What Your Father Told You: A Water Cleric to his initiate.
What is the world like?
The world is a dried-up chunk of sand. The harsh sun beats down mercilessly upon our heads; wild, savage beasts roam the wastes; Sorcerer-Kings watch over the cities as absolute rulers. We hunt or beg for meager food scraps; pay money for our most important resource, water. Water that we only find in the rare oasis in the desert, or else in the city wells.
Most people live in cities, where they are safe from the savage beasts of the desert. But is it better? No, the templars will take your last coin as a bribe, or throw you into jail or sell you as a slave if you can’t pay. Thieves will steal your food, mind-benders will steal your thoughts, all while you try to survive in this miserable existence.
Was the world always like this?
Who knows? I don’t. You’ll hear from others that the world has always been like this, that the sun has always burned our heads, that slaves have always toiled in fields of dry, fickle trees. My old mentor told me once that the world, a long time ago, was a big ball of clear water. Oh how wonderful that would be! But I have trouble believing this. I tell it to you as a last favor to the old man. Whether you believe it or not is up to you. I’ve never seen anything to suggest that. Maybe what the others say is true after all. Maybe this is how it has always been. Maybe nothing can be changed. I don’t know.
Does it matter?
What people are there?
You will find many different people in the world. Most live in cities.
The humans are the most abundant, making up the majority of the cities. They are found everywhere, as nobles, slaves, freemen, templars, guards, and beggars. Some of them are very bright and interesting individuals, while others are evil and manipulative.
Elves, with their slender bodies and pointy ears, are usually found in the marketplace, where they sell their over-priced goods. Be wary! They’ll sell you something and then steal it so they can sell it again! And even if you beware the elves in the market place, some thief will probably steal your purse, leaving you without even a bit to buy water!
There are also some elf-human crossbreeds, half-elves, that live in the cities. They have a pitiful existence, rejected as they are by both their human and elven parentage. They lead a lonely existence, relying only on themselves.
You’ll find some dwarves in the cities, but they mostly live in a few small villages in the barren wasteland of the Tyr region. They are short, strong, stubborn creatures. They always seem to have some goal in mind, with whatever they do. You’ve probably seen half-giants too. Big brutes who’ll crush you with their size and strength. They mostly serve as guards in the cities and on some caravans.
I’ve seen a few halflings, small child-like creatures. My old mentor even brought me to the Ringing Mountains once in a small halfling village. But beware! Many of them are savages, and will eat you alive or sacrifice you to some long-lost god.
There are other creatures too in this bleak world. Creatures that will rip the flesh from your bones and leave them to dry under the merciless sun. Creatures with 6 arms and legs and claws that will leave your mind empty, so you wander aimlessly while your body slowly burns to nothing. Evil beings that will steal your water while you walk in the desert and let you die of thirst. Oh how cruel! To die without that which we value most! Precious water!
How do we protect ourselves from this savage world?
Serve, as do I, an Elemental. Serve Water. Become its champion, its servant, and it will give you what you need to help you survive in this violent world. For water, even though it is not the most abundant resource on Athas, is the most important. It gives us life!! Look around you, observe. No creature lives without water. No plant grows without its dose of water. That is why you must buy it from the city wells, or why some raiders protect their oases with deadly force. It heals, and cleans.
What do I have to do to serve Water?
There are two basic demands we must satisfy when we serve water. We are here to ease the pain and suffering of Athas’s population. Help those in need. Yes, I know, we help them, only to see them go and repeat their mistakes. They cause pain, are victims, and still nothing changes. But that is the way of this world. Its sucks the life from its inhabitants and leaves only fear and suffering. We are the ones who are left to lessen the pain of the world.
Protect all water that you see. Never waste a drop. It is so precious that we must not waste it at all. Help those in need, but protect your water. Give what you can, but do not waste. Be weary of defilers. Have you ever tasted defiled water? Its stench alone will make you gag. It tastes far worse than a rotting corpse. Stop the defiler from destroying the water. You must teach others to preserve water. They often do not listen, it is a long and arduous task to teach them. But if we don’t do it, who will? Sometimes I wonder if we even make a difference. Never mind what I said. You must teach others the value of water. If ever you venture outside the cities, you’ll find some herders or farmers in this desolate waste. Teach them to how to irrigate! They must know how to conserve water, lest is dries up under the sun’s fury!
Why Water and not another?
Water, as I’ve told you before is life. Weren’t you listening? I guess I can’t blame you if you didn’t understand, with the sun beating on our heads and the howls of savage creatures in the air. There are other elements, Earth, Air and Fire, but they will not help you as much as Water. What has fire done? It destroys. You will find allies in Earth and Air, and sometimes Fire. They will help, and so you must help them also.
What other clerics are there?
There are also people who worship the Sun, Silt, Magma and even Rain. They worship the para-elements.
The clerics of Sun, Silt and Magma are there only to destroy Water. The sun dries up our lakes and wells; the silt turns the earth and water into useless gray powder. It clogs your mouth and nose, leaving you unable to breathe. The silt destroys the trees and plants that hold water, leaving the water on the bottom, useless. Magma turns our water to steam, which the sun then promptly dries up. It a hard long battle against these three.
The Rain clerics are our allies, if only because they don’t destroy. Worship Rain? Misguided people. If only someone could teach them that rain is water! But I have tried, once, to make a Rain cleric see his error. He didn’t listen to me. Or rather he did listen, just to be polite. But they are like children, I suppose. They haven’t been taught the true way. But how can we do this, when we are so few.
Who else will help us?
The druids help us, if only in a small way. They protect a small piece of land, guarding it like a beggar guards his last bit. You’ll often find a small pond or stream on their land. They’re usually willing to help. Use your time on their land to rest, to ease the pain of this existence if only for a while.
Who are the Sorcerer-Kings?
They are the rulers of the cities. They have templars to serve them. Always be careful around templars. Like I said, they take your last bit or throw you in jail for even looking wrong at them. Their King grants them spells, spells that rival our own. The Sorcerer-Kings are masters of the Way and of magic. Powerful that you do not want to cross.
Yes, magic. Defilers, like I told you, suck the life from plants and the soil and water to power their spells. They leave nothing but ash and poisoned water. Some wizards, who call themselves “preservers”, steal some life from the plants, but at least they don’t destroy everything.
The Way is people using their mind powers. People who will suck your mind and devourer it whole and leave you with only a body with nothing inside. People who will steal your thoughts and then betray you to templars of thieves for a few ceramic bits.