The Cult of Arius

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2016-01-17 14:03
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A cult of north-Nibenese origins. Once a minor regional deity of the upper Chey basin, Arius is regarded as a god of fire, a war-god, or an embodiment of elemental and geographical forces. At first a hero-god cult with Nordic connotations, worship of Arius was transformed by rural Nibenese practices, provincial influences, and political ambitions.

The Arius Cult enjoyed a brief moment of popularity during the Remanite Four-Score War, and was later implicated in a colonial administration scandal during the first decades of the Septim Empire. The cult moved out of Cyrodiil early in the Septim reign, and is no longer an active part of the Niben cult scene. It had a historically quite brief presence in Morrowind, before being eradicated by the Tribunal Temple for suspected Dagonite heresies.

The cult was never very popular or well-known, and today only survives as a handful of hidden cells in places such as Stormhold, Thorn, or Culadiil. Emboldened by recent political events, some of these cells have again resumed activity in Morrowind, sending agents into Imperial-friendly towns and even establishing an outpost of sorts in the ruins of Vandirelyon. The modern cult is considered degenerate and violent.

History and Theosophical Theories
Some Imperial theosophists claim that Arius originated as one of the many pseudo-Shezarr(ius) spirits (see also Seth, Sethis, Ashesar, Shor, etc), possibly a recapitulation of his aspect as a god of glorious war, hatred against (Dunmer) Elves, or a positivistic torchbearer for humanity. If this is true, then the current cult has little to do with the god whose name they bastardized.

Indeed, an alternate theory of Imperial Seminary scholars relates Arius semantically to one Aragn Oeggnamark, an obscure First Era warlord involved in a historically insignificant attempt to reconquer Morrowind for the Nords, shortly after the War of Righteousness. Aragn perished in the retreat through Knocker’s Neck Pass, and was buried in the valley of the Chey, near Lake Arrius (it is unclear if the lake was named after the god or vice versa).

The significance of this Nordic tomb was eventually forgotten by all save local commoners, who kept alive the memory of Arius Ignifer, a doomed hero-god who once sought to claim his birthright, a folkorific land of fire to the east referred to as Vedis. He became a god of fire, wielder of flames from beneath the earth, a spirit of candle prayers and torchbearer rites.

Arius worship changed substantially during the Four-Score War. Local holy fools announced that the Hour of Arius had come, the time in which the faithful were to carry this spirit eastwards, into the god’s birthland -- a sentiment quickly adopted by opportunistic Legion recruiters. The placid veneration of a local deity was militarized and pressed into the service of the Remanite war machine. Following popular sectarian fashion, Arius became a virile war-god in the style propagated by the God Reman himself.

Such opportunistic reinterpretations of dogma are common in the Nibenay, though they tend to backfire as fashion and politics change. After the death of Reman III, the Arius faith was largely discredited. Still, the Arius Cult held on to a core of true believers, mostly veterans whose simplistic religious sentiments had been kindled by the distant sight of Red Mountain during the Remanite campaigns. Stories abounded of soldiers hearing the voice of Arius on the ash-choked wind, or seeing his statues in twisted ruins (likely old Dagon temples). Odd fire rituals and sacrifices of beasts and men became part of cult practices, tendencies which would grow during the Interregnum. The jungle ascetics smoked their holy drugs and beat the faithful with burning branches, prophesying the return to Vedis and the rise of their god Arius -- soon.

The prophets would have to wait four centuries for their foretold return. The unforeseen annexation of Morrowind under the terms of the Armistice resulted in a feverish burst of religious fervor -- the cults’ ranks swelled with both new believers and opportunistic fortune-seekers, wanting to establish a foothold in what most Imperials believed would soon be a profitable new colonial province.

The “Arius Issue” would dog the young Tiberite administration for several decades, which saw the Imperialization project and dealings with the native Dunmer derailed by unsanctioned migration and infiltration attempts. The issue eventually resolved itself when the entire cult leadership finagled a direct passage to Vvardenfell and founded an illegal settlement on the Temple reserve, intending to form there their holy land of Vedis. Arius faithful flocked to the town, which fell off the map several years later, presumably due to Ashlander raids, Temple suppression, or some local volcanic catastrophe.

Shorn of their cult’s leadership, the Cyrodiil membership withered away to nothing. In a few generations, public knowledge of the issue devolved into tall tales of barbaric practices on a distant island, suggesting that the cultists had gone native in a regrettable example of provincial atavism. Though the Imperial authorities did some attempts to trace the cult’s final activities, the situation was ultimately considered resolved.

Current Events
The original stronghold on Vvardenfell was in fact destroyed, and the cult broken up in splinter cells which returned to Cyrodiil, Skyrim, or the early Imperial anchor points in Morrowind. Most of these cells would in time disappear, with only a handful of cultists remaining to tell the story of Arius, his rise and fall, and the secret dream voices and cancerous blights which his prophets once observed during their time on the slopes of Red Mountain. Meanwhile, the cult was (mis)identified as a source of western Dagonite heresy by the Temple, who proceeded to finally remove them from Morrowind proper.

In recent years, one of the cultist cells hiding out in the Argonian border-town of Stormhold became active once more. Emboldened by the Simulacrum chaos and the opening of Vvardenfell to colonization, the cult has returned to Morrowind, taking the ruins of Vandirelyon as a beachhead. Ever since, the cult’s activities have become a local problem.


The God Arius: His Birth
ARIUS, born beneath the earth, from the Motherfire he came. So it is said: the god Reman Cyrodiil was in contemplation of his great work of conquest. There was a land in the east he had yet to conquer, it was called Vedis, the land of fire and flame. So Reman strode into the far place. There he encountered a House, it was made of stone, smoke and flame was its roof, its door was made of copper. Inside this House lived an old man, his name was Dal Ugorrius. He was the Keeper of this House, he tended to its Hearth.

Seeing the nobility of Reman, Ugorrius bid him welcome in the proper fashion. They were seated on pillows of molten stone, and drank steam from iron chalices. Ugorrius spoke of his lot: he was once the king of Vedis, but he had been dethroned by usurper Elves. These Elves had painted their faces grey, so that one could not see them in the dusty lands of Vedis.

Now Ugorrius had become old and weak, so he could no longer fight the Elves. But he had a son, named Arius. He had conceived this son by spilling his seed in the Motherfire, the hot breath in the heart of the House which was called Ammagnis.

Now the great Reman was pleased to hear of this child, which was born from the earth, like he was. And he said to Ugorrius: “I will take your child as one of my foster-son warriors, and teach him the ways of war and conquest. He will return to this land, and claim it in my name, and rule it as my loyal vassal. For my name is Reman Cyrodiil, and my will is undeniable, you must submit to it, and never doubt or question my command.”

The old man was glad to obey the Emperor. And Reman took Arius with him to Cyrodiil. But the young child was too hot to hold, his skin glowed red as a furnace and his hair was a flame, so that not even Reman’s sister-mothers could nurture him. Therefore, Reman took the child and threw him into a lake. A great cloud of steam arose, and when it cleared, Arius was no longer a child, but a young man. And Reman ordered a palace to be built on the banks of this lake, so that Arius could live there in comfort.

The God Arius: His Youth

ARIUS became a mighty warrior under the wise tutelage of the Emperor. He had many gifts imparted upon him: from the Motherfire, he received mastery over the fires of the earth, to make them rise and spew forth, and to make the earth itself shake, and that is why he is called Arius the Destroyer. From his father, Arius inherited a withering breath, a curse of disease which could make the flesh swell and pale. From Reman, he received a mighty demon-killing hammer.

And young Arius wandered through all of the valleys of the Nibenay, performing great works, bringing order and peace, and killing the evil spirits of the jungle. But in his heart he longed to see his birthright, the great land of fire and flame that was Vedis. So Arius journeyed to the City of the Cyrodiil, and, prostrate before the throne of Reman, asked the Emperor’s permission to go east.

And Reman spoke: “Arius, loyal son, you have grown strong and bold since I saw you last. But you are not strong enough to fight against the Elves of the east. Though you are the equal of their foreign spirits, the eastern gods are made thrice: once with the strike of a spear, once with the shifting face of a mother, once in secret. You must become thrice as powerful to defeat them fully.”

But Arius did not listen to the word of his Emperor, and journeyed east to contest his birthright.

The God Arius: His Death

ARIUS journeyed long beneath the stars, through the tree-tunnels and the red valleys of Cula and Chey. Across the mountains of Valus, he could already sense his homeland, his birthright. Yet the path was barred. For on the threshold of the Gate of Ash, there resided a loathsome being, a forest demon who served as the guardian of the Elves. And this demon’s name was Halath.

Arius knew well the evils of the jungle, of that kind which he had dispatched by their thousands in his many travels and heroic tasks. Yet this being was different, an indwelling to the eastern gods. So even as Arius bore down upon Halath with his fire and smoke, the beast countered him with whistled poems and false faces. “You cannot defeat me, son of fire,” the demon said, “As you have been favored by the Emperor, so have I been granted gifts by the gods of the east. They have been designed against you.”

Indeed, the devices and spells of Halath extinguished his flames and annulled his withering breath, the gifts of his mother and father. But the great god had another weapon, the great demon-killing hammer that had been given to him by Reman, long ago. And with a great strike, Arius crushed and annihilated the unclean being.

But Halath was as yet unconquered, for even in death he had possession of an evil death-curse, the likes of which turned his own flesh and blood into a wicked substance. And Arius, weakened by the struggle, fell to this evil poison, which withered even his immanent divinity.

Mortally wounded by the beast, Arius was forced to return to the Valley of the Chey, where he made a bed of stone, and slept beneath a blanket of stone. There he remains still, deep within the earth that shelters and protects his flame. But ever he dreams of his birthright, and the people of the Chey know him still, that spirit that calls upon them to contest the eastern land of fire and flame, Vedis.