Istusis is the goddess of Fate, Destiny, Divination, the Future, and Honesty. She is the oldest and most powerful of the Baklun deities. She stands apart from the other gods and is only interested in the fate of the universe and its inhabitants. People honor and fear her because she knows their destiny and can influence it; life, death and entire existence thus falling under her divine jurisdiction. Many people say a prayer to her when they are in a perilous situation or when an important event with an uncertain outcome must occur.
The church teaches that it is natural that the extremes—Good and Evil, Light and Dark—exist in tandem in the world. Each of these opposing factors contributes to the destiny of a being, and we must try to understand how they work together and forge destiny according to their ebb and flow, in order to best use the share of free will that Istus offers.
One of the central tenets of faith is that an individual is largely in control of their destiny. With a good understanding of the world and how it works, anyone can achieve their goals, as long as their ambition is legitimate. Istus provides everyone with the skills and talents they may need, but whether or not someone uses these gifts is their own responsibility. Istus does not arbitrarily dictate the fate of a person before their birth, but it shapes and influences the functioning of the world in order to bring about the circumstances which allow them to forge their own destiny.
Sins: Ignoring ones potential or refusing to use innate gifts is a serious sin, just like taking no initiative on the pretext that ones destiny is mapped out in advance. Forcing someone to follow a direction in their life through psychological coercion or mind control is also a sin (physical coercion, tyranny and slavery are not considered sins as long as the victim remains aware of this fact and retains control of his mind). Ironically, it is those who passively accept their fate, or those who seek to impose their destiny on others, who really thwart the intentions of destiny and thus offend the goddess Istus.
WorshipersIstus has few true followers, but many people pray to her, especially during difficult times, in the hope of influencing their future. The clergy of Istus are often consulted by leaders and nobles before making important decisions.
Istus receives numerous offerings (burning of incense and candles, donation of material goods) where people count on their good fortune to prosper or simply to survive tyranny and oppression.
As Istus is known to "weave fate," her worshipers are often weavers themselves, and often support themselves making both blankets, clothing and tapestries.
ClergyThe priests of Istus are witnesses to the extremes of fate, from the death of innocent people to the miraculous healing of children suffering from a fatal disease, from kingdoms falling under the yoke of sadists to accidental death of a despot. Faced with these events, the priests aspire to stoicism and most are cold, insensitive, accepting the whims of fate. They demand acceptance of the will of the Bakluni gods, and above all of Istus, not sometimes without a certain cynicism. However, some of them are people who think that fate has been singularly generous with them and who wish above all to serve Istus in return.
Divinations play a major role in determining their actions, even if sometimes they prefer to rely on chance and trust in fate. People often ask them to make divinations, augurs or to pray Istus on their behalf for a favorable destiny. One of the fundamental principles of worship is the obligation to help and guide all those who ask for it, whatever their alignment, race or wealth. The Hands of Destiny do not actively seek to convert people who come, sometimes from far away, seeking guidance. However, their prophecies can be very enigmatic and difficult to decipher, and often leave the door open to various interpretations.
A priests role is not to care for the wounded or sick, nor to help the needy. They do not practice exorcisms, do not perform marriages and rarely give blessings. They simply spend most of their time in study and meditation. Sometimes, they seek out a person (who can be the most humble of the peasants or the most powerful of the sultans) in order to reveal a prophecy which appeared to them in dreams or during a moment of prayer. Priests of Istus also consider honesty an absolute virtue.
While most priests of Istus disdain going on adventures, some feel that their destiny is to travel the world, to see how fate plays out and witnesses the role of Istus in the realm of mortals. These adventurous priests may consider it their duty to use the powers that Istus grants them in order to lead their own initiatives and to chart their course in life as best as possible. They can work sometimes for Good, sometimes for Evil, but prefer to content themselves with wandering and sticking to an observer role.
VestmentsPriests, men or women, must have hair at least 6 inches long. They wear a long gray or black robe. The robes of higher priests (level 7+) have web-like patterns. The symbol of Istus, a spindle of gold, should be clearly visible.
Women often wear a veil bordered with pearls, crystals or bells, and men sometimes wear an expressionless mask. These accessories symbolize their confidence in the destiny to guide them as well as their impartiality when their judgment is appealed to in the courts. By masking the expression on their faces, they also avoid betraying their emotions when their legendary stoicism is caught.
HierarchyMore than 80% of the priests are women because this clergy is very demanding with regard to men who wish to join him. Before being eligible for initiation, a man must first serve a temple for at least six years. Then, his devotion to the goddess is tested through a ritual during which he must successfully exit a labyrinth quickly, blindfolded. If he passes his test, the man is henceforth accepted into the cult as an novitiate.
New Bastions of the Faith: When a Hand of Destiny is recognized by the church (usually after 8th level), the church contributes half of the costs of building a new bastion of faith of which the priest must take command. Apart from servants of Istus (who will spontaneously present themselves for initiation), a level 5 priest, three level 3 priests and sixteen level 1 priests will be assigned to the service of this new temple.
In order to fulfill the will of destiny or to defend the interests of the church, a Hand of Destiny may require the services of a number of warriors (level 1) equal to twice his level of experience. They are equipped with a chain mail and a scimitar. The volunteer service time of these combatants cannot exceed a number of days equal to the level of the priest.
Apart from his followers, a Hand of Destiny can also require the assistance of another priest of the cult, whose level cannot exceed half of his own. This assistance, which can last for a number of weeks equal to the level of experience of the appellant, can only be requested once a year.
TemplesThe size of Istus' places of worship vary greatly. It can be a simple altar under the tent of a nomadic tribal chief, or a glorious temple with very elaborate architecture.
There are countless small sanctuaries dedicated to Istus across the countryside where Baklunis live. These sanctuaries are generally in the form of a niche housing a statuette of the goddess.
A typical temple consists of a more or less round central building, to which four small towers are attached, each located at a cardinal point. The main building has an enclosure about three meters high and is topped by a resplendent dome. Openings are located high up, covered with ornate grids with extremely complex patterns and, more rarely, colored stained glass windows, which allow only a soft light to filter through. Sconces containing dim lights provide night lighting. The altar, located in the center of the temple, consists of a large, slightly raised, flat stone surface, in which is engraved a circle surrounded by canvas patterns.
Temples of Istus are often libraries of local history, the books preserved and remade when they become too damaged. Many temples also provide expert weaving services, selling anything from practical blankets to beautiful tapestries depicting past events.
RitualsServices to Istus include hangings of gauze, clouds of incense, the music of woodwinds, chanting, and meditation.
Her holy days are the first day of the month, and once a year the temple seer will give forth their prophecies for the year ahead.
The one day in which priests of Istus allow themselves a reprieve from the seriousness of their tasks is midsummer, where a lively celebration called Srinshee takes place alongside the temple of Oghma's worshipers. Participants from each church compete to produce beautiful calligraphy and illuminated texts, tell stories, and demonstrate magical skill. The day ends in a feast of traditional foods. The bards perform at this festival, and sometimes have song-battles in which they tease and goad the other temple's worshipers in improvisational song. These battles are usually performed after dark when the children are asleep as they can get quite raunchy. Seeing this side of the order's priests can sometimes be a shock to those familiar with their usual sombre tone. It is said worshipers of Istus must preserve their sense of humor all year to prepare for Srinshee.
OrdersThe College of Astrologers: The College of Astrologers is part of the University of Ekbir and is accessible to the general public. Astrology is an ancient Baklunian specialty that dates back to the Empire and is perpetuated by this college. Its members teach students and advise all those who come to consult them for a fee. They are closely linked to the clergy of Istus.
In the strange metaphysics of the worshippers of Istus, the multiverse is conceived of as an intricate mesh of interconnected threads, with everything connected to everything else. They are believers in predestination, although the threads of fate are sometimes slack enough that destiny can be altered in some small way. Because the future is for the most part foreordained, it can be permitted by those with the skills to perceive how the threads are linked. Clerics of Istus teach that acceptance of one's fate is the only honest approach; those who strive too hard against Fate will only meet their own foreordained ruins.
She is depicted in three different ways: as an old crone, as a mature and haughty noble dame, and as a cold and unfeeling young maiden. She carries a golden spindle, with which she spins the future into the present, thus weaving the web of fate.
Istus holds herself aloof from all other gods, even those of her own pantheon. The mendicant Daoud was a servant of the Lady of Our Fate in life. Istus is said to have a strange companion, a cloudlike being who is a prince from the Demiplane of Time.
In the course of events in the adventure Fate of Istus, Istus creates a being known as the Morgorath who appears in a variety of guises, behaving sometimes as an ally and sometimes as an adversary.
Rudd does not get along with Istus, as Rudd has a big problem with the idea of predestination.