Mask, the Lord of Shadows, is the god of shadows and thieves in the Faerûnian pantheon. This loner was most often associated with thieves or those of otherwise ill-repute. 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 losing 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 followers of Mask have been reduced to their central core: thieves and their guilds. (However, in addition to thieves and more shadowy individuals, courtiers and diplomats have also been known to evoke the Shadowlord's name in hope of guaranteeing a smooth negotiation.) Many guilds still have their shrines to the god, and in those regions where thievery is not actively frowned upon, temples to Mask survive. The priesthood of Mask is independent in each major city or region to prevent the frequent actions against one thieves guild or temple from spilling over and affecting others.
The church of Mask is widely feared—not so much for its supposed cruelty, but for its penchant for thievery and 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.
The church of Mask is second only to the church of Waukeen 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 and 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 to the advantage of such seasoned conspirators that many gullible 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. Maskarran 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 recognized as 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.
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 towards 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.
VestmentsCeremonial Maskarran dress consists of tunics and trousers in a bright motley. The tunics sport ballooned sleeves and cuffs and bright embroidery, displaying wealth. The entire outfit is covered with a full-length, hooded gray cloak that can be drawn shut to hide the bright color beneath. A black cloth mask is worn beneath the hood. In some areas where Mask has fallen on particularly hard times, the gray cloak and mask only are worn as a symbol of the Shadowlord's favor.
Inside a temple of Mask, the masks are of black gauze and do not conceal the identity of the wearer; in public, such masks are usually thick, black wool or heavy, double-thick silk and extend to cover most of the face in an effective disguise. (A bearded priest, for example, would have a mask that extended well down over the chin.) There is a saying that "the degree of law in a town can be seen on the face of a priest of Mask."
Maskarran wear no badges of rank nor differing vestments, but all senior clergy members strive to purchase, have made, or (preferably) steal such useful items as slippers of spider climbing, teleport rings, rings of shadow, rings of invisibility, wands of viscid globs, ropes of entanglement, and protective garments enchanted to provide feather fall protection (as well as a wide array of enchanted weapons and armor).
When adventuring, priests of Mask are encouraged to hide their true nature and masquerade as other priests or commoners. Normal dress for clerics of Mask is similar to that of any merchant, craftsperson, or adventurer in the area or similar to that of any armored battle cleric or itinerant adventuring cleric of any faith. Specialty priests of Mask usually dress as thieves in leather or other light armor or assume the guise of typical peasants one might meet on any town's or village's streets.
HierarchyClergy of Mask are known as Maskarran. Specialty priests of Mask are called Demarchesses (deh-mar-KESS-es) if female and Demarchs (deh-MARKS) if male. There has been a significant increase in the number of specialty priests in the faith since Mask lost status as a deity; he feels that specialty priests are the most effective adjunct to the thieves who are his mainstay of worship and so has been furiously encouraging their recruitment and advancement by gifting them with more special abilities than before.
Maskarran address each other as Brother/Sister Shadow, regardless of rank, and hold the titles (in order of rank): Unproven (novices), Proven Brother/Sister, Veteran Brother/Sister, and Master Brother/Sister, with the leader of a temple assuming the title Lord/Lady Master. The elite of Maskarran are largely specialty priests, but nonspecialty priest high priests are known as Hidden Ones.
TemplesIn areas with a single strong thieves guild, the temple or shrine to Mask is usually connected to the guild hall via underground tunnels. In large cities with competing guilds, the temple is in an underground location and is recognized as neutral ground by all sides. Maskarran strive to keep hidden these days, sometimes holding services of worship in underground shrines (often cellars reached by old sewers) and often keeping hidden inside local thieves guilds. It is to the advantage of such seasoned conspirators as Maskarran that many folk of Faerûn think Mask is dead, and his worship reduced to scattered, bewildered cults.
The Altar of the Masked God is always a massive stone block over which floats an enspelled black velvet, fur, or silk mask of giant size (6 feet across or more) or which has a mosaic in inlaid precious gemstones of a similar giant mask behind it.
RitualsClerics of Mask pray at night in darkness or shadows. There are no calendar-related rituals in the Church of Mask, but at every full temple of the god, the Ritual of the Unseen Presence is celebrated at least once a month. This ritual is an acknowledgment in chanted verse, hymns, and offerings of coinage stolen by the faithful that is melted down in altar-flanking braziers or crucibles.
Lay worshipers and Maskarran also participate in daily Sunset Prayers, in which they kneel, proffer coins to the clergy and worship before the Altar of the Masked God. Praying junior clergy members give coins to senior clergy members, and the highest-ranking priest of a holy house of Mask gives his or her coin to the lowest-ranking priest present in recognition of the wry humor of Mask, who so often makes the high low, and the low high.
The Church of Mask has darker rituals associated with the elevation of clergy members in rank known only to the initiated. These secret observances and the Ritual of the Unseen Presence are always guarded by striking shadows spells cast by senior clergy members to slay or keep away eavesdroppers.
OrdersThe church of the Shadowlord has no affiliated knightly orders. Members of the clergy who have pulled off a particularly daring heist or intricate piece of manipulation of people and events are often admitted (voted on by acclamation at a secret yearly meeting of members of the order) to the Circle of the Gray Ribbon. Many thieves guilds (as well as individual thieves) throughout Faerûn have connections to the church and rely on it for medical and tactical support.
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.
All that occurs within shadows is in 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 your advantage. Wealth rightfully belongs to those who 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 way makes you an easy target.
Mask's form is ever-changing in regard to appearance—and his true form is not known for sure.
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 (see below). 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.
HistoryMask's penchant for intringues 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 wielded to slay Bhaal, Lord of Murder. After the Avatar Crisis, he betrayed Leira to Cyric, enabling Cyric to seize the portfolio of illusion. Mask's multilayered plots ultimately resulted in his reading of the Cyrinishad (an unholy tome that will turn anyone reading it into a devout worshiper of Cyric, including a deity, and thus increase Cyric's power), a mistake that nearly destroyed him, cost him much of his divine power, and allowed Cyric to seize the portfolio of intrigue. One school of thought believed that Mask was totally destroyed after reading the Cyrinishad, another held that Mask was totally subsumed by Cyric, and a third school believed that Mask, engaged in his own intrigues, faked his loyalty to Cyric and later his own death. The truth is that Mask survived the enslaving effects of the Cyrinishad and the destruction of his avatar at great cost, losing much of his godly power in the process.
To make matters worse, Mask crossed a powerful extraplanar entity known as Kezef the Chaos Hound, who has sworn eternal revenge. Mask finally got Kezef off his trail after acquiring Houndsbane, a powerful magic sword crafted by the Lady of Mysteries. Should Mask ever lose that weapon, however, Kezef will renew his pursuit immediately.
Mask remains the patron of thieves, and there his faith is strongest. After a year of frenzied activity by his priests on his behalf (at his encouragement), Mask has taken shadows into his portfolio and managed to climb to the status of lesser power. However, Mask is still a weakened power and treads carefully in his dealings with the other powers. For the time being, he wants to remain out of the sight (and hopefully out of the mind) of Cyric, who might still covet his remaining power, but he is already plotting ways and means to regain that which he lost to the Mad God.
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