Shargaas is the orcish god of night and activities best kept hidden in darkness. As the Blade in the Darkness, he is the patron of orcish thievery, stealth, and assassination; stealing the power, lives, and treasure of rivals to further his own goals. He is also the Stalker Below, the god of the deepest underdark reaches in which orcs dwell, as well as the representation of the danger that lurks there. His hatred of non-orc races is rooted in a basic hatred of life itself, and he views even orcs as little more than killing tools to be eventually discarded. His scheming is colder, and more considered, than that of the other orcish gods. His sacred animal is the bat.
The priests of Shargaas are thieves and assassins, and the sneaky killers who practice the skills of thievery.
In most above ground tribes, the Night Lord's priests masquerade in secret as any other orc, although they may take the roles of scouts or spies. They perform whatever duties these roles require, keeping their affiliation with the church of Shargaas secret. They steal items and information of value to increase their own personal power, and to use as sacrifices for their god. However, in underdark tribes, the Shargaathan priesthood dominates the tribes, although other priesthoods are present. In these environments, the priesthood advocates endless war against other subterranean races in order to enlarge their territory, and gain corpses for animation into servitor undead.
The clergy of the Night Lord operates is often distrusted and feared, for they secretly cull weak members from the tribe. While usually done to strengthen the whole, the priests are not above eliminating rivals and troublemakers from outside the faith and even leaders are not immune to such intrigue, especially if the clergy feel they have been ineffectual or cowardly.
Their interests extend beyond the borders of their tribe as well. They work to better the tribe's position by secretly obtaining items of wealth or power from enemies, be they dwarves, elves, or even rival orcs. In addition, they work on the fringes of battle groups, eliminating enemy scouts and guards, so the tribe's warriors can take their foes by surprise. In the most civilized of orcish lands, followers of the Stalker Below form the backbones of any thieves' guilds and assassins' guilds found in the communities. Many clerics multiclass as assassins or rogues.
VestmentsWhen performing religious services, Shargaathan clergy wear black robes with deep hoods, lined with dark red cloth. Beneath the robes, they wear leather armor and a leather cap, usually of black and dark red; such armor signifies the hidden protection of darkness. They wear few other adornments; anything that could catch the light or make a jingling sound are strictly prohibited. The priesthood's holy symbol is a crescent moon made of iron, and painted a dull, dark red. This symbol is hung around the neck on a leather or twine cord and not a metal chain.
When adventuring, the clergy of the Night Lord wear dark clothing and light, quiet armor, so they aren't noticed when they don't wish to be. They use light weapons that are easy to conceal or disguise. Black, dark grey, or dark brown cloaks are favored as well. Otherwise, they use whatever equipment is typical for their tribe.
HierarchyMales make up the overwhelming majority of the priesthood, but because most orcs discount females as a threat, the Shargaathans find them to be useful members of the clergy. Novices in the service of Shargaas are called Shadows, while full priests are known as Nights. Specialty priests are called Shadowblades. The church is well organized and hierarchical. In ascending order of rank, the titles Shargaathan priests use are Disciple of Twilight, Master of Twilight, Disciple of Shadow, Master of Shadow, Disciple of Night, Master of Night, Disciple of Pure Darkness, and Master of Pure Darkness. Priests above these ranks have unique titles granted to them for deeds they have completed. Shamans and witch doctors are not part of the clerical hierarchy, although they are considered brothers of the faith. Shamans are found in about one and a half times as many Shargaas-dominated tribes as witch doctors.
TemplesFull temples to Shargaas are uncommon; typically found only in the deepest orc-inhabited levels of the Underdark, and they are never found on the surface. Shrines, however, can be found wherever orcs live, if one knows what to look for. In all cases, holy sites dedicated to the Stalker Below are cloaked in shadow, with few fires or other sources of light to be found. Sacred items, furniture, and cloth hangings are common, favoring the colors of black and dark red. The entrances to all shrines and temples, with the exception of those found within tribes dominated by the followers of the Night Lord, are hidden and disguised.
RitualsClerics of Shargaas pray for their spells at midnight, when the world is shrouded in darkness. The Night Lord's clergy gather under the darkness of each new moon to honor the Stalker Below in a grim ceremony known as the Chant in the Abiding Darkness. On these nights, followers are expected to make a sacrifice of stolen items to the Stalker Below, by throwing them into pits or crevasses of impenetrable darkness. The actual value of the items is less relevant than the amount of effort taken to acquire them; a sacrifice of items that were difficult to steal are more likely to gain the Night Lord's favor than valuable items that were easy to steal. The assembled faithful then begin chanting a series of ritualistic prayers to the Night Lord pledging to serve as his silent, deadly weapons.
OrdersThe priesthood of the Blade in the Darkness has no associated martial orders, but an extremely secretive order of assassins, spies, thieves, and specialty priests known as the Blackened Blades of Shargaas performs the will the church from outside the tribal bounds. They maintain secret bases near large concentrations or orcish tribes where ever they may be found. They ensure the safety and secrecy of the priesthood, as well as assassinating those who are considered a danger to the clergy and gathering information on their enemies. Outside of these duties, they are a thoroughly mercenary group, taking on jobs of thievery, assassination, or information gathering based solely on the price willing to be paid, so long as it does not conflict with the work of the Night Lord's priests. In the case of information gathering jobs, they virtually always pass a copy of the information to the regular clergy as well. They often use blades permanently enchanted with a weaponblack spell in order to improve their chances of a stealthy kill.
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The darkness is cold and everlasting, but provides a dark mantle for the blade in the night. With silent stride and hidden hand, cull the weak from the tribe and eliminate all other races. Go down into the deep tunnels and wage war with those who dare abide in the demesne of Shargaas. Be alert for weakness in the eyes of the chieftain, for his mistakes may spell your own doom.
Shargaas sends an avatar only to concern himself with opposition between orcs and other underground-dwelling races (such as dwarves and gnomes). Shargaas appears as an orc with jet-black skin and eyes, taller than normal, and gaunt, but not emaciated. He wears a cloak of the blackest cloth over leather armor that appears to be made of swirling shadows.
His omens take the form of sudden chills in the air, lamenting moans, and dreaded "cold fevers" which inflict great pain.
The Night Lord's hatred of all life extends to a hatred of other deities as well. Nevertheless, he has found it prudent to ally himself with the other orc deities and manipulate them to serve his ends. Shargaas maintains a cold alliance with Yurtrus, in particular, counterbalancing the more militaristic Gruumsh, Bahgtru, and Ilneval. He also secretly reveals Ilneval's treacheries to Gruumsh as a way of cementing his own position within the pantheon and undermining the One-Eyed God's overly ambitious lieutenant. Shargaas has no allies outside the orc pantheon, but reserves his greatest hatred for the dwarf, gnome, and goblin deities.