April 30, 2011

Syrene: Pilgrims of the Waves

One of the great religious pilgrimages made in Syreen is the annual Mourning of Mekran, when the descendants of the Mekrani people (and many of their Palmarian kin) flock to the Palmarian coast to offer prayers and gifts to the memory of their ancestors drowned in the Great Flood. (Palmarians consider Mekran to be their cultural mother)

The pilgrims come from all over the world now, and on the anniversary of the Flood they go out to sea in whatever vessel they can find, dropping anchor at the sites where the cities of Mekran are thought to lie. There they spend a torchlit night vigil that culminates at sunrise the next day with the throwing of finely made gold chains, coins, cups, bowls and other valuables into the sea while singing hymns in honor of the gods and the dead.

There is a great traffic in transporting the pilgrims, and their arrival is a signal for the beginning of a weeks-long festival all across Palmaria that ends on the anniversary of the Flood. Traders come in from far and wide to display their goods at open-air fairs, the inns bustle with guests, hawkers grill spiced meats over coals for round-the-clock feasting, and street entertainers stage energetic and noisy performances for coins.

Diving for Offerings
When the pilgrims leave, the divers get to work, gleaning the bottom for whatever they can find of the pilgrims' offerings.

Offerings "returned" from the sea are considered good luck charms, and they are specially lucky if they came from the pilgrim himself or a close relation. They are considered to be a sign that the gods of the sea and the pilgrim's ancestors have replied favorably to his prayers. During the yearly pilgrimage bazaars, returning pilgrims eagerly comb the stalls trying to find items they threw into the sea in previous years.

Strangely enough, writing on the offerings is forbidden; you must recognize an offering by its appearance alone! This is a great spur to artisans to make ever more intricate designs, and an artisan is considered to share in the luck derived from a found offering.

Of course, only a fraction of the offerings made are ever found, and of that only a fraction ever goes back to their true owners.

Diving for offerings is usually performed in water over 50 feet deep, and under very dangerous conditions; there are predatory sharks and serpents, poisonous fish and jellyfish, treacherous currents, and sometimes clouds of stirred-up silt that make seeing impossible. Also, the currents quickly scatter and bury the items, so finding them is difficult.

STORY HOOKS:

  1. A monster or group of monsters has been seen in the area where the vigil is to be held; adventurers are needed to clear away the monsters
  1. A pilgrim needs transport, but his route is a dangerous one
  1. A pilgrim is the object of a manhunt, either by the bad guys or the heroes
  1. A horrible crime is committed during the festival
  1. An enemy plans to slip soldiers into Barisa disguised as pilgrims
  1. A cursed object or powerful magic item is about to be thrown into the sea as an offering, which must be prevented
  1. A cursed object or powerful magic item shows up in the pilgrims' bazaar
  1. A fearful omen or warning is delivered during the festival, causing widespread panic
  1. It is learned that the Venarians plan to attack during the festival
  1. Pilgrims fail to arrive under mysterious circumstances
  1. A god in disguise has joined the pilgrimage

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