On a snowy rise, in a hollow log, under a holey quilt, there squatted a pair of mice. Mice in grey woolens and white pickelhauben, wrapped in scarves and thick socks for their pink, sharp toes.
One held a monocular, outsized in his small paws, on a bipod before him. He squinted, lens to ruby eye, through a ragged knothole in their log, scanned the broad and snowy vale before them. He dialed the focus, exhaled wisps of white breath through flickering pink nostrils.
The other clung to a volley gunspring: a long, mechanical weapon furnished in matte wood and loaded with a great, curving magazine and drumlike, whispering artillery coil. A machine far larger than he, mounted on a pintle tripod and set of skis, that the tiny soldiers might handle it. He pressed one cold lens of his spectacles, hooked round pink ears, to its scope, likewise held watch over the vale.
Down there, in the undulating drifts of snow interspersed with wind-bent spruce, there was a glint of silver, a bobbing hint of motion.
"Contact, Sir. One fifty, two hundred out," whispered the first, whiskers twitching. "One man. Belvirine colors."
"Confirmed. Good eye, Ensign."
Two glass eyes, scope and monocular, fixed on the oncoming soldier. Through holes in their quilt, they watched him, glinting; watched him stumble on through knee-high drifts, shade his eyes for the sheer sun which glared off the white expanse of snow.
"He's carrying something."
"Yes," the gunnery officer adjusted the power of his scope. "Munitions box, looks like. They're constructing advanced positions over the rise, I'd wager. Bugger probably got lost."
"Will you take the shot?" said the Ensign, looking briefly to his officer.
"Soon enough." He focused; ears perked in interest. Down in the vale, something glinted on the Belviriner's denim-uniformed chest. The scope lengthened, twisted, brought a spearhead charm on a silver chain into focus. The gunnery officer chuckled, highly. "An Avethan." He twitched his ears. "Ever shoot an Avethan before, Ensign?"
"Watch." He pulled his small form close to the gun, nestled a small shoulder into the furniture, hooked a pink claw over the weapon's trigger. The safety clunked softly. A high, slithery whine sounded as launchsprings charged. The gunner squinted, adjusted his bead just a mite. His furry lips pulled from long incisors in gritted focus.
There was a crack, as if of one anvil dropped flat against another. In the distance, the soldier startled, looked up. A half-blink later, he dropped flat backwards. The box tumbled from his arms. He lay as a sprawled, blue and grey lump on white snow.
"It's just like killing a normal man, see," said the gunnery officer, keeping his scope on the lump. "Except," he trailed, watching. "Watch. There he goes."
The ensign's nose twitched, flared as he watched the fallen man shift, rise to one elbow. From his bowed neck dangled that silver, flashing charm, gripped in one quavering hand. He got one knee under him, then the next. He began to stand.
The gunspring cracked, bucked again. The man crumpled. The silver glint vanished into snow.
"Except sometimes you have to kill them twice."
Humans are a remarkable species.
They are the original people of the Coast, a folk who once upon a time dominated the world's entire reach by the might of their ingenious gifts of evolution: by their curiosity, their craft, and their dire ambition. Who burned, by the sorcery engendered by these remarkable gifts, that selfsame land into a tattered scrap of a realm; a single, continental Coastline impinged and infiltrated by countless alien adjacencies and black-eyed Otherwordly gatecrashers.
And, queerly, only by this self-imposed cataclysm did ancient humanity come upon their species' most remarkable gift: Faith.
In the ages following that cataclysm,* so say myth and vague history, humanity lived in bondage. As a slave-race kept in service to deific, antique serpents and titanic god-kings. Chattel to tyrants of uncounted millions, of dark lords uplifted and appointed as rulers of a world ruined by the same raw sorcery they still wielded with perilous abandon.
These were the Dark Ages. Centuries-long dominions by sorcerer-kings, serpents, and monstrous worse alike, in which the bulk of humanity lived as slaves or citizens of the worst, rude nation-states imaginable. As muddy peasants oppressed by landscapes crawling with monsters and sorcery-fueled overlords, or as the collected war-fodder and disposable slave base of the most awful empires known to time.
All that ended thirteen hundred years ago, with the birth of a slave girl who would be later known as Aveth.
Aveth, who by the age of twenty had freed humanity. Who had toppled empires and personally slain uncounted serpents and sorcerer-kings alike with her own star-headed spear; the weapon which would later symbolize a religion founded on her name. **
All this she accomplished by a singular gift: Faith. An omniscient presence generated, some say, by sorcery stolen by Aveth from her masters. Or, others suppose, by the very randomness of life which brings change to all things. A power which allowed Aveth, a leader and wisewoman nonpareil, to inspire, comfort, and unite all of mankind to collected freedom. A power which changed the world, and by doing so returned it to the species which first owned it: Humanity.
Despite its widespread influence, little can be known of faith. None know, empirically, how it affects those it inhabits, nor the woman who first created it; only that it manifests only in humans, and only in those willing to believe. Most who believe say the power presents itself in dreams, as a guiding presence that dispels nightmares and gives counsel in the night. Indeed, research has shown Avethans report fewer nightmares than nonhumans and gentile folk.
Others say it is the armor of wisdom. Of clarity and Lordly suggestion that give wise words both in dreams, and, as it first did all humanity, give aide in, and recompense for, suffering.
The following is a mechanism from the Incunabuli Playtest:
Humans have the capacity to hold Faith. Said faith takes the form of the Avethan trait and its Ordained variant:
Avethan Cost: 10XP, Prerequisite: Human, Starter OR Be taught the Lord’s truth by a priest this session
The Lord Aveth gives you resolve and guards your mind against evil.
You hold 1 Faith point. Once per session, you may spend it to add a bonus of 1 to any roll. Additionally, you roll for nightmares at -1.
To maintain these benefits, you must take care to pray nightly and observe Aveth’s dictates.
Ordained of Aveth Cost: 10XP, Prerequisites: Human, Avethan, Starter OR be ordained as a priest by the Church
The Lord of Humanity has given you the resolve to guide her kin.
You hold a second Faith point. You may expend it to add +1 to any roll made by another character, but not yourself. Alternatively, you may spend both your Faith points to aid another.
Additionally, you roll for nightmares at -2. To maintain these benefits, you must take care to pray nightly and observe Aveth’s dictates. Your faith may be tested. Adhere to the dictates of Aveth to hold true.
Characters who undertake austerities may maintain traits that further enhance their Faith:
You gain another Faith point.
To maintain this Faith, you may possess neither coinage nor liquid assets. All spare wealth you come into possession of must be given to humans who are in need.
“To give charity is to serve the Lord. Thus, Her truest Church is the Church of the poor.”
Every time you forgo a meal during the day, you gain 1 Faith point the next, for a maximum of +2. Additionally, if any of the meals you consume during that day are more complex than Simple, you gain no additional Faith points.
“To live by the flesh is to die. To deprive the flesh is to live by the spirit. To live by the spirit is to transcend the flesh.”
Whenever you strike yourself with a wound that bestows a level of Bleed, you restore a Faith point.
“I will know the lash as did the Lord, and by it know her strength.”
A character who devotes 1 hour to worship at an Avethan mass or alter gains +1 Faith Point. It disappears at day’s end if not spent.
This requires background reading for maximum meaning. Check out this article on Aveth too.
I thought this was a fine opportunity to both explore Aveth and post my faith rules. I'm running a game that now features both expressly, and they are fresh in the mind.
The Faith system is made for Incunabuli's playtest, but should be easily hackable. It's roughly compatible with modern D&D, I suppose, though mildly underpowered unless you use advantage instead of +1 for Faith bonuses. If you like hacking your game, you can do it, I'm sure. Eventually, I'll need to tweak the austerities for balance. I'm sure I can trust my players to break the everliving devil out of them.
* Known to the few scholars who still know it as "interstiction."
** The stellate hasta, or seven-pointed partizan, is the spear of Aveth. It is seen as a charm, known as the hastella, worn as a rosary round worshipers' necks, or on the emblems and steeples of the Church.
Hastella vista, baby