The Athar

The Athar Faction Symbol
The Athar have been around as long as most factions, so don't go askin' for the entire history of their doings (or undoings). If some basher were to recount this group's saga start to finish, his listener's hair would've turned old-man white with the tale only half told. But a few events of note live in any Defier's gray cells. The faction began centuries before the Great Upheaval, soon after two cutters - Dnnn and Ciro - encountered one another in Sigil amid the ruins of the Shattered Temple. The shrine existed in its broken state even back then, but Dunn and Ciro looked at its decay from very different viewpoints. See, Dunn had been bilked of everything he possessed by the jealous god Poseidon. His wealth lay in the treasury of the sea gods temple in the gate-town of Sylvania. His wife, lured from him by the chief priest, now graced the enclosed pools of that cleric's Arborean pavilion. His daughter had been swept away to the plane of Arborea by the power's proxy. Dunn eyed the Shattered Temple, seeking a way to make Poseidon as dead as Aoskar, the power once worshiped there.
Ciro had more of a philosophical bent. He, too, had lost his possessions to a god - Loki - and the gods religious hierarchy. But he'd found he liked his unencumbered life. Roaming the multiverse as an itinerant sage suited him more than slaving in a counting house to maintain a modest town house with its oak furnishings. But Ciro wondered why a power should need to bribe his priests with gold, should require the belief of worshipers to feed his immortality, if he were really a god. Surely divine beings, if they existed, followed different rules than the mortals of the planes. They'd be stronger, yes, like the powers are. Yet deities ought to possess fewer weaknesses, too - they shouldn't need faith as men needed food, and they should ably support their priests through divine means, rather than stripping poor mortals' hard-emed jink.
Athar historical texts say that Ciro, adrift in mental meandering, would have overlooked Dunn completely had not that basher mistaken the philosopher for a last surviving believer in Aoskar and attacked him! The outcome is well-known: the duel of swords, followed by the duel of words, followed by a mutual pledge to meet among the ruins again in half a year bringing tales of their deeds against the powers, along with a few like-minded recruits.
Their numbers grew slowly, and obscurity marked the early years of the Athar - a fortunate fact for a group with such controversial ideas as destroying worship of the powers. Eventually, the Harmonium, which uses religion to generate conformity and harmony, tumbled to the full weight of Athar philosophy. The Hardheads diverted their patrols to make a full-scale attack on the Shattered Temple, the faction's de facto headquarters. The Lady of Pain soon put a stop to such blatant proceedings - all it took was sending the factor behind this movement to the Mazes. However, the Harmonium continued the war with discrete guerilla raids for a long time. When physical efforts failed, they moved the dispute into the Hall of Speakers, pulling the Mercykillers and Fated into the fray on their side.
The members of the Athar fought back, both on the streets and in the Hall, but reserved the bulk of their efforts to attack the minds of Sigil's populace. One of the most notable initiatives - during a peak of political clout and material resources - was a tour the Defiers gave of their headquarters. The tour culminated in a pass through a portal into a portion of the Astral Plane where floated the dying bodies of six different powers! The crowds loved the spectacle, but few abandoned belief in their favorite god. After all, Zeus (or Annam or Loki or Odin) had greater power than those pitiable specimens, and so could never die. The tours had to end due to lack of results.
So, the Lost turned to publishing anonymous propaganda pieces designed to "prove" the gods were frauds through reason, comic illustration, or the stories of individuals bilked by the powers. The tracts continue to appear according to fashion and the degree of censorship imposed on written materials. Long after the Campaign of the Silver Cord, the Believers of the Source created new trouble for the Athar. The Godsmen began erecting small shrines honouring their more prestigious members. Though initially the shrines centered around the Great Foundry (the Believers' headquarters), construction soon moved toward the Shattered Temple. The Godsmen's invasion of both the Defiers' mental territory and physical precinct did not sit well.
The Athar responded by training proselytizers of their own to wait at the false altars and accost would-be worshipers. Their first tactic? Distraction. Defiers made up stories to convince the erring berks that they had business elsewhere, perhaps giving them "news" of a friend newly returned to Sigil. If distraction failed, the Lost attempted direct persuasion, elaborating on the folly of revering normal beings as gods. Only when both diseaction and persuasion produced no effect might the proselytizer resort to physical violence. The Defiers grew so skilled at turning away prospective tithers, the Godsmen declared the cost of maintaining the personal shrines prohibitive. The altars abandoned, the two factions forgot their hostility: the similarity of their philosophies brought friendlier relations.
Under Facto1 Terrance, Athar bloods fight a defensive campaign on the philosophical battlefield. Always alert to attacks from  the other factions, they can devise strategies in response very quickly. Mostly, though, they limit their aggressions to two less-than-flamboyant baffle plans. Both require heaps of paper, gallons of ink, and armies of scribes and copyists.
The first marks a new twist in the ongoing propaganda campaign. Since a lot of the Clueless walking Sigil's streets cannot read, current Defier tracts skip the paragraphs of rousing prose. Instead, a single rune, activated by a glance, triggers a voice that recounts the tale devised by the Lost for that week‘s distribution. Seems membership is up, so the talking leaflets, called whispering runes, must be working.
Agents involved in the second initiative spend their time gathering information on the flow of funds through the temples of all the powers. Where does the jink come from? How do the priests get it? How much do they keep in reserve? How much do they spend and on what? Faction members organize these facts into a rather unflattering picture of religious allocation of funds. Tidbits from this espionage campaign show up in the Defiers' tracts, but Terrance envisions a more sinister long-term use of the information. See, once the Athar understand the flow of wealth through the temples, they can disrupt that golden stream quite nicely. The factol believes poverty'll make a lot of priests, sisters, and brothers hear new calls. 'Course, that'll cut the size of the flocks. Pity.

Factol Terrance

Terrance seems much less bitter than many of the Athar. He feels a bust in the mnltiverse at large and in simple existence. He'd l i e to teach his viewpoint to all the Defiers and to the denizens of the Great Ring, but this desire is a muted one. See, Terrance is no fire-eater. As he guides the Athar through the maze of intrigue enmeshing Sigil, he can enlighten a few deceived sods along the way. That's good enough.
The factol realized the fraud of godhood more gently than most. The second son of a rich man, he was well educated and destined for the religious life. His father's garnish to a temple of Mishakal on Elysium ensured a warm reception for the new novice. 'Course Terrance used his natural leadership and organizational skills to capitalize on this promising beginning. Inside of 10 years he'd become patriarch of the community of healers.
Nothing terrible happened to him there. Sure, he had troubles - any hasher does. But all in all, Terrance had a rewarding and comfortable life. No complaints. Then one day he awoke to the hidden dark: His own intellect and intuition had given him the solutions to every problem he’d faced in life. No power ever gave him divine guidance or strength. ‘Course, as patriarch, he'd enjoyed a few moments of communion with his deity, Mishakal. But he’d sensed no halo of the divine in those exchanges - really, just simple conversations, with a frill or two the power threw in to excite his mortal capacity for awe.
With a dry chuckle, Terrance acknowledged the new dark within himself: He no longer revered Mishakal as divine. Sure, he still respected the power’s sphere of interest (healing) and the extent of her influence, but felt no “proper” religious fervor. The patriarch’s faith had turned a corner, and, as a man of integrity, he resigned his post. Why guide a bunch of berks to Mishakal when be hiself had departed from the goddess’s teachings?
Terrance came to Sigil, joined the Athar, and became quite popular with other Defiers. Most of the Lost embrace bitterness to themselves like a lover. Terrance, an island of quiet serenity and moderation, came as a welcome relief. His skills made him popular as well. Once Terrance proved he could gain spells tbrongh meditation and fervent belief in the Great Unknown - which Athar claim is the source of all priestly power - he quickly rose in the ranks.
The ex-patriarch gets on well with Factol Ambar of the Godsmen; he likes the half-elfs compassion and lack of the self-centeredness that plagues most Believers. The two often cooperate on initiatives in Sigil, out of friendship and because both their factions believe in powers beyond the powers. Terrance pities Factol Pentar of the Doomguard, but views her as an enemy. She seems to personify the passion for extremes that he deprecates. Nor does her faction currently pursue goals in the least compatible with those of the Athar. The epidemic of random violence she seeks likely would dispose the populace to lean harder on their false gods, moving them ever further from the Athar's blessed self-sufficiency.

The Shattered Temple

The Shattered Temple
Not a lot of bashes are liing up to visit the Athar's headquarters. Sure, the Clueless tramped all over the place back when the Lost still gave tours that included a look into the Astral, but those that don’t have faction business there generally avoid the whole area on account of its bad omens. After all, there's a reason it's ruined. Looks like a cataclysm - some say the Lady's wrath - razed not only the Shattered Temple, but the entire surrounding neighborhood in a blocks-wide area.
Folks still live just at the edge of the devastation, though; visitors there come upon freshly cobbled streets and tightly clustered houses, shops and inns. The beams and stones of these buildings look old, hobbed from the tattered remains the area, but the construction seems new and tidy enough. Heading toward the temple, a body might note the Soused Duck on the right, with copper tubs of periwinkle at its door. This tavern and the Generous Coin mercantile next door popped up long ago to serve faction members.
The bustle and hubhub of the Cage fades as a body approaches the temple. A breeze whis pers through coarse grasses littered with tumbled stone and splintered wood. Some of Sigil's poor wander here and there, gathering up loose stones and beams from the surrounding falling-down buildings. The sods look more than a little uneasy, and they don’t linger.
The tilted skeleton of the Shattered Temple looms above these and other, lesser ruins. Razorvine curtains its ragged walls, listing buttresses, and cracked towers. The Lost have shored up the remains of the crumbling sanctuary, but they like the ravaged mood of the place. They gain comfort from this mute witness to the fact that powers can die - as did Aoskar, the near-forgotten god of portals once worshiped here when the place was still called the Great Temple of Doors.
At the end of a nameless Lower Ward street off Brandy Lane stands a decrepit outbuilding made of worn, mosscovered stones. Two guards bearing the Athar's insignia watch the enhance [and similar faction guards wait at three other crumbling guardhouses at the edge of terraces around the temple's perimeter). They'll likely seem surprised at a visitor's approach at first, then recover enough to remember to put their hands to their weapons and demand to know the berk's business. If they're in a good mood, one of the guards'll summon a guide from the temple, signaling with a shrill line of notes from a little reed pipe.
Leaving the guardhouse with their guide, visitors to the Shattered Temple emerge upon an expanse of rough grasses humped by mole tunnels and pocked with thistle and dock. A careless berk could lose his footing on the uneven walkways that lead from the peripheral outbuildings toward the incredible pile of stone that is the temple. Guards patrol the grounds, from the four overgrown terraces to the decrepit temple itself. The Lost didn't break much of a sweat fixing the place up, but visitors can see why the faction members like the place so: Its ragged heights suggest the irregular battlements of a mountain fortress. When it rains, a body can tell that every stone in the Piebald Tower on the left seems a slightly different color.
A quick walk across the grass leads a party to the Scriptorium, where the Defiers create their books and, of course, the propaganda tracts that always seem to be blowing like leaves in the streets of the Cage. Those entering this detached Old Temple Wing first notice the gaping, glassless windows in its upper floors and its distinct lack of a roof. The ground floor seems sound enough, though. Beyond the anteroom is a light-filled chamber where nearly 50 scribes sit at tables stacked high with paper. The scratch of quills and the murmur of lowered voices sounds as long as light lasts. Makeshift shelves and old tables hold pots of ink - scarlet, cobalt, verdigris, and gold for the books that become part of the faction's library. The tracts get only black. Seems the Athar know how to spend their jink.
Back outside and over into the other side of this building, visitors step into another anteroom. The long oak tables in the chamber beyond suggest the room’s purpose: the refectory. The Lost don't eat too bad, goes the chant. The kitchen beyond has the same tall but glassless windows as this dining area.
The clearest path up to the most sound Shattered Temple entrance winds left around the central building. Heading up the path and into the buttressed bulk of the temple itself, the curious pass under a massive arch. Some say going in there feels like entering a tomb. In the vaulted entry ball, ornate portals stand to the left and the right, and a light shines through an opening at the far end.
Visitors to the Shattered Temple generally find themselves drawn to the light at the end of the entry hall. Is it a courtyard? Perhaps a fountain plays there. From some 20 feet away, a body can see something glistening in the chamber beyond, like water or dew. Passing through the opening, one suddenly emerges into the daylight again. This is no courtyard, but the old sanctuary of the temple, its elaborate vaulting lost long ago. Cracked ivory and lime tiles cover the vast expanse of floor, punctuated in the exact center of the huge room by a great tree. Its dark green leaves shine so, they reflect the light like a mirror. Or does the tree itselfglow? Deep red fruits nestle among the foliage along with pale silver blossoms. A scent of citrus blended with sweetness rises from this living fountain. This is the Bois Verdurous, the pride of the Athar. After laying eyes on the enchanted tree, visitors leave the temple thinking tha maybe the Defiers have something to believe in after all.

Within the Ranks

Factol Terrance
Nearly all the Athar feel a need to show the deluded, who still have faith in the powers, the error of their ways. However, most of the Lost feel peery of priests of specific deities and avoid their temples. Why should a body expose himself to the one place where the enemy is strongest? Defiers steer away from overt hostilities against the various faiths: The survival of their faction depends on discretion. After all, too many open attacks on established temples will simply unite their foes into a force the Athar could never withstand.
Not all the Lost are bitter, but most have had a power turn stag on 'em. That's why folks join the Defiers, and a lot of them carry around a heavy load of cynicism, paranoia, and resentment. Whatever their attitude, Defiers follow the Rule of Three by having three main goals: to prove publicly the falsity of the so-called gods, to lessen or destroy their influence, and to part the veil of the unknowable to glimpse the truth.
Defiers of various ethical systems all look at the Athar philosophy a little differently. A basher with a bent toward charity wants to save the "faithful" sods from suffering the pain of the inevitable beltrayal by their powers. A few Lost value honesty, and so find motivation in a love of truth. Self-centered Defiers hope to pull down the powers to leave more room for their own schemes to gain wealth, pleasure, or even revenge: Strip the false gods of power by stripping them of believers. 'Course, the Defiers who naturally refrain from passing judgment still detest shams. What is, is - and fraudulent gods only muddy the waters.
Lawful Athar think a berk who follows the rules of the powers follows the wrong guidelines; he need to see past the powers to the order of the Greater Unknown. Chaotic Defiers insist that the multiverse has no rhyme or reason and think the powers just form a part of a false veneer of order. The nuetral Lost believe the phonies distort the balance between law and chaos.

Athar Membership

Folks can join the Lost just by presenting themselves at the Shattered Temple. Some of these namers find jobs at the Temple. All of 'em must provide room and boad for needy factotums, since the temple itself offers no housing. The faction treasury gives them a bit ofjink for this service, but not enough to cover all the costs. The excess? Consider it the namer's contribution to the cause.
Defier factotums are called athaons, a term meaning "godless" in the sacred tongue used by priests of the dead power Aoskar. A namer hecomes an athaon in a night ceremony in the Shattered Temple. The basher must bring three articles (weapons, books, or symbols) imbued with the magic of a fraudulent god and destroy them all at the proper time during the rite.
In addition to the room and board an athaon can receive from namers, a Defeier factotum recieved steady work from the factors. Low-level athains generally function as guards, messengers, or technical experts. Mid-ranked athaons server as envoys, independent operatives or overseers.
The factors choose the replacement factol when the office-holder dies, resigns, or grows incompetent. Candidates for the top position must defile an active chapel or temple before assuming the factol's dignities.
All Defier ranks prove immune to the following faith-based spells:
abjure, augury, bestow curse, curse, divination, enthrall, exaction, holy word, and quest.
The Lost all also pay a price for their defiance: Priests of specific deities may not aid known faction members with spells or other uses of divine power, particularly healing. Only extreme situations might lead a priest to violate this ban. 'Course, no Defier blood would accept this aid anyhow.
Athaons receive a +2 bonus to their saving throws vs. priest spells cast by clerics, proxies, and senrants to any of the powers. The bonus also applies to the spell-lie abilities of creatures such as devas and baatezu serving a power. Factors (9th level or above) learn a special obscurement technique that cloaks them from observation by powers and their minions. Priests, divine servants, and the powers themselves using spells or spell-like abilities to locate or discover information about an Atar factor can do so only after a successful saving throw vs. spell. Obscurement counters the following wizard spells or abilities:
detect evil, detect invisibility, ESP, know alignment, locate object, clairaudience, clairvoyance: magic mirror; contact other plane, sending; ensnaremtnt, legend lore, demand , foresight.
It also counters these priest spells and spell-like abilities:
augury, detect lie, divination, reflecting pool, magic font, find the path, exaction.