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The World Ash defines Creation, its upper leaves in Heaven, its roots in Hell, and the worlds of the universe hanging upon its branches like fruit. Various mystical traditions have tried to comprehend this reality, but even the best have only realized a fraction of the truth . . .
This cosmology maps the various factions of Imperators to specific mystical traditions; the net result is a kabbalistic view of reality as a whole. I find that bringing real-world mystic beliefs into the setting adds a great deal of flavor. As well, because there are so many resources about these beliefs available, the GM can turn to them for inspiration on how to roleplay each Imperator or design its Nobles. For example, the GM looking at a list of Capricorn traits might decide the the Angel Gedi rules the Estates of Patience, Ambition, and Loyalty.
One side effect of this project was that it narrowed the Imperators down to less than a hundred. I consider this a good thing. It's less work for the GM, who can more easily select an Imperator from the choices offered. But just as important, it's less work for the players trying to wrap their heads around this potentially overwhelming setting. If you need more Imperators in your game, just declare that the ones listed here are the important ones (the movers and shakers among their own faction), and that there are countless other Imperators with less clout.
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working to fill in the blanks. Thank you for your patience.
At the very center of Heaven stand the four Archangels, unmoving, acting as a direct connection between Heaven and the Spirit World. They are known as the Roots of the World: Gabriel (Water), Uriel (Earth), Raphael (Air), and Michael (Fire). Through them, Spiritus Dei floods into Heaven and radiates down upon all of Creation.
By contrast, the outer ring of Heaven is divided into twelve grand cathedrals, each one the province of an Angel, each one representative of a house of the zodiac. The zodiac is the supreme Instrument which breathes light into the sephiroth, governs the movement of the planets, and subsumes the decans. (See below for details.) The stars above the World Ash are said to be mirrored in the hearts of the twelve great Angels.
Taleh, Holy Embodiment of Aries.
Shur, Holy Embodiment of Taurus.
Thaumim, Holy Embodiment of Gemini.
Sartan, Holy Embodiment of Cancer.
Arieh, Holy Embodiment of Leo.
Bethulah, Holy Embodiment of Virgo.
Mozanaim, Holy Embodiment of Libra.
Akrab, Holy Embodiment of Scorpio.
Kesith, Holy Embodiment of Sagittarius.
Gedi, Holy Embodiment of Capricorn.
Deli, Holy Embodiment of Aquarius.
Dagim, Holy Embodiment of Pisces.
At the center of Hell, in a loose ring around Lucifer's personal domain, the Fallen Angels carved out seven domains, each embodied by one of the Deadly Sins and ruled over by a sole heptarch. Several millennia later, the Fallen Angels discovered a loophole in the Heavenly law that trapped them in Hell forever: Each of the seven zodiacal planets was tied to one of the deadly sins, making a lazy orbit that passed through the linked Hellish domain then up through the World Ash. The Fallen Angels claimed these planets as fiefdoms of Hell, and used them to escape into Creation as a whole.
Note that "heptarch" means "lord over one-seventh." It is appropriate both for the seven powerful Fallen Angels in Hell and the seven who rule the planets. There is a bond of sorts between each Hellish Fallen Angel and the Fallen Angel whose planet passes through his domain; but this is not always an alliance, and can vary from outright hatred to true friendship. Click here for a table associating the Deadly Sins and planets.
Lady Phul, the Resentful Heptarch. Preferring to affect humanity through their dreams rather than through any direct action, Lady Phul's aloof manner is as cold as her ice blue skin. Her quest to set the world against itself in a siege of bitter resentment is aided by her Heaven-made bow, which once shot arrows of Admiration, but now bring about only Jealousy.
Madam Ophiel, the Acquisitive Heptarch. Muse to countless mortal sorcerors and magicians, Madam Ophiel pushes people to acquire whatever will best destroy them, be it riches or dark magical secrets. A consumate shapeshifter, the only way to identify her is to look for the telltale (though often well-hidden) reptillian feature common to her many forms.
Mistress Hagith, the Desirous Heptarch. Only Powers of the highest Aspect can avoid falling madly in lust with Mistress Hagith upon sight, even if cognizant of the deadly fire and brimstone boiling just beneath her skin. Perhaps to ease the fiery pain within, she prefers keeping to cold waters, often manifesting as a mermaid of unearthly beauty.
Master Och, the Imperious Heptarch. Arrogance personified, Master Och literally glows with confidence from every iota of his perfect, golden-skinned form. Friendly and outgoing, he ensures that every human knows that they're better than everyone else. Master Och is often mistaken for Lucifer by the lesser informed, but he does little to clear up the confusion.
Commander Phaleg, the Tempestuous Heptarch. Commander Phaleq's inner fury is hidden beneath a soft-spoken, placid exterior. One glance from his pitch black eyes, however, is enough to turn blood brothers against each other. The alabaster skin of his huge frame is interrupted by the fine stitches keeping his limbs attached; each has been lost in battle countless times.
Lord Bethor, the Indulgent Heptarch. With a gentle hand on humanity's back, pushing them to consume more than they need (especially at the expense of others), Lord Bethor is the only one truly fed by their herd mentality. Thin as a wire, though beautiful in a draconian way, Lord Bethor sometimes belches forth the rats and toads which he consumes whole.
Father Aratron, the Stagnant Heptarch. A dour, taciturn figure in a black robe and cowl, Father Aratron exposes only his beard (and the occasional snake which wriggles from beneath his robe.) Grim and fatalistic, he believes that Hell on Earth can be brought about by silencing all progress and passions, until life is nothing more than aging and waiting to die.
Yareakh, the Lunar Heptarch. A young man, beautiful and clad in silver robes, Yareakh rides a chariot pulled across the sky by ten white horses. He scoffs at patience (as a virtue) and believes in taking what he wants without delay. This can make him a difficult Imperator to work for, but unlike many Fallen Angels, he's more than happy to get his hands dirty when necessary.
Kokhav Khama, the Mercurial Heptarch. Though most Fallen Angels retain their angelic appearance, Kokhav Khama has the form of a winged humanoid lion-man, but with green scales instead of fur. He is obsessed with the accounting of favors, always making certain that he (and his powers) are in the black and are owed more than they owe.
Nogah, the Cytherean Heptarch. A bold, rakish Fallen Angel with a dark sense of humor, Nogah enjoys tormenting the lesser beings around him (most commonly by afflicting them with some horrid rash or boils) all in the name of "good fun." He is literally incapable of admitting wrongdoing, though he also never foists unearned blame onto anyone else.
Shemesh, the Solar Heptarch. Simply being in the presence of Shemesh causes one to begin dehydrating and gasping, as her alabaster skin nearly glows with heat. She can alleviate this if she chooses, but rarely does except for her Nobles. She sees herself as the judge of all behavior, and eagerly passes sentence without the counsel of others.
Ma'adim, the Martial Heptarch. A disgusting sight, Ma'adim's flesh was flayed away by Angels during the Fall. To see her now is to see exposed muscles, tissue, and blood. She leaves spots upon the ground as she walks and is in constant pain, which manifests as a hair-trigger temper and complete lack of humor. She greatly respects ambition, however, even if it's at her expense.
Tzedek, the Jovian Heptarch. Alone among the heptarchs, but not among the populace of Hell as a whole, Tzedek believes that the Fallen Angels are continuing to do Heaven's work. He prays for guidance and cloaks himself in religious trappings, though the specifics (such as the religion in question) vary from day to day.
Shabtay, the Saturnian Heptarch. Shabtay hides her normally fair skin beneath a coat of black pitch, eschewing clothing for this nocturnal camouflage. She sees herself as a force of vengeance, striking back at anyone she believes has wronged her or anyone else she cares for. She sticks to the shadows, even with her Nobles, believing that stealth is the greatest weapon.
Mortal kabbalists believe that the sephiroth create a path (the "Tree of Life") between mundanity and divinity. At the top, the sephiroth accept the spiritual light from Heaven, and filter it down through the feminine (left) and masculine (right) branches until the filtered light recombines at the bottom to form the physical world. By spiritually traversing the sephiroth from Malkuth to Kether, one may achieve true enlightenment.
In reality, this Tree of Life is (of course) the World Ash. Each sephirah represents one of the wise and immense Aaron's Serpents. The Serpents are unique in that they do not involve themselves in the spirit war against the Excrucians; instead, they remain on the Ash to defend it against any threats or attacks (Excrucian or otherwise).
Kether, the Crowned Serpent, Primum Mobile. Manifesting as a serpent of unbearably bright light, Kether commands the forces of primal divine energy, and is considered nearly unapproachable by most Nobles and many Imperators.
Chokmah, the Wise Serpent, Guardian Of Creation And Creation. (Both the act of creation and the whole of Creation.) A powerful masculine force, responsible for the physical structure of the Ash and the reality therein, Chokmah is greatly feared among those who might harm it.
Binah, the Understanding Serpent, Womb Of The Ash. Binah is the equally powerful feminine force of the Ash, responsible for the comprehension which translates between Mythic and Prosaic Reality. She is a potent healer and pacifist.
Chesed, the Merciful Serpent, Rex Bounteous. Perhaps the most approachable Serpent, Chesed is both exceedingly giving and exceedingly stringent. She will grant almost any boon, but only if it advances the spiritual growth of Creation (or its pieces, such as the Nobles).
Geburah, the Severe Serpent, The Sword And The Fire. Geburah sees himself as evolution, burning away all that is useless and outmoded to allow for growth and development. He is strict and honorable; his "fire" is within the heart, never an actual flame.
Tiphareth, the Beautful Serpent, Harmony Of The Spheres. Born from the center of the Ash, Tiphareth is connected directly to (and never moves against) the natural flow of Creation. Seemingly passive, it has been known to suddenly act, before anyone else had realized there was a reason to.
Netzach, the Victorious Serpent, Ardor Inspirare. A creature of emotion and inspiration, Netzach is considered rather chaotic, as Serpents go. It excels at thinking "outside the box" and keenly applies this intuition to its own plots.
Hod, the Splendrous Serpent, Chaos Resolver. Sibling to Netzach, Hod is a strategist, favoring careful planning and surgical strikes against any enemies. It believes in rational thought and responsibility for one's actions, and cares little for extenuating circumstances.
Yesod, the Foundational Serpent, the Shadow Serpent. Reclusive and mysterious, Yesod considers itself the defender of Mythic Reality as a whole. Unique among Serpents, it has shed its physicality and now exists as a weightless spirit, which can diffuse itself across all of Creation if necessary.
Malkuth, the Rooted Serpent, Guardian Of The Kingdom. Malkuth guards the World Ash at its most dangerous junctions, where it joins with the Mythic Reality of all worlds and with Hell itself. It knows that the strength of the Ash comes from its roots, and thus patrols them ruthlessly.
A cylinder of beautiful blue flame, the Weirding Wall defines the boundary of Creation. From a distance, it appears uniform, but as one approaches it, it becomes obvious that it is segmented, its 360 degrees separated into 10-degree bands, known as decans (from the Greek decanos, meaning "ruler of ten"). As Heaven rotates, the light from its zodiacal houses shines down upon different parts of the Wall; as Hell's planets orbit the Ash, this energy is warped by conflict. This conflict between houses and planets determines where the decans rest at any given moment on the Weirding Wall. As the alignments of Heaven and Hell change, so do the decans shift, subtly trading places and rearranging themselves to avoid upsetting the balance of Creation.
No one faction is embodied by the decans; instead, they are tied to a trinity of factions: The Light, The Dark, and The Wild, respectively representing humanity's life, death, and choice. The ruling twelve Lords of each faction claim one of the decans as home, invariably building an empire just above the middle of the Wall, where the branches of the World Ash scrape against it. This allows them access to the Tree and other Realms, though which branch is available at any given time depends upon the movements of the houses and planets above.
Magisters of the Light
Kaliel, Magister of Alath, Lord of Rest from Strife.
Akiah, Magister of Atrax, Lady of Prudence.
Mihal, Magister of Bianakith, Lord of Perfected Success.
Rohael, Magister of Charchnoumis, Lord of Abundance.
Vishiriyah, Magister of Harpax, Lady of Harmonious Changes.
Chabuiyah, Magister of Methiax, Lady of Love.
Mebahel, Magister of Naôth, Lady of Peace Restored
Nelokiel, Magister of Nefthada, Lord of Pleasure.
Shaliah, Magister of Phthenoth, Lady of Material Happiness.
Mahashiah, Magister of Roêlêd, Lord of Valor.
Orvandal, Magister of Sahu, Lord of Material Trouble.
Umibael, Magister of Sphandôr, Lady of Shortened Force.
Magisters of the Dark
Naber, Magister of Akton, Lord of Illusionary Success.
Mendial, Magister of Alleborith, Lord of Power.
Yeichavah, Magister of Anostêr, Lord of Effort.
Nithael, Magister of Arôtosael, Lord of Perfected Work
Amael, Magister of Axiôphêth, Lady of Oppression.
Aaneval, Magister of Belbel, Lord of Despair and Cruelty.
Murmux, Magister of Buldumêch, Lord of Wealth.
Aniel, Magister of Hephesimereth, Lord of Defeat.
Elemiah, Magister of Kumeatêl, Lord of Victory
Menqal, Magister of Kurtaêl, Lord of Ruin.
Heroch, Magister of Ouare, Lord of Success Unfulfilled.
Livoyah, Magister of Tepsisem, Lady of Loss.
Magisters of the Wild
Hahahaal, Magister of Agchoniôn, Lord of Unstable Effort.
Vevaliah, Magister of Akhouiy, Lady of Abandoned Success.
Nithaya, Magister of Anatreth, Lady of Swiftness.
Hechashiah, Magister of Barsafael, Lady of Ancient Strength.
Yirthiel, Magister of Eneuth, Lord of Great Strength.
Hazael, Magister of Ieropaêl, Lord of Material Gain.
Rehael, Magister of Isrö, Lord of Science.
Ieilael, Magister of Iudal, Lord of Eventuality.
Hokmiah, Magister of Marderô, Lord of Sorrow.
Yelayel, Magister of Phoubêl, Lord of Strife.
Deneyal, Magister of Ruax, Lady of Dominion.
Muumiah, Magister of Saphathoraél, Lord of Blended Pleasure.
Heaven, Hell, the World Ash, the Weirding Wall . . . these account for all of Creation's "physicality" -- the parts that seem solid, despite actually being concentrated Spiritus Dei. But then there's the undefinable "ether" in which the World Ash floats, through which the planets move, and which occupies the space between the Weirding Wall and the trunk of the Ash itself. The part of Creation that can loosely be defined as "everything you can't see or touch when walking the Ash."
This is the province of the True Gods -- the formless, ageless beings who are more at home in the Spirit World than anywhere else. They have divided this "cylinder of ether" into eight unnamed sections. Each section has a gate, though locating where that gate is at any given moment will often require assistance. As the ancient Chinese bagua seem to map to these octants and to the True Gods within, most people refer to them by compass point (even though "North" and "South" mean nothing here). As with most things involving the True Gods, the given names are an approximation at best.
Li, Clinging Summer Fire, South Gatekeeper.
K'un, Receptive Earthen Belly, Southwest Gatekeeper.
Dui, Joyous Destruction in Excess, West Gatekeeper.
Qian, Creative Strength of Will, Northwest Gatekeeper.
K'an, Abysmal Flood Brings Danger, North Gatekeeper.
Gen, Still and Fruitful Mountain, Northeast Gatekeeper.
Zhen, Arousal of Movement, East Gatekeeper.
Xun, Gentle Distant Wind, Southeast Gatekeeper.
Naming Conventions Used Here
Angels are named after the zodiac houses in Hebrew. For the Fallen Angels, those in Hell use the Olympian names from the Isagogue, while those ruling planets use the Hebrew name for each planet. Aaron's Serpents are named after the sephiroth, unchanged. The Light, Dark, and Wild are named after the aethyrs of decanology; I use Kenneth Hite's roster here. True Gods are named after their respective bagua/trigrams, with a mix of romanization and pinyin at my whim.
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