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The Usij [Strains of the Cursed Blood- Iran]

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  • The Usij [Strains of the Cursed Blood- Iran]

    Fire and Shadow

    [the upside down word for Ahriman consumed by flames]

    From the Nivoiryete Vendidad, Holy book of the Usij-

    ".. and the evil winters came to engulf the earth, devouring all but the righteous hidden King Yima's blessed Vara. The frost built up, killing men and women as they wondered the deadly snow. One by one, the people fell and were eaten by the cold- until only few remained alive. Devoid of Ahura Mazda's blessed fire, they were hidden in a cave to which the cold yet to slithered in, waiting for their coming death. However, as the evil wintered crept into the cave, a voice whispered them from the darkness- a voice like the breath of a dying man, soft like shadows and rotten like corpse. "You are abandoned" said the voice "Ahura Mazda left you to the cold and snow, withholding you his blessed gifts of Atar. You are a sacrifice, given to the cold hunger beyond the world, meant to die in the name of good. Your corpses would never be found in the snow, you souls would never escape the glaciers from before time. You are abandoned- but not all is lost, for Ahura Mazda may judge only those who are is. Give yourself to the me, and I'll give you life without fire. I'll teach you how to survive the evil winter and gift you with gifts Ahura Mazda would never give. Be mine, my children, and throw away the fate the fire-giver planned to you"

    The people knew the voice- for only one being could offer them such an offer, to defy the will of the blessed maker and spit in the eyes of the holy. It was the voice of Angra Mainyu, the deceiver, lord of false gods. They knew that by agreeing to his offer, they would be cursed in the eyes of the maker, foul and hated by the light and fire. But the evil winter was coming, and the fear of the eternal cold was stronger then the hope that the blessed maker would not abandon their souls to the deadly frost. Moved by the ancient terror, they agreed to the offer- and Angra Mainyu was filled with pleasure, for manipulated Ahura Mazda's own actions against him.

    ​And the deceiver took the people and covered them with darkness, hiding them from the evil winters and the deadly frost. And in the darkness, he took the men and forced himself into them. And the men laid with the women, and the darkness moved from one to the other, and from seed to womb. And the darkness festered in the wombs of the women, and grew and swelled in their bellies. And when the evil winter has passed and the fire of Ahura Mazda returned to melt the frost, the children of the darkness already walked and talked- the children of the deceiver, birthed from the arrogance of men and the lie of a false god. And when men and women and beast and fire has started to populate the earth again, they came to them with the secrets they learned from the darkness. They taught them the secrets of darkness without cold, the names of false divinities and the lies of the great deceiver. And the people followed, putting their faith in the lies of Angra Mainyu over the bright truth of Ahura Mazda.

    For centuries the Usij has taught the people the ways of false faith, until great Zoroaster came- seeing through the lie of the deceiver and discovering the truth of Ahura Mazda. He called people to the truth, and taught them the secrets of fire and light once more. Seeing the threat, the Usij came to the prophet and debated with him day and night, hoping to break his spirit and being the people back to the deceiver's lie. Zoroaster, however, didn't broke- for he knew the truth. For answered every question they brought, and revealed the lies beneath their claims. One by one, they fell before his words, their spirit shattered by the man's great understanding and wisdom. Some took their own life afterward, seeing themselves as unworthy for both their vile god and the bright maker. Others cursed the prophet and left, manipulating the kings and queen of men in foreign lands. But some heard the voice of the prophet and were inspired. Knowing that as being of darkness they could never share the touch of light, Zoroaster promised them that by free will they may choose their fate themselves from Angra Mainyu and Ahura Mazda. They may be forced to stay away from the blessed fire as long as they are alive, for their very presence would corrupt its light, but in death their souls would return to the maker and escape Angra Mainyu's lie. By being foul before the fire, they were allowed to preform acts no other could in order to bring light into the darkness.

    After understanding the words of Zoroaster, each of the Usij who saw the truth beyond the lie too an oath- to become the prophet's shadow, being darkness inside darkness, a lie told to lairs. They are to court with false gods and turn them against each other, to break their false religions from the inside and let them collapse upon themselves. They took an oath under the prophet's name to serve Ahura Mazda, and return to their temples and altars and worshipers and brothers and sisters in the lie- waiting for the moment to reveal their falsehoods and shatter their religions before the light of the blessed maker, to betray their own parents and siblings and children to the blessed fire which would free their souls back to Ahura Mazda. And the day came.."



    There are demons all around you. Evil spirits walk unseen among humanity. People worship false gods and are manipulated by them. Evil thoughts consume people from the inside, taking over them and turning them into servants of Angra Mainyu. The Druj, the lie of the Evil Spirit, hides its evil in plain sight so normal people can't even see how tainted they are by its manipulation. The only ones who can see through the falsehoods are those blessed by Ahura Mazda, the blessed maker, the people of Asha who pierce the lies and show the truth hidden bellow them to all..

    And those who belong to that lie, of course.

    They gained many names through the ages. They are the Droguuant, people of the lie. They are the Daevayasna, those who make sacrifices to false gods. But their preferred name is the Usij- the False Prophets, priests of the lie. Long time ago, their forefathers has gave themselves to Angra Mainyu, cursing themselves and their descendants to become servants of the dark spirit. After coming in contact with the great prophet Zoroaster, they regretted for their former acts and wished to return to the side of light. However, as descendants of the Evil Thought, they were forbidden from the prophet's presence and the worship of Ahura Mazda- they were foul beings, and their presence would taint the temples and blessed fire. They had no place among common men- yet it didn't meant they couldn't serve the Blessed Spirit in other ways. After all, there were actions the people of Asha couldn't do or else they would be tainted by the Lie- murder, betrayal, dark magics and courting with demons. The Usij, as being tainted from birth, could do such acts without harming their souls. Using their connections and natural affinity to the deceiver and its hidden projects, they could infiltrate cults, gather information and eventually bring down the corrupted structures from the inside. Where there is light, there is shadow- and in those shadows the Usij hide, waiting to strike against the servants of darkness.

    The Usij were at the peak of their power centuries ago, when the great empires of Persia stood strong and Zoroastrianism has prospered. The Achaemenid, Parthia and the Sassanian Empires all allowed the religion to prosper- and as long as they did, the Usij walked among the people of the lie and sabotaged their delicate projects, banishing corrupted Daeva and destroying potential threats. Even when Alexander came and brought with him foreign culture, the Usij didn't wavered. However, as Islam took over the their country and the Sassanian Empire fell, things has started to change- while Zoroastrianism was outright forbidden, the Muslim rulers used a lot of pressure upon them to convert, something which made some of the Usij to claim that they were servants of Angra Mainyu, spreading false religion to stop their actions. Others, however, claimed that Islam was simply the outcome of another prophet revealing the truth, and that if by converting they could make their mission easier, they should accept the change. Eventually, however, the traditionalists won- they would remain true to their old ways, even at the cost of their own life.

    And some were there to claim it.

    It weren't the the Daeva who always searched after them to kill them and steal their children to the service of the deceiver. It weren't the cults of the lie which worshiped Angra Mainyu and his evil thoughts. It were another line of demon blooded, who had their own curse to bear- those who were once called Saru Salmu, and now took the name al Rih al Asuad. The Black Wind has started to blow in Iran, and their blades harvested the souls of demons in it.

    While the two lines has knew each other for long time, the Black Wind has never truly trusted the Priests of the Lie. In their eyes, they were nothing but a corrupted strain who worked with demons, preforming terrible acts for personal gain. Motivated by their new faith in Islam, they swept through the land in search for any demon cult they could find- and they didn't minded if the cultist was truly a follower of Druj or that he just acted like that. A demon is a demon, and Pazuzu would scare the spawn of Angra Mainyu back to hell which spawned them.

    Still, against all chances, the Usij has survived. Most as found solace in India among the local Parsi, where they made a pact of protection with another line of demons in human skin called the "Avici Sutra", once long time enemies and now allies at need. Others has scattered through the world, living in small communities until many of them found escape in a new, rising nation which promised freedom from the falsehoods of the past- the United States of America. Yet while their presence in Iran had dwindled, the core of the Usij till beat in their homeland. The Council of Eight (one per each general of Angra Mainyu) still sits in Iran, and their hunters still fight against the lies of the deceiver and its cults. In their eyes, their homeland still has a part to play in the plan of the maker- or else the prophet wouldn't have awakened in those lands. If they were to leave, there would be no one to reveal the lies of Angra Mainyu, and all would be lost.

    And until that day would come, they would serve the blessed maker from the shadows- the only way to them to stand near the fire.

    Status:
    0- the deceiver has marked you as one of his own, and you turned it into a weapon against the darkness. You may spend merit points on the Druj Endowment. In an addition, the agents of the deceiver recognize you as an important part of its projects. You get an Honorary Rank of 1 when dealing with angels, and one dot at Alternative Identity made through the conspiracy's resources.
    000- you have became a prominent figure among the deceiver's cults, gaining their trust as you plan to crush them. You get 2 dots in Contacts among God-Machine cults, and your Honorary Rank and Alternative Identity rise to 2.
    00000- you have managed to destroy numerous schemes of Angra Mainyu and proved yourself as a future member of the Council of Eight. You get one of the current members as a 3 dot Mentor, and your Alternative Identity and Honorary Rank rise to 3.

    Endowment: Druj (0-00000)
    The Usij are the priests of the lie, and as such they may manipulate the falsehoods of Angra Mainyu and his servants against them. Druj is a single, 1-5 merit, which allowing the hunter to access to a single Embed per dot in the Endowment. Those abilities manifest themselves in the body of the hunter, becoming physical structures in their body. That represent itself in the form of Glitches- the hunter suffer one minor Glitch per dot int the Endowment. When getting a new dot, the hunter may decide to advance one of her existing Glitches instead of getting a new one. A major Glitch worth 2 dots, while Catastrophic one worth 3 dots. The hunter may replace old Embeds with new ones, yet the process forces the hunter to go through a surgery which, even if successful, cause at least one level of Lethal Damage. The hunter may also permanently reduce her Druj rating, removing the Glitches together with it (Sanctity of Merits still applies). There is, however, another hidden benefit for making a strong contact with the Druj- the ability to manipulate it and reveal the truth which hides beneath. At first dot, all hunters are able to Perceive Infrastructures as if they were Stigmatics. At 3 dots, the hunter is not effected by Liar's Tongue or any similar supernatural effect which is meant to make lies be automatically successful. At 5 dots, the hunter can sees through Covers and similar effects which hide the target's true nature. At any rating (including 0) the hunter is immune for being Spoofed.


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  • #2
    When you first wrote about the Usij, I thought they were going to be an Abyssal bloodline akin to the Nemontemi. You, sir, have surprised me.

    Seeing as their Endowment lets them use Embeds, are the Usij essentially Stigmatics? Are you also thinking of ideas for how they can tap into Exploits?


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    • #3
      Originally posted by Deionscribe View Post
      When you first wrote about the Usij, I thought they were going to be an Abyssal bloodline akin to the Nemontemi. You, sir, have surprised me.

      Seeing as their Endowment lets them use Embeds, are the Usij essentially Stigmatics? Are you also thinking of ideas for how they can tap into Exploits?
      And things are even more complicated than that- there is a sidebar in waiting for them about the other half of their dualistic faith.

      And yes, the Usij are a variant form of Stigmatics with Honorary Rank. sidebar about exploits is in the waiting.


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      • #4
        Sweet. Looking forward to those sections.


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        • #5
          Song of Ice and Fire
          Yes, the Usij believe that Angra Mainyu is no other than the God Machine- a broken god who mimics the true creator, using lies and deceit in order to lure the righteous toward eternal doom. No one can question the fact that whatever their source may be, they were once a part of the many projects it manage through the world- perhaps they are a genetically engineered lineage of Stigamtics meant to operate in crucial parts of its plan. Perhaps they are the descendants of a great archangel in the name of Heaven, or demon searching for her own hell, or even an exile working by the strange parameters of its existence. Perhaps their myth is even true, and the God Machine itself sired children through mortal coil, imparting some part of itself into human genetics ages ago. Whatever the case, the Usij see it as the king of demons and lord of lies, a being who covers the divine light of Ahura Mazda.

          That, however, begs another question- if, according the Usij's cosmology, the God Machine takes the part of the dark, terrible spirit of corruption and taint, who takes the place of the blessed maker? Who is that Bountiful Spirit who blessed humanity with light, truth and fire?

          It's simple. The Principle.

          Does those two great forces of the world truly fight among each other, as the cosmology of the Usij dictates? Do they truly twin gods who battle each other- one calls down truth and the other covered with lies? Or perhaps the Usij simply adapted themes and ideas from their religion and used them to explain different phenomena through their dualistic philosophy? That depends on the exact nature of relationships between the two god-like powers, which means it is for the Storyteller to call the shots. Still, whether the Usij are right or wrong about the subject, it doesn't change the fact that they truly believe that this is the case- that on one side of the map, Angra Maniyu moves gears and engines as he blinds the world with falsehoods, while on the other Ahura Mazda shines brightly and brings truth through change, allowing the world to evolve and move toward a New Dawn. And because of that, it is little wonder that the Usij, while not descendant from the Divine Fire, still know about it more than many other conspiracies and similar organizations.

          Unlike groups who hunt the creations of the Divine Fire (or Atar, as the Usij call it), the False Prophets study it in order to protect its warmth. Studying the arts of alchemy is strictly forbidden among the Usij, as they believe that they are not pure enough to channel the Divine Fire without defiling it. In their libraries, are thousands of accounts of the mysterious Yazatas (or Qashmalim), the revelations they brought and the missions they carried. They do not divide them into two Choirs, as others do- for division is an agent of Druj, meant to hide the truth with confusion. Asha is one, and anyone to claim otherwise is a victim to the lies of Angra Mainyu. They also know about the rare prometheans, and the strange effects they have on people and the world. According to their documents, those reanimated do not actually defile the world- they are simply a pure expression of truth, and they burn the lies of the deceiver around them, something which burns the world and minds of those who are simply not prepared for that light. For that reason, the Usij would do anything they can to stay away from them- for they fear that their touch would defile the fire in them. Still, they would try to help a promethean in his Pilgrimage, and would work to protect them from disquieted masses.

          Pandorans and Centimani are a bit more complicated subject- the Usij refuse to acknowledge the existence of Flux and any negative influence the Divine Fire may have. Asha is pure and good, and as such all of its seemingly evil expressions must be lies of Angra Mainyu. Some claim pandorans to be failed attempts of the deceiver at replicating the miracle of Ahura Mazda at making life, creating a mockery of its creations. Others think that perhaps it is what happens when someone who isn't pure enough and bound by Druj tries to channel the Atar, only for the touch of Angra Mainyu to curse the creation. At any case, Centimani are, undoubtedly, corrupted agents of Druj and must be redeemed or destroyed, else they would corrupt the fire and defile the world with their abominations.

          While the relationships between the Usij and the Divine Fire is truly interesting, one of the more noteworthy example of that connection comes not from the Fire itself- but from the lack of it. After all, according to their myths, when Ahura Mazda wished to start a new page and clean the earth from mankind, he collected his fire and brought evil winters upon the lands. Those winters were not a creation of Angra Mainyu, yet the deadly frost definitely can't be a part of the pure and fiery Ahura Mazda. In fact, that primordial cold seem to be an expression of the lack of Ahura Mazda's presence- something which was before the coming of the maker, before creation, before life, before time itself. And by borrowing the lexicon of a now-extinct branch of Zoroastrianism, the Usij gave a name for that terrible, awful ice from before time. Zurvan, the One Before, that which was called to destroy the earth and from its rage they escaped through their pact with Angra Mainyu. And even though thousands of years has passed since that event, Zurvan has yet to forget those who escaped its frozen claws.

          And neither it forgave them for that.

          Optional Rule- Hated by the Winter
          Years ago, the Usij as made a pact with Angra Mainyu- protect us from the winter, and we would give you our life and souls. While since them their ways with the dark god have parted, they pact still stands strong- and so does the protection it grants them. Each and every one of the Usij is protected from the effects of Heaven's Frost. They are immune to the memory erasing effect of Winter Whispers, and are not effected by the time wrapping effects of Glaciers. The Cold Ones seem to ignore their presence, and so does Crystal Walkers and the dead bodies risen through the harsh Blizzards or the damage they deal, and they may not preform the ritual which makes one into a Domem. As far as anyone may care, the Usij are invisible to Ice, untouched by its frosty bites and endless hunger.

          But it doesn't mean they are fully protected from it.

          While the mindless creations of the winter can't recognize their existence, Zurvan has perfected its arsenal through the years. Any promethean who suffers from the Winter Whispers Condition who meet one of the Usij automatically starts hearing commands to find and kill the False Prophets. Those whispers can't direct the infected toward the target (as the Ice can't actually see them), but it is enough to make the promethean start searching by herself. Some Frost Fanatics dedicate their life to find and kill the Usij in the name of Heaven's Frost, in fact. The Domemim are also motivated by the Ice to search and destroy the lineage, and their immortality gives them enough time to make long term plans. The most dangerous ones are the Valkyries- those murderous beings exist only to kill, and while they are usually satisfied with regular bodies, they have a sixth sense for the Usij, and would waste dozens of Einherjar in order to kill a Prophet of the Lie and take its body to "the War". They were promised to the Ice, after all- and if they truly wish to serve the Fire, they should do so by honoring its agreement with the Ice and give themselves to its deadly frost. Zurvan is a jealous god, after all, and even if it would take thousands of years it plans to one day claim the lineage to itself, one way or another.

          For more information about the Awful Ice and its place in the setting, look here


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          • #6
            I'm not surprised that you tied them to the Principle, and I am really liking how they interact (or avoid) Prometheans and Pandorans, and how they avoid making distinctions with the types of Qashmallim.

            The Ice is an interesting addition. I hadn't really thought about it in a while, and I saw the updates you made to it since I last checked. It kind of makes me wonder if the Usij's myth could be a retelling of events done in the Ice Age or something.


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            • #7
              Stereotypes:
              Habibti Maa: "they save souls who have fallen to Angra Mainyu's grip. Their efforts are appreciated"
              Utopia Now: "so you tear the lie apart, only to make one which you like better?"
              Knights of St Adrian: "I always keep my hear open for rumors about bikers who start to question others about wanted men. It may sound funny- but the deceiver has found its own "angels" to serve him, so to speak"
              Ashwood Abbey: "spreaders of Druj and taint. Their accursed existence should be removed from the face of earth"

              "you really thought that such petty mask could protect you from me?"


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              • #8
                One of your best yet.

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                • #9
                  Hmm. I had an idea for what the Usij equivalent of L'Enfantes Diabolique might be. What if there was a splinter group that did convert into Islam? I imagine them being renamed as Al-Kazzab, the Liars. And I can see the mainstream False Prophets hunting them down as turncoats who went back to serving the God-Machine.


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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Deionscribe View Post
                    Hmm. I had an idea for what the Usij equivalent of L'Enfantes Diabolique might be. What if there was a splinter group that did convert into Islam? I imagine them being renamed as Al-Kazzab, the Liars. And I can see the mainstream False Prophets hunting them down as turncoats who went back to serving the God-Machine.
                    the only thing that kinda stings my eye is that it may create an impression that "Islam is evil religion" kind of thing- not saying that it shouldn't work, but that when written, it should be considered in order to avoid that mistake. That is, giving the God-Machine serving group a real reason to convert to Islam, and why they need it to justify their actions.


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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by LostLight View Post
                      the only thing that kinda stings my eye is that it may create an impression that "Islam is evil religion" kind of thing- not saying that it shouldn't work, but that when written, it should be considered in order to avoid that mistake. That is, giving the God-Machine serving group a real reason to convert to Islam, and why they need it to justify their actions.
                      If they're remaining bad guys, and loyal to the God Machine, the obvious reason would be that Islam is the is the religion of the rulers, and thus the path to power - and the religion of a cultural milieu much bigger than Persia, and thus the path to greater and more wide-ranging Infrastructures. Though that's less a conversion than an infiltration.

                      Or they could be a door number three. Usij who still reject the God Machine, but perhaps witnessed Flux in a way that left them unable to overlook it, making them see Ahuramazda a more limited being. So they turn to Allah as a greater god, and one who can forgive their tainted ancestry.

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                      • #12
                        Maybe to expound on the belief that Islam is the divine truth expressed in different teachings, the Al-Kazzab might believe that the new religion was a revelation made in response to the changes brought about in the world by Ahura Mazda's light.

                        I'm still not quite sure how to fully write it out, but I sort of liken it to how Created Lineages come and go with shifts in the Divine Fire.

                        But SunlessNick's ideas could inspire separate schisms among the False Prophets alright.
                        Last edited by Deionscribe; 12-21-2016, 01:50 PM.


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                        • #13
                          Form of the Hamkar
                          The Usij are Angra Mainyu's chosen children, and as such they carry the darkness of their maker in their souls. Each and every one of them was meant to serve the deceiver, a co-operator under the orders of a great Daeva. In their very heart, a demon lurks, waiting to be freed- and when the Usij removes the Lie which covers herself from herself, she becomes that demon- gaining access to powers no human should ever have.

                          In order to take the form of the Hamkar, the Usij has to roll for Druj+Manipulation. In case of a Failure, she suffers from one level of Bashing damage as her true self cuts through her human skin. Dramatic Failure turns that damage to Lethal. In case of Success, however, the true form of the demon is revealed, marking her as an agent of the deceiver. While in this form, all of the hunter's Glitches turn into Catastrophic, revealing her as an inhuman, foul creature of darkness. However, she also gains a number of benefits- first, she may now use her Druj rating as a Supernatural Tolerance trait. In case he also have the appropriate merit, take the higher one. Second, her Honorary Rank now equals to her Status rating. Third, and most importantly, in this form, she can now work the very manipulations of the deceiver against him- gaining access to the dread powers of Exploits.

                          While in the form of Hamkar, the hunter may use any Exploit in existence. Instead of Primum, those powers call to Druj to power them. As the hunter has no direct access to Aether, she must cannibalize her own blood in order to feed the darkness inside of her. Instead of Aether, the hunter suffers from one level of Bashing Damage per dot. The rest of the dicepoll is the same as the original power, and so does the prerequisites. The form of the Hamkar lasts for a single Scene, although the character may extend the duration by suffering another level of Bashing damage (the character may also return to her human form at any moment). In case she returns to her human form before finishing all the rolls for the Exploit, the effect is terminated (she still suffers the damage). In case of an Exceptional Success, she gains a +1 modifier to all Exploit rolls.

                          In case you are using the Hated by the Winter optional rule, while in the form of Hamkar the Ice can see the character, as she gives up the protection Angra Mainyu gave her in exchange for greater power. All the benefits of being protected from the Awful Ice are removed, and any Cold One in the range would start moving toward her, searching to end her life and claim them to Zurvan's deadly frost.


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                          • #14
                            Would assuming the Hamkar also attract the attention of Angels? Transforming into it and making use of Exploits both sound like perfectly valid reasons for them to warrant a Compromise.

                            That said, what sort of relationship would the Priests of the Lie have with the Unchained and Exiles? And what about the Demon-Blooded?
                            Last edited by Deionscribe; 12-22-2016, 06:01 PM.


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Deionscribe View Post
                              Would assuming the Hamkar also attract the attention of Angels? Transforming into it and making use of Exploits both sound like perfectly valid reasons for them to warrant a Compromise.
                              considering that turning into an Hamkar rises the hunter's Honorary Rank, drawing angels toward her would actually be a bonus instead of a penalty- that is, she may actually have an "army of Daeva" to command. Hence why I've left it out- although if you want to make the form even more powerful, use it.

                              That said, what sort of relationship would the Priests of the Lie have with the Unchained and Exiles? And what about the Demon-Blooded?
                              a demon is a demon is a demon- no matter if it serves the False God faithfully, if it rebels against its authority and hollows the lives of others or even just being left out, they are all beings of Druj, and as such are tainted and foul. While they make a sort term alliance with Unchained or (more likely) Exiles, the fact is that all of them eventually abuse humans one way or another, and all of them serve the lie- even if not its maker.


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