Askanis is the only God
worshipped in the Venlaken Enclave, by the
Daedhirians' Servants. The
Daedhirians themselves do
not worship any Gods, but they tolerate this cult of Askanis and they often use
it to have a better control on their Servants. Askanis is considered to be the
last God that exists in this world and he reigns over the "circle of life",
being regarded as a God of death and fertility alike. Convenient enough, the
Daedhirian Lords are seen
as the only ones over which Askanis has no dominion at all.
Names. Aside from the title Dusk Lord, Askanis is also often referred to as the Joy-bringer, the Last God, and also as the Healer.
The Servants of the Enclave believe that Askanis is a God of many faces, as he
can change his shape or gender at will. But usually, in what concerns fertility
issues, Askanis is regarded as being a God, while in what concerns death issues
Askanis is regarded as being a Goddess. This does not seem to be a rule though
and as much as the scholars tried, they could not identify a pattern in these
changes. The Anpagans reported a
lot of God-like figures sculpted on stone poles but they all seem to point
towards a single God: Askanis.
After the Dark Plague Campaign though, the Anpagan soldiers brought with them from the Enclave small wooden figurines of a head with four faces (a child face and a skull face on the front and the back, a human-like face on a side and the same human-like face, but wrinkled and scarred, on the other side). They claimed that they had these figurines from the Servants of Asbavaer, and they were seemingly the most common representations of Askanis. The same Anpagan soldiers brought with them some strange tales of lonely children walking in the woods at night - and the explanation given to them by the Servants was that these children are all manifestations of Askanis, and that if one is foolish enough to approach them he will certainly observe that instead of the children's heads their bare skulls lay on their shoulders. This grim tale also seems to be a common myth in the Enclave about the form in which Askanis likes to walk on this world.
Mythology. The scholars of the Ansaran Island believe that Askanis must be a revived cult of the ancient people that once dwelled on today's Anis-Anpagan lands (those that are sometimes referred to as "Pagans" in the old Korweynite texts of the first Empire of the Sun). However they also believe that this cult was "re-fitted" by Daedhirians to serve their needs. And given the fact that in Askanis we can find two confluent traditions - the nature-worship and Aseya - on a certain atheistic background, we might say that they are right. Nevertheless the Servants of the Enclave seem to be very stubborn in their beliefs, being from this point of view closer to the Korweynite or Murmillion self-righteousness than to their Anpagan brothers' mild spirit.
The cult of Askanis believes that the world never had a beginning, that it was never created. The world always existed as the result of the relations between the five essences (which are actually the Korweynite elements of the Doctrine of Essences). These relations are what is usually called "nature". The appearance of this "nature" may change in time, but the essences and the way they relate to each other is ever the same. Also, the cult of Askanis claims that at some point, purely by chance, the nature had spawned the first sentient beings: the Gods. These Gods eventually created the sentient races and ruled over them for ages. But each of these Gods had a predominant essence within and thus they became aware of the differences among them. Soon, they started to fight one another, also using their races as pawns in these wars. The fightings lasted countless centuries and in the end all the Gods were destroyed. Some have been killed by other Gods; some have been killed by their very own creations, while some faded into oblivion as their creations were destroyed.
One might think that a God should be immortal but the cult of Askanis claims that the Gods are to be subjected to the same laws of nature as any other thing in this world. They might be sentient beings spawned by the nature itself (while the sentient races were created by them) and thus have unthinkable powers, but they are made by the same material which they used to create the mortals and given the right circumstances they can die, just as anything else in nature dies. Actually the worshippers of Askanis believe that nothing can escape death as death and as well as birth is the way in which nature (meaning the relations of the five essences) manifests itself. But, they say, when all of the Gods were forced to die the nature was unbalanced. A great darkness descended upon the world and the day and the night were melted into chaos. For how long the darkened sky persisted upon the world no one really knows, but the event was named the "Year of Darkness". The nature itself seemed to be in peril, as the essences were not bonding anymore.
But just when all seemed to be lost nature managed to balance itself once again and in the process a new sentient being was spawned: Askanis. This time, Askanis was alone; he was the Last and the Only God. And he saw the chaos of the sentient races created by the dead Gods and knew from the first moment what was his meaning in this world: to tend for its wounds and care for the orphan races from now on. Thus Askanis is alone and has no wars to fight, thus Askanis has many faces so that different races, different nations and different individuals may welcome him as the Healer of the world. Askanis reigns over the circle of life, tending that everyone should have a proper birth and a proper death. And ultimately, through Askanis it is the nature itself the one that speaks.
But even if the cult of Askanis claims that nothing can escape the laws of nature, and that Askanis is the nature's voice, the followers of Askanis also believe that the Daedhirian Lords are something special. Askanis has no realm over Daedhirians, he has no power over them and they do not concern him. And that is because the Daedhirians managed to slip away from the circle of life. They are neither alive nor dead; their existence is "Unlife" or "Undeath". In the views of the worshippers of Askanis, the Daedhirians have reversed the process by which the sentient races were created by the dead Gods and re-created themselves. Their Askanis-worshipping Servants regard them with a mixture of respect, fear and admiration, as a sort of demigods. They believe that, through their very own will and wisdom the Daedhirians have become and are persisting in this godlike state, in which they managed to avoid and follow the laws of nature at the same time. Ultimately every Servant wishes to become a Daedhirian and thus to stand on the same plane of existence with their beloved God, Askanis.
Lore. The "circle of life" means for the worshippers of Askanis the way in which nature manifests itself. In their view, this circle of life has four phases: a birth time, a growth time, a decay time and a death time. As a side note, the Daedhirian influence on this matter is obvious, since this kind of view reminds of one of the Daedhirians' favorite quotes from Armand DaRan's writings (while nothing as such can be found in the old beliefs or Aseya): "And also if I look upon my life I will see four, again. As we are children and that is one, and we are men and that is two, and we are old and that is three, and we are dead and that is four." (Armand DaRan "The Essences Explained" in "Lectures on the New Knowledge") Askanis then would be the superior being meant to watch over this circle of life, seeing that the link between birth and death is never severed. To sever this link would mean for the Enclave's Servants to become like the Daedhirian Lords, and this seems to be their ultimate goal in life. Nevertheless they also believe that Askanis would do anything in his power to prevent such a thing. No mere human should be able to walk on the same plane with Askanis, believe the Servants, but only the truly wise and talented.
Askanis is a God of contradictions. On the one hand, the Servants love him because he protects the circle of life and he always cares that one should live a proper life. On the other hand though, they hate him because he tries to prevent them from escaping this circle so that they can become just like him. This, the Servants believe, is the only way to redemption, the way towards an enlightened state in which their relation with nature would have no more mediators. From this point of view Askanis might be considered a trickster God, as he always challenges the wisdom of men when he tries to keep them inside the circle of life. That's why someone who outwits Askanis, someone who tricks the trickster, can be considered worthy to walk on the same plane with him - the "truly wise and talented".
Importance. The Servants of the Enclave are the only ones that worship Askanis. They also believe that worshipping other Gods than Askanis means to be unaware of the true meaning of the Year of Darkness. They consider all the other Gods to be dead and thus worshipping them means to raise prayers for deaf ears. The end of the Year of Darkness means for them the birth of Askanis. Worshipping Askanis means paying attention to his ways, for he is the voice of nature itself. Paying attention to his ways means to have an open possibility of escaping the circle of life - as only by knowing how Askanis tries to trick the humans to keep them inside the circle, one might be able to escape it once.
Symbols. The head with
four faces - a child face and a skull
face on the front and the back, a human-like face on a side and the same human-like
face, but wrinkled and scarred, on the other side -
and the skull-face child seem to be the most common representations of
Feastdays and Celebrations. There are no reports about any kind of celebrations in the Enclave. Also, as most of the information about this cult comes from the Daedhirian Lord Asbavaer, there is nothing known about the rituals involved by the worshipping of Askanis.
Temple Design. The Anpagan soldiers reported that they have seen many stone poles erected in various places throughout the Enclave. All the poles were carved with various human faces, all resembling one of the hypostasis shown on the wooden figurines that they brought back from the Enclave. Asbavaer's explanation was that these stone poles were the Servants' places of worship, yet he never mentioned how exactly are the Servants worshipping Askanis at these sites. Apart from these stone poles, Asbavaer also indicated that sometimes the Servants congregate at their particular Lord's quarters and have a share of his wisdom. In these meetings, said Asbavaer, the Daedhirian acts as a priest holding a sermon, explaining the ways of nature and the purpose of Askanis.
Information provided by Smith in Exile