Death stands above me, whispering low
I know not what into my ear;
Of his strange language all I know
Is, there is not a word of fear.

-Walter Savage Landor

“A man is here- do you not see him? He wears a purple hat and his eyes are white…
Oh, how he grins…”
“It is Baron Same-Day, m’lord. He comes for you.”

-Admiral Lostus, on his deathbed, to his Sahili valet; Battle of Mayim, AC 82

The dispassionate servants of the Queen of Death, psychopomps ensure the smooth transition from life to afterlife, bureaucrats and soldiers of the neutral inevitable, rarely caring about the stations in life of their charges, what they have left undone, or their pleas for another minute of mortal existence. The job is a monumental one, more work than one lone, even deific being to handle, and there are psychopomps, escorts souls to the afterlife, for many different circumstances. To help rule over these servants, and to promote the indifferent balance between life and death are the Ushers, a small pantheon of metabeings similar in station to Elysian Lords or Dukes of Hell, holding portfolios and domains that always have the phenomenon of Death and the servitude of the psychopomps at the forefront, but also including other aspects of the mortal and immortal existence that are corollary to one’s leaving for the afterlife. Indeed, no matter what the culture, warlike or peaceful, civilized or barbaric, death is inevitable and unavoidable and it is fitting that attentive beings like the Ushers of the psychopomps be there to ensure its smooth workings.

Ushers and the Gods of Porphyra

The attitude of Deists towards the Ushers and their followers is typically that of non-interference, at least with the Good and Lawful Evil deities of the New Gods. Death of mortals is a necessary transition to create more outsiders to serve the New Gods, and of there were another Great War, more troops are always necessary. The sitting New Gods that have the portfolios of Death are Rajuk Amon-Gore, Shade, and Nemyth Vaar. The first two are what are known as “Risen” gods, uplifted from mortals to deal with mortal issues. Rajuk, especially, is inimical to the Ushers, as He is very interested in the undead, and sees souls and bodies as his playthings and building materials. Devout Rajuki would always be hostile to followers of the Ushers, as would the soul-thieving and subtle daemons of Lyvalia. Shade and Nemyth Varr, as death deities, are more about the intricacies, methods and quantities of murder itself, a narrow interest unconcerned with the afterlife. The monstrosities of the apocalyptic invader-god Mâl, the mâlites in their myriads, seem to be outside the natural mortal order, and are often considered fair game for followers of the Ushers- though even the end of a planar reality can serve The Balance. Chiuta, Myketa, Neria and Shankhil are considered to be allies of the Ushers, and their followers typically get along quite well. Yolana, the Truthlight and the treacherous Fenris Kul share Porphyran territory with The Blessed Guides, Hecate and Hermes, and cooperate readily, as long as their followers keep a subsidiary position; neither New God will tolerate being upstaged by mere funerary deities. Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld, has more realities than Porphyra to deal with, and many of the New Gods know Her of old, as some legends tell of her personally escorting the spirit of Nise’s father, Braal, to his place in the afterlife of slain gods. Few but the mad and foolish (and there are a dismaying number of those among the New Gods) would defy Ereshkigal directly- but such are the conflicts of those that traffic in mortal souls.

Ushers and the Elemental Lords

Before the advent of The Calling, psychopomps had much less status on Porphyra, as the dominant belief system of Elementalism involved a primal system of recycling soul-based-material through the Realms Within, with no afterlife to speak of in other dimensions, save for provided material for basic elementals. Ereshkigal was present, of course, in that She seems to be connected to all realities at all times, and dealt with those few souls that fell outside of Elementalism’s grasp. The primitive Usher Anguta presided over the remote and isolated ith’n ya’roo and Sikoyan peoples, somehow making the transition during the Great Invasion 2,500 years before The Calling; He Who Eats No Kin has quarreled with The Ice Tyrant for at least that long. Even more ancient was silent Anubis, a student of mysterious Atum the Self-Created, who seems to have avoided Elementalist attention by devoting His attentions to the desert gnolls and anpur, a mere cult, to their eyes, a smaller group than the hill-gnolls dedicated to Djinnlord Qarryn. With the deific influx of The Calling, Ereshkigal and the Ushers were immediately pressed into service guiding petitioners to a newly opened “river of souls” to an afterlife previously inaccessible to Porphyrans. From all accounts, only Hermes, the Speedy Taker participated in the NewGods War to any extent, defeating an army of many-eyed giants sent against Iskandar in the early days of the War. For this reason, the Fire Lords and their scattered minions especially hate Hermetians.

The Elemental Lords in general, Air, Earth, Fire and Water, have less hatred for the Ushers than for the New Gods, though their role of stocking the Realms Beyond with souls to be uplifted into martially-bent outsiders made them enemies nonetheless. Most hostile to the Ushers would be Kurofu the Shadow, who felt that Death was his special dominion; it is thought that perhaps as an Air Lord of Death, that He had some role in moving Elementalist souls to their recycled destinations in the Realms Within. The Ushers pledge to do their duty without judgement of the souls that they ferry to the afterlife, without judgement, no matter how contentious the condition of that soul or its destination…

Holy Symbols of the Ushers

Psychopomps ritualize the use of masks, as a race, to symbolize the mysteries of death and the afterlife, and to forward the point that the focus of funeral celebrations is on the deceased, not on the celebrant. ‘Clerics’ of the psychopomp Ushers must check their ego at the door and perform selflessly. As such, masks become the holy symbols and divine foci for their celebrants, with the side-effect that Disguise is a class skill for those who are clerics of the Ushers.

  • Anguta: one-eyed mask made of fur
  • Anubis: snouted mask of dark pottery
  • Black Crow: black feathered domino mask, accentuated with face paint
  • Ereshkigal: white feathers in an upswept pattern
  • The Ghost in the Machine: articulated metal cube
  • The Guedia: oversized hat with eye holes
  • Hecate: three-faced mask
  • Hermes: stylized golden mask

See Also