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Okuwa and the Order of the Owlby David Leland
First let me elaborate how Okuwa became the Order's first cleric. The following presumes knowledge of WotI to an extent, but I don't think it will be too hard to follow without, and I'll be happy to fill in gaps. This is all set during WotI, not pre- nor post-.
BIRTH OF OKUWA
My players' party participated in the Phase I adventure of WotI, where they freed Benekander from the Mirror-Shield. At the time, Okuwa's player, Carl, was playing a mystic named Moridae. Moridae belonged to an unnamed cloister I placed in the mountains between Darokin and Karameikos, near Selenica and relatively close to the Duke's Road (King's Road post-WotI). Part of the cloister's ideology was a belief in reincarnation. Moridae believed that when all creatures died, they were reborn in another form, and that to raise someone from the dead (once he learned it was possible) was in violation of the normal course of the universe (he used some term from Eastern religious thought that means something more spiritual than the astrophysical notions we get from the word "universe," but you get the point). While he was not going to impose his beliefs on others and object to their being raised, he asked that, should he die, they NOT take steps to have him resurrected.
Moridae perished in battle at the hands of bandits on a dusty plain near the Blight Swamp, while in search of the Isle of Rosentos (see AC2 Treasure of the Hideous One, the mini-adventure that came with the OD&D DM's screen). The other party members, recalling his wishes, decided to go to Glantri and see whether they could pay to have him reincarnated, on the off-chance that he would "come back" as a human and be able to resume his life and membership in the party much as before. This was not at odds with Moridae's value system, because he believed that the reincarnation spell did nothing but constrain the time and place of an otherwise natural and inevitable reincarnation to the "here and now" of the casting, and that the new form would be the same whether or not a spell was used.
They took Moridae's severed hand to a marketplace in Glantri city, handed over a dozen crowns (Glantrian crowns, worth 50 gp each), and watched with anticipation as the hired mage cast his spell. After levitating off of the ground and much metamorphosing, Moridae's flesh burst in a cloud of giant feathers and from it flew a 4'-tall owl that promptly flew off to the south and east. The mage made his apologies, and one of the party members noted, fatalistically, "Well, that's the way he wanted it."
I later held a one-on-one session with Carl, with whom I had designed Okuwa all along--the dice roll for the spell was a fake. We role-played Okuwa's gradually and incompletely receding amnesia as he flew off for a reason unknown to part of Alfheim, where he was contacted in a dream by Benekander, who did not reveal himself as such but rather claimed to be the head of the Order of the Owl. He explained that Moridae was fated to be reincarnated so soon so that he could become the first cleric of the Order and help save Mystara from the callous Immortals who were indiscriminately ruining the lives of mortals for some unknown purpose. Moridae, incidentally, seemed to Okuwa something of a cross between childhood memory and fictional character. The purpose of the Order of the Owl was to determine which Immortals were doing what, and why, so that they could petition them, subvert their plans, or do whatever it would take to keep Mystara a planet for Mystarans, and not a chessboard swarming with pawns in a game of Immortal frivolity...
SYMBOL OF THE ORDER OF THE OWL
The symbol for the Order of the Owl seems to be a somewhat angular crescent moon with a moon beam shining from part way down the convex side (it looks kind of like what you'd imagine a moon-wand to look like), and represents the vigilance of the order to the interference of Immortals on Mystara, as well as the general nocturnal theme suggested by the "Owl" aspect. (Note that this holy symbol is actually a crescent wrench, but that no one but Benekander/Rheddrian knows this. I decided that the beagle in a jumpsuit with a wrench (Benekander's symbol as written in WotI) is just too silly and so decided to use just the wrench as his symbol).
WHY THE "ORDER OF THE OWL"?
The reason why it is called the Order of the Owl is many-fold. Firstly, it is meant to minimise attention to the Immortal patron, Benekander, who does not consider himself an Immortal. He remains unnamed and anonymous to his clerics and never makes clear his true nature nor whether he is the ultimate authority in the effort of the Order. All efforts are on behalf of the Order, not an Immortal patron of which to speak. Clerics always speak of the wishes, orders, and aims of the Order, not an Immortal. The clerics of the Order do not refer to themselves as "worshippers" or "servants," but rather as "agents," "members," or, to distinguish them from non-clerical supporters, simply as "clerics."
This radically different approach to the Immortal-cleric bond is important to Benekander for several reasons. Firstly, Benekander wants to remain low-key to the other Immortals, and so wants to swerve attention away from a parton Immortal or other central figure. For that matter, he does not even consider himself an Immortal, even if he has the powers and attributes of one. Remember that he has never interacted with Immortals in a close manner and doesn't necessarily know that he conforms to the definition of an Immortal, besides of which, having the attributes of one is not what he considers the critical factor. He is more concerned with the role they play on Mystara, and wishes not to be a part of that game. Benekander believes that some if not all of the Immortals are interfering where they shouldn't, that they are egotistical and oppressive, and have little regard for mortal life. The last thing he wants is for his followers to worship him as an Immortal. He prefers to think of himself as the organiser of an effort who is at the helm simply because he has been gifted with powers that make him suitable to the task.
Those of you who own WotI will recall that there are suggestions made for your party's interactions with Benekander/Rheddrian if one of their number is one of his clerics. I don't see how one could normally begin as a cleric of him, especially since he doesn't become an Immortal until the party frees him from the mirror (or at least does not realise powers as such). In my campaign, Benekander was keeping a close eye on the party, since they were the ones who released him. When he decided that there was a problem that needed to be solved, he first thought of how the heroes that released him might be able to help. When Moridae died, Benekander, knowing about the mystic's world-view and beliefs in reincarnation, decided that it would be useful and fair to intervene in the rebirth of Moridae and make him his first 'agent.'
Aside from the reasons between DM and player, there were character reasons that made Moridae a good candidate, so that it should not be assumed that Benekander took advantage of Moridae/Okuwa. If anyone wants to know more about those dynamics and why Okuwa was made a Hsiao (see PC1 Tall Tales of the Wee Folk), I can post them separately. In any case, Benekander felt he could trust and rely on the party, so that it would be an ideal group for his new cleric to be a part of as he trained him to become a missionary for Immortal non-intervention and for him to gain experience investigating such interventions.
Okuwa was reunited with the group and later loaned the Staff of Rheddrian and with it he served as Benekander's link to the Hollow World (see Phase II of WotI). In my campaign, I used the second two-thirds of the Blood Brethren Trilogy, but with Benekander being the Immortal captured by Thanatos and without the other Immortals being involved (see my earlier post from way back). When Irila Kaze was defeated and the party was ready to return to the outer world, Okuwa stayed behind in the Hollow World to spread the faith where it had withered before even blossoming during Benekander's incarceration.
WHY WOULD ANYONE IN THE HOLLOW WORLD WANT TO LISTEN TO THE NON-INTERVENTION MESSAGE?
Bob Kaelin wrote:
This just hit me. Would Benekander, and his non-intervention message, really be that popular a belief in the Hollow World?
Ixion: "Fine, they don't want us we'll just take our sun and go home."
Alphatia, now a floating island, slamming into the ground at 3 or 4 hundred miles an hour. What do you think it is, a Chinese satellite or something?
Shrug, just a thought. The Hollow World wouldn't exist without the Immortals. Am I wrong? (wouldn't be the first time) I can see it on the surface world, where life occurred somewhat normally, but in the Immortals own little terrarium it's kinda weird.
Remember that the mortals placed in the "terrarium" had no choice in the matter. According to WotI and more especially the Blood Brethren Trilogy, many people in the Hollow World are very distraught with their treatment by the Immortals, even if they are not aware of the museum-like reasons for their lives. Perhaps the most poignant reflection of this is in the words of Clerias, Colima's fisherman-turned-guard-on-the-beach:
"A dog's life, I say," says Clerias, and Dael truthfully agrees. "Work your nets, or hoe your fields, or carve stone, just to feed a bunch of rabble pirates. And then your patron entities, the ones who're supposed to look out for you, right?--They just let you fall long enough to get really miserable, and then, when you're right at the fingernail's-edge and ready to throw it all in, then they protect you. Not before, oh no. "A dog's life, did I say? Nay, I would not treat a dog so badly, letting him get good and starved before I take him in, no" (HWA2, p. 12).
This sentiment is supposed to be common in "beleaguered villages throughout the Hollow World, who show such bitterness at their perpetual oppression." The Spell of Preservation allows peoples to be all but annihilated before kicking in and protecting just long enough for them to recoup for another beating by neighbours or the elements, what have you. Benekander sees the HW as a place that suffers tremendously (perhaps more even than the outer world, which is what originally got him going!) and that could benefit greatly from the activity of the Order of the Owl. Thus, while the role of Order agents is to investigate Immortal interference and to make people question their devotion to such callous beings in both the inner and outer worlds, work with the HW is more heavily directed toward giving people a source of hope and an alternative focus for their spirituality, namely to the planet and its inhabitants, not the "patron entities."
WHAT I CAN REMEMBER ABOUT ORDER OF THE OWL SPELLS
I had a spell list for Okuwa but don't have it with me. If people are interested enough, I can have it sent to me from Florida since I'm having other things sent anyway (just might take awhile). I based it on the OD&D cleric spell list but made some modifications. I know that I tried to incorporate aspects vaguely akin to the aliens and their technology from the Blackmoor era (of which Benekander is a specimen) to it. For example, clerics of the Order cannot dispel magic, and have a reduced ability to detect it, since the alien magic (see the DA series and WotI) is only partly compatible with that native to Mystara. By the same token, Order clerics get the equivalent of minor globe of invulnerability and spell immunity as spells at certain levels to reflect the beneficent side to this incompatibility. As a funky thing, all Order spells that have continuous duration's affecting a being would result in a faint greenish glow that was detectable (or not detectable) on that person, in precisely the same way as lightning zombies glow (see WotI). That reminds me, Order owls can animate dead, but all of the dead they animate are lightning zombies. The theme of this glow extends to their having an equivalent of a faerie fire spell (called Luminescence) and protection from normal missiles (c.f. Rheddrian's Staff).
I didn't detail the Order completely when I incorporated it into my campaign. A lot of it was done as we went along. I'm more than happy to try and refine it, so if anyone has questions feel free to ask and, of course, I'd love to hear suggestions or criticisms.