Gethamane’s three temples are all large, open rooms located near the top of the mountain and distinguished from other chambers by jewel-encrusted carvings of mountains and enormous flying creatures (the decorations also include traces of orichalcum, moonsilver, starmetal and jade, though in such small quantities that it would take days of very public work to extract a useful amount) Blue-white Essence fires burn above the three circular altars.
Almost everyone entering these rooms is struck by an eerie sense of presence and watchfulness. Those who spend the night sleeping in a temple report being haunted by vivid, confusing dreams. Most dreamers remember only fragments of these dreams, though memories of frantic searching or desperate flight are common. Many then spend the next few nights in sleepless dread or eager anticipation, and some find new answers to problems that were troubling them.
People who enter the temples feel an eerie sense of being watched, but no deity has ever manifested. Those who sleep in a temple experience vivid, confusing dreams, often of frantic searching or desperate flight. Some dreamers find answers to questions that bothered them. This is the chief reason why Gethamanians visit the temples. More likely, dreamers spend the next few nights in sleepless anticipation or dread. A few feel called to serve as priests. A very few wake in screaming terror. They cannot remember their dreams but cannot bear to spend another minute in the city. Gethamanians know that such people may injure or kill themselves if kept from escaping. Fortunately, they seem to recover their wits once they depart and can no longer see the mountain.
Very few who sleep in a temple feel called to serve as priests afterward. This started in the first days of the city, when several loners chose the temples as their base. On waking they respectfully informed Bethan Redeye that they could no longer work in any other capacity, as they felt duty-bound to tend the temples and perform rites of propitiation. Bethan and her people were not particularly surprised to find the unknown gods of the city demanded some form of worship and were, in fact, quite relieved to find it was something so minor and easily performed.
The Mistress not only gave leave for the few chosen ones to remain as priests, but established that any citizen choosing to become a priest, and accepted by the other acolytes as such, should receive a portion of the Dole similar to a mid-rank Guard or farmer, as the priests were doing vital work for Gethamane.
Gethamanians do not become priests deliberately.
Priests abandon their old lives. They offer flowers and animal blood on the altars. Late at night, the priests cover the temple floors with complex designs drawn in ink, colored sand or, occasionally, their own blood, while chanting in an unknown tongue. The priests cannot explain either their mandalas or their liturgies, but they feel driven to perform both. Afterward, they clean and polish the temples.
Priests who have been called to service leave their previous lives behind and work at the temple. They keep the temples clean and well polished and make offerings of flowers and animal blood upon the altars. Late at night, the priests also perform odd ceremonies during which they cover the floors of the temples with elaborate patterns drawn in ink, colored sand and, sometimes, their own blood. Chanting in unknown tongues, the acolytes sometimes disturb the sleep of those who live nearby. The priests assiduously clean up the patterns afterward, and, if interrupted during this cleaning, they become extremely agitated and beg leave to finish their task.
Occasionally, someone who sleeps in a temple is driven mad and flees from Gethamane, never to return. Attempts to restrain these unfortunates have proven extremely difficult. If bound or locked up within Gethamane, they invariably injure themselves in their raving attempts to escape. They are unable to give details of why they are so terrified or why they must leave, but struggle in an inarticulate frenzy, screaming and thrashing as they attempt to break their restraints. Those lunatics who do not perish in the wastes outside quickly return to sanity once out of sight of the mountain city but consistently refuse to return to or speak of Gethamane again.
Savants and wise men alike have come to study the patterns that the priests make on the floor, but the researchers have been unable to deduce anything from the patterns. One visiting scavenger lord suggested that the markings bore some resemblance to certain diagrams that he’d seen on a scroll that came from the Mountain Folk within the Realm, but, unfortunately, he was unable to pursue his theories further, as he went to investigate the underways and never returned.
There is no clear hierarchy among the acolytes. Gethamane's Master/ Mistress appoints a High Priest/ Priestess so the Council have someone with whom it can interact and discuss matters such as organization, provision of the Dole and exorcisms or warding prayers. The current High Priest isChilitos, who belonged to the Varenne family (notable for its poverty, bad hunters and worse gatherers) before leaving to join the priesthood. All other priests are referred to as Father or Mother, however old they may be.
A ceremonial 15-Guard group (three per temple) is always in attendance, though this is correctly viewed as a soft assignment and is used as a minor reward for Guards who need a restful job for a few weeks.
In addition to propitiating Gethamane’s nameless gods and assisting people who want to dream in the temples, the priests act as exorcists. When Gethamanians feel that some malign influence affects their lives, they call in a priest to conduct banishing rituals. These ceremonies involve lots of community participation. When the malign influence is a grudge between neighbors, the shared ritual can help ease the conflict. Yet, some priests study the thaumaturgical Art of Warding and Exorcism (in case the malign influence is a rampaging demon or other supernatural horror.
In cases of demonic activity, strange phenomena or anything that might be seen as requiring divine intervention, the priests are willing to come to any part of Gethamane and perform rites and services to banish evil influences. While the gods of Gethamane are little help, the priesthood does contain a few genuine thaumaturges trained in the Arts of Warding and in rituals, which have been passed down through the centuries. The most expert of these priests is Mother Sansen, a gentle old woman always willing to believe the best of everyone, whose skill at warding is far more a matter of natural talent than an urge to battle evil influences.
The three temples themselves are surrounded by a net of smaller rooms and passages. These are used by the priests for accommodation, for private confession and counseling and for storing items for their ceremonies. The passages from the temples through the Upper Ring and down to the Outer Ring and the Garden and Guild Districts are kept well clear by the Guards and are regularly patrolled, as there have been times when particularly poor or desperate Upper Ring inhabitants have assaulted or robbed rich citizens on their way to the temples.