A much more interesting point, however, are the scriveners' creators, the so-called Flesh Priests of the god Nomothet, worshiped in the Cathedral of Form in Qi. As far as I know, this remarkable group of flesh-sculptors is mentioned only here and nowhere else, given no further detail. In this post, I will remedy that, and detail:
The Cult of Nomothet
In the lands of the Steadfast and the Ninth World in general, very few religions are known outside of the region of their origin. The cult of Nomothet, God of the Flesh, was once one such religion, virtually unknown outside of southwestern Draolis.
However, unlike most shamans and holy men, the miracles purported by the priests of Nomothet were genuine. The Flesh Priests' quasi-ritualized surgeries and edifications were actually capable of instilling permanent change on the bodies of animals.
That was before the Order of Truth discovered them. Despite being a religion, in some sense, for the sake of diplomacy the Order of Truth rarely makes definite statements on the issue of theology. As such, they enjoy great rapport and communication with many lesser faiths. The Cult of Nomothet is just one such religion.
Impressed by the cult's mastery of flesh-warping, the Order of Truth helped them refine their techniques, and even paved the way for the construction of the Cathedral of Form, the seat of the modern Cult of Nomothet's power in the city of Qi.
The Flesh Priests
The worshipers of Nomothet are relatively few, and the vast majority of them also revere the teachings of the Order of Truth and other religions. Nevertheless, they all pay some homage to the teachings of Nomothet.
The religion has its own creation myth, portraying Nomothet as a cosmic being who sculpted the world into the flesh of his own head. The wise men credited with founding the religion are said to have traveled to the edge of the world, and walk down Nomothet's face. Upon finding Nomothet's eye, they realized the truth of the world, and Nomothet rewarded them by bestowing upon them some of the secrets of flesh. As the wise men walked from the top of Nomothet's head to his eye, the eye they way was upside-down, and thus the Upside-Down Eye is their holy symbol, which adorns all of their creations.
Like most "deities" in the Ninth World, there is no particular reason to believe Nomothet exists, and obviously the world is not on a giant living creature's head. Even in the priesthood there is debate over whether or not it is to be taken as allegory.
Practically speaking, the most important aspect of Nomothet's teachings is the "edification of flesh." Flesh, the cult claims, is sacred, and a sign of Nomothet's craftsmanship. To that end, worshipers are expected to "edify" their flesh by attending to its wants and needs and cultivating it into something greater. The classical method is surgical improvements, but interpretation of this creed is broad, and often includes healthy living, bodybuilding, ritual tattooing, piercing, and/or scarification, and/or bacchanalian indulgences in sex, food, and drugs, with or without moderation or precautions.
The Flesh Priests themselves generally practice moderation, so as to extend their lives and not distract from their work. In the laboratories and operating theaters of the Cathedral of Form, and dozens of other temples scattered throughout the western Steadfast, the Flesh Priests work to improve upon living flesh, develop new healing techniques, and create wholly new forms of life.
The hierarchy of the Cult of Nomothet is simple and loose. Acolytes are priests-in-training, with the priests themselves above them. "High Priest" is a title that simply means authority over priests in a certain assigned district. Authority is based not just on rank, but seniority and number of successful operations performed. All priests recognize the absolute authority of the Receptacle, a council of four priests who govern the cult's activities from their sanctum in the Cathedral of Form.
Member Benefits: Becoming a full-fledged Flesh Priest requires years of training, much like that of an Aeon Priest. However, Flesh Priests often experiment on each other to beneficial effect. Pick one beneficial mutation (Numenera Corebook, page 124). You now enjoy the benefits of this mutation as the result of an experimental surgery.
Using the Cult of Nomothet in Your Game
In theory, the Flesh Priests of Nomothet are much like the Aeon Priests, just rarer and more narrowly focused. They're wizard types often found at the center of communities serving as quest givers and weirdness makers. PCs could have adventures performing tasks for them or cleaning up their messes.
I deliberately omitted any particular details about how the cult looks and operates. The Cathedral of Form could be a hygenic and orderly hospital and research facility well ahead of its time or it could be a nightmarish abattoir like something out of MtG's Phyrexia. The Cult of Nomothet could be villains or allies, as the GM decides.
- A Flesh Priest requires a live specimen of a dangerous creature for his experiments, and is hiring armed thugs to catch one for him.
- An inexperienced yet arrogant Flesh Priest created a monster beyond his power to control. It slipped its bonds and fled from his laboratory. Now it haunts the countryside, preying on the innocent. The priest is desperate to have his creation destroyed before his peers find out.
- A nobleman's beloved daughter has died from an accident. Overcome with grief, he approached the Flesh Priests for a solution, but was told resurrection was impossible. Undeterred, the nobleman now seeks to find a less scrupulous Flesh Priest to try a more drastic means of resurrection.
- Just recently, a prominent Flesh Priest was excommunicated for unethical experiments. No one has seen or heard from the priest in weeks, but there have been a rash of disappearances in the slums of Qi.
Okay, that does it for this blog post. I've got more material yet for the Cult of Nomothet, so check back tomorrow for some crunchier stuff.