Totem spirits

From Breaking Worlds

Part of a series about the Elements.

See also:

Part of a series about magic and the spirits.

The most powerful spirits known to the priests and witches of Arginet are the five totem spirits. They are tremendously powerful but also distant; they have never been directly contacted by mortals and what is known of them comes from the so-called greater spirits.

The totem spirits are worshipped as gods by some, and unsurprisingly there is a great degree of curiosity among mortals about their natures and desires. Even the Seekers of the Utmost, who reject the totems’ divinity, view them with respect and fascination.

Dragon

The totem spirit of Wood, usually appearing as masculine.

The spirits of Wood have sometimes been likened to friendly but rowdy youths. In this analogy, Dragon is the slightly older, wiser figure who serves as a mentor and inspiration to the rest. He relishes novelty and is said to both collect new finds and encourage his entourage to create new marvels of their own.

Dragon is fond of living things, and seems to particularly love seeing things and people grow. Despite the youthful associations of Wood he is also invoked to bless comings of age, weddings, and graduation ceremonies. By the same token, stagnation and dullness are likely to draw his anger.

Phoenix

The totem spirit of Fire, sometimes appearing as masculine and sometimes as feminine.

Among the passionate spirits of Fire, Phoenix burns the brightest. They are depicted as constantly changing, flying from one obsession to the next. A few greater spirits have claimed to be Phoenix’s lovers, or former loves now ignored - or turned enemies.

It has been said that Phoenix does not care how others act, as long as they do act, and listen to their hearts. They are most associated with acts of creation and destruction: both the sculptor who carves a masterpiece and the iconoclast who smashes it are likely to appeal to Phoenix for their blessing.

Bear

The totem spirit of Earth, usually appearing as feminine.

The spirits of Earth seem to regard each other as family of sorts, and though they are nor without their differences, they all listen to their matriarch, Bear. She is revered for her steadfastness and strength and is said to look kindly on others who uphold these virtues.

More than any other totem spirit, Bear is invoked as the patron of organisations and groups. She is particularly revered by people who work together for a cause, and most of all by those who must fight in defence of their ideal.

Tiger

The totem spirit of Metal, usually appearing as genderless.

Tiger is at the pinnacle of the hierarchy of Metal, ruling over their subjects with an iron claw. Those spirits who have spoken of them describe them as the ultimate authority figure: strong, calculating, and utterly implacable.

They are believed to favour people who seek to establish order in society and to lead - or simply dominate - other people. Tiger is also invoked by those who feel fear or anger to help harness those darker emotions and channel them into action and resolve.

Serpent

The totem spirit of Water, usually appearing as feminine.

Spirits of Water are by their nature beings of thought and contemplation, and Serpent exemplifies this. She is described as being curious and analytical, always seeking to feed her unfathomable intellect while presenting a dispassionate face to those around her. Even the other spirits claim little understanding of her desires and goals.

Even so, Serpent is called on by mortals to grant insight. She is believed to favour those who make the best use of their minds - people who seek understanding of themselves and the world around them, and who use cunning and trickery to overcome mere physical concerns.

The five students sat at their usual table. “So which of the totems do you reckon would be the worst to be killed by?”

One of the other scholars spat out their drink, “Do not piss off the totem spirits!”
“No I’m just saying, theoretical question!” the first protested, “Because I mean Bear is easiest to piss off, but she’d just swat you and be done with it.”
“Tiger.” said the third, taking a deep drink, “Definitely Tiger, Metal can be horrible.”
“I think I agree, Wood’s going to be about the same as Bear, only with less extreme prejudice.”
The second pulled a face, “And let’s face it, the only difference between if Phoenix loves you or hates you is whether you survive when they say ‘Burn’, and even then it’s chancy.”

The four of them nodded before the fifth spoke up. “Serpent’s worst.”
“Really?” the third pulled a face, “But Tiger won’t even kill you quickly, they’ll do it slowly, making sure you knew every damn second just how much bigger they were than you, putting you in your place for every moment of agony before you were ground down beyond dust.”
“Precisely. Serpent won’t lay a finger on you.” The fifth said quietly, “She’ll smile as she slowly takes away everything you have, job, friends, family… she’ll systematically destroy everything, even hope, until all that’s left is Serpent’s smile.”

The group shivered.
“I wish you hadn’t said that, now I need another drink.”
“Let’s just not piss off any of them.” The second scholar pointed to the fifth. “Also, you’re buying.”