Humans have the option to join (before or during play) one of the mystery cults that practices in secret or on the margins of society. The Redwood Throne rails against these cults, and the Left Hand of the Throne works to stamp them out, but they have quietly survived the last twelve centuries of the Throne's presence. The average person knows almost nothing of these cults beyond what the Throne and the Left Hand say of them. Those who know a little more have heard rumors that actual mystical might - even the gift of resurrecting the dead - comes to the truly dedicated, though none have seen such powers openly displayed.
The mystery cult known as the Desert Screamers is based chiefly in the harsh Akathian deserts. They claim that they can gain mystical insight from the great cats of the desert. There are rumors that they have found patronage within the government of the Caliphate of Dusk. In addition to great cats, their imagery focuses on flame and sand. Their mystical gifts are said to take the form of swiftness, invisibility, or a terrible ferocity. Most of the adherents of this cult are dervishes or those who rely on stealth.
The Desert Screamers are accepted within the Caliphate, though some view them with skepticism and fear. Tarsikkans tolerate the Desert Screamers, due to their relationship with the Servants of the Eternal Dawn. The Tharici often seek out the Desert Screamers to learn the wisdom of the desert. They are unknown is much of the rest of the world. The Redwood Throne dislikes the Desert Screamers, but has never been in a position to do anything about them, especially now that they have made overtures to the Ivory Sun, who greatly respect the Desert Screamers and the Tower of Glass. The Desert Screamers and the Spider Lords are said to have an agreement of some sort dating back many years.
The Dragon's Shadow is a brand new mystery cult, recently awakened in Marath Suvla and Gaunt in honor of the Dragon Lavine. Its symbols and motifs focus on ice, fittingly enough, and the sky, as well as physical representations and imagery of the Dragon herself. It was primarily introduced by members of the Skybreaker Sept, but is spreading rapidly throughout Gaunt. While the Redwood Throne has adopted a newly tolerant attitude towards totems, there is some tension between them and the Dragon's Shadow as the Dane of Gaunt, Sverre Frosteye, has recently adopted the new faith, converting away from the Throne. The Redwood Throne remains tolerated in Gaunt, the Dane being unwilling to alienate his Verdien allies.
The mystery cult known as the Ebon Aspect is based chiefly in the lands east of the Principalities and north of Tarsikka, known to some as Troll Country. They go into these dangerous, wild lands to shape themselves by that which they endure. They believe that one who can survive the trials that they face will be exalted. Their mystical gifts are rumored to be based in ice and stone, with a particular focus on hardening the body and the mind against attack. Most of the adherents of this cult are explorers and warriors.
The Ebon Aspect is composed mainly of Oresunders and Gauntish, though some from the Caliphate have joined in recent years, seeking the challenge presented by the legendary North Men. Many Tarsikkans, particularly the Silver Swordsmen, hold the Ebon Aspect in the highest esteem for fearlessly venturing deep within Troll Country. The Redwood Throne dislikes the Ebon Aspect, and considers them heathens of a false religion, though they speak against the cult only within the Principalities due to their relationship with Gaunt. The rumors that persist in calling the Ebon Aspect and Spider Lords brothers certainly do not help matters. Athrals take either the Gauntish approach of acceptance (though the Gauntish now consider the religion of the Ebon Aspect to be backward and antiquated), or the Verdien approach of open disapproval. The Tharici have little to say about the Ebon Aspect, but the cult itself does not welcome them.
The mystery cult known as the Ivory Sun seeks glory in battle and in other achievements. They believe that valor in the face of terrible danger is a path to enlightenment, or at least a heroic death. Their mystical imagery focuses on a lance and a white flame. It is rumored that some Ivory Sun cultists can immolate themselves entirely, with no ill effect. The adherents of this cult are warriors, after joining if not before.
The Ivory Sun is most widely accepted in the Principalities and in Akathia. Many of the warriors who attend the Tower of Glass find themselves agreeing with the teachings of the Molten Sheik and the tenets of the warrior philosophers. The Redwood Throne has the closest ties with the Ivory Sun, and many have accepted the faith of the Throne for their own. The Ivory Sun disagrees with the practices of the Spider Lords, and considers them cowardly; many small skirmishes between the cults have been recorded in their histories. No one on either side is looking for a full-on war, as it would end with the decimation of both cults. The Ivory Sun is accepted in Tarsikka and among the Tharici, and the cult counts the Servants of the Eternal Dawn as close allies. The Ivory Sun is looked upon with derision in Gaunt, whose own warriors consider them weak. They are relatively unheard of in Oresund, but news of their alliance with the Throne guarantees a poor response should they attempt to establish a foothold.
The mystery cult known as the Light Under the Mountain, or the Servants of the Eternal Dawn, are based chiefly in Tarsikka. They claim guardianship over burial grounds and the honored dead. They believe that the dead must never be disturbed in their eternal rest, and this can only be ensured through vigilance. It is rumored that they can command the stone and call upon the dead for blessings... or vengeance. Most of the adherents of this cult are skilled healers through one or more means.
The Servants of the Eternal Dawn are accepted without reservation in Tarsikka, among the Tharici, and in most of the Caliphate, as the Desert Screamers count them as friends of the nation. The Gauntish do not trust them, thinking them to be horrible practitioners of the mysteries of the dead. The history of Athral Isle combined with the Gauntish influence keeps the Servants off of the isle. This is one of the only points of agreement between the Athrals and the Gauntish. Oresunders welcome them, though they allow them to operate only under supervision of Oresunder ritualists in major cities. Thus far there have been no incidents, and many of the teachings of the Pentaverate are closely aligned with those of the Servants of the Eternal Dawn. The Redwood Throne actively keeps them out of the Principalities, and rumors of arrests and murder have circulated in the Principalities prior to their alliance with the Ivory Sun. Since that time, they are actively kept out, but no rumors of persecution have surfaced as of late.
The mystery cult known as the Spider Lords claims mastery over the threads of fate. They claim that they choose to weave fate, rather than attempting to discern that which is destined. Some of their mystical gifts are rumored to be spider-like, while other stories claim that they have great powers over shadow magic. Most of the adherents of this cult are those who work under the cover of darkness, but others are weavers who believe their work has mystical resonance.
The Spider Lords have few allies and are accepted few places. Though it is believed that they have a strong presence in the Principalities, the Throne hunts them down at every turn. The Spider Lords are believed to have footholds in Athral Isle, Oresund and Akathia. Despite seemingly huge differences, the Spider Lords and the Desert Screamers have cordial relations, and the Spider Lords are even said to confer with the Caliph himself. The Ebon Aspect and the Spider Lords are rumored to be close allies, though the ever reticent Ebon Aspect has never confirmed this rumor. Stories tell of their alliance dating back to time immemorial. It is in Athral Isle where they have grown the most, finding fertile ground in the country’s atmosphere of mistrust and fear. The secretive Displaced Hand is said to talk with the Spider Lords regularly. The Tharici tend to view them as allies and kindred spirits.
The mystery cult known as the Unending Sky are a widely-dispersed group of scholars, wanderers, and rebels. They claim that all deserve mental, physical, and spiritual freedom, and they are willing to fight to grant or ensure that freedom. They are rumored to keep a vast library of journals from their wandering. Their mystical imagery focuses on the whirlwind and the thunderbolt, and it is believed that they can just as easily defend against mental control as they can strike down an attacker with the wrath of lightning.
The Unending Sky is practiced only in Gaunt, Oresund, and Athral Isle. The strange members represent an odd mix of battle frenzy and philosophical discourse. It is only recently that this cult has come into being, dating only to the conquest of Athral Isle. Before that, pieces of the philosophy existed in both Gaunt and Athral Isle, but it was not until this invasion that the philosophy was made whole and prominent. Most members are from Athral Isle and Gaunt, with a few Oresunders abandoning their homeland and joining in the cause of their brothers and sisters to the south. They are largely unknown elsewhere in the world.