Domains & Pantheons
Whereas a brood is a somewhat natural, or at least symbiotic, relationship between spirits, other spirits find themselves bound up in cruel assemblages of entities that offer little in the way of reciprocity. Usually, one powerful entity manages control of several other spirits. This control, while imperfect, is still damning. The entity may command access to a network of loci, have powerful Influences that it can enact upon the world or be the first to benefit from the flow of Essence.
This powerful spirit — or what is sometimes a ministry of terrible entities — threatens, cajoles or otherwise forces lesser spirits to comply. Those that do not are exiled or diminished, perhaps even humiliated into becoming something other than what their nature desires (a bird-spirit whose wings are severed and is made to sup on the Essence of worms and snakes, both creatures who are so earthbound they don’t even have legs).
It doesn’t always boil down to a single powerful spirit — again, a ministry of lording entities may control an area much as the human mob levies its influence against a neighborhood or district in the city. The important thing that separates this type of situation from that of a brood is that this is an unnatural, often bullying or even parasitic relationship between spirits. The area in which such spirits rule is often known as a “domain,” though other names (territory, dominion, kingdom, principality) may apply. Those spirits that make up such a grim Shadow mob are most often referred to as a “pantheon,” though as before, other names (bureaucracy, court, order) may surface. A domain may include one or several broods operating toward keeping power, or being held beneath the vicious rule of one spirit’s law. Rule of Law Assume that the reign of powerful spirits over a particular domain can happen in a few ways:
With mob rule, a number of spirits of approximately equal power band together to control an area. This is not a natural outgrowth of the physical region. In a brood, the animals and elements of a forest might form symbiosis with the trees to control the area. Not so here. Think of an area of town where torture-spirits have gained pre-eminence, dominating both the Shadow and by proxy, the physical world. In that area, a boss tortures his employees with benefits and raises that never manifest, and a father tortures his daughter with cruel words and passive-aggressive punishments; not far from there, a passel of teenagers kidnap and physically torture homeless men. Any spirits that wish to operate in this area do so only beneath the vigilant (and leering) gaze of the torture-spirits. Any Essence that results goes first to these torture spirits, too, and those that dare challenge this unholy power bloc are consumed.
While it’s not common that a pantheon of spirits consciously mimics the political or noble organizations of human, it may mirror them in flavor. Feudal rule is the most basic rule of law, with rewards kicked up in far larger quantities than they are handed down. Some spirit establishes itself as the lord of a domain, and other spirits may hunt and operate in that area, but only with that lording entity’s strict approval. They must offer it Essence or favors, and in return they are granted small turns of preference and, obviously, are allowed to remain unharmed. The balance in such a power bloc is always strained, but less so than in some situations. While all things take on the resonant cast of the “king” spirit, his “lessers” at least continue to operate mostly as normal.
Gods and Monsters:
This is a far crueler version of the feudal court, in which one or several strong spirits lord over weaker beings. In this instance, the powerful ones are such frightful domitors that they need offer nothing to keep the weaker spirits in line except threats and force. A mad god at the center of such a web destroys those that rebuff his rule and fail to offer worship.