Lord Ao (pronounced: /ˈeɪoʊ/ AY-oh), known as the Hidden One or the One Who Is Hidden, was the Overgod of the worlds of Abeir-Toril. As Overgod, all deities and primordials of Abeir and Toril, even those who also operated in other spheres and planes, such as Lolth, were subject to him. To be more precise, only aspects of gods directly connected with Abeir-Toril were under Ao's power.
Ao only took physical form once, during the Time of Troubles. In that instance, he took the form of a being that was 12 feet (3.6 m) tall, ageless (neither young nor old), with a visage that was not pleasant yet wasn't unpleasant, because it didn't have any remarkable features. He had a white beard and hair, and wore a black robe dotted by millions of stars and moons, arranged in a not-quite-perceptible pattern but which had a beautiful and harmonious feel. Otherwise, he was envisioned as a very literal beard in the sky, with only a face and hands.
Ao didn't care what the deities or primordials were doing as long as they upheld their individual portfolios and did not completely ignore their worshipers. When a deity did something that wasn't accounted for by his or her portfolio, Ao would punish that deity, and such punishments were usually harsh. He could damage deities permanently, or even demote them at will.
Ao cared even less for mortals, and some theorized that he didn't want to be known by them. However, when Ao found worthy mortals, able to uphold the responsibilities of a deity, he promoted them to divinity almost instantly.
Another of his functions was to decide which interloper deities were allowed in the sphere of Abeir-Toril and which mortals could be raised to godhood. If Ao didn't allow it, a being could not ascend to divinity, and an interloper deity could not enter the sphere or affect it in any way, regardless of how powerful it was. He was also able to decide which dead gods—gods that had lost their connection with the sphere of Abeir-Toril—were to be revived or returned to the sphere, and allow such development if he deemed it necessary.
Ao established rules concerning the management of the divine. For instance:
- No two gods in the same pantheon could have identical portfolios.
- When two gods clashed, one of three results occurred:
- One god faded from the Realms.
- Both gods merged.
- One (or both) god(s) altered their portfolio(s) sufficiently that both could remain in or join the Faerûnian pantheon.
These rules were more problematic than they were worth, because they encouraged the gods to battle among themselves for supremacy. During the Second Sundering, Ao discarded such rules, reassigned portfolios, and created more flexible rules.
Theoretically, Ao could do anything he wanted to. He was credited as the creator of the cosmos, and even existed beyond concepts such as alignment and divine rank. He was more powerful than all the gods and primordials of Abeir-Toril, even combined. In fact, Ao had the power to create gods out of thin air.
In addition, unlike the gods under him, Ao did not need the worship of mortals and did not desire it either, whereas those "normal" gods who did not receive the worship of mortals could die from lack of it. Ao initiated this after the Time of Troubles in order to enforce his will that the gods act as guardians of the Balance, rather than kings of mortals.
Among the known cults of Ao were a cult in Waterdeep, and another in Zazesspur, Tethyr. This cult was remarkable for the fact that its ministers could cast divine spells, but in the end it was revealed that those individuals received their divine powers from Cyric and not from Ao.
The gods of the established faiths of Faerûn informed their priests about the fact that Ao did not interact with mortals. Because of this, members of other faiths neither feared nor spoke out against the cults of Ao.
Creation of the World
There were no exact accounts on how he created the universe, but nonetheless he was credited for the deed. In some traditions, Ao just created the sphere that covered Realmspace, and the goddesses Selûne and Shar, and they later went to create all the worlds and stars, and other heavenly bodies. In other accounts, it was Ao who directly created all that exists, not only Realmspace, but also the worlds and heavenly bodies, and even the Astral Sea, using the raw energy of the phlogiston.
During the Days of Thunder, when the batrachi were losing their war against the titans, they performed a powerful summoning ritual and released several primordials from their ancient prisons. The gods quickly moved against their ancient foes, and those battles caused the worldwide catastrophes that destroyed the batrachi civilization. A primordial known as "Asgorath the World-Shaper", determined to destroy the world if she couldn't control it, threw an ice moon at the planet, creating the Sea of Fallen Stars. This event was known as the Tearfall.
Before the world was completely destroyed, Lord Ao intervened and sundered the original world of Abeir-Toril into two twin worlds, Abeir and Toril, giving the former to the primordials and the latter (the original world) to the gods, ending the conflict. The Tablets of Fate were created by Ao after the Tearfall as a way to maintain the new worlds of Abeir and Toril apart, and to ensure a balance between the forces of Law and Chaos, as well as between the gods and the primordials.
The Mulhorandi and Untheric pantheons
When the Imaskari captured the ancestors of the Mulan peoples from another world and brought them to Toril, Ao contacted the ancient being Ptah, and invited the Mulhorandi and Untheric gods to manifest in Toril. With help and permission from Ao, these deities were able to follow their worshipers and end their servitude.
The Time of Troubles
In 1358 DR, the gods Bane and Myrkul stole the Tablets of Fate from Ao and hid them in Faerûn, wrongly suspecting that some of the Overgod's power was derived from these tablets. When Ao discovered the Tablets of Fate were missing he summoned all the deities and asked for those guilty to hand them over. When no one stood forward to admit to stealing the Tablets of Fate, Ao cast down all the gods from the heavens, taking their divine power in the process. Ao tasked Helm with guarding the Celestial Stairways that would lead the deities back into their divine realms. Ao stated the reason for this was primarily that he was displeased with the gods treating the world as if it was for their own amusement, rather than the purpose they were created, though the theft of the Tablets were part of it.
Luna, the avatar of Selûne, who'd already been dwelling in Waterdeep as a mortal before the other gods were cast down and had missed these events, believed Ao responsible for the gods' turmoil. She informed her friend Kyriani of the One Who Is Hidden, but no more than that. Somehow, Khelben Arunsun knew more about Ao and he explained to Kyriani that Ao had brought order out of chaos so that the world could exist and had assigned the gods their parts in the balance of nature, which were inscribed upon the Tablets of Fate. However, known to few mortals, the gods had come to neglect their duties and fallen out of favor with Ao, leading to dissension and chaos. Later, Luna sighted the Celestial Stairway rising from Mount Waterdeep and showed it to her friends, declaring it meant someone had or was about to cross between the mortal realm and the planes and the realms of the gods. She wondered if Lord Ao had put it there as part of a plan.
After valiant heroes (among them the mortals Cyric, Kelemvor, and Midnight) recovered the Tablets of Fate and returned them to Ao, the Overgod himself destroyed the Tablets of Fate, grinding them into powder as a way to teach the gods a lesson. This act, however, unraveled the laws of Realmspace, beginning the chaotic Era of Upheaval.
Many cults of Ao arose after the Time of Troubles, but disappeared as quickly in the following years. By 1372 DR, even written records about Ao had disappeared, and by 1479 DR all the cults of Ao had vanished from Faerûn altogether.
The Second Sundering
In 1482 DR, Ao began the Second Sundering, as a way to restore the worlds of Toril and Abeir after the ravages of the Spellplague. During the Second Sundering, Ao recreated and rewrote the Tablets of Fate, inscribing the names and purposes of the gods and primordials he chose to serve in a new, inclusive divine reality.
Rumors & Legends
AO are also the Latin counterparts of the Greek letters 'Alpha' and 'Omega', a reference to Jesus Christ from the New Testament.
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Akadi | Amaunator | Asmodeus | Auril | Azuth | Bane | Beshaba | Bhaal | Chauntea | Cyric | Deneir | Eldath | Gond | Grumbar | Gwaeron | Helm | Hoar | Ilmater | Istishia | Jergal | Kelemvor | Kossuth | Lathander | Leira | Lliira | Loviatar | Malar | Mask | Mielikki | Milil | Myrkul | Mystra | Oghma | Red Knight | Savras | Selûne | Shar | Silvanus | Sune | Talona | Talos | Tempus | Torm | Tymora | Tyr | Umberlee | Valkur | Waukeen
Abbathor | Berronar Truesilver | Clangeddin Silverbeard | Deep Duerra | Dugmaren Brightmantle | Dumathoin | Gorm Gulthyn | Haela Brightaxe | Laduguer | Marthammor Duin | Moradin | Sharindlar | Vergadain
Aerdrie Faenya | Angharradh | Corellon | Deep Sashelas | Erevan | Fenmarel Mestarine | Hanali Celanil | Labelas Enoreth | Rillifane Rallathil | Sehanine Moonbow | Shevarash | Solonor Thelandira
The Dark Seldarine
Eilistraee | Kiaransalee | Lolth | Selvetarm | Vhaeraun
Arvoreen | Brandobaris | Cyrrollalee | Sheela Peryroyl | Urogalan | Yondalla
Lords of the Golden Hills
Baervan Wildwanderer | Baravar Cloakshadow | Callarduran Smoothhands | Flandal Steelskin | Gaerdal Ironhand | Garl Glittergold | Nebelun | Segojan Earthcaller | Urdlen
Bahgtru | Gruumsh | Ilneval | Luthic | Shargaas | Yurtrus
Anhur | Bast | Geb | Hathor | Horus | Isis | Nephthys | Osiris | Re | Sebek | Set | Thoth
Other gods of Faerûn
Bahamut | Enlil | Finder Wyvernspur | Ghaunadaur | Gilgeam | Lurue | Moander | Nobanion | Raven Queen | Tiamat
Greater Gods of Faerûn
Amaunator | Asmodeus | Bane | Chauntea | Corellon | Cyric | Ghaunadaur | Gruumsh | Kelemvor | Lolth | Moradin | Oghma | Selûne | Shar | Silvanus | Sune | Tempus | Torm
Gods of Faerûn
Angharradh | Auril | Bahamut | Berronar Truesilver | Beshaba | Garl Glittergold | Gond | Ilmater | Loviatar | Luthic | Malar | Mielikki | Sheela Peryroyl | Sseth | Talona | Tiamat | Tymora | Umberlee | Waukeen | Zehir
Exarchs of Faerûn
Abbathor | Arvoreen | Baervan Wildwanderer | Bahgtru | Baravar Cloakshadow | Brandobaris | Callarduran Smoothhands | Clangeddin Silverbeard | Cyrrollalee | Deep Sashelas | Dugmaren Brightmantle | Erevan Ilesere | Fenmarel Mestarine | Fzoul Chembryl | Garagos | Hoar | Hruggek | Jergal | Labelas Enoreth | Lliira | Maglubiyet | Malar | Marthammor Duin | Milil | Obould | Red Knight | Sharess | Shargaas | Shevarash | Shiallia | Siamorphe | Solonor Thelandira | Thard Harr | Uthgar | Valkur | Vaprak | Vergadain
Greater Deities of Faerûn
Angharradh | Bane | Chauntea | Corellon Larethian | Cyric | Garl Glittergold | Gruumsh | Horus-Re | Kelemvor | Lathander | Moradin | Mystra | Oghma | Shar | Silvanus | Sune | Talos | Tempus | Tyr | Yondalla
Intermediate Deities of Faerûn
Abbathor | Arvoreen | Baervan Wildwanderer | Berronar Truesilver | Beshaba | Callarduran Smoothhands | Clangeddin Silverbeard | Cyrrollalee | Deep Duerra | Deep Sashelas | Dumathoin | Erevan Ilesere | Flandal Steelskin | Gond | Hanali Celanil | Helm | Ilmater | Isis | Labelas Enoreth | Laduguer | Lolth | Mask | Mielikki | Nephthys | Osiris | Rillifane Rallathil | Sehanine Moonbow | Segojan Earthcaller | Selûne | Set | Sharindlar | Sheela Peryroyl | Solonor Thelandira | Thoth | Tymora | Umberlee | Urdlen | Vergadain
Major Deities of Faerûn
Angharradh | Bane | Bhaal | Chauntea | Corellon Larethian | Garl Glittergold | Gruumsh | Horus-Re | Lathander | Moradin | Myrkul | Mystra | Oghma | Shar | Silvanus | Sune | Talos | Tempus | Tyr | Yondalla
Other Deities of Faerûn
Auppenser | Abbathor | Arvoreen | Auril | Baervan Wildwanderer | Berronar Truesilver | Beshaba | Callarduran Smoothhands | Clangeddin Silverbeard | Cyrrollalee | Deep Duerra | Deep Sashelas | Dumathoin | Erevan Ilesere | Flandal Steelskin | Gond | Hanali Celanil | Helm | Ilmater | Isis | Labelas Enoreth | Laduguer | Lolth | Mask | Mielikki | Nephthys | Osiris | Rillifane Rallathil | Sehanine Moonbow | Segojan Earthcaller | Selûne | Set | Sharindlar | Sheela Peryroyl | Solonor Thelandira | Thoth | Tymora | Umberlee | Urdlen | Vergadain