Bel, Lord of Thieves
Bel, god of thieves, appeared in some versions of the Shemitish myth-cycle, but his rather peripheral appearances in those myths were thought by scholars to be later additions to the canon. Bel was well-known in all the lands settled by people of Shemitish blood, though he was most popular in the nation of Zamora, well-known for the quality and sheer number of its thieves. Bel was worshipped by many people who prided themselves on their larcenous ways, however; the Zuagir nomads and the thieves of the city of Asgalun pointed to his exploits to prove that their nefarious acts were blessed by the gods.
According to legend, in the time of the Elder Gods who ruled the world in long ago days when men were still the slaves of these alien powers, Bel used his dark powers to conjure up an army of undead thieves, with which to plunder the wealth of all nations. In desperation, the people of Shem called on the goddess Ashtoreth (an aspect of Ishtar) for help. In the ensuing battle, the goddess severed Bel’s sixth arm. Thereafter, Bel was driven into exile in the nation of Zamora. None has ever seen the face of Bel, as befits a god of thieves, though several idols and amulets depicted him variously as a stocky dwarf with a grinning face, a six-armed elephant-man, and a lithe, catlike human wearing a black mask. Bel was worshipped, or at least paid lip service, by all who “earned” their living in Hyboria as thieves, outlaws and beggars.
The priesthood of Bel was independent in each major city or region, to prevent the frequent actions against one thieves’ guild or Belite temple from spilling over and affecting others. In areas with a single strong thieves’ guild, the temple or shrine to Bel was usually connected to the guild’s hall via underground tunnels. In large cities with competing thieves’guilds, such as Arenjun, the temple was in an underground location and was recognized as neutral ground by all sides of the local underworld.
To maintain their divine benefits, priests of Bel may never buy or trade for anything but must meet all their needs through theft of one kind or another. Should they slip, Bel can only be appeased by a sacrifice of stolen goods ten times the value of the item purchased. Priests of Bel spoke their own secret language which they learned upon being initiated into the cult, which was also the basis of the secret language known as Thieves’ Cant used by many thieves’ guilds throughout the Hyborian world