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The Rokari Church
In the beginning was Makan, the foundation of reality, the mind-which-creates. We cannot know and need not care how long Makan dwelt upon his thoughts before making the world. All we know is this. He gazed upon Chaos, hated it, and sought to remake it into a pleasing form. In the First Action, he planned out the world, the act of Creation. In the Second Action, Manifestation, he branded Chaos with the Runes, forcing it to become Order and take shapes. Then he peopled it with living beings that it might become more than a mere sculpture. In the Third Action, he made some of his creatures to have minds like his own that they might know the world and use the rules he laid down for them to live happy, content, eternal lives. They went out and named everything, creating language. This known as the Identification. They founded Danmalstan, the perfect land of logic where all followed the rules and lived in Harmony.
But in the end, his creations could not be as great as himself, for they were not pure mind but made of Chaos, made of weak flesh.
The Runes became proud, coming to believe they created themselves and that the Creator need not be obeyed. During the Fourth Action, they led many folk astray and chaos and death began to spread across the world. These lying rune beings became the gods and spirits who fools worship. Vadel sought a solution but only brought back yet more gods and spirits and demons and the Vadeli sought to destroy us all with ice and horror. Thus it was that the Fourth Action became known as Decline.
In the Fifth Action, Malkion came, inspired by the Creator, trying to turn the tide of disaster. In their fear, the people called this Destruction but we know its true name. Sacrifice. Malkion let himself be slain to save the world by opening the way to Solace, shaming the gods and spirits and Chaos itself into retreating and giving men hope. Even his slayer, the atheist sorceror Zzabur was so moved, he spent much of his strength returning the Sun to the sky.
But now Zzabur tried to assert that everyone must follow *his* rules. He slew Hrestol who tried to stop him; many fools have distorted Hrestol's teachings, which merely reaffirmed Malkion's wisdom. The so-called 'Book of Hrestol' was distorted by false disciples.
It was their weakness and disunity which lead to the rise of the filthy demon known as Gbaji, who took on two forms: Arkat and Nysalor. He sought to destroy the world by dividing it into two opposing armies which would, between them, destroy everything. Arkat lied and stole everyone's secrets and Nysalor pretended to be the Creator incarnate. But his plan went so well, he could not stop himself and in the end, 'Arkat' overthrew 'Nysalor', then founded the filthy darkness-worshipping Stygian empire, a land ruled by men who interbred with filthy monsters.
Some of the good folk of Seshnela fled to the now destroyed Isles of Jrustela and founded colonies; there the Creator revealed the Holy Abiding Book to them. This settled the internal disputes and led to a quick reuniting of all Malkioni lands by the Return to Righteousness Crusade. Thus began the holy Middle Sea Empire.
Unfortunately, it fell into corruption and sin because some men changed the words of the Abiding Book and others, the God-Learners, began wallowing in filth with gods and spirits and demons to steal their powers. They fell into the sin of Zzabur: thinking that the world has no creator and that men can be whole and powerful without him. The creator punished them with hubris, letting them destroy themselves; half of Seshnela and all of Jrustela sank and the oceans were Closed to traffic.
The fall of the Middle Sea Empire opened the way for a revival of the true faith of Malkion through the words of Rokar the Prophet, who the Creator called during the start of the Third Age. He purged the Abiding Book of the corruptions of the God-Learners and added new revelations, creating the Sharp Abiding Book. It is 'Sharp' because it is the Sword of Truth.
While filthy heretics slew him, in time, more and more flocked to the truth and the Holy Kingdom of Seshnela now does the Creator's will, spreading the one true faith across the world. The Church serves the one true King of the World, King Guilmarn the Imposing of Seshnela.
Everyone is born into a Caste and stays in it until they die. The one exception is that since filthy wizards can't be allowed to breed or they get arrogant and seek power and priests must remain pure in the Creator's service, the Creator meets our need for them by letting them be born into other castes; at age 7, the priests identify them and send them off to school.
- Knights: Military service is part of nobility; Knights are the cavalry and the leaders of society. To be a knight is to be born with a sword in your hand and to die with it either in your hand or stuck through you. Ironically, only knights can change their birth caste; those who commit treason are stripped of their caste and become serfs. Knights CAN rise however in their rank within the Caste.
- Duke: Children of the King hold this title and the heir to the throne is the Duke of Bellesori until he takes the throne. All lines of non-royal Duke have gone traitor or died out.
- Count: There are five counts; the title is hereditary in the male line; any child of a Count holds the rank of Baron as an honor title.
- Marquis: There are three Marquis but this is a non-hereditary title, appointed for life by the King when the previous dies. They have additional military duties. The Duck March picks its own leader who then is given the title by the King.
- Baron: There are four secular Barons and two Baron-Abbots who head knightly orders. The child of a Baron is merely a knight.
- Knight: Knights swear fealty to a higher lord and hold land for military service; some are personal bodyguards known as household knights.
- The Wise: The Wise are celibate and do not marry; you are born into the caste by physical birth into another; when you are seven, the local priest studies you and sends you to become a priest, monk, or wizard. Most are men but some women are called to serve either the Order of Saint Elleish (as a holy warrior) or the Order of Saint Menena (as a holy nun who does charitable work). Only the Wise may use magic but they may (and do) bless other castes in their holy duties. Wizards are tightly monitored but some 20% of the Wise join a scholarly order and study the grimoires approved by the Church, learning every kind of magic. There are no female wizards.
- Muster-Men: Muster-Men are professional soldiers and their families, supported by the commoners and serfs. They are not knights as they have no authority over the commoners and serfs beyond collecting the tribute due them from those groups each year. Rather, they fight on foot to support the Knights in war. Each group of 100 commoners or serfs must support one muster-man and his family.
- Commoners: Any free man who is not of the above groups is a Commoner; this includes family farmers, residents of cities, craftsmen, traders, non-magical scholars and many other groups. Commoners are not allowed to dress as fancily as nobles but may accumulate wealth as long as they pay their taxes. They do not fight but must support the muster-men, the wise, and knights.
- Women: All free women belong to the same caste; they are subject to the rule of free men, though only a noble may override their husband or father's commands. However, serfs are subject to them. A free woman may marry any free man.
- Serfs: Criminals and those of Orlanthi descent fill this caste; they are bound to the land and must serve whoever holds that land, providing a cut of their crop and traditional labor regulations. They are not slaves however; they may be beaten (and only by their lord!) only when they break these obligations and they may not be killed; to kill a serf is murder just like killing a free man. In some ways it is worse as the guilty party will be hung *and* has to pay compensation to the rightful lord. Serfs cannot own land but can own other property. Those who commit grievious but non-lethal crimes are made into serfs.
Every believer must attend weekly church services on RestDay? (day seven). During the service, the faithful pray and read from the Sharp Abiding Book, experiencing the stories told from it and giving honor and glory to the Creator for half the day. The rest of the day is spent in rest and prayer.
Part of the service is a divine blessing which augments his or her ability to do the duties of his or her caste. Anyone who has attended weekly church can also benefit from the blessing radiated by the local Church or Cathedral. In Azusances, for example, the Cathedral radiates magic which blesses activities connected to Plants, causing its land to flourish with agricultural bounty.
Wizards and Priests study Grimoires and Holy Scripture in order to gain codified spells and Great Magics. This is male only unless a woman joins the Orders of Menara or Elleish.
All Animist and Theistic magics are 100% BANNED forever. And ever. A few orders follow codified and carefully monitored mysticism practices.
The Clergy: Every village has a Lector and as many as possible have a Priest. Towns are divided into Districts, which have a central church everyone attends with a Priest and several Lectors. Large towns have a Cathedral with a Bishop who oversees many Districts. Several Archbishops oversee groups of Bishops. The head of the national church is the Ecclesiarch.
- Bishop: The rector of a Cathedral and the overseer of a group of Districts. He is assisted by a Cathedral Order, whose Canons elect the office for life. The Bishops of Seshnela meet regionally to elect Archbishops and nationally to elect the Ecclesiarch.
- Canon: Non-Parish priests who belong to an Order. Especially used of the Cathedral Order which assists each Bishop.
- Cathedral: A church of grand scale overseen by a Bishop, Archbishop, or the Ecclesiarch and a Cathedral Order. Cathedrals gain 10% of the spiritual power of all its subordinate Districts, giving the head of the Cathedral access to vast power. It passes on 10% of its power to higher authorities, if any and possibly some of it to schools of wizardry and other Orders.
- Chaplain: A priest detailed to run a small chapel for something like a fort, government agency, etc. They generally serve a much smaller but more prestigious community than a common Priest overseeing a District.
- District: A geographic district which contains one place of worship (a lower case church). The church focuses the community's sacred power and the Districts's Priest can call on it; a tithe of it is sent to the Bishop's Cathedral.
- Lector: Lectors are faithful of the Commoner and Soldier castes and freshly frocked Wise Ones who either assist in worship by reading from the Sharp Abiding Book, or who lead services in a community which doesn't have a proper priest for some reason. Often, traveling priests will be appointed to a calling which lacks a resident priest who may have to lead services on one of the other days of the week, while the lector leads a prayer ceremony on RestDay?.
- Order: A group of those of the Wise who form an organization with a religious purpose. They serve a Saint and typically have special duties different from the Priests of the Districts.
- Priest: Those of the Wise chosen to lead religious ceremonies and study Sacred Scripture to gain and wield magic. Some serve to lead religion in a District, others join an Order.
- Rector and Vicar: A rector is the person in charge of a Church institution; some rectors have other titles like 'Bishop'. A vicar is someone who acts as the working deputy of a rector. A bishop might be the rector of a seminary but appoint a vicar who does the day to day leading while he sets policy.
Women: Women may join the Orders of Menara (Saint of Mothers and Feminine Domesticity) or Elleish (Saint of Female Warriors) if called by the Creator to the Wise caste. Menara's supporters study magics of Harmony, Fertility, and Domesticity (Mastery). Elleish's supporters study Combat (Mastery), Harmony and Water. They favor the flail as a weapon.
Wizards are keenly monitored yet highly necessary. They have normal schools of wizardry; they're just highly monitored by the Church for heresy. Everyone fears they'll smash up the world again but they're also needed. This tends to make them a bit of a psychological mess at best.
Religious Ceremonies (Heroquests)
- Dromal Plows the Fields: Dromal was the fourth son of Malkion. When he was little, Malkion put him to work tending a tree; when he came to adulthood, it blossomed, giving forth the Wonderfruit, which no longer exists, unless called forth by this rite. He taught Dromal how to turn it into food and drink and clothing too. They went fishing and Dromal learned which sea creatures are safe and which are dangerous. They learned how to handle animals and how to make wagons and transport goods in them; Dromal married and taught his arts to his wife and children and together, they ensured the folk of Danmalstan never went hungry or thirsty or naked and that all the other castes could get the goods they need to do their jobs and the sustenance to be alive to do it. He brought weapons to the Muster-Men, so they could guard the borders and turn back a deadly attack of Krjalki. He brought sacred tools to the Wise so they could drive off evil spirits. And he brought books and paper and ink and pens to the Knights, so they could consult the law and pass wise judgments. Without Dromal, everyone would have perished! Never forget that every caste is important. Performed during Sacred Time and in shortened form on every RestDay?, this Heroquest strengthens all Commoners for their work and blesses their tools.
- Rokar Cleanses the Abiding Book: This is performed at the start of Sacred Time. Rokar was discontent with the teachings of his time and had seen the damage done by the misuse of the Abiding Book, and yet in it, he could feel holiness... sometimes. In his studies of history, he discovered three different versions of the same book and it struck him... the Abiding Book had been *tampered with*. With the guidance of the Invisible God, Makan, he could heal it and return to the pure faith revealed when it was miraculously composed. So he traveled to the land of the Goddess Switch to remind himself of the damage the God Learners did, to Sog City to study ancient texts, to Wenelia to study what was allegedly the oldest copy of the Abiding Book, and even spied upon the Stygians to see how they had tainted it. Once he survived these adventures, he prayed and then took a copy of the Abiding Book and threw it, page by page, into a fire; the Invisible God burned away the impurities and the surviving text, he recopied into the Sharp Abiding Book. Then he went forth to preach it to the people. This heroquest strengthens believers for the coming year against all heretics and falsehood, reveals any infiltrators in the community, and reveals truth in general. It can also be used to reattune a Church or Cathedral to the Truth rune.
What is Sinful?
Vadel introduced the ten corruptions:
- Disobedience to the Laws of Malkion and Rokar: Service to other gods and spirits and essences constitutes disobedience to these laws. So does giving your allegiance to anyone not of the Rokari faith. Violation of Caste is also covered by this sin.
- Deceit: In war, lying to your enemies is acceptable for they are heretics *at best* and monsters at worst. Lying to anyone who is not an enemy is a grave sin.
- Greed: Wanting more wealth than is licit for your caste is greed, as is violation of sumptuary laws. It is fine for nobles to be wealthy; it is not fine for them to start wars just to get richer. The Abiding Book clearly lays out how much you may licitly possess. Excess wealth must be given to the poor or the church or even to your local ruling noble.
- Gluttony: Wanting to consume more than is licit for your caste is sinful. The Abiding Book clearly lays out how much you may licitly consume.
- Theft: Do not steal from believers; the possessions of non-believers are stolen anyway so if you take them, you merely return them to the control of Makan's faithful.
- Arrogance: Those who act higher than their caste are arrogant and will burn in the fires of envy for eternity. Those who envy the rights of higher caste people also commit this sin.
- Hatred: Pagans, heretics, demons, etc, may be freely hated but you must not hate fellow believers; indeed, you are commanded to be charitable and kind to those in need even if they hate you. We must love each other and hate those who reject the truth.
- Incest: Sex with anyone more closely related to you than second cousin is absolutely forbidden. Those who are married are forbidden to have sex without anyone who is not their spouse; you must be at least sixteen to marry. The unmarried must remain celibate. Marriage is sacred and should not be ended without grave cause. The Creator ensures no one will have more children than the nation needs and they can support. He decides when people get pregnant.
- Murder: War declared by the Nobles is not murder; killing other believers who are not in rebellion is murder and all castes will be punished for murder by hanging until dead and having their corpse fed to wild animals if possible or burned if not. Killing in self-defense and defense of others is not murder. Killing unbelievers is only murder if they are under safe conduct granted by church or state.
- Service to the Devil, Wakboth, who is also known as Nysalor or Gbaji: Pagans claim they dropped a rock on Wakboth, trapping him. You can't pin Wakboth under a rock any more than you could trap a wind or sunlight under a rock. He is an Essence; flesh is a mere garment. He returned as Nysalor, known also as Gbaji, to try to destroy the world in the First Age. In the second age, he tempted the wizards with power and nearly destroyed the world. In the third age, he came first as Siglat to lead the Loksalmi astray, and now as Shepelkirt the Red Goddess to lead the Pagans to their doom. We can expect he is busy leading the shamans astray but who can track all their crazy ideas? Anyone who swears to him is damned. Because of him, all non-Order-based mysticism must be banned or he will trick you.
The archetypes of all sin are Wakboth the Devil and his son, Vadel the Fool Who Gazed Into the Abyss. Wakboth is the inner voice of sin within all, the desire to rebel and the lust for power. Vadel is the master of the ways we turn desire into action. Chaos is sin and sin is Chaos; they are one and they have the same fruit: Destruction.
Humans must obey Makan's laws to be saved from their sins and have Solace after death. If you sin, you must confess to a priest so he can purge you of sin and ensure you will go to the Creator on your death. There is no exception to Makan's laws, but if you err, you may do penance and be forgiven. Any sin can be forgiven if you are sincere and do penance (or die in the process of atoning; the Creator knows if you would have finished it in life.)
Only Hsunchen and humans can be saved by the Church; the rest must be destroyed as the filthy monsters they are. If the Creator wishes them to be saved, he will return them to the human form their ancestors abandoned when they sold themselves to the Rebel Rune Lords for power.
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