Religions of the South
The Brides of Alhat
The Brides of Ahlat are a martial society of warrior women from Harborhead. Each is “married” to the Southern war god Ahlat, which neatly gets around the Immaculate Philosophy and it’s limitation on direct worship of the gods. Brides serve until they are approximately 30 years old, and are sworn to remain virgins (though they may have relationships within their own ranks).
There are approximately 15,000 brides and they count as Elite troops armed with spears, shields and javelins.
The Immaculate Philosophy
The Immaculate Philosophy, as practiced by the Immaculate Order is the most widespread religion in Creation and the state religion of the Realm, among others. Its scriptures are collectively referred to as the Immaculate Texts.
Beings ranging from small gods in Heaven to peasants in backwater areas of the Realm, easily numbering in multiple millions, adhere to the Immaculate Philosophy and accept the teachings of the Immaculate Order. Even though it is strongly joined to the ambitions of the Realm, the Philosophy has true appeal to people. It is quite compelling and many accept the Immaculate Dragons’ teachings not because they were forced or tricked into doing so, but because they seem to match the observed reality of Creation.
The Immaculate Philosophy consists of a system of prayer and meditation that gives its devotees a sense of tranquility and the ability to accept their place in Creation. At its heart, however, are five core beliefs called The Noble Insights and five fundamental behaviors and duties which are called The Diligent Practices. Different monastic traditions within the Immaculate Order promote or downplay different Insights and Practices, but all the various schools within the Order accept these ten elements as the essentials of the Immaculate Philosophy.
The Noble Insights
- All beings in Creation are constantly dying and being reincarnated, ascending and descending the Road of Enlightenment. Those who are Exalted are very close to the end of the Road, while insects and plants are near the beginning. Most sentient mortals are somewhere near the center.
- As beings approach the end of the Road, they approach the infinite perfection of Essence that is the Elemental Dragons, who hold Creation together.
- Working in solitude and striving to surpass their lot in life, all beings in Creation draw away from the perfection of the Elemental Dragons. Working together and accepting their present incarnations, all beings in Creation mimic the Elemental Dragons and approach their perfection.
- The Dragon-Blooded, who were the disciples and children of the mortal incarnations of the Elemental Dragons, are leading the Immaculates toward that degree of perfection.
- The Anathema, who reject the Elemental Dragons and obey only their own ambitions, are drawing Creation toward despair and ruin.
The Immaculate Philosophy teaches attention to the community, obedience to the Realm’s masters and concern for the well-being of all living things. While it acknowledges reincarnation, it places its emphasis on one’s present incarnation. A focus on the here and now is emphasized.
The Diligent Practices
The expectations placed upon an ordinary devotee are relatively few and are defined as a set of five obligations that mark a follower of the Philosophy as being particularly devout. They are guidelines, however, so the average layperson does not have to follow them strictly, but the monks of the Order are expected to perform the Diligent Practices all the time.
- Hear a recital of an Immaculate Text at least once a month, in the company of at least seventeen other followers of the Philosophy.
- Respect and honor Spirits only according to the calendar and in the specific rites set down by the Immaculate Order, giving each spirit its due only insofar as it serves the harmony of Creation.
- Imitate in word and deed the honorable behaviors of the Five Immaculate Dragons, the mortal incarnations of the Dragons of the Elements. Emulate the thoughts appropriate to your incarnation as decreed by the Immaculate Dragons.
- Obey the Dragon-Blooded, who are the descendants and disciples of the Immaculate Dragons and are so close to enlightenment that their commands cannot cause a soul to stray from the Road.
- Resist the commands of the Anathema to the fullest degree of the abilities of your present incarnation, and do not fall into despair.
The Diligent Practices tend to bring communities of disciples together strongly. Often, the official rituals in the temple each day are followed by discourses led by a prominent abbot or teacher of the Order, who will lead a guided meditation on her favorite Immaculate Dragon. These discourses are often designed to promote a community project or civic duty, so that a new public bath or marketplace or orphanage will be built or provided for. The Immaculate Philosophy thus brings real and practical benefits to the communities it touches.
The Hundred Gods Heresy
The Hundred Gods Heresy, a term coined by the Immaculate Order, is a collective term for the cults found throughout Creation that directly worship the Gods and Spirits that pervade the land. The Immaculate Philosophy is opposed to these religions, due to their belief that direct worship by mortals distracts these Celestial functionaries from their important duties.
The Cult of the Illuminated
A cult devoted to the worship of the Shining Ones, mystical saviors who are prophesied to lead mankind into a new golden age.