The Monastic Orders
The Redwood Throne posesses four monastic orders: The Bannermen of the Throne, The Mendicants of Duren, Maergin's Disciples, and newly, the Wardens of Marath Suvla. Of these, the Disciples and the Wardens are more properly placed under the auspices of the Left Hand.
The Bannermen of the Redwood Throne, commonly known as the Red Heralds, were the first monastic order founded, and have always been the most numerous and influential of the orders. They are responsible for spreading the word of the Redwood Throne to every nation of the world, and for encouraging religious devotion within lands already converted. They maintain monasteries near large towns and cities, particularly in regions that are frontiers for the conversion of heathens; at present, this includes Gaunt and Tarsikka, with only the barest of presence in Oresund and the Caliphate. In addition to proselytizing, monks brew beer, offer hospitality to travelers, and maintain libraries and scriptoria for the Church's exclusive use.
In 55 RE, the Church was well-established in Luzerne City and had attracted a large number of enthusiastic converts. The Matriarch at that time, Megethia I, was eager to spread the Redwood Throne's dominion over all the world, in accordance with the revealed will of the deity. From the faithful, she chose the two hundred who were hardiest, most charismatic, or most skilled in riding horses, and she ordained them by decree. With little training in orthodoxy or the ceremonies of the faith, they went out from Luzerne City in every direction, wearing red cloaks, tabards, or robes. As they stopped and spread the word of the Throne for weeks or months in even in the smallest of villages, their spread was gradual but relentless. At the northern border of present-day Eisenmark, the Red Heralds temporarily halted, convinced that no one inhabited lands farther north. By 60 RE, however, they concluded that some few of the tribes of legendary Druma might still exist, and they continued northward. They were entirely unprepared for what awaited them in the land that is now Gaunt. They met tribes of trolls and still fouler things, and for every Red Herald that survived the expedition, five were slain and devoured. They found no human settlements; they did not reach legendary and isolated Oresund. Those who died in the journey were declared martyrs of the faith. It was almost two hundred years before another delegation of missionaries braved the northern border, and when they did, they found a settled nation, not a troll-infested wilderness.
Red Heralds were more successful when they sailed to Athral Isle, where they found a land of feuding warlords and petty kings. Though they could not end the cycles of warfare and retribution, they found that many lords were eager to listen to a group that promised to recognize the legitimacy of just one king - though exactly which king that was varied according to the listener. The Red Heralds were likewise responsible for converting the people of Tarsikka's provinces, bringing them together through faith; this unity was a deciding factor in the success Reinmund von Trayal's rebellion in 220 RE.
The ranks of the Bannermen of the Redwood Throne have held many Agios and Agias over the years, and the position of the order has always been strong. Of all the monastic orders, the Bannermen of the Redwood Throne are much more insistent on including red in the monastic habit. Only with the emergence of the Ehrenite Schism has the role of the Red Heralds come into question, as some of wished to turn them into another tool of the Left Hand of the Throne, to cleanse the Church of heresy. A handful of provosts have leaned in this direction over the years, but the majority have vociferously refused, insisting that the missions to Oresund, Gaunt, Tarsikka, and the Caliphate are a sacred mission that only the Red Heralds can undertake.
Megethia I laid down the following Rule for the monks and nuns of the order:
- The word of the Redwood Throne must reach all, both the commoners and the nobles. Our Heralds shall not disdain the commoners, but recognize that as a lord goes, so go his people.
- Our Heralds must keep such gear as they need in order to travel the roads and speak the word of the Throne.
- Inspire the people through the example of your courage and generosity of spirit, as well as your words.
- Shun the promises of temporal and mystical power, shun avarice, and shun hubris.
The Mendicants of Duren are a small and obscure sect of monks, at least compared to the Red Heralds and Maergin's Disciples. They contradict much of what people expect of the clergy, as they hold an oath of poverty and concern themselves foremost with giving aid and succor to the destitute. They receive little respect from the rest of the Redwood Throne clergy, though Maergin's Disciples at least respect their dedication to asceticism. Others feel that the poverty of the Mendicants detracts from the glory of the deity and signals Ehrenite leanings. The Mendicants resolutely deny accusation of any kind, and they have thus far remained shielded from the full scrutiny of the Accusers by the command of the Patriarchs.
In 614 RE, Avecynne Essig was given the name of Agia in her own lifetime, a rare and momentous occurrence within the Church. Though she performed miracles, healing the sick and maimed, she was recognized not for these wonders, but for her incomparable devotion to the peasantry, an attitude uncommon in her own day. The more cynical historians note that the Church would have lost much of its credibility with the commoners if it had failed to honor Avecynne. She spread literacy to the common people far and wide, from the miners of Northeim to a camp of highwaymen in the Eppen Mire; it is not much of an exaggeration to credit her with starting traditions of universal literacy that persist to the modern day in the Principalities. She was, further, a scribe of the highest skill, and copied both scripture and agricultural treatises for the villages she visited.
Avecynne Agia had become worn and stooped by decades of life on the road, and finally in 620 RE her failing health forced her to retire to Duren. With the permission of Matriarch Thieza I, she founded a monastic order to continue the work she had started. The order's novices were not monks or priests seeking a new calling, but laity taking holy orders, and the order briefly gained numbers, if not status. The Mendicants have maintained a modest monastery in the hills near Duren for the past six centuries, a school for novices and monks of advanced age. The rest of the order lives by Avecynne's example, traveling to remote villages to teach the peasants, tend their sick, and bless their dead. They often travel without money, unarmed and unarmored; with nothing else worth taking, few would trouble them. The kindness that even the robbers of the wilds would show to a Mendicant monk or nun has in turn caused accusations of collusion, particularly when those monks refuse to lead knights or guardsmen back to the lairs of those bandits. Nothing could be further from the truth, but that has not stopped the order from finding enemies.
Avecynne laid down the following Rule for the Mendicants of Duren:
- What we have, we have in common. The goods that come into our hands are to be given freely, trusting in providence.
- No man can think of his duty to the Throne when he cannot feed himself and those under his protection, when he suffers shame for his station, or when he cannot understand the obligations that scripture places before him. In their hearts, all people wish to serve the will of the Throne, but for these things.
- It is a mortal sin to take away a person's means of sustenance.
- Humility and obedience to the will of the Throne are a right and proper path for all people, from the highest to the lowest.
- Service and prayer are a truer penance than prayer alone.
In 239 RE, the old Tharician city of Markalon had been all but destroyed by the recent war of Verdien independence. Ten years earlier, the city had been sacked and the castle had been slighted. Once the army moved on, there was a period of anarchy, and the city came under the de facto control of a cabal of ritualists known as the Alabaster Libram. Reports of particularly vile practices surfaced, including the abduction of local peasants to feed monsters that the cabal kept chained in the bottom of the castle's dungeon.
At this time, Maergin was a warrior sworn to the service of the Emperor, Reinmund von Trayal. Though he had been only indifferently devout, he received a vision of the Redwood Throne. Disturbed by the experience of miraculous revelation, he consulted with priests. Before long, he found himself repeating his vision before the Patriarch, who confirmed it as a true and holy vision. Maergin received permission from the Emperor to gather soldiers and freebooters under his banner, lead them against the Alabaster Libram, and invest the castle. The stories of this campaign have come down through the centuries in legends and fairy tales, and even most of the clergy do not believe them to be literal truth. The stories speak, however, of the "three deaths" that Maergin suffered: a death of flesh, a death of water, and a death of stone. Yet from each death he rose once again, whole and strong in his faith. These are believed to be fanciful descriptions of Maergin's own doubts and trials of faith. Likewise, few believe that when his hand-picked soldiers had fallen and lay dying, he commanded spirits of the air to bear them to safety, as it is not elsewhere attested that he was a ritualist, and the Church does not accept contradictions on that point.
He was, in short, victorious over the cabal of vile wizards. The soldiers who survived the campaign occupied the castle and began its reconstruction, working tirelessly under Maergin's guidance. They completed in a mere seven weeks what might have taken seven months. At the end of that time, Maergin returned to Luzerne City and reported his victory. The Emperor and the Patriarch offered him any reward he might name. The celebrations of the court were shocked into silence, however, when he requested permission to form a solemn monastic order. Despite their surprise, his request was granted, and the castle of Markalon was granted to him as a monastery.
As Maergin was neither taught the traditions of the Church nor ordained, a provost was sent to govern the monastery and teach him. This provost belonged to a sect within the Church that was at the time secret, known as the Left Hand of the Throne. Under his guidance, the monastic order became dedicated to ideals of asceticism, confession of sin, and the humble endurance of suffering. The provost named the order Maergin's Disciples, over Maergin's objections, and in time Maergin became little more than a heroic figurehead. Maergin's followers came to be indoctrinated in the strict teachings of the Left Hand. Centuries after, when Patriarch Exeter II prepared to sack the Western Beacon, Maergin's Hold had become a citadel of ascetic warriors and inquisitors, almost entirely unlike the ideals Maergin the Crusader once championed. Most of the Accusers of the Left Hand have been trained within the walls of Maergin's Hold.
Following his death many years later, Maergin was made an Agio. In addition to Maergin's Hold, the village of Meragen in Eastern Trempa is named for him. Once cherished as a hero of the Empire, Maergin's legacy among the common people has suffered through association with the feared Left Hand of the Throne.
- Speak no falsehood.
- Never attempt to hide your nature as a member of the Left Hand.
- Obey the dictates of the Patriarch and the Grand Accuser. Obedience guarantees absolution.
- If compelled to violate the above tenets, seek an Accuser to assign penance.
In keeping with the venality of the Church, the monks of Maergin's Disciples are increasingly willing to violate their first three guiding tenets and seek penance from an Accuser, expecting the Accuser to assign a relatively minor penance. Only obedience to the Hierarchy of Accusers is truly mandatory, at this point. That said, there are some few Disciples who sincerely respect and uphold their vows; they face pressure from superiors to obey orders that contradict those vows.
The Wardens of Marath Suvla are an order within the Left Hand, founded by Sister Evangeline of Marath Suvla in 1213. Among the matters decided at the Diet of Tionna in 1212, was the declaration that agents of the "Most Foul" and the "Fallen" were to be considered enemies of the Church. Sister Evangeline, then a member of the Mendicants of Duren, felt that the church should take a more active role in rooting out these agents of disunity, so with the blessing of her superiors she formed the Wardens of Marath Suvla to take up this cause. As the Left Hand are charged with the pursuit of Truth, and they have traditionally investigated and apprehended enemies of the Faith, it was logical that the Wardens serve within that branch of the Church.
Based in the Holy City of Marath Suvla, the site of the original revelation of the Throne to Milenea Agia, the Wardens seek to combat the agents of the Most Foul both directly and through research and intelligence gathering. Because there are many within Marath Suvla who share a common cause, one of the founding principles of the Order is to work both with clergy and laypersons alike to reach common goals. These dedicated laypersons, who pledge to uphold the ideals and cause of the Wardens, are referred to as Oblates. In this, they look to the example of Meragova Agio, a physicker (like Sister Evangeline herself) who was a member of the Physickers' Guild and worked closely with both the church and lay members of the community.
Through his investigations, he was able to cure many people of a deadly disease that had threatened the area, a magical plague wrought by an agent of dark magics. Because the majority of the Left Hand focuses their efforts on the traditional enemies of the church (Ritualists, Cultists and Homunculi), the Wardens of Marath Suvla are able to focus entirely on these newer enemies of the Redwood Throne. The pursuit and persecution of these traditional foes is therefore outside the purview of the Wardens, except in those instances when they are found to be working in service to the Most Foul.
Members of the Wardens come from a wide range of backgrounds; they include among their number both traditional warriors from the ranks of the martial orders of the Throne, as well as scholars, scouts, and information analysts. All are expected to learn at least a basic weapons skill, and learn the fundamentals of Church history, in addition to pursuing mastery of their individual professions.
Upon acceptance into the Wardens, all members must undergo a minimum of one month of training with Sister Evangeline, typically conducted in Marath Suvla. Once per year following that, all Wardens must make a pilgrimage to the holy city for a period of training, prayer and contemplation.
- Humility: Pride leads to divisiveness and disuinity. Conduct yourself at all times with both humility and dignity, with the knowledge that the cause is greater than any one individual.
- Unity: One need not be sworn to holy orders to serve a holy cause. Work with the guilds, the Knights of the Church and any others who seek the destruction of the Most Foul, for this goal is holy in and of itself.
- Wisdom: Seek out intelligence about the agents of the Most Foul, their allies, goals and resources to better aid in the fight.
- Temperance: Strive for a path of moderation and balance in all things. It is through our passions that we can be led astray, therefore seek self-knowledge, self-discipline and self-control.