Church of Pelor
The Church of Pelor in Leona
The Church has its historic power base in the city of Wingfall, originally named for the site where the Archeon Messenger of Light took Pelor’s servant Jereth from the Prime Material over 3000 years ago. Practically, the city serves as the Church’s base as it allows the church to control city politics, and much of the surrounding countryside without direct interference and oversight of the Queen in Valido.
Theoretically, the Arch Prior of Wingfall is the leader of the Church around the globe. In practice, the Church’s involvement in politics of Leona, make the Pelorish churches outside of Leona quite different from the larger, richer, and better armed parishes of this country. That being said, representatives of the Church will generally try to be as helpful as possible to any member of the faithful in any country they happen to find themselves in.
The basic unit of the church is the Parish. In theory it represents one church for one community and is overseen by a Prior. Depending on the size there will be a number of Friars who help maintain the Parish and run its business. In addition, there is supposed to be at least one Templar, who protects the church proper and its interests. Many Parishes are overseen by a High Prior who generally is the Prior of the largest parish in a region. Many High Priors are overseen by an Arch Prior, of which there are 21 in Leona, at all the largest cities, with the Arch Prior of Wingfall filling the role of ‘first among equals’. The democratic nature of the church leadership is supposed to make the High Priory more humble and responsive to the needs of the laity. Detractors point out that it often has the effect of making the Priors some of the most shrewd and occasionally ruthless politicians in the land.
Layperson – worshiper of Palor, no rank or responsibility
Friar – either gender, a basic church functionary though some have achieved a good deal of power and prestige through skill, and seniority. There are a few senior Friars in Wingfall who exercise power equivalent to a High Prior.
Templar – Theoretically the protector of a single church. While priories are uneven in size and power, what actually constitutes a ‘Templar’ is gigantic in the differences. In small and quiet rural parishes, the Templar may be nothing but an old pious war veteran who acts as a simple night watchmen for the church grounds. In a border or military encampment, templars may be actual knights of the various holy orders.
Prior – Leader of a single Church community. Not all are equal and there is a vast difference between the Prior of a remote farming village and the Prior of a Church in the wealthy district of a major city.
High Prior – In charge of 3-9 Parishes, and typically is the Prior of the largest one in the group. In theory, a High Prior with many smaller Parishes will have more and a Prior of large, important or wealthy parishes will have less. This is not always the case, and the apportionment of High Priorships is very political.
Arch Prior – In charge of 5-7 High Parishes (political division run by a high prior) and is almost always run from a city of some size and importance. 21 High Priories exist in Leona in the present day.
Friars are anyone who has attained the basic rank within the Church and mostly help it with some day to day function. Many are simply educated clerks, or healers. A good number (~50%) are actual clerics or invokers able to wield divine power to some degree. These are referred to as the Illuminated. While many positions within the Church require an Illuminated to fill the post, there are many powerful Friars who do not feel the power of Pelor directly in this manner. Many are content to serve in their humble fashion but not all. There is some degree of friction between the Illuminated Friars and those without such gifts.
Factions and The Schism:
There are currently two major factions in the Pelorite church. These factions are predominantly existent in Leona. Outside of it, churches and organizations are only nominally allied to one philosophy or the other. Within Leona however, the factions determine much of church internal politics and how groups of clergy react to one another. The factions are called many names, the most popular are probably followers of the Path of the Divine, and followers of the Path of Succor. In the most simple, and raw terms the former is a conservative group focusing on the Sun facet of Pelor given to preaching how the rich and powerful are given their power in order to protect and guide the less fortunate to the light. The Path of Succor is more liberal faction, embraced by the lower classes focusing on the healing and compassion facet of Pelor, and teaches how everyone must help to aid others. Being from a fundamentally polytheist doctrine, followers of Pelor will not generally have any quarrel or problem with any member of a Good or Unaligned church, and while downright violent resistance to Evil deities is to be expected, some of the most intolerant feelings are reserved for Pelorite members of the opposite faction. These are believers who should know better, but have chosen the wrong path, given every chance to do the Right Thing. This tension has very rarely broken out into violence, but causes tension throughout the Church. This discord is called the Schism.
Templars and Orders of the Holy Guardians:
While a Templar is technically anyone who has been officially tasked with guarding the church there are many different Holy Orders who have taken this on as a lifetime mission. Many are quite small, and the actual degree of martial skill among members varies widely. A few more common:
The Order of Dawn:
This is the largest order of Templars, and as so it has units of both factions. While the Order as a whole is heterogeneous, individual units generally are not, unless they are very large. The exception, is someone unsurprisingly between ranks. Officers tend toward the Path of Light and Enlisted towards the Path of Succor. This create a not insignificant amount of tension in more moderate regiments full of both groups.The Order of Dawn was formed originally to train laymen to protect themselves during times of war and invasion. Over centuries it has developed into a small military force at the command of the church, second in size only to the Queen’s own army. To disarm tensions that might be caused by the existence of a large independent military unit within the borders of Leona, the Order is kept scattered and busy very deliberately.
There are two ways to join the Order, one is to enlist at any church. There is a basic entrance exam for enlistees, that ensures that applicants can read, write and know a moderate amount of religious studies around Pelor. Enlistments are for 5 years, and are very badly paid, but have excellent benefits, including good education, medical care and excellent care for pensioners.
The other way to get into the order is to attend the Academy of Dawn in Wingfall. The academy takes in boys and girls between 15 and 20 and trains them for 3 years in many subjects both martial and religious. After the first year, cadets are allowed to choose a path of study, this is a matter of personal choice. For this reason, graduate officers may become Paladins, Fighters, Clerics or Warlords, and more rarely Invokers or Avengers. After graduation, cadets must serve in the Order for no less than 5 years as officers. Pay is also bad for officers, but benefits are even greater, not to mention having sons and daughters complete terms in the Order is fairly prestigious for families of means, despite the rather high tuition fees charged.
Unlike many military organizations taking in the children of the wealthy and powerful, the Order does take its protective role seriously. Both officers and enlisted can expect to see a good deal of combat throughout their time of service. This causes some friction with the more polished, graduates of the Royal Military Academy, which has higher (read: more upper class) entrance requirements, but who’s graduates normally serve only a decorative military function.
The Knights Radiant:
A much smaller, but very visible Order of Knights. These are all Paladins, and are either recruited from all over, mostly from the other Templar orders. Membership is by invitation only. Even after an invitation, a initiate must prove themselves with 3 years of particularly grueling proof of both good and righteous deeds and martial prowess. This is called ‘The Vigil’.
While a potential Knight Radiant is on Vigil the Order, often assisted by other Church leaders, will give initiates quest after quest to complete. After 3 years the initiate is brought before the Tribunal of Light, where their accomplishments are weighed. If sufficient the initiate is inducted into the order.
The first mission of the Order is to protect the High Priory. They are the Church’s equivalent of Royal Guards. As the threat of assassination or violence is usually quite low, particularly compared with the number of Knights at any one time, small units of these Knights are often loaned out wherever they are needed to fight evil and further Church interests.
Over the last century, this order has moved entirely within the sphere of the Path of Light. Its membership comprises some of the most fanatical devotees to the faction, putting it at odds with many other orders. It has been said by more than one observer of Church politics that this order now serves more as the military embodiment of the Path of Light than the Church.
The Order of Penitents:
Firmly within the Path of Succor, nearly to the degree of the Knights Radiant is to the Path of Light, is the Order of Penitents, sometimes called ‘The Order of Murderers’ by more blue-blooded laity. The Penitents nonetheless possesses a fair degree of influence despite their small size.
To join the order one simply has to convince any Prior that you have, or believe you have done something terribly wrong, and wish to atone for it. Crimes worthy of joining the order are somewhat limited to those which could conceivably carry a death sentence, as being sent to this odd order is, effectively, a type of very drawn out execution.
Upon joining, the order initiates are stripped of all possessions, pride and even names. They are called by what they used to do before the ‘sin’ that caused them to be inducted, ‘Baker’, or ‘Farmer’, but they are not allowed to call themselves or any other initiate by name. In addition, they are worked as slaves. 4-5 hours of sleep per night, brutal work, and unending meditation and prayer are the norm. Some die from this treatment. All who do so are buried in the Order’s vast graveyard.
Everyone from a first year initiate to the head of the order is buried here in a grave only marked with a simple unadorned stone, without name or date. This is called the Graveyard of Absolution. It covers acres of a quiet green hillside surrounding the Chapel of Tears, a spartan fortress structure that serves the order as a headquarters. After death, an initiate is considered to be forgiven and may be referred to by name and called ‘Friar’ or ‘Brother/Sister’.
After the first year, the training becomes more and more martial, encouraging initiates to use their connection to Pelor to allow them to fight better. Some succeed at this, others do not. Everyone goes to the Graveyard eventually. The survivors of the full 3 years are given simple weapons in accordance with their skills and given missions to quash evil throughout the world. They are almost all particularly skilled Avengers at this point. They are not at this time considered Friars or Templars. The graduates of this program are allowed to use their names, though in practice most squads still continue to use anonymous ‘job’ names.
Squads are formed according to the needs of any particular target and consist of 3-7 members. Since, everyone in these units are by definition perfectly expendable, there is the most dangerous missions of greatest effect are chosen. Someone surviving initiation can count on a steady stream of high risk high reward targets to strike with little chance for rest in between. At any one time there are between a half dozen to two dozen of these elite squads of Pelorites active.
The attrition of these squads is understandably high. When a squad member is killed, they are considered to have been forgiven, and if possible they are Raised from the Dead in a ceremony that takes place in Chapel of Tears. Many members cannot be raised this way simply because their souls refuse to return to life.
Those that are returned to the realm of the living are referred to as Friar, eschewing the more militant title of ‘Templar’, and are invited to instruct new initiates to the Order, though the Church always has high risk missions for highly skilled and expendable warriors. Rank within the Order is largely determined by how many times a Friar has been slain. The leader of the Order is known as the Most Forgiven, and is typically an individual of incredible skill and experience that most higher Church officials treat with a mix of concealed disdain and quiet public respect.
Not really an Order of any kind. Occasionally in every class of Penitents, there are those of such skill or luck that despite years of constant mortal danger, fail to be killed properly. This happens when an initiate’s abilities just manage to stay ahead of fate, such that they become the last man standing after a long list of glorious deeds and the meaningful deaths of their comrades. In this way, they unofficially become a member of The Unforgiven. In general, the Order ensures that missions are plausible, if difficult and dangerous. As the years continue without a Penitent falling in battle the requirement that missions need be plausible falls away and everything becomes a suicide mission. A certain quiet and awed mythology exists about The Unforgiven. The most common is that as the personal weapons of Pelor, they are immortal, unable to die by any means but falling in a battle preordained by fate itself. Deaths of ancient chromatic dragons and even Deamon Lords are attributed to these legendary figures who’s numbers only the Most Forgiven is said to know.
A tiny order of sorts associated with the Penitents, composed entirely of children orphaned by murder, thought the strictness of this requirement ebbs and flows with the supply of potential students. Any child found in this situation may be sent to the Chapel of Tears for education, and many live out their lives here. From their very first day these children are given a rank of Friar and, while given hard and strict tutelage under the elder Merciful and Forgiven of the Chapel, they are housed, fed and treated better than any member of an initiate squad. The two lessons taught every day to the Merciful are humility and absolute Pacifism. Merciful are never to see or touch a weapon of any kind, despite living in what constitutes a military fortress.
Merciful are trained in medical and healing arts. The Illuminated among them becoming some of the most skilled healers in the Church, having an effectively endless supply of wounded to practice on. Merciful are also the Clerics that perform the large number of Raise Dead rituals that the Pentinents rely on. Merciful Clerics almost universally possess the Pacifist Healer feat. A Merciful dying of old age is normally sent back to his village for proper burial, but if a Merciful requests, there is a small garden where Merciful may be buried. Merciful headstones are large and made of polished granite. Every detail of their lives is set on these monuments, which are in stark contrast to the vast field of featureless rocks laid in neat rows outside.