Religion - The Church of Ten Flames
The Church of Ten Flames
The Church of Ten Flames was founded sometime after the tempest shattered the land. Formed by a group of true believers, people who refused to heed the rumors that Atars were abandoning Aradea. At the head of this new movement was Belear the Wise, the first known hallow, who also carried the title of the first patriarch. While the prophets appeared to the mystics, those closest to the Immortals began to see dreams of great vision. Guided by these dreams, the first hallows began to wake, and around these hallows entire congregations gathered. Eventually, Belear brought these scattered congregations together and built a sacred sanctuary on the plains of Borrea, the foundations of Astaroth. Later, in the golden age of the Church of Ten Flames, an entire institution was built around the core of the religion, but by then it was merely a ghost of its former self. Ran by money hungry officials dressed in pretty rags, the political influence nearly destroyed the church, and it was not revived until Celenth the Pure brought the Atars back to the people at the end of an era known as the eclipse.
Astaroth, and the entire church, is ruled by a patriarch, followed by ten cardinals, who form the holy conclave. This conclave is the highest authority, and later did not require hallows, but dedicated members of the clergy who worked their way up through exemplary service or schemes, usually a combination of both. The cardinals, in a similar way with the archmystics, elect the patriarch from among themselves. Beneath the cardinals are the archbishops and bishops, followed by priests, monks and clerics, in this particular order. When an acolyte receives his vestments, he is able to choose whether he wants to serve as a priest of his congregation, become an inquisitor protecting the core values of the church or take on a military path as a holy knight defending the honor of his deity. The holy city itself resembled a fortress with abbeys, churches and temples built within the massive stone walls. The most breathtaking building of them all was of course the grand cathedral known as the Seat of Immortals, built by Belear the Wise himself, and expanded many times over the following centuries. Looking over the Perethos Bay from a completely vertical side of a cliff of Sufferer's Hill, the city was a dominating landmark in the area. Over time the city spread outside of the walls into the forests of Valaghor, forming a humble farming community of people with strong faith and devotion. Astaroth was destroyed in 2145 SA during an event that began the eclipse, a period of time that lasted over hundred years. At the time of writing this, the future of the city remains unclear.
The Church of Ten Flames is the largest religious institution in Belmora and Westerdel. Originally it represented all Atars despite of their alignment, hence the name, but over time it became more and more focused on Avareth, effectively renouncing the others. There has been countless smaller churches attempting to bring different religious views for the people, but Astaroth, during its existence, saw these strongly as heretics and generally disbanded them by force. The hallowed members of the church worship either Avareth or Galadin.
Ranks of the Church of Ten Flames
Patriarch - Leader of the church and lord of Astaroth.
Cardinal - A member of the conclave, the highest administration of the church.
Archbishop - The highest regional authority. For example, the religious leader of Dalgard is the archbishop of Riverend.
Bishop - The highest local authority. For example, the church of Riverend is led by the bishop, appointed by the archbishop. Bishop is the lowest ranking official with direct influence over the Temple Knights.
Priest - The leader of a local congregation.
Cleric - An assistant to the priest or a religious leader of a lesser town or village that does not have a priest.
Acolyte - A servant and henchman of a priest or cleric who aspire to become a full member of the church. An acolyte serves five years, learning from the priests and clerics, trying to prove their worth. At the end of the training, a worthy acolyte will receive their vestments, earning their chance to begin a career in the church.
The inquisition is the disciplinary branch of the church that primarily deals with heretics and conflicts between congregations. Disputes are generally resolved without the involvement of the inquisition, for it never passes without pain and suffering. The inquisitors are trained in multitude of torture methods, and their sole reason of existence is to learn the truth and report back to the council. Considered ruthless and evil beyond compare, summoning the inquisitor is keenly avoided. The highest of inquisitors form the Holy Tribunal, a court that debates and passes verdicts toward crimes committed against the church.
Temple Guard, also known as The Knights of the Flame, or Temple Knights, or sometimes even Knights of the Temple, are the strong military arm of the church, protecting the faithful and fighting in the name of Avareth. Temple Knights possess outposts all over the continents of Belmora and Westerdel, establishing a strong defensive network for the entire church. Answering only to the patriarch himself, the knights are governed by their own chain of command. All Temple Knights are well trained, armored and armed with the highest quality equipment, and ride a trained war horse. The most feared and revered, however, are the paladins, who are hallows that have received military training.
Ranks of the Temple Guard
High Commander - The leader of the order, who resides in Astaroth.
Commander - The leader of the local barrack and/or temple
Knight (Sir) - A full member of the order
Squire - Knight's assistant, who helps the knight by keeping their armor and weapons in good shape. Fights alongside with his master.
Novice - A servant of the temple, proving himself to be accepted as a squire.
Paladin is, essentially, a hallow with military training. Therefore, a paladin is not truly a rank of the knighthood, and can present any level of hierarchy. However, it is very common to see paladins climb the ladder rather quickly for their exceptional skill in battle, granted by their unique bond with an Atar.