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Eternal Truthby Marco Dalmonte English translation by Gary Davies
Worshipped in: Ylaruam, Ierendi, Darokin, Thyatis, Savage Baronies (Savage Coast)
The Eternal Truth is an extremely Lawful cult that worships the Immortal Guardians, together with a divinity who cannot be named or represented, which has given to the mortals the ability and the teachings in order to become chosen, be happy and save their soul from death. Al-Kalim is the First True Prophet that has in practice correctly interpreted and translated the teachings of the Guardians, had written the Nahmeh, the one true book of moral and religious conduct acceptable for respecting the Immortals, and is worshipped as the first enlightened who has joined the Guardians in their world, becoming one of them (a sort of Hindu bodhisattva, a cross between Mohammed and Buddha). Because of this the priests of the Eternal Truth pay homage to the True Faith, asking the Guardian Immortals and Al-Kalim to guide them on the correct way. As a matter of principle, all the other faiths are profane since they don’t follow the one correct way of worshipping the Immortals, as shown in the Nahmeh. Al-Kalim however asks his own followers to be tolerant and to attempt to convert the infidels instead of eliminating them, as long as they are limited to follow benevolent Immortals without meaning to impose false religions on the True Followers. Because of this in the Emirates it is possible to worship other divinities, provided that the faith is held privately and not publicly erected or preached. The Eternal Truth as taught by the Nahmeh preaches that the True Follower should venerate the Guardian Immortals, honour their neighbour and have faith in the wisdom that is from reason and contemplation. The Nahmeh therefore shows the ways used for satisfying these three prerequisites, collected in the so-called Articles of the Faith, which are précised here:
Honour the Guardian Immortals: the Nahmeh provides two rituals for worshipping the Immortals in an appropriate manner.
1. Prayer and Meditation: the True Followers must dedicate themselves both at the rising and at the setting of the sun. The violation of this rule is considered an act of extreme impoliteness among the believers of the Eternal Truth, and among the more extremist tribes it is a capital offence severely punished.
2. Fast: the True Followers must fast for 24 hours from the sunset of the first day of the full moon until the next sunset in order to purify their spirit and flesh, and offer to the Guardian Immortals a sign of sacrifice and devotion. At the end of the fast the faithful must celebrate life with a banquet, laying aside a portion of food as symbolic offerings for the Guardian Immortals, or when it is possible (in the case of the more devout) share part of the food with the poor and the starved.
Respect the Neighbour: the Nahmeh provides three rituals used for respecting the neighbour, demonstrating confidence and solidarity in the gestures and in the thoughts.
1. Share water: each day two True Followers meet, they must celebrate the Ritual of the Water, which marks the real or symbolic sharing of water between the two (thus symbolising the sharing of what is the most precious possession for a follower, that is the source of life). The practical application of this ritual varies according to the situations and the persons involved, by the more superficial gesture of wetting their fingers in a bowl of water or in the canteen belonging to another follower, to a elaborate ceremony where between the believers they share coffee or tea served in special ornamental goblets, accompanied by the recitation of improvised verses or taken directly from the Nahmeh.
2. Speak with sincerity: lying is severely forbidden between True Followers, and the use of lies or untruths is a grave sin. This ritual is observed by preceding every affirmation or promise by a formula of the type: “In the name of Al-Kalim and of the Eternal Truth, swear…” or simply swear of saying the truth before a priest, a paladin or any other holyman of the cult. Anyone seen to be less than his word is cursed by the Guardian Immortals and driven away by the believers who know of it.
3. Protect the neighbour: this dictate can be fulfilled in several ways, given that formal ritual doesn’t exist in order to complete it. In the simplest and less onerous way, implies the duty for the True Followers is to give charity to the needy and lend aid to the suffering. Furthermore, this obligation can be fulfilled in its purest form by answering the call to arms in a war against the Infidels. It should be noted that fighting is not permitted between members of the Eternal Truth, and frequently have adopted this obligation as a pretext for clashes with other True Followers declared for a reason or for the other impious, traitors or impure (frequently the proclamation of a holyman against their own rival is enough for justifying the call to arms, whilst other times it is enough to induce the enemy to attack first, therefore justifying the response as an attempt of self-defence before the court of the sages).
Respect Wisdom and Learning: the Nahmeh provides two rituals in order to demonstrate their faith in wisdom and reason.
1. Learn: every True Follower must know how to read, study and cite the Nahmeh. This applies to the strongest among the warriors of the desert or of the poorest among the tramps of the city, every believer must be able to memorise the teachings of Al-Kalim and of citing parables and dogmas verbatim, while the richest and most important families always have a written copy of the Nahmeh that it keeps as a precious treasure.
2. Judge: when a True Follower is called to make a judgement on an argument, which is usually a question of science, military tactics, moral conduct, religion or law, he must always follow three fundamental rules in order to reach the wisest and most balanced judgement. In first place he must contemplate and observe the material of the plaintiff; then examine the evidence that is placed before him; finally he must base his judgement on factual knowledge, and not on tradition or superstition. Making a judgement is a solemn practice for the believers of the Eternal Truth, a question of patience, wisdom and metodo. An individual whose judgements are seen as wise is respected by all, while anyone who might give rash or impulsive judgements based on arrogance or anger is considered infantile and unreliable.
Pilgrimage: the True Followers must go on a pilgrimage at least once in his life to one of the sacred places of the Eternal Truth, even if there are those who aren’t capable of sustaining long journeys because of illness or of physical handicap. Every pilgrim is called to travel over again symbolically the way of the pilgrimage of Al-Kalim to the Mountain of the Old Man of the Sea, in order to ask for the blessing and the protection of the Guardian Immortals for himself and his folk as does the High Prophet. Naturally for many followers it is enough to visit just one of the sacred places of the pilgrimage of Al-Kalim within Ylaruam, listening to the reading of the Nahmeh and the preachings of the students or of the more learned holymen in the places of the cult or of science, and only the more powerful and resilient believers are capable of covering the entire route of the journey of the Prophet. Beyond being a religious obligation however, the pilgrimage is also viewed as a way for relaxing and rejoicing life, and is always good business for the innkeepers and for guiding the work in the sacred places of the Eternal Truth.
Dream of Justice and Honour: this were the first series of rules and codes of conduct that Al-Kalim gave to his followers, while still fighting for the liberation of the Alasiyan Basin from the Thyatian and Alphatian forces. According to this dream, Al-Kalim forbids the True Followers from taking up arms and fighting one another (as was the custom in times past) and condemns the traditional custom of the desert nomads of making raids and proclaiming generational feuds. This dictate is imposed in order to unite the Alasiyans against the oppressors and avoid that in the times to come all that had been done by Al-Kalim in order to build a strong and united state could be destroyed by the old tribal feuds. Naturally many believers interpret this rule as the obligation of uniting in order to fight the Infidels, but not as a veto of raiding the herds of the rival tribes or avenging the wrongs endured, with the pretext that he only being obedient to the more important precept of “protecting the neighbour” (when with “neighbour” he intends only the members of his tribe).
Dream of the Garden in the Desert: this doctrine was devised by Suleiman Al-Kalim at the end of the unification of the tribes, in a way that all have a common objective, a higher good to which they aspire to working together. It urges the tribal heads, the students and the men of the clergy to do their best to understand how they can bring sufficient water into the Alasiyan Basin in order to make it fertile and to ensure that the peoples of the Emirates can benefit. This same doctrine urges the merchants to finance the research to make the desert green and blooming, and impress the members of the lower classes to cooperate with their governors in order to managing the water resources in the most effective way possible. It is thanks to the universal respect of this rule that many water projects have had success in Ylaruam, and it is also clear that this dogma is in force and assumes a fundamental importance only with the True Followers who live in the Emirates of Ylaruam (and not for example with the faithful of Ierendi or of the Savage Baronies).
For the True Followers it is very important to attempt to convert the Infidels and combat the heresy. In order to become a believer of the Eternal Truth (that is a layman who follows the precepts of the Nahmeh) it is necessary to swear that he accepts the Eternal Truth, as Al-Kalim and the Nahmeh have revealed, and that he is committed to faithfully respect the Articles of the Faith as recited above, follow the Ritual of Honesty (which in practice is completed using the clerical spell of the same name, characteristic of the priests of the Eternal Truth). The believers who were baptised in the True Faith as a baby are always thought reliable and sincere by the other members of the cult, while the converted Infidels are accepted but with reserve, waiting to judge the sincerity of their word and actions according to their future conduct, seeing that, according to tradition, anyone who swears to follow the Ritual of Honesty and then transgress it are certainly struck by the divine curse.
The followers of the Eternal Truth can be divided into two categories: the disciples or believers, and the sages or practitioners. In practice the first are the lay members of the cult, while the second are the priests. The disciples comprises all the faithful, from the humblest and poorest peasant to the most powerful among the emirs, and also number among their ranks the members of the military orders devoted to the Eternal Truth, all united by the faith and from the respect of the rules of the Nahmeh. The sages (or learned) instead form the clergy of the cult, even if no ecclesiastic hierarchy of any type exists, or any specific responsibilities or pre-established rituals that the priests must observe (except those scripted for all the faithful by the Nahmeh). The sages are divided into three typologies:
Spiritual Heads: these extremely devout and learned characters are tasked with leading the daily prayers in the sanctuaries of the Eternal Truth, giving sermons, instructing the believers in the correct practices of the observance of the Articles of the Faith and give judgements regarding religious or moral questions. In order to become a spiritual head a follower must simply go to a sanctuary of the Eternal Truth and study with other spiritual heads (called in Ylari “Imam”). Sometimes the candidate or his fellows may notice he isn’t cut out for this role and he is removed by the other imams, or he is encouraged to pursue his studies until he is acknowledged as a spiritual head by his peers. At this point the imam has become a priest and can have access to the spells granted by his faith in the Eternal Truth and in the Guardian Immortals, and from that moment can continue his studies in any field of human knowledge (magic, science, arts, legends, history, etc.) provided that he continues to show respect and interest to wisdom and learning.
Missionaries: these are normal followers that choose to dedicate themselves to the study and diffusion of the teaching of the Nahmeh through their own work, converting the masses of infidels or give their assistance to the communities of True Followers scattered about the world. Usually a small time must pass before a missionary becomes to all effect a cleric, time during which Al-Kalim evaluates if the candidate is a true example for his brothers and his faith is pure or only a semblance; after this period, the missionary becomes a true priest with divine spells.
Dervishes: these clerics are holy hermits who dedicate themselves to the contemplation of the natural world and to the concrete manifestation of the Eternal Truth. Rejecting the distractions of civilisation, they retreat into the more desolate areas where they lead a simple and reserved existence, live in caves, tents or lucky refuge, in total contemplation and meditation. In the contemplation of the world, of nature and of the elements they attempt to attain a mystic union with nature participating in its balance and tranquillity, notice and communicating with the animals and plants of the desert, as well as with the elemental forces that they animate also thanks to their magical powers. It is in virtue of their asceticism, the dervishes also exercise their minds by reciting the verses of the Nahmeh and the sacred prayers to the Guardian Immortals in order to strengthen the spirit and sustain the body in the efforts that such a rigorous existence imposes; because of this the dervishes are famous for their unequalled physical and mental resistance. Although they wish to remain far from the comfort and from the distractions of the city, they nevertheless don’t forget to protect and honour their neighbour, as told in the Nahmeh, and because of this they act as guardians of the tribes of the desert and of the Ylari settlements (and are therefore revered and helped by these), and can be called upon to help the travellers in difficulty or give guidelines to the pilgrims and to the faithful engaged in sacred quests and righteous causes, provided that these don’t show themselves too insistent or troublesome. The dervishes are peaceful and usually do not make use of weapons or armour, only rarely interfering in violent conflict, even if their superior physical condition gives certain advantages to the dervishes in a hand-to-hand fight (which they always fight with bare hands).
Finally, there are three factions of priests (all three are Lawful) within the cult that are distinguished according to the reading that they give from the Nahmeh: the philosopher priests (LN) who venerate the moral philosophy of the Nahmeh (many of these belong to the faction of the Preceptors, now ruling in Ylaruam); the monotheist priests (LN or LE), who identify in Al-Kalim the true guide to be venerated above all, seeing that he is the example that they like him can ascend to perfection (mostly represented by the Faction of the Kin, descendents of Al-Kalim and religious fundamentalists of Abbashan that try to climb to power); the polytheist priests (LG or LN), who venerate the Guardian Immortals (among which is also the High Prophet) as a whole, a transcendent and pervasive higher force that guides and protects the mortals, and therefore they must not be named or distinguished but equally paid homage to (some dervishes share this idea, studying and honouring the elemental forces as physical manifestations of the Guardian Immortals). These three factions compete against each other in order to impose their vision of the word of the Prophet as the only acceptable one, and even if frequently the diatribes result in true armed reprisals at local level, up to now it has never caused a civil war in Ylaruam, seeing that on one hand the Dream of Justice and Honour is generally respected, and on the other hand because the factions tend to leave and go to foreign counties in order to found new missions and converting or fighting the infidels.