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Church of Traladaraby Jennifer Guerra
The Church of Traladara is a venerable institution which has existed in the civilised coastlands of the country since the end of the first millennium BC. Having risen out of the Traladaran people's unshakeable belief in the power of goodness, the heroism of Halav and his companions, and the eventual return of the Traldar people to the glory of the Golden Age, the Church is a rock-solid institutionalised arbiter of Traladaran morality. Over seventy percent of the Karameikan population subscribe to the faith of the Church, nearly all of them Traladaran.
The Church of Traladara concerns itself primarily with the behaviour and morality of its followers. Church doctrine, therefore, forbids that followers should cause harm to others or their property. Such unlawful behaviour is considered to contradict the examples of proper comport as given in the Church's holy text, The Song of King Halav. Therefore, the Church supports punishment for said immoral acts (as these are blasphemy), in proportion to the crime - up to and including the death penalty, for heinous crimes such as murder. "As the Beast-King did slay Halav, so Halav slew him in kind," goes a common sermon on such solemn occasion.
Other Church dogmas are supported by the Song, such as the proper behaviour of women (strong defender of the home, and supporter of men), the role of magic in Traladaran life (accepted, as was Zirchev accepted by Halav), and the responsibility of every Traladaran to fight evil in its myriad forms (including both passive and militarised resistance against invaders). The Church also serves the community by providing guidance, performing ceremonies, and supporting traditional cultural expressions, such as the Shearing.
Followers of the Church of Traladara attend a formal ceremony, which involves an elaborate ritual granting forgiveness for repented misdeeds, prayers for the ill and the dead, and readings from the Song. Such ceremonies are held once daily in Mirros, and once weekly in smaller parishes throughout the countryside. Churches are always open, however, as it is common to find a handful of faithful there, praying, at all hours.
Larger churches also typically contain three or more small shrines in niches off of the main sanctuary. These shrines are each dedicated to a particular aspect of one of the three Traladaran patron Immortals. Halav, Petra, and Zirchev each have countless aspects, as every village worships one particular to their local area. Sages believe these aspects reflect guises in which the Immortals have given aid or comfort to Their chosen over the centuries, as well as remnants of ancient Traldar Immortals. The most common aspects are given below:
Halav: Beast-Slayer; Lawgiver; the Eternal Champion; the Celestial King; the Unconquerable Warrior; the Just; the Wise; Divine Judge
Petra: Defender of the People; the Divine Mother; Weaver of Fate; Hearth-Maiden; Sacred Healer; the Fair Warrior; the Gentle Queen
Zirchev: Mageborn; the All-Knowing; the Sly; Nightwalker; the Blazing-Arrow; Elf-Friend; the Wild Huntsman; the Changeling; Unerring Councillor
Church holy days often change locally, according to an important regional feast-day, or a day holy to a local Immortal aspect. However, the High Patriarch of Mirros - head of the entire Church - sets common holy days, which all faithful observe. The most important of these major feast days fall close together, making summer the holiest season for the Church. Holy days include:
- Beasts' Day (1 Felmont ) - The battle between Halav and the Beast-King, and the end of the gnoll invasion, is observed. In Mirros, a large parade of celebrants, including charmed magical beasts, takes place before a grand celebratory Church ceremony. This marks the beginning of the official Church calendar year. Beasts' Day is the only Traladaran holy day recognised by the Karameikan and Thyatian governments (it's just too big to ignore).
- Feast of the Three Stars (15 Felmont ) - Traladarans celebrate the ascendance of Halav, Petra, and Zirchev to Immortality. As legend has it, three new stars appeared in the evening sky, close together, in the weeks following the defeat of the Beastmen, representing the new Powers. On this night each year, children eat star-shaped cakes and gaze up into the heavens to see if the Immortals will "wink" at them for good fortune.
- Feast of Tidings (15 Ambyrmont ) - The faithful observe the meeting of Halav and Zirchev, the magic-trained huntsman who comes from the north with ill news of Beastmen, massing for war. Traladarans honour Zirchev's loyal service to Halav by honouring magic (including hedge-magic and folk-magic) and magic-users this day. Traladaran mages also traditionally give a gift to the leader of their host town or village.
- Queen's Day (28 Sviftmont ) - This holy day marks the day Queen Petra of Krakatos allied herself with the warrior Halav and his adviser, Zirchev, in preparing for the coming war. On this day, Petra is honoured in all her aspects, from Maiden of the Hearth, to Mother of the Traladarans, to Warrior Queen, to lover of Halav, to Wise Matriarch. Festivities range from solemn processions carrying images of Petra to grand feasts. Women are honoured this day by not having any domestic duties from dawn till dusk.
- Day of the Dark Champion (15 Kaldmont ) - This day observes the dark necessity of Halav in slaying the King of Lavv, who disbelieved the Trio's warnings of the invasion. No bells are rung, and faithful gather in church for solemn ritual. Church fathers preach on Halav's desperate choice: the death of one man, his King, or the deaths of all unprepared Traladarans in the coming invasion. In recent years, radical Traladarans on this day have taken to fomenting unrest with speeches of the "necessary" removal of the Thyatian-controlled government...by force, if necessary.
- Days of Darkness (Klarmont 26-28 ) - Faithful observe Halav's ultimate sacrifice for the Traldar people these three days. It is considered ill form (and very bad luck) for Traladarans to celebrate Halav's victory against the Beastmen on 1 Felmont without having gone to Church to "mourn" his necessary sacrifice first.
Just as the branches, holy days, and even specific Immortal aspects of the Traladaran Church are relatively decentralised, so is its Priesthood. Priests of the Church of Traladara may be ordained by any high priest. However, Patriarchs of the Church [there are four: the Patriarchs of Mirros, Lavv (modern Kelvin), Krakatos (ceremonial until only recently), and Halag] must be formally ordained in the Church's seminary at Mirros. Those priests educated at the seminary and those ordained by seminary followers comprise the main body of Church clerics - about seventy percent. The remaining thirty percent comprises offshoot orders, (about 10% each) dedicated to a specific Immortal. [Note: In game terms, treat these as specialty priests.] So, while 70% of Church clerics venerate all three Immortals, with "normal duties" as noted above, 10% each primarily worship Halav, Petra, or Zirchev, and take upon themselves a more specialised calling:
The Order of Halav: These priests train in the art of military tactics, kingship, and war. Many are also members of the Order of the Golden Sword. In times long past, the Order of Halav defended Traladara from invasion and ruled many settlements. Most died in the Thyatian invasion and subsequent uprisings. Today, the Order supports toppling the government of King Stefan from within, and works to secretly place members as trusted members of the King's Guard.
The Order of Petra: These priests train in the arts of defensive warfare and healing. The defenders vow to never again allow a foreign army to set foot on Traladaran soil. Healers concentrate on ministering to the needy who cannot afford the ministrations of the Thyatian healer-priests of Chardastes.
The Order of Zirchev: These priests train in cooperation with the Vyalia elves of the Western Dymrak, and defend the woodlands of the country against defilement or incursion. A smaller segment of the Order train intensively at magic, hoping to aid in the restoration of an independent Traladaran state. These mage-priests have been banned, at King Stefan's command, from the School of Magecraft at Krakatos; most now train surreptitiously, with sympathetic masters.
Common clerics of the Church of Traladara (i.e., those not in the special Orders) may also fight against evil, or to defend their homeland, but they have been prevented from making any large moves against King Stefan since the Marilenev Invasion, when the High Patriarch of Marilenev was executed for treason.
As the strength of the Church depends upon its stability, the Church Fathers recognised that although there is little formal hierarchy in the institution, there should be at least a modicum of authority. Therefore, they empowered the Patriarch of Marilenev (now Mirros) to hold authority over all Church matters. While the High Patriarch is by no means a dictator over the priesthood, he does hold final say over all matters of doctrine, interpretation of scriptures or prophecies, the dispensation of holy relics, the declaration of holy war, and all political involvement of the Church. The faithful thus consider the High Patriarch's word on religious matters to be tantamount to law.
There has never been a female "High Matriarch"; this role is forbidden to women, as Petra is seen as having been subservient to Halav, and therefore unable to "rule" the Church. However, women can be found in all other ranks of the Church, except for the lesser Patriarchal roles. Furthermore, the ranks of the Church are open to all the "good faithful" [Note: all those of non-Evil alignment], regardless of race. Because of the proliferation of humans in Traladara, though, there has never been a non-human Patriarch.
Officially, the High Patriarch and the Church counsel Traladarans to peacefully accept the new order; behind the scenes, it politics against the Thyatians at every turn. Indeed, some say that the Church will not condemn the actions of the Traladaran crime families because these criminals act against the government - tacit support which the Church equates to that of Halav slaying the King of Lavv: committing a sin for the good of the people at large.
The "invaders" have countered this move in the war of faiths in the past by magically "inspiring" a Traladaran cleric to believe that King Stefan is Halav reborn. This "Cult of Halav" has been a thorn in the side of the Church ever since, drawing as much as five percent of the faithful to the side of the Loyalists through religious fervour.
The current High Patriarch of Mirros, Alekseyev Nikelnevich, knows that eventually, the King may ban the Church of Traladara outright, in favour of his own State church; in that case, the formidable old cleric will, as once did his father, take to the battlefield in defence of his faith.