Introduction to Atheria: The Varnic Church

   Uniquely among the great faiths of Atheria, the Varnic Church lays claim to being based on revelation from above: Varnae, a minor adventurer, descended from the Rian Mountains shortly after the Veiling of the Dragon’s Eye claiming to have met a messenger – the Emissary from Above who had Veiled the Eye – and to have been given the tales, precepts, and commandments which form the foundation of the faith.

   In general, the Varnic Church holds that:

  • There is but one true God – An-Ywor, the Binder, the Lord of Order, the Shaper of Worlds, the First Namer, He-who-stands-against-Chaos. A warrior-god who stands in eternal battle against
  • The Primordial Chaos of The Dragon. At the end of time An-Ywor shall lead the legions of the faithful against the Dragon and slay it, releasing creation from the Coils of the Dragon and opening the way to eternal paradise.
  • Everyone should thus seek to prepare themselves for that final battle: Both Men and Women should seek to become skilled in arms and magic, and develop their skills in honorable battle – for neither stealth nor cleverness nor treachery shall avail against the raw, primal, power of The Dragon in the Last Battle.
  • Every Believer should spread the word of An-Ywor to the Unbelievers, stand strong in their faith, and face the trials that come to them with that strength. Those who do so shall stand high among the legions of An-Ywor in the final days, and shall be rewarded for eternity.
  • One should protect those now weak, give aid to those now poor, and mercy to those who seek it, for all shall be allies in the final battle.
  • Nevertheless, the pleasures of the world are given to the strong – for only thus may many mortals be encouraged to grow in strength. The finest of food and drink, the pleasures of the bedchamber, and the services of slaves, are their rightful lot. Your subordinates are not to be abused, but neither are they the equals of those with proven strength.
  • To use the Power of the Dragon – whether by using it’s Blood to break down the work of the One God, by joining with it in the reckless tapping of Mana, or by joining your will to its purpose of ceaseless transformation as Demons do, is Anathema. Such creatures should be brought to repentance or destroyed to let their spirits be born again.
  • Torture and similar abuse – particularly of the very young – creates hatred and divisions between spirits that should work together in the last battle. True believers must oppose such abuses.
  • Lying or Oathbreaking, intemperate acts of Wrath or Cruelty, and serving or sacrificing to Demons, are all acts which serve the chaos of The Dragon; while men are mortal, and flawed, such acts are to be avoided.
  • The Martial Virtues – Courage, Honor, Generosity, Nobility, Knowledge, and Fortitude – are to be cultivated. All men may fail at times, falling prey to cowardice, immoderate pride, excessive self-confidence or greed, sloth, and despair – but such flaws are to be amended.
  • The worship of other “gods” is foolishness to be corrected, but ignorance is not inherently evil.
  • Children are given to their parents by An-Ywor, to be raised to strength in his service. They should not be abused or sold unless they refuse to accept the precepts of the faith – in which case such may be their lot.
  • Testing your strength against others is natural, glorious, and to be encouraged. Only thus may weaknesses be exposed and cured and strength be maintained. As always, to the victors go the spoils and prizes of war, for such is their right.
  • To perish in battle, in childbirth, or in defense of others – especially of the young – is glorious, both because you will be taken into the host of An-Ywor and because you are helping to allow those you defend to come into their own strength – as will their children and those they defend, and those who come after them unto the end of days. Such an ending is a contribution to the Faith as of a mighty host.
  • Regardless, as An-Ywor blinded the Eye of The Dragon when it turned towards Atheria, so shall he turn a blind eye to the imperfections of all those who fight by his side or follow him in the last battle, admitting them to paradise at the end of days.

   A number of sub-orders have been founded over the past six centuries, each laying stress on a different aspect of the teachings of the Church. Some are named after their founders or whoever inspired the formation of the Order, others on more whimsical grounds. Regardless, while there are dozens of minor Orders, the major ones include:

  • The Raline Knights – the Order of the Sword – stress the martial teachings of the church, and recruit primarily among the more militant sons of the noble and middle classes. Many serve simply as war-leaders, battle-priests, and military chaplains, others take on duties of protecting pilgrims, shrines, and those imperiled by monsters.
  • The Pilgrims of Aschet – the Order of the Staff – stress the magical and compassionate teachings of the Church, caring for the weak and helpless, healing the sick, casting out the forces of chaos, and studying the secrets of magic. They can usually be found as wanderers, attempting to bring the common people into the faith. The most pacifistic of the orders, the Aschet usually restrict themselves to self-defense except against demons, undead, and other spiritual evils.
  • The Ikathin Speakers – the Order of the Dead – concern themselves with death, the care of the dying, with a peaceful passage into the otherworld, and with the dead. They’re widely considered spooky, and are notoriously unconcerned with personal survival.
  • The Elthani Guardians – the Order of the Shield – are unique to the Thousand Realms. They concern themselves with watching over dimensional portals, nexi, and weak points, that the people of An-Ywor shall not be taken by surprise by some stratagem of The Dragon – or of the Dralithar, the Ancient Enemy of Man.
  • The Kathar – the Order of the Hammer – are the crafters, builders, and architects of the church. A relatively small order, the Kathar share the militant orientation of the Raline to a great degree, and most of them specialize in the creation of weapons and armor, the building of churches and fortresses, and similar activities – although not always to the exclusion of more peaceable pursuits.
  • The Marsari Loremasters – the Order of the Scroll – are the lorekeepers, historians, teachers, and missionaries of the Church. Unfortunately, all the painfully gathered knowledge of the Order is of little consequence when compared to the prodigious libraries of the Imperial Academies of Alaria – which generally do not welcome fanatical priests from upstart barbarian faiths founded by con-artists.
  • The Caretakers of Erin – the Order of the Iron Bowl – are concerned with making sure that the innocent do not suffer in times of war, and that children grow up strong and healthy – so that they may eventually become warriors of An-Ywor. In some ways they are the most militant of the major orders; to spend your life in service, bearing, fathering, or raising warriors for An-Ywor is good. To do battle in defense of your charges is equally good.

   Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Varnic Church is most popular amongst the nobility, the powerful, and ambitious warriors; the peasantry tends to prefer gentler faiths. Still, it’s missionary zeal, its offer of a transcendent destiny and glory beyond the Coils of The Dragon, its (unusually coherent) theology, it’s association of strength with virtue, its offer of a justification for the inherent unfairness of the world, the vision of a final battle and paradise beyond, and its claim to moral authority, have combined to make the Varnic Church a major power and influence in a mere six centuries – dominant in Dernmarik proper, reasonably common throughout Nial, Senthar, Ireta, and the Barbarian Lands (albeit in a drastically simplified form), and familiar throughout Parack and the Alarian Imperium. It has made little headway in – or beyond – Chelm (although it claims that the tribal religions in Chelm are a related, if impure, faith), and is virtually unknown in Kharidath and the East. The Church doesn’t really get along with the Lords of Darkness and their mystical pyramid schemes, but do not see them as inherently evil – just as greedy and shortsighted.

   Is the Church truly founded upon a Revelation? No one really knows. Varnae was personally protected against divination – whether due to divine grace or personal talent (or whether there is a difference) none can say. It’s priests do tend to develop actual “clerical” spellcasting powers – but so do the Priests of Kharidath, and their gods are seven thousand years dead and almost certainly misremembered. Detractors often claim that Varnae was either a con man (throwing together a mixture of doctrines designed to appeal to the wealth nobles and lacing it with enough moral strictures to make it look attractive), a madman, or a victim of a fraud. Supporters point to its success, to the strength it imbues in its followers, and to the fact that a warrior-faith, preparing its members to face the forces of chaos, appeared just as the dimensional barriers began to fail. Both sides make some fairly persuasive arguments.

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