Worms of the Senses, Tricks of the Mind
Schools and Academic Societies
Arcanism – Advancements in the field of the magical arts continues to flourish among the few with the talent. In Aorthe, magic is quite rare. There are only two magical academies in the known world. One – Volarus Magtical Academy (symbol pictured middle left) in Ambroise Ame only admits the finest students, or those with powerful connections to boost the school’s prestige and coffers. Attending Volarus means you have an education shared with a very elite group of people. The other – the Zankas School of Wizardry (symbol pictured top left) takes on more students, but the sheer number of applicants makes acceptance difficult. While the constant stream of students brings in good revenue for the school, the majority of that is simply pocketed by the school’s administrator – an enchantment expert and rogue Drow named Okriguqor Ugnucobarin (ok-ri-goo-qwor oog-noo-co-bah-rin.) The school, therefore, has little for resources. No wizard would accept a teaching position there except out of true altruism or lack of talents, and the textbooks are so old that they don’t even include any newer spells.
In the city of Ashtesma is the The Ars Arcanum – A magical school that specializes in the instruction of abjuration, evocation, and conjuration magic, but has degree offerings for all school of magic aside from necromancy. It’s run by a wizard named Gerard Lispen. It’s true claim to fame, however, is in the study of the planes of the multi-verse. Specialzing in magic and magical devices that make interplanar travel as easy as opening a door. Their dream is to one day have all planes be open, allowing interplananr trade. They seek to bring about a day when the average person on Aorthe wakes up to eat the most delicious Arborean oranges at their table of Elysium wood. Their fire stoked with embers from the Plane of Fire. Admittedly, this has resulted in more than one… mishap. Their symbol is to the bottom left, representing all of the planes connected like raindrops in a puddle.
Aside from these, there are other ways to learn the use of magic. Those wizards powerful enough to have apprentices do take them on. For a non- or ex-adventuring wizard, they may have four or five apprentices tending to them in exchange for teaching in the arcane arts. At this time, Arthur MacAbry, who makes his home in Pointe a la Hache is the most prestigious. It’s nearly as coveted as a spot at Volarus, but it’s widely known you spend the majority of your time there cleaning his boots. For most wizards, apprenticeship is the “norm” and who a wizard studies under influences how other wizards perceive them. Some other prestigious wizards to apprentice under include the reclusive and enigmatic Folmair the Noseless, a transmutation expert, Bengarder Theolotshian & Thessinia Theolotshian, a husband and wife that are evocation wizards, and Dorian Montay, and illusion expert that also runs the Golden Doublet Casino in Senhudet, Rieno de Arena.
Astronomy – The field of studying the Astral Sea has gripped many great minds in the history of the world. Valros Hiswin and Erkas Rashik are easily two of the astronomers that revolutionized the field. Valros, in 315 ARA, was the first to understand the order of the cosmos – That Aorthe orbits Lathander, and Selune and Chauntea orbit Aorthe. He was also first to determine the world was round. Erkas, in 440 ARA, determined that the known world must lie in only the northern and eastern hemisphere of Aorthe, meaning the rest of planet may have undiscovered land or perhaps just a vast, endless ocean. In 909 ARA, it was discovered that there are at least some undiscovered lands, as New Harmony was discovered that year.
Pictured to the left is the symbol for The Watchers – a group of astronomers dedicated to studying the night sky and learning its secrets. Thus far they have developed some interesting hypothesis.
- First, by observing the rotation of Selune and Chauntea, they have inferred that they are definitely spheres, and not flat discs as some would claim, and their apparent shape changes are due to shadows being cast as light from Lathander hits them. They believe Aorthe’s night and day cycles are a result of this as well. This leads them to believe that Selune and Chauntea actually orbit Aorthe, and Aorthe orbits Lathander.
- Second, by doing calculations on the visibility of the Tree of Life in relation to the viewer’s altitude, they have concluded that Aorthe is likely much, much larger than anyone realizes. From their calculations (H = ((r + h)^2 – r^2)^2), the Tree of Life is perhaps ~29,000 feet high, and the world’s tallest mountain is Mount Helios at ~28,700 feet. Their distance apart is ~800 miles. So planet must be a sphere of a radius around 138129.9 miles, or a surface area of 2.4×10^11 square miles (OOC: About 3.5 times the size of Earth.) The known world accounts for about ~2,320.1 square miles, or roughly 10% of the calculated surface area. They hypothesize that there is likely more lands to discover beyond the Wild Blue Sea.
- Third, that the position of Aorthe in space tends to change for unknown reasons. Pole shifts, axis tilting, rotational wobble, and more are apparently common according to the evidence, but no one has yet worked out why.
Archaeology – The number of ruins location in Aorthe doesn’t always translate into more information about the people that have left them behind. It still takes scores of people dedicated to unraveling the mysteries that remain. In Aorthe, there are two types of people – archaeologists and “archaeologists.” In other words – those that actually care and are resolved to the science, and those that are actually treasure hunters that would smash open a priceless artifact if they thought there was some gold inside. There are no shortage of “archaeological salvage experts” roaming around in armor and weapons, looking for a hole in the ground to jump intoso they can kill a monster and steal its treasure.
Still, even serious archaeologists recognize the need for so-called “adventurers.” It’s never a good idea to begin an excavation without a few of them on hand to handle the inevitable disaster, attack, or abduction. So long as you can keep them on a short leash, that is. Some archaeologists could even be considered adventurers or ex-adventurers themselves. Generally, these are the individuals that originally entered dungeons seeking fortune, but became fascinated by the cultural artifacts they found within, and have rededicated themselves to learning more.
There are several archaeological organizations on Aorthe. The symbol to the left represents the Flat Aorthe Society – a group located in Villeuerville, Bordeaux-Mobile, Royaume Oublie. They are located here because Vidame Matthias Josue Bathurst, II is their primary benefactor. They aren’t actually archaeologists themselves, but rather a collection of socialites from across the kingdom that have an interest in history and occasionally fund expeditions to various sites. The items that are retrieved are carefully studied (by them), cataloged, and placed into their private collection. Since none of them are actually scientists, their work is not peer-reviewed, and the items they collect never available for examination outside the society, the conclusions they reach can never be truly accepted as fact. Sometimes the conclusions they reach are blatantly false.
Their name derives from the belief of their members that Aorthe is flat. They claim to have evidence of this in their archives. They are convinced that if anyone attempts to sail past The Wild, Blue Sea that they will simply fall off the map. The world, they say, is a disc that is carefully balanced on the back of a giant flying astral turtle, and that if everyone on Aorthe jumps at the same time the disc will tip and slide off the turtle’s back, casting the world to tumble through the Astral Void.
Another society dedicated to the recover of archaeological evidence is the Society for the Understanding of the Red-Asunder (SURA), their symbol pictured left. They are a group of amateur archaeologists that follow a very specific code to emphasize the recovery and preservation of anthropological evidence before lining one’s pocket with treasure. In particular they are interested in learning the history of Aorthe before the Red-Asunder, and any evidence as the the cause of the event.
They are located in the city of Hierosalyma at the foot of Mount Helios. They had previously been in the town of Autricum on the other side of the country, but relocated to Hierosalyma to more closely study the Parthanon to the Old Gods (from a distance), as they believe it may be relevant to their mission of understanding the time before the Rend-Asunder. They are certain it is perhaps the only fully intact building still standing from the time before (PRA – pre-Rend-Asunder.) They have also made some observations regarding the black obelisk that stands before the Parthenon .
- First, it is positioned precisely between the Parthenon and the Tree of Life, which is visible from the top of Mount Helios. In fact, they believe the obelisk to be at exactly 30 degrees south by southeast from the doors of the Parthenon. This could be a massive coincidence, or it could be a clue.
- Second, the obelisk’s height is astounding. It could simply be an attempt to impress the people viewing the Parthenon from the foothills of Mount Helios, but if the information from The Watchers is correct, then SURA believe the obelisk was created to exactly match the height of the Tree of Life, though why is a mystery.
- Though unsubstantiated, members of SURA believe the Parthenon is not entirely abandoned, because occasionally smoke will be seen rising from within.
Military – The Black Hounds Military Academy – A military school in Ashtesma that emphasizes maritime combat. Those that graduate from this school are known as Black Dog Marines, and are noted for strategy and bravery during at-sea encounters. It’s run by the Kuhl Rhudon naval garrison, commanded by the elf commodore Yulen Torbuch. The Cesaria sends many of her officers here for training, and it’s known as an excellent place to earn a primary or secondary education in the martial arts. They are highly selective of members, however. They make an exception for the Cesaria given her hospitality, but any non-elf applying without her explicit endorsement is likely to be turned away. For those that do manage to complete the program here, you can expect to receive a first-class education in maritime warfare, including navigating in various difficult circumstances, such as the din of battle or in pitch darkness, basic ship repair ad functions, knots and rigging, and even the use of canons. There is simply no finer naval academy in the world.
The Knights of the Redeemer is a collective of paladins and knights that band together for the common good. Service to the order is by permission of the lords and ladies that command them, but to have knights participating in the order is considered prestigious so few nobles deny this. Acting as a sort-of international force the Redeemers are called to quell the most serious threats that Aorthe faces. During the Time of Troubles, they quickly deployed to defend the Tree of Life. However, that proved to be a fairly disastrous choice, as the battle became more of a siege and the order found themselves cornered with the rest of the forces at the Tree and making them a veritable non-entity for much of the strife of that time. This is a point the order takes to heart, believing they failed in that time to fulfill their mission. The Knights’ Command is based out of the city of Mesto Lesa in Imperiya Serebra, where they maintain an equipment depot, stables, and training facilities. They will take on new members as squires who must work their way up to be fully inducted. The order is set to a ranking system.
- Squire – Those under the age of 18 who wish to eventually join the knights, or adults who are not already in service to a noble that participates with the Redeemers.
- Sergeant – Wears a black mantle with a red cross. This is a probationary member who has not been fully inducted into the order. An individual may spend from one to five years in this rank studying and proving themselves to the order. To be promoted from sergeant and become a full member requires the endorsement of three existing knights.
- Knight – Wears a white mantle with red cross, and is considered a full member of the order. In addition to what their noble provides them, they are also entitled to the resources available to the order. This includes equipment, horses, and even moderate loans from the order’s coffers.
- Knight Lieutenant – Wears a red mantle with a white cross. The first level of a “Knight Officer.” A “Knight Lieutenant” is a ranked Officer that is trusted for extra responsibility and duties. They have demonstrated faithfulness to their Commanders. They don’t have their own group to command but perform a function or purpose within their unit.
- Knight Commander – Wears a white mantle with a blue cross. A Knight who is given a Commandery consisting of at a least 7 other knights besides the Commander (total of 8).
- Prior – Wears a blue mantle with a white cross. A Prior oversees a group of at least 30 members, known as a Priory.
- Marshall – Wears a white mantle with a gold cross. Commands a group of up to 5 priories.
- Grand Marshal – Wears a white mantle with a red cross in a blue circle and gold star in the center. The highest rank of knight. The order has only one grand marshal, and he is the leader of the order. The current is Grand Marshall William Taylor, of Pointe-a-la-Hache, who is now in service to Tsar Pyotr Leonidovich Miloradov.
- Viceroy – Wears a blue mantle with a gold cross, plus the symbol of their chosen god. While not higher than the grand marshal, this is the rank of the highest spiritual member of the order, who is charged with the divine protection and spiritual well-being of the order. He is also the only member who can ordain a knight a “Knight Paladin of the Redeemer” – an honorific title, but the highest honor the order can bestow.
- Scribe and Knight of the Grand Cross – Wear the mantle of their rank, but with a gold star in the center, with the Grand Cross knight having a larger star. A scribe is an honorific title to a knight that has demonstrated a love or possession of knowledge that is useful to the order. A Knight of the Grand Cross is a scribe that has put this knowledge to use in a way that has benefited the order greatly. Bestowed by the Grand Marshal.
The nation of Fragrantia Imperium is known for their light cavalry – light armored hussars armed with pikes and riding horses so well trained that they say they can fight on even after their rider is dead. The secret to their success is the education available at the Yulan Wehre Acadamy. Their symbol, a stylized W and Y in a circle, graces the branded hides of both horses and students alike. In fact, everything done at this academy is done with both horse and rider. They sleep in the same stable stall, eat the same food, run the same drills, follow the same hygiene regemine, and upon graduation, they both receive the same brand. Only when both horse and rider act as one complete unit will graduation be conferred. For mounted combatants, there are other schools available, but none as fine as the education received here. They are so successful that the Emperor does not need to send all of his cavalry soldiers here. Instead, he keeps a regimen of hussars about 100 strong. Those 100 cavalry units easily do the work of 1000 normal soldiers. Obtaining a position at the academy is not difficult. The main obstacle is cost and time. To go to this school you must purchase a mount, which can be quite costly. Horses are bred and the student begins raising it the very night it is born. The student and horse then begin training until the horse reached maturity about 8 years later. For that duration the student must pay for food and lodging at the school for the horse and themselves. All told, an education here can run between 25,000 and 35,000 gold pieces per student. If the horse should die the student must start all over again from the beginning. If the student should die before the training is complete, the horse is humanely killed and butchered.
The Mermac Nomad tribe of Royaume Oublie has always had an affinity for ranged weapons. Their archers have always been first-class and the invention of firearms in Imperiya Serebra has given them another weapon to quickly master. So famous is their talent that they remain one of the few unconquered (though cowed) tribes, and befor elong many came to them to seek instruction in the art of ranged combat. So famous is their talent that many thought Gnomio Levine might have been from this tribe, though it has never been substantiated. In any event, if the Mermac can be found they will sometimes take on students. However, they are very selective in their apprentices. They will not take anyone who they believe will use their knowledge to inflict suffering, and they make it very clear that their methods are to be used in defense only. The tribe is so small that they usually only accept 5 or 10 students at a time. During the duration of the instruction, the student is expected to stay with the tribe and “work off” the cost of their training by doing whatever work the tribe requires. Being nomads, this usually means the students are carrying supplies or tents from one location to another as the Mermac follow the migration patterns of the Burrax – a creature found only in their tribal lands that seem like a mix between an ox and an ostrich. In fact, their cosmology dictates that the Burrax was created by a powerful wizard centuries ago by accident. Seeing the damage the creature caused on the environment, the wizard also created the Mermac to hunt them down, and they have been doing for for centuries. When the elders of the Mermac tribe determine that a student has sufficiently mastered their wisdom, they graduate with a ceremony that involves much celebration and ends with a ritual tattooing of the symbol to the left – the Mermac tribe symbol surrounded by the circle with points. The student is then considered an honorary member of the tribe and may come and go as they please. Many choose to stay.
For those with an interest in martial arts of the unarmed variety, there is no school or monastery that compares with the instruction a student could receive at the Dodju-Wotu School in Coopreka. It’s run by a gnome – small even for those people, and extremely ancient looking – that goes by the name “Gordon Tinkleberry,” though it is painfully obvious that is a pseudonym, as he also sometimes introduces himself as, “Tinkerbell Applebetty,” “Brown Sugar Momma,” “Upside-down Flamingo” or some other equally ridiculous name. It’s possible that he is so old he does not even remember his old name, as his face is so wrinkled it is very hard to tell if he can even open his eyes. Those who are foolish often laugh at this appearance, name or mannerisms soon learn to call him by the same name all of his students refer to him as – The Master. Perhaps that is the master’s goal, for as soon as he is underestimated, he will reveal the power he has accumulated over many years of training and meditation.
The master possesses mastery over many forms of unarmed combat – Drunken Boxing, Brass Knuckle Goju, Kobold Kung Fu, The Way of the Open Hand, Khyl Rudon Hand-to-Hand, and many other styles. He also possesses a spiritual power and stillness of mind that is essential for the unarmed warrior to master. He does not take many students. Over the course of his long life, only eight are known to have become his pupils. The reason is clear – the Master possesses power unlike many others, and so he must be careful to whom he conveys even a fraction of that.
M.O.M. School for Animals – At one point the marquis of Bordeaux-Mobile, Marquis Oliver Molyneux, ordered the creation of a school for animals. His reasoning – to teach the stray cats of the city to deliver the mail, because it would save money as cats could be paid in fish. Obviously, this did not work out very well, but the marquis continued to fund the school, so it stayed open effectively doing nothing. Around 15 years ago a new matron names Caliope Jones took over the school and turned it into more of an obedience school. These days, some of the best trained war dogs, horses, and cats come from the MOMSA. They are particularly famous for their falconer program, which has trained some of the best war birds and hunting falcons alive today. Among those, they boast the famous war bird Senhal as one of their former students.
Pointy Boys Fight Club – A fight school that specializes in unarmed combat. While such martial arts are usually the domain of monks or rogues, the particular brand of martial arts taught at this school (known as the Mucronate Technique) has been shown in tournaments and practical use to be just as formidable. The method emphasizes cleverness over technique, allowing for victory by any method. There is nothing off limits in Mucronate. Eye gouging, groin hits, grabbing and opponents hair or nose, all of these are valid moves for practitioners. While other martial artists tend to look down on such things, no one can deny its effectiveness, and as Mucronates would say – between the living and the dead honor means nothing.
Rougery – Red Bloom Thieves’ Guild – An underground guild of cutthroats that have been known to take on apprentice thieves and teach them the skills they need to survive. In addition, the rogue receives the support and resources of the guild. Unfortunately, guild dues are quite steep, and the members themselves tend to be very cliquey. New members are often hazed to get a sense of them, and after that the recruit will probably fall into one of the existing cliques or be pressured to quit the guild. There is a great deal of rivalry among the cliques, and bullying is common if an outsider is caught disadvantaged.
Riorden’s Redoubt – There are few places that legitimately teach the roguish arts, and Marcus “Rook” Riorden’s school is one of them. Officially, this is a military academy that specialized in teaching skills for reconnaissance, sharpshooting, and commando-focused skills (intrusion, tactics, target elimination.) Unofficially, this is also a school that trains spies. Being one of the few schools in the world to offer such a service means that Marcus Riorden is doing quite well, with clients in every major nation. For a fee, Rook Riorden will even do house-calls, either providing personal instruction himself, or sending one or more of his many faculty members (known as “The Professors.”) The school itself is a compact manor house in the heart of the city that has so many defensive fortifications that it gives off the vibe of a tiny fortress more than a school.
Monster Hunting/Studying Societies
In the heart of Stavrau’s merchant district is a storefront with blackened windows. No one is every seen coming or going from it, and most citizens assume it was a store that was boarded up or abandoned when the previous owners fled the city. However, anyone that inquired about its purchase is quietly informed to look elsewhere, as the building is under a permanent lease. That is because this storefront at 88 Ulitza Gaza is the home for the League of Whispers – a clandestine organization comprised of members withe the skill set and mission of ridding the world of the most vicious monsters in existence. They were formed to hunt and destroy the Stavrau Reaper, and it is the Tsar that quietly funds their operations. For many years the leader of the League, one Sergei Pavlovich, has been convinced that the Reaper is a vampire that either only wakes every fifty years to feed, or like to toy with the city. Other members disagree, offering alternative theories, but no one still has any real evidence to support any of them. The League’s headquarters is about the only place where all of the evidence gathered on the Reaper can be found, and yet they are an entirely underground organization and are terribly secretive. The reason is because they plan to catch the Reaper in the act during its next cycle by remaining in the city. If no one knows they exist, they cannot be targeted by the Reaper, and may be able to get the drop on it. Until then, they prepare by gathering intelligence, building an arsenal, and reviewing the evidence at hand. At of this writing, there are five members of the League aside form Sergei. There is Pyotr Illivich, a massive stablehand with the strength of a bear. Yelena Demovidovich, a chamber maid at a nearby inn that has secretly manifested magical powers. Rimchik Goodfellow, a halfling with an uncharacteristically dour and abrasive personality. Adam Gladwell, a local constable . Finally, Nietzche Lopez, a man with an Arenian father and Volkstaddian mother that has recently left the army due to an injury and found himself quite bored since. New members are not necessarily against the League’s code, but they must be very careful on who they try to recruit, lest the Reaper become aware of them. Therefore, one does not join the League, but one is invited to join the League. Geerally these are people that have demonstrated some form of value, are a known monster hunter, or just seem to have a skill the League may need. Usually, a sign is left for the prospective member – a rose. A few days later, a note will be left that asks the prospect to come to a secluded location where, if it seems like the coast is clear, one or more members may approach them to make sure they are a good fit.
The Order of the Looking Glass is a band of monster hunters that serve out of Aasonard. They’re a band of about 18 hunters, most Verden but with a few dwarves and other ethnic humans. Their mission is to hunt the most dangerous monsters in the world. They generally hunt together, but there are no mandatory hunts. Whenever a potential case comes their way, the 18 members decide to go independently. Sometimes all of them will answer the call if it seems challenging enough. Other times maybe only one or two will take up a case. If a case doesn’t sound interesting or challenging to any of them, they will simply decline the contract. Being primarily Verden, they follow some ritualistic traditions for the hunt. They generally paint their bodies in a blue mud and perform a cleansing ritual by bathing in the smoke of burning sage before confronting a beast. They are particularly fond of non-humanoid monsters, though they ave claimed the head of a vampire on more than one occasion. They have no one leader, but rather are a simple collective of world-class bounty hunters with a very specialized practice. If a case involves a large, dangerous beast, that is sure to get their attention. They get their name (and symbol) from a previous member who was slain while on a hunt named Marla Hfrolgar. All they were able to recover of hers was a broken mirror. In her honor, they have taken it up.
The Hag Hag Collective is a group of individuals that do not wish to destroy monsters, but to study them. If they are going to delve deep into a dungeon, it’ll be to observe and record the ecology of creatures like umber hulks, piercers, dragons, and giants. Most of what we know about the way some creatures live, feed, and reproduce comes entirely form their dedicated observations. Unfortunately, sometimes these researchers also end up being victims of the creatures as well. In fact, on more than one occasion an adventurer has recovered the journal of a Hag Hag member and discovered the final entries were the researcher’s notes on the sensation and up-close descriptions of being eaten by them. Now that’s true dedication. The Hag Hags have about 10 core members. However, anyone wishing to have access to their vast library of data must become a due-paying member. For just the price of a glass of mead a day, you too could be a supporting member of the Hag Hag Collective. Act now, and they’ll provide a handy satchel with the Hag Hag logo on it as a gift to you. Be come a platinum member with a donation of 10gp or more and you’ll also receive you name in a special thank you dedication at the beginning of Prof. Thomas Gumtree’s latest work, “The Eating Habits of the Eastern Domestic Mimic / How I lost My Left Hand.” The Hag Hag Collective is also keeps many zoos throughout Aorthe. The largest is in Sedem Imperii, but smaller zoo can be found in over 50 of the larger cities across the world. All proceeds go to the care of the creatures and the advancement of science.
Keepers of the Binder of Knowledge – The monastic order of Oghma, god of knowledge, has a sub-collective of both faithful and secular scholars. This group essentially encompasses all of the very best and brightest minds on Aorthe. From history to mathematics, physics, arcane studies, and even liberal arts, all disciplines are valid and worthy topics of discussion. Most of the time, little is accomplished. The constant debate and back and forth over evidence means most discussions stand at deadlocks until new concrete evidence of a subject makes a position painfully obvious. Even then, there may be some that would argue against facts. Obtaining a position in the Keepers is, never-the-less, a very prestigious thing, as it’s often seen as “proof” that someone is intellectually gifted. However, there are some cases where members are clearly there due to nepotism. All of the Marquis, for example, are members. This includes Molyneux who, it cannot be disputed, is an utter moron. In any event, the Keepers do not actively recruit, because they do not have to. Generally, an invitation to join the Keepers is extended via connections, referrals from mentors or peers, and sometimes through large cash donations.
People wouldn’t normally associate warriors with the goddess of Joy, Lliira, but the rise of Wren Knackle brought such an organization to light. While not even nearly the first Scarlet Mummer, Wren is certain the most famous. Since then throngs of people have been flooding the various churches and cathedrals dedicated to the goddess. Unfortunately, they find that no one is admitted to the Scarlet Mummers. In order to become one, one must be hand-selected by the goddess form among her faithful. Since The Shying, this means that they receive a vision and must perform a ritual in the temples. If they are insincere or fraudulent in their claim, then woe unto them, for Lliira does not abide false claims of mummerhood. Since Wren’s fame, there have been scored of mercenaries that attempt to drum up business by claiming to be a mummer. Sooner or later, all are found in a catatonic state, enraptured by the pure joy they witness. Little do they know that Wren was a rare example of a paladin mummer. In fact, most mummers are simple monks of Lliira, who wear no special garments aside from their trademark bladed boots. However, this is no longer entirely true, as the numerous celebrations to the Revelers are considered sacred days by Mummer who worship Wren Knackle as their patron. On these days, the Mummers make no effort at hiding, throwing scarlet flowers to crowds or even dressing up like Wren. This is not only to celebrate their most famous member, but also to celebrate their greatest victory – Wren’s utter ousting of Lovitar, Lliira’s most hated enemy. It’s also an attempt to bring people to Lliira and bolster their now-dwindling numbers. The Mummers themselves would never reveal their numbers, but it’s widely known that their numbers dwindled during the Time of Troubles, and that even though they celebrate the defeat of their greatest enemy they know they must take on a new enemy in the Black Mummers.
The Gothic Order is a collection of Verden priests. Gothi, as they are known, are the shamans of the various Jarldoms that make up the nation. To be named a Gothi and admitted to the Gothic Order means you have taken on a tremendous responsibility. A jarldom’s gothi is responsible for maintain the oral history, spiritual well being, and magical protection of the entire community. In exchange, they say that the gothi are granted incredible abilities, such as the ability to act as an oracle and answer questions about the future. Several times per year, during the Days of Two Moons, Nights of Darkness, and Yule time, the gothi gather with the Jarls and King Jorgenson in what is known as the Woldmuld – a general counsel. Here they cast rituals of protection, decide on important political matters, retell the oral history of their people, and make sacrificial offerings of wheat, beer, wool, and other goods to the various gods they worship, like Tempus and Chauntea. This gathering is also where average people will come to ask for miracles. A woman who can’t have children will wish for it, and find themselves a mother soon after, a farmer that cannot grow crops for lack of rain will return home to find their fields filled with healthy plants, etc. However, perhaps the most important function of the Gothic Order at the Woldmuld is the one they perform for the dead. For the Verden people, when they die an honorable and worthy death their bodies are taken and ritually cleansed and wrapped in a burial shroud. They are then placed into a barrow while their spirits climb the roots of Yggrdrasil to Ysgard. There, the heroes feast forever in the halls of the citadel of Valhalla, and the commoner’s experience lives of peace and harmony, celebrating with their ancestors and the totemic spirits that guide them. However, if someone does not die well or honorably, or their body is destroyed and cannot be placed in a barrow or burial jar, they say that their spirits become lost and trapped here on Aorthe. After this, the only way they can be saved is at the Woldmuld, while the entire Gothic Order concentrates on locating and guiding the spirit to Ysgard. For the Verden people, it’s a very important function, as they honor their dead.
One of the newest religious orders is the Followers of the Rapture. Their leader, Abigor Morfran (aka. The Devil Deacon), began his church with a small group of individuals that began worshiping a “new god” known as Belairsaurius in the city of Ashtesma. Unfortunately, after some “religious persecution” by the Revelers, they have been forced to move to the curiously abandoned city of Goliad. There they have renovated the former cathedral of Lliira into their own flagship church, known as The Apocryphal, in which the holiest place is The Necropolis where rituals and worship takes place. As for their dogma, that is something of a question. It is known they worship death, but they are no mere death cult. To hear Abigor explain it, they do not worship anything but the end of days. They do not wish to hasten it, but recognize its inevitability at the hands of a power greater than anything ever known, and so they spend their days in quiet reflection and prayer, trying to learn all they can about the state of things when time ends. They refer to this event, this end, by the anthropomorphized entity known as “Belairsaurius” – and a 15 foot tall likeness of this now stands in front of the cathedral upon which a dedication to Lliira once stood. The depiction is of a tall, handsome man dressed in extravagant robes with a sneer upon his face as he gazes out over the mostly abandoned city of Goliad. Other interesting tenants include the ritual tattooing of the members faces. Abigor himself sports a crude scrawling tattoo on his face, and other members follow suit as a sign of dedication. As for ranks, the church is known for being very humble and not having grand ranks or elaborate vestments. In fact, all members wear simple rough cloth robes. Abigor is known as the Second in Line while all other members are simply Followers. Those that are charged with the protection of the church and its members are known as The Vigilant, and carry knobbly clubs in addition to their simple vestments. Their goal is simply to live simply, meditate on the meaning of life and the coming of the end times. However, as their influence has grown they’ve begun sending out missionaries to warn people that the end is coming and pleading with them to repent for their sins. On one occasion, a group of followers abducted two women and a man and beat them with their knobbly clubs until they confessed their sins. Those Followers were apprehended and have been summarily remanded to the Second in Line for judgement and punishment, but it is a disturbing turn to say the least. The Followers accept new recruits from all walks of life. One need simply inform any Followers of their desire and a spiritual ritual will be performed over the course of a few weeks where the prospects faith will be tested and they will endure hardship and humiliation in public before confessing all of their sins before the entire congregation or city. After this, if their faith seems genuine, they will have their face ritually tattoos and scarred and they will be considered Followers.