Thursday, 9 February 2017
Saints of the Black Church
It was shortly after the Apocalypse war, when the Eclipsed Kingdom was only recently eclipsed and when the Black Church was freshly founded when an arch-heretic from a foreign land presumed to rob God of his sacrifice and endanger, not only the Eclipsed Kingdom, but the whole world.
This heretic defeated all Knights sent against him and nearly escaped with the young lady before, at the borders of the Kingdom Saint Gorgoth fell upon him. The two battled for many hours and Gorgoth was pierced many times with lance and sword. Despite this, his faith in Azathoth never faltered. When the first Grail Knights found his corpse, his black blood. and that of heretic was spread over half a mile of mountain. They feared that the Gift of Azathoth had escaped but, listening, they heard her cry.
With his last act, Gorgoth had taken her into his cavernous maw but, crucially, not swallowed her. There she remained, trapped behind his sword-like teeth as if behind prison bars. The Grail Knights were able to retrieve her and, before she gave birth, they took her to the Cathedral of the Black Pope and her foetus was removed and the first sacrifice offered to Azathoth, thus assuaging his divine anger for another year.
All praise to Saint Gorgoth, he whose faith never faltered and which was able to overcome even his own near-infinite hunger. Truly the greatness of the Lord is beyond any earthly accounting.
Gorgoth is held by all Knights of the Eclipsed Kingdom as a symbol of courage, loyalty, self-control and faith in God, all of the most central and powerful elements of chivalry, and for that reason, is considered the epitome of Knighthood. (see ‘Orders of Chivalry).
Though there are many more Knights of Saint Gorgoth than Monks of Saint Gorgoth, there is a small order, occupying only one small monastery, whose speciality is the Language and Behaviour of Wyrms.
(Most Knights of Saint Gorgoth are surprised to find out that this order of monks exists, and disappointed to find them extremely dull and concerned only with the language and history of lizards, Wyrms and Snakes.)
The sign of Saint Gorgoth (for Monks) is a curled black dragon pierced by many barbs and his monks wear the common black habit of the clergy.
It was the Lady Eusia who learnt the language of the wind and preached the gospel of Azathoth to the snow itself, thereby converting the Winter Court, and the Queen of Air and Darkness in her Winter self, to His worship. She also preached the Apocalypse through Light, predicting that the end would come through a blinding effulgence.
Because of this, her memory is sacred to the Winter Court and the habits of her nuns are white, like the snow. The Nuns serve as ambassadors to the Queen of Air and Darkness during Winter and it is claimed the greatest of that order has cold skin, walks barefoot on the snow and cannot feel the cold. The Abbess of the order has a formal position on the Winter Court.
The sign of Saint Eusia is a Blue Hand on a white background and she is associated with Wind, Cold, Languages and freezing to death.
It was Saint Korbin who preached and lead the great crusade against Summer, thereby driving that rebellious and heretical season and the court thereof beyond the boundaries of the Eclipsed Kingdom. By his great efforts Summer has never come again.
In the reported words of the Black Pope Herself, the Monks of Saint Korbin are “Bearded, bald, intolerant, illiterate and strict. An iron rod in the hands of the church”. They maintain an oath of illiteracy, passing on the Gospel of Azathoth through speech from monk to monk. Their hymns are mighty, dark and terrifying to hear. They keep a constant watch for any evidence of the return of Summer. They were the only order to argue for the total destruction of the Spring Court instead of its imprisonment and they regard any evidence of Spring, Birds or Heresy as clear evidence of slipping moral standards in the Eclipsed Kingdom.
Though they are not an Order Militaris the Monks of St Korbin will give their blessing to the few knights who meet their very high, and very strict standards of faith and behaviour.
The sign of Saint Korbin is a black sword piercing a yellow sun and he is associated with strength in piety and endless warfare against the so-called 'natural' forces of the outer world. His monks wear a rough habit of black rope or wool and go barefoot.
It was Sceadwian in his position as Holy Judge of the Black Assizes who broke the back of Spring, imprisoning its Court beneath the earth until God should descend and ensuring the Eclipsed Kingdom would be all but free of this criminal, heretical and rebellious Season.
For this reason the Monks of Saint Scaedwian are allowed to incorporated the colour green (usually a criminal colour) into their habits. It is common for a Monk of that order to have a habit bisected down the centre, with one half green, the other black.
The Monks of Saint Sceadwian are famed for their knowledge of canon law and most Judges of the Eclipsed Kingdom, either secular or religious either are or were a member of the order, were educated by them or are advised by one.
The sign of Sceadwian is a tree with one half green with leaves and the other bare. He is associated with the fair and indifferent judgement of god and the church and with opposition to the terroristic and criminal Court of Spring.
It was the sacred Abbess Fogamar who preached the gospel of Azathoth to the Autumn Court and to the Queen of Air and Darkness in her Autumn self, converting them to His worship. (The Queen had already been converted in her Winter self by Saint Eusia.) The Nuns of Fogamar are ambassadors to the Autumn Court and the Abbess of the Order has a formal place in that Court which she must exchange yearly with the Abbess of the Order of Eusia.
Saint Fogamar converted the Autumn Court through poetry, (her seventeen sacred psalms are recorded in full in The Book of Fogamar), and for that reason the order is well respected by Knights for that chivalric value and sometimes sought after for Feathersmithed swords and shields.
The nuns of Fogamar wear a standard black habit and veil but they are allowed to carry and play instruments, so long as they are only of wood, are stringed and have no neck. There have been accusations that Bards have escaped the Calicem Servi by retreating to the Nuns of Fogamar and joining the order and relations between the two groups are strained for this reason.
(Though they are not an Order Militaris, there have been, famously, Seventeen Knights of Saint Fogamar, each of whom bore feathersmithed arms and armour poetised with lines from one of the seventeen sacred psalms. Each set was unique and the Knights did various heroic deeds before being lost to time and mischance. The seventeen sets of arms and armour they bore are still at missing somewhere in the world and if re-assembled, the Knights of Saint Fogamar could potentially ride again.)
The faithful of the Nuns of Fogamar cannot truly die of age, they only dry out, shrink and wizen like Autumn trees, growing knobbly and black. Old nuns are placed in the Abbeys Autumn Maze where they stay unmoving, gradually becoming smaller, more shrunken and woodlike, often mistaken for roots.
Fogamars sign is a Lyre. The habits of her nuns are a very dark brown, lined with autumnal red. She is sacred to the writers and divine poets of the Church and is revered by the Autumn Court.
The Half-Elf Saint who preached to the Magicians, the gender of Culix is unknown, as are details of exactly what he or she preached. They were known to be a potent Magic-User and a servant or apprentice of the Lady Esmerillon, half-sister of, and Sorcerer to, the Sleeping King.
Most versions of the Book of Culix suggested that he, or she, converted the magicians through a combination of philosophy, trickery, riddles, force and promises of magical power. The common lay story holds that Culix attempted every method possible to move the weak faith of the Sorcerers and expended tremendous force in attempting to compel them, but only ultimately found success through trickery, as the Sorcerers respected the multifarious cunning of his, or her, schemes and agreed that only someone with divine inspiration could have produced them.
The monks, and nuns of Saint Culix, wear standard habits of black, but are allowed to embroider the insides of their outer cloaks with sliver signs of their magical capacities. Most members are magic users and scholars of some kind and their Priory’s and Monasteries are even more extra-dimensional than most places in the Eclipsed Kingdom.
The sign of Saint Culix is a bolt of lightning twisting back on its own path. Sometimes Culix him, or herself is shown grinning. They are either being accidentally struck by their own spell or cunningly warding off someone else’s spell. The exact status of the lightning and its relation to the saint is part of the Mystery of Saint Culix.
Culix is sacred to Magicians and Sorcerers of all kinds, or at least they claim he is to the Monks of Saint Korbin when they come knocking.
The child saint who converted the wise to Azathoth with her sacred screams, which blotted out all rational thought and revealed the primordial and absolute reality of nothingness.
In the early years of the Black Church, many holy men and philosophers came to debate the new Priests of Azathoth (in between mutual crusades and counter-crusades). They thought to use their legalistic and abstract tools of rhetoric to sow doubt in the minds of the holy and to overturn the word of god and at the time some of the freshly-enlightened were not yet wise enough themselves in the ways of the world to refute them, and some did doubt.
Then Szysczak came among them. She was but a child at the time but she was rich in Faith. She spoke not to the heretics, nor did she argue, but revealed the Pure Truth of Azathoth through her divine and continual scream.
· On the first day of her scream, many doubted her and tried to dissuade her. They said amongst themselves “why is this girl screaming?” and “why is she here?”
· On the second day of her scream, some fled.
· On the third day of her scream, the heretics said amongst themselves “she is soon to die, for no-one, man or beast, can scream continually for four days and live”.
· On the fourth day of her screaming, yea, many of the heretics pleaded and begged with her to stop, and many wept, yet the faithful were emboldened.
· On the fifth day of her screaming, all fell silent and some went mad for they felt the eye of the Lord upon them.
· But on the sixth day, they Saw and were converted to the True God, and wept bloody tears of joy for they had seen the Darkness Beyond All Things.
The Nuns of Saint Szyszczak are famous for their screaming sermons and, at the alter of Szyszczak, there has been a continual scream, renewed in shifts, ever since the Saint Herself walked the earth.
The nuns of Saint Szyszczak are permitted habits of dark and bloody red and she has many lay members, the Flagellants of Szyszczak, who follow in their path. Her symbol is a screaming mouth.
Saint Fugol preached and lead one of the Regrettable Crusades and is both famous, and infamous for this. His actions lead directly to the Oath of Saint Vish (see below).
Due to their heresy, their greed and their indifference to law, Saint Fugol preached against the birds, and all the creatures of the air. He was able to summon enough support for this cause amongst the Churls and Chivalry to launch a Crusade against the Air.
The crusade met with initial success but, after several million birds had been destroyed and driven off, there came a plague of bugs which consumed more of the kingdoms crops than the birds ever had. St Fugol intensified his preaching, promising that he would locate the heretical Parliament of the Birds and bring it to heel. His entire crusade was enchanted and galloped up into the sky.
No-one is sure what happened in the sky but seven days later the crusade returned to the Eclipsed Kingdom with enormous velocity and power, splattering knights all over the countryside, causing enormous damage to life and limb and annihilating two thirds of the Chivalry (either through falling or impact damage) of the entire realm. It was judged, (by Saint Vish, see below) that Saint Fugol had preached a False Crusade, causing Azathoth to turn His eye from His knights. However, the initial part of the crusade was never formally abjured and so his presence as a Saint of Azathoth remains.
A small Monastic Order of Saint Fugol perseveres, believing that he battles even now against the evil Parliament of the Birds, (his body was never found), and that only through his courage and sacrifice does the Eclipsed Kingdom endure this menace. They do still maintain some small support as it is unquestionably true that the unspeakable creatures of the air are a minor, but uncontrollable source of heresy in the Eclipsed Kingdom.
Saint Fugol’s sign is a Broken Wing and the habits of his Monks are lined with feathers, but the Chivalry abjure his order due to the disaster of the Aerial Crusade and the Oath of Saint Vish.
It was Lady Vish who proposed what come to be known as ‘The Oath of Saint Vish’ in which no man of the Eclipsed Kingdom would allow themselves to recognise the reality, substance, nature or existence of the creatures known as ‘Birds’.
In the deep shock and sorrow following the Crusade Against the Air, almost every remaining male in the Eclipsed Kingdom took the oath and, since then, no man has directly acknowledged the existence of birds or, as they are known to the church, the Avis Invernalis.
This, and the continued existence of Aerial Threats, lead to the creation of the Nuns of Saint Vish, the Order of the Bird-Murderers, or Avis Infernalis Interfectores. This order is the closest that the Eclipsed Kingdom comes to an Order Militaris of women. They are an armed group which supports the battle against, and destruction of, the menace of birds or “wing’d beings” of any kind in the Eclipsed Kingdom. It is an endless and brutally-fought conflict which can never be fully recognised by the authorities as each man has sworn never to acknowledge the existence of the creatures against which the order fights.
The Nuns of Saint Vish commonly do not wear habits, finding these impactable in their work. Instead they go lightly armoured on mules and carry the symbol of the Black Claw reaching Upwards from the Earth.
When, during the ‘Schism of Virgins’ an almost total breakdown of communication and trust between the Lady Esmerillon and the Silent Knights began to factionalise the kingdom, leading it to the brink of total civil war, (As opposed to the near-continual wars of oppression, suppression and succession which make up part of its common background), it was the wisdom of Saint Widhewo that unified the two parties and returned peace to the Eclipsed Kingdom.
It is said that Widhewo travelled himself, alone, either in reality or dream, into the presence of Azathoth himself and there was given knowledge to repair the kingdom.
Whatever gospel was bestowed upon Widhewo to preach, it was too much for a mortal mind to comprehend without breaking and his first sermon in the Court of the Sleeping King killed nine in ten of those present, caused the King to turn in his sleep, savagely maimed the Lady Esmerillon, sending her into shock for fifty years and drove most of those who remained mad.
After his sermon resolved the Schism of Virgins, Saint Widhewo was taken away by the Grail Knights and kept in the Monastery of Mazes. He was served directly by the totally mad, who communicated his words to the partially mad, who gave them to the slightly mad, who repeated them to the Eccentric Laity. For this reason he is called ‘The Lonely Saint’. Though Saint Widhewo himself has Returned to Azathoth, his Monks continue the organisation he gave them, being lead by the most mad and praying still inside his maze.
The Sign of Saint Widhewo is a skull with flowers for eyes and his Monks are permitted to wear whatever they think necessary at any time, though the Eccentric Laity to usually wear habits of deep black.
Adiaphor is a minor saint. As a Knight he was carried off, fully armoured, including his mount, by one of the Avis Infernalis of gigantic size. All present at the time remarked on how fully Adiaphor held to the Oath of Saint Vish, he looked neither up nor down, nor acknowledged the gigantic claws grasping him, neither did his expression or demeanour change but he continued to spur his horse to gallop, looking straight ahead, as if nothing had taken place.
When the Nuns of Saint Vish eventually defeated the Avis Infernalis in question and recovered his body from its mountain eerie, they found it miraculously unchanged. He was still atop his loyal steed, still staring directly ahead, still smiling vaguely, and quite dead, though uneaten.
This was hailed as a Sign from Azathoth for only That One can master such total indifference to either life or death.
Saint Adiaphor is hailed by Knights as the Saint of Divine Impassivity. He also has a small order of monks who do not care about anything. Their habits are black originally, but become grey with dust and webs over time. His symbol is a half-closed eye.
The Moon-Blue saint or the Dreaming Saint, Saint Dröm was a dungeon dreamer from a distant realm who found himself incarnated in the Eclipsed Kingdom due to the power of the Sleeping King.
Though he occupied the lowest of positions the seed of True Faith burned in his heart. Saint Dröm attended to the sermons of the Black Church, and he did more than attend, he questioned the priests closely, asking them ever more penetrating and revealing questions as to the nature of God.
Though he was but a churl, and a dreamer to boot, the priests were impressed with the seriousness of Dröm’s attention and, over time, the answers to his questions brought him further and further up the hierarchy of the church until he stood before the Thirteen Cardinals of the Black Church themselves.
Seven of the Cardinals advised that Saint Dröm be permanently and repeatedly executed for daring to come before them, but, before the vote was counted, the Black Pope herself, the Pontifex Nigrum in Tenebras Exteriores, came amongst them. She spoke directly to Saint Dröm and the power of her presence was so great that he fell upon the ground and swore faith in Azathoth forever more.
At that moment he disappeared, and he did not return.
It was assumed at the time that Saint Dröm had probably died from a heart attack after witnessing the near-divine presence of the Black Pope, or that he had simply been woken in the dungeon he slept in and had been released.
It was only much later that news of Saint Dröm reached the Eclipsed Kingdom. Dröm was the imprisoned heir to a mighty empire in a distant land. His parents had been assassinated when he was but a babe and he had been blinded and cast into the darkness to eat bugs and lick slime from the walls. After a series of sanguine civil conflicts wiped out most of that empires nobility, Dröm was released from his dungeon and restored to the throne as the Blind Emperor.
The people of that empire were astounded at his learning and composure for he had been kept hidden in the dark for all of his life yet he spoke like an educated man and seemed well informed on matters theological and philosophical. The people rejoiced at this for they saw it as a consequence of his Imperial blood.
In fact, these were the lessons of the Eclipsed Kingdom and of the Black Church. Saint Dröm never forgot what he had learned in the kingdom of the Sleeping King, he did not apostatise his faith in Azathoth, but neither did he reveal it. Instead he waited and ruled wisely, slowly seeking out those who might be receptive to the True Faith and building shadow networks inside the state.
Invisibly he embroiled the Empire in various conflicts, draining its strength and exposing its people to the true nature of Chaos. Over the years his cult spread and found followers in many of the noble houses. Dröm founded the Inquisition to seek and destroy his own cult, secretly the Inquisition itself was an agent of the same power, seizing the most potent servants of Azathoth and bringing them before the Blind Emperor to be bound to his service.
When the time was ripe, Dröm revealed his true self and openly expounded his belief in the Demon Sultan Azathoth.
Regrettably, but predictably, the pale and shallow souls and intellects of men were unable to sustain such a faith and, in their weakness they sought to deny Azathoth and turned against their Emperor. In a cataclysmic war he was brought down and martyred for the Black God.
The story of these events only reached the Eclipsed Kingdom many years later but when they were confirmed Saint Dröm was formally beatified and an Order founded in his name.
The habits of the monks of Saint Dröm are a dark blue and he is sacred to the dreamers, and it is due to his example that dreaming souls are accepted into the clergy of the Black Church.
The symbol of Saint Dröm is a blank and sightless eye with a pupil like an eclipsed sun.