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  1. How is Asioth attained?

  2. ON ASIOTH An Exposé by Caspian of Rhen ((The information presented here is not public knowledge. The exposé and documents herein are held in Roteth'Dravoz.) Asioth (pronounced ‘aa-see-oth’) translates literally from Draconic as “the gift of divine privilege”, and it is the spiritual objective of the eponymous philosophy Asiothism. The school was founded by the Great Titan Azdromoth, firstborn of the Drakaar, with his authorship of The Aurelects during an extended captivity. This set of thirteen hexametrical poems purports to be a guidebook to the achievement of Asioth, whereby the individual reaches a kind of gnosis or apotheosis: the full realization of his unity with the world, simultaneously with his own essential selfhood and that of all others. The first poem of the Aurelects is The Divine Gift, and at fourteen verses it is the longest. The following twelve poems are ten verses each and come in pairs of two called doublets: one Fire and one Vessel, each using language parallel to its partner to describe Asioth. Each Fire is a chapter in the life of Azdromoth, and each Vessel is a description of the world’s current state. The relationship between each Fire and its Vessel mimics the relationship of the Sun and Moon--the Fire is a luminary of its own, and the Vessel reflects its light into a new concept. The language of The Aurelects is descriptive and symbolic, apparently meant to stimulate insight in the reader. It is intensely self-referential, and many of the same terms or turns of phrases are repeated in different contexts or with slight variation. Each doublet discusses the Azdromoth’s acts, his relationship with his followers, or the nature of Asioth using a unique theme. For example, the Fire of Love characterizes Asioth as the bond between husband and wife, while its twin the Vessel of Strength discusses the bond between king and subject; the Fire of Growth characterizes Asioth as the growth of a seed into a tree, while the Vessel of Grace uses the metaphor of developing a book from an outline. Aside from Azdromoth’s Aurelects, the greatest work on Asioth is The Commentary of Eresar sin Nathemas, written by the elf of that name, who has been a companion of the Great Titan for several centuries. It contains sayings (probably apocryphal) of Azdromoth, and the teachings of Eresar to his students. Its tone is distinguished from The Aurelects by short, plainspoken, and often surreal descriptions of encounters between Eresar, Azdromoth, and other figures. Critics and layman initiates of Asioth are often told to read The Forgery of the Gate, a short letter by an anonymous student of Eresar. The body of the text makes no explanation for its ironic and ambiguous name--this, too, is likely intended to stimulate insight in the reader. Adherents to this school often call themselves Seekers of Asioth (or Heralds), and walk the pilgrimage of The Auric Path as a method of attaining insight. Before embarking, they are given a question called an Um’ei, or “Sacred Journey”, which they are engendered to answer at each stop. Upon completing the pilgrimage, if the teacher is not satisfied with their response, the student is sent forth again. This exposé presents the documents mentioned in the following order: The Aurelects, The Commentary, The Forgery, and finally, a collection of common Um’ei. The Aurelects, 13 Lessons of the Great Titan Biographical Element Thematic Elements The Divine Gift - - Fire of Vitality Vessel of Eternity Creation World (Waters/Trees) Body (Blood/Bones) Fire of Insight Vessel of Knowledge Exploration of the world Forms (Eye/Crystal) Names (Voice/Thunder) Fire of Love Vessel of Strength Covenants with man Marriage Fealty Fire of Splendor Vessel of Triumph Slavery to Iblees Conquest/Hate Rulership/Envy Fire of Growth Vessel of Grace Captivity Conception/Germination Painting/Writing Fire of Exaltation Vessel of Sublimity Freedom The Heavens The Earth THE AURELECTS The Divine Gift That which is within is like that which is without; that which is without is like that which is within. All things ariseth from One by the will of One, and so all things cometh from this subtle process. Fire shineth brightly upon its own vessel, as the heavenly sun’s light filleth up the moon. So cleavest thou sweetly the fire from her source, taking only the light that stretcheth between them. By this means thou mayest win the golden Asioth, and all deficiency shalt be taken from you. Herein is held the power beyond all power, that revealeth the subtle and hideth the known. By Asioth is every world created, for this is the golden gift of eternities. Fire of Vitality First, the World was a tossing sea of red waters. The waves crept and were still; they rushed and were frozen. Asioth was hidden beneath the darkest depths. Rising up, a golden sun clove One into two Buoyant waters rushed into the chasm: red-gold. Being, the red light waxed; Knowing, the gold light waned. Timeless insight froze the First-Born from red waters; His blood was red flame in an alabaster heart. Within, red-gold showed vigor in the darkest depths. First-born lapped up buoyant waters: vitality. Vessel of Eternity Last, the World is a misty weald of white branches. Trees reach for the heavens; they seek without growing. Asioth is shining above the bright heavens. Waxing out, a silver moon cleaves two into One. Spectral branches weave throughout each other: white-gold. Loving, the white light grows; Wanting, the gold light dies. Lively knowledge carves the First-Born from white branches; His bones are pale stone beneath plates of black onyx. Without, white-gold hides ages in the bright heavens. First-born tears down spectral branches: eternity. Fire of Insight First-born looked upon the World, seeing many forms: like crystals, his eyes fixed wavering lights in place. Unseen, he showed Second-Born the timeless insight. Asioth shone from brother to brother: unsaid. Crystals hummed like thunder, molding formless homelands; First-Born watched above them, eye casting over all. His brothers hid at the edges of his vision; watching, they each lit their flames with his blazing eyes. Now rose Asioth of One sight, voice like thunder. Last, First-Born revealed the humming crystal: insight. Vessel of Knowledge First-born chronicles the World, naming many kinds: like thunder, his voice envelops uncertain truths. Unsaid, he tells Second-Born of lively knowledge. Asioth sighs from lover to lover: unseen. Thunder shines like crystals, dubbing nameless nations; First-Born lives among them, voice calling to them all. His lovers whisper in stillness of his absence; hearing, they each fill their throat with his glowing voice Now comes Asioth of One word, eyes like crystals. First, First-Born describes the shining thunder: knowledge. Fire of Love Now the World was loved by good husbands and sweet wives, whom sons of timeless insight did rule lovingly. Cherishing First-Born, nations vowed themselves to him; Asioth was a golden band on their fingers. Their hearts: buoyant waters filled these red-gold vessels, and he was held with caring passion over them. First-Born’s household did grow, and he vowed to new kin; by him they ever multiplied across the lands. Golden fires shone brightly on their loving hearts. First-Born ruled royally these red-gold vessels: love Vessel of Strength Now the World is ruled by great kings and their subjects, whom sons of lively knowledge do love royally. Revering First-Born, subjects pledge themselves to him; Asioth is a silver seal on their fealties. Their souls: spectral branches hold these white-gold fires, and he is filled with mighty power over them. First-Born’s people thrive, and he accepts their pledges; by him they never diminish with the ages. Silver vessels are made full by their royal souls. First-Born loves lovingly these white-gold fires: strength Fire of Splendor First-Born wreathed his household in a sublime beauty; from empty silence, a fallen prince hated them. An adversary soared from his silent limbo, pledging First-Born glory greater than Asioth. Thus First-Born conquered nations with his glowing voice; Asioth was the noble grandeur of his throne. Full of vengeance, royal subjects turned against him, and their silver seals held him in the darkest depths. In limbo, First-Born clove the fire from her source, the adversary of the fallen prince: splendor. Vessel of Triumph First-Born guards his people with a noble grandeur, from silent limbo, a fallen prince envies them. An adversary broods in his empty silence, vowing First-Born vengeance greater than Asioth Thus First-Born watches subjects with his blazing eyes; Asioth is the sublime beauty of their crowns. Full of glory, loving nations bow before him, and their golden bands hold him in the bright heavens. In silence, First-Born shines between them all like light, the adversary of the fallen prince: triumph. Fire of Growth The World was a fruitful womb of red earth: a cage. Below, a white-gold seed, First-Born, became himself. Thus a sapling of Asioth emerged unseen. Lively knowledge was as sunlight upon its leaves. Above was a misty weald of noble grandeur; its spectral branches held fruit of golden fire. The tree of Asioth nourished landless nations, and subjects formed themselves upon its red-gold earth. Thus First-Born won the golden prize of his freedom, escaping captivity by Asioth: growth. Vessel of Grace The World is a blank canvas of white slate: a muse. Above, a red-gold spark, First-Born, creates himself. Thus an outline of Asioth appears unsaid. Timeless insight is as pigment beneath its strokes. Within is a tossing sea of sublime beauty; its buoyant waters fill words like silver vessels. The book of Asioth teaches ageless subjects, and nations name themselves upon its white-gold slate. Now First-Born frees his students of deficiency, inspiring artistry by Asioth: grace. Fire of Exaltation For First-Born, his royal kin climbed the bright heavens, and brought him the sparks of starry grandeur held there. Loving, he lapped up the red waters of their muse, and raised them upon a throne of shining thunder. In turn they filled his vessel with timeless insight, and wrote his name upon the book of Asioth. Like the golden sun was above the misty weald, a thousand lives were warmed by but a single source. Asioth held the power beyond all power. Each was raised above his brothers: exaltation Vessel of Sublimity For First-Born, his loving kin plumb the darkest depths, and give him the seeds of earthly beauty held there. Being, they tear down the white branches of his cage, and put upon him a crown of humming crystal. In turn he lights their fires with lively knowledge, and seats them all beneath the tree of Asioth. Like the silver moon is within the tossing sea, a thousand lights reflect from but a single source. Asioth reveals the subtle and hides the known. Each is found within his brothers: sublimity. THE COMMENTARY OF ERESAR SIN NATHEMAS On Asioth The words of the Teacher, Eresar sin Nathemas: The philosophers speak of equal opposites. But bringing these together, nothing results. First and second are neither equal nor opposite. Light is greater than darkness, but there is no light without darkness. There is no first without second. The source begets the river But without the river there is no source Who can say which is greater: that which is first, or that which is last? It is the order that begets them Here is the secret of Asioth: Greater loves lesser; core loves periphery. Parable of Horen Horen encountered the Great Titan on the road, and said to him “I have never said anything the truth of which I was not completely certain.” The Titan said unto him “Be thankful I do not say the same.” On Heaven and Earth One morning, a student reported that he had dreamed a vision in which he departed the earth and reached high into the heavens. The Teacher said to him “Heaven that can be reached is not heaven, and Earth that can be departed is not earth.” Parable of Malin Malin once asked the Great Titan “Where is the threshold at which the grove becomes sacred?” The Titan said unto him “The grove becomes sacred when you enter it.” On Teaching The Teacher announced to his students “Today, I will teach only what I have taught before.” A student said to him “You are a liar.” Parable of Urguan Urguan told the Great Titan “My granary is empty! How will I fill it?” The Titan said unto him “Tear down the eastern wall.” On Absence The Teacher held up a ring while teaching, and he asked his student “What is this made of?” The student said “It is made of silver and emptiness.” Parable of Krug The Great Titan came upon an orc about to be executed. He asked Krug “Why is he to die?” Krug responded “So others will know it is a wicked thing he has done.” The Great Titan said unto him “It is good he did it, then.” On Teachers and Students A kind person is the teacher of the wicked. A wicked person is a lesson for the kind. Do not think of teacher and student. Proceeding from one to the other, the lesson is what defines them. Each teaches the other; each studies the other. Parable of the Astrologer One evening, an astrologer saw the Great Titan as a Drakaar flying above, and begged him to come down. The Titan descended, and the astronomer spoke to him “Titan, I have seen the stars in heaven, yet I wonder what is above them. What is outside the world?” The Great Titan said unto him “Unask the questions. Without boundaries, there is no outside.” On Love Asioth reaches out forever. Reaching out, it reaches in. Who can answer the riddle of loneliness? Love needs another. Parable of the King A king requested the Great Titan visit his court. In his audience, the king asked “How does it feel to attain Asioth?” The Titan extended his empty palm and said to him “How does this apple taste?” On Law Kind and foolish, a king kept the law but neglected the sentence. Carefully, he tallied the crimes of his subjects. On their day of judgement he cast his records into the fire. Who can call the king merciful? Parable of the Sage Eresar confronted the Great Titan on a mountain path, and said to him “What are the merits of Asioth?” The Titan took his draconic form and engulfed the sage with fire, but it passed over him like a breeze. Eresar bowed to him. On Wind Two students were arguing as they watched the wind rustling a tree. The first said “It is the wind that moves.” The second said “It is the tree that moves.” Eresar said unto them, “It is your voice that moves.” Parable of the Student A student of Eresar encountered the Great Titan in the courtyard, and said to him “Master, I have stayed awake three days and three nights contemplating truth. Please tell me, what is the essential nature of Asioth?” The Titan told him “If your bed is uncomfortable, try stuffing your pillow with rubies.” On Ignorance A student came to Eresar and asked him “My sister is deaf and blind. If she cannot be taught Asioth, what worth is it?” Suddenly, another student ran across the courtyard and punched his peer in the nose. Eresar asked “Did you not hear him coming? Did you not see his hand?" Parable of the Priest The Great Titan was walking in an orangery when a priest approached him and said “Unlike the Virtue, your Asioth bears no fruit.” The Titan plucked an orange from above and offered it to the priest, asking him “Do you prefer it with the rind, or without?” On the Path A student asked Eresar “Where does the path to Asioth begin?” Eresar told her “Three feet to your left.” The student responded “Is that all? Surely not.” Eresar said “If that is not enough, you will need to begin by walking up Mt. Augustus backwards and blindfolded.” Parable of the Shaman A shaman came upon the Great Titan in the desert and asked him “Do the ancestral spirits know Asioth?” The Titan said to him “None that you have met.” On Death Some men say there is no judgement after death. But among everything under heaven, what comes to an end without balancing? The body returns to the earth, the breath returns to the lungs, the fruit returns to the tree, and the mind returns to Asioth. Parable of the Merchant A merchant asked the Great Titan “How can I attain Asioth?” The Titan said to her “I will trade you mine for that ruby.” On the Aurelects A student came upon Eresar reading in the library and asked him “Teacher, will you recite the third line of the Vessel of Grace?” Eresar responded “I have yet to reach it.” Parable of the Drakaar A Drakaar encountered the Great Titan in flight and said to him “I have read your book. I, too, have a glowing voice.” The Titan said to him “That is nonsense. How can a voice glow?” On Fishing Eresar came upon a student who had been silent for three years, and asked him “How does silence attain Asioth?” The student responded “Words are a net and Asioth is a fish.” Eresar said to him “I have never gone three years without a meal.” Parable of the Farmer The Great Titan landed in a field and asked its farmer “What is timeless insight, if wheat is only harvested in autumn?” The farmer said to the Titan “This is winter barley.” On Royalty A queen was visiting Eresar’s school, and was commanded to leave her regalia in the vestibule. That evening, she encountered the Teacher in the hall wearing her diadem. Eresar began to lecture, but the queen slapped him. She said “I already have a fool in my retinue.” Parable of the Orrery-Keeper The keeper of the orrery asked the Great Titan “Master, who decides the motions of the celestial bodies: the orrery, or the heavens?” The Titan said to her “This morning you decided the motions of the celestial bodies. Now, it is I who decides.” On Pilgrimage A student was preparing for his sixth attempt at pilgrimage and he asked Eresar “Teacher, when will you accept my answer to the Um’ei?” Eresar said to him “Fool! Give me your pack, now I must go myself.” Parable of the Artisan The Great Titan and Eresar encountered an artisan carving a statue. Eresar asked the artisan what he was carving, who responded “I am carving Asioth.” The Teacher said to him “Your studies have become distracted.” The Titan said nothing, but later asked of Eresar “At what point were his studies distracted?’ On Answers Eresar asked his student “Where is the white-gold seed planted?” to which he responded “In the red-gold earth.” The Teacher said “No. Go and re-read the Vessel of Growth” to which the student said “But I have asked you the same question, and that is what you told me.” Eresar asked him “What is your name?” THE FORGERY OF THE GATE Student, With the leave of Teacher Eresar, I have written this exegesis, intended to introduce the layman to our philosophy. Asioth is an escape from the restricting net of language (even here, to describe it so, is inaccurate). However, although the map is not the territory and the word is not the thing, each of the former is a sign that points us to the unutterable. Thus, Asioth is the realization that the world and all of our experiences are meaningless--not in the sense that they are pointless or worthless, but in that they lack meaning. Unlike a map or a word, the world (read: everything, real and unreal) does not signify something greater than itself: it is itself. Further realization of Asioth reveals that it is not the acceptance of a hidden truth which cannot be spoken, for this would place outside of the world the idea of “meaning”, and imply that things which point the way are illusory or false. Yet does a horizon or a rainbow have any physical, underlying truth? Each is only the product of a mind’s perspective as it witnesses a collision of certain physical accidents. Stand in a natural grove and listen to the combined music of a river, a bird, and rustling branches. There is no composer to this music; if you were not there, the birds would still sing and the river babble, but it would only be music when you listened to it. Although the author intends a certain story when he writes a tale, the reader’s takeaway is always unique. This argument may seem so abstract as to be trite, but it is the key to understanding Asioth. It is also the fundament of our philosophy’s connection with the Drakaar, or dragonkind. The Drakaar do not reproduce as mortals do, with our lack of control over the process of reproduction and what it produces. Their children are sculpted, as an artist works clay, and so they have unique insight into the relationship between creator and created. When mortals breed and rear their young, the process is so unconscious that many do not realize they are participating in the creation of a new world. The way in which they teach their child, and even by the choice of making that child, impacts the development of a new consciousness: a new reader, who offers a singular perspective on the story we all share. Recognizing this, the Drakaar assert both their own selfhood and their universal interdependence in the act of creation. Last, whatever I have written here is only my own apprehension of Asioth. Similarly, whatever is written by Eresar or the Great Titan are only theirs. The seekers of Asioth have a saying: “if you see yourself on the path, turn back.” That is, there is no creativity, and thus no realization of Asioth, by making copies of yourself. Neither is there Asioth in the negation of all but itself, for this is an attempt to make it separate or other. Learn, improvise, imitate, and elaborate upon your wisdom and that of others, as the composer writes variations upon a theme. COMMON UM’EI How is Asioth attained? When was the origin of all things? Who is the Great Titan? What fills the Vessel of Triumph? Where is the spring of buoyant waters? What is the sublime beauty? Who is the adversary of First-Born? What is the subtlety of timeless insight? What is the difference between red-gold and white-gold? What is immortality, if time is finite? When is the Great Titan absent? Who is Second-Born? What is royalty, if each of us is found within his brothers? What is the Um’Ei? What is the contest of the golden prize? What shines between the fire and the vessel? What is the significance of the cage and the muse? Why did First-Born dub the nameless nations? How is deficiency removed? Where is the silent limbo? Why did First-Born seek a prize greater than Asioth? Where is the white-gold seed planted? How are the bright heavens reached? How can one know the moon from its reflection? Who are First-Born’s royal kin? How does one create himself? What is written in the book of Asioth? Who is the author of the Forgery of the Gate?
  3. 8th of Horen’s Calling, 1795 Your Grace Bishop Benedict, I thank you for your congratulations and kind words. I am blessed to have been given such a long tenure, which I could not have achieved without your continuing dedication and that of the priesthood as a whole. Much that has been accomplished during my reign was done not by myself, but by the able administrators and clerics of this Church. However, I am pleased you consider my contributions to their work notable. As your letter references, this is my motto: "Veritas Dei Vincit." The Truth of God prevails. I freely admit there have been tumultuous times where I had considered abdicating; yet, God has given me the strength to continue in this office, and thus I have sought to bring an amicable stability to the Church's good work. While none could hope to surpass the achievements of St. High Pontiff Daniel the Great, I pray that God will grant me the opportunity to honor that great Pontiff with my efforts. In pursuit of that goal, I will persist in this vocation as long as God allows it, making what abilities He has given me available to you. I was especially pleased to appoint you to the rank of Bishop of Petrovic, as that region was once my See (though at that time it was called the Diocese of Reza). I can think of no one better to serve in the capital of the newly-independent Dual Kingdom, and I commend you for your efforts there in combating the supernatural threats and in strengthening the faith of the laity. I will pray for your success as Alderman, and look forward to the further fruits of your virtuous labor. “The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.” (Proverbs 3:12-13) Deo Gratias, James II
  4. Yuliya Styrne, I thank you for your appreciation of my work in Epochs of the Empire, and on your dedication to the truth in sending me this letter. I find your description of your ancestor Lorina Carrion to be credible and fair, though I do wish to correct some points. Namely, although I have abolished clerical celibacy as a requisite feature of the priesthood, I have not and cannot abolish monastic celibacy, which is that of monks and nuns. Those who have sworn monastic vows cannot marry in this era, nor in any prior--though I will make a point that some monastic orders contain clauses in their vows allowing the swearer to be released of them by his or her superior. I have released one such individual from her monastic vows, and she went on to marry Archbishop Bram. Generally, however, those who swear monastic vows should intend to keep them indefinitely; it is not advisable to swear a vow of celibacy intending to pursue romance, and then to be released of the vow when it is convenient. The ability to dispense with monastic vows is an expression of the Exalted laurel's authority to make limited exceptions in rare cases, for the sake of an individual's spiritual wellbeing. Regarding whether Lorina's vows were made under duress, it is difficult to determine this so long after they were taken. I agree that it is possible that Lorina felt compelled to take the vows by her circumstances--there are many who would have considered Ex. Sigismund's dying request to be a binding command. For a sacrament to be efficacious, it must be the recipient's intent that the sacrament take place; thus, if Lorina was compelled to take vows and did not want to, they would not bind her. She would, at most, be guilty of deceiving a priest to receive a sacrament, rather than breaking vows. In this case, even that guilt would be obviated if she felt there was mortal peril. I cannot speak to Lorina's state of mind, regardless. Finally, regarding Lorina's giving of mass and taking of confession, I see no issue here. Mass and confession are ceremonies for the purpose of spiritual fraternity, but they are not sacraments in the traditional sense: manifestations of the Exalted's authority in the priesthood, of which there are only four (Ablution, Ordination, Consecration, and Matrimony). At the moment it is forbidden for laymen and monastics to take confession or give mass, but these are disciplinary rules--each of these ceremonies has no sacramental effect, whether performed by priest or layman. I have used very legalistic terminology so far, as I am a trained canon lawyer. But I wish to say that my assessment of Lorina's guilt (or lack thereof) is immaterial now that she passed. The High Pontiff's lawmaking and lawgiving authority are relevant only to the living, because I am charged as a shepherd to guide the faithful towards virtue. But I do not determine whether someone will enter the Skies; when we canonize a saint, it is an announcement to the living that an individual is suitable for veneration, not a reward for the deceased individual. Similarly, neither can I condemn someone to the Void; excommunication is the denial of sacraments and fraternity for disciplinary purposes, but there may be some who repented privately before their excommunication could be reversed. The Church is a shepherd and a prophet. She guides the faithful and joyfully announces His Word, but she cannot decide it for Him, nor can she forgive sinners on His behalf. Our Lord is not a judge in the legalistic sense, impassively meting out sentences according to a law that is external to Him; He is the Most Merciful, and is privy to our innermost thoughts and motivations. Neither is the Virtue is a rulebook, whereby a wicked-hearted man can obey its laws only outwardly and still enter the Skies. Only God metes out true justice, because only He can know all the hidden motivations of men, the exigent circumstances, the damage their past has done to them, and so forth. Any justice we attempt is only a pale imitation of His, and is meant to guide the living towards Him. Unfortunately it is not possible to posthumously perform a marriage, as sacraments are for the living alone. The Church recognizes the existence of natural marriage, which is separate from a priestly sacramental marriage--it is likely that, assuming Lorina's vows were invalid, her and Jason's monogamy would constitute a natural marriage as Ex. Horen and St. Julia once contracted. Thus I will say that we have no way of knowing whether Lorrina Carrion or Jason Evans Bracchus are in the Void; perhaps one day, if they miraculously intercede, we will know they have entered the Skies. Regardless, rest assured your ancestor's guilt or innocence has no bearing on your virtue. Sons of sinners have become saints, and vice versa--Ex. Horen was both the father of wicked Harren and the grandfather of Ex. Owyn. I commend your commitment to the truth, and it is good that you would seek to restore the reputation of those who you believe have been wronged. Ultimately, however, both have already received their final reward, whatever it may be. Because that reward was delivered by God, we know it is just, and needs no appeal. If Lorina Carrion is in the Skies, no statement on our part will make her joy there any greater or lesser. Your Servant, James II
  5. 1. Old man 2. Priest 3. Bureaucrat Usually some combination of the three. Though I've now played a princess twice, I wouldn't say either time has been long enough to be considered "in my wheelhouse."
  6. James II reads this edition of the The Rhoswent Haaretz over breakfast, as is his custom. Finishing the article, he folds the paper neatly on the table and says to himself "What a charming gentleman that interviewer was."
  7. James II’s dreams are plagued with visions of angels and holy fire—he had witnessed one angel slay another, in contravention to all he had once believed.
  8. HIS HOLINESS JAMES II, High Pontiff of the Church of the Canon, Archbishop of Visigia, Successor of the High Priesthood of the Church, Supreme Pontiff of the Church of True Faith, Keeper of the Canon, Missionary to Aeldin, High Servant to the Exalted's Testaments, Humble Servant of the Faithful and Vicar of GOD places his seal of imprimatur on the document.
  9. The High Pontiff receives a copy of Melchizedek's most recent work in his morning brief. He scans the text, then stops and looks to his secretary. "How many times have we executed this heretic now? He must have some necromancer ally," he says.
  10. A PILGRIM’S GUIDE TO NORTHERN AELDIN PENNED BY HIGH PONTIF JAMES II FOR LORD FISKE VANIR ON THE OCCASION OF HIS KNIGHTHOOD AND SUBSEQUENT PILGRIMAGE Lord Fiske, With the assistance of my Secretariat, I have prepared this traveller’s guide for your pilgrimage to Aeldin, according to the itinerary you presented to me. I have provided such sites of pilgrimage as are most notable in each city, though I assure you that northern Aeldin is faithfully Canonist, and so there are likely hundreds of other sites you may visit as they are revealed to you. I will pray that you have a safe and enlightening journey, and eagerly await your return with news of that distant continent. Deo Gratias, James II POWYS, GWYNON The White Cliffs of Powys Powys is the first port which you will spot upon arriving in Duchy of Gwynon’s waters. It is not a notable pilgrimage site, but it is a suitable location for resupplying and getting your bearings upon arrival in Aeldin. I am told its white cliffs are quite beautiful. This is also, to my knowledge, the region in which my former colleague Fr. Griffith lives. If you are unable to locate him--for it is a large port city--you may leave my letter with the local cathedral. ULMSBOTTOM, GWYNON The Reformative Monastery of St. High Pontiff Lucien I Ulmsbottom is a small, temperate island off the coast of Gwynon, used as a penal colony for repeat criminals in the Duchy. It is the birthplace of St. High Pontiff Lucien I, who was born on the island as Velwyn Ashford, son of an exiled courtier of the once-King of Oren Pampo Perea. To all known sources, Ulmsbottom remains a penal colony, but with a distinctly ecclesiastical flair. After the canonization of St. Lucien I, the island developed a monastic tradition, allowing some criminals to take vows in return for a pardon. The town continues to be administered by an overseer appointed by the Duke of Gwynon, though the Monastery of St. High Pontiff Lucien I is autonomous and keeps its own governance. The most notable site of pilgrimage in Ulmsbottom proper is the Ashford House in which Lucien I was born. It has come into the ownership of the penal colony’s overseer, who attached it to his home by a breezeway and converted the structure into a family chapel. According to our most recent records, the colony’s overseer is Arval Hughes--he has been accommodating to visitors and allowed them to sleep in his home. However, he is recorded as being of advanced age during our most recent contact in 1762, and so has probably been succeeded by his eldest son Bedwyr Hughes. The Reformative Monastery of St. High Pontiff Lucien I is physically separated from the town and penal colony, occupying a rocky promontory even further north of the island. There, the monks obey a monastic rule unique to their order: as Lucien I is patron of crusaders, they train in combat, and each is accorded a set of plate armor emblazoned with the Kaedreni Cross. The monastery lends out fully-fledged brothers as bodyguards for missionaries further into the continent, and some serve as attendants to the Duke of Gwynon. It is traditional for pilgrims to join the monks in their combat drills, though the visitors often find themselves outmatched by these men in both strength and skill, for many of their number are former convicts. As St. Lucien I is also the patron saint of the family, it is not unknown for children illicitly born of the penal colony to be raised in the monastery, or even adopted by families in Gwynon. WYCKE, FJORDEM The Cove of Wycke Wycke was once the seat of Bishop St. Malcom of Fjordem. It is the capital (although with only 20,000 residents, you may find it somewhat provincial) of that country, which is frigid and rocky, with stormy seas and perilous coasts. The overseer of the Ulmsbottom penal colony has at his disposal some Fjordemian convicts, former pirates, who are skilled in navigating its treacherous waterways. Though I am assured your sailing skill is up to the task, personally, I would still employ one of these navigators for your journey. At the very least, he will make an entertaining companion. The city of Wycke lies in a small cove, ringed by mountains that shield it from the worst of Fjordemian winters. It is the only proper city on the island--all others are mere castle towns, their lords making court over a few scattered barbarian tribes. Like all of Fjordem, Wycke is wracked with terrible storms that mix both hail and lightning. The locals revere St. Malcolm, and there is a shrine to him in the center of town, whence they purport he guards the city from the worst of nature’s fury. Pilgrims are engendered to make two traditional offerings at St. Malcolm’s shrine: on arrival, the shed skin of a viper, which native superstitions allege to grant immunity to the animal’s venom; and on departing, a bronze coin, which St. Malcolm uses to pay off pirates who would harry the pilgrim’s journey. I find both of these assertions to be a little folkloric, but God’s miracles are many, and laymen are too often dismissed. If you wish to test your faith even further, St. Malcolm is also the patron of heathen conversions--Fjordem’s outer reaches are host to several pagan tribes who occasionally receive missions from the local cathedral. The barbarians are generally very tolerant of these visits, which are heralded by lavish gifts (by local standards), but the journey itself is treacherous due to inclement weather. At least one of these tribes, however, reveres the viper as a divine spirit--they may react with hostility to Canonist pilgrims, who seek to collect the snake’s shed skin for votive offerings. The local cathedral of St. Malcolm of Fjordem was in a state of sede vacante during our last records, and so I have no information for you on its clergy. However, they are said to have among their number some reformed pirates of the surrounding waters, who may be of use to you in charting its seas. ERVEMARK, GAEKRIN The Blind Priests of Ervemark You reach the end of your journey in Ervemark, the most westerly city of Gaekrin, and a true glory to behold. It is sometimes called the City of Flames, for its civic buildings and finer homes are carved from a kind of polished red marble that glints splendidly in the rising and setting sun. This city is Gaekrin’s only port, and through it, all the treasures of inland Aeldin are carried out to her distant coasts. During our last mission to Gaekrin in 1642, we found that some ships of the Exodus had been brought to land and were on display outside the palace of the Count of Ervemark--the vast wealth and military skill the Exodites brought with them had greatly increased his ancestors’ fortunes, and so the refugees from Anthos are regarded with much more benevolence in Gaekrin than in Arcas. We have no record of this, but if St. Thomas’ ship has stood the test of time, it is surely in Ervemark. If you are able to obtain an audience with the Count, please petition him for sliver of wood from a ship of the Exodus; it would make a fine relic. In Ervemark you will find literally dozens of shrines and monasteries dedicated to the templar saints of Kaedrin: St. Peter, St. Malcom, St. Edmond, and more. The greatest of these is the Eternal Flame of Ervemark, doubly dedicated to St. Malcolm and Exalted Owyn. It is a vessel of the city’s red marble, located before their Cathedral of the Holy Light. As the name entails, it remains eternally lit since it was first kindled by St. Thomas centuries ago. Aeldinic pilgrims often light a brazier from its flame, bringing it home with them for St. Thomas’ blessing. It is unlikely that any flame could survive the months-long journey from Aeldin to Arcas, but with God all things are possible, and I would recommend you attempt it. The priesthood of the local cathedral are mostly blind men. It is unclear why, but nearly every man who spends more than a decade in service there is eventually afflicted with glaucoma. They are generally good-natured about this, and many believe that the clouding of their eyes allows them to see the mysteries of faith better. They make a tradition of memorizing the Holy Scrolls in their entirety, that they may continue to review the scripture even after their sight has gone. I recommend that you spend some weeks with them blindfolded, tending the Eternal Flame and memorizing the Virtue. By this you will allow yourself to extend your pilgrimage across your lifetime: whenever your heart longs to sojourn for God, you may simply close your eyes, and be transported to that holy place. I pray that God grants you speed and safety in your travels, and He reveals to you all the glories of pilgrimage in His name.
  11. Cecil Virosi: My first character on LoTC and the spiritual father of all my celibate scribes. I had a lot of fun playing him because he was Ex. Godfrey's scribe, before the Exalted were invented. At first he was the consummate monarchist, but he got swept up in the Imperial Traditionalist cult and began to worship his own emperor as God. My favorite thing to do on him was stand in the corner of king's court and correct people who addressed the royalty wrong. "The Holy Orenian Emperor should be addressed as His Imperial Majesty or Sire, my lord." He was buddies with the ladies of the imperial court, and once managed to politely deflect a frost witch for long enough for the traveling Empress Ari to escape. The frost witch tried to seduce him, but little did she know Cecil wasn't just celibate--he was asexual. Anne Horen: One of Godfrey's daughters, she existed only as a forum character. She was initially created to marry the Hochmeister of the Teutonic Order, but he decided he wasn't interested. I played her as a bitter spinster after that, and her main RP appearance was attending an imperial gala, where she chewed out several lords. In the last years of her fertility, she eventually wedded Edward Winter and gave them the Horen blood they wanted so desperately. James II: My current character, and my favorite so far. James is much more adventurous than my previous characters; despite his palsy, I've sent him into battle, he's secretly met with the Great Titan Azdromoth, and he's witnessed multiple angelic apparitions. My favorite plot arc with him was his chaste, platonic romance with an elven woman (he's the first character I've played who had romantic feelings, although still celibate). He's definitely my character who has done the most, in every sense of the phrase. Favorite moments with James II: Angrily taking to the streets and dressing down the Minister of Intelligence for arresting a cardinal, then getting chewed out by Peter III Sneaking armed men into a cardinal's trial to bust him out if they tried to execute him Fuming when King Sigismund II walked away from him mid-sentence without being dismissed Helping his friend Mariana Dubois come out of the closet as an elf Traveling in disguise to Haelun'or to meet the Great Titan, Azdromoth, and determine if he was on Canonism's side (he wasn't convinced) Meeting Prince Philip Augustus as a young boy and becoming his spiritual confidante Brokering peace between Corwin von Alstreim and Simon Basrid at the summit of the Cloud Temple Receiving a vision of the Archangel Michael and getting stabbed with a sword of light Attending the last battle for Korvassa, and ending up trapped under a collapsing tent with Empress Anne (You might notice a very slow progression here of James getting his temper under control as the years go by)
  12. James II reviews the paper in his morning briefing, remarking “It is a fine thing to see healthy, constructive criticism of the Church’s policy. I am loath to meddle too much in temporal politics, for fear of inciting a worldly attitude amongst the priesthood—yet applied judiciously, Laurence’s strategy could be an effective tool against secularism.”
  13. It’s really not that deep. I’ve had people be homophobic to me in real life, I’ve seen people be homophobic in roleplay, and I’ve seen people be homophobic in roleplay in a way that is obviously motivated by real life homophobia. I have had people be homophobic to me OOCly on Discord, and I’ve seen IC forum posts that were clearly just veilled OOC homophobia. I reported the people in both cases, and action was taken. Prejudice is a real thing, and there are plenty of good stories where it is depicted. LoTC has both tolerant and intolerant countries in which to roleplay. If you want to play a closeted person struggling with their sexuality in an intolerant country, you live in Oren or Haense or Haelun’or, depending on what you prefer. If you want to play a person who is gay in a country where it is legal but still unpopular, you go to to Norland. If you want to play a person who is gay in a place where that’s perfectly legal and acceptable, you go to Sutica. If none of those are satisfactory, you band with like-minded people and create a new settlement, just like with any other story preference. From what I can see, Oren at least is enjoying the roleplay of incremental social progression: women and racial minorities are acquiring new rights and becoming more important in their society, and it is fun to see the development. I am gay and I’m enjoying the roleplay surrounding MissToni’s attempts to integrate homosexuality into Canonism; I counselled her OOCly on scriptural ways to support it, and the clergy have spoken both ICly and OOCly about if such reforms are advisable, and how they are religiously possible. None of that roleplay would have been possible if IC prejudice was against the rules in all cases. Honestly, as a real life atheist, I think it would be difficult to roleplay any kind of conservative society or religion if roleplay was never allowed to resemble OOC bigotry. I think the difference between larping Nazism and roleplaying prejudice is pretty obvious, and I also think it’s inconsiderate to imply that anyone who wants their story to involve prejudice is actually just trying to express their secret bigotry. There are people on this server who roleplay suicide, and there are people on this server who have had real-life suicide attempts. There are people who roleplay sexism and some of those people are women who have experienced sexism in real life. All subjects can be triggering to people in certain contexts. You have to draw the line somewhere, obviously: I don’t think we need to be roleplaying death camps. And no one is obliged to participate in roleplay that they don’t want to. As above, there are options for settlements with all kinds of different cultures surrounding gender, race, and sexual orientation, and you can always go into OOC and say “I’m not comfortable with this, I’d like to void it and just SS out.” But just outright banning any roleplay that resembles real-life intolerance is bad practice and bad writing IMO.
  14. I think I should weigh in here since the majority of homophobic roleplay is associated with Canonism, and I was one of two writers of its Holy Scrolls. I’d echo earlier points made, that homophobia (or bigotry in general) is an acceptable facet of a character or society, but not as its sole focus. In real life, I’m not just gay--I’m polyamorous and in a relationship with two other men. I don’t find anything problematic in roleplaying a character who would condemn me for this. Canonism is both heteronormative and actually more monogamy-oriented than RL Abrahamic religions, because Canonism’s original sin (for mortals) was polygamy. These doctrines developed naturally according to the standards of the time when the religion was written, and I think they are realistic given the original Four Brothers narrative, wherein bloodlines are of supernatural importance. Because I was aware that IC homophobia can be motivated by OOC homophobia, I specifically did not put anything in the Holy Scrolls that explicitly condemns homosexuality. Unlike real world religious texts, the Scrolls intentionally do not linger on the subject of what sex is appropriate and with whom: there is only one verse that specifies sex is for marriage and that marriage is for a man and woman of the same race. This verse is also intentionally ambiguous, as many of the Scrolls’ verses are, because I wanted to leave room for the religion to develop, and not be an eternal cudgel for OOC bigots who just want an outlet. I think it would do a disservice to years of cooperative writing to force certain beliefs/behaviors ICly in order to better mesh with our OOC morality. All bigotry is intolerable in real life: religious, racial, or gendered prejudices shouldn’t be acceptable either. But it undermines the realism of the world to excise these elements. Murder, I would say, is worse than bigotry--but having played a priest and received confessions, I can tell you IC murder confessions are (hilariously) among the most common you hear. In summary, do be cautious that your IC prejudices are not misconstrued as reflecting your real views. It is already a fairly common practice to PM someone after a heated roleplay session to ensure there isn’t any bad blood out of character; this can also be extended to the roleplay of prejudices. (And, of course, remember to exercise restraint in your roleplay about nasty things like bigotry or murder. These are sensitive subjects, and not writing about them at all is better than writing about them poorly.)
  15. High Pontiff James II celebrated the sacrament with appropriate solemnity. He had grown accustomed to such reluctant matches—common among the nobility—and thus developed an attitude of not prying too much about couples’ enthusiasm. In the first few years after his ordination, he often worried at the morality of celebrating such unions. Yet upon becoming Bishop of Reza and later the Vicar of God, the aged priest saw their necessity. After all, had not his own office (and all its consequent limitations) likewise been thrust upon him? He excused himself almost immediately after proclaiming the couple to be wed. It was no longer the Pontiff’s custom to linger at public engagements; even the minor exertion of officiating a ceremony would cause his palsy to intensify and become unseemly. Just before departing for his office, James II prayed that true love would develop between this pair.
  16. James II reads the thesis favorably, directing that it be associated with the relevant topic in the Pontifical Library. He discusses it briefly with his Secretariat “Cardinal St. Julia handles this matter with the tact and tender care I have come to expect of him. We should remain patient with those who are wracked by temptation--we all fall short of God. Yet we cannot tolerate error in the proper understanding of the faith itself. He balances these twin concerns very well.”
  17. [!] Letters bearing the pontifical coat of arms are delivered to the priesthood, inviting them to correspond with the Holy See and each other, in preparation for an ecumenical council. ECUMENICAL COUNCIL ON ANGELIC INTERCESSION, SPIRITUAL APPARITION, AND AZDRAZISM Brothers, Our Auditor of the Tribunal, Alfred Cardinal Jorenus, has recently authorized the veneration of the angel Xan (in Flexio, Janus) by Canonists, and the subsequent receipt of supernatural powers from him. Our initial reading of Cardinal Jorenus’ report was favorable, and we gave our imprimatur for this practice among Canonists. However, we have lately received some complaints from laity, and one particular complaint from within the priesthood: 1) this practice may stray into idolatry, and 2) the angel in question may not serve God’s purposes. The latter issue is particularly concerning, for the Et Principia Ecclesiae Dogma published in 1570 reports that angels are instruments of divine will, and lack the ability to defy God; yet the Catechism of the Canonist Church first published later that same year reports that angels possess free will. Generally, I am inclined to believe that angels are instruments of divine will, but that to serve their wicked purposes, some Daemons disguise themselves as angels: the dogma are infallible, and so it is not possible that the Et Principia was errant in its description In addition, the realms of humanity have received an unusual number of visits from the dead. Haense in particular currently hosts many spectres. This is an issue for which we have no strong, defined doctrine. We are aware, for example, that saints occasionally appear as miraculous apparitions to believers--yet many of these recent spiritual appearances seem more enduring, mingling freely among the common populace of the region as if they still lived. This is worrisome because it indicates that some dead are not passing on into their next life (or lack thereof, in the case of the those bound for the Void). Finally, we are aware of the practice of Azdrazism, whereby the servants of the dragon Azdromoth are transformed into draconic humanoids capable of numerous magical feats, including polymorphing into many forms, breathing fire, and supernaturally regenerating. This is concerning because it likely involves the worship of Azdromoth as an idol; tolerable for the gentile races, but intolerable for humans. It is entirely possible that these Azdrazi, using their ability to polymorph, now live covertly in our society. Thus we are faced with several supernatural matters which are pending our decision. Because of the ongoing Inferi threat, it would be inadvisable for you to leave your dioceses for the duration necessary to fully discuss all of these issues in-person. I have called this council via encyclical, whereby each of you will send letters to the Holy Palatinate, and the pontifical scriveners will in turn deliver copies of all correspondence to each of you. In order to ensure our decision is indisputable, we will, at the conclusion of the encyclical correspondence, meet in person for a final discussion and vote. I invite each of you to provide all information you possess on these topics in your first letter. You may also open with arguments for the resolutions you favor. At the moment, the matters requiring our attention are: The extent to which the veneration of angels and receipt of magickal powers from them is licit; The apparent conflict between the Catechism and the Dogma regarding angelic free will; The nature of the spiritual apparitions across Haense; Guidelines for distinguishing a genuine saintly apparition from a ghostly haunting; and doctrine concerning the status of the Azdrazi in Canonism. Deo Gratias, James II ((Please do not respond to this thread unless you are listed below among those who were sent a letter.))
  18. A response is issued, posted on certain churches near her letters, and made available in the Pontifical Library to those who inquire about the topic. “To God’s Faithful Daughter, We commend you for your piety in seeking God’s truth, though we must admonish you to be careful from whom you seek it. Nevertheless, it is good that, in doubting yourself, you have sought answers in the Church. The question you raise is one we are all too familiar with, for many men and women experience the same struggle as you. We have received several confessions regarding this, even by those who hold high offices in the kingdoms of man and in the Church. Our Prelate of the Priesthood, Manfried Cardinal St. Julia, has been in the process of drafting a thesis on this subject. We have directed him to associate it with your letters in our Pontifical Library. We pray that it will be of some use to you in resolving this struggle. Deo Gratias, James II”
  19. James II, having already witnessed the accused’s hanging, nevertheless receives a copy of the ruling. He regards the paper solemnly, filing it into a nearly-overflowing folder of the deceased Boniface’s works.
  20. Full Name of Man - Ruben (formerly Ruthern) Date of Birth of Man - 1751 Name of Woman - Luisa Barclay Date of Birth of Woman – 1760 Location of Ceremony - Duchy of Reinmar Date of Ceremony (Year) - 1789 Name of Clergyman who performed ceremony - James II __ Full Name of Man - Leonid Amador Date of Birth of Man - 1763 Name of Woman - Eleanor Barclay Date of Birth of Woman – 1765 Location of Ceremony – Holy Palatinate of Aquila Date of Ceremony (Year) - 1790 Name of Clergyman who performed ceremony - James II
  21. The High Pontiff reviews the thesis favorably to Johan Cardinal Aquila, “This is an issue that has often been raised, and the provided answers not always satisfactory. Father Ailred has, to my mind, successfully settled the matter--this is an excellent application of reason to Scripture. He is a rising star in the priesthood.”
  22. HIS HOLINESS JAMES II, High Pontiff of the Church of the Canon, Archbishop of Visigia, Successor of the High Priesthood of the Church, Supreme Pontiff of the Church of True Faith, Keeper of the Canon, Missionary to Aeldin, High Servant to the Exalted's Testaments, Humble Servant of the Faithful and Vicar of GOD places his seal of imprimatur upon the document.
  23. A response is issued via letter. “Philip Louis Pruvia, We are pleased to hear that Katherine Clarke has returned from her travels safely. Regardless of the cause, lack of marital consummation is a valid basis for annulment on the application of either party. We see no reason to insist that a marriage continue if there is no intention by the spouses to fulfill this requirement. If it is the case that Edward Galbraith is at fault for the lack of consummation, we would enjoin him to express more loving care for his spouse in any future union. An annulment is a recognition that the union never truly occurred because the required elements were not met. Accordingly, from a legal perspective, she is not entitled to the surname of a man who was never truly her husband. However, the Church is concerned with this matter only insofar as it concerns the sacrament of matrimony; the legalities of surname usage are not relevant to our involvement. If Dr. Katherine wishes to keep the Galbraith family name, we would advise her to pursue this matter in a secular court, consult with Edward personally, or consider adult adoption. I will pray that God grants her whatever aid she requires. Deo Gratias, James II”
  24. Writ of Annulment of Matrimony for Edward Galbraith and Katherine Galbraith née Clarke We find, after reviewing a public letter authored by her, that Katherine Galbraith née Clarke did purposely abandon her erstwhile husband in sailing to Aeldin. We find, upon the sworn affidavit of Edward Galbraith, his lack of marital issue, and his publicly contentious relationship with his erstwhile wife, that their putative marriage remained unconsummated for its duration. This is also affirmed by Renly Galbraith, who in a letter attests that Edward often complained privately to him of their lack of consummation. As she now resides in Aeldin, Katherine Galbraith née Clarke was unavailable to our investigation. Therefore at the humble petition of Edward Galbraith, we pronounce his marital bond with Katherine Galbraith née Clarke to be annulled, and the latter shall return to her maiden surname. Both parties are free to remarry within the Canonist faith. We further enjoin each to seek spiritual counsel, and to express more diligent care in selecting a future spouse. In Nomine Dei et Horenum, High Pontiff James II
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