Bog's World

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The Dragon God of the Empire

Carthorm

Feanor was chosen by Corellion to improve the lot of the elves and other residents of fearie. This is reported in the teachings of the red priesthood as 'succour my people'. He chose to do this in two ways. To create a greater Sylvanian homeland[1] and to create a sanctuary away from the fields we know.

The preceding millennia had seen a steady decline in the power of some of the Seldarine, with some of it’s (lesser) gods becoming little more than totem spirits as their supporting populations waned. The symbiosis of mutual support between Seldarine and people in some places was failing. There were not enough people left to support a power strong enough to protect them.

This surplus of outer planar material was gifted to Corellion by those who no longer had the power to shape it. He then made this available for Feanor’s purposes. Feanor set his brother to work to shape this stuff into a place for their people to live. Over many hundred years the subject was researched and as Feanor’s efforts finally produced political power in the Flannaess, the stuff of Elysium became Carthorm.

The elves and death. Some of them have the power to merely transcend the barrier between the PMP and Carthorm (simply forfeiting material existence in a similar manner to Obi Wan Kinobi and Yoda). Others may have to 'die' in a more conventional sense. This would depend on how much elven blood they have, in effect, how 'fay' they are. For some individuals a final expurgation of their essence (power points) is required to make the shift. Others, not as fay, are be collected by agents of Carthrom, relatives who have already passed on or their ilk. Some of the dead have to walk to a particular location, in spirit, to gain access. In many cases there may be a funeral procession as the dead are transported to a nexus point. So 'death' to an Elf is ascendance to a 'higher' (or maybe lower) level of existence - as an outer-planar creature.

The journey between the PMP and Carthorm is the journey between here and fearie, Ireland and Tir Nan Og or Scandinavia and Alfhiem. Perhaps like Belieriand and Doriath. At certain times of year, for a reason we do not know, the denizens of Carthorm will come back to the PMP, usually for only a limited period. Some of these visitors will be residents of Carthorm and some may occasionally be those who are ‘dead’ to the PMP, ie they have lived out their natural lives and moved on. In this sense Carthorm is the foreshore of ‘heaven’. Those who have died perhaps a violent death will still go to the heaven of their gods but this would be ‘further back’ so to speak; not as close to the PMP.

The half elf nobility of the empire; the people from whom Laru is an object of veneration, aspire to spend their eternity in Carthorm. When they die they are assessed by their peers and either allowed or denied access. Those in the spirit world do spend some of their time watching over the living, and normally have a good idea of those they want as neighbours and those they don’t. This is sometimes communicated to the living themselves, perhaps as warning to change their ways. At other times contact may be through a priest.

As the empire ages so the elven blood is diluted so these peoples will become closer to their 'latent' religious practices and less interested in Carthorm etc. By 3150, this is already the case amongst about half of the ilin clans; meaning, of course, the more human half of each clan. These people continue to revere Laru but practice their Flanne religion in their homes. When they die, their souls become part of the tribal collective awaiting reincarnation. Resurrection can only happen whilst their mortal remains are intact. Once their bleached bones are mixed into the tribes, their soulstuff passes into the tribal collective.

Spirits (of Elven and fearie creatures) always have to learn from their past. And so even if reincarnated, come with the moral baggage (at the very least) of their previous existence(s). Some are sent back from Carthorm to be newly born once more into the PMP. Very rarely one of these will retain the knowledge of who they were before. Some remain in Carthorm.

Laru[2]

During the PWOC, Feanor, as ‘Laru’, became beloved of the armies who had gathered to his banner. Stories were told about the campfires of his might, valour and generosity. He attracted a cult following. Eventually this cult took a more organised form and became part of life for many of the ilin and jalee in the armies. The officers of the cult, who were officers of the armies, used the apparatus to pay the soldiers and organise victualling. Following his doctrine, adherents[3] of Laru would ensure that the army had fire, shelter and food.

After the Dagor Tarsil, the ‘red priests’ had become an established part of life throughout the Flannaess. Up until this time, active cult members, those preaching, had been ilin of other lords within the Celebrinoth. Acts of faith had sometimes resulted in Channelling holy power to achieve modest miracles. With Laru’s success at the Dagor Tarsil, his stature was now unquestioned. One of his lieutenants became his most devout follower and the more active cult members were released from their existing ilin bond to become ilin to the head of their new order. Channelling became more common amongst the red priests.

Over time, the ilin oath has become symbolic for the priesthood. Whilst it is still followed in detail, it is done in a simple fashion. As a reminder that their origins were on the campaign trail, it is completed outside, with priest and adept (lyio and neophyte ilin) cooking their own meal over a camp fire and sleeping out under the stars. Another reminder of the self-sacrifice of many of the Celebrinoth (and others before and since) is that their ilya[4] is died red, to symbolise the blood shed by the heroes of the past. By 3150, many red priests are administrators first and warriors second, although there are many itinerant preachers, some of whom are almost indistinguishable from other ilin.

Unlike normal ilin, their high priest and his officers serving under him, when they are Lyio to their junior members, are surrogates for Laru. The new priests know that Laru now lives in Carthrom and that they cannot expect the level of material support form him that an ilin would usually expect from his Lyio. There is an expectation of self reliance and a degree of stoicism with regard to these people. Many do not have the trappings of ilin hood. Some choose to walk rather than ride. The possession of material things is allowed from the point of view that it makes the cleric more effective. A red priest may have one or two remounts if he is expected to go travel widely, but great treasures should be surrendered to the temple where the wealth will be redistributed to where it will bring the greatest benefit.

They preach the faith of the Seldarine primarily through reverence of Laru, using him as an example[5] . When the time came to organise the government of the empire, Laru charged the cult with supporting the empire. They were to do this by being both tax collectors and paymasters. This process is a holy duty that demonstrates the interdependency of people and state, mirroring the relationships between people and gods[6] . Red priests continue to use their sacred duty as a teaching aid.

The paying of taxes is normally rather more 'optional' than most tax collection systems. More like a charitable donation. The Red Priests assess what they believe is fair according to a number of criterion. Therefore a village where the harvests have failed will probably be exempt that year; one with a bumper crop will pay more. Other factors such as local support for imperial good works, ie labour for the emperor or Lord, the local birth-rate and the number of people leaving a particular community. The penalty for non-payment might be public ridicule and shame, organised by the Red Priests, who may add the deficit or part thereof to future levies. The red priests themselves do not actually force anybody to pay anything[7].

Of course, in step with the life and works of Laru, the Red Priests seek to protect the empire from evil spirits and their kin. By it’s nature, much of the order is mobile. Unlike local Clerics of the Circle, who are hefted to their flock and the local spirit world, red priests can be mobile enough to learn to contain and then neutralise malignant intrusions. When this isn’t directly in support of adherents of the Seldarine, the red priests view it as part of their duty to unify otherwise disparate sections of the empire.

In common with the other teachings of the gods and other beings of the Seldarine; One of the planks of the cult of Laru is duty. It is made clear to the followers what their duty actually is. Farmers feed people and pay taxes. Ilin and the Lords of the Empire not only protect the farmers but also should seek to improve things for all people by constructive use of the surplus time they have in comparison to other, harder working people. These duties are extended in line with Laru’s teachings to duty to your existing family (and it’s extensions, ie ilin). Following on from this is the individuals duty to their people; ie raising a family.

Another tenant of their faith is that an individual is free to choose their path in life. So a prince should be allowed to give up responsibility he doesn’t want and settle down to the life of a cobbler or shepherd. Conversely, cobblers and shepherds with drive and ambition should be encouraged to grow and prosper, rather than being repressed. Of course it could be said that there is some conflict between doing what the individual wishes and their duties, perhaps with regard to becoming a father or mother. Here their doctrine falls back to the matter being down to individual choice, although of course, priests are always ready to provide guidance. This normally falls into either ‘follow your heart’ or ‘do what you know is right’.

Harking back to their origins on the campaign trail, fire is very important to the cult. Often, as armies moved around, burning embers were carried with them in iron pots. These often came to be charges of cult members. The fire was a source of warmth, comfort, (to some degree) shelter and of course a means for cooking food. Fire remains important to the cult and is what many common people associate with the red priests[8] . Many adherents carry a censor to this day and use the censor and open fires, during their rituals. The smoke from the incense burnt is often referred to as '‘the breath of the dragon" and as such contains powerful magic.

One of the main duties of the Red Priests is protection, not only of their cult members, but of the empire. Therefore it is not unusual to find a cleric in an ilin band, on a mission to vanquish a foe or deal with a predator. However, the priests have skills and knowledge beyond those of ordinary ilin and as such often concentrate their efforts on super natural or internal threats to the communities that they serve.

Temples, where they exist, are based on the shelters used by the Celebrinoth. A number of holes, in a circular pattern, would be made in the ground and saplings stripped to wands would be inserted in half of them. These would then be bent over and their loose ends thrust into the vacant holes. This would then be covered with hides or cloth to form their shelter. Today even stone temples, capable of holding a hundred or more worshippers, are constructed as hemispheres and have a packed earthen floor, even it is only a thin layer over the foundations. They also have only leathern flaps covering the doorways. This un-barrable door is to let all know that the house of Laru (access to his representatives) is always open to those in need.

The order tends to use the mobility of it’s members as a teaching aid. There will be temples and chapels in many places. From these wandering preachers will find suggestions as to areas they may want to visit. The itinerant clerics should not be thought of as drifting without purpose. More often than not, they are ‘between jobs’ and will be moving from one tax assessment in one place to another.

They are mediators in their actions when dealing with local Lords, Carnc and ilin, the common people of the empire and the imperial authorities themselves. This has in the past made them unpopular with all the people they deal with. However, it is widely recognised that their decisions are, in the medium and long term, the best for all parties. So it is not unreasonable to expect a red priest to be perhaps a little blasé about personal criticism. Conversely, they tend to be disconcerted when their mediations are ignored.

[1] The first part of this was the creation of the Perren Empire. The second part is the movement of men out of and fearies into, the extreme NW of the Flannaess.
[2] The epithet ‘Laru’ had first been given to Feanor by his opponents in battle, the Baklunish horse nomads of the northern steppe. They called him Laru meaning wyvern, cunning predator or worthy opponent. Later on, the middle kingdom-descended proto ilin called him ‘Laru’ meaning dragon, cunning, patient and wise predator. This nickname spread though out the Celebrinoth.
[3] These earliest of red priests would have been ilin first, and clerics as a ‘secondary duty’.
[4] The symbolic white scarf worn by ilin, usually around the neck or helmet.
[5] For the Celebrinoth (et al) Laru was not only general but also their ideal warrior, the über-ilin. His example was one of both leadership on both a strategic and tactical level and also one of personal capacity, achievement and above all, conduct.
[6] Any people and their gods. Like most groups, the priesthood prefer talking with other groups (other clerics) who speak the same professional language, in this case, religion. There is no conflict between the Red Priests and the Hierarchs of the Circle as they draw their worshippers from different parts of imperial society and therefore see themselves as mutually complimentary.
[7] Beyond pointing out that it is in the people’s best interest to hand over taxes as assessed. Local temporal authorities, whilst following their lead, are usually very keen on proper payment.
[8] Popular tradition is that their red ilya is the colour of flame. This is of course a misconception, although not a harmful one. Itinerant priests will often use this to launch into a lesson or doctrinal debate.


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