By John Biles
* Symbol: A twelve-pointed star
* Colours: Blue and Yellow
* Sacred Days:
* The first day of each month; each month is sacred to a particular Immortal.
* Good, Healing, Law, Protection
The Church of Karameikos was an effort to blend Traladaran religion with Thyatian; the result is not always entirely self-consistent, especially as they desired to appeal to all the races of Karameikos. Each immortal represents one of the twelve virtues. The twelve immortals of the Church of Karameikos are:
* Cleverness--Korotiku the Trickster
* Compassion--Chardastes the Healer
* Courage--Halav Red-Hair
* Craftsmanship--Kagyar the Artisan
* Defence of the Weak--Petra the Holy Defender
* Discipline--Djaea, Averter of Catastrophes
* Justice--Tarastia the Just
* Love--Valerias, Patron of Lovers and Girder-on of Weapons
* Patience--Khoronus, Father of Time
* Peacefulness--Koryis, Patron of Peace and Prosperity
* Respect for Nature--Zirchev
* Scholarship--Ixion the Adventurous Scholar
Cleverness--Korotiku the Trickster (Heaven of Winds)
Ruler of the Heaven of Winds, Korotiku is the trickster whose pranks bring wisdom and laughter to all who meet him. He encourages his followers to puncture the pretensions of those who have become lost in their own self-importance and to bring comfort to those in pain through humour. Korotiku was one of the ancient Traladaran patrons, although the Thyatians also worshipped him, especially the Pearl Islanders.
Compassion--Chardastes the Healer (Heaven of Waters)
In the wake of the great war against the beast-men 2000 years ago, Chardastes travelled between the villages of Traladara, healing all those who had suffered at their hands. He even healed beast-men he encountered along the way, which proved his downfall, for a band of them tried to carry him off to keep as a healer. He offered no resistance, but refused to offer obeisance to their foul gods, so they slew him in a fit of rage. The Immortals then took him up and made him one of their number. Chardastes is the steward of the Heaven of Waters, tending to the needs of its inhabitants with quiet cheer. He encourages his followers to offer compassion and forgiveness to all, especially to their enemies.
Courage--Halav Red-Hair (Heaven of Winds)
Halav was the leader of Traladara in the great war against the beast-men, and it was he who slew their hideous leader in battle, he who brought the arts of metal forging to men. He now leads the griffon-riding Hosts of the Heaven of Winds in their wars against the Fiends of the Pit. He is husband to Petra the Defender. He encourages his followers to be steadfast and brave.
Craftsmanship--Kagyar the Artisan (Heaven of Stone)
Kagyar it was who forged the Dwarves from rock, Kagyar it was who raised the mountains which shield Karameikos from invasion, Kagyar it was who taught Halav to forge metal, and Kagyar it is who watches over the Dwarves and Gnomes of Traladara. His blessing shines upon all those who build things which will stand the test of time. Kagyar is the steward of the Heaven of Stone, ensuring that it will endure through the ages. He encourages his followers to be craftsmen in stone and metal, to build things which will endure forever.
Defence of the Weak--Petra the Holy Defender (Heaven of Waters)
Wife to Halav and Queen of Traladara in the time of the beast-men, it was she who invented the arts of pottery and weaving, she who insured that none would starve by beginning the storage of food against the famine the beast-men brought, she who called down the gods to do battle against the demons who aided the beastmen, and she who found Halav's fallen body and preserved it from desecration. To her is given the guardianship of the Heaven of Waters. She encourages her followers to protect the weak and innocent from assault and injustice, and to prudently prepare for hard times to come.
Discipline--Djaea, Averter of Catastrophes (Heaven of Stone)
Djaea rules the Heaven of Stone, the world as it was intended to be before the plotting of the Fiends of the Pit marred the world. She it was who laid out the plans the Immortals used to forge it, and she who was first to see the plots of Entropy. Her struggle against them is patient and endless. She it was who warned Halav and Petra and Zirchev of the coming of the Beast Men, and she it was who still cries for fallen Blackmoor, which failed to heed her warnings. She and Khoronus were wed in the dawn of the world. She encourages her followers to be steadfast and true, to resist the temptations offered by the Fiends, to never abandon a project from boredom or exhaustion, but instead to persevere to the end.
Justice--Tarastia the Just (Heaven of Fire)
Her worship in Traladara is recent; Traladarans always looked to Halav and Djaea for justice. The Thyatians say she is one of their own, the legendary empress Valentia the Justiciar, who united the Thyatian Empire in its early years by fairly offering equal citizenship to all its subjects, making one people of all the nations. Duke Stefan has followed her example in his efforts to make one people of Traladar and Thyatians. She leads the hosts of the Heaven of Fire in their wars with the Fiends of the Pit. She encourages her followers to treat others fairly, and to be just in all their dealings.
Love--Valerias, Patron of Lovers and Girder-on of Weapons (Heaven of Stone)
Valerias is another Thyatian goddess. She is the lover of Ixion--their relationship is legendarily passionate and tempestuous. Like him, she is ancient beyond reckoning. She is the especial patron of star-crossed lovers who must battle against the odds, and has been known to bring weapons to those who must fight for their love. She guards the Heaven of Stone with her Sacred Band. Her followers are encouraged to love with all their hearts and to open their hearts to others.
Patience--Khoronus, Father of Time (Heaven of Waters)
Husband to Djaea, Khoronus rules the Heaven of Waters, sailing his great ship down the rivers of time. He brings patient, purposeful change, change brought about through careful planning and deep thought. Unwilling to act until he thinks things all the way through, he sometimes drives the other Immortals insane by being a little too patient, but when he acts, he is as decisive as anyone. He teaches his followers to both patiently accept what changes are beyond their control, and how to intelligently guide the course of history so far as it is within their power.
Peacefulness--Koryis, Patron of Peace and Prosperity (Heaven of Winds)
Koryis is revered by the Ochaleans of Thyatis, and with the integration of Traladara into first Thyatis and now Karameikos, his worship has spread west. Koryis advocates trade as a way of building networks between people that channel their energies into peaceful competition instead of war. He is the steward of the Heaven of Winds, encouraging its mercurial inhabitants to live in fruitful peace with one another. He teaches his followers how to find the mutual interests they share with others, and how to then cooperate with them in order to benefit both.
Respect for Nature--Zirchev (Heaven of Fire)
Zirchev the Hunter aided Halav and Petra in the war against the Beastmen, learning the arts of the hunt, of scouting, and of ambush. His studies taught him the secrets of nature, and he learned to use its power by flowing with its rhythms, instead of against them. He is the steward of the Heaven of Fire; under his care the Fire Forests have flourished. He teaches his followers to respect the wild places and the animals they hunt.
Scholarship--Ixion the Adventurous Scholar (Heaven of Fire)
The King of the Heaven of Fire, Ixion is like fire: he both warms and burns those who come close to him. He advocates the life which balances action and contemplation, doing and being, war and wisdom. He strives ever to learn more, and to do things with his knowledge. He encourages his followers to study the world in order to change it.
There are five great fiends who plot the destruction of all the works of the Twelve Immortal Guardians. Each is served by many lesser fiends. They are lead by Thanatos, He who is Death, the End of All Things. He seeks to destroy all four of the Four Heavens, while the other four Great Fiends each target a single Heaven.
At the End of All Things, the very bottom of the Pit, sits Thanatos, as all things tumble down into his maw. He is patient, for he believes that in the end, he will devour everything in an apocalypse from which there will be no rebirth. He is too foolish to understand that death is merely the prelude to new beginnings. Death has no especial foes, for he intends to devour everything in the end.
Destruction: Orcus (The Enemy of the Heaven of Stone)
Orcus is destruction made flesh, the active principle which smashes big rocks into smaller rocks and turns all to dust in the end. It is by his plots that the world was marred, and he hopes to one day destroy the Heaven of Stone, so that even the memory of the world in its first bloom of perfection will be lost. His greatest enemy is Djaea, Queen of the Heaven of Stone.
Malice: Loki (Enemy of the Heaven of Winds)
Loki is malice, and jealousy, and spite and all the emotions which inspire people to hurt others and pull them down. He is the trickster whose pranks bring pain and suffering to others, who bullies and mistreats the weak and leads the proud to destruction. He is the rubber of salt in wounds, the joker who kills, the fire which burns all it touches. His greatest enemy is Korotiku, King of the Heaven of Winds.
Despair: Hel (Enemy of the Heaven of Fire)
Hel is the greyness of despair, the one who whispers in your ear that it is best to give up, to surrender, to accept that there is nothing you can do about a bad situation. Why fight? Why struggle? Why not just give in and accept you cannot change the world for good or ill and spare yourself the pain of your inevitable failure? That is the message she brings. Her greatest enemy is Ixion, King of the Heaven of Fire.
Selfishness: Talitha (Enemy of the Heaven of Waters)
Talitha teaches that one should always put one's self above all others, that everyone else exists only to serve you and your pleasures. Greed and self-indulgence are the highest virtues in her sight. She struggles with Khoronus, the King of the Heaven of Waters.
The Four Heavens and the Pit:
There are four Heavens, each home to three of the Immortals who watch over it. Those who die purified of their sins ascend to dwell with the immortal whose virtue they best manifested in life.
The first is the Heaven of Stone, ruled by Djaea, the world as it was before the Fiends of the Pit marred it in the War of the Gods at the dawn of Time itself. The roads are made of silver so that no fell werewolf may walk them, and the sun never ceases to shine, driving away the vampire and all his foul kin.
The second is the Heaven of Air, a great kingdom of clouds and wind, ruled by Korotiku. It is an ever changing land, constantly reshaped as the clouds drift about at the direction of those who rule them and dwell upon them. All the creatures of the sky find havens here, and noble cloud and storm giants build their flying citadels.
The third is the Heaven of Water, a great ocean dotted with islands green with life. Fishermen dwell upon the islands and gather their harvest from the sea, while beneath its surface dwell a million glorious civilisations. Khoronus rules there from his floating citadel where he keeps the Great Book, in which all that ever happened is written down.
The fourth is the Heaven of Fire, where all is made of light and fire, a world we can hardly imagine. It is home to Ixion the Sun King, who makes his dwelling place upon the back of a gold dragon the size of a continent. Here, all people become magicians of puissant power, and fire burns without consuming.
Each of these Heavens cast a shadow, the so called 'Elemental Planes', where dwell many strange and wondrous creatures, and they float in a great ocean known as the Astral Plane, through which runs the Silver Road that leads from the Mortal World to that of the Immortals.
As their light shines upon our world, our world casts a shadow across the Astral Plane, a shadow known as The Pit, home to the Fiends, Immortals who have been swallowed by their own darkness and strive to mar all that the Immortal Guardians create. The Pit has five great layers to it, four of which parody the Four Heavens, and the fifth of which lies below the other four, the End of All Things, home to Thanatos, He Who Is Death.
The Hell of Rubble is ruled by Orcus the Destroyer, a great void full of broken chunks of all that is solid, constantly being broken into tinier bits. The Fiends of Destruction, who live only to smash all else that is, dwell here, gradually destroying their own home.
The Hell of Ash is ruled by Two-Faced Hel, the Lady of Despair and Misery. It is a grey and dismal hall built from the fingernails of the dead, which stands in a great bleak plane of ash. There is no fire, no light, no hope here, only dismal grey twilight and an eternity of existence without purpose or meaning. The Fiends of Despair dwell here, moaning and bewailing their fate.
The Hell of Sand is ruled by Talitha the Vain, who dwells within a great palace made entirely from stolen goods, surrounded by a bleak and lifeless desert of endless sand under a constantly present hot summer sun. Every wall is mirrored so that she and her Fiends of Selfishness and Vanity can gaze upon themselves, admire their own beauty, and count themselves lucky to not be among the hapless evil souls condemned to toil endlessly in the desert.
The Hell of Fire is a great charnel house ruled by Loki the Jealous, who dwells in a great hall built of the charred and forged souls of the damned. All those consumed by their own jealousy, hatred, and envy of others fall into the Hell of Fire where they are turned into tools and money and food for the Fiends of Malice, who fatten upon them. Sometimes Loki invites the newly damned to compete with him for the right to join his fiends. The games are rigged so that no one but him can win; Loki greatly enjoys the joke. The losers become dinner for the winner.
The End of All Things is a great conical void whose walls are made of solid nothingness, a funnel down which all things slide into the waiting maw of Thanatos himself, who sits at the bottom, letting all things come to him as he believes they inevitably must.
Philosophy and Theology:
The Church of Karameikos' most fundamental practice is that of taking responsibility for one's ill deeds and doing penance for them. Anyone can be redeemed if they are willing to accept their own guilt and pay for it. The state of your soul at death is determined by how many of your sins you have done penance for. The problem with this is that some abuse it as a blank check to do evil things and pay for it later.
The Church's ideal is the marriage of discipline and creativity of thought and deed, but in practice, the disciplinary aspect tends to predominate. This often leads to clashes with the various Traladaran faiths and with anyone else who deviates from the cultural norms of the Thyatian elite who currently dominate the Church. It also leads some to be willing to crusade against other faiths or lands to spread the faith.
Marriage is very sacred to the Church because mortal marriages are symbolic of the union of discipline (law) and creativity (chaos) which forms part of its philosophy. It is to be noted that many of its patron immortals are either married or in extremely long-term relationships. Divorce is highly frowned on, and adultery and pre-marital sex are seen as grave sins.
The state of one's soul at death determines one's fate in the everlasting life. Those who die without repenting their ill deeds sink into one of the hells, as appropriate for their greatest sin. Those who die with their soul sufficiently cleansed by repentance and penance rise to the heaven which most closely reflects their greatest virtue. The most holy of those join the ranks of the Champions who serve the Immortals.
The Church of Karameikos condemns the various divination practices of the populace of Karameikos because they believe such methods are subject to manipulation by the Fiends, and are in fact a major tool by which the Fiends tempt and destroy humanity. They also believe that they don't work and are foolish superstitions.
Most of the holy texts of the Church of Karameikos are either Thyatian or Karameikan in origin, and have been gathered together by Patriarch Jowett into what is called 'The Book of Twelve Stars'. It consists of:
* The Vision of the First Dawn (An account of the creation of the universe as seen by Patriarch Jowett in a vision)
* The Marring of the World (An account written from a vision by the seventh century AC Thyatian visionary Epithelius of Retebius. It deals with the rise of Entropy and the fall of the world from its first perfection.)
* Korotiku Steals the Secret of Death (Pearl Islander story about how Korotiku stole the secret of death from Thanatos, thus enabling himself to become immortal and those held prison in Thanatos' cave to escape)
* The Works of Kagyar (This is a spiritual history of the Dwarves and of the deeds of Kagyar over the centuries. Some now forgotten dwarven mystic wrote this at least a thousand years ago. It contains an extensive description of the Heaven of Stone)
* The Path of Light (an ancient text of Tarastia worshippers which lays out the twelve virtues and how to follow them. As might be expected, it especially exalts the virtue of Justice.)
* The Five Curses of the Fiends (This dark and gloomy book was also written by Patriarch Jowett after a vision, and describes the Five Hells and the Five Fiends in disturbing detail and the curse which each of them has put upon all the sentient races.)
* The Fall of Blackmoor (This is a lament by Djaea for the fall of Blackmoor and for the destruction the Rain of Colourless Fire brought upon the world. It is a traditional Traladaran text.)
* The Song of Halav (Traditional Traladaran epic poem about the Traladar-Beastman war of 1000 BC. Halav, Petra, and Zirchev figure prominently)
* Zirchev's Testament (Traditional Traladaran text which sets out Zirchev's warning to the Traladarans to respect the powers that dwell within the forests of their lands, said to have been dictated before he went forth to war on the Beastmen and passed on by his children. Traladaran tradition holds that it was the failure to hold to these commands which enabled the Five Fiends to twist some of the forests dwellers into the lycanthropes which plague Karameikos)
* The Life of Chardastes (This is an account of the life and death of Chardastes written by one of his followers. It is Traladaran in origin)
* Love Songs (This book has three chapters, each of which is a love poem from one of the Immortals to another. The first is 'The Song of Petra', which is a traditional Traladaran love poem written by Petra to Halav on the eve of the battle with the Beastmen. She clearly fears she will never see him again, and pours out her heart to him. The second is 'The Passion of Valerias', written by Valerias to Ixion. It is a strange combination of pornography and spiritual ecstasy. The third is 'The Pledge of Khoronus', in which he pledges his love to Djaea. It shows the love of an old and stable couple in whom the flame of love burns lower but more steadily.)
* The Analects of Koryis (This is a strange and enigmatic book which consists of 144 sayings, each of which is a four line poem. The book is divided into twelve sections of twelve sayings each, with each section being a different kind of poetry and focusing on a different topic. While of Thyatian origin, it has circulated in Traladara for several centuries, being used as a divination system. The Church of Karameikos frowns on its use for divination, regarding it as a depository of spiritual wisdom)
* The Prophecy of Hope (This was proclaimed by a priest of Ixion in ancient Traladara after the destruction of the Beastmen. It contains twelve prophecies of future Traladaran triumphs, culminating in the utter overthrow of evil and the restoration of the world to its original beauty.)
Selected Quotes from the Book of Twelve Stars:
"Eyes cannot see, words cannot tell
the glory of the world in the first spring,
in the days when all was new,
in the days before the world was marred,
and yet, I must try."
--The Vision of the First Dawn
"Order protects and sustains
Chaos creates and changes
Entropy corrupts and destroys.
Once all were one,
But then the world was marred,
And strife entered in its wake.
Death seems everywhere triumphant.
For every soul he waits
At the End of All Things.
But he has forgotten the circle,
misreads the seasons,
ignores nature's every sign.
After fall comes winter,
but after winter is spring.
The world's springtime will come again."
--The Marring of the World
"Those who cannot take a joke are the ones who most desperately need one to be given to them."
--Korotiku Steals the Secret of Death
"It is not easy to forgive, to love one's enemies. But none of the good things in life come easily. Hate and destruction are the road that leads into the Maw of Thanatos. I will walk the harder road that leads into the light."
--The Life and Death of Chardastes
"Halav shoved himself up the spear,
and hacked off the Beast King's head.
For 'tis better to die a hero's death
than to live a coward's life."
--The Song of Halav
"Fires consume their fuel and die,
songs fade and stories are forgotten,
wood burns and flesh rots away,
but stone and metal endure.
And so I command my children
to build their homes and tools
on a solid foundation
for stone and metal endure."
--The Works of Kagyar
"Fight not for your own glory, my love.
;Fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.":
--The Song of Petra
"Before you can bring order to the world,
you must bring order to yourself.
Blackmoor never learned this lesson;
do not walk their road."
--The Lamentations of Djaea
"Let not the judge forget that one day he too will be judged."
--The Path of Light
"Forge me with your hammer. Mould my clay into something beautiful and harden me with the fires of love. You are copper; I am tin. Let us become bronze."
--The Passion of Valerias
"In the winters of our love, remember the past and know that spring always comes again. Winter is but a rest that makes the spring all the sweeter. Be like the willow which bends in the wind and returns to stand upright when the wind passes, for it always does."
--The Pledge of Khoronus
"Everyone is someone else's stranger.
When you look upon a man you know not
and tell yourself he is odd and dangerous,
you ensure he will come to think the same of you."
--The Analects of Koryis
"Did you make the forest? Did you set the plants to grow and the animals to their grazing and hunting? Can you make more land, set a sun in the sky and rain to fall? If so, then you may say the forest is yours, but you know that is not so."
--The Testament of Zirchev
"Without knowledge, action is aimless. Without action, knowledge is pointless. Do not choose merely to know, or merely to do. Use your wisdom, or you will lose it."
--The Book of Hope.
The Church of Karameikos is a fairly well ordered hierarchy. Its head is the high patriarch, currently Olliver Jowett, who serves for life once elected by the patriarchs and matriarchs of the church. Each patriarch oversees the church in a region of the country radiating out from the city in which his temple sits, appointing priests to all the temples within his district. One patriarch serves as the head of the Order of the Griffon, the Church's military arm. Every year, the patriarchs assemble for two weeks (or longer) to deliberate matters facing the church in the Great Synod. Most patriarchs also periodically invite their subordinate priests to elect twelve delegates to meet with them yearly as a synod for their district, although this is not required.
All Patriarchs and Matriarchs are at least ninth level.
The Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the Church are: High Patriarch: Olliver Jowett. He doubles as Patriarch of Specularum, watching over the church in the southern seaboard. Patriarch of Threshold: Sherlane Halaran. Northern Karameikos is his responsibility. Commander of the Order of the Griffon: Alfric Oderbry. He supervises the Order of the Griffon. Patriarch of Kelvin: Baron Desmond Kelvin II (He is also a member of the Order of the Griffon, but was chosen for the Patriarchate on the death of his uncle, the former Patriarch). Central Karameikos is under his supervision. Matriarch of Luln: Natasha Markova. All of Western Karameikos is effectively under her supervision. Matriarch of Rugalov (based out of Rugalov keep): Anastasia Romanova . Eastern Karameikos is under her supervision, though at the present she's largely stuck playing chaplain to the Rugalov garrison and squabbling with Oderbry over who has jurisdiction over several Order of the Griffon fortified monasteries in the Dymrak.
The Order of the Griffon is the military wing of the Church, led by Patriarch Alfric Oderbry. They provide bodyguards for the Patriarchs, guards for the major temples, and provide the manpower which the Patriarchs call on in times of war to fulfil their duties to the Duke as landholders. The Order is a mix of Paladins, Fighters, Clerics, and Warriors. It has two branches: the Soldiers of the Griffon, who are a mixture of low level Warriors and Fighters who serve the church, providing temple guards, garrisons for the fortified churches of the wilderness, and military forces to meet the feudal military duties of the Church. The Knights of the Griffon are a mixture of Paladins and Clerics who perform holy quests, bodyguard the Patriarchs, and command the Soldiers of the Griffon in garrison duties and peacetime. All are at least fifth level.
The order mans a dozen or so fortified monasteries/manors built in wilderness zones, whose revenues help to fund the order and whose dangers keep it in fighting trim.