Lady Despina's Virtue - Continued

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What did the messenger say?! I am waiting in anticipation.

Glad that Mostin sort of restrained himself. Wonder if he could sustain the assault.

Too bad about the 'failed' assassination attempt. Stupid balor! Why'd he have to be there? Too bad they didn't get the necromancer's body to finish the job.


Thanks for the repost, Sep. I had read that one already, so I'm awaiting something new :)

Thanks again for posting these. They're great fun!


First Post
Sepulchrave asked me to post something - he's kind of tied up because his Mom is visiting from England. I didn't know what to write, so I thought I'd share some background info.

The Church of Oronthon

This is designed as a background note to Sepulchrave’s “Lady Despina’s Virtue” thread in the Story Hour forum. As I don’t really have anything to contribute to the ongoing saga, I thought I’d provide some information about the Church that my character (Eadric) belongs to.

If you’ve been following the story, you’ll know that things are changing – a schism has occurred which may render all of this obsolete. This, then, is the structure of the Church in its original form. Sep was a doctoral student of comparative religion, so he’s well informed about the way religions develop historically. Surprisingly, the high fantasy element doesn’t play that much of a role in the way things are set up.

Oronthonianism is loosely based on late medieval Catholicism, and the cosmology itself is influenced by Dante and Milton. The names of many celestials (Palamabron, Enitharmon, Rintrah) are borrowed from William Blake’s poems – especially “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” The Urgic Mystics, a heretical sect of Oronthon worshippers (to whom Eadric’s brother, Orm, belongs) hold views which most closely resemble those of Blake and Emmanuel Swedenborg.

Some General Thoughts

The Church of Oronthon, from Eadric’s perspective, consists of two movements

(1) Orthodoxy. This is by far the largest grouping, and the one to which Eadric belongs.

(2) Heterodoxy. This consists of all of the alternative interpretations of Oronthonianism. It is a catch-all phrase, and includes the Urgic Mystics, Reconciliatory Sophists and other more obscure denominations. From the Orthodox perspective, all of these groups are heretical. They do not concern us.

Traditionally, Orthodoxy is led by the Archbishop of Morne, who possesses the indwelling spirit of the deity. He is served by the Magistratum who enforce the codes, and the Pastorate who provide spiritual guidance to the masses. The Curia, who advise on matters of doctrine, are drawn from both groups. The Great Conclave consists of the Curia, plus other holy men drawn mostly from the Pastorate.

One of the things in “Defenders of the Faith” which impressed Sepulchrave was the Contemplative PrC. He saw it as a means to bypass the idea that church priests needed to be members of the Cleric class in order to demonstrate divine favor. Now the scholar and introvert could realistically be portrayed, and mysticism could regain a central role in the religion – something which was otherwise hard to accomplish within the class limits of D&D.

In short, this is the way it works:

1) The vast majority of clergymen, from local village priests, through deacons, abbots and Bishops are members of the Expert class. Their specialty is Knowledge (Religion), and they possess other skills such as Profession (Counselor), Sense Motive, Diplomacy etc. which support this. They spend time advising people on religious matters, presiding at ceremonies and rites of passage, and doing other humdrum and mundane duties. They comprise the Pastorate.

2) A small minority of Chuch members demonstrate certain “Gifts.” These people do not get involved in the day-to-day organization of the Church, but are trained to fulfill special tasks. These people are members of the Cleric and Paladin classes, or of PrCs which evolve from them. They are supported by a huge staff of Experts. They are the Magistratum.

3) Members of the Contemplative Prestige class – those who are considered most holy – do not tend to come from the Cleric or Paladin classes. Because the only prerequisite of the Contemplative is ‘Knowledge (Religion): 13 Ranks,’ it actually makes sense to have the sedentary, meditative ‘Expert’ types grow into this role. The Archbishops are always Contemplatives.

The Magistratum

The Magistratum – the body which enforces correct behaviour and dogma – consists of two wings, both of which are politically active.

(1) The Temple. A member of the Temple is called a Templar – this is something of a misnomer, because it includes other classes as well as the Templar PrC. The Temple is both the physical building of the Great Fane in Morne, as well as the institution of those sworn to preserve it. Lawful Fighters, Paladins and Clerics form the backbone of the Temple. Often, the members of the highest echelons of the Temple are represented by Prestige Classes: notably the Warpriest and Templar PrC proper. The Templars guard relics, protect the Archbishop, and prosecute holy wars. The Mission, originally a separate wing, is now a subdivision of the Temple. It is concerned with proselytizing, but because most of its members are off converting heathens, it has little political clout.

(2) The Inquisition is responsible for rooting out corruption and demonic and/or diabolic influences. Paladins tend to be under represented in the Inquisition and Clerics are more common, although most deputed Inquisitors are, in fact, members of the Expert class. Again, the highest tiers of this wing of the Magistratum is where the PrCs tend to be found. As well as the Church Inquisitor, the Sacred Exorcist and Consecrated Harrier PrCs are suitable templates for modelling some of these specialist characters.


Sepulchrave’s world is close to monotheistic, and Oronthonianism is by far the most common religion in the North. The ‘Old Faith,’ practiced by Nwm, still has adherants, but its popularity has been gradually declining for centuries. Orthodoxy uses the words ‘Pagan’ and ‘Heathen’ liberally to describe anyone who is not a follower of Oronthon.

One of the ideas touched on earlier in the thread is that Oronthon is, in fact, ‘schizophrenic.’ This may or may not be true, but with dozens of different groups all emphasizing different aspects of the deity, both within Orthodoxy and beyond it, it is hard to discover who the ‘real’ Oronthon is, behind all of his facets.
The deity’s possible multiple personalities become most obvious when you consider members of the Cleric class. The domains of Good, Healing, Law, Protection, Retribution, Sun, Strength, Creation, Exorcism, Glory, Inquisition and Mysticism can all be related to Oronthon. A Cleric who emphasizes Good and Healing is going to have a different perspective than one who focuses on Law and Retribution.

Although Oronthon is ostensibly Lawful Good, obviously his clerics can legitimately be LN or NG. Clerical domain selections reflect these different emphases. One of Eadric’s main complaints against the system is that the Magistratum has become too doctrinaire – emphasisng Law above Good. Many Templars and Inquisitors are, in game terms, Lawful Neutral. Cynric’s distrust of certain members of the Curia also reflected this. As a Contemplative – one who has spent the time and energy to truly come to grips with what his god represents – Cynric was aware of the imbalance and the tension and difficulty that it caused.

The hierarchical nature of the church exacerbates the problem, because a respect for the Law IS important. Consider someone in Tahl’s position. His immediate superior is the Inquisitor General, Melion. Tahl is LG but Melion is LN. Tahl will follow orders to a point, but when his “Goodness” is compromised too much, he is faced with a difficult dilemma. Does he defy the Law or not? If he places the Good above the Law, does he, by default, actually takes a step towards becoming NG?

Poor Eadric is constantly bombarded with alignment paradoxes which make his head hurt. Serves you right for choosing a Paladin, you might say. You’re probably right. Some hard choices lie ahead.
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Lombard, thanks fr the explanation!

BTW, I like a lot the idea of normal priests beign Experts and not Clerics or Paladins...


Thanks for the info, Lombard. I really like Eadric because he isn't stereotypical and doesn't follow dogma or at least questions it to the point of internal conflict. So much in store for the PCs. Can't wait.

This is the last post of the "Lady Despina's Virtue" thread. Don't panic - I'm beginning another one soon. This just seems like an appropriate place to end it, as the title is no longer really relevant.


The leaves were turning on the trees, and a cold wind which presaged winter was blowing from the northeast when Mostin, Nwm, Despina, Ortwin and Eadric met again on the terrace at Trempa.
Eadric was still digesting the news of the assassination attempt upon Feezuu. He wasn’t entirely sure whether he approved of Mostin’s tactics.

"She is certainly still alive," Mostin lamented. "I have determined her location, and she remains on Limbo. Another similar attempt on our part is unrealistic – she will be prepared to counter it, and will doubtless have invoked powerful wards. One thing is likely: she herself does not possess the ‘Discern Location’ dweomer, else I’d probably be dead by now – as would you, Ortwin."
"What will she do now?" Eadric asked.
Mostin sighed and shrugged. "It really depends on the extent to which revenge rules her actions," the Alienist said.
"As opposed to lust and greed?" Ortwin asked.
"Quite so," Mostin agreed. "I suspect that Graz’zt is more than capable of applying himself to find out who attacked Feezuu and where they are. The question is ‘will he bother?’ I’m sure that he doesn’t follow up every assault made against every fiend in his service: he has more important plans to consider. And Abyssal politics tend to be very momentary."
"Er, what would YOU do in her position, Mostin?" The Bard asked worriedly.
"If I were vengeful, I’d seek out the ‘Discern Location’ dweomer, determine our whereabouts, and then attack us individually," Mostin said.
"Great," Ortwin said drily. "Something nice to look forward to."
"If she can cast the spell at all," Nwm remarked cannily. "She is a Necromancer. Divination may be prohibited to her."
Mostin was cheered by Nwm’s words. The Druid had a good point.
"But she could still engage a proxy to cast the spell for her, or even petition the Prince," Ortwin said gloomily.
"Like I said," Mostin sighed, "it depends on the extent to which revenge rules her actions. I doubt that she would wish to be so beholden to Graz’zt – assuming he wouldn’t simply blast her for presuming to ask a favour. But how far out of her way is she prepared to go?"

Eadric related Tahl’s revelation to the others.
"Rintrah commanded him to leave the Fane in no uncertain terms," the Paladin said. "The celestial also instructed Tahl to free me and lead me to safety, and in a subsequent exchange with Urthoon, Tahl confirmed that my life was in danger. Apparently one person at least in the Curia feels that I would be better off dead."
"Assassins?" Ortwin asked.
Eadric shrugged. "I have become a rather high-profile thorn in the side of the establishment," he sighed, "it’s possible. Rintrah spoke of a coming conflict, and indicated that I would be pivotal in it."
"Is the revelation reliable?" Mostin asked. "Not that I doubt Tahl’s sincerity, but is it possible that he was deceived?"
Eadric shook his head. "He was wearing the Eye of Palamabron: no illusion or counterfeit – not even that of the Adversary – can withstand it. He, er, has it with him now."
"He stole the Eye?" Mostin was incredulous.
"Not at all," Eadric replied. "Rintrah instructed him to take it. He was told that he would need it. Nonetheless, I agree that the Inquisition might hold a pretty dim view of it."
"Why can’t Tahl simply appear before the Curia and relate his vision?" Nwm asked. "Under magical scrutiny, they will know he is not lying and will be forced to acknowledge his legitimacy? And what is this talk of Assassins? Since when did Oronthon’s clergy sink that low?"
"I don’t KNOW that Assassins are involved. But it wouldn’t be the first time that they’ve been engaged by individuals within the Church. The establishment itself has been known to condone it in the past."
Ortwin looked surprised. "How? It is a patently evil act."
"Don’t be naïve, Ortwin," Eadric said. "It is a political act. And it can be justified by service to the greater good. I agree – it is not a tactic that I would endorse. I also refer you to your own assault upon Feezuu."
Ortwin grunted. "She is a fiend. It’s different."
Eadric sighed and shook his head. "As to Tahl appearing before the Curia, I suppose it’s possible. If he wasn’t immediately arrested and if they even let him speak, then perhaps he could convince them of the validity of his experiences. But the dogmatic, conservative element is so entrenched – so committed to maintaining the law at all costs – that I’m dubious that he’d be heard. But the same argument applies to a testament made by Tahl as it does to revelation from Oronthon himself: why has the Bright God remained silent? Why not simply send an avatar to address those who doubt?"
"Damn good question," said Ortwin, "why doesn’t he?"
"I am starting to think that it’s a faith versus proof scenario," Eadric said.
"How tedious," Mostin said.
Nwm shook his head. "Your god is either brutal or confused, Eadric. I foresee that rivers of blood will be shed over this, and to what end? For a deity who embodies healing and good, he seems remarkably receptive to the idea of conflict and pain."

Eadric grimaced. "It is complex," he agreed. "Tahl has prescribed a penance for me, to allay the lingering guilt I might feel over Cynric’s death, and to purge me of any remaining doubts. I will withdraw to the mountains alone."
"Ed, this is really bad timing," Ortwin said. "Morne is only a few days away, and now that the Duchess has thrown her lot in with you, it’s only a matter of waiting until the banners of the Temple appear along the road. You would be more use here."
"Nothing will happen before spring," Eadric said calmly. "By the time that the Curia have settled their differences, made a decision, freed their finances, gained Royal assent and mobilized an army, winter will be here. They will not initiate a campaign until the snows have melted.


Eadric and Despina remained alone on the terrace after the others had departed: Mostin to his chambers, Nwm to find his bear and owls (ugh, birds, thought the Alienist), and Ortwin to find some firewine and the company of someone less reputable than the Paladin.

"So the Goddess accepted your petition," Eadric said rhetorically, evidencing some regret.
"Apparently," Despina concurred. She smiled. "Am I now thrice-fallen?*"
Eadric shrugged. "I am beginning to realise that things are more complicated than I once thought they were."
"Or much simpler," Despina said.
Eadric let the comment pass. He was in no mood for a philosophical debate.
"What will you do now?" He asked.
"I will eat, sleep and act when appropriate." Despina replied.
"Nwm’s really gotten to you, hasn’t he?"
"Actually, that’s one of Tatterbrand’s," she laughed.
Eadric raised an eyebrow.
"At my trial," he said, "I learned that your name is Nehael. Do you prefer it?"
"I think I do," said Nehael.
Eadric nodded.
"In the morning," he began, "I will be gone – say my good-byes to the others. I need solitude – I learned that from my time in the dungeons of the Inquisition. I will return when I am ready. Hopefully before Midwinter. Are you planning on staying?"
"Oh, yes," the Demoness replied.
Eadric seemed relieved. "Goodnight Nehael," he said.
She stopped him before he left. "You need to let go of it all, Eadric or you will fail," she said.
"Guilt and doubt?" He replied. "Yes, I know."
"No," she shook her head. "EVERYTHING, Eadric. Do you understand?"
He swallowed hard, and departed.

Nehael did not retire, but climbed the steps to the broken space atop the Tower of Owls. Sprouting wings from her back, she flew up and perched upon the tallest battlement, her knees tucked beneath her arms, and waited.

Somewhat later, Rintrah appeared.

"Is he ready?" The Planetar asked.
"Let’s wait and see, shall we?" Nehael replied.
The Celestial and the Demoness sat together in silence for an hour, until a single figure, walking quickly and purposefully in the moonlight, strode across the courtyard below. He wore no armour, rode no horse, and bore no weapons except for a roughly hewn staff.
"Good," said Rintrah. "I will reveal myself to him in six weeks or so."
Nehael sighed. Celestials were so traditional.
"If you wish, you may return with me," Rintrah offered.
"Thanks, but no thanks," said Nehael. "I like it here."
Rintrah nodded. "I understand. The offer remains open – provided that you don’t stir up the archons."
Nehael smiled. "Goodbye, Rintrah," she said.

The Planetar vanished, but the Demoness sat and watched the figure walking along the road diminish, and finally disappear.

She sat for a long time. Demons have good eyesight.

* Demons are known theologically as "Twice-Fallen": first, from Oronthon’s grace into Hell; and second, after rejecting the leadership of the Adversary in their exodus to the Abyss.
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