Shadows Gather Darkly
Selentine Church; Church of Selentium; the True Faith
“…what in me is dark Illumine…”.
John Milton, Paradise Lost
Holy City: Selentium, the capital of Asmulia; Ibrahim, birthplace of the Saviour, located in Zhenir.
Mortal Head: His Holiness, Benefice Verrocchio
Holy Canons: The Sacred Covenant (consists of two different texts: the First Covenant and the Second Covenant).
Holy Symbol: Stylised sun.
Majority Areas: Ferromaine, Kurland, Albion, Cornumbria, Algandy, Chaubrette, Emphidor, Molasaria, Lalkovnia, Lamordia, Tierra
Other Areas: Karameikos, Barovia, Mercanian Coast, Ostland, Thuland.
No. of followers: 5,000,000 +
Holy Days: Venitago, 1st day of Spring. Celebrates the birth of Gatanades.
The Selentine Church is a monotheistic religion. The central deity is Arakyn. He has two sons, the archangel Uriel and the fallen Az’arel. Arakyn then created the other angels, before creating the rest of the world. Arakyn is also named ‘the One,’ ‘the Creator,’ ‘the Father of Light,’ ‘Father Light,’ and ‘He Who is the Light.’ Az’arel is the antithesis of his brother Uriel and his father Arakyn. He is also known as ‘the Dark Terror,’ ‘the Whisperer of Impossible Secrets,’ ‘Master of the Hunt,’ ‘the Whisperer,’ ‘Corrupter,’ ‘Collector of Evil,’ ‘the Black One,’ ‘the Hunter of Souls,’ ‘the Dark One.’ It is said that to say the Whisperer’s real name draws his attention, inevitably ill fortune at best, disaster at worst.
Once he had made the world, Arakyn decided that he and his sons should withdraw from it, to watch it. Az’arel thought that they should remain and rule and aid the inhabitants that were upon world. Uriel agreed with his father. The brothers argued vehemently over this until Az’arel attacked Uriel. A great battle was fought, which Uriel won and resulted with Az’arel and his supporters crashing to the world below. Az’arel became the Lord of Darkness, while Uriel became the Lord of Light.
Arakyn, has a much older name: Krienta. Krienta was an ancient mythic god associated with justice. He was viewed as wise and fatherly – caring, protective, but punishing for the good of his children. Krienta was father, protector and lord of the religion that came before the modern version of the Church. The First Covenant details Krienta’s promise to these people and how they might fulfil their side.
What makes followers of the Selentium Church different from their predecessors is their belief and acceptance of the Saviour as the son of Uriel, and that he was preordained to bring Salvation to the world and mankind (as opposed to the Tamoran Church, see below). The Saviour was a fisherman called Gatanades, who was born and raised in the city of Ibrahim, in what is now known as Zhenir. He lived a quiet life until his mid-30s, when he took up a missionary life for some five years until the closing events of his earthly life. His teachings were initially scorned and ignored by the emperors and people of Selentium, and Gatanades himself died as a martyr. As the Empire began to collapse, however, the Imperator Josturox, the Imperator of the day, decided it would be expedient to adopt the new religion to which so many of the people were now turning. The True Faith became ensconced in the official Church of Selentium.
Gatanades spoke of Arakyn being of a tripartite nature: The Fist of Arakyn, the Eye of Arakyn and the Mouth of Arakyn. The Fist of Arakyn is represented by Uriel, Arakyn’s son, and metes out destruction to sinner and infidel. The Eye of Arakyn watches men’s souls and judges them for Heaven or Hell. The Mouth of Arakyn is represented by his grandson, the Saviour himself. The mouth speaks in the heart so that one may know Good from Evil.
There are more than 6 million followers of the Saviour today. Most of the old gods were swept away, discredited by being equated with the devils of the new religion. Over the centuries the Saviour’s followers have split into a number of different denominations and sects – two major and the rest minor. The first split resulted from the fall of the Selentium Empire breaking into Northern and Southern parts. The followers of the northern or New Empire looked to Tamor as the centre of what became known as the Tamorian Church . The southern Empire retained Selentium as their centre, but the Empire fell and is now part of the country known as Asmulia. Their head is the Pontiff who in turn is supported by by a college of Benefices from all over the western world. When a Pontiff dies the Benefices are locked up in the Pontiff’s holy palace until they have elected a new one. None of the clergy are allowed to marry.
The Sacred Covenant: consists of the original Covenant (the First Covenant) in Ta’ashim and the new Covenant (the Second Covenant) in Emphidian. The First Covenant details Arakyn’s coming to man and his promise to care and guide those who know and worship him. The First Covenant details how Arakyn created the world and the life that flourishes upon it. It also talks of Arakyn and his sons, Uriel and Az’arel. The story is detailed a little more below. The First Covenant also includes some strong statements on how to live and how to satisfy humanities promise to him.
The early part of the Second Covenant, called the Apologos (also known as the Apologue) details the life and teachings of Gatanades, the Saviour. In the Theoria, the second section of the Sacred Covenant, Uriel’s promise to protect and guide those who “walk in the Light of his father” is outlined. The third part, the Apodosis, also known as the Protasis details what the faithful need to do to fulfil their side of the promise (the Second Covenant) with Uriel and the consequence of failing to do so.
Followers of the Selentine Church feel bound not only by the First Covenant but by the Second Covenant, and it’s summary of the First, as well. The teachings of Gatanades are very important to understanding the Sacred Covenant. Gatanades taught that one must love Uriel and the Creator, and that the best way of doing this was to accept them into one’s heart and to walk and bask in their Light.
The Orders: There have been disagreements over the meaning of Gatanades teachings, even before his death. These arguments have resulted in a number of different sects having formed – the strongest of these continue today and constitute the Church today. There are: the Scholar Monks of Cornumbria; the Sisterhood, nuns and healers; the Pastrom, the most numerous order whose priests preach the sermons and guide the layfolk; the Episkopom, made up of the Benefices and administrators who amongst other things appoint inquisitors to root out heresy; and the Helitites, the most fervent sect whose missionaries take the teachings of Gatanades to the ungodly, converting with words and steel.
In addition to these ecclesiastic orders there are the secular arms to the Church with its stern warrior class. These are: the Order Des Sankta Glavos, the Holy Swords, trained to defend the Church and it’s property; the The Legion of the Light who walk the world to protect the faithful and enact Uriel’s covenant; and the Order of the Knights Capellars. None of these orders are subject to common law but to Church Law.
The Chosen: In addition to the different aspects of the Church mentioned above, there are also other, local, flavours as well. These are the Chosen. The Chosen are the most faithful, devout and often particularly outstanding followers of Arakyn and Uriel. They are often viewed as children of Light, Uriel’s Children, vessels for Arakyn’s radiance, sent to spread it wherever they go. All defer, of course, to Gatanades and Uriel. They are very rare and none have been seen for centuries.
The more prominent and their main area of patronage are listed below:
|Ch. Gatanades|– Sacrifice, Wisdom, Mercy|
|Ch. Armando|–Gardeners, Smiths|
|Ch. Fatima|– Virtue, Innocence|
|Ch. Silva|– Warriors|
|Ch. Mathius|– Travellers|
|Ch. Issaries|– Traders, Merchants|
|Ch. Emile|– Healing|
|Ch. Augusti|– Missionaries|
|Ch. Belfour|– Good Fortune, Wealth|
The Fallen: the Fallen is the name given to the eight of the most powerful chosen ever to have walked the world, who were seduced by the Whisperer, perverted and corrupted with promises of immortality and the such. According to legend they were separately imprisoned throughout the world. The names given to them once the fell are still used to frighten children . Their powers are infernally dark and often reversed miracles of the kind they performed as Chosen. Their names are: Mortigi, Rabisto, Sycora, Avida, Malsano, Doram, Artremis, and Kalista.
Hierarchy: The head of the Church is the Holy Benefice of Selentium, Verrocchio the Anointed. Also referred to as the Pontiff. Verrocchio is an ageing member of the Episkopom and spent several years administered the Inquisition in the Ferromaine League before returning to Selentium to assume the mantle of Pontiff. Verrocchio’s reputation for political manipulation has exceeded that of even the most overweening of nobles in Asmulia; King Giovanni has oft expressed the private wish that the “old crow” would pass on and leave a younger, more pliable Priest in his place. Verrocchio shows no sign of doing so.
Assisting the Holy Benefice in his administration of the Church is a host of black robed clerics and prelates. These inscribe and deliver the vast numbers of Episkopal Edicts that are sent to all the Churches of the Selentium faith, enforcing Verrocchio’s strict rule.
Each city where the Church is established has its own Benefice who has the right to rule his parish as he sees fit (and Verrocchio’s spies will allow). The Benefice then has a sub-court of Prelates who each have a Church or Congregation in or nearby the city. In the rural areas, most of these lessor priests enjoy a high level of autonomy because of the remoteness of their location. Other ranks include the Monsignor, Parcere, Diakon and finally the Lectors. The Lectors tend congregations at small chapels. They are often found in country areas.
Themes: Concepts of salvation, sin, weakness, atonement, entry into Heaven and the Light are strong in the Selentine Church. There is no belief in reincarnation.
Prayer: is essential in the Selentine Church, though there are no set times or positions laid down. Reading the Sacred Covenant can take up part of this devotional time. Prayer forms include: praise; giving of thanks; penitence; and intercession. Prayer is more than talking, however, but also of listening. Silent contemplation is regarded as important: “Be still and feel the warmth of my Light” (Apodosis. 36:12). Contemplation means meditation, a quietening of the brain and imagination to find inner peace. Often a phrase such as “Lord Uriel, son of the Creator, protect me in your majestic light” is repeated.
Worship: Uriel’s presence is brought out by the splendour of candles, incense and processions. Regular confession of one’s failings to a priest is also important. Gatanades taught that one should not hide one’s personal darkness in the Light lest it eclipses it. Instead one should release the darkness within us so that it may be obliterated by the Light, and we shall be cleansed. The priest and penitent usually sit in two halves of a confessional, and the priest is bound by the sacred bound of the confessional to never repeat to anyone what one hears there. The priest tells the penitent what penance must be paid to release the personal darkness out into the Light. Penances include saying certain prayers or putting a wrong right. Rosaries are used to count prayers.
Pilgrimages: are not essential, although those who consider themselves devote like to go on them. Most sites are where some historical event has occurred. Sites include Kantorbridge Cathedral and the Pontiff’s residence.
Death and Burial: Before death priests are often called to perform the Ceremony of Unction or Anointing, which forgives sins and grants spiritual strength to the receiver. It guides the dying person into the Light for one final time. The ears, eyes, nose, lips and hands are anointed with oil from green wood. Candles must be burnt around the sick person, representing the Light. Burial is in coffins, often with flowers.
The Future: Benefice Verrocchio’s vision of the future of the Church is one of an increasing role in the spiritual life of the people, through which the Church can direct popular opinion and thus build political power. There is some conflict looming between the Church and the Crown in Asmulia and other lands. The Church is becoming strong again, after a period of weakening. People always turn to the Church in times of crisis. Also, the differences between the Selentine Church and the Tamorian Church seem to be lessening and both sides seem more keen to overlook them as the Ta’ashim infidels provide a unifying threat.