Return of the Godspell
The largest, best known theocracy in Drm, the Ministry is a powerful force throughout the Chained Lands. The Ministry was founded 382 in the Age of Enlightenment by the enigmatic Founders. Few know the true identities of the Founders as their names are only spoken by the highest Ministerial officials, ensuring that their names and deeds remain sanctified and holy. According to the teachings of the Ministry, the three Founders, all Priest of Celzar, were met with powerful dreams of their Lord battling Dauth Alman, Malvolans, Khamund and other spirits of evil. At the peak of the battle, Celzar called his allies, the gods Alleris, Lanira, Nemaria, Pyaras, Thore Mire, and Vhanthermis to aid him in the final assault against evil. The forces of Dauth Alman were vanquished and returned to their abode in the Nine Hells. The Founders, in awe with the visions they all experienced met in the city-state of Quasii. Now known as the Meeting of Salvation, the Priests sought to understand the nature of the dreams. They were joined by one Priest of the gods that aided their lord and determined that if Celzar had the power and right to command other “gods” they must not be gods, but simply powerful servants of Celzar. The Priest of the other gods that joined Celzar admitted that this indeed did appear to be the case and that a new ministry had to come about. The Founders, joined by these accepting servants of Celzar’s allies, began to spread this new ministry through all of Quasii. The Celzarian Priests, already men of significant power, had little trouble sharing their insights to the nobility of Quasii as well as to other less powerful Celzarian Priests. Within months, the Thore Mirian church, which dominated Quasii, accepted the new Ministry and abdicated their main temple, the magnificent Glass Tower, to the Founders. The over the next year, the message of the Ministry spread, engulfing the nations of Valdeze and the Kingdom of Bainland. Within the following century, whether through diplomacy or war, the Ministry has grown to include Bainland, Carthron, Mandl, Quasii, Sambs, Valdeze, and Yahilli as well as numerous independent towns, city-states, and villages.
The cosmology of the Ministry supports the idea that Celzar, the King of Kings and Gauntlet of Holiness, is the one, supreme god. He is represented in three faces: Celzar the Warrior, Vhanthermis the Judge, and Faeynas the Purifier. Interestingly, this triune aspect has not always existed. Early in the Ministry, the aspects were Celzar the Savior, Alleris the Warrior, and Vhanthermis the Judge. Very few if any Ministers, much less common people, know of the change that occurred shortly after the Ministry was founded. Regardless of which triune aspect is accepted, four Archangels act as powerful allies to Celzar’s pursuit of goodness. The four Archangels are Lanira, the Angel of Love, Nemaria, the Angel of Light, Pyaras, the Angel of Satisfaction, and Thore Mire, the Angel of Law. Celzar’s evil brother, Dauth Alman, the Dark Sovereign and Lord of Damnation, opposes Celzar and his Archangels at every turn. Any spirit not associated with Celzar is considered to be allied to the Dark Sovereign, whose true name is never spoken three consecutive times. The history of the world is told in the Book of Glidian. Written in a language only taught to the Ministers, few know exactly what it communicates, but it is the holy book of the Ministry.
The Ministry has a tremendous amount of power in Drm. Although the states and cities associated with the Ministry are sovereign, they still must consider the will and doctrines of the Ministry. The words of the Ministers have tremendous weight on the general populace because the Ministry has become an established component of the society. Perhaps the strongest weapon the Ministry wields over the nations that answer to it is the ability to accuse a leader or an entire nation of Blasphemy. The significance of this accusation is such that Kings of Bainland and Dothans of Quasii have been dethroned. However, the Ministry is very careful about how it wields this power; for years, Bainland and Carthron have both continued to silently allow the practice of The Word (arcane magic) in their lands. Outside of the occasional intervention by the Viziers, very little else has been done to stop Bainland or Carthron since the component of magic is part of their culture to a very large degree and because both nations have done much to restrict and limit The Word. Additionally, the Ministry depends on the nations and their leaders to provide them with capital. The Ministry collects annual tithes from the nations, who, as member nations, enjoy special trade and military benefits within the Ministry. Additionally, all businesses, in addition to the taxes they may (in Mandl, Quasii, Sambs, and Valdeze) or may not (Bainland, Carthron, and Yahilli) pay to their nation, must pay 7% of their monthly income to their locale Ministry should they hope to do business across the Ministry. So far as protection, the military branch of the Ministry defends any and all blatant assaults against the Ministry and its member-states (as was the case with the First Claimed Land War).
There are three distinct lines in the Ministry: the Ministers, the Angelic Orders, and the Riders of Justice. There is another “line” known as the Viziers, although this branch is usually included with the Ministers. Unlike many other religions across Drm, many Ministry officials cannot call on the power of Celzar or the Archangels. Many of the Ministry officials, then, are normal human beings with no access to divine powers. Those with this access, known as Sainted Ministers (or Blessed Brethren among the Angelic Orders) are considered to have been touched by Celzar himself but do not seem to rise any faster within the ranks of the Ministry. All the lines of the Ministry ultimately answer to the Ond.
The Ministers are the most direct and interactive of the three lines. All are men and only 25% are Sainted. The Ministers are the evangelists, church leaders, and preachers within the city-states, towns, and nations of the Ministry. The highest-ranking Ministers in these areas often wield significant political and social power. There are four types of Ministers: The Adepts are those who are training to become full-fledged Ministers. Fully half of all Adepts find that their calling is not to be Ministers, and they move on to one of the Angelic Orders. However, those that are successful in their duties and attitudes are elevated to the rank of Minister. The Minister rank has two subdivisions: the Minister and the Temple Master. A Minister is a cleric that serves at a given temple, church, or shrine, seeking to do the will of Celzar and spread the Ministry to all people he encounters. All Ministers in a town, or city-state answer to the Temple Master. Temple Masters have their own church and there is never more than one Temple Master per church. In almost all cases, Temple Masters find themselves as official advisors to local governments. Temple Masters ultimately answer to the High Ministers. High Ministers are the highest-ranking Ministers in a nation. There are seven of these Ministers from the seven largest representative states in the Ministry. High Ministers must always be Sainted men. Most High Ministers are in their late 50s by the time they are appointed. If they serve well for three to ten years, they are invited to join the Circle of Grand Ministers who will be discussed shortly. High Ministers are the individuals that appoint all Temple Masters and interpret the words the Book of Glidian as it pertains to given nations. They also facilitate in hunting down all who Blaspheme or seek to practice The Word. In all cases, the High Minister is an advisor to the nation’s governing body although most High Ministers claim that they are unofficial observers ensuring that the will of Celzar and the Ministry are being met. Interestingly, all High Ministers do not have to be Sainted. The seven High Ministers are Count Lirod of Bainland (Sainted), Eglies of Carthron, Lord Purin of Mandl (Sainted), Hordisen of Quasii, Bandatser of Sambs, Lord Kalverstat of Valdeze (Sainted), and Orgerdo of Yahilli (who is actually from Quasii and is facilitating the conversion of the Yahillans).
The Angelic Orders are the servants of the Ministry that strive to ensure that the work of Celzar’s Archangels are accomplished. They are viewed as intercessors of Celzar’s will and are considered worshippers of Celzar more than worshippers of the Archangels (manner foreigners have difficulty seeing this ). Like the line of Ministers, the Angelic Orders answer directly to the Ond. However, unlike the Ministers, the heads of the four Orders, called Blessed Brethren, have very little direct influence on doctrine within the Ministry, involvement with the politics of the various nations and towns, or any place in the Circle of Grand Ministers. Also, unlike the gender exclusivity of the Ministers, women join men with significant frequency in the hierarchy of the Orders; men are referred to as monks or Brothers, and women are referred to as abbottesses or Sisters. Almost half of all members of the Orders are Blessed and, as such, the four Blessed Brethren can call on the power of the Celzar through the Archangels. Of the four Orders, the best known is the Order of Nemaria which serve as all-around healers and counselors to the people, appropriate considering their generally cheery dispositions. Most schools are the responsibility of the Order of Nemaria across the Ministry. The Order of Lanira controls most hospitals and deals with all marriage functions. The Order of Thore Mire dominates in areas of law. The Order of Pyaras commits itself to the collection of tithes for the poor and helps facilitate soup kitchens and the like. Although their relative power is insignificant compared to the Ministers, many people find Brothers and Sisters of the Orders far more approachable and considerate. Although function independently to the Ministers in theory, the Blessed Brethren, all of whom live in Quasii, do answer to the will of the Circle of Grand Ministers while the highest ranking Brethren in the various nations answer to the High Ministers. There does not seem to be any universal relationship between Brethren and Temple Masters and other lower-ranking Ministers. The four Blessed Brethren are Aura Tison, Blessed of Nemaria, Daur Bareroot of Lanira, Caric Lynam, Blessed of Pyaras, and Essen Woodshearer of Thore Mire.
The final line, the Riders of Justice, defends the will of the Ministry with sword and shield. Although there are Riders spread across the lands represented in the Ministry, they do not answer to the leaders of the nations and towns. Instead, all Riders answer to a Preceptor, the national general of the Riders. The Preceptor usually works closely with the High Minister of a given nation, ensuring that the churches and temples of the Ministry are always protected. The Riders do not directly serve the national security of the nations in which they live. In the case of war, the Riders will only take direction if they are attacked, if they are actual citizens of the given territory, or if the war is one that concerns the Ministry as a whole. Thus, the first Claimed Land Wars, which was supported by the Ministry, allowed the Riders to participate while the second Claimed Land Wars, not supported by the Ministry, required the Riders to react only in self-defense. Unlike the other two lines, Riders are purposefully sent to other nations during their service; the design behind this is not clear, although many suspect that since so many nations have different kinds of terrain, and tactical and strategic techniques, it is wise for these warriors to be able to understand all of them. The Riders have a very dense, strict hierarchy of power. Most Riders were chosen to join when they were very young and many are of noble blood, however they may be of either gender. Like the other lines, there are Riders who exhibit fantastic divine gifts. Known as Holy Knights or Paladins, these Riders are very rare, representing only 7% of the Rider population. Again, with the exception of eventually becoming the Supreme Preceptor, the overlord of the Riders, being a Paladin affords a Rider no additional benefit within the organization. All Preceptors report to the Supreme Preceptor who in turn reports to the Ond. There is one Preceptor for each nation while the Supreme Preceptor is always the Preceptor of Quasii. The Preceptors are: Lady Meneriras of Bainland (Paladin), Lord Imptek of Carthron, Lord Basilbane of Mandl, Supreme Preceptor, Count Carthrikes (Paladin) of Quasii, Lord Wolphstar of Sambs, Lord Bryant of Valdeze, and Lord Kepleta of Yahilli.
Known as the hidden line of the Ministry, the Viziers are the agents of the Ministry. Vizier is a combination of two Dwarven words: “vizaiia,” meaning “white,” and “iera,” meaning shadow. The word literally means “White Shadows.” Viziers travel across the Ministry lands, often in the guise of “normal” Ministers looking out for signs of blasphemy, The Word, or anything else considered improper within the doctrine of the Ministry. They also go beyond the lands of the Ministry to deal with potential enemies to the Ond, Celzar, or the Ministry as a whole. The precise organization of the Viziers is unknown and it is not known if any Viziers are priests, much less Sainted. Not only are they are feared by all Ministry citizens, all Ministers and Blessed Brethren fear them for they can remove them from position. Only the Ond is immune from Vizier prosecution. The only publicly known Vizier is the Holy Shadow of Redemption, Myran Gilder.
The Circle of Grand Ministers is made up of five extremely powerful Ministers, many of whom were once High Ministers, although the Ond may (and often does ) appoint anyone to the Circle as he sees fit. The Grand Ministers assist the Ond in determining the nature of Ministerial doctrine. In the past, all Grand Ministers had to be Saints. However, over the last 148 years, no more than one or two has had such a distinction. The Circle of Grand Ministers meets every three months in the Camber of Grand Ministers in the Glass Towers of Quasii. The nature of what is discussed in these meetings is unknown for none may enter these discussions save the Ond, the Supreme Perceptor of the Riders of Justice, and the Holy Shadow of Redemption. Second to the Ond in power, the Grand Ministers are among the most powerful men in the Ministry and none cross them knowingly. The five Grand Ministers are Nardros Mantle, Masmodas Anordaran (Sainted), Fenis Heuphanite, Tomas Eli (Sainted), and Guroth Endim. It is from among the Circle of Grand Ministers that future Onds are chosen.
The supreme leader of the Ministry and one of the most powerful men in Drm is the Ond. “Ond” is a derivative of the Dwarven word “ounds” meaning “supreme.” The Ond is the supreme representative of Celzar on Drm. Thus, his authority supercedes that of all other beings (including the four Archangels), whether or not they believe in Celzar. As Celzar’s supreme representative, the actions and words of the Ond are infallible and not to be questioned. He is the ultimate and final arbiter on all Ministerial doctrines and he has the sole power to declare anything, be it states, individuals, or thoughts, Blasphemy. An Ond serves for life and must be Sainted. The current Ond is His Supreme Glory, the Holy Defender, and the True Word, Mori Dyrust.