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The Church of Lothian

The Church of Lothian, often just called “the Church,” has been inextricably entwined with the Empire of Tarsis for as long as the Empire has existed. When Delian Von Tessel was crowned Emperor and ascended the Lion-Guarded Throne in Tarsis, the act granted him both secular dominion over the Empire and spiritual leadership of the Church. Even when the Emperor and Emperor of the Church split into two different positions (and thus lineages), Lothianism remained the official religion of the Empire.

The Church of Lothian is based around a martyred saint named Lothian who rose from his own grave and ascended into Heaven, becoming the most powerful of the gods, according to his followers. In fact, the harshest of Lothian doctrines maintains that Lothian discovered that all other beings claiming to be gods were actually demons in disguise; this belief teaches that he rose again to bring order to the previously disordered, godless universe.

Throughout the first five centuries of the Empire, in fact, other religions were outlawed. People could practice their “pagan” faiths only in secret or in remote areas. However, in recent years, as the power of the Empire has waned, so too has the influence of the Church. Other religions are now permitted, and newer, more liberal doctrines allow that not all the other gods are demons. Some are in fact true deities—albeit lesser gods than Lothian.

Like so many Prustan organizations, the Church has a strict structure. It is set up like the Empire’s hierarchy, with an Emperor, a Prince, and a council of accomplished elders called archbishops. From there, each major community in the Empire looks to a bishop who operates out of a cathedral. The bishop usually consults directly with the community’s Commissar or local governor and wields a great deal of influence and power. Every cathedral has a dozen or more satellite churches, each managed by a high priest who answers to the bishop. One normally finds these satellite churches in surrounding settlements, but large cities sometimes have a handful of community churches in addition to the cathedral.

Other than Holy Emperor, Holy Prince, archbishop (or elder), and bishop, priests of Lothian have three ranks. The aforementioned high priest is a special rank indicating charge of a church—a building, a congregation, and probably a number of attached priests. Clerics who are not high priests are either acolytes or curates, the latter being a rank of distinction earned through time and accomplishment. The faithful often address acolytes and curates as “Brother” or “Sister.”

A further distinction is that all priests of Lothian are either bespoken priests or itinerant priests. Bespoken priests are assigned official duties and belong to a specific congregation or organization. Itinerant priests have no specific role within the church hierarchy other than to perform good works, obey Lothian’s will, and spread the word of Lothian (“adventuring” clerics are virtually always itinerant priests). Itinerant priests function as missionaries, wandering caregivers, or spiritual consultants tied to another organization. For example, a number of itinerant priests work among the Keepers of the Veil as healers, support troops, and even accountants and administrators. There is also the title priest errant, which is a cleric who still has spellcasting ability but has violated Church law. Such priests wield no authority (secular or spiritual), but their faith and power still allow them some respect.

Since the Church is tied directly to the Imperial government, all official members of the Church hierarchy are also Imperial officials. This not only affords them a special status under the law, but it grants them some measure of authority. A cleric or paladin falls somewhere between an Imperial soldier and an Imperial captain in terms of rank—not unlike the level of most low-ranking Imperial bureaucrats, such as an inspector. A cleric of Lothian can make a request of an Imperial soldier and expect it to be granted. Even private citizens are required by law to carry out the simple, shortterm orders of clerics of Lothian.

Most clerics are careful not to abuse this power, else they be reprimanded by their superiors in the Church hierarchy. And as long as they do not abuse it, the secular Empire does not burden them with onerous Imperial duties and responsibilities to go along with this authority.

Of all large cities in the Empire, Ptolus is probably the least devoted to Lothian, a fact made all the more ironic because this has become the traditional home of the Prince of the Church. Since 657 IA, the heir apparent to the Holy Throne has lived in Ptolus, with the idea that the heir should not live in the same city as the current Emperor of the Church. However, since the sacking of Tarsis by barbarians in 710, the Holy Emperor, Rehoboth, has lived with his son in Ptolus. Although Rehoboth’s stay has been officially declared a “visit,” he has now dwelled in Ptolus for eleven years.

Ptolus has a bishop—a man named Nireus Pard—buthe does not enjoy the power of most bishops in a city the size of Ptolus. In fact, he has almost no power at all. His traditional roles are filled instead by the Prince of the Church and the archbishop, Adlam Theobold. And now, with the Holy Emperor himself living in Ptolus, the bishop is virtually ignored, except for issues dealing directly with St. Valien’s Cathedral. And even St.  Valien’s prominence comes into question when the temple within the Holy Palace is becoming a more “important” church than the cathedral; when the city’s powerful and influential elite need to visit a Lothianite church for any reason, they go to the Holy Palace more often than St. Valien’s.

In addition to St. Valien’s Cathedral, Ptolus has various satellite churches: St. Gustav’s Chapel at Delver’s Square in Midtown, Daykeeper’s Chapel in Midtown, St. Daris’ Church in the Guildsman District, Church of the Lawgiver in the North Market, Church of Lothian the Redeemer in Oldtown, St. Chausle’s Chapel in the SouthMarket, and the Chapel of St. Thessina in Rivergate. With the temple inside the Holy Palace, that makes nine churches altogether.

Obviously, it all begins with a man named Lothian. Lothian was seemingly a simple man, a wanderer. At that time, folk in his homeland of Prust worshipped a god of life called Castain. His clergy was powerful and held great influence in the land. Lothian, however, preached that Castain was no god at all, and certainly no deity of life. Instead, he told the people, Castain was a demon posing as a god, and his priests were devil worshippers more concerned with political power than with truth. As he wandered and preached, Lothian worked great miracles and, in time, revealed that he knew whereof he spoke because he, himself, was on his way to becoming a god. 

Not surprisingly, none of these things pleased the clerics of Castain. Eventually, with the blessing of the King of Prust, the clerics captured and crucified Lothian on the symbol of their god, the ankh. On that day, a great earthquake shook the land and mighty waves engulfed the shores. These cataclysms killed more than a thousand people, including the King and most of the high-ranking clergy of Castain. When they were over, Lothian had returned to the world, alive but not alive—a martyred god risen of his own power. 

The Kingdom of Prust collapsed that day, although the peninsula where it once lay still bears its name. Lothian continued to wander and perform miracles, only now those he spoke to bowed down in worship. The engine of Castain’s church aligned itself with the adoration of Lothian, the true god. Lothian’s new clerics took the symbol of the false god Castain and added Lothian’s crucified form to it to show the lengths to which he would go to achieve his victory. Never mind that the new church of Lothian used much the same hierarchy, priesthood, temples, and even dogma as in the old church of the “false” Castain.

Although the catastrophes that surrounded Lothian’s demise certainly broke the kingdom, the Prust remained strong. Eventually, they pushed north and west to the city of Tarsis, and not long after founded an Empire that continues to this day. For more information on the creation of the Empire of Tarsis.

After a time spent walking the world, Lothian took his seat in Heaven as the one true god, according to his early followers. His very presence there
revealed to his worshippers the falsehood of all other gods. Thus, during the height of the Empire, the Church applied Lothian’s statements regarding Castain to all other gods, claiming that only Lothian was a true deity. Furthermore, not only were worshippers of other gods the servants
of devils, but those who practiced the arts of magic (or were born with such skills) consorted with the legions of Hell and should be eliminated.
The Edict of Deviltry in 560 IA made all use of arcane magic illegal. The reverence of gods besides Lothian technically had always been illegal in the Empire, and now that law also saw strict enforcement. During this time, called the Days of Blood, Church inquisitors and soldiers murdered thousands in the name of stamping out diabolism.

Almost one hundred years later, the Edict of Deviltry was repealed. The harsh teaching that all other gods are demons has softened in recent years, particularly among the more liberal, urban congregations, but some remote parishes still preach this doctrine.

Originally formed to be the Holy Emperor’s royal guard, the Order of the Dawn has grown to become the martial arm of the Church, serving congregations throughout the Empire and protecting the faithful from all manner of darkness and danger. The core members of the knighthood are paladins, although such support personnel as clerics, fighters, and even wizards play other roles. 

For the most part, the Order of the Dawn is a defensive knighthood, there to protect the temples, holdings, and interests of the Church. Only occasionally are they sent on quests, and then only with the direct blessing of the Holy Emperor or Prince. In Ptolus, one finds the Knights almost exclusively in the Holy Palace and St. Valien’s Cathedral.

Sir Kabel Dathimol, leader of the order locally, is also one of the Commissar’s Twelve Commanders. He operates out of the Holy Palace, where the Knights are barracked. In Ptolus, there are about fifty Knights, with eight on duty at St. Valien’s at any given time. The order’s Imperial head in Tarsis
and Lothian’s mightiest paladin is named Tagel Unergart.

The Order of Dayra, sometimes called the Sisterhood of Dayra, is an all-female order dedicated to tending the sick, clothing the poor, and
generally helping the helpless. They run soup kitchens and charitable services throughout the Empire and in particular manage orphanages—over
the years, they have become more and more focused on the well-being of children.

The children in the orphanages of the Sisterhood are not all actual orphans. People—particularly the very poor—sometimes sell one of their children to the Church for about 50 gp (almost a year’s wages for a laborer). These children, called oblates, are raised to become clerics, paladins, or other servants of the Church. A great many people associated with the Church started as oblates, and thus have a special affection for the Order of Dayra, looking upon the sisters as mother figures.

The sisters are celibate clerics or paladins who live in convents, usually attached to an orphanage and oftentimes a school.

The Days of Blood are, for the most part, a time of shame for the modern Church. However, within the hierarchy are those who still believe in the principles of the Edict of Deviltry and still see in modern society much evil that must be suppressed. Most of these clergy have found their way
into the Conciliators. This somewhat ironically named branch of the Church formed in order to enforce the Edict of Deviltry—these were the
inquisitors who put many wizards, sorcerers, “heathen” clerics, and others to the sword in the name of Lothian, often torturing confessions and
sometimes repentance out of them. They “made peace,” as the order’s name implies, by rooting out and destroying any who would oppose the Church. Conciliation by force.

Today, the Conciliators are not nearly so bloodthirsty. Most who join the order are some of the more reactionary members of the clergy, to be sure, but they no longer hunt arcane spellcasters or other enemies of the Church to place on the torturer’s wheel or burn at the stake. Their fervent devotion to the goodness of Lothian and the holiness of the Church makes them adamant hunters of evil, however, seeking in particular to
root out darkness that slithers too close to the light. In Ptolus, that means primarily one thing, and that is rooting out the Cults of Chaos and the spread of choasitech.

In the first days of Lothian’s church, the god commanded a number of extremely devout, extremely influential followers. Early Emperors of the Church granted these people sainthood posthumously. The rituals of granting sainthood are very complex but, as a result of them, the spirits of the saints possess special powers channeled from Lothian himself. Faithful worshippers can pray to the saints and are sometimes answered with aid or a vision. The saints are said to watch over the Holy Emperor, his family, and other powerful clerics of Lothian. Relics left over from the lives of the saints—from objects they used to portions of their bodies—are powerful holy talismans. Most of these relics remain in Tarsis, although the Hammer of St. Daris is kept in the Holy Palace in Ptolus. Many other relics have been stolen or lost. 

According to the Ninth Holy Book of Lothian, the current list of saints includes the following: 

Saint Title Area of Influence
St. Chausle Guardian of the Temple Churches, gatherings
St. Colosom Keeper of the Dominion Animals, farms
St. Daris The Swift Avenger Justice
St. Dayra Giver of Mercy Children, mothers, the poor
St. Feldin The Faultless Rock of Faith Warriors, knights, defenders of all sorts
St. Gustav Protector of the Just Protection of the innocent and the helpless
St. Thessina The Provider Food, necessities
St. Valien The Hands of the Host Clerics, church hierarchy, the Holy Emperor
St. Yessid The Judge Punishment of sins, authority figures