The Church of Mankind
In each human being there is God’s holy truth, and humans are but an emanation of the Lord who is too mighty even for Her own world.
The vessel determines the shape of its contents, and the world that we occupy is a vessel in which, when God be poured, forms Humanity.
The presence of the Benalian faith in the far-flung reaches of the forest of Lorassaint is a testimony to its tenacious growth. If the great cities of Lethia and Fenristadt are bonfires, stoked and tended daily by their many hundreds of worshippers and priests, Luisant is a spark amidst the darkness of the woods, cherished by a few, flickering in the harsh winds.
In the distance, nearly as large as the war towers themselves, The Feasting King, Chiropoler, could be seen being borne upon the backs of a hundred. Ravanaga, Hag of the Night, weaved atrocities from her pale lips. Anu-Kash, the Eater of Dreams and Dancer of Sands and Skin gazed in eager glee at the carnage before him; while above him, the Burning Prince impassively stood at the ready. And Andrughal, the Usurper, called a storm down upon the flesh of men.
-The Word of St. Istra
The first converts to the Benalian faith in Luisant were slaves of the Witchking Chiropoler. They were a ragtag group, some hailing from as far as the Shariqyn border while others were born and raised in Lorassaint. Some were disfavored servants of the King himself; others were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. All were destined to spend a short, miserable period in a holding camp before ending their lives in one of Chiropoler’s stomachs. When they were freed from the Apprentice of Chiropoler who held them captive by the Templar Venantius, they expected to be killed or re-enslaved to a man for their various faiths- some followed the various gods of the time, some adhered to the old ways, and some worshiped Chiropoler himself. In those times, as the cults and followers of the many gods fought for control, it was commonly accepted that victors of power struggles would kill or enslave those who had opposed them.
The Templars, however, had no desire to subjugate or destroy the slaves who they had freed. They exhibited compassion and kindness that was astonishing to the people of what would become Luisant, and in the days that followed their liberation, almost three quarters of their number came to Venantius for baptism. Those who did not ask for baptism were initially treated harshly and scolded by their brethren, until Venantius intervened. Cruelty and oppression had been the daily fare of the Witchkings’ reign, and the Templars could not stomach taking on the role of slavemaster or conqueror, as they needs must if they were to force the unwilling into baptism. Thus a curious dynamic was born; perhaps one of the only places in the Throne where followers of Benalus made a community with and lived alongside those of other religions, both passing their much-beloved beliefs down through the generations and seeing them preserved and perpetuated by their children. Some of this high level of tolerance has perhaps been fostered by Luisant’s almost total disconnection from the rest of the Throne; the grinding efficiency and all-encompassing control of the Church and Emperor have not yet managed to wholly reach the isolated little town, and thus much of the inhabitant’s theology and knowledge of the Benalian Faith is particular to them, and the Ordo Croix who initially converted them. The Benalians of Luisant value trusting their neighbor and sharing what they have, knowing that when the dark descends, they have little else to hold to but the other humans around them.
The Altar of Vecatra
To spill the full blood of another is to end not just them, but all that they will be; It is to destroy any future unborn lineage, any new knowledge or lessons that they would impart onto the world. It is to destroy all potential.
-The Word of St. Istra
The Church of Mankind teaches that all men and women are as one; to harm or help another is to harm or help yourself in equal or greater measure, and small acts of acceptance and kindness towards your fellow humans are the path to virtue. Henceforth, conflict with followers of the Vecatran faith stems in great part from their view of humanity and its place. Vecatrans are insular to a fault, cloistering themselves in small Circles and considering it a sinless act to kill, lie to, or steal from anyone outside such Circles. They have even been known to attack or aggress upon other Vecatrans from different Circles when territory boundaries are crossed. Vecatrans consider humanity to be fundamentally subservient to the spirits, ghosts, and monsters that haunt the Night, and this is of personal as well as theological concern to the people of Luisant; the inhuman things that walk the woods can wear beautiful and benevolent faces, but they have no love for humanity and often enjoy causing them pain.
Despite these differences of faith, there is an unusual closeness between the followers of the Church and the followers of Vecatra here. The land around them is bitter and dangerous and when hardship is ever at your door, it may seem foolish to refuse help or friendship on the basis of something as abstract and intangible as faith. A follower of Benalus can gather wood or swing a sword as well as a worshipper of Vecatra, and despite Vecatrans’ notable distaste for manufactured items, it’s not altogether uncommon to find them bartering for locks or other useful trinkets that bring comfort and ease. Those who follow Vecatra keep the peace by maintaining a studied secrecy about their religious practices; not bothering their neighbors with the details of their sallies in the midnight woods is mere politeness. Thus there is a mutually unspoken, occasionally uneasy agreement to live and let live, and benefit happily from their shared efforts of survival.
Cult of Saints
In truth, the soul is the only thing a man has, and he cannot lose anything that he does have. The Solidarity of Man extends far beyond any mortal coil. In their dying breath, each man is like one for a brief moment and understands the unity we all share in death if not in life.
The people of Luisant have a special bond with the locally venerated Saints, particularly those of the Ordo Croix. They view them as heroes and figures of folklore as well as models of virtue and honor. The various lineages of Luisant, of course, each claim their own patron saints, but it is common for young folks to search for obscure or unknown saints to venerate and take as an individual patron. The ‘cult of saints’ is so widespread and beloved among the Benalians of Luisant as to in some ways eclipse more traditional methods of Benalian worship. It’s not unheard of even for those who cling to the ways of the woods to acknowledge the Saints as figures of power.
Legend holds that at one time, each lineage in Luisant was in possession of powerful relics once belonging to the Ordo Croix and other local saints. Long since lost to plague, bandits, and time- if they ever existed- the prominent relics were said to be: the warhammer of Mathilda the Rock, the journal of St. Gabrielle the Defiant, the staff of Arbor the Woodsman, the talisman of St. Eliphaz, the Sudarium of St. Derral the Reconciler, and Mormegild, the Sword of St. Mael Judoc. Such relics held great power and were believed to bestow blessings upon the bearer.
For whatever else my sins, I knew that I would be remembered as a servant of Mankind. Not its Destroyer, but its Caretaker. And my soul was at peace.
-The Word of St. Istra
Without careful oversight and maintenance, all things are doomed to decline into disorder. This basic philosophy is behind many of the choices made by the Church; connection to the greater whole represented by the Throne is vital to ensure that each community uses the correct liturgy and has not fallen prey to heresy. The most insidious danger is that of slow changes over time. A single word forgotten or replaced one year is followed by a sentence the next, and in a decade’s time, a heterodoxical gospel is being preached to a congregation that knows no better than to follow it.
Such small heresies, magnified throughout the length of a country, could eventually bring confusion and destruction to the Church, and thus must be quickly stamped out when they appear. This is the fear that surrounds the wider discovery of towns like Luisant, and why it is the Inquisition’s practice to put these isolated communities under Inquisitorial Ordeal if given the slightest reason to. It is difficult even for the eldest and wisest in Luisant to say what heterodoxical changes have taken place in the town over the course of 600 years, often with only a single elderly priest and a handful of reclusive nobles to guide the common folk. However unlikely it is, the arrival of the Inquisition in Luisant is dreaded by its inhabitants; if fault is found with a single individual it could result in the entire town being purged by Inquisitorial fire.