Friday, March 17, 2017

Crusaders of the Nameless God: The Holy Imperium of Croma & The Hold


It was the second Dark Age of Sublanarya; beastmen swept from the east across Thule in a wave of violence that claimed millions of lives, each innocent life taken in the name of  the resurrected Kalibos, and each sacrifice feeding the endless horde and summoning demon lords to Kalibos's coalition. It was a desperate time as dwarves retreated into the deepest depths of the earth to escape the apocalyptic holocaust being carried about the beastmen, the peoples of Zafaria and Saesun were overwhelmed with Thule refugees with beastmen nipping at their heels as they fled, and the defenses of the Hamutian Empire began to waiver under constant assault from the sea. Indeed, the last thing standing between total civilization collapse may have been the Hamutian Empire but, ironically, the only thing holding the Empire together was this war for survival. The people prayed to the gods for salvation and, according to their saviors, a god did answer the call.

A host of ships was spotted arriving from east by Hamutian sailors with unfamiliar markings upon the sails. Their sails were adorned with the sign of a six pointed star with an eye in the center overlapping crosses. The designs of vessels were foreign and yet far too sophisticated for beastmen. The Hamutians prepared for invasion as they received envoys from the ships but were surprised to instead receive not conquerors but new allies.

The envoys were holy men of a foreign religion, the Church of the Nameless God, and a foreign land, but had come to the aid the people of Sublanarya. Their leaders were an splinter sect of holy knights, the Order of the Next Dawn, that had broken away from the Xalhoteccan Empire to fulfill a prophecy, a divine mission, to come to the shores of Thule and to push back against the endless hordes. Their armada had traveled far and they had suffered great losses at sea, only having the divine promise of the prophecy to guide them to Sublanarya, but with strong conviction had managed to reach their destination. They offered any Hamutian, Zafarian or dwarf with the will left to fight to take the fight to liberate Thule. This coalition called itself the Unbroken and the name would hold true.

The Unbroken legion came ashore in central Thule and took the raiding parties of the beast men horde by surprise as rather than finding pockets of resistance, they were met by entire platoons of eager and righteous warriors. This disruption caused the horde to shift focus away from Hamut and to turn against the new wave of enemies. And yet, the horde was force on the defensive by the aggressive legion. The Xalhoteccan knights were unparalleled in their tactics and guided by, protected by, and enhanced by the blessing of their divine saints. Their cavalries devastated the beastmen's infantry, their pikemen and divine casters made short work of the horde's giants and the paladins of their orderes were able to go toe-to-toe with demons. Their victories were great as they pushed from west to east where they met with the forces of Kalibos's personal legion and the Bastard Prince himself.

The Unbroken found themselves strained against the devastating and horrible might of Kalibos; his personal guard was made up of powerful demon lords, mad witches and shamans, and a host of other horrors straight out of the Wyrd Wars. They were driven back into the ruins of an old dwarven settlement and things grew grim. As battle broke and the forces retreated during a freezing rain, a Xalhoteccan knight's steward came to the tent of the battle commanders. The boy's name was Croma and he was an orphan born at sea, blind at birth, but obedient, humble and true-hearted. Despite his affliction, the boy carried out his duties to the best of his abilities. As doomsday seemed inevitable, he gave a rousing speech and with conviction claimed he had a vision that he too must ride into battle. The commanders were at first skeptical but the boy's faith was incorrigible and renewed their own conviction. After all, if they failed, they would all be slain. It was better to give the boy a chance and to all ride out with their heads held high.

Croma was given a breastplate that was not his fit and he was given an old sword and rusted shield that were too heavy for him, but he was given a good horse. The commanders did not know about Croma's lineage. They did not know that he was descended from a line of Geledan kings or that his ancestor had met Kalibos in battle before. They did not know that the gods had sent them a weapon. As they watched Croma ride into battle, all they saw was a fragile but courageous boy. Somehow he rode his horse in a straight line for Kalibos. It was as if the horse knew the destiny of the boy who rode it. In fact, as Croma held tight to the horse's reins, he felt an updraft as a pair of wings sprouted from the horses shoulders. Astride a white pegasus, Croma was taken straight for Kalibos who knocked the boy off the horse. The pegasus moved to fight off all foes who approached Croma and, in fact as if by design, a circle of knights managed to break their way in and gave Croma a chance in his fight against Kalibos.

The Bastard Prince had slain many good knights that day but, as he swung his claws at the boy, shifting and twisting his form, and striking with monstrous speed his blows, the blind boy side-stepped and dodged each of them. Kalibos grew furious and turned to unholy magic to aid him in defeating the runt but the boy's faith shielded him. In fact, as the other struck the boy with unholy magic, Croma found an inner strength of his own and began piercing the beast with spear after spear of divine light. But his strength began to falter, the beast unwavering in its assault, and he fell to his knees exhausted. With a wicked laugh, the beast struck his breastplate, exposing his chest and then, with the wicked blow's force, even exposing the boy's heart. The beast prepared to unleash his final blow when a miracle occurred. The rust from the shield was knocked away by the beast's previous blows, revealing a shining mirrored surface beneath, and it caught a ray of sunlight that broke through the clouds above. The reflected light blinded Kalibos and, hearing the beast recoil and shriek in pain, with his dying breath, Croma stood up, pointing his blade towards the heavens, and piercing Kalibos under his chin and through his skull. Kalibos fell dead and his forces panicked, breaking apart, and were quickly routed by the Unbroken.

With Croma's last moment, he died knowing that he had defeated a great evil, that he had saved his brothers in arms, and, with his final request, he asked the Unbroken to settle in this place and make it their home. And they did. On that spot, they built camp into a fort into a village into frontier town into a city into the capitol of the Holy Imperium and named them all after their newest saint, Croma.

GEOGRAPHY & ARCHITECTURE
While Saesun is defined as a complex archipelago with a wide range of climates and the breadth of Thule guarantees a gradient of arctic to Mediterranean from north to south and temperate to alpine from west to east, the climate and regions of The Holy Imperium are far less stratified. This is mostly a result of the comparatively small geographic size of the Imperium that is larger than the Isle of Saesun but smaller than regions like Albyon. There are four distinct regions with their own biomes:

The largest region of arable land, surrounding the gigantic capitol city of Croma, extending to each of the major coastal cities of militant Paladra, merchantile Neptima, and metropolitan Orda as well as the vibrant city of Floragna, is lovingly called the Basket by the Imperians. The Basket is made up of rolling plains and hills that see a healthy amount of rainfall, with some flooding, with humid summers and heavy snow in long-night.

The Basket has a healthy population of wildlife adjusted to the temperate and Mediterranean climates from game animals like wild deer, goats and boars to predators like wolves and lions. The most impressive and unique animals featured in the region are imported Xalhoteccan horses known for their bright coats, the flying rabbit-like Hopwing and its nemesis the flying serpent Lesser Coatl that are popular pets of the wealthy and noble, and the variety of eagles and hawks that live within the region.

The center of agriculture for the Basket is Camino that serves as a market town for the surrounding villages to sell their wares to be shipped throughout the Imperium and to pay their taxes to the Imperator. Paladra is built into the coastal cliffs above the Bay of St. Pall and is known for fair weather that is good for horse rearing and Orda is known for heavy tropical rains that come up from the Crimson Sea. The city of Orda is built into a series of man-made levels that allow for easy evacuations as well as a complex dwarven system of levies that allow them to weather the difficult months of sun-meet. Last but not least, Floragna, the home of various priesthoods dedicated to educating new priests of the Nameless God, is a beautiful town settled in a valley between the hills of the Basket and guarded from harsh cold & monstrous threats to the north by the impressive Thunderfall Mountains.


The capitol city of Croma extends from the southern coastline and into the surrounding hills, protected by an impressive series of manned walls, and is an impressive sight that matches the majesty of Grand Saefurra, stone for stone and bronze for bronze, with an almost divinely pleasant mediterranean climate known for light snow and rain in the long-night (winter), fair breezes in the first-flower (spring), warm and lazy days in sun-meet (summer), and the most pleasant glow of early twilight in leaf-fall (autumn).


While the weather is lovely, the most impressive feature of Croma, something that every other major city of the Imperium wishes to match, are the massive monuments to various saints that overlook the walled Grand Imperian Bay's, the Imperian Senate and Saint's Temples that overlooks the city and the Imperator's Palace that sits atop a small mountain of marble. These symbols of excess are not only holy monuments but serve as a means to provide labor to the military, who employ their soldiers as laborers of various sorts, during times of peace.

The architecture of Imperian cities are known for their emphasis on natural lighting, large open spaces, and religious imagery. This is because all buildings built by the Imperian government, from frontier outposts that serve as military barracks, road checkpoints and inns to large and impressive indoor and outdoor markets to even the school institutions built in each major city, are meant to serve a secular and religious purpose. Besides the lowliest hovels and small businesses of the Holy Imperium, every Imperian building is a temple.


To the east and south are the tropical wilds of Klayford's Cape with the shipbuilding haven of Ombiro and the fledgling cities of Ignario and Arma built upon the ancient ruins of countless failed civilizations in the Misty Jungles, and the jungle embedded colonies of New Zakaria and St. Shaffer's Pointe, two heavily contested regions between Raj Hamut and Holy Imperium over the centuries since the Imperium's arrival. These regions are collectively called the Grand Green for their lush and thick forests, rain forests and jungles that cover the region's valuable resources. Those resources a valuable minerals like silver and gold, as well as sought after spices and vegetation, and, perhaps most importantly, a lumber and coal industry that helps fuel the empire's warships and siege weaponry. These industries are a threat to the jungle wild-life including the ferocious Thule Sabretooths, the curious and gentle White Orangillions, and an impressive variety of amphibians, like the Singing Dart Frog, and tropical birds, such as the beautiful Peahen of St. Zakaria.

This region is also beset with tropical conditions and all the hazards therein from malaria to heavy rains and typhoons from the Great Eastern Sea.

To the north of the Basket and the Grand Green are the mountainous regions that serve as a natural barrier between the Imperium's citizens and the dangers that lie beyond in The Hold. The villages and towns high in these mountains are built with high towers to maintain a vantage point and thick walls against threats crossing the perilous mountain ranges that collectively give this region the title of the Shields. These thick walls also help against the intense snowfall and winds that make this region nearly inhabitable to humans. Luckily, this region's peoples are assisted by dwarf converts in surviving the harsh weather of long-night and building better shelter.

The most impressive settlements in this region are dwarven cities of Rothgard, striding the twin lakes of Silver and Gold, Uroc-Thanc to the north of the lake of Gold, and New Durnhold deep beneath the mostly dormant volcano Durn's Forge.

The largest and most ancient settlement of the Shield are dwarven made and none are more impressive than the last great cities of dwarvenkind Rothgard, Uroc-Thanc and Durnhold. On a dwarf-made isthmus between the frigid twin Lakes of Silver and Gold is the bronze city of Rothgard that serves as the meeting place between dwarf and humans. Rothgard has survived multiple sackings and been reclaimed by dwarfkind time and time again. Near the tip of northern most tip of the Gold Lake is the mining city of Urc-Thanc, a dwarf settlement sitting astride a deep quarry, that has recently seen a boom in population as Boot dwarves leave Thule anticipating a civil war in which non-humans will be victimized.


Each settlement is known for geometric simplicity in form, the dwarves preferring to build monuments and decoration to last and often also serve a defensive function, with Rothgard's classical dwarven city built along a large tunnel that goes through the mountain of Silver and Gold with defensive doors allowing them to shut off sections of the tunnel and cave them in if necessary and side tunnels allowing for escape routes leading into the lakes on either side and Uroc-Thanc's surface dwelling built vertically with ladders being used to access rooftop entrances that help protect against invaders and the deeper structures built in such a way that they have multiple means of entry and exit that would confuse a would-be invading force and allow dwarves to fall back and prepare defensive actions.

And last but not last, deep beneath the mountain of Durnhold, is the city of New Durnhold. Time and time again, Durnhold has been destroyed by disaster after disaster, but the Under dwarves of Durnhold rebuild. It is the home of many noble dwarf families and the last dwarf king himself, Jarlgarth Stonecrown. Unlike the other two cities of dwarfkind, non-dwarves are forbidden in "the city under the mountain" under penalty of death. It is rumored to have great wonders of engineering and architecture, all fueled by a pocket of volcanic activity carefully monitored and controlled by dwarven masters, and that it contains riches beyond the imagining of surface dwellers.

The most impressive Imperian settlements of this region are the Saint Gates.

The Saint Gates are military installations designed by dwarven engineers and built and defended by the labor of the Gate Watch that serve as the only passable entry points between the Holy Imperium and the Hold. These massive structures are usually built and named after an Imperian saint with the scripture of the saint printed in massive lettering in luminescent paint in common and Imperian (Xalhoteccan) scripts. Built on astride gaps in the Shield mountains, the watchers that live in the Gates suffer the harshest of conditions to protect the Imperium.

The Hold's name comes from it's place as the region containing any number of threats, known and unknown, and is the place of nightmares for the modern civilizations of Sublanarya: barbarians and beastmen rage against each other, only coming together against common enemies or under common leadership, and would pose a threat if not for the efforts of Imperian crusaders and dwarf military installations in the Shield. Deeper into the Hold, to the central region and to the north-west are rogue dragons and feuding giants that dwell in a tumultuous realm that suffers from intense geothermal activity that creates a variety of environments from boiling lakes to dusty prairies to mountains shooting from the earth like great spikes. And to the north-east lies the perhaps greatest threat of all in the frozen wastes touching the Dead Sea: an army of immortal undead rumored to be led by an undead saint that dwells in a city of shadow; the lost colony of Penumbra and the lost crusade of St. Umber.

These threats are the driving validation of all Imperian government decisions and the main reason that the Holy Imperium exists. And yet, in recent years, there have been less and less crusades sent out beyond the Shield and the Imperium's more pessimistic fear that the Saint Gates will be overwhelmed should an invading force ever arrive from the Hold.

There is hope in small settlements set up by mercenaries such as the fledgling Beacon.

Lastly, we should discuss the northern Great Eastern Sea and the Dead Sea. Both are considered highly dangerous waters beset with all manner of horrors. Still, there are some merchants brave enough to venture into deep waters, avoiding "ghost fleets" around the Devil's Bident, and traveling as far through the Dead Sea to reach the island of Lachrimosa. A port city that trades mostly with settlements in northern Thule, Lachrimosa has a terrible reputation as a hide-out for pirates and the undead, as the city sees little, if not any, sunlight in a given year. This is due to a supernatural storm leftover from the Wyrd Wars that hangs over the Dead Sea. As such, it is always dreary and raining in Lachrimosa. There is little law in this independent holding ruled by merchant lords, with slavery and worse abound, and some even believe it is ruled by a secret cabal of vampires or worse.

POPULATION DEMOGRAPHICS
The population of the region is less diverse than some but more than others. Primarily human with a prominent population of dwarves, the Holy Imperium is also home to native populations of leopard and tigerfolk, as well as a population of grippli, in the Grand Green, with more diversity in the coastal cities in the Crimson Sea. That said, here are some rough estimates based on the "Imperian Census".

Imperian Census Results:

The Basket: 80% human (primarily Imperian with Thule and Hamutain converts), 15-20% dwarf (primarily Shield dwarf with pockets of Boot dwarves), less than 5% other

The Shield: 50% human (primarily Imperian), 45% dwarf, less than 5% other

The Grand Green: 90% human (primarily Imperian with Hamutian natives/converts), 5% dwarf, 5% other (catfolk, dogfolk, gripplis)

Rothgard: 80% dwarf (equal parts Boot and Shield), 10% human, 5% gnome,

Uroc-Thanc: 85-90 % dwarf (equal parts Boot and Shield with a small minority of Under dwarves), 10% human, less than 5% other

Durnhold: ~100% dwarf (primarily Under dwarves)


RELIGION, GOVERNMENT & POLITICS

Unlike the secular Iaurdin empire or the alliance of monarchs in Thule, there is no separation of church and state in the Holy Imperium. The state is the church and the church is the state.The governance of the Holy Imperium is dependent on the partnership between the two major forces of political and religious power: the theocratic hierarchy/democracy, the Church, which is meant to oversee and manage the imperium, and the divinely appointed and total monarchy, the Imperator, who is meant to lead and rule the imperium. But, to better understand both, we must first understand the religious beliefs, practices and structures of the The Holy Imperium.

THE CHURCH OF THE NAMELESS GOD

Imperian citizens are brought up with the teachings of the Church of the Nameless God. He is also known as the Lord, the Unnamed, the Forgotten, The Almighty and The Morning Star. Followers of the Nameless God believe that their deity is the mightiest of all the god and, in fact, is the ultimate divine power. They believe that the Nameless God is actually the true inheritor of the Mother goddess's will, either as her husband, brother or son depending on the scripture, and that he is older and more powerful than any of the deities of the Naryan pantheon and came to this world to bring about salvation.

First, the Nameless God is said to have created the human race. It is then said that the Nameless God protected humanity and gave them many gifts. It is said he gifted them the knowledge to build fires and the wheel, that he taught them the common tongue, and that he helped them spread far and wide to spread themselves too broadly to be wiped out by a calamity.



He also gave them the gift to sense magic. Humans do not have the natural connection to the magical field. The doctrine of the Church does not depict this as being a flaw. Instead, it is considered a blessing.

The Nameless God forbids the use of arcane magic. It is unnatural and therefore not meant to be. His servants rely upon prayer, warfare and divine magic to combat the unnatural and evil forces of the world. Some interpretations of this doctrine take this to the extreme.

The use of arcane magic is all but illegal within the imperium, although some more cosmopolitan and less militant regions will overlook it. In more extreme corners of the imperium, there are special Inquisitors, "witch hunters" and "mage slayers", who are trained to hunt, capture, torture and/or kill magic users and tieflings within the empire. They primarily hunt magic criminals and cultists but, from time to time, dangerous sects of extremists sprout up that "cleanse" cities by converting, by threat of imprisonment, torture and/or death, arrested magic users.

After creating and spreading the human race through Narya, came the Nameless God's greatest victory. It was the Nameless God that led the gods of the Naryan pantheon to overthrow the cruel Titans. Shortly after overthrowing Kronos, the Nameless God should, according to Church doctrine, taken the Throne of the Heavens. Instead? He was betrayed.

Grimnir Blue-Cloak and the other Naryan gods, for unknown reasons, stopped him from taking the throne of Heaven and his rightful place as the almighty ruler. What happened next is highly debated: the Nameless God was either killed, imprisoned, or banished by the other gods. Regardless of what occurred, he is lost. This is why his name has been forgotten and, it is said, even those that know it refuse to say it. Some say just saying it would bring him back. And, according to prophecy, he will return.

The Day of Judgement is always in the near future to the adherents of the faith. On that day, the Nameless God will return in a vengeful and terrible form to punish the gods, destroy all magic, and reward his loyal servants. He will take his place in the Heavens as the one, the true, and the almighty god.

The Church's doctrine promotes humanity as the supreme race of Narya destined to save it. Some take this so far as to claim that humans will be the last race of humanoids standing after the Day of Judgement but others claim that all who praise and serve the Nameless God will have a place in the new world and in his kingdom.

Regardless, the belief that the Naryan gods, as well as gods of any other patron, are little better if not worse than demons or devils is the biggest point of conflict. Some have a more flexible and lenient interpretation of the events depicted in scripture and the holy texts of the Saints muddies the debate further, but it is undeniable that this has been used to justify many actions of the Church against foreign lands and peoples. The only war that the Imperium knows is Holy War and, if not for the threat of the horrors of the Hold, much of their history would instead be crusades against "the heathens and apostates" of Sublanarya.  How many may perish when the armies of the Nameless God march against all who deny him? As long as the Imperator and the Church remain in power and retain their moderate positions, we may never have to find out.

But, it is important to note, there is more to the Church than the more extreme doctrine. The moral teachings of the church and the primary guidance in day to day life come instead from the lives of the saints. In fact, while all members of the Church pray to the Nameless God, they also pray to the saints. What defines an Imperian saint and what sort of teaching do they impart?

All saints are priests, either clerics, monks or paladins, who earn their title in life or death. Each saint has a portfolio, as if they were a god, that represents their expertise. The former usually earn it through service. Most saints of this sort are seen as wise prophets who guided the imperium and are held as an example to all to follow. For example, Saint Good-Bob earned his sainthood through a number of good works, specifically his works in creating many orphanages and aslyums for the physically and mental ill, and is thus considered the patron saint of orphans and medicine. So, as well as saying their daily prayers to the Nameless God, care-givers pray to St. Good-Bob for guidance.

The other type of saint, those who earn the tile in death, either by being incredible warriors of the death that defy the odds to defeat great evil or being martyrs who lose their lives in the name of the faith. For example, Saint Zakarias, who led the crusade that took the north-western tip of Raj-Hamut, also died by leading a charge into the Nine Hells itself to stop some fiendish plot. Divine warriors and extremists pray to these saints for strength and divine power to overcome the odds stacked against them.

Rather than getting their divine powers from the Nameless God, it is arguable that they instead draw upon their saints but, then, the question becomes who the saints draw upon for their power?

A full list of saints can be found (work in progress).

THE CHURCH AND THE CROWN


Every day life as well as the government is administrated by the Church of the Nameless God: any member of society can become a priest, who are allowed to marry but some abstain as a symbol of their devotion, and can establish a temple. As long as they follow the doctrine close enough, they will be allowed to preach but, if they stray too far from approved dogma, they will be warned and, if need be, reprimanded. Priests collect donations to pay taxes to the church, to afford repairs and upkeep for the temple, and to go towards various charitable causes such as feeding the poor.


Towns and cities, as well as small counties, are overseen by bishops. Bishops are elected by the local people from archbishop approved priests. Bishops administrate local priests as well as serve as mayors. They perform duties to maintain the law and order, such as collecting taxes to pay for law enforcement and small local projects, and oversee court cases.

Bishops are promoted to archbishops by appointment of the cardinals. Archbishops oversee large regions containing several cities. They serve as governors, administrating the bishops beneath them, and represent their regions in the imperial legislature known as the Diet. The Diet meets in the capitol for several weeks every year or in times of great peril to address problems in the imperium, reform the law, and hold religious debates. From among the archbishops, the Imperator elects an odd number of cardinals to oversee the Diet, advise the crown, and to serve as a counter to his power. While ultimately the Imperator holds supreme power in the empire, the condemnation of the cardinals can sway many to disobey him. These tactics are, usually, not meant to undermine the crown but to instead curb it from hurting itself.

Archbishops and cardinals are the elite class of Imperian society. Only the most influential military leaders hold more sway over the actions of the nation. Above them?

The Imperator is the supreme power in the Holy Imperium, a divine ruler descended from Croma's own familial line, and have strong ties to many ancient Xalhoteccan noble families. The family name of the crown are the Reyzarro and the current Imperator is the popular Zalgustus I. The Imperator is a powerful executive figure who serves as the head of the Church, the supreme commander of the Imperian forces, and the landlord of all of the Imperium. All taxes, in the form of agricultural yield or coin, drift from the bottom to the crown, eventually, as the Imperator's family technically owns all land with in the imperium. This wealth is used to ensure the Imperator's family lives in grandeur befitting their stature and allows them to fund the military.

The Imperator's heirs, the princes and princesses of the imperian royal family, are trained in religion, history, science, diplomacy, military tactics, combat, and everything else that they will need as representatives and envoys for the crown. The Imperator has yet to name an heir but favored among his daughters is the Princess Elenaara II. While the Imperator is traditionally male and many would prefer it kept that way, as most bishops and almost all archbishops are male, there is no official law against a woman being the supreme leader of the Imperium.

His eldest son Zalgustus II would be the most typical choice and is popular among traditionalists but his erratic behavior as a commander have put him on thin ice with his father. Still, as the Imperator has not chosen an heir, officially, if he were to die without choosing their could be a war of succession as has happened in the past. Such affairs are often bloody and have threatened to the imperium in half before.


MILITARY

The military of the Holy Imperium is a vastly powerful enterprise comprised of well-trained and pious soldiers. It is comprised of dozens of Holy Orders, each with their own symbols, traditions, and specialties. They enlist from as early as childhood to be trained as volunteers soldiers of the faith, who sacrifice life and limb in the name of their cause when not living their lives as citizens, war priests who specialize in healing magic and miracles, and elite holy warriors who stand as paragons of the faith and match friends in might and fearlessness. They all serve as guards, militia, monster hunters, and, most importantly, as crusaders in the naval, cavalry and infantry forces. Often, among their numbers, those touches with divinity, the Aasamir, can be found as well.

The most common members of the Holy Orders are made up volunteers. They serve as temporary forces when needed, bolstering the numbers of the order for important missions and battles, as well as providing support. They are made-up of lawmen, faith-filled mercenaries, and nobility. The latter serve as officers and provide extra monetary and material, give advice with their various expertise gained from higher education, and solve all manner of problems. But, ultimately, while valuable, the Orders are known best for their divinely gifted warriors and priests.




Clerics provide support, not only in the form of comfort and guidance as priests, but in the form of healing magic, divine spell-casting and, when necessary, joining combat themselves. Few are better at combating the undead or overcoming magical foes. Paladins, on the other hand, provide leadership and lead the charge in combat. They are the mightiest warriors and Imperian paladins are renowned throughout Sublanarya for their courage and determination. When not on crusade, clerics serve as members of the Church or provide their aid to whoever needs miracles most. Paladins pick personal quests and fill the ranks of watchmen at the Saint Gates. They also venture into the wild to hunt demon and devil threats down and to find holy relics.

Uncounted among the Orders are the warrior monks who lend their martial might during times of great need. Monks seek enlightenment, sometimes redemption, and physical mastery in strongholds atop the Shield mountains. Their monasteries exist outside the structure of the Church and their often apocryphal teachings have earned them heavy criticism and distrust from the clergy.

This is more reasonable than some may realize as many Orders have any number of conspiracies swirling about them throughout the ages and now.


The Order of the Red Star, those who call themselves the Templar, are an influential order and have often been associated with the crown. As it stands, they are favored by Imperator Zalgustus I and his son. Zalgustus II counts himself as a commander among the numbers. Despite their association with the crown, their have been rumors that they have a secret and nefarious cabal led from within the Diet that not only means to manipulate the crown but participates in unholy rituals as part of a cult.

The most common cult that has sprung up time and time again is that of the archdevil Asmodeus. He is counted as the greatest enemy of the Nameless God and, as proof of the other gods corruption and hypocrisy, it is said that they conspired with Asmodeus to subdue their lord. Nothing would be more scandalous than to discover members of a holy order consort with fiends, either using them for power or, worse, serving them.

The other military force to consider within the Holy Imperium are the dwarves. Shield dwarves consider themselves the greatest warriors of their kind, a fact that the Boot dwarves would stubbornly debate over some grog and test with a good headbutt, and they have a history of warfare. Throughout Sublanaryan history, dwarves have been forced to fight to survive, defending their homes from invasion of all sorts, and having to fight to reclaim them again. While their numbers are not as great as any human nations, the dwarves are not to underestimated as they are hardy warriors with arguably the best blacksmiths making the best weapons and armor and the best engineers building them new siege weapons and defenses.

Shield dwarf converts are quick to volunteer in Imperian Orders that will accept them to prove their loyalty and faith.



ECONOMY

The Imperian economy is not as strong as that of the Iaurdin Empire but Imperian coinage still holds value.

The he state controls much of the market by monitoring and collecting taxes, especially the agricultural taxes that, which is compensated with coin, but eliminates much of the food market in the Imperium. This is justified as feeding the military and poor, through various welfare programs, is considered of top importance. That being said there are still plenty of valued resources being collected and traded in the region.

The most profitable resource are minerals such as iron, copper, tin, lead, silver, gold and precious gems that are mined by dwarf and Imperian alike to be traded throughout Sublanarya. A good deal of foreign coinage is minted from Imperian sources, especially in Zafaria and the Hamuts. Furthermore, the quality of dwarven forging is still valued.

And finally, while not as exciting as markets in Saesun, Zafaria or the Hamuts, the position of the trading ports of the holy imperium ensures the export and import of precious goods.

OTHER TRADITIONS, ENTERTAINMENT AND FOOD

While they lack interest in theater and music, save religious pageants or choirs, sports are actually quite popular as a downtime activity among Imperians, as they are seen as encouraging teamwork and physical fitness. Bishops and archbishops often build local gymnasiums and arenas with a mix of public funds and donations from private sponsors.

Up-Ball is the most popular game based on a traditional game from Xalhotecca. In the game, two teams two to put a ball, weighing as much as 10 lbs (4.5 kg) through one of several small hoops suspended from two parallel walls. Whichever team's player touches the ball last before it bounces through a hoop is awarded a point but the players cannot use their hands or feet to touch the ball, instead bouncing it off of arms, legs, hips, chest, or heads. It is a very physically demanding game but popular to play and spectate. The best players in the Imperium are celebrities and rewarded handsomely for their displays of physical prowess.

All you need is a high hoop or other target, at least a wall, and a ball to practice the sport.

And what's better after a game of Up-Ball than a flagon of dwarven ale? Dwarven cooking is well-regarded for their hearty and filling qualities, with succulent meats, properly prepared root vegetables, strong cheeses, a variety of flatbreads, and a variety of pies filling the table of any dwarf feast, but dwarven brewing is unmatched. While seen as uptight, the dwarves would've never gotten along with the Imperians if they didn't drink and luckily, while some abstain, many priests can throw down the maddest dwarf.

And with that, we draw this to a close and I must admit I need a good snack and drink myself. I hope you enjoyed reading this and that you look forward to future work. I am currently brainstorming for Fatihs articles to fill out the Naryan pantheon, have outlined some ideas for the dwarf religion, and plan on working on Hamut or Zafaria next. Thank you.

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