Ravenloft: Prisoners of the Mist

Public (OOC) => Roleplay and Gameplay Resources => Religions and Faiths => Topic started by: MAB77 on October 22, 2021, 12:46:22 PM

Title: The Eternal Order - Roleplay Resources
Post by: MAB77 on October 22, 2021, 12:46:22 PM
The Eternal Order

Table of Content
Overview (https://www.nwnravenloft.com/forum/index.php?topic=60757.msg709410#msg709410)
History of the Church (https://www.nwnravenloft.com/forum/index.php?topic=60757.msg709411#msg709411)
Church Hierarchy (https://www.nwnravenloft.com/forum/index.php?topic=60757.msg709412#msg709412)
Tenets of the Faith (https://www.nwnravenloft.com/forum/index.php?topic=60757.msg709414#msg709414)
Temples & Services (https://www.nwnravenloft.com/forum/index.php?topic=60757.msg709415#msg709415)
The Eternal Order in other Domains (https://www.nwnravenloft.com/forum/index.php?topic=60757.msg709416#msg709416)
Aftermath of the Requiem (https://www.nwnravenloft.com/forum/index.php?topic=60757.msg709417#msg709417)
Relics of the Eternal Order (https://www.nwnravenloft.com/forum/index.php?topic=60757.msg709418#msg709418)
Sources (https://www.nwnravenloft.com/forum/index.php?topic=60757.msg709419#msg709419)
Title: Re: The Eternal Order - Roleplay Resources
Post by: MAB77 on October 22, 2021, 12:47:01 PM

Azalin, the ruler of Darkon, constructed this religion around the fearful folklore of his subjects as a tool for societal control. Darkonian tradition holds that their land originally belonged to the dead. The living stole this world, banishing the unliving to the Gray Realm, but someday, in a prophesied event called the Hour of the Ascension, the vengeful dead will return to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. The clerics of the Eternal Order worship a patchwork pantheon of death gods borrowed from other religions. Worship focuses on performing countless rituals intended to appease the dead and continually postpone the Hour of the Ascension.

When the Requiem destroyed Il Aluk, many Darkonians believed the Ascension had come at last. In the aftermath, the Eternal Order's clergy blamed the Requiem on the weak faith of the Darkonian people. The Darkonians responded by abandoning the Eternal Order in droves. As an organized religion, the Eternal Order is rapidly crumbling, but some clerics — and the underlying superstitions of the Darkonians — remain.

Symbol: A hooded human skull.
Favored Weapon: The Reaper's Tool (Scythe).
Alignment: Neutral evil
Domains: Death, Evil, Knowledge, Repose
Worship Centers: Darkon
Title: Re: The Eternal Order - Roleplay Resources
Post by: MAB77 on October 22, 2021, 12:47:24 PM
History of the Church

Underlying the dogma of the Eternal Order is a widespread belief among the populace that the dead must be honored and propitiated, lest they rise from their graves during the Hour of Ascension to exchange places with the living. This belief has given rise to a popular saying: "We claim the dead, lest the dead claim us."

According to legend, Darkon was originally a realm of the dead. These once-restless spirits were displaced by the arrival of the living and now brood, deep in their tombs, awaiting a chance to rise up and reclaim what was once theirs. This evil day lies at some point in the near future and is believed to be kept at bay only by the worship and propitiation of the gods of death. They claim as a proof the fact that the dead arose several times when Darkon was invaded by soldiers from neighboring Falkovnia, assigning these inexplicable and terrifying "ascendancies" to a magical property of the land itself.

Roughly around the year 698 BC, Azalin codified Darkonians' existing folklore to create a state religion. Elements from various faiths were incorporated, but all were based on the worship of the same core group of deities: gods that represented the force known as death.

Azalin was quick to turn this fledgling religion into a force to serve his own interests. He named the religion the Eternal Order and financed the construction of a series of temples, some grand and some small. He staffed these with a corps of priestly bureaucrats who had proven both their depravity and their dependability. While these evil priests do have some magical powers (which they believe are granted by the gods of death), the religious services they conducted for the Darkonian populace were a sham and were designed to salve the fears of the populace. They were also a means of lining the coffers of the temples.

The rituals of the Eternal Order gave its priests some control over the undead, but they did not protect the lay worshipper in any way.

Nevertheless, Darkonians were compelled by law to worship every fourth evening at a temple of the Eternal Order. Mass began at sunset and ended at the stroke of midnight, known as "the hour of unbalance." Unless the populace prayed under the guidance of priests (and unless they each paid a tithe of one silver piece each time they visited the temple), the pendulum would start to tip, and the dead would come one step closer to the land of the living. So long as the people worshipped, this dreadful event would not happen within their lifetime, or so they were told.

On Darkest Night, on the stroke of midnight marking the passage from 749 to 750 BC, a massive burst of negative energy, an event known as The Requiem, turned the capital Il Aluk into a necropolis filled with undead. The wave of energy rippled throughout Darkon, and many believed that the Hour of Ascension was finally at hand. Azalin Rex was believed destroyed in the event. This event threw the whole nation upside down; the Eternal Order was abandoned in droves due to their failure to prevent this cataclysm.

Azalin triumphantly returned to the world in 755 BC. Claiming that his attempt to stop the Requiem — an invasion of the dead into the world of the living — physically trapped him in the Gray Realm, the land of the dead, until he could find his way home. If Darkonians were relieved by the return of their king, it did nothing to help the Eternal Order recover.

The Eternal Order did manage to recover some of its former might in the following years, but without the sanctioned backing of the king. Temples remain independent from one another and must now contend with rival faiths such as the Church of Ezra and the Faith of the Overseer.
Title: Re: The Eternal Order - Roleplay Resources
Post by: MAB77 on October 22, 2021, 12:47:47 PM
Church Hierarchy

The Eternal Order adheres to a rigid structure, with clergy being promoted for dutiful and competent obedience to their superiors. Sentinels originally heeded the edicts of a single high priest, the Watcher at the Gate, who obeyed Azalin in turn. The Eternal Order's last high priest was slain in the Requiem, however, and the Order's hierarchy has fallen to countless internal power struggles. The remaining clergy have failed to settle on a new high priest, and what few active temples remain are now effectively autonomous.

Like the Kargat, its priests (called sentinels) were exempted from baronial law, and the clergy soon filled with domineering opportunists. Although Darkonians still adhere to the Order's core teachings, they have always resented the intrusions of the church itself. By some accounts, even Azalin now dismisses it as a failed experiment in societal control.

The priests of the Eternal Order dress in ill-fitting, ash-colored robes. Their holy symbol (used to control the undead) is a small sickle with a blade of pure gold. When conducting services, the priests smear their faces with white clay, giving them a deathly pallor. Individual temples are led by a bishop whose status is indicated by sickles that are embroidered upon his sleeves in golden thread.
Title: Re: The Eternal Order - Roleplay Resources
Post by: MAB77 on October 22, 2021, 12:48:17 PM
Tenets of the Faith

Dogma: The dead must be shown due respect, lest they become enraged. Someday soon, in an event called the Hour of the Ascension, the spirits of the dead will surge back into Darkon to devour the spark of life. Only through strict adherence to the Order's rituals can the dead be appeased. Lack of faith weakens mortals' spiritual defenses, allowing the Gray Realm to encroach ever closer. Blood sacrifice can also postpone the Hour of Ascension for the indefinite future, but its arrival is inevitable. The Requiem simply marked the first such incursion; Death remains undaunted, and the true apocalypse is still to come.

Of the afterlife, Darkonians believe that all souls join the faceless ranks of the dead, no matter how virtuous or wicked one was in life. The Gray Realm holds no hate, no love, no beauty, and no repulsion. All that penetrates the apathy of the dead is the memory of that which they have lost. The shades of the Gray Realm, both dead and never-born, desire the world taken from them by mortality.

Clerics of the Eternal Order pray for their spells at midnight. Temple services are held each day at dusk and are still mandatory in a few communities. These services include recitals of paeans to the dead, the collecting of tithes, and animal sacrifice.

The Eternal Order recognizes numerous holidays, though only two are particularly significant. The Festival of the Dead, held in November, is a colorful festival marking the mythic deluge of life. Revelers parade through the streets in morbid costumes, pantomiming the retreat of the dead. The notorious Darkest Night, on the other hand, offers no cause for celebration. Sentinels spend dusk to dawn intoning a rite called the Requiem to keep the dead at bay, and even the smallest lights must be extinguished. Despite the collapse of the church, these holidays are still widely observed.

On the evening during which the final mass of the month is held, Darkonians observe the Night of the Dead. It is celebrated by laying food and drink on the graves of one's "ancestors" at sundown. One of the traditional offerings is a bottle of wine that contains a single coin, usually of copper, but sometimes (in the case of wealthy families) of gold or platinum. The only way to obtain this coin is to smash the bottle.

While a great deal of money can be collected on the Night of the Dead, only the very destitute or desperate are willing to seek their fortune in this way. It is said that anyone who smashes a bottle receives, for one week, all of the bad luck of the family that placed it there. Smashing several bottles could result in months or even years of misfortune. In addition, should the bottle be smashed before midnight, it is said that the miscreant will be cursed with an even greater calamity, perhaps even death.

Darkest Night

Once each year, on the longest night of the year, Darkon's moon does not rise. The sky is utterly black, save for a smattering of bright stars, and the land below is shrouded in darkness.

This is Darkest Night, an evening that is especially feared. According to legend, the realms of the living and the dead are closer together at this time. The dead look out upon the land, watching jealously for signs of the living. They are particularly attracted to light, and their attention may be caught by as small a glow as that produced by a candle. Guided into the world of the living by this light, they then torment the wretch who "summoned" them.

For this reason, Darkonians extinguish all lights during the long hours of Darkest Night. The prohibition against producing illumination of any kind is rigidly enforced; anyone who breaks this rule is assumed to have evil in mind, for what possible good could come of trying to draw the dead into the land of the living? Transgressors might even be assumed to be attempting to hasten the Hour of Ascension itself.
Title: Re: The Eternal Order - Roleplay Resources
Post by: MAB77 on October 22, 2021, 12:50:41 PM
Temples & Services

Temples are open to the general public only on evenings when services are held.

Services begin at sunset and last until midnight, when the local bishop arrives to lead the faithful in a prayer that supposedly keeps the Hour of Ascension at bay. The service as a whole is about three hours long, and is conducted by the lesser priests under the direction of the bishop. Two priests lead the congregation in the singing of mournful hymns and the recitation of prayers, the other priests stand in front of screens leading to the rear nave or circulate amongst the worshippers. The double doors to the rear naves are kept locked, none but the clergy is allowed there. Between the prayers and songs, the faithful are urged to pay their tithe of one silver piece and to approach the altar and lay upon it any magical items they have for "destruction" by the priests.

The priests regard the presence of newborns in a temple dedicated to death as blasphemy.

Main Temples of the Eternal order

The Church of the Sorrowful Dead, Karg
This cathedral, the largest remaining temple of the Eternal Order, is famed for its interior murals. Depicted entirely in shades of black and ash, the murals show the sorrows of the dead at losing their land to the living, a continual reminder of the Gray Realm's resentment. They are a reminder to the populace of the necessity of keeping the faith if the Hour of Ascension is to be kept at bay. Raines' anchorites have also spread to Karg, and the rival doom prophets are now engaged in a fierce struggle for dominance. Several priests in both camps have been brutally attacked.

The Shrine of the Spirits, Neblus
Home to many philosophers and scholars (both theological and metaphysical) who come here to ponder the afterlife, Neblus not surprisingly remains a stronghold for the Eternal Order. The Order's domed temple, the Shrine of the Spirits, sits just to the east of town. Its once colorful stained glass windows were tainted a smoky black when the negative energy wave from The Requiem passed through them. Locals claim that the lighter streaks in the glass are ghosts who watch over the Order's services to ensure that they are properly honored.

Temple of Nartok
An abandoned temple of the Eternal Order sits at the edge of town. Evidence indicates this was the "birthplace" of Death seven years prior to the Requiem; the edifice remains spiritually tainted to this day, and is shunned by the scavenging clerics of other faiths.

Prior to the Requiem, the priests of the Eternal Order in Nartok were responsible for the confiscation of magical items. On evenings when midnight masses were held, they would encourage the populace to voluntarily surrender any such items to the temple for destruction. Those who refused were cautioned that they may face "a visitation by death's handmaiden" as a result. The explanation given by the priests was that the dead send one of their messengers to collect the items, in preparation for the coming war against the living.

The Last Redoubt, Nevuchar Spring
This temple is no longer under the control of the Eternal Order. The faith has been routed out of Nevuchar Spring and the local temple taken over by the Church of Ezra. Any remaining followers of the faith are likely to keep it discreet.

Temple of Eternal Penitence, Il Aluk
Il Aluk is home to the immense Temple of Eternal Penitence, which used to be the primary church of the Eternal Order. Lying in the heart of the Slain City, it is nowadays manned by the undead under the leadership of Sentinel Claus Volneychev whom teaches that the Hour of Ascension has come - and the living are lost. Darkon's former capital is also home to the Reaper's Chapel, a small house of worship maintained by the Eternal Order.

A temple of the Eternal Order
The following is a description of the Nartok temple prior to the Requiem, though this temple is now shunned and avoided, it serves as an example of what other temples of the Eternal Order may look like.

The frames of the entrance double doors are carved to resemble gigantic mouths. Just inside stand three stone fonts that used to be filled with murky unholy water. The sides of the fonts have been carved into a twisted mass of humanoid creatures who claw and scrabble at one another as if trying to climb to the top of the font. The fonts were used to receive the tithes.

A little further inside the temple, just past corridors that lead away to the right and left, are carved wooden screens. These have been inlaid with ivory to form a scene in which skeletons rise from their graves. So realistic are these life-sized skeletons that their eyes seem to follow the viewer. Their outstretched hands seem ready to grasp at the clothing of any unwary passersby.

The nave of the temple, the wide aisle and open area under the central dome, is filled with shadows. There are no pews in the naves, worshippers must stand or shuffle during services. To either side of the aisle is a row of columns that glow with light. Although the illumination is welcome, the columns themselves are ghastly. Each has been constructed from human skulls, arranged one on top of the other to form a gruesome cylinder. Inside each skull, a squat yellow candle burns. Its dim yellow light shines fitfully out through the eye sockets and nose of the skull, flickering as the crowd passes by. The candles emit a faint but foul odor, vaguely reminiscent of the smell of burning flesh.

A number of wide rectangular stones have been set into the floor. Each of these stones bears an inscription that the passage of time has long since blurred beyond legibility. Judging from the shape of the stones these are sepulchers, resting places for the dead. Unconfirmed rumors claim that one can hear the faint sounds of something scrabbling at the underside of one of these stones. The priests often refer to these sepulchers in their services, using them as examples of how the dead are always seeking to arise from their tombs and trade places with the living. They tell the congregation that the corpses are "sealed" inside their temple tombs by the "power of faith." This is useful in convincing the lay worshipper that the priests of the Eternal Order really do have the power to hold back the Hour of Ascension.

A number of black, wrought-iron candelabras illuminate the area under the temple's central dome. Each is studded with spikes, upon which squat yellow candles have been impaled. Most of the light, however, is provided by the rays of the setting sun, which slants in through the stained glass windows of the west transept.

Five large windows decorate the rounded wall underneath this side dome. Four of these windows depict the same scene: figures of screaming humans, elves and dwarves who are being attacked by skeletal hands that have emerged from the earth underfoot. The fifth, central window depicts a priest, hands outstretched, forcing the dead back under the ground by the power of his faith. The rays of the setting sun cast an eerie halo about this figure, shining through its eyes and turning them the color of blood.

Overhead, the interior of the central dome is painted with what look like black, boiling clouds, pierced by jagged streaks of lightning. The clouds form subtle patterns that give the impression of faces that stare down at those below with mouths distended into grimaces and howls.

The focal point of the nave is a wide stone altar that looks as though it has been pieced together from the shattered remnants of many tombstones. Across the front, a single line of text has been deeply inscribed: "We claim the dead, lest the dead claim us."
Title: Re: The Eternal Order - Roleplay Resources
Post by: MAB77 on October 22, 2021, 12:51:18 PM
Aftermath of the Requiem

The clergy of Darkon's little loved state religion, the Eternal Order, now as rudderless and terrified as anyone else, declared that the Requiem marked the beginning of the true Hour of the Ascension and pointed blame at the weak faith of the Darkonian people. Outraged, the Darkonians railed against Azalin's failure to protect his people from the Gray Realm. They abandoned the Eternal Order by the score. Darkonians widely believed that the dead would rise again to reclaim the land, and that this is presently happening.

This religion suffered greatly during Necropolis' formation. First, most of the leading clergy died in the Requiem. Later; many surviving clerics and faithful felt betrayed; they had obeyed the Order's tenets all their lives and were still cursed with undeath. The Eternal Order has been the focus of numerous riots, and many temples have been vandalized.

Since the destruction of Il Aluk, the Eternal Order's grip has weakened in Darkon considerably, and a few other churches have sprung up. Nevuchar Springs now houses the 4th Revelation of the Church of Ezra, and the Faith of the Overseer is now dominant in the Martira Bay area. Most priests in Darkon still belong to the Eternal Order, but this religion is slowly dissolving.

The Eternal Order's clergy, as priests who worship death and dying, is divided on the nature of Death, the current ruler of Il Aluk. Among the undead of Necropolis, some revere Death as a manifestation of their gods whilst others do not believe that Death is divine, but recognize the creature's potency and unchallenged control over them. Living priests in Darkon may also hold to the above point of views, though many, including a few among the undead, remember their original goal of averting the Hour of Ascension and actively oppose Death's rule.
Title: Re: The Eternal Order - Roleplay Resources
Post by: MAB77 on October 22, 2021, 12:52:15 PM
The Eternal Order in other Domains

The Order's most cunning clerics are still opportunists at heart, and through them the religion has survived and even regained some of its lost power. Under Sentinel Claus Volneychev, church leaders have changed their dogma and their loyalties, now teaching that the Hour of Ascension has come - and the living are lost. Undeath is the true state of being, and the Slain's duty is to recapture Darkon from the living. Volneychev's leadership has clawed the religion back from the brink of collapse. The cult is slowly gaining followers from the apathetic populace and may even outlast its Darkonese parent. Sentinel Volneychev has declared the Repose domain heretical.

A few priests remember their original goal of averting the Hour of Ascension, and secretly plot to destroy Death and the other undead while finding a way to restore themselves to life.

Brought back by veterans of the Dead Man's Campaign, the Eternal Order operates secretly in Falkovnia. United by mutual terror of the undead they fought during the wars, Eternal Order worshippers seek to appease the gods of death and the restless dead in order to prevent them from swarming across the Darkonian border and wiping out all life in Falkovnia. The cult of the Eternal Order is largely concentrated in Stangengrad.

Survivors from expeditions to Keening speak of one living soul that dwelled in Marbh-Cathair for several years. Unwald Rottennail was once a renowned sentinel of the Eternal Order. Fearing that the City of the Dead posed a threat to Mayvin, he ventured into Keening in 743 with a contingent of clerics and knights loyal to the church. Widderrìbhinn slaughtered Unwald's companions to the last before they even reached Marbh-Cathair. The massacre splintered Unwald's mind, and he then believed that the Scourged were his devoted parishioners and he their watchful shepherd. He would attack anyone who threatens the undead or suggests harming them. Unwald was not terribly lucid, but he could provide a rambling tour of the village if coaxed, and he knew much of the widderrìbhinn. No one returned from that dreadful land for a long while now and it is unknown if the priest is still alive after all these years.

There isn't any known established presence of the Eternal Order in other lands though it stands to reason that some clerics would venture to proselytize beyond the borders of Darkon and neighboring domains. They would likely perceive any deities of Death from faiths they encounter as part of the host of deities they pay services to. This doesn't mean they will be well received nor accepted by priests of the other faiths of death. The living Eternal Order's priests perform rituals intended to appease the dead, a practice that some faiths of foreign gods of death, such as Nerull, find abhorrent.
Title: Re: The Eternal Order - Roleplay Resources
Post by: MAB77 on October 22, 2021, 12:53:14 PM
Relics of the Eternal Order

The Eternal Order creates crosiers, miters, vestments, icons, censers, candles, altars and an array of other devices imbued with divine power.

Icon of the Eternal Order
Based in the folklore of the Darkonians, the Eternal Order's traditions boast an array of grim heroes who strove to hold the Gray Realm in check. These mortisants are commemorated in ornately framed religious paintings called icons. Popular images of icons include Darkon's great legendary hero Nirdeth; Anarnnesis, the first Undertaker of Darkon; and Sarilas, who sacrificed herself to destroy the crypts of Dirngnos. Through complex ritual, the Eternal Order imbues certain icons with the ability to draw the spirits of mortisants from the Gray Realm to advise and heal supplicants who pray beneath the icon's gaze.
Title: Re: The Eternal Order - Roleplay Resources
Post by: MAB77 on October 22, 2021, 12:53:53 PM

Ravenloft Player's Handbook, Death Ascendant, Requiem - The Grim Harvest, Van Richten's Arsenal, Ravenloft Gazetteers II & IV.