Fires of the Faithful
EDITOR’S NOTE: The central plot around which all the character stories revolve is the idea that Sir Guy le Gui is here as the Chosen of the Lady of the Lake and has set himself against the Church of Maras. Some characters will be less directly-affected by this, others more. Still, it would be good to have some specific information about what exactly Sir Guy is selling and how it compares with the existing religion. To do this adequately, there are a couple of conceits that we need to address.
First, the version of the religion of the Lady of the Lake that Sir Guy brings is in some ways less commendable. It is a religion primarily designed to appeal to glory-seeking knights. While there is a measure of self-sacrifice, and many moral underpinnings, all of them could ultimately be considered selfish. Everything is done to win glory. It still has some appeals to other people, but it is aimed primarily at the knightly class.
Second, the Church of Maras really is evil. Not just given to occasional corruption, but genuinely evil. There is a point at which, once someone rises high enough in the hierarchy, they can’t help but know that the Church is actively lying to the populace. On top of that, they’re not just making small lies. In fact, one might even infer that everything they offer is a lie, and that they only saved the humans from the Orcs to give power to the Church and leave a steady supply of bodies for creating undead. The problem is that their “cover story” – the tenets of the religion that they offer the people – is actually better. It is a cynically-designed religion.
(As I write more of this, “better” doesn’t seem to fit. But it is more suited to its purpose, and is designed to crush the will of the individual and make it subservient to larger goals. The people who would worship this way might be better citizens, but they wouldn’t be full of enthusiasm for life. Thus, it’s hard to call it better anymore.)
Third, the Church of Maras is in a power struggle with the nobility. Through shrewd manipulation and politics, they won. As such, their religion doesn’t speak well to nobility. The self-sacrificing jargon doesn’t play well with the ambitious. In addition, the nobles are shrewd enough about politics to see just how frequently the priesthood uses the religion for political ends and power grabs.
So, with those concepts in mind, let’s look at some of the many concepts and ideas that will define the conflicts.
In a Nutshell
The Lady of the Lake: The Lady is the fount of all that is good and righteous, and by following her will we create a just, orderly and good society. Achieve glory to show your devotion to the Lady of the Lake, and she will reward you with a grand afterlife and bless your actions in this life. There are different kinds of glory, depending on your station, but all are achieved by doing your best. If you fail, fail grandly and bring glory to your name, and by extention, to the Lady. All lives are valuable, and dying gloriously is among the greatest of sacrifices because it costs something so dear.
The Dark Mistress: The Dark Mistress delivered all who live, and we owe our lives to her and to her priests. She will show us how to survive against the hordes that wish us dead. Give of yourself that others may live. Serve things grander than yourself, for you only become significant by your Service. All else is vanity. Life is not so important as Service. If you fail, fear not, for the Mistress may still allow you to Serve, and you may still gain the afterlife.
TLotL: INITIAL VIEW (for Bretonnia): You hold your position because your ancestors were among the finest people in existence, and the Lady saw that they were rewarded with influence. You carry that blood and have inherited those superior qualities. Your position is a sacred trust and you are required to look to the protection of your subjects and to honor your liege. You are the guardians of a good and just society, and you are charged with protecting social order. It is incumbent upon you to be a shining example that all can aspire to. You are to be brave in battle, loyal to your betters, courteous to ladies, merciful to your foes, protective of your lessers, honest in all things, humble about your abilities, unswerving in your devotion to the Lady, respectful of the old. Seek glory in all you do so that your example may draw glory to the Lady.
ADAPTED VIEW (for this world): The requirements are the same, but you may not have been born noble. And nobles in this world may not have earned their title. Instead, the Lady has granted Sir Guy the ability to determine who is noble and he can do so by judging their behavior and character. If you are truly noble, your character will show it and you’ll be expected to take your place as a guardian of a good, just and righteous society.
TDM: You, like everyone else, owe your position to the Dark Mistress. She saw you raised so that you may serve her will. You are the steward of society, and you are to keep her order. Defend the lands she gives. Uphold the laws of the Church. Give your children to Serve so that she knows your loyalty. If you fail to serve her properly, she may Call you to Serve in other ways. You are here to support the priesthood. Be humble and don’t seek glory. Glory is for the Martyrs.
TLotL: The Lady has seen that you have skills other than Leadership, and she has protected you in many ways. First, she has taught your ancestors to till the land, raise animals and see that society can stay fed. You are the sturdy roots of society. Second, she has put wise, brave and powerful men into positions of authority where they might protect you. Serve them loyally and they will see to the safety of you and yours. Glory is for the knights, but you show your devotion best by keeping your station. Be not overly proud, but strive to be loyal custodians of the earth. (And remember…sometimes even peasants become knights!)
TDM: Society needs many roles filled, and yours is to farm and see to the basics. The Dark Mistress depends on you to do as your told so that everyone may eat. Serve loyally and, even if you die, those you love will live on.
TLotL: Excel at what you do. You have been given a place in society, and for most, the greatest glory is by fulfilling that role. Knights will seek glory and protect everyone. Peasants will grow the food that sustains the society. Artisans will make the needed goods, and merchants will see that they arrive where needed. By doing your part, you cannot help but be a good person. And, should the Lady see fit, she may give you an opportunity to advance your state. But don’t be overeager; she could just be testing you to see if you lack humility.
TDM: Do as you’re told. Fill your role in society. Ambition is base, and would lead you from what the Dark Mistress has in mind for you. If you’re needed to do something else, you’ll be Called to it.
TLotL: The afterlife is an idealized version of medieval life, and changes slightly based on your station. In short, every day is a tourney day.
For the knights and nobility, their manors are always well-tended. The peasants always bring in larger, finer crops than expected. They wake each day to a splendid tourney and have the chance to prove themselves in honorable, glorious tests. There are feasts, beautiful ladies granting their favors, ballads composed in their honor and dancing late into the night.
For the peasants, they work their fields only enough to get the satisfying feeling of connecting with the soil. Their crops always come in better than expected, and they always have a fine surplus for themselves after paying the Lord his due. There is always meat in the stewpot, but more importantly, there is always a grand holiday feast thrown for the tourney. There are grand entertainments, music, dancing and each day is a joy.
For the trades and merchant classes, each day is a tourney with a grand fair. They partake in the feasts and entertainment, and sell their wares to the attendees. Every work created is a masterpiece, and they always get a better price than they hoped. They can always afford to dedicate new monuments that make their town more beautiful and earn the admiration of all for their selfless giving to new art.
Any other good person can expect a similar state of wonder in their afterlife.
There is no mention of the afterlife for criminals and other ne’er-do-wells. If you aren’t a good person, you just don’t get an afterlife. There is no contrasting torment, as just missing out on the wonders promised to good people is considered punishment enough. It is possible that criminals may get to the afterlife, but would continue to be punished as their crimes merit. For example, being the unfortunate soul in the stocks or pillory during the tourney, or sitting deep in a dungeon while the sounds of the tourney could be heard in the distance.)
Regardess, there is no concept of earning your way into the Lady’s good graces after death. You are judged entirely on what you do in life, and deathbed confessions for a repentant sinner are meaningless.
TDM: The afterlife is a pleasant place, free from danger and harm, where you will be reunited with loved ones and live in peace. It’s a good place, and you’ll enjoy it. Pretty much it’s whatever you’re looking for it to be. But don’t focus so much on that – you need to focus more on how you’ll serve the Dark Mistress in life and undeath.
Horrors await those who fail to Serve: terrors unimaginable and unending hordes of orcs. Each day you’ll suffer debilitating injuries and endless pain, and at night, you’ll see the hordes slaughter your family and friends, destroy your home and only once everything you’ve loved is gone will they kill you.
The afterlife for the Church of Maras feels very much like an afterthought because it is. Their focus is on this life, and service in this life or as a zombie or one of the Martyrs. Their main focus in preaching on the afterlife is typically of the “Fire and Brimstone/Horrors of Hell” variety.
TLotL: Individual achievement. Honesty. Loyalty. Valor. Knowing one’s place. Chastity. Purity.
TDM: Obedience. Self-sacrifice for the greater good. Service to the Church. Humility. Zeal.
The Fairer Sex
TLotL: INITIAL VIEW (for Bretonnia): Women, even the poorest and most decrepit, bear within them the spark of the Lady. As such, they are due respect. Men are to protect them, be courteous and defend their honor when needed. In defending a woman, you defend the Lady, and in defending the Lady man rises to his most noble state. Woman are to be held upon a pedestal, and their civilizing influence can serve to guide man to proper action.
ADAPTED VIEW (for this world): There are not yet enough men who understand their duty to protect all women while there are plenty in this awful place who would do them harm and think nothing of it. For this reason women may learn to defend themselves. While women should still defer when a man is present to defend their honor, it is not unwomanly for them to learn the art of defense. Not only are they to be set upon a pedestal, but they may be very nearly equal men in other measures.
TDM: Women hold no special place, beyond typical roles. With the emphasis on “no one is special”, there’s no room for setting up one gender for special attention.
Morality & Ethics
TLotL: There is a real, understandable source of Good in the world. Do all you can to abide by it. Doing evil to achieve a good end is still evil. It is better to fail in the right way than succeed in the wrong way. Life, even that of the peasants, is valuable and not to be discarded lightly, but neither should you cling to it. Glory outlives any man.
TDM: As long as you serve Maras, anything you do is good. If a few must die to ensure life for many, then so be it. It’s the result that counts. Your life isn’t terribly valuable, but you can make it valuable by Service. And even if you fail this in life, the Dark Mistress in her mercy may allow you to Serve after death. Your family and loved ones are more important than you. The citizens of your town are more important than your friends and family. The citizens of the Protectorate are more valuable than the population of any town. No man, or any number of men, is more important than the Church.
The Role of Magic
TLotL INITIAL VIEW (for Bretonnia): Magic is a gift from the Lady herself, and is to be carefully administered by her. Only women have the proper gift for using it in a proper and righteous manner, and the women who are capable are tested by Damsels to ensure they will use it wisely.
Magic in the hands of men is coarse and base. While many other cultures are content with men wielding magic, they lack the proper character to wield the Lady’s gift with wisdom.
ADAPTED VIEW (for this world): (This follows Guy’s thought process.) There are no Damsels here, and it is up to Sir Guy to judge Magic. And as the Lady always provides, she will surely provide guidance here as well. Thus far, it seems that men are the main wielders of magic in this land. Since the Lady such a man to me, perhaps there is a message here. And if women can act like knights, cannot men perhaps act like Damsels?
TDM: Magic is evil and is evidence of the debasement of mankind. If magic were worthy, then the feeble Sorceror Kings would have stopped the hordes, but they failed. Magic can only serve to lead people into danger by taking their focus away from our Dark Mistress and her ability to save us. Magic is a dangerous heresy, and those who practice it are heretics of the blackest sort. The only chance a mage has for any sort of redemption is to fully submit all of his blasphemous powers to the direction of the Church.