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Church Sects

The Universal Church of the Celestial Sun is a massive organization that dominates the Known Worlds. The Church touches the lives of each and every sentient. Even pagans and apostates define themselves in terms of their opposition or difference from the Church. Perceptions of the Church obviously vary, but the majority of people in the Known Worlds look to the Church for guidance and attend services at least once a week. They are devout, and are much more likely to follow the direction of a priest than their own Noble masters. This then is the source of the Church's enduring power: Nobles who fall afoul of the Church often find their serfs running away and freemen refusing to work for them.

Because of this, almost all Nobles appear to be devout supporters of the Church. Many really are devout believers. The Church is full of the sons and daughters of Noble families. Others Nobles are less than devout, but they understand that without the Church's blessing, they could and probably would lose all they have. The Noble families and the Church have an implicit understanding: The Nobles support the Church through their tithes and the Church support the Noble's position to rule, which carries immense weight with the serfs. The League of Merchants also has a contradictory relationship with the Church. The League is a much younger institution than the Church and the relationship is often rocky. Yet many lower level guild members come from or are themselves believers. And the League could not withstand a crusade against it by the Church and allied Noble families. Of course, there is balance, and the Church itself relies on Guild technology, often technology it bans for the rest of the Known Worlds.

The Universal Church, is ironically, not quite Universal. There are other religions, although they are practiced in secret for the Church will stop at nothing to exterminate them. Even within the Church, there are distinct divisions. The basic priesthood is divided into white and red. The White Priesthood is the largest group: its members are permitted much greater social freedoms and are usually parish priests. The Red Priesthood members take vows of chastity, but often reach higher offices and learn greater rituals than their White counterparts. There are also significant theological differences in the church. The Mahayana is the more liberal branch, the Hinayana branch is much more conservative. The Hinayana branch has dominated the church for the last century. The Eskatonics represent the greatest challange to the Orthodoxy. They were a banned and hunted sect until it was realized they knew secrets that made them valuable weapons against the Symbiots. Despite the fact they have been accepted into the Church, many members of the Orthodoxy view them with suspicion and contempt.

Urth Orthodox

The largest sect, it is the Orthodoxy that most people associate with the Church. Its priests can be found on all worlds, from the ostentatious bishops of the capital cities to the more humble parish priests in the most poverty-stricken fiefs. While the Orthodoxy has gained a reputation for their cunning political maneuvers, most priests know little of such things, being entirely too busy protecting the souls of the simple faithful in their parishes. The Orthodoxy's self-serving machinations during the Emperor Wars disillusioned the flock on many worlds, creating opportunities for other sects to make inroads. Yet when tragedy strikes, it is still to the Orthodoxy that most of the faithful turn for consolation.

Eskatonic Order

These hermetic sages are often thought of as wizards by the common folk, but the nobles and guildsmen know them for the kooks they often are. While there are many within the order who possess profound wisdom and learning, there are just as many who are obsessed with the end of the universe and who stand on street corners telling everyone about it. Once considered a heresy by the Orthodoxy, the Eskatonics were admitted into the fold when their theurgical rites proved effective against the Symbiots. Some see this concession as a sign of weakness as the Orthodoxy struggles to regain ground lost during the Wars, but others quote the old saying: "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."

Brother Battle

This order of warrior monks is the most elite fighting forces in the Known Worlds, surpassing even the Emperor's Phoenix Guard in martial prowess. Originally chartered to protect pilgrims and pursue heretics, the order is now petitioned by noble houses, other Church sects, and even guilds to perform military operations on many worlds, including the infamous Stigmata Front against the dreaded Symbiot invaders. Despite rumors of heresy and usury within their ranks, everyone wants a Brother Battle monk by their side in times of trouble. Though technically bound to obey the directives of the Patriarch, some worry that the Brother Battle are gaining too much power as they accumulate lands on frontier worlds where barbarians and heretics remain a threat.

Temple Avesti (Avestites)

The Avestites long ago seized most of the seats on the Inquisitorial Synod, but even pilgrims who hold no Inquisition seal have a habit of sticking their noses in other people's business. Avestites consider it their duty to search the Known Worlds for signs of heresy, demonism and any other threats to the faithful, and are not about to let such technicalities as law or status get in the way. Their rejection of learning and dogmatic adherence to certain extreme scriptures makes them the object of fear and hatred for the enlightened, although the peasantry might cheer when one of their betters is the target of Avesti ire. Publically, they are obeyed, but Avestites who wander alone into dark alleys are sometimes never seen again. Only the most fanatic and ascetic initiates are admitted to this sect.

Sanctuary Aeon (Amaltheans)

This order of healers and compassionate mystics is as old as the Orthodoxy, although the Amaltheans conceded leadership of the Church long ago, preferring to dedicate themselves to the perfection of their salutory arts. Everybody loves the priests and priestesses of Sanctuary Aeon, followers of Saint Amalthea, for their very touch can effect miraculous cures of injuries and sickness -- at times even when artifact tech of the Second Republic has failed. When an Amalthean comes to town, there is always someone willing to provide hospitality for her. Indeed, so beloved by the commoners are they that when one was once accused of witchcraft by an overzealous Avestite, the Avestite was seized by the populace and burned at the stake instead.

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