The origin of The Church of the Saints
The city of Herani is said to be the birthplace of the Human race. Whether this is true or not is debatable, but it is certainly one of the oldest Human cities on the continent. In the early days of Humanity, they adopted the gods of the other races; thus Saxnor, Hraka, Malin and the others all became ‘Humanized’. These, eventually, became known as the ‘old gods’, simply because they existed before the coming of man.
Herani, in ancient times, was a favoured destination for pilgrims seeking spiritual enlightenment. These travellers often came under attack from bandits, Orcs and other nefarious creatures, intent on robbing or killing them. Some Humans started providing guards to keep these travellers safe, for a fee, of course, and the concept of hiring guardians became a mainstay of such travel. Eventually, a group of guardians decided to pool their resources, the better to ensure success. After a few years of such cooperation, they elected to send a delegation to the Orcs of the region, in an attempt to negotiate a peace.
This diplomatic mission proved to be a success, and the names of these six individuals became revered for showing the way forward to a peaceful coexistence with the other races. With protection no longer the driving force behind the guardians, they each took it upon themselves to find a purpose. Years later these purposes became the defining factors behind the Holy Orders of the Saints, or, as it’s better known, the Church of the Saints.
The church of the saints uses a new calendar, that of Saints Reckoning (SR). It dates from the year the ‘Great Peace’ was negotiated by the founding members, now known as the Saints. This dating system was created after the fact, by their disciples, the actual calendar being adopted in the year 32 SR. The names of the Saints are well known to all believers: Cunar, Mathew, Agnes, Ragnar, Ansgar and Augustine. Their tales have been written down in holy texts, but the accuracy of the tales is unknown, for they have become figures of legend. To begin our examination, we will look at the life of Saint Ragnar.
Before the formation of the church, when the saints were little more than mercenaries, Ragnar’s sister, Astrid, fell under the influence of a group of Necromancers. Trained in the dark arts, she laid waste to caravans travelling to the holy city of Herani. Ragnar raised an army, defeating her forces but was forced to put his own sister to death when she refused to surrender.
Ever since that time, the followers of Saint Ragnar have dedicated themselves to the destruction of Necromancers, wherever they might be found. Temple Knights of Saint Ragnar are, perhaps, the toughest warriors one might encounter, but their training is in single combat, for their order seldom goes into battle at the head of troops.
Ragnarites, as they like to call themselves, operate in the shadows of the land and, except for ceremonial occasions, wear no distinctive garb, preferring instead to blend into the local population where they serve. To the common folk, they are thought of as witch hunters, though that name can also be attributed to agents of the crown.
After the six founding members negotiated the great peace in Herani, they needed to turn their attention to other matters. Although they were not yet a formal organization, having worked together only sporadically, the great peace changed that, ushering in a new era of prosperity.
Mathew, from an early age, had proven himself knowledgeable of herbs and natural cures. He began expanding his expertise, using his newly acquired fame to search out new and unique treatments. He is credited with creating the first healing mission in the holy city, a task made all the more difficult by the many and varied cultures that inhabited the area. At first, people resisted his attempts, often calling him out for witchcraft or ungodly powers, but in time, they began to regard the work he was doing as beneficial to all, regardless of their background.
He spent a lifetime codifying herbs and treatments and is often called the father of the healing arts. Since that time, his followers have worked tirelessly to expand his techniques. The current order of Saint Mathew encourages healing of all types, including magic, and it is not unknown for Life Mages to begin their training under the tutelage of the order.
Mathewites can often be found wandering battlefields, offering to heal friend and foe alike. They are an essential part of the Church Army, and as such, are protected in their work by the other orders, particularly the Sisters of Saint Agnes, with whom they work very closely.
Amongst the six founding members of the church of the saints was only one woman, Agnes. She travelled to the holy city of Herani seeking answers. Some said she fled a loveless marriage, while others claim she lost a child after a difficult pregnancy, but the truth is lost to history.
What is known is that she became quite outspoken about the treatment of women within the walls of the city. When famine struck, she was instrumental in leading a revolt that stormed the high lord's granaries. In order to accomplish this successfully, she gathered an army of women. The palace guards, refusing to kill women, could only watch, helpless as they emptied the granaries to feed the poor.
Jaramel, the High Lord of Herani, ordered her arrest, but when his soldiers arrived, it was the women of the city that once again formed a wall of resistance. Faced with the prospect of arresting them all and angering the commoners, the high lord bowed to the wisdom of his advisors and let them be.
Agnes soon came to be known as someone who would put the welfare of others before her own. When the time came to attempt to negotiate the Great Peace, Mathew was the one who urged the others to accept Agnes into their number. The rest, of course, is history.
Of all the founders of the church, Saint Augustine is perhaps the least understood. Augustine Brackenwald was a scholar who came to the Holy City of Herani from the north coast of the shimmering sea. There is little recorded of his early life, but it is known that he came from a life of privilege, receiving an outstanding education and a generous purse from his family.
Augustine fully embraced the idea that the first Human civilization was based in Herani, a belief he maintained until his death. He was obsessed with finding proof of his convictions, a feat made all the more possible with his wealth and influence.
It was his insistence on investigating ruins that led to the first recorded encounters with Orcs, who inhabited the areas where many ruins were situated. Due to the increased danger of Orc attacks, Agustine grew increasingly frustrated with his attempts to prove his theories.
It is now generally accepted that it was Augustine that first proposed the prospect of banding together with others to reach out and negotiate a peace with the Orcs. This group would, of course, go on to be known as the saints, but Augustine is often called the first saint.
Among the six founding members of the church, the greatest warrior was a man named Cunar Marthune. When Jaramel, the High Lord of Herani, failed to provide sufficient protection to pilgrims, it was Cunar that organized his own warriors to provide that service. Initially, he charged a fee, with more thought given to profit than the safety of travellers, but that all changed when he met Augustine. He was hired to escort the man to some ruins, leading to contact with the Orcs. This sparked a series of raids that are collectively referred to as the time of troubles.
Cunar proved himself a master tactician, and his troops never suffered a defeat at the hands of an enemy. When the other founding members banded together to negotiate with the Orcs, it was Cunar’s men that protected them.
Followers of Saint Cunar continue this tradition to this day. They are dedicated to training and fighting exclusively. The Temple Knights of Cunar are said to be the most fearsome warriors on the continent, a reputation they have earned on the battlefield through numerous engagements.
The function of the followers of Saint Ansgar is mainly unknown to those outside of the Church. Within the Church hierarchy, Ansgarites act as an investigatory group, ensuring that the other adherents of their religion do not stray from the path of righteousness. To some, they are considered a secret police, while to others, they are a blessing, but to truly understand their role, you have to learn about the man himself.
Saint Ansgar, as he is now known, was originally a mercenary who travelled the shores of the Shimmering Sea, seeking out employment opportunities. Eventually, he found himself in Herani, where he became acquainted with (Saint) Augustine. Under his tutelage, Ansgar came to believe in the possibility of peace with the Orcs of the region, a concept that led to the cooperative effort of six of the most influential people in the Holy City.
What is often not told, however, is the resistance to this peace effort. Lord Jaramel, the High Lord of Herani, collected a significant amount of his income from those making the pilgrimage. These funds were meant to pay for protection, but in reality, the regent was pocketing most of the coins himself.
When he heard that a group of his local protectors were heading out into the wilderness to attempt a negotiation with the Orcs, he sent men of his own to infiltrate and sabotage the effort. Ansgar discovered the ruse and unmasked the traitors, paving the way for a successful meeting.
Since that time, his followers have watched for enemies of the Church that try to bring the organization down from the inside.