Church of the Black Flame
(Worships the Caradian war hero, King-Saint Godrick I)
|Countries||The Duchy of Caradia (state religion)|
|Members||About 3.8 Million|
5.3 Million adherents (Extremely few outside of Caradia)
The Church of the Black Flame (Flemic Church) is a religion centered in the Caradian city of Relacul. Adherents of the religion worship King-Saint Godrick I of Caradia, and venerate valour in combat above all else. It is organised into an ecclesiarchy, currently headed by Archbishop Lord-Saint Alexandru Șîreameș, and maintains two services for militant action: the Flemic Inquisition, and the Brotherhood of the Order of Saint Rodrick.
The cosmology of the Flemic Church is related intrinsically to its origins in a freezing region of the world. It is held, as Godrick is a perfect example of all four of the noble tenets, that he inhabits and rules over a higher plane known as the Sublime Order, in which is found absolute order and a perfect life for a good citizen. His antithesis and father, Farthur Selck, is thought to have been sent to the opposing realm upon death, the Frigid Chaos, in order to twist and tempt Flemics away from the Sublime Order and toward the Frigid Chaos, so that the world might become frozen over in a never-ending cycle of entropy and decay.
Official doctrine of the Flemic Church is that Godrick I walked Micras as a living god. Godrick I (also often referred to by Caradian Flemics as The Ancestor) was not revered as a god during his life, though he certainly had followers who believed him to be something more than mortal. Whether Godrick was aware of his own divinity is a matter of debate among Flemic Church officials. Regardless, adherents believe that He was and still is a god and the god that watches personally over Caradia. This fact both promotes nationalism among the Caradian adherents, though it makes it near impossible for the religion to spread outside of Caradia, doubly so when it is attempted to be spread to a country that already has a culture of strong nationalism.
Godrick is believed to now reside in the Sublime Order, as its ruler and general. It is believed that the Sublime Order was created by an even more bright and heavenly being, often referred to as the Lord of Light, the Warm God, or the Being of Authority. This being is said to be an example of absolute perfection, that created the Sublime Order and all the good, warmth, and order in the world. Godrick is worshipped as the chosen of this being, which, though it is above Godrick in theology, is not a force that can be related to by humans, so it is venerated but not worshipped. This being is said to have chosen Godrick after his death to rule over the Sublime Order and to guide new followers on Micras to the light.
The antithesis of Godrick, Farthur Selck, was drawn down into the opposite of the Sublime Order, the Frigid Chaos, which embodies all the cold, entropy, and destruction of the world, and was made into a creeping agent of darkness in the world, to corrupt the souls of those who were being guided by Godrick. This act was accomplished by the opposing force to the Being of Authority, the Cold One, who created the Frigid Chaos and all the evil that exists. The Frigid Chaos and the Sublime Order both seek to conquer Micras in order to separate the other from new souls, and destroy them. The Flemic Church establishes that it is the duty of the people of Micras to spread the word to the rest of the world, which has been corrupted already by the Frigid Chaos and enlighten them to the true purpose of the world.
In accordance with the spiritual war, the Church maintains that both the Sublime Order and the Frigid Chaos employ agents to forward their purpose in the world, though they do this in different ways. The agents of the Order, and of Godrick, are called Archons of Order (though, if they are Caradian, they are called Saints), and they take the form of the most miraculous and wonderful members of society, who advance the purpose of the Sublime Order through deeds that they are blessed to do by Godrick and the Being of Authority. The agents of Chaos are called Dimonigo, and they are the foulest creatures in existence, often taking the form of monstrous beasts that terrorise society into collapse, and sometimes in the form of the most corrupt members of society, who tear it apart and downward to the Frigid Chaos from within. The most recently recognised agents are King-Saint Godrîc XI, Archon of Order, and Ròneau d'Àgrôvia, who is believed to be a Dimonigo.
The Eight-Edged Way
Though Godrick I rests as the god and prophet of the Flemic Church, most liturgical and religious practices are designed and carried out according to a set of tenets modeled supremely by Godrick I, and by his antithesis, his father, Farthur Selck. The Eight-Edged Way is usually depicted as an image of a double-edged sword, with the four Noble Tenets on one side, and the four Ignoble Tenets on the other. The tenets of the Eight-Edged Way are as follows:
- Honour: Your duty is to your country, and your countrymen
- Valour: You are to serve in the defense of your lands, directly or indirectly
- Virtue: There is no greater honour than to die for your fellow man
- Glory: You are to live a life guided by this Way, and become closer to the divine
- Destruction: Senseless destruction shall cause the death of your country
- Treason: If you cannot be loyal to your country, it is best that you are removed
- Cowardice: There is no greater dishonour than to preserve yourself over those who rely on your strength
- Death: Separation from the divine causes the death of the soul
The doctrine of the Flemic Church makes strong claims on the accuracy of the miracles allegedly performed by King-Saint Godrick I, claiming near every alleged miracle to be absolute truth, as told by witnesses. Occasionally, persons are born within the church who perform minor miracles. These people are believed to be blessed by Godrick himself, and are as such given the title Saint, and added to the Charter of Glory, which catalogs every known Saint from the death of Godrick I to the present. These people are given deference on all ecclesiastical matters, doctrine stating that the words of Saints are direct scripture from Godrick himself.
Every so often, an heir to the royal lineage of Caradia will display miraculous power. Once confirmed by the Archbishop, the miraculous heir's name is changed to King-Saint Godrick, and they are immediately placed on the Caradian throne until death. These people command the hearts of Flemic Adherents, as they are believed to be direct reincarnations of the first King-Saint Godrick.
Exaltation of Battle
Significance of Fire
Fire is very important to Flemic adherents. The doctrine of the Flemic Church states officially that Godrick, as he was ascended beyond our realm with fire, so we can only reach him by the same. Fires burn in altars and shrines across Caradia, kept alive by special priests assigned as firebearers. Most adherents also keep some form of a small shrine in their home, usually a grouping of candles with a representation of the faith in the centre. It is held that only prayer through and in front of flame will reach Godrick and that any prayer done in the cold will be drawn toward the Frigid Chaos, and be received by Selck, to be twisted into temptation for the Flemic. It is expected that adherents will pray regularly, so as to uphold and maintain the tenet of Glory and grow into a closer relationship with Godrick.
Flemic Law states that the Book of the Records of Our Ancestor is the holy book from which all other law and doctrine will be pulled, along with any texts and accounts of saints and other such prominent figures recognised as prophets. The Law is prescribed by these saints when they are alive, or can be added to the Laws of the church by the presiding Archbishop.
Worship takes place in many different distinctions of place; worship can take place in a defensive structure (citadel), a place designed to honour Godrick (temple), a place designed specifically for worship (church, chapel or cathedral, depending on size), or outside a building at a small monument to Godrick (shrine). The manner of the building or locale in which worship occurs rarely impacts the service itself (except for the obvious necessity of warm clothing when one is standing outside at a shrine).
- Preacher stands before the assembled faithful and gives a welcome message
- Recital of the Final Hymn of The Ancestor: For The Ancestor, I give my heart, soul, and life. Victory comes with my strength of faith. The enemies of order and harmony cannot stand before our faith. O Godrick, give me the strength to smite those who stand against you, in your name. We are your servants and soldiers, for now, and unto our next life. Hurrah!
- A Hymn of Battle is Sung
- Preacher ignites the fire altar and leads the congregation in prayer to Godrick
- Preacher gives news related to the congregation and the faith
- A Hymn of Service is Sung
- Preacher reads from the Book of the Records of Our Ancestor and delivers a message
- Each member of the congregation brings a weapon (usually a sword or dagger) and kneels before the fire altar in offer. Preacher uses incense (ignited from the altar) and blessed snow to bless the weapons of the congregation
- Preacher leads the congregation in prayer once more
- A Hymn of Faith is Sung
- Recital of the Final Hymn of The Ancestor
- Preacher dismisses the congregation
The church is divided into different groups at different levels to make for easier administration. The lowest level of this division is a congregation, or an individual place of worship, followed by a parish, then a domain, then a diocese, and finally by existing national boundaries.
- Main article: Caradian ranking system
The ecclesiarchy of the church is split into different levels, most of which preside over a different level of territorial organisation. The ecclesiastical ranks are as follows:
- Archbishop (presides over nation)
- Bishop (presides over diocese)
- Cleric (presides over domain)
- Abbot (used to preside over a monastery, but now the position is a general step in the ecclesiastical ladder)
- Priest (presides over parish)
- Minister (presides over congregation)
- Uninitiated (non-believers are considered to be lower than believers, and worthy of pity and guidance)
Ministers, priests, abbots, and clerics will preside over congregations during services, and these steps are referred to as a group as preachers.
Ascension through the ecclesiastical ranks requires trial to assure that the believer is worthy of Godrick's higher praise and a higher station in instructing others. Aspiring members must present themselves before a board of local ecclesiarchs of a higher station than them to be appointed. Aspirants must endure the trials of the level they are on, as well as the trials of previous levels in order to ascend, which causes the higher levels of the church to be easily recognised by the many burn scars covering their body from their repeated Trials of the Flame.
Uninitiated to Follower
Followers are allowed to bring uninitiated before the church to be converted involuntarily. If a follower converted this way turns against the church after they are initiated, they are considered impure and with no need for mercy.
Trial of the Flame: The only trial required by this level is the Trial of the Flame, where the aspirant is branded with a hot iron, marking them as a member of the church. This is often performed on the children of followers so that they will grow up in salvation.
Follower to Deacon
No Trial: Deacon is an appointed position, wherein a minister appoints a follower to assist in a congregation.
Deacon to Minister
Trial of Knowledge: As minister is a teaching position, they are required to stand before the judging board and recite specific entries and their meaning from the Book of the Records of Our Ancestor.
Trial of Will: Aspirants must tattoo a large 'D' onto the back of a captured Dochvern, denoting their spiritual impurity.
Minister to Priest
Trial of Combat: Two aspiring priests will fight until unconscious with wooden clubs.
Trial of Commitment: Not technically a trial, but still called one; the aspiring priest must attend a full seminary school course.
Priest to Abbot
Trial of Purity: The aspiring abbot must resist temptations that are planted for them for a period of thirty days.
Trial of Judgment: The aspiring abbot's spirituality is judged by the board judging their ascension
Abbot to Cleric
Trial of War: The aspiring cleric fights with bladed weaponry against a similarly armed Dochvern until death.
Trial of the Snow: The aspiring cleric must survive alone in the wilderness for forty days.
Cleric to Bishop
No Trial: Bishops are appointed by the presiding Archbishop in their nation.
Bishop to Archbishop
No Trial: Archbishops are appointed once every ten years by a vote from a panel of all the bishops in the nation they represent.
- Main Article: Flemic Inquisition
The Flemic Inquisition is a militant wing of the Flemic Church that serves as a unit that conducts intelligence and espionage in Caradia, as well as serves as a secret law enforcement for Flemic adherents. The group once had much more power in the Duchy, but with the creation of the Serfești, the Inquisition saw a decrease in power, as it is no longer licensed to kill government officials without a special writ from the monarch. However, there are still many joint operations between the Inquisition and the Serfești, especially when it comes to sabotaging Dochvern tribes.
The Inquisition is formally able to charge and try Flemic adherents with the crime of breaking Flemic law in private, without a judge or public trial. This power is usually only applied to outstanding criminals or those who have managed to drum up enough support that it would be imprudent to charge them in public, so these people are disappeared by the Inquisition. The Inquisition also works with the Serfești in order to persuade uncooperative prisoners to speak during interrogations. The Inquisition is currently headed by Grand Inquisitor Corvèrre.