Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Religions for Eastwylde pt 2 - The Companions of Beatrix

The Companions of Beatrix are the brave men and women, mostly human, who joined the heroic wizardess in her quest to reseal the Giants 500 years ago. In their lifetime my campaign setting approximately mirrored the 11th Century (it currently resembles the mid-16th). Unless I am miscounting they are fourteen in number. My initial idea was to have a patron saint for every major Pathfinder class (Core Rulebook + Advanced Player's Guide + Complete Magic) and one for each core character race (Man, Ulf, Dorf, Numm, Hawbet, Orkykind). However, I forgot to include a saint for Witches, Oracles or Halflings---oh well. Let's assume the Cult of the Saints' official stance is Halflings are just small Men not truly a race apart, and don't require their own saint. And, for obvious reasons nobody likes Oracles or Witches. I also exclude Gunslingers (Ultimate Combat), Inquisitors (APG) and Monks as those classes didn't exist (at least not in the West) in Beatrix's day. I don't want to make an unweldy monster post (ha ha ha) so I'll start with the first four.

Q: Are the Companions the most important Saints?

A: Beatrix is certainly the most important saint, believed to have merged with the whole cosmos and become omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent. St. Justin is approximate to St. George--his name is a byword for martial aspiration and courage and he's depicted all over in art and legend.  From there, it gets complicated.  There are countless saints, some so obscure they are no more than names buried in a musty register.  Many are unknown outside of a certain locality, some are associated with a certain profession or a certain event, perhaps even a specific gate, bridge, mountain, etc.  All of the companions have at least middling prominence due to their association with Beatrix but some have fallen out of favor or are no longer believed even to have existed.

Q: How old is the Cult of Saints anyway? What was it like before Beatrix?

A: The Cult began with the idea that all gods are no more than aspects of a deeper Truth---that this divine spark resides in every person, every blade of grass, and fills all the known Planes of Existence. Saints however, are beings in whom this power shows greatly, who do great and wonderful things as an expression of its divine love. For the first few centuries of its existence it was a highly intellectual movement largely limited to the support of sages and scholars of the esoteric. In the waning age of the great Empire that once ruled over the West, the conversion of a certain Emperor led to the adoption of the Cult of Saints as the Empire's official creed. The many cults throughout the Empire's provinces (particularly the Druids, still strong across the North) were not interfered with, nor did official adoption cause a single hierarchy within the Cult to develop, for reasons that are complex and boring. The Cult instead continued to revolve around a decentralized conclave of urban Primarchs, in whose Temples the precious remains of Saints are kept. Older divinities, ancestors, genii loci etc. were occasionally assimilated as Saints, but until Beatrix the Cult never achieved fidelity from more than a third of the former Empire's peoples.

The Companions

St. Beatrix Paraclete, Queen of Heaven (NG female human wizardess) - About Beatrix much has been said but scarcely enough can be written. As mentioned previously, depictions of Beatrix before her ascension as an embodiment of heavenly virtue and font of wisdom are less popular than humanizing portrayals which portray her as a vulnerable young woman who finds the courage to save the world. Of course, following her death-ascension Beatrix became more perfect than is possible to imagine.

St. Justin Giantslayer (LG male human ranger? paladin?) - Of Beatrix's companions St. Justin is nearly as famous as the Savior herself. He is considered both a patron and role-model by Rangers and Paladins, who fiercely contest which profession he belonged to. The history of the Rangers is tied up in the Return of the Giants, with their long watch ending in bitter defeat only for the Order to reconstitute itself in many places as a bulwark against many threats (hence why Rangers are "especially trained" against so many divers monsters and enemy kinds). For this reason, St. Justin is most often portrayed as a survivor of the shattered Rangers in dramatical retellings of the Return. A chance encounter with the lovely ingenue Beatrix restores his fighting spirit, etc. However it is the Paladins who have taken as a byname "The Order of St. Justin." Rangers, when they want to sound fancy, must content themselves with the much more specific St. Daffydd, patron of Those Who Fight With Two Swords (alternatively, St. Mark, the specific and less flashy patron saint of accurate shooting).

Hard facts about St. Justin are few--several cities and towns claim to be the place of his birth and a few noble families claim him in their extended lineage. There are fabulous tales such as him being raised a Ranger by the Elves, or that Northern Barbarians slew his family and he was raised in a Cult abbey. Fragments of his shivered sword, pieces of wood and nails from his shield, spurs from simple iron to ornate gold, a horse's skull, are all alleged for his relics. It is said his heart lies beneath Holger's pass but no Temple stands to attest it.

St. Justin is virtually always portrayed as a handsome but battle-scarred young man [when I showed my players a drawing of him they immediately called him Anakin Skywalker]. If appearing as a Paladin, he has a distinctive blue/orange diagonal stripe scheme on his long surcoat and massive kite shield (historical but technically anachronistic touches) wearing a suit of mail and wielding a knight's sword. If a Ranger, he wears humbler footman's steel and leather under a cloak of green or white (the Rangers originated in the frozen North after all) and carries sword and bow or two swords as the artist fancies. Justin fell in battle with Angrybors the Giant King of Storms, and their dramatic final duel is such a common art tableau that you can buy many depictions of it in just about any marketplace.

St. Justin's domains are War, Nobility and Animal. He is associated with the aforementioned Orders and those who fight monsters generally, plus woodsmen, war-horses, robins, and recovery from blunt trauma (many hospitals bear his name). His Feast Day is September 29, which is the day called Michaelmas. Paladin and Ranger associations often celebrate with processions and feasts.

St. Casval the Ready (LG human fighter) - While warriors of all stripes can and do pray to St. Justin, St. Casval represents the humble foot soldier more specifically. He is called "The Ready" because it is said he was a wise veteran who always watched the backs of the more impetuous Sts. Justin and Lionel the Lancer, always ready to strike out opportunistically with his long spear. In fact, as something of a running gag down generations of artists Casval is portrayed with a wild variety of anachronistic, often outlandish polearms such as the reverse-forked ranseur or the Oriental "tree of swords." Some don't even exist, such as the Double Ox-Tongued Mancatching Crow's Beak. He is usually portrayed as an older man with a distinguishing mustache.

Casval is one of the better-attested companions, as he actually survived the Battle of Holger's Pass. He retired with honor to the City of Fons, where he served as "Captain of the People" (essentially a militia commander) until his death some 40 years after Beatrix's ascension. He was declared a saint in his own lifetime. His tomb in the Great Plaza at Fons has been a pilgrimage hot spot for five centuries. Bizarrely(?) he left no memoir or personal account of the Queen of Heaven, at least none known. His home and effects are in the care of a chapter of Poor Sisters. His ash spear is on display in a glass case. Touching the glass will grant a +1 bonus on Attacks of Opportunity and Trip attempts for 24 hours.

St. Casval's domains are Earth, Community and Strength. He is associated with serjeants and militia bands, city walls, badgers, and the game of chess--it's said he painted a pawn on his shield, and his blessing goes to those who can elevate a pawn by moving it to an opponent's back row.

St. Odion the Learned (LG human cleric) - It may seem odd for the Cleric class to have its own particular patron saint. Nevertheless St. Odion is such and his life is well-attested: he survived Holger's pass, founded a monastic order and lived to be 100. No one did more to promulgate Beatrix's legend, or to make her the new "face" of the Cult of Saints. He wrote the very first hagiography of Beatrix, titled A History of Beatrix Our Savior, the Wars on Our Earth and Beneath and in Heaven (a laborious read, mostly circulated in abridged form).

In all accounts, St. Odion is Beatrix's confessor and spiritual guide. Some writers trying to reconcile sacred history with more sacriligious accounts of Our Sweet Savior present Beatrix as an amoral Wizardess who indeed learned a terrible ritual at the frozen feet of the Ice Father, until the wisdom of Odion put her on a more righteous path. In his History however, Odion wrote Beatrix was, "the embodiment of all that is sweet and well-meaning in Man's heart," and "so near to perfect she was fragrant of heaven." So don't look for nuance from him. Incidentally, bawdies and burlesques of the Companions portray him as an old letch always trying get a peek up Beatrix's skirt ("Father shall I kneel to pray?"/"Heavens child I'll not bar your way." "But Father I say the floor is cold."/"Come here child, a cloak I hold.")

In many ways Odion was a great reformer of the Cult. He did not give it a central hierarchy or disavow its pantheistic teachings but he did elevate the monastery from houses of prayer dependent on powerful patronage to powerful landowning "religious corporations" (or less ominously, "communities.") His Rule (the Odine Monks or "Grey Fathers") established the baseline for subsequent Rules and Orders to follow. Odion reified and encouraged many nascent traditions, such as mass public confessions and penances on Witsuntide and Michaelmas (whole communities expose their sins and perform acts of contrition together in the Cult). Odion came as close as anyone in the Cult ever has to calling other faiths wrong and dumb (such as his tract, On Trees which could well be titled "Stupid Druids, Trees Aren't God"). You can buy little figurines of Odion most anywhere (+1 CL to Magic Circle Against Evil with one as your divine focus). They always show him wagging his finger.

Odion is portrayed as a bent old man with twin flames of grey hair rising behind his bald pate, wearing a grey habit and carrying a gnarled staff. He is associated with monks (duh), parchment and vellum making, pigeons, students and schoolmasters. His bones/effects are scattered protecting many places, including his native city of Stellamont, the Royal Library of Pellegrine, his first monastery of Oxmort, and his tibia are in a chest somewhere at the bottom of the Trader's Sea (oops). Aside from the usual wound and disease curing miracles, praying in some place with his remains gives you a +2 to research rolls and for 48 hours, intimidation checks.

Our Lady of Songs (CG elf? half elf? bard) - The Lady is one of Beatrix's most mysterious and least well-attested companions, yet next to Beatrix herself perhaps the most commonly represented and evoked in word and image. She came from the Elven Lands yet beyond that, not even her name is known, or if she was fully or half Elven. St. Odion never mentioned her in his History (then again, he left out a lot--he was a man of narrow interests), nor is she mentioned in any firsthand accounts of the Return of the Giants. In modern times many of skeptical mind say she was invented by the Cult as a way to give the notoriously rambunctious Order of Bards a place in the Cult, and as an outreach to Elven converts (there are few, if any). Yet if she is only a fable, it seems to have sprung up quickly after Holger's pass---the first trouvere's song of the "Lady With the Lyre/Fall's Fire in Her Hair," who "made beasts weep and dragons bow," is attested only a few decades after. The various songs don't agree on her fate--some say at Holger's Pass she was "horribly crush't," others "return'd she to Elven Land/Where Time runs not and all is glad." Perhaps no other saint's relics sell so well: particularly locks of red hair, quite well preserved 500 years on, often hung from a lute's pegbox or twisted around an artist's brush.

Her devotees portray The Lady as an Elven woman with bright red hair holding a harp, lyre or psalter. If it is official cult art she is garbed in appropriately saintly gown and stola, but popular depictions clothe her to accent her loveliness, sometimes only in a shower of leaves. Wolves, lions or monsters are always tamely lying all around her. Often the device of a psalter and red maple leaf or rose serves as her representation. The Lady's domains are Charm, Liberation and Travel. In addition to Bards, Elves, elms and roses she is patroness of minstrels and the makers of instruments, crossroads, of many hills and woods, and young lovers.