The word Athonlaur derives from the ancient tongue, and means, "Bright Path," or, "Way of Light." It is the way of Arelien, Goddess of the Sun, second-born of the Three High Gods (known in the Anglic tongue as Phoebe). She is, at heart, a warrior Goddess, and is the patron of honourable battle. Its primary tenets are:
- The duty of the strong is to protect the weak
- Seek justice, tempered by mercy
- Do not raise your hand to strike before you have raised your voice to speak
- Do not seek vengeance, for such is the way of Elanzil; rather, forgive, and be forgiven
- 1 Orders and Ranks
- 2 Precepts
- 3 Beliefs
- 4 Further Information
Orders and Ranks
There are three major Orders of the Bright Path: the Order of the Flame, the Order of Anaris, and the Order of the Hearth. There are also several ranks set apart from the Orders.
Order of the Flame
This is the priesthood of Arelien. Acolytes, known as Candles, can be of other professions, but aspiring to become priests of Arelien. Beginning priests are ranked as Hearthfires, and are assigned to a region or a small set of regions to preach Her words. Full priests are Kindlers of the Flame, and are tasked with going out in the world to spread the teachings of Arelien. The head of this order is the Tongue of Flame, and is tasked with guiding and coordinating all the members of the Order of the Flame.
Order of Anaris
Anaris means Sunsword; it is the name of the sword given to the Anaris family's ancestor centuries ago by Arelien Herself. One of his descendants founded this order, which is composed of the warriors in Arelien's service. The ranks are determined by courage on the battlefield, by strategic prowess, and by the strength of their commitment to Arelien's teachings. Those who have not yet proven themselves are Squires of the Light. Beginning warriors are Soldiers of the Flame. High-ranked warriors are Knights of the Sun. The head of this order is the Sword of Flame, and is tasked with watching over Arelien's warriors so that they can be called up at a moment's notice to fight for Her.
Order of the Hearth
This is where all those who are, by profession, neither warrior nor priest fit in. The ranks are Hearth-Sweeper, Candle-Lighter, and Fire-Tender, with the head of the Order being the Heart of Flame. Their duties are to see to the material needs of the common people who worship Arelien: they provide them with food when it lacks, they help protect them from corrupt governments, they help get the necessary manpower to build and maintain the infrastructure that keeps everything running.
Seekers of Light
This is the name given to all those who are interested in the Bright Path, but have not yet joined any of the Orders.
There is another group, who do not belong to any of the three Orders, but have a separate rank within the Church. These are the few who dedicate their life to the shadows. While Arelien's teachings do not forbid such a life, they dictate that any who adopt it must do so in order to protect the weak, not simply for their own gain, and especially never for revenge.
The Arbiter is charged with deciding disputes within the Church, and handing down punishments to those who go against Arelien's teachings. This position is traditionally held by a Priest or Priestess of Arelien, but can be held by anyone with the requisite devotion and understanding of Arelien's teachings.
Eyes of Flame
The Eyes of Flame is the name given to the highest rank: the High Priest of Arelien. His duty is to guide the entire Church on the Bright Path, and keep the three Orders running smoothly. His duty also is to help to bring more nobles onto the Bright Path, along with the Tongue of Flame and the Kindlers of the Flame.
As stated above, there are four central tenets of Arelien's followers.
Protecting the Weak
No man is inherently better than any other. Through misfortune, some may fall low, and others rise high through fortune. It is the duty of those granted that bounty to protect those without it.
Justice must be done in the world, lest those who would do evil should run rampant. However, the followers of Arelien must ever temper this justice with mercy, and never seek to impose over-harsh punishments on those undeserving. Thus is shown the compassion of the Goddess.
Speech Before Violence
Though Arelien leads her people in just battle, battle should never be joined until it is clear that diplomacy cannot resolve the conflict. Thus, all of Her followers are to seek dialogue with those they disagree with. Only after the other side has rejected their advances should violence be resorted to.
Forgiveness, Not Vengeance
As an extension of showing mercy, followers of Arelien must never seek vengeance against those who have wronged them. Vengeance is the way of Elanzil, Arelien's dark sister, and is abhorrent to the Bright Lady. Rather, Her followers are urged to forgive, and seek forgiveness in return.
The worship of Arelien can only be fully understood by placing it in the proper context. Please also see the record of Terash's history.
Three High Gods
Firstborn was Mistarin, Who is known in the world as the Grey Sage, and the Wandering Star. He seeks ever to maintain the balance of all, and always by peace and wisdom. He is not always a friend to the light, but neither is He always a foe. He alone can speak directly to the One, Father of all the Gods. In Anglic, his name is Samuel.
Thirdborn was Elanzil, Who is known in the world as the Queen of the New Moon. She seeks to bring all the world under her sway, believing that might makes right. Though she has her own honour, she cannot truly be trusted by those who oppose her, for she will do almost anything to achieve her ends. In Anglic, her name is Chandra.
There are seven other major Gods under the Three.
Kemi, or Daphne, is the Goddess of the Earth, and patron of daughters. She loves all green growing things, and the animals that live among them.
Kelkhat, or Pyrrhan, is the God of Chaos and flame. He seeks to foment conflict, destroy love, and bring all creations of order into ruin.
Iseldir, or Neron, is the God of the Sea, and patron of fathers. He orders the waves and all that swims within them.
Tyrali, or Zoë, is the Goddess of motherhood, and healing. Her kindness hold the whole world under its wing.
Damoril, or Branson, is the Smith, and patron of sons. He aids all craftsmen, and loves the works of their labour.
Aya is the Goddess of the Dead, and guardian of the land of the dead which bears her name. She keeps a sleepless vigil to ensure that the Greater Spirits bound in the Pits of Aya do not escape and ravage the world.
Selath, or Morgan, was the God of Magic, but he was slain.
Minor Gods and Spirits
There are many other minor Gods. A couple worthy of mention are Lirosik, God of history, and Adira, Goddess of the drowned.
There are also many other attendant spirits who dwell in the realms of the Gods and aid them. They are known by many names, but since the slaying of Selath, they have not come into the world.
When a person dies, their soul passes beyond the Seven Veils of Aya, and is there judged. If the soul served one of the Gods faithfully in life, it can go to the part of the Gardens of Aya where the servants of that God dwell. As these parts of the Gardens are each governed by the God or Goddess its inhabitants served, they are quite different in nature.
For instance, in the Garden of Arelien, the people live in a bright, open place, where all their needs are filled. As She is a warrior Goddess, many of the souls in her Garden revel in mock combats, but there is no danger, as all wounds can be healed swiftly in this place, and no illness ever touches anyone. By contrast, the Garden of Mistarin is a place of quiet contemplation, observation, and learning. Many of His servants seek, after death, the knowledge that they could never attain in life, and all His knowledge is open to them. Elanzil's Garden, on the other hand, is ruled over by Her lieutenants, with an iron fist, and freedom is a thing unknown. Rather, the souls there labour eternally in Her service.
Souls not dedicated to any God or Goddess, and those whose service has been rejected as being unfaithful, are judged based on their actions in life. Some are sent to live again, with a heavy fate hanging over them, to right their past wrongs. Others are sent to the Gardens of Aya to dwell in peace, if they have lived a good life. The worst of all souls are simply snuffed out--destroyed forever, and lost to oblivion.
The Pits of Aya, which are below as the Gardens are above, are not meant for any mortal, but on rare occasions, foolhardy blood sorcerers and necromancers have found themselves drawn in there, where they are tormented for all eternity by the dark inhabitants. Their fate makes the oblivion of the lost soul seem a blessing.
Duties and Honours - Anton is still compiling these