Order of the White Tree
The ancient Goddess of the Northern woodlands she made her home in the East Continent at the time of the starfall when the Gods walked the lands. Her kin fought bitterly to reach the heavens and the comfort of their deified existence, but not She. She found the lands beautiful in their harshness and the creatures became beloved of Her. She made her home in the lands at the Northernmost reaches and sat on a throne of woven vines and white barked woods.
Time passed and Ora tended her arbour well, her trees spawning from acorns the races of elves and men. For centuries they all lived together in the woods, until Ora felt that she needed to set her children free of her that they might grow and live to serve the land. First she sent her 5 eldest children to live upon and nurture the lands. Rancagua, her oldest son, who defied the races of her children to be both elf and human, he stayed in the North, a trusting and prodigious child he lived as he felt his mother Ora did and his wives birthed the five great northern tribes, the Haradrim, Desurtulo, Litustrum, Posperulo and Omsk. His sister Asenea, became a nomadic queen birthing many sons who would become valiant warriors such as Eleador and Fontaan. Perdus, an ambitious human traveled to the West taking many wives and spawning a huge population on his lands. His people became greedy for their bulk became large. Caligus Went to the South with his wives, living the life of a horse lord and planesman, he had many daughters who in turn had many sons. Most notable of these were the triplets, a son, long sighted and long lived Agga the Fallen - guardian of the south, and two daughters, Epollonia and Armonia. Birthed from the same mother they were matched in ambition but also in ferocity. Most of her elvish children refused to leave her side, eventually becoming trees in the great arbor, but her daughter Siriana traveled to the south and west to establish a home and a community.
Ora had taught all of her children the importance of peace, justice, amity and honor, and now she felt the time had come to see if they had accepted her tutelage. She left the lands and returned to the heavens to see what her children would do. As time passed they forgot her wisdom and drew blade against one another.
She was not prepared to turn her back on her children, but they rejected her, all but the Omsk. The Omsk maintained her worship in the shadows of larger religions. Every 5th generation a daughter of Ora, on oracle was born who would help maintain the teachings of the Goddess, until her heralds would sound her return. When the land is ripe and her daughters speak her words, Ora will return to reclaim what is rightfully hers.
Ora's people are all who choose to accept Her. Although the majority of the faith resides in Nivemus, it is open to all. Ora's people seek brotherhood, so no person shall be turned away because of their realm association alone. Ora's people are also called to embody peace, justice, and honor, just as their goddess Ora does. Through this, the world can be made a better place, perhaps even a utopia if Ora's name is spread to all corners of the world.
Ora and Her people
Ora and Her people have a long history. Before anyone can remember, small groups of the tribes of the North believed in a goddess and grew White Tree's in the few places they would on the plains. Trees were a rarity on the Northern plains and badlands, which made the White Tree just that much more special. Ora saw the corrupted Church of Rancagua, and sprung into action, guiding Her people against them. These people were nobles of Old Rancagua, and they believed in Her, and became Her people. Her people extended Ora's word from the Omsk Peninsula, to Ashforth,from Oroya, to Csopa, and all lands in between.
Eventually, Old Rancagua became lax in their praise of her and became corrupt. Ora grew angry at this, and then let Old Rancagua's enemies destroy them and sent them into exile in Sirion. From there, the corrupted leaders of the Order of the White Tree continued in the Northern regions of Sirion. They continued to hold power over the Order until Judge Erik Eyolf saw Ora in a vision, calling him to banish the corrupted elders of the Order. He did, and after that, the old Order fell.
Out of the ashes, former High Priest Tavius ut Daris, former Baron of Csopa and current High Priest Obito Uzamaki, former noble of Sirion, recreated the Order. The Order preached some in the Northern lands of Sirion, but also began to return Ora's name to the lands of Old Rancagua. When the Sultanate was defeated and Nivemus created, the Order took up residence in Nivemus, which is, for the most part, where they reside today.
In the time of greatest strife under the Kronogos Neji, enemies crawled over the bones of Nivemus and sought to crush her, the white tree embraced Obito and drew him to the ground. Her rash actions led the monarch to leave in search of his lost brother the High Priest and so the lands drifted without a rudder in this most disastrous of storms and quickly dark days were pursuant with the lands revolting against the godless king and enemies treading upon the hallowed soils.
The White Tree
The White Tree is the sigil of the Order of the White Tree, Ora's symbol of enduring brotherhood that unites Her people, and the unique, extremely rare tree that is found in the temples of the Order. The 'parent' tree once existed in the holy city Oroya, but as the last city of Ora's people was being razed to the ground, the huge white tree was burned by the armies of the Sultanate. The priests of the Order escaped with a few seeds given from the tree, and planted them in the existing temples.
These sacred tree's remind us that the Order of the White Tree is a brotherhood which we should never forsake and always protect. Although open to interpretation, Sir Obito Uzamaki, High Priest of the Order of the White Tree, describes the symbolism like this:
Roots: The representation of the roots of the tree is Ora and Her guidance. In Her guidance, the rest of the tree lives and prospers, and without Her guidance, the brotherhood will die.
Trunk: The representation of the trunk of the tree are the High Priest and Elder members of the Order. Through them, the branches live and grow.
Branches: The representation of the branches of the tree are the Nobles of the Order. The many branches protect the tree from harm through storms of trial.
Leaves: The representation of the leaves of the tree are the peasants who believe in Ora's name. They grow and prosper from the branches of the tree and serve the tree itself.
Oroya (medium temple)
Ashforth (medium temple)
Parm (small temple)
Oberndorf (primitive temple)
Salta (small temple)
Dale (primitive temple)
Sermbar (small temple)
Tabost (small temple)
The Book of Kristina
In the times of strife, worship and devotion languished for the Goddess, even the crowned head of Nivemus rejected her counsel and so the lands bled and buckled under the pressure as the roots of the tree struggled in discomfort to find purchase. In the mind of a girl in Sirion the Goddess called, with nightmares and visions she motivated her and so the pilgrimage of the prophetess began:
She had done as the dreams and nightmares had bade her, stumbling along the roads like some peasant woman she had left her men in their homeland, it was not fair that she should pull them so far from their families.
She was ill-prepared for life alone, hunger pangs made her feel light headed , her shoes chaffed at her feet. She could scarce braid her own hair. But the nightmares had been vivid. A golden haired woman with silver skin, besieged and beleaguered by lascivious dark skinned men. The woman was crying out as they hacked at her body, but no sound was emergent.
Then there was the dream of the tree, aflame with blood red glow, and always her sisters voice calling her. If she did not respond she knew Catherine was to die a meaningless death. It was this that had called her first, but now the nightmares of the ravaged woman, this was something else. Her father had always despaired at the passions of his youngest daughter. The family had thought her flighty and prone to the fanciful. She had left on a gilded litter almost entirely to prove them wrong. Now as she stumbled into the shack and was greeted by the woman in her dreams, she knew she had left for a very different reason.
The woman looked at her, a playful expression in her eyes, not even as tall as Kristina she stood before her completely naked and unashamed. Far from being abashed when the woman opened her arms, Kristina fell into them, fell into an embrace that was almost overwhelming in its intensity. The woman kissed her forehead and whispered into her ear:
"You are mine."
The mother of Dale
An elderly maunt was cradling her head and stroking her hair as she awoke, the morning sunrise was hazy but even this made the silver white bark of the tree glow in an almost iridescent hue. There was no sign of the woman from her dreams anymore. The maunt seemed to sense her awakening and looked down at her with milky blind eyes. She smiled:
"It has been a while child, but I knew I'd find you here, she called me to watch over you in the night."
Ironic that a blind woman should watch over anyone. Kristina pushed herself up onto her elbows:
"You have been here all night?" she touched the older womans face, "why?"
The woman chuckled, a warm sound that somehow reminded Kristina of her mother. "Had I not your flower would have been plucked." Kristina's blood ran cold as she noted the 3 large figures slumped at the far side of the shack, their throats cut. Startled she lurched from the woman, noting for the first time the bloodied blade at her side. With an iron grip the maunt seized her arm as if she could see her: "This was her first gift to you child, use it wisely."
The strength in the womans hands belied her apparent frailty. She continued: "And these are my gifts to you," the maunt placed a hooded cloak on her shoulders, and offered a pair of sandals that would lace up her legs. As Kristina put them on, her mind raced, she couldn't bring herself to look again at the three men, worse still she noted with a sinking sensation, the bloodied blade was her own. She gingerly wiped i on the dew soaked grass at the base of the tree and re-sheathed it in her belt.
"How can I repay you, mother?" she asked.
The woman smiled, the benign smile of a grandmother to her grand children. "You cannot," she said wistfully, "Not yet at least." Her blind eyes swept the room and she cocked her head as if listening to some unheard voice. The maunt stood and handed Kristina a small package of food. " It is time for you to travel on, dear heart. I would come with you, but I have three sons to bury."
Bewildered Kristina backed out of the shack. Shocked and silent tears poured freely as she ran stumblingly on the road to Obando.
The Temple of Sermbar
She had been chewing the bark of the white tree steadily on the long journey from Nivemus to Sermbar. Now she took the pulped wood and laid it in the copper cradle on a bed of moss. Striking a tinder she set fire to the moss and soon the pulp was smoking a purple blue haze filling the small shack that was serving as the temple of Sermbar. She closed her eyes praying that Ora should cleanse the land and the air, that this would become a truly holy place worthy of worship. As she opened them she could see the construct. White stone walls and a roof of intertwined vines twisting around the central light well where the tree would be planted. With her bare hands she moved the soil from the spot that would be the centre of the temple. She poured the still smoking contents of the copper cradle into the hole.
The pulp glowed red as the damp wood tried to burn, but still only managed to channel purple smoke around the room. She took the sapling from her pack. It looked simply like a silver twig, budded, but so small and frail. With unseeing eyes she pushed the small roots of the tree into the smouldering pulp. There was a loud pop and a hiss as the wood met the flame, but she held her resolve and gently patted soil around the base of the tree. Placing her forehead to the soil she waited.
The maunts became restless as she remained prone and static for so long, but after three hours they gazed in wonder as first one, then a second and third golden leaves unfurled on the tree. Afine dusting of new grass surrounded the base of the tree where before had been smoking soil.
Dusting the soil from her head she stood and looked to the maunts.
"Bring me the gold."
The coffermaster, brought a small wooden chest from within the shack. She smiled at the elderly man: "Now walk with me."
She walked the boundary as she had seen it in the vision from the smoke. Dropping golden coins on the ground as she walked around what would be the temple walls. The maunts looked uneasily at the gold on the ground. So much money, thrown to the dirt. A small crowd of the faithful had gathered bearing witness to what many thought was the abject madness of the High Priestess of Nivemus. The maunts and the woman long passed, an elderly man ventured forward, one coin would not be missed.
"Is your faith so frail Jebediah Munroe." Kristina called to him, not turning or wavering from her task. The man froze fingers outstretched, then fell to his knees sobbing in embarrassment. The crowd shuffled uneasily distancing themselves from the man. She moved back to the man and looked contemplatively from him to the crowd. Their rising anger at his actions was evident. Bending down she whispered: "Ora forgives what your neighbors may not," straightening she bade him: "Go in Ora's peace, I do not think we shall meet again, Jebediah."
The man stumbled from her wishing only to go home. The crowd parted and he left shunned, even his own wife declining to look at him.
She knelt once more in what would be the entry way to the temple, eyes unseeing as she invoked the Goddess. A steely wind blew from the north west bringing with it billowing black clouds. The sky darkened as the cloud coalesced, lightening started to play among the edges of the brewing storm and the deep rumble seemed to shake the very ground. The faithful looked to the priestess and then fell to their knees in supplication to Ora. The maunts lay prostrate even the coffermaster had his face to the soil. Kristina's voice raised in the sing song strains of ancient elvish, so old the sounds were barely recognisable to the Sirionites.
The first fork of lightening hit the ground near the priestess, the smell of rising ozone clear and harsh in the air. Invoking the Goddess by all her names Kristina stood in the doorway and waited. The pressure in the air dropped and the land was enveloped in an expectant silence. A rumble like a thousand horse hooves penetrated through the ground and the static in the air made Kristinas ebon hair float upwards. The ground trembled with the volume of the thunder then lightening forked touching the ground in 100 places.
Then the storm was gone, Kristina swayed with the effort, where the coins had been were now white stone walls, gold melted into the cracks between the stones making the walls strong, already small vines clung to the base of the walls, and over time these would become the roof. The maunts remained on their knees, trembling in devotion. Kristina touched their shoulders. "Sisters we are not finished." Together they planted the staves into the ground, intertwining the ends to make the central well where the tree would grow. They placed woven hessian in the roof space to offer shelter, though Kristina knew they would soon be covered by the vines as the temple established itself in the landscape.
Exhausted she stood in the doorway, the maunts at her elbows their hands steadying her. Briefly distracted, she noted a streak of gold in her black hair, Ora was pleased and she felt a warmth beyond the sun within her soul. She looked to the awestruck faithful:
"People of Sermbar, beloved of Ora. Your temple is anointed through lightening and flame," she staggered a little catching herself on the door frame that had not been there just a few hours before. "To the glory and mercy of Ora!" She raised her hands in supplication, falling to her knees, the sun glinting from the new golden strand within her ebon hair.
The maunts ushered her quickly to the tree, she lay at its base and drifted to sleep hearing the maunts lead the faithful in songs of Ora's glory.
The Knight of Sermbar
Kristina readied herself to leave Sermbar, her few days had shown her much, but had been physically draining.
The faithful had looked to her and she had felt the mystic surges, the ebb and the flow of the faith as she channelled natures fury into the growth of the house of Ora in Sermbar. The tree had grown at an exponential rate allowing the temple to grow with it. The vine roof already blossomed. As the days had passed more of her hair had changed with streaks of gold. She had not expected to find such peaceful mysticism in Sirion after the ongoing tumult and restructuring in Nivemus that came with the war.
Her meetings with Markus had been more frequent, his hospitality had been a welcome diversion from the exhaustion she had experienced from channeling the flow. She had seen the golden seed growing within him and at night dreamt of him, his head surrounded by golden leaves.
The sapling, so recently the length of her palm, now stood 3 feet tall, a healthy crop of golden leaves. She had taken 9 leaves to represent the 9 temples and twined them within strands of the golden hair that now grew from her. When Markus announced that he wished to enter the orders she had known why she had woven this crown that she had now rested upon his head as he was annointed.
The call of Ora was now growing in Sirion, this could only be good. And so she packed her belonings and prayed one last time at the tree. She left Sermbar without fuss or show, secure in the knowledge that Ora's knight sat in the keep of Sermbar and so her people would be served all the better.
The Song of Tabost
Barefoot she walked on the circle of gold coins chanting the song of Ora as she went. The preaching had been amazing, more than 200 of the lost came to her light and now watched in awe as the ozone gathered and the pressure of the air dropped. Her ceremonial robes shone with a silver glow like the very bark of the tree. Her hair raised floating on the currents of the air, small shards of lightening playing along her strands of hair.
Raising her arms above her head lightening arced to the coins and the ground shook raising white stones from the earth in a circle. The soil fell away leaving the stones white and polished, the golden coins melted and streaked over the stones.
The maunts were ready with the staves and vines and planted them around the circumfrence. It had been so long since the power of Ora had been displayed so openly, but Kristina knew that she stalked the lands reclaiming them for her own and what had happened at the temples of Sermbar and Tabost were nothing compared to what was to come.
Kristinas voice changed and the song became ancient elvish again. Her floating hair glinted more gold as it floated around her head like a crown. Pulling her hands down the air pulled inwards swirling around her robes. The staves bent and crossed leaving the central well a star to the heavens. The vines grew readily in creeping up the staves and beginning to knit across the roof.
The song rose from her lips to a crescendo and was gone. with it the wind died and was replaced by birdsong. Falling to her knees, the maunts raised her up and laid her on a litter by the tree. Spent she slept a dreamless sleep.