The Dying Age
The House of Concordance
The House of Concordance is the name given to the collective worship of Ilista, Hemah Everborn and Chal. The clergy of Ilista, Hemah and Chal is gender segregated: men may be a “Sacrifice” or priest of Hemah; women may be “Mothers” or priestesses of Ilista; and neither men nor women may be “Exarchs” of Chal, whose clergy is restricted to those initiates who choose to undergo a ritual that symbolically renders them genderless.
Generally speaking, Ilista, Hemah and Chal represent the changes an individual undergoes in a life well-lived, and it’s this narrative between the faiths that is at least partially explanative of the temple’s appeal. In Ilista, patron of sorrow, autonomy and will, one finds themes that are a part of every man and woman’s life. Hemah, who embodies sacrifice, plenty and renewal, is a liminal figure perpetually engaged in transgression and change. Chal, the cosmos, represents the knowledge gained from a life filled with loss and change: contentment is sacred in Chal’s worship.
Though the teachings of Concordance instruct the faithful to revere every day as a blessing and holy, the festival of the autumnal equinox holds a place of prominence in the faith. It is the day that the sacrifice of Hemah, the grief of Ilista and the celestial music of Chal meet. The day of the equinox many cities hold parades and festivals; the House of Concordance provides a feast where mighty nobles and aristocrats and the meanest beggar may sit side by side, giving thanks to the bounty of the gods and the harvest. That night, no darkness is permitted within The House of Concordance; candles and braziers burn brightly to keep the dark at bay, while musicians compete within the temple for the blessings of Chal and a silver pin to mark their achievement. This event, called The Wake, is a night of remembrance and silence for the faithful and to speak is to profane the music.
The Mysteries of Hemah are also a point of some contention among scholars. Though these secrets are restricted to those Sacrifices who comprise Hemah’s clergy, scholars speculate that to worship The Sacrifice involves sacrifice itself; pain, hardship, loss and even death are transcended by the God Who Dies, and one would expect his clergy to do the same – at least symbolically.
The House of Concordance is one of the wealthiest temples among the gods of the Aionic pantheon; Hemah is the god of plenty and the harvest, and his worshippers are called upon to tithe a tenth of their wealth in thanks for the harvest’s bounty. This wealth is translated into a great deal of political power, though the House of Concordance would be hesitant to call it such: a portion of the moneys collected go to fund poorhouses, soup kitchens and sanitariums where men and women whose sicknesses are beyond the skill of Phaethe’s healers can die in dignity. Moreover, this money also provides weapons, armor and provisions for the Concordant Guard and the Faith Militant. Though crusades are truly rare, the threat of crusade is pervasive and insures that the kingdoms and free cities of the land welcome Houses of Concordance in their communities.
There have been five crusades in the last two millennia. The first four spread the faith throughout the corners of the lands, toppling recalcitrant and reluctant kingdoms where necessary and consolidating the House of Concordance’s authority as the voice of the voiceless at the end of a sword. The final crusade—launched two hundred years ago—sought to conquer the islands of the Iron Sea. Tens of thousands left in white-sailed boats, and only a handful returned two years later: most of the ships were separated by storm and presumed lost, and those that returned spoke of horrors beneath the waves. The Exarchs of Chal, appalled at the massive loss of life for no clear end, demanded reform; and to this day, crusades can only be called when the titular heads of the three faiths agree to call the banners.
For Hemah and Ilista, clergy may either join the priestly caste or the Faith Militant: magic use is restricted only to those who need to defend the faith. Priestesses of Ilista are more likely to be healers than warrior-priests, though Hemah’s clergy is equally distributed between the two. Exarchs of Chal make no distinction between the priestly caste and the Faith Militant, and their prayers are known to manifest as raw elemental power, simple healing or burning light; rumor has it that Chal employs assassins and shock troops the likes of which the world has never seen. Hemah’s Sacrifices claim to be able to raise the dead, though they regard this ritual as one of their faith’s greatest treasures and have never substantiated this claim by deed.
The crook and flail are sacred to Hemah, and the Faith Militant devoted to his worship are all at least familiar with their handling. Ilista’s priestesses often disdain weapons, preferring to trust to the magic gifted to them by their goddess. Chal’s priests are weapons, or at least so they claim.