Dungeons and Dragons setting part 9: Geography- Vizima

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The Grand Theocracy of Vizima- a grand theocracy dedicated to spreading the word of the Lord of Light. Zealous, God-fearing, and inflexible, the theocracy follows a strict socialist system, where all men are equal under the word of God. As such, the Clergy wields ultimate authority over the common folk, and while outwardly all people are equal, the Church wields absolute authority. Despite this glaring inequality, Vizima is also perhaps one of the more peaceful lands on the continent, free from many of the squabbles plaguing other nations. Few of its citizens go hungry or cold as the Church routinely distributes food and clothing from among its stores to feed the less fortunate among its populace, and the banditry and violence seen elsewhere are almost nonexistent, though the stranglehold of the Church and the blind devotion of the populace serves to root out troublemakers before they can become a greater issue. Each and every citizen is free to seek their fortune, as long as that fortune follows the teachings and worship of the Demiurge, the Lord of Light and God of Man. As can be inferred, other religions are not tolerated, the offending party often converted by their neighbors or identified by members of the Ordo Inquisitorum and shown the “error” of their ways. The Grand Theocracy is a land of safety, though not one of freedom. It is a blanket offered at the tip of a sword, safety in exchange for free will, unity in glorious worship.

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Nigh a scant few centuries ago, merely a blink in the eye of history, a grand flash of light was seen ‘cross the world. A flash of such brilliance, said to contain the rainbow of the Worldsoul, distilled into one moment. At the center of this flash, in one of the dozen tiny kingdoms in Vizima, was a man, a simple weaver, though in that moment he was made more. A conduit across time and space flowed through this simple man, and a god touched the world for the first time in millennia. What was once a person was now scourged away by the direct intervention of the divine, a mind and body stripped of imperfections and filth. Isanor, first prophet of the Demiurge, Servant to the Lord of Light, strode forth to speak the word of the new and bright God. Worship of the Demiurge spread like wild fire throughout the disparate kingdoms of that would one day become Vizima, the promise of Heaven in the Light and a sense of purpose galvanizing the common man. Seeking to take advantage of the draw among the peasantry, the nobility outwardly embraced this new religion, though behind closed doors, concern grew. At first thought of as another convenient way to control the unwashed masses, the powers that be quickly grew suspicious of the authority soon wielded by the Prophet. Though no overt threat had been against them, a fear began to take hold that this charlatan would galvanize the small folk and overthrow the aristocracy from their right and just rule. Foolishly, one of the nobility finally deigned to act, thinking to nip this problem in the bud, though they were far, far too late. Despite taking a small army of household soldiers, this act of aggression was met with ruthless fanaticism as the common folk rose up, butchering the Lord and his men. Lead by the prophet Isanor, this burgeoning religion soon became a tidal wave, leading the country into all out civil war. Or it would have, if not for Isanor himself. Counseling peace, the Prophet of the Demiurge proposed a meeting between himself and all of the Lords and Ladies of the fractured kingdoms of Vizima, seemingly hoping to reconcile with the nobility. However, when each aristocrat had taken their place, waiting to hear what it is the Chosen of the Lord of Light had to say, Isanor looked about and spoke one phrase, “no gods, no kings.” With this phrase, the Prophet unleashed the full force of the Demiurge’s power on the assembly, vaporizing each and every one, leaving naught but ash. In the cold silence, not even the physical body of the prophet remained, having been consumed by the divine power unleashed, thought to have ascended to the Bright Light of the Gaze of the Demiurge. One man remained, spared from the blast by divine providence. Matthias, the first Disciple of the Prophet was the only man to leave that meeting chamber to spread the word of the Lord of Light. Preaching of what he had seen and what the Prophet had dictated, the kingdoms of Vizima quickly fell in line, pledging fealty to the new church. No man would rule over another man, but all would be beholden to the Demiurge. Ordained as the High Luminary, the Pope of the Church of the Lord of Light, Matthias would go on to oversee the unification of Vizima under the rule of the Church

The Church of Light- the ruling class of Vizima, the Church of Light lays claim to all power within the nation, temporal and spiritual, and will brook no challengers. New priests are ordained by current members of the Preisthood, choosing, in theory, only the most devout and learned from among the lay folk to take the oaths of devotion to the Demiurge. In reality, wealth and influence play a far larger part in choosing a new priest, making it no surprise that new Priests are chosen from wealthy families, further increasing the sway and wealth of the Demiurge’s chosen. Regular tithes are paid to local Churches, “freely” donated by the lay folk of the region each individual church claims influence. Particularly wealthy areas often have lavish cathedrals, grand edifices built to bring glory to the Demiurge. The Arch-Cathedral in Lanternhome, the capital of Vizima, is the pinnacle of this religious fervor, a towering testament of glass and gold stretching to the heavens as the High Luminary them self preaches at the pulpit. With each passing day, the coffers of the Church swell with donations, to be paid out in order to spread the Word of Light across the breadth of the continent.

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Aggressive expansionism- The Church of Light is on a mission, to spread the Word of the Demiurge across the continent and bring all into its flock. The Church sends a message of inherent goodness, demanding its followers do not harm their fellows, that all are equal under the light. Worshippers are not to harm one another, and no one may hold themselves above another, rejecting the notion of “royalty.” Man must subject himself to no other rule than that of the divine might of the Demiurge, and those who would claim dominion over their fellows blaspheme before the Lord of Light and must be cast down. Those who do not count themselves as worshippers of the Demiurge must be made to see the Light, whether that be through missionaries or the works of the Ordo Penitent, the knights and crusaders of the Demiurge. Absolved of their sins by the High Luminary himself, the Ordo Penitent follows a divine mandate to go forth and slay the unbeliever, those who have committed the great sin of receiving the Word of the Lord of Light, but have spurned it. The mission of the Ordo Penitent is to force these foolish individuals to take penance with their lives, that they may be surrendered into the arms of the Demiurge in death. Armed well with relics of the faith and girded with the strength of their convictions, theirs is a righteous calling, the Ordo Penitent are the ones who will take the heavy weight of slaying their fellow man onto their souls, routinely scourging themselves and begging forgiveness for sins committed in sending souls to the Lord of Light. Assisting the Priests of the Ordo Penitent are otherworldly creatures, beings of Light sent directly from the munificent gaze of the Demiurge itself, called forth but rarely by the earnest prayers and summons of the Clerics and Hierophants of the Lord of Light. Great, terrible, and possessed of their own ineffable will, these “Angels” are only called forth but rarely, their actions in service to higher authority. Even those righteous among the Ordo Penitent tread lightly around the Angels, for they are still men, harboring hidden desires in their heart of hearts, as the Angels will brook no evil in their presence, purging those they perceive have fallen from the path of righteousness. More than one crusader, a momentary darkness fallen upon their thoughts, has found themselves “cleansed” by the Holy Flame of the Shining Ones. Thus far however, the Ordo Penitent has been stymied in their efforts to convert their foes in the pagan nation of Maltesa by the heretical chaos magics of the mages of Carpathia. Idle though, they have not been. With the mountain passes blocked off by the mists, the Crusaders of the Demiurge have turned their gaze north into the Bordermarches, forging alliances with Sigismund and Reginstad, eager to exploit the technologies of the Gnomes, though the Bishops and Clergy of the Ordo Penitent disagree on how the gnome sand their inventions should be treated. The Demiurge is a God of Man, and thus to glorify the Demiurge is to glorify to works of men. How then should one treat the works and sovereignty of the other races? While this question is debated within the upper echelons of the Church, the Crusaders abroad regard the gnomes warily, some perhaps too eager for any sign of resistance that would dash the alliance and allow the armies of Vizima to disregard any pretext and seize the lands and technologies of the gnomes for their own.

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Ordo Gnostica- while the Ordo Penitent may be the strong right arm of the Church of Light, then the Ordo Gnostica is the all Seeing Eye, unblinking and ever on watch for threats to the Church from within. Those who believers who would trun their face from the Light of the Demiurge may find Inquisitors from the Ordo Gnostica waiting in the shadows to drag them screaming back to the light. By the knife, the lash, or honeyed words, members of the Ordo Gnostica are one part spy, one part confessor, and one part police. While the most visible members of the Ordo Gnostica are the grey robed masked justices that patrol the cities and country side, the more skilled and higher ranked can be just about anyone. Ever on watch for signs of corruption, the Ordo Gnostica is equal parts zealous and paranoid, yet they are perhaps some of the greatest enemies of the Void Princes in Vizima. Caretakers of the Maleficarum Vault, the Librarian-Paladins of the Demiurge guard perhaps the greatest repository of knowledge on the Void and its denizens, jealously parceling out scraps and hints of the true, terrifying nature of the greatest foe to mankind, given reluctantly in hopes that ignorance of the vast power of the Demon Lords will slow the fall towards despair. To that end, the art and study of wizardry has been outlawed within the confines of the Grand Theocracy, both because to devote oneself to a power not granted by the Glories of the Lord of Light is blasphemous, but also because the powers of the arcane bend to the user, the tides of magic used to call up beings from the Dreaming Dark. Known well to the Witch Hunters of the Ordo Gnostica, in times past, agents of Dark Powers, recognizing the threat of a nation devoted to the Light, had called up Beasts from the Pit, intent on siccing these demons on the newly christened High Luminary and the High Clergy of the fledgling Theocracy. Fortunately thwarted, the first edict of the High Luminary would be to establish the Ordo Gnostica, that they would seek out the deepest darkness and bring light to it. By any means necessary.

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The Old Places- while the Grand Theocracy is a young nation, the land is old, as old as any other on the continent, with all its own secrets and forgotten places. Wooded places still hold ancient standing circles, sacred places to the gods of old that have yet to be put to the torch in the name of progress and faith, places where elder spirits yet walk, just beyond the edge of comprehension. Those villages and towns near these old places still practice a few of the old rights despite their faith in the demiurge. However, none of these places of old power quite captures the imagination like the catacombs beneath the street of Lanternhome. Despite, or perhaps because of its status as the most holy of cities in Vizima, the catacombs below are the dark places where none tread. Ever known in ancient times, the catacombs now serve as the burial ground for saints, in the hope that the holy remains of those most devoted servants to god will hold back the darkness that waits below, for the greater the light, the deeper the darkness. Watched over by elite tomb guards of the Ordo Gnostica, none are allowed to tread here but on order of the High Luminary themselves. Forbidden by edict in the early days of the theocracy, the order has been upheld by each subsequent High Luminary, following the wisdom of their forebears that only they are privy to. On rare occasion, a secret passage leading down may be unearthed, though quickly discovered and sealed by the Ordo Gnostica, the knowledge suppressed, yet the catacombs remain something of an open secret. The occasional rumor surfaces that some enterprising treasure hunter manages to find their way down, returning with ancient gold or esoteric treasure, but is quickly investigated and silenced by zealous witch-hunters. Despite eager work to keep the existence of the underworld of Lanterhome quiet, speculation as to its purpose and origin abound. Some say it is a prison for the old gods, placed their when the Demiurge can to power and now watched over by his servants. Others say it reaches deep into the earth, perhaps to the planets core wherein all manner of creature and monster lie. The learned, or the mad depending on the source, say instead the deep within the lightless labyrinth and the veins of the earth is a gateway to the abyss, to the Cell, the realm of the Skulking Prince in the Shadow of Night. Supposedly the Light of the Demiurge and Prayers of the devoted hold it down, suppressed, but should that faith falter, the dark below will spill forth to quench the light. The blasphemous say that the souls of the priests buried below are trapped as a sacrifice to keep the darkness satisfied, but that soon it will rise, demanding more. Supposedly, the High Luminary has given clearance to the Grand Master of the Ordo Gnostica, Hermann Von Goeth, to organize exhibitions into the catacombs to combat what lies below. The quiet call has gone out for mercenaries, whether that is because silence can be bought, or because of their disposable nature remains to be seen. Regardless, something waits in the dark below.

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