And Then The Bells Rang (Closed: Stevid)

Where nations come together and discuss matters of varying degrees of importance. [In character]
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Holy Marsh
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And Then The Bells Rang (Closed: Stevid)

Postby Holy Marsh » Sun Nov 03, 2019 4:06 pm

The Marshite Church was wary of most nations it met in terms of how worthy they were of their lofty positions in the global scene. Too many sacrificed themselves at the pillar of ideologies, a series of weak and often times bankrupt beliefs that could corrupt a healthy mind. All of them promised superior governance and better lives yet were often corrupted by those who sought power. Democracies were no better than communist states in this regard, nor were autocracies and monarchies. Of course one could find successful examples of such states. The Church didn't deny the power of the good and decent to turn any system into a success. It believes however that they succeeded in spite of their ideologies, not because of them. And it found the conflict between these ideologies to be at times baffling. Not because it didn't understand that those trapped within their walls believed these conflict to be well-founded, but because a Theocracy could easily understand all the ways in which their conflicts were pointless.

Indeed, while the Theocracy admired its friends and allies and supported their ways and means even if they found the processes and ideologies a tether to their success, it was only another Theocratic state that the Marshite Church could completely understand. A Theocratic state understood that the mortal philosophies inherent in the human condition were obstacles to greater understanding. To seek and be something greater; this was the mission of faith. It was the responsibility of a Theocracy to shepherd their followers through this mission, and reaching their final conclusion. This did not prevent a Theocracy from falling to sins of a lesser nature of course. The temptation of power came in seductive whispers, pulling the good and righteous one by one into the abyss of corruption. There was no nothing as baffling to Marshites as ideology, but there was nothing as tragic as fallen faiths used as cudgels in faux Theocracies.

It was hard to find a Theocracy that held true to its tenents but the Grand Theocratic Empire of the Holy Marsh was not alone in Greater Dienstad in holding their Faith so dearly. The Holy Empire of Stevid was old, its walls strong, its faith burning like a fire in the darkness. The Grand Theocracy did not have any particular issue with the Catholic faith. Indeed, Marshism held no subscription to the concept of punishment for disbelieving in it, nor in believing another faith. As long as one's actions were aligned with what the Holy Marsh desired, then they worked in Her name regardless of who they professed they followed. And Catholicism was a fine faith. Often misused and abused as it seeped into the modern world? Yes, but the faith itself was admirable. And thus a nation who followed such a faith justly was to be considered a friend.

Or at least it should have been. The Grand Theocracy had been embroiled in the Long War for two thousand years. It emerged from it with severely underdeveloped international relations. It joined the Bredubar Covenant with several of its friends as a means of stating its affection and intent to honor and protect several of its closest allies.
This apparently was a faux pas in some quarters. Stevid, for reasons that confused (and confuse) the Grand Theocracy, was one of a number of nations that stood opposed to the Covenant. All nations were imperfect- Stevid had once attacked AHSCA, one of the Grand Theocracy's dearest friends- but the future was theirs to be written. The Grand Theocracy was confused and alarmed, and it only got worse.

The Shift had a series of anomalous effects inside of the Holy Empire, the least of all was the standard feminization. This had created a serious threat of religious conflict between the followers of Marshism in the Holy Empire and the Church of Stevid. It was only when they fought side by side in the campaigns in RSU, and a pleasant meeting during a wedding that the two Theocracies started to put out the feelers for a meeting, a Synod as the Stevidians would come to call it, between the two to rectify some of the lingering issues between them. After some initial discussions, it was decided that the Synod would take place in the Embassy District of Mar'si, the capital of the Theocracy.


Mar'si, The Grand Theocratic Empire of the Holy Marsh

The plane containing the Mokastanians had been given priority, coming in quick over the capital that stretched seemingly endlessly over the mountains and forests in every direction. Colossal statues hundreds of feet high, maybe a thousand or more in some cases, stretched to eye level with the passengers as the plane descended rapidly towards the largest airport in the nation. The airport itself seemingly stretched on forever, several military airfields attached with helicopters in their dozens and cargo planes in pairs taking off on either side of the plane as it came in for a landing. It came in fast and hard, the sound of the tires screeching nearly deafening before it taxied, coming to a stop not next to the normal passenger terminal but a small, thin terminal to the side.

Normally the Inquisition and Militia would board for security screening, but the Stevidian aircraft had been given clearance. Two Militia members did stand on the side of the doors and as the delegation started to disembark they would escort them to the end of the terminal. It was deathly quiet except for the sound of loudspeakers in the main terminals praying and saying hymns in between local music. This terminal itself had little of that, even as it was decorated with more thoughts for the days and readings from scripture, though they were decidedly less violent than usual. “Love is the Currency of Society; Spend it freely and receive its benefits”. “Integrity is next to Godliness”. “All life is created equal, and all things equal are worthy of life”. “Put Your Faith in Me and Paradise in this Life and the Next!”. Of course this was all under a giant banner declaring, “For the Holy Marsh! Death to the Vile Lard!”. “Cultists Demand Death”. “Cultists are Unlife”. “Sacrifice before dishonor”. "Martyrdom is the Only True End".

At the end of this terminal was a large monorail, the doors open for them. A single figure stood aside the entrance, greeting the delegation as they boarded.
“Thought for the Day: Faith is a bulwark against the darkness. Action: Brighten the Shield, sharpen the Sword. I am Inquisitor Coscis Alaga. Welcome to Grand Theocracy, lasses and gents. Just need to get your security clearance all squared away. Please press your fingers against the screens as indicated here, we'll update it with the Church, and we can be on our way,” the Inquistor offered a small tablet to each member as they boarded. The Inquisitor took to his task, inputting the foreigner's names and confirming their information. Their fingerprints were automatically uploaded to every applicable scanner in the nation. After a few seconds it was done, the tablet being put away. Good. That would give them the access they'd need. Not that in the end it mattered.

The Inquisitor was pleased to see the monuments of change that the Shift constructed being looked past, so one could see the souls of nations. The flesh was always weak and always gave in to the temptations that softness offered. That was why most Inquisitors were so heavily scarred. You showed your devotion not through sheer piety but through terrible sacrifice in the face of true horror. Battle scarring and hobbling was part of the Inquisitor's MO. Having a body that showcased none of that was a little disconcerting, though being able to see a pair of non-mechanical arms for the first time in twenty years was a nice change of pace.

Aside from the delegation and the Inquistor, they were alone in this car of the train. Soon after they finished boarding it started up and from there rapidly picked up speed. Other cars filled up quickly.

Each car of the monorail had two MA-256M light machine guns emplaced pointing out of windows and a total of four boxes, two on either end of the car, contained BCRs. Under and over the seats were grenades and ammunition in easy to remove cases, clipped onto the ends of another. The monorail was three things- a civilian transport, a military transport, and in a pinch, an APC of significant scale. Of course, much of the transportation network could be called such. The city was a fortress with internal lines of communication and redundant lines of transportation.

Roads were on top of buildings- small single or double lane overpasses built going from the ground to many stories high, replacing the roofs of great sections of the city. Roads at the ground level were mammoth and chock full of traffic. Underneath those roads was a vast open highway open to only the military that ran above the subway system and sewers. Military vehicles popped out in their hundreds at various exits in the city. So large was the capital that smaller heliports capable of servicing a hundred or more helicopters at once found homes on top of the roofs of various neighbourhoods. All of this was crisscrossed by overwhelming numbers of pedestrian foot traffic as they went every which way. Just about every building save for churches, businesses, and military facilities were open to the public for foot traffic purposes, pedestrian traffic through apartment complexes was staggering in scope alone. Bunkers, artillery emplacements, hardpoints, and all manner of fortifications were present along every step.

Yet through this maddening scope and intensity of movement, there was a sublime beauty. It operated like a well-oiled machine. Traffic flowed in order and pedestrians obeyed en masse the laws of travel. The roads, moving parts, and scale of defense could not prevent the towering statues and beautiful, block size woks of art from blasting the city with grandeur and color. Wherever possible trees and other features of the nearby jungles could be found jutting into view, sometimes coming through apartments themselves thanks to the dedication of agricultural engineers. The architecture where it was not defensive was of Pushanian make and model, ancient designs five thousand years old and standing tall and strong amidst it all more common than not.

“So, how comes the delegation? I hope everything is going well in your homeland,” the Inquisitor asked awkwardly after a few minutes, not really quite good at making the small talk.

“Last stop: Shrine District. Thought for the day: Holiness internally is only as powerful as displays of faith externally,” the conductor said before the Inquisitor led the foreigners out.

“We walk now. There is only foot traffic through the Shrine District,” The Inquisitor explained as they started walking./ In the far distance the First Cathedral could be seen, the seat of of the Theocracy. Built into the side of a mountain it looked truly ancient and extraordinarily tall. Before then there were hundreds of religious buildings devoted to the various Shrines. Some were the main Churches of the Shrines themselves, holding mass seemingly all the times. Others were museums of relics, one after another, each multi-story, multi-block large facilities.

The most omnipresent item, however, were statues. Some were a mere six inches talls. Others were almost a thousand feet high, but no matter the height, all were highly detailed sculpts of famous heroes. The larger the statue, the more heroic or legendary the deeds. The small ones may be soldiers who earned the Theocracy's highest decoration in battle. The largest were famous generals or saints who had changed the course of the Long War. Artisans could be seen on more than a few of them, constantly touching the statues up. Many had existed for thousands of years and would continue to exist for thousands more, so it behooved them to keep it all in good shape.

“Should only be about another half hour.”

The walk continued for about half an hour, the foot traffic getting heavier and heavier. The Shrines grew larger and more elaborate, until they became pyramid ziggurats that started deep underground and ended hundreds of stories in the sky, with banners the size of office buildings fluttering gently in the harsh winds that started to tear through the district. Booming voices intermingled in the center as dozens of sermons went on at the same time, tens of thousands cloistered into any single Shrine to hear their Shrine's holy words of the day. Rituals went on, which stretched from simple prayers to unrestricted naked dancing- there was almost as much variation within the Marshite faith as there was to be found in all outside religion. The Non-Human Shrine with a twenty story statue of a neko in full platemail holding the head of a Cult President of Ceremonies, around her feet cloistered a thousand smaller statues of similarly clad neko warriors, would be of particular interest to Fontaine.

No matter, they were soon in front of the First Cathedral. It stood taller than all others, no doubt aided by the mountain that was its home. Along the ridges of the mountain it stretched out horizontally, rows of figures standing multiple stories tall pointing to the top of the Cathedral. At the very top, above the cloudy wisps that made home there, was a single figure. This was far more modern. It was a mix of hard-steel construction and an advanced mimetic hologram: You saw what you believed the Holy Marsh to be. Some would see a woman. Others a man. Some a pony. Others a neko. A benevolent God of Science or Fertility- or an armor clad God of War or bloody God of Justice. You could see it looking down on the people as a shepherd to sheep, or you could spy the eyes looking above for a higher power. It was varying as was the Faith, and it was the only such design on earth.


In time, they pushed past the Shrines and the First Cathedral, moving aside the mountain that occupied the central nature of it all. They soon found increasing non-foot traffic, the end of the statues, and finally vehicles. The delegation would be met by a small fleet of town cars and limousines, and were greeted once inside by local foods- mostly light soups and salads in the stabilized vehicles. They would be driven in a less hectic part of the city, the Embassy District. Home to an assortment of embassies and consulates of nation that were friendly to the Theocracy, it also hosted several large structures where those who did not have such contact with the Grand Theocracy could conduct affairs. Today was one such time, and the entire first floor of the Saint Sard'Sasha Complex had been given over to the Synod between the two Churches. The complex was adorned with religious banners and sayings, while hymns in Pushanian played as the delegation arrived. Statues of the Saint that the complex had been named after- a fiery jungle tribeswoman wielding a semi-mythical blade of fire- lined the hallways, and the rooms were named after important stories of the Third Scripture, the Scripture that contained the life and times of Saint Sard'Sasha.

The main meeting room was called, "When the Shadows Depart". Upon entering, the foreign delegation was greeted by seven Marshites who bowed in unison, standing next to their chairs.

"Welcome, brothers and sisters,"
spoke the one in the middle, whose voice spoke with a calm authority, "I am Sabastian Trudcan, Second-Claw of the Non-Human Shrine. I have been elected by the Arch-Bishop Herself, Honored be her Position, to be the main representative of the Grand Theocracy in these proceedings. I am joined by Stan Reijas, Praetor Secundus of the Warrior Shrine. Also in attendance is Cerisa Alahana, Cardinal of the Female Shrine, leader of the Council, as well as four members of the Inquisition. Please, take a seat. It is an honor to meet you all."
Holy Marsh is ranked 1st in Nova (Greysteel) and 571st (477th) in the world for Largest Defense Forces.
Holy Marsh is ranked 2,723rd in the world and 1st in Greater Dienstad for Most Inclusive.
The Shift: An Update on Holy Marsh
" exercise in sadomasochistic futility," - Engaging in warfare against the Union

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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Stevid » Wed Nov 06, 2019 3:20 am

“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them I also must bring,
and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd”. – John 10:16

When compared to most Christian countries, the Holy Empire was extreme. To the uneducated, the unrelenting zeal of the institution that was bizarrely entwined with a democracy and near blind faith of the masses was an anathema. In truth, the Holy Empire did indeed exhibit these traits and did little to hide them, for it was nought but its national character. But to the keen observer, Catholicism was much more than this oppressive, regressive stain on what would otherwise be a modern functioning nation-state. Faith defined Stevid, but the faith was defined by the people – and the people were hard-nosed and hardworking. The ethics of Stevidians demanded that they earn their place in the world and create their own destinies in spite of the trials and tribulations of the world. This ethic was known as Stevidian Resolve and was practically sacrosanct. It was a unifying force that all imperial subjects could identify with, and it transcended blind loyalty to the state to the point it was almost spiritual in and of itself. However, one other key tenant of this ethos was selflessness; in that it was necessary to accomplish all you could in life, have a goal and bring prosperity into one’s life but for a greater good. But not just the state, which could be corruptible – it to be for something pure. The only thing pure in the mortal realms of men was the belief in the purest thing of all: Christ and His domain.
The Catholic Church in Stevid shifted its dogmatic position to account for this national mood. All national Catholic Churches have their own nuances and minor deviations from Vatican doctrine, and Stevid was no different. But so long as adherence to the seven sacraments was observed and a broad following to true dogma pursued, the Stevidian Catholic Church avoided being labelled as heretical. Having said that, the Church had now seeped into the public consciousness so much over the centuries that the idea of faith and Stevidian Resolve was one in the same – now immortalised in the words of the national anthem, “For God, Empire, for the King and Country.” Devotion to work or duty in that order. Always for God, all other concerns were secondary. The Empire would out live the King, but the King embodied the country that formed part of the Empire. But all were second before God.
However, this proved it was not blind faith; on the contrary, it gave life and even faith a true meaning. To live one’s life as if God exists is exemplary, but to execute one’s duty in the name of God meant that ill or evil acts were truly reprehensible – unless justified, of course. For who would dare believe in God? A wrathful entity capable of damning a soul to infinite perdition – who would still act ill in the face of that? It did occur among those less inclined to hold true to faith, but for most others it naturally caused lower crime rates in Stevid.

This made Stevid almost unique. Almost. Stevid was not the only Theocracy in Greater Dienstad. Holy Marsh was a kindred spirit in this regard. Whilst Stevid was not a Theocracy in the truest sense (that accolade fell straight to the Marshites), it was a nation where the moral guiding principles of Catholicism permeated society. Democracy was the political guiding force and the voice of the people. Christianity was the peoples’ conscience, and the Church their guide to eternal salvation.
It was hard to deny the similarities between Stevidian Christianity and Marshism in terms of ethics, if not literature. The Catholic Church in Stevid abhorred heresy, vilified apostates, and distrusted pagans. However, the fact it did not persecute the latter two was anomaly for a church so rigid in practice and believe. The Catholic Church in Stevid had its own identity crisis that was seldom seen, where radicals were in abundance but constantly at odds with the moderates. The radicals usually took the form of the religious orders within Stevid, the Inquisition, Templars, the Arbiters and many of Holy Office judges and Lord Inquisitors. The moderates tended to be your common priests or bishops who usually wielded less political or judicial power, and so tended be more contrite and humble.

The similarities between Marshism and Catholicism ended with their likeminded devotions towards a common religious virtue. To many in the Stevidian Catholic Church, moderate and radical alike, this was enough to cement some sort of relationship. The two nations had fought relatively closely in Krasnova, had not fought during the Great Dienstadi War, and had informal discussions a Mokan wedding when the King had spoken to Marshite representatives there. The initial framework was seemingly in place, albeit accidental, for more formal relations between the two states – but instead of the political side of the Empire extending an olive branch, it would be the Church.

There was much disquiet regarding the meeting. Radicals and even moderates distrusted Marshism due in no small part to the Shift. This ‘accident’ that had led to animorphism and blending of genders was seen by many as disgusting and abominable, where only a stake and fire could absolve the afflicted of this natural sin. However, it was a rare case of political will that kept the religious half of the state in check, whereby religious persecution outside of the current legal and tax framework of the state was still illegal; the Holy Office could only rule against Christians, to its continued disappointment. Followers of Marshism were bound by few remaining secular courts in Stevid. Whilst Christianity heavily influenced the secular law, Marshites were not persecuted directly for worshiping the Holy Marsh. This was an incredibly important distinction, one that allowed the practice of Marshism in Stevid and preventing the killing of those affected by the Shift. This did not stop social stigmatisation, and the outright revulsion many in the Church had for these creatures and their ‘talents’.

The Shift in Stevid was similar to that seen in the nation of Monavia and a few others. Animorphism and knowledge of it had been a state secret in Stevid until the shift. During the last war between Holy Empire and Kanami, Stevid had invaded several islands during the conflict; these islands were to become archipelago paradise nation of ASHCA. On one of these islands, Templar Knights had kidnapped a creature sporting feline characteristics blended with human physiology. The creature was extracted back to Stevid for experimentation. Evidence uncovered the uniqueness of the being, having invulnerability to Varatheon Blood Fever and the engineered R-Virus (or reanimation virus). In time, the state and church realised she, or perhaps he, had been a product of the Shift. Much was still unknown about that one particular case, but when the Shift occurred among many Marshites in Stevid, it become impossible to hide this abnormality from the public.
A further abnormality became known not long after. Those who had undergone the Shift found themselves with a strange ‘Gift’, an ability to commune with or to an alternate pane of reality with further talents of being able to converse with people at a basic level but without speech. It had only been observed a handful of times with each individual exhibiting different degrees of potency with the Gift. The Church had clamped down on this mutation quickly and ruthlessly. Witchcraft was still illegal within Stevid and communing with otherworldly spirits and reading minds certainly the actus reus of witchcraft. Worse still for the Church, those who used their gift frequently found that their physical appearance altered too, from exhibiting feline features to almost losing most of their human biological traits. Presently, Stevid was on the cusp of declaring creatures who were affected by the Shift as witches and would prosecute as such. Only moderates and leading political figures in parliament had prevented the Inquisitorial Hereticus branch declaring a witch-hunt and bringing the Holy Empire to a state of moral panic.

Moderates and likeminded inquisitors saw a grand meeting between the Catholic Church and Holy Marsh has not just a natural consequence previous good will overtures, but a necessity. The inquisition already wielded too much power, and that was unlikely to change. The Church had to curb its growth, for the inquisition was technically beyond reproach. One way of doing that would be a guarantee of rights for Marshites in Stevid and the wider Holy Empire. Marshism was the most controversial and frightening religion in Stevid, as such it was reasonable to believe the inquisition would use the existence of it to exercise its power, and petition for more, to bring about the eradication of Marshism – something that was bound to anger the Holy Marsh to war. Little could be done about the Shift or the Gift that came with it, nor the social stigma that came with it. Law could curb its use and or exhibition of it, the inquisition would go to the nth degree to persecute, but an affirmation of religious rights and existence of Marshism in Stevid was paramount.

Initial discussion between Stevid and the Grand Theocracy had been fruitful. The Holy Empire had been blunt; it could guarantee the legal rights of the followers of Marshism in Stevid, including those who had undergone the Shift. However, it could not allow the use of their Gifts outside religious practices to avoid moral panic. Stevid could not guarantee the safety of those practising the faith overtly when faced with the public socially stigmatising them. No one in the Stevidian Catholic Church really wanted to give Marshism the autonomy it would eventually get, but the church feared the inquisition more than few tens of thousands of animorphed Marshites that worked as hard as any ordinary Stevidian. It did mean tax breaks and less pressure from the Holy Office and further rights to worship, which was more than enough for the Grand Theocracy. The agreement for a sort of Synod was made and that it would be hosted Mar’si.

* * * * *

“There is no Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female,
for you are all one in Jesus Christ.”
– Galatians 3:28

Cathedral of Saint Malleus
Stevidian Wastelands

The monolithic edifice of faith made of granite, black basalt and sandstone was as terrifying as it was beautiful. This huge cathedral was easily the biggest in the region and reputed to be the largest in the world. It practically wrapped around Mount Malleus, the semi-active volcano on which it sat, aside for a small section on the east side where infrequent (as in every hundred years or so) lava flows cascaded down. The many towers climbed unbelievably high, each with their own ornately decorated facades depicting the angels and saints of all Christendom. Most of the cathedral was interconnected by way of tunnels, internal building corridors or flying buttress bridges, and so one could circumnavigate the mountain without actually leaving the cathedral. The most ostentatious of these was the quadruple tower west entrance to the cathedral itself. In truth, it had many entrances that were just as splendid, but the largest and eye catching was the west entrance. The four towers were spread evenly between each other over a hundred-metre spacing. The outermost two towers were hundred metres tall and the innermost two a hundred and twenty. Sat beneath the towers was a massive double oak door almost twenty metres tall set within cascading archway adorned with hundreds of skulls, each with a chiselled scroll underneath the jaw with a name inscribed upon it – the meaning and relevance of the names lost to time. Behind the towers and stretching up the mountain and around it were other towers, dozens of them, in various sizes and heights. Scattered around them were huge spires, each adorned with gargoyles, cherubim and seraphim. Crisscrossing between adjourning naves, ambulatories and apses were tens of thousands of multi-levelled flying buttresses, supporting the monolithic empty spaces within. What could not be seen was the network of cavernous corridors and vestiaries that snaked into the mountain. These were home to many of the religious orders within Stevid, predominantly the Knights Templar, whose entire chapter resided here. In truth, the cathedral was more an amalgamation of churches than a cathedral in the truest sense – though it was built as one. Each sept was named after a saint or biblical figure and had its own regular attendees and religious employers to administer it.

One such part of St Malleus was the Quintus Basilica, easily one of the largest elements of the above ground section of the cathedral’s north side. It was truly huge with the transept crossing seventy metres squared alone, with the nave walls flying almost a hundred into the air. At two intervals were massive arched stained glass windows leading up to a rib-vaulted granite sandstone roof. Decorated on each pillar, between the nave and aisles, were the saints of heaven with gargoyles and splaying out every ten metres.

A chanting of the Rosary was in session within the choir of the basilica. The pews were largely empty as other business pulled people away from prayer; but among those knelt was Lord Inquisitor Elizabeth Eislehart. She was plainly dressed for an inquisitor, though still in a semi-formal black corset, a long black skirt with few frills, a long black as night cloak and cowl, tight noir trousers and heavy-duty boots. Around her neck – draped over the shoulders – was a heavy looking golden chain, encrusted with large red and blue glass faux-jewels. From the neck down, dangled more links with a large stylised letter ‘I’ with a skull superimposed upon it that was the badge of office for the Inquisition, which was level with her sternum. Below that, above the top of her heart, was a gold plated and jewel encrusted crucifix.
Clouds of incense wafting from a censor swung by a deacon stung her nostrils as she tried to concentrate. This was all part of her daily morning routine, and having done the tedious mantra thousands of times she found it hard to be as true to the words whispered as she used to be. Regardless, she finished along with everyone else. Eislehart genuflected towards the tabernacle, where the holy Eucharist was stored, and turn to leave. A menial, a crudely dressed man who wore practically nothing but a cloth garb, approached her as she crossed under the transept.

“His Will, my Lord. His Eminence, the Bishop of Malleus, humbly requests a moment of your time.”

The man, short and hunched over in submission, did not dain to make eye contact with Eislehart. She practically ignored him, but the man beckoned with a half-outstretched arm to a corner pillar of the transept. Stood in dim the multi-coloured light filtering in through the stained glass windows high above stood the Bishop of the entire cathedral. He was alone and dressed plainly in a casual dark purple and black vestment. He nodded and Eislehart walked towards him.

“Go in His grace, Lord.” The hunched man croaked.

“In His grace.” Replied Eislehart, the only sign she had even acknowledged his existence.

Eislehart approached the Bishop; her boots clapping dully against the tiled black and white floor laid in the shape of an intricate labyrinth. When she reached the bishop, she bowed and lowered to one knee.

“The Lord be you, child”. The Bishop said placing a hand on her shoulder.

“And with your spirit.” She replied, not one looking up.

“Rise, Lord Inquisitor.”

She did as beckoned. It was a sign of the true reverence Stevidians held towards the clergy. Lord Inquisitor Eislehart held unprecedented power. She could commandeer battleships, dictate to politicians, conduct criminal investigations upon whole towns and villages on the grounds of heresy, and even put said guilty heretics to death in extreme circumstances. Yet this frail looking seventy-something old man commanded her complete obedience and respect.

“Bishop De Bremoy, to what do I owe the pleasure?”

“That depends on how you take the news, Elizabeth. Come, walk with me.” He turned and headed towards the basilica's narthex. “Lowland has contacted us directly. There have been overtures from Holy Marsh. Delegates of the Church at Lowland and Parliament have concluded that a cultural exchange with the Marshites is in the best interest of the Empire. We are to arrange a delegation to attend this synod within Holy Marsh in the city of Mar’si.”

Eislehart scowled, half with bemusement and half with revulsion. “We are to deal with pagans, Eminence?”

“Of course! We share this world with them like everyone else. Besides, you’ve dealt with the Morrdianes.”

“Somewhat different, Eminence.”
Eislehart said shaking her head in frustration. “They’re barely pagan, their Gods form part of their national heritage. Marshism is vibrant and alive. They are a threat to Church.”

“As the Church is a threat to them?”

“Christianity would never take root there. They disowned the Lord in favour of Marshism; their ways are corruptible, in both mind and flesh.”

Walking abreast, de Bremoy looked at her with raised eyebrows. “It saddens me you think so little of these people. They are true to their beliefs; they share our zeal, if not our God. Commendable traits, I’m sure you would agree. You’ve chastised villages for less.”

“It is my job to enforce the faith and ensure the teachings of the Lord are correctly followed. My presence in Holy Marsh would be to the detriment of what you are trying to achieve there.”

“I haven’t said you are coming, yet.”
De Bremoy said ruefully with a smile.

“I cannot fathom any other reason why you would a request an audience with me this early in the morn with this the subject, Eminence.” Eislehart said, her gaze fixed forward and her cloak fluttering behind her kicking up wisps of incense. “If you want to use this as an excuse to spread the faith to the Marshites you should bring a Templar…. and several million soldiers.”

Though Eislehart’s tone was serious, the bishop laughed heartily. “Elizabeth… I said this is cultural exchange – maybe more. Hopefully more. We are to learn of each other. Mend ties, build bridges. We need to understand each other. The oft quoted ‘love thy neighbour’ is ever a truism, even if overused and seldom acted on. We share common values. It is that which shall bind us. There are many things regarding Marshism that we simply do not understand, nor want to. That is our greatest flaw.”

“One should always beware the foreigner, the mutant, the heretic. They are foreign, those who have undergone the Shift are mutants, and while not heretics they are most certainly infidels.”

“Being an infidel is not a sin, Lord Inquisitor.”
Said Bishop de Bremoy, the use of Eislehart’s rank keeping her rising tone in check. “One can find beauty in the virtue of one’s acts. Stevidian followers of Marshism are hard workers and good servants to the Empire. The burden they carry for not being Christian in Stevid is a testament to their faith, all the more so for Marshism not being of Abrahamic descent.”

They exited via a portal door situated in one of the aisles into a wide corridor, lined with arched windows and intricate rib vaulting, despite only being seven or eight foot high. Upon looking out of the window one could see that Eislehart and de Bremoy were over twenty stories above the ground, suspended by a flying buttress bridge that led to an adjacent section of the cathedral situated on the sheer cliff face of the mountain. They passed two Templars, fully armoured and helmed carrying their iconic broadswords upon their back. They both stood aside to attention for bishop and inquisitor alike. They bowed their heads and placed their right fist against their chests in salute. Neither Eislehart nor the bishop acknowledged them. The duo crossed into a small building, a sort of sacristy that had large exits to overhanging balconies that looked out onto the bleak and desolate landscape of the Stevidian Wastelands. Towards the rear of this wide hall, towards the mountain was a portal door to a wide stairwell that was one of hundreds of entrances into the labyrinth of passages and halls deep into the mountain – beyond which lay the Chapter House and barracks of the Stevidian Order of the Knights Templar.

“I’m due a meeting with the Grand Master.” De Bremoy said. “He will not be attending Holy Marsh, but will be sending a delegation. As will you, except you shall be in attendance with me.”

“Deus vult.” Eislehart stated grimly.

“Actually, it is Cardinal Houston's.” De Bremoy replied.

There was a look of surprise on Eislehart’s face. The Cardinal was the highest clergyman of the Catholic faith in Stevid and also the Deputy Prime Minister. The highest authority of the Church in Stevid typically held the ministerial position as per tradition, and due to the fact that the sitting Upper House of parliament was exclusive to clergy. The Cardinal was softly spoken and generally regarded as wise, but he views on the faith’s influence upon Stevidian society were seen as extreme. Eislehart idolised the man. His zeal was something to aspire to and took great satisfaction in passing the Lord’s judgement in his mortal name, knowing that the Cardinal had God’s favour. She did not see him as a prophet, but certainly a shepherd, and probably a future saint one day. So that the Cardinal had given his blessing for this synod shocked her.

“Yes.” De Bremoy said dryly. “I was as surprised as you. But it seems he sees God’s virtue in those people, and wishes us to share within his love of them.”

Eislehart stood silent and still, coldly regarding the bishop. De Bremoy turned to face the Lord Inquisitor, a thin smile on his face.

“I dare even you, Lord Inquisitor, to challenge the path set before us.”

Eislehart’s nose twitched, but that was the only sign she harboured resignations to the idea, now knowing it was sanctioned by the Cardinal himself.

“I would still like to see official orders, Eminence.”

“You will… I knew you were no heretic.”
De Bremoy said sarcastically, but then Eislehart discovered herself again – for the realms of judging heretics and malcontents was her domain, not the bishop’s.

“You forget yourself… Bishop…” She threatened, her plain pale and rosy complexion looking sinister all of a sudden. De Bremoy turned away and made for the portal way to the chapter house without jibing at Eislehart further, seemingly aware that he was treading the vague but very real line between church and inquisition.

“We leave in one week, Elizabeth. Prepare your retinue and get your affairs in order. Go in God's grace.”

The bishop shuffled away, hobbling down the stairs into the dimly lit caverns beyond leaving Eislehart rooted to the spot.

"In His grace..." She seethed.

* * * * *

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty you gave me drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
– Matthew 25:35

Holy Marsh

The plane from the Holy Empire landed in Mar’si with a total of forty delegates from the Catholic Church in Stevid. Among them sat Eislehart. She had given over to the wisdom of the church and begrudgingly agreed to attend, though she had no real choice despite her rank. At thirty-eight years old, she was extremely youthful looking but had had a fast-paced career, and was now the youngest Lord Inquisitor in the Empire. It had come from being an orphan in one of the more radical sisterhoods of Stevid – the Order of the Sacred Crown. Indoctrination had started young and she had been a rising star; dutiful, pious, and zealous in every action. She shunned companionship, especially men, and by the age of twelve had given herself over completely to Christ. By sixteen she had been inducted into the inquisition as an acolyte to the venerable and feared Inquisitor Nero Gelineau, who had taken a special interest in her talents – namely her uncanny ability to sense lies, and her seductive looks that opened more dark alley doors and loosed lips than any inquisitorial seal ever would.
By twenty-two, she had completed the Rite of Ascension into the Inquisition and had become the youngest official ever inducted. Her career had gone from strength to strength, finally culminating to the present day as judge in the Courts of the Holy Offices with the rank of Lord Inquisitor.
With the rank came responsibilities in the form of people, fellow inquisitors, Arbiters (Holy court police), acolytes and inquisitorial menials. With her on the journey was one inquisitor, Arcanus Lanate, two acolytes and three menials acting as clerical and admin staff. Travelling with her was, of course, Bishop de Bremoy who was heading the delegation; together with dozens of priests, deacons and church menial staff.

It was hard for Eislehart not to marvel at this foreign city. Whilst Marshism was alien to her, she could instantly appreciate the massive statues, neigh edifices that jutted from the ground in honour of the figures of Marshism. Stevid Capita had its fair share, albeit not as many due to the city planning, such as St George at within Coelum Square at the end of Via Angelus, or the colossal three hundred metre tall multi-directional cross. Like Capita, the city was multi-tiered, with whole city sectors build upon one another with elevated intersections – though not as high it seemed.

The delegation exited the aircraft into the arrivals terminal, the only overt escort brought along in the guise of two armoured and helmed Templars, their broadswords sheathed to their backs. However, the trust placed in the Marshites was extreme, no other soldiers or security, bar the inquisitors, were present among the Stevidians, and none carried firearms. Eislehart carried her own personalised variant of the Templar broadsword, earned from the Chapter as a gift following military action in Stevidian South Greal against Imbrinium. In a life of humble piety, Eislehart allowed this sword to be one of few trinkets of pride in her life. She bore it well, and knew only too well how to use it.
The walk through the terminal was uneventful, though the religious iconography was far more apparent than in Capita Gateway airport. The incessant ‘Thought’s of the Day’ may have annoyed the cynical atheist, but Eislehart found herself enjoying these little anecdotes of wisdom. She found herself more drawn to the darker aspects of Marshism, “Cultists are Unlife”. “Sacrifice before dishonour”. "Martyrdom is the Only True End". Perhaps the Bishop de Bremoy was right, there was a shared value between the two faiths.

At the monorail, the introduction of Inquisitor Coscis Alaga piqued Eislehart’s interest further – perhaps someone she could identify with. In fact, the resemblance to her, or him – the issue on sex in Holy Marsh still perplexed Eislehart- was striking, even their dress was similar. But Eislehart grounded herself, Alaga was infideles extremis – Inquisitors enforced and protected the faith. Alaga may have shared the same virtues as Eislehart, but not the same theological ideals. Eislehart's unease and sense of cautiousness compounded further with the biometric enrolment. But she relented, Stevidian inquisitors underwent strict body modifications to remove prints and then apply false ones when conducting operations – like today.
During the journey on the monorail, Eislehart found herself close to this Inquisitor Alaga, both looking out at the city beyond. The most striking thing about it to Eislehart was its beauty. Stevid Capita lacked a sense of aesthetic beyond the overly gothic beautification of sandstone and concrete most buildings exhibited, or the neo-classic art deco oppressive monstrosities that were government buildings. The capital had its own towering beauty, in which almost every building looked like a cathedral, castle, or a courthouse – or a maddening amalgamation of all three. But it gave the city a very palpable grim vibe. Mar’si had a distinct elegance that Capita lacked.

Alaga shifted awkwardly and spoke, “So, how comes the delegation? I hope everything is going well in your homeland?”

“You need not fill these silences, Inquisitor.” Eislehart sighed coldly, not meeting Alaga’s gaze. A few seconds passed and Eislehart regretted her curtness, though only because she could practically feel De Bremoy’s chastising stare on her like a spider. A disgruntled bishop was the last thing she needed.

“My apologies, Inquisitor Alaga. Your kind disturb me and I am not here willingly. However, the Lord has set me on a path, and I will do it no justice by besmirching your hospitality – I thank you for letting us into your country despite our ecumenical differences.”

She continued, more contrite - forced though it was. It was apparent neither inquisitor was adept and small talk in these situations. “My name is Lord Inquisitor Eislehart of the Holy Office, Hereticus branch. The Holy Empire prospers, inquisitor, as does all of Christ’s realms in spite of trials and tribulations. It is easy to note that Christ appears largely absent in the Grand Theocracy – does your country thrive nonetheless?”

* * * * *

“Omnes enim peccaverunt et egent gloriam Dei.”
- Romans 3:23

Saint Sard'Sasha Complex
Embassy District

Quietly, Eislehart found herself repulsed by the Neko statues. The objectification and acceptance of the Shift’s ‘gifts’ was so abhorrent to her it became difficult to keep her feelings in check. She had never liked the fact these Neko’s had some legal status in Stevid, in that the church could not prosecute as a crime against the Lord’s nature – otherwise known as gross mutation. They were protected by practically ancient rite that they were free to practise their religion and the Shift was fundamental to it. She had banned many from trespassing whole swathes of the country in the past, but never sentenced any directly. However, she called upon every ounce of self-discipline and restraint to keep her from saying something she would regret. She focused on what she could relate to, and it calmed her. In fact, the Marshite dedication to faith almost delighted her. If these people were Christian, she would have raised them up as exemplars to the faith that every community should aspire to be like - and judged accordingly.
The delegation arrived at the Saint Sard'Sasha Complex within the embassy district where the synod would take place. Throughout the arrival, there had been little fanfare and the Stevidians gave no outward display of faith, as a mark of respect. They were guests and so would not spread the message of God deliberately. Now it was different, as they had reached their destination. Towards the rear of the party, menials had been softly chanting and praying, swinging censors of incense. In the middle of the congregation was a menial tolling a dull bell at predetermined intervals. Now they moved to the front of the party that had formed in three file ranks with Bishop De Bremoy at the head with to incense wielding menials. In front of him was another with a huge leather bound bible strapped to his back, open for the Bishop to read. Not that he needed it, but the book was holy and its significance unquestionable. The congregation of clergy and religious officers climbed the steps to the Saint Sard'Sasha amidst distinct hymnals of Marshism. Inside and down the entrance hall, the dancing statues greeted them but none looked up – their heads bowed in prayer as they chanted a rejoinder hymnal to that of the Marshites and in a slow rhythm with the menial’s bell. “Confiteor Deo omnipotenti. Beatae Mariae, semper vigini. Beato Michaeli archangelo, sanctis aposotolis, omnibus sanctis.”
Once in the meeting room, most of the delegation left leaving only clergy, the inquisitors and a few menial scribes to discuss matters with representatives of the Grand Theocracy. Once Sabastian Trudcan had made the introduction, Bishop De Bremoy began his.

“The Lord be with you.” He started, to whispered echoes of ‘and in your spirit’ from the other Stevidians. “Friends of the Holy Marsh, I am Bishop De Bremoy of the Catholic Church in Stevid. Bishop to the Malleus diocese and Vice-Dean to Saint Malleus Cathedral. I thank you for your gracious offer to host this synod and your wonderful hospitality.”

They all took their seats and De Bremoy continued quickly. “I’m not sure how long all of this will take, but regardless, I have with me half a dozen menials, inquisitorial acolytes and canon staff not in attendance to this meeting. It would be most kind if perhaps they were given a tour of some of the more poignant religious landmarks or vistas in the city to better my understanding of Marshism when they report to me later. Now, please let me introduce some of my key advisors…”

One by one, they stood up in turn when introduced. Deacon Phillips, Father Perfitt, Inquisitors Lanate and Demos, and finally Lord Inquisitor Eislehart – still as cold and hard-nosed as ever, but quietly impressed at her surroundings.

“I’m not sure quite where to begin.” De Bremoy said uncomfortably. “I trust there is a formal agenda. However, regardless of our discussions here I am sure our informal chats outside of here will be most beneficial for our cultural exchange. No matter what we agree here today, be it parity of rights to Marshism in the Holy Empire or the legal classification of the effects of the Shift, the cultural exchange and betterment of relations this meeting should bring will be momentous.”
Last edited by Stevid on Wed Nov 06, 2019 7:28 am, edited 5 times in total.

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Postby Holy Marsh » Sun Nov 10, 2019 7:13 pm

Holy Marsh

Inquisitor Alaga internally sighed a breath of relief. He was no great fan of speaking with foreigners, who often lacked the necessary knowledge to truly interact with the faithful, let alone an Inquisitor. If he put the blame on others in any case. In the honesty of his solitude he would more likely realize the issue with him. He was used to the Ten Methods of Interrogating the Soul and leading raids on the houses of heresy. He often wondered why he was selected to escort foreigners on their way to a major meeting with Church officials. Maybe it was specifically because he was poor at small talk and had a distaste of it. They didn't want one to lose track entirely of why he was there and get too involved with the guests he was escorting. If that was the intent then it was a success. Luckily, the Stevidian Lord-Inquisitor was not one for small talk as well. This was acceptable. Not that he would be silent in response to her, of course.

"Apologies are not needed, Lord-Inquisitor Eislehart. I was merely attempting to be polite. I am not well qualified in the art of small talk nor am I much a fan of it. In any case, you are most welcome. I am always pleased to invite those from other nations to visit the Grand Theocracy, regardless of the conflict of belief," He smiled honestly. He may not think that they had much to talk about but that didn't mean he didn't think there wasn't a lot to think about. "As to your question, we have thrived for five thousand years without the teachings of the Mahāna Christ. Marshism is eternal in its grandeur and wisdom, its breadth and strength. The followers of the Mahāna Christ only number in the low millions here but rest well knowing we find great value and honour in the teachings of your Lord. Certainly more than in the teachings of many other so-called saviours and messiahs."

Saint Sard'Sasha Complex
Embassy District

The Marshites bowed their heads respectfully while the Stevidian delegation took part in their religious rites. The Marshite faith well understood and respected the rites of others. Them being wrong wasn't the same as them being heretics or unworthy of respect, after all. The Bishop started off with some kind words and after all introductions were finished, Sabastian started himself.
"Welcome, Honored Bishop of the Sacī Caraca of the Mahāna Christ. I also believe that no matter what else is accomplished today, we will at the very least have done a great service by breaching the gap between our two faiths in understanding. Regardless of our doctrinal disagreements and philosophies, we understand the importance of faith and religion as the beating heart of a righteous society and as the guiding principle of a just soul. May your Mahāna Christ be a just guiding principle for your people," Sabastian began, with nods of agreement flanking him. "Other members of your delegation at most welcome to tour important sites of the Theocracy. I shall summon guides for them after we move past our initial business," Sabastian added excitedly, mousing over a few buttons on his side of the table. The request was sent. They would arrive. Now onto business.

"We shall start simply. In the Grand Theocracy, membership of the Church is required for full citizenship. Other faiths are fully allowed their ways and means of worship except for the Cult of the Vile Lard-" Sabastian started, though by the end his words had taken on a predatory, angry growl as he nearly spat the Cult out of his mouth, as if the very words had no place in his throat.
"Damnation and death eternal for all followers of that creed. By hand and blade and claw and hoof-" added Cerisa aggressively, anger rising at the thought of the Cult.
"By bayonet and gunfire and fire and chemical and many moons more, delivered by the fury of Marshites-" Added the Praetor Supreme, a rising crescendo of fury being sedated by Sabastian as he continued.

"-unto the void eternal. Stevidian Catholics and the Church they attend are no different from most other faiths. Of course, they until now have not been citizens as a result, though they have always been protected as Marshism demands. Our first and most important offer is an agreement that Stevidian Catholicism be declared a Sister-Faith by Creed, and its followers in the Grand Theocracy granted full citizenship as a result," He finished, touching a few buttons on the table. A hologram appeared and showcased the necessary data regarding the Stevidian Church in the Grand Theocracy. Two-point-three million Stevidian Catholics called the Theocracy home, nearly half of them in Varracaza, near the southeastern border near Romandeos. It was the largest non-Marshism faith in the nation and the roll of data would reveal no special issues. Social stigma couldn't be tracked by it of course, but such was life. Even an open society like that promoted by Marshism was rarely perfect.

"Stevidian Catholicism has been monitored and debated by the M-SAD Religious Survey Group for the past few decades leading up to this, and it has been declared a sound faith of body and soul. We find the general messaging and morality of the faith agreeable," Cerisa spoke without haste, her voice carrying a certain aura of carefully considered authority. "While there are obviously innumerable differences between our faiths and sharp disagreements in some areas, we do not find the messaging of the Mahāna Christ and the faith of his followers to be arranged in opposition to Marshism when practiced with the clear morality of the Mahāna Christ as displayed in religious works of the Stevidian Church."

"Stevidian Catholicism would retain its own religious beliefs and act on its own accord in matters of faith. As citizens, they would be expected to now participate in several important matters such as national conscription. Is this agreeable?"
Last edited by Holy Marsh on Sun Nov 10, 2019 7:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Holy Marsh is ranked 1st in Nova (Greysteel) and 571st (477th) in the world for Largest Defense Forces.
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Postby Stevid » Thu Nov 14, 2019 1:42 am

Eislehart bowed slightly, in thanks for Alaga’s acceptance of her apology.

“It saddens me that your people do not embrace Christ. But being true and stalwart to one’s beliefs for five thousand years vindicates your zeal. I only wish some Stevidians displayed that sort of reverence. Regardless, I’m sure we will see eye-to-eye on the fallacy of false gods and false prophets.”

The train continued on its way.

Saint Sard'Sasha Complex
Embassy District

The exchange of pleasantries had gone better than expected. The first hurdle was crossed and the next was the breaking of cultural barriers. This was also knocked aside as the Marshites seemlingly took great pleasure in the idea of guiding the rest of the Stevidian delegation not invited to the meeting around the various sites of the Theocracy’s capital.

From the very beginning, the discussions were of mutual subjects – the guarantee of citizenship. The church was ready to grant special rights to followers of Marshism in Stevid normally reserved for Christians in a bid to limit the potential damage from the inquisition. It had been one of De Bremoy’s key points to make in this meeting. It was evident to all gathered that the inquisitors and the more radical leaning clerics viewed Sabastian with visual contempt, the effects of the Shift unnerving the conservative Stevidians. By offering Marshism as a ‘sister-creed’, it fulfilled De Bremoy’s primary position.

“That is most agreeable.” He said happily. “There will be many that will be uncomfortable with this idea. But the idea of safeguarding the practices of Marshism in return for similar in the Theocracy probably benefits Marshite expats more than Stevidian ones. Followers of the Holy Marsh in Stevid will be exempt of taxation for access to state-religious institutions such as education and healthcare. These separate bodies may advocate for a type of segregation, but the rights of your faith and practitioners will be guaranteed in law. As for conscription of Stevidian expats, they are no longer Stevidian nationals, only our kin in faith. If one wishes to live as a national in a foreign country then they should be exemplars to their old traditions of Stevidian Resolve and work tirelessly for their adoptive country.”

Eislehart listened silently, distracted by the heathen mutations that had wracked Sebastian’s body. She shivered, supressing her disgust. The man was clearly intelligent and sentient; for all intents and purposes he was human, but at face value he was not. It was more racism than religious intolerance, although Eislehart harboured both though not one in the same. She had told herself that she would endeavour to find common ground, and then it appeared. As if it a was sign presented by God, a shared hatred of heresy lay before her. But it was one she did not understand, and she needed to. Most religions believed in the binary story of good versus evil, and it appeared Marshism did too. If the Empire was to except Marshism as a kindred spirit, the evil element had to be contained and nullified. It would be difficult enough to contain the Shift to such an extent as to prevent moral panic, but this ‘Cult of the Vile Lard’ sounded far more dangerous. It sounded fully formed too, the Marshite delegation speaking as if it was a very credible and tangible threat to society. It could not be ignored.

“You speak of the Cult of the Vile Lard.” Eislehart interrupted unapologetically to De Bremoy. “The words you use to speak of them are harsh and likely not without reason. My job is to safeguard the faith and scrutinise the practitioners’ zeal. Marshism is not in my remit but safeguarding Christianity from its overt influence is – and it sounds like the Cult is a supreme threat to society. Perhaps you could elaborate? The Holy Office may be in a position to assist in rooting out the heresy in Holy Empire should it exist.”

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Postby Holy Marsh » Sat Nov 16, 2019 11:10 pm

Sabastian could see it in her eyes. There was hate, discontent, living there. No, wrong. Hate was reserved for those who deserved it and she was intelligent enough to realize he had done nothing wrong. Discontent was clear enough, but it was a secondary emotional flash. He recognized the real primary element in play here and it was one he appreciated from his Marshite Inquisitors.She was judging him and something was being found wanting. Was it his feminine appearance? That had taken a little while to get used to but after some lifestyle adjustments he had moved on. There were greater things to be concerned about than the baseness that was physicality, masculine or feminine alike.

Was it the fact he was non-human? That would track with what he heard about Marshites in the Holy Empire. Discriminated against Post-Shift to a greater degree than before, but most acutely when they underwent further transformations into non-human species. It was one of the larger reasons why the Theocracy had approached the Empire with a desire to meet. So she did not like Non-Humans? Was it because they had changed, or because all non-humans were wrong in her eyes? He would have to explore that at some point. She would be dealing with Marshites to a higher degree than before after all and she needed to know the difference between those who had Shifted into Non-Humans and those who were born such, such as Sabastian.

More importantly, she asked about the Cult. Reijas growled in anger while Cerisa's eye lost any color they might have. Sabastian felt his claws extend unknowingly into his interlocked hands, though the poking prevented him from going any further and drawing blood. His brow darkened but he tried to remain even.

"The Cult is indeed a threat to all that exists, though not as it once was. It as a so-called 'faith'-"

"Calling them such sullies the term."
He wasn't wrong. It hurt to say because implying any form of legitimacy to any aspect of that creed felt dirtier nthan any patch of shit and mud on the planet.
"-that worships a deity whose name has been intentionally stricken from all records, known now simply as the Vile Lard. It is a being who desires the end of all things not for it to hold dominion or power, but for all of creation and that which we cannot know to cease in its entirety in its vast gullet before the being itself meets its own entropic demise. It is a possessed of great evil, an endlessly wicked being whose followers exhude its philosophies. To them, no act is too cruel or too debasing that is not equally worthy if it brings all life to a crashing end."

"They are without merit. They are without reason or compassion of any flavor. They are monsters, no matter age or sex," Cerisa muttered darkly, toying mindlessly in her holster. They were weaponless out of respect, but it was instinct to reach for a weapon when discussing the Cult.

"They used to populate the lands that make up the northern half of this nation, and numbered in their billions in the time in which our great ancestors occupied these mountains and the jungles to our south. Two thousand, one-hundred years ago they launched an attack on this very city and declared war upon us. From that day until twenty years ago, we engaged in a daily struggle for survival in an apocalyptic struggle that saw entire generations lost in war."
"Sustained through the glory of martyrdom. United in the words of the Holy Marsh."
"Only in such glorious and eternal war can we be truly faithful."
Sabastian nodded, purring at his own memories of that beautiful final campaign. Pre-Shift, when the living shrapnel tore slowly through his body, it was the utopian visions of the last cultist cities on fire across every horizon that soothed his soul to sleep.

"The society we live in now- entirely militarized- is the result of tens of thousands of battles both remembered and forgotten, sieges that lasted centuries, campaigns with millions dead in a matter of weeks, chemical and biological warfare attacks that became routine-"
"Damn the creation of The Flesh That Hates, as much as it damns its creator."
"-daily skirmishes, and a number of nuclear exchanges that did little to stop the raging inferno of conventional war."
"There is always another tunnel to find martyrdom in, always another cave to find glory. There is never an excuse for respite."

"The Long War ended twenty years ago, when after a century of turning the tide we finally broke through their final defenses and consigned them to death. Twenty-one years ago there were billions of practitioners of that vile creed. Now they number in the thousands, scattered to the four winds. Wherever they crop up, we hunt them with or without their host nation's permission. Every last Cultist must be killed."
"No mercy. No forgiveness. No absolution."
"Only death, the consequences of the actions needed to assure it are meaningless in comparison."

"We have little reason to believe any members of the Cult sully the soil of the Holy Empire. They tend to congongrate in the shadows of chaos and along the edges of nations with ill-pursuits. Nonetheless, I will contact the Inquisition and see to it that your Inquisition is given information regarding Cultist practices and their known methods of trying to blend into a society," Sabastian offered with a sinister import. His claws trailed over the hologram, sending any data requested to the Holy Empire's Inquisition in the process.

"As a word of warning, since we have encountered this before: Their beliefs are so abhorrent to the conduct of any reasonable nation that no matter how they appear to have adapted to your nation or what lives they say they lead, even the most well-acting of them all is nothing more than a sleeper agent that will eventually seek your doom. Kill them when found before their cancer spreads," Sabastian ended pointedly. Millions of Cultists still existed. They all needed to be killed. If the Holy Empire could help in this regard, then these negotiations would prove most fruitful.

Sabastian turned to the Bishop, his disposition turning brighter.
"We can agree to the terms of Marshites in the Holy Empire and Stevidian Catholics in the Grand Theocracy. Let me sign here..." he said as he brought up a stylus and signed his name on the hologram. The same hologram would appear in front of the Bishop.
"That settles the first part of this negotiation. Let us start the second with a question: What is the greatest danger facing religion and faith in the world today?"
Holy Marsh is ranked 1st in Nova (Greysteel) and 571st (477th) in the world for Largest Defense Forces.
Holy Marsh is ranked 2,723rd in the world and 1st in Greater Dienstad for Most Inclusive.
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Postby Stevid » Wed Nov 20, 2019 3:01 am

It became clear to the Stevidian delegation, but to Eislehart especially, why the Marshites had come to the literally hate the Cult of the Vile Lard. The twitchiness, the growling, the barely contained rage, it all pointed to a pathological loathing that Eislehart found herself admiring. She was no sadist, but did harbour similar ill will towards heretics within Stevid. However, the Marshites’ level of hate seemed deeper, almost personnel – and Eislehart could not relate to that. The way Sebastian described the Cult came across as sensational and hard to believe. The idea of bringing about death and extinction through an almost ultra-extreme lens of nihilism seemed ludicrous. Sebastian sent electronic reports, documentation, and images to the Catholic delegation regarding the Cult of the Vile Lard while he spoke, as if to reinforce his dramatic description.

Eislehart’s heartbeat quickened. It was hard to shock her, more so to frighten her. Yet the text and images in front of her shook her to the core. She suppressed her outward shock, although other members of the delegation winced in revulsion, but her chest heaved just that little more heavily with what she saw. Bloody and unrelenting conventional war, nuclear exchanges, biological warfare – that was what troubled her. Biological warfare. The Flesh That Hates was abominable; the creatures were vile yet alive. Eislehart all of a sudden found herself less repulsed by the Marshites with the newfound knowledge that lurked in the shadows was an insidious cancer of a blood cult that took pleasure in bringing about death.

“Sebastian Trudcan,” Eislehart said coolly, “Perhaps I may have misjudged you.”

“That is the closest you will get to an apology from the Lord Inqusitor.”
De Bremoy quipped.

Eislehart’s eyes flashed, “Do not confuse my respect with trust.” She snapped at De Bremoy curtly. “The effects of the ‘Shift’ trouble me. Said effects of the Shift in Stevid can and do draw considerable ire if not kept in check. But, it is hard not reconcile the fact that the Church has far more to worry about than ‘upstanding’ members of society that have undergone the Shift. This….blood cult… it cannot be allowed to exist. Should elements of it infiltrate the slums of the Empire, then my job and role has only gained validity – I cannot allow it to exist. On this, Sebastian, et al, our motives are very much in alignment.”

One of the menials was furiously scribbling notes from the exchange and from the data in front of him regarding the Cult. “I will ensure that this new information is relayed to the security services back in the Holy Empire. The lack of intelligence sharing means that our knowledge of the Cult is limited to nothing more than hearsay.”

“Of course, we fully appreciate your sharing of this information.”
De Bremoy said. “Rest assured, if the Cult are exposed in the Holy Empire they will be expunged as only the Inquisition knows best. Should any be captured alive, the Church and State would be more than willing to allow Marshite inquisitors complete authority on their final fate and journey to it.”

With the signed agreement of the bi-lateral arrangements on citizenship guarantees and religious freedoms, De Bremoy answered Sebastian’s follow up to threats to Catholicism.

“It is the duty of all Christians to bare their cross. Our suffering throughout history is well documented and the discrimination continues to this day – it is how one handles it that defines one’s personal faith in God. However, the Catholic Church in Stevid has vowed to create a safe bastion for all of Christendom. This has given rise to the natural divergence of Stevidian Catholicism from other regional variations and that of the Holy See. Stevidian Catholicism has thus propagated throughout the region; however, we have endeavoured to stay true to the tenants of faith set down in Papal Cannon Law. However, the Church is not without its critics – especially from the heathen secular elements… none more so than those found within the Fourth Reich of Ordenea. There was a time in the fourteenth century when we fought the same enemy on the same battlegrounds. Now, the sinister machinations of National Socialism threatens the very existence of the Church and its subjects in the Fourth Reich. They have torn up the Reichskoncordant that guaranteed the rights of the Christians within their borders – we believe that this is just the first step on the road to genocide.”

“Homefront, too, is an elusive threat. Though now seldom seen.”
Eislehart interjected. “The notion of LGBT is not one I can agree with – but one should never resort to terrorism to change the nature of an institution. Stevid has quelled this ‘rebellion’ and it is no longer regarded as a credible threat.”

“Neither Homofront nor the Fourth Reich are ecumenical matters; and reference the Reich, I would not mean to draw Holy Marsh into making international guarantees against what is an exceptionally powerful nation based solely on this meeting of religions. The state, not the Church, handles defence agreements. Internal tribulations include radical Christian elements that are heretical in nature and resort to violence or public order violation protests. These have included Mormons and Calvinists – they seek to undermine the Church. Admittedly not all, but enough for the Church to prosecute miscreants as heretics more and more often.”

De Bremoy then moved back to matters involving the Theocracy and the Empire.

“The Shift is an abnormality to most Stevidians and our culture. The human form is considered pure, whereby only the soul truly corrupts it. The Shift maybe a product of a medical mystery, but what it physically does to individuals is impossible to ignore. The guaranteeing of religious rights is one thing, but a form of categorisation of those who have undergone the Shift is necessary – for us anyway. One should not view this as a matter of race, for the State will also require figures for censuses.”

“The Shift in Stevidian followers of Marshism and Marshite expats within the Empire have leaned more to towards a sort of extra-sensory form of communication and insight.”
Eislehart said, feeling that this part of the conversation was now her domain. “They can talk aloud in people’s heads; they speak of communing with another world, sometimes even the departed. I cannot and will not allow such ‘abilities’ to affect the moral consciousness of Stevid. These ‘Gifts’, coupled with the feline appearances of some of these beings that exercise their abilities too often, has given rise to a distinct distrust of the followers of Marshism. This new treaty alleviates state and church action against them – as was the goal of this Synod. But for the matters of criminal investigations, census taking, and, of course, access to religious social welfare institutions now open to them, they need to be officially recognised. Currently they are regarded as nothing more than animals with high cognitive abilities.”

“The Church, on behalf of the Empire, proposes a formal recognition of these beings as people.”
De Bremoy continued. “Obviously the Grand Theocracy does already – as do many other nations. Stevid does not. The public consider them abominations, and that will persist so long as the state leaves them unrecognised. However, we propose that Stevid recognises them as a sub-species of abhuman – Homo Sapiens Variatus – with the more wild, extreme or ‘gifted’ of these known as Home Sapiens Vairatus Extremis. The latter having more state control and restrictions on their activities due to the use and severity of their gifts. Special laws will be drafted regarding the limitations of use of the ‘Gift’ bestowed on all who have undergone the Shift, so as not to induce moral panic. These are tentative first steps to introduce the public to these changes gently. In time, the existing prejudices will begin to ebb away.”

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Holy Marsh
Posts: 5184
Founded: Nov 09, 2007
Father Knows Best State

Postby Holy Marsh » Sat Nov 23, 2019 3:22 am

"Good to know that you will take the Cult as a threat worthy of your zeal. We did not doubt that to be the case. For all the faultlines that exist between our religions, we do not doubt for a moment the militant zeal that is your Inquisition's birthright can be a force for good," Cerisa repled with a smile at the Inquisitor. A predatory one at that, since her eyes held little in them but a violent appreciation for violent arts.

Sabastian enjoyed the answers given to the question. He always did believe that a cornerstone of understanding was defining what one viewed as threats and how one viewed their allies. It was clear where the borders were being drawn in relation to these concerns and helped propel true doctrinal progress.
"The Reich is indeed a threat to Faith. Of course, any ideology when embraced to its fullest can be an existential threat to Faith itself. When a society or government values ideologies that spring from the human experience alone to the damnation of any thought given to a higher power, then they start upon a slow path to disregarding that higher power altogether. Terrorists that use violence to advance agendas against Faith and internal sectarian violence? They also provide their own unique challenges."

"But even well-meaning nations and those that exist with firm moral backing can collapse given time into the morass of ideology-backed heresy and foolishness. This, to us, is the true fate facing Faith in this region and abroad. The debasing of Faith in the name of democracy, fascism, communism, a thousand other ideologies. To this end, we propose the foundation of an official working group with the Stevidian Church and Crown. This group will work towards the defence of Faith itself abroad, with an emphasis of course on Marshism and Stevidian Catholicism. The Grand Theocracy can make more promises on our end since the Church is the State in these lands, but at the moment the proposal is as stated. What it means and what we do to further Faith itself can be decided on after we agree it is vital to do so," he said as he hologrammed the proposal over to the Bishop. It was more a statement of intent than anything- there would need to be a lot more discussed on the matter before any solid agreements could be struck.

Speaking of the agreement, Sabastian signed his ascent as well as that of the Arch-Bishop's towards what the Stevidians had proposed. "We understand the situation in Stevid is different fro many others. We have not involved ourselves because we understand the conservative nature of Stevid and how the events of The Shift have thrown several notions of yours into flux. We understand that society needs to evolve to the point where it can breach the subject of attempting to accept them, at least on some level. Our sisters and brothers in Faith have been allowed their religious practices so we have no great deal of concern on this matter, in terms of it finding an honest resolution by the end. We always had faith that no matter the road traveled between Marshites of the Holy Empire and Stevidian Catholicism, it would end well."

"To this end, we are also willing to send over all the accumulated data we have regarding the non-human species known as Panthera, Tigris, and Neko. These are the main feline non-human species that Marshites make up- I myself was born a proud member of the Panthera. From what we can understand, it seems as if these individuals underwent transformation to the Neko species, and when using their abilities became Panthera or Tigris. An unsual means of development but not entirely unheard of during The Shift, especially when one considers the nature of their auric and aetheral abilities."

"To this end, we agree to the proposal. As long as Marshites, regardless of species classification, have the Basic Rights granted by Marshism and the ability to practice it, then anything else is a gift by the Church and State of Stevid."
Holy Marsh is ranked 1st in Nova (Greysteel) and 571st (477th) in the world for Largest Defense Forces.
Holy Marsh is ranked 2,723rd in the world and 1st in Greater Dienstad for Most Inclusive.
The Shift: An Update on Holy Marsh
" exercise in sadomasochistic futility," - Engaging in warfare against the Union

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Chargé d'Affaires
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Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Stevid » Thu Dec 05, 2019 7:27 am

The idea of a form of ‘Defence Pact’ between the two institutions piqued Eislehart’s interest, though not enough for her to comment. The thought of possibly working to defend this foreign faith seemed alien to her, although the actual details were not present in the accord presented by the Marshites – it was merely a declaration of intent. However, a working group functioning in unison to prevent the two faiths falling to secularism in foreign lands could only prove to be a good thing. Her own prejudice aside, Marshism had endured for millennia – like Christianity. No amount of her distrust or revulsion would change that. Even if all of Stevid rose against Marshism, it would still endure. History had proven that large religions always did – the Jews in particular have suffered immeasurably over the past three millennia, and yet they endured, prospered even. One only had to look at the neo-fascist Judaist state of Ralkovia to see how far that religion had come, and how far it had fallen. In that split second of thought, Eislehart buried what misgivings she had for the working group and nodded in quiet agreement. Bishop De Bremoy seemed to be of the same mind and signed the document.

The Stevidian delegation were pleased that their proposals of actually applying a genus designation to Marshites who had undergone the Shift. There had been worry it would have been met with a degree of scepticism; but if this conference was anything to judge by, Marshism was quite the understanding culture, very different from the staunch conservatism in Stevid.

“It will pass with time, I’d like to hope.” De Bremoy said. “The strange and perplexing will always incur animosity among native Stevidians and some throughout the Empire. It will take time, but gradual exposure to these individuals, rather than hiding them away, will eventually breed acceptability in society. Together with this idea of a religious working group, stories of our institutions working together will help break down some of these social boundaries.”

He stole a glance at Eislehart, “But I can assure the Theocracy, that despite the very real differences in religious belief and differences in physique, that the religious practices of Marshism are your to practise without let or hindrance. The Inquisition will have some misgivings about the use of the Gifts empowered onto some by the Shift. But it will not be illegal in strictest sense, and open worship will be completely legal and without the taxation constraints other religions have to endure. Our two faiths will be kindred spirits in a world of secular disbelief.”

At this, Eislehart could not help but nod, and not solely out of deference to the clergyman.

“The Holy Office will not persecute religious practises; the only caveat being if Gifts are exhibited without license or deliberately to cause alarm or distress. This is a legal constraint applied to everyone in the Empire, not just Marshites, who exhibit unusual… ‘qualities’…”

In the minutes that followed there was causal to-and-fro conversation between both the delegations and between themselves over administrative matters. Stevidian menial scribes jotted and scratched away, ready for the inevitable recess and need to transmit and update to the Holy Empire on the progression of the talks.

“My friends,” De Bremoy started. “I believe we have reached a good point to adjourn for the time being. We have struck many accords and found some excellent common ground. Some causal discussion and refreshment will certainly do us good.”

He rose from his seat, grunting softly at the effort. His motion beckoned the rest of the gathered personnel to do the same. De Bremoy shuffled at first around his chair but rediscovered some vitality as Sebastian finished conversing with a subordinate.

“Err… Sebastian!” He beckoned. “A moment… I must say I am very thankful for your hospitality and openness since our arrival. I must admit, I did not expect such easy progression through these talks given our theological differences. It seems that there may be more in common between us than would at first appear… morally speaking, that is. Now that we have a break, I would be most thankful for some educational insight to some of the core values that Marshism holds dearest. Sacramental, if you will. I ask, not just out of interest, but maybe necessity too.”

De Bremoy cast a glance towards Lord Inquisitor Eislehart. “The Inquisition are most distasteful of other religions, though grudgingly accepting. She’s a strong women, but young. There is a petulance in her that needs tempering. Winning her, and her ilk, over is crucial for a gradual cultural acceptance of Marshism in the Holy Empire. If I can draw moral or theological parallels between Christianity and Marshism, then this will become much easier.”

Meanwhile, Eislehart moved to explore her own interests – interests she had never thought she had. She still found herself feeling uneasy around these people. There were different, too different. Yet their ethical sensibilities resonated with her. She found herself identifying with them – some of them. Eislehart moved past a clutch of people towards Cardinal Cerisa Alahana who was stood nearby a handful of Inquisitors. Cerisa’s abrasive attitude, particularly regarding the Vile Lard, had stirred something in Eislehart that could only be described as kindred.

“His Will.” Eislehart said with a hand over her heart, instantly realising the futility of gesture in greeting Marshites. Regardless, the gesture was interpreted correctly as a form of greeting and she replied in kind. “I must apologise… I fear I may have mischaracterised many of your kind. It is hard for me to accept the Shift and the Gifts it brings, physical or otherwise. But your ethics are of true merit. I believe the Inquisitorial inistitutions of our respective countries would work well together.”

Eislehart relaxed her posture somewhat and took a nearby glass of water from the conference table. “I could not help but notice the fire you have in you.” She started again. “The views Marshism takes on heresy, perhaps even apostasy? The way you react to the mere mentioning of the name of that ‘occult faction’ you dispise so much. I can relate, Cerisa. I would like to know more about how your inquisition operates and how it combats threats without and within. We might find some common operational ground.”


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