A religion with monastic and temple-based traditons. founded in following the Immaculate Dragons - five Dragon-Blooded of great power who acted during the Usurption. So powerful were they it is believed they were manifestations of the five Elemental Dragons themselves.
The acknowledged heads of the Order of Immaculate Dragons are the Dragon-Blooded. This is accepted as right and proper. After all, those who will outlive mortals by entire generations should be in the position to apply the long wisdom they gain.
BECOMING AN IMMACULATE Edit
Joining the Immaculate Order as one of its monks is long and arduous. A would-be monk must present himself to the monks of the subdued Procession of Gray, the small, unassuming monastery in the heart of the Temple District of the Imperial City, with one difference. At any given time, its courtyard is typically packed with kneeling postulants, clad in the gray robes of their station, seeking only to be noticed by the Paragon of Sextes Jylis from his office window that overlooks the courtyard or on her way to the Scarlet Chapel in the Imperial Palace.
Those who come to the Procession of Gray must NOT arrive with shaven heads. To do so suggests one is already suited for the Order, and only the Paragon of Sextes Jylis may make that decision. Those who come from powerful families are likely to wait the longest, especially the Exalted, as they are expected to exceed the mortals around them in their capacity to withstand the rigors of fasting, lack of sleep and constant kneeling on the cobblestones of the courtyard.
Occasionally, monks require a postulants aid in some small task. Afterward, they are expected to return to their places. At night, all postulants are shown to a single dormitory overseen by a monk to sleep on bare wooden floors until just before dawn. When not sleeping or assisting monks, postulants are expected to remain kneeling in the courtyard. They are brought a single shallow bowl of rice to eat once in the middle of the day; water is brought to them four times a day. Most continue this for a few days, but for some (particularly Dragon-Blooded postulants) it can go for weeks should the Paragon suspect they still wrestle with pride.
All it takes is a nod from the Paragon as she passes on her way to tend to important business to make a postulant an acolyte. When this happens, the monks around the Paragon hurry to the side of the new acolyte, take him into the inner adytum of the Procession of Gray, where he is given a meal of rice, chicken and fruit and a small cup of watered wine. After this, their head is shaved completely, they are given a freezing cold ritual bath of cleansing, and an acolyte’s robe. At this time, the monk attending him gives him a new name, and the new acolyte takes his oath of service.
THE PILGRIMAGE Edit
New acolytes are given a week to recuperate from the postulant ordeal and learn the basic sutras and martial-arts stances required of all novice monks. After this, regardless of the season, a new monk is expected to undertake the pilgrimage by foot from the Imperial City to the Great Coast Road to the Palace Sublime in Incas Prefecture. Acolytes are given only their robes, a walking staff and a begging bowl with which to beg for food or money.
This is often a humbling experience for monks, especially those from Dynastic or patrician families. These pilgrims are forbidden from using Essence or force to get food, and may not break any laws. The communities between the Imperial City and the Palace Sublime are accustomed to these begging monks and are willing to give food to the sufficiently humble. A new monk, even one with Dragon-Blooded heritage, who approaches the task of begging with arrogance or expectation is in for a rude shock.
Finally, after weeks of travel by foot and begging rides with those who have wagons, the new acolyte arrives at the Palace Sublime. He is taken in, fed, bathed and his head shaved again. He is given any medical attention that may be necessary from his long and arduous trip and given a place in the monks’ cells as a monk of the First Coil.
COILS OF THE IMMACULATE ORDER Edit
The Immaculate Order teaches that the Road of Enlightenment wraps around like the long, sinuous body of a dragon coiled around a great pillar. In the normal process of living, a being remains where he stands on this winding Road, moving perhaps a few steps up or down. Those who dedicate themselves to the Immaculate Dragons may advance greatly in their place through diligent service and practice of the Immaculate Philosophy.
The behaviors of the various Coils are required for several reasons.
- it sets the monks apart from society, constantly reminding them they are held to a higher standard.
- these voluntary limitations teach the monk discipline and allow him to focus his energy and attention on things of a spiritual, rather than secular, nature.
Immaculate monks speak of this symbolic structure as the Five Coils. They are not so prideful as to claim any control over where their soul actually stands—they simply find use in these five “levels” of devotion to the Immaculate Philosophy. A monk of higher Coils is expected to exemplify the ideas of the Order more than one of lower Coils, adhering to stricter requirements of behavior and service.
The Five Coils were first described in The Gentle Rule, a text supposedly inspired by Daana’d that describes the proper running of monasteries, including the division of work, methods of dress and the like. All monks are expected to study The Gentle Rule.
The majority of a monk’s strictures are established when he takes his vows as a monk of the First Coil. Some of these strictures change as the monk increases in Coil, and to assume the strictures of a higher Coil is considered an act of vanity and presumption.
FIRST COIL (BACKING [IMMACULATE ORDER •]) Edit
- Appearance: A monk is required to shave his head, and keep it shaven, though may wear facial hair. Jewelry and tattoos are forbidden.
- Celibacy: A monk must take a vow of celibacy; sex is too great of a distraction from spiritual endeavors. Masturbation is allowed.
- Diet: Eat no red meat; consume no intoxicants or narcotics.
- Poverty: A monk must vow to own nothing. Even the clothing on his back belongs to the Order. Any money given to a monk of the Order, by tradition, has been given to the Order.
- Vestments: a simple hempen robe, belted with rope. The robe may be decorated with modest trim, which usually adheres to the traditions to which the monk belongs (monastic, temple or ascetic). The monk may also wear a broad-rimmed hat and sandals.
- Name: At the end of her time as a postulant, a monk of the First Coil is given a new name, meant to divorce her from her old life and reflect something of her inner nature. It is usually diminutive or even slightly embarrassing, such as “Cricket” for the high-jumper or “Little Brook” for the monk who can’t quite still her tongue.
SECOND COIL (BACKING [IMMACULATE ORDER ••]) Edit
- Diet: consume no fowl, in addition to the dietary strictures of the First Coil.
- Vestments: As First Coil, save that the hempen robe is cinched up with a linen belt. This belt is generally undyed, unless the monk is a devotee of one of the Immaculate Dragons, in which case it may be black (Daana’d), white (Pasiap), blue (Mela), red (Hesiesh) or green (Sextes Jylis).
- Name: Upon being given the linen belt of the Second Coil, the monk may change his name. A monk may reclaim his birth or family name, though doing so is a sign that one’s family will still play a role in one’s life (though there is no stigma for doing so). Many monks ask a mentor or respected figure to name them. By tradition, this is a serious name, one that truly reflects the holy figure the monk is becoming.
THIRD COIL (BACKING [IMMACULATE ORDER •••]) Edit
This is the highest rank any non-Dragon Blood can achieve.
- Diet: consume no sweets, sorbets or coarse grains in addition to the former restrictions.
- Status: The monk may hold the position of abbot, vartabed or sybil, depending on the need for someone to hold such a position.
- Title: The monk is addressed by lessers as “Honored One” or “Reverend.” When their name is used, the prefix “Honored” is applied to it (“Honored Nine Rivers,” for instance). Only speakers within the Order need use these titles. Outsiders who wish to win favor might do so.
- Vestments: a robe of soft linen, often undyed, or dyed to reflect the monk’s devotion to a given Immaculate Dragon. He wears a belt of woven wool.
FOURTH COIL (BACKING [IMMACULATE ORDER ••••]) Edit
- Diet: consume no meat whatsoever and drink nothing but tea and water in addition to former restrictions.
- Exaltation: Only the Dragon-Blooded hold ranking of the Fourth Coil.
- Status: Should the need present itself, the monk may hold the position of lama. They are almost guaranteed to hold the position of abbot, vartabed or sybil.
- Title: The monk is addressed by lessers as “Most Enlightened Master,” and when his name is used, the prefix “Master” is applied to it.
- Vestments: As Third Coil, but the belt is made of silk.
FIFTH COIL (BACKING [IMMACULATE ORDER •••••]) Edit
- Diet: consume only rice, bread, vegetables, tea and water.
- Status: Most who hold the Fifth Coil are elder lamas. The Mouth of Peace and the Immaculate Paragons are all chosen from those who stand on the Fifth Coil.
- Vestments: The monk of the Fifth Coil wears a robe and belt of silk.
THE MOUTH OF PEACE Edit
One of the most powerful people in the Realm, the Mouth of Peace acts as the conscience of the Scarlet Empress, counseling peaceful resolutions and the secularized search for enlightenment in all things. The position is named for the office’s traditional role in counseling the Dynasty against warfare. Because she sits so closely to the Empress, the Mouth of Peace acts as the secular-dealing head of the Immaculate Order. She takes on such things as the disbursement of imperial funds to the Immaculate Order, situations where the Immaculate Order and imperial government or Great Houses clash and a variety of other circumstances.
It is the intent of the Immaculate Order that the spiritual leadership of the Order, the five Immaculate Paragons, be disturbed with secular, mundane matters as little as possible. As a result, though, the Mouth of Peace wields quite a bit of power, for she is generally the primary contact and point of authority between the Immaculate Order and the secular world. In fact, those outside the Order generally assume that the Mouth of Peace is the leadership for this massive faith (which is mostly true).
The Mouth of Peace is considered a sacrificial figure, a being of great enlightenment and spiritual power who makes the sacrifice of sullying herself with the necessity of involvement in politics, secularism and mundane tasks. It is understood she does these things so that others—particularly the Immaculate Paragons—do not have to. Nonetheless, few are granted permission to see her in her Contemplative Chamber atop one of the towers of the Palace Sublime. Only high-ranking members of the Dynasty, the elders of House Iselsi (who have taken sanctuary in the Palace Sublime), the Sidereals, and highly placed members of the Immaculate Order are permitted audiences.
The Mouth of Peace is expected to give up everything when she assumes the role: all political connections, family ties, friendships. The one who is made the Mouth of Peace even surrenders her name, for the Immaculate Order teaches that the Mouth of Peace should be a single entity, throughout the history of the Immaculate Order. The Mouth of Peace does not speak out against the actions of previous Mouths of Peace, but is expected to act in accordance with them.
The current Mouth of Peace is an Earth Aspect formerly of House Mnemon. This family tie does Mnemon little good which is a source of aggravation that her granddaughter will not accede to her ambitions and aid her. The Mouth of Peace has also refused Mnemon’s attempts to have the heart of the Immaculate Order moved within the walls of the Imperial City.
Her predecessor was a scion of House Iselsi who never truly abandoned her House affiliation (resulting in her murder at the hands of unknown forces when the House was officially dismantled in RY 570). The current Mouth of Peace, however, has created a definitive separation between her origins and her role, so she will not move the entire Order for political reasons. She has also begun some traditions that are likely to continue with successive Mouths of Peace, including the tendency to leave the Contemplative Chamber in disguise once every few years or so and travel the Realm incognito to ascertain the spiritual state of her people.
THE IMMACULATE PARAGONS Edit
In terms of hierarchy, the five Immaculate Paragons are beneath the Mouth of Peace, but for a simple reason: The top of a hierarchical structure is, of necessity, a political one, and the true spiritual leaders of the Immaculate Order should be distanced from such things. The Immaculate Paragons are considered living saints and bodhisattvas, men and women of Exaltation so potent it marks everything they do. They are Dragon-Blooded whose Essence transcends the normal heights of the Dragon-Blooded, they literally wear the element of their Exaltation on their bodies. Such souls are taught to be close to unity with the Dragons once more. The Immaculate Paragons are acknowledged as greatly compassionate souls who have delayed this unity in order to help elevate the rest of mankind.
When an Immaculate monk is recognized as one of the Immaculate Paragons, he abandons all old ties of tradition and House, should he retain any. Unlike the Mouth of Peace, each Paragon should be remembered by the Order, so they take names reflective of the lessons they see themselves as having to teach Creation and the faithful. That way, simply by speaking their names, their message and teachings are remembered.
The Paragons are always Dragon-Blooded, with an aspect appropriate to the Dragon that they serve. They are all masters of at least one of the elemental styles (again, of the aspect appropriate to the Dragon they emulate), and most are masters of multiple ones.
Beneath the Mouth of Peace and the Paragons are the Lamas - wise monks with years of experience and leadership to their credit. All lamas are Dragon-Blooded, and are assigned to a Cloister or Temple (depending on the individual) to help supervise their Traditions. In this role, they are expected to know what is going on in their territories, that they may counsel the Mouth of Peace and the Paragons properly. In theory, there must be at least one lama for each geographical region and satrapy, but this isn’t always the case (particularly away from the Blessed Isle). A lama is supposed to spend half of every year in the geographical region he oversees and the other half at the Palace Sublime.
In addition to these duties, every Lama must learn to balance the political demands of the Mouth of Peace against the enlightened Paragons - frequently a very difficult task to accomplish. Outsiders wonder why it isn’t made simpler—why is there no definitive chain of command? The wise know the answer to this, however. A lama’s first master should be his own wisdom, balancing the needs of the secular world with the demands of enlightenment.
THE CLOISTER TRADITION Edit
Nearly half of all monks follow this tradition. Rather than acting as intercessors for the people, the cloister tradition teaches Immaculates to sequester themselves from the bustle of daily life in remote monasteries. In these places of serenity, the cloistered monk may focus on his Essence and its development, seeking to emulate the Immaculate Dragons—who moved through life remaining apart from the banality of the mundane world—as close as anyone can.
In the Immaculate Order, the cloistered monks serve a valuable purpose. It is from cloistered monasteries that most copies of the sutras come, as one of the tasks undertaken by these men and women is the hand-copying of the Immaculate Texts. Additionally, cloistered monks study martial arts significantly more than those of the other traditions, when trouble with a god or spirit is reported to the Immaculate Order, it is usually a cloistered monastery that the request for aid is sent.
The monks of the cloisters have a frightening reputation to the common folk, for they rarely see the cloisters monks until the need for Immaculate martial arts comes. Then, they are grim warriors who come with sutras on their lips and terrible elemental Essence about their fists.
Cloistered monks wear only the basic vestments of monks of the Immaculate Order. A given cloister might have a unified pattern of trim at the edges, though, such as the wave motif of the Heavenly Cloister of Sapphire, in the western part of the Blessed Isle, or the Unyielding Perseverance Keep’s pattern of diamonds with a single dot in the middle of each.
THE ABBOT Edit
The lama of a cloistered monastery is an abbot/ abbess who oversee the monks within their monastery and very little else. They drive their subordinates toward martial and spiritual excellence relentlessly, seeking to push them until their common weaknesses hinder them, and then to push them some more, allowing them to overcome those weaknesses. A cloistered abbot may be a grim, insulting master of the martial arts or a kindly old man given to meditation and philosophical talks over tea, but he is always one thing—driven. Most Paragons are chosen from lamas who once served as abbots.
THE TEMPLE TRADITION Edit
The temple tradition is the part of the Order that sees to the adherence to the Immaculate Calendar and the performance of the rites to the Celestial and Terrestrial Bureaucracies. These monks often deal with common folk, and their penchant for wisdom and strict watchfulness against heresy is legendary.
Ultimately, the temple tradition exists for two reasons:
- to see that the appropriate rites are performed for the gods of the Celestial and Terrestrial Bureaucracies
- to see that people understand the Immaculate Philosophy.
Where cloistered monks live the Philosophy, teaching by example and answering questions of the curious, temple monks seek to make those around them understand through the use of parables, prayers and readings. Although they practice martial arts as well, temple monks spend more of their days overseeing the various rites of propitiation, teaching the common folk and performing rites of passage for them.
Temple monks often wear prayer shawls, each marked with the symbol of the temple to which the monk belongs. They also often wear pectorals or belts hung with the symbolic representations of the gods to whom they are performing rites. Such decorations change daily.
THE VARTABED Edit
The lama charged with a temple is called the Vartabed. They are responsible for training the monks under them in the maintenance of the Immaculate Calendar and education of the populace. Vartabeds are usually assumed to be quite socially engaging. A vartabed understands that the Immaculate Order wields no small power, as entrenched as it is in society. It is his responsibility to make sure that this power—like all that in the Immaculate Order—is wielded in accordance to the tenets of the Immaculate Philosophy.
All of the Mouths of Peace has been chosen from lamas who were once vartabeds.
THE ASCETIC TRADITION Edit
Although not officially recognized, the ascetic tradition is quite strong. Approximately 1 in every 10 monks pursue an ascetic path, and many Immaculate monks, whether temple or cloister trained, undertake asceticism in order to deepen their understanding at some point in their lives.
Simply put, the ascetic tradition seeks to escape all of civilization. Unlike cloistered monks, ascetics don’t sequester themselves behind high monastery walls; unlike temple monks, they don’t seek immersion in the daily life of the Realm. Instead, the ascetic monk flees cities and goes into the wilderness to simply dwell there for a time.
Most ascetic monks put themselves through a very difficult existence, eating only insects and roots, drinking only cool river water and living either exposed to the elements or within naturally occurring shelter. All ascetic monks believe the denial of the body’s needs is how the soul is purified and enlightened. Therefore, most ascetic monks remain on the edge of sleep deprivation, starvation and exposure, mortifying their bodies in order to elevate their souls. These monks often acquire a supernatural reputation among the common folk, who attribute to them amazing abilities for their sacrifice and dedication.
Ascetic monks are invariably dressed in tattered vestments, or are nearly naked, clothed only in what they can make by hand, or what superstitious peasants leave for them at the mouths of their caves.
THE SYBIL Edit
Ascetics have no leaders as it is unnecessary as most of these monks remain ascetic for just a few years at a time, returning to their home monasteries nearly dead of exhaustion, when they have gained whatever insights they sought or when their responsibilities pull them home once more. A rare few ascetic monks, however, do not pursue this life and undertake the ascetic tradition permanently - believing that since the Immaculate Dragons wandered Creation in order to understand their Essence, so too must they. When such a monk achieves the renown that would elevate them to the position of Vartabed or Abbot, the lamas simply refer to them as a Sybil.
Sybils are often sought out by other monks seeking wisdom. Many teachers instruct the monks beneath them that, in order to truly undertake the ascetic tradition for a time, they must seek out a Sybil in order for her to impart some wisdom to them. Many of them do discover refinements of their Essence unique to the insights that come from prolonged ascetic practice. Most stories that discuss strange ascetic monks capable of working miracles refer to sybils.
ITINERANT MONKS Edit
An itinerant monk adheres to all three of the major Immaculate traditions in many ways. They travel seeking wisdom in the wilderness through starvation and deprivation like an Ascetic, yet also seek out communities without a nearby Immaculate presence to performing the rites of passage and propitiating the local small gods properly like a Temple monk. Most itinerant monks adhere to a strictly scheduled route of travel, allowing them to come to know the people along that route. When such a monk shows up, many put-off marriages are held and celebrated, babies born since he was last through are named and blessed, and any local spirits problems are reported to him to deal with. It sometimes seems that where an itinerant monk goes, celebration follows.
Itinerant monks are often quite skilled in the martial arts, as well, for they seek out masters of the martial arts to train them in their journeys. They are the monks most likely to be called upon to deal with the dangers of the road and wilderness.
Most monks are instructed to undertake an itinerant existence at some point in their lives. Frequently this happens after completing their training at the Palace Sublime but before they report to their new monasteries. It also occurs prior a monk takes over a monastery as Vartabed or abbot. Many monks see this as a rite of passage, used to mark dramatic changes in the monk’s existence.
THE CELESTIALLY GUIDED ITINERANTS Edit
Occasionally, a monk’s skill, piety and devotion to the Immaculate Philosophy is noticed by the Mouth of Peace. Such figures may be chosen to join the Celestially Guided Itinerants, an order of wandering agents of the Mouth of Peace. What the magistrates are to the Thousand Scales, the Celestially Guided Itinerants are to the Immaculate Order—bringers of scrutiny and justice, in adherence with the laws of the Order and the will of the Mouth of Peace.
The Celestially Guided Itinerants are tremendously skilled investigators, and are all Dragon-Blooded. They answer only to the Mouth of Peace and are notorious for their ability to stumble into false tithing scams, corruption in monasteries and other symptoms of the fact that, for all their preaching of perfection, the Immaculate Order is still manned by fallible mortals.
SOCIAL DUTIES Edit
Regardless of tradition and style of service, all Immaculate monks are expected to fulfill a variety of obligations:
SEARCH FOR RELICS Edit
Hearing the words and understanding the message of the Immaculate Dragons, mortals and Exalted are brought closer to enlightenment. The more an individual hears and understands, the closer he might come. Therefore, it is considered an important duty of every Immaculate monk to search for relics of the First Age, especially writings that contain the words of the Immaculate Dragons. Such findings form the basis for the Immaculate Texts. Even those that are not the words of the Immaculate Dragons or their apostles are still considered important, allowing Immaculate scholars to better understand the context in which some sutras were spoken.
CULTIVATION OF ESSENCE Edit
Every monk is responsible for aiding others in the cultivation of their Essence. First and foremost, of course, an Immaculate monk must not neglect her own development, but she must also aid others where she can. In some cases, this involves training young Dragon-Blooded (particularly outcastes) how to use their Essence, but is not limited to the Princes of the Earth. A mortal who learns to find resolve, acceptance and self-reliance in his life’s duties is said to be cultivating his Essence, as is one who learns the sutras. Many monks strive to teach all who wish to learn the techniques of meditation and the basics of the martial arts.
Exalted monks are also taught that they should assist mortals in learning the techniques of awakening their Essence, where such is possible.
Immaculate monks are beholden to teach those around them. This teaching focuses primarily on the Immaculate Texts and the Immaculate Philosophy, though it is understood that mortals are enlightened through education of any kind. All monasteries are required to take in children from the age 5-9 and educate them, usually using the holy sutras as the basis for learning to read.
RITES OF PASSAGE Edit
The passage through a single life, while just a blink in a soul’s walk along the Road of Enlightenment, is still noteworthy. Rites of passage serve to bind a community together, thus building civilization. The Immaculate monks perform all weddings, binding in union new couples. Monks also perform the naming ceremonies of new children, who are simply called “boy” or “girl” until such a ceremony has taken place. Rites of adulthood, funerals and many other such ceremonies are usually performed under the watchfulness of the Immaculate monks as well.
DIVINE INTERCESSION Edit
Dragon-Blooded monks are expected to act as intermediaries between men and gods. It is a tenet of the Immaculate Philosophy that the Princes of the Earth are the only ones with the moral and spiritual fortitude to withstand the influence of the gods without losing their will. As such, the Immaculate Order not only oversees all the rites of all the gods (theoretically, at least) in Creation, in accordance to the Immaculate Calendar, but its monks also go to small gods to represent mortal populations. Such occurrences are usually sufficient to cow most small gods, who fear the supernatural martial prowess of the Immaculate monks.
MISSIONARY WORK Edit
Through the spread of understanding one’s place under Heaven, Creation is strengthened. Therefore, one of the Immaculate Order’s foremost efforts is in missionary work. The missionary efforts of the Immaculate Order are not limited to teaching mortals the truths of the Immaculate Philosophy, however—they also extend to local gods. Normally, when the Immaculate Order achieves sufficient influence in an area, it builds a monastery and populates it.
Then, as the mortal monks go forth and teach the sutras and Philosophy to the common men of the area, the Dragon-Blooded monks seek out the local gods, calling on them to bow before the righteousness of the Immaculate Way. Those who defy the monks are fought with supernatural martial arts. Then, once gods and commoners have been swayed to the Immaculate Philosophy, most abbots invite the local leaders of an area to the monastery, believing that once the commoners and the gods of the area adhere to the Immaculate Philosophy, the leadership can do nothing but accede as well.
SOCIAL JUSTICE Edit
The monks of the Immaculate Order—particularly monks who hold the ideals of Daana’d close—teach that each being is a potential bodhisattva and should be treated accordingly. Everyone in Creation has a place, and to fight against that place is wrong (though that does not give one the right to abuse those below one). Immaculate monks are notorious for protesting the tyrannies of rulers in front of their palaces, refusing to be moved and willing to sacrifice themselves in some instances (if only to prove how strongly the Order opposes such a situation). They will even go so far as to lead uprisings, and the Paragons of the Immaculate Dragons have spoken out against the excesses of even the Great Houses in the past.
EMULATION VS. WORSHIP Edit
The Immaculate Dragons are inspirations for enlightened behavior; NOT gods to be worshipped (they are NOT part of the godly bureaucracies). Through their example, mortals may understand proper action in accordance with the human experience in the cycle of rebirth. To worship the Immaculate Dragons, a thing one should aspire to be, is to lose sight of the message they taught and shackling oneself to a base existence instead of striving for true spiritual ascendance.
THE IMMACULATE CALENDAR Edit
The Immaculate Order maintains the Immaculate Calendar, a massive archive of gods both large and small in Creation and in Heaven. This calendar records not only the identity of a god, but the proper ritual used to propitiate it. Gods are given direct worship only by the Immaculate monks, who understand that it is the proper place of those in Creation to render up worship to those in Heaven. They do not believe, however, that every individual god has the right to coerce more worship than it is due from vulnerable mortals.
As such, the more powerful the god is, the more frequently it is given worship. The Celestines are worshiped on a daily basis by all the temple monasteries. Heavenly gods are likewise rendered worship at the Palace Sublime and other major temple monasteries, with more important gods being worshiped more frequently.
When a local god agrees to adhere to the Immaculate Philosophy, its rites and days of worship are entered in the local copy of the Immaculate Calendar, and the monks of that temple perform the rites when its proper ritual days come around. Most local gods do not receive more than a few days of worship a year.
The Immaculate Philosophy’s rituals incorporate worship of the Celestial Bureaucracy in a general way. Temple monks lead the faithful in sutras and rituals that glorify the gods in general, rendering up the proper obeisance of mortals without favoring any one god over others. The Immaculate Order teaches that the gods are properly worshiped in this fashion.
Although the monks know what gods are being revered on a given day, the ritual that is performed by the laity is the same every day, with the monks symbolically gathering that worship and apportioning it to the appropriate gods.
For this reason, the Immaculate Order is careful to search out heresy. It isn’t as though gods are not worshiped, all gods are worshiped in accordance with their duties under Heaven.
Therefore, by the teachings of the Order, additional and direct worship not only exposes mortals to the potentially corrupting influence of divine majesty, which may cause them to veer away from their search for enlightenment, but it gives the god more worship than it is due. It is, in effect, either bribery or blackmail, depending on the nature of the god in question.
Heresy is answered with direct, swift action. The Immaculate monks call out the heretic gods to combat, preferably in the presence of their erstwhile cult. Once the god has been beaten either into submission or dispersal, the mortals are reminded of their duties to seek personal enlightenment, not to provide power to a greedy little god. The difficulties they are praying to be alleviated are part of their natural existence and meant to challenge them. By meeting those challenges, they take steps on the Road of Enlightenment; by running to a spirit to do it for them, they lose their footing.
As a result of these painful demonstrations, many gods on the Blessed Isle are quite terrified of being accused of heresy. At the first sign of any direct worship potentially developing around them, it isn’t uncommon for a god who has experienced Immaculate retribution to not only refuse to allow people to worship him, but to be the one to report the would-be cult at the nearest Immaculate temple!
TEMPLES & MONASTERIES Edit
The buildings and manses of the Immaculate Order are generally put to a variety of uses. The Exalted monks of the Immaculate Order prefer to use a manse for their purposes, but will work with whatever is available.
THE PALACE SUBLIME Edit
The largest temple of the Immaculate Order is a confusing maze of temple spaces, monastic training grounds, offices, council chambers, meditation quarters and vaults of riches and artifacts. The Palace Sublime seems quite indefensible, made up of a pair of immensely tall towers and a squat, square keep. Nonetheless, it is home to no less than the Mouth of Peace and four of the five Immaculate Paragons. It is the heart of the Immaculate Order, and none has ever dared attack it.
Atop of one of the towers is the Contemplative Chamber of the Mouth of Peace. The next few floors beneath that are appointed for her staff. Above the Contemplative Chamber is a small, modest office where Chejop Kejak resides, watching out over Creation from one of the tallest towers anywhere.
The monks who dwell here are one of two kinds:
- the very young, undergoing their first training after their pilgrimage, before being sent on to another monastery somewhere,
- the very experienced, lamas, Celestially Guided Itinerants and a variety of others.
Among these scuttle bureaucrats, under-secretaries and minor functionaries who keeps the monolithic Immaculate Order running.
The Bronze Faction considers this the closest thing it has to a headquarters in Creation, and many nights see 3-4 of the most unlikely secretaries, monks and others gathered atop the roof, watching the stars in the sky closely.
The Immaculate Order is perhaps best known for its monasteries, fine walled enclosures decorated with draconic iconography, dedicated to either all five of the Immaculate Dragons or one of them in particular.
Cloistered monasteries are meant for no one save the Immaculate Order. Consisting entirely of bare living spaces, ample training courtyards, martial-arts dojos and meditation rooms, cloisters do not have servants to tend to the inhabitants’ needs, for the monks themselves perform these duties.
Most cloisters are quite defensible, with tall walls and the means of fi ghting off a prolonged siege. They also tend to boast impressive armories of weapons, and some cloisters might even have armed and armored monastery guardians at the gates and patrolling the walls.
Temple monasteries, on the other hand, tend to be lavish, with beautiful craftsmanship. There are usually public worship areas (normally in a chapel dedicated to the five Immaculate Dragons), as well as a few other areas for the celebration of rites of passage. Simple, small chambers can usually be found scattered about, meant for one supplicant to confer with a monk on issues of a private nature.
Behind these public areas are not just the living areas for monks, but also the individual temples or shrines for the local gods or for greater gods that the monastery is responsible for helping to directly worship. Such areas are strictly off-limits to non-monks, and even then, it is only the Exalted monks who carry keys to these chambers.
There are usually two kinds of shrines to be found: those to the Immaculate Dragons and those to local small gods in an area where there are no temple monasteries. The first shrines are usually set aside for itinerant and ascetic monks who find the necessity of a temple space (usually for performing rites of passage and the like for those who haven’t seen a monk in a while). Such shrines are built simply, often out of local materials, featuring a large stone or wooden statue of a dragon, with a simple bed of sand in front of it for joss sticks.
The second type of shrine is a little rarer, as Immaculate monks don’t like the possibility of cults springing up around the shrines of little gods. In some cases, however, it is necessary to perform the rites of a small god in a space dedicated to it. Such shrines are found only in areas where an ascetic monk or cloistered monastery provides the only Immaculate attention, and such shrines are always sealed behind heavily locked doors, the key of which remains in the possession of the Immaculate.
The Immaculate Order takes responsibility for teaching the children of non-patrician families that cannot afford tutors of their own. From the ages of five to nine, children from all over report to monasteries to learn the basics of reading, writing and mathematics, as well as a heavy dose of the Immaculate Philosophy. At the age of 10, however, children leave, continuing on to primary schools if their parents can afford it or to begin working toward the craft they will pursue as adults otherwise.
The Immaculate Order maintains a couple of primary schools, though, like other primary schools, they are for those who can afford to enroll their children there. Only one, the Academy of Those Who Tread in Sextes Jylis’ Footsteps, is free. Children who reach the appropriate age and demonstrate admirable piety with a natural intelligence may be sponsored by the Immaculate Order to attend this primary school. Such students often end up as part of the Order itself, and the best among them can even find themselves with a sponsorship to the Cloister of Wisdom.