"More horrible than their empty forms are their noble eyes. I dare not strike." -Vahlok
Era: First and Second
Founder: Inquisitor Justinia
Distinctions: Nonagon emblem
The actual priesthood of the Church of the Sovereign Host was made up entirely of women, on the basis that the Prophetess Victoria was a woman. At the head of the Church was the Archpriest, who led from her seat in the Temple of the Prophetess of Rathir in Alluria. Below her were the left and right hands of the archpriest. These were her personal agents and acted as her voice if she was not otherwise present. Below them were the other archpriests who were the Church's highest authority in a land or realm. After an Archpriest died, the other archpriests were required to travel to Rathir for the Grand Consensus, a meeting where Church leadership unanimously elected the new leader of the Church. Beneath the archpriests were the priests, who were responsible for administering to the spiritual well-being of their people. If a priest was in charge of a local Church, she was called a revered priest. Beneath priests were the affirmed and initiates. Affirmed was the only rank that men were allowed to have. The initiates took vows and received an academic education. Those who sought to become holy warriors in the temple armies received a martial education in addition. The affirmed were the scholars of the Church and the most senior of them received the title of elder, which was, however, beneath that of priest.
Originally, men were only able to become true priests in unaffiliated churches; in the rest of Bael Turath they were judged and found too passionate to lead in matters of spirit. Nevertheless, male members of the Church could and did play vital roles in its workings. Though men were generally assumed to be merely chanters, scholars, or holy warriors in the temple armies, they also comprised a silent majority that kept the Church fed and in good repair, and also saw to the physical well-being of the faithful. In this way, the Church's male acolytes allowed their female counterparts to guide the souls of Bael Turath while seeing to it that small but vital services were rendered to their material lives. One of Amgetoll Ivo’s instituted reforms was to remove restrictions surrounding Church priesthood, allowing men and women of all races to be initiated and ordained.
The funeral rites of the Church involved cremation. As the Prophetess’ body was burned, and her spirit ascended to the Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia, so too the spirits of her followers. The practice of cremation was also to ward off the possibility of the corpse becoming the subject of black magic. The pyres of peasants were often small and ringed with stones. Such burnings occurred within the settlement, despite the fire risk, rather than at a distance. Criminals were burned in a mass pyre. The Church hosted a Ten Year Gathering, in which pilgrims journeyed to the Temple of the Prophetess in Rathir to pray for peace. Certain members, called Chanters, spoke only in quotations of the Ancient Lore of the Dawn War. Ostensibly this was to spread the words of the Prophetess far and wide. The faithful who gave their lives to the crusades earned a special place at the side of the Prophetess as the "Crusaders". A still greater honor for service, the defenders of the faith were sometimes given the title of "Anointed". The Anointed were seen as the hands of the gods and the title was exceptionally rare.
Many of Bael Turath's most prominent scholars come from within the Church's ranks. The Church actively encouraged its followers to read books other than the Ancient Lore of the Dawn War. The Church was not above history revisionism and censorship however. Many books were banned by the Church as well, usually those dealing with black magic and other heresies.
In the years before the founding of the Order, Bael Turath was plunged into chaos. Despite the spread of the Prophetess' teachings, black magic and demon cults were widespread. The Order was formed in the first era with the goal of protecting the people from tyranny of ignorance in whatever form it might take; blood mages, demons, cultists, or heretics. A loose association of religious hard-liners, the group combed the land in search of these threats and some say theirs was a reign of terror. Others say they were cast in a negative light by history because their investigations and even application of justice, protecting both nobility and common people impartially, crossed too many powerful groups. In these accounts it is suggested that the group was already known as the Church of the Sovereign Host, and that “the Order” was perhaps used pejoratively.
In the first era, the magisters of Alluria found common cause with the Order and they signed the secret accords. As part of the agreement, the Order formed the new martial arm of the Church, the temple armies, and its senior members became known as the dread imperators. The last leader of the original Order ascended to the position of Archpriest of the Temple of the Prophetess.
In the second era, a captain of the temple armies named Haytham Ley began the heretical Black Guard order. The Order excommunicated Ley, and declared an inquisition to cleanse his heresy. This was actually a conspiracy by the Archpriest of the Temple of the Prophetess to usurp the Imperial throne. The Archpriest was killed by the dread imperator Kuori, and replaced by the priest Amgetoll Ivo. The Black Guard officially severed ties with the Order, and Ivo formed the Gray Guard to combat them.