Ceracia

Location: East-southeast of the Known World. Ceracia is bordered on the north and west by The Great Desert and on the South by Illucien. The island nation of Quelios lies southeast of Ceracia, across The Bay of Mist.

Climate: Arid and sub-tropical. Ceracia lies on the narrow strip of land between the Great Desert and The Sea of Dawn. While cooler than the Desert itself, this nation remains dry and hot almost year-round, making subsistence farming possible, but difficult.

Government: Religious oligarchy. After putting down the royal family for acts of Demonism, The Church of Life has taken over the mantle of government within Ceracia.

Lying across the sands of the Great Desert from The Dwarven Holds within The Flaming Mountains, Ceracia enjoyed the benefits of an age of untold wealth under the Great Dominion. A steady stream of trade kept both merchants and the royal family alike in a life of luxury as dwarven goods were shipped around the world from Ceracian ports. Even the Collapse did little to impair the flow of trade through this nation, as wars throughout the Known World drove the cost of dwarven arms and technology ever higher. However, The Revelation later brought that age to an abrupt close.

The given name of The Prophet of Ra has long been lost to time. However, it is known that he was inspired by a vision given to him by that god of light to abandon his home in the northwest of the Known World and travel throughout the world, preaching the truth of The Gods of Light to all people in the dark times following the Collapse. The Prophet’s divine visions eventually led him to the city of Huremet, near the eastern shore of Ceracia. Guided by the gods themselves, the Prophet was led to a low hill outside of the city, where he witnessed the abomination of most of Huremet’s most prominent merchants worshiping and giving offerings to demon. Filled with divine fury, the Prophet and his followers attacked the demon and its worshipers. According to The Book of the Prophet, penned by his successor, the battle that followed lasted for two days and three nights, but when it was over, only the Prophet himself and a fourth of his followers still lived.

On the site of that infamous battle, the Prophet at last stopped his wandering, building The Temple of Illumination. At the heart of that temple, The Eye of Ra, the most revered artifact of the Church, has always rested. Recovered from the offerings claimed by the demon of Huremet, the Eye itself appears as little more than an amber-colored stone of fair quality, smooth but irregular, and enclosed in a finely woven cage of brass. For the Prophet and his followers, however, its divine power outweighs every precious gem in the world. By touching the Eye while in deep meditation, members of the Church began receiving visions of the future and revelations of the present. Through using the Eye, the Prophet gathered many followers to Huremet, since renamed Levius-Reyos (or, the Reigning Light), and founded The Church of Light.

After dying of old age, the Prophet was succeeded by Julios Hervet, the first High Priest of the Church. Julios both authored the Book of the Prophet, telling of the story of the life of the Church’s founder, and established the foundation of most current Church customs and doctrine. He also received the Revelation while in meditation with the Eye of Ra. The vision received by Julios reveled to him that the entire royal line of Ceracia and almost all of its merchants had fallen prey to the temptation of demonism, just as those in Huremet had.

Charged with this divine insight, the High Priest and the faithful of the Church of Light stormed the capital of Ceracia, overpowering the palace guard, and capturing every member of the royal household and putting them to death by fire in the center of the city. Over the next several months, the newly appointed paladins of the church sought out and put any of the named demon-worshiping merchants to death. Of those named, only a few survived. Meanwhile, Julios and other high-ranking Church officials set to work taking over the reigns of government, to ensure that a corruptible government would no longer exist within Ceracia.

Since the days of the Revelation, a successive line of High Priests have led Ceracia through years of peaceful existence. The Church expects all citizens of Ceracia to remain faithful to the Gods of Light and avoid temptation of any kind. While the Church collects no taxes, anyone possessing too much wealth or donating too little to the Church itself is likely to draw the attention of those in the Church looking for demonists in their midst. As a result, most residents of the nation remain in near-poverty, giving up all but a handful of their earnings to their local temple. Similarly, the ownership of slaves is seen as an embrace of sloth and a source of demonic temptation. As a result, Ceracia is one of the few places where slavery of any kind is illegal.

Unfortunately, the Church disapproves of non-humans almost as much as demon worshipers. In the eyes of the Church’s priests, non-humans have been “tainted” by their heathen gods (really demonic forces in disguise, of course), and, as they have never been blessed with prophets of their own, the Gods of Light do not see them capable of redemption. The Church of Light is not entirely unforgiving for these wretches, and those who can prove their devotion to the Light may be permitted to serve the Church itself in The Silent Order. When joining the Order, these individuals must drink a potion of silverrake, forever destroying their capacity for speech, and, as Church doctrine puts it, preventing them from conversing with darker forces. The hard-eyed, voiceless members of the Silent Order can be seen throughout Ceracia, clad in simple, light gray robes (never quite white) and guarding the Church’s holdings and acting as its elite police force.

The practice of magic is also seen as corrupting, granting a mortal far too much power and presenting too much temptation for the faithful. Magic users discovered within Ceracia (and even those found to possess magic items) are likely to face death at the hands of the Church for their crime.

Luckily, for the rest of the world, Ceracia lacks the financial capability to expand its control over even its closest neighbors. After the Church outlawed the “dark influence” of dwarven trade, the nation’s vast funds dried up quickly. Today, most commoners scrape by on what little they can make, donating what little extra they have to the church itself. Craftsmen and service providers often cater solely to the Church itself (making far less than they should). For its part, the Church does care for the people, giving a large quantity of its funds to those not capable of supporting themselves (usually because of the Church’s own policies). Currently, however, the Church has come to rely on its journeying priests and paladins to bring the Light to the rest of the Known World.

Major Settlements:

Ceracia (capital): Located in the southeast of the nation, Ceracia still functions as its center of government. The huge Temple of the Light now overshadows most of the squalor and poverty of the city. The royal palace itself has long since been cleared away, and replaced by The Garden of the Priests, a massive park filled with gigantic, gilded statues of the gods, and simple, life-size carved replicas of the most famous Priests in the history of the Church.

Levius-Reyos: The original home of the Church, Levius-Reyos still stands in the east of Ceracia. Just outside the town, The Temple of Illumination still remains the resting place of the Eye of Ra. The Oracle of Ra, a specially trained and selected priestess of the deity, lives in chastity within the Temple itself, meditating upon the artifact daily to provide insight for the rest of the Church. Supplicants seeking the wisdom of the gods may be permitted into the Temple after ascending the hundred stairs to its entrance. Would-be supplicants are permitted or denied entrance only after being questioned by one of the priestesses that attend the Oracle, and a hundred anointed paladins of Ra stand guard around the Temple at all times, ensuring that neither the Temple nor the Oracle herself are tainted by the presence of those not allowed admission within.

Ferr: In the northeastern corner of Ceracia, Ferr stands as the only port where foreign goods are allowed into the nation. To prevent contamination by foreign or inhuman religious beliefs, the Church operates the port district itself, walling it off from the city proper, and carefully watching what is and isn’t admitted in or out of Ceracia. Unsurprisingly, smuggling in Ferr (and throughout Ceracia) is big business for the gnomish guilds. Favorite underhanded imports include magical items (often, the work of the crafters of Quelios), while some of the various exotic and dangerous herbs found in Ceracia (such as silverrake) are typically smuggled out.

Sentius: Before the Church took over Ceracia, the populace of Sentius had long feared attacks by the emirin native to the hills surrounding the cool, southern city. The large, intelligent felines had always disliked the incursion of humans into their homelands, and had taken it out on livestock or property, hoping to drive the invaders away. As the Church took control of the nation, Amer Ganti, a local priest of Isis, sought out these intelligent creatures in the wilds. Over a course of months, Amer lectured to a large group of emirin, teaching them of the Prophet and helping them to see the Light. In the end, most of the creatures in the area were converted to the ways of the Church, and those who didn’t soon found themselves driven away by their own brethren. To this day, emerin remain the only exception in the policies regarding the non-admission of non-humans to the Church. In fact, these strange beasts have made such devout followers of Isis and the Light that most go on to become anointed as paladins of the goddess at The Temple of Isis within Sentius itself. It has since become common practice for journeying human paladins of Isis to bond themselves with one of their emirin brothers. Acting as rider and mount in combat, the two paladins make a deadly team against the forces of darkness, and support one another in their conflicts and pilgrimage throughout the world.

Ceracia

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