Religion in Imperial Archon culture belongs to elite societies who are expressly forbidden from preaching or active recruitment. Temple schools teach specialized martial arts in conjunction with their particular belief systems. These specialties are in high demand by the Imperial military. Each society – or temple – has varying degrees of public presence and may provide services openly or discreetly for civilians on Archon space.
All of these orders are technically pantheistic, but focus on a single deity/concept/aspect in the cosmology. The most widely known base temples are parenthetically listed for each.
Order of Aur [Temple of Mercy, Central Ryzaa]
Aur is described by Shandrians and most aligned adherents of all temples as a genderless being who ignited the spark of consciousness in living creatures. Note that Ryzaans have a tendency to describe Aur in the masculine because the entity can enhance or terminate life, but not create it. Aur’s temple produces doctors, philosophers, poets, and sex workers – sometimes a monk may be all these things – but behind the curtains, the Temple of Mercy turns out most impressive assassins. Civilians find them a bit creepy at worst, charming providers of sought after services at best. The Temple of Mercy in Ryzaa is an expansive compound featuring a hospice, full hospital, and orphanages. The other Orders however, find Aur’s adherents fall on some spectrum between suspicious and threatening. Even if their personal value is known, they are not fully trusted except by other Merciful. Sometimes not even then.
Aur’s colors [both in terms of the “spheres” – talents of Ma’at Shi training** – and the colors used in symbolic clothing, banners, etc] are primarily grey, silver, and black. They identify strongly with the genadri. Although meat is not forbidden from their diets, they tend to pray – with gratitude to the lost consciousness of the creature – before consuming it. Aur monks may take vows of silence, simplicity, or celibacy during periods of contemplation/concentration/education. Even without such vows, they are rarely ostentatious. They are universally sterilized.
The leadership of the Temple is surrounded in mystery. This obfuscation extends to active, committed monks who may belong to the hierarchy themselves. The head of the current Ryzaan Temple – who is not considered the head of the Aur society – is a former member of the Queen’s Guard, named Kfarne, although only other monks refer to him by his proper title “Archmagus”.
Order of Leviathan [Temple of the Raging Waters, North Coastal Eshandiir]
Leviathan, often referred by hardcore traditionalists in terms of old Shandrian characters “Leh” or “Lay”, “Va” “Tein” or “Tau’N”, is described as a shape shifting hermaphrodite from the formation of the universe, born when the first water particle hit the first spark of fire. They are considered the spirit of volcanic activity, storms, and the natural reuse of matter.
Monks of Leviathan are trained in a number of fine creative arts in addition to swimming, aquatic sports, and combat. Their upper hierarchy within Eshandiir is female or intersex, usually members of a few particular families for several centuries. They pick a [usually] male monk as a figurehead, the Khia, from military monks they send out into the universe as journeymen. The current Khia during Sol’s storyline is a multiple combat veteran known publicly as Rhzyr.
The colors** of Leviathan are blue, black, green, and yellow, although “overtraining” in some spheres may result in expulsion. Readers will learn more about this in future volumes. Leviathan’s adherents [monks, priests, and soldiers alike] are frequently flashy in appearance in spite tithing a substantial percentage of any earnings to their home Temple and or directly to the aid of agriculture or aquaculture on their home world/station. Vows of silence or conversationally reserved behavior are ordinary in Leviathan adherents outside the military. They are encouraged and permitted to have ordinary romantic or sexual lives outside whatever the Temple demands of them, although career military members of the Order are sterilized.
Order of Maalek [Temple of the Sun, South Eshandiir, considered a historic site and long out of use by civilians; Hall of Light, Mantzaar, a tourist destination but also active temple]
The legend of Maalek [Mai’al ek in historic Shandrian runes] is central to ancient kaffir mythology. Maalek was the prince of light, the essence of star matter, a personification of atomic energy. He became infatuated with the fertility of a being called Saada [Sai’Ah Da] and begat numerous children upon her without her consent through various forms of trickery. In the process, these intrusions also begat horrible blights and tumors upon Saada. Leviathan, seeing their long-time friend dying in misery, rose up and tore Maalek to pieces, killing all but nine of his offspring and saving Saada. Saada still mourned Maalek in spite his abuses, so she begged Leviathan to gather the pieces and return them. Leviathan agreed as long as she would not bring Maalek back to life and brought back twelve. She kept one, gave two to Leviathan for safe keeping, and embedded the others in the surviving children. A longer version of the story claims Leviathan ate their fragments, but the one Saada kept became Aur, who taught the children when Saada passed away. These were the first kaffir, by some reckonings, or the first ideal forms of all sentient beings by others.
The Order of Maalek is split into several subgroups, the precise number unknown. Most recognized by the other orders or acknowledged by particularly educated civilian are the Hands of the Sun and the Mouths of the Sun. The Hearts are a fearsome rumor to most, cross trained by all three orders and sometimes considered a branch of the Order of Aur moreso than Maalek. Most of the Hearts and all the Eyes were apparently wiped out around the Triotine Genocide [the last surviving members having been Ruhn]. The Prayer of Eyes is a pre-combat toast to Saada and beyond that, little is remembered or described.
Sun leadership is likewise convoluted. The religious head of all practitioners of Sun arts resides within the Theocracy of Mantzaar on Archos. The Theocracy is pacifistic by nature, receiving the protection of the Archon Empire through a complicated treaty; while the rich Mantzaari farm land and expansive coastal resorts offer obvious benefits to Imperial citizens, the nation’s relaxed drug laws allow for large scale farming and production of a key ingredient to Archon military combat pharmaceuticals. It is considered taboo to speak of this in mixed company on either side of the border, even if one should figure it out. A further obscure arrangement exists between the highest rungs of the Archon military and the Mantzaari Sun Temple priests, visible only to the outside as an annual “peace meeting” lasting several days, wherein the Queen herself and or one or two Haarnsvaar attend a ritual in the Sun Temple. This is barely spoken of even with the Orders of Maalek or members of the Imperial Guild.
The combat heads of Sun Orders seem to undergo frequent rotation in the years following the Belt Wars. By Sol’s time, leadership of any given sub-order is intentionally obscured from non-members and even low-level adherents. This is presumably an act of self-preservation as Queen Marsura’s distaste for the Theocracy and the occult in general is widely known among Archon military brass.
Maalek’s colors** are red, yellow, and black, but sub orders may train in any and all other colors save blue and grey. While Mantzaari members of the Sun orders are usually simple living, thoughtful-speaking, submissive, and gentle tempered, military members and the priesthood are frequently flashy, eccentric, and lascivious. Worldly pleasures and the privilege of power are enjoyed often to the point of abuse. While Sun priests and career military Sun members are required to be sterilized, several are known to have produced families through loopholes and trickery.
Maalek’s Orders are renowned for their acceptance and encouragement of all genders/sexes and races/species, although the upper echelons are predominantly male or gold kaffa.
The Spheres are
Silver: Atmosphere. Basic: how to move in low gravity. Median: how to adjust oneself in a deep pressure situation; fight in low or zero gravity. High: How to survive for a long period, or kill in/with those situations.
Grey: Life saving. Basic: Adjusting blood presssure/flow sans outside force or materials; EMS operations. Median: Keeping a companion alive for several hours. High: Quick termination of life. Grey is also the use of manipulative speech. * High Grey is considered a forbidden art. *
Green: Connection. Transference. Basic: Pass on a little so an entity can move further/survive longer. Median: Survival in combat. Requires a balance of emotion and pulse rarely found. High: Overtake the opponent with feeling, transformation, and or growth. Terrifying and bad form.
Yellow: Pressure/restriction. Basic: Suppress or retain air in lungs to survive in space or water. Median: Express same outside the body to change perceptive effects. High: Crush everyone in the room. Similar to silver but a lot more personal. Silver change the room, Yellow sucks their lungs out.
Orange/Red: Change gaseous states. Ignition. Basic: ignite or extinguish small flames. Median: Fight fire with fire. Capable of putting out gas or engine fires. Highly useful. High: People explode. Nobody likes you.
Blue: Liquid specialty; master fluids in and outside the body. Basic: Great swimmer. Median: Breathe underwater for long periods; fight underwater or in space for a time without equipment. High: Drown a room full of people on dry land.
Black: Killing arts. Basic: use force to knock an opponent down without any physical contact. Median: Use force to throw several opponents into other opponents without eye contact. Charge a specialized weapon to kill multiple opponents in a row. High: Cause opponents to kill one another while walking away unharmed. *All Black is considered a forbidden art*