(Warning: contains talk about suicide)
During the last years of the Long War, the world started changing. Most people didn’t notice it at first but if you asked the old ladies sitting on their porches, they would tell you that the days seemed shorter, the nights colder and the shadows longer. Woodsmen and farmers would also tell of animals behaving increasingly strangely.
People would talk about how they rarely had regular dreams anymore, instead, their nights were filled with horrible nightmares. Even children would sneak into the beds of their parents every night, and for once, the grown-ups knew exactly how they felt. Farmers struggled to get anything to grow, and some of the things that did, tasted horribly, as if they had sprouted from the soul already rotted.
There was a shadow creeping over the land, but the people were so busy with their fighting that anyone barely noticed. The despair that seemed to flourish was just thought to be an effect of the war going on, it affected everyone after all. But when the creeping darkness took on a more visceral physical form, people did notice.
It began when more and more people spoke of seeing and hearing things that weren’t there, their heads being full of despicable thoughts they never thought their mind was even capable of producing. And it was spreading, from city to city and town to town, more and more people were being afflicted.
And then came the suicides, in never before seen numbers and of increasingly horrible character. A whole entire village suddenly hung themselves in one night, people threw themselves from bridges and castle walls and some took a pistol to the head, to get rid of the evil thoughts in their heads.
Then came the violence. Horrific attacks and murders of a seemingly random nature erupted, armies were called back home to try and bring back order and the war was soon all but forgotten.
Lastly, came the corruption of the flesh, children born horribly and unnaturally disfigured in ever increasing numbers, and even grown men and women would turn into indescribably deformed creatures.
The loss of life was immense, far more than any war could have ever achieved. Towns and even cities were sealed off and quarantined and the few people that remained barricaded themselves in towns. But even those that didn’t lose their lives, lost loved ones and they themselves were anything but unharmed; the events leaving mental scars that could never be healed.
And so the people settled in, trying to adjust to their new reality, a reality where monsters existed outside of stories and fairytales, a reality where humanity was on the cusp of extinction and only the most desperate would dare to travel outside of the walled settlements to scavenge the abandoned villages.
The time of The Long Madness had begun.
The creation of the world by the Lone Mother Cosmos and the birthing of the Divine Twins is the dominant belief. Although there are several variations in belief within the faith, they all share the same creation story.
At the beginning of time, the Lone Mother Cosmos slumbered in a vast, endless void, for aeons she had been alone, never knowing company, and so she slept to spare herself the sorrow. She awoke suddenly, feeling life grow inside of her, her heart filled with joy and the void filled with her birthing screams as she brought forth the Divine Twins, brother and sister.
As she gave birth to the two most holy of deities, she herself died and her inner light spread, bringing stars to life, to light up the void. Her body turned to dirt, from which sprang trees and grass, her blood became rivers and oceans and her bones became hills and mountains.
So much love had she had in her heart, that from it sprang all the animals of the land, the sea and the sky, bringing life to the empty world.
The Radiant Brother, the Lifegiver, illuminated the sky and in this glorious light, he created humanity, to rule over all animals and the world.
The Pale Sister, the Caretaker, illuminated the night with her white, ghostly light. And as her Brother brought us into this world, she would embrace us when we left it, for she loved us as if we were her own. She will hold us to her bosom until the day her brother give us life again.
Church of the Lone Mother
The Church of the Lone Mother is the largest and oldest of the churches within the faith.
It’s based on the belief that the Divine Brother created humans but then left them to their own devices and demand no active worship.
The Church is divided into two distinct groups of devoted servants: the Clerics and the Ashen Daughters.
The clerics consist of both men and women who have devoted their lives to serving the Divine Twins and provide comfort and guidance to anyone who seeks it. They also have the ability to wed people, who wish a religious ceremony, which otherwise would be handled by a judge.
They live by themselves in cloisters but do travel to towns and cities for weddings and other occasions. They have no permanent presence in towns and cities, however. They can usually be seen wearing a simple, light grey robe.
During the Long Madness, the clerics would create asylums where, along with physicians, they would try to find a cure for the various afflictions.
The Ashen Daughters is an order consisting only of women, focusing their devotion solely on the Divine Sister. Often their members are orphans though a family can offer up any daughter they may have before they reach the age of ten.
A very secretive group, little is known about their inner workings and only members are permitted entrance to their sanctuaries. They also have their mysterious language only they speak, which is said to be the language of the Divine Sister, and usually, only a single member of a chapter in a town or city will have contact (although minimal) with other citizens.
They are easily recognisable by being covered completely in grey robes and wearing a veil covering their faces, further adding to the mystery surrounding them as no one has seen one without her veil down.
Almost all towns and cities, except for the smallest of hamlets, have at least a few members of the sisterhood present, their primary purpose being attending to the dead and dying, guiding them into the arms of the Sister. In larger cities, they also operate smaller hospices where those close to death can live out their last days being tended to by the members of the sisterhood.
Church of the Guiding Hand
The Church Guiding Hand differs in that they consider the Brother (usually referred to by them as the Lifegiver) the primary deity and promote active worship.
They became extremely vocal and active during and after the Long Madness, preaching that the Lifegiver was punishing humanity for their lack of worship, and only those who recanted their ways would be kept safe from corruption.
Many people started flocking to the church in desperation and chapels were erected in many towns and cities, where people would gather to worship.
At the same time, they created an inquisition to root out signs of madness and corruption and stop it from spreading, their methods including locking people they perceived to be affected in their homes, quarantining entire towns and even some forms of torture to try and drive the madness out of the afflicted.
Some people believe that the leaders of the Guiding Hand are simply exploiting the situation to try and gain control over the population, and some even actively fought against them for fear that they would become the dominating church.
Unlike the Church of the Lone Mother, the Guiding Hand has, in addition to their inquisitorial order, a militant order called the Order of Cleansing Light., with each member being referred to as “Lightbearer.”
Consisting of fanatical followers, their primary goal is to hunt down people corrupted beyond saving and destroying the cults that rose up during the Long Madness.
They wear humble brown robes and simple armour, their skin covered in tattoos that they believe to grant protection against corruption. Their most recognisable and feared trademark however, are the so-called “censer flails”, heavy looking flails with tubular, hollow spiked heads, with small holes along their length. They are filled with special incense that, when the flail is swung, will create plumes of smoke.
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