Les Mousquetaires du Roi Soleil
“The Creator is all around you; his face is hidden in his works.”
— The Book of the Prophets, Volume I, Verse Seven
The Reformed Vaticine Church (“vaticine” meaning “prophet,” therefore “the Prophets’ Church”) is one of the most powerful and influential organizations in Théah. Drawing power from the common people— and the nobles who support its beliefs—the Vaticine Church and its flock are a force to be reckoned with. Beginning with the first Prophet who spoke to the Old Republic so long ago, it has amassed its own army, developed a system of education, and instigated most of the world’s technological and philosophical advancements.
However, the Church has fallen under harsh criticism in recent times. Accusations of corruption and greed have caused many to doubt its authority, and even its veracity. The Objectionist Movement that began in Eisen over one hundred years ago has changed the Church forever; almost a third of its flock has turned to the Objectionists for guidance. It is a hard time for the Church, but many within its structure would argue that it has brought these troubles on itself, and that they could have even been avoided, if only the Cardinals had listened.
Shortly after the death of the First Prophet, Emperor Corantine adopted belief in the Prophets as his Empire’s official religion. He also demanded there be a “credo”—a unified expression of faith. In 325 AV, the Corantinian Convention put together this credo and presented it to the Emperor. He was satisfied. The credo consists of six Articles of Faith, tenets that all believers hold to be true. The faithful memorize the Articles and recite them during Mass and all other Church activities. In order to understand the Church, one must understand its credo.
Article One: One True God
We believe in one true God, the Creator
Almighty, Maker of Paradise and the World,
and of all things visible and invisible.
The First Article declares that there is only one true Creator—Theus, the Maker of the Universe. Those who are members of the Faith cannot believe in any other gods or powers, nor make use of sorcery (which the Church has proclaimed comes from Legion, the Great Adversary). The use of sorcery is acceptance of powers other than the Creator, a heresy that can only end with death and the burning of the guilty person’s corrupted body.
Article Two: One True Faith
We believe in one holy and prophetic Church.
If there is only one true God, there can be only one True Church, and that is the Vaticine Church. In other words, only the rituals prescribed by the Prophets are ordained by the Prophets, and therefore ordained by the Creator. Those who follow the rituals and beliefs of the Church shall stand as the armies of the Prophet at the end of the world. All other churches are false faiths, deceitful lies that will lead a soul not to Paradise, but to the Abyss.
Article Three: The First Prophet
And in its Prophet, who spoke the Creator’s
message for man and his salvation; who foretold
the coming of three further Prophets; who
delivered himself unto his enemies; and who was
martyred for us in the days of Augustin Lauren.
The First Prophet is the key to the Church’s credo. It was he whom the Creator made to bring his message to the world, he who spread the prophecy of three who would follow, and he who told of the wonders they would perform, “continuing his work in Theus’ name.” He gathered followers, the first saints, who had achieved a state of enlightenment through reason, and with them preached that only through acceptance of others (even those tainted by magic) can a person obtain salvation. Finally, it was he who—at the hands of vicious sorcerers and their corrupted rulers—was consumed by the raging flames of hatred and fear.
Article Four: The Second Prophet
And in the Second Prophet, who bore a staff;
who spoke the Creator’s message, and delivered
men from evil; and who was betrayed by the
unfaithful and was martyred for us.
The Second Prophet arrived from the now-infidel Empire of the Crescent Moon, claiming to be sent on a pilgrimage ordained by Theus. Though he was doubted, both for his claim and his skin, he struck dumb those who opposed his mission, and made powerless all sorcerers he encountered. And it was he who—claiming his flock were slaves of their homeland—led them back into the desert, only to be betrayed and murdered by the brothers of his birth.
Article Five: The Third Prophet
And in the Third Prophet, who bore a sword of
pure flame; who spoke the Creator’s message;
divided the righteous from the unrighteous; and
made the way clear for him who shall follow.
The Third Prophet was born into a time of unrest, when the world was braced for coming conflict. Unlike his predecessors, however, he was neither understanding nor tolerant of the world’s convictions, rising from within the ranks of noble blood and casting the gauntlet back at them, becoming the spark that ignited a war of faith. He shifted the home of the Church from Vodacce to Castille and changed the manner of thought across the world in one, decisive act, rupturing the harmony of the Church.
Article Six: The Last Prophet
And in the Fourth Prophet, who shall bear a
balanced hourglass; who shall be announced by
trumpets; and the dead shall awaken and he shall
reign in the visible and invisible world forevermore.
Inevitably, humanity will learn the awful tribute due at the end of time. The Fourth Prophet will bring Armageddon, casting the world into a cosmic battle for human souls. His kiss will be the breath of life across the globe, and his army will be the ranks of the fallen. He will lead them all through death and anger and conflict into a new age of brilliant truth and glory, where our fates are our own and the faithful shall live in the beauteous service of Theus forever.
The Inquisition is a secretive order within the Church, created by the Third Prophet following his rise to power, charged with seeking out and destroying sorcery. Inquisitors were answerable only to the Hierophant, and had vast authority over Church procedure. Vaticines were expected to assist them in any way they could. Thanks to their efforts, sorcery in civilized Théah remained underground for many centuries.
Luckily, they were always kept in check by the Hierophant. Each successive leader kept a close eye on the Inquisition, limiting its membership and ensuring that its power never grew beyond control. Overly ambitious Inquisitors would be quietly removed from their positions, which kept the order focused on its duties instead of seeking to control the Church. Over the centuries, the Church has gradually grown more conservative, giving the Inquisition greater leeway in carrying out its duties.
That rising tide crested when the current Hierophant was murdered. Now, the Inquisition is answerable to no one and cannot be stemmed until a new Hierophant is chosen. Cardinal Esteban Verdugo has moved quickly to seize power, expanding the Inquisition’s goals and filling its ranks with devout fanatics. They declared war on Théah’s universities: burning books and hanging professors who oppose them. Their enemies are kidnapped and executed as heretics; many who might oppose them are too frightened to act. In the space of a decade, they have come to dominate the Church’s affairs.
In Octavus of 1517, a twenty-eight-year-old monk walked up to the door of his Bishop and nailed a piece of paper upon it. The author was named Mattias Lieber, and within the span of five years, the whole world would know his name.
Objectionism embraces the same basic ideals as the Vaticines, but with key differences. Under it, the Church no longer acts as an arbitrator between Theus and humanity: no one can interpose or “filter” the teachings of the Creator. Theus is everywhere and therefore needs no human institution to interpret His will. Priests cannot absolve sins; only Theus can. The Church cannot create miracles; only Theus can. Therefore, humanity should appeal directly to Theus for absolution and guidance, not depend upon the Church to do it for them.
They can do this by reading the Book of the Prophets and acting on what they read. They can express their faith through charity, hard work and helping others in need of aid. “Theus,” Lieber wrote, “has granted every creature a measure of His grace, which we must use to further His good works.” While the Church can act as a facilitator in this scenario, it cannot claim any absolute authority or interpose itself between Theus and the individual.
Needless to say, the Vaticine hasn’t taken well to this new faith. For one hundred years after Lieber’s teachings, tensions between the two sects rose until exploding into the War of the Cross. After thirty years of bloodshed, Théans have come to the inevitable conclusion that the continent will remain forever divided between Objectionist and Vaticine faiths.