Relics & Sacred Items
Carrying or having sacred items or images close at hand is an important feature of Hearthfolk society. Most followers of the Aurorym wear the sacred symbol of the Solyx, the Dawn’s Sun, somewhere on their person at all times, be it a ring, a necklace, or sewn into their clothing. When taking on an action that is particularly important, difficult, or dangerous, Hearthfolk faithful will seek out an Auron to bless them or an item they will be using in the task. This is particularly true of battles, where whole armies often seek a priest’s blessings and the warriors ask to have their armor or weapons consecrated. Though no one has been able to prove these blessings or prayers actually do anything, they do provide a morale boost to the individuals and in a fight, this can give them an edge.
Even more significant among Hearthfolk is the acquisition and possession of relics or other sacred artefacts. Relics are typically a piece of a saint’s body or something formerly in their possession. They can include items such as weapons, clothing, blood, bones, and even items tied to their actual deaths. Possession of a relic is said to bring special blessings upon a faithful and grant them unique gifts to heal the sick, ward against evil, or great battle prowess. Many faithful seek to attain a true relic of a saint but, given the Aurorym habit of burning their dead, it can be a bit of a challenge to obtain a body part from the newly dead. Some have speculated that the burning was in part instituted among the Aurorym to prevent wholesale mutilation of corpses. However, grave robbing is still surprisingly common in the Hearthlands, and the resting places of those revered by the faith are often their first targets.
Relics of the Aurorym
The Wood of the Wheel
When Magnus Blayne was executed by King Richard II he was placed upon a breaking wheel and tortured before being burned alive. The Wood of the Wheel is said to be pieces of the breaking wheel upon which the First Martyr died. Over the years, many have claimed to possess fragments of the wheel, including House Bannon itself, which is said to have kept the piece not as a relic, but as a trophy – a source of great agitation for many Aurorym faithful. The fragments of the Wood of Wheel are said to confer near invincibility to those who possess it, be able to cure any ailment, and legends say that any army who marches with the Wood of the Wheel at its head cannot be defeated in battle. This legend was all but confirmed at the Battle of Lanton when Giles the Younger marched with a fragment of the Wood of the Wheel at the head of his invading army and won an impossible victory.
The Chains of the Martyr
These chains allegedly where the ones which bound Magnus Blayne shortly before his death at the hands of King Richard II’s executioners. The chains are said to unbreakable and cause great agony if they are placed upon anyone who is unjust or wicked. The tales say that the wicked who wear the chains will be forced to confront the harm they have done to others and that the evil they have wrought upon the world will either be purged from their animus or consume them entirely.
Shield of Saint Cuthbert
The shield is said to have been worn by the legendary warrior, Saint Cuthbert during the Battle at Exeter, during which he laid down his life to defend a group of innocents. According to tales the formidable bulwark allegedly unbreakable and it is also said that so long as the bearer is of pure heart and deed, the shield will make them invincible while they are defending those who cannot defend themselves. While it is unknown who holds the shield now, rumors say that it sits in the armory of the Fervent Order of the Vellatora and has been used in combat by the Living Saint Decima on several occasions, turning this already formidable warrior into a true juggernaut.
Finger of Saint Sabine
The body of Saint Sabine was never found but it is said that in the days after she became a Witness to Magnus Blayne, the Hexen master lost a finger in combat against a terrible beast. Rumor has it the finger was claimed by the Hexen order and has been kept by them in secret for many years. Those who claim to have seen the relic say it is little more than an old, withered finger often worn on a leather cord. The finger is said to have the power to always point towards source of the greatest evil in a region and possess very powerful warding effects that can drive off or protect an area from creatures.
Quill of the Servitor
This relic is said to have been the quill that was used by Saint Phillip the Servitor to build the foundations of the Aurorym faith. Some have claimed the quill is a thing of extraordinary beauty, trimmed in gold and silver, but others say it is little more than a rather plain, well-worn writing instrument. Those who wield it to write the written word are said to be struck with true inspiration and otherworldly insight, particularly about matters of the Aurorym faith. The scholar Lubinus allegedly used the Quill of the Servitor to pen his famous In Nomine Fides essays on the nature of the Aurorym religion in 623. It is also said that whomever wields the quill cannot speak or write a lie. The location of this relic is unknown but credible rumors exist that the Apotheca have managed to acquire it and are extensively testing its potential applications.
Dawnbreaker is the legendary sword wielded by the Living Saint, Casilda the Dawnbreaker. Allegedly forged from the broken weapons of the first warriors who fell in the name of the Aurorym, it made its first appearance on the field at the Battle of Exter, where it claimed the lives of many who stood against the faithful, including the commander of the Bannon expedition. The blade’s prowess has been on display quite a few times since then and it is said to be able to cut through almost anything and imbue the wielder with incredible combat abilities. In addition, the blade is said to bear an aura of sanctity that repels evil and that it can put the bring peace to the restless spirits of remnants if it is thrust into their grave.
Veil of Mercy
This relic is said to be the cloth that was used to tend to Saint Orione in her last days as she lay dying. The Veil is said to be little more than a soot and blood-stained cloth but allegedly once the relic is soaked in the waters of a river, it possesses the power to cure any disease or curse, no matter its state or origin. The cloth also is said to be able to purify any impure water that it touches. Rumors about where this relic lies are many and varied. Some say it’s in the possession of the Aurorym in Scrow but has also been linked to the Corveaux house of Peneose and their knight order, the Order of Mercy.
Cup of the Illuminated
This common-looking wooden cup is said to have been owned by Saint Symeon. Allegedly possessing incredible restorative powers, any injured who drink from this cup find themselves fully restored from the most grievous injuries. It is even said to be able to restore life to those who have recently died. The cup also is said to have an uncanny ability to give its possessor the ability to sway others to their viewpoints and should a group of people drink from the cup, for some hours after, they will find themselves more agreeable to working toward a mutual and peaceful agreement. The cup is held as part of a relic collection in the Cradle of Light rectorix in Highcourt and has been used by Giles II in negotiations to settle various disagreements during his reign. Some say this relic is the sole reason that the King has managed to keep his throne despite having so many potential rivals and enemies.
Oaths are as important to Hearthfolk as they are in other land, but sacred vows are held in even higher esteem because they represent a sacrifice in one’s life to show their devotion to the faith. In a land that is so centered on religion, there are few more serious ways of expressing one’s commitment to a person, a thing, or an ideal than to swear a sacred vow. These are generally sworn before an Auron and entail the faithful declaring what vow or vows they are swearing, why they are swearing the vow, and how long they will hold it for. True traditionalists will also have the Auron impose a punishment upon them if they are found to have broken the vow. These can range from minor acts of contrition to harsh physical punishment or even being removed from the Aurorym faith. The individual is now called a Vowsworn in the faith and as long as their vow is maintained, they are accorded additional respect for their devotion and piety. To fail a vow is a deep humiliation and source of shame. It is not uncommon for direct servants of the faith such as Aurons or Vellatora to maintain one or more permanent oaths as a sign of their ongoing service. It is less common for a faithful to take a long-term vow but somewhat common to take a short-term vow when engaged in a particularly pious activity such as a pilgrimage or while in mourning for the death of a loved one.
Below are some of the most common sacred vows:
- Vow of Poverty – The Vowsworn promises not to ask for or take any income or coin or goods. They may take charity that is freely given but must give coin they receive to the needy.
- Vow of Chastity – The Vowsworn may not engage in any type of sexual contact with another. This can also be extended to even something as innocent as touching. Chastity is often sworn as part of a knightly devotion and is thought to exemplify and demonstrate purity of body and animus.
- Vow of Silence – The Vowsworn may not speak a word when under this vow. They may write to communicate with others.
- Vow of Pacifism – The Vowsworn may not take any hostile action towards another, even if they are being attacked. This can also mean that they cannot bear a weapon of any kind. The Vowsworn can be defended by others not under this vow.
- Vow of Obedience – By taking the Vow of Obedience the Vowsworn promises to do the will of whomever they swear the vow to. Aurons take a Vow of Obedience to the faith and to obey higher-ranking priests. All Vellatora knights and many nobles in the Hearthlands take this vow alongside their traditional Oath of Fealty to ensure their loyalty and fidelity.
- Vow of Enclosure – The Vowsworn promises to be enclosed within a certain location or specific area. This is meant to be a somewhat small place, such as a castle or chantry, but can be a region around a town or other such geographical limitation. The Vowsworn can travel anywhere within the enclosure but no matter the reason, must never cross a specified boundary.
- Vow of Celibacy – Similar to a Vow of Chastity, a Vow of Celibacy also means the Vowsworn cannot marry and also may not have any sort of sexual contact with another. This vow is often undertaken by those who have fully committed themselves to their faith and do not wish to place another within their heart. Vows of Celibacy are very commonly long-term commitments and often last for an entire lifetime.
The Dawn Charter
Signed in 664 after the death of the Lord Paragon Theodric Blayne, the Dawn Charter brought an end to one of the darkest times in Hearthlands history, the Regnum. Though the Paragon who succeeded Lord Theodric, Lady Emalia, signed the document under duress, it is still seen as a significant step forward for the rights of the commonfolk. The Dawn Charter did what few documents in history had ever done, giving the common people some documented rights and a level of equality with the nobility. Unfortunately, in the years that followed, the implementation of the Charter, while still providing some rights, certainly did not deliver all that was promised. The reality was that most commoners were happy to be free from the tyranny of the Regnum and while the Dawn Charter did not provide everything they wanted, it was progress. To this day, it stands as one of the most important documents of the Age of Kings and is an inspiration to all commonfolk in Arnesse who toil beneath the yoke of tyranny.
The Dawn Charter consists of four tenants:
I. Freefolk in tenancy upon the lands of House Blayne are entitled to a trial in a noble court overseen by their peers.
This tenant of the Dawn Charter allows those accused of a crime to request to be heard by their peers. An allegedly impartial group of peers must be chosen before a court session. This group of peers will listen to the case alongside the noble and supposedly render advice to the lord or lady. The intent behind this was to render out any class bias that may go on when a commonfolk has their case heard. While any freefolk has the right to ask to be heard by their peers this is done infrequently, because having the uneducated and often very inexperienced advising a noble can often do more harm than good. In addition, the selection process has often proven problematic with numerous cases of these peers being bribed or coerced to a certain decision. In the last few decades some freefolk have taken upon themselves to learn the law and offer services as “Professional Peers” for those who can afford their exorbitant fees. While it a Professional Peer does not ensure a good outcome, it provides a chance that someone is present who can advocate for the accused with a reasoned argument.
II. Freefolk upon the lands of House Blayne are entitled to be consulted on matters pertaining to taxes and taxation.
This is by far one of the most controversial tenants of the Dawn Charter, for the nobles have long held that taxation rights belong to them and no one else. This tenant entitles freefolk to be consulted when a tax is created or changed. This tenant was intended to mitigate frivolous and excessive taxation by nobles. During the implementation of this tenant, the nobles demanded that the representation be an elected office and thus the position of actuary was created. Actuaries must be commonfolk and are charged with representing the people to the nobles on matters of taxation. They are elected to two-year term and can serve more than one term. While actuaries have accomplished some goals of the Dawn Charter, many are alleged to be on the payroll of nobles and allow the same taxation problems that have existed for years to persist.
III. Freefolk upon the lands of House Blayne are entitled to hold beliefs of their choice without fear of persecution or prosecution so long as they do not violate the King’s Laws.
This tenant of the Dawn Charter was specifically put into place to protect against religious persecution of commonfolk. Of all the provisions, this one has been adhered to by most of the nobility throughout the years. Though this appears to allow a great deal of freedom, the fact that it is limited by the King’s Law still allows nobles to take legal action against beliefs that the nobles determine are subversive or treasonous.
IV. Freefolk upon the lands of House Blayne are entitled to inherit or give inheritance of property without interference.
This tenant was put into place to protect freefolk from greedy landlords who would retake their land when the original deed holder passed on. While not all nobles engage in this type of behavior, it has happened enough that it was included in the Dawn Charter. While not an ironclad provision, this tenant at least provides some potential legal recourse for families to avoid eviction upon the death of a loved one. Unfortunately, because of this provision, those greedy landlords have now taken to using knights or brigands to run families off their land or simply kill them when they wish to reclaim a property.
Violation of the Dawn Charter by a noble, if proven, goes before the Paragon of the Dusk for review and judgment. However, this is extremely rare and only three times in the century since the Charter has been signed has this happened. Of those three times a noble was only found guilty once, and even then forced to pay minor reparations to the injured party.
Alms & Charity
Hearthfolk are looked down upon in most lands for being a simple people, but they are renowned for their charity and care for their community. Because of the frequent and serious hardships placed upon the residents of the Hearthlands, few places in Arnesse have communities so close-knit and willing to aid each other. Families that experience hardships are often aided by others and it is not uncommon for larger families to choose to live together in a commune-type arrangement. Children with parents who have died are often taken in by their next of kin or the larger community if they don’t have any. Unfortunately, this sense of community often does not extend to outsiders or strangers as they are often treated with suspicion, skepticism, and even hostility if they create trouble. The one exception to this is those of the faith, who will generally be welcomed with open arms by other Aurorym.
One major tenant of the Aurorym faith is almsgiving, or any material favor which is done to assist the needy. The Aurorym feel that the process of aiding those who are less fortunate increases one’s own virtue and they are renowned for their generosity. However, the state of the Hearthlands has created some intriguing social dynamics around this generosity. Firstly, the nobility is almost the universal exception to this. As a matter of fact, their greed often rivals or exceeds the generosity of their people. Secondly, given the generally poor conditions in the Hearthlands, the most generous, often the commonfolk, don’t have much to give, so much of what is exchanges hands is services and goods rather than actual coin. This is only compounded in towns and cities, where living conditions are even worse, and people have even less to give. It is not uncommon to see actual homeless and street-people in town and cities, whereas those are non-existent in the countryside. Lastly, as with most of the Hearthlands, the generosity is often restricted to other Hearthfolk and faithful.
One highlight of the Hearthlands society is its network of orphanages. Originally founded by the current Lord Paragon’s father, Clovis, to shelter the children of nearly a decade of civil war, these orphanages have become recruiting grounds for the knights of the Fervent Order of the Vellatora. While they are a form of charity for children in the Hearthlands, they also serve in a practical capacity as well. But some of these orphanages have developed a reputation over the years for poor conditions and overly harsh treatment and many children attempt to avoid going to them at all costs. Because of this, homeless children are still fairly common in the Hearthlands, particularly in urban areas such as Scrow, where they are referred to as ‘street rats’. Due to the homeless problem in some areas, nobles frequently offer bounties for these orphans, employing bounty hunters known as ‘ratcatchers’ track these children down, capture them, and deliver them to an orphanage. It is also not unheard of for the nobles to also offer bounties for homeless and vagabond adults, who, when captured, are then turned over to the Vellatora knights to be pressed into service as a foot soldier in the Hearthlands army.
Crime and Vice
Criminality is a fixture in Arnesse and the enforcement of the King’s Law is something that all nobles in the Kingdom contend with. However, in few places are illicit behavior, criminal activity, and corruption as deeply seeded as the Heathlands. Scholars have speculated why this is the case, especially in a land that is so traditionally faithful. The best that anyone can conclude is that the frequently poor and often dire living conditions present in the Troth, coupled with the oppression by nobility, has led to a state of mind where people feel they must do anything in their power to survive. This mentality has led many Hearthfolk to believe that hard work is not enough, but that they must take from others, just as they themselves are taken from. Desperation and despair have led many to chase the dream of wealth; for most, the only quick path to this end is illegal and often dangerous.
Early on, the people of the Troth realized that wealth from throughout the Kingdom passed through it. Thus, this wealth became a ripe target for Hearthfolk looking to better their fortunes. So, while many among the Hearthfolk are honest and upstanding, working their farms and jobs common in the Kingdom, others take up illicit professions such as bandits, highwaymen, con men, and thieves. While some of these criminals work alone, many realized that there was strength in numbers and formed gangs or organizations around their illegal enterprises. Today, the Hearthlands has one of the highest concentrations of criminal organizations anywhere in the Kingdom. This has made the Hearthlands one of the most treacherous places to visit and due to its reputation, only the unwise go there without some sort of reasonable precautions.
One might think that the nobles of this land could do a better job of enforcing the King’s Laws and protecting the roads, but many times the lords and ladies of the Hearthlands are as guilty or guiltier of crimes than their own subjects. Mind you, the nobility are rarely seen doing crimes themselves, but they are often at the head of operations that involve acts of bribery and corruption that stretch across many layers of Hearthlands infrastructure. They frequently overtax and oppress their subjects and are unafraid to demonstrate the severe price of disobedience. While not all nobles in the Hearthlands are corrupt, enough are that the system of government there has largely adapted to it as a normal state. Bribes are king in the Hearthlands; little gets done without paying a bit extra to accomplish the simplest things. This bribe is often called a tax or a duty to hide implications of corruption. Graft among the nobles and officials is shockingly common as someone is always seeking a piece of the action.
Two things have emerged among this criminal culture, likely as a result of the strong influence of faith in the Hearthlands. Firstly, many lower-level criminals among the Hearthfolk have a code of honor, or honor among thieves, as some may call it. Most will steal from outsiders but not those native to the Hearthlands, feeling that their peers already suffer enough and generally don’t have much to steal. Secondly, while people may be hurt in their crimes, the Hearthfolk are not a particularly murderous lot; committing a bloodless crime and making a profit is ideal. Therefore, many have taken to theft and things like grave robbing to make a living. Though this has a practical application in that punishments for murder are far more severe, it also is thought to be kinder on the animus should one suddenly die and then be judged in the afterlife.
The Aurorym faith has had a big impact on criminals in the Hearthlands. The faith discourages lawlessness in general and as the religion has grown, in places that it is strong, crime tends to fade and be far less common. This is one of the primary reasons that the Aurorym faith has come into conflict with the nobles as it often calls them to abandon their wicked ways and be more virtuous leaders. However, the faith has yet to change the fact that the Hearthlands people still suffer and as a result, desperation still drives people to do what they must when out of sight of the faith. This is compounded by the fact that power tends to corrupt and as the faith has grown in influence, Aurons have taken increasingly important roles in Hearthlands society. They are human like anyone else and this subject to vice and corruption. So, while it in its purest form, the faith is a bulwark against wickedness, the Aurorym have continued to struggle against vice and corruption within their own ranks, even as they preach the values of virtue to others.
The death of the Old Gods and the abolishment of religion has not been quickly forgotten within the Hearthlands. So, while the rest of the Kingdom celebrates the establishment of the Bannon monarchy and the rule of the first Queen Catherine, many Hearthfolk hold a vigil to remember the faithful who have died in the past so that they could practice their religion today. King’s Day events tend to be somewhat muted in the Hearthlands are instead often replaced with more somber events that mirror Remembrance Day rather than a celebration.
This is not a singular day, but the name given to each of the days of celebration held throughout the Hearthlands, each celebrating a single particular Saint. Each of the major Saints have their own specific day and many small villages have local Saints that have their own days of celebration. On a Saints Day, faithful of the Aurorym will gather to recite the deeds of heroism performed by the Saint and reaffirm their devotion to the faith. Festivals generally accompany this recitation as the day turns to night with the setting of the sun.
On this day none in the Hearthlands work. Instead faithful families come together as one to spend the day in quiet contemplation of the deeds of their ancestors. Families will rise with the dawn and gather within the familial urn room. No meals are served in the morning as the deeds of their ancestors are recited by the youngest member able to do so beginning with the dawn of the sun. Afterwards, the family will spend the day in quiet meditation in the presence of the family’s Urn. It is encouraged for individuals to focus on what they might be able to do in the coming year to bring the light of the dawn with their own deeds or bits of heroism to the community. As the last vestiges of light disappear with the setting of the sun, the family will have supper together. As they finally break their fast, it is customary for each member to speak of what they contemplated on as they all meditated.
The Aurorym faith has specific funerary rites and in many places in the Hearthlands they have become common practice. When a loved one dies, their family members, close friends, or comrades will set a vigil in the night as the body of the deceased is burned to ash. Over the course of the night, those present will speak on behalf of any deeds performed by the departed. Should the deeds be heroically significant enough, they may be declared a Saint of the faith. Once the last ember has cooled, the ashes are gathered together and distributed to those present. For the commonfolk, a family may have a single large urn that houses all the ashes of their ancestors. For fallen knights of the Vellatora, the ashes are typically spread to each of their surviving comrade in arms to carry in their personal reliquary, for the knights are each other’s family