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Saint Church

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On the Saint Church (the Holy Church of the Sankt-Kaisers)

To understand the Saint Church, one must go back, as in many things, to Alhazred. Or, rather, to the Fall of Alhazred, and the few surviving Priest-Kings who endured through the First Dark Age, the remnants of a lost empire. They were still mighty, still dangerous, and they worked to retain their power. But on the world of Belka, the local Priest-King worked on holding power by seeking to control the neo-barbarians, using them as tools to suppress others.

As it so happened, those neo-barbarians rose up, murdered him and his guards, and their leader took his crown from his decapitated head. She crowned herself the Saint-King, as a deliberate spite to the Alhazredian way of doing things; the title was an intentional proclamation of her superiority over the old way, for she was no priest of the long-forgotten pantheons of Alhazred; she was a saint, a chosen holy warrior.

Over the years, though, this doctrine shifted. Sankt-Kaisers sanctified their predecessors, even as they enhanced their own bodies, and the old gods of Alhazred faded away, as revisionist historians alleged that they were priest-kings who had elevated themselves to god-hood (not helped by the discovery of several tombs on conquered worlds of priest-kings who had done exactly that). In place rose the Saint's Faith, which is best described as a mix of ancestor cult, hero cult, and state religion, with edges of animism.

To summarise, the universe itself is alive. Each dimension is another cell in its vast body, budding and splitting through a mitosis that shattered worlds. And life is made in the image of the universe, lesser copies of it, meaning in its own sense, each living thing, no matter how small, is its own existence. But compared to the immensity of the universe, that which the Saint's Faith called "Vollständigkeit", all things were flawed and imperfect. This being, Vollständigkeit, who might best be described as "everything that can be", was commonly depicted in art as a hermaphroditic being, a halo of galaxies floating behind hir, with a sword of rainbow-coloured light in one hand, and a pair of iron scales in the other. Despite that, sie was smiling, for even though sie would judge one's worth upon death and whether one had bettered oneself, sie was kind, for Vollständigkeit sought perfection in all things. Those petty reflections of its majesty that were more perfect than before, that improved and refined themselves and itself, were taken into the majesty of Vollständigkeit, ascending to be born into the fabric of new dimensions when the All-Thing budded again. That was the fate of all men in the end, though those too imperfect would be reborn as men again, to refine themselves. Translated from the Ancient Belkan texts found in the ruined palace of Totgeschwiegen Brise;

"Within one world we are born as stardust, and through worth and improvement, we join Vollständigkeit to be born again as stars."

Moreover, towards the end of Ancient Belka, a new thread to the religion evolved. There were those among the Sankt-Kaisers who delayed their own dimension-birth to remain lesser-but-separate to Vollständigkeit. These beings, the Streben-Kaisers, composed a pantheon of intercessory beings, to whom requests of Vollständigkeit might be directed. Although they had been Sankt-Kaisers in life, they took on the nature of Vollständigkeit, and so artwork dating from that era displays each one of the Streben-Kaisers as possessing a thematic tone which covers everything about them. An example would be of Elisabet II, who was declared to be Streben-Kaiser of Victory, and so was depicted scarlet-clad, her eyes as stars, wielding a matched pair of blades made of ivory. Individuals would pray to her for intercession with Vollständigkeit before a battle.

Post-fall of Belka, in the chaos of the Warring States era, the Saint's Faith began to socially shift, becoming more secular in nature. Although the exemplar-based nature of the sect, and the drive for self-improvement in matters ethical, social, and magical remained, it began to take on greater social roles. Among the various post-Belkan groups who warred, it was something of a neutral party, and that state of affairs lasted right until various religious leaders aligned themselves with powers. The role of the Streben-Kaisers in the religion grew, although an edge of nostalgia entered the doctrines, with fewer self-proclaimed Kaisers being viewed as worthy of recognition as one (once they were safely dead). As a result, a lesser class of intercessory being, who served one of the true Streben-Kasiers started to emerge, the Strebens, who partook of a lesser part of the authority delegated to the Streben-Kasiers by Vollständigkeit (who by now was becoming in the eyes of the faith too high to profane with base supplication), and with further development, it was not merely the mightiest who might delay their incarnation. The Saint's Faith grew in power, and began to become a player in the wars of the Warring States, making and breaking petty Kaisers with its support, and holding worlds in its own right.

This came to a head in around 1720 CE (UA97-calendar), when the lineage of the Sankt-Kaisers moved to bring the Saint's Faith to heel. They did so with extreme prejudice, the Saint's Cradle moving in to eliminate major holdings. The Sankt-Kaiser essentially subjugated the Saint's Faith's hierarchy, declaring himself, as Sankt-Kaiser of the line of Belka, master of the Cradle, to be the rightful head of the Faith. This led to a period of fundamentalism in it, with the ranks of the Strebens and the Streben-Kasiers purged, leaving only the oldest Ancient Belkan ones among their ranks. On the other hand, the influence of this would also be felt on the Sankt-Kaisers, for the daughter of that Sankt-Kasier had been religious, and was horrified by her father's actions. This led to a split in the Sankt-Kaiser line, as she moved against him, and it ended in her death, and the escape of her son to form a line-in-exile; a grave threat because that too could have authorisation over the Cradle. The chaos of those conflicts weakened the Sankt-Kaiser line further, and in its place, the newly "bought to heel" Saint's Faith (now the Saint Church) began to take on a role as a hybrid religion/civil service, working directly under the Sankt-Kaiser's authority to liaise between worlds.

The actions of Sankt-Kaiser Olivie are mentioned elsewhere, and need not be covered here. Their impact on the Saint Church was extreme, though. Their leader had bought an end to the line of the Saint-Kings, and had lost the Cradle intentionally. Within 30 years of her death (1866 BCE UA97-Calendar), she had been declared to be the "first true Streben-Kaiser since Ancient Belka", the Mercy of Vollständigkeit. And in the meantime, the Saint Church had been left in a state that on a lot of worlds, it had power as the bureaucracy, but no power against the warlords that inevitably sprung up. It compensated by explicitly disarming, becoming more of a religion once again, but a religion which provided social duties. It integrated and carried on its duties as a bureaucracy-faith despite the warlords, and thus survived better, with faith in Olivie-as-emulation-target growing, compared to the older, often-bloodier Streben-Kaisers. This caused a notable spread in the tenets of its faith, among groups which more commonly would have held some of the Galean-origin faiths, or other ones.

With the foundation of the TSAB, as three large separate polities came together, several large wings of the Saint Church also threw their boat in with this large, unified, and organised group. The TSAB inter-world bureaucracy is built in part on foundations of the old Saint Church, and as the TSAB has grown since its foundation, the Saint Church has slowly retreated in secular influence, focussing more on the humanitarian side of things. A recent fundamentalist uprising has diminished the influence of the Streben-Kaisers (save Olivie) further among several branches, and the importance of Vollständigkeit is becoming more central, removing many of the theistic influences which had crept in. This has, in its own part, prompted a counter-reformation, especially among some of the core worlds with long histories of Streben-Kaiser intercession, and such debates have been interesting at recent conclaves.

As one of the major remnants of the Royal Belkan civil service, the Saint Church is not synonymous with the TSAB, and in some periphery worlds, is the major "core" influence there. Across many Unadministered Worlds, the Saint Church runs schools, hospitals, and other basic things of civic infrastructure in places where the government simply cannot provide it. For example, there's one Type-1b world, Unadminstered World 27, where in the ruins of the smashed arcology on what on Earth is called Madagascar, the Saint Church is the organisation that runs several massive schools in areas that they've made liveable again, providing food, shelter and education for upwards of ten thousand children up to the age of 12. Those who do well are given further education and the path to getting off-world. Across Dimensional Space, the Saint Church runs clinics, distributes contraceptives, acts as an informal arbitrator in disputes, and accepts volunteers who perform charitable work in return for getting to go off-world. It also retains considerable influence within the TSAB, with branches (such as the one on Mid) part of the government bureaucracy, which is how, for example, there is a Knight of the Saint Church on the TSAB Board of Directors.

This is pasted from an “infodump” post by one of the authors, found here
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