A blinding flash fills the space with light, and my body with warmth. My body. It has been a while since I have found reason to use it, but it is just as comfortable as ever. Across the room from me, a woman lies on a stone altar, identical to the one on which I now sit. Her hair is the colour of flame, and she wears gleaming armour of silver and gold. My armour I suppose. She appears serene, except for one arm dangling from the plinth, a shattered glass bottle on the floor beneath. Against her granite resting place leans a mighty sword, its length etched with the markings of her order. That is not mine. I do not count myself amongst their ranks.
This body wears silken robes, died deep red, and embroidered with runes of pure white. These are the markings of my order. With the flexing of a mental muscle I trained long ago, the writing glows to life, faintly illuminating the area around me. It is good to be back in my body. Though that woman was supposedly crafted by the finest necromancers in the Kingdoms, inhabiting her clouded my mind, leaving me unable to perform even the simplest of actions, ones this body allowed me to perform without hardly thinking. The woman did have her own unique abilities though, and they had proven quite useful, but they would not be so for today. Today is a day for a show, and for that, only my best me will do.
My slippered feet brace my body against the floor as I stand, for the first time in a long time. I can feel the cold of the stone through the soft soles of the shoes, the sensation a pleasant reminder. The preparation room resides directly behind the pulpit, providing a convenient place to ready one's self before a sermon. The marble chamber is lit by several torches burning a cold blue-white, and at it's front, next to the exit, a row of pedestals hold an array of holy books. Each has its own pedestal, and is crafted from a different material than that of it's neighbour. Every one of the books belongs to a different one of the Church's high priests. I reach out my hand, and from the centre pedestal flies the very oldest of all the tomes, handcrafted from ancient leather and fragile parchment. Creating this book is one of my oldest memories. Back then there was no cathedral. No sworn allegiances. No Church. Just a truth, and a realm that needed it to be spread.
In a sudden flurry of movement, I spin the book around myself, and then propel it through the velvet curtain.
A streak of white light shot through the red velvet, terminating atop the priests' lectern. The boy, and he was a boy by just about every meaning of the word, jumped at the sudden motion. A hush fell over the assembled people, lending the dimly lit hall an eerie feeling. Not people, the boy thought to himself, Everyone here is a Crow. A demigod. That was a strange thought. And what was even stranger was that he himself was one too. Only three nights ago he had been laying down to sleep in his own bed, on his family's farm, and now he was an eternal champion of the Gods. That thought was overwhelming. He felt so lost; his supposed patron deity had told him nothing. There had been no booming voice, no glowing figure. He had simply died, and then found himself floating, ghostly, in a temple to Arkon. Yes, he was lost. And what do you do when you feel lost? You seek the Church.
A tall man emerged from behind the velvet curtain. He had a hard face with a square beard, and short, salt-and-pepper hair. His robes were luxurious, deep red, bright glowing white, and many layers and decorative cuts. On his head perched a circlet of spiked ice, the same colour as the chill fire in the braziers around the room. Wait, what kind of church is this? the boy thought in shock.
"Children," the priest began. His voice was low and smooth, and he spoke with a welcoming smile on his lips, "welcome to my home. To those of you who have been here before, I am proud to see you return. And to those new to our gathering, I am glad you have taken an interest in the true faith." The man's voice was soothing, but the boy was worried by of what he spoke. This did not seem like an orthodox chapter of the Church. Would his patron be angered? "In fact," continued the orator, "I believe the great majority of today's gathering are newcomers. I am Infynis, patriarch of the Church. I would like to personally welcome you all to The Church of Wildfire." The Church of Wildfire? The boy had never heard of such a thing during his mortal life. Maybe it's the faith of the Crows?
"To begin, I'm afraid I must dispense of some shameful rumors," he placed his arms upon the podium and leaned forward. "Now, I am sure that none of you good people are here to gawk at the 'mad priests,' but I fear these mutterings of 'cults' and other such nonsense by those not in attendance today, could obscure your sight, and stop you from walking the true path." A cult? The boy thought, aghast. This is certainly not something Arkon would approve of. But the boy sat in the middle of a pew, surrounded by large men in heavy armour, and he feared what would happen if he tried to leave now. So, he had no choice but to stay and listen.
"Firstly, let me assure you, we are not a godless church. Myself and the other children of the Church follow the Heavenly Father, Valkyn." The boy relaxed slightly. Surely attending a sermon in reverence to his Father would not anger Arkon. "It is through His grace that all live in this universe, and we Champions, eternally. Secondly, do not worry about your supposed 'patron' being angered by our actions, and yours should you decide to follow our path. I myself am, or was, a servant of Arkon, as were many of my brothers. As you can see, we have not been smitten by his holy wrath," the speaker laughed, and smiled more widely. This statement brought the boy great comfort. If the head of this Church of Wildfire was not punished by Arkon, he must be safe simply attending a sermon.
"Unfortunately, we could not, in good conscience, continue to server our God's son. His hand in the death of Life, and His quarrel with his Brother are a shame to all. A shame only magnified now by his part in this sacrilegious War of the Gods!" The smile had vanished from the priest's face, and his eyes now stared accusingly at the assembled Crows. "This war that you fight! I ask you all: why do you fight?" He paused for a moment. "Mother Church claims Valkyn is dead. That He went to the centre of the universe to destroy the Hunger, but fell in battle, and now His children fight to claim His throne. This is blasphemy! Our Holy King cannot die! He created the very universe itself from the body of the Wyrm Eternal! Mother Church now expects us to believe that something, spawned from the very realm that He created, could have laid low our Great King?"
Infynis stepped out from behind the lectern, his intricate glowing robes fanning out behind him, and stepped down to the floor in front of the first row of pews. The boy had to crane his neck to keep the man in view over the sea of helmeted heads in front of him. "This Force, the same one that His children protect your souls from, could not have slain the Oldest of the Gods, the Creator of All. Would you presume to think your spirits, eternal before the Hunger, could survive something He could not?" He walked slowly along the pews as he spoke, his followers watching with wide eyes as he passed, several reaching out to touch his robes. When he stopped, he stood exactly in the centre of the hall, precisely level with the boy, who couldn't help but feel the priest was looking directly at him as he spoke.
"No, surely you would not believe such a thing," he said with a smile. "Which leads directly to the conclusion that Valkyn is alive and well, just as He has been since time immemorial. 'But then why does the Hunger still ravage the Dying Worlds?' Yes, I can see that very question on your lips. Mother Church would have you believe that the Hunger is the embodiment of Sin. Our evil deeds given form, and come to destroy us. To a degree, She is right. The Hunger is indeed a punishment for our sins. To believe it is our sins that created it however, is foolish. Just as foolish as believing that you are immortal of your own volition, rather than as a blessing from the Gods." He turned in a slow circle, looking at everyone in the hall, and the boy again, couldn't shake the feeling that when the priest stopped, he was looking directly at him.
"The Hunger is holy, children! It is Valkyn's Mighty Fire! It is His Will! The Flame that will burn away our sins! I know you have all seen it. Corpses given life, villages left cold and empty. This is the punishment for lives of sin. The Hunger, Valkyn's Will, seeks to purge the universe of it's corrupt and sinful ways." The priest walked back down the aisle, and returned to his pulpit. "We have been spared! Each and everyone one of us hails originally from a world that has now been consumed. And we, as the pure, have been chosen to receive eternal life. We will live on for millennia in these Eternal Kingdoms, until long after the evil ones that were consumed have been forgotten." The boy felt a tear fall from his eye as he remembered his family, slaughtered by monsters in their beds. But he did not feel the incapacitating sorrow he had felt since his ascendance.
"However," the patriarch exclaimed, "just because we were pure in our mortal lives does not mean we necessarily remain so as immortals. I myself have some memories I am none too proud of. Memories made in the service of Arkon. Fighting in the War of the Gods. And it is this that is the greatest sin any of us can commit. Fighting to seat another God upon the Dragon Throne, while Valkyn the Father still guides this realm is unacceptable. His Children, our Pantheon, are just that, children. Children squabbling in their Father's absence. It is our duty not to serve them, but to serve the greater purpose! We must serve Valkyn's Will! That is the path of the Church of Wildfire. To travel to the Dying Worlds, and help to purge them of sin, while also ensuring no more Pure Champions fall into darkness. Occasionally, for the good of the forest, it must be allowed to burn!"
"Now, which of you will enter the Church, and walk on the true righteous path?" This is my favourite part. The call to action. Which of them will see the truth in my words and join us? "If you would join us, make yourselves known!" A pair of priests emerged from the preparation room, carrying between them a casket, and on top of it a decanter of the same poison I drank earlier, while I was still that woman. For a moment, everything is silent, as it usually is after I finish a speech, but then, near the centre of the hall, someone in a vessel that looks to have been made from an adolescent, stands. "I will join you," he says, with a determination in his eyes that I recognise as the mark of someone that will do well in the Church. "Well then," I say, "come forward, and become a man of the Church!"
Thanks for reading! I know it's a bit long, but I've been wanting to get the basics of my church out there for a while, and this seemed like the least boring way to do it. As you can probably guess, I'll be playing Infynis in Crowfall, and I'm looking for other people to join me in, and to help create, the Church of Wildfire. Don't worry if you still want to fight in the campaign worlds, I fully intend to myself, I have to put the Templar through her paces occasionally after all. I just won't be sticking with serving a single God. If you're interested, go ahead and post below, in character, or out, whatever you like!