The Church of Damona
The people of Quenesse revere Damona, the High Saint, handmaiden of The Named God (or simply, The Name). Damona herself presides over a sprawling bureaucracy of lesser saints and divine figures. Just as she rules in heaven, her priestesses speak on her behalf on earth. Although some of the lowest orders of the Damonan Church are comprised of men, all of Damona’s important priestesses are women.
Ostensibly, the Damonan Church’s main duty is to safeguard the keys to the underworld, given to them by Damona herself in years past (whether this is a metaphorical or literal duty is not clear). Realistically, however, the Church is a kingdom unto itself, superimposed upon the Kingdom of Quenesse. The head of the Damonan Church is the powerful priestess known as The Hierarch, who rules from her throne in the Caelian Confederation.
The Church in Quenesse is made possible by an ancient document known as the Valerian Accord, which states that the Damonan Church may operate within the borders of Quenesse so long as it does not maintain any armed men (or women) within the kingdom. In practice, the current Hierarch has found it difficult to enforce her will directly upon the Quenessian arm of the Church, and the incidence of schism and heresy is rising. Still, most lowborn Quenessians accept the comfort that the Quenessian Church promises.
Aedifex, Carnifex, Pontifex
Although the Hierarch rules from her seat in the Caelian Confederation, the Church of Damona has its origins in the lands now known as Quenesse, and as such is fundamentally Quenessian in character. Just as Quenessian society is rigidly stratified, prescribing the order and station of man and women in the secular realm, so too has the Church proclaimed a spiritual order for all things. Indeed, the mothers of the Church claim that the kingship of Quenesse is a pale imitation of the order dictated by The Name.
The Church reveres the Name as a single, all-powerful being. However, the Church teaches that The Name is so awesome and so alien to that he divides himself into three persons so that the frail minds of men might come to understand him:
- Aedifex: The Architect, who designs, creates, and maintains the mysteries of the earth;
- Carnifex: The Executioner, the hand of justice, who defends the work of the Aedifex and roots out that which is unclean;
- Pontifex: The High Priest, who alone sees the purpose of the works of the Aedifex and Carnifex.
The High Saint
The Damonan faith encompasses hundreds of saints, martyrs, and spirits, but first among these is Damona, the High Saint. Damona lived on the shores of the Grey Sea approximately 700 years ago during the pre-Quenessian period, before the kings united the lands east of the Valorech range. During Damona’s life the land was ruled by a multitude of feuding warlords, and, according to belief, demonic entities stalked the land freely. The Church teaches that the Named God revealed himself to Damona, charging her to clear the land of demonic influence and pass the worship of The Name onto the people. She succeeded, so the Church claims, and before her death The Name bestowed the keys to the gates of hell upon her, giving her authority over evil spirits. In recognition of this duty, Damona and her followers founded the Church. To this day, priestesses of the Church of Damona wear a skeleton key (the clavis) as their badge of office.
In driving out the demons, Damona allied with the warlord Ulthraed, consecrating him and his people to The Named God. Ulthraed became Ulthraed I, the first king of the area now known as Lesser Quenesse.
There is no single, monolithic religious text. Instead, the Church recognizes dozens of accounts, scrolls, and treatises, many of them fragmentary or the product of editors with hundreds of years between them. For this reason, details surrounding the life of Damona and her companions are sparse. All texts agree, though, that Damona worked many miracles in order to drive out the demons. The greatest of Damona’s miracles was the “spontaneous birth” of spirits who passed from the realm of The Named God through her womb so that they might enter the physical realm to do the work of their god. The Quenessians name Damona “Genetrix Angelorum,” while the Caelians call her “Mater Manes.” She is known by a host of other titles, but is most often simply referred to as the High Saint or the Eternity Gate.
The Shining Hells
According to popular belief, demons were born of and returned to the stars. Each one of these Shining Hells is the domain of a cruel and perverse demonic lord. At night, the demons gaze upon the realm with jealous eyes. Those few learned men who would study the night sky are no less than demonologists, and a cloudy night is seen as a blessing.
Rites and Practices
What few records exist show that Damona invested her divine power into women only, and so the priestesses of Damona follow this custom. Neither to they take any husbands, forsaking marriage as Damona did. In return for this devotion, the priestesses claim, some (but by no means all) priestesses have the ability to manifest the power shown by the High Saint, invoking miracles through The Named God. Some orders of monks are made up of men, although they do not wear Damona’s Key and do not speak with the full authority of the Church. Instead, they are scribes, herbalists, and crafstmen.
For more information on the Church in Quenesse, see Rites and Practices.
The Valerian Accord
In the early days of the Church, the faith of Damona spread throughout the realm. Fearful of the Church’s power, the lords of Quenesse sought to curb the Church’s growing influence and placed sanctions on the priestesses. In an effort to retain their foothold, the priestesses signed the Valerian Accord, a document that clearly defined, for all time, the rights and privileges of the priesthood within the realm of Quenesse and its lands.
The Valerian Accord stipulates that the Church may not maintain any armed men within the lands subject to the crown. In return, the king or his vassals may not try monks or priestesses within a court of law, instead turning them over to Church authorities. On several occasions this has led to an accused person taking hasty holy orders, frustrating civil justice.
The Quenessian Church, the Caelian Church
See Church Politics.