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Selected Episodes from Âratist History

The Spread of the Way of Ârata
The Shaper War
The Caryaxist Rebellion

The Spread of the Way of Ârata

The Way of Ârata was from the beginning an aggressively converting religion. Increase, the third of the Five Foundations (Faith, Affirmation, Increase, Consciousness, and Compassion) on which the Way’s religious and ethical practice is based, has always been interpreted to mean the active promulgation of the faith.

After Marduspida, the First Messenger, emerged from the Burning Land (see The Messengers’ Tale), he spent two years writing down the words Ârata had given him, in the scripture called the Darxasa. This done, he set out in the company of his older children (all of his thirty-five sons and daughters eventually became his disciples; later, they became the Brethren, the perpetually-reincarnated leaders of the Âratist church) to bring the teachings of the Darxasa to the continent of Galea.

One of Marduspida’s most important early converts was Fârat, the younger son of the king of Arsace, which even then was the largest and most powerful of the Galean kingdoms. Long a libertine, Fârat had grown tired of his aimless, decadent life, and Marduspida’s message spoke to his hungry soul. When time and tragedy brought him to the throne, he declared the Way of Ârata the official religion of Arsace, and provided both moral and financial support for Marduspida’s mission.

Marduspida was a shrewd man, whose role as the human vessel of divine revelation did not cloud his understanding of the ways of the world. Simply winning the hearts and minds of converts, he realized, was not enough to ensure the Way’s survival. Rival gods and religious traditions must be replaced or absorbed, so there would not be competition for the people’s faith. The Way of Ârata must become not just a spiritual presence in the hearts of believers, but a social and political presence in the lands where those believers lived.

According to the Darxasa, the many gods and spirits worshiped by the people of Galea were not separate deities, but Aspects of Ârata himself--facets of his personality dreamed into being during the time of his long slumber. Humankind had forgotten this, as it had forgotten Ârata. It was not necessary, therefore, to destroy these deities or to turn people from their worship--only to set the deities in their proper hierarchical place, and to remind their devotees that they were smaller faces of a greater divinity.

Âratist missionaries developed “humbling” ceremonies, which they conducted in the shrines and temples of rival gods. With Ârata’s primacy restored and the faithful recalled to the truth, the shrines and temples could be left intact, with their own priests to attend them, and an image of Ârata in one of his four guises to preside over the worship of his Aspect--which, ultimately, was worship of him.

This willingness to subsume existing religious structures within its own world-view was an important factor in the Way’s rapid spread. Also important was the zeal with which the First Messenger and his missionaries worked to create a physical infrastructure for the Way. The building of Âratist monasteries and nunneries and temples was a priority, with much of this construction financed by the piety of local rulers and men of wealth, who were a particular target of conversion. Âratist institutions were generally welcomed even by those who did not follow the faith, since a large part of the monasteries’ and nunneries’ mission was the doing of good works--the establishment of orphanages and hospitals, the giving of shelter to society's undesirables, especially the crippled and the insane.

As with most religions introduced by conversion, the further people were from populous or urban areas, the less their religious practice altered. In the remotest areas of the Âratist kingdoms--and also in the tiny kingdoms of Yahaz and Isar, where the Way never gained more than a foothold--worship of the old gods continued virtually unchanged. Elsewhere, though, the Way took solid root. Within two centuries of Marduspida’s emergence, the Way of Ârata was Galea's dominant faith.

The Shaper War

The third section of the Darxasa, the Testament of Exile, includes a long discussion of shaping and its origins, as well as many prescriptions for the ways in which the power and its practice should be brought into conformance to the precepts of the Way. Both spiritual and practical concerns are thus addressed: as the spark of the god’s own creative power, shaping must be reverenced--but as a human ability, it must be carefully governed. Mages and sorcerers may work to people's benefit, but if ruled solely by their own will and conscience they may also become a significant source of social disorder.

Over the centuries before Marduspida’s emergence, a variety of methods were employed to address the disruptive potential of shaping. Many were voluntary, established by Shapers themselves: Shaper-run training schools, Shaper guilds that enforced and proscribed the power’s practice, private Shaper societies with elaborate canons of ethics and behavior. Others were official--laws prohibiting certain uses of shaping, regulations binding Shapers to specific kinds of service, rules barring Shapers from various activities and professions.

But such outside controls, based as they were not on internalized codes of ethics but on official sanctions, were often ineffective--not to mention difficult to enforce, given Shapers' power. And the Shaper guilds and societies, though capable of policing themselves, were as susceptible to corruption as any other group. By the time of Marduspida’s emergence, shaping was widely feared and detested, especially among the common people--who, even when it was well-used, tended to benefit from it least.

Marduspida and his missionaries made energetic attempts to bring Shapers to the Way. Many Shapers did convert, but just as many had no desire to limit their practice as the Darxasa’s directives demanded. The Book of the Messenger includes many tales of the First Messenger’s confrontations with hostile Shapers. Wisely, he early equipped himself with a Shaper bodyguard.

In the year 290 P.E. (Post Emergence), a non-Âratist nobleman called Nabrios, heir to the small independent duchy of Korot, decided to evict all Âratists from his lands. He had Shapers in his employ, and used them to terrorize the Âratists and drive them out. He meant his action as an anti-Âratist statement, not a pro-Shaper one; but the success of his campaign was a rallying-cry for disaffected non-Âratist Shapers everywhere. In their hundreds they flocked to Korot, eager to help oppose the Way of Ârata. What had been a local action became a Shaper crusade, its goal nothing less than the complete eradication of the Âratist faith.

Nabrios and his Shaper army swept down upon Galea. After the initial engagements, no one dared stand against them, for soldiers and war engines were almost completely ineffective against the Shapers' united power. The army conquered the principality of Haru, then the Protectorate of Ko, then the kingdoms of Aino and Chonggye. It razed Âratist temples and monasteries, killed and dispersed Âratist monks and nuns. Nor did it always take care to limit destruction to
Âratist sites, or to ensure that its targets were actually Âratists. Many communities were entirely obliterated, and non-Âratists died alongside those who had vowed the Way.

The King of Arsace, Vantyas XI, had begun
to gather his own force of Shapers loyal to the Way, determined not to yield his kingdom as other rulers had. To win victory, however, he knew he needed more than shaping. He set his artificers the task of discovering some new weapon or defense that could be used against Nabrios’s army.

The weapon they gave him came from a surprising source: a common weed called manita. For centuries, it had been folk-wisdom that the dried leaves of this plant, when eaten, produced a narcotic effect that impeded the use of shaping power. Vantyas’s artificers experimented with manita, devising a method of parching and oxidizing the leaves, then boiling them to a paste that, dried and ground to powder, could be dispersed through the air--for as it turned out, manita was far more effective breathed than eaten. Not only did this produce an instant effect on shaping ability, its extreme harshness caused convulsive coughing and choking in anyone who inhaled it, Shaper or not.

Vantyas’s force marched to meet Nabrios’s, encamped on the plains south of the River Hatane. Nabrios did not attempt to halt Vantyas’s approach, no doubt planning, when Vantyas drew close enough, to order his Shapers to respond with the same lethal force they had used to defeat other attempts at opposition. Vantyas was thus able to bring up his catapults, and fling clay globes filled with manita powder into the midst of Nabrios’s camp. In the chaos that followed, Vantyas’s Shapers opened up the ground beneath the Shaper army. Nearly all were swallowed by the earth.

The Battle of Clay was the end of the Shaper War. It also marked a turning point in the history of the Âratist church. Within months of the War’s end, the Brethren announced a conclave of church and secular leaders in the holy city of Baushpar, to examine the circumstances that had led to the War and seek ways to ensure such a thing never occurred again. Rulers and nobles and dignitaries came from every part of Galea to attend. The Shaper War had been more than just a brutal assault upon the Way of Ârata--it was the most destructive conflict Galea had ever known, and the most compelling possible demonstration of shaping's deadly danger. Even the leaders of lands that had not suffered were determined that there should never be another Shaper War.

There was little consensus. Some favored new laws addressing the use of shaping, harsher legislation, stricter controls. Others--especially delegates from the kingdoms that had borne the brunt of Nabrios’s assault--declared that such controls had never been effective; what was needed was to remove the threat entirely, to declare shaping an abomination and put to death anyone who owned the gift. Still others pointed out that it was not shaping that was at fault, but only its enslavement to fallible human will--and that, though it needed to be limited, Ârata’s divine gift to humankind could not simply be destroyed.

At last, when it seemed no resolution would ever be reached, the Brethren proposed a compromise. Shaping, as divine, must be honored. As human, it must be guarded. The Brethren and the Âratist church, sworn to Ârata’s service and the precepts of his Way, were best fitted to accomplish both those tasks. Shaping must be given into the church’s keeping, where it would be lovingly preserved and carefully controlled. A new monastic order of Shapers would be established, charged to use their ability only in ritual celebration of the god. As a further precaution, these Shaper priests would be required to take daily doses of the powdered manita that had defeated Nabrios’s army--not to remove their gift, but to diminish it past the point of danger, and also to ensure equality among them.

There was dispute, especially from those who feared the power such custody would confer upon the church. Fear of Shaping was greater, however, and in the end the Brethren’s proposal was adopted. It was laid out in the Doctrine of Baushpar, a seven-point creed defining the church’s guardianship of Shaping. The majority of the secular leaders present at the conclave swore allegiance to this document, and pledged to support its promulgation.

The Doctrine was a triumph of strategy on the part of the Brethren--who, anticipating the conclave’s conflict, had prepared their compromise well in advance. By gathering shaping to the church and strictly limiting its use, they managed not just to contain a significant threat to the social order, but to achieve with unprecedented thoroughness their father’s goal of bringing all Shapers to the Way. More subtly, by binding Shapers to the celibate practice of vowed Âratists, they ensured that the number of Shapers born into the world would decrease, thus limiting the threat even more.

It was an enormously ambitious plan, and in different circumstances might not have succeeded. But the military assistance lent by secular leaders, and especially the weapon of manita, gave the church a unique advantage. Too, the defeat of Nabrios’s army had cut the number of Shapers in Galea by more than half and killed many of the most powerful of them, so that the task of rounding up the rest was far easier than it would otherwise have been. The efforts of the special forces that pursued practicing Shapers, and of the new corps of Âratist Travelers who sought out newly-manifest ones, were aided by the monastic order of Dreamers, whose skill in sending their sleeping minds out across the world ensured that even Shapers who tried to conceal themselves were eventually found.

Finally and most enduringly, manita had an unanticipated side-effect: It was highly addictive. Shapers who attempted to stop dosing themselves suffered harrowing withdrawal symptoms. Where faith and indoctrination were not enough to hold a Shaper to his or her Âratist vows, terror of manita withdrawal usually was.

The promulgation of the Doctrine was a dark period in Galean history. Shapers who refused the Way of Ârata, or, having accepted it, balked at becoming celibate monks or nuns, were declared heretic and executed. Those who tried to hide or shelter Shapers received similar treatment. There were attempts at resistance--other rebellions, a few rulers who opposed the Doctrine and provided sanctuary to fleeing Shapers. Most of these were resolved quickly, with a brutality born of the still-vivid memory of the horrors of the War.

A century after the formulation of the Doctrine of Baushpar, the Brethren had largely accomplished their goal. What little non-Âratist Shaping remained, in remote areas or holdout kingdoms such as Isar, was too isolated to be troublesome, or too unschooled (Shapers being unable to harness their ability without proper training). The harsh measures undertaken during the time of promulgation were discontinued. The power of discovered Shapers was no longer violently subdued by massive doses of manita, but harnessed gently and incrementally by skilled manita masters. Shapers who refused or broke their vows were no longer executed, but subjected to a sort of house arrest, their power bound to latency with large quantities of the drug.

Over the next few centuries--perhaps in compensation for the loss of the secular life that no Shaper now could lead--Shapers became an elite within the church, more educated than other vowed Âratists, more privileged, more honored both by their colleagues and by the people. The years before the Doctrine of Baushpar, when free shaping had been feared by those who did not own it and exploited freely by those who did, were mostly forgotten--as were the years just after, when Shapers were hunted down like foxes and ownership of the power was either a death- or a prison-sentence. Children began to dream of manifesting shaping power and putting on a Shaper’s golden stole. Shaping was no longer something terrible or wondrous, but only the small, graceful acts of devotion performed by Shaper priests in ceremony.

The Brethren’s great feat of social engineering, which had returned shaping to its roots in Ârata’s own divinity, had also diminished it, and made it small.   

The Caryaxist Rebellion

Arsace, already the largest of the Galean kingdoms when Marduspida journeyed into the Burning Land, continued to grow over the centuries Post Emergence, its borders expanded by successive rulers after Fârat. Whereas in other lands the Way of Ârata moved in and out of official favor, Arsace’s kings remained staunchly Âratist, even as royal dynasties died out and new ones rose.

In the year 1157 P.E., Vandâpaya II came to the throne. Like Fârat, he was a younger son who had spent much of his youth in debauchery. On his coronation, he underwent a conversion; and, as a sign of his new devoutness, promulgated two new laws. The first, extrapolated from Increase, third of the Five Foundations of the Way, imposed an annual tax on every household in Arsace for the support of the church. The second exempted the church and all its lands and possessions from taxation of any kind.

These laws (opposed by many of the nobles in the Lords’ Assembly, who believed that the church was already wealthy enough), produced an enormous amount of resentment both of the King and of the church. It was widely rumored that Vandâpaya was a puppet of the Brethren’s leader, the Blood-Bearer--whose ambition, it was said, since he could not rule the kingdom, was to rule the king. Dissatisfaction with Arsacian royalty was already deeply entrenched among the populace--the Pravanish Dynasty of which Vandâpaya was a part had grown decadent and despotic, with a cadre of corrupt ministers, a brutal secret police, and a lavish, dissolute court. But among a population devoted to the Way of Ârata, resentment of the church was something new.

A few years after the enactment of Vandâpaya’s laws, a university master named Caryax published a series of treatises calling for radical social reorganization. Among his proposals were the elimination of royal rule, the eradication of the nobility, and the redistribution of property and ownership--the aim being a communalist society governed by its people, in which affluence and station accorded with labor and merit rather than birth or inheritance. Caryax also proposed to eliminate the practice of religion, which, he claimed, cheated the faithful by turning their minds from the real concerns of the world to the illusions of faith. The church was a parasite, draining society of both wealth and talent; if it were dismantled, the resources it hoarded could be turned to useful purposes, and faith, deprived of the external support of priests and shrines, would wither naturally away.

Caryax was not concerned by the fact that the end of the church meant the end of the church’s custody of shaping. In certain secular intellectual circles, itit had grown fashionable to discount the histories of the Shaper War and its atrocities as the exaggerated chronicling of a departed age. All modern-day Arsacians had ever seen of shaping, after all, was the forming and transforming that Shaper priests accomplished in Âratist ceremony; it was difficult to relate these small acts to the great feats the histories claimed had been done during the War. Shaping, Caryax believed, was just another of the resources the church hoarded greedily for itself; freed, it could be used for the benefit of the people.

Caryax was imprisoned and executed for sedition, and his treatises were burned. But his message survived, taking particular root among students and intellectuals, and also among the poor and the ill-paid common soldiers of Arsace’s standing army, who sharply resented the privilege of the noble commissioned officers.

Fifteen years after Caryax’s death, a prolonged drought devastated southern Arsace. In one of the hardest-hit provinces, the local peasants, enraged at the nobles’ food-hoarding, rose up in rebellion, led by Haspavardiya, son of one of the noble houses and an ardent Caryaxist. This peasant army marched on Darna, the provincial capital. The garrison there turned on its officers and defected, almost to a man. The city officials, left defenseless, surrendered.

Renouncing both his heritage and his family name, Haspavardiya re-christened himself the Voice of Caryax, and declared himself the leader of a Caryaxist revolution. Word spread. There were Caryaxist-inspired uprisings in other drought-stricken southern provinces. People of all classes and professions came to join the Voice’s army in its advance upon Ninyâser, Arsace’s capital. By the time it reached the city gates, it was more than five thousand strong.

Vandâpaya and his ministers, disastrously underestimating both the Voice and the power of Caryaxist ideas, had refused to heed the few members of the Lords’ Assembly who argued that this was no mere peasant uprising but something far more dangerous. They made no effort to halt the Voice’s advance, planning, once it reached Ninyâser, to crush it with the superior forces of the royal garrison. But as in Darna, a large portion of Ninyâser’s garrison deserted to join the Voice; the rest, showing better judgment than Vandâpaya, either fled or surrendered. The Voice marched into Ninyâser unopposed.

Many of the lords and members of Vandâpaya’s court had also fled. Those who remained, including Vandâpaya and his family, surrendered on the Voice’s assurance of safe conduct to the borders of Arsace. But the Voice changed his mind, or perhaps never intended to keep his promise. Vandâpaya and the rest were seized and confined in the dungeons of the Hundred-Domed Palace, which the Voice, as one of his first official acts, had ordered emptied of its prisoners. In a series of show trials, they were condemned for crimes against the people and executed.

Years of change and destruction followed, as the last royalist opposition was overcome and the Caryaxist regime entrenched itself. The nobility was dismantled--occasionally by massacre, but mostly by trial and execution or by simple dispossession. Intellectuals and scholars who refused to profess Caryaxist ideals were banished or imprisoned. Serfs were freed. Private landownership was abolished, and the great farming estates of central Arsace transformed into huge agricultural communes. In keeping with communalist ideals, the state also took possession of a good deal of Arsace’s industry, from the fishing fleets of the eastern coast to the vast iron mining operations of the north.

As Caryax had desired, the Âratist church was dismantled, often with great violence. Âratist lands were seized by the state. Âratist shrines and temples were razed and stripped. Monasteries and nunneries were closed, their inhabitants forcibly secularized, or, if they resisted, imprisoned or executed. Laws were passed prohibiting any public expression of Âratist traditions. Vowing the Way was a crime punishable by incarceration. In other times there might have been more resistance to these draconian measures, but the weary burden of Vandâpaya’s taxes had cut deep channels of resentment through the piety of a formerly staunchly Âratist people. These resentments, though, were only a recent overlay upon a much deeper practice; and that deeper practice reasserted itself as the Way of Ârata was driven underground. Ironically, it was the very success of the Caryaxist persecution that ensured the Way’s survival in Arsace, as a secret lovingly preserved in the hearts of the faithful.

The Voice had been raised by devoutly Âratist parents, who saw to it that he spent several years in a monastery school. Unlike Caryax, he owned an acute understanding of the potential danger of unbound shaping. Accordingly, he ordered the removal of all Shapers from Arsace, by whatever means necessary. Some Shapers managed to escape across Arsace’s borders; others, if they survived manita withdrawal, tried to lose themselves among the general populace and live as ordinary people. Some attempted to resist, like the Shapers of old. But the techniques to which those free Shapers had been trained had been lost over the centuries, and the modern Shapers, their power caged and limited all their lives, had neither the time or the skill to rediscover them. They were easily dispatched by the ordinary weapons of the Voice’s troops.

Though the Caryaxists vandalized it extensively and stripped it of its riches, the holy city of Baushpar survived more or less intact. As the traditional seat of the Âratist church and the place where the First Messenger was entombed, Baushpar possessed enormous power as a religious symbol, and even the Voice was not willing to test the tolerance of other kingdoms of Galea by destroying it. It was an empty shell, in any case, for the Brethren and most of the religious population had fled to Chonggye soon after the fall of Ninyâser, and the blockade the Voice set around the city, which allowed no one in but did not prevent people from leaving, ensured that the secular population was soon gone as well. Only a tiny, stubborn cadre of vowed Âratists remained, caring for the city as best they could, surviving on the charity of people from the surrounding villages, who slipped through the increasingly perfunctory blockade to leave food and goods.

The idealistic fervor of the Caryaxist revolution soon hardened into a system not so very different from the one it had displaced. The Voice became a de facto king, the Caryaxist bureaucrats a de facto nobility. The King’s dreaded secret police, slightly reorganized, served the Voice as it once had served Vandâpaya. Corrupt officials flouted laws and accepted bribes as they had always done, and the division between rich and poor, though no longer based on noble rank, was as sharp as ever. Though the serfs were free, life on the agricultural communes was not so very different from life under the great landowners.

More and more, as the people’s dissatisfaction increased, the Caryaxist government turned to tactics of repression. To hold the growing numbers of political prisoners, a great jail was built on the far side of Thuxra Notch, the only negotiable pass through the Arsacian portion of the mountain range dividing the habitable portions of Galea from the Burning Land. This location certainly had practical advantages, for the hostility of the terrain discouraged escape attempts, and its isolation removed the prison and its inhabitants from the public eye. But it was really ideology that caused the Voice to put Thuxra City were it was, as a deliberate defilement of sacred ground, a powerful statement of Caryaxist contempt for the traditions of the Way of Ârata--which, it was becoming apparent, could not be rooted out, despite the most strenuous efforts to do so.

The Caryaxist regime lasted for eighty-three years--seventy of them under the Voice himself, who lived sharp-minded and devious well into his nineties, and thirteen under a series of successors, none of whom were strong enough to keep leadership for long, or to maintain the unity the Voice, by sheer force of will and personality, had imposed upon an increasingly factionalized Arsace. The government fell into disarray; there were uprisings and even, briefly, civil war. Ultimately the regime would probably simply have collapsed, leaving a vacuum into which the tattered remnants of Arsace’s nobility might have stepped. But an exile named Santaxma had other plans.

Santaxma was the scion of a minor branch of the royal family, which had managed to escape with the Brethren to Chonggye at the start of the Caryaxist takeover. Crowned King-in-Exile in the year of the Voice’s death, he and Taxmârata, newly-elected leader of the Brethren and Santaxma’s fast friend since childhood, undertook to raise an army for the liberation of Arsace. They were stunningly successful. Wealthy donors gave piety-gifts of men and money. Volunteers came from all the kingdoms of Galea, drawn by the call to re-take the holy city of Baushpar and restore the Way of Ârata to Arsace. Especially enthusiastic were the refugee communities of Haruko, where expatriate Arsacians had dreamed long and fiercely of recovering their homeland.

Caryaxist resistance to Santaxma’s forces was vigorous at first, but grew steadily weaker as the Caryaxist regime fell into chaos. The collapse, when it came, was sudden; having fought for nearly ten years to win a few hundred miles of territory, Santaxma was able in the space of a few weeks to push all the way into the center of Arsace. As the Voice had once done, he entered the city of Ninyâser unopposed. The people lined the streets, and threw flowers down before him. When he reached the Hundred-Domed Palace, vacated only days before by the last remnants of the Caryaxist government, he dismounted and kissed each of its marble steps, and then moved through it from its dungeons to its attics, reclaiming his heritage room by room.

Within six months, the Brethren were re-established in Baushpar, and the work of restoration had begun. Pockets of Caryaxist resistance remained, especially in the southeast, where a few stubborn warlords hung on in isolated areas. But Arsace was free again, and the Way of Ârata was once more the way of its people. The times of chaos were finally at an end.