There is no all-powerful creator God that the Esharians believe in: no unifying force that observes one from birth until death. Instead the Royalty of Esharia, and the lands surrounding it, are represented in the world beyond by a vast court of gods. Each one is an ever-shifting emanation of the very place it represents, and in turn a motivating force for that place. A god may represent things large and small from a single spring or a building, to vast rolling plains and towering mountains. Each god exists in its own space, that does not overlap with any others, such that there is no question over who represents an area. The thing that religious Esharians seek is to Understand their god; through meditation and study one may observe and reflect upon the nature of the spirit. As no thing is eternal, so too do gods pass from the world beyond and are created anew, and thus there are some gods who have existed from the earliest recorded history. These gods are often treated with more respect due to their venerable age.
This indirect dialogue with the divine may help reinforce the nature of a particular area, and the people within it. As the personality of the god affects an area, so too are changes in an area reflected in changes in the god. Priests who come to Understand their gods often act to perfect and protect an area, to strengthen its god and that god's allies in the world beyond. While on the other hand there are some unscrupulous priests who would take the responsibility given to them as a way to reshape an area to their own vision. No records of previous Understandings are kept, and it is rare to be passed on orally, as it is best to focus on the present and what can be done now.
OC Note: These gods may or may not literally exist. However, they will not be able to be interacted with during the game one way or another. For the purposes of Firmament, the religion is purely a philosophical and political institution.
Each god has a church, each containing a number of priests who are dedicated to the service of that god in whatever way they Understand to be the best. The smallest parishes may be served by only a single priest, while the largest or the most important may have over a dozen; these priests are those from the local area who strongly feel the calling to tend to the area, and its god. Unsurprisingly, in a land as fractious as Esharia this often leads priests into the realm of politics - doubly so when one considers that the priesthood is a major route to power to those not born of a House. These churches are usually only housed in purpose built buildings in the most major areas, elsewhere the priesthood acts more fluidly and will often re-purpose a mix of public and private buildings to their ends for a few hours at a time.
The ruling body of the religion in Esharia is the Council of Priests, and in theory is formed of one representative of each god. In practice many of the smaller or busier priesthoods can not spare a priest to attend the Council; as such, many of the parishes form unofficial factions around persuasive priests who share those parishes' agenda. This representative will carry forward a number of yielded votes, depending on how many others they can persuade to support them by the time the Council is brought into session. This often reduces a Council from a theoretical max of hundreds, to usually no more than ninety. These most powerful of members will then discuss on matters of philosophy, theology, politics and practicality as it takes them, and their official agreements are recorded as a guiding principle, usually until the next Council sits. The only thing that is never recorded or judged upon is the nature of Understandings.
Council meetings are rare, and one may not even happen in a slow year, whereas when there is a heated point of discussion there could be many sessions lasting weeks in the same time. This is because there is no official time for the Council to meet: they are brought together by either the declaration of the Queen, or by a request of a full third of their members.1)
A number of meetings have been called recently, as the priests have begun to recognise how deep some people's line of current questioning runs. Some people, especially those in the Wetlands who follow Irina Kal, have begun to question exactly how the actions of mortal peoples affect the nature of the god representing the area they inhabit. For many the traditional answer of “our actions affect the nature of the god, surely as its nature affects the place we live in” has ceased to hold meaning, and is seen more as a justification for the machinations of powerful priests, who simply seek to make the land of their god a mere fife to do with as they will.
These people claim to have a truer Understanding, that the gods in the world beyond cannot be affected by something as paltry as human actions. Their nature may, and will, shift, but that is not something which human actions can shape. The only action we can take is to strengthen or weaken our god by acting in line with, or against, its nature. This position is seen as a curious theological novelty by some, and profoundly dangerous by others, but what it is not considered by any except those who practice it, is legitimate. All things must pass, and some see a great split forming on the horizon.
Note: As below, the official title for a priest would be Priest of the god of X-Place. This is often shortened to Priest of X-Place, and X-Place should not be confused for a name.
The royal palace of Yalcar is home to one of the oldest known gods in the Royalty of Esharia, having been Understood since the days of the Federation under Hashat. As such, its high priest is often afforded a great deal of unofficial reverence, as is seen as a through line to the Monarch. Luzzada, the current holder of this position is much like their god, aged and brittle at first blush, but hiding capricious youth just below the surface.
Los Lesh'at, of the Telqart Spring in the southern Heights, is an impassive man at the best of times: he hides behind a mask of observing and remembering, and will offer little unless he means to do so. However, like the sleeping bear, those who draw his attention are seldom left until Los has satisfied himself that there is nothing more he can do to them. He is a staunch traditionalist, and makes no secret of the fact that he relishes meeting a follower of the theology of Irina Kal, so he may give them a piece of his mind.
Kal has known loss. Her god was sundered into the Southern Oxbow, who she still represents, and the Southern Mudflat who is, according to its priesthood, rapidly being reinvented into a god of an industry. Angered by this seemingly flippant attitude to change, Kal rejected the churches' Understanding of how humans can influence their gods, in a fit of pique. She now travels far from the Wetlands, where the Oxbow is found, to try to show people the abuses of the church, and give them a new path to the Understanding of their gods. Fierce and charismatic, she should be everything the church claims to accept: a twist in the fabric of the present. Only time will tell if their protestations are accurate.