The capital of the Church and recognised as the cradle of humanity
A paradise known by many names, Holy Terra is commonly referred to as Terra Sancta by off-worlders, and Urth by its population. Any attempt to catalogue this planet is a monumental task doomed to fail. The heady scent of history can be overwhelming.
The planet is overcrowded; teeming masses of the faithful crowd into the cities that dot the globe. Immigration is strictly controlled by the Church, and those born on Holy Terra are given special consideration over foreigners. It is the prime planet for pilgrimages, however, as holy sites important to human history are found on every continent.
In 2305 humanity discovered the jumpgate, although, given the circumstances, found is more accurate. It opened our path to the stars, to the worlds we know to this day and many beyond our ken, lost in the darkness of the Fall. After that time, although our recollection is murky, we know about the Diaspora, the coming of the Prophet, the Second Republic and then the Fall. All that is left from the times before is myth, ancient legends and fireside tales.
In many ways the history of Holy Terra is a microcosm of our own shared history: marked by blood and death, by faith and redemption.
In 2305 humanity discovered the jumpgate, but they had already made the leap into space. Urth was, in the past, always over-crowded. Humanity in its matchless ingenuity found many ways to alleviate the problem; some, such as hydroponics farming, were beneficial, others, such as state imposed sterilizations were not. The problem was never solved; there was never enough faith to hold mankind’s ambition in check. Maybe back then this was no bad thing, but seeds sown in rotten soil always grow bad.
Humanity expanded, filling the space available, but still did not stop. It is hard for us to understand the conditions in those squalid, cramped days, when every city was a slum to rival the worst favela of Aragon. Everywhere. I daily count my blessings we have now seen the error of our ways. But then, still the population grew and with it civil unrest. There was not enough food for all, even when there was, the rich neglected their duty to the poor. Urth teetered on the brink of revolution. In desperation, the political powers of the time, quasi-imperialist corporations that would later grow into the zaibatsu reached for the moon. In 2075, the first colony on Luna (as Urth’s single moon is sometimes known) was opened. The masses had an escape route at last. No immediate change in their situation, mind you, but the promise of a better world. Hope is the enemy of freedom.
With awe the masses watched colonies grow on Luna, then Mars (2175), then in the asteroid belt and outer satellites. What first was a trickle of brave and desperate volunteers starting anew became a raging torrent. Colonies proliferated but still the flood could not be dammed. The situation on Urth deteriorated; the sight of others reaching their dream emboldened the masses. Leaders at the time sought the ancient solution.
Spatial geometry had divided this mini-Diaspora already, the Luna, Martian and asteroid belt colonies on one hand, and the gas-giant’s satellites — the largest of which were Jupiter’s Callisto, Saturn’s Titan and Neptune’s Triton — on the other. These rivalries were mainly economic in nature; the outer satellites were rich in minerals that the barren inner colonies lacked. They had greater prestige, a fact exacerbated by their colonists who saw themselves as true frontiersmen, mocking those who stayed behind, hiding in the shadow of Urth.
It was simple for the unscrupulous corporate and political leaders of Urth to fan the flames of resent into anger, then hatred, then finally, war. This war was ultimately fruitless. Although it certainly allowed the enforcing of far stricter discipline upon Urth — and alleviated much complaint — the world suffered. The outer satellites were important sources of mineral resources (at that time Urth was massively industrialized) but they were far from self-sufficient. In short, it was a war no one wanted, from which no one benefited, and which no one could stop.
First Republic and DiasporaEdit
Discovery of the jumpgate galvanized humanity like nothing before. Quarrels were forgotten, the rulers of Urth had a different, more profitable and more sustainable distraction for their disgruntled population. Soon the key was turned, the jumpgate unlocked and humanity poured out amongst the stars. The main thread of history moves on with it at that juncture, leaving Urth behind, as so many colonists. But Urth remained.
The wars against the Sathraist pilots that followed on the heels of expansion were an attempt by the pre-eminent politicians at safeguarding Urth’s centrality in the newly forming universe of human endeavor. It was doomed to failure. Already the corporate masters, the zaibatsu relocated, moving their centers of operation to more convenient sites, closer to the center of the jumpweb — also to evade punitive taxes at home; a major benefit of controlling a world is the setting of its tax-rates, something the zaibatsu did not overlook.
Urth complained as loudly as it could, but no one was listening, history had moved on. While still retaining some vital functions — the interstellar vehicle registry resided on Urth until the height of the Second Republic — Urth drifted slowly from prominence, becoming more introspective, reminiscing fondly of the times of its undisputed power.
Though a major part of its psychology, maudlin recollections did not swamp Urth. Its leaders dug in and decided to increase its power economically (Urth at this point still had the largest population in the Known Worlds). To this end, industrialization continued — at surface level and in space.
In 2854, the 2nd Holy Synod, headed by Patriarch Palamedes, resurrected Urth’s fortunes. He returned the seat of the Universal Church to the cradle of humanity, its rightful home. Under the guiding hand of the Church, industry was cowed, regulated and eventually shackled, on the planet at least; less was achieved in space. With the influx of churchmen and administrators came a corresponding increase in power, influence and prestige. Urth was back at the center of the universe, at least spiritually, if not politically.
Thanks to the large Orthodox presence on Urth, the populace was already well on the way to an agrarian existence. The terrors of the Fall made relatively little mark, merely accelerating a process begun centuries before — at least on the planet proper, in space things were harder. Only the major colonies (Luna, Mars and Triton) were self-sufficient, the others had to band together as contact with Urth slowly atrophied. Once again loose leagues amongst the outer colonies formed, but even then, and even for the larger colonies, life was hard. In time all but the most hardy and most ingenious perished. Thus life on Urth settled into a predictable, well-ordered pattern.
Recent HistoryEditHoly Terra spent the majority of the war years without suffering major military intervention. Despite that, large changes were noticeable for the population, both groundside and in space (or highside as some colonists would have it). For the groundsiders life continued much as before. Indeed it would be hard to deduce from the lot of an Urthish peasant that war raged throughout the Known Worlds. Urth was, of course, neutral. This did not stop the Patriarch’s court at Rio Brasilia from becoming a hotbed of diplomatic intrigue.
Patriarch Hezekiah the Elder’s succession in 4972 drastically changed the Orthodox attitude to the war. His predecessor, Matriarch Theodora II the Steadfast was avowedly non-interventionist. Patriarch Hezekiah realized the Universal Church could not afford to remain excluded from the decision-making process — if one may call wartime that. He knew not taking a side was worse than choosing the wrong one. Thus he pronounced Orthodox support for the Li Halan cause. Thankfully both he and they were not ideologically blind to good military sense. By the war’s final years, both parties had divined which way the wind was blowing and suitably tailored their policies; Patriarch Hezekiah declared Orthodox support of Alexius Hawkwood’s claim to the Phoenix throne in 4982. A measure of this declaration’s political worth is the high regard the Orthodoxy, and its leadership, is still held by all parties concerned. Before then, the Patriarch not only made sound political decisions but made every effort to put Holy Terra on a war footing. He introduced rationing (which was only repealed Urth-wide as late as 4997) and raised numerous Home Guard units. These local militia were drilled as defenders against invasion and, more importantly, infiltration by saboteurs. They were never tested in the first respect, in the second they proved wonderfully successful. Internal security on Urth during the war years was second to none.
In space, the actions of the Patriarch were more apparent. As Urth itself is an agrarian paradise, with all the will in the world industrial production on the planet could not be ramped up to meet requirements. This shortfall was taken up by the off-world colonies. The spaceyards of Triton and Titan smoked and smouldered like at no time since the height of the Second Republic, straining under the pressure of producing (and refitting) the Patriarchal Fleet — not to mention vital supplies for Urth itself.
Civil disorder during these times was, in the main, unheard of. There were minor outbreaks of violence on both Luna and Mars where terrorist groups tried to claim independence. The Luna uprising was put down within hours by the local watch supplemented with Xanthippe mercenaries (an action for which House Xanthippe won the personal regard of the Patriarch).
The situation on Mars was different. There has long been a muted, but well-defined, Free Mars movement. Seeing their chance and using increased workloads as an excuse, a group of terrorists under the leadership of the escaped serf Douglas Quaid barricaded themselves into the sewage recycling center and declared independence. The siege of the facility was only broken when a force of penitent psychics led by Sanhedrin Philosophus Magsman stormed the walls. The ringleaders were executed shortly after although Quaid’s body was never recovered. To this day graffiti can be found on Mars proclaiming “Quaid Lives!” Needless to say, such graffiti is prohibited; anyone caught daubing such seditious slogans can expect extreme penance.
People and PlacesEdit
The dark side of Pluto’s lone companion; Charon is as far from the light of Sol, Holy Terra’s star, as is possible without drifting into the Dark. The station here, once a refuge of science and hopelessness, is now manned by a skeleton staff of Eskatonic friars and Hesychast mystics. There are never more than twelve souls present on Charon Station at any time. Their current leader (meaning the longest serving) is Provost Wingate Johannsen, a haunted man whose bloodshot eyes told little; he is: “Watching the gate, just in case …”.
Triton and Titan
Eurydice on Triton and Orpheus on Titan are twins in form and function, though not in feel or thought. Respectively situated on the largest moons of Neptune and Saturn, the stations were identical pre-fabricated shipyard domes. They still serve this function, but their fortunes have diverged since their inception.
Before the jumpgate was discovered, Eurydice served as the nominal capital of the loose outer satellites alliance. The idea of superiority took root and was never dislodged. Tritonians, as they call themselves, see themselves as the “kings of spacers”, the most frontier-minded and most daring colonists in the system, nay, the Known Worlds. This attitude appears to quickly infect residents, — along with their idiosyncratic accent: “about” pronounced “aboot” and the like. Even Bishop Arago, recently appointed to the diocese of Neptune shows signs of this dementia (there are smaller scientific and mining outposts on the planet’s surface and its smaller moons). Eurydice is a mining outpost and re-fuelling depot for the Patriarchal fleet, shipping minerals and machined parts back to Urth.
It does not sit well with the Tritonians that Orpheus is now the major shipyard in the Holy Terra system. Needless to say, the Titans (as the inhabitants predictably, and not unamusingly call themselves) find it hilarious. The greater wealth, influence and prestige are not lost upon them, or their spiritual guide, Bishop Ariel Dominguez. Orpheus also differs from Eurydice in being able to afford to hire an Engineer to oversee the activities of their shipyard; Crafter Vaux recently arrived from Leagueheim on recommendation of the Leaguemeister Tyrus Spear himself, and has started modernizing procedures.
Dome-dwellers are an exceedingly strange bunch. They seem to become fiercely territorial, nationalistic even. And this phenomenon affects all strata of society; if anything, the lower orders seem more deeply stirred. This can be disconcerting to the uninitiated. Less worrying yet still strange to a newcomer is the ethnically jumbled population, a product of the original economic mini-Diaspora. The inhabitants were drawn without prejudice from the global underclass so many years ago and the mixture has never been distilled.
During the Second Republic the asteroid belt was a valuable source of minerals. Now it is practically the last hive of lawlessness in the Holy Terra system; pirates thrive here, only the best pilots, i.e. Charioteers, risk chasing them into the depths of the asteroid fields. There are colonial work shacks in various states of repair throughout the belt, the largest of which form a loose coalition known as The Seven Sisters.
The asteroids in question are: Ceres, Pallas, Vesta, Hygeia, Davida, Interamnia, and Europa. The largest of the colonies is Fourmyle on Ceres, a brutal place, reminiscent of the worst of frontier towns, with spacesuits substituting for horses. The asteroid authorities, the mayor of Fourmyle, Geoffrey Reed a shifty, scurvy cove, assures that he did everything within his power to protect the shipping lanes. While he and his ilk sit on their more than ample behinds, the pirates, reveling in names such as Cutthroat Bill, Deadly Jesse, and most famous of all Scarlett D’eath go about their heinous work with impunity.
Mars deserves more than it receives. The first human settlement on another planet, the first successful use of terraforming technology, the first research into psychic phenomena all took place here. To say nothing of being the birthplace of the Prophet.
Yet it is not so. Those on other worlds hardly mention Mars, but in relation to the Prophet. The Martians know better, it is to their credit that this continual affront to their pride has not bred a culture of resentment. The Martians bypassed this phase, and live at peace with themselves.
Mars was partially terraformed and possesses a thin atmosphere akin to that of De Moley. It is possible to walk outside the numerous atmosphere domes that dot the landscape, but not advisable unless accompanied by a local guide. More than one unfortunate tourist has been lost amongst the hills and valleys, never to be seen again.
Mars’ only spaceport is adjacent to its largest town, Marsport, both sitting in the shadow of Olympus Mons, its largest mountain. Marsport is, as befits the birthplace of the Prophet, a serene, humble place, in marked difference to the boisterous outer colonies. The people are respectful and helpful, they have grown accustomed to the influx of tourists and pilgrims, indeed it is these visitors that give Marsport the majority of its wealth — there are other, smaller mining outposts dotted throughout the Martian landscape, as well as rudimentary farms. Despite much pressure over the years from civilian administrators, and unscrupulous Charioteers, the Prophet’s birthplace was never pinpointed.
Aside from tourism (or pilgrimage), Marsport is a major administrative center for the Orthodoxy. The largest freestanding building on the planet, not beneath the atmosphere domes, is the magnificent gothic cathedral Mars St. Michel. Here are the headquarters and chief monastery of the Penitent psychics. Less well-known is the fact that the cathedral stands upon the ruined headquarters of the Phavian Institute’s forerunner, the University of Human Advancement. The Bishopric of Mars includes oversight of the Penitent psychics and is, as such, one of the most prestigious appointments below Archbishop level. The current incumbent, Bishop Jacobus is a staunch Hinayana conservative who served with the Manifest Light legion on Stigmata. Traditionally, the head of the Penitent psychics is assisted by a priest of the Eskatonic order, Bishop Jacobus‘ assistant is Philosophus Magsman, a member of the Sanhedrin and local hero for his part in breaking the sewage work siege during the Emperor Wars, although in his seventies his wit has not dulled.
A word of warning, although the denizens of Marsport are welcoming and content, resentment grows further from the capital. The so-called Martian Freedom Movement, a terrorist organization, has more popular support amongst the industrialized mining outposts. The Orthodoxy is always interested in hearing any rumors concerning them.
Although physically more suitable for terraforming than Mars, Venus’ poisonous atmosphere defeated even the greatest scientific minds of the Second Republic. The Supreme Order of Engineers periodically attempts to set up research stations but with no tangible results, as of yet. There is a rumor concerning that the Temple Avesti has asked permission to found a monastery there.
Luna’s colony, Lunaion, is the oldest human settlement beyond the boundaries of Urth, our first step into the stars. Age and tradition are ingrained here, into the people, into the buildings, even into the air.
Luna was too small to be terraformed. The excavations would have dangerously unbalanced the moon’s structure, so there is no atmosphere and everyone lives here under atmosphere domes. The largest of which is Lunaion. There are smaller research stations, manned chiefly by Engineers and there is Arcadia, the oldest House Xanthippe Moonhaven. The Luna branch of House Xanthippe has long cultivated relations with the Bishopric of Luna — strictly speaking Luna is too small to be awarded its own Bishop, but tradition overrules, rightly, on this occasion. Indeed, current Bishop Hereward is Lady Averil Xanthippe’s son and her sister, Lady Aloysia Xanthippe, heads the Xanthippes here and personally led the wartime peace-keeping forces.
Xanthippe House guards keep order in the streets, not only of Arcadia, but also Lunaion. The Xanthippe are greatly respected on Luna. It is not difficult to see why for the streets of Lunaion are clean, and the people seem happy and well treated.
The Capital World of the system and ancestral home of Humanity. Half of the Patriarchal fleet, including the flagship Phlogiston under the command of Priest Gwylan Davies and Adept Roscoe Smith of the Brother Battle is stationed above Urth. The remainder is stationed at Triton under the singular command of Deacon Drake, responsible for customs searches of ships in transit, and guarding the jumpgate.
Urth is a strictly ordered world, the vast majority of land given over to wild reserves, showing how life used to be, from the Asiatic steppes to the North American Plains. The population is confined to cities and their surrounding agrarian areas. As befits a world with such a high population — even considering those living in the off-world colonies — there are more cities on Urth than could possibly be mentioned. Residency is tightly controlled; one needs papers to prove one’s identity and visas to access any city.
The Orthodoxy police these restrictions and their administration to better protect the welfare of the populace. Migration between cities is rare, and difficult for locals, and not without difficulties for visitors. This is not to say movement across Urth is impossible, there are five starports (corresponding with five of the continental capitals); Samarkand, Rio Brasilia, Cairo, Petersburg and Quebec. Every major city boasts an airport, access to which is tightly controlled.
Politically Urth is divided into roughly continental archbishoprics: Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South America. Each of these is divided further along city lines, each city of size watched over by bishop. The seat of each continental Archbishopric is the continental capital. Similarly, the Archbishop of South America is traditionally also the Patriarch (the latter position taking precedence, of course).
Samarkand sits proudly at the heart of the Asian continent, one of the oldest settlements on Urth, yet the most recent to become continental capital. The lands under its dominion are varied and wild, scorching deserts, lofty peaks and rich red earth.
This is the ancestral homeland of the Li Halan and the cities conform to the precision and order that House is rightly renowned for. The Archbishop of Asia is traditionally allied with House Li Halan; the current incumbent is Archbishop Peng De-Huai, a Hinayana hardliner. Transgressors against public order are displayed in public stocks in Cardano Square every Friday morning. Public executions are scheduled for Sundays.
Samarkand also serves as the Li Halan embassy on Urth; their Jade Palace sits to the north of the city beside Lake Baikal, and has done since the conversion. The previous ambassadorial residence, in Shanghai, was burnt to the ground, which was then salted. The current ambassador, Count Temujin Tai Li Halan, an accomplished huntsman, often enjoys the fruits of the countryside wearing his famous panda-skin cloak accompanied by Bishop Peng.
Asia is too vast to be totally homogenous; to the south the Hinayana Orthodoxy’s influence gives way to a more relaxed form of Mahayana worship. These two factions are political and dogmatic rivals. The Mahayana champion, if such a term is fitting, is the Bishop of Hong Kong, Bishop Nicholas Chen, a sprightly eighty year old whose family has held the diocese for seven generations. The political agitation between Samarkand and Hong Kong reached a head in 4998 when Patriarch Hezekiah bestowed the Bishopric of Asia (and along with it the status of continental capital) to Bishop Peng of Samarkand. This was a grave insult to both Hong Kong and the Mahayana hierarchy — not to mention a thank-you to Bishop Peng who supported the Patriarch in his own succession.
Hong Kong is a very different city to Samarkand. While no less devout, the inhabitants are much more vociferous, more urgent. Hong Kong bustles, Samarkand kow-tows. The docklands of Hong Kong are a veritable hive of activity at all hours of the day and night. Not surprising, given it is the busiest port on the continent. It is surprising the preponderance of gambling houses. One could hardly move for the sound of gaming pieces played and money lost.
Australasia is a strange place. A place of dry air and endless desert, and a burning faith. And a burning resentment. This resentment comes chiefly from a lack of recognition. The Bishop Howard Klein of Sydney, a short man with a lazy eye and a temper to match his stature, says that Australasia is not treated as a full continent; politically speaking, it is not given its due.
It has not a starport, its population is too small and its terrain is too harsh. Bishop Klein preferred to see it as a conspiracy. The upper echelons of Australian city dwellers are staunchly Hinayana Orthodox, conservative in outlook and fashion (Australian cities dot the coast, the interior is scorched wasteland). In an attempt to expand his influence (and that of his Bishopric) Bishop Klein has been negotiating with Archbishop Peng of Samarkand over a realignment of borders, specifically, he wants to redraw them with the Indonesian part of Australasia. This would significantly expand his population base and his personal importance.
Fortunately, Bishop Klein is not the only spiritual leader in Australia. In the endless sandy wastes, a bleached red basalt monolith sitting serene and magnificent in the middle of the deserts: Uluru, the Cathedral of the Rock, the unofficial home of Freedom Jones, the hesychast preacher and his flock. Periodically, out of the desert, comes a wandering mystic, in this part of the Known Worlds a Koori tribesman. A cult has built up around these wandering preachers; fashionable dilettantes come from across the globe to learn at the feet of the wise ones. Something of this phenomena percolates throughout Urth. Since the coming of the Prophet and, particularly, the relocation of the Patriarchal Seat to Urth, the natives have seen themselves as blessed above and beyond those born elsewhere. Taken to extremes it follows that those families that have been on Urth longer are more blessed, more in tune with the Prophet’s teachings. Some groups, generally those sedentary in nature — such as the tribes of the Asiatic steppe, or the Koori in Australia — claim their ancestors never left Urth.
Surely, so the reasoning goes, those whose feet never left the holy world must be the most holy. On that, I cannot comment, but my meeting with Freedom Jones was more fruitful than many.
A land of majestic forests, rolling hills and misty glens, Europe is one of the most politically powerful continents and also the most divided. House Hawkwood, House Decados, and the Hazat all trace their heritage to this part of the old world (although the Justus prefer to claim South American heritage). They all have their embassies here and they all compete for influence. That the current continental capital lies in Decados-claimed territory at Petersburg (named after a pre-reflective Saint) and Archbishop John Calecas of Europe is one of their scions gives no end of pleasure to the House of the Mantis.
Despite the heavy noble presence, especially in the capital and the ambassadorial seats (Madrid and Edinburgh respectively for the Hazat and House Hawkwood) the continent is Orthodox through and through. The usual theological splits apply, the south and east of the continent, including the ambassadorial seats and cities such as Rome and Moscow are predominantly Hinayana, and the most outspoken of this faction is Bishop Ximénez de Cisneros of Guernica. Guernica’s Cathedral of the Oak is the traditional seat of the Inquisitorial Synod, of which Bishop de Cisneros is an active member (the Orthodoxy dominates the Inquisition on Urth); its library of precedent is second only to that of the Cathedra Avesti on Pyre.
The north and west of the continent, traditionally Hawkwood lands, veer more toward a Mahayana interpretation of the scriptures. Indeed, on certain of the remoter islands (Eire and Iceland for example) the peasants have lapsed into pagan worship. Bishop de Cisneros is trying to rally support behind his calls for an Inquisitorial purge of the area. Bishop Absalom Moore of Sheffield is the most vocal opponent of the potential purge and he has won much support in Count Alasdair Tamlan Hawkwood’s ambassadorial court with his impassioned arguments against, “The Bishop of Spain’s unashamed lust for blood”.
Unsurprisingly this has won him few friends in the Hazat court at Madrid. The latest move of their ambassador, Count Tuco Benedicto Pacífico Juan María Ramírez, an Emperor War veteran sticking closely to his old alliances with the Decados, was to ban Hawkwood delegations from his court, and Bishop Moore from the entirety of Spain — the fact he has neither the legal right to do this nor the temporal ability to enforce it has not slowed Count Ramirez down in the least. It has, however, disrupted Count Alasdair’s plans to ferment a friendship between his son, Sir Rory Archibald Hawkwood and Lady Isabella Carmen Delores Ramirez, the eldest of Count Ramirez’s daughters. Not to be outdone, the Decados ambassador, Count Mikhail Tukhachevsky Decados, has made an official request for a marriage between Lady Isabella and his own, reputedly sickly, son, Boyar Vasily Tukhachevsky Decados. The upcoming ambassadorial ball, to be held in Rio Brasilia at the Patriarch’s invitation, promises to be most intriguing.
The Dark Continent. If the true glory of the Pancreator can be seen anywhere it is here. A safari through Africa is a must if even one day can be spared. The chance to see the elephant and lion, the wildebeest and hippopotamus is surely a dream come true. Safari visas can be obtained from the offices of the Church in Cairo, and are definitely worth the effort.
Africa is relatively free of the politicking of Europe but it is more active on the international scene, under its vigorous and expansionist Mahayana Archbishop Mirza Abu Talib of Cairo it has expanded its borders to India in the east and Istanbul in the north and the Arabian wastelands to the south-east. Whispers abound over just how much support House al-Malik and its ebullient ambassador Count Ubaydallah al-Mustansir are lending, and what the repayments will be. Bishop Talib, of course, is having none of this. He claims coming into Africa, and in extenso his sphere of influence is the best thing that could happen to a city.
Cairo is truly a wondrous place, its Cathedral of Saint Salah, built on the ruins of a pre-reflective altar dominates the center of the city. Adjoining the Cathedral is the University of Enlightenment, the foremost house of learning beyond the Academy Interatta, unusually for Urth it specializes not just in theology but linguistics, classics, and science. Bishop Talib has deflected criticism of the teaching program by pointing out the achievements of its alumni, the Great Chartophylax, Nyana vo Dret, was himself a student.
More wondrous even than these is the Sphinx, said by some the most ancient of Gargoyles. The Gargoyle is off-limits to the public, guarded by Bishop Talib’s personal guard (wielding, it has to be said, al-Malik equipment). This has not stopped Gargoyle cults springing up, left right and center. The guard does nothing to hinder these cults as long as they confine themselves to respectful vigilance from afar. It is rumored that much of Cairo’s (and Bishop Talib’s) good fortune is thanks to the Sphinx’s wisdom. I cannot speculate on this except to say I was refused access to the Gargoyle in no uncertain terms, no one sees it without the Bishop’s expressed permission. When I sought to ask it of him, he was unavoidably detained and unable to see me.
Bishop Aleksei Georgious of Istanbul has refuted all African advances as yet; more Hinayana than Mahayana in outlook although declared for neither, he appears to be playing Africa against Europe in efforts to better his own, and his city’s, position. Sub-continental India has long been denied the political weight its population deserves. In the past, this was often self-inflicted by vicious infighting. For the moment, however, Bishop Lal Dravin of Delhi has united the Universal Church of India (if this is not an oxymoron) behind him and seems intent of joining forces with Cairo. Should this succeed, the political map of Urth would significantly change. If Europe does not pay these developments the attention they deserve they may get an unpleasant surprise soon enough.
In Delhi is possible to see the darker side of Holy Terra. It should be pointed out that construction on Holy Terra is tightly controlled and, in general, proscribed — cities are not allowed to encroach further into the natural wilderness. Unfortunately mankind has never been able to adequately control its population despite several barbaric pre-reflective attempts, and well they have not, as every soul reflects glory on the Pancreator. But still the masses throng, kept out of the wilderness and kept out of the cities; slums abound on Holy Terra. Those surrounding Dehli seemed endless.
A populous and wildly magnificent continent, North America is the basis of the Eskatonic Order in Terra Sancta. The Order of The Divine Chance is an Eskatonic splinter sect devoted to deciphering the Pancreator’s truth by observing the ineffable exercise of his will. They are based on the east cost of the continent, to the north of its largest city, New York.
New York finds itself at the center of a political storm, the feeling there has long been that the largest center of population should hold the continental Archishopric, an argument rigorously refuted by the diocese of Quebec. This animosity goes back for generations and has reached its head in recent years. The two principles, Bishop Francesca Condolenzzi of New York and Archbishop Raymond de Chartres of Quebec made no secret of their hatred for each other, their arguments often descending to the gutter. Things became more serious a year ago, when New York ceased trading with Quebec. A small, agrarian city, Quebec relied upon trade from teeming New York. In response, Archbishop de Chartres censured New York, declaring it was growing beyond the boundaries set down for it (the expansion of all Urthish cities beyond strict guidelines is expressly forbidden under Church Law).
No one is sure quite how this spat would have turned out and the question is rapidly becoming moot, for six months ago Archbishop de Chartres was struck down with a wasting illness. The best medics, theurgic and medicinal, have not been able to raise him from his feverish slumber. Bishop Condolenzzi has called for a continental synod meeting to choose a successor, this has been decried as “shameless opportunism” by the Quebec faction and defended as “good practical sense” by the New Yorkers. Officially, the Patriarchal Seat has no influence in internal continental appointments, but Bishop de Chartres was a close confident and ally of the Patriarch.
Another somewhat singular brotherhood lies on the south — the continent seems particularly susceptible to them; something for the Eskatonics to look into. The Brothers of the Ancient Order are nothing if not an eclectic mix. Their monastery, such as it is, reinforces the feeling of eccentricity. It sits at the foot of an ancient pre-reflective mountain altar, the faces of some four ancient potentates carved into the very rock itself. The scale of these graven idols stand tens of meters tall each. Provost Mortimer Rivers, ecumenical leader of the order, explained that the idols were not Gargoyles in the truest sense, yet it was his belief they held some power, or some secret from out of the past. The order’s motley collection of souls devotes itself to solving that mystery.