The Sovereign Host

Arguably the greatest of Eberron’s major religions, the Sovereign Host pantheon claims the hearts and minds of an enormous proportion of Khorvaire’s population, and even in the face of newer faiths, it continues to grow. The Sovereign Host does not boast the greatest military force, nor does it champion some driving goal to attract those seeking purpose. The Sovereign Host simply grows as it has always grown: through its innate bonds to the world itself, and a near infinite capacity to adapt.

Doctrine

The Sovereign Host encompasses nine gods—or fifteen, depending on one’s point of view—who hold sway over every aspect of mortal life. Where the Silver Flame requires worshipers devoted to a specific principle, and the Blood of Vol demands loyalty to the blood within, the Sovereign Host simply is. Where mortal matters intersect the natural world, the gods are there. Where nature offers its hand to those who live off the land, either with a nurturing touch or a pounding fist, the gods are there. Worshipers need not seek out the gods of the Sovereign Host, for they are present in every aspect of life, and in every feature of Eberron.

Doctrine of Universal Sovereignty

The chief dogma espoused by the followers of the Host, or “Vassals” as they call themselves, has been named the Doctrine of Universal Sovereignty.

As is the world, so are the gods. As are the gods, so is the world.

Essentially, this means that nothing exists in this world outside the attention of the gods. While the gods are divine beings unto themselves, they are also a part of a larger reality. They are both independent and part of a greater whole, separate yet joined, in a way few mortal minds can fully comprehend. They do not simply oversee the aspects of reality over which they hold dominion; they are part of them, omnipresent. A blacksmith praying for Onatar’s blessing on an undertaking is not seeking the attention of the god of the forge. The god is already there, present in every act of manual creation, every spark of the flame, every ring of the hammer. Rather, the smith prays to show faith, honoring and acknowledging the god’s presence, hoping that Onatar will bestow his favor upon the smith’s work and aid him in turning out a weapon or tool of exceptional quality.

As with Onatar and the smith, so too with the other deities and their own spheres of influence. Dol Dorn is active in every battle; Arawai’s voice is heard in the rustle of every stalk of wheat. This is what the Vassals mean by the Doctrine of Universal Sovereignty: The gods do not merely watch reality; they are present in every part of it.

The Doctrine of Universal Sovereignty illustrates perfectly the nature of gods in the world of Eberron. They do not walk the world or speak directly with their faithful. Aid or knowledge is given by an angel or some other outsider who represents the power of the divine. (And even these outsiders are themselves guided by nothing more than faith; an angel speaking for Aureon has no more spoken with her than the priest herself has.)

The very power of faith causes cleric magic to manifest. Most clerics maintain that if the gods were not real, no amount of faith could change the world, but this is a matter of belief and theology, not verifiable fact. When asked by skeptics why the gods, if they truly exist, do not take a more direct hand in the affairs of Eberron, most Vassals reply that they do indeed. Every plant that grows, every ruler that rises to power, every sword raised in battle, every beast in the herd, every healer’s touch—these are all signs of the gods working their will on the world, through the tools of the world itself.

It is possible to misinterpret the belief that gods and world are one as leaning more toward druidic religion than clerical. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Worship of the Host has grown alongside civilization, and the two are inextricably linked. Even a cursory examination of the gods’ portfolios reveals a marked leaning toward elements of civilized life, rather than more primitive or savage aspects. Law, the hearth, artifice, honor: These are mortal constructs, not intrinsic elements of the natural world. Only Arawai and Balinor claim portfolios of a more natural bent, and even these—agriculture for one, beasts and the hunt for the other—are viewed through the lens of civilization. To Vassals, this indicates no disregard for nature but simply an acknowledgment that civilization is the intended state of the mortal races, and the inescapable way of the future. For most worshipers, civilization represents the extent of their world; it is hardly unreasonable that their gods should follow suit. Indeed, it is a measure of the Host’s civilizing bias that the banished bear a contrary aspect. Most of the Dark Six represent forces of nature or “primitive thought,” rather than concepts intrinsically tied to civilization.

Doctrine of the Divine Host

The bedrock notion of the gods as both separate from the world, and yet a part of it, leads to the second of the Host’s primary doctrines. Called the Doctrine of the Divine Host, it states:

The Sovereign Host is one name, and speaks with one voice. The gods are the letters of that name, and the sounds of that voice.

Only a minority of Vassals focus on a single member of the Sovereign Host. The majority worship the pantheon in its entirety, calling upon whatever deity is most appropriate to their current circumstances. A Vassal might offer up paeans, or even burnt valuables, to Kol Korran when undertaking a mercantile endeavor. That same Vassal might, the very next day, participate in a consecration ceremony to Boldrei, to bless the new home on whose purchase he had asked Kol Korran’s aid. The faithful see no contradiction in this; they revere the Sovereign Host entire, placing none above the others. Ignoring any one of the gods would be foolish, akin to acknowledging the existence of trees and clouds but not mountains.

Although primary, the Doctrine of the Divine Host is not absolute. That most Vassals worship the entire pantheon does not mean that they revere all the gods equally. Many of the faithful choose a patron or two to whom they feel a special bond. The aforementioned blacksmith reveres Dol Arrah and Kol Korran, but he likely has a special place in his heart for Onatar. This has little bearing on his everyday religious practices, except that he saves the choicest sacrifices, and utters the longest and most heartfelt prayers, to his patron.

Similarly, while the priests of the Sovereign Host revere all the deities, many devote themselves to a specific deity. Such priests can perform services to any in the pantheon but specialize in the rites and duties of their particular patrons. This is especially common in large communities. A metropolis might have a temple dedicated to Boldrei, serving as a shelter for the homeless or a focal point for community activities, and another devoted to Dol Dorn, where Vassals receive combat training. These differences are reflected in the skills and domains of individual priests. A cleric serving in the former temple would be skilled in healing and knowledgeable about local matters, while one in the latter would be versed in martial skills.

The Schism

Everyone familiar with the scriptures of the Sovereign Host knows that they once formed a single pantheon with the Dark Six.

The Host eventually banished the Six for their evil ways and constant schemes against the other gods. This sundering of the Host is called the Schism, the Divine Fall, or the Celestial Exile. Some theorists hold that the rape of Arawai by the Devourer triggered the Schism, but other legends suggest that this event took place long after the split. Scholars among Vassals and various religious institutions debate what the Schism actually means. After all, the Dark Six are no less gods now than they were before their banishment. They still hold sway over many aspects of the world, and some Vassals still pray to them under certain circumstances. Clearly, the Sovereign Host lacked the means (or the desire) to strip the Six of their divinity.

The Schism, then, is more along the lines of a familial division, one branch disowning and disavowing the other. It represents the efforts of the Host to distance themselves, and their worshipers, from their darker counterparts. While scripture describes this as punishment, some scholars believe that the Host wished to remove the Dark Six’s access to the population of Vassals, minimizing their ability to do further harm.

Scripture and scholars differ on what caused the conflict between the two factions of the original Host. Even the most ancient texts, whose doctrine reportedly predates the Schism, refer to the pantheon as Nine and Six and One. So even before the official split, the two groups were at least partly independent of each other. For centuries, Vassals assumed that this division was one of good against evil, which supports the currently accepted view. Recent religious theory, however, suggests an alternative division, as well as another interpretation of the Schism itself. Of all the nine gods of the Sovereign Host, only two— Arawai and Balinor—hold dominion over natural aspects of the world. The others hold sway, partly or in whole, over elements of civilization and culture. Similarly, of the Dark Six, only two hold dominion over concepts native to civilization: The Mockery represents treachery and dishonor, while the Traveler is the lord of deception. The other four oversee aspects of the natural world or magic, completely independent of civilized practice.

Some scholars and priests believe that the “Nine and Six” do not refer to the current division of the Host and the Dark Six, but rather nine gods of civilization and six gods of the wild. Similarly, these theorists maintain, the Schism was not the result of good defeating evil, but rather the struggle between the civilized and the savage for the future of mortals. In this conflict, they maintain, Arawai and Balinor sided with the gods of civilization for the sake of mortals, while the Mockery and the Traveler sided with the gods of the wild due to their enmity with many of the civilized deities. On a symbolic level, then, the Sovereign Host will dominate the world, and hold greater power than do the Dark Six, for so long as civilization thrives. Should the mortal races ever fall back into barbarism, however—as some feared would happen during the Last War—the Dark Six might well rise to ascendancy.

Political Cover?

In the minds of some of those who disdain the Sovereign Host, the entire concept of the Schism is nothing other than a political ploy, played out on a priestly, or even divine, scale. The gods of the Dark Six weren’t stripped of their divinity, these critics suggest. They were just “kicked out of the house,” a symbolic gesture if ever there was one.

By an extension of this reasoning, then, the Sovereign Host holds no true grudge against the Dark Six, any more than a cliff holds a grudge against the seas or the winds that pound at it. Rather, the Schism was an attempt by Vassals to distance their patrons from the death and destruction caused by the Dark Six and the nastier forces of nature.

Vassal Morality

Myth and holy scripture apply ethics and morality— alignment, in game terms—to each of the gods. In Eberron, faith alone powers the magic of clerics and adepts, and grants the faithful the strength to overcome the travails of everyday life. Still, many less devout or less well-educated individuals assume that the vast majority of a group of worshipers should match the general ethical leanings of their gods. After all, wouldn’t a person naturally be drawn to a deity with a similar outlook on the world? Certainly this idea holds some element of accuracy in certain faiths: The Church of the Silver Flame, for instance, boasts more than its allotment of corruption in the ranks, but the majority of its followers do indeed share the same general goals and moral leanings as the Flame is said to hold. Still, a worshiper need not follow a deity’s creed—the Sovereign Host perfectly illustrates this larger truth about the nature of Eberron and the divine.

Alignment has little to do with a Vassal’s choice of whom to pray to; even the more focused Disciples consider many other factors when determining if their worldview matches up with their patron’s. Arawai, god of agriculture, is considered to be a kind, benevolent power, yet evil people farm the land as well as good. Both the virtuous and the wicked alike seek Olladra’s good fortune and blessing. Again, because the gods oversee every aspect of the world, it is their specific areas of influence that attract worshipers, rather than any nebulous and ill-defined sense of divine alignment. A Vassal would no more ignore one of the gods over matters of morality than he would ignore the rain or the crowds in the streets of a city for the same reason. It is an open secret among Vassals across Khorvaire that a great many of them—possibly even a majority—carry this attitude to its logical conclusion. Specifically, despite the banishment of the Dark Six from the pantheon, many Vassals offer occasional prayers to the Sovereign Host’s wicked brethren. These are usually prayers of supplication, not reverence or veneration, attempts to turn aside the wrath of the natural (or unnatural) forces over which these gods hold sway. Few of these Vassals would consider themselves worshipers of the Dark Six, or in any way disloyal to the Sovereign Host. They simply acknowledge that these darker aspects are part of the world, and it is wiser not to offend them.

Souls and the Afterlife

According to Vassal belief, just as the gods are present in all aspects of the world, they are present in all living things. The soul is a tiny fragment of the divine, the animating spark that allows life to exist. Unfortunately, as the years of mortality pass, the individual spark loses what makes it divine, preventing the soul from returning to the gods, or even remaining on Eberron indefinitely. The afterlife of Dolurrh is not a place of punishment; it is a realm devoid of divinity, the one place where the Sovereign Host holds no sway.

Why worship, then, if it offers no alternative to the gray eternity of Dolurrh? Simply put, Vassals believe in honoring and thanking the gods for the life they have, for an existence on Eberron—however short—that can be made better. By honoring the Host, Vassals hope the gods will in turn grant them happiness in this life, if not the next.

Additionally, though it is rarely spoken of, many Vassals cling to a faint hope inspired by a few ancient myths and scriptures. According to this belief, mortals’ worship enables the gods to spread to other realms, even as missionaries spread their word to other lands. These Vassals believe that in some distant future, the Sovereign Host might finally extend its presence to Dolurrh, and the afterlife will change from a place of dull emptiness to a world of divine light.

Servants of the Sovereign Host

Vassals are the most numerous worshipers in Khorvaire, and since they believe the gods are intrinsic to everyday life, a slightly larger proportion become priests than do members of other faiths. Only a very small percentage of those Vassals who call themselves priests are actually clerics, however. The majority of priests are simple men and women who have devoted their lives to serving their religion and aiding others in leading a life of piety and reverence. Only the most devout of the devout have faith enough to work magic, and most of them do so only weakly. These are represented through the adept class. True clerics (or other divine casters, such as paladins or favored souls) embody the pinnacle of devotion, and are rare indeed.

The term priest conjures up images of a devout Vassal leading a congregation in prayer, or advising members of a community how best to deal with a crisis, or performing similar duties. This concept does not, however, reflect a universal truth. In fact, while the majority of priests of the Sovereign Host are leaders of the community or at least of the church, a substantial minority accept no such duties.

These unusual priests are often itinerant, refusing to stay long in any one place. Some seek to do their gods’ bidding by spreading their worship, healing and tending to the flock, or—in the case of more adventuresome priests—hunting down and destroying enemies of the Sovereign Host and the natural world. Others seek only to be left alone to contemplate their faith, holy scripture, or the mysteries of the gods’ interaction with nature.

These wanderers have come to be known as evangelists, friars, and priests errant, the latter two terms borrowed from the Church of the Silver Flame. Vassal reaction to these itinerant priests depends on circumstances and the proclivities of the evangelist in question. Towns that lack much religious guidance of their own, or that are besieged by criminals, monsters, or misfortune, welcome a priest errant with joy and thanksgiving. On the other hand, those wanderers who seek to escape the duties of their station, who care little for helping others but only for meditating on their own beliefs, are viewed with scorn. A few Vassals respect their deeply held faith, but most see itinerant priests as having turned their backs on the people they are intended to guide.

An unusually high percentage (though still a minority) of wandering priests are true clerics. Whether this is a sign of divine favor, or simply a matter of survival—only clerics are capable of bringing miracles to those who need them or of battling any great evils they might come across—is unclear. In any event, this has led some Vassals in distant communities to believe that only wandering priests have such powers, and thus they turn away from their local clergy.

Coming to the Faith

In a religion that sees the gods’ presence everywhere, is there any need to be a priest? Simply living is service to the gods, is it not? So what sort of person chooses to become a priest? The answers to that question are as varied as the priests themselves, but Vassals generally become priests of the Sovereign Host for one (or more) of five reasons.

Faith: It is self-evident, but worth mentioning nonetheless. Some Vassals feel so strongly about their religion that living an ordinary life is not sufficient. They must serve the gods as directly as possible, and they must share their faith with others. This is the most common motivation for becoming a priest of the Sovereign Host among citizens of large communities, such as cities and big villages.

Duty: Others step into the role of priest because someone has to do it. Perhaps they feel that people in their community are spiritually adrift or need someone to speak for them to the local government. These priests are often community leaders as much as religious ones.

Security: Although it is less common now than it once was, a number of people still join the priesthood for financial security. Younger children, who stand to inherit little or nothing from their families, and people who seem unable to make a living at other pursuits, sometimes attempt to join the priesthood purely as a vocation.

Power: The priesthood of the Sovereign Host does not have as rigid a hierarchy as, say, the Church of the Silver Flame, but an internal power structure does exist. As the most widespread of the major religions, the Vassals have significant influence over a great many of Khorvaire’s nations, and even more over individual communities. It’s an unfortunate truth that certain priests of the Sovereign Host—just as with other religions—see not the gods’ glory burning like a beacon before them, but their own. Some honestly believe they can do more good in a position of power; others are interested only in their own advancement.

Accident: It seems odd, but many priests of the Sovereign Host obtain their position entirely by accident. The Host’s priesthood does not use intense training and ritual to identify the truly faithful as some faiths do. Becoming a priest requires little in the way of knowledge unavailable to the average layperson. Particularly in small communities, but occasionally in larger ones, certain individuals slowly gain a reputation for wisdom, or even holiness. Perhaps a person is a well-loved and devout community leader, or particularly faithful, or abnormally good at something, such as crafting or performing, so that it seems a blessing from the gods themselves. Vassals might decide that an abnormally skilled farmer has formed a bond with Arawai through his labors; a skilled blacksmith has bonded with Onatar through her craft; or a potent warrior has somehow joined his strikes and steps with Dol Dorn. People come to such individuals for advice, or ask them to lead a prayer, and before they know it, they have stepped (or been pushed) into the role of priest. The formal priesthood of the Host doesn’t automatically recognize such “accidental” priests, but will do so after a bit of examination. Even without such official recognition, communities in which this occurs are generally distant from the larger cities and centers of political and religious power. Why should they care whether their priest is recognized by some distant bureaucrat who knows nothing about the person or the community?

Becoming a Priest

It is possible to become a priest of the Sovereign Host with only a modicum of religious knowledge, and sometimes without even trying to do so. That said, anyone who seeks to rise within the priesthood, to gain the respect of his peers, or to truly able to guide and protect his congregation, requires formal training and education in ecclesiastical—and possibly mystical—matters. A would-be priest in the earliest stages of training is called an acolyte, and she must place herself completely under the tutelage and care of a more experienced priest. This is done in one of three ways.

The preferred method is to attend a Sovereign Host seminary. Such seminaries can be found in almost every major city across Khorvaire (excluding such obvious exceptions as Flamekeep—the heart of the Silver Flame—and cities in nations that frown on the Host, such as Droaam). The Heirs of the Host Seminary in Wroat, Breland, and the Gods’ Grace Academy in Tanar Rath, Karrnath, are the most prestigious. Competition to enroll in these schools is fierce, despite the steep tuition and difficult courses. Priests who emerge from these seminaries are widely respected by most Vassals, although some faithful consider them aloof and superior. Priests who take the cloth through a seminary are far more likely to be granted their own congregation in a major city than others, and few of them spend much time traveling among border communities and small towns.

For those who cannot reach (or afford) a seminary, apprenticeship in an active temple is the next best thing. Although the Sovereign Host does not boast grand cathedrals on the scale of those built by the Silver Flame, or winding catacombs such as those in Aerenal, many of its temples and shrines are large and elaborate. Priests appoint acolytes to perform duties such as maintaining the altars, arranging appointments, and doing research. The best ensure that their acolytes gain substantial liturgical knowledge, as well as experience in conducting ceremonies; the worst treat their acolytes as bonded servants. An acolyte who has served in such a capacity for several years, who can prove knowledge of the liturgy, and who obtains a positive recommendation is ready to lead a congregation.

The final option, and the one given least credence by the more tradition-bound members of the priesthood, is to become an apprentice to a priest outside of a temple environment. The mentor might be a village preacher, a wandering evangelist, or some other priest who does not have a congregation of his own. Such priests are fully capable of teaching the basics of faith and scripture, but the acolyte does not gain experience in managing a temple or a regular congregation. Furthermore, itinerant priests are held in suspicion by certain other members of the clergy, who assume—accurately or not—that they must be deficient in some way not to merit their own temples. Thus, acolytes who receive such outside training warrant close scrutiny if they ever attempt to settle in a Host-dominated area, and are often heavily tested, or even required to undergo additional training, before they are permitted to lead their own congregations. The more organized among the priesthood subject candidates to various tests to determine their capabilities.

These are tests in the truest sense of the word: written and oral questions that determine the individual’s knowledge and ability. The trials includes intense questioning on religious doctrine and history, as well as dealing with social and moral crises. The testing can take weeks, with many days devoted to hypothetical scenarios that adjudge reaction to a given danger or disaster. This constitutes the final period of seminary training, so all priests trained in those establishments must pass these tests. Individually trained priests, however, might take office without ever being exposed to them.

Hierarchy

The priesthood of the Sovereign Host does not have a single leader or group of leaders. It has no Voice of the Flame or Diet of Cardinals, as does the Silver Flame; it has no individual higher beings at its head, as do the Blood of Vol or the Radiant Cults. Instead, the priesthood is guided by a number of separate liturgical councils.

The precise means by which each council chooses its membership varies from region to region. In some, priests can petition for entry, and if a seat is available and a majority of the standing membership approves, they are accepted. Elsewhere, a member in good standing must nominate an individual for inclusion. In other places, a priest must meet certain requirements—number of years of service, accomplishment of certain tasks, or passing much more stringent tests than those given to graduating seminary students—before being considered. Whatever the case, each of these councils represents the greatest and most faithful priests in a given area. The regions overseen by the councils vary in size: the Host of Khorvaire oversees Passage and a large portion of Aundair; the Devout of the Celestial Crown manages only a large portion of the city of Sharn.

Councils wield substantial political and social power, which they use to enforce decisions and edicts that might otherwise go unheeded. They can threaten delinquent priests with ostracism, removal of their congregation, loss of status, and the like. On the other hand, they offer mediation of disputes, spiritual and even financial aid, further training and education, hand-picked acolytes, and political connections to secular government. This matters little in border towns, but in the major cities of Khorvaire, a priest of the Sovereign Host benefi ts greatly from maintaining good standing with the local council. The kingdoms of Aundair, Breland, Karrnath, and Thrane boast multiple councils dedicated to the Sovereign Host. (Thrane, however, has only a few, since the nation is largely devoted to the Silver Flame.) Vassals dwell in other nations, of course, and some kingdoms worship combined pantheons comprising members of both the Sovereign Host and the Dark Six. These areas are not considered part of the church proper, however, and the liturgical councils have little contact, and no clout, with them. In the wake of the Last War, the surviving priests of the councils of Cyre have largely been assimilated into the hierarchies of neighboring realms, though a few have formed independent sects—often following unorthodox beliefs.

Any priest in good standing with the local council can attend a conclave and be heard; in this sense, a great many priests might be considered “members.” By a more strict interpretation, however, most councils average one sitting member for every twenty or thirty priests in their region. These councilors set policy, determine the content of lessons and tests at seminary, debate theology, and hand down new interpretations of religious text. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, they meet with their counterparts from other councils in a Grand Conclave once every ten years. These gatherings are often filled with heated liturgical debate as the members set the general course for the priesthood, and overall interpretations of holy texts, for the next decade. Beyond these general distinctions—councilor, general member, or priest with little involvement in the council—the priesthood of the Sovereign Host acknowledges no innate difference in status. A priest is a priest, and no one holds authority over any other, unless in charge of a specific temple, seminary, or other establishment of the church. In this case, the governing individual is granted the honorary title of high priest, to whom the others of that temple must answer. This power is not absolute, however, and high priests who abuse their authority, or give underlings inappropriate orders, might have to answer to the local council.

Otherwise, the priesthood is like any other gathering. Its members establish a pecking order, even if informal. Graduates of seminary generally garner greater respect than those who learned their craft in temples, who in turn have higher status than students of itinerant priests. The word of an elder priest usually carries more weight than that of a younger, and priests from larger cities command more respect than those from smaller towns. None of this is official, and in fact it is discouraged by many councilors; nevertheless, such divisions continue to exist across much of Khorvaire.

Duties of the Clergy

For the most part, priests are beholden only to the Vassals they shepherd, rather than to the church itself. (Obviously, members of the various councils are an exception to this rule.) The general attitude is that a priest has fulfilled the obligations of office by properly leading a congregation in prayer and ceremony, competently handling the problems of parishioners, and engaging in the expected rites and offerings. Specifics vary from community to community, but priests of the Sovereign Host generally perform a set list of duties.

Life Event Rituals: These include naming ceremonies, weddings, and funerals. Such rituals also encompass more faith-specific events, such as commemorating a Vassal’s devotion to a single goal or career (this can be anything from taking the cloth to graduating from apprenticeship and opening a shop).

Holy Day Rites: Worship of the Sovereign Host includes a number of specific holidays and regular rituals, all of which priests are expected to lead. These are listed in the section “The Calendar” below.

Prayer Services: Every day of the week is devoted to at least one aspect of the Sovereign Host, and temples offer services every morning and evening for those who wish to attend.

Counseling the Faithful: Many Vassals turn to their priests in times of need or trouble, and those priests are expected to offer comfort and advice to the best of their ability. This is not limited to religious advice, though that is certainly the area in which they excel. Priests must be prepared to offer aid on such mundane issues as faltering relationships, financial matters, and anything else that might come up in day-to-day living.

Charitable Works and Community Improvement: As the gods work to aid the worthy among their followers, so too must their priests strive to improve the quality of life for their congregation, and to a lesser extent, all people in their community. This includes offering alms and food to the poor, helping maintain the cleanliness and safety of the neighborhood, and assisting with repairs to damage caused by disasters such as fire, flood, and invasion. Some priests pay only lip service to this duty, placing a shallow poor box in a temple or perhaps tossing a copper coin to a beggar now and then. Others throw themselves into the work with the same devotion they show other religious obligations, sharing their own income, offering the temple itself as shelter, or even living in poverty so they might give all to others.

Spreading the Word: The priesthood has rarely spread worship of the Sovereign Host through violence, but Vassals do proselytize. Because they believe their gods are present in every aspect of the world, they use almost any occasion—from a beautiful sunrise to a laughing child to a flock of birds—to enumerate the glories of the Sovereign Host. In fact, this has become something of a joke among non–Vassals of the western kingdoms. “Better to face the swords of an Emerald Claw soldier,” they say, “than the exhortations of a Vassal. At least you won’t get thrown in the stocks for stabbing the soldier.”

For the most part, this is an unfair stereotype. Many priests of the Host are happy to speak of the scriptures, to point out the wonder of the gods in every detail of the natural world, but only if invited. Others, however, do fulfill the cliché. They expound and pontificate at length, long past the point at which their audience has ceased to care (and have begun to cast their gods-granted eyes across the gods-blessed ground in search of a gods-sculpted heavy rock or other blunt instrument). The wisest and most devout priests use opportunities created by their other duties to engage in this one.

A pauper who receives her first meal of the week from the temple of Arawai is more likely to listen to what her priests have to say than is some fellow walking the street, minding his own business. When a priest rolls up his sleeves and works alongside the townsfolk to extinguish a blazing house, the citizenry is more kindly disposed to his sermons than if he simply berates them from the pulpit.

Protecting the Faithful: Priests are expected to stand between their parishioners and harm. True clerics can do this most effectively, but even non-spellcasters should be willing to endanger themselves to protect others. This intervention might be physical (such as stepping in front of a criminal or invading soldier) or spiritual (such as exorcising spirits, demons, or quori). Of all their duties, this last is most frequently disregarded. Finally, though not a strict duty, priests of the Sovereign Host are expected to dress appropriately and recognizably. This renders them more readily available to their communities. Unlike some other faiths, the Sovereign Host does not have a specific cleric uniform. Rather, priests are required to dress in clean and formal attire, and to prominently display the Octogram. The Host’s symbol traditionally takes the form of a medallion or amulet worn on a chain around the neck, but could just as easily be a symbol on a tabard or a large bracelet. In order to tell the difference between priests and other Vassals who wish to display their faith, custom dictates that priests and temples display the Celestial Crown in its traditional orientation—single bar horizontal, with three smaller bars vertical—while other Vassals wear it with the single bar vertical, and the three intersecting bars horizontal.

When actually conducting rites or leading ceremonies, many priests don a robe, cloak, or shawl of office. These cloaks are traditionally gold with dark blue lining, or the reverse. A common practice in larger cities, this is rarely seen in small towns where the priests are much less able to afford such an item (and everyone knows who they are, anyway).

Fallen Priests

Due to the lack of a single controlling hierarchy, a priest must commit a severe infraction before others take formal steps against him. The four principal causes of expulsion from the priesthood are as follows.

Major Violation of Religious Precepts or Failure to Perform One’s Duties: Committing one of these violations even a single time might be grounds for defrocking.

  • Offering devotion to powers the Sovereign Host considers evil (such as the Dragon Below).
  • Extorting money or favors from worshipers in exchange for aiding them.
  • Deliberately misleading worshipers in proper practices or the meaning of scripture.
  • Using ecclesiastical position to influence policies of the secular government.

Repeated Minor Violations of Religious Precepts or Failures to Perform One’s Duties: Committing one of these likely draws only a reprimand, assuming the local council hears of it at all. Repeated violation, however, could result in expulsion. Minor violations include the following.

  • Refusing to perform duties (such as failing to give to charity or lead appropriate rites).
  • Disrespecting fellow priests.
  • Taking unfair advantage of the services of acolytes.
  • Inappropriate displays or mockery of Sovereign Host holy symbols.

Major Civil Crimes: Serious crimes against the state or the citizenry might result in expulsion. These include murder, treason, rape, grand thefts, and the like.

Repeated Minor Civil Crimes: Minor offenses against civil authority are actions such as fraud, petty theft, inappropriate speech (in nations where that’s a crime), and so on. In most cases, committing an act of this sort once won’t get a priest defrocked, but repeated violations will. What separates a minor crime from a major one often has less to do with the law, and more to do with how important the victim of the crime is in local circles.

Procedures for defrocking a priest are simple enough on the surface, but surprisingly difficult to carry out. First, someone must bring a complaint to the liturgical council, or if the priest is part of a local hierarchy (such as the staff at a temple), to the high priest. Such complaints usually originate with other priests, but they can come from anyone. Priests are supposed to give equal weight to complaints no matter who lodged them, but in some communities, priority is given to complaints based on their source. Priority in descending order of importance: elder priests, government officials, important Vassals, younger priests, other Vassals, anyone else.

Once someone registers a complaint, the councilors or other priests must investigate its merit. This can range from questioning those involved, to a detailed investigation that resembles police work more than religious practice. If the suspect priest is found guilty of the charges, punishment depends largely on the nature of the violation and what resources are available.

In the case of a civil crime, the priesthood simply declares publicly that the guilty member has been defrocked, and leaves it to local authorities to handle charges and punishments. If the crime is religious, however, the situation becomes more difficult. The priesthood has neither the legal right nor the ability to imprison, exile, or execute its members. The church might attempt to impose fines, or use social pressure to drive a violator from the community, but this doesn’t always work. Instead, the priesthood conducts a formal and very public rite, listing the individual’s crimes, stripping badges of office, and marking the offender. This mark can be a literal brand, a tattoo, or even a mystical sigil such as a mark of justice. (This last is most effective, but also most uncommon.) For extremely serious violations, the ceremony might also involve flogging, though this is of questionable legality and occurs only rarely. The mark, and the very public knowledge of the violator’s crimes and loss of status, are usually sufficient to prevent him or her from ever again functioning as, or claiming to be, a legitimate priest of the Host.

Quests

Only the most devout worshipers embark on quests in the name of their deity or pantheon. For the average Vassal, quests are adventures to read about, or to listen to during sermons, not to pursue. A very select few, however—mostly itinerant clerics, paladins, and the like—do indeed wander the world, seeking out deeds to perform for the glory of the Host and the betterment of their followers.

Unlike many other faiths, worship of the Sovereign Host has no driving goal behind it, and thus no specific purpose to shape its quests. Because the Sovereign Host is part and parcel of the world, quests in its name almost always revolve around worldly circumstances. A Vassal might quest for a magic item or powerful spellcaster to control the weather, and thus end a drought afflicting a Host-devoted town. She might seek out and thwart the schemes of priests of the Dark Six. She might set about finding land and constructing a shrine to the Host in an unenlightened area. On a more subtle level, she might seek out those who have lost faith in the Host, and attempt to show them the error of their ways and return them to the fold.

Rites and Rituals

Vassals perform rituals to celebrate almost every aspect of life. From life and community events, such as weddings and coronations, to natural occurrences, such as changing seasons or the harvest, every feature of the world contains an element of the divine and is worthy of reverence.

Obviously, not all these ceremonies are long or complex—nobody would have time for anything else. Furthermore, Vassals do not practice all or even most of these rituals; even the most pious feel no obligation to observe all of them every day. For the most part, Host rituals are options, available for those who wish to give thanks for a particular event. Only the most holy festivals are sacred enough that Vassals frown on those who do not participate, and even then, their disapproval is as much social as it is spiritual.

Prayers

The most minor form of ritual, prayer is a means to show appreciation for something important, wondrous, or beautiful. Specific instances of good fortune, successful endeavors, and similar benefits demand more appropriate acknowledgement, through minor rites. Prayers are offered in gratitude for agreeable weather, a beautiful vista, a pleasant visit with friends, and similar positive but mundane experiences. They also offer reverence and glory to the Host without focusing on any one aspect of the world. Many paeans and hymns fall into this category.

Prayers are purely verbal. Anything that involves gestures, accoutrements, or sacrifices is a minor rite. Host tradition states that prayers should be uttered in a normal tone of voice, or in song; whispering or mumbling is disrespectful. Most prayers, even those intended to thank a specific deity, begin by honoring the pantheon as a whole. Common openings include “Oh, generous Host, we thank you …” or “Sovereigns of Eberron, Kings and Queens of life, receive the gratitude of your humblest servants.”

Only after addressing the pantheon as a whole does the Vassal go on to name a specific deity. For instance, a prayer regarding the beauty of the sunset might be addressed to Arawai. As usual, Disciples form an exception to this rule; they address all their worship to a chosen god. Priests often lead their congregations in prayer, and some Vassals seek them out for aid in offering private prayers, but the participation of a priest is not necessary. According to doctrine, the Host will hear heartfelt prayers uttered by any Vassal, accompanied by a priest or not, inside a temple or out.

Minor Rites

Minor rites are more involved than simple prayers but still not particularly complex. Although many Vassals seek out priests for aid, minor rituals do not require oversight. Rites involve prayer, but they are not limited to speaking or chanting. The most simple include hand gestures, often meant to emulate the Celestial Crown or the holy symbol of a specific deity. More elaborate minor rites use holy symbols, candles on an altar, specific garb or colors (whites, blacks, golds, and blues being the most common), and burnt sacrifices. Sacrifices to the Host almost never require blood, human or animal. Rather, the petitioner offers something of meaning to herself and to the gods she is petitioning. For instance, a Vassal seeking wealth might melt a few coins in honor of Kol Korran, in hope that the gift of valuables will earn her greater rewards in her next endeavor. A hunter might burn a freshly made arrow, offering up something valuable to both himself and Balinor. A warrior petitioning Dol Dorn’s aid in battle might inflict a small wound on himself, shedding a few drops of his own blood, to show that he is unafraid of pain and injury, and that he will honor the war god with his actions.

Minor rites are appropriate when a Vassal seeks the favor of the gods. Before embarking on a journey, setting plow to field, entering battle, or making a wagon, the faithful petition the Host for success. These rites also serve more general requests, such as good fortune or success in finding love, and prayers for aid, such as petitioning for the health of a sick relative. Minor rites also give thanks for prior luck or success. In this regard they are much like prayers, but rites commemorate specific and personal events, rather than the more general aspects of life to which prayers are devoted.

For instance, a Vassal might conduct a minor rite to Kol Korran after a successful day of sales, or to Olladra after surviving an assassination attempt, or to Boldrei when a beloved accepts a proposal of marriage. Commonly, minor rites show gratitude for specific yet commonplace events such as meals. For instance, a Vassal might pour a libation of wine onto the ground before partaking of food, in thanks to the gods—Arawai and Olladra in particular—for their sustenance.

What is a Vassal to do if he needs help, but is not in a position to offer sacrifice or conduct a ritual? When menaced by thugs, or trapped in the bottom of a well, neither time nor materials for a rite exist, but such situations are when help is most needed. In these instances, it is acceptable to offer a simple prayer, but tradition demands the appropriate ritual at the first available opportunity, both to express gratitude and to make up for failing to properly frame the initial request. The spells of clerics, adepts, and paladins are considered to be minor rites, albeit rites that only a select few individuals can properly perform. Even spells with nothing more than a verbal component are considered rites, not prayers, because of the advanced theological knowledge required to conduct them.

Major Rites

The greatest ceremonies of the Sovereign Host commemorate both holy days and particular events. They involve paeans and prayers, specific designs and gestures, proper garb (or at least colors), candles, and sacrifices of the same style offered in minor rites, but on a larger scale, involving numerous people. Major rites technically require the participation of a recognized priest. Some particularly religious Vassals know enough of the liturgy to conduct the rites on their own—this happens most frequently in small communities that have no priest of their own, or in areas where worship of the Sovereign Host is discouraged or persecuted—but the larger councils often refuses to recognize the validity of such ceremonies.

Festivals are major rites that sanctify occasions and changes in the lives of the Vassals. A very brief description of the traditional ceremonies follows.

Birth: When celebrating a birth, the priest and the child’s parents ceremonially march to the nearest altar (usually within a shrine or temple, but a personal altar will do). They travel through a crowd made up of friends, relatives, and other well-wishers, all of whom offer prayers and small items for sacrifice. At the altar, the priest beseeches the gods, individually and as a pantheon, to allow the child to grow up happy and healthy, and to pave for the child a path that will bring blessings on the community. The parents burn offerings as the priest prays. The ceremony as a whole, from the beginning of the march to the end of the prayers, lasts roughly an hour. Finally, the priest mixes the ashes of the burnt offerings with wine or holy water, and uses the mixture to draw the Octogram on the child’s forehead or stomach.

Marriage: Marriage is one of the holiest sacraments of the Sovereign Host, though Vassals place no stigma on romantic relationships outside of marriage. Once two people are wed, however, they have committed to each other in the eyes of the world and the gods; as the Host are both nine and one, so have the couple become both two and one. Physical relations before marriage are no big deal, but adultery is an offense against the gods themselves, worthy of both scorn and ostracism from the community.

The wedding ceremony incorporates local traditions as well as religious mandates and thus varies widely from community to community. Some are somber affairs with much chanting; others are joyous, accompanied by dance and song. All Vassal weddings, however, contain certain activities. They require a priest to pray and conduct offerings for the couple’s future happiness, for their health and the health of their children to come, and for the gods to make their family a beacon among Vassals. The couple must exchange tokens during these blessings. Rings are traditional, but some couples prefer bracelets, necklaces, or other items. The only requirement is that the tokens be worn or carried at all times. During the ceremony, the guests burn offerings in small ceramic vessels etched with the Celestial Crown or the symbol of a specific god on the bottom.

Death: Because Vassals do not believe in any afterlife other than eternity in Dolurrh, Sovereign Host funerals are truly somber. A funeral involves a procession, similar to that of the birth ritual. In this instance, however, the priest walks in the fore, followed by bearers carrying the deceased on a plank or in a coffin, depending on local custom. Prayers and rites offer thanks for the life of the deceased, the lives he touched, and the good he did. They only request that the survivors’ suffering be eased swiftly and that the deceased escape the clutches of the Keeper. It is traditional to bury a sacrifice with the deceased, in hope that the item will distract the greedy Keeper and allow the soul to slip past to Dolurrh. For a peasant this might be a single copper coin, but the wealthy are buried with fine jewels or other treasures—a possible lure for grave robbers or even adventurers, seeking the treasures of an ancient king.

Coronations: Although the practice is not as common as it once was, some rulers seek the blessings of the Sovereign Host when ascending the throne. Traditionally, a high priest or other luminary of the church conducts such rites as a matter of respect, but any recognized priest can officiate.

As with weddings, the details of a coronation ceremony vary from culture to culture. However, all such rites have two features in common. First, they require sacrifices by both nobles and commoners; only the combined goodwill of the rulers and the ruled inspires the gods to look favorably upon a new liege. Second, the priest places the crown (or other symbol of office) upon the new titleholder and then briefly holds the Octogram above the crown. This indicates that while the new ruler stands above mortals, the gods stand yet higher. Custom demands that the Celestial Crown used in this ceremony be an actual icon, but a few priests have used drawings of the holy symbol when no other course was open to them.

The Calendar

Worship of the Sovereign Host predates the formation of the great kingdom of Galifar. Thus, while all Vassals use the standard Galifar calendar in day-to-day life, they measure days of religious significance on the far older Sovereign Book of Seasons (or simply the Sovereign calendar).

The original Vassals divided the year into three seasons, rather than four. Yearbirth, the first season, was devoted to planting crops and growing things, and was associated by some people with the dragon Siberys. Yeargrowth, the second season, was devoted to the raising and reaping of crops and the fullest bloom of the world, and was sometimes associated with Eberron. Finally, Yeardeath was the period when the world was cold and few things grow; its association was with Khyber. In terms of modern seasons, Yearbirth roughly corresponds to spring and a portion of summer; Yeargrowth to portions of summer and autumn; and Yeardeath to portions of autumn and winter.

Each season was divided into seven “weeks” (the original term is lost) of sixteen days each. The Sovereign calendar does not recognize the concept of months, treating the phases of the moons as separate from the timekeeping of the world itself. Each day of the week was devoted to one of the fifteen gods of the original Sovereign Host, with an additional day at the end of the week devoted to the pantheon as a single unit. In the modern era, the names of the days formerly devoted to the Dark Six now commemorate no deity at all. They have been renamed after the Five Kingdoms and Galifar itself, to show solidarity between the Sovereign Host and the sovereigns of humanity. The new year on the Sovereign calendar corresponds with the first day of the month of Therendor on the Galifar calendar.

The weeks do not carry any names of their own. To indicate a specific day, someone using the Sovereign calendar adds a numeric value to the day in question. For instance, saying “Yearbirth Thranday the fourth” or “fourth Thranday of Yearbirth” indicates Thranday during the fourth week of the Yearbirth season.

Day of the Celestial Week Associated Deity Favored Season
Aureday Aureon Yeargrowth
Karrnday (Formerly the Fury) Yeargrowth
Kolday Kol Korran Yearbirth
Baliday Balinor Yeargrowth
Thranday (Formerly the Mockery) Yeardeath
Olladay Olladra Yearbirth
Galday (Formerly the Shadow) Yeardeath
Bolday Boldrei Yeargrowth
Brelday (Formerly the Keeper) Yeardeath
Onaday Onatar Yearbirth
Araday Arawai Yearbirth
D’arrday Dol Arrah Yeargrowth
Aunday (Formerly the Traveler) Yearbirth
Dornday Dol Dorn Yeardeath
Cyrday (Formerly the Devourer) Yeardeath
Hostday The Sovereign Host Yearbirth

Each day of the week is devoted to one of the gods, who is honored by a festival. All priests of the Sovereign Host perform a minor rite to that god in either the morning or the evening, taking only a few moments. Priests specifically devoted to that deity, however, must perform a longer ritual on the appropriate day, requiring roughly an hour of time. They sacrifice items of meaning to that god, just as when petitioning for a favor. On the day devoted to the entire Host, all priests must perform an hour-long rite. They often conduct this rite in the temple, leading a congregation in prayer and worship.

The days do not merely honor the god in question, but also all aspects of the world over which he or she watches. For instance, every Araday honors not only Arawai, but also farmers and growing things, while the celebration of great victories is always held on the Dornday nearest its anniversary, rather than the true anniversary itself. Particularly religious Vassals dress appropriately for the god in question on any given festival day. For instance, they might dress in green and bronze on Araday, or in shades of red with metal accoutrements and jewelry on Onaday.

Additionally, each god has a special season during which their festivals are particularly important. They require roughly twice as long to perform; that is, 2 hours for those devoted to the god whose day it is, and perhaps 10 minutes for other supplicants.

In addition, deities of the Host have specific festival days, briefly described here, which use the Galifar Calendar for common reference.

Sun’s Blessing (15 Therendor): This festival to Dol Arrah is a day of peace when enemies set aside their differences.
Aureon’s Crown (26 Dravago): A celebration of knowledge, this holiday features lectures and sermons. It has also become the secular date for graduation and commencement ceremonies.
Brightblade (12 Nymm): Dedicated to Dol Dorn, this festival is marked by gladiatorial and athletic contests.
The Hunt (4 Barrakas): This holiday in honor of Balinor features communal hunts of dangerous creatures.
Boldrei’s Feast (9 Rhaan): This feast of community is an occasion for extravagant parties, and is also the traditional day for elections.

The Sovereign Host in Everyday Life

As might be expected of a faith that proclaims the gods’ presence in all aspects of the world, Vassals practice their religion throughout the day, regardless of activity. The precise degree of observance depends on the devotion of the individual: The average practitioner prays many times per day, and even conducts minor rites more than once.

For instance, on a typical morning, a Vassal might offer a brief prayer on awakening, simply to give thanks for the new day. If she has an important endeavor ahead of her, if it is the holy day of one of her patron gods, or if she happens to be unusually devout, the morning observance might take the form of a minor rite.

Prayers to start each meal are common, as are prayers or minor rites upon first embarking on the day’s work. Particularly devoted Vassals might perform individual rites throughout the day when beginning specific tasks, but for most, a general request for good fortune at work suffices. Come evening, Vassals give thanks for the events of the day; even if the day has gone poorly, tradition demands that they find something positive in it, as a reminder that nothing the gods have created is entirely bad. If this is a holy day, a Vassal traditionally performs longer rites in the evening (though she might have done so earlier in the day, if circumstances warranted). At bedtime, she might undertake a final minor rite requesting a peaceful sleep and the opportunity for a new day tomorrow.

This summary makes it seem as though Vassals spend an enormous portion of each day in prayer and ritual. This is not so. Each such activity rarely takes longer than a few minutes. Only truly important festivals, such as the evening rite on a god’s holy day, last for even an hour.

The average prayer of thanks might involve nothing more than a few sentences, reverently uttered, and even most minor rites take no longer than the time necessary to light the appropriate flames and burn the appropriate sacrifices. While zealous Vassals might indeed engage in hours of prayer, most spend less than half an hour per day in total doing so, excepting holidays. Despite their brief duration, because the observances are spread throughout the day, they remind the faithful of their daily interactions with the divine all around them and keep the gods in their thoughts.

the People of the Sovereign Host

Because Vassals consider their faith to be a universal religion, equally applicable to all who wish to embrace it, they do not seek out a specific type of person for proselytizing or conversion. All are welcome, so long as they acknowledge the divine in the world around them and accept the Sovereign Host as the highest gods (and even the latter is somewhat flexible). Worship of the Sovereign Host appeals most to people who live relatively standard lives. This doesn’t mean commoners only—a ruler’s life can be average as easily as a farmer’s. It’s simply that the daily tasks are different. Rather, the Sovereign Host attracts individuals whose lives do not point them in a specific direction. Those who believe, or want to believe, that the world has a fixed purpose, that someone is in control (even if they do not always understand the will or the actions of this guiding power) are particularly drawn to the Sovereign Host.

The Host holds dominion over most aspects of civilized life, so anyone who lives in such a state is likely to at least acknowledge the faith. Matters such as alignment and even profession have only minimal bearing on this worship. A farmer reveres Arawai, whether he’s neutral good or chaotic evil in his heart, because she provides his crops. Even if they do not worship her specifically, everyone benefits from Arawai’s grace—who doesn’t eat bread or potatoes, after all?—and so the vast majority of people offer her at least some thanks.

In sum, the Sovereign Host is the religion of choice for most people of western Khorvaire who do not have active reason to select a different religion. Longstanding tradition and the ubiquitous and accepting nature of the faith make it easy to slip into, and simple to practice.

The Sovereign Host and Government

The priesthood of the Sovereign Host makes no overt attempts to control governments, but they are not without influence. At least three of the Five Nations are Host-dominant, leaving little doubt that their leaders too worship the Sovereign Host. Thus, even if the priesthood does not try to sway a ruler’s decisions, her actions are unlikely to threaten the dominance of the faith and its priests.

On a local level, influence is far more overt. Mayors, town councils, governors, barons, even dukes might well belong to a congregation of Vassals and see the high priest as an authority figure. Most nobles have a religious advisor on staff to aid them in matters of faith and history. Influential religious officials can easily manipulate their advice and information for the benefit of the priesthood—or themselves. In many small communities, religious leaders are community leaders as well. The best do not take advantage of one to advance their position in the other, but more than a few ambitious priests see the title of reeve or mayor as just another stepping stone to power.

It is rare, but in some communities the priesthood of the Sovereign Host works in opposition to the secular government. This situation occurs most often in Thrane, where a minority beholden to the Host dwell in the midst of a theocracy of the Silver Flame. Vassals are sometimes persecuted in these areas, not necessarily by violent or overt means but through more subtle techniques such as price-gouging, shoddy goods, and poor service. Here as elsewhere, the Host’s priesthood does not oppose local governments directly. Instead priests encourage Vassals to support one another, to convert others, to attain positions of authority so they can improve their companions’ lives, and to protest mistreatment so that the government acts to quell it (if only to save face).

In some nations, worship of the Host—or certain members of the pantheon—is actively restricted. The monsters of Droaam do not hate the Host with the same passion they reserve for the Silver Flame, but they do react with hostility to overt displays of the faith within the small human and shifter populations. Although the goblinoids of Darguun have recently been introduced to the Host, the faith is taking hold very slowly.

Some communities revere Balinor, Dol Arrah, and Dol Dorn but are still suspicious of the rest; others still worship the Shadow or the Mockery exclusively. In such areas, overt worship of the Sovereign Host, or “inappropriate” members of it, might result in persecution, imprisonment, conversion by the sword, or even execution.

In areas of oppression, the priesthood conducts Host ceremonies in secret, their shrines hidden in the wild or inside unassuming structures. They preach active resistance against the government, but through subtle techniques rather than visible uprisings that would surely be crushed. Leaders and officers who persecute Vassals might wind up short on supplies, for instance, or the victims of “accidents” such as unexplained fires. Meanwhile, the Vassals carefully feel out those in power for any sympathetic to their cause, or possible candidates for conversion.

The Sovereign Host and Other Faiths

In terms of overall influence, the Sovereign Host has little to fear from other faiths. Even with the modern growth of the Silver Flame and the schism that ejected the Dark Six, Vassals still make up a majority of the civilized population. The faith has even spread, albeit slowly and piecemeal, to the goblins of Darguun and the rural communities of the Eldeen Reaches. It maintains dominance, not through violence or intimidation, nor through promises of rewards in this world or the next, but through a much simpler process: integration.

Repeatedly throughout history, Vassals have come to a region, observed local religious practice—perhaps honoring spirits, now-unknown gods, or ancestors—and immediately set about incorporating that worship into the local practices of the Sovereign Host. For instance, Vassals’ current funerary rites were adopted thousands of years ago from a culture that worshiped its ancestors, not unlike the elves of Aerenal. The intent of the original rite was to introduce the newly deceased to the spirits of the dead, who were said to linger in crowds. Adding sacrifices of thanks made the ritual fit into preexisting Vassal practices.

By assimilating local traditions and adjusting their meaning to match the precepts of the Sovereign Host, Vassals make conversion easier. Few religions explain everything about the world. The gods’ presence in all things provides a perfect opening to proselytize. An isolated tribe might believe in its own gods or spirits, while inhabitants of another valley are governed by an entirely different set of divinities. Vassals take this opportunity to explain that the Sovereign Host encompasses all and that the spirits the tribesfolk venerate are real and worthy aspects of that Host.

Even members of major religions, such as the Silver Flame, have been swayed by this argument. After all, the Silver Flame does not claim to be the world’s creator, or even as old as creation. Therefore, it cannot be the only god, even if it is the most worthy of worship. A small but notable percentage of followers of the Silver Flame, Vol, and other religions worship the Sovereign Host in addition to their main patron, seeing the latter as simply a part (albeit an important or even dominant one) of the former.

Within several generations, those who practice the rites and rituals adopted by the Vassals become Vassals themselves, having lost track of the initial differences between the faiths. It should be noted that the process of assimilation does not represent any dishonesty on the part of the Vassals. (A few less scrupulous followers of the Host have taken advantage of this process for personal or political gain, but this is the exception, not the rule.) They use this method of proselytizing and conversion in the belief that they are welcoming lost cousins, and educating them on the true nature of the divine in the world. They do not see it as denigrating an existing faith, but incorporating and recognizing a new aspect to the omnipresence of the Sovereign Host.

Specific Attitudes

Given the wide range of Vassals across the many nations, communities, and social strata, it’s difficult to summarize their attitudes toward members of other religions. The attitudes presented below are simply the most common, stereotypical ideas of the average Vassal. As many disagree with these notions as share them.

  • The Dark Six: Vile gods, worshiped by vile people. Of course, I might utter a prayer to the Devourer now and then, but that’s just to keep his wrath far from me. I most certainly don’t revere him the way these villains do!
  • The Silver Flame: They mean well, for certain. But their rigid worldview and intolerance leave them open to corruption, and make even the best of them difficult to deal with. If they would just acknowledge that the Silver Flame is a pale reflection of Dol Arrah, they would be happier and better off.
  • Druid Sects: They’re so close, but they fail to grasp the essence of the world. Worship of the natural world is worship of the Sovereign Host—they simply haven’t yet come to that realization.
  • The Blood of Vol: Delusional zealots who have placed their faith in false promises of immortality and vile perversions of the natural order. Some are truly evil, most merely misled, but all should be shown the error of their ways.
  • Other Sects: It’s astounding to me that anyone could place their faith in lesser beings, such as fallen angels or demon lords or dragons, when the gods so clearly stand above them. I am comforted only by the fact that the Sovereign Host brought most of these entities into being, so such worship still honors them, if only indirectly.

The Sovereign Host in the Last War

The priesthood of the Sovereign Host took no unified stance during the Last War. For the most part, Vassals and even priests fought alongside their compatriots against enemies among the Five Nations. Whether one’s foes were fellow Vassals or not was meaningless; only their nationality mattered.

For most of the war, the liturgical councils continued to meet. They avoided issues of the war, for they knew that bringing up such matters could only cause dissension. Instead, they continued to focus on issues of the faith, interpreting scripture, determining the effect of the war on religious practice, and similar concerns. As far as the war itself was concerned, all agreed to go back and tell their congregations to avoid damaging temples or shrines to the Sovereign Host, even in the midst of enemy territory.

The effects of the Last War still linger among the followers of the Sovereign Host. Given the loss of friendly contact between nations during the war, the customs of individual communities became ever more insular. Weddings and birth rituals differ far more now from area to area than they did in the past. At present, only the most basic similarities exist. A common theme of Host services in the modern day is forgiveness and the reforging of bonds to counter national and regional hatred that still lingers.

Temples and Shrines

Temples to the Sovereign Host are traditionally made of stone, although wood suffices in poor or forested communities. They normally stand near other buildings or areas of significance, both to symbolize their importance and to make them easily accessible. Most have sloped roofs, but they rarely match the magnificent sweeps of Silver Church cathedrals.

Religious doctrine does not mandate the number of floors, but each must have nine doors or windows to the outside. (In large buildings, multiples of nine on each floor are acceptable.) At least one door or window must face in each cardinal direction. Host temples are often adorned in shades of gold and deep blue; black is frowned on for normal use, though it can appear on specific somber occasions. The main chapel includes pews or individual chairs for congregants. The front of the room is a raised platform, with nine steps leading from the floor. The precise height of the platform, and the depth of the steps, is irrelevant. Atop this platform is an area for the priest to stand—often, but not always, behind a podium of some sort—and an altar to display holy or ceremonial items, and on which to make sacrifices. Some form of the Octogram hangs on the wall behind the priest facing the assembly.

The priesthood especially favors areas that produced Eberron dragonshards. It does not matter if the land contains any more shards; their prior presence alone creates a religious resonance with the Vassals. Because they believe the gods are present in all aspects of the world, and legend states that Eberron created (or became) the world, Vassals hold that Eberron has a closer link to the Host than the other two great Dragons. Although very few temples to the Host actually stand on sites of dragonshard discoveries, the priesthood makes every effort to erect new temples in or near such places.

Shrines honoring individual members of the Sovereign Host, rather than the pantheon as a whole, follow different rules. They are usually small structures, made of wood as often as stone. They generally lack a raised platform, and might display the god’s holy symbols. The altar is usually decorated with objects symbolizing the god’s area of influence, such as grains for Arawai or tools for Onatar.

Orders and Monasteries

The Sovereign Host does not have many knightly orders, or groups of priests who band together for a specific purpose. Those orders that do exist are based on geography and politics. Many such groups sprang up during the Last War to battle alongside their nation’s military, but most have since faded away.

The only sizable exception to that rule is the Brotherhood of the Wall. This order is based primarily in Aundair, but has several fortresses in the Talenta Plains and Thrane, as well. Founded during the Last War to counter the undead armies of Karrnath, the order still holds vigil in case that nation should ever again try to field armies of the walking dead against its neighbors.

The majority of Vassal monasteries are not martial orders but traditional friaries. These are small collections of buildings, fenced off from the local communities or built atop nearby hills. The priests and friars who dwell in these places tend gardens, herd sheep, and minister to the spiritual well-being of the nearby townsfolk. They believe that more effective worship can be found by removing the distractions of the everyday world, and thus choose to dwell slightly apart from society. Most are not spellcasters, though an occasional adept or cleric might join a monastery.

A typical monastery consists of a central building that doubles as both temple and meeting hall, and a number of outbuildings. These include living quarters (usually spartan cells) and kitchen and dining rooms. The storage areas and workrooms normally include herbalist stores, carpentry, and blacksmithing, although some monasteries instead rely on the local towns for such services.

Variant Sects

The priesthood rarely concerns itself about variant sects within the ranks of the Vassals. Given the widespread nature of the faith, and the many cultural and national differences in practice, one could say that the entire religion is little more than variant sects. Several movements do qualify as “variants,” espousing far more than interpretive differences.

Disciples

A minority of Vassals select a single deity as the focus of their faith, devoting little if any worship to the rest of the pantheon. Such people often refer to themselves as Disciples, though other Vassals use less complimentary labels. They do not disdain the other gods; they simply feel their own lives and activities fall within the purview of one deity. Other Vassals consider them misguided, but the Disciples see themselves as the most devout of all. They direct all their prayers to their patron, assuming that even if they must ask for something normally outside that god’s area of influence, their faith and fealty will earn them divine favor.

Most Disciples pursue careers that focus heavily on one aspect of life, to the exclusion of almost all else. A career soldier might take Dol Dorn as her sole patron if she truly believes life is nothing but brutal combat. A young farmer who has never once left the family homestead might see no reason to revere any god but Arawai. Disciples rarely feel comfortable worshiping at a temple devoted to the Sovereign Host in its entirety, but they might do so on holy days if no other option presents itself. They feel as though they must choose between remaining silent during much of the ceremony, and possibly offending one of the gods (or, more likely, their servants), or participating even in those portions devoted to other gods, and thus possibly offending their patron. Thus, where possible, Disciples prefer to pray and celebrate in shrines specially consecrated to individual deities. Such shrines exist across most of the nations of Khorvaire, although they are less common than more general temples. Many of these were not originally built by Disciples, but by other Vassals who wished to honor a lone god under specific circumstances. For instance, if a famine suddenly ended, local farmers might build a shrine to Arawai out of gratitude. Still, such shrines suffice for the needs of Disciples.

Most Vassals believe it foolish to worship a single member of the pantheon to the exclusion of all others. By living in the world, one must acknowledge the various aspects of that world. Vassals look with either pity or derision on Disciples, even while secretly admiring their dedication. Some subtly persecute Disciples as corruptors of the faith, but most simply try to open their eyes to the larger truth.

Hierocrats

Some subsects believe that one deity of the Host is predominant over the others. Unlike Vassals who worship all the gods, or Disciples who select individual patrons of greater personal importance, these “hierocrats” believe that not all gods of the Sovereign Host are equal. For example, the Blades of Dol Dorn is a warrior cult that maintains that civilization grows only through conquest and battle. The group known as the Scions of the Forge consists entirely of warforged who believe in Onatar as their creator, with the other gods his servants: He created them to create the mortal races who, with Onatar’s inspiration, eventually created the warforged.

The orthodox priesthood considers the hierocrat sects more dangerous than the Disciples. The latter simply ignore some of the pantheon—insulting, perhaps, but not dangerous. Hierocrats, however, have a blatantly different view and seek to spread it to others. Through dedication, personal sacrifice, and focused action, their heresy continues to grow.

Proxy Cults

As previously discussed, Vassals believe that many people who follow nondivine beings, such as members of Radiant Cults, are worshiping proxies of the Sovereign Host. Oddly enough, a very small number of those cultists believe the same thing. Some individuals who worship fallen angels, or the great Dragons, believe that they are venerating emissaries of the Sovereign Host. They maintain that mortal minds can never comprehend, or rightfully honor, true divinity, so instead they worship lesser beings who speak for the gods. Most Vassals try to convince these proxy cultists of the error of their ways, but they do not view them as dangerous or heretical—simply misguided.

Lesser Pantheons

The combined gods of the Sovereign Host and the Dark Six represent nearly all facets of life and the world, civilized and wild. Certain cultures that revere different aspects of the world form “lesser pantheons” of gods chosen from both the Dark Six and the Sovereign Host. The Three is a secret society in the Rekkenmark Academy, whose members swear allegiance to Dol Arrah, Dol Dorn, and the Mockery—a difficult concept for most, but one its followers reconcile as part of the changing face of war. A sect known as the Restful Watch ties the worship of Aureon to the Keeper, claiming that the Keeper seeks only to preserve great souls for the future. One of the largest examples of these cults is located in the city of Rhukaan Draal in Darguun, where many of the goblinoids worship Balinor, Dol Arrah, Dol Dorn, the Mockery, and the Shadow, all in equal measure. Although the councils of the Five Nations are willing to overlook sects that focus purely on a combination of Sovereigns (such as the Mror predilection for Onatar, Dol Dorn, and Kol Korran above all others), to associate members of the Host with the Dark Six suggests that the two pantheons are equal and that divisions between them are purely of mortal creation. This strikes at the heart of Vassals’ belief. Even those willing to offer the occasional supplication to one of the Six consider those gods to be evil and separate from the Host, and to believe otherwise is to make an enemy of the liturgical councils of the Five Nations.

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