The Holy Episcopate is one of the four major powers in Orthon. It is mainly located in the southeastern portion of Orthon, but its territory is rapidly expanding westward and northward thanks to its campaign of conquering islands not already claimed by any of the four major powers.
The Holy Episcopate is a theocracy, as its name implies. Celestialism is the strict law of the land. No gods other than the Celestial gods may be venerated or worshiped, no temples may exist but Celestial temples, and only the forms of worship approved by the Celestial Archbishop may be practiced.
In the days before the Last Dragon War, the country was known as the Holy Episcopate of Lasant, and that name is still seen occasionally. Lasant was a holy land to Celestialism – the place where the gods first came to Myrion. But in the cataclysm that ended the war, Lasant was broken into pieces, and the Holy Basilica that marked the sacred spot sank beneath the waves.
But now, without the dragons ruling humanity, the Celestialists can live their lives fully according to the principles of their religion. And they can spread the one true faith far and wide, to people of all races.
The Celestial Archbishop is the greatest religious authority in Celestialism, and also the head of state in the Holy Episcopate. The current Celestial Archbishop is Humilis I. The Celestial Archbishop serves for life. Upon his death, the Council of Cardinals conduct a ritual to asking the gods for their choice of replacement. The replacement is occasionally one of the Cardinals themselves, but just as often a less powerful or less well-known cleric.
individual islands in the Episcopate are ruled by a holy leader called a Bishop. Bishops can be ordained into any the faith of any of the 15 Celestial gods; for political purposes, all are equal. The greatest bishops, regardless of their specific patron, are elevated to the rank of Archdeacon. Separately, the greatest cleric in each particular god’s faith is given the title of Cardinal. Cardinals do not directly control territory, but rather bear responsibility for a specific aspect of the Episcopal government. For example, the Cardinal of Nazlokin is commander of the Episcopate’s armed forces, while the Cardinal of Avatrunei is the highest judicial authority in the land.
The Holy Episcopate has been seeking to expand the faith – and its territory – by conquering or incorporating unaffiliated islands. Though some islands, if the people on them already follow Celestialism (or appear to), are left mostly alone. All the Holy Episcopate asks of the communities on these islands is a tithe, a regular payment of gold to the Holy Episcopate.
Other islands are conquered by the Episcopal Navy. The Episcopate’s crusaders sweep in to wipe out any resisting forces, and the city, town, or village is given a chance to surrender. Then the Episcopal Inquisition arrives, to instruct the locals in the ways of Celestialism.
Within the Holy Episcopate, the Episcopal Inquisition has almost unlimited authority to investigate and punish heretics. The Inquisition fights against the cults of the Dark Gods, but it also persecutes believers in the Ascendants, and anyone who worships the Celestial gods in unapproved ways.
Their techniques are brutal. The Inquisition routinely resorts to torture in order to extract confessions. Ordinary people may escape with only public humiliation, if they are quick to recant their “false beliefs” and pledge obedience to the Celestial gods. But heretical clerics have no chance. If the Inquisition catches them, they are either burned at the stake, or else simply vanish, never to be seen again.
The Holy Episcopate is in a constant state of tension with the Empire of Gard. Both powers are in competition for many of the same islands. They both compete for dominance in trade with the regions to the east. And they have religious differences, too. Though Empire of Gard officially holds to the same Celestialism as the Episcopate, the Empire is tolerant of the Ascendants and their followers.
Dragonfall has a peace treaty with the Holy Episcopate. Dragonfall is even more tolerant of Ascendants than the Empire of Gard is, but the Queen at least is strictly Celestialist. She pays a substantial tithe every year to the Holy Episcopate to keep the Inquisition away from her people.
The Eustace Magocracy is strictly independent, although it too is a Celestialist country. The Archmages keep promising to crack down on worship of the Ascendants, but they never seem to do it. Unfortunately for the Episcopate, they don’t have much actual influence over the powerful wizards of Eustace.