The Holy Episcopate is one of the four major powers in Orthon. Its core is located in the southeastern portion of Orthon, but it has territories and holdings throughout the super-archipelago 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 Father is the greatest religious authority in Celestialism, and also the head of state in the Holy Episcopate. The current Celestial Father is Humilis I. (When a woman holds the position, she is known as “Celestial Mother”.)
The Celestial Father serves for life from the holy city of Silverstream. 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 designated by the ritual. The details of this ritual are a secret.
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 13 Celestial gods; for political purposes, all are equal. The greatest bishops, regardless of their specific patron, are elevated to the rank of Archbishop. 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 authority on judicial matters.
The Holy Episcopate has been seeking to expand the faith – and its territory. To that end, it is on a campaign to conquering or incorporating unaffiliated islands throughout Orthon. Unincorporated islands where Celestialism is already followed are spared. All the Holy Episcopate asks of the communities on these islands is a regular tithe to the Holy Episcopate, and free reign for the Episcopal Inquisition to ensure that the faith is strictly kept.
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.
The Holy Episcopate is a primarily human nation, but the clergy sees see Celestialism as a universal faith for members of all races to follow. Therefore, they do not restrict their attention to human islands. On the other hand, non-humans are treated comparatively well in the Episcopate as long as they keep to the faith.
Within the Holy Episcopate and islands that pay tithes to it, the Episcopal Inquisition has almost unlimited authority to investigate and punish heretics. The Inquisition fights nobly against the cults of the Dark Gods, but it also persecutes believers in the Ascendants and worshipers of the Seasisters.
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 the Empire of Gard officially holds to the same Celestialism as the Episcopate, the Empire is far more religiously tolerant. The Episcopal Inquisition has no jurisdiction within the Empire.
Dragonfall has a special treaty with the Holy Episcopate. Dragonfall is even more religiously tolerant than the Empire of Gard is, but the Queen at least is Celestialist. She pays a substantial tithe every year to the Holy Episcopate to keep the Inquisition away from her people and preserve their liberties.
The Eustace Magocracy is strictly independent, although it too is a Celestialist-majority country. It pays no official tithes to the Episcopate, though the Archmages make donations as they see fit. 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.