Greetings, and welcome to my Sanctum. You may wonder what it is that summons you to this place. Perhaps you seek answers to the mysteries of the world? Perhaps you have been lured by promises of riches or fame? No, it is none of these things. It is haram, the voice of guilt, which has brought you here. It burns in you as it burns in me. It is the voice of the God calling you to forgiveness. But redemption is not a blessing to be bestowed. It is a path that must be walked a destination that must be earned. I wonder if you have the strength to see it through to its end? For there you will find a beginning.
There are shadows in your past. I can see them as clear as a star in the darkest part of the sky. There is tragedy and sorrow. Who were you – I wonder – before you came to me? Were you a thief who knifed innocents for meager coin? Perhaps you were a nobleman who let others starve so that your own table was ever full? Or maybe you were a parent who could not protect your own children? A soldier who betrayed his commander and his country? It is no matter now. From this point forward you will be made anew. You will eschew the trappings of the world that have brought you so low. You will put them by and you will conquer them. Your life as it was is done. It will never be the same again.
Monks are priests of Cho-Ren, the Eddar god of Redemption. Though deeply spiritual, Monks are nonetheless very competent warriors. Aided by the spiritual power of special prayers known as meditations, they flow easily from the serene to the deadly. A monk eschews all worldly possessions and does not carry weapons save the martial staff. However, their most dangerous weapons are their own bare hands which can be as effective as any sword or maul. Monks also do not wear armor, focusing on special disciplines that allow them to avoid injury altogether. Despite their great prowess on the battlefield, monks are not front line fighters and they excel when free to use their natural mobility to assault their foes from multiple flanks.
Haram is the voice of guilt. It is the pang in the heart that leads the faithful to the God. It is the voice of Cho-Ren, calling us to forgiveness. Ever is it present slow to diminish eager to devour us at the first sign of weakness. It is our first and truest foe. Be mindful of your guilt, for it is mindful of you
The order of Monks is very new to the world, but careful study will reveal that the seeds of their creation have been carefully planted since the beginnings of recorded history. At the heart of the faith is the figure of Cho-Ren himself. The origins of the God remain unclear, but what is known is that at some point in pre-history, Cho-Ren committed a great crime against Athos, the Lord of the Eddar. The nature of this crime is one of the most enduring mysteries of the faith and speculation ranges from the impossible to the absurd. Whatever the crime, it is told that Cho-Ren beseeched the Sky King for redemption. But Athos was wroth, saying:
Redemption is not a thing that can be granted. It is a path that must be walked; a treasure that must be earned. Long will you search for this great prize, for your crime is vast and anything less would be unworthy. You will leave by all that you know, and when long ages have passed you may find what you seek. But this great gift shall not be bestowed by my hand. Redemption will be called into the world by one who walks my path. Hear his words, and know that you are forgiven.
And so Cho-Ren was sentenced to dwell in the Umbra of Stars until Redemption. Through all the ages of the world he dwelled in the silence of the stars, putting by his weapons and his armor; every possession and measure of worth. And it is said that in that great long meditation, Cho-Ren transcended his worldly fetters and achieved true Wisdom.
Once every hundred years, Cho-Ren was allowed to descend into the world of mortals. During these times, the god would name emissaries and awaken Mahavatras to interpret his divine teachings. The small orders of monks that appeared around these ancient shrines were without the spiritual power of the god. Nonetheless, through the teachings of the Five Moral Virtues these ancient monks were able to hone themselves themselves into exceptional warriors. Above all else, they meditated on their god of Wisdom and directed their hearts and minds toward the awakening of Redemption.
It would not be until very recently that their quiet prayers were at last answered. It came to pass that a Knight of Athos was born in the Age of Strife who did at last bring Redemption into the world. Armed with this power, the Knight of Redemption ignited the might of Cho-Ren. When the Knights own squire forgave the Mahavatra of Humility on the Isle of Tir Vestra, Cho-Rens return to the world was secured.
It is said that the power of Redemption flooded into the Penitent Lord restoring him to full divinity. Cho-Ren descended from the Umbra of Stars and beheld the Obelisk of Nature, where ever dwelled the power of the Dragon-Goddess. There he released the Dragon from the Sanctuary so that her power could return to the Branches of Ysarril. Cho-Ren did then assume his place among the other gods, adding his puissance to the remade Obelisk of Redemption and the enduring might of the Sanctuary.
And so flush with the power of Cho-Ren and the discipline of long years in waiting – the order of monks began to stir anew. The Mahavatra of Humility undertook a pilgrimage across the Sanctuary awakening the sleeping Mahavatras and spreading the teachings of the Penitent Lord. At last, the order of Monks would emerge from obscurity their message of redemption echoing across the guilt laden souls of the Sanctuary like a holy fire. For Cho-Ren shows the way toward forgiveness. His teachings arm the penitent against the many dangers that await them.
For Redemption cannot be granted. It is a path that must be walked; a treasure that must be earned.
Let Cho Ren speak
For my soul is burdened with guilt
Let Cho Ren sing
For it is balm for my need
Let Cho Ren redeem
When at last my journey is done.
Djarashalud is the name Cho-Ren has given to the Path toward Enlightenment. It is the long way that exists between guilt and redemption. It is the journey of the Monk. Look not for a quick road, for you will not find such. Did Cho-Ren himself not endure Djarashalud for all the Ages of Aeryn? Did he not there learn the Five Virtues toward Enlightenment? Be steady and be strong. May your journey be clear and filled with holy purpose.
Like the god himself, many of Cho-Rens Emissaries acknowledge some crime or guilt in their past that fuels their need for redemption. Through service as a Monk, they seek to redeem themselves. Guilt, or haram, is known as call of Cho-Ren, for only the guilty can truly desire forgiveness. The state of haram is as much a blessing as it is a curse. For though Cho-Ren speaks first with the voice of guilt, it remains the duty of every monk to achieve a state where that first clarion ringing is at long last still. It is in that place where haram retreats into emptiness that the Monk achieves redemption. This state is called prana and it is the absence of haram. It is believed that at this point Cho-Ren will speak again, lifting the Penitent into his celestial abode among the many and drifting stars. Most monks gladly spend the bulk of their days in the state between haram and prana known as djarashalud. Djarashalud is the journey of a monk. It is the Path toward enlightenment where the cry of guilt is diminished but not yet completely silent.
The Five Moral & Evil Virtues
As a Monk progresses on the road of Djarashalud, he gives himself over to the teachings of Cho-Ren. These are the Five Moral and Evil Virtues; the guideposts of Djarashalud.
Wisdom / Ignorance
Wisdom is the greatest virtue, but also the hardest to master. It dwells only where ignorance is abolished and so you must ever seek the undiluted truth. You must strive to dispel rumor and gossip. But you must also learn to detach yourself from opinions that can detract from wisdom. You must strive to be as Cho-Ren has ever been; to look upon things as if from afar with the world spread wide before you.
Discipline / Carelessness
Self Control is the key to Enlightenment. We are ever marked by our thoughts and deeds. They define us more completely than any name or title. We must be careful with our actions and with our words. We must always ask if what we do and say truly expresses who we are or wish to be. Guilt arises out of carelessness. Carelessness arises from lack of discipline. We must cultivate a temperate mind, and remove ourselves from excess and indulgence. For these distract us from the Path. They weaken the body. As our words reflect the discipline of the minds, so too should our actions reflect the discipline of our bodies. No move should be wasted, no action made recklessly. As we prepare our minds for meditation, so must we also prepare our bodies for battle. Many foes await us on the Path only the disciplined monk shall conquer them.
Poverty / Greed
Possessions distract us from Djarashalud. How can we let go of guilt and inhibition if we cannot let go of material wealth? Our gold will not be with us when we are called to Enlightenment among the Stars? Our weapons will not serve us there. Our armor will be as air. We must use this time to prepare for the trials that await us in the Stars. Only in Spirit may we be wealthy. The more we possess the more our enemies will take away, and the more they will have to use against us.
Humility / Pride
Pride represents attachment and there lies the greatest danger to prana. Our enemies will not hesitate to use the power of our pride against us. We must not let them. Before all great deeds be humble. Before all great loss and sorrow be humble. Before your ememies be humble. And before your reflection in the water most of all
Compassion / Selfishness
Caring for others teaches us to care for ourselves. We cannot know redemption if we are not willing to help others achieve it as well. Even if others do not seek Cho-Ren, we must help them understand his ways. Though we are bound to the cause of the Eddar, we make no distinction between the many faiths or callings. All are worthy of redemption.
In all the world there are only four sites considered holy to the Emissaries of Cho-Ren. These are the Havens where the Mahavatras keep their vigils and school their pupils in the ways of the God.
Though not nearly so tall as its counterpart in the Greater Sanavaar, the Haven of Mt. Dsala is perhaps the most important to the Mahavatrist faith. For it was here that Liadar Aravaine, the Mahavatra of Humility, was forgiven by a squire bearing the Ankh of Redemption. This act set into motion a chain of events that saw Cho-Ren liberated from his celestial bondage and vested with the power of forgiveness. Aravaine awakened from his long meditation and journeyed to the remaining Havens to bestow forgiveness to the other Mahavatras meditating there. Thus the faith of Cho-Ren was reborn and the order of Monks brought to the world of mortals.
Mount Dsala exists on the Isle of Tir Vestra which dwells ever in the Shadow of the Obelisk of Redemption. Though the Haven at Dsala does not quite reach the height of the Obelisk, it offers an unobstructed view of this most important religious site.
The Monks of Dsala share close relations with the Druids of Tir Vestra. The two orders work tirelessly to cleanse the Isle of the many corruptions that sprang from a demonic artifact that nearly unmade the Isle. In all of Tir Vestra, only Mt. Dsala stands completely untainted. This has turned the Haven into a staging area from which the Druids and Monks tackle the long, ongoing struggle to restore the Isle to its former purity. Like all of the Havens, visiting Dsala is an arduous task. It takes on average almost two years to cross the treacherous lands between the great Kingdoms of Artanna and the Obelisk of Redemption.
The Haven of BlackIron has a murky history. It has been called Haven of the Condemned and the Refuge of the Damned. But most know it by its oldest name the Dungeon of BlackIron Bay.
For many centuries, the hapless criminals of Ashendar have been incarcerated in the Dungeon. Here they have been sent to live out the remainder of their lives in squalor and depravity, isolation and madness. Often looked at as more of a graveyard than a prison, the cruel and unforgiving reputation of the Dungeon is well earned.
The structure rises out of the sea like a leviathan creature of the deep. Its bastions are as black as the stone it was built upon black as the waters from which it is thrust. The walls are thick and sheer, bedecked with chains and with blood that does not wash clean. Over its long history, countless prisoners have been slaughtered in the Dungeon their crimes forgotten and their pleas for mercy unheard. The highest crenellations sport funnels through which the dead are hurled into the sea like a rain of flesh. It is often said that that once the walls of the Dungeon touched the sea but after long years the many bones piled at its base lifted the entire structure up into the sky.
Ashendar cared little for the Isle. It was enough for the Kingdom to hurl its prisoners into the sea and let them swim to the Dungeon, or die in the creature infested waters. The jailors were made of the hardest bitten mercenaries and Reavers. They fostered a society of the depraved where the most treacherous criminals were given freedom to rule the various quarters of the Dungeon. A small, overlooked country emerged where the cruel prevailed and the weak were beaten into submission.
It was into the belly of this nightmare that Aravaine descended there to forgive Maia the djinn girl who would become the Mahavatra of Compassion. A slave who had killed her master, Maia had seen only twelve summers when she was sentenced to the Dungeon. Once forgiven, her power as a true Mahavatra showed clear and she began instructing the inmates of the Dungeon in the teachings of Cho-Ren. Through the power of the god, the inmates began to discover a power that many had thought had forsaken them; redemption. The word echoed through the benighted halls of the Dungeon like a clarion ring in the soul.
The teachings swept through the prison and the new monks rallied around the Mahavatra. Armed with only their bare fists and their un-slaked desire for redemption, the initiates expelled their jailors and claimed the Dungeon as their own. Ashendar responded by sending its own military and the Reavers of Tharsis to the prison to enforce its sovereign claims. But the monks proved formidable in defending their interests and the very qualities that had made the Dungeon such an effective prison conspired to make it extremely difficult to Siege. The monks held firm to their claim. Ashendar had clearly abandoned them. They would make the Dungeon anew for what other place in the whole of the Sanctuary was so in need of forgiveness?
A stalemate was reached, and while the monks currently have freedom within the Dungeon, the prison remains quietly besieged. Ships from Tharsis patrol the waters surrounding the prison. Only specially appointed vessels are allowed to approach. The Mahavatra is considered an enemy of the State and is forbidden to leave the Isle under any condition. Recently under the diplomacy of the Herald Eldjinn Grey, Healers have been allowed to visit the Dungeon and monks are allowed to leave though each is branded and ordered never to return.
Ironically, prisoners are still brought to the Dungeon. While this might seem counterintuitive, the practice has actually served the interests of Ashendar. These new inmates are hand picked by the sovereignty of Ashendar as the worst elements of society. While there will always be exceptions, many of these inmates have no interest in redemption. At present, the Monks of BlackIron retain only a slim majority over the other inmates. Life in the Island Prison remains an ongoing struggle for survival, dignity, and above all else redemption.
The Haven of Al-Shedom lies deep in the deserts of the Majrabad, over the remains of what is rumored to be a now empty Vault of Merilon. Once upon a time, Jashir ibn Rashiid, the self proclaimed Grand Kaliph of Star and Sand ruled from Al-Shedom, terrorizing the Refuge communities of the Azerhym for long years. A legacy of pillaging and treasure hunting came crashing down when Rashiid was visited by Aravaine who awakened the desert pirate as the Mahavatra of Poverty. In short order the Vaults of Al-Shedom were emptied and their contents returned to the refuge communities from which they had been plundered.
The Haven itself is one of the most highly revered in the faith for many of the Azerhym believe that Cho-Ren is the Speaker of Stars the God-Sage who influenced many chapters in their history. His return now in the midst of the Age of Strife has united the kaliphate as never before and many Azerhym have answered the call of the god. While still difficult to reach, the Haven of Al-Shedom is the most readily accessed of all the Havens. The power of Cho-Ren in this place is unquestioned and the Haven has quickly grown into the principle holding of the faith. In this distant oasis, monks train tirelessly under the thousand stars of Cho-Ren.
Directly opposite the great gargoyle mountain of Dun Duagh stands its mighty twin, Dun Moragh. It is here that the Mahavatra of Discipline presides over clouds and cold. Like his haven, many things about the gargoyle Mahavatra are shrouded in mystery. It is known that he has been in a state of near total meditation since the time of his forgiving. But what he seeks, and indeed the very nature of his forgiveness remain things unknown.
What can be said is that the Haven of Dun Moragh is arguably the most well regimented of the Havens. The monks of the Mountain are as solid and disciplined as the rocks upon which they reside. This is the most martially oriented of the Havens, and the monks here are considered the most formidable warriors that the religion has to offer.
The Lost Haven
It is held that there remains a fifth Haven that is yet to be discovered. But the monks do not seek the Haven so much as they seek the Mahavatra of Wisdom who will lead them to it. The absence of the Mahavatra of Wisdom is keenly felt by the monks of Cho-Ren and there has as yet been no true explanation for why he or she is yet to be named. Many feel that the Mahavatra of Wisdom is lost in the hinterlands and so unreachable. Others hold that the spirit of the Mahavatra lingers yet in Ungerok where it is somehow denied resurrection by the forces of demon kind. Still others maintain that the Mahavatra is simply waiting for the right time to appear. Unaware of his or her true birthright, the sleeping Mahavatra wanders unknown and lost among the many mortals of Artanna.
When we enter Prana, we are at last forgiven. It is the Celestial Temple the Paradise among the Stars that Cho-Ren has left for those who have followed his Path. There at last we may put down our guilt and embrace Enlightenment.
Monks organize themselves according to their knowledge of the teachings of Cho-Ren. At the Highest echelon are the gold-sashed Mahavatras.
Lesser in learning are the black-sashed Renjins. Renjins are the guardians of the Mahavatras. Though their knowledge does not supersede their masters, their training ensures that they are perhaps the most powerful monks in existence.
Next are the white-sashed Sages. These usually serve as the leasders of small collections of monks and are very well versed in the ways of the god. In order to become a Sage, one must first serve for many years as a blue-sashed Monk.
The green sash indicates an initiate who is not yet baptized to Cho-Ren or someone not of the faith who is taking part in a ceremony or visiting a Haven.
Finally, red-sashed monks are those who have been given special assignments by the order usually by the Mahavatras themselves.
The symbol of Cho-Ren is the empty coin and his colors are gold and black.
The Monks of Cho-Ren have joined the frontline of professions and races dedicated to ending the Scourge. The Penitent Lord’s role in helping maintain the Sanctuary solidifies his commitment to the Covenant of the Gods and to the salvation of mortals against the many threats of demon kind. Djarashalud opens its mighty arms. With discipline and with wisdom, the monks of Cho-Ren prepare themselves to meet its many challenges.