He was like a miracle walking from the dunes: Surrounded by the haze of the desert, the sands crashed about him and the very boulders of Egaria walked with him.Akwetee Navanavh – Beggar at the gates of Koren (1745)
According to the first texts of The Azure Order on the fifteenth day of Frostfall in 1745 the man known then as Milan Al Zanen En Renik Al Kar came from the desert to the great city of Koren dressed in the robes of a pilgrim. He brought with him the Fundamental Lord Ulimanthar Dragonexus of the house of Catsari, one of the great Vorokians of Stone, whose flesh was emblazoned with the marks of the Gods of the Great Desert, the Lords of the Empire of Rice, the Divinity of the Jade Empire and the Pantheon of the Royal Basin. The wanderer took refreshment at the Tree of the Stolen Fruit, an establishment owned by Bem Ogawan, it was from this simple hostelry that he spoke his words, words that were heard by only a handful of people. Bem Ogawan became the first disciple and in the twenty one days that the pair travelled Koren they assembled a great assembly of the faithful. From here Milan Al Zanen En Renik Al Kar travelled to Gamtha and the Lake of Diamonds where he spoke to those that would hear the words of his religious teachings. Onwards he travelled from hamlet to city and township to village, always speaking, always gathering followers and always moving towards the Great capital of Haven.
“In all the lands there are thousands of deities, in Daer Akmir alone there are over one hundred. The Church of Calius Menth, The Following of Three Wonders, The Congregation of the Tin Wanderer, New Miran, Yeehj the Endless Horizon Lord, The Volume of Ire, The Lidless Validation, Werianity and Farimism name a handful of religions that I have encountered across the world. Some civilisations lay claim to hundreds in one go whilst the voices of others are heard by only one virtue as they kneel in dusty halls offering their hope to divinity. Where I walked I, I listened and where I listened I learned and what I learned I have carried with me, here to Daer Akmir. For here in Daer Akmir is the heart of Faith, the soul of Faith, the very beginnings of Faith.”Milan Al Zanen En Renik Al Kar on his arrival in Koren.
When he arrived in the capital it was among great furore for he had gathered with him a host of supplicants all of whom spoke his words as though they were a Mantra. As he had crossed the thresholds of the cities of the Royal Basin no guard had challenged those that walked with him and such was the beneficiary of his people that they were met with hospitality and love by the common people. The doctrine that he spoke came to the ears of the Clergy in each place that he passed and was passed on from Priest to Priest until it reached the great synod in the capitol where the powers that represented such were a feared for the position that they held. When the people of Al Kar finally arrived at the gates of the Capital the Priesthood of the Clergy were strongly keen to keep the preacher from their door but the College were desperate to lay their hands upon the Fundamental of Beyleethe and see their own questions answered. So it was amid the familiar disagreements of the two great political powers that Milan Al Zanen En Renik Al Kar entered Haven and came to the seat of all strength in the Royal Basin. He would not allow interference with Ulimanthar and kept him, instead, close at his side as he addressed the congregation that gathered before him and as he spoke the symbols of the Divine that were a part of that creature flared into power as though responding to the movement of his very speech and all were mesmerised.
“The words that he spoke were powerful and old, full of religious definition and fervour but that was not what inspired those that followed him and though we knew not what was to follow we found him uplifting and strong. He reached out to us with his teachings and found in each and every one that walked his path the spark of belief that we, perhaps, had not realised that we were lacking. It was as though he was walking with us or that we had always walked with him and seen what he had seen. It was never truly about the groups that he spoke to; he drove his words into all of us assembled; awakening a strength in us that we were unaware of. We truly became his pilgrims and his soldiers; his crusaders if you will, as he spoke and that privilege, that right to call us “his” he handed to the Gods or more rightly back to us, that we might give it to the Gods ourselves, in all humility.”Miriam Stole – Crusader of the Way (Ex Captain of the Crimson Brotherhood)
The throng, by now, numbering in the thousands, some say that tens of thousands could hear his voice as he spoke from the steps of the Clergy buildings, closeted away in dark corners or standing in the light. Many historians would have you believe that it was people of faith to whom he spoke or that they were people of power. In the eyes of Milan Al Zanen En Renik Al Kar perhaps they were, for they came from all teachings of the Royal Basin – Soldiers stood by farmers who stood by priests who stood by cobblers who stood by enforcers who stood by thieves who stood by divine warriors who in turn stood by soldiers. For many their lives were already filled with a cause; teaching the poor, healing the sick or policing the streets, for example but where all had a faith not all held true to it, some drifted from the gathering before the core of its teachings had been exposed whilst others found little interest in the dogmatic assault upon their senses. Throughout the teachings Renik did not hesitate or stumble over any iteration nor did the doleful glare of his rock guardians flinch in the brightness of the afternoon. As the day moved towards night the sun began to set and clouds stumbled from the sky leaving it the perfect vein of blue. It is fair to say however that when those without the true faith melted away the pure that were left were the beginnings of the Azure Order.
“There are eleven Lords and Ladies, Gods of the Royal Basin and over a hundred Archangels and Angels and even more demi-powers and greater servitors. The choirs and hosts of the heavens have thousands of voices each clamouring to be heard above the others to bring the value of their portfolio to the fore of each discussion. Below them in the mortal realm each of them is served by hundreds of priests, some even thousands and whilst many tread the path of the pilgrim still more do battle in their own quorums, harsh words echoing out into the halls of the clergy. Who are we to say with truth and power what the interpretations of the Gods should be? Who are we to guess, yes to guess, where the might of the faithful should be directed? How many voices should there be speaking, screaming into the darkness when there are so few to listen? The might of the Gods, all Gods is here in your hearts, here in your souls and here in your minds and whilst there are Priests to each faith there must always be those that adhere to and understand all faiths and act for the greatest good. Look into yourselves children of the gods and ask yourselves how many of those voices do you hear?”Milan Al Zanen En Renik Al Kar during his address in Strabain
Milan Al Zanen En Renik Al Kar spent the night deep in prayer with those that had chosen to follow him and in the morning he sent them forward to gather their families and settle their business before their journey began. In three days they had once more assembled before the might of clergy, gathered to hear again the words of their leader. Where hundreds had dispersed to gather their families several thousand returned to join all those that had already been recruited on the great pilgrimage across the Royal Basin. The unified churches were in good spirit for in the absence of his followers the preacher had spoken at length with the great and the faithful of the Clergy and satisfied them that through his leadership the Order of the Azure Sky would bring strength and loyalty to the Priesthood. In their benevolence the Holy Order of Yarrianne had declared that this man would heal the rifts in the land and the people and indoctrinated him into the faith of Yarrianne. In a great address the thronged people were blessed by the Priests of all Faiths for their journey and in the clear bright air of Earthnew in the year 1746 the Azure Order began their first crusade to the Great Desert, deep into Egaria, to march against the Zoranethi Temple of Time, drive out the evil that had made it their home and claim it in the name of the Royal Basin and its Gods.
“You could hear his words, not just in your heads but, like he said, in your souls and your hearts and it was like the voices of all of the Gods and all of their servants were talking to you. I could not speak to exactly how he was affecting everyone else there, not directly, but you could sense the change in a lot of people. There was so much strength in what he was selling to us, it is far too hard to explain directly but as you began to understand what he was talking about you started to find a direction in yourself, a need to solidify and unify the faiths to a point where all could blossom. When I walked away from that meeting I sold up everything I had and prepared to follow this visionary wherever he might lead but that was not the whole of it. From the moment he had finished enlightening me I found a respect for the Priesthoods and those that followed them and a deep seated need to offer my aid and guidance to them.”Vessimal Manz – Disciple of Naed (Ex Innkeeper)
The journey took them through the Western Marches where they continued to gather faith although the numbers did not swell as such instead they received gifts of provisions and arms. This became known within the Order as the March of the Makeshift Warriors as armour and weapons changed hands between the soldiers as each individual came to a new task or purpose. It is here in the history of the Order that we first begin to understand the freedom that is afforded to its disciples. Librarians walked as armoured and armed as any soldier and knowledge was passed freely between those that would have guarded secrets in a prior life. In early Watersdown the vast column turned West and entered Rhygahrean territory where they were, at first, met with hostility but the Marcher Lord Milan spoke to their leaders and gave to them great secrets that he had learnt of in his travels. In return for this knowledge the group was allowed to move onwards until they came to an old temple along the borders of the Wyld Woods and the corners of Sunlit Branches. Only the Great Preacher entered and he never revealed, to our knowledge, what mysteries he uncovered within but when the journey was done we once again moved South and West into the Desert and on to the temple.
“The Clergy are the most Divine order to have been given the right to call upon the Gods and speak in the name of them. It is their faith and guidance that gives the souls of this great land the spiritual wellbeing that they need and leads them on the path to the final Redemption that they will find in death. Through the ranks of the Churches the Great Priests; the Inquisitors, the Redeemers and the Grey Whisperers for example are served by those ranking priests of their faith, scribes, accountants and agitators. They are guarded by the Divine Warriors of their sanctity and faith who take place in the Holy Crusades against their enemies. Throughout this institute secrets fold in upon secrets, parts of the same church schism out against its own servants and allied powers seem rife with traitors and spies ready to sunder friendships and begin war for the furthering of power. Despite the purity that faith brings there is no guard against the corruption of mortality within any echelon of power so what I offer you my family is not power but service.”Milan Al Zanen En Renik Al Kar speaking to what would become senior members of the Order on the journey of their first crusade.
When the Order arrived before the ancient structure they saw that the edifice was in a great state of ruin and the followers of evil were stationed within. They faced those priests that had lost their faith in their Gods and been consumed by the darkness that welled from the broken statues that could be seen within the ancient Zoranethi Temple. The battle was short but bloody, those with the greatest belief seemed most vulnerable to the powers of the faithless abominations that prowled the halls. However the deathly creatures could not touch the power of the House of Catsari and the Fundamentals, tattooed in the symbology of the Gods, they seemed invulnerable, protecting the members of the Order as best they could. Eventually the Azure were victorious and drove the evil from their new found bastion and unfurled the banner of the Royal Basin incorporating all of the Gods and their Angels at the very top of the ancient Zoranethi Structure. As the banner unfurled so the surviving members of the pilgrims that had travelled so far knelt in prayer and homage as the Lord Defender of Yarrianne led us in a prayer of victory. The beginning of the Azure Order may have begun under blue skies in Haven but its birth was in blood in a great crusade against evil under the heat of the Egarian sun.
“It was a long journey that took us through the Marches and then West into Rhygahrea, a journey that was made longer by the fact that we could only move at the speed of our slowest member. It gave us a lot of time to discuss and to plan what we would do; who and what we would become. Milan had taken up the purity of Yarrianne and we had come to call him Lord Defender, he had taken the time to explain to us that in the Temple we sought we would find many enemies of the Faith, the beginnings of a perversion of our own beliefs that would spread across the world like a plague unless it was stopped. We knew that some of us would have to fight, some of us would have to support and eventually some of us would have to farm the land using different kinds of weapons. There were all sorts of folk with us from all sorts of guilds; Shield and Brotherhood, the Outriders, Priests and Divine Warriors of all kinds, the Company, Oathtakers, Sourcerers and Skalds, even some Mind Throwers and Grove Walkers. That didn’t matter though, soldiers were passing breastplates to farmers and Wagoner’s were passing the reigns to casters. It was as though listening to the words of the Lord and being on this new path were all finding a different aspect to ourselves and a new calling.”Larianne Grassille – Head of Farming and Production within the Azure Order (Ex Silent Company Lieutenant)
The survivors sent riders galloping to Koren to extend invitations to the Clergy and the nobles of the Royal Basin to attend Milan Al Zanen En Renik Al Kar at his new Temple. It was estimated that they would not arrive in haste but instead would take perhaps up to two months to appear with grace and élan that those of station would require. During that time the people went to work repairing the temples weakened defences and preparing to till what was gloriously farmable lands around the structure. Buildings that would go on to house the families of the various disciples of the temple were swiftly erected and by the time the notables of the Royal Basin arrived the barracks and stables were near completion. Dignitaries from every noble family, guild, college and most importantly church were present in the ceremonies that took place to honour the completion of the main temple and it was to rapturous applause that Milan Al Zanen En Renik Al Kar took the stage to thank the Clerics of the Great Pantheon for the victory and for leading them to this place to drive back their enemies. The charter of guilds was then produced and, as witnessed by all worthies there present, the Holy Temple of the Azure Order was added for all time to that writ lest they act against the best interests of the Royal Basin and those that they serve.
“Tell me then servants of the Gods, who can be trusted across the courts of the clergy to keep the secrets and guard the priests against the knife in the dark? Should that knife be held by one the same ordained order than no-one from that faction can protect them? The words that are spoken belong to the God and to their Priests, they may be shared by other Priests of the Faith but they are not for the ears of those not ensconced into the inner mysteries. Equally should their guards be traitors to their cause then those secrets will not remain as whispers for very long. I ask you who have been touched – The words I have gathered from across the world to join with me in committing ourselves to an oath that will bind us by a sacred duty. We do not need precise words we will simply find the oath in our hearts and make that promise to ourselves, incorporate it into our prayers and give ourselves our own strength but the duty remains, there is no difference in the reverence of the Gods; all are sacred, all have a place in the Divine order of things and their followers have their duties.”Milan Al Zanen En Renik Al Kar speaking before leaving Haven and before addressing the Clergy
For over two hundred and fifty years the Azure Order climbed the ladders of trust and faith not only within the Churches but also within the echelons of the Guilds themselves. The Azure Order represented a group of relative newcomers to the Guildic arena and there was much to be done. Fortunately the backing of the clergy was a huge stepping stone that bought with it not only wealth and funding but gave the Order access to the prestige that noble houses sought and so strength was attained through growth. The way was not paved with roses eternally however, Divinity bought with it orders to war and in the relatively short period which the guild existed it has fought in innumerate crusades against heretics and blasphemers alike. The Walker Rebellion during 1822, the Slaughter of the Fox Queen in 1848, the Fifteen Darkened Weeks, which, of course, took place in the Rice Empire in 1922 and the Opened Box Crusade of 1963 are some of our more famous exploits. The Disciples of the Order have received many accolades, awards and medals of honour, none of which are worn but accepted with gratitude and stored in the Temple. Such action serves to remind us that reward for us is the service that we perform, the guidance and wellbeing of our spirits in the afterlife and the sanctity of our souls to the Gods, all Gods. We do not act for the corruption that is wealth, power nor through the compulsions that are greed, hatred or envy.
“I have a lot of strange memories about Haven and then beginning the pilgrimage. People had been told that we were going on this massive crusade against some ancient evil in the Great Desert. There were folk that actually thought we were heroes on some mission for the Gods, perhaps we were, I still have trouble believing it, given what has happened. But there we were, you know, getting carried away with it all as farmers gave us loaves of bread and ex-soldiers pushed freshly sharpened swords into our hands, blades that can’t have seen action since the Gabrak Wars if you take my meaning. Then they asked us why we were doing it and, well, it seemed proper to repeat the oaths that Milan had told us to keep in our hearts so we did, we spoke them to people. I’ll tell you what, saying those words time and time again to the smallfolk, not that I should not be counted as a smallfolk mind, like I say we were getting carried away, those words they made us feel empowered, like soldiers or crusaders. I could never tell you exactly why but that oath is what made us Disciples of the Azure Order, there is more to it than any oath or any other words I ever heard. It made me do something I never thought I could do or would ever forgive myself for – Kill.”Karlo Darkspur – Crusader of the Way (Ex Hospitallier of Yarrianne)
The guild’s purpose was called into question in two thousand and thirteen when it was revealed that Milan Al Zanen En Renik Al Kar was, himself, a crusader against the faith – Mazarek, son of Skagrid and challenger of the Codex of War. According to history Mazarek was a tyrannical murderer who had acquired power through the use of dark magics slaughtering thousands in his wake. We had lived a long time away from the Royal Basin, in seclusion, alone with our faith with only the voice of this so called wickedness to guide us. We question the validity of these claims, this revelation came during a re-emergence of the original darkness that had consumed the temple that we now call home, it is possible that he was consumed by it trying to keep the rest of the Order safe. Equally the story of the rise and fall of Milan Al Zanen En Renik Al Kar is not for the Order to tell or to dwell upon, we knew him as the Lord of the Order and that is always what he will be to us. Whilst the story of the end is clearly unknown to the Order what we are aware of revolves around the fact that more than a third of our number and the Vorokians themselves were destroyed protecting him and that in the aftermath of his falling a part of him or at least something that wears his visage now stands as the High King. This High King, it is said, will unify the land and the people and bring all things together to stand against something that will change the face the world. In all ways is this not the coming of the Lord that we were promised?
“All are Divine then that walk in the faith of things no matter what mantle has been placed about their pious shoulders. They may be known as Priests or they may be called Divine Warrior, they may have taken up the Priesthood long after their dedication to another cause and be known as a follower in Ley or they may be the scribes and Loremasters. Regardless we must protect the clergy, the vitae that runs through the bodies of its clerics, the words that make up its doctrine, the alliances that keep their strength, the secret words that bind all of these things together. These are the things that we guard through virtue of patience, veneration and most importantly by keeping everything that we see and hear to ourselves. We are bound by oath to keep the secrets of all clergies, all faiths and all of the followers who support them. That is our honour bound oath, first and foremost but there is more to the order than just keeping safe the holy.”Milan Al Zanen En Renik Al Kar – Part of his victory address to the Azure Order after taking the Zoranethi temple of time
There have been many cries from the Court; where does our future lie and to whom now do we hold allegiance? The answer remains the same, as it always has – To the Priesthood of the Royal Basin and more than that to the faith which the smallfolk of the land cling; we will safeguard that faith. Following that, all folk should hold the faith of the Gods in their hearts which means that our allegiance should war come is to that aforementioned Royal Basin, the nobility that guide them and to all the facilities that fly the colour. As the guild faces a new time within the history of the Royal Basin we are blessed not only by the increasing influence that the Gods have on the land but also by the appearance of the great and Holy City of Karrid Ren, a place where truly the mark of the Divine can be felt. As our leader leaves us to take on the burdens of all of Daer Akmir so too should we turn our attentions to these wondrous places.
“The Vorokians themselves? They have served the order faithfully and in all the God’s truths we would benefit from their return. Long ago though in those early days when we fought against the darkness they were terrifying, I had never seen nor have I since such a blending of the Priestly arts and the power of Sourcery. It was as if they had always been of the Divine, the way that those symbols blazed across their bodies and there were more. The more they fought the more other symbols became apparent, old symbols that I did not recognise and ones that I have never seen again. After the battle the fundamentals moved into parts of the temple and became our guardians and protectors and over the course of several months even our symbols vanished from them. That didn’t matter though, it was like they belonged there and the common belief that we always held was that they had somehow been carrying divinity within them and that they had transferred it to the walls of the building that we now called home. Our Lord trusted them and they were more than part of Order they were the Way that guided us.”Zun Te Malay – Disciple of Terref – (Ex Priest of Rayvahn)