"Preserve and persevere with dignity and honor, for there is no trial set to Earth that man cannot endure."
Lord, savior, patron saint and deity. A once mortal being that has transcended to godhood and is said to have the power to lead the Order through the apocalypse. According to the scriptures, the very first Ascended was a prominent scholar of the Order in ancient times who was slain by the gods for attempting to usurp them. Stories vary, but it is generally accepted as fact that the Ascended had vanquished at least five of these gods on His own and crystallized their essence into the Empyrean Jewels.
A new dawn has come with the arrival of the next Ascended which led to restructuring into the Alabaster Order.
The original Ascended was in the process of deifying his disciples when divine war was declared against Him. It is said that the next Ascended will continue His work by choosing the strongest of the Order whom also personifies their traditions and values to the highest degree.
One knight per generation is selected by the council to be offered to the Ascended as the worthiest candidate to become their disciple. By age thirty a new Chosen must be nominated as it is then that knights must produce an heir. Although there is nothing in the scriptures that states the Chosen must be of pureblood or in direct relation to a councilmember, there has never been one that didn’t fulfill at least one of these conditions.
A group of elders that governs all aspects of the Order’s daily life and official functions as judge and jury. Members serve for life and are replaced by their heir upon death without say from the other leaders to remove the complications of politics. The exact number of councilmembers may vary from generation to generation, but never falls below three and one always presides as adjudicator. Should members and their heirs fall, such as in times of war, those remaining may take a vote on promoting another elder to leadership. In even rarer circumstances one may challenge a leader for their seat on the council, but it is often considered garish and does not draw the respect necessary to rule peacefully.
The title for any member in their twilight years. Those in the Order have a significantly shorter life expectancy than the global human average due to the dangers of their lifestyle and the toll that repeated aether usage takes on the body. The most generous estimates give them to sixty years of age, while the average falls somewhere in the mid-fifties. One generally becomes an elder around fifty years old, although some under that age may be classified as such if they happen to be on the council.
Casting off direct attribution to the gods with such terms as “holy”, while still paying homage to their divine benefactors’ initial involvement led to the main stock of the Order taking up the title of theurgists. A member of the Order reaches adulthood and becomes a knight upon completing their rite of passage by the age of eighteen. There is little to no difference in skill and power among the knights with regards to age. Upon being knighted, they must already be at their peak in every way and maintain this until death. Individual strength moderated by humility is the basis of efficient teamwork in the face of disaster. No knight wants to be known as the weak link or the loudest mouth and so their thirst for perfection is engrained from birth.
Youth who have not yet completed their rite of passage. The term “squire” has been obsolete for the past two centuries, but was once meant to describe those who had begun formal combat training around age eight. Since then the Order has used the word “child” psychologically to remind those nearing adulthood that if they fail they are no better than a helpless infant.
Those directly descended from the original Order during the time of the first Ascended. The terminology is purely ceremonial in nature today and if there ever was a practical benefit, it has been diluted to nonexistence from centuries of mixed breeding. Some of the more invested traditionalists debate otherwise.
Scholars who focus on studying and maintaining scriptures in the archives. They are also responsible for presenting lesson plans to the children. The job of a book keeper is not in replacement for other chores and duties, but a position of dignity in addition to the rest. There is always at least one on the council and they are usually the senior most book keeper.
An uncommon, yet important position in the Order that centers on chemical mixtures enhanced by magic called decoctions. These liquids have a wide variety of supernatural effects from aiding in the healing process, increasing physical strength and concentration, recovering from fatigue and more. Alchemists can also create lethal poisons to affect a range of beings that would otherwise be impervious to conventional attacks. Oils infused with aether are massaged into the skin to numb pain and bolster fortitude against physical or elemental damage, but can also be applied to weapons and armor to substitute active enchantments when aether is scarce. The final product of alchemy—incense—has begun to fall out of use in the past century. Airborne chemicals meant to augment the senses are still used by whisperers when communing with the spirits, but their tricky application in combat to induce a battle trance left much to be desired without the assistance of a wind spirit to keep the cloud on allies and not enemies. In the days of yore, alchemists would carry censers and clay bombs filled with incense to release on the battlefield and swing the tide of battle in their favor.
A team of theurgic knights is known as a cabal, although children in the Order will unofficially call their group of friends one too. Teamwork is paramount to the success of the Order and the synergy between cabal members is the foundation. Cabals follow a theme to maintain synergy; that is, they specialize in magic and fighting styles that align well without sacrificing versatility. A common example of a well-rounded cabal synergy would be that which focuses on two or three corresponding elements (fire/wind/lightning) and mixes heavy and light-armored knights to balance defense and mobility in battle.
Every member of the Order is required to begin the process of producing a single heir by their thirtieth birthday in an effort to keep their ranks filled and continue their legacy. Attraction plays little part in selecting a mate. Good health and magical aptitude are all that matter. After that, the courting process is abrupt and ends just as quickly. Romantic notions of falling in love are squashed early on in life to avoid the distractions of false hope. All the love one may have to give is channeled into their heir. They are everything; the next step in the road to tomorrow.
Children are raised in a communal family setting, but it is their guardian’s responsibility and honor to do the bulk of the work in perfecting the one that will carry on their lineage. Should the situation arise that a knight is unable to produce an heir it is considered acceptable with approval by the council to take in a child related to them that possesses a magically gifted soul. Unscrupulous as it may be, some go the extent of looking beyond their own bloodline for one to pass as an heir.
Despite honed physiques, high intelligence, an unmatchable work ethic, and ceaseless bravery, it is no secret that the Order’s biggest fear lies not on the battleground, but in finding a suitable mate. Knights may be worldly from their endeavors, but feel unprepared when forced to connect with those outside the abbey walls. It is a problem to which no solution is ever posed from hesitation in admitting a weakness in their culture. A bond that should result in great joy leaves nothing, save miserable anxiety. When a child is welcomed into the Order by birth (as opposed to being “recruited”) the parent from the outside is not to be heard from again, but some love-starved knights attempt to make more of their fleeting tryst upon tasting the pleasures of romance and intimacy for the first time.
Rite of Passage
An arduous trial meant to prove absolute proficiency in combat and survival skills. Children of the Order train their entire lives and are only given a single chance to begin their next chapter. The claim that there are no failures is only because careful manipulation of the records sees that it is forgotten from history. Failure results in death, complete erasure from existence, or beyond recoverable maiming and is more common than any will ever admit. Tragedy befalls the one who must put down their own heir to grant them a merciful release from the suffering.
The trial is administered by the council and is not standardized. Youth may choose to go alone or with a cabal, but the level of danger increases along with the number of those on trial. A journey to the Astral Plane to slay one’s own inner demons is a simple task, while a battle to fell a demon lord is considered nigh-impossible and sadistic. A child may choose to petition for a more difficult rite of passage if they feel the one given is too lenient for their skills. While this is almost never the case and nothing is achieved directly by taking on a harder trial, the honor and respect gained from completing it puts them in incredible standing for personal campaigns in the future, such as dueling for a position on the council.
"Glory to the Ascended."