The Priesthood in Aerdy
It must be kept in mind that Aerdy is vast. It thus supported a multiplicity of faiths. The general drift toward evil has been slow and cumulative, and while evil priesthoods are in the ascendant, it has not always been so. Neither is it the case that, even today, good or neutral aligned priesthoods do not have any influence.
Among the peasants, most pay some minor respects to Beory, Oerth Mother. This is natural for an agricultural people. A small invocation will be offered when crops are planted, and some small portion set aside (“Beory’s plate”) at Richfest. However, there are few priests of Beory. This has never been a “political” or martial priesthood, and the faith survives almost as folklore rather than in formal worship and priestly practice. Ordinary folk also propitiate evil deities, notably Nerull and Incabulos, in minor rites designed to ward off disease and to beg free passage for departing souls of the dead.
Historically, the one great tension between Aerdi priesthoods is between Heironeous and Hextor. During the great expansionist drive, this rivalry was regarded as healthy. Both sides struggled to be pre-eminent in the drive for glory and dominion. Wise rulers kept the priests well apart from each other. These Lawful priesthoods maintained zeal, discipline, and trained soldiers well.
However, after the Turmoil between Crowns, priests of Heironeous have become few and far between. Most emigrated westward, others found themselves marginalized to fringe areas, often dependent on the support of a minor local rule – perhaps for personal or historical reasons. The marginalization of this priesthood was a catalyst in accelerating Aerdy’s drift to evil.
Pre-war, only three priesthoods were of importance within Aerdy; those of Pholtus, Zilchus, and Hextor. Pholtus priests continued to have influence among royal houses because of their role as scholars, keepers of archives, wise men, and advisers. The junior priests formed the bulk of local magistrates.
However, tensions grew and after the denunciation of Ivid V by the patriarch of Pholtus in Rauxes, Ivid ordered a purge of Pholtus’s priesthood. Most local rulers went along with this for the simple reason that this allowed them to seize church lands and property and enrich themselves.
The more lenient allowed the priests to escape with their lives. Most of these priests fled to the Theocracy or Urnst, and a few to the Iron League nations.
Very few rulers dared to oppose Ivid in this matter; the overking had played the sedition-and-treason card, and this was powerful in its effect. The priesthood of Pholtus is decimated now, with only a handful of its senior priests left.
Priests of Zilchus are left as the only non-evil priesthood of real note. They always have played a vital role in the economy of Aerdy, forming the bulk of the tax gatherers, chancellors, and advisers to the overking on trade and monies. In return, the priesthood has grown wealthy, with many opulent buildings and no few small landholdings of its own. Then again, the richer elements of the merchant classes, especially merchant princes, have always allied with this priesthood. To have purged it would have meant decimating the finances of the imperial court.
Even Ivid was not mad enough to do this; he needed money for his great war against Nyrond. Thus, until very recently, this priesthood has stayed safe.
However, it is an ill-disguised secret that Zilchus priests tend to back the House of Darmen in their aim of forming the next ruling royal house. The House of Darmen, with its many merchant princes, has always courted this priesthood and very recently Patriarch Lassaren was tipped off by Prince Xavener of Darmen that an attempt might be made on his life by agents of Ivid.
The overking, Xavener said, was suspicious of the patriarch and might move to act against him.
Xavener offered Lassaren safe refuge in Kalstrand, which the patriarch readily accepted. A carefully disguised double left in Rauxes was indeed assassinated a week or so later. Some say Xavener himself had the double killed and laid the blame on the overking, but then those who say that tend to be men in the service of Xavener’s rivals. Still, Lassaren finds himself almost a prisoner in Kalstrand. Treated with deference and living in utter luxury, Xavener presses on Lassaren the absolute need for security. The priest is not free to leave.
Thus, while the priesthood of Zilchus does not support Ivid, being infuriated by the promotion of “Baalzy” – a direct affront to their role – they are uncertain of how openly to act against him. Too, they are uncertain whether Xavener is the right man to replace him.
The fiery Matriarch Schleretha of Zelradton, in particular, opposes Xavener’s suit very strongly. Many priests of Zilchus are concerned that Lassaren may become only a pawn of Xavener and now quietly regard Schleretha as the real, supreme authority.
The Priesthood of Hextor
This priesthood has a special place for several reasons. First, it is the single most powerful in the land. Second, it played a major role in the creation of the animuses. In addition, it is the only priesthood left which Ivid deals with day-to-day. However, its power is hardly unconstrained.
The House of Naelax was strongly supported by Hextor’s priests during the Turmoil between Crowns. They knew an evil cause when they saw it, and they put their own church armies firmly behind Ivid I. In return, when the civil war was over, Ivid made a number of ceremonial appointments elevating the priesthood and made Patriarch-General Izvestian his court priest. He also made sure the priesthood didn’t get too big for its boots.
Ivid enthusiastically promoted the priesthood to command of major imperial armies such as the Black Legion, the Glorioles Army, and others. But he did this very cunningly. In some cases he appointed priests to command armies where the large majority of officers had no liking for them, as in the case of the Glorioles Army.
This kept the priests insecure about their authority. Second, he integrated Hextor’s own church armies into imperial units; nominally as elite troops or special troops, but always in a small minority, again making the priests feel insecure.
Since this often involved sending large imperial troop units to “ally with” church armies on the few landholdings the church of Hextor owned, he made sure that his armies occupied their lands.
Then again, Ivid decreed that the church armies should be supported by the royal purse. It might appear that this was a generous provision. What it meant in effect was that Ivid became their paymaster. Especially in the case of humanoid troops, it often seemed to happen that couriers bearing wages suffered unfortunate accidents along the way so that the troops were paid only very late. Or, the couriers bearing letters of instruction to local rulers to hand over some of the imperial tithe and tax monies to the priests were badly delayed.
On the other hand, the priests were always paid using magical teleportation devices for sending small sums of gold. Thus, the troops learned that they didn’t always get paid, but the priests did.
In a particularly cunning twist to make sure the troops learned this, Ivid I kept the initial minting of the new Gold Ivid at a low level for some years—and the priests were always paid with these new coins, as anyone could readily see when the priests spent any of it. So the troops knew well that the priests had got paid by the overking!
Naturally enough, the troops rarely blamed the overking (since, after all, the priests got his money). But they blamed their priestly leaders, often believing the priests were stealing the army wages. Ivid knew how to make sure that the priesthood never got the whole-hearted support of their men. Thus, the priests of Hextor found it difficult to maintain control and discipline.
To make matters worse, spies and agents of the overking kept careful watch on the actions of this priesthood. The priests, lacking detection and subtler magic, were not well-equipped to uncover such agents.
The crafty Naelax overkings kept this situation in existence for many decades, with one twist and turn after another keeping the Hextor priesthood firmly under their thumbs. When the Greyhawk wars came, however, the overking truly needed the support of the priests.
Ivid neglected his usual intriguing for the purpose of giving with one hand and craftily undermining with the other. And under Patriarch-General Pyrannden the priesthood waxed powerful. Ivid must have felt utterly betrayed when he called upon Medegia for aid during the Greyhawk wars and found that the chief censor refused him—with the backing of the Krennden, Patriarch of Hextor in Rel Astra, the nominal capital city of Medegia. Ivid has had his revenge on the Censor, of course, but the patriarch fled to the safety of the north-east coast.
What has happened subsequently is almost without precedent within this priesthood. Pyrannden has stood by Ivid. However, Krennden has pronounced the overking insane and renounced his sacred guardianship of the malachite throne on account of that.
There is an Iron Schism within the priesthood of Hextor. Krennden is charismatic and senior enough, and has the backing of sufficient animus rulers who hate the overking and will support almost anyone opposing him. Because of that, he has the following of many of Hextor’s priests outside of the Naelax lands. Krennden keeps on the move, to avoid the assassins and death squads Ivid sends to deal with him. And he has enough local rulers willing to keep him secure for a short time to be a genuine menace.
Currently he is in Delaric, where he has shown signs of settling down and establishing a power base to challenge the current Patriarch-General; Delaric’s ruler Montand had best beware lest this should invite angry reprisal from Ivid.
Finally, while there are no other priesthoods of political importance, some are important in special areas—such as the faith of Obad-hai in the forests, and Trithereon’s angry faith in the Lone Heath and Grandwood. The only remaining priesthood which has a general following among the ordinary people (other than Beory) is that of St. Cuthbert. However, this priesthood—very much a rustic, rural faith here—has been badly affected by assassins and evil rulers, and it survives only in a few lands.