After the fall of the Marthanean Empire, the lands formerly controlled by the Emperor dissolved into dangerous anarchy. About 30 years after the empire collapsed, a man known only as Prophet Sharta started traveling the land, spreading the word of the Almighty Ion. At first people were hesitant to listen, they still wanted to hold onto their old gods. However, when Sharta pointed out that the old gods, who had supported the empire, had now failed it, people were quick to convert. Ion rapidly gained strength and after a short while, enough followers came together that they built a church. Ion became a settled god, a figurehead. More and more converted from the old gods until the old religion was basically forgotten. The Church of the Great and Forgiving Ion was born, soon growing until it engulfed all of the old empire’s lands.
The basic tenents of Ion are common knowledge. There are tenants covering most situations where spiritual guidance may be necessary.
1. Ion is the only true god. The Old Gods abandoned the world leaving only chaos. Ion is the only provider.
2. A witch shall not be allowed to live. These traitors are threats to Ion’s guidance, leading others away from the light of Ion’s righteous path and shall not be tolerated.
3. Those who bask in the light and warmth of Ion shall be admitted into his Palace upon death. Those who denounce Him, however, or those who wield the infernal powers of the metaphysical without His endless guidance, shall forever be banished to the Wastelands, forced to forever live around His house without being allowed entrance.
4. The Arcane Arts are granted by the Glorious Ion and are only granted to those of the Church. Any others with power over the Metaphysical are witches of the false gods and must be punished according to Ion’s great Mercy.
The Church consists of a trio of Deacons as the highest officials. They make all decrees and are viewed as the divinely appointed representatives of Ion. At the next level down are the twelve Bishops. They handle the interactions between the Deacons and the Priests. They also oversee religious enquiries and act as judges during witch hunt trials. The Priests are separated into six numbered “Steps”. Step one priests oversee the various counties; each priest is given one county to watch over, acting as peacekeepers and mediators when problems arise. Steps two and three are the next lowest in rank and these Priests are primarily charged with the day-to-day chores of the Church: holding services, mediating minor disputes, etc. The fourth through sixth steps are the church converters. They spend the majority of their time listening to rumors of unfaithful and trying to bring them into Ion’s merciful light. They also act as police officers when a non-believer becomes a problem.
The other main group within the Church is the Guardians of Purity, also known as the Redhammers. These men and women serve Ion by following his will to hunt down and expose heretics, believers in the old gods, and practitioners of the forbidden arts. They are usually seen in gray robes with red detailing and a small insignia on their left breast of a war hammer with a flame crossing the haft. They are ruthless in their task to expose betrayers of Ion and merciless in their disposal of any found.
Great emphasis is placed on death as the person is now moving on to either live in the Great Ion’s palace or to be rejected and forever wander the wastelands outside of the Palace. Officers of the Church will be given elaborate and time-consuming funerals and after they are placed into a tomb depending on their status within the hierarchy; Priests in a small mausoleum, placed into niches carved into the walls. First through third step Priests are places with silver coins over their eyes, to symbolize the wealth of their lives in service to Ion. Priests of the fourth, fifth and sixth steps are placed with the silver coins, as well as a small iron holy symbol, to show their place as protectors of the faith; Bishops into a large tomb, given freestanding, open top coffins with ceremonial daggers placed in hands crossed over their chest; Deacons are granted their own small pyramids as burial grounds.
Priests and Bishops who are discovered holding unorthodox beliefs, or who are caught investigating the gods and beliefs of the Marthanean Empire, are punished most harshly. Instead of being buried in the tombs, as their service to Ion would usually earn, they are buried alive in a graveyard. They are allowed no coins over their eyes and none of the rituals or scriptures usually read over a deceased priest are allowed. Once the dissident is laid to ground, a vigil is kept for six days and night, to ensure that no distraught family member or sympathetic priest tries to rescue the live grave-resident. This is a horrendous punishment, and priests who receive this burial are considered dishonored, earning Ion’s scorn for all time.
There are different customs involving the passing of a commoner as well. Heretical women are buried in ordinary graveyards still bound and gagged, to represent their subservience to Ion after their trial by fire. Heretical men are left in stocks until carrion feeders devour most of the body, then the remains are thrown into a mass grave. Peasants who are followers of Ion are granted a place in a local graveyard, buried with their family with a small headstone to mark the grave.