SandsharkOn Religion: The Followers of Azrael the Preserver
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"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." Magnolians 5:13

Azrael the Preserver

Before he fell, the Angel Azrael was the venerated Angel of Life. Committed to the dream of Kraus Eternia that all Mankind should be allowed free will, he fought his own brothers in a desperate war that led him to damnation. It was this bravery, this commitment to Mankind, that inspired the first of his followers.

Far different from the Azraelites that would come later, these men believed in the freedom of the will and followed in the footsteps of Azrael the Preserver. Styled by them as the Angel of Humanity, or The Compassionate One. This idealized figure of the compassionate angel formed the basis for a variation on the standard ecclesiastical traditions of the early 2nd century.

On mainland Britannia this cult was very short-lived. Swept up in the horror of the war, they fell to despair as they witnessed the hopelessness of their guiding angel. However, proselytes had already departed for foreign kingdoms. Unbeknownst to those who fought in the Divine War, small pockets of worshippers grew up around monasteries dedicated to the reverence of the Angel of Humanity.

In far-flung lands the worship of an uncorrupted Azrael survived, even thrived, as the Peace Barriers isolated them from the truth of Azrael's fall.

Various orders emerged from the relative calm of that time, each expressing a variation on the theme of their predecessors that allowed them to persist where they were. Here are some of the most unique.

The Compassionate

The Poor Brothers of Azrael, Angel of Compassion (shortened to The Compassionate), were a group of Pre-Fall Azraelites that established a network of monasteries at the edges of Magnolian lands. Clinging to the high cliffs, their order was known to assist weary travelers and take in those who arrived searching for a fresh start but were unable to enter the isolationist kingdom.

After the fall of the Peace Barriers, this order largely turned to mainstream Celestialism, with a few quirks. The true history of Azrael's fall changed him into a tragic character, and reinforced the necessity of compassion in their doctrines.

In modern times they place Kraus at the head of the table of Angels, with the fallen Azrael cast in a more penitent light, styling that he is now serving his role as the Angel of Death as a gift to the Mankind that he failed.

The Free-Thinkers

On the far end of the spectrum are the Free-Thinkers. Isolated on an archipelago after the raising of the Peace Barriers, enclaves belonging to the Free-Thinkers are easily mistaken for pirate havens.

Valuing free will and choice as paramount qualities, they eschew the moralizing nature of most Celestialist tenets and assert that it is Mankind's ability to choose that is the utmost virtue. As choice is religiously venerated, communities tend to embrace systems of governance and social order that lie on a spectrum from fully anarchic to libertarian in nature. Restrictions on individual liberty are seen as gross violations of the divine purpose of Mankind.

Unsurprisingly, this denomination has seen little impact from the news of Azrael's fall. Over the centuries their reliance on the Angels as objects of veneration has faded, and their worship has largely turned towards Mankind itself. Recognizing that Angels were not created with the same freedoms as Mankind, Azrael is treated as an object lesson for those who may seek to force their values on others.

The Universalists

The Universalists are not one denomination precisely, but a loosely-affiliated group that stem from the same source. An offshoot of the Compassionate sect, the Universalists traveled even further east, landing on the continent of Aegis before the Peace Barriers were created.

They found themselves in a land with many religions and many gods, all of which seemed to have divinity within themselves. Over centuries of study, worship, and pressure from outside, the groups that remained absorbed elements of their neighbors' religions into their own.

The Universalists focused on Azrael's assertion that Kraus had created Eternia as a complete work. This, his masterpiece, was not flawed as some angels saw it, but it contained the purest essence of the Creator within it.

This doctrine brought with it the possibilities of natural theology. Much as modern Celestialists find the wisdom of Leonaeus within the movements of the stars, and seek out blessings by studying individual stars, the Universalists studied each of the Divine Spirits according to their interests, seeking in them a fragment of the purity of Kraus's vision for the world.

Unlike other orders, their monasteries did not fade due to the failures of Azrael. Nor did they transform into different religions entirely as the Free-Thinkers may have done. Instead they fell due to the nature of their beliefs.

Studying the religions of other cultures brought many of them to embrace those faiths. The Brothers of the Divine Fire, who once dwelt on a monastery in the peaks of the Tarians, pledged themselves to the Fireblooded long ago. The descendants of the Harriers of the Snowy Huntress are now red in tooth and claw, their faith forgotten among the mysteries of the Beastkin Tribes.

It is a difficult line to walk while retaining one's prior faith, and so it was often easier to assimilate and fade. However, despite their absence there are places where their teachings remain. Whether stored in ancient vaults on aging vellum, passed down in genealogical chants, or illustrated in fresco on the walls of ancient temples, the remnants of this faith still exist across the continent.
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