The Sun Goddess and the Moon God are worshipped in separate shrines throughout the River Kingdom, Arafaze and Mervante. These shrines all answer to the central authority of the great temples in each kingdom’s capital city. Priests and priestesses need not devote themselves to serve lifelong. It’s not uncommon for men and woman at any age to offer a year, perhaps two or three, in service to a shrine before returning to secular life.
The Sun Goddess is the fount of all life and the giver of good health and flourishing crops. Her priestesses are involved with people of every age, from the midwives who deliver babies through the sisters who dispense charity to the indigent and unfortunate to those who care for the aged and dying. Since the Golden Mother is the source of all wealth, the Sun Goddess’s daughters also bank every household and business’s coin.
The Moon God is the guardian of knowledge. His priests run schools and libraries and interest themselves in every aspect of education. His shrines are centres of medical learning and offer care and treatment for the injured and sick who come to a Crescent Moon Gate. This particular symbol is why he is also known as the Horned God. He is also the guardian of secrets, symbolised by the masks which his priests wear. Among other things, these conceal a priest’s identity when dealing with confidential matters or confessions. The God’s shrines maintain all civic and private records of such things as land ownership, business agreements, wills and court proceedings.
As a rule, priests and priestesses do not marry, though sacred marriages between those committed to the religious life are not unheard of. In rural areas where shrines are widely scattered, husband and wife teams of priest and priestess can offer much needed mutual support. Celibacy is not demanded – the pleasures of sex are a blessing from the Sun Goddess after all – but absolute honesty is required in all a shrine acolyte’s romantic relationships.
Priestesses and priests alike are assisted in their duties by the infallible magic bestowed by the Sun Goddess and the Moon God. Anyone wishing to withdraw money from a shrine’s vault must give their oath in a priestess’s presence that they’re entitled to the coin. She will know if they speak the truth. Anyone giving evidence before a court must swear they are telling the truth before a priestess and a priest who will hear any falsehood spoken.
No one outside the great temples’ inner circles knows the secrets of these magics for revealing truth and deceit. Fewer still are aware of the Shadow Kingdom and its arcane sorceries. This is an unreal, parallel realm of existence. Some with a magical talent can create things there, framing them in their mind’s eye. A few can draw such creations into this tangible world, giving them life in everyday reality. A different and still rarer manifestation of magic is the ability to create a malleable substance out of thin air and shape it as desired. In both instances, function follows form. Shape a bird and it will know how to fly. An imagined dog will instinctively hunt.
Such magic is self-evidently dangerous. A child’s nightmares, a drunkard’s hallucinations might create lethal monsters if that individual is an untaught magician. An excess of grief can bring forth a facsimile of some dead beloved. Such things are the basis of tales of ghosts and fetches. Sufficiently intense hatred focused on someone can summon up a vengeful being to attack them. Folk myths tell of shape-shifters and soul-stealers. Even something as apparently innocuous as an adolescent girl’s daydreams of unicorns could potentially have disastrous consequences. Untrained magicians can be killed by their creations.
A secret cabal of magicians is responsible for identifying those who have such power as swiftly as possible. Anyone showing magical potential is watched intently. Most have insufficient talent or are temperamentally unsuited to further training. These are kept under surveillance and where necessary, measures will be taken to curb any problems they may inadvertently cause.
Those with the necessary mental strength will be recruited and trained, sworn to absolute secrecy. Not all survive this training. Those who refuse to co-operate are initially cajoled, then threatened if that proves necessary to ensure their co-operation. If all else fails, rogue magicians will be discreetly eliminated, for the greater good of the kingdom. The cabal also tracks down and kills magical beasts that have escaped a maker’s control.
When each heir succeeds to the Paramount throne, the new monarch is inducted into key secrets. One of these is the existence of this hidden magic, the danger it poses to the unwary, and the various uses made of it over the generations, not least in the defence of the realm.
The necessity that this magic remains an absolute secret is self-evident.