Sunday, 11 August 2013

Church Fiefs

Although very little appears to have changed for the Universal Church in FS3, a lot of things are about to change. The ground work was being laid for the turmoil that would be caused by the death of the Patriarch. The Patriarch himself was scheduled to die, just prior to the book being written for the Universal Church so that that book could deal with the internal politics and power plays in significant detail.

The sickening and death of the Patriarch was also intend to be a reflection upon the true state of a Church that had lost its way. The gathering power play of internal Church factions have refocused the Church to look inward, causing them to ignore their flock and allow the creeping darkness to infect the edges of society.



Church Fiefs
In theory, the Universal Church is the shepherd of every sentient soul living in the light of a Phoenix Empire suns, but in actual reality the domain of the Church is much smaller. The Universal Church directly controls five worlds, spread throughout the Phoenix Empire, each ruled by one of the major Sects but all ultimately answering to the Patriarch. The Universal Church also holds a presence in every city, town, and hamlet in the Phoenix Empire and all consecrated ground is (in theory) under direct control of the Universal Church.

Artemis
Star: Thyone (blueish star)
System: Arge (0.42AU), Mileta (0.8AU), Artemis (1.1AU; Hyale, Phylinone), Aura (7.0AU), Maera (18.0AU), Jumpgate (49.0AU)
Jumps: Holy Terra
Capital: Demiopolis
Resources: minerals
Exports: minerals, medical tech, health tourism

Important People
Archbishop Sakhya of Artemis (born 4939): Archbishop Sakhya is the head of the Amalthean Sect and is as much a philosopher-politician as a medical doctor and faith healer. He fears that the Amalthean Sect is becoming divided in to two camps; the “heterodoxy” which favors strong ties to Urth Orthodoxy and the “progressives” (alternatively “extremists”) who wish to withdraw from all outside politicking and distance itself from the Orthodoxy with its many restrictions on research and medical procedures. For the moment the Archbishop is trying to hold a middle path between these two opposing ideas, he has sympathies with both.
Ketcharch Tzu Tzan (born 4946): The Ketcharch is the spiritual head of the Sanctuary Aeon, second only to the Archbishop (Grail has its own local version, the “Little Ketcharch”). The current Ketcharch, Tzu Tzan, was appointed in 5006 in a flurry of controversy, for she also held the post as spiritual head of the Council of Demiopolis (the global ruling council) since 4998. It is tradition that the Ketcharch is free of political obligations and influences, in fear that the theological and mystical work might be corrupted by mundane concerns. The controversy has not lessened in later years as Tzu Tzan, herself of Li Halan decent, has maintained strong ties to that Royal House, often staying at their estates and travelling off-world.
Count Montoya Kingston (born 4968): As head of minor House Knigston and the Viceroy of the southern continent of Notichora, Count Montoya rules the land, once belonging to his house, on behalf of the Sanctuary Aeon. He shares the bitterness and black mood of the southern populace who feels unappreciated and ignored by Boreichora. Viceroy Montoya rules from the southern capital of Achillios with an almost apathetic resignation, preferring to occupy himself with local matters to fight the planetary powers to the north.

Overview:
A green and pleasant world, with two major continental masses. Notichora to the south and Boreichora in the north, separated by a wide equatorial ocean. The planet’s axis tilt places the northern pole in permanent sunlight and the southern pole in permanent darkness, making the northern pole a hot-baked desert and the southern pole a desert frozen solid. Almost 70% of the surface is covered by water, the gravity is slightly higher than Urth standard (1.09 G), and the temperature, apart from the polar extremes, is similar to those of Urth.
The jumproute between Urth and Artemis was discovered by independent prospectors in 2741, the last jumproute from old Urth found. Most of the explorers were dead within four months, killed by a horrible virus induced bone disease now known as Skeletosis. The planet was re-colonized (2743) by a medical researchers working on a cure, but they were only partially successful and eventually succumbed to the very disease they sought to conquer. Desperate to wrestle some gain from the planet, Artemis’ owners turned the world over to bio-terraformer, Dr. Santiago Valdez. Unlike the great Doramos the Worldshaper who sculpted worlds by altering the very geology, Dr. Valdez’ approach was to batter the local ecosystem into submission with a wide range of viruses, bacteria, flora, and fauna imported from Urth. It was an ecological disaster. The Skeletosis virus was eradicated from many regions, but due to the wreaked ecosystem life on Artemis was hard and expensive. During the 2760s the authorities began abandoning Artemis and its subsidized population. The locals rose up in revolution and by 2772 had seized the planet. It was around this time that Sata Binte Abram (2734-2821), one of St. Amalthea’s earliest followers, arrived on Artemis to study Skeletosis. Soon, a Skeletosis epidemic struck in city of Demiopolis and Sata Binte Abram managed to halt the spreading infection. In gratitude she was granted the land of the citizens who had perished, and her she built the first Temple of Eternal Sanctuary (later the Sanctuary Aeon). To the Second Republic, Artemis was a poor and insignificant world and was left to itself. The fear of Skeletosis remained and although Artemis was never quarantined, heavy restrictions was placed on emigration and export. After the Fall, Artemis remained democratic until the local noble Houses Chapaev and Kingston divided the world in 4198, the former ruling the northern continent and the latter the south. In 4446 the last Duke of House Chapaev, Kiril Galen “The Wise”, died without a legitimate heir, and the majority of Boreichora was surrendered to the Sanctuary Aeon in his will, making the sect the biggest landholder on Artemis. Sanctuary Aeon renewed the democratic charter and councils, leading Artemis with benevolent authority. During the Emperor Wars, Artemis saw a its own invasion in the form of waves after waves of sick and injured who came to be healed, and as the demands on the world far exceeded its resources the planet came close to collapse. Eventually, the economics of war meant that only the extremely wealthy could afford to journey to Artemis, and their pious donations saved the planet from economic and social ruin. Artemis also faced an exploding numbers of deserters, off worlders who chose to remain after being healed, many joined the Sanctuary Aeon only to escape the horrors of war. 
The planet is divided into several socio-economic cantons, each run by a Council of Elders (wealthy citizens ruled by strict laws) who again represent their cantons in the Demiopolis planetary council. The north dominates the south politically, economically, and culturally, something the southerners detest. On the rare occasions of political unrest, the Artemis defense force, “The Guardians” answering only to Universal Church authority, are quick to restore order. Artemis is self-sufficient and has grown richer in the last decade from the exports of luminite, rainstone and medical supplies.
The best medical technology in the Empire is found here, and the sick and dying who can afford the journey to Artemis usually return whole and healthy (charged with strict Amalthean penances to perform in addition to monetary payment). The drawn-out affair of the Emperor Wars meant each house needed local land on which their injured could recuperate, resulting in noble estates dotting the world, the Hazat boasting the strongest noble presence. Nobles and guilders living on Artemis must obey Church law unconditionally. Some 70 million humans permanently reside on Artemis, and immigration rules are strict. The world is also host to a number of Obun enclaves.

De Moley
Star: Areia (yellow star)
System: Salat (0.95AU), De Moley (1.2AU; Primus, Secundus, Tertius), Deione (3.1AU), Chione (35.0AU), Ishtar (49.0AU), Jumpgate (65.0AU)
Jumps: Aylon, Severus
Capital: Castrensis
Resources: minerals, gem stones
Exports: minerals, gem stones, weapons tech

Important People:
Master Claudius of De Moley (born 4937): Claudius is a child of the Brother Battle, raised within the Order from infancy and initiated as a brother at 10. He received his baptism of fire during the Symbiot Wars and quickly distinguished himself. He became Master of the Order in 4980 and pushed for neutrality in the Emperor Wars, although he invited Hawkwood envoys following the Miracle of Sylan on Stigmata (4991). He refuses to take part in politicking, insisting the Brother Battle mandate is to protect the Universal Faith and the pious. Master Claudius rules from the Ruad monastery, the headquarters of the Brother Battle that stands undaunted high up in the mountains south of the spaceport of Castrensis. 
Marquessa Saffron Sima al-Malik (born 4964): The Sima merchant family, originally from Shaprut, were exiled to the al-Malik fiefs on De Moley after voicing too strong an objection to Duke Hakim’s succession. Now, the Marquessa is the administrator of Ctesiphon and the al-Malik ambassador. As De Moley cities go, Ctesiphon is a wealthy place heavily involved in mineral extraction and processing, its agora the best place to seek non-military tech. Marquessa Saffron also rules a sizable Ukari slum, remnants of Mehmed’s Dragons regiment that fought the Decados during the Emperor Wars.
Baronet Anatoly Ivanovich Decados (born 4969): Baronet Anatoly has been the administrator of the Mantis outpost of Neo Zaporozhe since 5004. A budding statesman, Anatoly sees his task as a stepping-stone. He is assisted by a detachment of Jakovian Kossacks, led by his younger brother Konstantin. Baronet Anatoly is jealous of the relative riches of Ctesiphon and should an opportunity present itself, the Ivanovich brothers would surely leap to seize the al-Malik capital.

Overview:
De Moley is a craggy, tough world, hard and rugged. Its only continent, Radixon, is mountainous in the extreme with harsh winds funnel down the numerous valleys with 60% surface water. Animal life tends to be as squat and hardy, as are the people. An inhospitable, cold, barren planet, with a high gravity (1.22 G), De Moley has only a thin atmosphere akin to Mars, with most people live under the atmosphere domes.
Mazdak (De Moley) was first discovered in 2583 by the Pan Arabian Mercantile Alliance (PAMA) zaibatsu. PAMA was at the forefront of exploration and colonization, and many Sathraists hid like malignant tumors in its ranks. It was a harsh inhospitable world of little commercial value, perfect for Sathraism to thrive in relatively openly. When the Sathra Revolt rocked the First Republic (2490-2500), Mazdak was little affected as its Sathraist population hid in their carved-out hold-outs rather than fight. Mazdak was soon forgotten. With the collapse of the Second Republic Sathraism reappeared on several worlds, including Mazdak. In 4073, the fledgling Order of the Brother Battle made an assault on Mazdak. The order’s two founders, Malcolm Xavier Justinian and Godfrey de Moley, both fell in the assault (de Moley survived as a crippled man). Count Jackson Fiat de Moley became the new master and launched a campaign against the Mazdak Sathraists and slowly won out. In a final act of desperation the Sathraists shut down the jumprout between Aylon and Yathrib (4092), thereby cutting the Brother Battle off from its main source of income (the Aylon-Yathrib pilgrimage rout). As a result, Count Jackson claimed Mazdak for the Order, and in 4096 petitioned Patriarch Benedict III to recognize his group, but was turned down. Tensions rose between the idealistic Order and the practical Universal Church and Count Jackson was soon charged with heresy for claiming prophetic insights. Following years of secret negotiations between the Brothers and the then Patriarch Innocent IV, the Order of the Brother Battle was finally recognized in 4139. A few centuries later, Godfrey and Malcolm were sanctified and the planet officially named De Moley in Godfrey’s honor. During the Emperor Wars, De Moley saw warfare between the domains of houses al-Malik and Decados who held fiefs on the planet since long before the coming of the Brother Battle. This Mambij Confrontation had been going on for centuries, but the interstellar civil war intensified it, all the while the Order refused to take sides. However, when Countess Carmetha Decados withdrew the Stigmata Garrison to attack Criticorum in 4991, seriously endangering the lives of every Brother Battle on Stigmata, the al-Malik suddenly beat its Decados rivals on De Moley. Although both House al-Malik and the Brother Battle vehemently deny any collaboration, House Decados is convinced that the Order meddled in secular affairs way beyond their mandate. The Emperor Wars made De Moley economically self-sufficient as mining facilities multiplied to meet the increased demands of war, and together with the Order’s lucrative money-lending business, De Moley is now far richer than it seems.
The Reeves’ Guild has invested in the world since the end of the Emperor Wars, enabling the Lank Weaponsmiths’ Guild to set up a workshop in spaceport of Castrensis. The feud between houses Decados and al-Malik, is simmering, for although House al-Malik won much Decados land during the Emperor Wars, some of it has since been bought back or otherwise regained, and the enmity runs deep. 
The De Moley commoners are an industrious and tough people, wrestling a harvest out of the soil (not enough to sustain husbandry) and battling the mountains to give up its minerals. Some 8 million Humans dwell within the dome-covered cities, mines, and processing plants, with an estimated 20% eking out a living as best they can amongst the high plateaus. There is a sizable Ukari population, mostly living amongst the slum populations. There is no high culture here and folk culture is steeped in piety and prowess.

Holy Terra (Urth)
Star: Sol (yellow star)
System: Mercury (0.4AU), Venus (0.7AU), Urth (1.0AU; Luna), Mars (1.5AU; Phobos, Deimos), Asteroid Belt (2.8-3.0AU), Jupiter (5.2AU; 64 moons), Saturn (9.5AU, rings, 62 moons), Uranus (19.2AU, 27 moons), Neptune (30.1AU, 13 moons), Pluto (39.5AU; Charon), Jumpgate (62.5AU)
Jumps: Artemus, Sutek, Pentateuch, Tethys (lost jumproad, no jumpkeys known to exist)
Capital: Rio Brasilia
Resources: agriculture, fossil fuels, tourism
Exports: fine arts, religious relics, foods, starships, politics, fashion

Important People
Patriarch Hezekiah the Elder (born 4918): Next after the Emperor, the Patriarch is the most influential individual in the Phoenix Empire. The responsibility of individual worlds are mostly delegated to the Metropolitians although the Patriarch is directly responsible for the Patriarchal Planets (Bannockburn, Holy Terra, Nowhere, Velisamil, and Stigmata), while the Autocephalous Worlds (Artemis, Byzantium Secundus, Leagueheim (contested by both the Aragon and Kish Metropilae), De Moley, Pentateuch, and Pyre), are overseen by the local Church authority. Hezekiah became Patriarch during the turbulent Emperor Wars (4972) and backed Alexius I to the Phoenix Throne. Despite his use of longevity drugs his health has now been failing for several years and it will soon be time to have the College of Ethicals convene to elect his successor. The Patriarch is rarely seen in public these days and Archbishop Drual often performs his duties in his absence. 
Syneculla Archbishop Sigmund Drual (born 4950): Born deformed with a cleft pallet and a clubfoot, Drual has refused to be limited by his disabilities. He rose fast through the Church hierarchy, becoming archbishop at the age of 30 and a syneculla soon thereafter, the youngest ever member of that organization! He has been the power behind the Patriarchal Throne since the early 4980s, responsible for strengthening the Synecullum (Church enforcement wing) and the Kalinthi (semi-covert branch of abomination hunters) organizations.
Great Chartophylax Bishop Nyana vo Dret (born 4958): Nyana is an Obun scholar charged with overseeing the great libraries of Holy Terra, is blessed with a razor keen intellect and has a penchant for political maneuvering. Nyana has a large following within the Orthodoxy Mahayanna tradition and is a devote follower of Ven Lohji, a rarity among high-ranking clergy outside Velisamil. Patriarch Hezekiah appointed Nyana Great Chartophylax in 4991 and she has declassified more Church information than any of her predecessors.
Crafter Philius Mordela (born 4936): Crafter Philius was once an Orthodox priest and scholar who fell from grace when his pro-technology theological rhetoric became too much for his superiors. He was taken in by the Engineers’ Guild and quickly became a minor celebrity on Leagueheim where he held public lecture spectacles denouncing the anti-tech stance of the Universal Church. With Alexius I’s peace he returned to Holy Terra as chief ambassador for the Merchant League.

Overview:
Holy Terra is a versatile world, an expression of the Pancreator’s bounty. More than 75% of the surface is covered in oceans the terrain ranging from arctic wastes, to deserts, to teeming jungles and forests, to rolling steppes and mighty mountains. The population is confined to the cities and surrounding agrarian areas, and there are more cities on Urth than any other world of the Phoenix Empire. The world hosts five starports (Samarkand, Rio Brasilia, Cairo, Petersburg, and Quebec), as well as countless seaports and skyports. 
Holy Terra, or Urth, was the cradle of humanity, where the Pancreator set in motion His Plan to order and unify the universe and its myriad of life forms through His most exquisite of tools, the human soul mirror. The millennia of human evolution and cultural development is now, remembered as myths if at all, but in 2305 the Pancreator orchestrated humanity’s discovery of the Urth star system Jumpgate. During the First Republic and early Diaspora, Urth temporarily became an industrial nightmare. In 2854, Patriarch Palamedes lead the 2nd Holy Synod to move the seat of the Universal Church to Urth (from Midian), now officially renamed Holy Terra. Industry was cowed, regulated, and eventually shackled on the planet’s surface, with many businesses and enterprises relocated to other communities in Sol space. With the birth of the Second Republic, the central government supported the refurbishment of Urth as a museum world of humanity’s history. With the New Dark Age, the Universal Church’s control of Holy Terra was absolute, and no outside power has ever seriously threatened it. Already predominantly agrarian by time of the Fall, Holy Terra was spared the chaos and famine, and indeed the fading suns phenomenon, and the planet’s pilgrimage tourism industry, grew proportionally with the desperation of the Known Worlds. Although the Universal Church got involved in many historic events of the New Dark Ages, the barbarian invasions, the Emperor Vladimir I incidence, general political scheming, the Symbiot Wars, and much else, Holy Terra remained untouched. Holy Terra peasants toiled away in their fields, generation after generation, while off world faithful fought and suffered for the Universal Church, dreaming of retiring to the Eden world where humanity began. During the first decade of the Emperor Wars, the Universal Church maintained a strict non-interventionist policy, but with the succession of Patriarch Hezekiah the Elder in 4972, things changed. The new Patriarch decided the Universal Church could not afford to remain excluded from the decision-making, fearing the Church would slide into irrelevance when the dust eventually settled, and he recognized that taking no side was worse than choosing the wrong one. Thus he pronounced Orthodox support for the Li Halan cause in 4978, for Alexius’ bid for the Regency Throne in 4983, and in 4992 both Flavius Li Halan and then Alexius pursued the Phoenix Throne. Urth and Sol space developed war-time economies as the Patriarchal Fleet expanded to match the noble armadas. The Faithful Tithe (first introduced in 4978) was a heavy burden on Holy Terra’s population, made worse by the rationing introduced in 4980. But the inhabitants of Holy Terra did not complain, instead grinding their teeth and enduring the hardship that could only help polish their soul mirrors. But other Sol communities were not as compliant, and workers strikes, civil disobedience, and armed rebellion took place in Sol Space, particularly on Mars and Luna, but the Universal Church stood fast. 
On the surface, Holy Terra is an orderly and harmonious world, but this outward calm belies a planet rife with political intrigue. The two dominating branches of Orthodoxy, the Hinayana (exclusive theology, anti-alien, and authoritarian) and the Mahayana (inclusive theology, “pro”-alien, and egalitarian) schools compete for position and influence, with the Hinayana having been in power since 4910; Lesser Sects scheming for position against the Urth Orthodoxy and one another; Secular factions vie for favors and political support; and Ecclesiastical powers plotting to position their favorites to inherit the Patriarchal Throne. Every Royal House has estates on Holy Terra and even the Merchant League has its power houses (especially off world). 
Holy Terra is considered the purest and most holy of planets, a gift from the Pancreator perfectly adapted to human life and spirituality, with a population of 4 billion humans. The Church considers native Urthers more holy than those from other planets and jealously guards Holy Terra from change, enforcing strict immigration laws. New works and industries are rarely allowed, as the reconstruction of existing structures is preferred. Living conditions are cramped as people are not allowed to expand into pristine regions. Holy Terra is a pilgrim world and holy sites are found on every continent as well as on neighboring Mars (which was declared the Prophet’s birthplace during the New Dark Ages although contenders for that position include Sutek, Grail, and Malignatius).

Pentateuch
Star: Daleth (bright yellow star)
System: Moroni (0.13AU), Bani (0.25AU), Bubastis (0.5AU), Pentateuch (1.0AU; Nuz), Tanis (4.0AU, 6 moons), Jumpgate (64.0AU)
Jumps: Byzantium Secundus, Delphi, Holy Terra
Capital: Heliopolis
Resources: agriculture
Exports: foods, fine arts

Important People
Magus Patrus Moore (born 4933): Magus Moore is the head of the Eskatonic Order and was instrumental in forging the Pentateuch Concordat in 4956 that made the Order a legitimate recognised Sect. He succeeded the previous Magus in 4984 and has been hard at work balancing the radical teachings of his Sect against the suspicion of Urth Orthodoxy. An accomplished storyteller, Magus Moore often uses parable and fable to convey frequently misunderstood Eskatonic teachings to the other Universal Church Sects. Bishop Queipo, however, has fueled outside pressure on Pentateuch’s Eskatonics rulers and Magus Moore now finds himself in a maelstrom of Orthodox influence. Some whisper the Eskatonic Order is on trial for the stewardship of the planet. 
Bishop Queipo de Llano (born 4952): Bishop Queipo is on a mission to whip Pentateuch into shape and reduce the influence of the Eskatonics. He sees the Eskatonics as unfit to govern Pentateuch, the condition under which the Concordate of 4956 gave them the planet. Bishop Queipo preaches a strong Hinayana doctrine to the citizens of Heliopolis (as the rural population is traditionally anti-Orthodox). The construction of the new Cathedral of Saint Palamedes was largely Bishop Queipo’s personal achievement and its completion has emboldened the bishop in his critique of Eskatonic incompetence.

Overview:
Terraforming gave Pentateuch the biological and geological diversity of Urth, with oceans making up nearly 50% of its surface. Pentateuch is known for strange natural incidents, including mysterious appearances and disappearances, and rains of fire (rumored), but the most peculiar phenomenon is the Sirocco – a psychic storm which sweeps the surface, sometimes causing physical devastation and often leaving strange visions or psychism in its wake. It seems that Doramos the Worldshaper re-designed the world according to mystical and esoteric designs when he terraformed Pentateuch.
Daleth-4 (Pentateuch) was discovered in 2486, a dry, rocky world with a methane atmosphere and few extractable resources, and it was ignored for centuries except for a handful of science expeditions that came to investigate why the Anunnaki constructed a jumpgate to this useless system. Everything changed in 3774, when Doramos the Worldshaper announced Daleth-4 would be his next and final undertaking. Terraforming began in 3777 and took 32 years despite most terraformers insisting it could have been completed in 10 – for some reason, Doramos threaded very carefully here. Finally, in 3809, Doramos’ task was complete and the world was Arcadia, then Kolob, and finally Pentateuch. Over the next century, Pentateuch was promoted as a paragon of the Second Republic. Mysticism and paganism burgeoned as settlers sough to live in commune with the Utopian world. Soon strange happenings began, often attributed to a planetary sentience – the Weltgeist, including mass disappearances, regularly occurring murder rampages, increases in Psychism, rains of fire, and more. After the Fall, Pentateuch became regarded as representing the Republic’s mad hubris – where men played at being gods. The Universal Church conquered the artist and agrarian world, and then the Inquisition fell on Pentateuch to rid it of evil. Artists, peasants, mystics, and philosophers, however, turned to violence to defend their world and their freedom, and the Universal Church managed only to subdue the urban centers. Bloodshed and terrorism was commonplace and Pentateuch became a planet of managed violence, until 4955. That year, with the triumph of occult abilities over the shapeshifting menace of the Symbiot War, the Universal Church called a Synod to debate organizing the Eskatonics under its wing. On the first day of 4956, the Patriarch’s representative and the Eskatonic delegates, against the wishes of the majority of the Synod, signed the Concordat in secret. Pentateuch was awarded to the Sect to rule. During the Emperor Wars noble houses made occasional raids on the Eskatonic world. The Hazat made it clear they wanted Pentateuch but Church forces begged to differ. Since the Emperor Wars, Pentateuch has increasingly come under the scrutiny of the Universal Church, and illegal pro-Orthodoxy settlers have begun to “invade” the world, building new communities on the outskirts of established settlements. 
That the Eskatonic Order rules Pentateuch is at best a na├»ve oversimplification, for the order is small and its members preoccupied with mysticism and spiritual studies, and there is essentially a power-vacuum on Pentateuch. Elements of the Urth Orthodoxy have begun establishing themselves in this vacuum, the Cathedral of Saint Palamedes consecrated (5006) an Orthodoxy focal point in Heliopolis. Acts of terror have increased in the 51st century with the return of the hated Orthodoxy. A small Inquisitional fleet hangs in high orbit, an ever-present reminder that the Eskatonic autonomy is conditional, while a larger Orthodox fleet patrols the system to protect Pentateuch from outsiders as well as from itself. 
The people of Pentateuch are stubborn and independent, with a penchant for occultism. Even before there was an Eskatonic Order, most occult societies could be found on Pentateuch. The planetary population is composed of an estimated 320.000 humans (almost 1/3 of which live in Heliopolis) a small enclave of Ur-Obun also make their home here. Scattered outlaw communities are also believed to exist, but their numbers is likely only a few thousand. A cast of wandering prophet-mystics and self-proclaimed world stewards, the Marabout, are revered throughout Pentateuch – some being mere talisman makers and palm readers, while others are revolutionary leaders.

Pyre
Star: Mithra (red star)
System: Infernus (0.7AU), Pyre (0.89AU; Rashid’s Lantern), Shahidi’s Belt (1.2-2.2AU), Aqueus (3.3AU, 3 moons), Desperation (25.0AU, 14 moons), Jumpgate (55.0AU)
Jumps: Byzantium Secundus, Criticorum, Grail
Capital: Sanpietro
Resources: exotics (herbs), livestock
Exports: livestock

Important People
Archbishop Dolmen of Pyre (born 4935): The Pyrians despise politics, and Archbishop Dolmen, the leader of the Temple Avesti Sect since 4989, enjoys little privilege for his position. He is, however, a skilled administrator of the clergy and the seas of pilgrims that come each year. Archbishop Dolmen is a surprisingly inclusive Avestite, accepting almost any expression of faith as long as it is rooted in ascetism, self-sacrifice, humility, and a simple life of hardship, including raider communities and the Ukari ap Gunta (“People of the Land of Fire”).

Overview:
Pyre is a dry world with burning deserts afflicted with raging storms covering 80% of the globe. There is less than 1% surface water and temperatures far higher than Urth. The Deserta Flamada dominates the northern continent, the Central Southern Desert the southern continent, and to the far south is the Arctic Desert. The single freshwater Sea of Dissolution lies roughly at the equator in the eastern hemisphere, with the capital city of Sanpietro resting on its western shore.
Pyre was discovered in 2719, but since it had no mineral wealth and few other resources, and was far too hot for habitation without significant terraforming, it was quickly abandoned. The planet was bought by the Hallib-Searl-Schwab conglomerate in 2747, who installed the cheapest terraforming engines they could find and began an aggressive marketing scheme to lure settlers to “The New Eden”. Thousands of colonists pledged their life savings to begin a new life on Pyre, and HSS accepted their money and then abandoned them to fend for themselves in face of the burning sands and failing terraforming engines. Enough survived, however, to develop brutalized communities, and occasionally ships arrived with traders and (from the late 29th century) missionaries of the Universal Faith. By the dawn of the 4th millennium AD, the first local church, the Templa Vesti was erected at the edge of the Deserta Flamada. A stern and pragmatic folk branch of the Universal Faith developed on Pyre, and spread to rural regions on several other worlds. In the summer of 3500 a man, later “St.” Pietrarcholus, stumbled out of the Deserta Flamada, half dead from exposure and burns. He was nursed back to health by the Templa Vesti and thanked the temple by revitalizing it with a passion and vision that influenced even Urth Orthodoxy. The puritan vision of Templa Vesti found fertile ground after the Fall, and Pyre was happy to welcome any extremist who conformed to Templa Vesti ideals. The original temple in Sanpietro, unsuited to handle the massive influx of new recruits, was abandoned, and a new erected deep in the Deserta Flamada. It was around this time that the temple name changed from Templa Vesti to Temple Avesti. In 4235 an unprecedented noble coalition fleet arrived at Pyre to make an example of the world by bombing the extremists preaching against them into submission. But, the Church fleet arrived in time to force a standoff in the skies of Pyre, demonstrating that the temple existed at the mercy of the Universal Church. The Temple Avesti entered into a state of extreme penance, submitting itself to the authority of the Universal Church.  Although Pyre was too insignificant to be directly involved in the Emperor Wars its location on the Jumpweb (right next door to Byzantium Secundus), made dominating Pyre Space strategically important. In 4959, al-Malik forces fooled Decados intelligence by massing a fleet in the Pyre system before striking into Byzantium Secundus Space. The Decados general who controlled Byzantium Secundus Space at the time was taken completely by surprise and lost 70% of his fleet before the al-Malik withdrew. From then on, Pyre Space became hotly contested by houses al-Malik and Decados. The planet protested the breach of their neutrality but this time the Patriarchal fleet did not come to Pyre’s aid.  Privateering and saboteur actions soon replaced open battle, and the spaceport of Sanpietro was riddled with spies, provocateurs and agents.
Pyre is the domain of the Temple Avesti, guaranteed by the Urth Orthodoxy. The planet is also considered Inquisitor central, although most Avestite Inquisitors seek out more sinful arenas. Water guilds (primarily the Water-Diggers’ and the Life-Bringers’ guilds) hold more power here than the interstellar guilds combined, and the Charioteers’ Guild has attempted to organize the water guilds under its banner since 5004, but with only limited success. The only major production industry on Pyre is the Kalomite Weaponsmith Company, the sole manufacturer of Avestite flameguns. The pilgrimage tourism industry is the greatest source of off-world income. House Trusnikron has the largest noble presence on Pyre although little distinguish them from rustic peasants and desert rabble. 
By necessity, the population of Pyre, counting some 5 million humans, leads very Spartan lives that are reflected in their puritan cultures. The desert nomads are among the toughest communities in the Phoenix Empire, and even the city dwellers live rustic lives more rural than urban. Desert raiders and piracy is an established part of Pyre culture. At heart, however, Pyre culture is agrarian and obsessed with water, which is the most valuable of commodities. An unlikely Ukari Avestite sub-sect, counting 35.000 members and teaching redemption through suffering and penance, also dwell here.