Once again we come together, continuing our series of lectures on the early history of Elhal. In this lesson we learn about the Defenders and how they enabled the Church of the All-Father to spread throughout Elhal.
In our last lecture, I discussed the two gifts of the All-Father: the Seal of Ceredome, the divine blessing which protected the home of the Church from all attacks; and the Kiv’uli, the living shadow guardians who watch over us and carry out the will of the All-Father.
The Second Missions
After the All-Father bestowed the two gifts upon the people of Ceradome, the Church resumed its goal of going out and spreading the word of the All-Father to the humans throughout Elhal. The lands outside of Ceradome, for the most part, were ignorant of the message of the All-Father. The Cult of Humanis was well founded in Stammiglin, but its adoption was not as prolific in the northern lands of Kotkala and Vaasari, nor to the East in what would be the lands of Arlean.
Jaalom felt it was important to the others, as an act of leadership and of faith, to lead the missionaries into Stammiglin. With faith in the All-Father, he believed that he would be safe as he spread the message of the All-Father. He sent the other groups to the north and to the east.
Jaalom’s concerns about Stammiglin would soon be confirmed.
From the Scroll of Jaalom in Stammiglin:
On our 17th day of travel, we visited the town of Nattaglin where our group was ill received. Our group, seven in total, came bearing the news of the All-Father. We discovered that the town were fanatical Humanists. Our words were swiftly met with violence. The townspeople killed Krana, the weaver, before we could escape.
The remaining six of us fled the town chased by a mob. In our haste fleeing the town, we took the wrong path and headed deeper into the mountains. After an hour of running we reached a stone bridge, spanning two cliffs over a deep gorge. Across the bridge we could see a town, which from our map we made out to be Shelonin, where we had heard they would be receptive to our message.
As we neared the bridge, the Humanists were not far behind us. It was clear from the speed and the grace they moved over the mountainous terrain that they would reach us while we crossed the bridge. I knew if they caught us on the bridge, that they would throw us to our deaths.
Standing on the beginning of the bridge and with only minutes to spare, we stopped to catch our breath. I voiced my concerns, but before anyone could speak, Leral the schoolteacher said to us, “Cross the bridge and I assure you that none of them will step upon it.”
As he said this he stood up, and from the shadows of the rocks, the Kiv’uli appeared and enveloped him. Their shadowy bodies melted into his skin. He turned his back to us, and spoke again, not in a voice that was his own, “Depart now for you are under the protection of the All-Father, your journey across this bridge is safe.”
In haste, the five of us gathered our belongings and set foot onto the bridge. Leral never moved, eyes fixed on the trail from Nattaglin. When the Humanists reached him, we were half way across the bridge. I should not have looked back, but I needed to see Leral’s fate. The Humanists charged him with swords in hand, as he stood weaponless.
The first attacker swung high for Leral’s head. As his sword began its downward arc, Leral’s hand shot forth and caught the attacker in mid-swing. With one hand he threw the attacker over the edge of the cliff to his death. The second attacker closed in, sword raised high in both hands. Leral struck him in the neck, dropping the man to his knees before he could swing.
We continued to run across the bridge and from time-to-time I turned back to see Leral. Each time I looked, he was defeating another foe. Those he had not thrown to their deaths, laid broken before his feet. When I last saw Leral on that bridge, there were over 20 foes lying on the ground, and not one had stepped onto the bridge, as he had promised.
We made our way to Shelonin, where we were met with great kindness. They took us in and gave us food and shelter. Later that night we were roused from our sleep by some of the locals. They brought us to the town gate, where Leral was standing. He was alive and had not a mark upon him. We greeted him with both joy and wonder.
The next day I asked him about the bridge. He told me that he could not remember any of the events that occurred. His last memory was just before we stepped onto the bridge, and his next memory was when he found himself on the other side of the bridge, alone.
When I pressed him about that moment before we stepped onto the bridge, he remembers hearing a voice, say to him, “You shall be the vessel of my protection, you shall be the Defender of your people.”
The Church of the All Father defines a Defender as an individual who, under times of extreme duress, is visited upon by the Kiv’uli and given power to overcome all physical dangers, in order to protect the Church of the All-Father or its followers.
What marks someone to be a Defender?
There have been no more than 100 documented defenders in over 1500 years of the Church’s existence. In all the cases each person had a near-death experience at some time in their youth. Church scholars believe that these near-death experiences bring a person closer to Olamaba and the Father’s attention, preparing a person for being a proper vessel for the Kiv’uli to inhabit.
The Church and the Defenders
The Church reveres its Defenders. Their stories are recorded and their names become part of the legacy of the Church. Defenders are often mentioned in various prayer services, when talking about sacrifice. Tales of the Defenders of also favorite stories to tell children, who love their heroic tales.
The Church celebrates its Defenders with a feast on the 29th of Highsun, the day that Leral was first transformed. On the Feast of the Defender, there is a prayer service where the participants re-create one of the stories of the Defenders. While Leral’s story is the most popular, many other stories are acted out on this day.
In all cases, there is a moment of great danger that threatens a group of the All-Father’s followers. The Kiv’uli select one of the faithful, known as the vessel. The vessel becomes calm, and often in a detached voice speaks words of encouragement to her companions, and then takes action.
The term vessel is not to be confused with Kelven, the Vessel. Kelven’s title the Vessel was bestowed upon him by Patan, in their first meeting. As always, the topic for a future discussion
The vessel has no memory of what transpires while they are a Defender, but many say they have heard voices just before or just after the incident. There is no set duration for how long a Defender can remain in this state. They remain a Defender until the threat at hand is properly resolved. After the danger has passed, the vessel returns to their natural state.
While the vessel is occupied, it gains great abilities. The ones which have been documented include: being impervious to physical attacks, incredible strength, immunity to fire, in addition to amazing combat prowess, incredible coordination, and the ability to see in all directions.
When the vessel is emptied, the person is said to awaken. Those who have awakened are aware that something has happened but cannot recall the details. It is like a dream that you cannot remember, when you wake from slumber. In many cases, this is beneficial to the vessel, as the actions the vessel takes when occupied can be disturbing to these ordinary people.
Most times the vessel is returned unharmed, but in some cases the vessel gives their life to defend their fellow brothers and sisters. One such case was the Defender Sulorm who caused an avalanche on top of himself and a band of Ogres, to prevent them from reaching First Father Warsan and a group of pilgrims traveling through glaciers of Vaasari.
Of the 50 documented Defenders, 44 of them were one-time encounters. But there are some, who by the nature of how they live, become host to the Kiv’uli multiple times. These people live lives which are often in danger, such as a soldier or explorer. In these cases, these select few have been transformed into Defenders more than once.
The most famous was the Defender Nawles, a soldier of the Empire and a devout member of the Church. Nawles was transformed on six separate occasions within one year, during a campaign to protect the Coral Cathedral on the Coast of Monatobe from Orc Pirates.
Examples of Defenders
Here are some of the other more notable Defenders
- Kazazi – Entered a burning temple in Kotkala to rescue trapped followers.
- Sargesa – Rapidly built a dam, on her own, to protect her hometown from a flood.
- Patan (Former First Father) – Defied execution by the Demons, and inspired faith for his town.
- Kelven, the Vessel — Piloted a ship through a hurricane to deliver the Great Heroes to Monatobe.
The Spread of the Church of the All-Father
The groups who traveled north did not have to contend with the hostile attitudes of the Cult, but were confronted with suspicion by the local rulers, who had already ousted various pockets of Humanists. The missionaries were steadfast and won over these communities with the philosophy of the Church, as well as their good acts. In time, many of the areas adopted the Church as their religion.
In the West, the missionaries were met with open arms, and quickly welcomed. The people were eager to hear the message of the All-Father, and began to build temples in the name of the Father.
Jaalom’s mission was far more difficult. The fragmented nature of Stammiglin required the faithful to travel from town to town. There were several conflicts with the Cult of Humanis, but eventually word spread of the acts of Leral, and attacks ceased. Many of the areas of Stammiglin welcomed the missionaries, and slowly Stammiglin embraced the Church. For the Cult, the isolated terrain made it possible for them to retreat to remote towns and caves, and keep their religion alive.
Over the course of the next 100 years the Church would establish itself as the dominant religion of the Humans of Elhal.
The Defenders are an interesting part of the history of Elhal. While not all the acts of the Defenders have had significant historical significance, they remain an inspiration. They are reminders that while the All-Father is not here with us, his will surrounds us. Defenders demonstrate that it is not by the will of the All-Father alone that we will be saved, but by the combination of courage and faith within us, that the will of the Father will be done.
In our next lecture, we will move away from religion and look at the formation of the Four Kingdoms.