Tashrama, Church of the Divine Ladder
The religion of Tashrama preaches that there is only one path to divine power. Each individual is placed at the center of a divine ladder of enlightenment, and it is free will that allows him or her to climb or descend. The Tashrama of the Midlands frown upon descending the ladder. They encourage ascension, which brings the person closer to true enlightenment and worship.
From the writings of the Tashramadic Council: "Do not be surprised if you fall every day; do not give up, but stand your ground courageously. Assuredly the gods who look down upon you will honor your patience. You must carefully consider whether your soul ceases to long for a higher level of enlightenment not as a result of impurity, but because it is mortal nature to give in rather than struggle onward. A sign of deliverance from our falls is the continual acknowledgment of our indebtedness."
Priests of the Tashrama strive to fulfill the tenets of their gods as instructed by the holy Tashramadic Council and their own branch of the church. Along with spreading the faith of their gods, priests also maintain order in the Holy Lands, assist the needy, collect handouts and taxes for charity and for church-sponsored community services.
Adventures: Followers and priests of the church are everywhere in the Midlands and sometimes travel to the further reaches of Adlatum. Some may be carrying out duties assigned to them by higher-ranking officials in the church, or they may be working to spread the word on their own. With the friction between the Tashrama and the Midland Sovereignties about to explode, members of the church may be working to either give the Tashrama a badly needed advantage or a way to undermine Montegron's government. Other members may also be adventuring for inner spiritual reasons.
Characteristics: The religion of the Tashrama is based loosely off the Tao-Shin in which each god is a social rank within the path to enlightenment. Unlike Tao-Shin the Tashrama has but one path, which combines all gods. Erraii (Paladine) is the top rung of the ladder, Tarfine (Gilean) is the middle rung and Rasala Hage is the lowest rung. A priest's station begins with Tarfine and moves up the ladder depending on the priest's service and faithfulness to the church.
Since all Tashrama are actually mystics, the order of worship does not matter insofar as the priest's spellcasting abilities are concerned. It only applies to gaining rank within the church. The Tashrama does not officially recognize or assign ranks below Tarfine.
Three of the neutral gods have been assigned to the lower rungs because of their nature. According to Tashramadic beliefs, Reorx is classified as a god who loves his works and material possessions more than life. Shinare is only interested in generating wealth and Sirrion is considered the god of destructive fire.
It must be mentioned that there are hundreds if not thousands of Tashramadic priests that are actually faithful priests and have aspired to do good works throughout their entire lives. The higher one climbs in the organization, the more corruption and coercion one finds. Any Tashramadic priest holding the station of Erraii has been transformed into a Scalebound by the Elder Dragons, and the majority of those holding the station of Mishakal are faithful Scalebound as well. However, most Tashramadic priests are not aware of the church's true power center.
Alignment: Followers and priests of the church can be of any alignment, although they are usually influenced by the teachings of the Tashrama and the local branch.
Religion: Since the Tashramadic faith is a religion, other faiths are not allowed within the ranks.
Background: The Drowning of Adlatum brought with it darkness and destruction. Lives were thrown into chaos and realms were in upheaval. The Minotaur Empire and most of the Midlands were wiped out due to their central location. Only the western Midland nations survived total destruction. These nations spent generations trying to survive and eventually rebuild.
In 142 AD, Tashramadic priests revealed themselves to the people of Pelcatis, the largest of the Midland nations. They brought word of the gods' displeasure with the people of Adlatum, yet they also brought true healing. These priests foretold that the gods could forgive the people if they would end their wars and worship the gods in good faith again. Rumors of the priests spread throughout the remaining Midland nations, and displays of their clerical powers restored the faith in the true gods once again.
As decades passed, the organization became more powerful. The Tashrama endeavored to not only heal the sick and help the needy, but also cater to the nation's nobility. Pelcatis eventually became a theocracy under the rule of the Tashrama and in 238 AD the nation was renamed to Tashramada.
The Tashrama set borders for the Holy Lands of the gods, declaring that the gods' divine gifts could only be received and performed within the borders of the Holy Lands or by those priests touched by the gods. These borders encompassed most of the Midlands and were defined with elaborate walls, gates and statues of the gods of light and influential Tashramadic priests.
The theocracy continued to grow in power, and by 350 AD Tashramadic shrines were found in every Midland nation. Around this time, the heretics of the false gods began to appear in the Midlands. They were trying to usurp the power of the theocracy and denounce the good works of Tashramadic priests, and went so far as to demonstrate "divine" power beyond the borders of the Holy Lands. These heretics were hunted down and imprisoned for their false rhetoric. The Tashramadic Council called on all priests to combat these lies with sermons and teachings of the history and good works of the Tashrama.
After more than three decades, evidence of the true gods was too great to ignore and the Church of the Divine Ladder began to experience internal strife. Rumors of corruption and misdeeds by the High Council emerged, and many outspoken priests mysteriously disappeared. The skies darkened and a great chaos beast burst forth upon the Midlands, killing thousands. The people of the Midlands turned to their protectors for deliverance, but the theocracy was embroiled in its own problems.
A charismatic noble warrior from a distant nation took control of the situation and started delegating tasks to the Tashramadic armies who followed his lead. Under his rule they battled the servants of Chaos and saved thousands of lives in the Midlands. The Tashrama was less than grateful, yet when the smoke cleared and alien constellations filled the night sky, the Tashrama realized that the true gods had left once again. They rejoiced in their deliverance and decided to unite the Midlands under one rule, led by the enigmatic noble Montegron.
When the constellations changed following the Starfall, the theocracy stabilized and began to grow once again. Tashramadic priests discovered that their powers worked beyond the Holy Lands and they proudly displayed the blessings of the gods to all the Midland nations. Worshipers of Tashrama multiplied tenfold as followers discovered they were free to roam the continent in service to the gods.
Less than a decade later, the Tashramadic priests began to notice a weakening in their divine power. Sometimes their spells would slip from their thoughts or fizzle all together. These failings alarmed the priests and after several investigations they learned that the dead were siphoning off their powers. The Tashrama did the best they could to stave off the effects and continue their good works while being constantly accosted by the spirits of the dead.
In 421 AD, the souls of Adlatum left the world, leaving the Tashramadic priests free to use their powers once again. However, their celebration was short lived. Montegron, who had steadily distanced himself from the Church of the Divine Ladder, declared war upon the church. He claimed that the Tashrama was under the dominion of ancient dragons that had usurped the gods' power for their own purposes. The news shocked the Midlands and sent the theocracy into disarray.
Secret History: The origin of Tashrama begins with the Graygem. The ancient artifact imbued the dragons of Adlatum with the essence of its magic. These "chaos touched" dragons discovered that they radiated the ambient magic of the fabled stone. This magic increased their inherent magical abilities and allowed them to make twisted draconic creatures that would serve them unfailingly. Yet, the dragons also discovered that they were bonded to the territories of their lair. Unable to escape and compelled to withdraw from the world, the dragons descended into their secret homes and fell into a deep slumber.
For thousands of years the dragons slept as their radiant magic infused the surrounding lands with great quantities of ambient magic. The dragons changed in various ways, but all became bounded to their lairs. After the Drowning Rasala Hage woke the altered dragons, known as the Elder Dragon, and she tempted them with power. She proposed that they gathered followers and act as proxies for her to eventually control the entire continent. The Elder Dragons tricked her. Upon setting up the base of their power and communication with each other from their lairs, now known as the Holy Lands, they rejected Rasala Hage and set themselves up as the secret gods of the Tashramadic church. Rasala Hage's grip on the world was set back by centuries, and while the middle to lower ranking priests and the followers believed they were worshiping the gods of the Divine Ladder, in truth their praise and power was coming from the dragons.
They took on worshipers who discovered they could tap into the power of the dragons' ambient magic as long as they resided within the borders of the dragons' territories. The most dedicated faction of priests became known as the Scalebound. It was the Scalebound who organized the Church of the Divine Ladder and ensured that the dragons they served would receive vast power and tribute – all in the name of the gods.
The dragons built up their divine empire for centuries, using the false front of piety and holiness to swindle and control the people of the Midlands. Each of five branches of the church sent a representative to meet in a secretive council in order to allow the aims of the branches to be debated. The members of the Tashramadic Council are unknown to most, including much of the clergy. However the Tashramadic Council is seen by many to be the mortal leadership of the church.
When Chaos did descend upon Adlatum during the Days of Darkness, it was Rasala Hage who blessed the warrior Montegron and gave him the power to defend the Midlands. Believing him to be a loyal servant to the church, the Tashrama proposed a unified government ruling over the Midland nations. Montegron would be the Emperor over all of the lands, however he would be a puppet to the Tashramadic Council. Montegron denied the Council and using his own talents and the strength and wisdom of his true god, he began to unify the Midlands on his own without the church's help. In time he planned to use the souls of the dead from Adlatum along with his living forces to crush the Tashrama and seize complete control of the region.
During the late fall and mid-winter of 420-421 AD, Montegron revealed to the public the truth of the existence of the Elder Dragons. When actions by several branches of the church confirmed this, many disillusioned followers and clergy left the church. This was a strong blow to the Tashrama. A few months later, Montegron was ready to launch his war and secure his hold on the land. However in mid-spring Rasala Hage fell silent and the unseen souls of the dead who were to bolster his forces were gone. The friction between the Sovereignties and the church was too hot to stop the war, but Montegron had to quickly re-evaluate how matters were going to proceed. This has given the church some time to try and strength its position.
Now those in the church are fully aware of the Elder Dragons existence, and those who remain in the church openly worship these mighty creatures as true gods, and the divine steps of the ladder are now seen more as positions of rank rather than as beings to be worshipped as well. Around this same time, the Etlarnic ambassador to the Midlands announced that the true gods of Krynn had returned. How the Tashrama plans to deal with the return of the Tao-Shin faith and the Sovereignties has yet to be seen.
Races: The Tashrama is open to all races across Adlatum and beyond. However since the church is based in the Midlands, some races are not included in the church due to a lack of exposure.
Other Classes: Followers of the church can be of a wide variety of classes. Clerics are forbidden since it would require them to be dedicated to another religion. Different branches often attract different groups of people (nature-based classes to the green, arcane casters to the black, warriors to the red, etc).