The vast majority of the people of the various lands practice a faith which is so widespread it doesn’t even have a name. The core tenets of said faith are that an unworthy humanity was lifted out of suffering, both metaphorically and literally, by the beneficence of the six Gods: the Healer, the Hunter, the Weaver, the Scribe, the Smith, and the Reaper. This event is referred to as the Exaltation. In turn, humanity owes a great debt to the Gods, and prayer, devotion, and obedience to the will of the Gods are the proper ways of being.

While not everyone believes in or follows the Gods, atheism is a much more difficult philosophical position to maintain when, up until a quarter century ago, miraculous occurrences were a known part of life. Annual rites, certain prayers, and various holy relics could be used to observable effect. Such actions and effects were not considered fait acompli—reciting the Prayer to the Healer did not guarantee that the sick would be made well. Miraculous recoveries happened often enough, though, that the correlation was hard to argue.

From the Exaltation through to the beginning of the Schism in 1473, the Church was a fairly monolithic entity. Led by the Council of Kerykes, the Church prospered, offering spiritual guidance and exhorting the public to greater acts of piety, levying taxes and enforcing its will through the judicious use of force-of-arms. Among its other duties, the Church also organized and fostered efforts to eradicate apostates, heretics, and non-believers (most notably the Barrowfolk and the Hanashim). These efforts were largely successful, and while various parties chafed at some of the control exerted by the Church, the system sustained itself without major upset for more than a dozen centuries.

Starting in the mid-1400s, however, a host of grievances (including but not limited to tax issues, corruption, and general abuses of authority) began to coalesce into a tide that would swamp the previously calm ecclesiastical seas.

In 1473 a citizen of Maraq by the name of Emmanuel Pesk came under scrutiny by the Church. Pesk was a successful merchant, with a reputation for honest and fair trading. Nonetheless, rivals found his success galling, and one of these envious personages brought a case to a ranking Keryke of Maraq, who so happened to be their cousin. Accusing Pesk of the worship of demons (among a host of other, more venal sins), the supplicant presented scant evidence but many gifts to the Keryke in question. In due course, the accusations were brought to the College of Kerykes, who took up the case and found that, despite the many attestations of Pesk’s moral worth proffered by friends and neighbors, Pesk was guilty of consorting with dark powers and worse. Pesk’s sentence was read out—death by drawing and breaking upon the Iron Hexagon—and the College was set to turn to other business when a scene broke out upon the chamber floor. The youngest Keryke present, Keryke Chardain, rose from the benches and took up a stance in the center of the council chamber, between the High Six and the accused, and prayed. Keryke Chardain was a young spiritual leader much beloved by her adherents, praised for her humility and piety. Some say that a dome of heavenly light sprouted about Pesk and Chardain, while others say that the chamber fell silent as though filled with water. In any case, Keryke Chardain prayed for exactly one day entire, reciting the book of holies continuously the while. At the end of this time, the High Six were able to finally convince the guards to approach the young cantor, but rather than retiring meekly as expected, Chardain condemned the others present for corruption, both moral and secular, but also implored them, saying that it was not too late to turn from their twisted path. Outraged by the insults voiced by such an upstart, the High Six called for Chardain’s immediate arrest.

A considerable number of the Kerykes present, however, had been swayed by Chardain’s actions, and they rushed from the galleries, swarming the guards. The chamber descended into utter chaos, and despite her protestations, a bloc of holyfolk seized Chardain bodily and bore her away to safety. Pesk’s fate remains unknown to this day.

Rather than fading quietly from memory as most rows in the chamber did, the situation seized the minds of not just those present in the room, but those of the countless others who had been persecuted, or even inconvenienced, by the Church in the preceding years. Chardain was held up as a symbol of hope and reform, and was smuggled from the city and into the Demesnes. Thus began the Schism, with the Church Columnar maintaining its authority in the Ayanian Empire, and the Diadox Church taking root throughout the Eilstern Demesnes for both spiritual and pragmatic reasons.

The Schism was a long and bloody affair, with neighbors fighting neighbors and family members reporting one another to the various inquisitions jockeying for power. When all was said and done, the major point of diversion between the two Churches was generally expressed as follows: the Church Columnar holds that any person with a demonstrable connection to the Gods should be venerated as such and should hold spiritual authority over others, thereby giving rise to the College of Kerykes. In contrast, the Diadox Church believes that a connection to the Gods is not an inherent indication of suitability for responsibility for the souls of others, and that it falls to Kerykes to police one another and for the wisest among them, dubbed Ordinals, to elect a single leader, the Pontiff, to maintain the purity of the Church.