The Church of Bast is among the smallest in Mulhorand, as small as cults in many other lands, it used to serve in a support fashion to the Church of Anhur, being renowned for training the best warriors in Mulhorand (while Anhur concentrated on managing the military might as a whole, Bast focused on individual battle prowess).
During the Second Empire of Mulhorand, Bast was effectively exiled from Mulhorand, and much of her clergy were enslaved for crimes against the empire (inciting massive unrest). Ever since, the Church of Bast has had only a very minor presence in Mulhorand, and this has allowed it to operate outside the law as it receives very little notice from the authorities.
The Church of Bast began as a military training school in Sultim. It is unclear whether Bast established the school or was merely its greatest ever pupil, but its students gradually grew to worship the unbeatable warrior known as Bast.
The Church of Bast continued to be the premier school of battle in Mulhorand during it’s early years, it is believed the Laren would often send their scions to the school for training.
When the Orcgate Wars started, the Church of Bast sent the bulk of it’s warriors north to form the vanguard in defence of the Netarand. The first forays of the war were a complete rout for the armies of Mulhorand, and almost all of the military orders of this church were completely decimated.
The Church of Bast had greater success in the war in persuading and training the natives of neighbouring lands (north of the Netarand) to join in the Orcgate Wars against the qabasen onslaught. However, the unexpected death of Ra shook the entire nation, and the Church of Bast was ill equipped to fight in a civil war. So to prevent further loss of life, Bast and her church allied with Osiris and Set when Osiris claimed the Sun Throne for himself and for the empire. Osiris’ untimely death left Bast with no choice, and so she continued her alliance with Set and his remaining allies (Sebek and Nephthys).
Horus finally ended the bloody civil war by defeating Set, and although Bast had abandoned Set many months before Horus-Re was victorious (she could not condone the bloodthirsty actions of Sebek and his kin), she was still shamed and dishonoured for her poor decisions (Nephthys had redeemed herself by abandoning Set and resurrecting Osiris).
Slowly the Church of Bast recovered its losses and its reputation, bolstered greatly by the migration of Asshennae refugees from the Hordelands region into Mulhorand beginning in -151 DR: The Year of Roving Bands, who brought with them the worship of beast cults, such as Felidae the Cat. The Church of Bast was quick to change its dogma to embrace the fierce hunting spirit of felines, and attracted many of the Asshennae tribals into its ranks.
-59 DR: The Year of Whims, saw a spate of murders during the annual moot of the Asshennae, evidence implicated the Felidae worshippers, and in turn the trail led to senior clergy in the Church of Bast, who had supposedly used enchanted tiara’s to induce large cats to attack rival elders and shaman. The Asshennae responded by launching attacks against nearby Mulan settlements, which in turn led to reprisal raids against Asshennae villages. For nearly a decade the violence escalated until the Legion of Dawn was mobilized to eradicate the guerrilla Asshennae.
The Church of Osiris stepped in to investigate the violence, and after much deliberation in -49 DR: The Year of the Irreverent Jest, much of the senior clergy of the Church of Bast were sentenced to a lifetime of slavery in penance for their crimes. Bast was allowed to leave Mulhorand, she wandered to lands west and has never returned.
The Church of Bast; with the loss of its patron and much of its clergy, dwindled from society to the point today where it has only a single presence in all of Mulhorand; Academy of the Sand Dancer in Rauthil. From here the priests of Bast still train the best warriors in the empire, while also sending out agents and allies in search of followers of Set.
Headquarters: Rauthil, Academy of the Sand Dancer
Members: 87 warrior priests and 50 agent adventurers
Leader: Chamarit Unkaria (Good, Human – Mulan, Warrior 11)
Secrecy: Low, although no overt attempt is made to remain secret by the Academy of the Sand Dancer, this church is often forgotten and overlooked by the authorities of Mulhorand.
Symbol: A celestial cats head facing forward.
The Church of Bast is centred around the Academy of the Sand Dancer, its structure exists to facilitate the training academy which is the sole surviving bastion of its former power. The organization of the church exactly matches the organization of the academy, with those teachers who have mastered the most weapons and fighting styles reaching the higher ranks within the academy. The ranks in descending order are: Whirling Dervish, Mesha (sword), Sitir (spear), Amshir (dagger), Amtat (claw), Ikatat (staff), Bisenef (unblooded).
The Whirling Dervish is the true master of the academy and the title can be claimed only by someone who has mastered all the other fighting styles, and beaten the current reigning Whirling Dervish in single combat (usually a non fatal combat, but accidents do happen).
The academy has a long history of forming successful students into adventuring groups that it sponsors to root out and deal with worshippers of Set and Sebek. These adventuring groups are not part of the church hierarchy, but remain closely affiliated to it.
Dogma / Motivation / Goals
The Church of Bast has one true goal, to root out Set’s followers and destroy them, this goal results from a long standing hatred from the time of the Second Empire of Mulhorand, when Bast’s church was punished for crimes against the Asshennae tribes and for causing a decade of unrest and violence. The Church of Bast maintains its innocence to this day and blames the Cult of Set for committing the crime and planting evidence to implicate Bast’s followers.
To further their goal, the Church of Bast continues the traditional dogma of the past, to train one’s body and mind to master the art of fighting that you may better defend Mulhorand from it’s enemies. The church continues to operate the Academy of the Sand Dancer (its last temple) to train the greatest warriors in all Mulhorand, many of whom become champions in the Legion of Dawn. The fees for such training are great, and in the process of mastering weapons, the church also attempts to convert its students to worship Bast and to fervently loathe the worship of Set.
The daily activities of the priests/teachers involves a military style regime of meditation and training, while at the same time instructing their students to do the same. Combats and competitions are regularly staged (individuals and groups), as are expeditions into the Ganathwood to test skills on real opponents.
Membership / Recruiting
The Church of Bast does not openly seek to convert people to worship it’s god, instead relying upon the steady stream of students who come to the Academy of the Sand Dancer to provide revenue and potential converts. While the public reputation of the Church of Bast is still tainted from events of the past, it is still acknowledge as the best school of the fighting arts in the entire empire, and as a result has a full roster of noble scions who are sent to learn to fight that they might bring glory and honour to their house.
The price to enroll at the Academy of the Sand Dancer is high, and so most members are from a noble or merchant background, although occasionally the school will take a gifted student for free if he is of common birth and cannot afford the fee. Once members have enrolled it takes at least 3 years to learn the first fighting style, and then usually a year or more to learn each subsequent style (mastery of the style can take much longer and only the best students – who also convert to worshipping Bast – are offered positions as trainers). This prolonged period of study allows plenty of time for the church to gradually steer them towards worship of Bast.
The Church of Bast is closely linked to the Church of Anhur, often those new recruits to the Legion of Dawn with skill at arms are referred to the Academy of the Sand Dancer to enhance their natural talents (the Church of Anhur pays the entrance fee providing the candidate agrees to return to the Legion after his training is complete), likewise, those students at the academy with a talent for leadership are often encouraged to join the Legion of Dawn when they finish developing their martial skills.
Unlike most of the major churches of Mulhorand, the Church of Bast enjoys no patronage from the state, it does not have a Divine Precept (that was removed following the civil war) and so has no responsibility to provide services to the people of Mulhorand. Because of this lack of patronage, the Church of Bast is not very well known among the common folk (although it is well respect by those in the Legion of Dawn), and has few other allied organizations it can draw help from.
The Cult of Set and the Cult of the Smiling Death are the foes of the Church of Bast. All profits from the Academy are spent on efforts to destroy the cultists of Set and Sebek wherever they may be found. The church sponsors adventuring groups, providing them with places to rest, eat, and heal free of charge while they perform search and destroy missions for the church in Mulhorand and its neighbouring nations (Unther, Thay, Semphar, Murghom, Raurin, etc).
The adventuring groups sponsored by the Church of Bast often act outside the law, brutally interrogating captured worshippers for information on their brethren, and slaying cultists should they resist capture. These activities often put them at odds with the Church of Osiris, and more than one adventuring group have been enslaved for their activities.
Chamarit Unkaria (Good, Human – Mulan, Warrior 11): Chamarit is the reigning Whirling Dervish at the Academy of the Sand Dancer and current head of the Church of Bast. She is famous for having mastered all the fighting styles of the Academy within an incredibly short 12 years. She is one of the few surviving members of House Unkaria.
Sphere of Influence
Mulhorand: The Church of Bast’s primary base of operations is located in Mulhorand, but its activities within that nation are limited to operating the Academy of the Sand Dancer. The church believes the bulk of the power of the Cult of Set (and Sebek) is operating outside of Mulhorand, and so most adventuring bands are sent to Raurin, Thay, and Unther.
Rauthil: This tiny settlement is little more than a bridge, next to which sits the famed Academy of the Sand Dancer. The bridge sees a steady flow of traffic pass through it thanks to caravans travelling between Sultim and Skuld, the few inhabitants here collect a small bridge toll, and a few services to cater to the caravan traffic.
Academy of the Sand Dancer: The high (and only) temple of the Church of Bast is a large walled compound within the confines of Rauthil. It has its own services dedicated to providing for the students and teachers (sleeping quarters, granary, etc), and teaches the students to be self sufficient and to isolate themselves from the troubles outside the walls while training. There are a number of small, glass domed structures where training, meditation, and combat takes place, as well as several larger earthen arenas sunk into the floor.
Despite the unassuming appearance of the temple above ground, there are rumours of extensive tunnels and underground chambers (digging is forbidden in Rauthil, for fear it will breach the river Rauthenflow), of superior dwarven craftsmanship, inside which is hidden the wealth of the Church of Bast.
Because of its small size, the Church of Bast cannot hope to match the mighty resources of the larger churches of Mulhorand. Despite that limitation, every single member of the church is a lethally trained warrior who has mastered many fighting styles to a degree that would terrify most soldiers.
The church receives a high annual income from the Academy of the Sand Dancer, and it is rumoured to have built up considerable reserves in the hidden vaults beneath the academy.
Unfortunately the church has little or no arsenal of magical resources like many of the other churches of Mulhorand. When the church was punished during the Second Empire of Mulhorand, Bast left with her magical regalia (many other churches inherited the personal effects of their divine patrons when they departed the mortal realm), many of the senior priests of the church were also punished and their magical belongings (often gifts from Bast) were seized).
Tiara of Bast: One of the few magical legacies left to the Church of Bast are the very items that were responsible for its shame. These bone crowns were a gift from the Asshennae followers of Felidae to the Church of Bast (from the time when the beast cultists of Felidae were integrating with the Church of Bast).
The Tiara of Bast grant the wearer the ability to exert a measure of control over other animals (the type of animal affected is dependent upon the bone the crown is made of, the Tiara of Bast are almost all made from large felines), such that they can make them aggressive, docile, sleepy, playful, etc.
Originally there were 8 Tiara of Bast, but two were confiscated by the Church of Osiris, after they were found to have been used to incite animals to attack the Asshennae elders. The remaining 6 tiara are presumably hidden in the vaults beneath the Academy of the Sand Dancer, or may be on loan to sponsored adventuring bands.