The Church of Nephthys is the economic powerhouse of the Mulhorandi Empire, they run all the marketplaces, collect all the trade tariffs, own most services within the foreign quarters of trading settlements. The Church of Nephthys earns more money per head than all other churches combined (except for the Church of Horus-Re).
House Neshar was always very focused upon wealth and status, ensuring they had the most money, the best luxuries, the most unusual and exotic art or clothing or pets or slaves. This was accomplished by the members of House Neshar being well travelled and setting up outposts all over the empire, especially the newly conquered / settled regions like the Netarand, Thesgaba, Murghom, and Semphar.
Before Horus-Re had even reformed the government of Mulhorand, House Neshar was already acting as an embassy and trading company in the largest far flung settlements in neighbouring vassals. Following the reformation, the newly established Church of Nephthys was awarded the Faramut Sawen (Ministry of Roads) and responsibility for setting, enforcing, and collecting trade tariffs across the empire.
As the Empire’s tax collectors, the Church of Nephthys has performed an excellent job (some would say too excellent). Tax collectors are present at all markets; monitoring and recording deals, checking inventories and records of sale, and collecting the tithe on all deals involving foreign merchants and goods.
In the past, in far flung territories, it was whispered that the Church of Nephthys were over zealous in their tariff collections (regarding all trade in vassal territories as subject to the foreign trade tax), and this practice in addition to the restrictive control of magic users resulted in Thay’s rebellion (the Church of Nephthys suffered brutal massacres of it’s clergy by the rebellious Red Wizards and the native Rashemi.
Nowadays, the Church of Nephthys is confined almost exclusively to Mulhorand (Murghom sets and collects it’s own trade tariffs), with temples in the foreign and port districts of most coastal cities, and more present in the crossroad settlements that sit on the main trade roads. The temples provide a variety of services, including weight and purity measurements, monetary exchanges, and banking. Some rumours abound that for the elite in society there are select services (select meaning highly illegal) that can be acquired for the right price.
Headquarters: Neldorild, The Vault of Golden Commerce
Members: 2,800 priests
Hierarchy: Fluid, the rank of a priest is dependent upon the amount of wealth donated to the church each year.
Leader: Sethora Neshar (Good, Human – Mulan, Expert 12). Sethora is the Divine Incarnation of Nephthys and thus the titular head of the church, however in recent years a powerful faction has arisen in the Church of Nephthys led by Almii Shamiria.
Symbol: A golden offering bowl surmounted by an ankh
The Church of Nephthys are responsible for all things trade related in Mulhorand, they maintain the roads and bridges, own the waystop inns, run the markets, and most of all collect the proper trade tariffs on all deals. The ranks within the Church of Nephthys are mostly self selected (although the most senior priests are entitled Silver or Golden Precept) split into 12 separate rankings, most such titles relate to money and associated activities for example; Money Changer, Avenging Coin, Coin Mistress, Guardian of Wealth.
Promotion within the Church of Nephthys is dependent entirely upon the amount donated to the church during the Feast of the Silver Coin. The results are stratified and the top donators become the Golden Precepts (top 16, or however many Precepts there are in Mulhorand’s government), with twice that number becoming Silver Precepts, the remainder is based upon a percentage band for each rank.
The Golden Order: The Golden Order are a faction of the Church of Nephthys dedicated purely to the pursuit of wealth, and through wealth the acquisition of power. Previous incarnations of this faction were dedicated solely to acquiring wealth, but the recent rise of Sembia, Chondath, Ravens Bluff, and other mercantile powers has shown the Golden Order a new way to exercise that wealth.
The faction is led by Almii Shamiria (Evil, Human – Mulan, Expert 6), a greedy and power hungry woman who has used her wealth to buy secrets, and through those secrets she has acquired control over a great many senior priests in the Church of Nephthys. The Golden Order seek to monopolise their control over all trades both domestic and foreign, they also seek to establish a service industry within Mulhorand that they control strictly. In order to accomplish this goal they need to remove the power of the Guilds and they have begun to do this by establishing a new city where they have strict control over all commercial activities.
Dogma / Motivation / Goals
The Church of Nephthys is charged with preserving the economy of Mulhorand and ensuring that foreign merchants bring in the goods that Mulhorand cannot produce itself. To meet this goal the Church of Nephthys sends its priests far into neighbouring lands to act as ambassadors and to encourage foreign merchants to travel to Mulhorand with their wares.
Priests of Nephthys are expected by the church to acquire as much wealth as possible through these trade contacts, making deals with foreign cartels and ensuring their demand is met as well as Mulhorand’s. There are many caravan companies in Durpar, Semphar, Unther, and the Shaar that deal almost exclusively with priests of Nephthys and have grown very rich on the insider information the priests provide. The Church also expects priests of Nephthys to donate much of their accumulated wealth to the church each year (and in return they receive a higher station based upon the amount donated).
With so many priests present in foreign lands, the Church of Nephthys also unofficially acts as Mulhorand’s spy network, bringing news and rumours from far off places back to the Pharaoh through their trading network of allied caravan companies. While not an official duty, this side business in spying nets them a large profit from interested parties in Mulhorand who wish to find information about far off lands (which the Church of Nephthys is happy to provide for a price).
Lastly is a darker side to the Church of Nephthys, for those who break a deal with the priests may find themselves the victims of Mulhorand’s Guild of Openers (a guild of butchers and also assassins), who charge steep prices for their secret activities of assassination but which the Church of Nephthys is happy to pay to ensure no-one dares harm or betray a priest of Nephthys. Most often the Guild of Openers are employed against Red Wizards who are paranoid about Mulhorand’s activities but have long learned the hard way to ignore the priests of the Devoted Lady (or feed them misinformation), for if the Guild of Openers cannot get to a potential target they will happily use other assassins from the target’s country of residence.
This vengeful streak in the Church of Nephthys has earned their god the moniker of the Avenging Mother of the Gods.
Membership / Recruiting
While political intrigue within the Church of Nephthys has always been rampant, the pursuit of wealth has always been more important than politics. The Divine Incarnations of Nephthys have long focused the activities of the Church of Nephthys upon seeking trade opportunities with Mulhorand’s neighbours, and kept them away from interfering with the politics of the state of Mulhorand.
Recently however, there has been a shift in power with the rise of Almii Shamiria, and the Divine Incarnation has seen herself sidelined by the majority of her church. They have moved the High Temple of Nephthys to Neldorild, and have kept Sethora Neshar away (she currently remains in the former high temple in Jhalhoran), including her only when she obeys their demands (like voting for particular motions in the Solar Council).
Not wishing to risk factional strife within her church, Sethora has decided to remain apart from the Golden Order as much as possible, but is appeasing most of their demands.
A New World Order: The Golden Order seeks to change Mulhorand, make it powerful once again, and it intends to do that through the power of commerce. One step in this plan is to create a new model of cities wherein the elite can bask in luxury and services provide to their every need and whim. The Church of Nephthys of course controls all shops, inns, housing, entertainment, etc, and provides them all to the rich and powerful for money. In this new city the Church of Nephthys controls who can live there, what they learn, what jobs they perform, the prices of goods, and even owns the loyalty of priests from other churches who live their. This plan is already in progress and it is called Neldorild.
Sleeping Lions Lie: Another Golden Order plot is to win prestige and approval (from the Pharaoh) for it’s new cities by winning a war against Thay. Without insufficient military might, the Golden Order has a new way to wage war, it seeks to cause a revolution in Thay by making the entire nation destitute by outcompeting it in trade, specifically in the slave market.
In order to pursue this plot the Golden Order are providing support to Vizier Rezim Helcalli to pursue punitive actions against the Church of Anhur in the Solar Council every time they fail in their obligation to defend Mulhorand. The Golden Order are also using their coin and contacts in criminal organizations to provide information for the Vizier and his Sun Hawks faction.
The Dogs of War: The Golden Order is secretly aiding the senior members of the Order of Watchful Lions of the Church of Anhur, providing gifts of near unlimited funds so that faction may build a new army to wage war against Thay. The Golden Order hopes that it can steer the senior Watchful Lions toward a better target (namely Unther), against which it has more chance of winning a conquest outright. In so doing the Golden Order hopes to acquire a large chunk of Unther’s territory to expand Mulhorand’s economy (Unther has a massive surplus of slaves), as well as reduce a major trading partner for Thay (Unther imports large quantities of grain). Once the conquest of Unther is complete, The Golden Order believe that Mulhorand’s economy will be big enough to challenge Thay.
The Surest Things: Rezim’s plan to implement a road tax and erect tolling stations at every major crossroads in Mulhorand is officially opposed by the Church of Nephthys as such a move would limit trade and any road tax should be controlled and collected by the Church of Nephthys (not the Church of Horus-Re as Rezim suggests).
The Golden Order are supporting this plan because they believe control of the toll stations would eventually come to the Church of Nephthys and these road taxes could be used in an upcoming trade war to prevent trade coming into or out of Thay if desired. The Golden Order has tried to force Sethora Neshar to support this idea but thus far she is resisting by pretending to be busy during meetings of the Solar Council where this idea is put forward.