The Church of the Sky Father is both the church dedicated to the worship of Gil-Geamesq the God-King of Unther, and the central administrative organisation for the government of Unther. This makes it by far the most powerful organisation in Unther, able to command and call upon the resources of an entire nation should it be needed.
The headquarters of the Church of the Sky Father is the Ziggurat of Eternal Victory in Unthalass where its high priest resides, but it has many strongholds of worship throughout Unther.
The Church of the Sky Father did not exist prior to Gil-Geamesq’s crowning as the God-King of Unther. Before that moment Gil-Geamesq had relied largely upon his own abilities as he ventured throughout the Old Empires territories, but he had grown lazy and paranoid in the preceding centuries and so he made Unthalass his permanent home and created an organisation he controlled to see to the boring duties of running a country.
The Church of the Sky Father immediately replaced the existing government of Unther; which relied largely upon E-Nlil’s personal involvement to settle disputes and make decisions. The new government was very arbitrary with lots of documents and mediation required by the ensi of Gil-Geamesq which placed the new church firmly at the centre of all power.
Because the Church of the Sky Father is the administrative arm of the nation of Unther, it is a requirement that a temple to Gil-Geamesq be erected in every major settlement so that they can collect oversee necessary services such as tax collection and the criminal justice system. At one time the Church of the All-Father had temples in the Shaar, Dambrath, the Wizards’ Reach and Chessenta, nowadays however these all lie in various states of ruin (and some have been completely destroyed with no trace left).
Headquarters: Unthalass, the Ziggurat of Eternal Victory
Members: 5,000 ensi throughout Unther
Leader: Gil-Geamesq the Great is the official supreme head of the church although almost all of the decisions relating to the church and Unther are made by Ulgariph Gil-Zimrilim, who involves Gil-Geamesq only when absolutely necessary and has usually manipulated him as best he can into making the desired decision.
Symbol: A clenched red fist backed by a golden sun on black lozenge
The Church of the Sky Father is very strictly organised. The high priest is known by the rank Ulgariph (meaning high protector) of which there is only ever one. He appoints 13 Ul’Om (High First) who oversee the thirteen regions of Unther (of which only 5 regions still remain under Unther’s control). These form the senior hierarchy of the church.
Beneath the senior positions are the individual temple hierarchies which always have one Ul’Ist (High Second) overseeing all decisions relating to the temple (and the settlement or settlements it covers). Beneath the Ul’Ist are a number of Ul’Ath (High Third) who typically organise the novices and laity, the number of Ul’Ath varies depending upon the income of the temple.
The lowest members of the church are the Naneq (Enforcer) and Baireq (Watcher) who perform the day to day functions of the church such as tax collection, scribing, inspection, etc.
Positions in the church change regularly as people are demoted for failure or promoted based on their connections. Only an ensi two ranks more senior can promote or demote someone in the church hierarchy and ultimately the Ulgariph can overrule any decision if he wishes, and Gil-Geamesq could overrule the Ulgariph if he were ever made aware of a decision and cared enough to change it. Every decision must be witnessed and scribed by one of the Baireq (Watcher) so that it can be reviewed by superiors if necessary.
Dogma / Motivations / Goals
The Church of the Sky Father teachers that Gil-Geamesq is infallible, Gil-Geamesq is eternal, Gil-Geamesq is absolute. If you put your faith in Gil-Geamesq then you will be rewarded in this life or the afterlife for your service. Gil-Geamesq tests those that serve with toil and hardship because life is hard and only through suffering for ones faith can you truly prove your worthiness to Gil-Geamesq.
These are the words that the Church of the Sky Father preaches to its clergy and laity. They teach that life is difficult and you must do whatever is asked of you by Gil-Geamesq and his ensi in order to prove how much you love the God-King of Unther. Those that refuse or fail do not love Gil-Geamesq and so must be punished.
Those that succeed in their service may be rewarded by Gil-Geamesq himself (briefly, if they should come to his attention) or more likely by the church and the administration of Unther. This reward depends upon the status of the individual; slaves are rewarded for their servitude by being allowed to live to serve another day, free-holders may be rewarded for personal tasks to the church with money or the option to rent titles and land, the nobility are rewarded with more power and status.
The Church of the Sky Father has persisted for several millennia and due to the favoured position it holds as the central administration of Unther’s government, it has accumulated a staggering number of dedicated holy festivals. There is a holy festival of some sort every 8 days (on average), and while most citizens attend celebrations briefly (if they know what’s good for them), the piety of such celebration is false like the rest of the worship of Gil-Geamesq.
The Festival of Assumption: The greatest holy festival in Unther is the Festival of Assumption, which celebrates Gil-Geamesq’s crowning as the God-King of Unther. This particular festival is celebrated by a multitude of athletic competitions across Unther (located around the Temples to Gil-Geamesq), most of which are chariot races or wrestling matches. The local arenas always host huge combat displays on this day and by tradition Gil-Geamesq himself slays a legendary beast to prove his supremacy above all other men.
Membership / Recruiting
As the primary religion of Unther, the Church of the Sky Father has an enormous pool from which to recruit new members. Recruits must apply at the local temple, they are screened and tested to prove their faith in a process that lasts two years, during which time they must toil away as one of the Baireq who are responsible for scribing all activities, cleaning and maintaining the temple, performing administrative tasks, and other menial work. If they have proven themselves capable then after two years they may become one of the Naneq who are charged with monitoring the Baireq and for ensuring the laity follow Gil-Geamesq’s Will.
There are no shortage of applicants to the Church of the Sky Father despite the widespread hatred most feel towards the God-King of Unther. Those that are weak are quickly removed from the process (executed, or sent to the arena, or enslaved, as are those that cannot pretend to love Gil-Geamesq above all. The remainder of applicants that pass are those who are greedy, ambitious, liars, and amoral enough to do whatever is asked of them.
As a result the Church of the Sky Father is often made up of the most evil members of Unther’s society and this has long shown in the degradation of Unther’s society toward cruelty.
There is an oddity between the Church of the Sky Father and the other churches of Unther, Gil-Geamesq has no declared blood relatives and so all members of his church (and his house) were born to another An’Ular family before joining the Church of the Sky Father.
While the Church of the Sky Father is the most powerful organisation in Unther because it controls the government and the military and all other services either directly or indirectly, the Church of the Sky Father stands alone without allies and with many enemies.
At one time the Church of the Sky Father could draw upon the many other churches of Unther for aid as well as the noble houses and other organisations, today however the paranoia of Gil-Geamesq has destroyed all other churches or driven them into exile and while the noble houses have many members that are part of the hierarchy of the church it is unlikely that any person or organisation would rush to the aid of the church if it was threatened because everyone despises Gil-Geamesq and his church and recognises that the rule of the God-King is coming to an end.
Over the centuries Gil-Geamesq and his administration have setup numerous affiliated organisation (mostly within the military) that were used to extend Gil-Geamesq’s reach within the military. The strongest and most deadly (although not always the smartest) individuals were selected for further glory and these were provided the best armaments before being dispatched on missions personally selected by Gil-Geamesq or the Ulgariph. This had the effect of weakening Unther’s military even further and ultimately all these groups were destroyed over time except for the most recent “The Lords of War and Victory”.
The Lords of War and Victory: The Lords of War and Victory were formed in 1301 DR in response to a resurgence of the cultists of TiaMa’at. Gil-Geamesq demanded an elite unit be formed to guard his divine person and his interests at all times.
The greatest warrior from every An’Ular family was conscripted into the order and subject to some of the most intense mental and physical training (some say that they were brainwashed into becoming fearless, obedient, executioners). The 500 survivors were equipped with the most expensive and highest quality weaponry that Unther could buy and then put to guarding Gil-Geamesq and his secrets from the cultists of TiaMa’at.
Today all of the surviving Lords of War and Victory are in their 70s, but their sons and grandsons now fill the ranks of the order and the Ziggurat of Eternal Victory.
The enemies of the Church of the Sky Father are uncountable. Every person and organisation within Unther has more than a hundred reasons to hate the God-King and his church. Even many of the church’s own membership hate Gil-Geamesq and are only using the church to stay alive and advance their own status.
The Church’s greatest enemy is the Cult of the Queen of Chaos. The cultists of TiaMa’at will stop at nothing to slay the God-King and they have agents and sympathisers everywhere. Within the church is a growing movement of worshippers that follow Bane and are converting followers within the church so as to prepare for Gil-Geamesq’s eventually downfall and take control of Unther in his place.
The Cult of the God Tyrant: The Church of Bane has long desired a to extend its reach to southern lands and spread the word of law and Bane. Autarch Kabarrath Telthaug finally managed to get agents into the Church of the Sky Father, these are now recruiting existing members by preaching that Gil-Geamesq is the ultimate tyrant and the Church of Bane is there to support those tyrants so that they may better serve Bane.
The Cult of the God Tyrant promises increased power and riches for those that join it (and western coins are more valuable than the debased currency of Unther, especially to foreign merchants). Members of the cult are not required to contradict their duties to Gil-Geamesq and the Church of the Sky Father in any way, in fact they are required to support Gil-Geamesq as much as possible, which is why the cult has gone undetected thus far.
When the time comes and Gil-Geamesq is slain, the Cult of the God Tyrant will move to secure control of the country, backed by military support from Autarch Kabarrath Telthaug of Mourktar. The cultists will convert as many former worshippers of Gil-Geamesq as possible and then slaughter the rest, and Bane will have another stronghold in Faerun.
Gil-Siareq (Neutral, Human – Mulan, Expert 1): Gil-Siareq is the serving ensi of Gil-Geamesq in Niz’Jaree and is now completely and utterly deranged. He has suffered disturbingly vivid dreams since his arrival 5 years ago, and hasn’t slept uninterrupted for more than an hour since. He will rant at anyone passing by his home; in the House of Tyranny, but will listen to anyone that comes to him with information about the Cult of the Queen of Chaos beneath the town, until about 10 minutes have elapsed and will then accuse the speaker of being in an alliance with the cult and promptly flee into the night screaming murder.
Gil-Zimrilim (Evil, Human – Mulan, Expert 10): Gil-Zimrilim is the current Ulgariph (high priest) of the Church of the Sky Father. He is highly intelligent, ambitious, and possessed of multiple innate abilities that help him maintain control over his equally ambitious underlings. Gil-Zimrilim is no fool and recognises that Gil-Geamesq’s rule is coming to an end, he intends to be prepared for either outcome.
Sphere of Influence
Unther: The Church of the Sky Father at one time had great influence in lands as far away as the Shaar, Dambrath,and Aglarond. Now it has influence only within Unther, such is the result of Gil-Geamesq’s peaks of paranoia, somnolence, and rage that the once great empire has dwindled to almost nothing and its premier church along with it. The Church of the Sky Father has no plans to extend its reach beyond Unther because Gil-Geamesq himself has no wish to do so (such an act would mean admitting he was wrong to let the empire diminish in the first place or worse that Gil-Geamesq and Unther lost the territory to other nations).
The Ziggurat of Eternal Victory: The Ziggurat of Eternal Victory is a testimony to the glory that was once Unther at its height. This enormous structure is one of the greatest man-made monuments in Faerun, with 16 tiers and over 300 ft of structure visible, all decorated in rare metals, intricate enamel work, and precious stones (the most prominent of which are pearls).
The ziggurat was the first building constructed in Unthalass when Unther was founded. It was originally home to all the godkings of Unther before they each moved to found their own settlements and seats of power. Beneath the surface are many more levels that extend at least another 400 ft and 10 tiers beneath the surface (it was so large a structure that it dominated the southern half of the city).
Since Gil-Geamesq’s accession to the throne of Unther, the Ziggurat of Eternal Victory has become home to the administrative arm of Unther’s central government which is run entirely by the Church of Gil-Geamesq.
The ground floor tier is the main visiting area for those wishing to pay homage to Gil-Geamesq and his glory directly (although he would never appear to receive such homage), it is filled with statues, sculptures, paintings, and other artistic works that glorify Gil-Geamesq (focusing on his masculinity). The middle 14 tiers are reserved for the Church of the Sky Father and the administration of Unther, it contains living quarters, offices, storage chambers, etc. The topmost tier of the ziggurat is a living shrine to Gil-Geamesq the God-King, it is the most opulently furnished floor, and contains the best of whatever Gil-Geamesq may desire; including his own personal pleasure-house.
The underground floors are filled with prisons, treasure vaults, torture chambers, and storage for things the administration want to disappear. The bottom two floors have been largely abandoned and are rumoured to be stalked by creatures that deliberately target the ensi of Gil-Geamesq. The underground floors are filled with a cacophony of screams when Gil-Geamesq pays a visit to his favourite torture chambers.
The Church of the Sky Father is the largest, richest and most powerful organisation in Unther. As the official religion of Unther and the government of Unther, the Church of the Sky Father has an entire nation’s treasury and military to rely on in times of need. Unfortunately this reliance upon other organisations has led to the Church of the Sky Father neglecting to build up its own resources, the church has few stockpiles of magical relics, nor does it possess any unique treasures of incredible value or even curios that others may find interesting. Gil-Geamesq eschews anything of power that does not come from himself and he expects his faithful to do likewise.