The Sovereign Host is the most commonly worshipped pantheon of deities in Khorvaire. Most followers worship the Host as a whole, offering prayers to different deities in different situations. Clerics are often devoted to the entire pantheon instead of a specific patron deity. The pantheon as a whole is neutral good. The Host's favored weapon is the longsword.
Gods of The Sovereign Host
Arawai, God of Agriculture
Arawai is the neutral good deity of fertility, plant life and abundance. She is the sister of Balinor and the Devourer, and the mother of the Fury. Her domains are Good, Life, Plant and Weather, and her favored weapon is the morningstar.
Aureon, God of Law and Knowledge
Aureon is the lawful neutral deity of lore and magic. He is the brother of Onatar, the husband of Boldrei and the origin of the Shadow. His domains are Knowledge, Law and Magic, and his favored weapon is the quarterstaff.
Balinor, God of Beasts and the Hunt
Balinor is the neutral deity of hunting and animal life. He is the brother of Arawai and the Devourer. His domains are Air, Animal and Earth, and his favored weapon is the battleaxe.
Boldrei, God of Community and Hearth
Boldrei is the lawful good deity of community. She is the wife of Aureon. Her domains are Community, Good, Law and Protection, and her favored weapon is the spear.
Dol Arrah, God of Honor and Sacrifice
Dol Arrah is the lawful good deity of honorable combat, self-sacrifice and sunlight. She is the sister of Dol Dorn and the Mockery. Her domains are Good, Law, Sun and War, and her favored weapon is the halberd.
Dol Dorn, God of Strength at Arms
Dol Dorn is the chaotic good deity of bodily strength and martial training. He is the brother of Dol Arrah and the Mockery. His domains are Chaos, Good, Strength and War, and his favored weapon is the longsword.
Kol Korran, God of Trade and Wealth
Kol Korran is the neutral deity of trade and money. He is the son of Olladra and Onatar, and the twin brother of the Keeper. His domains are Charm, Commerce and Travel, and his favored weapon is the mace.
Olladra, God of Feast and Good Fortune
Olladra is the neutral good deity of luck and plenty. She is the wife of Onatar and the mother of Kol Korran and the Keeper. Her domains are Feast, Good, Healing and Luck, and her favored weapon is the sickle.
Onatar, God of Artifice and the Forge
Onatar is the neutral good deity of crafts, industry and fire. He is the brother of Aureon, the husband of Olladra and the father of Kol Korran and the Keeper. His domains are Artifice, Fire and Good, and his favored weapon is the warhammer.
Doctrine and Beliefs
The Sovereign Host encompasses nine gods—or fifteen, depending on one’s point of view—who hold sway over every aspect of mortal life. Where the Silver Flame requires worshipers devoted to a specific principle, and the Blood of Vol demands loyalty to the blood within, the Sovereign Host simply is. Where mortal matters intersect the natural world, the gods are there. Where nature offers its hand to those who live off the land, either with a nurturing touch or a pounding fist, the gods are there. Worshipers need not seek out the gods of the Sovereign Host, for they are present in every aspect of life, and in every feature of Eberron.
THE DOCTRINE OF UNIVERSAL SOVEREIGNTY
The chief dogma espoused by the followers of the Host, or “Vassals” as they call themselves, has been named the Doctrine of Universal Sovereignty.
As is the world, so are the gods. As are the gods, so is the world.
Essentially, this means that nothing exists in this world outside the attention of the gods. While the gods are divine beings unto themselves, they are also a part of a larger reality. They are both independent and part of a greater whole, separate yet joined, in a way few mortal minds can fully comprehend. They do not simply oversee the aspects of reality over which they hold dominion; they are part of them, omnipresent. A blacksmith praying for Onatar’s blessing on an undertaking is not seeking the attention of the god of the forge. The god is already there, present in every act of manual creation, every spark of the flame, every ring of the hammer. Rather, the smith prays to show faith, honoring and acknowledging the god’s presence, hoping that Onatar will bestow his favor upon the smith’s work and aid him in turning out a weapon or tool of exceptional quality.
As with Onatar and the smith, so too with the other deities and their own spheres of influence. Dol Dorn is active in every battle; Arawai’s voice is heard in the rustle of ever stalk of wheat. This is what the Vassals mean by the Doctrine of Universal Sovereignty: The gods do not merely watch reality; they are present in every part of it.
The Doctrine of Universal Sovereignty illustrates perfectly the nature of gods in the world of Eberron. They do not walk the world or speak directly with their faithful. Aid or knowledge is given by an angel or some other outsider who represents the power of the divine. (And even these outsiders are themselves guided by nothing more than faith; an angel speaking for Aureon has no more spoken with her than the priest herself has.)
The very power of faith causes cleric magic to manifest. Most clerics maintain that if the gods were not real, no amount of faith could change the world, but this is a matter of belief and theology, not verifiable fact. When asked by skeptics why the gods, if they truly exist, do not take a more direct hand in the affairs of Eberron, most Vassals reply that they do indeed. Every plant that grows, every ruler that rises to power, every sword raised in battle, every beast in the herd, every healer’s touch—these are all signs of the gods working their will on the world, through the tools of the world itself.
It is possible to misinterpret the belief that gods and world are one as leaning more toward druidic religion than clerical. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Worship of the Host has grown alongside civilization, and the two are inextricably linked. Even a cursory examination of the gods’ portfolios reveals a marked leaning toward elements of civilized life, rather than more primitive or savage aspects. Law, the hearth, artifice, honor: These are mortal constructs, not intrinsic elements of the natural world. Only Arawai and Balinor claim portfolios of a more natural bent, and even these—agriculture for one, beasts and the hunt for the other—are viewed through the lens of civilization. To Vassals, this indicates no disregard for nature but simply an acknowledgment that civilization is the intended state of the mortal races, and the inescapable way of the future. For most worshipers, civilization represents the extent of their world; it is hardly unreasonable that their gods should follow suit. Indeed, it is a measure of the Host’s civilizing bias that the banished bear a contrary aspect. Most of the Dark Six represent forces of nature or “primitive thought,” rather than concepts intrinsically tied to civilization.
The Doctrine In-Depth
It is perhaps not surprising that the so-called Doctrine of Universal Sovereignty is not truly all that universal. Oh,
the Vassals indisputably believe that their gods are a part of every aspect of the world, and that nothing happens without their involvement. It’s simply that the Vassals employ a rather flexible definition of what both “world ” and “involvement” actually mean.
The beloved gods of the Host cannot be held responsible for horrors such as the daelkyr and the quori, for they are of other worlds, not born of Eberron.
Were this the extent of the Vassals’ exceptions to the Doctrine, it might be reasonable enough. Many of them, however, extend this logic to all manner of things. Some maintain that any action taken by a follower of another deity is outside the purview of the Host, for these other gods do not acknowledge their place in the proper scheme of things. Some go farther still, claiming that those who refuse to acknowledge the Host have placed themselves “outside their place in the proper scheme of things,” and thus outside the protection—and influence—of the gods. A very select few even hold that when the Sovereign Host expelled the Dark Six from their ranks, they removed those gods from the world itself. Thus, anything that falls under the dominion of the Dark Six is outside the influence of the Sovereign Host. As convenient an explanation for why the gods allow misfortune to befall their worshipers as ever has been heard!
It would be remiss of me to imply that all Vassals are this loose in their definitions. Many of them accept that not all of life will go their way, no matter how devout they are or how benevolent their gods might be. Enough of them take advantage of these liturgical loopholes, however, that one must question how heartfelt their faith can truly be.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE DIVINE HOST
The bedrock notion of the gods as both separate from the world, and yet a part of it, leads to the second of the Host’s primary doctrines. Called the Doctrine of the Divine Host, it states:
The Sovereign Host is one name, and speaks with one voice. The gods are the letters of that name, and the sounds of that voice.
Only a minority of Vassals focus on a single member of the Sovereign Host. The majority worship the pantheon in its entirety, calling upon whatever deity is most appropriate to their current circumstances. A Vassal might offer up paeans, or even burnt valuables, to Kol Korran when undertaking a mercantile endeavor. That same Vassal might, the very next day, participate in a consecration ceremony to Boldrei, to bless the new home on whose purchase he had asked Kol Korran’s aid. The faithful see no contradiction in this; they revere the Sovereign Host entire, placing none above the others. Ignoring any one of the gods would be foolish, akin to acknowledging the existence of trees and clouds but not mountains.
Although primary, the Doctrine of the Divine Host is not absolute. That most Vassals worship the entire pantheon does not mean that they revere all the gods equally. Many of the faithful choose a patron or two to whom they feel a special bond. The aforementioned blacksmith reveres Dol Arrah and Kol Korran, but he likely has a special place in his heart for Onatar. This has little bearing on his everyday religious practices, except that he saves the choicest sacrifices, and utters the longest and most heartfelt prayers, to his patron.
Similarly, while the priests of the Sovereign Host revere all the deities, many devote themselves to a specific deity. Such priests can perform services to any in the pantheon but specialize in the rites and duties of their particular patrons. This is especially common in large communities. A metropolis might have a temple dedicated to Boldrei, serving as a shelter for the homeless or a focal point for community activities, and another devoted to Dol Dorn, where Vassals receive combat training. These differences are reflected in the skills and domains of individual priests. A cleric serving in the former temple would be skilled in healing and knowledgeable about local matters, while one in the latter would be versed in martial skills.
Everyone familiar with the scriptures of the Sovereign Host knows that they once formed a single pantheon with the Dark Six. The Host eventually banished the Six for their evil ways and constant schemes against the other gods. This sundering of the Host is called the Schism, the Divine Fall, or the Celestial Exile. Some theorists hold that the rape of Arawai by the Devourer triggered the Schism, but other legends suggest that this event took place long after the split.
Scholars among Vassals and various religious institutions debate what the Schism actually means. After all, the Dark Six are no less gods now than they were before their banishment. They still hold sway over many aspects of the world, and some Vassals still pray to them under certain circumstances. Clearly, the Sovereign Host lacked the means (or the desire) to strip the Six of their divinity.
The Schism, then, is more along the lines of a familial division, one branch disowning and disavowing the other. It represents the efforts of the Host to distance themselves, and their worshipers, from their darker counterparts. While scripture describes this as punishment, some scholars believe that the Host wished to remove the Dark Six’s access to the population of Vassals, minimizing their ability to do further harm.
Scripture and scholars differ on what caused the conflict between the two factions of the original Host. Even the most ancient texts, whose doctrine reportedly predates the Schism, refer to the pantheon as Nine and Six and One. So even before the official split, the two groups were at least partly independent of each other. For centuries, Vassals assumed that this division was one of good against evil, which supports the currently accepted view.
Recent religious theory, however, suggests an alternative division, as well as another interpretation of the Schism itself. Of all the nine gods of the Sovereign Host, only two— Arawai and Balinor—hold dominion over natural aspects of the world. The others hold sway, partly or in whole, over elements of civilization and culture. Similarly, of the Dark Six, only two hold dominion over concepts native to civilization: The Mockery represents treachery and dishonor, while the Traveler is the lord of deception. The other four oversee aspects of the natural world or magic, completely independent of civilized practice. Some scholars and priests believe that the “Nine and Six” do not refer to the current division of the Host and the Dark Six, but rather nine gods of civilization and six gods of the wild.
Similarly, these theorists maintain, the Schism was not the result of good defeating evil, but rather the struggle between the civilized and the savage for the future of mortals. In this conflict, they maintain, Arawai and Balinor sided with the gods of civilization for the sake of mortals, while the Mockery and the Traveler sided with the gods of the wild due to their enmity with many of the civilized deities. On a symbolic level, then, the Sovereign Host will dominate the world, and hold greater power than do the Dark Six, for so long as civilization thrives. Should the mortal races ever fall back into barbarism, however—as some feared would happen during the Last War—the Dark Six might well rise to ascendancy.
Symbolism and Symbols
Nearly everyone recognizes the symbol of the Sovereign Host.
Although the Octogram is well known, its true meaning has long been the subject of scholarly debate. Why should a pantheon consisting of nine deities possess an eight-pointed representation?
A relatively recent theory states that the symbol represents the first eight deities—those who existed before the birth of Kol Korran, the only second-generation god outside the Dark Six. This, proponents maintain, is the source
of Kol Korran’s acquisitive nature; he seeks the recognition that he feels is rightfully his but has been denied him.
A much more obscure hypothesis, espoused by only the most eccentric theologians, is that the Octogram represents the eight “levels” of souls that make up the inhabitants of reality: angels, beasts, demons, departed souls, dragons (the original Three, not those currently in existence), fey, gods, and mortals. Completely alien races, such as the quori, do not appear on this list because they are not part of our reality.
The most widely accepted thought holds that the Octogram in fact represents the original pantheon—not only the current Sovereign Host, but the Dark Six as well. The fact that the symbol comes in two colors, with eight points, refers to sixteen actual entities. This theory is supported by ancient texts that refer to the original pantheon as “Nine and Six and One.”
To what does the “One” refer? Again, many theories abound. Some maintain that it is Eberron itself. A few theorists believe this indicates the presence of some long-lost deity. Such a claim is patently ridiculous. The Dark Six were actively banished, yet they are hardly forgotten or impotent; to claim that a deity could have been “lost” from the Host is without merit. (Note: In the book Storm Dragon the possibility of a lost deity, the first of 16, is revealed.)
The theory held in highest regard states that the “One” is the Sovereign Host as a whole. This is supported by the Doctrine of the Divine Host, as well as a few translations of the pantheon as “Nine and Six in One.” This suggests that the pantheon can take actions without any debate or discussion among its members. It just does what needs to be done, as a single being. This would explain how the Dark Six could be “banished ” from the pantheon; they simply ceased to be included in the actions of the Host itself.
In the minds of some of those who disdain the Sovereign Host, the entire concept of the Schism is nothing other than a political ploy, played out on a priestly, or even divine, scale. The gods of the Dark Six weren’t stripped of their divinity, these critics suggest. They were just “kicked out of the house,” a symbolic gesture if ever there
By an extension of this reasoning, then, the Sovereign Host holds no true grudge against the Dark Six, any more than a cliff holds a grudge against the seas or the winds that pound at it. Rather, the Schism was an attempt by Vassals to distance their patrons from the death and destruction caused by the Dark Six and the nastier forces
A question frequently heard, in my capacity as liturgical scholar, is “Where do Vassals believe the gods come from? ”
This is a tricky proposition. This is a faith founded on the belief that the gods are an intrinsic part of the world. Yet the gods did not create the world; that was Eberron’s doing. (Eberron might herself be the world, depending on how literally one interprets the ancient myths.) And nothing in mythology suggests that Eberron had either the desire or the capability to create gods. How, then, did they come about?
The most widely accepted theory among scholarly circles states that the gods were indeed created by Eberron when she formed the world, but as—if you’ ll forgive my referring to the divine in a somewhat unflattering manner—accidental byproducts, not as a deliberate act. The creation of the world wrought numerous changes in the shape of reality itself, gathering and combining inconceivable amounts of mystical energy. This theory holds that the gods emerged from these energies alongside the world—that they are, quite literally, the children of creation.
A version of this theory pairs Eberron with Siberys. Its supporters note that Vassals of many disparate cultures have all depicted the Sovereigns as dragons. They claim that the Sovereigns were the true children of Eberron
and Siberys: mighty dragons who ascended to divinity after the defeat of Khyber’s vile fiends. Another belief, widely considered heretical, states that the gods didn’t exist until mortals did, that mortal belief in a higher power actually created the gods. I need not tell you what most Vassals think of people who espouse that concept. Several theories hold that the gods actually predate the creation of the world. One such theory, relatively unpopular and slowly dying, claims that the gods hail from realities outside our own, much as do celestials or the daelkyr. The gods came through some planar rift to Eberron, possibly during the act of creation, and settled
here. Few Vassals like this theory, as it implies that their patrons are, in a sense, alien.
A second pre-creation theory states that the gods existed in this reality along with the three Dragons, and that they took the world of Eberron under their care after it came into being. Some even suggest that the gods caused Eberron to create (become?) the world.
Myth and holy scripture apply ethics and morality— alignment, in game terms—to each of the gods. In Eberron, faith alone powers the magic of clerics and adepts, and grants the faithful the strength to overcome the travails of everyday life. Still, many less devout or less well-educated individuals assume that the vast majority of a group of worshipers should match the general ethical leanings of their gods. After all, wouldn’t a person naturally be drawn to a deity with a similar outlook on the world? Certainly this idea holds some element of accuracy in certain faiths: The Church of the Silver Flame, for instance, boasts more than its allotment of corruption in the ranks, but the majority of its followers do indeed share the same general goals and moral leanings as the Flame is said to hold. Still, a worshiper need not follow a deity’s creed—the Sovereign Host perfectly illustrates
this larger truth about the nature of Eberron and the divine. Alignment has little to do with a Vassal’s choice of whom to pray to; even the more focused Disciples consider many other factors when determining if their world view matches up with their patron’s. Arawai, god of agriculture, is considered to be a kind, benevolent power, yet evil people farm the land as well as good. Both the virtuous and the wicked alike seek Olladra’s good fortune and blessing. Again, because the gods oversee every aspect of the world, it is their specific areas of influence that attract worshipers, rather than any nebulous and ill-defined sense of divine alignment. A Vassal would no more ignore one of the gods over matters of morality than he would ignore the rain or the crowds in the streets of a city for the same reason.
It is an open secret among Vassals across Khorvaire that a great many of them—possibly even a majority—carry this attitude to its logical conclusion. Specifically, despite the banishment of the Dark Six from the pantheon, many Vassals offer occasional prayers to the Sovereign Host’s wicked brethren. These are usually prayers of supplication, not reverence or veneration, attempts to turn aside the wrath of the natural (or unnatural) forces over which these gods hold sway. Few of these Vassals would consider themselves worshipers of the Dark Six, or in any way disloyal to the Sovereign Host. They simply acknowledge that these darker aspects are part of the world, and it is wiser not to offend them.
SOULS AND THE AFTERLIFE
According to Vassal belief, just as the gods are present in all aspects of the world, they are present in all living things. The soul is a tiny fragment of the divine, the animating spark that allows life to exist. Unfortunately, as the years of mortality pass, the individual spark loses what makes it divine, preventing the soul from returning to the gods, or even remaining on Eberron indefinitely. The afterlife of Dolurrh is not a place of punishment; it is a realm devoid of divinity, the one place where the Sovereign Host holds no sway.
Why worship, then, if it offers no alternative to the gray eternity of Dolurrh? Simply put, Vassals believe in honoring and thanking the gods for the life they have, for an existence on Eberron—however short—that can be made better. By honoring the Host, Vassals hope the gods will in turn grant them happiness in this life, if not the next.
Additionally, though it is rarely spoken of, many Vassals cling to a faint hope inspired by a few ancient myths and scriptures. According to this belief, mortals’ worship enables the gods to spread to other realms, even as missionaries spread their word to other lands. These Vassals believe that in some distant future, the Sovereign Host might finally extend its presence to Dolurrh, and the afterlife will change from a place of dull emptiness to a world of divine light.
SERVANTS OF THE SOVEREIGN HOST
Vassals are the most numerous worshipers in Khorvaire, and since they believe the gods are intrinsic to everyday life, a slightly larger proportion become priests than do members of other faiths. Only a very small percentage of those Vassals who call themselves priests are actually clerics, however. The majority of priests are simple men and women—possibly experts or nobles by class—who have devoted their lives to serving their religion and aiding others in leading a life of piety and reverence. Only the most devout of the devout have faith enough to work magic, and most of them do so only weakly. These are represented through the adept class. True clerics (or other divine casters, such as paladins or favored souls) embody the pinnacle of devotion, and are rare indeed.
The term priest conjures up images of a devout Vassal leading a congregation in prayer, or advising members of a community how best to deal with a crisis, or performing similar duties. This concept does not, however, reflect a universal truth. In fact, while the majority of priests of the Sovereign Host are leaders of the community or at least of the church, a substantial minority accept no such duties.
These unusual priests are often itinerant, refusing to stay long in any one place. Some seek to do their gods’ bidding by spreading their worship, healing and tending to the flock, or—in the case of more adventuresome priests—hunting down and destroying enemies of the Sovereign Host and the natural world. Others seek only to be left alone to contemplate their faith, holy scripture, or the mysteries of the gods’ interaction with nature. These wanderers have come to be known as evangelists, friars, and priests errant, the latter two terms borrowed from the Church of the Silver Flame. Vassal reaction to these itinerant priests depends on circumstances and the proclivities of the evangelist in question. Towns that lack much religious guidance of their own, or that are besieged by criminals, monsters, or misfortune, welcome a priest errant with joy and thanksgiving. On the other hand, those wanderers who seek to escape the duties of their station, who care little for helping others but only for meditating on their own beliefs, are viewed with scorn. A few Vassals respect their deeply held faith, but most see itinerant priests as having turned their backs on the people they are intended to guide.
An unusually high percentage (though still a minority) of wandering priests are true clerics. Whether this is a sign of divine favor, or simply a matter of survival—only clerics are capable of bringing miracles to those who need them or of battling any great evils they might come across—is unclear. In any event, this has led some Vassals
in distant communities to believe that only wandering priests have such powers, and thus they turn away from their local clergy.
COMING TO THE FAITH
In a religion that sees the gods’ presence everywhere, is there any need to be a priest? Simply living is service to the gods, is it not? So what sort of person chooses to become a priest? The answers to that question are as varied as the priests themselves, but Vassals generally become priests of the Sovereign Host for one (or more) of five reasons.
Faith: It is self-evident, but worth mentioning nonetheless. Some Vassals feel so strongly about their religion that living an ordinary life is not sufficient. They must serve the gods as directly as possible, and they must share their faith with others. This is the most common motivation for becoming a priest of the Sovereign Host among citizens of large communities, such as cities and big villages.
Duty: Others step into the role of priest because someone has to do it. Perhaps they feel that people in their community are spiritually adrift or need someone to speak for them to the local government. These priests are often community leaders as much as religious ones.
Security: Although it is less common now than it once was, a number of people still join the priesthood for
financial security. Younger children, who stand to inherit little or nothing from their families, and people who seem unable to make a living at other pursuits, sometimes attempt to join the priesthood purely as a vocation.
Power: The priesthood of the Sovereign Host does not have as rigid a hierarchy as, say, the Church of the Silver Flame, but an internal power structure does exist. As the most widespread of the major religions, the Vassals have significant influence over a great many of Khorvaire’s nations, and even more over individual communities. It’s an unfortunate truth that certain priests of the Sovereign Host—just as with other religions—see not the gods’ glory burning like a beacon before them, but their own. Some honestly believe they can do more good in a position of power; others are interested only in their own advancement.
Accident: It seems odd, but many priests of the Sovereign Host obtain their position entirely by accident. The Host’s priesthood does not use intense training and ritual to identify the truly faithful as some faiths do. Becoming a priest requires little in the way of knowledge unavailable to the average layperson. Particularly in small communities, but occasionally in larger ones, certain individuals slowly gain a reputation for wisdom, or even holiness. Perhaps a person is a well-loved and devout community leader, or particularly faithful, or abnormally good at something, such as crafting or performing, so that it seems a blessing from the gods themselves. Vassals might decide that an abnormally skilled farmer has formed a bond with Arawai through his labors; a skilled blacksmith has bonded with Onatar through her craft; or a potent warrior has somehow joined his strikes and steps with Dol Dorn. People come to such individuals for advice, or ask them to lead a prayer, and before they know it, they have stepped (or been pushed) into the role of priest. The formal priesthood of the Host doesn’t automatically recognize such “accidental” priests, but will do so after a bit of examination. Even without such official recognition, communities in which this occurs are generally distant from the larger cities and centers of political and religious power. Why should they care whether their priest is recognized by some distant bureaucrat who knows nothing about the person or the community?
Chosen of the Gods
A small movement is spreading through the priesthood, one that many experts either don’t know about or dismiss. These people believe that priests who stumble into their role should not only be automatically recognized, but that they are actually superior to other priests. If someone fits the role so perfectly as to be pushed into it by the community, isn’t that the best way to cement the people’s faith in their priests? Isn’t that a sign that the gods want that individual to speak for them?
This isn’t the most popular idea among the more orthodox priesthood. Even priests who aren’t power-hungry don’t necessarily like sharing what they have with people who haven’ t “earned ” their positions. Others are hesitant simply because the process has no safeguards to keep an evil but deceptive or charming individual from rising to an influential post. So far, the movement hasn’t gotten very far, but it’s only a matter of time before the higher-ups of the faith have to deal with it.
BECOMING A PRIEST
It is possible to become a priest of the Sovereign Host with only a modicum of religious knowledge, and sometimes without even trying to do so. That said, anyone who seeks to rise within the priesthood, to gain the respect of his peers, or to truly able to guide and protect his congregation, requires formal training and education in ecclesiastical—and possibly mystical—matters. A would-be priest in the earliest stages of training is called an acolyte, and she must place herself completely under the tutelage and care of a more experienced priest.
This is done in one of three ways.
The preferred method is to attend a Sovereign Host seminary. Such seminaries can be found in almost every major city across Khorvaire (excluding such obvious exceptions as Flamekeep—the heart of the Silver Flame—and cities in nations that frown on the Host, such as Droaam). The Heirs of the Host Seminary in Wroat, Breland, and the Gods’ Grace Academy in Tanar Rath, Karrnath, are the most prestigious. Competition to enroll in these schools is fierce, despite the steep tuition and difficult courses. Priests who emerge from these seminaries are widely respected by most Vassals, although some faithful consider them aloof and superior. Priests who take the cloth through a seminary are far more likely to be granted their own congregation in a major city than others, and few of them spend much time traveling among border communities and small towns.
For those who cannot reach (or afford) a seminary, apprenticeship in an active temple is the next best thing. Although the Sovereign Host does not boast grand cathedrals on the scale of those built by the Silver Flame, or winding catacombs such as those in Aerenal, many of its temples and shrines are large and elaborate. Priests appoint acolytes to perform duties such as maintaining the altars, arranging appointments, and doing research. The best ensure that their acolytes gain substantial liturgical knowledge, as well as experience in conducting ceremonies; the worst treat their acolytes as bonded servants. An acolyte who has served in such a capacity for several years, who can prove knowledge of the liturgy, and who obtains a positive recommendation is ready to lead a congregation.
The final option, and the one given least credence by the more tradition-bound members of the priesthood, is to become an apprentice to a priest outside of a temple environment. The mentor might be a village preacher, a wandering evangelist, or some other priest who does not have a congregation of his own. Such priests are fully capable of teaching the basics of faith and scripture, but the acolyte does not gain experience in managing a temple or a regular congregation. Furthermore, itinerant priests are held in suspicion by certain other members of the clergy, who assume—accurately or not—that they must be deficient in some way not to merit their own temples. Thus, acolytes who receive such outside training warrant close scrutiny if they ever attempt to settle in a Host-dominated area, and are often heavily tested, or even required to undergo additional training, before they are permitted to lead their own congregations.
The more organized among the priesthood subject candidates to various tests to determine their capabilities. These are tests in the truest sense of the word: written and oral questions that determine the individual’s knowledge and ability. The trials includes intense questioning on religious doctrine and history, as well as dealing with social and moral crises. The testing can take weeks, with many days devoted to hypothetical scenarios that adjudge reaction to a given danger or disaster. This constitutes the final period of seminary training, so all priests trained in those establishments must pass these tests. Individually trained priests, however, might take office without ever being exposed to them.