Skaris Settlement in Arclands | World Anvil


Written by Verse_Online



    Skaris is a theocratic city state at the southernmost end of the Greater Arc Sea situated between Harenis and Hothis. The youngest of the nine cities of the Arclands it was founded by Elunre Ashtar, an Aruhvian prophetess believed by the Skarisi to have founded the city on the orders of the Grace Y’Vestan as the last earthly haven for the true Aruhvian faith. Since the Council of Gol Aruhvianism was in deep crisis. Belief in the omnipotence and omniscience of The Keeper was all but extinguished and for many the Orthodox Aruhvianism practiced by Arc was more a civic religion than a convincing theology. Organised around the city’s ten towers, known as Sphera, Skarisi society is highly stratified, strictly divided into three castes: the Touramines, lukewarm lay people, not particularly skilled or industrious and easy prey to temptation, the Adramine, skilled craftsmen, administrators and scholars, whose industry enabled the Skaris’ highest caste the Ulmine to reach the summit of virtue, freeing them from worldly pursuits and allowing them to pursue a life of the spirit, as cenobites, hierarchs or holy warriors, according to their calling. Skarisi law takes the four principal virtues of Aruhvianism: Poverty, Piety, Purity, Purge, to their extremes, imposing a life of strict obedience to these precepts on the city’s denizens, marked by self-mortification and the embrace of suffering, punishing dissent and heresy with unimaginable cruelty. As such the Skarisi are feared and hated throughout the Arclands as dangerous fanatics bent on imposing their way of life on the rest of Aestis, particularly their hated rivals Hothis, which Elunre hated for its perceived degeneracy, and [Arc , Skaris’ theological rival and the city-state it defines itself against  

Social Structure

  Skarisi society is predicated on a rigid caste system. The lower castes, the Touramines and Adramine are the backbone of the temporal economy and provide the material basis for a sacred economy. Skaris’ self-defined purpose is the production of purity and its concentration in a single caste the Ulmine, in which scarcity is always a spiritual praxis as opposed to a worldly necessity. Separated from the necessity of temporal work, the spiritual work of the Ulmine takes on a sacred character. Even the self-imposed poverty of Skaris’ medicant orders entails a squandering of wealth created by the productive classes, in the form of sacrifices. Contrary to more charitable orders the medicant orders produce their poverty serving to sacralise excess wealth through its ritual destruction. Skaris seeks to maintain a balance between the creation and squandering of wealth, distinguishing between pure production, directed at producing a caste of pure beings capable of communion with The Keeper (the Ulmine) the impure excesses of that productive process, which can be purified through ritual destruction. The Ulmine’s purity serves as a redemptive end for a productive process that is, in and of itself, impure and spiritually degrading. The degradation inherent in the worldly vocations of the Touramines and Adramines precludes direct communion with the Keeper as necessity directs their attention to the things of this world. They cannot be saved through their own efforts and thus the burden of their salvation falls upon the Ulmine, for whom true purity begins when self-purification gives way to general purification. Skaris seeks to elevate penance into an obsessive accountancy, rationalising all the iniquities of history in a sacred penitential geometry that compresses time into pain on a mathematical basis so that a century of iniquity can be accounted for in a six days of pain and mortification, so that every minute of that century has its own corresponding act, and so that the body of the penitent bears upon it, like the rings of a tree strump, the days of a sacred calendar, and thus inheres themselves with time in imitation of The Keeper in whose eternal essence all time is interred.   Skaris has a very high population density, it was built with unusual urgency and since its inception has never once sprawled outside its marble walls. The city has expanded upwards, through its ten sphera, great towers connected together by an intricate network of walkways, with the lowest classes concentrated at the bottom and the highest residing in the upper levels. While the cenobitic and idiorrhythmic monasticism, practiced by Skaris’ sacred orders, follows in a long tradition that predates their schism with Arc by over a thousand years, the third form of Skarisi monasticism, anchorpyric monasticism, emerged exclusively from the sphera. At the topmost level of every sphera sits a great pyre each tended to by a different anchorpyric order. In this form of monasticism the tending of the fire is the sole organising principle of monastic life. No devotional practice is permitted unless it derives the duties necessary to sustain the fire and elevates them into a form of communion with the Keeper. The imagery of, fire in particular, resonates strongly with the Skarisi imagination as a metonym for purity. Purification to the Skarisi is a form of immolation. It is prophesised that if the fires are ever allowed to go out the doom of Skaris will swiftly follow. Many Skarisi envisage that this end will come about not through a singular catastrophe, like the tsunami that destroyed the city of Gol, but a slow and painful decay. Skarisi scholarly consensus views the fires as the corporeal expression of Skaris’ inner state, which persists long after the real fire has been extinguished. The sacred fire, expressed on the physical plane through the pyres, is the purity of the city, which given the metonymic proximity of the words purity and fire in Skarisi discourse, is often interpreted as the fire the prophesy refers to. This prophesy was said to be a fragment of that given by the Grace Y’Vestan to Elunre Ashtar overheard by her spiritual daughter, Atasa of the Pyre, Elunre is said to have taken its secret to her grave saying only that His words are the fire that immolates that which can hear them.  


  The Skarisi economy is relatively small and self-contained compared to the great trading centres of Taeor and Arc. The primary industries of the Adramines and Tourmines are tanning, fletching, fishing and masonry, embalming and textiles. Trade is strictly regulated by a number of guilds which form the commercial arm of the Skarisi clergy. Since usury is anathema under Skarisi law in return for sponsoring a trader or craftsman the guild takes a share as a partner of their business and increases the tithe all Skarisi citizens must pay towards their tithe. In return they receive the services of a bookkeeper from the Guild free of charge who ensures that the accounts of a given business are recorded correctly and acts as the guild’s representative as the partner in the business. All debts must be payed, but instead of accruing interest the debtor accrues penance. A person who goes into such a partnership is no longer considered a discrete individual but a representative of the Skarisi state and thus must never bring them into disrepute through conduct contrary to the values of the Skarisi clergy. While this moral debt can be offset by wealthier Skarisis through penitential absolution from the most sacred among the Ulmine, those without such connections or contacts must bear the burden themselves, each act of penance enforced by their bookkeepers. Skarisi finance is marketed to the outside world as a pious and safer alternative to Arcite finance, which often leads to indentured servitude. Every few months Skaris buys the debt of a number of debtors due for the Oboline in a public amnesty. Through these amnesties Skaris endeavours to create the impression among the Skarisi poor or indebted that those who defect from Arc to Skaris will be protected from their Arcite creditors where they swell the ranks of the Touramines or Adramines increasing Skaris’ limited manpower and boosting the city’s economy.  


  Though ostensibly the most conservative and parochial city-state of the Arclands, Skaris is a leading centre of scholarship in Aestis, second only to Harenis. Its seminary system is divided into two tiers. The lower schools, known as chroniks, provide a purely vocational education for low to mid-level bureaucrats and priests, training them both ideologically, in the dogma of Skarisi Aruhvianism, and administratively to ensure that they serve as effective functionaries of the Skarisi state. The higher seminaries, known as dycrits, are the experimental theological, mystical, and penitential laboratories from which the city draws its elite. Heretical ideas are examined with even greater seriousness than those of Aruvian doctrine, since the bodily and intellectual purification of the elite clerical class, for which the induction into seminary life is a intensive form of initiation, depends upon direct intellectual and affective knowledge of every deviation from orthodoxy. These elite, theologically experimental seminaries, restricted to the elite among the Ulmine. as attempting to redefine ascetic and penitential practices, steeping seminarians in the heresies they will be responsible for defining and rooting out and pushing existing modes of spirituality to their radical conclusions. They are places of extreme torture and affective experimentation, steeped in a tradition of ethical licence. This licence is exceptionally appealing to scholars whose fields of study which push and go beyond ethical limits and thus it is the leading institution for a number of forbidden fields, including the study of pain, as well as forbidden artefacts recovered from Gol, with highly unique and dangerous properties. Much of Skaris’ surplus wealth is invested in retrieving dangerous artefacts and collating forbidden texts many of which are sourced from the clandestine trade in scholarly artefacts that centres around Taeor. Though their resources are more limited than the Harenian colleges their ethical laxity and interdisciplinarity has lead the Skarisi dycrits to collate the largest known collection of forbidden knowledge and artefacts outside of Mordikhaan moreover many teachers and students of the seminary are drawn from the ranks of those expelled from Harenis. Concerned with a growing exodus of capable but unorthodox scholars to the dycrits of Skaris, the colleges of Harenis are slowly becoming more tolerant of ethically dubious research and have often to shared their knowledge and resources with Skaris in return for access to its collections. While there has been increased contact between the two scholarly communities and well publicised collaborations between leading Skarisi and Harenian scholars both sides are distrustful of the other and many in the Skarisi seminaries believe that once the Harenian colleges plumb the secrets of the dycrits’ libraries and research methods they will be cast out once again with little or nothing lasting to show for it.    


    When Elunre Ashtar died, she left five followers behind, each of whom renounced their name and took on a new identity given to them by her. They were known as Brother Khaar, Brother Zene, Sister Nye, Sister Tor, Sister Aram. This group of five was given the role of ruling Skaris in Elunre's stead in her final days, but no instruction was left after she passed away. In the absence of spiritual guidance, the Coven of the Five appointed itself as the new ruling authority in Skaris, quickly gaining the backing of Skaris's army and its rising class of Dycrit inquisitors, the Skargoline. It is difficult to know anything about the coven for certain, and it is by far the most secret governing organisation in the Arclands. However, evidence suggests that in the first months of its existence, a brutal power struggle took place, placing Sister Nye as the lead member of the five. As each generation of the coven reaches their final years, they are released from the burden of rulership and are allowed to live out their final days and Dyacas, the Southern Tower (Skaris's only other outpost in the Blackbriar Forest). The coven never directly address the public or engage in anything that resembles politics; instead they summon civic and military officials to an audience with the coven in order to communicate the will of the five. Often speaking in the arcane, esoteric and obscure language of Ashtarian Aruhvianism, they invite those who serve them to interpret their will and that of the Keeper. They wear five stone masks, given to the original coven by Elunre Ashtar herself.     Do you want more lore? Get weekly updates on World Anvil and the Arclands Blog straight to your email inbox, PLUS our list of fifty mysterious trinkets to delight and enchant your adventuring party. Get your copy here.

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Skarisi Acolyte NPCs


High Acolyte Zaraeth

(Skarisi) As the High Acolyte of the Ashtarian temple in Skaris, Zaraeth is a feared and respected figure. His cold demeanor and ruthless efficiency make him a formidable leader. He is known for his mastery of poison and often uses it to eliminate those who challenge the faith.  

Brother Korvald

(Skarisi) A fervent believer in Ashtarianism, Brother Korvald is a skilled torturer who extracts information and confessions from enemies of the faith. His twisted creativity and knowledge of anatomy make him a terrifying presence within the temple.  

Sister Elsira

(Skarisi) An expert fighter, Sister Elsira uses her religious zeal to fuel her combat prowess. She is known for her brutal efficiency and unwavering dedication to Ashtarianism, taking down foes with a cold and calculated precision.  

Acolyte Ulgar

(Skarisi) Ulgar is an expert in infiltration and espionage, often sent on missions to gather intelligence and uncover the secrets of the faith's enemies. His ability to blend into any situation and his ruthless methods make him a valuable asset to the temple.  

Sister Vorena

(Skarisi) An adept poisoner, Sister Vorena concocts deadly toxins and venoms for the temple's use. She is well-versed in the art of subtlety and often employs her creations to eliminate threats before they can even realize they are in danger.  

Brother Iskandar

(Skarisi) A skilled interrogator, Brother Iskandar uses his intimidating presence and extensive knowledge of psychological manipulation to break the wills of those who oppose Ashtarianism. His methods are cruel and unrelenting, earning him a fearsome reputation.  

Acolyte Thorne

(Skarisi) Thorne is a battle-hardened warrior, trained in various forms of combat. He is often sent on dangerous missions to protect the faith and its followers, dispatching enemies with his brutal fighting style and unwavering dedication to Ashtarianism.  

Sister Valira

(Skarisi) A relentless hunter of heretics, Sister Valira tracks down and eliminates those who dare to defy the tenets of Ashtarianism. Her keen instincts and ruthless efficiency make her a formidable opponent, feared by all who oppose the faith.  

Brother Jarek

(Skarisi) A skilled weaponsmith, Brother Jarek forges weapons for the temple's warriors, imbuing them with the cold cruelty of the Ashtarian faith. His craftsmanship is unparalleled, and his creations are as deadly as they are beautiful.  

Acolyte Kaelis

(Skarisi) Kaelis is an expert in psychological warfare, using his deep understanding of fear and terror to demoralize and break the spirits of the faith's enemies. His cruel methods and cold-heartedness make him a valuable asset to the temple's efforts to spread Ashtarianism
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