Information derived from the Holy Doctrine of the Defender of Mortals, and the legal codes of Canon Law in the Holy See
The Year of the Quaking Earth raged on through the early Third Era as Courga and Sindla continued to argue in Magus Realm. This was until Lady Galana, fearing the shouting of Celestial would tear apart Her Mortal Realm, suggested that each should choose a mortal champion to settle the argument on their behalf. As such, the first Templar Orders were founded, one dedicated to Sindla and another to Courga. The period of earthquakes ended as the Masters of both Order met to duel out the fates of the Gods. In the end, Courga's Champion won and Sindla was bound to not re-invade Mortis Realm yet. So introduced onto the Mortal Realm the concept of judicial combat and the Templar Orders who would come to as they are now known to be Paladin Orders. For the Gods and their Angels, much work went underway to convert the language of Celestial to written form, fearing that if they were to come to such a rage once more their spoken words would destroy the Great Dance.
In the Pantheon of the Holy See, Sindla the Defender of Mortals is the Goddess of the Grave, Courage and Vigilance whose purpose is to guide the Souls of those who pass from the Mortal Realm into Mortis Realm and gift the virtuous a second life in Magus Realm, the home of the Gods. Temples in the Holy See Territories dedicated to Sindla are known as Sindleions, built on Sindla's Acres which are lands gifted by Galana to Sindla so that there would be a place for Bodies to be buried.
The priesthood of Sindla in these Sindleions are varied though few in number. One of the sorry tasks within the Holy See Territories is to distribute legal death as per the alliance between Sindla and Courga. The Merciful Ones are single individuals in each parish of the Holy See who act as priests, executioners and judicial champions for trial by combat.
The Merciful One is a priest or priestess of Sindla who has not taken the Clerical Path or risen into the Bishopric of the Holy See, and sacrifices any life of progress in the temple or greater society to enact the required work of society. This resembles the sacrifice of Sindla to refrain from re-invading Mortis Realm until She had Courga's consent as it was for the greater good.
Traditionally, the Merciful One is supposed to be the child from the union of professional faithful of Courga and Sindla, either priests, clerics or paladins. The child is then to be raised like an orphan in a Sindleion until the Merciful One of that parish passes away. However, this cannot always be realistically achieved and so is left to volunteering when a position opens in a parish.
The cultural views of the Merciful One is of revilement in the public, despite being revered in the priesthood. This sentiment originated in the Kingdom of Buerach, though spread quickly to the Kingdom of Analand and the heart of the Holy See itself; the Heldenic States.
Merciful Ones are outcasts of society, never allowed in towns and cities under any circumstances due to the fear and superstition that Spirits surrounded the Merciful Ones and carry bad luck. Executions and trials by combat are always set up outwith civilised settlements to prevent this, and a Merciful One will only live in the Sindleion.
Issues Caused by Cultural Views
Due to this, often despite the position being praised and loved within the priesthood, many potential volunteers in the Buerach - Helden - Analand areas in the modern age are disheartened by the prospects of being shunned completely from society and its pleasures for the rest of their life, not being ready to fully commit to the sacrifice. In this circumstance where no one fills the role, the Parish Sindleion will usually send word to neighbouring parishes to make public their vacant position.
However, there is the rare chance that still yet there is no one willing or available to take up the role of Merciful One when this larger batch of potential volunteers is opened up, as was the case with the Turnbull Parish in 4E 290 where no priest of Sindla in the entire Duchy of Custodia stood up to take the mantle. In this unlikely situation, the Holy See itself takes charge directly taking matters into the hands of the local bishop (though in Turnbull's case due to no parish in Custodia cooperating, the matter was sent to the Archbishop of Doldrei). The Holy See then offer the position to any potential priest of Sindla in the Holy See Territories, where at least one volunteer will exist.
In the interim period where a parish may lack a Merciful One to carry out executions or fight in judicial combat, it is not too uncommon to see neighbouring parish's Merciful Ones to take the mantle for a while and gain the extra pay. If none can make it in time, Canon Law allows for any cleric or paladin of Sindla, Courga or Libra to enact the will of the courts when required.
The primary role of the Merciful One is to enact executions as per the sentences of justices in court-temples dedicated to Courga. Hanging is not a viable option for execution due to the availability of resurrection spells which would reverse any sentencing of judges. Instead, beheading is the preferred option for nobility and peasantry found guilty of extremely serious crimes such as killing a superior or holy man.
However, not all executions have to be enacted by a Merciful One. Traitors and rebels are often hung drawn and quartered with the pieces sent to various locations to send a message against any other insurrections. These forms of summary execution are usually enacted by loyalist nobility in order only to send a message rather than bring justice as per Courga's Canon Law. Any acts of heresy discovered by the Holy See will end in execution via burning at the stake until dust and ash so there is no chance at all of any form of resurrection. As this is a matter of great importance to the Holy See, investigations into heresy and the subsequent executions are conducted by Heldenic Inquisitors.
Death comes to all mortal things on this Realm, but executions in one parish are limited in number compared to average death. A Merciful One, when not tasked with any upcoming executions or other legal commissions, will travel the parish to help collect carcasses of all animals blocking roads or not viable for meat, especially horses. These would be brought back by the Merciful One to the Sindleion where they would be knackered and burned down into by-products to give back to society.
The secondary legal use of Merciful Ones is to act as a judicial champion for when a defendant seeks trial by conduct. The parish which the court serves will seek the local Merciful One to fight on behalf of the prosecution in combat which is usually until first blood though potentially, if the judge wills it, to the death. Sometimes if a nobleman on trial is rich enough, they can seek trial by combat and hire a different parish's Merciful One to fight on their behalf.
Though officially under the remit of being a judicial champion, the fact the Merciful One is already viewed to be cursed to a brutal life means that the courts will hire them out for physical punishment found in the sentence. This can be anything from branding to the cutting off of tongues, fingers, noses or ears, etc.
Tools of the Trade
A Merciful One replaces the black priest robes of Sindleions with more fashionable garments styled into black and yellow stripes to physically show their task being a union between the domains of Sindla and Courga. For executions, this outfit will feature a thick black hood and have their face covered by an emotionless iron mask. For trials by combat, a Merciful One will wear spiked armour, often featuring designs of chains, candles and skulls. A skull with a loop rope around it resembling a hangman's noose will be put round the neck of the champion while the skull hangs down to the chest area. With this specific adornment, they are ready to find the justice Courga seeks.
The Merciful One wield either a greataxe or an executioners sword depending on their personal wealth, as well as a mallet to break the jaw of the executed after they give their final speech. This mallet is used to prevent any information being gleamed from the dead using the spell 'Speak With Dead', which takes the person as how they were when they died. A Merciful One will also care for a weapon of their choice for judicial combat.
Prompts Advent Calendar #13 WorldEmber Article #15 25k Article
Executioner, Headsman, Knacker
Required though reviled
Views of executioners vary in other cultures throughout the Holy See Territories. While utterly reviled in Buerach, Helden and Analand, the view of Merciful Ones are extremely mixed in the Kingdom of Ruddlestone due to the split in culture. In the north, where many Imperial Midlandian veterans settled, Merciful Ones are largely despised in the same manner as in bordering Buerach. However, the further south to the coastline of the Silverlight Sea one travels, the less of this revilement can be seen with the coastal settlements such as Nootka and Monsalvat treating them like just another priest of Sindla. This latter sentiment is also true in the Kingdom of Moravia.
In the Confederation of Vallatorlan and Grand Duchy of Rivercrown, Merciful Ones are not liked in society but aren't quite as despised as they are in the nations to the south of them. Culturally, execution is viewed as a job that requires doing and these people have to do what they are doing. No blame is given to Merciful Ones for getting along with doing a sorry job they were tasked with. However, in more urban cities, Merciful Ones will still struggle to find service for superstitious fear of them bringing Spirits, and it will true in everything but written word that an executioner is forced to live rurally and in Sindleions.
However, in the Principality of Ardena, Merciful Ones are revered as local heroes and paragons of their martial culture punishing those who do not abide with the warrior way of the Ardennese. Often, the recruitment process for Merciful Ones in Ardena is very different to the rest of the Holy See Territories where an individual will join the priesthood for the sole purpose of donning the black-gold robes. When the Merciful One of a parish steps down, the knights of the area will convene and elect one among themselves to becoming the successor, who will then sacrifice their life on the battlefield to walk the path of the dead in the peaceful territories. It should be noted that executions in Ardena often gather large crowds and is seen as a form of public entertainment.
Saint Leopold of Abendland
While Merciful Ones are reviled in Buerach, one became a revered Saint when a Wild Hunt descended upon the Shirelands between Buerach and Helden. As the Sluagh ravaged in a great wintery blistering wind, Leopold of Abendland the Merciful One of the parish donned his judicial armour and rallied the leaderless militia around him. Together they struck out against the rising dead and defended the town from a necromantic siege all Winter.
On his death, the Holy See canonised Leopold granting him the title of patron saint of executioners, local guards and hopeless causes. A Sindleion was built dedicated to Saint Leopold, where a new Paladin Order was founded which follow the footsteps of using the traditions and equipment of Merciful Ones to hunt undead throughout the Holy See Territories.
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