All life begins with one moment. When the World Ember's light touched the Anvil of Creation, none could prevent the flourishing of the Garden from the spark of Chaos. Or so this is the beliefs of the ancient druidic traditions lost to time in our lands of the Holy See - and amongst these beliefs only one exists which we cannot disprove with our superior knowledge gifted by the Divines; The Grey.
Life exists on the Mortal Realm in a different state to the rest of the Great Dance. Not only is life unique and diverse, but it is the only Realm in which the lifeforms are truly mortal, due to the existence of not only the Body and Soul, but also the Mind. Debate amongst the scholars and theologians, especially within the Holy See, persists on the cause of the Mortal Realm's unique nature in the cosmology. The leading religious outlook on this phenomenon being due to the understanding that the Mortal Realm was not originally a part of the Great Dance, but the Celestial Gods upon discovering the Realm graciously brought it into their fold so that mortality may benefit from their influence.
Through scholastic sanctuary, however, the Citadel of Scholars in Goldwater is officially exempt from complying with the beliefs of the Holy See to pursue their monotheistic faith in Hamaskus. With this, many scholars now led by infamously radical Candlebishop Henrique have studied the belief systems of the deemed heretical Druid culture. Through discoveries at archaeological sites as well as clandestine meetings with surviving tribal 'Circles', publications have since been brought forward into the Mortal Realm in an attempts to allow civilisation to understand the cultures that came before them, and why these Circles who refuse to worship the Gods still hold out.
The Great Dance, as all cultures understand, is the constant revolving of the Realms in the cosmology around Light and Dark, manifest as Lumen and Umbra Realms respectively. Where Light and Dark collides, there is true Chaos born from the harsh collision of two opposites. Things created from this Chaos are formed with three eyes, including our own deities, and these eyes each represent the three parts of reality: Body; Soul; Mind. These beings are unable to live in harmony.
The druids speak of a time before the Gods, where Light and Dark could combine in harmony over a Garden that could flourish life. This life became born from the mixing of Light and Dark rather than the collision, thus becoming Grey. The Garden was lost long ago, and as it drifted out into the Aether and the equilibrium was lost with it, hence the birthing of Chaos and the Gods with it and why the druids refuse to worship it.
The Grey, however, is believed to have left within the beating heart of the Garden, what we now call the Mortal Realm. Therefore, while not fully showing it physically, every living being on the Garden is inhabited by the Grey and contains all of Body, Soul and Mind.
The Body is the physical manifestation of the Grey, a material husk which possesses both the Soul and Mind. Upon death, the Body is left behind on the Garden to cultivate the soil of the Realm. It will decay and pass away into nothingness, instead of other Realms' inhabitants forming part of the Realm itself or being reborn.
The Soul is the magical manifestation of the Grey, which the druids believe to be lifeforce which fuels the Body's motions. It is known to be a blank slate within the Body, which reflects the actions of the Body throughout its life. If unbound from the Body, the Soul becomes unstable energy.
Upon death, the Soul is known to pass on to Mortis Realm which was created by the Great Hag Throff as a means to capture the Souls of the Garden and place the volatile magical energy within a Realm for the Dead. Here, as is understood by the Holy See, Throff would take advantage of a person's Soul and twist it into a new lifeform without Body or Mind known as a Fiend, where humanoids would become Devils and animals Demons. This is known to be the reason why Throff will persist to be a danger to the God-loving mortals of the Great Dance.
Since the failure of the Invasion on Mortis Realm, where the Gods allied with the Dragons in an attempt to destroy Throff and her Fiends at the passing of the Second Era into the Third Era, the Goddess Sindla has continued a Siege. With a foothold at the top surface of Mortis Realm, the Soul is judged when it passes after death. A Soul is assessed and evaluated for its virtue as a reflection of the Body's life, and if Sindla's judges view a Soul to be worthy enough it will be transported to the Realm of the Gods in Chaos known as Magus Realm. Here, the Souls are re-forged into new magical Bodies. Warriors loyal to the Gods known as Risen, an army ready for the destined war to come between Mortis and Magus which will destabilise the Great Dance forever.
With the Soul being a constant combustion of magical energy, the Mind is the outcome of this which only truly becomes apparent after death. The Mind is the personality and emotions of the Body which are influenced by the reflections of the Soul. Upon death, the Mind will usually pass on to the Aether to become a star, but it may sometimes manifest as a small coin-like object in Mortis Realm if promised to a Fiend.
Candlebishop Henrique makes a special note on the importance of the Mind on the religion of the druids. There are two states which the druids believe life revolves around concerning the Grey: Seelie
. The Mind can be tortured emotionally by huge stress being placed mentally on the Body and therefore a shattered reflection of the Soul. These Minds become unbound - Unseelie - and will not be able to pass on outside the Garden and will remain as a Spirit
; a physical manifestation of the pain the Mind was forced through its life. The Unseelie Spirit is malicious through its tormented nature, constant emotion trapped in the state of breaking. An infamous example of these Unseelie Spirits are the Sluagh
The Way of Seelie is the lifepath of most druid circles, to understand the triad of the Grey and taking active measures to protect the Mind so that it will remain Seelie. A Seelie Mind remaining bound and controlled allows it to peacefully pass and become a star, to be seen forevermore in the Aether connecting all of reality, Light Dark and Grey.
Manifestations of the Grey
In the second half of Candlebishop Henrique's publications, he goes on to depict the trifecta of the Grey, Time, and Destiny, each in their own right having three distinct "manifestations". These manifestations of the Grey have been depicted by a single female individual, whose age conveys different meanings when witnessed.
All evidence to these manifestations existing comes only from those who are born from the Garden, leading to Candlebishop Henrique coming to the conclusion the manifestations are connected directly to the Grey and may not even be physical and potentially the Mind or Soul extending outward of the Body for that individual.
Intriguingly, Candlebishop Henrique doesn't attribute any other alternative cultural names for this manifestation, leading many to believe the Maiden is a Realm-wide unified phenomenon. The Maiden is witnessed at birth, and is strongly connected to the concept of magic - especially Second Sight.
When a person is born, the Grey likes to witness, and appears as a youthful maiden in a black robe which no one will recognise in the room but no one will remember afterwards. If the person who delivered the child remembers the Maiden, it is more likely than not that the child will be gifted with innate magical abilities such as Sorcery.
Also known in other cultures as the 'Washer of Sorrow' or 'Peace', and is always seen as a spinster at the banks of a loch or flowing river with grey robes flowing seemingly endlessly away from her. A large section of the robe is stained red in a thick coating of blood which the Washerwoman constantly scrubs.
The Washerwoman is witnessed by those who have a great loss coming soon in their life, and is known to bring a calming feeling of appreciating something coming to an end, or an immense fear of the death of something physical or metaphorical. This reaction depends on the actions of the individual.
Ignoring the Washerwoman causes no reaction except a lack of knowledge. Demanding something of the Washerwoman causes her to be blunt and the individual will see what or who will die's blood being scrubbed from her robe. Asking politely or offering a favour will instead give the individual a riddle which will reveal the truth on what will end whether it be a chapter in someone's life or a true death.
Also known in other cultures as the 'Reaper' or 'Death', and is always seen as a feminine figured black skeleton shrouded in white robes. The Crone holds a billhook and is most commonly seen after death rather than during it.
Communicating with a Soul that has retained its memories long enough to be contacted in Mortis Realm is extremely rare and difficult to achieve, and according to Henrique's findings all share witnessing the Crone. Despite not appearing like an old woman, each individual have claimed to have felt like it was one.
The Crone is believed to transport the Soul from the Body into Mortis Realm, and is witnessed taking an individual out of their burial place and holding their hand as they descend a spiral staircase into the Halls of Sindla to be judged.
While younger generations of the Hermetic Orders of Hamaskus are too inexperienced to think otherwise in relation to Candlebishop Henrique's publications on this subject, the subject of "manifestations" brings with it considerable debate, especially since Henrique's passing. The evidence provided for these sections of his work come only from obscure folklore rather than solid academic evidence, and out of those who accept the Maiden, Washerwoman and Crone phenomenon may exist there is a question of whether it is connected solely or at all to the Grey.
Some point to other obscure manifestations of the Grey, such as the Serpent
, or the fact that each of this trifecta have direct links to both concepts of Time and Destiny, not just Mortality like the Grey is. In fact, in the University of Divination
based in the town of Goldton
just outside the Citadel of Scholars, there are several statues and depictions strikingly similar to what Henrique called the Washerwoman though is never mentioned in his studies. Additionally, many scholars of the Holy See draw similarities between the Maiden and their depiction of Lady Galana
. Due to this controversy, the publications of Candlebishop Henrique have on occasion been brought into question as to whether a confirmation bias was present or not.