The end justifies the means
Content Warning: Contains descriptions of surgery Before the reformation led by Joshuan Rowe, priests at temples of Nereus used to charge people to access their healing services. In response to this, places sprung up all over Serukis offering cheaper - though, in some cases, more dubious - healing. Whilst secular healers had always existed, providing herbal remedies and midwifery services, these new healers - colloquially called the Butchers - specialised in something else: surgery. Despite Priests of Nereus offering their healing services for free since around 5141 EA, less scrupulous healers still exist. Twenty years ago, in 5326 EA, a law was passed that made it illegal for anyone but a Priest of Nereus to perform surgery after the particularly harrowing case of Aston Sharp.
As the years went by, the thirst for knowledge and innovation grew amongst the Butchers of Serukis. No longer content with the old ways, Butchers competed with each other to come up with new, better treatments. Soon, it was not enough to experiment on live patients; Butchers needed more knowledge of the human body, and the best place to get it was corpses. In some areas of Serukis, getting hold of dead bodies was easier said than done. Depending on which of the Five Lords a person follows in life, funeral rites differ - and most leave little body to work with. Corpses that had been buried, in line with the rites of Faolan, the Lord of Earth, were Butchers' best bet. Digging up a body is both illegal and sacrilegious, but the Butchers got around this fact by getting the desperate to do their dirty work for them.
A Bloody History
Whilst originally established because of a need for cheaper treatment, Butchers soon had their own ideas about the causes of illnesses - and, therefore, the effective treatments for those illnesses. They began to shun traditional herbalism and prayer, turning instead to what they called 'fresh' methods. Blood-letting, for example, became a common treatment in the Butchers' arsenal, particularly for ailments such as rashes or swelling.
Blood-LettingThe practice of blood-letting became popular after a Butcher named Adam Clay made an impassioned speech about the method on the steps of Whitecastle's Temple of Nereus. Clay believed that menstruation was the body's way of purging ill humours. Blood-letting, he said, was a way for healers such as himself to imitate this natural process.
A Source of Bodies
MurderFor some, the bodies they could dig up to experiment on and explore were not enough. Often they were not particularly fresh, and some towns could go months without a burial ceremony. To cover the dearth of corpses, some Butchers are rumoured to have turned to murder. They would target the homeless and the impoverished - people who would be unlikely to be missed. In some cases, there are tales of Butchers approaching the Red Hand, or even being members themselves. The most disturbing tale, however, is one of a mother who sold one of her young children to the Butchers in order to be able to feed the other five.
The Case of Aston Sharp
The case that made the Butchers illegalAston Sharp was a fourteen-year-old boy who lived in the town of River's Ford. All his life, he had been plagued by seizures, and the family were a familiar sight at River's Ford's Temple of Nereus. At some point, his father became desperate enough that he sought a different kind of help. The priests could soothe his boy, but they could not cure him. Enter Nate Cooper, a Butcher. He promised Aston's parents that he could cure the seizures, that the boy's suffering would be over - all for a mere silver petal - a treatment. Cooper's treatment involved cutting out a small section of Aston's skull and smearing the wound with an herbal paste of his own concoction. He then covered the wound with bandages, leaving the hole in Aston's head. Aston's parents brought him back for treatment on five separate occasions. Each time, Cooper would uncover the hole he had made, rinse it with water, and reapply the paste. Shockingly, Aston's health deteriorated. By the time his mother insisted they brought the boy to the temple rather than the Butcher, the flesh and bone around Aston's wound had begun to undergo necrosis. There was nothing the healers at the temple could do except keep him comfortable. Four days after his parents had brought him to the temple, Aston Sharp died. The priests at the temple, horrified by what they had seen, petitioned the High Lord Sybrant. The High Lord, in turn, petitioned the King. It took less than a year for the law banning Butchery to pass.