After the Elemental Court created the world, and after their creations nearly destroyed it, new creatures arrived on the world. Dragons. Where most dragons were simple beasts, these dragons were intelligent, and spread their wisdom among the peoples of the world. When they passed, they found themselves elevated to divinity by unknown forces, and decided to carry on their lifes' work. Already semi-worshipped, a full religion was swiftly formed by their mortal followers, and the Cult of the Four Dragons began its slow rise to promenance. Now the only rival in size to the fractious Followers of the Elemental Court, it continues to slowly grow despite the best efforts of some.
The Cult of the Four Dragons is remarkably well organized, and has a strong orthopraxy across its temples.
To worship the Four Dragons, defenders of the peoples of Iosterra.
Each continent has a Dragon Temple, a massive, fortified complex where the Cult of the Four Dragons makes its home and base of operations. Each temple acts as a fortress monastery, the centre of worship for the continent its on, and reliquary for the artefacts found and created by the faithful. Dragon Temples are effectively city-states, and stand autonomous from the nations around them.
In the deepest history of Iosterra, life came in two forms. The created races, materialized by the will of the Elemental Lords, and the evolved races, which developed naturally as time passed. The Orosa, given dominion over the world, came to be affronted by the civilizations of the evolved races, in particular how they had come to worship the Elemental Court. The Temnosal were the first civilization they smashed, and they soon turned their sights on the nascent civilizations of humans, lizardfolk, and other peoples.
The war would have been short, had dragons not intervened. Powerful, independent creatures linked to the biomes that had grown across Iosterra, their power matched that of the Orosa, and they soon came to lead the fight against them. The worship of the four mightiest dragons as deities began on the Eastern Continent, where the proto-Itlan humans initiated the practice. This energized the already near divine dragons further, and they took an active interest in the humans worship. Within a few centuries, they had established docttines, structures, and edicts to produce what they believed would be a stable faith. And they were correct. The Cult of the Dragon soon solidified on the Western Continent as the dominant faith, and spread slowly as the dragon lead forces eventually achieved victory over the Orosa.
The faith saw its greatest spread under the Dragon Imperium, an empire that formed on the Western Continent, and that at its height, touched all four of the continents. This was both a high and low point for the Cult of the Four Dragons, being the official religion of an empire largely remembered for its evils. This era spawned a schism in the faith that persists to this day, although the faction that stood opposed to oppression is ultimately why the faith survived the fall of the Imperium.
The Magister Wars and Lost Era were hard on the faith, seeing it rise to a war footing not seen since its formation. Its warrior monks, priests, and guardians fought every side of the conflict in an effort to protect the peoples of Iosterra, and the Dragon Temples suffered long sieges in an effort to destroy them and claim the artefacts in their reliquaries. As the Lost Era ended, the once marginal Cult of the Four Dragons found themselves the second largest faith on Iosterra.
Mythology & Lore
The Four Dragons were semi-divine beings in the misted past of Iosterra, the apex creatures of the Dragons, who rose from the very biomes of the world itself, attended by the elves who rose from the same origins. At first, they were content to live their lives as the embodiments of life on Iosterra, until the Orosa declared war on all life not created by the Elemental Lords. The Dragons recoiled in horror at the destruction of the elemental magics and beings unleashed, and learned the ways of war.
The underpinning concepts of the Cult of the Four Dragons is a way of being that draws on the teachings of the Four Dragons to their first disciples. These are the precepts of breath, thought, action, and consideration. The Dragon of the North taught breath, the art and philosophy of calming and centering. The Dragon of the East taught thought, the way of clear and undistracted thinking. The Dragon of the South taught action, a philosphy to guide to how to take action. The Dragon of the West taught consideration, a philosphy for considering the weight and effects of one's actions or the actions of others. This has been the way for untold millennia, and the practices of the Cult of hte Four Dragons have been closely guided by the Dragons, facts that have given their faith strength where others have failed or faded away.
The Cult of the Four Dragons finds its roots among the Intec peoples of the Eastern Continent, who were the first to turn away from the Elemental Lords and worship the four Dragons. The first Disciples of the Dragons came from them, and the Arakatos peoples to the north on the Northen Continent. The first Temple of the Dragons was built on the Western Continent, and the greatest hero of the faith came from the Southern Continent.
The Cult of the Four Dragons accepts the creation of the world by the Elemental Lords, but denies their dominion over all beings on the world, as their hands did not guide the evolution of the biomes or the natural peoples of Iosterra.
Tenets of Faith
Follow the way of the Four Dragons.
Listen to the Four Dragons.
Defend the Peoples of Iosterra.
The Cult of the Four Dragons has no concepts of "sin" per se, but do have ethical codes entwined into their philosphies and ways of being. Unethical acts can be attoned for via various processes incluidng meditation, prayer, and in some cases, physical punishment. The act is determined by the severity and frequency of the trespass by the priest it is discussed with.
Towns where the religion has a significant population will oten have a small temple that is the centre of worship for them. Smaller settlements will often have a shrine of some sort where they do their regular observances. Worship is always led by a priest or monk, and communications are maintained between temples and shrines to ensure none go without.
There are four Disciples of the Dragon, who form the guiding body of the faith. Eahc of the four Dragon Temples has a Disciple, and they work as the guiding hands for the unique situations faced by followers and non-followers alike on each continent. Below them is a hierarchy of priests and guardians, the divine miracle workers of the faith and the divinely inspired warriors of the Cult. Parallel to them are the monastic orders, which include warrior monks. Warrior monks are the most well known direct representatives of the Cult, and there are few who decline their help when offered.
Political Influence & Intrigue
The Cult of the Four Dragons is generally unpopular in many areas, because by its very nature it frequently stands in opposition to the Followers of the Elemental Court during that faith's many internal conflicts. There's also the Dragon Temples refusal to bow to temporal powers that makes them a irritation to some governments. However, there's a strong support for them at a grassroots level because of they make the effort to defend the common people from the dangers of the world.
Companions of the Imperium Reborn: this sect is small, secretive, and considered subversive and dangerous by most in the faith. Their goal is nothing short of the restoration of the Dragon Imperium. Their belief is that the best way to protect all peoples is to bring them, forcibly if needed, under the rule of the Dragon Imperium and by extension, the the Cult of the Four Dragons. They have vast, secret resources and their own deep philosphies that support their ideology within, an albeit skewed, framework of the conventional faith. Their numbers are predominantly Dragonfolk, Dragonkin, and humans with draconic ancestry.
The Tiqal Insurgency: the lands of the Intec are not without their own problems, and the slow fusion of the faith with the ruling powers has been growing ever worse, with the rise of a despotic theocracy being a very real possibility. The Tiqal Insurgency is an alliance of priests, guardians, and monks with the heroes of the land and the few free noble houses left that stand in opposition to the increased corruption and cruelty of the Eastern Dragon Temple.