The Feast that marks the graduation of Disciples of The Flaming Brand
to active status as a Bearer of the Mark is a brutal rite of passage, hidden beneath the veneer of a formal dinner and polite conversation between the Disciple and their Lord.
Despite the pleasantries, it is a transfiguration, and critics would say mutilation, of the Disciple's body and mind, and many do not survive.
To be eligible for the Feast, a Disciple must have first demonstrated mastery of the kinetic movements and magic control required. The senior Keepers of the Flame will identify the worthy, and initiate the Welding, which runs through three distinct phases that can last many hours: the Tempering, the Sharpening and the Devotion.
But it all begins with an invitation to dinner.
Temper the Bones
The Tempering begins with the hopeful Disciple arriving at the table, seated across from their Lord. The correct pleasantries are observed, passion is contained, and subservience is noted.
At the commencement, the Lord will serve the disciple a small plate of writhing Klomerati Tendrils
which they must consume before the feast proper commences.
The meal therafter is brought out in waves and is sumptuous, almost gluttonous, with both Lord and Disciple eating beyond their fill over the course of several hours. The most rare and luxurious food and drink from across all of Shadowfire is served, from Firewine from the Shimmerlands
, Coral polyps from Uferbrech
, Fungal blooms from Glimmertown
and frozen treats from the Under-ice are all brought forth.
During this time, the living crystals begin the parasitic draining of the Disciple's magical reserves as they expand throughout the host's intestines and blood stream. This process can kill within minutes if the Disciple is not strong enough to resist.
While this taxing process is occurring, the disciple must keep their suffering hidden while making pleasantries with their Lord and continuing to eat the food that continuously arrives. To fail in the polite participation of the meal, to regurgitate, or refuse to eat, is as much a failure as being devoured by the Klomerati, and brings a swift death from the Lord of Fire themself.
The aim for the Disciple is to reach a symbiotic balance with the invading crystal network, and to guide its growth through the subtle manipulation of the Blood magics within the Disciple's own body. They must overcome much fear and pain, to retain the focus required to do the work while entertaining their Lord.
Successful tempering results in the Disciple becoming a Klomerati Symbiote, with the network of crystals threaded throughout their body. The symbiosis allows them to store far more than the usual amount of magic within their bodies, but comes at a price. The Disciple is forever after a slave to the consumption of uhd, for without it the symbiosis becomes unbalanced and they risk being devoured from within by the Klomerati.
Sharpen the Mind
The second stage to the Welding, occurs at the end of the Feast. it involves the Lord himself magically slicing the Disciple's brain through the most subtle arts of Blood magic
. It will happen in an instant, without warning, from across the table.
This act can easily kill, but if successful, will have removed the Disciples ability to feel any emotion forever more. This is done to remove the ego and the irrationality of personal fears and desires. The Disciple is thereafter far more focussed on the needs and demands of their Lord, Dek Keeper and fellow Dek Bearers, and the magics they supply are far more stable and aligned to the will of their masters.
This is the part of the ritual that outsiders find so abhorant. Critics of the technique point to the clinical detachment and lack of empathy employed by The Flaming Brand
as they exercise their authority over the Sunside
lands as signs that the cultural impact of this tradition is not worth the benefits it provides.
Many do not survive the procedure, as it can easily leave the Disciple braind dead. When this occurs, their bodies are on sold to the Usokufa
to be transformed into Bodyservants
Devote the Will
At the conclusion of the feast the newely transformed Disciple is accepted into a Dek and asigned their duties as a fulle Bearer of the Flame. Their will becomes subservient to the heirarchy and needs of their master and the leadership of the Flaming Brand.