The Choir of the Blessed Steps is a male-only choral order of the ancient right, tasked with the upkeep of the Lovers' Steps in Surlee. After the Fall of House Braelea
saw the Lovers' Steps closed to pilgrims, they focused on their alternative mandate of proselytizing against the primordial gods, and are today a greatly reduced order.
The actual founding date of the Choir is unknown, as it came about in the ambiguous fog of the Era of Legend. After Laurent of the Hedge
and created House Braelea
, she could no longer tend to her gardens and her duties as lady at the same time. Thus, as the hedges were loved by Vestria
and popular with pilgrims because of her appearance there, Laurent created an order to maintain them.
"Let your hands be led by your faith and your voices be raised in submission, and may your pursuance of your duties reflect well on your order and your houses, that you and your works may be worthy of the gaze of our Lady." - A more lordly Laurent, creating the Choir of the Blessed Steps
Religious orders in Anhara, outside of the College of Vestrial Priestesses
, are referred to as choirs, as song and praise are particularly favored by Vestria. As the Choir predates the College of Priestesses exerting control over the creation of religious orders, it is referred to as an "ancient order," thus the formal designation as a male-only choral order of the ancient right.
The original task of the Choir was to maintain the Blessed Steps as a pilgrimage site. As it was rare for Vestria to leave the Vestrial Tower
, especially to go so far from the Coquet Heights
, the Blessed Steps and Surlee as a whole received pious visitors from far and wide. The popularity of the site was an important contributor towards the early reputation of House Braelea
, and their consistent maintenance of the Steps added to the respect felt for them throughout the Blossom Fields.
While the maintenance of the steps was the original assignment of the Choir according to legend, their tasks evolved as history moved on. Towards the end of the 100s AR and the Era of Legend, there came a conflict between those largely rural residents of Anhara who still worshiped the primordial gods, primarily Meridia
, and failed to give proper attention to the ruler of the nation, her daughter, the goddess Vestria
. On the orders of the increasingly powerful College of Vestrial Priestesses, the Choir was officially recognized on the condition they preach to their local valesides.
"It was my duty for some time to wander the valesides and speak to those whose beliefs are somewhat out of date. Our place is to remind them that our faith is in Vestria, daughter of Mistra, and it is now the turn of those gods of Her line to rule, with full respect to those whose importance came before." - Guy d'Aimonne, surviving snippet from his early works
In accordance with the new orders from the College, a core group was stationed at the Steps while their brothers spread out into the valesides. With hard work and humility, the brothers of the Choir were able to endear themselves to the rural residents of the Blossom Fields through their commitment to poverty and respecting the traditions of the valesides.
Chantry of Brothersbry
To appeal to the people of the valesides, the Choir could not be seen as an instrument of the coastal government of Surlee. To counter this image, and to be logistically closer to those they hoped to convert, they were granted the rights to a fertile little valley in the southeastern Blossom Fields, just north of the Timber
. This would eventually grow into the town of Brothersbry and last far beyond the Choir itself.
At its inception, Brothersbry was a simple chantry, a type of monastery home to a choir, nestled in a valley full of brother-run farms. From this chantry, the brothers focused on tending to the environment around them, building and maintaining their facilities, and providing a base from which the preachers amongst them could rove out into the valesides.
The peak of the Choir came towards the end of the Braelea reign, through the 4th and into the 5th centuries of the Age of Rule. During this period, worship of the primordial gods fell dramatically as streams of brothers crisscrossed the valesides. The rural reverence for Meridia would survive, but it would do so more as a cultural aspect, while the College of Vestrial Priestesses cemented their power in the region.
"While I will never trade in the mottled green robes of the Choir, to receive the deep red of the Crimson Quill was an honor. I can only imagine how my young self would have felt to know an organization we so admired would bestow an honorary membership for our hard work." - Guy d'Aimonne, Chronicles of Guy d'Aimonne
Beyond preaching, the success of the chantry at Brothersbry allowed the brothers to diversify their roles. They began chronicling local events, selling their excess harvests in a popular annual market, and producing books. Most famous of these brothers was Guy d'Aimonne
, whose Chronicles of Guy d'Aimonne
became one of the foremost contemporary sources on the 5th century and the Braelean Hedge Wars
During the Braelean Hedge Wars, the brothers were seen as loyalist
collaborators, and those in the now-Semillon seat of Surlee were thrown out. The hedges around Terracetop would be partially destroyed to make way for more fortifications, and what was left was closed to the public and pilgrims, to be reserved for the use of nobles alone. The remaining brothers congregated in Brothersbry.
"Refugees from the north brought word that many of the fields I tended as a young brother have been turned to feed for the ravenous beasts of the Free Company." - Guy d'Aimonne, Chronicles of Guy d'Aimonne
Brothersbry was not, however, the ideal refuge. The productivity of the chantry there, as well as its proximity to the war's front, meant that it would play host to roving bands of Free Company
soldiers. The fields were picked clean, the breweries drained, and the valesides devastated in the search for loyalists.
After the Hedge Wars, Brothersbry would rebuild, and the brothers would remain a core part of the town. However, it grew far beyond a simple chantry, and is now one of the most prominent market towns in the region and a major stop on the roads. While the brothers are no longer the main feature of the town, they and their farms and breweries remain a draw for pilgrims, traders, and interested travelers.