Order of the Planes-Militant: Initiates

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    The LocalsOrder of the Planes-Militant: InitiatesCopyright © 2000 by Heiner de Wendt

It is generally known that one can easily become a member of this order if one's heart and faith are pure and good. If asked what you see when shown their symbol, and you answer that the sun drives away the darkness, you can be accepted then and there (if the cutter recruiting you is sure of your goodness). But that's not the only way to join; in fact, every member can choose between seven ways of joining. Depending on the difficulty of the way one chooses, one’s starting position in the Order can change dramatically, as only those who have a soul truly fitting to Mt. Celestia have any chance of succeeding on the harder ways. Note that all ways are based on the ways that come before; no one will be initiated in the second way if he has not already answered the question about the Order's symbol correctly, and only by reaching Mt. Celestia through the tower in Excelsior do people have the chance of climbing upwards to the higher layers.

The first way: Initiating the light-heartedAs explained above, someone who is known to fit into the Order (such as a paladin) can become a member by just answering the question about the Order's symbol in the right way. This is also the option the non-lawful good members of the Order usually choose, as they most often first have to learn the ways of Mt. Celestia before they can manage to succeed in the harder ways. After a short ritual of initiation in which the initiate vows to keep oaths of poverty, chastity and obedience, the new recruit is given an amulet bearing the sign of the Order, and is now considered a member.

The second way: Wash away your sinsThe initiates choosing this way start in Excelsior in the Outlands, and have to make their way through the tower at Excelsior's center. When they arrive in Lunia's holy water ocean, someone of the Order waits for them at the shore. They are then guided to Heart's Faith, where they are brought to an outpost of the Order (which is a shrine dedicated to all the powers of Mt. Celestia). Here, a ritual of initiation takes place in which the member has to speak the oaths as in the first way of initiation, after which a series of spells purifying both body and soul is cast upon the recruit. These spells heal all normal diseases and wounds, and even erase most insanities (if the recruit has any). The new member feels refreshed and cleansed by the ritual, and gains an immunity to any kind of fear for the next three days. In the end, he is handed an amulet bearing the symbol of the Order, and a "Bless" spell is cast upon the amulet.

The third way: Reaching higherThose recruits who have enough promise are first led to Heart's Faith, and then asked if they want to go the second way, or try to reach even higher and reach a higher layer before becoming a member. If so, they have several choices. The easiest is a shortcut through Bahamut's palace - many formerly rich people who will give their oath of poverty soon choose that way to get rid of their treasure by giving it as a gift to Bahamut. A member of the Order guides the initiate to Bahamut's palace, and explains that if he manages to get through a gate to a higher layer, another member of the Order will await him on the other side. If he doesn't succeed, the current guide will still wait for the recruit so he can choose another way. In Bahamut's palace, the recruit is on his own. He needs to talk with the dragons there to be allowed to travel through the gates to a higher layer, which is something only truly lawful good characters can ever hope to manage. The recruit himself can decide if he wants to head for the second, third or fourth layer, but the demands of Bahamut's draconic servants become higher and higher with each layer, of course (and not only the demands of gifts to Bahamut). On the other side of the gate, the new recruit is awaited by another member of the Order. That member now stays with the character, but doesn't really guide him further. He only gives the information of where the site of initiation is located on this layer, and that the recruit now has to find his own way there by interacting with the local inhabitants (with all their helpfulness, this isn't really too hard a task). When the initiate and his "guide" reach the site, a ritual similar to that of the second way is made. The difference is that the amulet handed over to the character has the properties of a holy amulet (and works for servants of all the powers of Mt. Celestia). The amulet given on the third layer increases the chances of turning undead by one level, and that of the fourth layer increases chances by two levels.

The fourth way: Climbing to the secondThose who choose this way are accompanied by one of those members of the Order who've already been to the second layer. But that "guide" really only accompanies them. The character must find one of the twin pillars that are a gate to the second layer himself. This task often takes days, weeks or in some cases even months or years, and many initiates give up at some stage and choose an easier way. But if they manage to reach the second layer, and don't choose to strive even higher, they're brought to the nearest outpost of the Order in Mercuria. All the outposts are temples dedicated to the law and goodness of the Mountain itself. The ritual of initiation takes a full day and night, and includes all the parts of the "lower" rituals along with lengthy prayers and choir singing, finished by a special ritual that purifies the initiate so much that he is immune to any fear for three days, and is considered as if under the effects of a "Bless" spell for a full week (note that this is not magical and cannot be dispelled). The new recruit is then given an amulet with the symbol of the Order which works as a holy amulet, and he may choose a blessed (though not counting as magical) weapon forged from metals of Mt. Celestia, also bearing the symbol of the Order.

The fifth way: Grasp for the light of the thirdIf a recruit manages to reach the second layer without the shortcut through Bahamut's palace, he can choose to go even further, trying to reach the third layer, Venya. The way there is similar to the way to the second layer, except that it requires even more wisdom, goodness and strength of will. On the third layer, he is welcomed by another member of the Order of the Planes-Militant (though his current guide doesn't leave him). Together, they travel to one of the smaller monasteries of the Order, temples either dedicated to one or a few particular powers (if the new recruit serves one of those powers) or the ideals of Mt. Celestia itself. These monasteries are places of calm peace and inner understanding, and when the initiate reaches the site, he has to stay here for a full week, resting, thinking and purifying his own mind and soul. Afterwards, a ritual similar to that of the fourth way takes place. The difference is that the new recruit is not just considered as if "blessed" for a week, he even gets the effects of a "protection from evil" for a full week. He also is given an amulet with the symbol of the Order that works as a holy amulet, but can destroy undead as if the priest/paladin using it were one level higher than he actually is. Finally, the new recruit may choose a weapon forged from the metals of Mt. Celestia, having the properties of a "blessed" weapon and shining with a dim, but wonderful light when drawn.

The sixth way: The last step before perfectionAmbitious initiates who manage to reach the third layer, but still want to get higher, have to complete a task similar to the last two, but even harder to achieve. They're now accompanied by both members of the Order until they reach the gate to the fourth layer. The difference is that this time they have to find one particular gate, leading directly to the First Monastery of the Planes-Militant. If the initiate reaches the gate, his two companions leave him. He must step through alone, but will be welcomed by other members of the Order on the other site. He has to stay in the monastery for at least two weeks. Rituals of initiation for new members of the Order are held only once every three months, though, and it might be that the character has to wait quite a long time if the last ritual has just been finished. The initiate is expected to use the time for gathering knowledge and wisdom, and takes part in many hours-long philosophical discussions during that time. Those who can't just wait calmly are allowed to participate in weapons training outside of the monastery, and in fact it is looked upon badly if a character doesn't do anything to keep his body fit during the time of waiting. Finally, the new recruit and a handful of fellow initiates (if any made it to the First Monastery during the last three months) are introduced into the Order by a ritual taking three full days (rest is allowed during the nights), which purifies the character even more than the ritual of the fifth way. He gains the same advantages as from the ritual of the fifth way, but in addition his wisdom increases by one point for the next week, and he can keep it that high if he spends eight hours each day meditating, reading and thinking. He is given the same items as initiates of the fifth way, with the difference that any weapon the character chooses is made of nothing but pure light (and accordingly weighs nothing at all), shines as a "Continual Light" spell when drawn, works as a "blessed" weapon and can harm any creatures of darkness (shadows, vampires, shadow fiends, and so on).

The seventh way: Immortal perfectionNo mortal is known to have ever completed this way. After reaching the first monastery, a being can still choose to climb higher. He is not asked, though - if he wants to, he has to bring it up himself. Such a character is given a guide - usually an archon - and given the task of going back to the first layer again, and walking the Paths of Mount Celestia, the physical and spiritual journeys that bring wisdom and understanding to those who succeed on them. Only someone who reaches at least the fifth layer by walking these paths is allowed initiation of the seventh way. There are a couple of archon members of the Order who have succeeded (and a few of them even joined the Order in the seventh way after they had finished their paths to the fifth layer all on their own), as well as the occasional dragon. Summed up, there are less than fifty members of the Order who were initiates of the seventh way. A special ritual is held for each such member, fitting to the paths and wisdom of the particular being and granting him even more purity in a way fitting his personal attitudes. Even the items they are given are crafted for them personally, and made according to their own wishes.

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