City of Scoundrels
The Church of the Incarnate
For hundreds of years, Mellanford Key has been one of the holiest cities in the faith of the Incarnate. This vast religion dominates the spiritual world of most nearby countries, and has established significant enclaves overseas. The central tenet of the faith is that the one true god has blessed the world by sending an undying, immortal prophet to the world, his representative on earth. The prophet (known to the faithful as the Incarnate) came from a distant land with a cabal of followers many centuries ago, and built a small chapel on a hill overlooking one of the small villages that came to make up Mellanford Key. This chapel, still of simple unworked stone, now sits at the heart of the ostentatiously grandiose city-within-a-city, an architectural marvel of spires and cathedrals that dominates the Mellanford skyline, into which only the holiest are allowed entry.
From this base the Incarnate taught and prayed and developed a spiritual following that spread well beyond the boundaries of the city. Over the centuries the popularity of the faith brought acceptance into the spheres of the wealthy and powerful (priests still often serve as principle advisors to the nobility today), whose donations bought grand new chapels and displays of faith. Today a Church of the Incarnate is recognizable by its carmine-red robed priests, gold masks, heavy incense, colourful stained glasses, paintings and mosaics. Every surface in a church is decorated with pictures of saints, angels, mythological figures, and above it all the robed-and-masked figure of the Incarnate himself, extending one hand in benediction to his followers and one hand in salute to god, his father.
Until recent times the domination that the Church held over Mellanford was thought to be total. Whilst a port city with a significant foreign influence and population, the temples of other faiths were relegated to simple, undecorated buildings lining the harbour-fronts, enough to satisfy the practises of sea-captains and no more. There was no hint of competition for the soul of the city proper. This all changed fifteen years ago however, when a slowly bubbling resentment for the power, privilege and hypocrisy of the priesthood exploded in an organised terrorist attack on four of Mellanford’s grandest churches (outside the Holy City itself, of course). In the immediate shock and aftermath of the strike, street preachers across the poor districts began spreading a frighteningly co-ordinated message. The church was corrupt. The destruction of the arrogant churches was a message from nature herself. The common people must throw off the control of the gold-masked priests and embrace a more honest faith of love and caring.
The crackdown from the Church was fast, brutal and ineffective. The shock of the attack uncorked a wave of bitterness and cynicism that the common folk had been feeling for a generation, and whilst their inquisitors and spiritual guardians have been quick to arrest and execute heretics wherever they can be found, the job of rebuilding the faith and trust of the people has been neglected. Today the war between the Church and the New Faith (never truly named but often referred to as the Four Corners, the Elemental Faith, the Quaternity etc) rages on in the background. People have grown accustomed to the tramp of Church Templars patrolling their streets and storming homes in search of heresy.
Even worse for the Church, the Apostasy has reignited an interest in foreign cults and mystery societies in the upper classes. Long tired of faith, prayer, sin and guilt, many of the privileged (especially in the younger generation) have taken to forming secret clubs to worship strange animal or desert gods from overseas, passing round ancient, blasphemous idols unearthed from centuried tombs in forgotten lands. The Church finds arresting and executing the children of power somewhat more complicated of course, and it can do little more than look on it horror. Most of these proto cults are believed to be excuses for sex, drugs and cheap thills, but there are rumours of altogether darker and more sinister practises in the night.