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A week or two ago I posted my thoughts on how I will bring the plague into my Glantri campaign. I've worked some more on those ideas, and tying into the plague will be a religious sect based on worship of Joan Moorcroft, who was burned at the stake by the Flaemish in the 8th century AC. What follows are my ideas for the Church of Saimpt Joan, which will be a feature in my campaign. I hope this is of interest to the list, and feedback is welcome. :)
The Church of Saimpt Joanby Erik Waddell
Joan Moorcroft has become a legend among the people of Fenswick. Despite her having been a cleric, she is remembered as a valiant hero and martyr by her countrymen, for her strength, courage, and devotion during the Forty Years War, in which the Fen people were caught between the warring armies of the Flaems and the settlers led by Halzunthram the Alphatian. Though historians outside of Fenswick have largely ignored or forgotten about her, Joan is well remembered in song and legend by all those living along the Fen River.
It was in 784 AC that Joan rallied her people in defence of their land. Her furious valour made her both hated and feared by Flaem nobles, who had expected Fenswick to fall easily to their superior forces. Towards the end of that same year, Joan was captured by the Flaems and burned at the stake for the crime of practicing clerical magic.
The Forty Years War raged on and Joan's younger brother Edward Moorcroft, whom she had cared for since he was a newborn child, began to seethe with hatred for what the Flaems had done to his beloved sister, and his homeland on the fens. Edward fought long and hard for his people, then disappeared in 813 AC during a summit between himself and the leaders of the Flaems and of the settlers, both of whom were eager to recruit Edward and the Fen people to their cause. Popular legend is vague on what happened at this meeting, but a wild storm of fire and magic is believed to have consumed all but Halzunthram, who barely escaped with his life. Edward was never seen again.
This is where the tale of Joan Moorcroft ends, as the historians of Glantri know it - but there is more yet to the tale. What really occurred at the summit is as follows: Both the Flaems and the Alphatians had planned to betray and kill Edward should he decide not to ally with their particular side in the conflict. When it became clear to the assembled leaders that Edward intended to ally with neither of them, for he wished to keep his people out of the war, the Flaemish diplomat began to cast a fiery spell intended to kill all but himself and his party. However, Joan, now on the path to immortality (having been saved from her fiery death by Razud, her patrol immortal), intervened to save her brother. Tapping into the power of the sword of James Moorcroft (a lost artifact of the Fen people that the Flaemish leaders had brought along as a bargaining piece with Edward), Joan caused the spell to go awry. Enhanced by the magic of the sword, a torrent of magical flame engulfed the entire hillside. Protected by his semi-immortal sister, Edward survived the magical holocaust and was transported to his sister's side on another plane. Halzunthram managed to save himself and escape back to his army. Upon his return he wrote down an account of what happened - the only written record of the events of that day, and one he never shared with anyone.
Some time later, around 900 AC Edward Moorcroft re-appeared on Mystara to a small group of people in Fenswick. He prophesied the return of the plague to Glantri, but promised that those who would follow the example of Joan would be saved from the worst of the plague as he himself was saved so long ago. Edward then vanished from Mystara once more, but promised to return when the people of Fenswick are in need, and call upon Joan to deliver them from the plague. Several of those present recorded Edward's prophecy, and these texts have since become the Holy Scriptures of the church of Saimpt Joan. Not long after, the scrolls written by Halzunthram concerning the events of the summit in 813 AC were discovered by an apostle of Joan, and have been copied and circulated among the growing ranks of the faithful as Holy Scripture as well.
Since the time of Edward's prophecy, the Church of Joan has grown, slowly and quietly. At first it had followers only in the lands by the Fen River, but it has since spread to many points throughout Glantri. The Church operates as a secret society, and very few of the non-devout know of its existence. Though the church has been growing since the time of the prophecy, it is only in the last couple of years that some of the followers of Saimpt Joan have begun to receive clerical spells. The church believes this to be a sign that the plague will come soon.
The atmosphere of the church is apocalyptic, and many of the followers spend their time studying the books of prophecy and watching the skies for signs. Though the Joanites are religious/clerical, the church has its roots among the Fen Witches, and talent for wizardry is encouraged among the devout. The heroic example set by Joan is central to the church, and the devout are encouraged to emulate her (i.e. bravery and courage in face of one's enemies or against overwhelming odds, martyrdom, and sacrifice). The church is distinctively prejudiced against the Flaems and their descendants in Glantri, as they are the ones who burned Joan at the stake.
[The rest of this is more specific to my own campaign, but it shows what I intend to do with the Church over the course of my game]
When the plague does return to Glantri (1001-1002 AC IMC), the clerical powers of the Joanites will grow more powerful as the plague spreads. The Joanites will offer aid and succour to those suffering from the wasting sickness. With the temples of Rad seemingly unable to stem the tide of the sickness, many (especially among the common folk) will turn to the Joanites for help.
The final defeat of Tybboch will be at the hands of Joan and her brother Edward. The sword of James Moorcroft must be recovered (by the players) and brought to the Church of Joan in Fenswick. Edward will appear and claim the weapon, and together with Joan will do immortal battle with Tybboch in the Nucleus of the Spheres. Edward will be killed in the battle, but the final blow from the sword will destroy Tybboch as well. Joan will then use the Nucleus of the Spheres to elevate herself to full-blown immortal status in the sphere of Energy.
The defeat of Tybboch will also free Rad (Tybboch was able to spread his plague by infecting the NotS with his own body, which effectively corrupted it and imprisoned Rad with it). Though Rad will not be delighted with the idea of another immortal interfering with Glantri, he will owe a great debt to Joan for freeing him from Tybboch and restoring the Nucleus of the Spheres.
By the time the plague ends, the Church of Joan will have become quite popular among the lay folk of Glantri, and may even have some followers among the ruling wizards. The Council will be forced to deal with the situation, and an historic vote will be held to determine whether the Church of Joan should be legalised, or forcibly disbanded. Many wizards are against allowing the Church to stay in Glantri, but when it comes time to vote Etienne d'Ambreville will support the church, and thus heavily influence the rest of the voting. Depending on the role the players have in all of this, the Church of Joan may become the only legal house of worship in Glantri (aside from the Temples of Rad), and Joanite clerics will be permitted to employ clerical magic.