The Guardian Paladins believe She is out to destroy marriage, because Urilians give no consideration to gender in marriage, nor are they usually monogamous. The Valïans believe She promotes avarice because Her followers are (mostly) merchants, bankers, investors, and lawyers who openly display their wealth—and often no small amount of skin. The B’nachians believe She is a slut and a whore because She is the patron of courtesans, and the clerical raiment of her priestesses, all beautiful women, reveals more than it hides. Criminals fear Her wrath because they must stand before Her judges as they pronounce their doom. It is said that none who have seen Her have ever seen the same deity, for Her beauty is beyond imagining, and each supplicant has their own image of unimaginable beauty. It is also said that She is vain, and claiming any earthly beauty to be equal to Her deific pulchritude is sure to incite a jealous rage. And yet, even Her followers take Her name in vain and She cares not. Perhaps most fascinating of all is that all of these observations are correct, and yet none are definitive. For if Ch’dar is the least known of the gods, Urilia is the least well understood, even though the reach of her temples and monasteries and schools, and the numbers of her followers, far exceeds even that of Her world renowned brother/sister, The Guardian Paladin.
Where The Guardian Paladin has strict codes about law, order, and service, and Valïa about humility and servitude; where B’nach has his Laws of War and Ch’dar the deep and abiding Customs of the Tribe, Urilia has none. Thus, She is often referred to as being amoral. But by that most people really mean unprincipled and licentious, of which Urilia is neither. By the Father God’s design and Eldar’s will, Urilia stands outside the sphere of moral judgments. She is The Judge and sits in judgment over all others. Only when appearing in this form does She appear with uniformity. Her beauty is swathed in a flowing black robe with golden trim, over which a golden chasuble, decorated with The Scales (see below), is draped. In this form, there is no sensuality to Her beauty. Only judgment, and if needed the sentence, may be read in Her countenance.
Her judgments are not made on the bases of Her own morals and values, but by those morals and values to which the one She is judging holds themselves. Be they gods or men, elves or dwarves, all must stand before Her and answer for their deeds according to their own measure. If an eye for an eye is the justice you have demanded, then an eye is what Urilia will take in payment for your sins. If forgiveness is what you have rendered to those who have wronged you, then forgiveness is what you may expect when standing before Her mighty bar.
Urilian justices administer the courts in three major countries on Menelon through Her monastic Order of the Scales. In Cascadia, Vin-Llamáz, and Surmeidän justices of the Order sit behind the bench of the criminal courts, not civilian bureaucrats. (In all but Cascadia they also sit for civil trials.) Their law schools are considered the most prestigious in the world. There, in addition to young women who wish to join the Order, both genders are welcome to study law and sit for the bar—according to their own country’s standards. The courts of the Order of the Scales are renowned for their fair and precise rulings. So much so that international cases from countries that do not have Urilian justices often seek hearings before a Urilian bench, rather than using their native, governmental judicial system.
The Sea Goddess
Long before their was a formal religion, great temples and beautiful, scantily clad priestesses, there was the Sea Goddess. Also known by many other names, such as the Goddess, Goddess of the Sea, the Sea Mistress, and so on, this aspect of Urilia dates back to antiquity, long before recorded history began, and continues to this day. In this aspect, the Goddess is known to be a very unforgiving, and yet totally compelling mistress. But it should be quickly added that by “compelling” sailors mean nothing either sensual nor sexual. Rather, they mean the constant call of the sea, the love of the life, dangerous and hard though it is.
The origins of the modern religion’s codes of honor, commercial interests, and amorality are rooted in the Sea Goddess. Scholars generally agree that this ancient form of the Urilian religion was founded by traders sailing up and down the Trunk of Istane. Some settled, some ranged further west, most continued to make their living trading their valuable cargos up and down the island chain and coastal ports along the route, and with them went the knowledge, customs, and rituals of the Sea Goddess. Many of those rituals and customs are still being practiced today, just as they were thousands of years ago, on remote islands from Paradise to Istane.
Today, sailors all over the world still revere Her, and call on Her for luck, for good wind and weather, and during trade deals, to ensure an honest, honorable bargain for all parties. She is called upon to bless new ships at their keel laying, and at the naming ceremony, at launch. Even sailors that are otherwise agnostic toward organized religion pay homage to Her, and fear inciting Her wrath. Though most modern sailors acknowledge the connection between the Sea Goddess and Urilia, few wear Her balance (as the Golden Scales are called when worn or brandished as a holy symbol), or show much interest in either the religion or the church. Some believe this is due to the wealth it is perceived one must possess to be a member of the Urilian church, others to the naked hedonism the church is often accused of encouraging. Whatever the reason, while the ancient Sea Goddess is still the patron mistress of all things nautical, Her church is not.
The Golden Scales
There are no images of Urilia—period. Nobody really knows why. One theory is that any attempt to create an image beautiful enough to represent the Goddess would invoke Her jealous wrath. Another theory is that Her priestesses, as exemplars of feminine beauty in all its forms, are the collective embodiment of the Goddess herself and, as a group, represent Her divine beauty, sensuality, and vanity. Whether these theories are true or not, what is true is that the only representation of the Goddess, the only “holy symbol” known—and it dates back to antiquity—is Her Golden Scales.
The Golden Scales symbolize not only Urilia’s role as The Judge, but Her divine understanding of the Father God’s Universal Law. An understanding that can be found in the Book of the Law. A very thin tome, the Book of the Law sets forth the basic principles that guide all Urilians and, they believe, all creatures, whether they believe in the Goddess or not. It sets forth two principles, both of which can be viewed as forms of divine scales. One is the infamous golden rule: That which you sow, you will also reap. Nobody ever got wheat by planting corn. Nobody ever got rich by planting poverty, or good by planting evil. The other is the principle of opposites: the divine diad and the divine triad. In order for there to be a “good,” there must also be a “bad.” In order for there to be an “up,” there must also be a “down.” But in order for “good” to be differentiated from “bad,” there must be space in between for the “good” to view the “bad.” There cannot be a “here” and a “there” if there is no space between them, holding them a part. That axis mundi, that space, is the central pivot of the scales. It is the balance point. Urilia’s job then, as viewed through the Book of the Law, is to keep the scales in balance.
Codes of Honor
Which brings us to the reason one god can be the patron of both judges and courtesans; why She can value the sacred contract of marriage, and yet neither define nor confine that contract. It is why She treats evil with as just a hand as saintliness, and sees avarice as holy as renunciation. In Her view, all are necessary to the working of the whole. The causes of goodness and righteousness cannot be advanced if there is no iniquity against which righteousness can struggle.
From a very young age—or shortly after their conversion—adherents to Urilia are encouraged to define their place on the Scales, the code by which they will live, and by which they will be judged. Urilians take these codes of honor very seriously, as do they oaths. So seriously that for simple matters written contracts are often not used when a Urilian is dealing with a Urilian. Or if a contract is written, it is a mere memorialization of the facts of the oaths taken, for no devout Urilian lightly gives his word. She knows the Goddess will hold her to it.
The Priest Knights of Sun Ya
As if there weren’t enough ambiguity in the Urilian religion already, in the East, in far distant Sun Ya, Her church takes a very different form. There are no temples with beautiful, scantily clad priestesses to minister to the faithful. There is no monastic Order of the Scales filled with black robed justices and legal scholars. There are no coffers overflowing with the wealth of well to do parishioners. Instead, there are only rural monasteries filled with deeply spiritual priest knights who rule over vast tracts of land.
The priest knights are priests, defenders of the land, and judges, all rolled into one. And, unlike in Her churches in the west, while priest knights may only be female, monastic knights may be of either gender. Also unlike the Urilian religion in the West, beauty and sensuality play, at best, a secondary roll in determining who may, or may not become a temple priestess. Among the priest knights of Sun Ya, it is mastery of the spiritual arts, skill in the martial arts, and the ability to channel Urilia’s Divine Will that are the prime requisites. Beauty and sensuality, if considered at all by the great masters of the order, is a minor consideration.
At least, that is how it used to be.
Today Urilia’s priest knights are in exile. Their homeland is ruled by a theocratic military junta. Now scattered around the globe, they have taken their monastic, pastoral ways with them, earning their living the way they always have: By ruling over, and protecting, peasant farmers in the countries where they have taken refuge.
Until recently, the Sun Yani priest knights have been more than content to stay in their country villas and worship in their own way. Unfortunately, with the old ruling class living in foreign countries around the globe, and communicating with those local governments, the junta government in Sun Ya has been unable to get the political traction they need to gain international legitimacy. So, the junta sent out what the priest knights have named “hunters.” Trained assassins whose sole mission is to kill any monastic knight or priest knight of the old ruling class, and especially those living in countries friendly to the “old regime.” Despite this, the numbers of priest knights in exile is growing, and there is an increasing desire to return home among the displace population. Contact between the priest knights and temple priestesses is therefore becoming more common as the exiled priest knights ramp up pressure on supportive churches and governments to help them wage open war against the junta government back home.
Unfortunately, as their numbers and presence grows in western church territory, it is creating friction between two very different ideas about church structure and hierarchy. Not least on the list is the martial nature of the Sun Yani priest knights. While the western church has been known to drive hard bargains in its business dealings, it has never had a martial arm. A single church having the power to both judge and sentence is one thing. Having the power to issue a summary judgment at the point of a sword is something else entirely, but that is exactly what every priest knight is trained to do, and it has not been looked on favorably by the Matriarchs of the western church.
Too, while men may play many roles in the western church, none are so powerful as the role men of men in the Sun Yani church. While they are not called priests, and they are not trained to wield the power of the Goddess, in all other respects, they are treated as equals both within the walls of the monasteries and without. This has increased the friction between the two churches enormously, especially among those in the legal field. Men have long complained that their legal reasoning is second to none and that, since legal argument has nothing what-so-ever to do with wielding divine power, they should be allowed to join the Order of the Scales. But the Matriarchs have held firm, countering that Urilia alone has the power to levy judgement, and that in so doing, a justice of Her court is wielding divine power.
Until recently, the gender issue has remained on a low simmer of issue only to church insiders; but the pot is beginning to boil, and this time may just boil over. Clearly, the Urilian Church has some interesting times ahead.