All people belong to a Flock — their neighbors, their kingdom, all humanity — which is headed by the Ram and the Ewe. These alphas are more commonly known as Father Duty and Mother Love. They teach the Flock how to be good sheep so that the Shepherd will find them worthy when he comes for them.
Since the Flock is so large, it’s naturally divided into smaller Flocks. Those are the kingdoms, which are led by the saints, who were given their magical talents by the Mother and Father to mark them as leaders. Kingdoms are further divided into city neighborhoods and villages, overseen by abbots/abbesses of the Order.
Rituals are determined by one's local saints, heavily influenced by tradition. In Wodenberg, Saints-day rituals are observed once a week; the more pious can observe them daily, or take vows and dedicate their lives to service of the Flock.
Mother Love, the Ewe
The Ewe is all things warm and homey, gentle and nurturing, loving and healing. She teaches the Flock to care and forgive, to help and shelter one another. Community and sharing are encouraged in her name. The Mother’s Discipline is marriage, which is more rigorous than it would seem: fidelity, the raising of children, giving one’s support as a family to the Flock you live in.
The Mother is merciful, rather than stern, and advises seeking compromise whenever possible — whether it’s a cheating spouse or quarrelsome neighbors. Colloquially, the running joke is that the Mother's teachings come easier to women, the Father's easier to men, and thus the two sexes are always a little at odds with each other. But one is to obey both the Mother and the Father, regardless of one's gender. Teamwork, whether at the level of families or kingdoms, is always the overriding concern.
Father Duty, the Ram
The Ram oversees all one’s duties: work, service, teaching, and generally the less pleasant things in life. The Father’s Discipline is a month-long purification that demonstrates one's dedication to duty, and it requires equal doses of humility and perseverance as well. Taking Discipline is required for any squire seeking knighthood, any wishing to take the vows of the Order, or can be endured to clear a debt of honor.
While the Father can be harsh and unforgiving, the sacrifices one makes for duty are noble and praiseworthy. Authority and power are implicit in observing Father Duty’s teachings. One should know one’s place, and know that all places have value. A Flock must stand together against the wolves and monsters of the world, not run willy-nilly and defenseless. Again, teamwork is paramount.
The Shepherd is death: sometimes merciful, sometimes incomprehensible, and never cheated. He is fair in his evaluation of his sheep, and they cannot hide anything from him. The Shepherd culls his flock, when he chooses, of the unworthy. He also chooses those to bring home to his fold where it’s safe and warm. Those who are especially worthy with will have a place at the Shepherd’s hearth.
Sheep he isn’t pleased with are banished to the Winter Wood, to wander forever.
Heaven is eternal warmth, companionship and hospitality. All the good things of life are there, all those you loved who’ve gone before you. But like most heavens, people catalog its wonderful things and then prefer to talk about the horrors of hell…
The Winter Wood
Hell, conversely, is cold, isolation, and wandering the monster-infested Winter Wood. It’s well stocked with folklore villains: rogue Elect, kobolds, wild animals, kir-mutated beasts, and all the agonies of the cold. Since life for most goodfolk is cold and wild animals are often a concern, the line between life and the Winter Wood is far blurrier than the Shepherd’s Hearth. Nobody stumbles into heaven accidentally, but the warning signs of the edges of the Wood are well known.
And, of course, everyone gets a little taste of hell each winter.
Heroes find their way to the Wood, sometimes, to rescue someone who’s been stolen by rogue Elect or kobolds. Lovers swear they’ll fight their way back from it, if they must. Most are content to take care when they venture into the forest, to avoid drawing the notice of the evils in the Wood, and be good sheep that the Shepherd would come and find if they’re lost. Or, perhaps, send a hero to rescue them.
Side note: the moons
The largest of the eight moons is called the Shepherd, and the twelve divisions of the year are measured by its waxing and waning. The seven smaller moons are the Flock, named after the seven children of the Ram and the Ewe: Strength, Kindness, Courage, Justice, Hope, Wisdom, and Peace.
That’s three for the Mother — Kindness, Hope, and Peace — three for the Father — Strength, Courage, and Wisdom — and one who straddles both love and duty: Justice.
These are also the seven virtues and often the heroes of teaching fables told to children. Particularly Justice, who’s always having to figure out the right thing to do.
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