On a westward hill above the plains that span from Lycia to Eastern Palentine stands a cloister. Not a place of that venerated order of men, who bare no want for this world. Rather an ancestral home to that ancient sisterhood of women, who long forswore the fickle conceits of men, and found instead harbor with those of their own form, and temperament.
There is nothing harsh at all about that place – save the biting wind on a cold winter’s day. The order some would label a Sisterhood is in all regards a reflection of their brothers who stood across the plains. As the moon reflects the sun, they are tranquil – absent the fierce fire, the Clarion calling – without the burning vitriol of fervent dogma. Yet all this passion not spent upon pious speeches, might find outlet in other ways.
Or so the tales would tell. Nothing is quite so simple.
– The Lady of Red, Dorian Letner, 251 E.R.
Cloistered life in the kingdoms of Thaea may hold many expected qualities. It is after all a lifestyle that lends itself to separating from the world, to meditative pursuits, and a mystique of obscurity, often hidden from prying eyes. Yet to even discuss this life properly one must first separate two diametrically opposed religious philosophies that have adopted the same trappings.
The Lycian and Clarion orders differences, for all their textured history, and consequences do boil down somewhat succinctly to a vitriolic disagreement over the things of the world. That is desire, war, philanthropy, materialism, agency, and sexuality. Though it would be disingenuous to say either order is strictly speaking celibate, though one is heavily chaste.
The Clarion Cloister system is older (if not original,) though it seems to have adopted some patterns of older reclusive communes, the architecting of both the dwellings and way of life owes heavily to Clarion practice. Lcyian’s, largely through the work of Sylvia Grey, adopted first an abandoned structure, and later many self exiled individuals who brought with them their way of life from the Clarion Cloisters.
In most regards Lycian cloistered life is the simpler, and easier system to explain. The cloister complex is divided roughly into three sections. Though they are rarely evenly distributed. A Communal central area with workshops, kitchen, dining hall, and classrooms. The Family area housing children and most often their parents. The Devotional wing, which may further naturally subdivide by discipline, doctrinal adherence, and guest quarters.
The greatest complexity of describing Lycian life in detail comes from their limited doctrinal cannon. They hold a few things sacrosanct on general principle, but the underlying faith of most residents tends to be spiritual, rather than based in a firm religious ideology. They are largely pacifists, dedicated to healing, and not doing harm. They are against war, but not above healing soldiers presented to them.
Red Sisters often dominate the Devotional wing of many cloisters. These are the sub-sect of the order devoted to the teachings of Sylvia Grey, and by extension a life lived passionately, fully, with absolute love, and a commitment to all, never one. Though a Red Sister will most often wear a crimson robe, there is nothing preventing any woman of age from taking up the robe, and nor does a Red Sister’s vows hold her to the robe.
There are three common robes within a Lycian cloister. Each has either meaning, or function. Brown robes are for work details, or rainy muddy days. White or pale gray robes are common ware for activities that will not stain, for meditative free days, or for Red Sisters signal that they wish solitude. Red Robes signify a desire for attention, particularly of a physical sort. Most often these robes are relatively simple, though full Red Sisters sometimes seek out robes that are patterned, or trimmed elegantly. For very heavy work there is often a mixture of more utilitarian clothing, particularly among those who specialize in disciplines of work for the upkeep of the buildings, or for climbing in orchards.
Lycian’s often maintain orchards, vineyards, and of course gardens for their own use, but also for sale of goods beyond their walls. Scribes, canners, textiles, woodworking are all not uncommon. Some cloisters even have extensive arcanist workshops for enchanted wares, though these tend to be rare in western lands that often have trouble keeping those with an inclination for magic from wandering, or seeking more lucrative lifestyles. Further the most gifted healers – the primary export of any cloister – are often lured away by adventure, wealth, or other incentives.
Duties, particularly the less pleasant ones, within the cloister are fairly evenly shared, with a slight exception that those with aptitude, and skill in rarer capacities can undertake less desirable tasks less. This encourages the young to specialize, and focus on being good at useful things. A failure to dedicate oneself, or simply a lack of natural ability can be limiting, but there is no shame in this, just inconvenience.
Not all residents of a Lycian cloister are gifted, or born to the life. Outcasts, visitors who have made donations to the order, and women renouncing their former life, and sometimes their share of wealth are all welcome. The visitors who take up temporary residence lend to one of the slurs that is hurled at Lycian’s. Given an entire order of women within their cloister walls are devotees of passion, who often take it upon themselves to ‘heal the weary heart, and soul.’
In spite of the epithet Sisterhood, male Lycian adherents make up nearly a third of the order. Though less than a quarter of the adults within a cloister are likely to be men. There are a number of likely contributing factors to this. First the order rarely accepts men not born to the life. On the other side countless outcast women have taken up shelter within cloister walls. Many of the men within the order choose to live off cloister grounds, as they often have an easier time of it – perhaps because false incitements of harlotry do not stick as well to them. A common cause for this choice is often that men have less authority within Lycian cloisters than women. The head of a cloister is always a Matron, and men are offered leading roles within disciplines only if they are clearly the best candidate at the time of choosing. Red Sisters notably are exclusively women, though this has rarely been a cause for a man to leave.
Structurally most of the general principles of Lycian life align with those of Clarion Cloisters, but there are very key differences that appear immediately. First men and women do not reside in the same Clarion Cloister. Children younger than seven are housed in their own wing of a women’s cloister, after which the boys leave either for a men’s cloister, or to live with their father, or an adoptive family.
Cloistered residents live in near celibacy, with a key exception. Women of strong gift are expected to bare a child every four to seven years from the age of sixteen till their fertility wains (often around sixty.) This is a duty, and a prerequisite for their continued residence. The fathers are assigned from within the rolls of the order, again men of gift, preferably of near the woman’s age. Women of little or no gift will have no children, and this goes doubly for men. Cloistered clarion men are far more likely to be entirely celibate.
Clarion women are trained more fervently in healing techniques – both for practical capacity, and because it is believed to increase the gift of their children. Men are also trained thoroughly as healers, but receive a broad, and deep education as preachers. Men are most readily sent out, and available for hire in their capacity in both regards.
This pattern of life has turned a relatively small number of initial devoted adherents into one of the largest blocks of gifted practitioners in the post imperial age. Having maintained this from the time of the mid empire Clarion’s have installed themselves in almost every nation (only Lycia, Osyrae, and Napir are openly hostile to their presence.) They have wedged themselves into the politics, and the identity of the populace, and made life difficult for Lycian’s beyond their cloisters. This has further allowed Clarions to nearly monopolize the role of healer in many villages, and towns, but they struggle to maintain exclusive hold on major cities.
Clarions also take up varied professions within their cloisters to facilitate the wealth of the order. Arcanists are more common among them on average because the role is assigned, and not a choice to pursue. Clarion cloisters offer in general very little agency, if one shows any capacity for a skill of value it becomes the centerpiece of their life, and a part of their duty to the order. To refuse is to risk being cast out, becoming apostate, and being persecuted until such time as one can gain acceptance, or seek refuge from non-adherent outsiders.
Not all young men are trained to be priests, or healers. Some are offered to the order of Paladin’s for training. These are often young men who are larger, more temperamental, and viewed as in need of deeper discipline, while putting their more energetic, or violent tendencies to use. It varies greatly whether this path can be viewed as an honor for steadfast, and capable young men, or a punishment and last chance for troublemakers of strong physical constitution.
The life of a Paladin is very similar to any other Clarion cloister, but with a singular focus on martial training, and even deeper regimentation of daily life. Their structures are often taller, and more fortress like, their courtyards filled with training pits, practice dummies, and smithies rather than meditative gardens. Paladins wake early, train constantly, and often brutally. Their gifts make them push young trainees, and even senior members to frequent, and sometimes serious injury, knowing that it can be healed. Paladins learn not to fear pain as a result, to defy it, and rise above it.
The Paladin order produces all of its own weapons, armor, and equipment. It is of singular quality, distinctive in appearance and material. Forged by Paladins, enchanted by Paladins who take up magic as well as martial, and healing training. Only those who master all three areas are considered Grand Masters, and there are rarely more than five Grand Masters alive at any time. They hold an honorary rank slightly above Commanders who are granted their position by the order, and assigned to the service of Palentian and Ascension King’s and Lords, and occasionally to surrounding lands viewed as swayable to the Clarion faith.
Lycian is a very overloaded word. Originally Lycia is the name of a nation of the far east, bordering the eastern Sylvan territory. This name dates back to a wolf god. They have long been an independent, proud people who favor their autonomy – though they were the first members of the Empire due to the very nature of how the Empire came to be. Lycia has long held a tendency to matriarchy, which was only reinforced by the genocide committed against their men in the years before the Empire’s founding.
Lycia’s Queen Regent – even as the Empire permitted the expansion of the Clarions – refused to allow the Clarion faith within her borders. This made Lycia a safe haven for gifted spiritually inclined individuals long before the rise to prominence of Sylvia Grey. Even longer before that the patriarchal surrounding word turned Lycian into a slur with a textured range of meanings from weak and bowed when applied to a man, to sexually lose when applied to a woman, to possibly that she preferred women. It is not at all unlikely that the connection of wolf to dog was lost on no-one.
Sylvia Grey, a infamous lover of women, a polyamorous intellectual, and one of the most renowned artists of her age made it one of her life goals to reclaim every defamed meaning of Lycian. This coupled with the already growing group of apostates in Lycia set the Lycian Order in stone as her following grew to near cult like proportions, and spread.
All this has made the word incredibly complicated to use clearly. It would have been so much easier if it was just the name of a minor island, and not a large, sprawling, prominent main land nation. If only further an epitaph for a sexuality, and not also for a faith. Sylvia’s own name was of little use, as this would only muddy the waters further by drawing the Sylvan people erroneously into the conversation.
Lycian in post imperial times only a slur in the eyes of Clarion adherents, and they just lump everything they hate in it together without much care for meaning.