Fireborn: Dark Phoenix
Solarianism is a peculiar North Encyronian cult, with two versions of their founding tale that both agree that the cult arose around 550EI: one account backed by historical evidence, the other written in scripture.
The Tablets of the Sun say unequivocally that the cult began in Encyronia, in precisely 500EI, when an explorer known only by his reborn name Valriach, returned from the desolate and empty lands from the North (meaning North Encyron) and declared that at the peaks of the Skyheart Mountains he had finally received true understanding – the World itself, the sphere of Taan, was an incarnate deity called Solaris; the people within were aspects, fragments of the sleeping God; and the Sun in the sky, his heart, beating with pulses of light that mere mortals perceived as days. He had been granted the Tablets of the Sun, upon which were written the tenets of the new faith, and which would bring success and victory to any who bore them. Valriach, or the “Solar Prophet”, travelled to spread the word of Solaris and the doctrine of Unity.
Amongst Solarianism’s core tenets, was the aforementioned belief that the world is an incarnate Deity; that people are pieces and fragments of him striving towards reunification; and that people who fail to purify and devote themselves to Unity enough (through virtue and careful meditation and prayer) are condemned to be reborn into the world; those who succeed become one with Solaris, and hence with the Sun (his heart – in traditional Uruk mythos, the heart is the domain of the soul).
This reincarnation could be as anything that lives; however, purification and Unity requires a mind and a will capable of achieving it, so of course, only thinking races are capable of even attempting it. Each person’s life, they say, is an opportunity to achieve Unity that might not recur for thousands of years, during which time the soul suffers in mortal torment; and hence the religion had to be spread, and practiced with great effort, or it was a betrayal of one’s very self.
The existing religious authorities in Encyron – mainly Urakanite – did not appreciate this heresy, and made many efforts to stamp it out. This persecution strengthened the faith of the true believers, and though their numbers were few, their approach toward oneness with Solaris made them stronger.
Eventually, after a long series of gruelling trials and miraculous victories against oppression, the Cult uprooted itself made the pilgrimage overseas to the Skyheart Mountains. There, they built towns and cities of their own, and worshipped at holy sites on the highest peaks of the highest mountains in the world without interference from unbelievers. (The fact that some mountain ranges in the wilderness of Pelargossia are known to be higher, still does not deter the faithful from repeating and believing the untrue line from scripture – and in these days of Elven bans on travel beyond Uruk national borders, nobody can clearly demonstrate otherwise!)
There, the scriptures say (at great length), they prospered and grew and converted all the unbelievers; and of course, they rebelled against their colonial overlords in Encyronia and achieved astounding victories, became independent, and prospered while Encyronia was conquered entirely by the Empire because they had refused the One True Faith.
Valriach lived and led them as their High Priest for a miraculous four hundred years, before an unknown assassin fired an arrow into his heart while he was giving a speech to pilgrims to the peak of the Skyhorn, the tallest mountain of the Skyheart range. Refusing healing, Valriach is said to have continued leading the prayer as the assailant fled, forgiving him his sin; and at the end, pale and with his shining golden robes smeared with blood, told his followers that Solaris was calling to him and that he must go to be one with God at last – and then lay down peacefully on the podium, and died.
His pyramidal monument, the Solar Tomb, was erected as per his Will, at the site of his death and became a major holy site, and even more significant place of pilgrimage than ever before; and thus the scriptures end – though technically the ending, describing is death, is Apocrypha – the Prophet was the only one who could write such holy writ, and so by definition it was written by a witness and thus is fallible.
The rival, likely more accurate, historical account of Solarianism’s founding suggests that the religion originated entirely in North Encyron, and any tales of heroic exoduses across the ocean to flee Encyronia’s persecution are likely exaggerated myths of small offshoots of the cult, rather than its core.
The Solar Prophet Valriach is widely suspected to be an explorer from the north-east of ‘mainland’ Encyronia called Manx Radakov; he explored and prospected extensively in the Skyheart Mountains to stake out property claims there, but vanished suddenly at roughly the same time as Valriach’s first mention in local North Encyron colonial records – and this would fit with Valriach’s account, including timings.
Colonial records in the North at that time, though, were fragmented and patchy; and years have not been kind to the historical record. However it seems clear that though there were attempts by Encyronia’s Inquisitors to stamp out the growing cult in the century afterwards, these efforts seem to have served mainly to drive the cult underground and merge it with the early pro-independence movement, fusing the minor cult of Solarianism into a romaticised narrative of North Encyron’s frontier spirit and unique cultural identity, fighting against overseas Imperialist oppression.
Valriach himself, though records mention him frequently during the first century of the religion’s rise, go much quieter thereafter; the few unequivocal mentions he earns, place him in a monastery at the peak of the Skyhorn for practically all of the intervening years. Historians suspect that the original ‘Valriach’ probably lived and died a normal Uruk lifespan; but that thanks to the doctrine of reincarnation, other priests were able to take up the mantle and claim to be him reborn – creating the appearance of continuity until the last Valriach said he had achieved Unity and was going home to Solaris – meaning either any future claimant was lying or the Solar Prophet was not an infallible servant of God.
However, after Valriach’s death, Solarianism went into a slow decline, and its significant regional importance waned as Talrasi tradesmen imported Imperial religious views to the newly-independent colonies, and as rulers in the region steadily turned towards Kitantha’s faith as a non-Imperial alternative to the steady effort at cultural assimilation. With the true cynicism of power, it was decided that faiths whose god was tangible – and who were willing to travel and evangelise in person – made a far more compelling counter-argument to the Empire’s “Manifest Destiny” of increasingly monumental successes over 1500 glorious years, than a dead Prophet in a barely-accessible pyramid ever could. Even the Skyheart mountains themselves, on modern maps, bear the name “Ramshead” mountains – as part of the slow campaign by the faithful of other faiths to disconnect North Encyronian culture from the Solarian religion.
Solarianism still exists and is fairly widespread in the region, though fragmented and without a central, recognised high priest; it has fused extensively with various brands of nationalism in the region, and historically has grievances against most of the existing secular rulers. Many Solarians seem to believe that the entire North Encyron region was once a united Solarian theocracy, and that secularism is a corrupting foreign imperialist influence.
Historically the Tomb resided in disputed territory between Arkalia and Urgen (now New Urgen, thanks to a rival royal bloodline’s successful conquest of the country in 1677EI). About a century ago, during one of several wars between the two sizeable nations, the temple was raided by forces unknown and looted – several holy relics from the Tomb, including the original Tablets of the Sun, went missing. Several Solarian sects claim that they own at least one of them, and that this ‘proves’ the superiority of their interpretation; but none are willing to allow independent verification or public display of their relics.
Currently, the Solar Tomb is controlled by New Urgen, who conquered it 20 years ago; New Urgen does not officially recognise Solarianism as a religion (since it was the state religion of its rival Arkalia), and does not permit worship there – a fact that has caused them to become a special focus for Solarian extremists across North Encyron.