[The following material was originally written
for use in the PBeM Beneath
the Golden Moon . It presents a radically different form of Laranianism
to that of Gods of
Menekod Laranianism is the name given to the brand
of Laranianism found among the Meken of the Order of Checkered Shield,
particularly at Menekod. That it is
predominant in that place is not surprising; Menekod is the head of the Order, and it has the largest permanent garrison of any of the outposts - and it is among the
permanent soldiers that this form of Laranianism is most common.
Menekod Laranianism has been developing over the
entire history of the Order, but in particular during those periods of
greatest military activity - the Five Year War
and more recently Ezar's War. It is born out of the fundamental conflict that all soldiers of Larani face: the conflict between being a good soldier and being a good
Laranian. For the chivalric code of Larani, which espouses honour in battle, a concern for defence over offence, and views the enemy as real people, is
counterproductive when fighting to win and stay alive. It is these last two goals which take precedence among the Meken at Menekod, and which always have - and
it is for no other reason that the Order has done so well in the past.
The Doctrine of Menekod Laranianism
The differences between Menekod Laranianism and
the more orthodox forms espoused by the Laranian Church and the Order of
Hyvrik (and held by the Melana)
range from the extreme to the subtle. Among the most obvious are:
The "Protected" aspect
of the Goddess is almost non-existent. While the Meken still fight for
Larani, it is in service to the Goddess and more to prove one's
worth than to protect her. Similarly, while the Meken often divide people into three groups - "Meken", "enemy", and "those to be protected" - there is almost
no conception of the need or desire within each individual to protect and be protected. Furthermore, the task of protecting has been almost wholly conflated
with killing the enemy, to the extent that the latter by itself is held as sufficient reason for the Meken's continued existence - as long as there are enemies to
fight, we are bound to fight them.
The "Reluctant Warrior"
becomes simply the "Warrior"; the life of a Meken is one dedicated to fighting,
and their Goddess is not one to shirk this duty either.
She is portrayed as leading her hosts and minions into battle in the cyclical war against Agrik, and desiring the downfall of her enemies.
The concept of sacrifice
for a higher ideal is greatly extended in Menekod Laranianism. Frequent
mention is made of the current day being given to the Meken
by Larani (who, as the Pure Goddess of Light and Holy Fire, naturally brings forth each new day), in order that the Meken might use it to ensure peace in the
next day. That is, by fighting and dying in the present, the Meken ensure peace for the future.
There is also sacrifice of others, namely enemies, but this is sacrifice in the sense of a gift to the Goddess, and takes place on the battlefield.
Menekod Laranianism has
an adapted form of the historic claim of priestly infallibility, which
applies instead to the Meken themselves. Since they are the holy
warriors of Larani, and her select few (the idea of the Meken as an élite is important both to their religion and their broader social outlook), the Meken are
guided by her light. In their reasoning, this naturally leads to absolute infallibility, in whatever matter. This fits in easily with their strictly hierarchical organisation
and the emphasis on obeying the orders of superiors.
Thus, the Meken as a
whole are infallible, as is each member, unless one of higher rank contradicts
that member. It has never happened that the Reblena of
the Meken has been judged as wrong in a matter; it is not clear what would happen in such a circumstance.
The Chivalric Code, as
mentioned above, is largely dispensed with, and replaced by a very different
sense of honour. Among the Meken, loyalty to the Ûnir is
paramount, and the closest ties are those between trio and Ûnir members. The honour of both units must be upheld - this means a number of things. Not only
winning, but winning well, with minimal losses is of course greatly desired. Being disciplined and well kitted out is also given great importance, as is the precise
performance of a number of religious duties. To take only one example, the Baseka assigned to lower the Banner of the Ûnir at the dawn service, and the
Meken assigned to ring the gong, are expected to arrive at the courtyard in impeccable dress, without any signs of exertion, and have time to walk across to
join their companions before the sound of the gong has faded. On such things are the reputations and honour of the Meken built.
The ties with Peoni are
greatly reduced. In the orthodox belief, Peoni and Larani are the joint
deities, and everyone follows, in some sense, both Goddesses,
even though most Peonians have not taken Laranian vows. This is not the case with the Meken, who see those who follow Peoni as simply those to be
protected - they neither expect nor take anything from them (in their view), and spare little thought for them at all.
The following are some interesting snippets about various aspects of Menekod Laranianism.
The sacrifice of enemies'
blood to Larani is sometimes seen as a remedy for the loss of blood suffered
by the Goddess when she becomes the Terrible Lady
of the Flowing Red. Since it is this aspect of the deity that is predominant in the doctrine, this obviously calls for a lot of blood.
The Meken are really
the ones who make most use of the Laranian Calendar; though it is used
on all the documents of the Order, it is the Meken who almost
live and breathe it. Despite a widespread lack of literacy among Meken, every member of a trio has at least some knowledge of their name saint, and every
member of a Ûnir knows some of the stories and ideas attached to the Skirmish their unit is named after.
During Ezar's War last
century, a movement began among the Meken to rename the Order the Order
of Avarkiel, as this was seen as more befitting the
Order's function and purpose. This was not greeted with any favour by those in charge of the Order, and the idea was never adopted. Since that time, while
public talk of the Avarkiel/Hyvrik split has ceased, it has crept into the private lives of the Meken. Avarkiel is the symbol of the Meken now, not the
Checkered Shield, and their prayers and chants reflect this.
At Menekod, at least,
it is fairly common practice for soldiers to make crude religious carvings
into the stone walls of the castle, and on the flagstones of the
courtyards. These often become sacred places for various individuals, trios, and Ûnir, where they pray and perform relgious devotions. Some of the older
carvings have been cut deep into the stone over the years, and are frequently visited by the soldiers. Some are even given the respect of the Banners, which
are bowed to whenever passed by a Meken in the appropriate Ûnir.
Typical carvings include
representations of the Checkered Shield (though see above), Avarkiel, trio
and Ûnir symbols, the face of the Goddess, and other
Author: Jamie Norrish