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Hrestol, Prince and Martyr

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Prince Hrestol is the greatest Saint-Hero of the West, and is regarded as the Second Prophet by all the major Malkioni sects. The great Prophet Malkion was a religious leader and lawgiver, not noted for his physical heroism. Prince Hrestol, on the other hand, fought as a knight in shining armour, invented the modern code of Chivalry, and brought the liberating Joy of the Heart to the world. All Malkioni (except the Brithini) revere his name.

Hrestol's Revelation came as a vision from the Prophet Malkion, who told him that it was permissible to break the Old Laws now, in the New Age of Time, to save the people of the Prophet in dire extremity. In response, he mastered the arts of all four Malkioni castes, then set out on a Quest to save his people from the evil Lion Empire. He succeeded in his task, but offended his new stepmother, the Serpent Queen Seshna Likita, and was banished from her land.

Thereafter, Hrestol journeyed throughout the lands and islands of the West. He sojourned first on Brithos (where he was implicated in the death of the Talar and forced to flee), and then on the Vadeli Isles. Throughout this time, he was adventuring, teaching and performing miracles.

In the 33rd year after the Dawning he was tried as a criminal, tortured, and put to death by the Brithini. Hrestol's 'crimes' were committed in Seshnela and the Isles of the West, and essentially amounted to a flagrant breach of almost every fundamental Malkioni Law. This occurred outside the Brithini citadel of Sogolotha Mambrola, the modern "City of Brass" at the heart of Sog City.

At the moment of his death, those witnessing his execution saw him "ascending bodily into Solace", just as the great Prophet Malkion had done. Even the Brithini were impressed! This miraculous sign was taken by the witnesses to indicate that the Brithini, who had judged his actions by the Laws of Malkion and proved that Hrestol had broken them, did not have all the answers. There was room for something more beyond rigid adherence to the letter of the Law. This might be interpreted by us as Conscience, or Compassion, or Humanity: to the Hrestoli, this revelation gave them the "Joy of the Heart", proving the existence of something that Hrestol himself had taught.

This ascent into Solace in Glory proved the truth of Hrestol's Revelation to all who were there and witnessed it. The witnesses founded the first Malkioni Church around this new Truth, and their ideas eventually spread back to Seshnela. Those Brithini who were there, were convinced; those who weren't, were convinced the others were wrong (of course!). While they may not have lived long, they died happy...

The "Solace of the Body" I interpret as the certainty that you can attain Solace by following Malkion's Law in all things. The "Joy of the Heart" is then the knowledge that falling short of this Malkionic ideal does not necessarily condemn you to loss-of-Solace, if you are a good man, or you acted in a good cause.

In other words: if it were against Malkion's Law for a wizard to exert himself performing physical labour, and a wizard happened upon a house on fire, leaving magic aside, a strict Grey Age Malkioni would say his duty was to maintain his own purity and not assist attempts to extinguish it, while a Hrestoli would know that "the ends justify the means", and that saving lives by compromising his own purity would be forgiven by the Compassionate and Merciful Creator.

Hrestol's career is far more interesting to the Malkioni than his death, which (in a sense) served only to prove that he was Right all along, and the Brithini legalists were Wrong. Hrestol didn't "die for us" or "intercede for us": it's more that, by proving the Brithini wrong, his death showed that there is still hope for us. We can still attain Solace, even if ("by the Book") we are wretched sinners - so long as we are good and virtuous men, only breaking the letter of the Law to uphold its spirit. [1]

Hrestol did not perform some kind of universal sacrifice on our behalf: he died to prove something. Or, it could be, died and proved something.

Hrestol is most noteworthy as the messenger and the proof of "God's change of heart". His martyrdom at Sogolotha Mambrola isn't a redemptive sacrifice: it's a necessary demonstration. (In some ways this fits in beautifully with the "scientific" Western world-view: his death is the experimental proof, under controlled circumstances, that sinners can go to Solace).

Hrestol's death showed ordinary Malkioni who knew they had transgressed that they could still attain Solace after death: they might feel 'delivered from sin' in that sense. But any notion that Hrestol absolved sins or opened the way to Solace would be wrong (unless you wanted to base a weird heresy around it).

While the Brithini did their utmost to inflict a horrendous, contaminating Death on Hrestol, it was far more important than that (to their and to everyone's eyes) that he had been tried and found as Guilty as Sin by Malkion's Laws for the various actions he had carried out in his life (caste-breaking, consorting with Vadeli, etc.).

The fact that his death was agonising, demeaning and protracted is mere chrome. This is why images of Hrestol Humbled, Hrestol Scourged, Hrestol Crucified, etc. are not found throughout the West, though they may be found among weird cults like the Rokari Flagellants, who probably think his suffering was necessary to his salvation (and who are going against mainstream opinion)!

Had Hrestol died quietly in bed, he would still have gone to Solace in Glory, but with fewer witnesses (one assumes) and a less convincing "proof". The fact that he died so publicly, after being explicitly condemned by the finest available Malkioni legalists, pretty much put an end to their dry, inhuman philosophy.

One wonders if an Invisible Hand was at work... but that's probably a heresy, too!

Hrestol is identified with Everyman, not with God. We suffer: Hrestol suffered. We sin: Hrestol sinned. We are sick, tired, wounded: so was Hrestol. We are told by our elders and betters that we have transgressed: so was Hrestol. We feel we are good men, but know we are unworthy: so did Hrestol.

But Hrestol entered Solace. And so may we.

[1] Yes, this could become a scary concept in the hands of twisted hypocrites and monstrous ideologies. I think this makes it very viable as the basis for a church in a FRP world. It also saves "pure-hearted" Western PCs from the need to look up the Law every time they want to act, and explains the ancient rivalries between knights and wizards ("We have no need of their Law: we follow our hearts!"), and knights and sorcerers ("They killed Hrestol!").

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