The Origins of Anticlericalism

While anticlericalism has risen and fallen as a fad among the scholars in every era of the Golden Age, it is only during the reign of the Cult of the Drowned Mother that it truly came into its own as a unified movement. Previous groups dedicated to an entirely secular government, or merely one in which the kings of Lemuria were assigned worldly rather godly powers, had always fragmented over irrelevant matters of internal hierarchy, suitable replacements for the current system of government, or carefully applied external pressure from rightfully worried clerics of the successive cults. One may safely dismiss earlier instances as mere footnotes to history, of no more importance than the fashionable hairstyles or endless mystery lordlings of a given year.

The anticlericalism that followed this cult cannot be attributed solely to the overwhelming influence of the Mother's adherents in government, despite the fondess of many scholars for such simplistic explanations. Nor was it the singular act of a singular man, despite the well-recorded infamy of the most powerful group's founder, Xerxes the Terse. No, any detailed study of the history of this age shows that what finally brought disunified groups together into a clamoring for a Lemuria ruled by an oligarchy of the wealthy alone was a series of events whose causes were unrelated, but effects in combination striking and long-lasting.

The Bloody Spring

Two years after Xerxes had founded and abandoned the Well-Lit Brotherhood (which merely serves to emphasize that his influence on following events were minor and removed at most, though one might still argue such influence was deliberate), a furor arose during the usual spring drowning when the chosen sacrifice was the daughter of the Lemurian king's third mistress. The king's steadfast willingness to accept their choice was viewed by the Well-Lit Brotherhood as a sign of corruption, for should blood not triumph over even the call of the gods? And had the Drowned Mother any right to call for the god-king's own blood?

This incident might well have passed seemlessly into the dark waters of history had it not been followed by the maiming of an unmarked priest in the caverns below the palace. Records of the wizards of the machines show only that the priest's limbs were caught in the gears of the vast machines that drove the waters to and fro between the purifying temples and the palace's garden towers. Naturally, this caused great consternation among those who tended the machines, for as it had always been said, the gears turned with perfection equal to that of the king's rule. Where the spring drowning had suggested a conflict between cult and gods, the priest's maiming brought up the spectre of a far more ominous possibility: that the machines themselves, the very crux of the king's power, objected to the clerics who kept such a tight grip on every aspect of government.

In the midst of such dis-ease came the event most refer to when they speak of the Bloody Spring: the moment when the bond-creatures of the mire beneath the purifying temples rose up beneath the palace and entered the nurseries of the priests' quarters. Sources disagree on the extent of the bloodshed: we may be sure that there were survivors, and so the estimates of hundreds of babes in cradles devoured and riven to pieces may be discounted, for there were not enough priests on the census among the palace staff to account for so many infants; similarly, the claims that a single death had been turned by rumor into dozens may be ignored, for the census ten years hence shows a distinct gap in priestly children of a particular age. Whatever the true numbers of the butchery, the final piece of the Bloody Spring required to allow anticlericalism to rise had been completed: in grief and anger, the attention of the entire priestly caste was turned towards revenge against the bond-creatures, regardless of what results this might have on the workings of the mighty machines.

And so from three points, none of common origin, the steady grip of the priests upon the throat of Lemurian government was loosened. The Well-Lit Brotherhood spoke in public what had before been whispered in a dozen secret societies, taking responsibility for the overthrow that followed as if they had been its agents and not merely opportunistic. When the king was himself purged of godly powers in the silver purifying temple of the queen's house, even those priests who yet maintained vestiges of power declared themselves well content with the new separation of cult and king.

The Fall of Anticlericalism

There is little scholarship to be found of worth in the tale of Lemuria's fall into the inevitable clutches of theocracy once more. As with any history, it is a story only sad when spoken of in generalities, and full of trivial boredom when detailed through every step viewed as inevitable but entirely preventable if those involved had only taken action while there was yet time. When the Summer Prince gave up his birthright, or the gears beneath the palace first displayed the unnatural rust that was to be their downfall, still there was time for reason and order to triumph over superstition and endlessly ornate tradition that served no purpose even for the gods. Yet reason and order did not triumph. So always ends a golden age.

Edited by Dame Helwin Helwindotter
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