Known as the silk city and place of a thousand masks, the ornate towers and capped domes of Sarqand are legendary throughout the world, attracting pilgrims from all inhabited lands. Many will risk travelling for many miles, over weeks, even months, to ask forgiveness at the eternal flame of the Father, or seek guidance in their endeavours at the halls of the Magister.
As the troubles have increased since the Days of Fire, so too have the number of pilgrims, greatly enriching the heart of the Theocracy. The city proper is believed to have over a hundred temples, and it is known as a place of great learning. It was in Sarqand, then a village, that the Magister gave his first lesson about the Divine Assembly, and here that the ancestors built the ziggurat with its eternal fire. Other great places are numerous, ranging from the healing fountains of the Mother, to the Great Library.
One priestly practice that developed from Sarqandi culture is the extensive use of masks and head-coverings when performing holy ceremonies or worship. Originally worn to shield from the dust of Shemasra, many of these masks are holy status symbols that proclaim the wearer as a leader of their temple. Though this tradition was predominately one used by the Priesthood, the obscuring or hiding of features was adopted en-mass when the Grey Vigil were created to watch over the faithful: justice without face, mercy or bias.
Eternal Flame of the Father
A giant, stepped ziggurat dominates the skyline of the inner city; at its zenith a huge brazier burns unending. At night, the glow can be seen for many miles around the holy city, reminding them that the Father watches over the souls of all who believe in him. How the fire is actually fueled, no one but the Hearth Guards know, but it cannot be quenched by the strongest rains, nor lessened by the howling winds of the plateau. Many smaller imitations exist, but this is where faith was founded.
The common custom is to cast a prayer ribbon with a sin written upon it into the flames, in the hope that as the scrap is consumed, so too will be the sin be consumed. In ceremonies to the Father, ritual ash is often used to mark the foreheads of those receiving a blessing from a priest to safeguard their souls.
Halls of the Magister
The halls are a great place of learning in the Theocracy. Six great halls are arranged, side-by-side, meeting in a centre atrium. This is capped with a vast, azure dome of contemplation. Here, matters of theology are discussed, new high-priests and temple guard are trained and the Collect of Archpriests and their committees sit in session for most of the year.
The Great Library
‘If you cannot find it in the library of Sarqand, then it does not exist’.
So goes the saying about the world’s largest repository of scriptures, histories, technology, arcane items and spell-scrolls. There are many levels to this great library, each requiring a new key. It is said that the lowest vaults contain lore-scrolls of such terrible and forbidden power that they are guarded by the vigilant.
Palace of the Archimandrite
The grand palace is filled with statues, murals and giant prayer-flags. There are many side-temples and shrines to martyred holy men and previous leaders. However, it is the circular chamber at its heart that sets it apart. It is here that the grand circle of faith convene to rule the Theocracy lands, and by extension, all of the Priesthood. Said to be guarded by the four most powerful chosen beings in existence, few are ever called directly before the Archimandrite and the Grand Circle unless it is a matter of the utmost importance.