One reason it has been so successful in monopolizing faith is its explicit willingness to annex other religions and incorporate them into itself. Syncretism is not a side-effect, but the intended result. There is room in the church for everyone and everything.
One visible symbol of this success is their ability to convert monsters and beasts. A country church might have an ox that has found enlightenment, and kneels with the rest of the congregation during prayer. (The ox does not have intelligence, but it has faith, and that is sufficient.) Or there may be a cockatrice that prays daily and guards the cemetery.
There are also the slave gods--the gods of conquered people. Their holy places are transported to the Holy City of Coramont, where they are reassembled stone by stone. Their priests are kidnapped and held hostage within their temples. They control the faith, and so they control the people. These conquered gods become slave gods, and they kneel at the throne of Zulin, like the rest of Centerra. Their history is overwritten with new mythologies that incorporate them into the story of Zulin. It becomes very important to control books and regulate who is able to teach children. This is not a lie--in a very real sense, it becomes truth.
In this way, LAW is maintained.
|by Jakub Rozalski|
Ideas are easy to bury. There is an entire arm of the church dedicated to destroying and controlling information.
But immaterial creatures are much more difficult. Foreign angels, demon dragons, spirits of unborn antichrists, violent nature spirits, incompatible or redundant godlings. . . The church has hunted down all of these things and imprisoned them. (In most cases, this is not a bodily hunt but a metaphysical one).
They do these great feats by incinerating the souls of the (willing) devout, summoning angels, summoning devils, and employing autistic paladins who are actually really good at resisting the more weaponized aspects of faith. Centerra is infested with minor godlings. You couldn't flip over a rock without pissing off a nature spirit who lived beneath it. Or at least, it used to be infested. Things have quieted down now that the Church has been systematically exterminating and assimilating everything they come across.
They also use summoning circles, because you need to get a god to manifest before you kick its ass. Some of these summoning circles are huuuuuuuuge. You will find them scattered across Centerra.
<digression>The church actually summons a lot of bound devils, usually for very dangerous missions. They are powerful and blessedly expendable. But yeah, don't fuck with a Hesayan demon-binder. They know their stuff better than the demon-binders they are employed to fight. Sort of like how the government uses hackers to fight hackers, and sometimes recruits especially talented criminals. Except the Hesayan church has all sorts of ways to control a persons actions and thoughts. A person who has undergone all of these restrictions is called an Incorruptible.
The church doesn't care if the person they hire is trustworthy, because they have ways of making them trustworthy.</digression>
And once these rogue godlings are caught, they are given over to the sleeping priests, who then become responsible for keeping the prisoner asleep.
Sleeping priests are priests that sleep. When they are acolytes, they will use drugs to sleep for over 20 hours a day. When they are full priests, they will sleep 24 hours a day. If you want to contact them, you must do so in a dream. They are tended to by the youngest monks, who only sleep 6 hours a night because they are so busy spitting pre-chewed food into the mouths of sleeping old men. (So little sleep now will make it easier to sleep more later, it is said.)
In the most remote and isolated places, you will sometimes find tiny monasteries hidden in the earth. These places are filled with sleepy-eyed boys, holy books, and lots of opiates. There will also be one or three old men sleeping in some hidden room, where they have been sleeping continuously for the last few decades. Although their bodies are on a stone slab, their minds dwell in paradise.
At least, sometimes. They also have a very important job to do, and that is to keep horrible monsters sleeping so that they don't wake up and spoil the rule of LAW. They do this by crafting dreams and inserting them into the mind of the sleeping god. Dream labyrinths--mindscapes that draw you in and never let you out.
And if you were to creep in there and slit their throats (it would be easy--so very easy) something terrible would wake up from where it was buried three miles below you.
These old guys inhabit the Floating Realm, the world of dreams. They are strong with sleep magic and dream magic. But most importantly, they are also the telegraph in Centerra.
There are no teleportation spells. (Well, the true elves have some. And humans technically have some as well, but no sane person would cast them. That's how a wizard ends up dispersed as a fine, bloody mist across 40 acres of tundra.) There is no sending. The only way to get a message across the continent is to put a dude on a horse and give them a really good map.
That is, unless you have a sleeping priest. Distance is immaterial to them. They can contact each other in dreams and pass messages instantly. The only difficulty is getting access to them, since the Church controls (nearly) all of them. Sleeping priests don't wake up to dictate--you just shove a pen in their hand and they'll write out the message in their sleep. See also: automatic writing.
In a way, the epitomize the power of the church even better than paladins. Sleeping priests control information, and that is the real root of the Church's power.
Sleeping Priests as PCs
It's a great idea. Let's do it.
They're just clerics with sleep spells. I'd also give them some stuff like suggestion and illusion. But really focus on the sleep stuff. Control dreams, implant suggestions. trap people in comas, give them phobias (via nightmare).
Sleeping priests occupy two very specific roles within the church, and neither of them are very likely to become an adventurer.
You could be a sleeping priest out on a mission for the church. You could be a sleeping priest who developed insomnia and become unsuitable for their job. You could be trying to recapture the escaped godling after you fucked up and let is escape. (After spending the last decade asleep, I bet your knees are pretty stiff.)
You could also be a runaway, someone who escaped from the Church after learning just enough of its secrets to be dangerous. Or, heck, you could even be someone who learned the ways of the sleeping priests in order to fight them. After all, you need to wake your god back up.