The Darkest Hour
The Ignastic Church, The Flame, and Modern Interpretation
Prior to the establishment of the Ignastic Church, recorded history is nothing more than a loose collection of documents stolen from now defunct monarchies and warlords. The empire and church are now in their 1613th year of recorded history, marked by the term anno ignamini, which roughly translates into the year of our commanding flame, and references the early conquests a church led empire made against the paganistic, heretical forces that worshiped false gods, and finally- the victory of the flame over the darkness. Doctrine regarding this era is limited, with most books labeled as heretical to own or read. Church approved literature is somewhat more clear, but reads with very little accuracy to historical fact.
Regardless, literature from this era in history still affects the Anglian empire today, pervading every aspect of culture and government, and every citizen claims to worship the flame, if for no other reason than to avoid the ire of the inquisition. These influences stem from early beliefs that the earliest enemies of the empire's conquest practiced witchcraft while consorting with demons and the forces of hell, working against the good of man and its governing factors. Doctrine is clear that the flame was the answer to pagans and the hellish forces they served, and it's very existence became the object of worship, informing religious practices for well over a millennia. There are holdovers from this era that are in stark contrast with the state of Anglia today such as puritanical breeding standards that prevent the devout from engaging in sexual activity during the second half of the year as the days grow shorter. Ancient scripture calls such an act an anathema, with children conceived during this time being susceptible to forces of hell, and born with sin upon them. As such, the later half of the year is a stressful, puritanical time of shame and drudgery where human contact of any kind is severely frowned upon. The age of reason has seen these beliefs begin to fade, but it nevertheless remains a common practice.
Similarly, witchery is forbidden, and any act that calls back to the witchcraft associated with the pagans that stood in the way of the flame is an abomination. It has since fallen to disuse with some skeptics arguing that it does not exist at all, and more often than not- it is the purview of secret societies and the elite, attempting to control forces with forbidden literature that is at best, half true. Regardless, the inquisition routes out its use with ruthlessness and zeal, with the common person's superstitions supporting the persecution of any who might be guilty of witchcraft.
Most important however, is the belief that the flame is a purifying force of good, keeping the terrors of the night at bay. Most people can agree to this, as it requires no faith in the supernatural to recognize the importance of fire to human prosperity. Flame is both savior and destroyer- a physical manifestation of a deity that serves human interests, and strokes the flames of progress.
These beliefs ensure that every heretic and irredeemable criminal is burned alive in an iron box, slowly roasted to death as their screams mark the purification of their soul so they might yet have an opportunity to enter heaven, and avoid the cold abyss of hell. This practice is known as returning to the flame, and is widely accepted as best practice throughout the empire. Some devout Ignastics willingly return themselves to the flame rather than cling to a slow, and agonizing death brought on by sickness or age. This is convenient as well- since most Anglians prefer cremation as a means of burial.
Arch Bishop Benici was elected under circumstances that would otherwise be questioned, but due to the nature of the one hundred years war an arch bishop with experience in the Holy Anglian Legion was a welcome change. Quick action and the establishment of no less than four new templar orders were critical to ending the war, and gained Benici full control of priests and Bishops that might otherwise be unwilling to bend a knee to the liberal, and unorthodox leader. With the full weight of the Ignostic church behind him he began to affect change, and reform traditions and laws that were inviolable for a millennia. Seeking expansion of the church's already impressive power base, he aims for an absolute government, not just a stewardship in the absence of imperialist rule. To these ends, the arch bishop turned towards mercantile and coinage as a means of controlling every aspect of imperial life. This has not sat well with imperialists and devout ignostics alike, who see the church's gathering power as a threat, or a perversion of the faith respectively. The arch bishop has responded in kind by expanding the role of the venerated inquisition corps to act as arbiters and hounds rooting out not just heretics and witchcraft, but 'all enemies of the faith'. A term that now includes vocal purists and devout followers that might pose a hindrance to the expanding might of the new Anglian Church, and its reformation of the ignostic faith. This has led to Emporer James III establishing holdouts at the furthest reach of the empire- the colonies. By offering mercantile trading organizations the right to charter new territory in the new world, he and the imperialists have spat in the church's face, allowing for small bastions of true ignosticsm, and a means in which they can maintain their fading power. The church can not publicly encroach on these territories due to the charters that cite esoteric imperial law, established in the early days of the empire during a stage of rapid expansionism. They are responding in kind by sending auditors and inquisitors, the only agents that have free reign to come and go as they please, regardless of ancient property law, leading to tension in the colonies.