The structure of the church is the same as it has been since Vorax blessed his first champion, Rainstorff, almost a millennium ago. Before Rainstorff, the church consisted of clerics loosely organized but loyal to specific clans. While this had worked, larger issues were addressed by sporadic clan groups and not by a united church resistance. From Rainstorff came a structure designed to conserve history and give a solid foundation for future decisions. From the dwarves of his Red Axe Warriors, he founded the Order of the Valorous Axe, which was soon overrun with requests for organized assistance from clans all over Layonara. To take some of the pressure off the fledgling order, he recruited clerics to rally under the name of the War Priests. He also recognized the clerics of Vorax who were not battle-hardened but were devoted, and he gave them the option of serving in administrative capacity. Over time they became the Tacticians. Other offshoots and sects have evolved since, but the simple basic structure has endured.
Elections and Organizations
Balancing each other, assembling to share wisdom and knowledge, and occasionally gathering to glorify in their worship of the Father of Battle (and drink lots of ale), four bodies form the backbone of the church. In times of overwhelming troubles, a Council Vigilant is called that consists of the highest ranking members of all four groups. The Council Vigilant also convenes for elections. When a Council Vigilant is called, all seven generals, the General Superior, the Council of Four, Vorax's Arm, and the Defender of Valor are expected to attend unless they are physically unable due to injury or location.
Red Axe Warriors
It is believed that the first true paladin of Vorax was Rainstorff, who performed the bravest act ever by a dwarf: saving Vorax from imprisonment in the Pit of Hatred and Loss. Rainstorff barely lived through the battle; for his unselfish act, Vorax granted him the powers of a paladin as well as blessing his axe with special abilities. Rainstorff honored his god by organizing the clans who followed Vorax into the Red Axe Warriors, lending aid and fighting battles all across Layonara as the word got out. This group perseveres up to this day as the largest organization in the church and consists mainly of fighters of all kinds. The Red Axe Warriors created a chain of command that the War Priests mimicked; for every 10 warriors of Vorax there is a captain, and for every five captains, there is a major. One does not have to be a cleric to be a member of the Red Axe Warriors. For this reason alone, it is the largest organization. Members are chosen by a general vote of local members after a year-long observation of the potential Red Axe. The General Superior has the ability to veto a candidate however. There are seven generals in the Red Axe order. They have a primary area of the world they are assigned to maintain or observe as well as secondary duties. Generals are usually elevated from the Red Axes; although, it has happened before that a member of the War Priests was elected and once, a Tactician. Generals serve a term of twenty-five years and are restricted to three terms in a lifetime to keep new ideas flowing. They are chosen by popular vote during an assembly of the Council Vigilant. Voting is staggered so that there is never more than one new General at a time.
The General Superior is automatically the most battle-experienced general. Wars and combat engagements fought are tallied with successful outcomes counting for more, and the general with the largest total is the General Superior. This title is for the duration of their term, so the position shifts often. It should be noted that the clan names of the generals are either not given or changed to protect the families.
General Superior Haargrim is a dour man with no discernible sense of humor. He frowns on excess, frivolity, and the latest elf jokes. He is, however, a masterful general. In his entire 300- plus years, he has lost only two battles, and most of his life has been spent fighting with his bald, freckled head shining with sweat as he commands a battlefield. It should also be noted that despite his straight-laced nature, he is known among dwarves as a rarity for having fathered eleven children with his wife.
Seventh General Durral is the latest elect to the position of general, and rather than being full of fire, he brings a calmer assessment of the latest skirmishes. He is a tall, blond dwarf with a very measured way and a talent for defusing situations. He is responsible for Krashin, Bastil, and the other northern isles. His secondary consideration is the consistency of current church development with established doctrine. He and his wife and children live their lives in strict accordance of the dwarven way.
Sixth General Otek is a 42-year-old human from Lan's Port who has followed Vorax his entire life. His father was a follower and Otek earned a reputation for his fanatical worship. Once allowed into the church, he proved an able planner and implementer and won several key battles against the dark elves before being elected. He is liked but his zealotry can be off-putting. He is also quite tall and efforts must be made to accommodate his lanky, tanned frame at meetings. He watches the continent of Alindor east of Lan's Port, as well as the islands of the Rohden Alliance. He also studies the application of maritime tactics in warfare; something the dwarves have not used much in their past. His two sons are following in his footsteps, both having joined the Red Axe Warriors.
Fifth General Weryglin is a stolid and dependable dwarf with a long history of battles won. He is unremarkable at first glance. Very average for a dwarf with a personality that is forgettable; unless one watches him watching others. He has an uncanny knack for blending in and hearing conversations and details that a more obvious person would not, as well as the ability to sense lying and deceit so often that it borders on magic (although it would be unwise to use that description around him). He is responsible for the Dragon Isles and Alindor west of Lan's Port. He is also tasked with vigilance against idleness and trickery from both inside and outside the church.
Fourth General Mournmalk has a checkered past. He spent time in prison before his conversion and joined the church later in life after a long period where he was missing and presumed dead. Once he took his vows to Vorax, he learned spellpraying so quickly that what takes most clerics decades to learn took him eight years. Unbeknownst to the church (but not, presumably, to his god), Mournmalk has studied and used arcane magic. He has knowledge of the essence of spellcasting that few dwarves can ever grasp, and he spent time in the company of a spellcaller before returning to his clan. He is the general of Belinara; however, he spends most of his time gathering intelligence about the Pits, especially in regards to demons and devils. He often advises the Council Vigilant in defeating these types of fiends.
Third General Arima is the sole female general and the most devious. She swims in intrigue the way sharks swim in the ocean, languidly but with purpose. She was the only general chosen not as much for her battle skills or tactics but for her secondary duties; to gather intelligence on the various governments of Layonara and interpret how their actions affect the policies and future of the Church of the Father of Battle. She also is responsible for Southern Dregar and Vanavar.
Second General Longpike, a vibrant and charismatic dwarf, has responsibility for the continent of Mistone. His magnetism is useful for the detail of providing visiting dignitaries and guests with the general history of the church and hosting as necessary. He is often sent traveling to other clans when negotiations are called for. He is handsome and unmarried, squiring around a number of dwarven ladies.
First General Bargor Gloenstone is the last of clan Gloenstone and has never married. He began life as a Tactician with an aptitude for war planning, but made a move to the War Priests after taking his vows and ended up in the Red Axe Warriors by necessity. He is considerably more educated than the other generals. His areas of influence include Northern Dregar and Molten Island. As well, he keeps the church abreast of all intelligence regarding other faiths and how those actions affect the Church of Vorax. His special duties involve keeping a constant vigil observing Firesteep and Fisterion.
Order of the Valorous Axe
The smallest and most selective of the church orders, this is the home of the paladins of Vorax. After Rainstorff felt he had trained enough of his Red Axe Warriors in the ways of being a paladin, he founded this order to further training and establish traditions that would maintain the quality of Vorax's holy warriors. The tenets and requirements have remained exactly as Rainstorff laid them out and only the highest morals and behavior is expected from these select few who become members of the Order of the Valorous Axe. The order has evolved into a place where some of the finest dwarven men and women can be found in service to the Eternally Vigilant. The paladins of the order are sometimes assigned to either War Priest or Red Axe groups, but they prefer to work alone using their special powers to fight more localized evils. As such, there is a very linear hierarchy--the Defender of Valor heads the order and below him is everyone else. Defenders are voted in by a Council Vigilant every fifty years, again to prevent stagnation.
Defender of Valor Yurur Thkurraazqa is a warrior just over 200, young by past standards. He is shrewd and calculating with a frighteningly fast mind for battle and an ability to swiftly adapt to changing circumstances that some dwarves tend to lack. He continually travels between temples and training halls to assess and improve war planning, equipment, and instruction. He was elevated after a last-ditch defense of a dwarven village in which the previous Defender of Valor held fast to a flawed plan and died in the ensuing chaos. Yurur was forced to grab the reins as the next senior warrior present, and he quickly worked out an idea to defend the remaining villagers from the marauding orcs with only five dwarves and two humans. His success virtually cemented his nomination.
War Priests comprise a third of the church. These men and women are the heart of Vorax's faith and are fighting clerics who take both the word of the Father of Battle and his healing and combat spells to the front lines or wherever they're needed. The structure of the War Priests is strictly hierarchical, based on the Red Axe model, and orders are to be followed exactly and without question. For every ten War Priests there is a captain, and for every five captains there is a major. Given the power of this clergy the groups can remain small; a War Priest is a fearsome enemy, able to fight like a warrior several times their experience and throw down the will of their god in terrifying spells, then heal themselves of any damage taken before continuing to pound their enemies. The War Priests have one leader voted in general assembly and he is called Vorax's Arm and is he voted on every fifty years by a general assembly of the War Priests.
Vorax's Arm Rachel Longpike is currently one of only a dozen females to have held a powerful position in the church. Rachel Longpike is the daughter of a general and the wife of a major and grew up with a Tactician mother. This raven-haired dwarf 's breeding is in all ways for war, and she has not lost a battle in her 200 years. Her War Priests are loyal to her like they have never been to a male Arm, seeing her as much a good luck charm and battle muse as a sharp tactician and superior fighter. There are those who say she might be the first female general superior if she decides she wants it.
Vorax is the god of war, and the number of militant priests, paladins and warriors account for roughly 85% of the church. For those that are non-militant, however, there are the Tacticians. Ecclesiastical, educated, and willing to preserve or pass on the knowledge of Vorax, these men and women do not enter battle as readily or as often as others. However, there are many sorts of Tacticians; non-militant does not mean that one does not fight. These are priests of the god of war after all. Rather, these priests simply do not practice the martial aspects of their skill as a primary means of serving their faith. Very often, older dwarves no longer combat-able end their time in the church here, and a visit to the rooms in which Tacticians work can be intimidating by the sheer wisdom contained within the four walls. This group is where the other organizations turn when information is needed, diplomacy is called for, and most especially when a good, solid battle plan based on historical successes and a millennium of expertise is the order of the day. The Council of Four is often only behind the general superior in influence on the Council Vigilant due to the combined expertise of the members. The generals share information they collect freely with the Tacticians, and they often confer with them to tease out patterns and tidbits from around the globe. Election to the Tacticians is for a term of fifty years and done by a two-thirds vote of the general assembly of Tacticians only. The number of terms served is not restricted. Four of the most pious Tacticians form the governing body of this organization. They are called the 'aazdth (heads) of which there are two, and the rhurarw (point) and 'azwaw (haft) of which there are one each. The titles have no meaning aside from their connection to the battleaxe. One does not choose which part one is. Posts are for terms of one hundred years or until death. There are two sides to the voting: 51% of the weight of the vote is in the general assembly of the Tacticians and 49% of the weight is from the remaining three council members. The longest-sitting member is simply called the Grandfather.
'aazdth Thrthic Jadukur is the youngest, most aggressive council member. His bright red hair perfectly matches his bright red temper; yet, he has a great capacity to see through issues to the heart of matters and his devotion to the Father of Battle has never been questioned. He has the most experience traveling the world, having spent time adventuring during his youth, and although he's settled down, his knowledge of the world beyond stone walls is invaluable.
'aazdth Duerdak Thazkurrnazah is a stolid, steady dwarf with an impeccable clan history. Clan Thazkurrnazah has never had a murderer, a thief, or as much as a philanderer in their history, which dates back to the end of the first Age. How a lineage of dwarves managed to not even get into a bar fight in their entire history eludes many, but their reputation is as solid as the metal in their axes. Not much is known about this dwarf except he never married or had children. His entire life has been devoted to interpreting ancient texts and guiding others on how best to do the same.
Rhurarw Ergar is the current Grandfather, having sat on the council since 1117. He was appointed suddenly as a young and inexperienced cleric due to political maneuvering by a previous 'aazdth and was supposed to be a figurehead, bowing to decisions from those he was beholden to. During this time, the dwarven political structure was in shambles because of outside infiltration and inside cooperation. Ergar surprised everyone, not least the one who decided his mild-mannered piety would be easy to push around, and organized a stop to the growing church cancer. The perpetrators were put to death, and he helped vote in several outstanding Tacticians that worked to revitalize the church. Since then, he has been a beloved and trusted figure, and although he has weakened and developed tremors in his old age, his mind is as sharp as ever.
'azwaw Berbera is the quietest member, a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother who brings a woman's wisdom to the council. Disputes are rare with this group. When they arise though, her faith and her calm demeanor diffuse the situation, helping the council stay on track. She is a languages expert, having spent most of her life teaching others to understand elves, halflings, gnomes, goblins, and even orcs and giants.