Tomas moved to pick up the sword. Sensing something wrong, I cried out a warning, but it was too late. I could see the change in him immediately. I instructed him to put the weapon down. He refused and told me that he no longer had to do what I told him. I knew then that I would have to exorcise the vile force that controlled him now, but first I would have to separate him from the cursed blade - and for that I would have to fight him.The Shadow of Crescencia
Although there are Seven Virtues that are known to empower the human soul and guide it through the Labyrinth of Ages, there are other spiritual forces that are present in the world. These malign spiritual presences can arise from false teachers, barbarians, foreigners or even simply by circumstance. Amongst the duties of the Priests of the Way is cleansing and purging the malign spiritual presences utilising an appropriate liao ceremony.
Malign spiritual presences have a number of known sources and manifestations. These include:
There are some malign auras that initially appear harmless, even beneficial, but which were ruled as un-virtuous and excluded from the Doctrine of Seven by the early Synod. Consequently, the promotion and propagation of these auras and presences is regarded as Blasphemy under Imperial Law. Nevertheless, some Blasphemous Cults still arise and either explore these auras in secret, or seek to change the Doctrines of the Faith to press for their inclusion.
In their ignorance, some Barbarians and Foreigners encounter spiritual auras and manifestations and, instead of understanding that they are echoes from the Labyrinth of Ages, see them as the presence of gods, demons or other supernatural entities. Priests of these false gods may even believe that they are invoking the power of some divine being through their warped approaches to religious ceremonies.
Phenomena and Phantasmagoria
Whereas the propagation of Blasphemous Cults and the worship of False Gods is carried out via mortal agencies, there are occasions where malign spiritual presences can seem to occur as a natural, or indirectly occurring phenomenon. For example, a house in which a horrific crime is committed may attract a malign spiritual aura related to the nature of that crime. Additionally, it has been known for vile and wicked spirits - condemned to wander the Labyrinth of Ages for all time - to break loose and seize control of mortal hosts.
Examples of Malign Spiritual Presences
The following are a few of the spiritual presences that have been excluded from the Doctrines of the Faith and so whose accepted presence constitute at least Blasphemy if not also Idolatry.
Seemingly benign, this aura has also been referred to as Fortune or Fate and generally conveys that there are greater supernatural forces at work, and that these forces are benign and can be trusted. This seductive aura has been deemed by Synods past as being anathema to all the Virtues for it discourages effort and striving by mortals. It is also an aura often associated with False Gods for it encourages faith in greater powers, which is Idolatry.
Another apparently benign aura, Peace has also been known as Tranquillity and Harmony. It was ultimately deemed dangerous for promoting passivity and being in conflict with virtues such as Ambition, Courage and Vigilance. At its worst, Peace promotes apathy, indifference and compromise in the face of challenges that confront, even threaten, the Empire. The restful nature of Peace auras is alluring and, some claim, mildly addictive, which is a quality that has been exploited by Blasphemous Cults and False Gods.
Auras of anarchy - sometimes called freedom or liberty - stir mortal souls against structures and order and were recognised at an early stage as self-destructive forces as well as a threat to the unity and heart of the Empire. Less prone to spontaneous manifestation than some malign presences, Anarchy has been known to take root in Blasphemous Cults that seek to tear down all the Empire has sought to build. This false virtue was extensively preached during the freedom heresy.
Auras of vengeance - occasionally called justice - are one of the malign spiritual presences that seem to crop up through all agencies in almost equal measure. The aura has been known to manifest in areas of sudden violence and, as such, is commonly associated with hauntings. Equally, there are False Gods and blasphemous cults that utilise auras of vengeance to steer souls down dark paths. These destructive auras were deemed unvirtuous by the Early Synod for fuelling cycles of violence and goading citizens into action, often in defiance of Imperial Law, which is both disloyal and unwise.
Auras of Fear, like auras of vengeance, are well known for arising spontaneously as well as through False Gods and Blasphemous Cults. In the case of the latter two, it is not that fear is venerated but more that it is used as a means to goad and control other mortal souls. The unvirtuous nature of these auras is apparent in the manner that they stand in direct opposition to Virtues such as Courage and Ambition.
There was some significant debate within the Early Synod before auras of hatred were deemed unvirtuous. Its proponents argued that it was a powerful and motivating force that spurred mortal hearts into action. It was ultimately ruled to be in conflict with the more widely recognised and respected Virtue of Wisdom, being irrational and indiscriminate in its nature. However, there are False Gods and Blasphemous Cults that still seek to use these auras as a means to control mortal souls.