As the official state religion of Salvar, The Church of the Ethereal Sway once held nearly unchallenged authority over the country's people. It was once perhaps the largest and most powerful religion in the known world. However, when the Church and Salvar's king, Iorlan Rathaxea, began to squabble, civil war between the factions broke out. This conflict resulted the death of the monarch and the weakening of both the aristocracy and the church. The two sides have since reconciled and the Ethereal Sway works to steadily recover and rebuild. It remains the official and most widely practiced faith in Salvar.
The religion itself centers on worshiping a pantheon of mysterious spirit-beings, the Ethereal Sway. Religious texts state that they traveled to Salvar from another world and guided its early rulers along the path of greatness for their fledgling country. After leading Salvar to a golden age of peace and prosperity, the Sway vanished. No one has had direct contact with them for a thousand years. The Church itself formed to continue guiding the kingdom according to the tenets of their divine benefactors. They claim that by upholding the proper laws and moral values and living righteously, they will prove themselves worthy and the Ethereal Sway will return to guide them once more.
The official head of the Church is known as the Justice. Historically appointed by the king, the Justice is now elected by the League of Nobles as part of the peace agreement between church and state. The position currently remains empty, with the elder clergy leading the Church for the time. The last Justice, Lev Testhan, was slain by Ashiakin and his cohorts during the civil war.
The Church was a law unto itself during the height of its power, trying and executing traitors, witches, and heretics for a wide variety of crimes, perceived or otherwise. These included witchcraft, corruption, demonology, and heresy. Some of the more radical agents even spoke out and acted against non-humans (though Dark Elves and Dwarves seemed largely exempt due to a long-standing Salvic alliance with Alerar.) The fearful image of a black-robed witch hunter brandishing a torch and the emblem of the All-Seeing Eye remains a common nightmare to this day -- a story that mothers often tell misbehaving children. Large-scale witch-hunts rarely happen anymore, due to the terrible losses that the Church suffered during the civil war. Still, they were once commonplace enough to perpetuate fear, just as the Church leaders wanted.
Despite their dark stigma, the Ethereal Sway performs many good works across the region. Their witch hunters root out infernal forces, necromancers, and other very real threats to civilization. The power of faith once maintained order and internal peace in the kingdom, and even after the civil war, it provides a bastion against chaos and bloodshed. Their holiest saints perform great and mysterious miracles. Their missionaries feed and clothe the poor, and help rebuild villages after natural disasters, and their churches always welcome weary travelers and the homeless.
The Ethereal Sway's core doctrines and tenets include nationalism, selflessness, devotion to duty, and submission before authority. They encourage daily prayer so that individuals may attempt to communicate with their missing gods and seek guidance and visions. Its most revered saint was Denebriel, a nationalistic and seemingly immortal woman who would vanish for centuries and reappear during times of need. She last returned to lead the faithful during the civil war, but was allegedly killed near the war's end. Many now view her as the holiest of martyrs and others believe that she will return again in a future century.
The faith also preaches purity of body and thought, which includes alarmingly anti-magic rhetoric. Most scholars point to the War of the Tap as the reason for this condemnation. The Ethereal Texts, the Church's holy documents, contain pages upon pages of historical tales supposedly told by the spirits of the Ethereal Sway themselves. Many of these records described the ancient war and the catastrophic destruction wrought by magic run wild. Other accounts tell of demonic influences and claim that magic can corrupt the mind and scar the soul. The Sway prophecies even say that the world will end in sorcerous fire, and as such pyromancy is especially hated and feared.
While magic itself is not fully illegal, it remains sanctioned, supervised, and controlled by the Church. The most notable arcane agents of the Sway are the Empowered Priests, robed men and women armed with unique iron spears who command wind, lightning, and ice, and the Aeromancers, high in their towers using magic to tame the region's harsh weather. Even after the civil war, witch-hunters still venture across the countryside and through city streets to hunt warlocks, rogue sorcerers, and those believed to consort with demons. Meanwhile, other agents hide within secret dungeons, studying and experimenting on sorcerers, shamans, and other arcane practitioners.
Even in its diminished state, the Church remains vigilant, doing its best to stamp out any magical influence not under its control before it spreads like an infection. The age is changing, however. The resources of the Church have been stretched thin as it struggles to recoup its losses and reassert its authority. Will magic surge back to prominence or will the Church eventually regain its hegemony in the kingdom?