Throughout the span of the Dominion in both time and geography, the worship of Hazlia was as multifaceted as it was complicated and adaptive. Whether by ambition, drive, memories of a bygone time, admiration or cunning – or even a combination of all of these – Hazlia reached for the mantle of the Sun early on in his career as God-Protector of the First Tribe. But the scores of tribes converted, assimilated, conquered or annexed by Hazlia’s First Tribe demanded for Hazlia to assume different names, personas and aspects of portfolios, as the sun was revered by nigh all of them. This, of course, served the Pantokrator well; in his eventual quest for further elevation and, eventually, absolute dominion over gods and mortals alike, the complexity of his worship allowed for versatility and constant change, while the different approaches to the same theme by different tribes allowed Hazlia to dip into the portfolios of others among his Patheon, keeping the power of the greatest of them in check, while eventually subsuming lesser ones completely.
The end result, some believe, was madness and the Fall. Scattered and pulled in as many directions as there were personas and titles in his honorifics, Hazlia’s very nature would be broken – or so they say. But there were lesser, more mundane consequences to this: by the third century P.R., the worship of Hazlia would sometimes vary outside of Capitas and the list of monastic orders, brotherhoods and lesser churches devoted to Hazlia were too numerous, too scattered and often too obscured to be remembered by most save perhaps the Relator Fidelium, the Chronicler of the Faithful.
Hazlia’s Caelesors ensured that these monastic orders and churches, both large and small, were preserved and financially secured. Wishing for this diversity to keep him agile, Hazlia empowered them in different degrees, offering land, financing structures and even awarding tithing rights to the surrounding areas. Granting them allowances in their practices, these orders often escaped the jurisdiction of all but the Caelesor, including the Keeper of Prayers. Most importantly of all, however, they were not only allowed, but empowered in their worship. Recruiting and ensuring the continuation of these orders, brotherhoods and sisterhoods was not only encouraged, but actively supported. In the case of the Hermits of Hazlia-Samash the All-seeing, the practice was as obscure as it was extreme – and extremely effective.
The sun-god Samashut was originally worshipped by the Shakadhi, the one people that had rivaled the First Tribe in their ingenuity and advancement – some believe, due to the sponsorship of a member of the Directorate. So much so, in fact, that Hazlia’s early legions never risked meeting them in battle. Instead, Hazlia appeared to them as Samashut personified and, while not all followed him readily, the rest, as they say, is history and the Shakadhi were soon brought under Hazlia’s banner. Whether there had actually been a person or primordial shard behind Samashut originally or if his worship simply revered the concept of the sun, it has been forgotten, but regardless, the identity of Samashut, gradually denigrating to Samash or Hazlia-Samash, was one of the first the Hazlia adopted beyond his own.
Before Hazlia assumed the persona, Samashut was an all-seeing god of the sun, judge of the living and dead in equal measure. While this role was usually reserved for the Seer of the Pantheon in his personas as Orcos Radamanthus, the Hermits of Samash All-seeing remained faithful to the traditional worship; and Hazlia, feering the Seer almost as much as his Triumvirate partners, made sure they kept doing so. Entrenched far up the slopes of the eastern Herm mountain range, the Temple of Eyes doubled down as a prison for the most ruthless and violent criminals, condemned to death. While there were locals who were ready to serve their local tithe-lords, the Hermits mostly depended on their guests for recruitment… Offering a chance to life through dedication to Hazlia-Samash and the hermetical order, those which Hazlia blessed at the end of their trial periods and moments before their execution, would owe their lives to him – literally– and their hermit brothers and sisters.
The centuries of decline before Hazlia’s cataclysmic Fall did not leave the Hermits, or any of the other monastic orders, unaffected. The greatest among them had become paramount cogs in the complex machinery of the Theocracy of the Dominion, acting as local authorities side-by-side with local preators and proconsuls – and thus a danger to the authority of the Caelesors who, in Hazlia’s absence, held their offices through uncertainty and constant challenges. Their authority over locally assigned legions was paramount in the decision to disband them – and the turmoil this led to. By the time of Hazlia’s Fall, many of them had been crippled or eradicated completely, but not all.
The lesser ones, such as the Hermits of the Samash All-seeing, scattered throughout the Dominion’s lands – and even beyond – and isolated in their monasteries and temples, would be forced to bar their gates and keep a low profile. Without Hazlia’s protection, they rightfully feared, their privileges could draw envious eyes. In the centuries that followed, most of them would be completely forgotten and ignored, their devoted faithful, almost completely isolated save for new recruits and accolades, would become an echo chamber of worship and zealotry. For some of them, perhaps too many by any logical account, this proved their salvation; entrenched in their monasteries and temples, far from the centers of civilization and destruction, they would survive the Fall.
This was the case of the Hermits of Samash All-seeing. Composed almost exclusively by fanatical criminals who – as they saw it – owed their lives to Hazlia personally, the Hermits would survive the first years after the Fall by what little life their modest monastery garden and farm animals could offer for as long as those endured. Eventually, when that proved too little and the animals perished from starvation and dehydration, they turned to their carcasses, then the bodies of their own dead compatriots around the temple; until, ultimately, they turned to the bodies of their own prisoners and what few deranged survivors they could hunt. Despairing in their zealotry for being abandoned, an expedition was sent to Capitas, led by one Brother Hanibus and six others. Months passed, then a year, until the remaining Hermits turned for substance to those among them who failed one of their many grueling tests of faith – and despite the monstrosities committed, the Hermits saw their situation as tests from their god; and they were rewarded.
On a grey eve like all the others before it, a pale light shone through the ashen mists outside the temple’s gates. Then, the heavy door of the Temple opened, its creaking protests heralding the dawn of a new life; Brother Hanibus, carrying a torch with dark flame had walked in. He found the half-remains of most scattered around the temple’s grounds. Others, he found in weak embraces, struggling to muster the strength for a taste of flesh or blood. Others still he found having locked themselves in the prison cells to stay out of reach from their brethren, their own bitemarks on their skins. The good Brother smiled.
“I see you are ready,” he said as he lowered the torch on each of them, offering an eternity in the embrace of their god. Today, even the rest of the Kherres and the Moroi shy away from the blood-crimson cowls of the Hermits of Samash All-seeing.