The Hands of Ellenwood
Known throughout Lumeria as one of the cornerstones of Morovian culture, the Hands of Ellenwood are viewed somewhat less favorably by much of the rest of Phasis. Although few would decry the great service they offer across the empire in teaching arts, letters, and history, their zealous, almost missionary approach to the spread of their particular take on Imperial culture irritates some and has caused outright scandal at least once.
Founded by followers Theudemer d’Ellenwood in the early 3rd century, the Hands are recognized as an offshoot of the ascetic Order of the Wayward Song. The Wayward Song was a small sect of followers of Shelyn who devoted themselves to a wandering life free of earthly constraints in favor of the immaterial joys of music, literature, and learning. d’Ellenwood, a member of this Order, was renowned in his time throughout much of Lumeria for his generosity to the poor and his Lumerian nationalism. He spent much of his life devoted to teaching, offering lessons in reading, writing, history, and music to any and all, especially the poor, in exchange for nothing more than a place to sleep and a meal to eat. He attracted many followers who were willing to shed the vestiges of their former lives and spread his teachings and generosity through Lumeria and eventually beyond. While he always paid lip service to the Empire, with age his teachings slowly radicalized, until they had taken on a distinctly pro-Lumerian slant that disturbed many in Ilos.
In 284, an incident in the hamlet of Arles that left several soldiers and a dozen peasants dead was blamed on sedition at the hands of d’Ellenwood’s followers. Emperor Claudius Carsicus was forced to declare d’Ellenwood and his followers heretics and disband the Order of the Wayward Song. In the inquisition that followed, four temples to Desna were razed, over four hundred followers executed, and Theudemer d’Ellenwood was tortured and, when he refused to recant his anti-Imperial rhetoric, publicly burned at the stake.
It was only 30 years later, in the wake of massive civil unrest throughout Lumeria, that Archduke of Lumeria and Archbishop of Salia both threatened war and schism. Emperor Artimminer Aetius used his position as titular head of the Ilostrian church to posthumously pardon d’Ellenwood and declare him a saint all at once, a day now celebrated in much of Lumeria as Saint’s Day. The Hands of Ellenwood were established less than a year later, under the auspices of the Archbishop of Salia, whose charter for the organization described them as “an Imperial Morovian order” dedicated to arts, letters, and history.
The organization survives today as one of the Empire’s chief exporters of Imperial culture, whose members have traveled routinely to the nations and cultures surrounding the Ilostrian Empire, and even today in the face of Ilostrian decline still send emissaries to regions like Outremer, Volga, and Maghred Cagethi.