Priestly Hierarchy in the Temple of Baal–Part 3
Part One of the priestly hierarchy in the Temple of Baal presented an overview of the five major priestly orders. Part two focused on the Conjurors, Shogols and Arifs. This last part deals with the Kerta Priests and the Adorant.
Kerta means weaver, and whereas Conjurors, Shogols and Arifs perform their magical acts with much movement and hand-waving, the Kerta priest will slump in place and barely move.
Most Kerta, whether male or female, are obese, though they do not start that way. Beginners in the Kerta order are not called apprentice. They are called Madabalim–Inert–and they are recruited by a Kerta priest from among their youngest victims. The recruits eat and sleep and appear to do very little else, but in fact, their minds are constantly subjugated to the wiles of the Arayat. Many die, and those that do survive are then called Zalil–Activated. That title is a euphemism for outwardly, an activated Kerta behaves very much like an inert one. But in the Arayat, the experience is very different, for an activated Kerta is no longer a mere victim of the Arayat; he spends his time traversing and learning his way around. Some lose their way and do not come back. They become a Rahil–a wraith-walker. The few that survives become Wasil–Channeling. Channeling Kerta can cause localized spillover of the Arayat, thereby fundamentally altering reality and causing many to become lost within the Arayat.
The last three levels, spider, arkon, and sarkon are a mystery that few in the Temple of Baal understand. A spider weaves entrapment spells in the Arayat, but for what purpose and to what extent remains a mystery. As to what an arkon and a sarkon are, most of the information is lost in conjectures. Surprisingly, lower Kerta priests do not know who among their ranks fill these higher roles. Still, there are those in the Temple of Babylon who swear that no high priest can join the Inner Council unless he or she has dueled against an arkon and survived.
"Ancient Adorant Ring: Better fall in the hands of a Kerta priest than live as an Adorant's slave."
So begins the Song of Lorimelle, who lived 600 years before Ahiram was born. She was a renegade Adorant who fell in love with Siril of Voltocomb and fled with him to Taniin to avoid the wrath of her order, for an Adorant is forbidden romantic relationships. This song, attributed to her, is known the world over and did much to increase the dread everyone feels at the mere mention of the word "Adorant."
Victims of Kerta priests know they have fallen prey to predators. This knowledge increases their pain and terror. In contrast, those bewitched by an Adorant remain unaware of the fine threads she has woven in their mind and the extent of control she has over them. Worse, the infatuation that the victim feels towards the Adorant grows to adulation, then adoration. When the victim is willing to offer sacrifice at the altar of the Adorant controlling him, he becomes her willing slave and is then ready to do her bidding with no hesitation or restraints. Further, slaves of Adorants protect their mistresses until the end and are willing to suffer any torture rather than reveal her identity.
Most often than not, the Adortant is not in need of a willing slave. She merely needs to nudge the decision of a meeting in a certain direction, or wants to see a given transaction successfully completed, or convince someone to take a position or a mission. Thus, every soldier of Baal is subjected to their influence, and commanding officers in the High Riders are visited by an Adorant four times a year to enforce their loyalty to the Temple. Likewise, the companion of a high priest or priestess is subject to the Adorant, which is why most romantic encounters with high priests are short-lived or kept a secret.
Membership in the Adorant is a well-kept secret. They are informants, spies, assassins, and much more. They respond only to the high priest of Babylon, but they work exclusively for the soloist. The soloist occupies this position for life. She is chosen from among her sisters and her power, in many ways, rivals that of the high priest of Babylon. Some think that every soloist is a sarkon, but this rumor has never been substantiated.