The Holy Orders is the largest stable religious institution in the world, with a powerful presence in the region of the world where this adventure begins.
The church is divided into four distinct Orders; the Orders of Azrael, Sahaquiel, Zophiel, and Uriel. Nonetheless, each of the orders has lay devotees among the population, a monastic order of priests, and a militant arm of paladins.
The chief role of the Orders is the manufacture and dissemination of an extremely valuable commodity: Epiphany. This is a silver powder, often made into a tincture, which induces visions and religious ecstasy in those who imbibe it; it is said to be the conduit that allows people to perform feats of divine magic, and is thusly the closely guarded source of power for both the monastic and militant members of the Orders.
Epiphany's other key use is that the Orders have learned how to embed it in physical objects which act as wards against evil spirits. Yours is a haunted land, where encounters with such spirits are not uncommon, but the presence of an Epiphanic ward is sufficient to keep them at bay. This is the reason that the land's settlements and roads are generally considered safe, and also the reason that the various Lesser and High Houses strive to maintain a good relationship with the church: no one wants their supply of Epiphany cut off.
The Orders are generally mistrustful of those who can perform what they call "wild magic," (that is to say, arcane casters of all kinds, druids, etc.). The use of magic outside the institutional hierarchy, and more to the point, without the material license that is Epiphany, represents something of a threat to the church, although they don't officially call it such. This stance has resulted in a kind of widespread mistrust of "wild magic" users by those who are most committed to the church's followings, occasionally erupting in outright hostility or violence in certain areas of the land.
The Order of Azrael
The Order of Azrael is the administrative seat, so to speak, of the orders.
They do not take in any students, nor do they forge relationships with any low-level individuals like local priests who have not attained a high status within the ranks of the church. Rather, they consist of numerous bureaucrats who maintain the visibility and power of the church—they are much like a centralized executive branch that ensures that the church’s mechanisms of control are operating at optimal efficiency.
They are widely recognized for their intense record keeping and are said to possess a book that contains an exhaustive list of members, friends, and enemies of the church. Their official documentation lists their motto, “First Birth, Last Death,” prominently.
They are said to represent the omnipotence and perfection of the divine
The Order of Uriel
The Order of Uriel is the primary vehicle through which the Order of Azrael exerts its authority—members of Uriel’s Order might serve as messengers for Azrael’s, for instance, and they are instrumental in organizing, disseminating, and enforcing the church’s teachings and laws at a local level.
They utilize the substance known as “Epiphany” largely for clairvoyance and surveillance, harnessing its mysterious power to foresee potential rebellions against the local branches of the church, the introduction of “wild magic” into a village or town, and so forth. They are teaching order, so their ranks do possess many students.
Their specialization is the study of light and the sun, so many of their students show interest in topics ranging from fire/divine magic to astronomical phenomena to how light nourishes nature itself.
They are said to represent the abundance of the divine, as well as its integration within the natural world.
The Order of Sahaquiel
The Order of Sahaquiel is the seat of the church’s financial power. Its high-ranking members oversee the church’s budget, determining where and how its seemingly infinite sums of gold should be allocated. This responsibility is, of course, far-reaching—the church’s budget maintains the capacity to fund everything from small-town church picnics to expensive, academic research into the nature of divine revelation.
They are a teaching order, in charge of the instruction of more scientifically-oriented pursuits, like alchemy, crafting, and medicine. Many of their students have taken a special (though clandestine) interest in the chemical markers of “Epiphany” and what its effects are from a physiological standpoint. As a result, the Order’s holdings of “Epiphany” are among the most significant in the world.
They are indicative of the wisdom of the divine, as well as its generosity.
The Order of Zophiel
The Order of Zophiel is responsible for crafting the legislative and judicial agenda of the church. They dictate the church’s spiritual and corporeal laws, and their tribunals take up litigatory matters in their courts—a case about a town’s blasphemous staging of a certain paly, for instance, would be heard in the courts maintained by this Order.
They are also the arbiter between the other orders: they coordinate with Azrael’s for legislative guidance from the church’s most powerful leaders, with Uriel’s for the enforcement of the laws they enact, and with Sahaquiel’s to ensure that their laws will have financial backing. As such, they also have special tribunals that officially oversee internal disputes between members of the church.
They are a teaching order that provides a humanistic education rooted in philosophy (metaphysis and ethics), the law, and the arts in all of their iterations. Their students are the most varied among the Orders, as there are aspiring church administrators and divinely-inspired painters among them. But they are also the only order to allow artists, lawyers, and philosophers from the lay population into the ranks for residencies, if they are willing to advance the church’s teachings in some way, of course. As a result, “Epiphany’s” presence in this Order is deeply submerged—many of the lay folk commissioned to work for them are not even aware of its presence.
This Order is meant to represent divine mercy, penance, truth, and retribution.