Religious dissent is as old as religion itself. Religion is so varied, has such control (for the most part) over the lives of its followers, that there will always be someone ready to disagree, to propose alternative theories or disavow it entirely. This has always especially been the case with the Chastise Church, with nonconformists choosing to modify the organisational structure (finding the hierarchical nature of the Church anathema to religious Attunement) or specific teachings. Rarely, though, do you find a group of people who deliberately go against Church teachings seemingly just because they can, whose teachings are not defined by their own logic or predilections, but through simply being the opposite of what the Church teaches.
One such rare religious grouping are the Most Unholy Church of the Waylayer, who will today gather in black gowns, wearing well-maintained stainless steel manacles around their wrists (rusty, broken iron manacles are a sign of the Chastise Church, symbolic of their emancipation from the Waylayer, the false god), as is their normal ceremonial clothing. Today they are going to gamble, an activity proscribed by the Chastise Church, but not only will they gamble with coin; to the pot they will add their eternal souls.
Most of the Unholy Church goers do not believe in what they are doing in any true sense. The Church was created in 1732 by a group of parishioners from Tallboys district who, in response to a particularly over-zealous local priest, had come to question the Church’s teachings, especially in response to gambling. Eventually they brought these questions up at the end of a service, their argument being that if the Church truly did not believe that a god exists (this is at the core of all Chastise Church teachings), then why did they treat the Waylayer with such fear and reverence; surely this was tantamount to worship? ‘Why should we be afeared of gambling? Surely if the Waylayer is not god and if humans have such control of our destiny as you claim, then he cannot get to us through any means, let alone gambling!’
The priest’s response to their questioning was to excommunicate them, perhaps not the wisest response, especially given that it spurred them on to create the Most Unholy Church of the Waylayer. This new Church was initially intended to prove their point, that the Waylayer did not exist and had no power over them, so they could worship it all they wanted and experience no ill effects; it was a way of getting back at their dogmatic, fearful local priest. It was essentially a gambling club for a group of disaffected churchgoers. Yet over time, it gathered new worshippers, folk who had also been disavowed by the Chastise Church, or who generally disliked its teachings and wanted to get back at it. There were some who joined who were true believers, too. Slowly the Unholy Church became an alternate religious institution, with its own dogma to boot.
Before they begin the ceremony proper, the acolytes will sing backwards versions of Chastise Church liturgies, carefully learned by singing along with backwards recordings, then recording one’s own voice singing backwards, playing that in reverse and seeing how close to the original it sounds, modifying their songs appropriately. The game which will be played today, Waylayer’s Roulette, is supposedly much older than the Unholy Church itself, it being modelled on a game called ‘Waurst Wheel’, a form of roulette said to summon the Grenin Waurst or one of his kin, capricious mythical beings, capable of granting great happiness or unhappiness to the players depending on where the ball comes to rest.
There have always been associations between the Grenin Waurst and the Waylayer, with some historians going so far as to say that the Waylayer was modelled on stories about the Waurst. Others dispute this, pointing out that the Chastise Church is an inter-municipal organisation, whereas the Waurst is a uniquely Buentoilliçan myth. In any case, it is true that Waylayer’s Roulette is indeed a modified form of Waurst Wheel, the main difference between the two being the rules and the absence, in the younger version, of the ‘incantation ring’ which sits around the edge of the Waurst Wheel. This counter-spinning ring of glyphs is supposedly the part which does the actual summoning, the markings forming the image of several eyes when spun, and in the one example available for public viewing (in Horst Belnetch’s Museum of the Cursed) it has been nailed down so it cannot be spun.
When they have lit five black candles around the edge of the room, the acolytes all gather around the roulette table, a black lacquered construction with ornate bone detailing. Money and favours are played for interchangeably, with certain slots meaning a particular forfeit is required of the participants, such as being the next person to buy a round of drinks, or having to give a small amount of blood to the cup before the statue of the Waylayer in the next room. Only two players can bet at once, and if the ball falls into one slot marked with a skull cut from real human bone those two players have their souls ‘taken by the Waylayer’; i.e. they are considered ‘out’ and cannot bet any longer today.
Whilst betting is performed almost every day by the acolytes of the Unholy Church, today is their anniversary, the day those first parishioners were excommunicated, and it is only today that they will play Waylayer’s Roulette.
Other festivals happening today:
- A Righteous Protest Against The Blasphemous Unholy Ones
- Urvil Kant’s Tie Tying Competition