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Melissa: Michaelines and Gabrilites

Started by Evie, January 20, 2017, 01:52:37 PM

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The eighth century in Gwynedd saw the birth of two major Deryni monastic orders. The Ordo Sancti Michael, or the Michaelines was founded by King Bearand Haldane to guard the forts of the Anvil of the Lord and the Southern Sea against Moorish attacks. After the decisive defeat of the Moors, King Bearand repaid his debt by endowing the Michaelines with extensive lands in Gwynedd. The Michaelines used his gift to build a dozen Abbeys and schools, showing that they were a teaching as well as a military Order.

The Ordo Sancti Gabriel, more familiarly known as the Gabrilites was perhaps a third the size of the Michaelines. They built a single abbey in the southern foothills of the Lendour Mountains, Saint Neot's. Founded in 745, the Gabrilites were definitely a Christian order, but one that incorporated earlier, pagan elements of Deryni knowledge into their particular theology. More orthodox members of the Church of Gwynedd looked askance at this, but made no real trouble. There was no denying the essential benevolence of a monastic Order sworn to non-violence and renowned for the training of Healers.

There is no record of an outcry on the part of either the Michaelines or the Gabrilites over Festil I's coup in 822. During the eighty-three years of the Deryni Interregnum, both the Gabrilites and the Michaelines adapted themselves to the new regime and continued much as they had begun. It was in this period of growing unrest between humans and Deryni that both the Michaelines and the Gabrilites had a profound effect on the lives of Camber MacRorie and his family.

Near the end of the Festillic Dynasty at a time when religious discipline was eroding on all sides, the Michaelines were respected as spiritually and intellectually sound Order who paid attention to the Rule of their Order. Certainly Camber, with his love of scholarship would not have entrusted the Michaelines with the primary education of his son and foster son if he had not had a fundamental respect for their teaching and intellectual capability. By sending Joram to St. Liam's, Camber unwittingly decided Joram's future. Once among the Michaelines, Joram knew his métier when he found it even though the result did not please Camber. For the Michaelines were still a fighting Order. Unable to resist involving themselves in secular matters, they were a political and military force in Gwynedd. Both passionate and outspoken about their beliefs, the Michaelines were famous – or notorious – for 'grandiloquent tirades' against people and policies of which they disapproved. The Festils, fallen into moral corruption by Imre's reign, heard a lot of Michaeline criticism, although the Michaelines stopped short of advocating the overthrow of an anointed king. But the speed and willingness of their support for Cinhil spoke for their low opinion of Imre. However, one must wonder; if the Michaelines could have seen even twenty years into their future and known the price they would pay, would they have been so eager for a Haldane Restoration?

Although their incautious reputation worried Camber, he ultimately had the wisdom to let Joram have what he wanted. In his love and knowledge of his younger son, Camber must have recognized that Joram's personality, with his strong ethical core and his passion and stubbornness was a near perfect match with the philosophy of the Michaelines. In joining his chosen Order, Joram had the perfect outlet for the strongest elements of his nature as a courtier, warrior and priest.

Through attending St. Liam's with Joram, the young Rhys Thuryn discovered that he was not cut out to be a warrior. Fortunately for him, being a Healer provided a more than honorable alternative. Whatever reservations Camber had about the Michaelines, he never had qualms about sending Rhys to St. Neot's for his education as a Healer. Quite the reverse, as there was no more thorough or prestigious training available for Healers than that provided by the Gabrilites. They lacked nothing in the way of prestige even if they were a smaller brotherhood than the Michaelines. Considering that Healers were a tiny percentage of the already small Deryni minority in Gwynedd, it's a wonder that the Gabrilites were as large an Order as they were. Only those students whose religious vocations were clearly even stronger than their Healer's calling were permitted to join the Gabrilites. Most young men, like Rhys, were encouraged to rejoin the secular world and marry when their studies were complete to extend and strengthen Healer bloodlines as far as possible.

Given the Gabrilite commitment to non-violence even in the cause of self-defense, it's fortunate in that violent world that a Healer's calling was considered only a degree less holy than that of the priesthood. Far rarer than fighting men, Healers were revered by every social class from royalty through serfs. Their Healer's oaths bound them to an ethical code nearly as stringent as priestly vows if with a different focus.

Throughout their existence up to the time of Cinhil's death, the Michaelines and Gabrilites enjoyed a keen intellectual rivalry. Once their mutual danger from the Regents became obvious however, the Michaelines willingly shared the security of their underground Haven with those Gabrilites who had escaped death at St. Neot's. But in The Bastard Prince, we see that the competition continued, even in the new era of enforced cooperation:

"In a rare flash of old rivalries among the Deryni religious orders, the Gabrilite trained Dom Rickart and Dom Queron avowed that Camlin was acquiring an almost Michaeline militancy in his sharpness of reasoning; Joram and Bishop Niallan who had been Michaelines, professed that this was no bad thing." The Bastard Prince, p 46.

Two centuries later when Azim brings Richenda a fragment of what may have been a Gabrilite text, he warns her "they were fond of cloaking everything in at least two levels of double meaning." Any mental laziness would soon bring a Gabrilite student to grief with such reading assignments, as the Gabrilite approach to Healing was as much philosophical as practical. Writing and interpreting the deeper truths of these documents would keep the minds of established Gabrilite scholars supple and keen. If any non-Gabrilite could be said to understand them, Camber probably came closest, particularly after working closely with Rhys and after he had assimilated Alister Cullen's memories. But even he was conscious of how much he did not know. Had Camber been endowed with the Healing gift, it's not hard to picture him living as a very contented Gabrilite with that level of intellectual stimulation all around him. Joram, with his love of Michaeline clarity and economy of expression would most likely roll his eyes at Gabrilite texts and sigh, "get to the point!"

The Michaelines fared far better than the Gabrilites in the anti-Deryni purges after Cinhil's death, their involvement in Court politics having paid off. Jebediah's recognition of the danger gave them time to plan and execute a mass secret exodus from Gwynedd. Their planned departure must have allowed them to take their most precious documents and artifacts with them, and returning to Djellarda was as much a homecoming as it was an exile. Certainly had they not taken the initiative, their expulsion from Gwynedd would have been far bloodier. The Michaelines did not so much cease to exist as take on a new name and adapt themselves to a new way of life. Granted in two hundred years, the Knights of the Anvil have probably drifted a good distance from their Michaeline origins.

Ironically, while the fighting Michaelines had an orderly withdrawal, the Gabrilites mostly died by the sword. Isolated, with no alternative refuge outside Gwynedd and reluctant to abandon St. Neot's, the Gabrilites were left uniquely vulnerable to Rhun's attack. Dom Emrys saved all of his brethren that he could by sending them to temporary safety in Dhassa, but most of the order died that night, shortly before the destruction of their Abbey. With no way to recruit new members or found a new Abbey, even those who survived eventually died out.

Gwynedd was certainly left the poorer for the loss of both the Michaelines and the Gabrilites, and especially for the loss of the Healers. But Kelson's reign has already brought about positive changes for the Deryni. The schola in Rhemuth is only the beginning. Peace with both Meara and Torenth will allow Kelson to pay more attention to his particular interests, most of which revolve around improving the lot of Deryni in Gwynedd and recovering lost knowledge. Azim at least has shown himself to be a trustworthy friend and ally to Kelson. No doubt Kelson will work to keep it that way, although it's likely that he'll stop short of inviting the Anvillers cum Michaelines to reestablish themselves in Gwynedd. He doesn't really need their help militarily, and wouldn't want to upset either of his Archbishops. For men and priests of their generation, Cardiel and Bradene are amazingly broad-minded, but even they would be nervous about a Deryni Order of hospitaller knights who are "very ferocious fighters and not entirely Christian" as Kelson describes them in The King's Justice.

The Servants of Saint Camber, originally founded by the former Gabrilite Healer and priest, Dom Queron Kinevan, are the closest thing the Gabrilites have to spiritual heirs in contemporary Gwynedd. And at that, they are a very different organization, and were even at the time of their inception. The single greatest difference was the inclusion of women within the Servants which undoubtedly kept them from dying out over the next two centuries. By the time we see them celebrate the Mass in King Kelson's Bride, they seem to be as much a huge, extended family as they are a religious Order. It's likely that Queron borrowed a good bit of Gabrilite theology with it's pagan elements when establishing the Servants, and the two centuries of isolation in the Lendour Highlands have taken the Servants even deeper into the early traditions of their land. To our knowledge, there is no reference to the Gabrilites practicing the Cruaidh-dheuchain. Now that the servants are in Rhemuth and Duncan has become their rector, there will no doubt be some lively discussions back and forth about how they should conduct themselves in the future.

With peace established between Gwynedd and Torenth, Kelson and Liam can both search their kingdoms for more possible Healers. The Furstans had Healers in their service as recently as King Carrollan's reign, so it's likely that they can not only find more Torenthi Healers but help to furnish information about their training. Looking farther ahead, Kelson will build new scholas once the one in Rhemuth has been well established. Perhaps he will even build a new Abbey where the ruins of St. Neot's now stand. Depending on how much knowledge is recovered from Djellarda, Torenth and other places, and on how many Healers are discovered and born in the next twenty to thirty years, it may even be possible to revive the Gabrilite Order itself. Should this happen, Duncan would be the best candidate as the first Abbot of the new Ordo Sancti Gabriel. He is all the things the Gabrilites once were; a Deryni, a scholar and priest, and most importantly, a Healer.


Head, Department of Wishful Thinking
You can have a sound mind in a healthy body--Or you can be a nanonovelist!