In a valley deep in the Dehennan Mountains, between the western Dragon Coast and the Kunlun Tundras, there rests a marvel. Though it is hard to find, thanks to the dangerous, fog-shrouded crags that surround it on all sides, the Sequestered Tabernacle is a paradise in the midst of this Northern harshness.
The Villages of the Sequestered Vale
Scattered through the Sequestered Vale, a several-mile long valley rich with melt-water flowing down from the mountains around them, are a handful of hamlets and small villages. All the denizens here are adherents of the Cult of the Illuminated; in many case, those who come to dwell here have had to flee their homes when their allegiance was discovered. Many of those who grow up here - particularly if they demonstrate any aptitude at leadership - may be insinuated into other places in Creation, starting new cells of the Cult, or reinforcing those that are flagging.
In general, though, these villages are made up of good, simple people who tend to the day-to-day demands of a rural, farming life. The fields and pastures of these villages provide all the food they need, plus more than enough to supply the Tabernacle. Strong second sons are usually brought into the service of the Tabernacle, and trained as temple guardians and the rangers who guard the outer edges of the Tabernacle's territory.
The Tabernacle Manse
Solar Aspected Manse •••
On a cliff overlooking the rest of the valley, the Tabernacle is a great manse of white marble and burnished bronze. It is roughly pentagonal in shape, three stories in height and capped with a dome of sky-blue glass that can pick out and amplify the sunlight shining through it, even on days when clouds hide the sun. It is surrounded by five tall minaret-towers.
The walls of its lower level are smooth, without windows and bearing only a single door, the great white oak and bronze double doors that the great staircase up the cliff-face leads to. The upper stories are marked with bronze-railed, balconies with drapes of gauze-sheer cloth at regular intervals, allowing the Illuminated who gaze out on the village to be seen in return.
The manse itself is a rating 3 Manse, but the Demesne upon which it rests is a Rating 4 Solar Demesne.
The Devotion Stone (Solar •••): An oval gem of pure, glowing white named the Devotion Stone is the Sequestered Tabernacle’s Hearthstone, resting within the central gardens of the first floor. Aspected to Solar Essence, the Devotion Stone draws upon the power of the wielder’s faith, both strengthening him in times of crisis and blinding him with his own internal dogma. Anytime the wielder’s player rolls his character’s Conviction, whether he does so because the Exalt channeled Conviction, because he confronts a limit condition for a Conviction-based Virtue Flaw or for any other reason, all dice stemming from his Conviction are converted to automatic successes.
- Magical Conveniences (1): The Tabernacle has running water and temperature control within it. The ability of the dome to let in celestial light at all times, despite cloud cover and weather is also a function of this power.
- Self-Destruct Sequence (1): The bearer of the Hearthstone is able to activate a self-destruct sequence, silently commanding it to destroy itself as though by an Essence overload from 30 seconds to 30 minutes after the command is given. This count-down is silent, though those with Essence Sight may see the Essence building up toward an explosion.
- Outside Fate (4): The location of the Tabernacle is not readable on the Loom of Fate, permitting it to escape the notice of the Sidereal Exalted.
The Training Floor (First Floor)
- Entry to the Tabernacle (1): A massive set of double doors separated the Sequestered Tabernacle from the outside world. These doors usually remained closed, but unlocked, although the possessor of the manse's Hearthstone can seal the doors from anywhere in the manse by willing them so. Those who are attuned to the manse can also cause them to lock or unlock by touch.
- The Garden Overlook (2): This promenade, which extends out over the central gardens, also boasts the staircases that lead up to the Second Floor, above.
- Initiates' Quarters (3 - 7): The bottoms of the towers are established for the use of the initiates who are going through training in the tabernacle. Each such section has a central, communal space for the use of the initiates living there, with a round table and chairs. Breakfast and dinner are brought to the initiates here. Around the edges of this communal living space are the small chambers, which feature a single cot, a chest for the storage of fresh clothing and hygiene products, and a small bedside table with a lamp upon it.
- Workshop (8, 15): These workshops are simple affairs, as far as artificing workshops go. They are kept stocked and ready for the creation of basic artifacts (up to Rating 3) and other hand-made goods. Each has a single, Essence-fueled forge, as well as plenty of tools.
- Scriptorum (9, 13): These rooms are stocked with all the parchment, ink of various qualities and fine quills crafted of goose, hawk and peacock feathers, as well as less-typical supplies such as sealing waxes and seals, ribbon and all the other materials of the calligrapher and illuminator's trade. Each such room offers four desks-and-seats with ample lighting to allow students their freedom of writing. These rooms see plenty of use copying books (such as the Illuminated Sutras) and practice on correspondence and treatise-craft.
- Archive (10, 14): Set up behind the scriptorums, these chambers stock some basic books, including multiple copies of the Illuminated Sutras, as well as other educational treatises, books of compiled essays and copies of important speeches and correspondence considered vital to statecraft by the instructors of the Sequestered Tabernacle.
- Dojo (11): This space is set aside for the practice of the martial arts, with a padded floor and high ceiling. The walls are decorated with illuminated scrolls that demonstrate the basics of each of the Terrestrial and Celestial martial arts styles taught here: Fallen Blossom, Snake Style, Tiger Style, Celestial Monkey Style, Ebon Shadow Style, Mantis Style, Arms of the Unconquered Sun Style, the Art of Forceful Declaration, the Art of Meditative Discussion, the Art of Relentless Persuasion and the Art of Victorious Concession. Racks hold practice versions of the weapons used in these styles: khatar, hooked swords, cesti, sai, seven-section-staves, fighting chains, tiger claws, plus a host of other, typical martial arts weapons.
- Salle (12): Marble-floored with high ceilings, the salle's only decoration is a variety weapon- and armor-stands, heavy with training-quality weaponry. Melee weapons training goes on in this room, and its floors are no strangers to spilled blood.
- Supplies (16, 24): Simple supply closets, with shelves and chests full of the kinds of supplies that might be needed on this floor.
- Lecture Hall (17 - 18, 21 - 22): The lecture halls feature a single podium stand, as well as a number of pew-like benches to provide seating to those listening to the speaker. There are two spots to either side of the podium where students who have questions to ask are expected to come up and stand, waiting to be called on.
- Bath Halls (19, 23): These tiled chambers are divided by a wall that is stone on its lower half, and glass in its upper. On one side is a room with a series of several spigots that pipe out freezing cold water, with dishes that have cakes of rough lye soap in them for getting clean. On the other side of the wall is a row of two large sunken tubs filled with steaming hot water, meant for relaxing and working out strained muscles and lingering bruises.
- Garden & Labyrinth (20): Sunlight shines down brightly from above in this garden, even on stormy, rainy days - or the even more common slate-gray winter skies. The bushes of various alternating useful herbs and beautiful plants have been trimmed into tall labyrinth. There are also beds of food plants grown along the outer edges of the garden space, and the outer edges of the labyrinth feature small stone seats and the occasional bench. The ceiling of this area is the great blue dome of the manse, multiple stories up. Those in the garden can look up and catch a glimpse of life on the stories above: balconies look down on the garden from the second floor, and beautiful blue glass bridges criss-cross the space just beneath the dome, on the third floor.
- Thaumaturgical Laboratory (25): The thaumaturgical library here is richly stocked and well-supplied (Resources 5 equivalent). It has space for up to four thaumaturges to work on their various projects at the same time.
- Chapel to the Incarna (26): Seven shrines dominate this incense-filled room, dedicated to each of the Incarna (with a beautiful mural in the floor that honors Gaia as well).
- Guest Reception (27 - 28): These rooms are employed for students who have visitors come and see them at the Tabernacle, as only the staff, students and servants are permitted in other parts of the manse. Simple comforts are the order of the day here, with comfortable carved chairs. There is occasionally a musician from the village who sets up in one or the other lounge, and simply plays soft lyre or flute music, and a buffet table against one wall always features fresh-baked breads, thick wedges of cheese, sliced sausages and fresh fruits from the village.
- Chapel to the Illuminated Gods (29): A room of much more modest wall-shrines, the Chapel to the Illuminated Gods is intended to honor those gods who recognize, assist with and participate in the work of the Cult of the Illuminated - its divine patrons, essentially. This specifically focuses on gods found in the North, and those who aid the Sequestered Tabernacle in particular.
- Musical Salon (30): Acoustically precise, the music salon has a small collection of exceptional-quality musical instruments of some of the most common type, as well as benches, chairs and other seating for those who care to join in or simply listen. There is also a small raised dais set up to take advantage of the room's acoustic quality where four musicians can comfortably play.
- Armory (31 - 34): The armories have walls lined with weapon racks, and armor stands take up the flooring. Most standard weaponry can be found here, as can a few pieces of exceptional quality weapons. Likewise, the armors here are mainly light and medium, with one or two pieces of heavy armor (which of course, always has to be dramatically adjusted for the individual's frame).
- Waiting Room (32 - 33): These rooms are set aside for holding guests or visitors who present themselves to the entry of the manse. There are several comfortable chairs here, and a table of decanted drinks to be offered to visitors. There is usually a single servant who tends to these rooms in shifts, waiting to answer the bell-pull at the door.