The Hammervine Circle
Laterius' home in Hightowne
The Hammervine Circle is a syncretistic Pagan-Hammerite group, founded by Brother Laterius, a former Hammer, shortly after the Dark Project events.
Laterius was dissatisfied with Hammerite dogmatism, and when the Temple was desecrated by the Trickster's hordes, it confirmed his belief that the Builder and the Trickster were but two aspects of the same God, and the Hammerites had suppressed this truth, weaving a false theology; for this, they were punished, by the very God they claimed to worship. In his opinion, Constantine was not a god but an instrument of the true Builder, who came to set things aright by inflicting divine judgment on the Hammers.
Laterius nonetheless found much truth in the Hammerite church, and sought to combine its best aspects with the religion of the Pagans. He disliked the primitivism of the latter, but admired their reverence for the natural world, and firmly believed that civilization and nature should be harmonized for the welfare of humankind.
After the Trickster's defeat (which he saw of little relevance as he had accomplished his purpose), Laterius left the Hammerite order after 14 years of service, and began working on establishing a new faith. Using his deep knowledge of Hammerite theology and ritual, with his research on Pagan myth and practices, he created a perfect synthesis of the two religions.
Laterius began discreetly conducting services in his Hightowne home, initially with his wife Circaea and a small group of fellow ex-Hammerites, and then their families who eventually joined. Soon however, the Hammerite order caught wind of the new 'heresy', and one night he found a scroll nailed to his door warning him to cease his activities. He was shaken but undeterred, knowing that his former brethren lacked the power, influence and numbers they once did, and so he continued his work. Aside from occasional harassment by the Hammerites, the threats came to naught and the Hammervine Circle continued its modest growth. It became most appealing to the formerly non-religious. Devoted Hammerites rejected it as heresy, while the City's Pagans thought it was a crafty ploy by the Hammers to convert them.
Tragedy struck after the rise of the Mechanists. One night, emboldened by the zeal and fanaticism of their recent conversion, a group of Mechanists (including former Hammerites) broke into Laterius' home, desecrated his altar and sacred objects, and kidnapped him, while his wife was visiting her mother in Dayport. Witnesses say he was dragged out unconscious.
Sheriff Truart declared the case immediately closed; he shut down any talk of Mechanist involvement, and ordered the Watch to file away the case as a criminal dispute which turned sour. The official report, dictated by Truart himself, states that the ex-Hammerite was kidnapped and killed by a local gang to whom he owed money, and it falsely implicated him in a series of unsolved break-ins in the area (which were likely the work of Ramirez's associates). The Watch refused to pursue the case further, despite the desperate pleas of Circaea. Laterius was never seen again.
Many years later, a retired Watch captain admitted publicly that the order to crack down on Laterius came from Karras himself, who wanted to eradicate any competitors to his cult, and he paid the Sheriff a generous sum to drop the investigation. His statements are considered credible.
Two years after the events, and just after the fall of the Mechanists, Circaea revived the Circle and the services began anew at her home, though with only 5 or 6 members initially.
The Circle remains active today, with an estimated four congregations, totaling at least 70-80 people, operating out of elder members' homes. Membership is primarily by invitation, and they do not actively proselytize. Consequently growth has been modest, albeit steady, with 1-3 new members initiated every month.
Doctrine & Practices
The Hammervine Circle uses as its main practice a modified version of the Liturgy of St. Tennor (with a greater emphasis on the Builder's role as the regent of nature, and more overt Hammerite elements excised), performed by a Priest or Priestess. The focus was an altar with a green cloth, four candles and a green Hammer icon made of vine wood. Incense made of dried flowers is offered, and participants partake of wine and a special bread made with fruits and various edible seeds.
Other practices include a monthly pilgrimage to St. Jenel's spring outside the City, during which participants are required to fast for two days; the spring was a Pagan holy site, taken over by the Hammers centuries back, but since abandoned as the order declined. Water from the spring is brought back and used in the Circle's services and its baptismal initiation rite.
The Circle's main holy book is the Hammervine Collects, a mixture of Hammerite doctrine and ritual with Pagan elements, as well as revelations and insights by Laterius. To this may be added the Greenwood Psalter, a collection of hymns to the Builder.
The Circle was committed to its mission of uniting nature with human works, and so its members planted dozens of trees around the City. They were instrumental in restoring many cut down by the Mechanists. They believed that nature needed to be used for the benefit of man, but with respect and balance. Special rituals and practices were used when such was necessary, to express reverence for nature and maintain equlibrium. As read in the Collects:
"When felling a tree for wood, plant a sapling in its stead. Make thereof a rite most good, offering seeds, wine and bread"
- The Arboreal Verses (Hammervine Collects, 6:17)
Many members also work in the medicinal herb trade, which is encouraged by the Circle, such that half of the City's herbalists today, as well as a few alchemists are thought to be involved in the group.
- Compiled from a set of notes by Keeper Selmasyn