Brotherhood of the Laughing Peace
The human-goblin border is hotly contested. Marauding bands of goblins make forays into human territory, lusting after gold, glory, and gore. For the most part, these attacks are small and disorganized skirmishes that are easily repelled by the Southron King’s disciplined military. The border is a few steps short of being an all-out war zone, and this war zone is where the Brotherhood of the Laughing Peace decided to call home.
The Brotherhood of the Laughing Peace is a peaceful, contemplative order who built their monastery into the side of a mountain. Their monastery is a sprawling, ancient red-roofed city of cobblestones and brick buildings backed by the fearsome mountain and girded around its perimeter with a twenty foot wall. The surrounding forest peeks gingerly over the pockmarked walls, and clawing vines scrabble their way up and over the unguarded battlements. A disused footpath leads to the only gate – old, massive and ornately scrolled with arabesques and sweeping figures – and into the monastery proper.
The monastery is completely self-sufficient. They grow their own food, possess their own water source, and are more than capable of surviving a major, extended siege. In spite of their location, the monastery does not seem to realize it is in the middle of an on/off battlefield. It is peaceful, quiet and tranquil: the inhabitants speak in murmurs, tend to their orchards and gardens in relative silence, speak softly in the refectory, and contemplate their deity in silence. Birdsong is more beautiful than voices.
Though it is a “Brotherhood,” there is no gender disparagement in the monastery. The Abbot is a woman, Abbot Marigold, and women hold several important positions in the hierarchy. The only position that is traditionally held by a man is the “Master of the Laughing Palm.” That position currently belongs to Brother Bartholomew, and it is his sole duty to protect his brothers and sisters. However, because of the monastery’s relatively unassailable position and the Brotherhood’s pacifistic teachings, it is a very difficult job. He must protect several hundred with very few and, sometimes, he does not always succeed.
The monks are not interested in the ways of combat because they believe that they are backward and detrimental to their quest for spiritual enlightenment. They believe that the individual is three separate entities consisting of the body, the mind, and the soul. If one is in discordance with the other two, it is not conducive to enlightenment. There are very few brothers and sisters who are willing to postpone their chance at “peace” to protect their brethren. They believe that their efforts are better directed to humanitarian efforts and trying to broker peace between the goblins and the humans.
In order to reach “peace,” the Brotherhood teaches that each individual must reach peace in their body, mind and (the first two lead to the third) the soul. Pax, the entity that they contemplate – worship is not the right word – is the incarnation of peace and it detests violence in all its forms. As the monks understand it, Pax equates everything negative to violence – lust is bodily violence, arrogance is mental violence, and hatred is soulful violence. In order to reach “Pax,” the individual must control these feelings effortlessly and sublimate them under a softly flowing stream of peaceful happiness.
That is easier said than done, and that difficulty is reflected in the attire that the individual student of “Laughing Peace” may wear. The youngest, most violent students must wear orange robes striped with black; those who are closer to “Pax” don black robes chased with orange, and those who are closest to “Pax” wear shimmering white robes edged with blue and gold calligraphy. This is the hierarchy that matters – that of the spirit.
Now, you may be wondering, why are they called “The Brotherhood of the Laughing Peace?” Once a year, the brothers and sisters gather together in the main cloister of the monastery for an entire day of celebrations and joyous revelry. The reason that they celebrate has long been forgotten, but some of the white-robed sages suggest that “Laughing Day” celebrates the descent of “Pax” – Peace – to the mortal realm. That does not matter on that wonderful day, however. It is a day for happiness, and their laughter can be heard for miles around.