The Imperial Cult is an Imperial organization dedicated to teaching the virtues of the Light, warning of the evils of the Shadow, enlightening people to the faith of 'The White Dragon', preventing deviant Mages from harming the citizens of Fastheld, and acting as a vanguard against any agents of darkness that should threaten the Empire.
The Imperial Cult was formed in the year 626 ATA as a revision of the "Order of the White Dragon" concept that never saw the light of day.
It was devised by the Sovereign Prince Serath Kahar as an attempt to fill the void left by the subsequent breakdown and dissolution of the former Church of True Light, as the Prince understood that - for all the zealous corruption and maleficent nature of the Church - the Scourges still offered a spiritual direction for people to cling on to, and that the spirituality of the people of Fastheld was suffering without that morale compass to guide them, regardless of how cruel that guidance was.
Enlightened by his experiences within the Wildlands, his previous history with the Church of True Light, and his connection to the dragoness Sara'tharalax that resulted from the mysterious events that took place during the "Gap of One Year" that he refuses to talk about, the Prince came to the conclusion that the people of Fastheld deserved to understand the Light for what it truly was, rather than as the somewhat merciless tool of manipulation that had been preached previously.
In this, the "Faith of the White Dragon" can be said to share much - if not all - with the faith that the Syladris believe in; namely, that the Light is an inherant and tangible force of good in the world, while the Shadow is an unquestionable and unapologetic force of evil.
However, it also teaches that those who are Shadow Touched may not be (and usually aren't) evil by sheer association with the Shadow, and - conversely - that those who are Sunkissed may not always act with good intentions (as evidenced by the Church of True Light).
Unlike the strict religious dogma that was previously (and still, in the north of Fastheld) taught by the Church of True Light, the "Faith of the White Dragon" is a somewhat more pragmatic spiritual faith that teaches of the balance and duality of the Light and the Shadow, while providing a stable foundation upon which to build and enforce 'common sense' moralty, justice, and a "live and let live" attitude that is beneficial to maintaining peace and order, regardless of station or social status.
Though the faith of the Imperial Cult is officially just known as the Imperial Cult, the term "Faith of the White Dragon" has begun to garner popularity among those who follow it.
This terminology is based on symbolism borrowed from the Syladris; namely, that of the Light being a vast white dragon that protects the people of Fastheld from the evils of the world beyond (and within) the walls of the Aegis.
This symbolism allows the common people to hold on visualize the Light in anthropomorphic form, giving them a directed focus to imagine the Light as something more than a mysterious force that they've been told they should believe in.
It is important, however, to note that the Imperial Cult does not claim that the "White Dragon" is, in fact, a real Drakar'ri, but has no qualms with people holding on to such an image if it brings them comfort and greater spiritual access to the Light as a whole.
Such symbolism - though initially as a subtle suggestion of Dracolyte influence by those who still fervently supported the remnant Church - is no different from the concept of the Light actually being like light, and the Shadow being darkness. However, the symbolism that is encouraged by the Imperial Cult is somewhat less abstract.
The Imperial Cult also teaches by example, using tales of historical feats and fictional parables and stories to teach the virtues of the faith, rather than adopt the same kind of threats and dogma that the Church of True Light employed. Metaphors such as "The Candle in the Darkness" and the "Balance of Night and Day" are also popular among both the agents of the Cult and those who follow it as being good examples of what the faith strives to teach.
It also embraces the concept of "Ancestor Worship" that has always been loved by the people of Fastheld (though shunned by the Church), allowing people to find comfort in the deeds and actions of those who came before them, and to use those examples as lessons in conduct, ethics, and the greater good.
As an organization, the Imperial Cult is based in Light's Reach, calling the Temple of the White Dragon in Dawnstar Keep home. It consists of roughly one hundred members (at present) who are known as Ordinators. The Ordinators are often seen as a "mirror" branch of the Imperial Tribunal that deal with matters of faith while the Tribunal deals with matters of law.
Ordinators are notable for their argentite half-plate uniform and the "Bookbelt of the Imperial Cult" that they wear. Though the organization is primarily Noble in rank, it has no exclusions against Freelanders if they have the dedication and skill required of the position.
Though the Imperial Ordinators are at once both Priest, Cleric, and Paladin, the Imperial Cult itself harbors no actual "Priests" at all. Instead, the Imperial Cult operates an "affiliate" system, in which Priests and Clerics may petition for official recognition by the Imperial Cult (and the Empire) and acquire a license to preach the faith.
Such affiliates may be given stewardship over a Chapel or Shrine, while others may instead choose to wander the Empire bringing hope and guidance to those who need it.
The Ordinators themselves also maintain this role, though are also expected to maintain and oversee the redevelopment of the various religious locations that were abandoned by the Church of True Light when it fractured. Equally, Ordinators may be called upon to handle matters that involve the Shadow - such as tracking down mages who have fallen to corruption, or to handle creatures that have been stricken by it - if the Imperial Watch cannot handle it themselves, for whatever reason.
In all, the Imperial Cult has proven to be a organization that is quickly filling the hole left by the Church of True Light with a level of teaching and guidance that replaces the harsh dogma of previous doctrines with something that most people can relate to and find comfort in without having to suffer for their beliefs.
The faith of the Imperial Cult has quickly gained popularity across the south of Fastheld (especially in locations close to Light's Reach), but is facing a tougher time in the northern regions where the remnant Church of True Light still have influence.
It is, however, now the official faith of the Empire, and fully sanctioned by the Crown (being an Imperial incentive). One can also attribute the Shadow Amnesty to this emerging faith, as the general message that the amnesty serves to relay is directly linked to the teachings of the Cult.
See also: Ordinators