|Meaning:||Shepherds of the Chamber|
|Nicknames:||Silent Guides, Prophets, Unwavering, Black Conduits|
A guild of Arisen who served as funerary priests and preparers of corpses in ancient Irem. They practice the art of the shell, guiding the souls of the departed to the Underworld and perfecting the deathless form and magic of the Arisen. In the Nameless Empire, a future Shepherd of the Chamber was raised from childhood to keep the guild's secrets and be trusted with the rites of the Shan'iatu, and today they are just as secretive and careful. Tradition and conformity are important to them and they are determined to keep to the old ways through the coming Sothic Turn.
The tradition of the Su-Menent is one of obedience. The Judges are beyond rational understanding and trying to understand their edicts leads only to madness. Their duty of aiding the Shan'iatu in their necromantic rites exposed them more to Duat than any living creature should ever be. To avoid falling to insanity, the priests were taught by rote, memorizing every act and concentrating on it. The Shan'iatu kept the esoteric principles that worked their miracles to themselves and the modern Su-Menent have little understanding on how these works had been done. Still, some of these ways survive in the form of magic that utilizes the four Canopic Jars for Utterances.
As Arisen, the Su-Menent are confined by their spirituality, seeing little room for interpretation beyond the most literal. Irem's theology is not up to debate or interpretation, as it has been revealed by the divine itself. Because of this, the Lost Guild of the Arts is hated with a silent passion among the Su-Menent. Their need to express their individual flaws was what doomed them and the Prophets are careful to avoid this trap.
The priests of Irem are stereotypically depicted as a grim and humorless lot, but this is the result of their task. Emotions color uter. It draws the attention of troublesome ghosts and spirits that are naught but the embodiment of passion. It also taints the Sekhem sent to the other side, creating unintended side effects seen in no other vessels. The nature of the shell is, after all, impermanence. Although spiritual energies are shaped by them, vessels of all kinds can rot and fail, especially when prepared by uninitiated or careless hands. Although the stuff of uter is yielding, the preparation of such vessels requires a firm mastery of preservation. Mummification is a broad art and does not always provide the precise technique necessary for a particular creation. The conditions under which the shell met its end, the precise position of the sun or moon when it occurred, the hand that cut the throat, and the prayers that were uttered when the entrails were being harvested are all of the utmost importance and must be studied and treated with dutiful solemnity.
The body is fixed and specific; the animating force is a continuum without differentiation. Although this certainly pertains to the gross specifics involved in crafting uter, it also informs the behavior of the priests themselves. Truth and wisdom were the essential virtues of the priest's guild, the other one, rarely spoken of in public, is conformity. This has come back to hound them in an age that most Prophets could have never imagined, as few Su-Menent are able to face the modern world. They understand the function of modern things, but struggle how to incorporate objects like cellphones or theories like evolution into their cosmology. Modern cremation horrifies them and most of the animals whose remains they once used for Vessels are now extinct. Still, they endure, conducting their tasks with a grim fatalism, although the threat of heresy within the guild of those who seek to adapt becomes more and more frequent.
The mummies of the Su-Menent still follow the structure of the Hem-Netjer, the ancient priesthood of Irem. While this was not originally a hierarchy for ruling regions, it has become so in the modern ages. Shepherds on each are directed by a First Prophet who organizes the resources of the guild throughout the continent and focuses the myriad personal missions into a single purpose. Below him are the Second Prophet and Third Prophet, normally purely honorific positions for Su-Menent or even mummies of other guilds. When there is not a First Prophet awake to deal with a crisis, however, a Second or Third Prophet can be appointed and the title is kept for life, making it also a badge of honor for the Shepherd.
Below the Prophets are the High Priests who lead a temple dedicated to the worship of a specific Judge of Duat, oversees the temple's needs and its community, and holds ceremonies when required. Alongside them are the Shemsu, once temple guardians and now serve as enforcers and assassins of the High Priests. The Tp-a Priests (tip-AH) are historians and chroniclers of the guild, maintaining the rites of the guild and working on secretive "special projects." The Wab Priests are the administrators and organizers of the guild, and deal with the logistics of worship and holy rite. Lastly, there are the In-Irty, priests either naturally blind or ritualistically blinded through a practice called the Blessing of Mechenti-irti. Because of their "blessing," what most would consider a handicap, the In-Irty are more resistant to rites dealing directly with the Judges that would drive sighted individuals mad.
Outside of the structure are the Deshr Hry-Tp (desh-erie-TEP), heretics who have been made apostate by the guild and First Prophets. The Red Magicians, as they are called, have strayed close enough from orthodoxy to earn censure by the guild but they are not yet Shuankshen. Whether knowingly or unknowingly sinning, the Deshr Hry-Tp are watched by the Shemsu rather than actively hunted until they stray into truly dangerous practices that demand destruction.
As a guild focused on tradition and demanding purpose and unity of its members, there is considerable debate as to the best way to carry that out. The Traditionalists believe that there is no need to change and it is the focus of their membership, not its understanding of the modern world, that needs to be addressed. Opposite them are the Contemporaries who feel that aligning the guild's practices with modern realities is the only way to stay relevant and recruit the cults of mortals that their purpose demands. Between them there are moderates who try to find another way, though these searchers often stray too far and earn the brand of Deshr Hry-Tp.
- , p.46-50
- , p.51-63 , 119-128