The Khariphesh Temple is the single most powerful organization within the Collected Prides of the Zhren'thrar. As the religious leaders of the Khariphesh religion, the temple is the Prides' closest analogue to a central authority.
While at face value appearing to preach a highly xenophobic, Zhren-centric philosophy, the core tenets of the Khariphesh religion focus on respect to an individual's pride, and singleminded defense of the Collected Prides as itself a form of honor to the gods. In this way the doctrine closely mirrors that of the Zhre'kari, with an emphasis on obedience to the Temple proper as an extension of the pantheon's will.
One of the central divine texts of the Khariphesh religion, the Word of Khresh (or "Khresh'na'haq" in the original jhiraki) is a series of scrolls outlining the governance of the Collected Prides in perpetuity. The documents recount the history of the Khariphesh pride, their conquest of Zhren'karaha, the political structure of the Collected Prides and core pillars of their religion.
The Khariphesh pantheon is headed by Kha, the “Spiritfather” (note; this is an inaccurate translation since the jhiraki noun is genderless, a more accurate translation might be “Progenitor of the Spirit”), an androgynous divine figure that is considered to represent the basal spirit of the universe. According to myth Kha birthed the divine twins Fhekris and Paqhat at the dawn of time.
Kha While Kha is revered as the progenitor whose presence permeates the all of creation, mythology refers to them as an absent parent, who merely witnesses the actions of their creation without taking part. Kha’s twin progeny, on the other hand, are more actively worshiped as deities that make direct actions upon the workings of the universe. According to the myth, after their creation it was the twins' coupling that birthed the cosmos.
Fhekris The daughter of Kha is depicted as quiet, cunning and singularly intelligent. Hers is the cold calculation that cools the frigid void, and she is revered as the patron of merchants, scientists, inventors and warriors who bring victory through guile and careful planning rather than brute strength.
Paqhat The antithesis of Fhekris’ introversion, Paqhat is Kha’s son and according to myth his fury lights the burning stars and drives the endless motion of the cosmos. Paqhat is described as wild, passionate, charismatic and is the patron of laborers, warriors and others who pray to benefit from his physical strength and force of personality.
Alongside the divine twins, thousands of minor deities and demigods that govern nearly every aspect of life are recognized by the Khariphesh temple. Many of these are the remnants of ancient pride belief systems that have been incorporated into the Khariphesh narrative.
Aer'tiq'as, The Shadoweye Described as a being cloaked in living shadow, the Shadoweye represents something of an enigma compared the to other deities included in the Khariphesh Pantheon. The Khresh'na'haq describes the Shadoweye as "the blessed darkness that from eyes wary shields the silent hunter", however little reference to the character or their worship can be found prior to the document's writing. Furthermore, in contrast to the reverence Khresh maintains towards the gods of the pantheon within the Khresh'na'haq, they refer to Aer'tiq'as in a more personal tone, more than once going so far as to describe the deity's actions as if Khresh was present to witness them. This has lead scholars of the Kresh'na'haq to infer that the Shadoweye might in truth be a living person mythologized.
Khresh describes Aer'tiq'as as instrumental in providing inspiration for the first unification of the Prides and laying out the first structure of centralized government. Despite this, mistrust of the character and the legend that the Shadoweye would one day return to reap the great bounty of the ascendant Prides sown in the Khresh'na'haq's pages, has transformed the character into a demonized folktale often recounted to frighten freshfurred youngbloods.
Before its unification, the fractured prides of Zhren’karaha were dissident and warlike. On the verge of industrialization, the warring prides threatened to drive the entire planet into a life-threatening conflict. At the time each pride held its own complex belief system and differences in ideology were the source of immense tension. Prides typically revered vast pantheons of gods or natural spirits that governed almost every aspect of life, however the Khariphesh Pride’s revolutionary divine trinity of Kha, Fekhris and Paqhat offered a far simpler and more compelling narrative and the religion began to quickly spread.
Pre-unification historical documents are incredibly sparse. The vast majority of what contemporary scholars know of this period is found only in Khresh's manuscripts.
Khresh and the Formation of the Templars
The past of the messianic figure who would come to be known as Khresh is shrouded in mystery. Virtually nothing regarding Khresh's history survives past the unification, and the Khariphesh Temple has gone to great lengths to bury any evidence that would suggest that the revered architect of the unification is anything other than a manifestation of the pantheon's will. Regardless of their origin, with immense charisma, unshakable faith and a message of peaceful unification to avoid catastrophic conflict, Khresh quickly gained popular support within the pride.
Psychokinetic spiritualists and shamans held a revered place in nearly every Pride religion where their abilities were considered a gift from the gods, however it was the Khariphesh Pride that pioneered the practice of weaponizing these talents. The Khariphesh temple had obsessively studied the use of psychokinetics for centuries and developed successful techniques for honing their initiates’ skills. These religious militants traditionally played a role of warrior-monks, protecting the Khariphesh Pride and sacred temple sites but rarely taking aggressive action. After their ascension, Khresh reformed these monastic traditions into the Templar order - an independent religious military commanded by the Temple hierarchy.
One of the most dramatic results of the formation of the Templars was the mass-mobilization of the Dreamspeaker caste. While lacking the raw power of other castes, Dreamspeakers are characterized by a fine, precise control of their psychokinetic fields. Such individuals were historically employed by Prides to engage in psychological warfare, utilizing their ability to influence Zhren’thrar brain chemistry to instill dread in their enemies and inspire their allies with fiery resolve. Khresh’s elite corps of highly trained Dreamspeakers were retasked as missionaries, using their power to sway other Zhren’thrar populations and powerful political figures towards the Khariphesh religion.
The Unification Crusade
Khresh’s reformations transformed the Khariphesh temple into a truly global belief system and began the systematic conversion of Zhren'karaha's entire population. Thus began the Unification Crusade; an endeavor that combined the efforts of Khariphesh missionaries, diplomats and military forces. What prides couldn't be brought into the fold peacefully or be converted en mass by the fiery rhetoric of the Dreamspeakers were quickly brought to heel by the unmatched Templar forces.
In the wake of conversions, prides were typically quick to lay down their weapons in cooperation. In an effort to entice more disparate prides into the fold, the temple began to incorporate aspects of other religions, weaving a complex tapestry of tens of thousands of minor gods and traditions to exist behind the divine trinity. In response to its meteoric expansion, some independent prides resisted the spread of the new ideology, in some circumstances even confederating to resist the Khariphesh encroachment. The war that Khresh had sought to avoid had arrived.
Only half of Zhren’karaha had been converted to the Khariphesh religion by the end of Khresh’s life. While the majority of the transition had been peaceful, the immense military power of the newly formed Collected Prides ensured that resistance was quelled quickly and bloodily. Khresh’s legacy was left in the words of the Khresh’na’haq; a series of scrolls that would become holy documents, describing the cornerstones of the Khariphesh religion and its rise to prominence in the messiah’s own words. Within the Khresh’na’haq were instructions for Khresh’s successors on constructing a lasting form of government that would ensure the ascendancy of the temple, and the directive that all Zhren’thrar must bow to the will of the Khariphesh.
While Khresh had striven to maintain the peaceful advance of the unification crusade, the methods of the messiah’s successors were far more brutal. While adhering to the power structure outlined in the Khresh'na'haq, these new leaders harnessed the military power of the Khariphesh and its Templar to ruthlessly spread the faith across Zhren’karaha. Within decades, virtually the entire planet had fallen under the heel of the Khariphesh.
Expansion and Present Day
Once the crusade had concluded, Zhren'karaha's unification remained relatively stable. The Khariphesh Pride underwent a gradual transition from its ancient traditions to act as the religious authority of the Khariphesh Temple, and within centuries adherence to the Khariphesh was ingrained within pride culture and remained throughout the pride's interstellar expansion. Through the present day, the Khariphesh Temple continues to oversee the Zhren'thrar race and inform the actions of the Collected Prides.
Impact and Cultural Significance
The Khariphesh Temple acts as both the primary religious authority and de-facto central government of the Collected Prides. While outside of the council vote cast by the Temple's Septlord, the organization is traditionally meant to place itself above the politics of the Collected Pride. Despite this, prides oftentimes are persuaded to unquestionably comply with Temple decrees. The near-divine status of Temple agents bestows them immense power to act as they will across the Collected Prides, where they will oversee pride chieftain's actions and comb through Zhren'thrar populations for psychokinetically-gifted individuals to recruit into the Templar Order.
While it pales in comparison to the combined forces of the entire Collected Prides, the military of the Khariphesh Temple is far more powerful than that of any single pride alone. Swelled by regular tithes of goods, technology, conscripted warriors and materiel, and supported by the Templar order, the Temple's forces are far more numerous than even the largest prides.
The Temple's sheer power is made manifest in the immense temple complexes present on virtually every developed Zhren'thrar world. These monolithic constructions house Templars and other temple attendants, and act as both religious gathering places and power bases for the Temple's operations over a sector. Typically the most consolidated power centers in an area, these temple districts are often heavily fortified and contain extensive data networks, shipyards and supply depots.