THE CHURCH OF ORZHOV
The Church of Orzhov is one of the centers of faith on the Plane of Ravnica. It’s also the largest bank championing the plane’s trade and commerce. Part religion, part bank, and part crime syndicate, the Orzhov use the power of faith and wealth to gain control on Ravnica; luring people into their fold through promises of wealth, stability, power and longevity, and shaping and guiding their lives and eventual afterlifes through contracts and debts and obligations. The very nature of their ambition extends beyond the natural lifespan, and member of the Orzhov, nobility and debtor alike, tend to live on as some manner of undead. Crafty and greedy and unapologetically so, many Ravnicans are weary of the church but can’t help but see the appeal of the good life that a person of power can achieve in the Church.
ORIGIN AND PURPOSE
The Orzhov was founded by a cabal of greedy businessmen known as the Obzedat. A group of hungry, vicious businessmen, the Orzhov are in control of Ravnica’s economic stability. They control the banks and finances; money rarely exchanges hands on Ravnica without the Orzhov knowing about it. It doesn’t hurt that they print most of the plane’s currency. The Obzedat’s power extended well beyond death, and they continue to rule over their guild more than 10,000 years after founding it.
It wasn’t enough to merely guide the economy, they wanted to own it. As the Orzhov grew, so did the lengths to which they would hold onto their power. They developed into something of a cult of personality built around ancestor worship. If you served faithfully enough, eventually your bloodline would be rewarded with all the power and prestige the Orzhov could afford, whether it would be towards you in your afterlife or your grandchildren’s grandchildren working off the family debt you left them.
As they became the default bank to the city-plane, their influence over other industries expanded. Entrepreneurs and businessmen would approach the Orzhov for loans to get started. The Orzhov, knowing value when they saw it, would invest in projects and businesses they felt were worth investing in.
TEYSA KARLOV AND THE DECIMILLENIAL
Teysa Karlov is a figure of profound importance to the Church, second only to the Ghost Council themselves. Heir to the noble family Karlov, Teysa made her name as an advokist, a lawmage tasked with the defense of the accused. In otherwords, a lawyer. Given how close money and the law are, the Orzhov train some of the finest lawyers on the plane. Through her connections, cleverness, and opportune timing, she played an integral role in the events of the Decimillenial. She was able to twist and turn the schemes of various egomanic parties in her own favor, and while the damage was done to the guilds, things were far better off than they would have been otherwise.
Teysa is rather unique in her worldview among the Orzhov. While ruthlessness and amorality are not only expected, but encouraged among the Orzhov as a way to become a more efficient and profitable guildmember, and Teysa is certainly ruthless, everything she does is for the big picture. Afforded the luxuries of the Orhzov lifestyle, including an exaggerated lifespan, Teysa always has her eyes on the big picture. She is less concerned with her power and wealth now than she is in the future of Ravnica. She knows that the Guilds are too entrenched in Ravnican culture to ever be fully expunged, so she does what she can to maintain the balance. She uniquely strives for what is best not for herself (though she prefers it that way) or her Guildmasters (whom she is an outspoken critic of), but Ravnica as a whole.
Fearing the worst of what could come to happen in a Guildless Ravnica, she personally drafted up a new, non-magical Guildpact. Such was not to be unfortunately. Without the Guildpact to hold them back, the Guilds were eager to push their boundaries and lash out at one another, and without the Guildpact protecting them, the guildless masses rose up in vengeance against the most wicked among the Guilds.
HIDDEN IN THE MAZE
The Orzhov were relatively unharmed in the wake of the sundering of the Guildpact. While there were acts of violence against the more wicked members of the Guild for their actions, and the Gruul became far more aggressive in their retaliation against the Church for the Church’s tendency to take advantage of the Gruul laying in the law’s blindspot for generations, the Church is the lifeblood of the city. Far too many businesses and industries are backed by Orzhov coin for the common folk to ever afford to remove them as is.
When the Guilds began to rebuild, Teysa was appointed to a new and unprecedented position; Grand Envoy of the Obzedat. She was to be the personal go-between of the Ghost Council, and the people of Ravnica. The reason for this is twofold. First, the Ghost Council despises Teysa. Throughout her life, she has been a damning critic of their leadership, claiming that they are far too self-interested in maintaining their own power rather than that of the Guild or the city. She claims that they are greedy and lazy and without any redeeming qualities whatsoever. If they could, they would do away with her, but since they cannot, they wish to keep her close. To keep her on a short leash, where they may guide her actions and occupy her time with busy work rather than plotting against them.
They cannot touch her for reason number two; they cannot afford to. Through her acts of charity and patronage, she has become a beloved and respected figure throughout Ravnica, and they know that they cannot lash out at her without damning their own image beyond repair. That is unacceptable for the Guild most dependent upon the fealty of the common folk. So they rely on her popular public image as their own, to mask their own treachery and deceit with a face that Ravnica idolizes.
When the Maze was announced, the Obzedat were anxious. They had been a fixture of Ravnica as long as Niv-Mizzet, and considered it likely to be the latest in his eccentric schemes. But they didn’t know for sure, and to be that old and not know something of such magnitude made them nervous. They appointed Teysa, renowned for her resourcefulness, to run the maze and determine its purpose.
She saw the chance and relished it. She had a bargaining chip against them. This was a task too important to be granted to any of the rank and file, and there was no one in the Church more capable than her. They knew it, and they hated it. And she knew that much of them.
But, at the end of the day, she was a simple lawyer, who knew a few magical parlor tricks, running a marathon against the most dangerous people the other guilds could put forward. This wasn’t about her, it was about her connections, and she put them to work.
She contacted a personal ally of hers, Tajic, a commander within the Boros Legion, and the one tasked to run the maze in their name. She made him a proposal; a plan to be set in motion during the running of the maze that would require his skills and cooperation and might take some considerable time and effort to accomplish. Something that could easily be hidden by a false intent, such as the running of the maze. The maze was but a stepping stone in her true goal:
Teysa Karlov plans to destroy the Obzedat.