Mutants are human beings whose bodies differ in any way from the accepted norm. They are feared and despised across Nova, as the Ecclesiarchy teaches that corruption of the body draws the soul from the God-Emperor’s Imperium.
Range of Variation
Mutants can vary greatly from the human norm or almost not at all. Dwarfism, hunchbacks, clubbed feet, cleft palates, and even lazy eyes are all considered mutations. These relatively small variations are enough to make a person an outcast for life, if he or she is lucky enough to survive infancy.
Some mutations are more extreme. Novans have been born with missing limbs, extra limbs, webbed hands, tentacles for arms, scaled skin, monstrously large frames, and other grotesque deviations. These major mutations are death sentences for those infants who do not die of their deformities immediately.
The normal Novan response to mutation, as prescribed by the Church, is to purify the unfortunate with fire. A mutant’s parents may request a dispensation from the Ecclesiarchy if they wish to spare the child (or a mutant himself or herself may make the request, in the unlikely event of an unsanctioned mutant surviving to legal majority). The request may be made of any Ecclesiarchy priest. Usually this is the local preacher, in order to get sanction before an angry mob can make the point moot; those who seek dispensation from their district pontifex are likely to be looking over their shoulders all the way to the cathedral.
A considerable body of canon law exists to guide a priest’s decision whether or not to grant a dispensation, but few priests are learned enough to know (much less apply) it. Most often the decision comes down to a priest’s gut feelings; even influential parents affect dispensation rulings but little. If the ruling is favorable, the mutant is said to be sanctioned. He or she receives a circular object called a rosette to indicate his or her sanctioned status. The rosette consists of a metal border around a solen aquila upon a heliotrope field, symbolizing that the mutant has been accepted into the Emperor’s Imperium.
An adverse ruling may be appealed up the Ecclesiarchy hierarchy from preacherto confessor to pontifex. A pontifex may grant permission to appeal to the cardinal (though as he would be granting permission for his own ruling to be reviewed, this rarely happens).
Once granted, a dispensation applies throughout Nova. In practice, however, sanctioned mutants are well advised to stay near “friendly” clergy. A sanctioned mutant who wanders into another priest’s demesne may find the validity of his or her dispensation questioned, or simply set upon by an angry mob in a tragic “accident.” Neither Ecclesiarchical dispensation nor a rosette is a guarantee of safety. The general heraldic meaning of a rosette is clear to most Novans, but sanctioned mutants are rare enough that its precise meaning is only likely to be known to those Novans whose local priest has explained it to them. Sanctioned mutants have been beaten to death with their rosettes in their hands by fearful mobs who simply did not comprehend its meaning.
Even a sanctioned mutant’s life is difficult and fraught with peril. Ecclesiarchical sanction is usually (though not always) enough to prevent a mutant from being attacked outright, but it is not enough to gain most Novans’ trust. Mutants are popularly considered corrupt of mind as well as body (though Ecclesiarchy doctrine does not actually teach this), so they are usually considered stupid as well as dangerous to the soul. Mutants have the greatest difficulty finding masters willing to take them as apprentices, trade with them, or even accept their coin.
For this reason, sanctioned mutants tend to depend upon their parents for their whole lives. Those few who can find gainful employment are all the more loyal to their masters or employers, even when performing the meanest jobs.
A very few mutants live to adulthood without Ecclesiarchical sanction. These are usually mutants who were exposed at birth rather than burned alive, and by some miracle survived. These are almost all outlaws by necessity, as few adult mutants are willing to take the risk of exposing themselves to a priest to request a dispensation.
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