Tribunal Temple Brainstorming

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Aramithius
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I’m quite interested to start building up ideas and quests for the Temple faction in TR, particularly as the work for House Indoril has been mostly built out now. The key questions for me at the moment are as follows:

  • How are they different to the Vvardenfel Temple?
  • What role does House Indoril play?
  • What is their relation to the other Houses? Does this have an impact on their geography?
  • What impact do various stages of the MQ have on the faction?
  • Where are their power bases?

I'll attempt to answer some of these questions in the following post. Also, I’ve tried to incorporate thoughts from these threads in the old forum, so that we don’t end up retreading old ground:

http://tamriel-rebuilt.org/old_forum/viewtopic.php?t=24853

http://tamriel-rebuilt.org/old_forum/viewtopic.php?t=24025 in particular this line from Gez: 

Temple quests probably run along these three themes: Mercy (all the "heal the sick" type things), Mystery (pilgrimages and other esoteric stuff), and Mastery (various heroic feats). 

 

My thoughts on the whole shebang are:

 

Temple as Underdog/Client

The Temple is the big fish on Vvardenfel, owning the land and leasing it to the Houses. This forces the Houses to be nice to the Temple if they want to get anywhere. On the mainland, this is pretty much reversed. The Houses own the land here to a much greater degree than they do in Vvardenfel, which means that the Temple will be much less of a player outside its own sites (Necrom etc), and less respected.

This means that the Temple would need to be less a patron to the Houses, and more a client. Think how the Telvanni treats the Temple in Sadrith Mora being more common (although potentially less openly derisive). The Temple is something to be worked around at worst, and at best something a particular House can use for its own ends. 

The idea of temple-as-client suggests an element of vote-packing by the Houses, particularly Indoril. It will of course vary by region, but I imagine that certain noble families of all Houses will send off their sons to the Temple, with the expectation that they will advance House interests as part of that. The Temple will be mostly staffed by those looking to advance their own or their family's interests, cloaked in "it's for the Temple/the People" rhetoric. I imagine quest lines that involve choosing who your "patron" is in the organisation and being instructed on how to advance their House's interests through working at the Temple, and the choices being around how much the PC goes along with that or limits it, either to the good of their own House or to the Temple as an organisation. Ideally, it shouldn't be clear which is which.

One key thing I would like to implement as part of this is event-based quests, which differ according to the giver. That is, an event is happening and, depending on who the PC gets the quest from, they are asked to do different things about it. One NPC is trying to achieve something, and asks the PC to facilitate, while another will ask the PC to stop it. Within the structure of the quest the PC should be given the option to double-cross the quest giver and fulfill the other side's part of the bargain if they so wish.

 

Temple as Organisation

Forgive the real-world analogies for the moment, but I see Vvardenfel and Mournhold as the Temple's Mecca & Medina, and the Seven Graces as the Tribinal Faith's Hajj (I can't remember any particular pilgrimage activities in Mournhold itself). As such, some of the most popular (and most lucrative) activities for the Temple will be arranging for pilgrims to travel to Vvardenfel under Temple guidance and complete the Seven Graces. We will therefore see more Temple infrastructure (potentially even Temple transport) around getting pilgrims to and from Vvardenfel and Mournhold. This is the place where we'll see the most Temple independence from the Houses, and where they will have the most leverage. Through controlling pilgrimage routes they can control how certain people are seen in Morrowind society. Their power base with the rest of society is as a legitimising agent. This is even truer in terms of "vetting" families to allow their dead members to serve in protecting the Ghostfence - if the Temple refuses the family because of their reputation, that family will lose a lot of face.

This set-up enables good old fashioned religious corruption and bribery to enter into things - players could uncover priests who are taking bribes to accelerate a pilgrim's progress, accelerate or block the movement of their ancestors remains, lie about their devotion through pilgrimage and forge records to show that their ancestors serve loyally at the Great Ghostfence while actually remaining at a family shrine. With sufficient status, interaction with certain NPCs could bring about the opportunity for PCs to set up their own bribery schemes in this regard.

 

Temple as Doctrine

From Progress of Truth, we can assume that the bulk of the Temple does not accept “personal revelation and mystical experiences” as part of religious practice. We can expect the imposition of Temple orthodoxy to promote itself as the authoritative issuer of interpretations on matters of faith, which means quelling independent exegeses. The Indoril, as keepers of the Laws Determined & Laws Ordained, will have a fair bit to say about this. Is it worth exploring the notion of canon law in the Roman Catholic church as an analogue here?

Spreading the word of the acts of various saints, which should be emulated, could also be an element of this. Taking up a particular Saint's modus operandi to suggest to others could be a "converstion" exercise, depending on the PC's quest-giver.

 

Factions within the Temple

The Houses

Each House will likely have its own family members serving in the temple, whose prime motivation will be to further their family's secular agenda. This is where I imagine the PCs starting, unless they have pre-existing status within the Vvardenfel Temple organisation. This will need to be nuanced depending on which House (if any) the PC serves, likely on a same/different basis for simplicity. This does run a little counter to Progress of Truth, which believes that the "frontline" priests are mostly devout and honest, but I think this is probably a very rose-tinted point of view. There will be devout members, but there will also be self-serving or House-serving priests in this faction.

These cadres likely won't have their own architecture (and potentially not their own buildings). Quests here will revolve around either encouraging the secular members to become more holy, petitioning the Temple hierarchy on their behalf, or solving House-specific faith problems, like cover-ups and petty politicking. I expect the bulk of the Temple staff to fit into this category.

The Temple Hierarchy

I expect most of these will be Indoril. Given comments in the main quest, the Ordinators and the leadership are of similar mind until after the MQ gets completed. Beyond presiding over ceremonies, these members will spend most of their time interpreting canon law, which overlaps to a large degree with the Indoril's sphere. I'm not sure, given the haughty nature of the Indoril, that we can ascribe the factions within the House to broader theological trends within the Temple, but I would certainly expect the Temple to reflect the diversity of Indoril views, and then some. Perhaps we need to have the Temple questline becoming more about the rebirth of the Temple as an organisation distinct from Indoril? And then the PC's actions determine the degree to which they become independent or the client of another Great House.

I also see a degree of interaction with the Imperial Cult being possible here - does the Hierarchy welcome it, try to discredit them quietly, or actively drive them out? Perhaps the PC gets conflicting orders from different members, and has to make up their own mind. As most of the Imperial Cult quests in vanilla revolve around getting money for the Cult, there should be some opportunity for financial gain off the back of this.

The Dissident Priests

These will need to vary, depending where on the MQ the player is. I imagine three possible stages here, each with their own potential quests

  • Pre-MQ: suppression of the Dissidents and False Incarnates, or helping them function in secret.
  • Mid-MQ: gathering support and information from the Dissidents, when the Temple Hierarchy turns their back on the PC. Some particular interaction with False Incarnates here could include trying to persuade false incarnates that you are Nerevar. This may be a little too similar to the False Incarnate quest in vanilla, but I imagine additional possibilities like gaining followers once they're converted.
  • Post-MQ: supporting or disowning the Dissidents as a faction within the Temple hierarchy. Either they become the ones who were right all along, or scatter to the winds to pursue their own goals now that their goals are accomplished. Either way, individual Priests should strive for status within the new Temple understanding.

Pre-MQ Dissident Priests will meet in secret, use coded documents, etc, and I think offer the most potential for descripbing the faction. I see them as meeting in secret, using coded letters etc, as well as using quite fetishistic and misunderstood applications of Ashlander practices in their private worship. Those few that have traveled to meet and speak with Ashlander wise women about Nerevar and the Ashlander faith would be held in high regard.

Tracking them down should be hard. The quests to convert them to the orthodoxy can then go into theological argument, threats to expose them or outright slaughter, depending on the PC's disposition. PC could also help send them into hiding, potentially with groups of sympathetic Ashlanders.

Post-MQ, there could be quests attempting to persuade members of the Temple hierarchy that they should acknowledge the Dissidents, and adopt various elements of their philosophy (such as the element of personal revelation and mysticism) into the mainstream. This could create no end of confusing quests, as various Temple members try and sort out the mess between false insights and real ones, with the PC potentially deciding which is the true version. Their status as Nerevarine should grant them some sway within the Temple, even if they’re not members.

The Ordinators

Militant members of House Indoril are those who enforce Temple law. It should be apparent during the questlines that they are acting according to their own interpretations of Temple law (in line with House Indoril), rather than the Temple as its own entity. PC can either support or work against these interpretations, either through disseminating Ordinator-focused literature to non-Indoril priests who will lap it up (I expect priests from Redoran would feel a kinship here, particularly), or to members of the non-Ordinator hierarcy who will either brush it under the rug if they're Indoril, or take steps to curtail Ordinator power if they are part of another House.

The Traditionalists

These I envision being mostly House Dres, and the more backwater places on the mainland. These will play up the Anticipations to a role similar to (and in some cases greater than) the Tribunal.  Quests and interactions here could revolve around persuading them to dismantle their family shrines and send their remains to be part of the Vavardenfel Ghostfence. Post-MQ, I imagine these will be some of the strongest voices calling for the dismantling of the Ghostfence and the return of their family's remains to them.

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You know how doing a pilgrimage gives you a blessing for a short time? I think a suitable final quest reward would be a blessing that’s permanent, earned by some really arduous pilgrimage like following Veloth’s path from Dunmereth Pass (or was it Rift Pass?) to Necrom without using fast travel or teleportation.

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A great start, though as our interpretations of the role of the Temple in Morrowind (both as a province and as a game) seem to be quite different I’ll mostly be pointing out what I disagree with to start with:

How are they different to the Vvardenfel Temple?
They shouldn't be. I think the Temple is one faction where it’s very important that no Vvardenfell/mainland division exist. There can and should naturally be divisions within the Temple, but I think they should be more nuanced.

What role does House Indoril play?
Put simply, the Temple makes the laws, House Indoril interprets and enforces them. Temple proposes, Indoril disposes.

What is their relation to the other Houses? Does this have an impact on their geography?
The Temple plays an advisory role for House Redoran, tries to take care of the Velothi in Telvanni lands to some degree, has a good if muted relation with House Hlaalu, (House Hlaalu does not question the Temple’s authority, but rather the influence House Indoril exerts on the Temple), and good relations with House Dres, but the nature of the relation is 'you do your thing and we do ours'; I think the Temple should have no or very little presence in Dres lands.

What impact do various stages of the MQ have on the faction?
On the whole, I think the main changes to the Temple should be left outside of the game's timeframe. Not due to weaseling out of having to portray a major shift in the Temple, but rather because I think the Temple should be portrayed as monolythic, powerful and as the very soul of 'Morrowind', even as it's waning. The concepts of 'Morrowind' and the Temple are inseparable; 'Morrowind' is the Temple. All other factions are like ships on the water, while the Temple is the water. As long as the moon is in the sky and Morrowind hasn't fallen, the Temple holds sway.
The changes that the Temple undergoes in the game's timeframe amount to ripples on the waters' surface; everyone floating on the water notices and feels them, but for the most part the Temple itself carries on as it was. Even if all of the Tribunal end up dead. The Temple as a whole is too large and spread out to change direction in any reasonable amount of time.

Where are their power bases?
The question is rather complex, as it has several answers depending on what aspect of the Temple is being discussed:

I think Vivec should be the closest thing to a 'Temple capital', but it is not home to the Temple leadership. (That would be Almalexia). Among other things, it has effectively become the headquarters of the Order of Inquisition.
I think Ghostgate should be the effectve headquarters of the Order of War.
Priests are primarily trained in larger Velothi towns like St. Llothis.
I also think a lot of the Velothi towers in eastern Morrowind, and to a lesser degree in western Morrowind, should serve as places of learning and theology, though I'm still not sure how precisely they should function in-game.
I do think there should be a major location in eastern Morrowind in which Ordinators are trained. (Not a secret base, not of epic proportions, not a city; it shouldn't be too out-of-the-way and should probably be supplied by nearby Velothi villages. I'd personally redesign and repurpose one of the sillier mainland Velothi towers to that end).
While Almalexia has the Temple leadership, I think on the whole the Indoril should dominate there; Temple presence is more administrative, theological and ceremonial, and often overlaps strongly with Indoril theology and interpretation of doctrine. I do not think Ordinators should have much of a presence in Almalexia except as guards.
Almas-Thirr is a Temple stronghold, but i think the power it exerts should be more local. Temple power doesn't spread out from it so much as it flows into it. (Though the Temple itself wishes it were otherwise).
Necrom is home to the Ordinators in Mourning, but I don't think it should play any role in the overall Temple power structure, beyond its vital function of powering the Ghostgate. (It is to Necrom, not Vvardenfell, that Dunmer remains are sent, and in Necrom that the machine that powers the ghostfence resides).
While straying a bit from the topic, I think Bouyant Armigers should perhaps get a stronghold somewhere in Telvannis, perhaps on the shores of Lake Boethiah or whatever Lake Boethiah will become, and that they should have a less organized but clear presence in Redoran lands, from where most Bouyant Armigers hail.
Beyond that, the Temple should naturally have a presence in Velothi villages and temples in House settlements, and perhaps more broadly in Redoran lands as above, but for the most part that presence would be local; the bottom of the pyramid.

Temple as Underdog/Client
In the vein of the above, I don't think this should be the case. The Temple doesn't need to control territory directly; thats what the Houses do. The Temple's power is intrinsic and implied, even where (as in Telvannis and Deshaan) it isn't evident.

Temple as Organization
The Dunmer Hajj is crossing Morrowind from west to east, following in the footsteps of Veloth, to Necrom. (From neither Dunmereth nor Rift pass, but what is currently called Shadowgate Pass, just west of Kragenmar, which would be the first stop of the pilgrims).
The Pilgrimage of the Seven Graces is dedicated to Vivec and centered on Vvardenfell. In the context of the province as a whole, I think it should be viewed as a very challenging and relatively obscure pilgrimage.

Temple as Doctrine
I think the Indoril should be the real force behind the overbearing authority and strict interpretation and enforcement of Temple law. The Indoril domination of the Ordinators, and especially the Order of Doctrine and Ordination and Order of Inquisition, as well as the Temple leadership, has predictably lead to a bleeding of Indoril values and methods over to the Temple.
This would mostly be the result of good intentions. While some Indoril might consciously be engaging in Realpolitik to further their House, for the most part I think Indoril would simply not distinguish - or be able to distinguish - between what is good for House Indoril and what is good for Morrowind.
As a rule of thumb, the Temple's role is to be while the Indoril's role is to do. As such, in theory, the Temple is anything but an oppressive force; it is a space. Through Indoril influence the Temple has started to do; it has started to move and exclude and divide 'good Dunmer' from 'bad Dunmer'. In short, to become just another actor in the arena that is Morrowind, as opposed to being the arena itself. To people who know what's up, that's a clear sign that Morrowind as an endeavour has failed and that it's high time to abandon ship.

Factions within the Temple
I don't think any House is able to in any way contest House Indoril's majority in the Temple, though especially among the lower priesthood (the 'frontline priests' of the Progress of Truth) I'd assume the Velothi class would form the actual majority. Telvanni and Dres in particular would have no real interest in maintaining a presence in the Temple.

Dissident Priests
I would keep the Dissident Priests strictly separate from the Ashlanders. The Dissident Priests do not strive to be like the Ashlanders; the Ashlanders are still more-or-less backwards, superstitious savages to them. The main advantage of the Ashlanders is that they're so backwards and insignificant that they have remained outside the sphere of Temple doctrine, and so Temple doctrine can be held up against Ashlander stories and the emergent differences explored. While a specific school of thought among the Dissident Priests might see inherent value in the Ashlanders or their lifestyle or belief, might see something worth emulating, I think it should by no means be a dominant school of thought.
Which is my main contribution to this section: I do not think the Dissident Priests should be knowledgeable at the start of the game. They are trying to figure things out just like the player. Many 'dissidents' are just independent scholars in some far-flung Velothi tower who, after poring over some obscure apocrypha, start to ask questions; the product of a tradition of theology which the Temple had encouraged and the Ordinators are now trying to restrict.
While the obvious real-world reference for the Dissident Priests is early Christians, persecuted by the Roman Empire and congregating in secret, I think the early Reformation is no less important as a reference.

The Traditionalists
As indicated above, I think House Dres should operate completely outside of the Temple power structure. It recognizes no central authority within its borders, individual clans tending their own temples and tomb. The Dres do not answer to the Temple, and the Temple generally doesn't require them to, having reached an understanding with them long ago. Only the word of the Tribunal alone, as flesh-bound representatives of the gods, can sway the Dres. Only for the sake of the Tribunal do the Dres suffer the indignance of allowing the ashes of their kinsmen to be blown beyond their ancestral holdings to distant Necrom.

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Apologies for the delay, a combination of real life and Exalted got in the way.

How are they different to the Vvardenfel Temple?
They shouldn't be. I think the Temple is one faction where it’s very important that no Vvardenfell/mainland division exist. There can and should naturally be divisions within the Temple, but I think they should be more nuanced.

 

Of course, on an organisational level this is true. However, the way that they implement the faith and relate to other factions will change.

 

What role does House Indoril play?
Put simply, the Temple makes the laws, House Indoril interprets and enforces them. Temple proposes, Indoril disposes.

 

Any wiggle room for interpreation here? Thinking to the European medieval Catholic church, many of the hierarchy were experts in canon law, rather than theology. The inquisition’s verdicts were passed, and then they were handed over to the secular authorities for actual punishment. The Indoril as envisioned would fulfil both of these laws, while the whole Temple in effect becomes the pontiff and the synod. Is this the relation we want?

 

What is their relation to the other Houses? Does this have an impact on their geography?
The Temple plays an advisory role for House Redoran, tries to take care of the Velothi in Telvanni lands to some degree, has a good if muted relation with House Hlaalu, (House Hlaalu does not question the Temple’s authority, but rather the influence House Indoril exerts on the Temple), and good relations with House Dres, but the nature of the relation is 'you do your thing and we do ours'; I think the Temple should have no or very little presence in Dres lands.

 

That’s cool, that can be used in a whole variety of ways. It makes for several kinds of House-Temple interaction, which kind of plays into the “Factions in the Temple” point.

 

What impact do various stages of the MQ have on the faction?
On the whole, I think the main changes to the Temple should be left outside of the game's timeframe. Not due to weaseling out of having to portray a major shift in the Temple, but rather because I think the Temple should be portrayed as monolythic, powerful and as the very soul of 'Morrowind', even as it's waning. The concepts of 'Morrowind' and the Temple are inseparable; 'Morrowind' is the Temple. All other factions are like ships on the water, while the Temple is the water. As long as the moon is in the sky and Morrowind hasn't fallen, the Temple holds sway.
The changes that the Temple undergoes in the game's timeframe amount to ripples on the waters' surface; everyone floating on the water notices and feels them, but for the most part the Temple itself carries on as it was. Even if all of the Tribunal end up dead. The Temple as a whole is too large and spread out to change direction in any reasonable amount of time.

 

Fair enough. This will make it easier to write as well.

 

Priests are primarily trained in larger Velothi towns like St. Llothis.
I also think a lot of the Velothi towers in eastern Morrowind, and to a lesser degree in western Morrowind, should serve as places of learning and theology, though I'm still not sure how precisely they should function in-game.

 

These functions could knit together – the towers become “theological colleges” where Temple curates and above receive doctrinal training as well as other pratical skills (public speaking and Restoration magic primarily, although I could also see counselling as a thing too). Quests here could revolve around finding books, arguing particular points of doctrine with heterodox novices, etc.

 

While Almalexia has the Temple leadership, I think on the whole the Indoril should dominate there; Temple presence is more administrative, theological and ceremonial, and often overlaps strongly with Indoril theology and interpretation of doctrine. I do not think Ordinators should have much of a presence in Almalexia except as guards.

 

Isn’t guarding and keeping the peace what Her Hands are for? It’s been a while since I played Tribunal.

 

While straying a bit from the topic, I think Bouyant Armigers should perhaps get a stronghold somewhere in Telvannis, perhaps on the shores of Lake Boethiah or whatever Lake Boethiah will become, and that they should have a less organized but clear presence in Redoran lands, from where most Bouyant Armigers hail.

 

Perhaps a staging-post in Telvannis, where the Argmigers go and prepare before being stationed at the Ghostgate? Although this does imply more “holy traffic” going through Sadrith Mora, which feels a little out of place.

 

Temple as Underdog/Client
In the vein of the above, I don't think this should be the case. The Temple doesn't need to control territory directly; thats what the Houses do. The Temple's power is intrinsic and implied, even where (as in Telvannis and Deshaan) it isn't evident.

 

I thnk this is where our differences come; in Vvardenfel, I understood that the Houses rented the land from the Temple, while they actually owned the land they occupy on the mainland. That shift in relationship is what colours a lot of my thinking, and if it’s wrong then my picture changes. It also means that the Houses don’t need to respect the Temple as much on the mainland as they do on Vvardenfel.

 

Temple as Organization
The Dunmer Hajj is crossing Morrowind from west to east, following in the footsteps of Veloth, to Necrom. (From neither Dunmereth nor Rift pass, but what is currently called Shadowgate Pass, just west of Kragenmar, which would be the first stop of the pilgrims).

 

I take it this is implemented as a quest somewhere? I would also expect a lot of service to be built up around the route, designed to milk the pilgrims.

In addition to this, keying into what TheDVI said above, Medieval pilgrims did occasionally get given “badges” to show that they had done a particular pilgrimage. While not necessarily magical, if the west to east journey had such an emblem it would imply a certain level of kudos within Dunmeri society.

 

As a rule of thumb, the Temple's role is to be while the Indoril's role is to do. As such, in theory, the Temple is anything but an oppressive force; it is a space. Through Indoril influence the Temple has started to do; it has started to move and exclude and divide 'good Dunmer' from 'bad Dunmer'. In short, to become just another actor in the arena that is Morrowind, as opposed to being the arena itself. To people who know what's up, that's a clear sign that Morrowind as an endeavour has failed and that it's high time to abandon ship.

 

I’m not sure it’s the Indoril that do this – as the Temple is a prime overseer and bestower of worth, providing a system whereby the Dunmer can measure and be measured, it’s potentially something that has always gone on.

 

Dissident Priests
Which is my main contribution to this section: I do not think the Dissident Priests should be knowledgeable at the start of the game. They are trying to figure things out just like the player. Many 'dissidents' are just independent scholars in some far-flung Velothi tower who, after poring over some obscure apocrypha, start to ask questions; the product of a tradition of theology which the Temple had encouraged and the Ordinators are now trying to restrict.
While the obvious real-world reference for the Dissident Priests is early Christians, persecuted by the Roman Empire and congregating in secret, I think the early Reformation is no less important as a reference.

 

That all works. Is there mileage in quests to help coalesce Dissident doctrine? I can see the player acting as courier between scholars, which over time evolves into a scholarly community. Contributing to and/or tampering with those communications and that community could be an interesting questline.

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I haven’t much to add beyond a quick thought: The Hands serve Almalexia directly, and the Buyont Armigers serve Vivec directly. So did Sotha Sil ever have any special servants? He’s cast as being pretty keep-to-himself, and in TES3 times he’s been hidden away for a few hundred years, but perhaps in the past…?

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I’d vote to keep it with Sotha Sil Expanded and just not mention anything that goes in the actual Clockwork City – there might be esoteric orders of tinkerers who adher to him, but nothing official I’d say.

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Sotha Sil Expanded is a nice mod, but I think if TR remade this part of Tribunal addon to make an exterior Clockwork City, which player need to find in Argonian jungle it will be much better in my opinion.

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Found a couple of obscure bits of lore, that I’m pondering as an idea for expanding upon a martial arts tradition for the Temple.

This is said by An-Deesei, A Twins Lamp Argonian in Ebonheart:
"The unarmed, unarmored martial arts traditions of the Marshmerrow, Salt Rice, and Golden Reed societies of the Dissident Priest, patterned on the 'Rain-of-Sand' fighting styles of Elsweyr, are slow to be adopted in the Empire, associated as they are with the ascetic renunciation of worldly wealth and material goods, and the rigid disciplines and mystical philosophies so alien to the Impieral West."

Another reference to martial arts among the Temple is here:

http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Master_Zoaraym's_Tale,_Part_1

Note that you can find an NPC named “Taren Omothan” in Holamayan. While the last name is mispelled, I think this is their nod to the book, and that guy is supposed to be the Dunmer of the Master Zoaraym’s Tale.

Since the Dissident Priests are such a secret society, I’m not sure what can be done with this lore, beyond perhaps a book by Taren expounding a bit on the tradition. I’ll write something up for that, but posting this as food for thought if someone else has an idea.