Children of Mercy Orphanages
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Too often, children wind up as orphans. Perhaps the father is unknown or dead, and the mother dies during childbirth (still fairly common among the lower classes), or the parents simply cannot afford to raise it and abandon it. Or perhaps the child is born with obvious deformities and the parents cast it out rather than having to live with the shame.

Many orphanages exist in the Known Lands that take these children in. The oldest are usually run by organized religions (most notably the Church of Thenos), but in recent decades many have been founded by private charities. These can be anything from fairly enlightened places where these children learn an useful trade that might make them somewhat respected members of society some day, to dirty hellholes where the children are abused in the worst ways and often forced into a life of crime by those who are supposed to shelter them.

The most well known orphanages founded by private charities are the Children of Mercy Orphanages, most of which can be found in the Flannish Cities, the Parginian Rim, and the League of Armach. These are almost universally lauded for taking in any children and making them valuable members of society. Every time they are visited, they are seen as clean and orderly, and the children seem happy and well-fed. A surprising number of city councilors and other influential people have been raised in these institutions, and these and their friends and allies often help with new funds and the creation of new orphanages.

But behind this friendly facade hides a terrible secret, for these orphanages have been founded and are run by surathi thin-blooded. Their taking in outcast children is motivated by their desire to find as many of the scattered surathi that can be found across the Known Lands and who are usually unaware of their dark heritage. And indeed, a surprising number of children born with deformities turn out to be surathi lesser brethen. These are soon secretly sent to the Snake Kingdoms where they can live and be educated in the way of their kin. Thin-blooded children, on the other hand, are given all the education and support to make it in civilized society, and as a result these children are often adopted by rich and unsuspecting parents or else become successful on their own later in life - thus increasing the frequency of surathi blood in the upper levels of society. Merely human children, on the other hand, suffer abuse from their thin-blooded betters and are frequently mentally dominated by the psychic surathi. When they reach adulthood and leave the orphanages, they will usually have lost all free will and become fanatical followers and agents of a surat.

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