A spiritual prism
In Summer 379YE, Yael of Highguard experienced a past life vision, during which she claimed to have received a revelation of the Land Without Tears, a paradise that waits beyond the Labyrinth for the truly virtuous. Initially she and her followers were given permission to use liao to spread word of this revelation across the Empire. A mighty congregation formed, swelled by pilgrims from every nation in the Empire.
But when the Doctrine of the Beyond was put before the Imperial Synod - it was rejected. This caused confusion across the Empire - if the Synod rejects Yael's revelation does that mean her words are heretical? If the Land Without Tears is not part of the Way of Virtue - is it illegal to preach it? Disagreements about what the Synod judgement really meant turned to arguments and in some cases to violence.
In response to the lack of leadership from the General Assembly, several of the national assemblies chose to pass clear judgements decisively rejecting Yael's words. The citizens of those nations have benefited from this clear moral leadership - but it has exposed a new danger. The Imperial faith represents the shared values that bring citizens of disparate nations together, without agreement that common unity is threatened.
The Doctrine of the Beyond
Beyond the Labyrinth of Ages lies the Land Without Tears. Paragon souls that had freed themselves from the Labyrinth may ascend to this golden place that is without pain and suffering. The Land Without Tears is the ultimate transcendent destiny of all humans who turn their lives to Virtue and the pursuit of Paragonhood.Proposed but not upheld at the Autumn Equinox 380YE, 673 - 729
- Wintermark, Varushka, Navarr, Urizen, the League have their ability to provide effective military aid to Highguard, Dawn, the Marches and the Brass Coast halved (and vice versa)
At the previous summit, five nations of the Empire, Wintermark,Varushka, Navarr, Urizen, and the League each passed a statement of principle with a greater majority decisively rejecting the revelation brought forth by Yael. Most of the judgements explicitly rejected her claim to be the First Empress - and all of them urged their faithful of their nation to reject her teachings and instead hold true to traditional doctrine.
This clear moral leadership has resolved the conflict that existed in these nations. There are no more discussions about what Yael's revelation means for their nation - no more debates about the theological implications, no more questions or doubts. The national assembly has rejected her claims - and that has dispelled all doubts in the minds of most folk of that nation.
The drawback of this clarity is that it is increasingly causing conflicts between those nations that have rejected Yael - and those that have not. Ultimately, a rejection of Yael's claims is almost identical to a rejection of Yael. The priests of the Imperial Synod might choose their words carefully when addressing this complex task, but the common soldiery do not. So when those who have not yet made their mind up about Yael - sit round the campfires with those whose leaders have told them to reject Yael and her claims - fists start to fly.
The truth is that the Way of Virtue is the heart of the Empire - it is what ties the ten nations together. The more the disagreements grow... the harder it becomes for the Empire to act and fight as one.
At present the situation is still evolving and any national assembly may issue a statement of principle decisively accepting or rejecting Yael. Provided it is passed with a Greater Majority then it will take effect immediately and allow the military units of that nation to fight accordingly.
While the statement of principle by a national assembly that is rejecting Yael is sufficient to end discussion of the issue, it is not sufficient to convince those who have embraced Yael to abandon their new faith. Most of these citizens still reside within the borders of their nation - but many have undergone a pilgrimage, traveling to Reikos or Casinea in the hope of encountering the First Empress Reborn or at least others like them who support her. This tide of pilgrims has swelled the ranks of the Congregation of the First Empress, a great mass of people looking to Yael for guidance and thereby granting her considerable influence and power within the Synod.
The national assembly sends X with X doses of liao to repudiate the false teachings of Yael of Highguard. Those who have been deceived by her claim to be the First Empress Reborn and the hope of a Land Without Tears should retract this false doctrine and return to their homes.Synod Mandate
Any national assembly that has already passed a statement of principle with a greater majority may decide to issue a priest of their nation with this mandate to confront these wayward pilgrims. If they pass a judgement of mandate with a lesser majority then they can authorize a priest to use at least 25 doses of liao to convert those of their nation who have strayed from the path they can shepherd them back to the Way of Virtue. This mandate would end the movement of pilgrims seeking Yael from the nation, reducing the size and influence of that congregation in proportion, but only if it is couched in the clearest possible terms as a denunciation of Yael's teachings - nothing less than this will convince those who have converted.
In the event that several nations issue this mandate, the total amount of liao they spend on it would be summed for purposes of resolving conflicts with other mandates such as those to turned the Congregation of the First Empress into an army, or to incorporate it into a Dawnish army.
- The Imperial Orcs are no longer directly effected by the turmoil surrounding Yael and her revelations.
The revelation of the First Empress Reborn concerns the Land Without Tears, a paradise that waits for those who are virtuous enough to pass through the cycle of reincarnation in the Labyrinth. There is no role for the orcs in this vision and the Imperial Orc national assembly have made clear that this matter is only of significance and importance for humans. Given the basic orc belief in one life - a single attempt to cross the Howling Abyss or face extinction - this statement of principle has been sufficient to resolve the matter.
Unless there is further guidance form the Imperial Orcs assembly to the contrary, the nation are no longer affected by the turmoil surrounding Yael and her revelations. Their citizens will play no further role in this matter and their armies and military units may support and be supported by members of any other nation.
- The division within the Imperial Synod is reflected in a division within the nation of Highguard.
The Way of Virtue began in Highguard. From there, it later spread across the nascent Empire, one of the symbols of its unification - and then across the world. The Highborn often boast that they embody the true spirit of the Empire; other nations might dispute that, but no-one can argue that Highguard is the spiritual and physical home of the Imperial faith. Virtue permeates every aspect of Highborn life and the nation looks to their priests for political as well as moral leadership.
As such, the failure of the Highborn national assembly to provide clear guidance on the First Empress Reborn and the Land Without Tears has hit this nation harder than any other. In chapter houses across Highguard, arguments rage over the nature of the revelations. Does the Doctrine of the Beyond contradict the Doctrine of the Paragons? Is it heresy or some profound new insight into the manifest destiny of the human race? Is Yael genuinely the reincarnation of the First Empress Reborn returned to help the Empire in its hour of need - or a charlatan who will destroy it?
These arguments have raged across the whole Empire - but are now settled in many of the nations by the decisive word of their National Assembly. Although Highguard is not the only nation whose Assembly has not spoken out, it is in this nation where faith and the Way are the very air they breathe, the Doctrines a dinner-table conversation as much as the price of bread. In the Marchers or the Brass Coast, it is uncommon for religious differences to divide friends and family; in Highguard, your friends and family are those who share your faith. This fellowship is the fabric from which the Highborn nation is woven; in this land, there are few threads that faith does not touch. As the threads fray, so too the fabric of Highborn society is beginning to divide with it; this now manifests in the discipline of their military.
At any time the Highborn National Assembly may still pass a statement of principle with a Greater Majority - either in support of Yael and her Doctrine of the Beyond - or against her. Either would resolve the conflict in the armies. Rejecting her would align Highguard with the other nations that have rejected Yael, and similarly give them the chance to pass the associated mandate. The situation is too complex to predict exactly what further effect unified national support for Yael might bring, but as in the case of Dawn, there is a powerful narrative that could bring significant benefit - the First Empress was, after all, Highborn...
But until a statement is passed - until the leaders of the most faithful nation can provably demonstrate that they have come to an agreement on this matter - the situation in Highguard will continue to deteriorate.
The Troubadours of Dawn hold up the following song as proclamation:
Some folk must walk the Labyrinth. To atone for their wrongs.
Four thousand winters: Think it not too long.
But others through the Labyrinth pass. To a land without tears.
As true liao scholarship. Discovered through the years.
Dawn's first Empress returned to us. From that happy vale.
Reincarnate in the person of Highborn Yael.
Blessed be this paragon. Returned from beyond.
Raise your voices. And praise her in Song.
- The Dawnish assembly has passed a judgement in support of Yael
The Dawnish National Assembly has passed a judgement recognizing Yael as the First Empress reborn and encouraging all citizens of the nation to raise their voices in praise of her. The situation is complicated, the judgement did not achieve a Greater Majority in the Assembly, but the judgements were stolen making voting much more difficult, and several important Dawnish priests were slain during the summit. For many these events seem just a little too convenient, is some force or group trying to prevent the Empire from recognizing Yael's claim?
As a result the majority in favour of Yael has given a number of Dawnish citizens reason to take renewed interest in Yael and her teachings.
The Glorious Monarch
One element that has caught the imagination of the Dawnish is her relationship with the land of Dawn. The First Empress is a legendary figure in the Empire, the founder of the Empire who personally united the squabbling human nations and conquered the orcs. But to many Dawnish she is something more - the first glorious Imperial Monarch of Dawn. According to history the Empress jumped over the River of Sighs to complete a Test of Mettle and win King Rodric's heart. The rebirth of the First Empress impacts every citizen of the Empire, but for some Dawnish what is more important is that the greatest Dawnish Queen that ever lived has returned to them.
For some, this momentous event signals a rebirth of Dawnish Glory and Pride. Rumours are already flying that one or more of the Dawnish regalia has been seen in the Barrens. Is this another sign that the "Greatest Monarch of Dawn" is come again?
Of course, by tradition - only the reigning Empress is offered the chance to claim the Throne of Dawn. Empress Lisabetta is well known for her widespread knowledge of Imperial history, easily the rival of any archivist or troubadour. So the fact that thus far she has not elected to press a claim to the title undoubtedly reflects politics rather than ignorance of her rights. Those who have passionately taken up Yaels' cause seem convinced that Lisabetta will concede that Yael has a greater right to the title and not contest the situation.
All of which assumes that Yael can be persuaded to accept the honour and stake her claim. The Dawn monarchy is not inherited, it is fought over in Grand Tourney. To be crowned, she must win victory in a grand tourney of Dawnish nobility. As a Highborn citizen Yael is not eligible to fight, but any Dawnish noble may take up her cause and already there are some who dreaming of becoming her champion. Any noble who does not feel that Yael is worthy to bear the title of King or Queen of Dawn would then take the field against her. Thus far, Yael's claims, have been an issue primarily for priests and troubadours - but if she makes a claim to be Queen of Dawn, then there is a chance for all the Dawnish nobility to fight for or against her.
Victory in such a tourney would be electrifying. The long beards in the Synod may argue at length about the theological implications of the Land Without Tears - but none of that would matter to the average Dawnish yeoman. As First Empress Reborn - and Queen of Dawn, Yael would have the undying affections of all Proud Dawnish men and women. Support for Yael would no longer be in question - in one swift stroke she could capture the hearts of every Loyal citizen of Dawn. While lesser nations argue for doctrine and ask for evidence - Yael has the chance to physically demonstrate for all the world to see that she is the First Empress Reborn - what could possibly be more glorious than that?
The song of the First Empress lifts the hearts of every Proud Dawnish man and women who hears it. All the yeofolk of Dawn dream of glory - so they cannot help but be inspired by the knowledge that the First Empress, a figure of legend, now walks amongst them. Let the priests in the Synod argue about doctrine - Dawnish troubadours know a glorious song when they hear one. The Dawnish National Assembly can choose to pass a mandate with a lesser majority to carry this song to every corner of Dawn bringing these benefits to all.
We send X with 25 doses of liao to carry the song of the First Empress to every Proud Dawnish man and woman. Let all who hear it know the truth of her glorious return from beyond the Labyrinth."Synod Mandate
If the mandate is successful, every personal resource in Dawn owned by a Dawnish character will gain a bonus equal to one additional rank for the following year. This bonus will be doubled if Yael also becomes the Queen of Dawn.
There are makeshift camps in Reikos and Casinea where pilgrims who have traveled from all across the Empire have gathered to praise Yael. The Empire has resolutely ignored all pleas to create an appropriate church to provide shelter and guidance, instead they have left them to face the elements. Some have returned home, but many continue to stay, surviving as best they can. Some hope for a glimpse of the First Empress Reborn, but most are just grateful for a chance to live amongst those who share their beliefs. All worry what will become of them if the Synod rejects their doctrine as it has already rejected their requests for aid.
It is impossible to doubt the passion of Yael's followers - they are deeply committed to her - and to the Empire. For those who have visited the camps, the subject of the Empire's wars is a common topic - and one of the things that they are keen to remind visitors is that the First Empress was a conqueror. She united the human nations in a war of conquest that drove the orcs from the Empire. Many of the faithful are fully prepared to do more than just support the First Empress - they are willing to give their lives fighting for Yael.
We send X with x doses of liao to urge the congregation of the First Empress to travel to Dawn and fight alongside the Gryphon's Pride. Let us conquer the barbarians together in her name.Synod Mandate
While the Dawnish assembly continues to support Yael, it is possible for a Dawnish citizen who had been granted a suitable mandate by the Dawnish assembly and at least 25 doses of liao to convince the Congregation of the First Empress to fight alongside a Dawnish army. The most suitable army is the newly raised Gryphon's Pride whose conquering spirit most aptly resonates with the history of the First Empress. Some of the faithful lack weapons and training - but they make up for this lack with their numbers and passion. If these devotees were inducted into the ranks of the Gryphon's Pride then the army could be made large in a single season for a cost of 75 mithril only.
Taking this opportunity requires the Imperial Senate to pass a normal motion to enlarge the named army. If such a motion passed, the Senator would be for responsible for determining how that would be achieved - even if the Synod then did not pass this judgement, the Senator could still enlarge the army using the standard methods.
As an alternative, rather than focusing on expanding the size of the army, the most capable warriors could be selected to form a cadre of elite troops, using the Dawnish nobles among their number as officers. This would still require 75 mithril, but combined with a single dose of true liao to permanently hallow the army banner, the entire quality of the army would be improved, further enhancing their determination to conquer the barbarians in the name of the First Empress.
Either approach would bring an air of fanatical devotion to the army, as the most devout pilgrims joined the ranks. However, should the Dawnish ever cease to support Yael and her vision of the Land without Tears, all benefits would be lost as the fanatics in turn cease to support Dawn.
Hear the words of Yael. The Synod is gripped with fear. They shirk from the enormity of my Revelation not because they believe I am a heretic but because they are consumed with doubt. They seek to stifle me to buy themselves more time, more evidence. But the Time of Revelation is now and Truth must be shared with all the Empire. I know this to be true, and with Courage as my Virtue I cannot be lead to doubt. I cannot be made to stop. If the Synod believe I am a heretic, it must name me one. I will face martyrdom without fear as did Permion and Isaella. And I will return again.Courage Assembly, 380YE Winter Solstice
- The assembly of Courage supports Yael
Backed by a greater majority of the Assembly of Courage, Yael has issued a defiant rebuke to the Synod. She has made clear that she will not be stopped and that she is perfectly prepared to die for her cause, safe in the knowledge that she will come again.
Her inspirational words have been embraced by many in the Congregation of the First Empress. They know that the fate of their nascent faith hangs by a thread - there is open talk of what they will do if Yael is declared a heretic and it is clear that many are prepared to die with her. At present these discussions are merely talk - albeit passionate and enthused - but it is clear that the Courage assembly could take advantage of this opportunity to unite the Congregation under Yael's banner and turn them into a fighting force.
To do so the assembly would have to pass a judgement of mandate, naming a priest and authorizing them to expend at least 25 liao urging the Congregation to take up arms and fight for the First Empress. If the mandate were successful, then the Congregation would be transformed into an army, albeit one that was small and possessed of a quality that reflected its lack of formal training and experience. It would no longer grant liao or votes in the Synod but it would be able to take military orders, just like any other army.
We send X with X doses of liao to urge the Congregation of the First Empress to unite under the banner of the Courage Assembly and fight for the truth of her revelation. Together we will defeat those whose doubts leave them too weak to face the truth.Synod Mandate
The army would be motivated by their faith in the First Empress Reborn, so they would act independently, but it is likely that Yael would be able to write to the leader of the army to request what actions she would like them to take. The upkeep would be paid for by donations from Imperial citizens who accept the truth of Yael's revelations, so there would be no cost to the Imperial treasury and no requirement for additional support from an Imperial nation.
There are no legal impediments to prevent citizens like the Congregation banding together to form an independent army though students of Imperial history can point to the most obvious example when an Imperial force outside the direct control of the Military Council brought unpredictable consequences.
- Has an initial fighting strength of 2,000.
- Requires no upkeep, and does not need to be supplied.
- Is controlled by NPCs, but Yael (or someone she formally designates by writing to the army) could guide their strategy.
- The only orders the army can submit are the overwhelming assault and heroic stand.
- Cannot benefit from natural resupply, but may receive emergency resupply from Yael.
- Once completed would be possible to provide emergency resupply, or increase its fighting strength to a maximum of 5,000, using a mandate of the Courage assembly, and a supply of liao
As always, in the event that multiple incompatible judgements are passed, the judgement that has had the largest amount of liao spent on it takes precedence. If more than one national assembly submits a mandate to convince their citizens to return home, then any competing mandate would need to contain more liao than was used with all these mandates added together.
Yael in play
It is important to bear in mind that Yael of Highguard is a player character, and not a member of our NPC crew.