Leo stood with his arms outstretched as his squires fastened the last few straps on his breastplate, greaves, and vambraces. Hargan gathered his golden mane together, pulled it back, and bound it into a tight tail on the back of his head with a length of golden ribbon, then lowered his helmet into place. The girding complete, Leo stretched, making sure he could move freely despite the weight of the armour.

Satisfied, he and Hargan shared a brief moment, a kiss and a few words that were for them alone, and then turned to walk out of the tent together.

There was a surprisingly disappointing crowd. All of Leo's companions - nobles and yeofolk alike - were clustered around his end of the roped-off field. Despite the fact they were in Morrow, there were barely more Urizen than Dawnish. Three dozen at most, clustered in small groups, talking in quiet voices at the other side of the square. Leo suppressed a frown and kept his face neutral.

As he strode out, the other Dawnish cheered and banged their fists on their armour, or their spears on the ground. As always the cheers of the crowd buoyed him up and his concerns melted. He held his arms up to receive their accolades, and as he entered the designated area, he almost felt sorry for his opponent. They would settle this disagreement, and Leo would attempt not to hurt his opponent too badly, but everyone would agree that truth and beauty were different or whatever it was they were arguing about.

He looked over to the Urizen side of the square. A tall young man in a pale emerald robe with a thin staff was walking towards him. He had obvious signs of merrow blood. Leo frowned. This was not the woman who had challenged him. He felt a brief stab of uncertainty and then immediately stopped being uncertain and became angry instead.

"What's this," he shouted. "Some kind of Urizen trick? In Dawn we fight our own battles when resolve must be tested!"

The merrow widened his eyes.

"I am a healer," he said quietly. "It is my job to be on hand so that injuries can be tended to quickly and loss of life prevented. The arbiter has agreed to this fiasco but will not permit any life to be squandered while Zenith is still in the hands of the enemy!"

"Don't worry," laughed Leo, his anger passed. "I'll go easy on your little sage, just a few bruises and maybe a broken bone or two."

The merrow gave him another placid look which he couldn't identify, and stepped aside. Leo realised there was someone else in the ring. His mouth dropped open in spite of himself.

Talitha of the Tempests was clad head to foot in tight-fitting mithril, banded and segmented to allow her ease of movement. On her head, a sculpted helm depicting a great bird. On her back, a two-handed sword. In her fist, a small bottle which she raised to her lips, drank slowly, and then threw behind her.

The Urizen had stopped talking, focusing all their attention on the sword scholar as she drew her massive weapon with ease despite its great size and raised it in a defensive posture.

A smile quirked at her lips.

"Come now Dawnish," she chided. "Did you expect me to face you in a robe? I am a sword scholar, and I would never do something so unwise."

Overview

The sword scholars are an ancient part of Urizen's past; once suppressed and scattered by the early Imperial Synod, they have recently come back into the open. In the past year and a half, they first clashed against the orthodoxy that once rejected them - but now, by the judgement of the Urizen assembly, they are being brought back into the fold.

That all sword scholars unite under the banner of the disciples of the Tempest Jade Maiden to become an effective fighting force.

Urizen National Assembly, Edmundo, Spring Equinox 382YE, Upheld 116 - 0

One month after the Spring Solstice, the sword scholars gather at an old ruin in the region of Peregro, in Morrow. Some mistake them for refugees or bandits but the mismatched coalition of scarred, heavily-armed Urizen who meet amid the broken columns and rubble are neither - they are the adherents of a half-dozen different sects, come together under the auspices of the Disciples of the Tempest Jade Maiden, the largest of the surviving sword scholar fellowships.

The gathering is fractious and tense. These sects are rivals as much as comrades. The branded warrior-priests of the Five Blade Fellowship, the austere and heavily-armoured adherents of the Steel Crane, and the garrulous and libertine Red Scroll Bearers all challenge the pre-eminence of the Tempest Jade Maiden’s followers. The ruins see a relentless flow of debates, duels, and frank exchanges of view.

If you love a thing, be prepared to destroy it. Only then can you truly be strong enough to protect it.

Sulemaine i Taziel

In the end, the common ground of faith, history, and reverence of Sulemaine, the woman they call the Paragon of Blades, forges a consensus. Fighting independently of each other and of the Empire’s military efforts, the sects have been nearly bled dry fighting the Grendel and Druj invaders. Though still mistrustful of the Empire, the support of the Urizen assembly has convinced the sword scholars to return to the fold - for now at least.

Test what you learn; only fools accept hearsay as truth.

The Virtue of Wisdom

Test What You Learn

The ruins in Peregro at which the sword scholars have gathered once stood as the Temple of the Winds, the largest temple of the Disciples of the Tempest Jade Maiden. The rising galleries and shrines echoed with the movement of the air through carefully constructed channels, creating haunting tones that aided in meditative contemplation. The temple was destroyed by an Imperial purge, and the Disciples believe it would be a firm symbol of Urizen’s reconciliation if it were rebuilt.

If reconstructed, the Temple would become a new centre for the Wisdom sects of the sword scholars. It would take a suitable Senate motion (or the Bearer of an Imperial Wayleave),10 wains of white granite, and 20 crowns, and would create a sinecure offering 8 liao per season and 16 votes in the Synod. The sinecure-holder would serve as an envoy to the sword scholars, and the sects insist that it be appointed by the Urizen National Assembly. Although, legally speaking, that decision is not in their hands, the sword scholars have made clear that they would simply ignore someone appointed to the seat by other means, voiding any benefits from the construction.

There is a wrinkle, however. The scholars also insist that the "Labyrinth Sword" be assigned to the sinecure holder as part of the position’s regalia. The civil servants have no idea what the Labyrinth Sword is, and the scholars have not been forthcoming but apparently the priesthood of Urizen should understand the demand. Again, refusing to do so would void any benefits from the reconstruction.

Despise folly and chastise the fool that spreads it.

The Virtue of Wisdom

Despise Folly

Although the sword scholars are dedicated to their traditions, championing the Virtue of Wisdom and questioning authority at every turn, they are few in number. Too few to enact a substantial change to the fabric of Urizen society without substantial support. But with the right help they could begin to recruit again, drawing fresh students to their ranks. That would enable them to effectively counter those priests who sought to influence Urizen, publicly challenging them to defend their ideas.

It would not matter what happened in those challenges. While most priests in this modern age are more than able to justify their actions, the nature of debate and the very act of being publicly challenged would inevitably sway some people and that would make it substantially more difficult for people to spread mandates to Urizen.

To achieve this, the Urizen Assembly would need to encourage aspiring dedicates of Wisdom to seek out the newly restored temple and study with the sword scholars. Obviously that could only be done if the temple were rebuilt and the the demands of the sword scholars described above were met, but if that were done then the following mandate would be effective.

Those who seek to teach others should first be challenged to prove their own Wisdom. We send named priest with 50 doses of liao to urge potential students to study at the Temple of the Winds so that it may be swiftly restored.

Urizen National Assembly Mandate

If all that were accomplished then the Temple would not only provide the votes and liao outlined but it would also mean that any mandate passed by any assembly would not affect Urizen unless it passed the Synod with a greater majority. Any priest attempting to spread a mandate to Urizen would find themselves challenged at every turn by the sword scholars - it would be impossible for them to make headway without the overwhelming backing of the Synod.

Although the sword scholars have a deeply controversial history, the concept of challenging every idea and demanding that those who try to sway others first defend their own ideals is an ideal that followers of Wisdom everyone in the Empire could subscribe to. If the Urizen choose to rebuild the Temple of the Winds then either the General Assembly or the Assembly of Wisdom could choose to pass the following mandate.

The example of the sword scholars of Urizen should inspire all those who follow the path of Wisdom. We must all test what we learn; only fools accept hearsay as truth. We send XX with 150 doses of liao to urge everyone to despise folly and chastise the fool that spreads it, especially when it is done by those close to you.

Synod Mandate

If endorsed then this mandate would bring the unique benefits of the inspirational approach of the Urizeni scholars to the entire Empire, ensuring that any mandate would only be effective if backed by a greater majority.

The Virtuous apply what they have learned.

The Virtue of Wisdom

All Knowledge is Incomplete

Some priests outside Urizen declaim the Assembly’s embrace of the sword scholars as foolishness. The scholars, they say, are dangerous outlaws with a thoroughly skewed understanding of the Way. The Imperial Synod under Emperor Giovanni had the right idea in suppressing the sword scholars. It is fair enough to say that the modern sword scholars are less blood thirsty than their forebears, but the simple fact is that their founder was responsible for the murder of scores of priests. Any who crossed Sulemaine's path and failed to meet the woman's exacting standards faced death at her hands. She wasn't a paragon, she was a fanatic. Veneration of a false paragon is a religious crime and the people who have made an inspiration of this twisted figure from Urizen's history should be tried for their blasphemy and then executed for it.

Normally the General Assembly could seek a mandate encouraging all Urizeni pilgrims to revile and cast out the sword scholars, but in light of Severin von Holberg's recent sermon the civil service advise that that would not currently be effective. It would create significant religious conflict in Urizen, and at the moment people are keen to avoid such divisions in favour of focusing on the virtues and what unites them. Eventually that mood will dissipate however; such unity is rare and fleeting in the Empire. When that happens any Imperial priest could raise a statement in the General Assembly or the Assembly of Nine condemning the sword scholars for their crimes. If the judgement achieved a greater majority then it would certainly create opportunities for mandates that would seek to cast out the fanatics.

One thing can be assured, however. The sword scholars may be a fractured remnant of former glories, but they will not go down without a fight.