Death is not the end
Hear the Words of Yael. I cannot be turned from the truth I preach. I shall cleave to what I know to be True, and I can do nothing else. If the Synod rejects my words and Revelation, let it condemn me, try me, and seek my death as a Heretic. Though I am glad to face my martyrdom as Permion, I know that those who come after me will be as Lepidus. They shall be as the Seven Stars, to guide the Empire when my Guiding Light has been snuffed out.Yael, Assembly of Courage, Spring Equinox 381YE
The schism in the Imperial Faith over the claims of Yael of Highguard (on her past life as the First Empress and the Land without Tears) is reaching a head. At the previous summit, seven of the ten Imperial nations overwhelmingly rejected Yael's claims. Seven individuals - Corey Wayfarer, Father Nikolovich Drakov, Astrid Fjellrevening di Tassato, Lucifaro i Erigo, Aarne Ceorling, Cathy Upwold and Zeno, Stallion’s Sibling - were sent out from each of these nations to travel to Reikos and convince the people of their nation to give up their support for Yael and return home. Their mission was a success, and Yael's congregation is much diminished. Now many of those convinced of their errors by the seven have become strident voices against Yael in their home territories, angry at what they now believe to have been trickery.
However, the schism is far from over. The Dawnish assembly's position is uncertain - while the Dawnish Assembly chose not to spread Yael's song across the nation, and supported the ascension of the Imperatrix Lisabetta to the position of Queen of Dawn, they have not yet come out against Yael nor chosen to bring their own citizens back. Many in Dawn are confused by their assembly's position, and will no doubt look to them in the coming summit for firm guidance.
Meanwhile, the Highborn Assembly chose decisively to accept Yael. For the Highborn the news that the First Empress, the greatest mortal being in history has been reborn is transformative. The First Empress is revered in every nation in the Empire, but understandably she occupies a special place in Highborn history - where she is seen as the embodiment of what it means to be Highborn and to embrace that manifest destiny. Her return is a source of celebration and joy through Highguard, a joy that is only tempered by news of the ingratitude of those who dwell in the Empire she founded but whom have now rejected her.
With her status in dispute, the gulf between those who support Yael and those who reject her is deepening with potentially severe consequences for the Empire. For those who have denounced Yael as a liar, there are few opportunities to end her influence. The General Assembly has struggled to find the consensus needed to speak with a clear voice on the matter. Yael has made clear that she will never cease to preach her revelation, citing the Virtue of Courage which guides her to 'cleave to what she knows to be true'. The only way to stop her preaching for good would be for an appropriate Assembly to formally condemn her, laying charges of heresy against her and trusting in Imperial Law and the judgement of the magistrates. The sentence would be up to the presiding magistrate, but citizens have been executed for religious crimes much smaller in scale before.
Even this would not end the schism - it is not clear at this stage that the doctrinal rifts could be healed merely by the death of the one who has preached them. Indeed, many of Yael's followers that remain talk sometimes as if she is already a martyr - anticipating her condemnation at the hands of a General Assembly that will not see the light. It is these voices in Highguard in particular who call for their assembly to pass a radical mandate indeed...
- Wintermark, Varushka, Navarr, Urizen, the League, the Marches and the Brass Coast have sent priests with liao urging their people to reject Yael and denouncing her as false.
- The Imperial Orcs have made clear that they have no part in this conflict over Human destiny.
- Highguard and Dawn have embraced Yael, though Dawn appears to have internal doubt on the matter.
The seven nations that rejected Yael have sent priests to spread word that her claims are false and should be rejected. As a result of their actions, the flow of new pilgrims travelling from these nations to Highguard to try to meet with the First Empress has stemmed. She still has many followers but her congregation is only a fraction of its former size. It is not completely abated however, and some of the losses have been made up by new pilgrims coming from parts of Dawn and from all over Highguard.
The divisions between the two sides are deep and impossible to reconcile. Lone travellers, merchants and similar, are still managing to travel the Empire without trouble. But increasingly whenever large groups of armed citizens from different nations come into contact there are sporadic outbreaks of violence. Previously these issues were confined to military units serving in close formation with the armies, that problem remains potent, but as the split has grown so has the scale of the problem. Now any Imperial armies drawn from opposing sides face a penalty when fighting together.
As before, the Imperial Orcs have no penalty applied, and apply no penalty to other people: their Assembly having convincingly ruled themselves not party to this dispute - for now - and hence their military forces can work effectively with all others.
Some citizens who have heard the words of their priests denouncing Yael and urging them to ignore her false teachings have asked why the magistrates have not acted to stop her. Heresy is a crime that can may incur the ultimate punishment - why has nothing been done?
To act the magistrates await the instruction of the Imperial Synod. The Synod rejected the proposed Change of doctrine to incorporate the Land Without Tears and now seven national assemblies have denounced her - but the General Assembly has always stopped short of Condemnation - perhaps aware of the gravitas that such an action carries.
Yael cannot legitimately be condemned by any national assembly bar her own - in theory one of the virtue assemblies could try to condemn her, but given how things have progressed it is difficult to see how such an action would carry much moral weight. The best way to give clear direction to the magistrates that Yael's words are heresy would be for the General Assembly to pass a judgement of condemnation. If that happens, then the magistrates will begin to gather evidence and if they are satisfied that a crime has been committed then they will put Yael to trial.
If the General Assembly cannot agree to take this step then there is another assembly that can act. The Council of Nine is not unanimous on the issue but it has decisively rejected Yael. Like the General Assembly it too can pass a judgement of condemnation should it choose. Such an act would not be without controversy - some will claim that if the General Assembly cannot find the will to condemn Yael then it is wrong for the Council of Nine to circumvent that conflict. Of course some scholars would argue that the reason the Council of Nine exists is precisely so it can act when the situation is clear but the General Assembly is paralyzed by indecision. Whatever the arguments, the legal position is clear - the magistrates would investigate Yael for heresy if she is condemned by either the General Assembly or the Council of Nine.
Yael's defiant words at the previous summit make clear that she understands well what fate likely awaits her if the Synod take this terrible step. She is clearly prepared to die a heretic if the Synod have the will to condemn her as one. What is not clear is what will become of her many followers should the Synod turn on her. It seems unlikely that they will accept the outcome with equanimity, but it is impossible for the civil service to predict how they will respond beyond this obvious point.
The First Empress is arguably the greatest human hero who has ever lived. By her virtuous actions, she touched the lives of all who followed her, carving out the Empire as her legacy to man and womankind. Many in Highguard longed to celebrate the return of their greatest scion but held back to wait for a signal from their assembly to embrace her. Now that signal has come, the dam has begun to break.
Across Highguard people point to the many signs that a new era is dawning. Reikos is restored - not just reclaimed from the Druj but literally reborn, a paradise waiting for the hand of the Highborn to cultivate it. There is a new Empress on the Throne - and now the First Empress has been reborn! This last event has opened the doors to a resurgence of Highborn confidence and self-belief the like of which has not been seen since the founding of the Empire.
The result is a surge in Prosperity right across the nation, benefiting every Highborn resource located in Highguard. The benefits are equivalent to an additional rank for every resource except congregations, lasting for as long as Land Without Tears is embraced by Highguard.
The one grim omen that clouds the future is the failure of the other nations to embrace Yael's revelations. Those Highborn who understand the working of the Imperial Synod understand the dangers this opposition might present - not just to Yael but to all those who have embraced her teachings.
But what is giving some Highborn pause for thought is the theological implications. It is difficult to reconcile acceptance of Yael and the authority of the Synod. What does it mean to the faithful in Highguard if they embrace Yael when the Synod has rejected her? To resolve this conflict, some of her supporters are turning to an old idea - foudationalism.
Foundationalists are an obscure school of thought within the Way who have long argued that all matters of exemplars and paragons should be decided by the Highguard National Assembly alone. The claim is that as Highguard founded the Way, they alone are able to correctly determine who is best suited to be exemplars. The approach has never been popular outside Highguard... but since the summit it's proponents has taken their views a step further, arguing that as the guardian of faith it is the Highborn Assembly that should have the power to set doctrine, rather than the General Assembly.
Legally the power to change doctrine is in the hands of the General Assembly, nothing the Highborn Assembly can do can change the legal situation (that legal position could only be changed by a Senate motion). The Highborn Assembly cannot change the law - but they can move Highborn hearts and minds - and it is clear that an appropriately worded mandate would cause many more to take up the Foundalist approach - and in doing so give them the ideological basis to ignore the rejection of the Imperial Synod.
The Highborn Assembly sends X with 100 doses of liao to the people of Highguard to assert that the Highborn Assembly is the sole and ultimate authority on matters spiritual; that they alone may recognise the paragon and the exemplar; that they alone may speak to change the Doctrines of the Faith.Highborn Mandate
Such a mandate would encourage the Highborn people to regard their National Assembly as the highest authority on doctrinal matters. It would render the rejection of Yael's Revelation by the other nations irrelevant to most of Highguard, and make clear that those who do not accept it are not members of the faith whose heart lies in Bastion. It would create a fundamental ideological split within the Empire which could not be easily reversed - but it would also remove the final block standing in the way of widespread acceptance of Yael as the First Empress throughout Highguard.
Recognizing Yael has already begun to have a significant effect - but embracing foudationalism as the ideological underpinning for the Way would have a radical impact on Highborn society. Of course The Way is important to almost everyone who dwells in Highguard, discussions on the nature of virtue are a part of everyday life - but these conversations would become more common and more significant once people view their assembly as the highest authority on such matters. Highborn congregations are already places of faith, but the resulting increase in religious activity means that every other resource in Highguard would gain a single dose of liao each season, to reflect the degree of religious discussion and guidance taking place there.
Such a step is not without risks of course. Those who have not fully embraced Yael point out that it would pose hard questions for the rest of the faithful of the Empire - Bastion has long been regarded as the spiritual heart of the Way. This mandate would put Highguard directly in conflict with the rest of the Empire. If they could not be persuaded to accept Highguards spiritual leadership then the current theological rift would begin to gain new political and legal dimensions. It is possible that if the someone in Highguard refuses to recognise the authority of the General Assembly they could be found guilty of subverting the agencies of the state at which point the proposer of such a mandate might be prosecuted for aiding and abetting the crime.
If the foundationalist mandate is carried out then there is an opportunity to bolster the ranks of the Granite Pillar. This opportunity can be claimed at any time at this summit - but the army will not see the benefits unless the mandate is carried out.
There are many devout pilgrims of the First Empress in Casinea and Reikos who have been inspired by Yael's words and are prepared to face death for their beliefs. At present their Courage is untapped, but the more experienced soldiers among their number could easily be persuaded to join one of the suitable Highborn armies, that are stationed nearby. Their presence would not make a significant difference in the Seventh Wave or the Valiant Pegasus - but the inclusion of their religious fervour would be transformative if incorporated into the disciplined ranks of the Granite Pillar.
To do so would require the approval of the current general of the Granite Pillar - and would need to be communicated to one or both of the Highborn egregores, so that they can spread the message to the pilgrims. It would take a single season to complete the incorporation of the new soldiers - but once that process was complete the army would gain the following benefits:
- Can use the strategic defence order when defending
- Can use the crusading assault order when attacking
The Granite Pillar would retain the benefits provided by their current reputation for discipline and precision but they would gain the ability to carry out a crusading assault - allowing them to carry the banner of the First Empress into battle.
- If the army is victorious it gains free resupply equal to one-tenth of its strength at the start of the season; this resupply takes place at the end of the season (before determining if the army disbands). Only the strength of the Devoted army (and any appropriate enchantments) is counted for this calculation (the presence of military units does not change the amount of resupply).
- This can occur even if the army could not normally benefit from resupply due to not being in an Imperial territory, or being in the presence of enemy armies.
The citizens would remain part of Yael's congregation after they joined the army - the only difference is that their enthusiasm to fight Yael's enemies would now be directed by a Highborn general.
The ability to carry out a crusading assault would be lost if the Highborn ever abandoned the religious and political doctrine of foudationalism.
The Illuminators of Shadow are a small group of scribes and illuminators who operate a scriptorium in Bastion. They make a living copying rare texts but also provide assistance to pilgrims seeking genealogical records while visiting the city. Decades ago they received considerable fame when one of their number, the historian Ahinoam was appointed to be the Imperial Sage (a long defunct position) by Emperor Hugh. Ahinoam was well regarded by the Imperial Synod for her attempts to be a moderating influence of Wisdom on the Emperor and was once talked of as a possible future Empress. She was tragically slain in battle at the peak of her success, having just been granted the right to receive a true liao vision by the Gatekeepers Council, and her order went into decline thereafter.
There are no records of any of the order attending Anvil since Ahinoam's death - so it is somewhat surprising that they have indicated that they intend to attend Anvil this summit bearing some kind of precious gift for the First Empress. They have refused to divulge any details of their gift, but it is likely to be a precious scroll or text of some kind from the scriptorium.
There are some voices in Highguard that have not eagerly embraced Yael and the Land Without Tears. Some of these people derisively reject this new expansion of Foundationalism. One of their number, Jerusha of the Black Watch at Marehom, delivers a pointed sermon reminding everyone that the Imperial Synod was the gift that the First Empress gave humanity. She claims that whatever its flaws, no true reincarnation of the First Empress would reject the decision of the Synod, because the essence of faith is to submit to the judgement of that body. In essence, using Yael's rejection of the Synod's decision as evidence that Yael is not in fact the First Empress.
There are few in Highguard in these times who have unquestioning faith in the ability of the Synod to give clear moral guidance to humanity. But even so there are some who question how it can be that Highguard can embrace a woman that most of the Empire have rejected. Crucially they worry where this might lead... In Highguard when they hear talk of secession coming from far flung parts of the Empire they shake their heads at such foolishness... few imagined that such talk might ever take root here where the Empire began.
Those who doubt Yael's claims and those who worry where these new ideas will lead are urging their leaders in the Highborn Assembly to reconsider their decision. Their voices are clearly in the minority - to attempt to renounce Yael would now be expensive and difficult. But if Highguard were overcome with regret the first step to change course would be to pass a suitable statement of principle with a greater majority through the Highborn Assembly denouncing their previous decision. If that happened it would create some opportunities for Highguard to pass expensive mandates to realign their beliefs with those of the rest of the Empire.
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.
Songs of Glory
At the Winter Solstice the Dawnish Assembly passed a judgement in support of Yael and her revelations, albeit with a lesser majority. Many Dawnish citizens, noble and yeofolk alike were swept up by the romantic vision presented by the songs of the troubadours, of Dawn's First Empress, their greatest monarch, returned from the Land Without Tears to lead the nation to glory once more. But at the Spring Solstice, the nobility of Dawn decisively unfurled their banners behind Empress Lisabetta on the tourney field, crowning her as Queen of Dawn.
There is no fundamental theological conflict here - it is perfectly consistent to embrace Yael as the First Empress reborn whilst accepting that every living soul must achieve glory in their own lifetime. The reflected glory of your previous reincarnations urges those who discover it to embrace their own glory - not rest on the laurels of their past lives. Thus it is logical to accept that Yael can return with word of the Land Without Tears - yet still crown Lizabetta as the most glorious living being in the Empire.
One voice, one people & one harmony:
The tune sounds best when held as one;
I’ll sing my song of Yael to them,
The nation of the rising sun.
But however coherent the theological logic might be, the undeniable truth is that it does not make for the best song... Thus far Dawn has been judged to stand in firm support of Yael and her revelations by those inside and outside the nation. But then the the Dawnish National Assembly rejected a mandate to carry the Song of the First Empress to every corner of Dawn. The decision was close, clearly heavily contested, but it has only resulted in the current situation being even more muddled.
Now a number of troubadours have begun to question the situation. A few have even dared to compose some risky verses mocking the situation. So the people of Dawn are looking to their Assembly to settle the matter once and for all... if they can.
Sing the Song of Yael
All the yeofolk of Dawn dream of glory - and the legend of the First Empress, the last true monarch of Dawn is one of the most popular tales for Dawnish troubadours. It is easy to be inspired by the knowledge that the First Empress, a figure central to Dawnish identity, now walks among them. Of course some nations have rejected her - but the Imperial Orcs have not disputed her claim and the Highborn know their own. And anyway nobody knows better than the Dawnish that road to glory is rarely paved with the stones of consensus. Dawnish troubadours don't sing songs of earls who did the popular thing everyone agreed needing doing. Glory is a hunt - people remember the spear that slew the boar, not the ones that carried it back.
Last season the Dawnish Assembly rejected a mandate to carry the Song of the First Empress. Such a rejection means that the mandate cannot legally be carried out. But without a greater majority in opposition to Yael the matter is far from settled. Thus the Dawnish Assembly could choose to revisit the mandate if they wished.
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 would be doubled if Yael also became the Queen of Dawn. Obviously that outcome is unlikely given recent events but only the glorious live forever...
Crucially such a decision would convincingly demonstrate that Dawn stands in support of Yael as the First Empress, putting them firmly in the same camp as their neighbours in Highguard.
Sound A Note of Rejection
The alternative approach would be to reject Yael and her revelation. The quickest way to achieve this would be to pass a mandate rejecting Yael's teachings as many other nations have now done.
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 renounce this false doctrine and return to their homes.Synod Mandate
This would enable a troubadour to travel to Highguard and try to convince those Dawnish folk who have travelled there to support Yael to return home. This mandate would end the movement of pilgrims seeking Yael from Dawn, reducing the size and influence of that congregation. Crucially the mandate would also make clear that Dawn does not support Yael and rejects her revelations of the Land Without Tears.
If this mandate is passed then the Dawnish would then be treated as one of the nations that have rejected the First Empress for purposes of support from military units. If the mandate is enacted (if the liao is supplied and used) then Dawn would be treated as one of the nations that have rejected the First Empress for purposes of cooperation between armies of different nations on campaign.
If the Dawnish national assembly chooses to pass both mandates... then whichever mandate utilizes the most liao will carry the day. If they pass neither mandate, then the current situation, aligning them with Yael and the Highborn will continue.
The old magistrate stretched out his feet in front of the fire. The heat made his corns ache, but he'd rather think about that then what his apprentice had just told him.
"It's legal, perfectly legal. Hmpf. Frankly it's not entirely clear that there are any constitutional limits on what the Synod can say. They can pass a mandate encouraging mass murder if they like - they'll only get prosecuted if someone is foolish enough to do it."
"Great - I'll let them know it's fine."
"You'll do no such bloody thing! You can tell them it's constitutional, you can tell them it's legal... but if you tell them it's "fine" then you'll find yourself apprenticed to a sheepherder by nightfall. Do I make myself clear?"
Abraham paused to take a bite of his hot buttered scone. It would give his apprentice a moment to say something stupid and then he could shout at him again and that would make him feel much better about the whole matter.
"It won't have any legal effect though surely? I mean it's just a mandate?"
Abraham sputtered spraying pieces of hot buttered scone all over his robes. "What in virtue do you mean by JUST A MANDATE?! Surely you've realized by now how dangerous those things can be?" He was in his stride now; this was one of his favourite subjects... but before he could get anymore words out the young apprentice fled the room leaving him staring open-mouthed at the empty door frame.
Disconsolate he turned back to the fire. It was starting to die... and now he'd have to get fresh wood himself. And even worse he'd wasted half the scone. All-in-all it had not been the best of days.
During the Summer Solstice, the Dawn national assembly successfully raised a mandate repudiating Yael, and urging those who had been deceived by her claim to be the First Empress Reborn and the hope of the Land Without Tears to renounce this false doctrine and return to their homes. Following the Solstice, Odelina de Rondell took liao to spread the mandate amongst the remaining Congregation of the First Empress. As a consequence, Dawn clearly rejected Yael and her teachings.