"I suppose what it comes down to is whether it's more inspirational to think of paragons and exemplars as somehow better than other people."

"That is completely unfair and you know it!" Lud retorted angrily and stopped walking. A swaggering bravo nearly walked into him, swerving with catlike agility at the last moment, and making a rude gesture as she strutted past.

"No I'm serious," said Moesia. "If you think that because someone is an inspiration they're more... I don't know the right word. Refined? More enlightned? If you think that then you're going to react to anything that says they actually had feet of clay. Do you think people want to think of Atun drunk on mulled wine? Lepidus stealing the last sweet roll? Permion on the toilet?"

"You're being ridiculous." The river of people passing through the gate ebbed around the two Highborn, ignoring their bickering for the most part. "Everyone knows that they were people. They know they had to eat, and had the occasional bad days. There's just no point dwelling on it as if it proves anything! I can't believe you keep bringing this up. You know you're not going to change my mind. Why do you keep doing it?"

"I just want to know you understand my point. I don't think that acknowledging their human frailties makes them any less inspirational. If anything it makes them more relatable. Gives context to their virtue."

"You sound like an Urizen!" snapped Moesia. Lud looked hurt, turned away, and started walking. Moesia muttered under her breath and hurried to catch up with her companion as he marched out of the tunnel into Temeschwar proper.

"Look I'm sorry, but you know what I mean. Does it really matter if Tian sometimes had a lie in? Why would anyone care? It doesn't matter! She's a paragon of Ambition! She took fire from the sun!"

"Well the Faraden say Tian was a paragon of Justice..." said Lud mildly, but from the quirk of his lips he clearly knew this was going to incense Moesia. He wasn't wrong. She walked past him gesticulating angrily, her face thunderous.

"Oh for goodness sake I am not going through this again. You know it's possible for people - even well meaning people - to just be wrong, right?"

Lud didn't answer.

"Our job as scholars isn't to worry about people being wrong," Moesia continued. "It's to help people understand what is right."

Still no answer. Turning, there was no sign of Lud. She was alone on the street.

"Lud?" she called, a little nervously. "Come on, we haven't got time for this."

But there was no reply.


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Work on the Lepidean University in Bastion has finally been completed. The old Lepidean Library has been renewed, and the gorgeous Garden of Atun blossoms with spring growth. The first Lepidean Librarian is due to be appointed by the Highborn National Assembly during the coming summit and there is a great deal of interest among scholars and theologians as to who that will be. There will also be a dose of true liao available to the General Assembly of the Synod to assign for the first time since the reign of Empress Teleri, which has caused a buzz of excitement. Furthermore, the renewal of the Lepidean Library has prompted an increase in interest in the lives of paragons and exemplars, especially those more obscure or about whom there is little Imperial consensus.

Lepidean University

In the weeks leading up to the Spring Equinox, the final touches were put to the Lepidean University in the White City. It was designed by Frederick di Sarvos, and built with the support of Richardo Glostari di Sarvos, Rhesa and Asael of Highguard, and with funds donated by the Heirs of Lepidus. The first Lepidean Librarian is due to be appointed by the Highborn National Assembly during the coming summit. The title is held for a year, and its main power is the ability to direct the scholars at the University to research the lives of paragons and exemplars, or to look into the details of past life visions. This special use of historical research does not count against the two uses each season the Senate (and titles such as the Minister of Historical Research, Advisor on the Vallorn, and Imperial Advisor for the Feni) can commission.

The new University is not without significant upkeep to the treasury, of course, but that is perhaps unsurprising given it provides such significant benefits; in addition to the ability to research inspirations and delve into past life visions, the Gardens of Atun attached to the University also provide a dose of precious true liao.

The Lepidean Liao

  • The Lepidean University provides a single dose of true liao each season
  • The true liao becomes part of the Virtue Fund and is allocated by the judgement of rewarding

There was significant discussion among the Constitutional Court with regards to the decision to assign the true liao provided by the Lepidean Library via the judgement of rewarding. This was not one of the methods outlined in the original opportunity; however after considerable debate this return to the previous historical method of assigning true liao was judged to be neither unconstitutional, nor technically a deviation from a well worn path - merely one that had not been used since the time of Empress Teleri. In response to an inquiry by Cardinal de Coeurdefer, Magistrate Abraham publicised an expansion of the discussions held by the Constitutional Court. Now, with the library completed and the first does of true liao made available, the practicalities must be addressed.

A judgement of Rewarding is raised in the General Assembly. Any member of the Synod may do so, and the judgement must specify a single individual who will receive the reward. In this case the judgement declares that the reward sought is a dose of true liao (or more, if there's multiple true liao in the virtue fund). A single judgement can even be used for both true liao and coin from the virtue fund if so desired. The judgement is then scrutinised by the assembly as normal, and if it is upheld then the liao is given to the priest who raised the judgement to deliver to the person they named.

In essence the true liao becomes part of the Virtue Fund at the beginning of the summit, and the normal rules applying to the Virtue Fund apply, including the ability of Imperial citizens to donate doses of true liao to the fund should they wish. It is not possible for the Virtue Fund to go into debt. If there is no true liao in the Virtue Fund, the judgement can still pass, but the recipient receives nothing. If multiple rewards are upheld at the same time then allocation is made beginning with the judgement that has passed with the greatest margin. In the event of two judgements having the same margin, and there being insufficient true liao to provide for all of them, none of the judgements receive the reward.

Any true liao remaining in the Virtue Fund at the end of the summit would carry over to the next summit, just as with the monies the fund normally deals with. It is also worth pointing out that, as with any judgement, a cardinal can use their further scrutiny power to change when the rewarding resolves.

Back Along the Path of Teleri

  • The Senate could choose to assign the liao currently assigned by the Gatekeepers via the judgement of rewarding

The Senate could choose to take this matter further. At the moment there are three ways that a dose of true liao may be claimed. Via the judgement of rewarding as detailed here; by the auction of "Prosperity's Dose" - which helps fill the Virtue Fund; and by decision of the Gatekeepers. While there is a Throne, they also receive a dose - the first dose produced in the Empire each season. However, prior to the reign of Empress Teleri, all save Prosperity's dose and the Throne dose were allocated by the judgement of rewarding.

If it wished, the Senate could return to this state of affairs. Every dose of true liao save that one auctioned dose (and, if a Throne is appointed, the Throne dose) would become part of the Virtue Fund. All this would require would be a Senate motion. It would not be a Constitutional vote - the Imperial Synod would still control who received the true liao. There would be no requirement to abrogate the title of Gatekeeper - although the Senate could certainly do so as part of this motion if they desired. The Gatekeepers would remain as formal aides to the cardinals, and could advise those seeking true liao or past life visions, but they would no longer have any formal responsibilities or powers.

With multiple doses of true liao in the Virtue Fund, all the other elements of the judgement of Rewarding would apply. Potentially an individual could receive multiple doses, and if there were several successful judgements then doses would be allocated in order of margin until all was assigned.

There are good reasons not to do this; the change was made in the first place because the Imperial Synod had become increasingly caught up in the distribution of true liao at the expense of their other duties. Moving the true liao into the Virtue Fund and removing the Gatekeepers poses a real risk that the General Assembly would become even more politically polarised than it already is.

Paragons and Exemplars

There are of course any number of exemplars and paragons whose lives might benefit from the efforts of the scholars attached to the Library. Examples of interest to pilgrims of virtue at the moment include Isenbrad - the runesmiths of Runegrott in Wintermark are calling on his legacy as part of their plan to provide Wintermark with a rune forge - and Zoria - while there are a great many stories about the sorceress who named the birds and beasts there is precious little known about her despite the recent consecration of the Maze of Zoria. There are other figures, perhaps a little more obscure, whose lives might also merit examination - the Ambitious Margaret of Meade for example. Then of course there are the truly obscure - the question of who precisely the Prosperous Badir i Durr i Riqueza was and why their tomb went missing for example.

While the lives of the exemplars and paragons are obviously of interest, some of the more adventurous scholars - especially the Heirs of Lepidus - are keen to use the funds available to the University to finally seek out some of the "missing tombs" - perhaps the final resting place of the Elayne Silverlark might finally be discovered for example. Older, more sedentary archivists are more cautious. Many of these mysteries have already been plumbed and led to nothing; if 300 years of scholars and adventurers have not been able to find Elayne's resting place, what makes anyone think that the new University will change that? And thus are the battle-lines of academia drawn up, and intra-departmental rivalries founded.

The final decision rests with the Lepidean Librarian, of course, and for the most part students of theology are watching with interest to see what they will prioritise. There is one exception, however. One exemplar in particular is of immediate interest to a number of Highborn citizens prepared to bring the mildest of pressure to bear on whoever the Librarian turns out to be: Ruth, the Loyal, wife of Lepidus for whom the University is named.

Ruth of the Quills

  • Ruth of Highguard, the wife of the paragon Lepidus, is a Highborn paragon who may or may not have been recognised as an Imperial exemplar
  • Her legal status has never been satisfactorily resolved

Ruth of Highguard is a controversial figure. Shortly before the Winter Solstice 381YE, the Heirs of Lepidus published documentation relating to Ruth and her status as a Paragon of pre-Imperial Highguard and an unconfirmed exemplar of the Way. While nobody has been prosecuted for heresy in the last hundred years for claiming she is an inspirational figure, she is rarely included in lists of renowned paragons and exemplars.

One of the reasons she is so controversial is likely that, like other figures such as Berechiah, many modern scholars consider her actions a little extreme. While few can fault her commitment to the Revelation, she provably ordered the deaths of people who opposed her vision of the future for Highguard and the Way. She lied and deceived, stole, and used hunger as a weapon against the soldiers of the patricians. There are always those who question whether she should truly be held up as inspirational given (they argue) that she inspired others to commit heinous acts. Indeed, some scholars suggest that by encouraging people to abandon their families and their former allegiances in pursuit of her cause she actually acted against the interests of Loyalty as a platonic force.

Yet there are still old rumours of the creation of an Inspirational Tomb. If its existence could be confirmed one way or another, some of the controversy surrounding Ruth might be laid to rest. If the tomb does exist, that may provide proof that she was recognised by the Imperial Synod and that her absence from the lists of inspirational figures is an oversight - or the result of political maneuvering within the Synod. The Synod could resolve the issue somewhat conclusively with the usual judgement of recognition - although of course that situation is complicated by the now-quite-stretched agreement with the Sumaah Synod not to recognise new exemplars. On the other hand, if definitive proof could be found that she was already recognised as an exemplar, and had simply been forgotten, then the Sumaah would have no reason to complain if the Synod were to reaffirm her status. Assuming such proof even exists.

The Silver Feathers

  • A new sodality urges the Lepidean Library to seek out evidence that Ruth of Highguard has always been an Imperial exemplar
  • If such evidence is found they will arrange for the Librarian to receive 6 doses of liao each season

As the Spring Equinox draws near, a sodality of primarily Highborn, Dawnish, and League citizens meets for the first time in Bastion. Calling themselves the Silver Feathers, they are composed of people inspired by the stories of Ruth and her commitment not only to the Way, but to the precepts of Loyalty itself. While different things command the loyalty of their hearts, they are united in the belief that Loyalty is more important than considerations of civility, custom, or legality. While none of them have ever been convicted of anything more serious than property damage, the Highborn magistrates of the White City are understandably concerned to find several persons with a history of extreme behaviour meeting within their walls.

They cause no trouble however. The purpose of this small but problematic sodality is apparently merely to call for the Lepidean Librarian to bring their powers to bear to find something that will resolve Ruth's status as an exemplar. They firmly believe such evidence exists; either a record of her recognition, or the location of her inspirational tomb.

The sodality, while focused on one particular matter, is keen to offer reassurance that they understand the Lepidean Librarian might have any number of other things to work on before they can turn their attention to Ruth. They aren't making any threats. In fact, given that several of their members are wealthy or influential, they are happy to recognise and reward the Librarian's work in the event they are able to find something (and resolve what many of them see as a centuries-long injustice). Should the Lepidean Librarian succeed in finding evidence that Ruth is a recognised exemplar, the Silver Feathers will arrange for 6 doses of liao each season to be donated for their use going forward.

Of course they also encourage anyone else who shares their belief that Ruth, exemplar of Loyalty, has been poorly treated by the Imperial Synod to bring pressure to bear on the Librarian. They urge anyone who wishes to show public support for their movement to adopt the badge the Silver Feathers all wear - a feather or quill pen worn somewhere on the person. They are eager to welcome any siblings who share their belief that it is time for Ruth to receive the recognition she deserves.

At the behest of Veikko Bondforger, whose past life vision revealed his soul to be an associate of Ratibor of Temeschwar, we request the Heirs of Lepidus to undertake further historical research into Ratibor's deeds. These results should be presented upon completion to the Senator of Temeschwar.

Anastasiya Volkov, Winter Solstice 383YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 170-0)

Ratibor of the Torches

  • The Heirs of Lepidus have prepared a report on the history of Ratibor of Temeschwar
  • The report was intended to be delivered to the Senator for Temeschwar but has not arrived
  • The vyig are claiming to have kidnapped the researchers and their report and are demanding a ransom
  • The current Senator for Temeschwar is Giuseppe Sanguineo von Temeschwar

Ruth of Highguard is far from the only controversial exemplar under discussion among historians; there has been an upsurge recently of interest in Ratibor of Temeschwar, recognised by the Synod as an exemplar of Ambition. Unlike Ruth, there is no requirement for the Lepidean Librarian to look into his life - much of the work has already been done thanks to the Varushkan assembly. They upheld a statement of principle by Anastasiya Volkov during the Winter Solstice calling on the Heirs of Lepidus to complete their work investigating the life of the northern exemplar. The finished report was to be delivered to the Senator for Temeschwar - currently Giuseppe Sanguineo von Temeschwar. There was a little confusion around the statement - the Heirs of Lepidus are a Highborn chapter after all and judgements in the Varushkan National Assembly rarely make much impact in Highguard - but it seems the Heirs had been keeping an eye on multiple assemblies waiting for just such a statement. Shortly before the Spring Equinox two of the Lepidean scholars arrived in Temeschwar with a document to deliver to the Senator.

Neither report nor scholars reached their destination. Instead Lud and Moesia of the Heirs of Lepidus vanished without a trace shortly after entering the city. Once it was clear that they were missing an investigation was launched. Before it could do much more than confirm that the pair had not left Temeschwar, a ransom note was delivered to Ratibor's Gate - the old prison that now serves as offices for the civil service in the city. It appears that the two Heirs of Lepidus have been kidnapped by the Vyig. This causes some consternation; everyone had assumed that the Vyig had been smashed during the purges led by the Vigilance assembly in 379YE. If the ransom note is to be believed, however, there are at least one Vyig cell still in operation, with enough influence to abduct two Highborn scholars off the streets of Temeschwar.

According to the note, if the Senator wants the two Highborn archivists and their pamphlet of lies about the bastard Ratibor then they had better be prepared to pay. They demand 100 Thrones, to be delivered at the Summer Solstice. Otherwise, the two Heirs face a horrible fate - they'll be bathed in beggarwood (a reference to an old Vyig tradition of burning liars and tattletales to death after disfiguring them with concentrated beggar's lye) - and their report burned along with them. If the Senator wants to see them alive again, then they must confirm they have the funds by sending a Winged Messenger to Cousin Vincenc, the Salting House, Koly, Skoremujac, Karov. If the kidnappers don't hear from the Senator before the end of the summit, they will assume they don't want the two archivists back and will simply kill them.

From past experience dealing with the Vyig, the Temeschwari magistrates know that the Winged Messenger address will be little more than a temporary drop box - somewhere watched by a single Vyig agent. The local Varushkan magistrates won't move against it until the scholars are safe - or beyond saving - because they know it will produce nothing of value. Rather they expect that the kidnappers will want to take custody of the ransom money in person; in previous situations like this the Vyig have always favoured a "live exchange" of prisoners for funds in a safe location. This presents another, risky, opportunity for the Senator. If the Vyig can be convinced the money has been secured, and that an exchange should be set up, it might be possible to turn the tables on the kidnappers, free their prisoners, and perhaps even shut down this cell without needing to actually hand over a penny of ransom.

Head with a price on it.jpg
Veikko Bondforger, current Cardinal of Loyalty, now has a price on his head.

For their part the Heirs of Lepidus are beside themselves with worry. They have precious little money - they donated the last of the funds given them by the benefactors of Highguard to the building of the Lepidean University. They've asked the Lepidean Librarian - whoever they turn out to be - to work with the Senator to recover Lud and Moesia. They've also begged the benefactors of Highguard to render whatever aid they can to gather the ransom before the scholars are condemned to a gruesome fate.

The Temeschwari magistrates have urged everyone involved to think carefully. If the Vyig - or any other criminals - get the idea that the researchers of the Lepidean Library are worth 50 Thrones apiece... Then Lud and Moesia might well only be the first to go missing.

There is one final, chilling addendum to this entire sorry affair. The ransom note ends with a personal threat against "the bastard Ratibor". Thanks to the Varushkan assembly, the Vyig now know that Veikko Bondforger is claiming to be Ratibor reborn. It appears they intend to enact retribution against them, which no amount of ransom can head off. Indeed, they are prepared to pay 25 Thrones to anyone who sends them the head of Veikko Bondforger... perhaps using a ritual such as Ethereal Courier given there is no need for the body to be attached.

On Loyalty

  • The Loyalty Assembly could make the effects of their previous mandate permanent
  • This would make certain kinds of judgement less likely to produce an effect, but allow them to continue empowering other mandates

Talk of Ruth, and of Veikko Bondforger, and kidnapped scholars, brings one final matter to mind, relating to Loyalty. In Summer 383YE, the Loyalty assembly upheld a mandate - coincidentally also enacted by Anastasiya Volkov - that urged pilgrims everywhere to know their own hearts, and what commanded their devotion above all else. The mandate arose from statements of principle by Anastasiya Volkov, and by the Highborn Able, at the preceding Spring Equinox. It had a number of far-reaching implications for the people of the Empire, and for the Synod as a whole. One result was the ability for the Cardinal of Loyalty to add additional weight to the mandates of other assemblies by urging those with appropriate Loyalties to help support them. Veikko Bondforger, the current Cardinal of Loyalty, used this power for the first time during the Winter Solstice, urging those Urizen with applicable Loyalties to help encourage cooperation with the Grendel in Spiral.

After nearly a year, the impact of the mandate is already waning somewhat. It's effects will have faded entirely by the start of the Autumn Equinox. In addition to empowering the Loyalty Assembly to support mandates, it has had other effects that have been welcomed by many of those who walk the path of Loyalty. As well as encouraging those who are Loyal to follow their hearts, it has discouraged those who seek to demand Loyalty to themselves or their causes - especially other assemblies of the Synod. While it has made certain kinds of statement of principle less effective, it has not seen the same kind of widespread opposition that the Wisdom Assembly encountered when they urged the Wise to question Synod mandates.

Right now, a short window of opportunity exists for the Loyalty assembly to extend the impact of their mandate permanently - or at least until the situation in the Empire changes dramatically.

No priest can tell you who or what to be Loyal to, but we can support you in those bonds. We urge pilgrims to know their heart and what commands its devotion above all else. We send (named priest) with 75 doses of liao to warn pilgrims against those who seek to compel their loyalty and urge them to keep faith with those they are loyal to, whatever it takes.

Synod Mandate, Loyalty Assembly

If this mandate is upheld and enacted, the effects of the previous mandate will become permanent.

  • Statements that try to compel Loyalty will fail. Any statement of principle that explicitly specifies where a citizen's loyalties should lie will not produce a mandate regardless of whether it achieved a greater majority.
  • Statements that prioritise the greater good over personal loyalties will be less effective. Any statement of principle that instructs people to give their support to something for the greater good, or which calls on them to set aside their personal loyalties for the greater good, will be less effective. They may still have an effect but it will be reduced in impact.
  • Revocations and Excommunications citing disloyalty to the nation or the Empire will risk causing dissent among the virtuous. The virtuous bonds of Loyalty are personal, and are not for others to judge.
  • The Assembly of Loyalty will permanently gain the ability to enact the so-called "Eyes of Loyalty". They will be able to enact a mandate proposed by the Cardinal that will enhance the impact of another assembly's mandate.

Unlike most mandates, this one can be enacted during either the Spring Equinox 384YE or the Summer Solstice 384YE. After that, the opportunity will be lost.

Further Reading