Alisoun puffed on her pipe, flexing one leg from time to time to keep the old chair rocking gently back and forth. Her guest took another thick slice of apple, dipped it in her special honey dip, and crunched it contentedly.

"So they've said it's treason then." The old thresher broke the silence. Friar Jenni quickly swallowed her mouthful of fruit.

"Aye. Tis treason. Ye should march, Bring 'em to Imperial justice. I can read 'em again if'n you likes?"

"No need. I'm old I'm not addled," Alisoun smiled round the stem of her old pipe, and stopped rocking. "They do say that sometimes the law is a paper shield," she quoted thoughtfully.

"Yer quotin' Berechiah then?" said the friar, raising her eyebrows. "'Ye reckon it's time fer quotin' Berechiah?"

Alisoun barked a laugh, clapped her hands on her knees, and with a great creaking and cracking, stood up. She disappeared inside her cottage, and Friar Jenni could hear the sounds of things being shifted about inside.

"'E were a Leaguer," called Alisoun from inside. "But 'e weren't an idiot. an' 'e knew that if yer let a bad apple rot it'll ruin a whole bushel. Sometimes the law protec's the crim'nal from justice."

She came back out again, and this time she was armed with a stout wooden cudgel, bound in iron. She swished it thoughtfully through the air, and despite her age and her rheumatic elbow, she wielded the rod with fluid confidence. There was a dull crackling noise as she did so, as of distant lightning. Friar Jenni looked surprised.

"Ye don't call for t'magistrates when yer 'ouse is on fire." she said grimly, pulling a heavy wooden shawl around her bony shoulders. "Come on, Jenni. We're goin' inter 'village. There's a few folk I need to 'ave a word with."

"Oh dear," said Friar Jenni. Alisoun stomped down the stairs of her cottage. Her friend paused to grab several more slices of apple, shoving them into her belt pouch as she followed the old thresher down the garden. "Folk ain't gonna be pleased to see ye, Alisoun," predicted the Friar with an accuracy born of long experience.

"They never are." She grinned. "But whoever became a thresher to mek friends?"
Meredith Stellamaris.jpg
Sister Meredith is one of the most active and outspoken members of the Marcher Assembly.
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It is three years since the Mournwold was devastated by Imperial curses but the Marchers carve their memories into their hearts to ensure they do not forget. The Imperial Conclave responded to the ensuing outrage by interdicting one of the rituals involved - Rivers Run Red - which took the edge off the Marcher's anger. Some landskeepers and threshers are becoming agitated however. There have been signs that the Conclave may already be contemplating changing their mind.

In response, a few threshers reminded folk that in the good old days, the Marchers would have dealt with this most severely. Dark magic is a threat to all, it has to be punished accordingly or everyone suffers. Killing a sorcerer is never easy, but it's not impossible, not if you know what you're doing.

Of course people can be very squeamish about this sort of thing, breaking heads... breaking the law... It makes people nervous. Alisoun Bathwater, one of the more outspoken threshers suggested that what would stiffen folk's resolve would be if the Assembly issued a statement of principle using the strongest possible language, encouraging every thresher to do "what needs to be done".

To the threshers I say "march!" March so far and so hard that the vallorn is bled dry by your steps! Find any who would malign the Empire using magic. Halt their works and bring them to Imperial justice.

Nicolas Reaper, Winter Solstice 383YE, Upheld (Primacy 124-0)

Cursing Marcher land will cause outcry, which will aid the enemies of the Empire. There is a legal recourse, for this is treason.

Sister Meredith, Winter Solstice 383YE, Upheld (Primacy 124-0)

Two Statements

In response, the Marcher Assembly chose to pass two statements with primacy, addressing the issue, one by Nicolas Reaper urged threshers to march to find any who would malign the Empire using magic but to bring them to Imperial justice. The other by Sister Meredith was similar and made the point emphatically that using curses was tantamount to treason. The Assembly has spoken, twice, and with primacy no less. It appears to be saying that all Marchers should use legal recourses to stop those who would use curses, and by implication not a stout cudgel or a pyre.

There is good precedent for this approach. While the threshers used to deal with sorcerers themselves, those days are (mostly) long past. In modern times they are expected to work with the beaters and landskeepers to try to capture a sorcerer so that they can be tried by a magistrate. And if the magistrates can't find enough evidence then shunning is an excellent way of dealing with any Marcher sorcerers at least.

Many threshers are ready to do as the Assembly suggests, to engage with and support Imperial law, to travel throughout the Empire seeking out those who practice dark magic and to bring them to justice. What is holding them back is the concern that they might risk their lives on such a task only to find the law is not prepared to take action. That fear is the fundamental source of the current grousing. Since no-one was punished for the curses last time, nor when the Navarr flouted the interdiction, the worry it is that it will happen again. These fears could be put to rest - if the Assembly is prepared to stake its reputation on the good faith of Imperial law.

The Empire has heard our anger; if a sorcerer curses the Empire again then Imperial justice will be swift and final. We send {named priest} with 25 doses of liao to urge threshers, landskeepers and Marchers to deal with sorcerers lawfully and to put their faith in the Empire.

Synod Mandate, Marcher assembly

If this mandate is endorsed it will inspire the threshers. With their concerns about Imperial law laid to rest, they will re-engage with Marcher society and with the wider Empire. They will be reinvigorated and look to recruit others to support them. Inspired by Nicholas Reaper, they will also turn their attention to the whole Empire, looking for sorcerers everywhere, not just in the Marches (which could be useful if the cultists of Yaw'nagrah are still proving troublesome, for example).

Legality is a matter for lesser minds; I am concerned with Vigilance and ensuring that it is upheld. There are few prices too great to pay, and few alleys too dark to explore, when the prize is the Virtue of immortal souls.

Berechiah, Exemplar of Vigilance

The mandate will put an end to the fears of the threshers and others that the Conclave might rescind the ban on the curse of Rivers Run Red. People will stop complaining, they will stop raising the issue. They will put their trust in the words of the Assembly and focus instead on their farms and businesses. In this case, the arguments that resurfaced following the death of the Imperatrix will end. People will trust the Assembly's judgement and leave matters to Imperial law to deal with. That will resolve all the current difficulties and provided that there are no more curses then everything will be fine.

However the mandate could be storing up difficulties for the future. If any Imperial lands are hit with more territory-wide curses and nothing is done, then the issue is likely to resurface and with considerable anger behind it. If Marchers die due to curses cast on the lands and it is well known who did it and Imperial law does nothing... then the best word to describe the resulting mood would be "apoplectic".

Two Tastes of Advice

Sadly not everyone is quite ready to accept the instruction of the Assembly. Alisoun Bathwater is still unwilling to let the matter rest. She points out to a few people that Imperial law is quite capable of dealing with bad people - but it seems to work best when instructed by a Dawnishman. Bitingly, she suggests that if Rivers Run Red and Mountain Murders the Children had been used on Semmerholm the Empire's response might have been very different.

Oddly she doesn't seem bothered by the Assembly of Vigilance's decision to send the Silent Bell in to discover who was behind the Hatred sect in Whittle. She herself is dedicated to Vigilance and considers the Cardinal to be a source of spiritual guidance - even if he is Dawnish. Thus, having failed to get what she wants from the Marcher Assembly she is appealing directly to the Cardinal of Vigilance to take the opposite stance.

Alisoun is at pains to point out that dealing with dark magicians doesn't always mean burning them alive. That would be illegal. Also, killin' folks is something of a last resort, it's only done after the sorcerer has killed others and it's too late by then. Better by far to act before they can work their dark magic. For that, the threat o' murder can serve as a fine deterrent. Provided the person really believes you'll do it of course... threats you don't have the Courage to carry out are less use than a field full of stones.

Thus she has asked the Assembly of Vigilance to consider the following mandate:

You don't call for the magistrate if your house is on fire. Threshers should deal with sorcerers by any means necessary. We send {named priest} with 25 doses of liao to remind everyone that the vigilant despise that which threatens what they watch over

Synod Mandate, Vigilance Assembly

If this mandate were enacted, it would rouse the threshers from their relative quiescence. It would remind them that in the past they didn't just find sorcerers and hand them over to the Imperial law - they took responsibility and ensured that those who cursed others got what they deserved. There would be a resurgence of the old tradition with an emphasis on direct action. With the belief that they have the Vigilance Assembly's backing they will renew their efforts to hunt down sorcerers and wicked magicians wherever they are found.

Competing Mandates

These mandates are not in competition with each other. If both are passed, they'll inspire different groups of threshers.

Further Reading