Like a hurricane
"But I don't understand it, Marja, why is the Assembly of Loyalty saying we shouldn't be Loyal to things."
Marja beamed at the child. Hilla was the young crow's brightest pupil - she had learned all her letters before she was four and her runes not long after. She was a joy to teach - and that made it easy to forget how young she was.
"They haven't said that child. They are simply reminding the Empire that Loyalty means knowing your own heart. It does not mean knowing the hearts of others..."
"Why not? Surely everyone should be Loyal to the Empire."
Marja smiled again, enjoying the child's inquisitiveness. The girl had the makings of a fine stormcrow. "Every priest of Loyalty gets asked that Hilla. Are you loyal to the Empire?" Hilla nodded and made to speak but her teacher pressed on. "Good. And tell me are you also loyal to the Mark?"
Hilla stopped now, sensing already where this might be going. She thought for a moment but then nodded anyway.
"So which is more important Hilla? If you had to choose - and in the end life is about choices - which one would command your Loyalty?"
Hilla screwed up her face in confusion. She was trying to work out which one was the right answer, bless the child. If she had one weakness it was her unshakeable conviction that every question had a right answer. She started trying to stammer out an answer but Marja cut her off once again.
"Let me make the question easier for you child. What if you had to choose between the Empire - or Wintermark - or Jarko?"
Hilla gasped with shock. Jarko was her elder brother, a full six years older than her. She had fallen through the ice on the Black Lake when she was just nine years old and the weight of her clothes had carried her to the bottom. Everyone had shouted and screamed for help. Everyone but Jarko. Her brother had thrown off his clothes and dived straight into the frozen lake water, swum down to the bottom and pulled her up. Perhaps not surprisingly Hilla idolized her brother - in her eyes Jarko was the greatest hero in all Wintermark. She once told Marja she thought he was Inga Tarn reborn.
Hilla pondered what her teacher had said for a while, looking troubled, but her face lit up as she realized what the lesson was really about. "Jarko" she said softly. "I'd fight any enemy for Wintermark or the Empire - we all would - but I'd die to save Jarko."
Marja beamed at her charge. "Know your heart and what commands its devotion above all else" she intoned gravely. "That is what the Assembly were telling you - that no force in this world can command your loyalty. It is yours and yours alone to give."
At the last Spring Equinox, the Assembly of Loyalty passed two judgements with resounding support, both of them received a greater majority. The Assembly gave clear direction on the nature of the Virtue of Loyalty; with an explicit statement that Loyalty must come from within, that it cannot be presumed or coerced. In line with the guidance for the Synod, the Tribune's office ensures that the two statements are transcribed and disseminated to every congregation dedicated to Loyalty in the Empire for guidance and discussion.
To be truly virtuous Loyalty must stem from personal conviction and neither be presumed nor coerced.Anastasiya Volkov, Loyalty Assembly, Spring Equinox 383YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 355 - 0)
To be loyal we must know ourselves, we must seek to understand our hearts’ deepest devotion. To force your own devotion onto another is not Loyalty and prevents others from achieving virtue...Able, Loyalty Assembly, Spring Equinox 383YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 255 - 0)
The statements may have been in response to criticism from Sumaah who have been dismissive of Imperial interpretations of Loyalty which they claimed was being abused to try and insist that citizens who were not loyal to the Empire were not Loyal. In recent years it has become common for people to face revocation and excommunication for disloyalty without any apparent consideration for where the recipient's loyalties might lie. This has confused many pilgrims of Loyalty whose first and most important teaching is to "know your heart and what commands its devotion above all else".
Whatever has caused the Assembly to pass these statements, they have been positively received by pilgrims and priests alike across the Empire. There is relief that the Assembly has taken a stance against unscupulous priests and politicians abusing the Virtue by trying to punish others for not sharing their loyalty. They are pleased to see such a clear statement from the leaders of the Assembly making plain that loyalty must come from within.
As a result of the moral clarity put forward by the Assembly and the clear rejection of the theological criticisms of the Sumaah, there is a singular opportunity for the Assembly to reinforce the statement they have just passed with a far-reaching mandate. Such opportunities are not common, the effects of the mandate are not easy to predict and the Assembly will need to consider whether to proceed with great care.
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
The civil service expect the impact of the mandate to last for a year.
Know Your Heart
If this mandate is endorsed, then it will provide pilgrims devoted to Loyalty with the courage of their convictions, giving them the strength to speak out whenever others try to demand that people must be loyal to some cause or goal. As a result, statements of principle that are issued by the Imperial Synod that are not in line with the guidance issued by the Virtue Assembly will face trenchant criticism which will severely undermine their effectiveness.
Matters of faith are hard for the civil service to predict, because they are complex, nuanced, and can be heavily influenced by changing conditions. Nonetheless the civil service are able to advise the Assembly that if passed then the mandate will definitely have the following three effects:
- Statements that try to compel Loyalty will fail
Any statements that explicitly try to compel the listeners' Loyalty will fail. For example, the General Assembly narrowly upheld a Statement of Principle at the Autumn Equinox 381YE that stated that "It is disloyal to deny support to the armies of the Empire." A less controversial example might be the rejected statement that "All citizens of the Empire are called to attend the Witches' Ball in the League on Saturday 6pm to display Loyalty to show the Grendel along our shores our desire to hold each other up in loyalty.". There statements were not communicated beyond Anvil because they were either rejected or did not receive a greater majority - but either could have had a dramatic effect if they had. The mandate would prevent that.
If the Assembly passed this mandate then 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
It is common for the National Assemblies to pass judgements that call on people to put aside their personal ambitions or loyalties to serve the greater good of the nation. The General Assembly has taken a similar view with repect to the Empire on occasion. For example the mandate passed by each of the national assemblies at the Autumn Equinox 382YE stated that "The war against the Vallorn demands all the support of all of us. We send..." These mandates were instrumental in encouraging people to set aside personal loyalties and shoulder the burden of the pilgrimage for the common good. Statements and madates like these would be undermined by the opposition of devotees of Loyalty making clear that it is unvirtuous to demand the support of people - they might still have an effect depending on the circumstances, but the impact would be reduced.
If the Assembly passed this mandate then any statement of principle that instructs people to give their support to something or which calls on people 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 for disloyalty to the nation or Empire would risk causing dissent
In recent times it has been common for judgements of revocation and excommunication to cite disloyalty as a reason for the sanction. The implication of these judgements is that virtuous citizens must be loyal to the Empire and that those who have put other loyalties first must be punished. For example, at the Spring Equinox 379YE, the Orc Assembly revoked Irontide Braka citing the "Revocation of Irontide Braka, General of the Summer Storm, for gross disloyalty to the Empire. Committed by the unnecessary withdrawal of the orc armies." If this mandate had been in effect when the Assembly passed that judgement then Imperial Orcs who admired General Braka for putting loyalty to his nation above his loyalty to the Empire would have protested, leading to potential civil unrest.
If the Assembly passed this mandate then any recovation or excommunication that inherently assumes that a lack of loyalty to the Empire or a citizen's nation is the same as a lack of Loyalty would risk provoking dissent and unrest amongst those citizens who shared the recipient's apparent loyalties.
The Eyes of Loyalty
The mandate could also have a positive impact, given some direction by the Assembly. One of the core teachings of Loyalty is that "the truly virtuous are loyal even through hardship and misfortune." Nobody may command your loyalty, not the Assembly, nor even the Throne. But those who are devoted to Loyalty build up their fellows through the strength of their support. The guidance on the Path of Loyalty teaches pilgrims to know their own heart, but the Eyes of Loyalty anointing drives beneficiaries to "support those you are loyal to no matter the cost."
The Assembly of Loyalty has explicitly acknowledged that their priests cannot tell pilgrims who they should be loyal to; but that makes it easier for them to find those who are loyal to a cause and to urge them to support that Loyalty no matter the cost. In particular, priests of Loyalty who are skilled at anointing could seek out pilgrims who are loyal to a cause and bless them with the Eyes of the Loyalty, a powerful spiritual aura that grants the beneficiary the strength of will to commit everything to their cause.
Such convictions are not to be treated lightly, but if this mandate were passed then for the next year, the Cardinal of Loyalty would be able to use their judgement to submit the published wording of a single Imperial mandate for consideration by the Loyalty Assembly in addition to whichever Assembly was already deliberating the matter. If the mandate passed in the original Assembly and also passed in the Loyalty Assembly then the priests of Loyalty would seek out those committed to that cause and use the Eyes of Loyalty to grant them the strength to give everything in pursuit of their loyalty.
The effects of this would, of course, vary depending on the mandate - but in all cases the resulting outcome of the mandate would be more significant - whatever the predicted impact was, it would be exceeded in some way.
To employ the Eyes of Loyalty, the Cardinal of the Assembly would have to use their judgement to submit the original mandate to the Assembly of Loyalty. They would need to name their own priest, and authorise them to use 25 doses of liao, but other than that it would need to use the same wording as the original mandate, so that it was completely clear which mandate was being targeted.