The Path of Loyalty
It is easy for citizens to claim Loyalty but, as with many of the virtues, its proof lies in the testing. For those that claim to be loyal, or to inspire Loyalty, all may seem well in times of peace and prosperity. It is in hardship, when errors are made, that temptation arises, if not to betray, but to doubt and undermine. Time and again, history has shown that when Loyalty is needed most, it is most scarce. The Empire stands on the foundation of the Loyalty of its citizens. If they be not loyal, then the Empire surely cannot stand. Day-to-day loyalty is seen in the student to their teacher, in the soldier to their commander, between lovers and spouses, and between the citizens and the Empire.
Guidance on the Path
Through meditation on the auras of Loyalty, and study of the paragons and exemplars, the priests of the Way have gleaned insight into the heart of the virtue and how best to pursue it. There are collections of parables, tales, sayings and teachings that distill this for Imperial citizens to learn from. The following are a handful of teachings and sayings deemed to be essential to understanding the path:
- Know your heart and what commands its devotion above all else.
- Even the wicked can be loyal when times are prosperous and judgements are unfailing; the truly virtuous are loyal even through hardship and misfortune.
- Loyalty is not displayed by words or deeds alone, but by the unity of both.
- The Virtuous build up their fellows; they do not tear them down.
- Despise treachery; even the strongest may err, but deceivers will lie again.
Paragons and Exemplars
Identifying the paragons and exemplars of Loyalty has taxed the theologians of the Synod and the Highborn before them for they rarely act alone. Furthermore, in some incarnations the paragons and exemplars inspire great Loyalty; in others, they demonstrate exceptional Loyalty to another. Recognised paragons of Loyalty include:
Recognised exemplars of Loyalty include:
- Lady Elayne Silverlark of Dawn.
- Bolstering Bill, a character generally believed to have been a Marcher - if he existed at all - who appears in a number of comic songs, stories and poems in various parts of the Empire. He (or very occasionally, she) is presented as a simple yet well-meaning soldier, usually wielding a polearm, whose companions encounter any number of amusing or hair-raising scrapes and who survive or triumph with the aid of their companion, Bill combines good humour, honest camaraderie and more than a little tough love with an absolute commitment to never leaving a friend behind. While the truth behind these tales is contested, the character of Bolstering Bill is often considered to be an exemplar of Loyalty. Even the critics of the Bolstering Bill stories note that it is likely that many of them recount the adventures of real people, and have simply been ascribed to Bolstering Bill by later generations of storytellers to make them more accessible to their audiences. (see also the Good Neighbour, a polearm occasionally called a Bolstering Bill).
- Cora Holdfast, a Navarri Brand (and later guide) who was instrumental in establishing the Anvil Hospital and the Imperial School of Medicine. Her no-nonsense approach to the problems she found in Anvil in the aftermath of Empress Britta's death made her a powerful agent of change, and where a challenge was greater than she could handle, she organised others to join her. After her account of a traumatic Pure Liao Vision, she attracted pilgrims of Loyalty faced with hard choices. She was murdered only a few years into this work, but her work lives on at her Inspirational Shrine at High Chalcis.
One figure whose status is somewhat unclear is Ruth of the Seven Stars - a paragon of Loyalty in pre-Imperial Highguard, possibly recognised as an exemplar in 82YE, but who has never been officially included on lists of inspirational figures.
Symbols of Loyalty
The Path of Loyalty has many symbols across the Empire, but one of the more common is a chain. This symbolises not only the humble origins of the earliest paragon as a slave, but is composed of single links given length, strength and purpose by being inextricably linked to others. Along similar lines, a rope of many strands is a common symbol. Some priests and pilgrims dedicated to this path wear chains around their necks, or either a chain or rope around their waist indicating their ties. Although the exact description of the slave tattoos of the Marked is lost to time, several priests and pilgrims will be tattooed, often with some reference – obvious, oblique or symbolic – to that which holds their Loyalty.
The chain and the rope are sometimes a matter of contention for the Preachers of the Imperial Orcs, being too closely representative of the slavery they and their ancestors endured at the hands of the Empire. Some have adopted the horse (especially the horse skull) to represent Loyalty, while others favour the clasped hands (a common expression of respect between individuals).
In the League, the ring is a strong symbol of Loyalty, tied inextricably as it is to both custom and hearth magic. indeed gifts of rings have become a powerful symbol of Loyalty throughout the Empire, and are often used as part of a ceremony where someone undertakes an obligation for another, or as a part of marriage vows. Interlinked rings - usually two but sometimes three (especially in Wintermark and the Brass Coast), or seven - represent bonds between individuals in a similar fashion.
In Navarr, thorns are sometimes used as a symbol of Loyalty, and the blood they shed is seen as a reminder of the price of sacrifice (an idea that many Navarr consider to be closely tied to the virtue as well as to their own nation's history). Thorny briars are a common feature of the tattoos used to mark oaths.
In Wintermark, the hawk and the falcon are symbols of Loyalty, while in Varushka the virtue is associated with the hound. Some magicians use the rune Lann, which represents equitable bargains, to symbolise Loyalty.
Some Urizen point to the astronomantic constellations of the Chain and the Three Sisters as manifestations of this virtue - albeit with different, nuanced interpretations. During their Spring festival, they represent Loyalty with blue flowers.
It is more shameful to distrust your friends than to be deceived by them.
- You can learn about the various spiritual roleplaying effects created by priests dedicated to Loyalty here.
- You can learn about the skills that priests can use to support the virtue of Loyalty here.