Matter of faith
The old crow stared at the spot of blood on the cloth. Without really thinking he dabbed it to his cheek again, though the bleeding had long since stopped.
He reminded himself that it wasn't really Arja's fault. The young Frayed had been wearing a ring, when they had swung the blow and the stone had caught his cheek, that was all. Harri could remember telling Arja to keep it - the only heirloom from their family that they had kept. "Just because your skein is frayed, doesn't mean it's cut." he had told the warrior. "If you're going to find a way to fix it - then remembering your mother is the best place you can start."
It was still the right advice, he mused. He thought of old Ella who had given him his feathers. "Being a crow's a burden" she used to say. "Helping people is painful. Sticking your nose in other folks business? It's like putting a stick in a hive. Everyone respects a crow... right up until you tell them what's what. That's when the lake freezes over." He smiled ruefully - he missed Ella. Ella would have talked Arja round... and if that didn't work she'd have floored them with that bloody stick she used to pretend to lean on.
"What would you have made of all this Ella? An Empress on the Throne and another one back from the dead." He was careful only to speak to Ella when no-one was around. Some of the Folk had daft enough ideas about crows as it was.
Ella would have kicked him in the shins and told him to go and do his bloody job. Talk to Arja. Problem was he didn't know what to say. Virtues aside, he didn't really know what to believe anymore. Half the flaming Synod said one thing, half of them said the other. Can't pull a plough two ways at once the Marchers would say.
Someone had better make their bloody mind up - or this whole thing was just going to keep getting worse. Like that time when the Yani brothers had argued over whose arrow had killed the hind. Bad business that. Blood in a fight is good for the virtues - but blood in a family is always vile Ella used to say. The younger lad still had a limp. Bad business.
He dabbed the cloth to his cheek one last time, pulled his cloak back on his shoulder and headed out into the winter night. If he set a good pace he could catch Arja before the morning. Time for a crow to earn a crust.
The Doctrine of the Beyond
Beyond the Labyrinth of Ages lies the Land Without Tears. Paragon souls that had freed themselves from the Labyrinth may ascend to this golden place that is without pain and suffering. The Land Without Tears is the ultimate transcendent destiny of all humans who turn their lives to Virtue and the pursuit of Paragonhood.Proposed but not upheld at the Autumn Equinox 380YE, 673 - 729
The General Assembly of the Imperial Synod has rejected the change of doctrine proposed by Yael, the First Empress Reborn. While the vote fell far short of the greater majority it would have needed to become law, the Synod was clearly split - with scores of priests on either side. That split is beginning to be mirrored in the Empire itself.
Thanks to Eldeen Wulfsdottir, and Corey Wayfarer, the Stormcrows of Wintermark and the guides of Navarr are all urging caution advising citizens to talk to their priest before attempting a pilgrimage. But bereft of similar leadership the priests of other nations are unable to offer clear guidance. Citizens are arguing over what to believe.
The failed judgement has had some effect - those who are keen to deny this new teaching have used it as evidence that the Synod has rejected the Land Without Tears - and this has prevented Yael's following spreading further. But the fact that a failed judgement carries no legal standing means those who have already converted can argue that the law continues to protect their new faith - at least for now. The net result is that the arguments have grown worse - and in some cases violence has resulted as passionate pilgrims have come to blows.
Odnava of the Loyalty assembly called the lay members of the Congregation of the First Empress to inquisition at Anvil. The Tribune of the Synod has sent word to the lay followers who are happy to appear, but since Odnava is unable to attend the Solstice, the confrontation has now been delayed. The Spring Equinox appears to be the earliest that Odnava can meet the lay members and question them on their beliefs.
Meanwhile, in Highguard more pilgrims of the First Empress continue to arrive every day. Though no construction has yet begun, the judgement of Isaac passed by the Assembly of Courage has given many the encouragement needed to withstand the rigours of winter. Fortunately, the frosts have been mild and thus far the cold has claimed less than a dozen lives. Provided the remainder of winter passes favourably then the immediate danger posed by the winter will likely continue to abate, but if the weather turns then without a suitable shelter the situation for the pilgrims could become much worse.
The common citizens of the Empire look to the Imperial Synod for guidance. When the Synod speaks with one voice, it informs people's beliefs, answers their questions and shapes their lives. The Way of Virtue is part of the Empire's foundations. It suffuses all the faiths and philosophies of all the human nations of the Empire, it provides a chance for the Preachers of the Imperial Orcs to forge new paths across the Abyss.
Yael's vision of the Land Without Tears, her proposed Doctrine of the Beyond, represents the single biggest challenge to the Imperial faith in living lifetimes. If true, it would represent concrete knowledge of the true nature of the Labyrinth of Ages. Doctrine states: The Labyrinth of Ages is a place of pure spirit and beyond the true comprehension of any but a paragon. Yael's claim is that she, as the First Empress reborn, as a Paragon born into flesh and blood, is uniquely poised to impart this knowledge. This is the heart of her revelation.
Those who cling to tradition point to the Synod's rejection of the change of doctrine and urge their fellows to avoid heresy. They point to the history of disputed True Liao visions in the past. They point to the centuries of tradition this threatens to overturn.
Those who have eagerly embraced Yael's words point to judgements that support their beliefs. They invoke the name of the Scions of Atun. They speak of a time when revelation once came to the Highborn, and how it may come again. They speak of their inspiration to Virtue at this knowledge of its true reward. For the Empire as a whole, this has now come down to an issue of doctrine. It is a matter of faith.
Only the General Assembly can decide doctrine. Either they embrace the return of the First Empress and her Doctrine of the Beyond, or they reject it. It is inevitable that the Synod will need time to check the certainty of these new revelations and to understand their profound implications - but the General Assembly cannot now take action to address the problems caused by the schism until it does. While they examine the issue, the split among the faithful continues to widen.
The General Assembly
It is a matter of faith.
A change of doctrine requires a greater majority of the General Assembly of the Imperial Synod. This is quite deliberately difficult to achieve, but the Synod is capable of acting when the matter is absolutely vital - as recent times have shown.
The First Empress reborn has proposed a change of doctrine - the Doctrine of the Beyond - that would incorporate the revelations of the Land Without Tears into the doctrine of the Way. More than half the Synod voted on the matter, but more were against than in favour and the judgement failed. It is possible that with more time she will be able to speak with more members of the Synod and convince them of the truth. If she is able to convince the Synod to change doctrine in this way, or in any other way that directly supports or gives credence to her claims, then the current crisis will rapidly abate. The citizens of the Empire will acknowledge Yael as the First Empress and unite around her vision. If this happens then it is possible that with the appropriate backing of the Synod she could become an inspirational figure right across the Empire.
The alternative is to pass a change of doctrine that makes clear that the Synod does not accept Yael's revelation. For example, doctrine is currently silent on whether it is possible or not for a paragon with true knowledge of the Labyrinth to return to exist as flesh and blood. A change of doctrine that asserted that this was not possible would definitively contradict the claims. Some critics of Yael's revelations have argued that visions of true liao can only give access to those memories that we acquire in our mortal shells. A change of doctrine of that nature would directly refute the revelations of the Land Without Tears. The balance of the Synod at the previous summit was not in favour of approving the change - but it is very clear that currently there is no majority in favour of rejecting the First Empress. Those who have spoken against Yael would need to find a way to convince a great many who have taken her side - and that will mean they need to find the precise wording for any change of doctrine that they can agree on. If those who oppose Yael are able to change doctrine with a judgement that is a clear and explicit denial of Yael's vision then the situation will rapidly improve. Most citizens, even many of those who have embraced Yael and made pilgrimage to Highguard will acknowledge the decision of the Synod and reject the First Empress and her vision.
Either of these outcomes would quickly end the rift that is currently widening among the faithful. If nothing happens then neither side is likely to grow in support - but the current disagreement between the two parties will continue to grow more fractious.
The National Assemblies
Many citizens have become convinced that the General Assembly is incapable of making a decision about Yael. The spiritual implications of her revelations are extraordinary enough - but more than a few cynics have suggested that the political implications of fully acknowledging the First Empress Reborn are simply too much for the Synod to face.
As a result citizens in many nations are growing impatient waiting for the General Assembly to make a decision while it still fails to make a doctrinal position clear. They seek a judgement on whether they should embrace Yael's teachings, or reject them - and in this instance the message will have more weight coming from their own people. What the people want is a statement of principle on Yael's teaching from their national assembly.
- While the General Assembly has not passed Doctrine refuting Yael, a statement of principle passed by any national assembly with a greater majority that explicitly accepts Yael's claim to be the First Empress Reborn and urges citizens to listen to her revelations will create opportunities for mandates to fan the flame of Yael's faith in that nation by the spending of liao.
- While the General Assembly has not passed Doctrine supporting Yael, a statement of principle passed by any national assembly with a greater majority that explicitly rejects Yael's claim to be the First Empress Reborn and urges citizens to ignore her teachings will create opportunities for mandates to suppress Yael's teachings within that nation
Before the following summit begins, the civil service would assess the full impact of any statements passed by a national assembly and present any mandates that might be passed in light of the opportunities created.
A statement of principle that is rejected or that passes with only a lesser majority will have no discernible impact on the situation beyond Anvil. A statement whose wording does not endorse or reject Yael explicitly in writing in the words used in the judgement will likewise have no effect.
While it is clear that it will be far easier for a much smaller national assembly to reach a decision, there is some danger for the Imperial Synod in this approach. If the same national assembly passes a greater majority both supporting and rejecting Yael, that will surely cause division within that nation. If different assemblies take different approaches - then the de facto situation will be one in which the different nations of the Empire are being encouraged to believe profoundly different things. While the General Assembly struggles to pass doctrine, it is possible that the very bonds that hold the Empire together might be torn apart.
It is a matter of faith.
Several national assemblies made clear statements in opposition to, or in support of, Yael and her vision.
The Navarr Assembly utterly rejects Yael's claim to be the first Empress reborn and urges citizens to ignore her teachings.Wyn. Navarr national assembly
We reject the claims and teachings of Yael regarding the First Empress and the Golden City. This is on the basis of insufficiently tested and explored evidence behind her, and no reflection of her virtue or intent. We demand she ceases these teachings and urge citizens to disregard them.Rane Jorunsdottir,Wintermark national assembly
As the rifts in the Empire over Yael's Revelation widen, we urge the Imperial Orcs to look to our own place in the Way; the preachers and people must think and argue on matters of Virtue and Ancestors, not of what lies beyond the Labyrinth.Torsch, Imperial Orcs national assembly
The Varushkan National Assembly explicitly rejects Yael as the First Empress Reborn and encourage our people not to listen to her teachings.Odanava, Varushkan national assembly
The League National Assembly utterly rejects Yael's claim to be the First Empress reborn and urges citizens to ignore her teachings.Jonah Yakovitch, League national assembly
The Urizen National Assembly does not accept the teachings of the "Land Without Tears" based on current evidence and does not condone the following of this belief. Citizens are urged to focus on existing doctrine and teachings of the Way.Zeno, Stallion's Sibling, Urizen national assembly
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.Sir Criseyde, Dawn national assembly