"Nicephorus!" The voice rang out across the hillside, reverberating off the hard stone. "Why have you stopped?" his teacher asked in a demanding voice.

"It's Stylian sir, he's fallen," the boy responded as he struggled for breath, tired from the long run. He pointed to his comrade just visible behind them in the gloom. The sun would be down in another hour, the shadows were already growing long. There was barely enough time to make it back to the Temple before nightfall.

"And?" His teacher was unmoved.

"He's fallen from the path sir - he won't make it back tonight by himself. But I can still reach him... " his voice trailed off as the look on his teacher's face told him that this was the wrong answer. "With my help we can both be back in time for the evening meal," he pressed on gamely, worried about his friend.

"If he falls in battle against the Druj... will you go back for him then?"

There was a long pause as neither spoke. Nicephorus held his teacher's gaze as long as he could, but in the end he looked away, beaten. "No sir."

"A blade must be perfect if it is to serve its purpose. The slightest imperfection in battle and it will shatter. Mercy is a flaw you cannot afford."

Nicephorus bowed his head lower "Yes sir."

"Stylian can make his way back by himself. If he is not returned to the Temple by dawn, then you may look for him then, but not before. Otherwise your mercy will make him weak. A night on the mountain without food will teach him to mind his footing when he runs."

"Yes sir." His teacher turned to go, giving Nicephorus a moment to cast an apologetic glance in the direction of his friend.

"Now Nicephorus!" the voice rang out again. "Run - otherwise you will share his fate..."

Overview

Sulemaine daughter of Taziel was a controversial Urizeni priest whose history is tangled up with the arrival of the Way in Urizen. According to the legends Sulemaine was a warrior sickened by both the corruption of the Patricians, and the irrationality and backwards-looking spirituality of the nascent Highborn chapters. She came to Urizen where she attracted followers who became the first sword scholars.

Notoriously, Sulemaine sought out Highborn priests spreading their faith into Urizen to challenge them to debate. She would embarrass and shame those unable to sufficiently ground their beliefs in reason and logic before the witnessing crowds, then execute them. Known as a peerless and merciless warrior, Sulemaine effectively terrorised these missionary efforts during her lifetime - if the stories are to be believed.

Sulemaine's descendants bitterly opposed the decision of Urizen to join the Empire, clashing with the sentinels in several deadly battles. After their defeat, they were outlawed and were ruthlessly suppressed over the centuries that followed. Finally in 382YE, a truce of sorts was arranged with the Urizeni Assembly urging the remaining scholars to unite under the banner of the Tempest Jade Maiden sect, rallying around the rebuilding of the Temple of the Winds in Morrow.

Arrangements were made to rebuild the ancient temple - and to return the Labyrinth Blade to the sect - but those plans were interrupted by the arrival of the Druj who attacked the construction site. Two thirds of the remaining scholars were slaughtered by the Druj before they were forced to flee and it was nearly a year before the Empire was able to free the area from Druj control and complete the work to restore the temple.

Now the Temple is finally complete - and with the full backing of the Wisdom Assembly - the sword scholars are ready to resume their new role as foils to the Imperial Synod - opposing its mandates at every turn and forcing priests who do the Synod's bidding to justify their actions.

Effective Opposition

  • Every Synod mandate now requires a greater majority to be effective.

In ancient times, the followers of Sulemaine would have opposed the Imperial Synod by seeking out those priests who spread its message and challenging them to explain their actions. Those that could not ground their beliefs in reason and logic would be humiliated and then summarily executed. The scholars would tolerate no mercy in such matters, they believed that pity was the sibling of foolishness - and that if either weakness were tolerated then they would grow inside the human spirit until they destroyed all humanity.

In modern times, most sword scholars are aware that Imperial justice will not long tolerate a sword scholar who executes any Imperial priest they find lacking in sufficient wisdom. As a result for the most part they have stopped short of physical violence, and instead focused on countering any path they deem insufficiently wise. Of course such open confrontation has occasionally turned violent, and very few sword scholars will back down from a conflict simply because swords are drawn, but thus far at least, there have been no actual deaths.

Nonetheless, their tireless antagonism to any hint of dogma and superstition from the Imperial Synod means that they now provide effective opposition to every statement of principle passed by the Imperial Synod. With the blessing of the Assembly of Wisdom their ranks have swelled, allowing itinerant sword scholars as well as other disciples attracted to their teachings to challenge the Imperial Synod throughout the Empire.

The practical impact of this opposition is that any mandate passed by the Imperial Synod will be stymied, unless it is backed by a greater majority. In effect, for as long as the sword scholars and their practices are accepted and encouraged, then the Imperial Synod cannot pass a mandate unless they do so with a greater majority. This will affect any mandate that the Imperial Synod judges at the forthcoming summit, as well as every mandate henceforth.

In the case of competing mandates, the one with the high margin of success is successful as usual. If it does not also have a greater majority, the mandate is then ineffective thanks to the intervention of the Wisdom assembly and the sword scholars.

As an example, had the sword scholars not been preoccupied with the completion of the Temple of the Winds, then their influence would have caused a number of mandates enacted during the Summer Solstice to have failed. This would have included the mandate sending Kaspar Yakovitch to preach to the Sand Fishers, the mandates supporting Dead Reckoning in the League, the Great Dance of the Navarr, the legitimacy of shriving in the Marches, the Feast of the Broken Wheel among the Freeborn, the Varushkan practice of bargaining with dark powers, and the Wintermark tradition of interring the dead in the Kallavesa marshes; the mandate encouraging trade with Axos; the mandate encouraging corsairs to raid the Grendel;and perhaps most ironically, the mandate upholding the right of the Sword Scholars to spread the teachings of Sulemaine itself.

A Pivotal Node

The Soul Is A Blade

  • Recognising Sulemaine as a paragon or exemplar would further increase the influence of the sword scholars.
  • The Urizen Assembly could urge their nation to embrace the teachings of Sulemaine.

The status of Sulemaine remains controversial. Some of her disciples openly refer to her as a paragon, the "Paragon of Blades" - but the Imperial Synod has never acknowledged her as such, not even as an exemplar. This is perhaps not surprising given her history. During the Summer Solstice, however, the General Assembly enacted a mandate that made it clear that it was not against doctrine to call for any human to be recognised as a paragon - explicitly naming Sulemaine as someone who despite not being recognised as a paragon by the Synod was not a false paragon. This has gone some way towards reassuring devotees of Wisdom concerned about exploring the teachings promoted by the sword scholars.

Thus far the current Synod has taken a much more accepting view of the sword scholars and their founder, with the Assembly of Wisdom encouraging people across the Empire to take inspiration from the example set by the scholars. Even so, it remains a vexed issue, and one that continues to cause arguments, impeding recruitment by the sword scholars and causing wayfarers across the Empire to question the value of Sulemaine's teachings.

If the Synod saw fit to recognise Sulemaine, as either a paragon or an exemplar, then this would elevate their status further and significantly empower them. This would make it even easier for them to oppose the influence of priests carrying the message of the Synod to the wider Empire. If that happened any mandate would then require twice the normal amount of liao to be effective from that point onward, reflecting the rising support for the teachings of Sulemaine in Urizen and beyond. In addition it would create opportunities for the national assemblies of other Imperial nations to examine the role of Sulemaine's teachings and see how they might be applied in the context of their national traditions.

Even an indication that Urizen was now united in support of this divisive figure would be effective. The Urizen National Assembly could endorse a mandate urging Urizen to embrace the teachings of the Paragon of Blades.

The Paragon of Blades is the perfect epitome of the Urizeni spirit - pure calculating reason unhindered by emotion or pity. We send {named priest} with 50 doses of liao to encourage every Urizeni to embrace her teachings. Let us bring strength against weakness and victory will be ours.

Synod Mandate, Urizen National Assembly


If that were passed with a greater majority then it would further solidify support for the sword scholars. This would cause a surge of support for the sword scholars, which would create the opportunity for the Empire to fund the creation of more sword scholar temples all across Morrow. These temples would be manned by a growing force of armed sword scholars, like those now based in the Temple of the Tempest Jade Maiden. The Temples would not be cheap to create but once complete they would serve to defend the territory as effectively as any fortification. These cruel warriors would be pitiless in combat against the enemies of Urizen, ready to turn their weapons on the Druj, the Grendel or any other foe that threatened their home.

In addition their implacable opposition to the influence of the Imperial Synod would make it harder for statements of principle passed by the Assembly of the Nine or the General Assembly to affect Urizen. It would not be impossible - but the impact of any statements would be attenuated.

It would not be effective to build any substantial sword scholar temples in Redoubt. The influence of the sentinels - the long-standing rivals of the sword scholars - is stronger in the southern territory and they are likely to resist any such initiative.

The Blade In Their Hands

  • Not everyone welcomes the increased influence of Sulemaine and the sword scholars.

When the sword scholars first came to the attention of the Imperial Synod, some priests outside Urizen denounced the Assembly’s embrace of the sword scholars as foolishness. Their belief is that the Imperial Synod under Emperor Giovanni had the right idea in suppressing the sword scholars and while they acknowledge that the modern sword scholars are less bloodthirsty than their forebears, they point to the undisputed facts that their founder was responsible for the murder of scores of priests. Some Imperial priests openly condemned the figure for her brutal cruelty in executing any that she felt fell short of the ideals of Wisdom, rather than a paragon, they claim she was a fanatic, and a dangerous one at that.

However at that time, Severin von Holberg's sermon on the need to avoid religious conflict was still very fresh in people's minds. As such people turned away from direct conflict with those who supported the sword scholars in the hope of averting religious conflict in Urizen and focusing instead on the virtues and what unites them.

WingedMessenger.png
Leoditus is a retired sentinel with strong views on the sword scholars. A Winged Messenger can be sent to him at the Citadel of the Silver Dawn, Redoubt.

Such unity is rare and fleeting in the Empire however and now that mood has dissipated. Leoditus, a sentinel who was once a senior military figure in the Citadel Guard and who now teaches at the Citadel of the Silver Dawn, is particularly outspoken against the sword scholars. He points to their history in which the sword scholars opposed Urizen joining the Empire but were defeated in battle by the sentinels. The blade that has now been returned to the scholars was taken from them by force - when they were defeated by the sentinels - and given to the First Empress. Leoditus argues Urizen's forebears must have had good reason to reject the sword scholars and their pitiless ethos and that it is unwise to change course now.

Any Imperial priest could raise a statement in the General Assembly or the Assembly of Nine condemning the sword scholars or declaring Sulemaine to be a false paragon. If the judgement achieved a greater majority then it would certainly create opportunities for mandates that would seek to cast out the sword scholars. Of course such statements would be fought tooth and nail by the scholars themselves - so any mandate would need to pass with a greater majority to be effective.

If that happens then the sword scholars will not go down without a fight. Now that their temple has been rebuilt and they have begun to take on new students, their strength grows by the day.