Matilda dipped the quill into the pot, touched it to the side of the well to remove the excess ink and then applied it carefully to the page. She'd been working to illuminate this page all day, but she was making excellent progress. It was painstaking work but barring any accidents she expected to have it done before nightfall.

Her colleague looked up from the desk where he was working to prepare the next page. "I 'ear the Highborn have picked a Speaker for their Assembly." he said. Some people liked to talk while they worked. Some people were monsters.

"'Ave they now." Matilda snorted. "Having a beard d'unt make you wise." she said in a sage voice. Her tone was intended to suggest that nothing more needed to be said on the matter so that the scriptorium could return to a pleasing silence. Sadly it failed.

"Mebbe our Assembly should have one too?" Hugh offered.

Matilda placed the quill in the stand and then looked up. "Aye - because picking some puffed up friar and saying 'You're in charge of everyone now - off you go'. What could be more Marcher than that?"

"You think it's a bad idea then?"

What Matilda thought was a bad idea was chattering like children about the goings-on of Highborn priests when they should be working to complete the copy of the Travels of Good Walder that had been ordered by Robin of Ashill.

"The point is Hugh - what the Empire needs is less folk taking charge of things and more folk taking responsibility for things. If we all took responsibility for things then the work would get done. Like now - see - our responsibility is to get all these pages copied by the end of the week so that Jocelyn can bind them."

Her tone was firmer now, more pointed. Hugh took the hint and lapsed back into silence. Matilda recovered her quill, dipped it into the pot, touched it to the side of the well to remove the excess ink and returned to the page.

Overview

During the Spring Equinox, the long-discussed refurbishment of the Basilica of Seven Doors in Bastion was commissioned by the Senate. With the assistance of the Custodes Clavium, construction work on the expansion and restoration was completed shortly before the Summer Solstice, and the previously-lapsed position of Speaker of the Highborn Assembly restored to relevance.

The Speaker of the Highborn Assembly guides the Highborn National Assembly, ensuring its traditions are upheld. The Speaker has responsibility for chairing the meetings of the National Assembly, encouraging the priests of Highguard to vote on judgements of the Synod and express the will of their congregations, organising the Day of the Dead memorial, and serving as custodian of the Basilica of Seven Doors.

As anticipated, with the Speaker for the Highborn Assembly restored to prominence, other national assemblies are taking time to consider improving their own organisation. Some ecclesiastical scholars, especially among the Highborn, imagine that a little more organisation in the national assemblies could only be for the good of the Synod as a whole.

Capodomus Cathedral and the League Assembly

  • Capodomus Cathedral could be refurbished and serve as the seat of a title responsible for guiding and organising the League national assembly.

The League is not short of churches, temples, and bishop's palaces. There are any number of prominent congregations in the four cities of the League. Arguably, however, the most prominent is Capodomus Cathedral in Sarvos. Built centuries ago, it is widely recognised as the first major site dedicated to study of the Way in any of the four cities that would later form the League. Indeed for some time it was the largest and most prestigious religious building among all the nations that would become the Empire. Larger even than the Basilica of Seven Doors, it is a towering edifice of white granite and stained glass. A monument to the seven virtues, its halls are encrusted with precious materials and objets d’art. Capodomus was built in part in the image of the Basilica of the Seven Doors - intended as a place for the bishops of Sarvos to meet and explore the virtues. After the formation of the League, it became a place of pilgrimage, and was widely recognised as one of the foremost places to learn about the Way in the Empire.

During the sack of Sarvos, many of the beautiful paintings and sculptures that celebrated the Pride, Ambition, and Loyalty of the League were stolen. Over the years since, several of the beautiful artworks have been recovered - via Asavean dealers, or stolen back during the raid on Dubhtraig - but the damage done to the cathedral and its reputation has not been directly addressed.

With the refurbishment of the Basilica of Seven Doors, the bishops of Sarvos have put their heads together and proposed that the cathedral itself could likewise be refurbished with the intention that priests from across the League be made welcome and encouraged to share their own particular insights into the practice of the Way and the pursuit of Virtue. They have proposed that the priest who would oversee the Cathedral, and lead the services there, would be known as the Archbishop of Capodomus, but have the same responsibilities and powers as the Speaker of the Highborn Assembly.

Refurbishing the Cathedral

  • Refurbishing the Cathedral would require 20 wains of white granite, 10 wains of mithril, and 60 crowns

The cathedral is already an impressive building, but time and the Grendel have not been kind. To restore the Cathedral to its former prominence would require 20 wains of white granite and 10 wains of mithril. Labour costs would amount to 60 crowns. It would take three months to complete, and might be commissioned by the Imperial Senate, or through the use of an Imperial Wayleave.

Once the refurbishments were complete, it would create an Imperial title. There is a suggestion that the title be Archbishop of Capodomus, but that creates a perception that the priest responsible for guiding the League assembly enjoys some degree of prestige above that of their peers. Needless to say, the more ambitious priests see this as a good thing rather than a bad thing - the title will bring with it responsibility - it is only appropriate it bring an aura of authority as well. Those bishops who oppose the "archbishop" title suggest that the holder of the position should be proud to hold the title of Speaker of the League Assembly. The more ambitious bishops counter by rejecting any suggestion that they should follow in the footsteps of the Highborn in this regard when there is a perfectly acceptable title rich with League symbolism. A third, smaller group, primarily made up of priests of Loyalty, have suggested a third option - Bishop of Capodomus. Needless to say the proponents of the other two titles have widely criticised them for lacking Ambition or Pride. Squabbling continues.

The nature of the title would be a necessary detail determined by whoever commissioned the refurbishment. Whether Archbishop, Speaker, or Bishop, the position would be responsible for guiding the League National Assembly, and ensuring that the various traditions of the cities that make up the League are upheld. They would be responsible for chairing any meetings of the National Assembly, and particularly for encouraging the priests of the League to raise and vote on judgements in the Synod and express the will of their congregations. They would also be custodian of Capodomus Cathedral. To help them in their duties, they would receive 20 votes in the Synod and 10 doses of liao each season. Regardless of the actual name of the title, it would be appointed annually by judgement of the League National Assembly.

Once the work on the cathedral was completed, the bishops of Sarvos suggest that artists and artisans from every League city be commissioned to create new artwork to replace that taken by the Grendel - and to celebrate modern artistry rather than focusing exclusively on the "old masters."

A position as prestigious as... well as whatever the title ends up being called... would also attract the attention of League princes. Those wishing to have their marriage or their funeral take place in the breathtaking surroundings of Capodomus Cathedral would be generous with their donations to the priests responsible for the prestigious establishment. As a consequence, the custodian of Capodomus would also receive regular donations of coin - receiving an income of 7 crowns each season in addition to the liao and votes.

There is one other matter; the matter of il Volpe. The bishops of Sarvos are very clear that while they respect Lorenzo a great deal - his Colossus is a wonder of the world after all - Capodomus Cathedral is a beautiful building that symbolises the past and future glories of the League. A discreet shrine within celebrating the story of the First Butcher would be fine; attempting to paint the entire cathedral crimson and sticking mithril axes over the doors would be quite unacceptable - should Lorenzo be interested in arranging the refurbishments, that is.

Birds and Feathers

  • A Speaker for the Wintermark assembly would encourage priests to wield their power in the Synod.

In recent years, the priests of Wintermark have helped to spark a return to the heroic values that make their people great. They have consecrated the Sovennan; interred Empress Britta in the marshes alongside the other heroes of the Mark; helped the warriors of the Mark commit themselves to heroism rather than cruelty and expediency; restored the Hearth Tithe in a time of great need; and many other similarly significant achievements. Thanks in part to the statement of Eska Crowspeaker and the mandate enacted by Severi Jarlmarison, there is now also a renewal of interest in the idea that the priests and stormcrows of Wintermark should represent their congregations in the Synod - raising judgements and supporting or opposing those judgements raised by other priests.

Not every priest of Wintermark is a stormcrow; there is a strong tradition of battle priests who fight alongside the warriors to defend their people and of adventurous priests who provide spiritual guidance in the nature of the virtues. But it is the stormcrows that people think of when they first imagine a Wintermark priest, and it is in Kallavesa that the stormcrows have their roots.

The Hall of Rund

Rund is known to have been an ancient Kallavesi hero, a woman who sought out omens and offered advice to the chiefs of the Kallavesi tribes long before the arrival of the Steinr. The town of Rundhal is named for her, and for the circular hall she built at the heart of the settlement. When it was first constructed, it was intended that all the priests of Kallavesa could meet there together, seated in a great ring, with none taking a place of prominence over another. Over time, this traditional meeting was opened to the priests of the Suaq and the Steinr, fostering a period of increased understanding of the spiritual realm. It was here that the great discussions and arguments about the Way took place in the reign of King Alof Bearning, and ultimately where the priests first began to explore the nature of the seven virtues and the teachings of the new religion.

Meetings at Rund's Hall began to falter some two centuries ago. Increasingly cramped, the hall was no longer fit for purpose - there were simply too many priests and stormcrows who wished to attend the meetings. The last real meeting of the priests of Wintermark - of the Wintermark National Assembly - was in 238YE when the priests threw their support behind (then General) Guntherm for the Throne. Contemporary reports talk of the hall being filled to capacity, and priests clustered seven deep outside around the four doors straining to hear and fighting to be heard.

Alongside the increased interest in the heroes of old, and in the idea that the priests should be more active, there is an interest in restoring the Hall of Rund - or at least restoring its legacy.

The New Hall

  • Restoring the Hall of Rund would require a commission, 10 wains of weirwood, 6 wains of white granite, and 32 crowns in labour costs

There is a story known across Wintermark that exists in a variety of guises. Most commonly it is known as Grandmother's Axe. In it, the speaker places their axe on a table and talks about how it belonged to a revered ancestor. Of course the handle has been replaced, more than once. The axe-head has been replaced as well, when it has worn down or been broken. The feathers that adorn it have withered in time and fresh feathers wound around it. But it is still, unequivocally, the axe of the speaker's ancestor - for all that none of the physical axe wielded by that ancestor remains. It is the spirit of the axe that is handed down through the generations. So it could be with the Hall of Rund.

The solution the Suaq suggest is to build upwards. The walls of the lower hall will need replacing with stronger material, obviously, and the roof will need to go, but by adding two more levels above the first, with broad stairs and a raised dais in the centre for whoever is speaking, it might be feasible to house all the priests of Wintermark at once. Even better - in theory - if the building becomes too cramped it might be possible to add a fourth level atop the other three.

Rebuilding Rund's Hall in this fashion will require 10 wains of weirwood and 6 wains of white granite, and 32 crowns of labour costs. It would take three months to complete, and at the end of that time it would create a new title. As with the Speaker for Highguard Assembly, this new title would be responsible for supporting and encouraging the priests of Wintermark - especially in the matter of making and voting on judgements. Not only judgements in the Wintermark National Assembly either - it is all too easy to neglect the important matters of the virtue assemblies and especially the general assembly. The position would also bring with it a responsibility to bring the priests of Wintermark together to discuss the issues important to their congregations, and ensure that priests are ready to help their people in whatever way is most pressing. Finally, they would also be responsible for ensuring the Hall of Rund remains open to all the priests of Wintermark - and that no priest is without a voice in the councils of the wise.

In return, they would receive 9 doses of liao and 18 votes in the Synod. They could use this liao and these votes as they wished, but the assumption would be that they be used to support the interests of Wintermark, and promote heroism across the Empire, as well as to encourage and support the priests of the Mark.

Speaker for the Crows

In recent times, the Thane's Council has appointed a number of important positions to help advise the Council and the people of Wintermark. For example, the Warden helps run the moots, the meeting of Wintermark heroes at Anvil. Each title is purely honorific in nature, though they should not be under-estimated for all that. After all, the Champion of Wintermark, the bearer of the Crown of Three Tears, is not dissimilar.

If Rund's Hall were rebuilt, the priests supporting the project suggest that in addition to guiding the Wintermark Assembly, the title could be responsible for advising the Thane's Council. There is already an honorific associated with this role - the Speaker for the Crows - and they suggest that this title could become that title. As an Imperial title with control over an important commission, the title would have to be appointed by an appropriate legal method - it could no longer be a purely honorary position, but there is no reason that the new Speaker could not be given the legal responsibility to provide advice to the Thane's Council as part of their position just as the less official title does now. That would mean the Thanes could not appoint their own advisor - but as a few people have pointed out that appointing your own advisor is the best way to get comfortable advice, it's not always the best way to get wise advice.

The decision would be for the people of Wintermark to choose, if they wished to construct Rund's Hall. As with the proposals around the Runesmith, It would likely mean greater prominence for all the advisers who serve the Thane's Council, with the election to the position overseen and recorded by the Imperial civil service and a matter of public record.

Ambition teaches us to aim high and that it is better to try and fail than fail to try. The Marcher assembly will aid any Marcher who stands for an Imperial position that is elected or appointed, and not a Marcher title. The Empire can always use good Marcher common sense. Get yourselves heard.

Brother Martin Orchard, Marcher National Assembly, Spring Equinox 383YE, Upheld (62-0 Greater Majority with Primacy)

The Ambition of Margaret of Meade

In the last few years, the Marcher National Assembly has become increasingly active in the Synod. Each summit at Anvil, a handful of judgements are proposed by the assembly and handily passed with greater majorities - or even primacy. It is obvious that the assembly is already doing an excellent job of organising itself.

During the Spring Equinox, Brother Martin Orchard raised a judgement announcing that the Marcher Assembly "will aid any Marcher who stands for an Imperial position" and that "the Empire can always use good Marcher common sense." It's Ambitious, without a doubt. And also sensible. The priests who hear of it approve, and pass the news along to their congregations. Among those most enthused by the statement is Abbot Matilda of Becktunn Monastery. Becktunn stands on a low rise overlooking the Westmere, roughly halfway between Meade and Odd's End. The monks of Becktunn are known for their interest in the history of the Marches; their commitment to encouraging their countryfolk to pursue their Ambitions; and their desire to avoid being drawn into the disagreements between the people of Meade and the people of Odd's End.

In an open letter sent to many of her fellow Abbots, and to several prominent friars, Matilda of Becktunn welcomes both the commitment to helping Marcher folk achieve their ambitions, and the larger ambition to make the Empire better by giving it a healthy dose of Marcher wisdom. And she knows the perfect person to symbolise that commitment.

The reward for a good job is more work.

Marcher Proverb

Margaret of Meade

Margaret of Meade was born in 204YE, and according to one of the rare accounts of her life still extant, declared that she would be Senator for Mitwold on her ninth birthday. She realised her ambitions shortly after her twenty-second birthday and continued to hold the title on-and-off for the next two decades. Even when she was not actually Senator, she worked tirelessly to secure the prosperity not only of her home town but also of the Marches as a nation. In particular, she campaigned endlessly to get the Marches to act like a nation - encouraging the various households to pursue their own ambitions at home, but to present a united front to the rest of the Empire whenever possible.

Yet after a time, she grew dissatisfied with her place in the Senate. In 246YE she secured control of the Sutton Stone Quarries, a seat she maintained for a further five years. During that time she not only made a small personal fortune, but she also ensured that a portion of each season's bounty of white granite went toward building monasteries and schools across the Marches. In 258YE, she was part of a consortium of Marchers who secured every Imperial white granite seat for the Marches and used the produce of those seats to help support Emperor James in his ambition to build fortifications across the Empire. Having helped orchestrate that particular feat, she retired from the Bourse in 260YE and turned her attention to the Imperial Synod. Shortly after her sixtieth birthday, she was appointed Cardinal of Ambition by the Virtue Assembly, a role she discharged with aplomb until her death in 269YE.

A tree is known by its fruit, not by its leaves.

Marcher Proverb

Even while pursuing her personal ambitions, Margaret took every opportunity to encourage her fellow Marchers to view the Empire as if it was their Empire. While others may have laid the foundation, she would often say, they had become complacent. Only the Marchers understood that it was not enough to plough a field - it had to be planted. And then ploughed and planted again every year. The Empire, she said, survived due to the hard work of its citizens and nobody understood the value of hard work as well as the Marchers. She used her position as Senator, her wealth as a major player in the Bourse, and her later influence as cardinal, to encourage Marchers to pursue Imperial titles on the understanding that once they had been successful they would in turn help other Marchers achieve power. Her ultimate ambition was to see a Marcher on the Imperial Throne - an ambition that was realised in 257YE when Emperor James was appointed by the Imperial Senate.

Constant tapping breaks the stone.

Marcher Proverb

In later life, she invested much of her personal fortune in building schools across the Marches and providing scholarships for promising students who wished to study elsewhere. She began to suffer periods of ill health, culminating in her death in 269YE. Shortly before she passed away, she sought out an ambitious young friar named Richard Tallow and asked him to provide her with the ceremony of shriving - providing him with a significant endowment that ultimately allowed him to realise his personal dreams and build Becktunn monastery. After her death, she bequeathed her personal journals to the new abbot and in reading them the true extent of her influence and commitment to helping the people of the Marches achieve their goals became apparent. She was buried, as per her wishes, on a headland overlooking her beloved home town of Meade. The tree that marked her grave is today known as Maggie's Oak - despite being an apple tree. It is easy to see where the name comes from - the tree is over a century old and still in excellent (some might say miraculous) health and still produces fine red apples every Summer.

Good cider needs good apples.

Marcher Proverb

After her death, her friends in the Marcher assembly campaigned heavily to have her recognised as an Exemplar of Ambition, and the Imperial Synod recognised her as such in 272YE. When the Marcher priests sought to gather support for a suitable inspirational tomb, they faced stiff opposition from an unexpected source. Margaret was one of the Senators who worked with Empress Mariika to thrash out the details of the charters that created the first Marcher market towns. While that made her unpopular with some stewards, she faced their criticism boldly and argued passionately that it was possible for towns and households to co-exist and ultimately strengthen the Marches. Her argument was that the cities of the League - especially Tassato - were luring away some of the finest yeomen whose skills lay in areas other than farming and fighting. Through the market towns, she said, their skills could be harnessed for the benefit of the Marchers.

Unfortunately, it is in the nature of Marchers to hold grudges and they have long memories. After her death, the stewards who felt they had been slighted by Margaret's involvement with the charters were unable to prevent her being recognised as an exemplar - but they were more than capable of ensuring that her legacy and her name were largely forgotten.

Pride in small things, loyalty to great ones.

Marcher Proverb

Margaret's Legacy

The relevance of Margaret of Meade is obvious; she spent her entire life encouraging Marchers to pursue their ambitions and to rise to high office within the Empire. There is quite a fashion for seminaries at the moment, and Abbot Matilda proposes that one such school be built on the headland near Margaret's Oak. When it was completed, it might be possible to consecrate it if a dose of true liao could be secured, but that is of secondary consideration.

By publicising the teachings of Margaret of Meade, the Marcher assembly would encourage other Marchers to present themselves as candidates for Imperial titles. It would then be up to those Marchers to travel to Anvil to do whatever they could to make sure those Marchers achieve those titles. While the assembly cannot directly influence the Senate, Military Council, Conclave, or Bourse they can take steps to increase their standing in the Imperial Synod - and by doing so get more Marchers into positions where they can help to influence those responsible for appointing titles.

More to the point, Matilda suggests that now is an excellent time for the people of the Marches to embrace their traditions - and Margaret was nothing if not Proud of the traditions of her people.

Building the Seminary of Margaret's Oak would require a Senate motion (or an Imperial Wayleave). It would require 8 wains of white granite and 4 wains of weirwood, and 24 crowns in labour costs. It would be completed in three months.

Once complete, the seminary would create the title of Prior of Margaret's Oak. The prior would receive 16 votes in the Synod and 8 doses of liao, and be appointed annually by the Marcher national assembly. They would have a responsibility to actively encourage Marcher citizens to seek Imperial titles, and to do whatever they could to help them achieve those titles.

Matilda estimates that there are currently six Imperial positions being filled with Marcher citizens. If the seminary was built, and the prior was able to demonstrate that they have increased the number of Marcher citizens with Imperial positions, then it is likely that other ambitious and proud stewards and aldermen may be prepared to provide donations to further assist in helping yeomen achieve their ambitions. The more Marchers there are with Imperial positions the year after the seminary is completed, the more effective the prior will be seen to be, and the larger the donations would be.

Finally, if the seminary is built it is likely that scholars such as the Heirs of Lepidus would be inspired to gather stories and historical references to Margaret of Meade to be stored at the seminary and distributed across the Empire, raising the profile of the exemplar even without a dose of true liao being used to secure her renown.

Varushka

As with the Marches, the Varushkan assembly has been working very closely together in recent years. With the support of the Senate, they have completed work on a seminary in the Vale of Strascovia called the Hearth of Virtue. Dedicated to the study and practice of the seven virtues, it has been lauded by the national assembly as a play dedicated to the Way that proves the Varushkan commitment to the Imperial faith.

Still, the Varushkan people are nothing if not wise - and they know that things do not always last. As a consequence, there is some talk about following the Highborn example and appointing a Speaker for the Varushkan Assembly. Rather than build something new, however, wise ones from Karov, Volodmartz, and Karsk have all suggested that the sensible thing to do would be to refine the responsibilities of the Tender of the Hearth. Rather than merely protecting people visiting the seminary, they suggest that their responsibilities be expanded to include supporting the national assembly, encouraging the study of the Way across Varushka, and ensuring that priests visiting Anvil take full advantage of their ability to raise and vote on judgements - not only in the Varushkan national assembly but also in the Virtue and General Assemblies. At a time when questions of orthodoxy and commitment to the Way rear their ugly heads again and again, this could only be to the benefit of the people of Varushka.

It would be easy enough to do all this simply by securing a commitment from the current Tender of the Hearth, but to be entirely effective the wise ones suggest that it be made official.

Tender of the Hearth

A properly worded Senate motion to Amend the responsibilities of the Tender of the Hearth could be passed, adding the additional responsibilities. At the same time, they counsel, the title should become an annual appointment by the Varushkan National Assembly - they suggest that the Senator raising the motion ask the Constitutional Court to consider setting the season of appointment to Spring, to coincide with the festival of Zoria, Paragon of Wisdom. After all, it is wisdom that guides the wise ones.

If the responsibilities and election are amended, the other wise ones of Varushka would throw their support behind the Tender of the Hearth, and the prominence of the Hearth of Virtue would be greatly enhanced. The immediate result would be that the title would provide an additional dose of liao each season, and an additional two votes (bringing it up to 10 liao and 20 votes). It would further cement the status of the Tender of the Hearth as the person to speak to regarding religious matters in Varushka that may concern the national assembly.

The alternative to expanding the role and responsibility of the Tender of the Hearth would be to commission an entirely new title in line with the responsibilities outlined here. That would mean a new commission that would have to be passed and paid for - to ensure that the position had sufficient resources to support them - either something of a comparable size to the Tender of the Hearth, or something much larger if Varushka wished to ensure that the leadership of the Varushkan National Assembly could rival the leadership of other nations such as the League and Highguard.

Other Assemblies

There is of course nothing to stop other National Assemblies creating similar titles to help guide their own priests. The Senate is more than capable of creating sinecures that would grant a title similar to the Speaker for the Highborn Assembly, a degree of prestige in the Imperial Synod, and make it easier for them to help guide their national assembly. With appropriate responsibilities, and an annual appointment, any national assembly could benefit from the presence of a recognised priest to organise their meetings and encourage them to participate in the business of the Synod.

It might also be possible with a statement of principle to call for widespread support for the creation of such a title. For example, the troubadours of Dawn might appeal through the national assembly for a prestigious temple such as Laroc Cathedral to become the seat of a First Troubadour, or the Navarr assembly might announce the intent to create a Priests' Brand and invite suggestions from the rest of the nation as to how best that might be achieved. If those statements achieve greater majorities, they may lead to opportunities similar to those presented here.

Limitations

The opportunities presented here are not time-limited at present; they will remain available until the end of the Autumn Equinox at least. If they are likely to become unavailable, there will be at least a season's advance warning unless the change in circumstance is particularly unexpected.

Bear in mind that in each case, as titles with votes in the Synod, it is illegal to use any votes provided by the title during the appointment of that title. The onus lies on the title holder to inform the Tribune of their correct number of votes when voting for the appointment of any title they hold, otherwise they risk being prosecuted for subverting the agencies of state if the matter comes to light. This restriction applies regardless of whether the incumbent is seeking re-appointment and wishes to vote for a different candidate.