"Only human spirits reincarnate, so humans are the greatest of all beings in creation," snarled Tolhuaca. Coco took a step back - but only a single step. He squared off against his counterpart, jutting his chin slightly.

"I accept that," said Coco through gritted teeth. He took a deep breath. "But also... Wisdom knows all knowledge is incomplete and that must also include the doctrines."

A gasp went up from the watching crowd. Himilco, of the High House of Vigilance, stood up slowly. All eyes turned to them.

"The wilful rejection," they said slowly into the sudden silence. "or perversion of, the orthodox Doctrines of the Faith."

There was a chorus of muttering. Tolhuaca folded her arms triumphantly, nostrils flaring. Coco licked his lips nervously.

"Wisdom teaches us..." he began and then trailed off. He blinked several times, then set his shoulders. "Wisdom teaches us that only fools accept hearsay as truth."

There was another wave of muttering and a few gasps.

"You are courting heresy," said Himilco, their voice flat and threatening. "Are you truly comparing the Doctrines of the Faith to hearsay? Are you certain you wish to do this for these creatures? These orcs? These..."

Someone cleared their throat in the doorway. All eyes turned to see who had interrupted Himilco. Laloc the traveller, recently returned from distant lands, walked calmly across the floor to stand between the three arguing präster.

"Have any of you actually met an orc?" asked Laloc mildly. Heads shook around the room. "Because I have. I spent a year or so in the Empire and I actually spoke to them. They are people. They are as real as tables. There is no doubt that they can choose virtue, even if they do not reincarnate. But so what? That's not what we're really debating here."

Tolhuaca looked askance at Himilco, who bridled at Laloc's tone. "We are debating doctrine not...."

"No," interrupted Laloc politely. "That is not what you are really talking about is it? Be honest, Himilco. This is not really about doctrine at all."

Himilco's face twisted into a mask of fury.

"How dare you accuse me of dishonesty?" he growled.

"The Virtuous face unwelcome truths." said Laloc, his own voice suddenly cold and hard like an unexpected blade. "And the truth is that you are all trying to answer the wrong question. And until you realise what the right question is, you are building your house on shifting sands. So ask yourselves. If this is not about doctrine, and it is not about orcs, what is this really about?"
Ambassador Accalon.jpg
Accalon has been Ambassador to the Sumaah Republic for most of the recent crisis between the two Synods.


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The Sumaah Republic and the Empire in theory have a shared faith. Both enshrine the teachings of the Way as the only accepted religion. Sadly, this shared religion has done more to divide the two nations in recent years than anything else. There have been several bones of contention, and the Imperial Synod recognised these in Spring 383YE with a judgement in the General Assembly agreeing to make no further changes to doctrine, and to recognise no new paragons and exemplars until a symposium could be held to discuss the future. That symposium has now taken place - albeit in fairly reduced circumstances. A single Sumaah Cardinal Cosatti of the High House of Prosperity - met with delegates chosen to represent the Empire; Viviane de Coeurdefeur, Hywel Summercrow, Clarice Novarion, Astrid Fjellrevening Rezia di Tassato, and Severin Teyhard von Holberg.

After the meeting, Cardinal Cossati returned to Sumaah and raised an agreed upon statement of principle... and as a consequence it appears that the Sumaah have reached a momentous decision.

The Symposium

During the Spring Equinox, a small contingent of priests from the Sumaah Republic visited Anvil to meet with their opposite numbers in the Imperial Synod. Due to a series of unfortunate events, only a single cardinal and his aides were able to actually attend the meeting. A semi-formal discussion ensued regarding the challenges posed by two Proud and Ambitious nations both pursuing a common faith.

With some difficulty, all parties to the Symposium were able to agree that the Sumaah and the Empire agree on several points - the nature of the Seven Virtues, the role of the Labyrinth, the importance of inspirational figures and so on. However, that left two fundamental points on which it was clear that the Synods of Sumaah and the Empire could never agree - at least not currently

The first is on how the Way should be spread. The Empire, thanks perhaps to the fact it is made up of many nations, tends to favour a diplomatic approach. They rely on negotiation and compromise as often as not, and are prepared to tolerate other faiths and beliefs about the Way (up to a point). The Sumaah on the other hand are a single united nation and are not prepared to tolerate other religions. For them, the Way is self-evidently true and those who will not accept it are treated as enemies. One approach favours the word, the other the sword. Both nations share the ultimate goal of converting everyone to the practice of the Way; but no agreement was possible on how that should be done and what that ultimately means.

The other is the status of orcs as participants in the Way - as lay followers, priests, and as inspirations. The Doctrine of the Ancestors and the Howling Abyss have been extensively discussed in Sumaah, as has their implications for the Doctrine of Human Destiny. The difficulties the Sumaah präster have had reconciling these ideas is a major sticking point. Yet it is also an illustration of where the fundamental problems lie with the relationship between the two Synods.

The Sumaah Synod agrees that it will take at least a generation to reach a decision about whether there is a role for orcs in the Way, and what that role should be.

Cardinal Cosatti, Spring Equinox 383YE, Upheld (Passed with a Greater Majority)

A Generation or More

Following the meeting, Cardinal Cosatti returned to the holy city of Timoj and put an agreed-upon statement of principle before the Sumaah General Assembly. Unlike the Imperial Synod, the General Assembly has few legal powers - those powers tend to belong to the powerful Assembly of the Way - but it is commonly used to determine the opinions of the nation as a whole.

In this case, the Cardinal's statement apparently spawned half a dozen other statements from various factions within the Sumaah Synod. Some priests denounced the statement, asserting that it would not take a generation to determine that orcs have no place in the Way. Others took the opposite stance - that there was no need for extensive discussion and that it was self-evident that orcs should be accepted into the Way just as humans are. One alternative statement argued that a generation was too long and that with sufficient focus the problem could be solved within the decade, while still another statement suggested that the new doctrines were unnecessary and that it did not actually matter whether orcs could reincarnate or not as long as they acknowledged the importance of the Seven Virtues - although clearly they could not be präster, nor could they be paragons or exemplars. The debate apparently became quite heated.

In the end, however, Cardinal Cosatti's statement was the only one that achieved a greater majority, and it did so by a sizable margin. The Sumaah Synod cannot, and will not, accept the changes in Doctrine the Empire has made, not without many years of further argument, debate, discussion, and investigation. The two Synods have diverged on matters of doctrine, and now must decide what to do about it.

What Does This Mean?

The Sumaah Assembly of the Way, in conjunction with the Council of Eight, will now discuss what to do in light of this statement. In their role as diplomat to the Empire, Oxtitocszin, Censor of wood, metal and stone, of the High House of Pride has ensured that the Imperial Synod is aware of the situation. The Sumaah Council and Assembly are still debating the practicalities, but their intention is to formally announce their separation from the Imperial Synod.

"There is no doubt that Sumaah owes a debt of gratitude to the Imperial Synod," writes Oxtitocszin on behalf of the Cardinals of the High Houses. "Your wayfarers helped to fan the embers of our faith into the roaring fire that it is today. Without your mentorship, we might have fallen back into the darkness. Yet there comes a time for every parent where they must acknowledge that their children are no longer children, and allow them to walk out into the world to face it on their own terms - Pride and Ambition demand nothing less - and we are agreed that the time has come for us to make our own way."

Nothing has been formalised yet, but in the opinion of Oxtitocszin, it is simply a matter of time. The Sumaah Synod will shortly announce itself to be equal to, and separate from, the Imperial Synod. Due to the success of the informal Symposium during the Spring Equinox, the desire of the Council of Eight is to separate on good terms. The Sumaah want to become independent of the Imperial Synod, but they want the separation to be handled diplomatically. The Empire will remain Sumaah's most important ally in the wider world, fellow members of the Liberty Pact and travellers on the Way.

To achieve this, the Sumaah are going to use the coming Solstice to place the following statement of principle before their General Assembly to cement this understanding, at least in the immediate future:

The Sumaah Synod is equal to and separate from the Imperial Synod. There are as many paths to Virtue as there are paths of Virtue. While we differ with the Imperial Synod in some regards, in others we are of one mind. Where there is conflict between us let us settle it through debate, and where there are threats to the Way from outside, let us be united against them.

General Assembly

Oxtitocszin suggests that the Council of the Nine present an equivalent statement of principle to their own General Assembly. Should both judgements pass then it will do a lot to reduce tensions between Sumaah and Imperial priests, especially when they are engaged in missionary activities. If both judgements pass with a greater majority then this will ensure that there are good relations between the two nations going forwards, at least from the Sumaah side.

A Peculiar Detente

One element that was raised during the Symposium at Anvil was the proposal that it might help to smooth relations between the Republic and the Empire if the priests of one nation were able to raise statements of principle in the other nation - to gauge the feelings of their opposite numbers as much as anything else. The Council of Eight, the General Assembly, and the Sumaah House of the People (their equivalent of the Senate) are all leery of this proposal. Membership of the Sumaah Synod - the ability to raise and vote on judgements - is restricted to Sumaah citizens just as membership of the Imperial Synod is restricted to Imperial citizens. While there is a will for amicable cooperation, the proposal is seen as going too far.

Oxtitocszin has a compromise to suggest. The role of the Censor of Wood and Stone (an archaic title that dates back to a time when the Sumaah were more interested in acquiring resources than diplomatic compromise) is to speak to outsiders and, in a way, to share their concerns with the people of Sumaah. They guess that the Ambassador to the Sumaah Republic has a similar role in the Empire. It would be entirely appropriate for diplomats to ask each other about the opinions of the Synod in the other nation - and where that opinion was not clear to ask an allied priest to raise a suitable statement of principle to determine it. Rather than needing any new formal powers, this would simply be an example of diplomats building on their existing roles.

More Practical Concerns

Previously, the Sumaah Synod had asked the Imperial Synod to refrain from recognising new paragons and exemplars, and making any kind of change of doctrine. Those requests were based on the idea that the two Synods would remain part of the same religion. With separation imminent, this requested forbearance no longer appears necessary. The Assembly of the Nine, or the General Assembly, may wish to raise a statement of principle addressing the words of Lord Edward Novarion from Spring 383YE - that a year has passed, or that an agreement has been reached.

The Imperial Crown

There is also the matter of the Imperial Crown. Allegedly stolen by League citizen Guillamo de Tassato, the crown was delivered to the Sumaah shortly before the coronation of Imperatrix Lisabetta. During the Symposium, Cardinal Cosatti expressed their own concerns about this situation - that the theft of the Crown was clearly a wicked act in the eyes of any virtuous pilgrim of Prosperity or Pride - and that they were not the only one who felt like this. While the main focus has been on the matter of the two Synods, there has also apparently been a great deal of discussion about the Crown.

News reaches the Empire that the Assembly of the Way and the House of the People are in agreement - the Crown should no longer be in the hands of the Sumaah Republic. Accordingly, it will be placed on a ship under careful guard by präster of the High House of Vigilance - and will be returned to the Empire as soon as possible. Most likely it will arrive in time for the Autumn Equinox.

Further Reading