I, Jared of the Suns of Couros and Cardinal of Loyalty, go with 100 liao to bring word of the return of the First Empress and of The Land Without Tears to the entire Empire. Rejoice all virtuous faithful for the Soul of the First Empress has chosen to return from Beyond the Labyrinth of Ages and now resides reborn within Sister Yael of Felix's Watch. All should pay heed to Yael's vision of The Land Without Tears - the place beyond the Labyrinth to which all Paragon Spirits ascend - and know that she has returned to aid our understanding of The Way of Virtue in this life.The General Assembly of the Imperial Synod 380YE Summer Solstice
With decisive backing from the Imperial Synod, Jared of the Suns of Couros and others travel the breadth of the Empire, bringing word of the Land Without Tears and the return of the First Empress to all. The message is carried to every corner of the Empire - from the ice floes of the Suaq wastes to the edges of the Black Plateau in Screed - from the Towers of Anduz to the deepest mountains of Opascari. Additional interest is excited by the publication of the first part of the third volume of Echoes of the Labyrinth (Livia of the Spire of the Celestial Cascade's accounts of the past life visions of Imperial citizens), which includes details of the vision that revealed Yael's unique identity.
Some are confused by the message - unsure what to make of it. How does one reach the Land Without Tears? If is achieved by following the Way of Virtue - then why is that any different to what people have always done? What is the significance of the Land?
Some are intrigued by the message - eager to know more. What is this Land like? Is everyone who reaches the Land reborn eventually like the First Empress? Who is there? Will they be reunited with loved ones they have lost? What can they expect if they can read this Land?
Some are angered by the message - they denounce it as heresy. If a paragon is one who has transcended the Labyrinth never to return - how can Yael be a paragon who has returned? Who is this Yael who claims to be the First Empress reborn? Why should anyone believe this extraordinary claim?
Only a few embrace the message - a new understanding of the Way. They ask what this will mean now that the First Empress is reborn? Are there more revelations to come? Will Yael visit this part of the Empire to preach? What would the First Empress have her people do? How can they help to spread her word?
Only a few... a tiny handful in each village in the Marches. A pair or two in every chapter in Highguard, Just one from each street in the League. But as the word spreads across the land, these few scattered drops of rain from every part of the Empire come together to make a storm.
"Who's there? Show yourself! I warn you I have a loaded crossbow - if you're a bandit, you've picked the wrong woman to rob!" Baerdolli clutched the billy club in both hands - it was a poor weapon for deterring a thief, but in the dark the bluff might be enough to persuade this ruffian to hunt elsewhere.
"Be at peace good merchant, I have no interest in your goods - I am merely a traveller on this road like yourself." It was a man's voice, she could just make him out now in the gloom darkness of the starless night - he didn't look like a bandit but he was walking with the aid of a stout staff that could easily be dangerous.
"It's late for a traveller - what's your business?" she shouted back - hoping the man was telling the truth but not willing to let her guard down for a second. Seek out falsehood and expose the truth he reminded himself.
"I am pilgrim - travelling to Reikos. To see the First Empress reborn."
Baerdolli sniffed - she'd heard some tale in Holberg of this First Empress - a fellow preaching in the street near the tavern where she had been staying while the food she had brought to market was sold. It was a peculiar tale and she had paid it no heed. She was not a woman given to crying at the worst of times - and with peace in the East, times were pretty good right now.
He had caught up with her wagon now - the pair of old oxen that pulled it were slow at the best of times and could clearly see that Baerdolli's "crossbow" was just a crude wooden stick. Nervously she eyed the pommel of her knife just visible where it poked out of the top of her tall boot. If he was going to attack her now was the moment to do it.
The newcomer smiled, it was a pleasant smile, warm and genuine. "Let me tell you about the Land Without Tears..."
There are two common means by which the citizens of the Empire give voice to their faith. Most devout pilgrims will be part of a congregation - one with a priest whose virtue and temperament fits their own. If they wish to meet regularly with their priest then by necessity their church must be local, somewhere they can reach with a few hours walk at most. The citizens of every nation expresses their devotion differently - reflecting their culture - but most seek out the advice, guidance, and support of a virtuous priest who can help them with their own steps on the path of Virtue.
The other common model is pilgrimage - citizens will make a great journey to visit one of the holy sites of the Empire. To the tombs of the Empresses and Emperors buried in Necropolis. To the marshes of Kallevesa where the great heroes are interred. To the basilicas raised to glorify the names of the greatest paragons and exemplars. The journey is difficult - an act of faith and commitment that clears the mind and opens the soul. Some come to experience the potent auras that imbue sites of pilgrimage, some to hear the words of the Empire's great preachers.
Most of those who have embraced the truth of Yael's revelation know they can have no hope that their paragon will come to them, that she will find herself visiting their locale. Rather than go without guidance - some take the only alternative available if they wish to hear the words of salvation direct from the lips of the First Empress - they begin a pilgrimage - some travel to Reikos where the Congregation of the First Empress is based, others seek her in Casinea where she is rumoured to live.
From across the Empire these pilgrims come, a trickle that soon turns into a river as they are joined by others. Each intent on reaching the home of the First Empress hoping that they might hear her preach. No living being has attracted such a following since the time of Nicovar. An tidal wave of people descend on Casinea and Reikos, honest aldermen from Mead, wagon raiders from Karsk, merchants of every conceivable trade from the League - citizens from every land - all swelling the ranks of her already bulging congregation. Most stay only a few days - enough to hear Yael preach if they are lucky - before setting off on the dangerous journey home. But there are always newcomers to take their place - and their numbers swell with every day.
As a result, Yael's congregation, already vast, continues to grow at an extraordinary rate. By the time of the Autumn Equinox, after the latest census of her congregation by the civil service, she is awarded 160 votes and liao in proportion.
A steady flow of pilgrims from across the Empire are now travelling to Casinea and Reikos in the hope of speaking with Yael or hearing her preach. When they arrive some choose to stay at hostels and inns in the area - if they can find room. Others must make do by building a shelter in a makeshift camp. It is common in circumstances such as these where large numbers of citizens are undertaking a pilgrimage to commission a suitable structure, a sanctuary to house the pilgrims and serve as a place of devotion for them. Members of the Yael's assembly, the Congregation of the First Empress, do what they can to support those pilgrims who travel to Reikos but it is clear that a more permanent solution is needed.
A suitable sanctuary would require at least 20 wains of white granite (and the appropriate funds to pay labour costs). It would also need authorization by the Imperial Senate. This would result in a structure large enough to support the current stream of pilgrims, even with the anticipated increase that the new structure would encourage. However support for Yael is much stronger in Reikos than in most other territories in the Empire, so there is good reason to imagine that her support elsewhere may yet grow further. A much larger structure, 50, 100 wains or more, might ensure that the sanctuary did not need to be rebuilt in the future.
Crucially the Empire would need to decide whether to build the Sanctuary of the First Empress in Reikos where her following first flowered or in Casinea where Yael's personal congregation is known to lie. This will help give the pilgrims certainty and make the journey to see Yael quicker and safer.
The pilgrims of Yael are mindful of the Empire's troubles and are able to provide 10 wains of white granite to support the construction. The first ten wains of any construction would thus be provided by donations from grateful citizens. It would take one season per 50 wains of white granite to complete the sanctuary - but careful design would mean that it could begin offering a place of rest for the current pilgrims as soon as the first season is complete.
Once built, the Synod would need to appoint a suitable priest to be responsible for the sanctuary. This could be an Imperial appointment since the pilgrims are travelling from across the Empire - or it could be a Highborn national appointment to reflect it's location. Whoever is appointed will receive additional votes and liao dependent on the size of the sanctuary as if it were a sinecure of equivalent size. The Synod could appoint Yael if she were minded to accept or another priest, but given the circumstances the appointee will need to be someone of whom the First Empress publicly approves otherwise her pilgrims will not make use of the sanctuary.
The Land Without Tears
At present there are many citizens of the Empire who have questions about the new revelation. Some have doubts about the truth that has been revealed - though it is difficult for them to be openly critical given the clear backing of the General Assembly. Those citizens who are interested in Yael's messages but have not yet converted, seek guidance from their own national assembly.
If the national Assembly of each nation passes a judgement encouraging folk to listen to the First Empress reborn then the backing of the Synod will help to clear any confusion that remains in the minds of their citizens. By passing a suitably worded motion in support of Yael, the Synod can authorize a priest of their nation to employ 25 liao to spread word of the return of the First Empress throughout their territories. This would double the number of pilgrims undertaking pilgrimage to Reikos from that nation. These pilgrims would be drawn from existing congregations across the nation - but the effects would not be significant enough to cause a drop in votes or liao for the affected congregations.
Alternatively the assembly could use 50 liao or more, to emphasize the importance of the Yael's message - this would significantly boost the number of pilgrims traveling to Reikos, but owners of congregations in the affected territories would see a significant impact on the size of their own congregations as citizens left their care to undertake pilgrimage. This reduction in the size of personal congregations could potentially be permanent, barring other developments.
At present the centre of this new revelation is in Reikos - where most of the Congregation of the First Empress reside - but if a national assembly used more than 150 liao to endorse Yael's message then the impact would be so great that it would move the centre of the faithful to whichever nation expended the most liao - potentially permanently.
Countering the Congregation of the First Empress
If the General Assembly passes a judgement refuting earlier judgements that the First Empress "is now amongst us again and we must listen and learn from her again" or the Yael's claims to have had a "vision of the Labyrinth and of the Land Without Tears" then they can name a priest to travel to spread this message across the Empire with 500 liao. This will counter the effects of the Congregation of the First Empress, persuading those who have sworn to the new congregation to give up their crusade undoing all the work that has been achieved so far.
As always, in the event that multiple incompatible judgements are passed, the judgement that has had the largest amount of liao spent on it takes precedence.