Kejek and Eft sat on porch, watching Yantl chopping wood in the early evening gloom.

Neither of them had said anything for several minutes when Kejek broke the silence. "So. What does it mean then."

Eft made a face, he'd been hoping to avoid this kind of question. "I think, I guess. Well for a start it means that we can talk about ancestors, and the Howling Abyss, and that without anyone being able to accuse us of, you know, any sort of religious crime."

"We could do that anyway though, surely" said Kejek, unconvinced.

"Well technically no." he said. He struggled to articulate his thoughts. "This doctrine means that the Synod has agreed that they think its true. What we know, I mean."

"Well it is true," said Kejek.

"Yes of course it is, but now the rest of the Empire has said it is too, and not just them. There's people all over look to Bastion for guidance and now they'll know it too."

"What people?" asked Kejek.

"People." he waved one hand vaguely southward. "Far away people. Humans, in other lands and the like."

Eft looked away. Yantl had paused to wipe his brow on the cloth wrapping his wrist. He shrugged his leather tunic off, and went back to chopping. The other two orcs watched him in companionable appreciation for another few minutes.

"Actually, I think its more than that," said Eft suddenly. "I think it means that we can talk about, you know, your grandad, and Stormcrow Kallendar, and, like, Irontide Bruk if you have to. As ancestors. Without anyone being able to tell us to stop."

Kejek stretched behind her and helped herself to a handful of nuts. "What about Thrace?"

Eft made another face. "That's where it gets tricky. He's been declared an exemplar of Ambition but according to one of the preachers I spoke to, there could be some issues."

Kejek laughed. Yantl looked over, surprised. She waved her hand at him and shouted over to him to get back to work and put some back into it.

"'Issues' you say. I bet there are! Mind you, I always thought he was more brave than ambitious. When I hear one of his stories he makes me proud. Everyone says he was pretty loyal ..."

"Not wise though," interjected Eft. They both laughed.

"No not wise. Wait is this heresy?"

She meant it as a joke, but Eft immediately stopped laughing. "I don't know," he said wretchedly. "It's ... there's so much bollocks to try and get your head around."

Yantl buried his axe in the stump with an edge of finality, draped his tunic over his shoulder, collected an armful of cut logs, and started to head back to the house.

Kejek watched Eft out of the corner of her eye for a moment. He was clearly unhappy. She shook her head resignedly, and made a decision.

"Right!" she said, slapping her knees. "Tomorrow we head into town to ambush some preachers and we won't let them go until they've answered all our questions. We'll make Yantl get up early and sort the wagon. We'll bribe him with ribs."

"Ribs!" said Yantl enthusiastically as he approached. "I like that idea. Someone cook me ribs - I've been working up an appetite while you two've been sat on your arses gabbling."

He pushed past them. Kejek followed him inside, bantering good-naturedly. Eft remained on the porch watching as the stars came out. He pulled out a handful of his necklaces, quickly sorting them until he found the wooden labyrinth Yantl had carved. He traced the design with one finger, but he could not settle. Finally, with a sigh, he stood up and followed the others inside, hoping that tomorrow someone would be able to help him make sense of his confusion.


During the Winter Solstice, the Symposium of Revelation saw two very significant changes of doctrine that help to place the spiritual beliefs of the Imperial Orcs in context with the Way. The two doctrines, proposed by the preachers Bonewall Rek and Bonewall Cole.

The Doctrine of the Howling Abyss says that: Orcs live only one life. After death, the orcish soul either is lost to the Howling Abyss or crosses it to become an Ancestor who can guide and advise living orcs. This incorporates the orc belief in the Howling Abyss into the doctrine of the Way, and clarifies that orcs do not reincarnate in the way that humans do. It seems to be a clear recognition by the Synod that the souls of humans and those of orcs are fundamentally different.

The Doctrine of the Ancestors says that: To cross the Howling Abyss an orc must be known for their deeds. Though there may be other ways to cross, embracing the Seven Virtues leads an orc to the Great and Inspiring deeds that make an Ancestor and a Virtuous Ancestor can guide future generations on the Way. It acknowledges that orcs do, in truth, hear the voices of their ancestors speaking to them, as well as recognising the idea of the Virtuous Ancestors - that the virtues represent a path across the Howling Abyss for an orc soul.

The Synod also endorsed a symbol of the Howling Abyss created by Skywise Gralka; appointed Atla as Cardinal of the Way; and resisted attempts to clarify doctrine by changing references to "spirit" in several doctrines to "human spirit." They also endorsed a Statement of Principle that the Imperial Orcs should remain part of the Way, rather than being considered a separate religion. Indeed, the Assembly of the Nine further upheld a Statement of Principle that the Gatekeepers should be even-handed in considering orcs as candidates to receive True Liao, as well as humans. After all, while orcs cannot use true liao themselves they may still be inspired by the powerful auras it creates.

All this and Jorma Steelhail still found time to condemn Bloodcrow Yargol for spreading heresy and blasphemy, further demonstrating that the Synod considers the Imperial Orcs to be just as capable of being pilgrims of the Way as any human.

Imperial Orcs should retain their full and equal status in the Synod, and should not be split off into a separate body.

Rhys Temple Hold

We the Assembly of Nine encourage our Gatekeepers to interview Imperial Orcs (for the allocation of True Liao) on equal terms to human candidates for past life visions.

Atla, Cardinal of the Way


Needless to say, this focus on the nature of the orc soul, and the place of the Imperial Orcs within the faith, has had a profound effect on the Imperial Orcs nation. A number of significant questions have finally been answered by the Synod, and with the two new Doctrines they seem to have accepted as true beliefs that previously may have been dismissed as superstition.


A home for the faithful (Opportunity)

As the implications of the changes to doctrine have worked their way through the Imperial Orcs, several well respected preachers have called for a permanent focus to celebrate their newly defined status. They point to the Hall of White Ravens - the congregation of Cardinal Atla - as the obvious candidate to serve as such a focus. The intention is that the house be redesigned and expanded to serve as a school both to increase the understanding of the Way among the Imperial Orcs, and as a place where new preachers can be trained.

The Imperial Senate may choose to answer this call and commission a spiritual centre for the orcs to study the Way - similar to the role played by the Necropolis, the marshes of Kallavesa or even the White City itself. Doing so would require 15 wains of white granite and 5 wains of weirwood, 5 Thrones in labour costs, and take 3 months to complete converting the House into a seminary. When it is complete, the House would cease to function as a congregation, and would instead become a great work that provides a share of 25 votes in the Imperial Synod and 12 liao to every Imperial Orcs congregation in Skarsind.

Cardinal Atla, the current custodian of the House of White Ravens, would need to grant permission for the commission to go ahead; at the end of the day it is still legally their personal resource.

Changing the world

The Imperial Synod sends X with 100 doses of liao to oversee the important task of explaining the Doctrine of the Howling Abyss and the Doctrine of the Ancestors to those followers of the Way who live on foreign shores. They will encourage scholars to travel to Asavea, Jarm, Sarcophan, and the Commonwealth to illuminate the reasons for these changes, and spread the understanding of the orc soul among pilgrims in these distant lands.

Synod Mandate

This change to doctrine is extremely significant - it potentially redefines the relationship between human pilgrims and orcs. There is a significant risk that followers of the Way in foreign nations, who look to Bastion and the Empire for guidance, may fail to embrace these doctrinal changes - especially if the Sumaah Republic chooses to interfere. By sending missionaries into the world to explain the changes, and to engage in reasoned debate with those who are suspicious or critical of them, the Synod can try to ensure that this change does not split the faithful.

This change is likely to be most relevant in places where orcs are treated as less than humans - specifically in Jarm, and to a much lesser degree the Sarcophan Delves. Indeed, if the faithful in Jarm adopt these doctrines, they will start agitating for the emancipation of orc slaves, as well as human slaves. Given the political situation there this will be controversial and will damage relations with the Jarmish - but it is another step toward dismantling the unjust practice of slavery.

The Sumaah Inquisition

The Präster of the Sumaah Republic have been appraised of the changes of doctrine. While the Sumaah are at war with the Empire, the Empire has still not declared war on the Sumaah so they are still considered foreigners, rather than barbarians. Their House of the Way has issued a short statement in response.

The Imperial Synod has taken the bold step of changing doctrine to recognise savage beasts as the spiritual equals of human beings, whose paramount station is enshrined in the Doctrine of Human Destiny. Left to their own devices, people may choose easy paths that lead to evil; it falls to the Wise to prevent the ignorant from making evil choices. The House of the Way sends Tipoa the Insightful, Präst of the Way, Utredare of the House of Wisdom, to inquisition Bonewall Rek and Bonewall Cole; to evaluate the seemingly blasphemous and heretical doctrines they have propagated.

House of the Way

This announcement by the Sumaah has important implications as much for what it does not say. Specifically the Präster have not yet officially denounced these new doctrines themselves - but if they do it will likely mean a permanent, potentially irreconcilable, schism between followers of the Way in Sumaah and the Imperial Synod.

The Sumaah follow the Way, but their religious practices differ slightly in a few areas. They have eight assemblies as the Imperial Synod does, but their House of the Way is without doubt the most powerful. While the Sumaah have a General Assembly, it has few actual powers - and the powers that in the Empire would be wielded by the General Assembly are generally wielded by the Assembly of the Way.

Tipoa the Insightful is expected to arrive in Necropolis (the site of the largely closed-down Sumaah Embassy) shortly before the Summer Solstice, along with a small staff. As with any Inquisition, it falls to the priests who will perfom it to arrange with the subjects a suitable time and place to do so. Tipoa has reportedly dispatched messages to the Imperial Ambassador to the Sumaah Republic, and to certain respected citizens in Highguard, requesting their aid in arranging the Inqusition of the two Imperial Orcs.

They have demanded that only Imperial Orcs will be admitted to the Inquisition - although if the Bonewall orcs wish to bring others of their kind to answer questions they are invited to do so. The Sumaah seem concerned that if humans are present they will be able to coach the Orcs to give apparently virtuous answers, invalidating the inqusition. While it is phrased as a demand, it is likely their Pride that makes them speak in such uncompromising tones. As they are in no position to enforce their demand as there is no legal support for this Inquisition, it really amounts to nothing more than a request, albeit delivered in the last diplomatic way possible.

On the surface, this appears to some to be an insult ... but there is clearly more going on here than first meets the eye.

The Sumaah House of Wisdom follows the same teachings as the Imperial Assembly of Wisdom. Tipoa the Insightful is a high-ranking member of that assembly - the title of Utredare is similar in scope to the title of Imperial Inquisitor - and given the way the Sumaah operate, certainly a truly devout follower of the Way.This is very unlikely to be a "kangaroo court" - it will be a sincere Inquisition intended to get to the bottom of the reasons for these changes of doctrine. A chance exists here to begin repairing relations between Sumaah and the Empire - assuming that Bonewall Rek, Bonewall Cole, and the other Imperial Orc pilgrims of the Way can be persuaded to submit themselves to this indignity then they may be able to convince the Sumaah that they are sentient beings with souls that should be recognised.

Truth can never be told so as to be understood and not be believed.

William Blake