Some to misery are born
"I understand that, I understand it all. But at the end of the day the Synod does not agree. Hatred is a weakness. By cleaving to Hatred, you are condemning yourselves and your children to never find your way through the Labyrinth. I don't want to call you a cult ..."
"That's good to hear," Friar Bill - the Whittle friar - stepped between Angela and the butcher, facing the Upwolder. "Because, with due respect, coming here to our homes and calling us cultists, or a heretics, or a blasphemers ... would be rude, and that would definitely be a mistake."
The Whittle friar's face was sheened with sweat, and he looked worried. Friar Angela assumed he didn't want an Upwolder talking to these Whittle folk because he was worried that a bit of solid common sense would shake their misbegotten blasphemy out of them. Behind the counter, the towering butcher wiped her hands on her apron and folded her arms, scowling.
"Thank you friar, but I am speaking to the butcher," said Angela firmly, applying gentle pressure to push the older man to one side. With a worried glance, the Whittle friar stepped back out onto the street, and Angela could hear him talking - but her attention was focused on the butcher.
"What I think you don't understand -" she began.
The butcher interrupted her, slamming open the hinged partition in her counter and striding towards Angela. She loomed over the smaller woman, and jabbed her in the chest with one meaty finger.
"No it's you who don't understand Upwolder." she snapped. "And your lack of Wisdom is embarassin'. Thirty years we were alone in the Mourn. Thirty. Years. Our neighbours, they fought for a bit but in the end they bowed their heads to the damn orcs, or they left their land and ran off north with their tails between their legs. But not us! We were Proud enough to stay behind and brave enough to fight and you - your Synod - come in here tellin' us we have to ... what? Be ashamed? Deny what we know is true?"
Friar Angela was taken aback.
"It's not like that it's -" she tried, but she could feel her own temper rising.
Again, the butcher cut her off.
"No. Be quiet." The butcher was in no mood to listen. " You've been here talking 'bout virtue for what seems like half a day now, distractin' people from their work, and now its time for you to listen. We were alone in Whittle. We had nobody else but each other. We weren't going to give up our land, and we were sure as cocks crow not going to bow to orcs. To filth! So we fought and we fought until the damn dirty orcs had to bow their heads to us and do you know why we kept fighting?"
Her face was flushed, as was the face of her assistant - her son Angela guessed. The Upwolder's eyes roamed between the meat cleaver the lad was holding, his furious expression, and the finger his mother was jabbing into Angela's chest. Angela took a step back, but the big butcher matched her step for step as she talked, until they were both stood on the street. A crowd had gathered.
"Because we hated them! Because they dared to come and try and tell us we were their servants now, that we had to give up all our traditions and bow our heads to our new masters, and stop being Marchers! Does any of this sound familiar?"
Friar Angela rallied, squared up against the butcher. Angela was aware that Friar Bill was desperately calling for calm, but everyone was ignoring him.
"How dare you compare us to the Jotun!" she gritted through clenched teeth, furious herself now. "The assembly has got more to worry about than Whittle! The whole Synod is watching! You can't keep saying that Hate is a virtue. It is Blasphemy!"
The butcher spat at her feet. A ripple went through the crowd, their faces stony.
"That for your blasphemy!" shouted the butcher. She put her face close to Angela's flecks of spittle in the corners of her mouth as she ranted. "Where was the assembly when they came for Friar Robin! I'll tell you where - they were standin' round noddin' their heads about how wicked he was. Did you offer to hold the magistrate's axe when they came to execute him? Did you? A good man, a wise man, and a brave man. Did you think that you could have him killed and then come here and tell us it was all done and now we could all be happy friends again - as long as we condone the murder of a good man and abandon all our traditions because you tell us to? GET OUT!"
There were approving shouts from the crowd. Several clapped. Some twenty Marchers, red-faced, muttering. The Whittle friar had hold of one of them, talking quickly and quietly. The faces of the crowd - her fellow Marchers - were twisted masks of fury and grief. The Upwold priest stopped backing up. She planted her feet firmly on the cobblestones. Robed in Courage, she squared her shoulders and looked the butcher straight in the eye, showing none of her fear.
"I'm not done. I've still got things to say and you're not going to shut me up! You may not want to listen to me, but you are damn well going to hear what I have to say!"
The butcher met her gaze, and held it. She began to roll up her sleeves.
"Get out, Upwolder. Stay out of my shop, and get off our land. One more word and, paragons and exemplars protect me, I will throw you out."
There was a ripple of agreement from the crowd. Friar Angela took a deep breath and -
The League Assembly invites Marcher priests to Tassato Mestra to proselytise to the citizens fleeing from Whittle to counter the influence of Hatred in their midstVitor di Mestra, Leage national assembly
The Marchers of Whittle are settling in in Tassato, having secured the approval of the Tassato Chamber of Commerce to create an enclave there. They have bought two streets in Tassato Mestra, providing fair recompense to the owners of each property, and then moved their people into the buildings. A significant number of the people living in the properties are older folk, children, and the parents of young children, but there are enough strong yeomen, ready and willing to work, to ensure that their community is looked after. One family opens a bakery at one end of the street, selling Marcher cuisine to anyone with coin. At the other end, a group of enterprising Whittle folk open a small pub - although the clientele are primary Marchers, they include Marcher folk visiting Tassato looking for a little slice of home away from home.
Citizens of Tassato are reminded of their Pride in our traditions and their Loyalty to the League and the Way - the Whittle Marchers who have moved to Tassato should be welcomed and shown by example the worth of true Virtue, but the League must steel their hearts against any preaching of Hatred.Erasmo di Tassato, League national assembly
A fair number of the younger men and women were at Overton when it fell, and died fighting on the walls of Orchard's Watch. The night the news came to Tassato, the Whittle folk held a vigil through the night for the spirits of those who fell - yet their somber ceremony was not one of great sorrow. Their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, died fighting the despised Jotun - they died trying to protect their fellow Marchers from orcish taint - and the people of Whittle are sure they will pass through the Labyrinth and be reborn swiftly. There is grief, but as the Marcher saying goes "You can't cure a ham without killing the pig."
Their vigil is as much about celebrating the twenty thousand dead orcs as it is remembering the dead Whittle folk - and their ceremony also praises the soldiers of the Drakes who fought like "true Marchers", refusing to cede an inch of the Mournwold to the orcs. Disturbingly, at one point, one of the celebrants actually denounces those other Imperial forces who lost warriors in the defence of Overton - claiming that due to the weakness of those foreign generals in giving orders to retreat before the Jotun, those fallen soldiers will be condemned to be reborn as rats or crows. The response is muted ... but nobody condemns them for their words.
The friars and monks of the Marches reject hatred, it is a false virtue. It was hate and isolationism that led to the terrible divisions of our civil war. We encourage the folk of Whittle to return to the traditions of the marches by following the true seven Virtues that will aid their soulsMartin Orchard, Marcher assembly
The problem of Hatred
While the Tassato Chamber of Commerce may welcome the Whittle folk, the League assembly is not quite as sanguine, and neither are the friars of the Marcher assembly. There are significant concerns in the Synod about the false spiritual power of Hatred.
The Whittle folk do not attempt to hide the fact, along with the traditional seven Virtues, they respect the power of Hatred. For all they claim that this spiritual power has gave them the strength to resist the Jotun during the thirty-year occupation of the Mournwold, Hate is condemned by the Synod as a false virtue. They show no inclination to change - but also little interest in talking about it to the people of Tassato.
They have no interest in debating matters of faith, especially in the light of the judicial execution of one of their spiritual leaders. Friar Robin was condemned by the Marcher national assembly and executed for blasphemy during the Winter Solstice. News of the execution saw the first public displays of grief that the Whittle folk had demonstrated since their arrival.Grief - and anger. Friar Robin was well respected - loved even.
Condemnation. The Marcher National Assembly calls for a condemnation of Friar Robin of Wittle for spreading the auras of the false virtue of Hate. He has committed blasphemy.Andrew Gifford, Marcher assembly (Autumn 380YE)
When a visiting Marcher monk from Upwold attempted to discuss the importance of abandoning their traditions a week later, she was forcibly driven out of the area by the outraged Whittle folk. Other visiting Marcher priests have received similar short shrift. In no uncertain terms they are told that the people of Whittle are not interested in having priests tell them their traditional ways are wrong, no matter what Imperial nation they may call home thank-you-very-much.
The Tassato Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the Whittle folk. They have kept to their agreements, and as near as anyone can tell they deal with all interactions with the people of Tassato in a calm and professional manner. They keep themselves to themselves, and are making absolutely no attempt to adopt League customs or modes of dress, but they are polite, and surprisingly civic minded - the two little streets they now occupy might be the cleanest, safest, best maintained, and most well-lit streets in Tassato Mestra.
But the religious issue refuses to go away... and it is not as cut and dried as perhaps it might be.
The bishops of the League
The people of Whittle have their own friars, and hold their own religious services which are not open to outsiders. They give every sign of practicing the seven Virtues - especially Prosperity, Pride, Loyalty, and Vigilance - but they will not refute or deny their belief that their hatred of the Jotun is what gave them the strength to keep the Jotun at bay for so many years.
Obviously, this is a matter of concern for the Synod.
The Imperial Synod sends X with 50 doses of liao to warn the people of Tassato of the dangers of dealing with the avowed blasphemers of Whittle. Hate is a false virtue, and those who harbour it in their hearts are a danger to the faithful.Synod Mandate
Following on from several statements of principle during the Winter Solstice, the League Assembly can issue a mandate denouncing the people of Whittle as blasphemers, warning the people of Tassato to give them a wide berth. While the priests cannot drive the Whittle folk out directly, they can discourage League citizens from speaking to them, and make clear the potential danger of associating with them. This will essentially turn the area they have purchased into a ghetto, one where no League citizen will go. It will also mean that they will encounter increased prices for goods, and the cold shoulder from their neighbours.
This will remove any chance that the Whittle folk will be able to preach Hatred to the people of Tassato - were they so inclined - but it will also end the beneficial arrangement with the Chamber of Commerce. This means that the green iron shared out among the businesses and farms would be lost.
There is also a chance that this might lead to violence - telling devout followers of the Way (and there are plenty of those in the League) that there are blasphemers among them will encourage some of those followers to take direct action against the danger in their midst. If this mandate is upheld it is likely that the Whittle folk will be forced to move on by the end of the year.
The monks of the Marches
The Marcher assembly continues to denounce hatred - blaming it for the terrible turmoil of the civil war that shook the Marches during the foundation of the Empire. Some of the folk of Whittle refute this interpretation - they argue that what split the Marches during the foundation of the Empire was the demand that good Marcher folk abandon their traditional independence and bow to an external force. But that was long ago, and the argument is largely academic in nature.
Regardless of the details, the national assembly has made it fairly clear that the folk of Whittle cannot embrace Hatred and still be considered good Marchers.
The Marcher assembly sends X with 50 doses of liao to spread the word in Upwold, Mitwold, and Bregasland that the folk of Whittle are not good Marchers. Their refusal to abandon their misguided belief in the power of Hate marks them as blasphemers. They must be shunned until they renounce their blasphemy.Synod Mandate
If the Marcher assembly passes the above mandate, the named priest can encourage the people of the Marches to shun the folk of Whittle. Shunning is a traditional Marcher response to those who persist in ignoring Marcher traditions. In response to this clear guidance from the assembly, the people of Upwold, Mitwold, and Bregasland would refuse to deal with the Whittle folk - they would not trade with them, and would not offer them sanctuary in the event that they are ejected from Tassato.
Alternatively, the Marcher assembly or the General assembly may be able to suggest another way to deal with the Whittle folk, but doing so would require further statement of principle, passed with a greater majority, that offered more than simply another condemnation of their inclusion of Hatred among the seven Virtues of the way.