Always a controversial figure, in recent years the Imperal Synod upheld several judgements relating to the historical figure Sulemaine. Perhaps the most important was made in Summer 383YE when Aspar of Urizen enacted a mandate that declared that it is clear that she taught and practised widely on the virtue of Wisdom and that "she cannot be regarded as a false paragon. Following that judgement and the ensuing mandate, the religious historians of the Heirs of Lepidus have published their combined notes on the history of the woman regarded as the first sword scholar, in part to ensure everyone is aware of where the controversy lies.
Sulemaine, daughter of Taziel is not recognised as a paragon or exemplar of the Way despite the efforts of her followers. These followers, particularly the sword scholars, often associate her with Wisdom but there is little consensus among theologians who have made a study of her teachings. Some see a strong element of Ambition or even Courage in her work, others point to darker spiritual forces and contend that her extreme criticism of outside ideas aligns her more strongly with the false spiritual presences of Anarchy or Hatred than any more wholesome force.
There are currently no reputable documents actually penned by Sulemaine herself, but her "wisdom" has been preserved by her followers and passed down within the temples inspired by her memory. These phrases are commonly attributed to Sulemaine, and allegedly encompass much of her cruel philosophy.
"The soul is blade; properly wielded, one strike can change the world"
“If you love a thing, be prepared to destroy it. Only then are you strong enough to protect it.”
“To serve another is to be the blade in their hands – do not question, only cut.”
“Bring strength against weakness and victory is yours. Notions of fairness and honour have no place on the battlefield”
“Pity is an illusion, profiting neither self nor others. Despise pity. Act for the nobility of the act, not for the simple selfishness of ridding yourself of feelings of pity.”
“Mercy is weakness. Mercy shows the enemy your limits. Find your enemy’s limits and go beyond them – make their weakness your weapon”
"Failure is the death of greatness"
"Nothing is more virtuous than success"
"Thought and Action; separate they are meaningless folly."
"Any task can be performed perfectly. To doubt this is to fail before you have even begun."
There are no records of the birth of Sulemaine (or sometimes Sulemeine) daughter of Taziel nor of her early life before she came to Urizen. A handful of sword scholars claim that she came from somewhere beyond the borders of the Empire, but the best evidence suggests that she was born in the Brass Coast. Although she didn't use a tribal name as is the modern tradition, there are historical records describing a woman who came to Urizen calling herself Sulemaine i Taziel. She arrived during the pre-Imperial era, long after the Freeborn exodus, when Highborn wayfarers were enthusiastically spreading the revelation of the Way to the human nations of the Bay of Catazar.
Sulemaine appears to have come to Urizen in search of spiritual enlightenment, and quickly became an influential questor. Combining her thirst for knowledge with a traditional Freeborn disdain for authority, she challenged her contemporaries in public debates. She travelled widely and never passed up an opportunity to debate with any priest or scholar that might cross her path. She mercilessly pierced the logical fallacies of many philosophies, and had no patience for those she considered to be ill-disciplined in their thinking. The Scrolls of the Glorious Song, a poetic source of information about Sulemaine, report that "... no land or king could encompass her spirit, and she travelled on foot, rarely spending two nights in the same place. With cold logic and cold steel she defeated our best and brightest, cut down the corrupt and incompetent, exposed lies and lazy thinking. Like the edge of a razor she passed, leaving the world cut clean in her wake."
Espousing a martial path that emphasised observation and reason as the path to truth, she quickly garnered a reputation for insight and wisdom. Sulemaine was often openly scornful of those who sought her advice, driving most away. She appears to have been dismissive of the idea of prophets and paragons, urging people to think for themselves, rather than looking to others for guidance. She often argued that religion itself was a great evil, claiming that any established doctrine only served to limit the thinking of its followers. She was also notably dismissive of concepts such as mercy, pity, and fairness, which she felt to be ridiculous moral baggage that paralysed the soul.
As well as a questor and a scholar, Sulemaine was a skilled warrior. She was a fierce enemy of the Druj who she regarded as a pernicious evil that should be wiped from the earth, as well as the Grendel who she found vacuous and superficial. She was known to have fought in two important battles against the eastern orcs, though her role was largely unremarkable. Her individual approach to battle proved to be too much at odds with the discipline of the sentinels she fought alongside. Tacivus wrote of her part in the Battle of Falling Stones that "... she was as brilliant as she was useless. She has utterly mastered the art of the blade at the cost of the art of the soldier. It is as well to give orders to a rock as to give orders to Sulemeine of Taziel."
Rather than the battlefield, Sulemaine is remembered mostly for her duels with the Highborn wayfarers who came to Urizen to spread the truth of the Way. She had consistently argued that the only virtuous decisions were ones based on reasoned thought - that a person could only commit a virtuous action if the choice to undertake it was their own. She claimed that individuals who tried to tell others what to do represented the greatest moral threat, not because what they had to say might be wrong, but because the act of instructing others inherently diminished their audience's capacity for virtue. Thus she saw the missionaries as a threat to the moral character of everyone they met as well as the questor traditions she championed.
Sulemaine was relentless in her opposition to anyone who held a firm belief, or who expected others to submit to their leadership, but she is perhaps best known for her response to the missionaries who came to Urizen in the wake of the Highborn civil war. Wayfarers looking to spread the Way or Urizen illuminates seeking to instruct their students on matters of ethics were both targets of her wrath. There are dozens of stories of her challenging those she encountered, forcing them to debate her in public where she would embarrass and shame those unable to sufficiently ground their beliefs in reason and logic. In most of these stories, the tale ends with Suiemaine executing her rival after finding their arguments unconvincing. A scattering of contemporary accounts claim that whenever she encountered a priest she intended to challenge she would first make clear to them what the consequence of failing to convince her would be - giving them a choice between ceasing their preaching and death. Many who refused to accept the Highborn faith flocked to her banner, determined to preserve Urizen's more individual and scholastic approach to religion. These original "scholars of the blade" travelled with her, supported her various challenges, and helped protect her from reprisals.
The exact circumstances of her death are unclear. One popular tale claims she was poisoned by a baker, but there is little historical evidence to support this story. A more compelling account claims she was executed by sentinels in Redoubt after the murder of a Highborn missionary visiting a spire in Limus. Regardless of the truth, her death did little to dampen the zeal of her followers - now calling themselves the sword scholars. In the years following her demise, a wealth of stories about her martial prowess, philosophies, battles, and weaponry spread throughout Urizen.
While she has been linked with other weapons, Sulemain is best known as the bearer of "Enkhurion", a mystical blade fashioned for her by Damakhan, the master artisan of Spiral. Details of the nature of their relationship have been lost, but it is widely assumed that Sulemaine respected the artisan's arete. There is some controversy as to whether Damakhan voluntarily made the blade for her of if she somehow forced him to provide her with the elegant weapon. In one version of the tale she promised to leave Spiral and never return if Damakhan made her a "perfect blade to separate truth and lies." After her death the weapon passed through the hands of her followers until it was eventually given to "the Empress herself in a later age." The recent rehabilitation of the sword scholars has seen the Senate grant legal ownership of "the Labyrinth Sword" to the modern sword scholars, perhaps assuming that this weapon is Enkhurion, Sulemaine's famous blade.
In the centuries since the formation of the Synod, there have been a handful of attempts to have Sulemaine recognised as a paragon, usually of Wisdom. In each case they have been unsuccessful - the opposition to her borderline heretical and blasphemous teachings has simply been too strong. Perhaps the strongest condemnation came from the writings of the exemplar Berechiah who described her as "a murderess, motivated by overwhelming hubris and a deranged certainty that only she was capable of judging the merits of belief. If she were alive today she would be denounced as heretic and blasphemer, and rightly so. That said, the fact her followers are tolerated in the counsels of the Synod is nothing short of a miracle, so in that at least perhaps there is something to their spurious claims after all?"
As Sulemaine is not a recognised paragon or exemplar, she has no signs that have been formally acknowledged by the Synod.
- Sulemaine's migration to Urizen, and her travels around Urizen are frequently cited as evidence of a pilgrimage .
- Enkhurion, Sulemaine's sword has been put forward as evidence of her legacy.
- The most frequent sign claimed by Sulemain's supporters is the existence of the sword scholars as proof that she inspired others.
- Early attempts to claim she brought salvation by reducing the number of foolish priests in the world were met with universal opposition and derision.
Just as she was in life, Sulemaine continues to be a controversial figure to this day. She is widely viewed as a murderous villain in neighbouring Highguard, but even in Urizen her actions were often widely criticised. Although the sword scholars remained true to their founder, several prominent contemporaries publicly repudiated Suleiman and her teachings after her death. Many sentinels in particular, view her as a dangerous and disruptive force, one that transgressed the civility that is a hallmark of Urizen culture.
Her supporters have made several attempts to rehabilitate her image in the years since her death, without much success. In 383YE, however, the Imperial Synod supported a mandate declaring that "Although the Synod has not accepted that Sulemaine meets the criteria to be judged a paragon, it is clear that she taught and practised widely on the virtue of Wisdom. As such she cannot be regarded as a false paragon." This judgement came partially from a wider controversy around the Grey pilgrims of Highguard, and partly from an ongoing resurgence of interest in sword scholar philosophy. The mandate encouraged further activity in the Synod, and lead directly to a movement that has greatly diminished the power of the Imperial Synod in Urizen.
Despite this acknowledgement by the Urizen Assembly, the Imperial Synod continues to reject the notion that Sulemaine is a paragon - or even an exemplar. The statement of Cato Hypation, supported by Urizen national assembly, during the Autumn Equinox 383YE reiterates that "The title "Paragon of Blades" is exactly that, a title. The Synod does not currently recognise Sulemaine i Taziel as a paragon of virtue. The Urizen Assembly do not contest this." During that same summit, however, a much more strongly worded statement by Rafael Barossa di Tassato denouncing Sulemaine and her followers was not only supported by the General Assembly, but with a greater majority indicating that the controversy surrounding the "paragon of blades" is far from over.
Inspirational Tomb and Basilica
Never having been recognised by the Imperial Synod, there is no inspirational tomb dedicated to Sulemaine. Indeed, in spite of the recent judgement there are still serious questions about whether building such an edifice would even be legal. Regardless, the whereabouts of Sulemaine's remains are currently unknown.
Sulemaine in Play
The Sword Scholars
Sulemaine has continued to inspire a small but dedicated number of followers since her death. These warrior philosophers call themselves sword scholars and style themselves after their founder. Sword scholars have much in common with questors, although they are often repudiated by those questors who decry the sword scholar's methods and lack of compassion. The scholars oppose dogma and challenge religious authorities, just as Sulemaine once did.
The sword scholars have perpetuated a bitter feud between them and the sentinels of Urizen.This rivalry spans all the way back to the dawn of the Empire, which the sentinels supported and the sword scholars openly opposed. Open conflict between sword scholars and sentinels has been commonplace in the past, though it is much rarer in these current times.
At the height of their power, the temples of the sword scholars were a significant military force within Urizen. Rivalry and conflict with the citadels undermined their power, however, and by the founding years of the Empire, the sword scholars were in decline. The surviving temples fiercely opposed the notion of Urizen joining the Empire. It is said that pro-Imperial sentinels presented the First Empress with the fabled Enkhurion, the very blade that Sulemaine herself had wielded, presumably a sign of the sword scholars’ defeat.