The sword scholars are an ancient part of Urizen's past; once suppressed and scattered by the early Imperial Synod, they have recently come back into the open. In the past year and a half, they first clashed against the orthodoxy that once rejected them - but now, by the judgement of the Urizen assembly, they are being brought back into the fold.
With the Urizen assembly’s validation of the sword scholars, the sects now begin to reintegrate themselves into the rest of the nation. This will take some time; the warrior-priests as yet remain figures of frightful and sometimes alluring folklore to their fellow Urizen. Still, if things continue as they are now, the extremist sects will eventually be reconciled with the Spires - although their enmity towards the Sentinels seems harder to shift.
The sword scholars are surrounded by stories, folklore, and early Imperial propaganda, which makes discerning the truth of some of the wilder rumours about them difficult. What is certain is that the sword scholars descend from a pre-Imperial cult of the Way. The cult claims to have been founded by Sulemaine daughter of Taziel during the end of the Patricians’ rule, from which tumult arose the Highborn and Freeborn nations. The sects claim that Sulemaine was a warrior sickened by both the corruption of the Patricians, and the irrationality and backwards-looking spirituality of the nascent Highborn chapters. Sulemaine instead espoused a martial, ascetic philosophy of reason, truth, and gleaning wisdom through interacting with the world as it is now.
Sulemaine travelled to Urizen, finding the people there fertile ground for her school of thought, and attracted followers who became the first sword scholars. Notoriously, Sulemaine sought out Highborn priests spreading their faith into Urizen to challenge them to debate. She would embarrass and shame those unable to sufficiently ground their beliefs in reason and logic before the witnessing crowds, then execute them. Known as a peerless and merciless warrior, Sulemaine effectively terrorised these missionary efforts during her lifetime - if the stories are to be believed.
Despite this hostility to the early Highborn Way, or perhaps because of it, the sword scholars soon developed into dedicates of the virtue of Wisdom. In the decades following Sulemaine’s death, the cult increasingly developed its rigorous observations of the very real spiritual forces at work in the world. Nevertheless, the sword scholars remained fiercely independent from Highborn influence, claiming the priests of that nation were intellectually corrupt and morally cowardly.
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.
Aided by the citadels, the early Imperial Synod ruthlessly suppressed the remaining sects of the cult. Over the past three centuries, the surviving fellowships have been pushed to the fringes of Urizen’s society. There they have remained, austere and merciless warriors without compare, often depicted as folk heroes or villains in popular stories.
After the Autumn Equinox 382YE, the sword scholars gathered in Peregro to participate in the reconstruction of the Temple of the Winds. The Druj invasion of Morrow took them by surprise, but most refused to abandon the site of the Temple. They fought valiantly, but were ultimately defeated. Two-thirds of all remaining sword scholars died, and a large number of priceless and irreplaceable scrolls concerning the teachings of Sulemaine were lost to the barbarian orcs.
Tenets of the Sword
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.Sulemaine i Taziel
Sometimes mocked as extremists or fanatics, the sword scholars are warrior-priests dedicated to honing their mind, body and soul to the keenest edge possible. The vast bulk are indeed Wisdom dedicates, and they adhere to a creed of unifying thought and action, of cruel logic and cold steel.
Most sword scholars afford little value to pity or mercy, and have little tolerance for fools. They adhere only grudgingly to Imperial law, and rumours often swirl of sword scholars enacting extrajudicial executions of those they deem threats to the moral or intellectual fabric of Urizen society. They are concerned little by events beyond the borders of Urizen, and are deeply suspicious of the Imperial Synod. The cult is also intensely critical of the sentinels of Urizen, perhaps born from the old rivalries that once brought the sword scholars low.
The sword scholars hold that Sulemaine, their founder, was a Paragon of Wisdom, and ascribe various miracles to her.
Some variations exist among the rival sects. The Red Scroll Bearers, for example, are less ascetic than their fellows, considering the experience of all sensations to be important in understanding the world - including those of pleasure and luxury. The largest of the sects, the Disciples of the Tempest Jade Maiden, claim lineage from Zephyria, first disciple of Sulemaine, and are perhaps the standard to which other sword scholars are compared.
The soul is a blade; properly directed, one strike can change the world.Sulemaine i Taziel
Playing a Sword Scholar
With the acceptance of the Imperial Synod, it is now possible for a character to play a sword scholar. If you are playing a lone scholar, it is usually easier to be from one of the known sword scholar temples, but if there are a group of you then you can play an existing temple or create your own temple if you prefer.
Much of the fun to be had from playing a sword scholar comes from their fierce rivalry with the sentinels, the traditional warrior-scholars of Urizen. The more energy that you can invest in this rivalry, the more fun you will have with the role, and the more impact your sword scholar will have. If you abandon the rivalry for any reason then you will end up losing one of the key elements that makes your character unique so it is worth focusing on that.
Sword scholars are fiercely independent and highly competitive, always looking to test themselves and others, so don't be afraid to challenge others, whether that is a duel with blades or a fierce debate. Don't get hung up on winning, you and the people you challenge will have much more fun if the challenges are close contests, so you are bound to lose often. If your character treats losing a challenge as a learning experience, they will better reflect the spirit of the sword scholars than if they just seek to win all the time.
Don't forget that sword scholars very much still part of Urizen, so the traditional Urizeni ideas like arete and poise are still very valid as is the philosophical understanding of the Net of the Heavens. All sword scholars are devout, and most are followers of Wisdom, so you should read through the guidance on wisdom (or your chosen virtue) and think about how to incorporate that into your scholarly traditions.
While they draw on some obvious tropes more familiar from animé or Eastern religions, the sword scholars are not "monks" - they are warrior-priests. They are much more likely to fight in heavy armour than in flowing robes, for example. Their fighting style tends to be swift and brutal, designed to finish the fight quickly so they can move on to another opponent;. They are not practitioners of an elegant and refined martial-art, but devout soldiers dedicated to a certain interpretation of the virtue of Wisdom.