Virtue

The Marked - or one thereof - is regarded as the oldest Paragon of Loyalty. In legends, the Marked are a group of tattooed slaves who came together and swore the First Oath to one another. This oath - the words now lost to history - contained bonds of loyalty that sustained the Marked through trial, torment and even death to the point that their inhuman masters - the Oppressors - were overthrown.

Among them, the Paragon is occasionally regarded as specifically as the one who wove the actual magic that sealed the oath, but more often it is regarded as the band as a whole. Records do not record whether, when the early Synod recognised the Marked, they did so regarding the group or the specific individual.

The Marked are identified as the first to discover or create the hearth magic that underpins a band: certainly the first to master this for humanity.

Biography

Exactly who the Marked were and where they lived is a matter of some debate. They are figures out of myth. Highborn scholars first transcribed the story of the Marked down from the Navarr - but the legends go back much further, back even before Terunael. Versions of their story survive in the oral traditions of many of the nations of the Empire: the identities of the Marked are often given a local flavour in these stories.

What is known is this: the Marked were a group of slaves under an inhuman oppressor, over whom they banded together and gained their freedom. It is not known who this oppressor was, but most tellings of the story has the Oppressor as an orc tribe. The slaves were much-divided into factions, and the Oppressors played the factions off against one another: no faction being large enough to individually prove a challenge to the Oppressors. Each faction's face was marked with a different symbol by the Oppressors, to emphasize their difference.

Once, one among the slaves - a charismatic leader who eschewed all factional loyalty, and spoke of a unification of the divided peoples - killed one of the leader of the Oppressors. For their insolence, they were publicly executed.

At that time, the Marked (each leaders of one of the seven factions among the slaves) realized that only together, in one swift strike, could they hope to free their people. They met that night, under darkness, and vowed then and there to set aside all prior rivalries and differences in aid of the defeat of their common enemy. They affirmed their commitment to a common cause, and this act of Loyalty sanctified their Oath: the first Oath.

They slowly but surely worked to gain the trust of their masters, becoming favored servants, trusted guards: until one fateful night, as one, they struck. In one evening, all the leaders of the Oppressors were destroyed, and the Marked led the slaves in a revolt against the rest. They carved out a home from the lands of their Oppressors, and, together as one people, defended it until the day they passed on, together, beyond the Labyrinth.

When Emperor Ahraz freed the orcs, one faction in the Loyalty assembly of the time opposed the matter by appealing to the legacy of the Marked - that the legacy of their loyalty for one another was betrayed by extending forgiveness to the species that had held them in yoke. Ironically, since the foundation of the Imperial Orcs, many preachers have pointed to the Marked as an inspiration for their fledging nation - bonding together against a common foe. Of course, the Marked are still cast as human in the preacher's tales... at least, in public hearing. Rumors abound of a small sect within the Winter Sun who cleave to the belief that the Marked were, in fact, ancestors under the yoke of human masters.

Signs

  • The seven founding member of the Marked - who swore the Oath as one - were said to have lived long, and died together. In their hour of death, they joined hands and said the Oath once more: then, the stories say, their bodies seemed to disappear into dust, as a great light shone around them. This aspect of their legend is regarded as the clearest sign of their status as Paragons, as it surely describes their Liberation.
  • The Marked freed their peoples from the subjugation of their oppressors, at great risk to themselves: certainly a great act of Benevolence.
  • Numerous people across the ages and across the nations have cited the Marked as inspiration when bringing people together against a common foe. From the Navarr, to the Imperial Orcs, to the Wintermark: wherever peoples have come together and sworn oaths of loyalty and togetherness, they have done so Inspired by the Marked.
  • The Marked led their disparate factions together against the Oppressors: in hardship the peoples of the Oppressed found a common kinship, led by the Marked, and discovered the power of Loyalty. This is cited as evidence of Salvation: the Marked discovered the power of Loyalty, and crucially, led others along the same path.
  • The precise nature of the bond created by the first Oath is disputed: was it magical in nature, or somehow more spiritual? Scholars point to the fundamental nature as bonds as magical things as evidence of the former: some suggest that the bond the Marked achieved somehow transcended simple magic. It is definitely agreed, however, that the ability to form the bond - by whatever means - came unbidden from the Loyalty they felt for one another: and this is regarded as Miraculous in nature.
  • It is widely agreed that the Legacy of the Marked is bond magic: the simple and ancient hearth magic of sects, banners, and covens. Before the Marked, scholars agree, oaths did not have the same power to shape the world. Their simple and pure Loyalty to one another was so powerful that it created something new. Various members of the Marked are said to have developed the ritual that would later be refined into the spell "create bond", and to have made the first items that dealt with the creation of bonds, such as Scrivener's Seals.