The Three Refrains
The Three Refrains is an old bardic organisation whose prominence has waxed and waned over the years. The group is based on a founding set of principles, the Three Refrains, from which it takes its name. Sworn to political neutrality, they are committed to an ethic of service, dedicated to aiding the people of the Empire. Bards have a traditional role in the Empire preserving important lore as well as music, poetry and dance of their nation, but members are known for their interest in helping any citizen of the Empire regardless of nation. This has led people to assume that the organisation exists to spread knowledge, though in practice members prefer to focus on helping citizens find the knowledge they are seeking, rather than simply passing it on.
The Founders' Refrain expresses an ideal to preserve the rich cultural identity of each nation of the Empire. Despite their political neutrality, members of the Three Refrains are often found in the company of egregores - with whom they share this common concern. The founders of the Three Regrains believed it was important to maintain the distinct character of the artistic and musical traditions of the nations. They were happy for music to be shared - but wanted to ensure that each nation retained its own unique musical tradition - that each people remained conscious of which music, which songs, which dances were their own.
The Bards' Refrain aims to encourage musical performance, song and dance, a principle the Three Refrains share with bards across the Empire. In a land obsessed with politics and war, the claim is that bards are best placed to remind people of their essential humanity, encouraging them to take joy in their lives. The group see it as particularly important that there is music in every nation camp at Anvil during the summit, either by performing there themselves or more usually by working with bards and performers of the nation to encourage to encourage celebration and song.
The Heroes' Refrain is the most famous of the organisations goals - to help the people of the Empire become heroes - to see them achieve great deeds and immortalize those actions for future generations. The most practical implication of this lofty aspiration is to help citizens who are seeking to achieve great deeds by providing them with encouragement and support. This is usually in the form of esoteric lore - for the Three Refrains maintain a strong oral tradition of lore and will usually share this freely if they believe it will help the listener on the path to greatness. Members will usually help people who are on a specific or in pursuit of a specific goal - but they have also been known to help those who have not yet found the path that will take them to glory. The Refrains ultimately draw their roots from the Dawnish traditions of the Tests and members often have good links with the Earls of Dawn - working with them to help set challenging tests.
The first members of the Three Refrains were a group of five Dawnish troubadours who sought their own solution to the chaos and anarchy that followed Nicovar's madness. While the Senate bickered over the costs involved in attempting to rebuild the destroyed libraries, the minstrels claimed that Nicovar had done the Empire a favour. Under his rule, the Empire had become a thing of books and study, they had piled up great store houses of knowledge, but they had neglected to use the information they treasured. In searching to take the measure all things, to assess its worth and value they had lost the passion for life. They sought to create a Dawnish institution that would not just inspire nobles and yeomen alike to acts of greatness but would arm them with the knowledge they needed to achieve it.
The troubadours were popular with those they helped, but their habit of giving aid only where they felt it was warranted did not endear them to everyone. Powerful figures from Dawn and beyond sought them out, thinking that the troubadours might provide them with answers to troubling questions, but the group had little time for senators, generals, cardinals, grandmasters or archmages and even less for the politics of Anvil. After a very public spat with a prominent Dawnish earl, the Senator for Weirwater, in which they refused to give her the name of a herald who was troubling fisherman of the shores of Sandling, they swore an oath of neutrality - forgoing any involvement in the politics of the Empire in favour of helping the common citizens of every nation achieve glory.
The oath of neutrality was the true foundation of the Three Refrains - as the troubadours tale slowly spread, it touched a chord with other kindred spirits. Bards from other nations sought them out. The first three were a Wintermark scop, a Highborn archivist and a Freeborn sutannir. Together they formulated the principles of their organisation - describing them as the three refrains. Over time they built up a network of friends and allies, bards and learned men and women in every nation who, even if they were not members of the group, were prepared to share information with them on the understanding that such lore would ultimately be used to help the Empire.
In the years since, the membership has waxed and waned. At times it has ceased to exist altogether, only to be reborn again later when another bard discovers the tale and decides to take up the mantle.
In the chaos of recent times, following the death of Britta and her followers, the Three Refrains has been reformed. A handful of bards gathered to the cause and together they hope to restore the reputation and accomplishments of the Three Refrains. Staying true to their roots, the members have eschewed any involvement with the politics of the Empire, swearing an oath to take no office and serve no title. Instead, they plan to travel the Empire, encouraging music and performance and dispensing lore to those they believe will use it to achieve greatness.
Some members of the Three Refrains are NPCs who are part of our player support team. These people work alongside the egregores encouraging people to perform music and entertainment in the appropriate style for each nation and to encourage the spread of information throughout the Empire. Rather than having a focus on their own nation - members work with bards and performers from every nation. We want to encourage each nation to strive to maintain its own unique musical style, but characters of every nation can perform and enjoy any songs that are appropriate to the Empire setting, not just their own.
Members will often try to help individual citizens who are seeking assistance with some challenging task or quest. If you are struggling to find a way to follow up a plot in the field at Anvil - if there is some great task you want to attempt but do not know how to get started - then a member of the Three Refrains may help you. If they choose to help then will often consult with their fellow bards to ensure they provide the best possible assistance. One of the reasons that some of the members of the group are NPCs, is so that they can consult with the plot team to provide aid that may be useful in game. Usually aid will be in the form of information or advice that will help you get started on your quest - but do not expect too much - the organisation's role in game is to encourage and enable players to achieve things in game - not to do it for you.
Do not automatically assume that all members will help you - they are characters and will need to be convinced to help you. In particular, the more important and powerful your character is, the less likely they are to have any interest in helping you. You should also expect to pay for any help you receive; their aid is not dear and the bards won't charge you if they can't help you but they will expect to be rewarded for their time and effort if they can help you.
Many citizens take up the mantle of one of the Refrains during their lifetime. It can be a useful tool to convey the message that you are trying to work for a greater Imperial cause and that you wish to spread and support across the nations. They obviously retain their nationality in this and must continue to act under the influence of the egregore bonds. This can be done as simply as declaring oneself a member, after all knowledge and culture has no leader or constraints or talking to an existing member to discuss if this path is right for you.
The Anvil Library is a popular gathering spot for people looking to be involved in knowledge and culture and starting here could be a good place for those looking to for contact with Three Refrains members.
If you are a talented performer who is an active participant in the political game of Empire, then membership of the Three Refrains is probably not for you, but we hope you will still take time to get to know the members of the organisation - part of their remit is to work with players across the game to encourage music and performance in every camp. Our NPCs are briefed to encourage players who are performing and to give them what support they can. Just because you can't be a member, hopefully you will find the members are staunch allies and sources of useful information and support for bards across the game.
Irontide Kron was an Orc born of his time perfectly, his parents, both liberated slaves, himself, born without ever feeling a shackle or collar, yet respectful of those who did. Unbeknownst to him, in the Three Refrains there was talk of whether truly all Imperial Voices were being heard, whether they could truly represent the Empire, without the voices of those who had only just been allowed to raise their own, only just been allowed to speak freely. It was a Cambion, of Dawnish birth, Simeon Dane, himself an Imperial Bard of the Hero’s Refrain, who set out to put the proof to this philosophy. He travelled with the Second Legion of Orcs, the Summer Storm, undergoing much hardship and suspicion, in his time he heard of a young Orc, one who inspired his fellows by words, despite not being a unit commander, a soldier of daring, yet a reflective soul. At first, after accepting the offer, Irontide Kron seemed a poor choice, his ebullience and enthusiasm had turned to sulleness, laconic words and a dour disdain for his human fellows, the curious nature of the Orc, and how solitary nature apart from their race diminished them seemed to have stifled such ideals that he once held.
It was only when a few of his erstwhile fellow pupils, one of which in earshot despaired of ever being able to inspire an Orc, after all, he remarked “They don’t come back”, that the change happened, Kron stood, straightened his back, and thundered forth, with calm, yet heartfelt words as to ‘how’ one inspired an Orc, as to -what- an Orc was, as to -how- One life could count as much as a hundred or more ill-spent….
It was only when he finished speaking, by all accounts for some forty minutes, that he saw the people around him, and realised that in his ‘lesson’ he was both tutor, and also pupil.
Kron nodded brusquely.“You have one life, Kron, so make it count”
To this day the Orcish bard has taken those words to heart, he struggles at times, with isolation, when walking alone amongst humans, some trappings of Empire cause him discomfort, and often he feels the need to return to his own ‘people’, to regain his confidence and demeanour, but at the same time, he walks without prejudice or shame, without a chip on a shoulder or an axe to grind. He seeks others, like himself, young future luminaries of the Empire, who could be -more-, and as Simeon Dane did to him, he seeks to not make them heroes, but to give them the tools to make -themselves- heroes.
Bards in Wintermark (known as "scops") are responsible for giving "names" to people to mark significant events or achievements. Thus Bruin (pronounced "broon") Dunning is known universally as "Tiny". Indeed, if you ask for "Bruin", nobody will know who you mean. For many years, a wandering bard, going from hall to hall, and across other nations of the Empire. Tiny returned to Wintermark to help his sister following the death of her husband. Spending so long amongst other peoples has shown him the importance of the diversity of the nations of the Empire, and of using their various strengths to support each other. Never keen on written history, when his friend Stone told him of the Dawnish troubadores of the past, and their Three Refrains, Tiny was instantly drawn to the idea and became a keen participant. If you seek his help, expect a tale, or a song, but not a document. Nor will he be waiting around for you to write his words down. If that is the sort of help you wish, perhaps you should seek out a librarian..
Maritza i Ruiloba i Guerra
Better known as the Brass Coast Dagger Dancer, she was born into a large performing family and has dedicated her life to dance. She spends her time training and studying the dances of each of the ten nations. Her goal is to discover and teach the traditional styles for every nation. If you wish to see her dance, you better have something worthy of her attention to offer. If you want to learn to dance, however, the fee is much more modest. She is even available to create dances for you or your group. At this time Maritzas wanderings have taken her away from Anvil, we hope to see her again in the future.