The blow came from nowhere, the sword whipping out faster than her eye could follow, the flat of the blade smacking against her skull. The coif took the force of it, but stars filled her eyes and she dropped her own weapon.

"Pick it up. Drop it in battle - you're dead. Keep your guard up. Drop it in battle - you're dead. Keep your wits about you. Drop them in battle..."

"You're dead!" She interrupted her teacher before he could finished his regular sermon. She'd heard it a thousand times before. He waited for her to bring the wooden sword back to guard, but she left the point facing the earth as she rubbed her head to try and banish the stars.

Sensing her distraction, her teacher lowered his own weapon "Alright Liddy - what's eating you?"

"Nothing... it's nothing... just thinking about what that Crow said today... about the Iron Helms being dogs." The truth was she hadn't really understood what the priest had been talking about. But she'd knew old Siward would be able to explain it. There was a reason he was her favourite teacher, Siward was just about the smartest man she knew.

"You're wondering why it's wrong? What's so bad about being cruel? You figure the Jotun are our enemies and they'd kill us soon enough. Here I am teaching you to how to kill them and then up comes Gunnbrand Ironwill to tell you not to. Confused huh?" She nodded encouragement - that wasn't quite it - but it always helped to hear Siward talk.

"Gunnbrand is one of our best Crows - you should listen to him... but since you clearly didn't - then I'll tell it to you straight. All that butchery - all them slavering dogs and the bodies on spikes... there's a point to it. It ain't cruelty for cruelty's sake - only those claimed by the Wendigo would do that. The point is fear. The point is to make them afraid. To break them - make 'em too scared to face us."

She picked up the line of reasoning hoping to impress him with her understanding. "Fear's a false virtue - it's the biggest failing there is. So it's wrong to make them fear us?"

"Pig-shit! You can't control the virtue of another - you can't make a person lazy, or foolish or cowardly. Your virtue is the choices you make - not the choices of others."

"So what then?"

"Liddy, folk use fear to scare their enemies because they don't have the courage to face them. If you're scared to face death, you'll put a man on a spike, or set your dog to rip his throat out - you'll do anything to avoid that fight. Them that use fear to fight their enemies do so because they are afraid. The Varushkans spend half their life cowering in the dark - they're afraid to fuck at night for fear of the shadows getting them. They don't have the courage to face their monsters - so they become them instead." Happy with his explanation he smiled and raised his tone a little. "Are you afraid to face your enemies Lyydia With No Name? Are you afraid to die?"

She grinned back at her teacher. "Never! We are the Mark... the storm can never break us!"

"Good - now keep your guard up! Or I'll name you Lyydia Died In Training..."

Overview

The Iron Helms, the infamously cruel Varushkan army continue to be divisive. The Wintermark and Freeborn Assemblies have unambiguously rejected them - even taking steps to make it harder for the army to fight alongside them. Likewise, the priests of the League have spoken out against the use of cruelty and fear on the battlefield - although their assembly was far from united in that condemnation.

Several significant opportunities have arisen as a result of the Synod's ongoing discussion of what is, or is not, too high a price to pay for victory.

Gaze Into The Abyss

  • The Wintermark nation assembly may promote a change of strategy towards the Jotun, encouraging heroism rather than slaughter.

The priests of the Wintermark assembly have dispelled any doubt that they consider the actions of the Iron Helms are unvirtuous and beneath the heroic warriors of the Mark. First Ylmiska Ferbow passed a statement of principle calling them unvirtuous, then Gunnbrand Ironwill openly condemned them for their actions. As a result of this mandate, the Iron Helms will now be shunned when on campaign with any Wintermark army. It won't stop their butchery, not if their general orders it, but without the support of their fellow soldiers they will suffer a penalty to their effectiveness making it harder for them to win battles and conquer territory.

Perhaps as a result the Helms have turned tail and left the west, heading to Sarvos and presumably from there on to face the Grendel or the Druj. Many Winterfolk welcome this decision - "let the monsters kill each other" appears to be the common sentiment. "When the Varushkans emerge from the Labyrinth they will have a chance to be born in Wintermark where they can learn to become real heroes."

Still the actions of the Iron Helms in the Mournwold cannot be undone. The Jotun have always faced off against Wintermark, since as long as anyone can remember. They have even fought beside Wintermark in the past - in the reign of Emperor Guntherm warriors from the two nations even joined forces for a short time to fight the Thule...

Now they have fled the Mourne with their tails between their legs. It seems like a great victory - but some of the mystics mutter that there is a price to be paid for such a hollow triumph. They remind those who listen that Wintermark warriors once fought the Jotun as heroes - not butchers. At that time the Jotun would return the respect the Wintermark warriors showed them. Those days are gone now... but perhaps if Wintermark took a stand they might come again.

It is clearly a risk, but the Wintermark Assembly could choose to authorize a named priest to spread the following mandate.

A hero's tale ends with a good death - for us or our enemies. We send named priest with 25 liao to urge our warriors to face the Jotun on the battlefield as heroes, and strive with every sinew for victory, not for slaughter. Thus will we let the grimnir of either side treat their fallen.

Wintermark National Assembly

If the Wintermark Assembly passes this mandate then for the next year (until the start of the Autumn Equinox 382YE) any Wintermark army that fights the Jotun will gain 10% more victory points but inflict 20% less casualties. The change of tactics that ensures this reduction of casualties will be apparent to everyone present in the territory where the campaign takes place.

A Hundred Times Too Short

  • The National Assembly of the Brass Coast may encourage the Red Wind Corsairs to embrace the idea of capturing, rather than killing, enemy soldiers, permanently changing their quality.

Like Wintermark, the Freeborn Assembly did not stint in their criticism of the Iron Helms. The statement of principle by Mazo i Zabala i Erigo made clear that such tactics as the Helms employed were unvirtuous and that the Freeborn should "aspire to be better than this and lead by example". The following season the Assembly authorized Constanza i Kalamar i Guerra to spread a mandate encouraging every Freeborn soldier to follow their conscience and disdain and shun the Helms, rejecting them and their cruelty.

Their words find ready ears among the Freeborn, although perhaps it is more than just virtue. The Varushkans are by their nature a dour folk and the Iron Helms in particular are a grim-faced lot. Few Freeborn weep any tears at the thought of charging the sour-faced schlacta a throne or more to join them at their table. Let the Helms debase themselves bringing death to their enemies - in the Brass Coast people revel in adventure - in a life lived to the full. Life is too short — it should never be dull.

For those who enjoy hearing tales of the corsairs, there is also another truth. Slaughtering your enemies... putting their heads on spikes... it might win a war... it will certainly kill your enemies... but it won't make you rich! To the victor should go the spoils - there is money to be made in war - just not from butchery. The dead pay no ransoms.

So why not let the Freeborn set a real example for the Empire? A way to show everyone that the Empire can triumph on the field of battle - fight their enemies with honour - and still turn a tidy profit. If the Synod takes this view then they could authorize a named priest to spread the following mandate.

All things can have a price. We send named person with 25 liao to remind people of their prosperity as well as their courage and to take a ransom from those foes we defeat rather than count their bodies. We will fill our souls with virtue and our pouches with coin!

Freeborn National Assembly

If this mandate is spread then the message will be eagerly taken up by the Red Wind Corsairs. Of all the Freeborn forces, the Corsairs more than any other epitomizes the Freeborn approach to life. They take a joy in their own life, rather than seeking to end the lives of others. Crucially though, many see battle as a chance to seize the wealth of their enemies. To them the point of war is to increase your affluence at the expense of your enemies, rather than to see them dead. After all, have the Red Wind (and the Wolves of War) not just demonstrated the value of a well-planned raid against an enemy's money-pouch in Spiral?

The mandate will build on and reinforce earlier messages - that the Varushkan approach to war is unvirtuous - and instead encourage the Freeborn to embrace their instinct to treat their defeated enemies with respect and take their money not their lives. The army's quality will be changed to Daring. Instead of the plunder order, the army will be able to submit the daring raid order. Although some Wintermark armies find fighting alongside a foraging army distasteful - many Wintermark heroes prefer the idea of ransoming defeated enemies to butchering them and have no reason to dislike a daring army.

Daring Raid
  • Casualties inflicted by this army are reduced by three tenths.
  • Casualties suffered by this army are reduced by a tenth.
  • The army generates wealth based on the number of victory points generated.
The army concentrates on lightning attacks against the enemy forces intended to take key strategic points and capture prisoners in the process. Defeated enemies are treated with respect and healed, but kept as prisoners to be ransomed back to the enemy. By such a means members of the army will grow wealthy; a portion of this bounty in the form of potions, magic items, money, herbs, crystal mana, crafting materials and valuable materials such as weirwood, mithril, white granite, and ilium will be claimed by the army general.

The use of cruel tactics by any army is unvirtuous. Cruelty is designed to break the spirit and install fear. The use of the False Virtue of Fear as a weapon is unvirtuous. We urge all Synod members to provide spiritual guidance to the generals of their nations that use said tactics.

Cesare Enzo Di Trivento, League Nation Assembly

Wipe the Blood Off Us

  • The League National Assembly can use mandates to support their statement of principle regarding the danger of embracing fear as a weapon.

During the Summer Solstice, the priests of the League narrowly passed a judgement condemning the cruelty of the Iron Helms. The priests were far from united in their condemnation - the statement only just managed a lesser majority - but it was successful, and in the current climate that is enough to have some impact. Of course the assembly may wish to repudiate the statement and embrace cruelty and fear - but if they are happy with their decision then there are ways to demonstrate their commitment to their principles.

In Pursuit Of The Goal

The League assembly may choose to pass a mandate urging their soldiers to show their disdain for the Iron Helms and their cruel ways. If this mandate is passed, then regardless of what orders are given by the generals of the Military Council the soldiers of the League will acknowledge the unvirtuous nature of the Iron Helms. They will shun them, or refuse them comfort or aid when they campaign together.

The cruelty of the Iron Helms is unvirtuous, it demeans our Empire to use such tactics and it betrays the ideals of our people to fight alongside those who do so. The assembly sends X with 25 doses of liao to urge our soldiers to reject the Iron Helms and their cruelty."

Synod Mandate, national assembly

If this mandate is enacted then for the next year, if the Iron Helms are deployed in a territory alongside the Wolves of War or the Towerjacks, , they will suffer a reduction of one tenth in the number of victory points they contribute to that campaign. This bonus is cumulative for each additional nation (not individual army) that has passed this mandate that are present in the territory.

Close To The Flowers

Alternatively, the League national assembly may look to The Throne for inspiration. While the Imperatrix tends to the entire Empire, she is a daughter of Holberg, and thus the League. The League national assembly may choose to pass the following mandate.

It is not enough to denounce the cruel; we must set an example that inspires others to eschew the false virtue of fear. The League assembly sends X with 50 doses of liao to urge the Wolves of War to seek allies prepared to embrace the vision of Imperatrix Lisabetta and preserve life, rather than embrace fear.

If the League passes this mandate it will automatically incorporate the effects of the first mandate urging the soldiers of the League to shun the Iron Helms - but in addition it will permanently allow the Wolves of War to add the physick quality to the list of qualities they can select from as a mercenary army, representing recruiting Holberg physics, Navarr apothecaries, and Highborn herbalists to support the army and their allies.

Limited Opportunities

Any of these opportunities that are not taken during the Autumn Equinox will be lost.

Resolution

Gunnbrand Ironwill of the Wintermark Assembly has been charged by his peers to encourage the warriors of the Mark to fight the Jotun with respect. The armies of Wintermark will change their strategies over the next four seasons.

Likewise, the Freeborn Assembly embraced the opportunity to encourage the capture and ransoming of their foes. Gonzalo i Riqueza , the named priest, has provided the appropriate amount of liao and so the quality of the Red Wind Corsairs will be permanently enhanced.


.