"So why isn't love a virtue anyway?"

Genevieve choked on her wine. Madeline smacked her on the back half-heartedly.

"You waited and did that on purpose," accused Genevieve when she had stopped coughing. Madeline smirked but admitted nothing.

"It's very complicated and you could ask a dozen priests and get a dozen answers," answered Genevieve in a tone she hoped would bring an end to the conversation. She offered Madeline a strawberry as part of a cunning plan to change the subject, and while her mouth was full launched into The Moon's Only Daughter in the hope of diverting things onto a different track.

Madeline dangled her hand in the water, listening. When the song ended and Genevieve put her lute down, however, it was clear her attempt at distraction had failed.

"But why isn't it a Virtue?" It was clear she was not going to be distracted.

"It's complicated," said Genevieve. "Some troubadours say it's Loyalty by another name. Others say that its not really a virtue because unlike the others - Loyalty, Pride, Courage, and so on - you can't dedicate yourself to it. Not spiritually. And because like Glory it exists in lots of different ways. Love can inspire Loyalty, or Courage, or Ambition, but it isn't separate from them and ... damn this is hard. It's ... it's like its part of being human but at the same time it's not the same as being Loyal... it's like it's something else. A thing that grows out of human desire like... oh I don't know like a thirst for justice, or liberty, or like... I don't know... like glory."

Madeline cocked her head, amused that Genevieve was stumbling with her words for a change. She usually had no difficulty expressing herself. The troubadour was aware that she was flushing slightly, embarrassed at her own ineptitude.

"So it's not really real then?"

"No it's real it's just ... not a Virtue." she shrugged helplessly. "It's definitely real. Some troubadours believe it can tie two souls together forever so they find each other again when they are reborn, although technically I might just have committed some sort of indiscretion by suggesting it."

"I'm not interested in what some troubadours think," said Madeline, suddenly serious in that way she had. "I'm interested in what you think."

Genevieve fidgeted. As she often did when put on the spit, she picked her lute up and began strumming it. Madeline reached across and put her hand on Genevieve's stilling the music.

"Please, this is important." she said.

The troubadour looked around, making sure they were alone. There was no real need to - did she really think there was some vigilant eavesdropper lurking under the water? - but it was habitual. Then she took a deep breath and let the words spill out of her.

"I think... I think that Love is not a Virtue because it is one of the things that Virtue is for. It's the whole point of life, it's like... goodness, or righteousness, or... yes... like justice and truth and liberty and maybe even cruelty. It's not a Virtue because it is bigger than Virtue, than all the Virtues and all the other ... spiritual forces I suppose... rolled up together. It's easy to dismiss it as just romance but it's everywhere creating a ... a profound connection between friends, and families, and yes lovers. You can't really Love a nation though, so that's .... I think you could take away every Virtue, and every priest, and every drop of liao in the world and people would still Love with all their hearts, and all their souls, until the sun falls into the sea. You'll never find an aura of Love but you can find auras created by Love wherever you look. It's a many splendoured thing. It lifts us up. All we need is love. It's like a fire that burns inside us and that turns us into something more, that can make us more human that we've ever been before, and it defies explanation, and that's why it isn't a Virtue because at the end of the day the Way treats anything it can't understand or define as if it's worthless."

She stopped, panting, and realised she was short of breath. Her emphatic gestures had set the boat rocking side to side. She felt guilty, but also a little lighter, as if by speaking quickly and honestly she'd shifted a weight from her shoulders. Or her heart.

"Good." said Madeline.

Then she leaned across and popped a strawberry into Genevieve's mouth, like a reward.

"I like it when you're emphatic," she said, laying back in the cushions and making a face as she discovered some of them had been splashed. "But next time less boat rocking. Now eat your strawberry and then I think we have just enough time for Where the wild roses grow before we have to head back."

And as the boat continued to drift lazily along the river, two clear sweet voices raised together in the late and lazy afternoon, entwined in song.

We, the troubadours of Dawn, recognise as champions Morien de Carsenere, of Ambition; Clarice Novarion, of Courage; Adam Sepulchre, of Loyalty; Vivienne d'Acier, of Pride; Aurelia Devereaux, of Prosperity; Viviane de Coeurdefer, of Vigilance; Edward Novarion, of Wisdom; Ser Isidore Ossienne, of Love; Colwyn de Rondell, of Glory; Odelina de Rondell, of the Way; we shall spread their stories through the nation.

The Earl of Fools, Statement of Principle, Dawn National Assembly, Summer Solstice 382YE, Upheld 134 - 0

Love is a Battlefield

One of the traditional duties of the troubadours of Dawn is to identify those pious nobles who best embody one of the virtues. Each year during the Summer Solstice, aspirants who seek to be acknowledge as champions meet together with the troubadours to share tales of their exploits. When no candidate for a given virtue convinces the troubadours that they truly embody that virtue, nobody is appointed. For the first time in far-too-many years, the troubadours have chosen a Summer champion for each of the seven virtues, and announced them in the Synod so that other troubadours may know their names. The statement of principle naming these champions did not quite achieve a greater majority, but nonetheless the troubadours have made sure that the priests and people of Dawn also know the names of these Summer champions.

Not only have they named seven champions of virtue this year however, they have gone further. The troubadours have named a champion of the Way itself (Odelina de Rondell), a noble who presumably embodies all seven virtues to some degree. They have also named two champions of uniquely Dawnish qualities: Ser Isidore Ossienne, champion of Love and Colwyn de Rondell, champion of Glory.

These latter two have caused an unexpected amount of interest from the people of Dawn. The seven Virtues are shared with the entire Empire - and while being named a Summer champion is prestigious it is all too often an honour that is dismissed by the ignorant followers of the Way in other nations. Love and Glory, however, are truly Dawnish concepts, something that resonates with the spirit of any true child of Dawn. The naming of Ser Isidore and Lord Colwyn has captured the imagination of noble an yeofolk alike.

Love and Glory

We, the troubadours of Dawn, recognise that true Love and true Glory arise from the paths of Virtue. Only the truly Virtuous can know love, or achieve Glory. Where we find a noble who truly embodies Love or Glory, we shall name them alongside the champions of the seven Virtues, and they shall be pre-eminent in that company as inspirations to all who follow pilgrims path. We send (named priest) with 50 doses of liao to spread these words, an the names of Ser Isidore Ossienne and Lord Colwyn de Rondell to all the people of Dawn.

Synod Mandate, Dawn assembly

If the Dawn national assembly enact this mandate, it will acknowledge that they intend to permanently add the champions of Love and Glory to the list of Summer champions that they will seek embodiments of each year.

Furthermore, it will provide inspiration to the weavers and artisans of Dawn, inspiring them to create favours for the champions of Love and Glory to be bestowed by the troubadours on their chosen embodiments each Summer. For the Champion of Love, the weavers of Spiral Castle will create a Troubadour's Ring, while for the Champion of Glory the weavers of Laroc will craft a Circlet of Command. They will be delivered to the troubadours of Dawn via the egregore each year to be suitably hallowed and bestowed upon the chosen champions.

There is some concern that this mandate might have implications that are blasphemous or heretical. The counterargument offered by some troubadours is that the Doctrine of the Seven openly acknowledges that "Other qualities may benefit humanity" - and they have no doubt that Love and Glory benefit humanity. Further, by acknowledging that Love and Glory arise from the seven Virtues, they argue, they are simply acknowledging the champions who embody these concepts as true inspirations of the Way to the people of the Empire.

The Pilgrim Champions

Dawn was not the only place where a virtuous champion was recognised during the Summer Solstice. The Imperial Senate officially created the Imperial title of Champion of Courage, and named it as the custodian of Torchbrand, one of the unique Pilgrim's Shields created by Ezkiah the Benefactor, greatest smith of the Highborn during the early years of the Empire. Rather than an informal arrangement where the shield was passed from champion to champion, the Champion of Courage will be chosen by the assembly of Courage, and charged with the heavy responsibility of inspiring followers of the Way to acts of Courage.

This formal recognition of a Champion has captured the imagination of many pilgrims. Yet Ezkiah crafted seven artefact shields. Torchbrand has been recovered, but what of Excelsis, Glistering, Ajax, Bawn-Watch, Measure, and Oath-Heart? They were lost along with Torchbrand when their bearers fell before the Druj during the battle of Reikos in 367YE; but if Torchbrand can be recovered surely so can the others?

The location of at least one - Measure, the shield of Wisdom - is relatively common knowledge. Since Spring 380YE, it has been in the hands Zamashka, Prince of Votika, a Jarmish Magician-Prince. If both Torchbrand and Measure survived, presumably the other shields have as well - and neither of the two recovered so far were in the hands of the Druj.

If they could all be recovered, and restored to the faithful, they would provide powerful inspiration to Imperial followers of the Way. Tracking down all six of the missing shields would be no simple task, however.

We Could Be Immortals

The Senate has created the Champion of Courage, and charged it with both inspiring the faithful and protecting Torchbrand. While the six other shields are still lost, the Senate could still use a single suitably worded senate motion to create the six other titles that are the counterparts of the Champion of Courage.

While the Champions would not carry their respective shield, implicit in the responsibility to bear and protect the shield would be the quest to recover the shield from wherever it may currently lie. This may well represent no small undertaking - apart from Measure there are no commonly known leads as to where the others may lie.

The Minister of Historical Research might be able to help of course - and last year the Assembly of the Nine instructed the Silent Bell to investigate the location of Oath-Heart so it is possible the Cardinals may have some leads as to the location of the shield of Loyalty. There are other potential sources of information as well - Measure is in the hands of a Jarmish magician-prince, won as tribute from the Thrice-cursed Court. Perhaps other shields are in the hands of foreign powers? Or in the possession of eternals? It is likely at least one perhaps more are in the possession of the Druj, and they are unlikely to give them back willingly - but they are well known for using items of religious significance to bait traps and that may present a potential lever against them if it can be correctly exploited.

There is of course no requirement to create titles to encourage people to pursue the shields. Furthermore, certain unscrupulous individuals have pointed out that the Senate declaring a shield to be the regalia of a title really only holds legal weight if they are in possession of the item. If someone were to recover one of the shields, they may be able to secure concessions or boons from the Synod in return for formally conferring ownership of the item to them...

Limited Opportunities

While the chance to grant greater significance to the champions of Love and Glory is available only during the Autumn equinox, additional Champions of Virtue could be created at any time.