The hunched creature bowed low before her. It was small, but she was not fooled by that. She knew their nature well, she'd seen evidence often enough this past season of their surprising strength. She had worked closely with this one in particular, too close perhaps, but it had served her well. She reached out her hand to place it gently on the top of the creature's pate.

"Rise," she commanded him. "Your service to me is complete. I release you. Tell your master that I am well pleased with you and your kind. Tell him that his debt to me is paid in full." Even as the words passed her lips, she realised she had said the wrong thing. She cursed silently - she was getting too old for this. Too late now.

The koboldi shook slightly, then stretched out. At first he reached our his two thickly muscled arms forcing them as far from his body as he could manage, straining every cord and sinew to push the world apart. Furia winced - inwardly of course - at the sound of joints cracking as they moved over each other. Slowly he lowered his arms to his sides propelling himself upwards as he did so.

She was transfixed by the sight of the tiny koboldi straining and stretching until, incredibly he stood as tall as she did. He stood still as stone, as the seconds died, the two of them staring into each other's eyes. Later she would swear that she could new understanding dawning behind his eyes as they locked gaze with each other. Then, without a word, he turned, walked straight into the mountainside and was gone.

Furia Severia stood a few minutes longer staring at the space where the koboldi had been. She turned the words she had said over and over in her mind, kicking herself each time for the mistake. Still it was done - her great work was complete and nothing could take away from that. She would find a way to make it up to the King in the Mountain later.

She set off down the mountainside, searching for another koboldi. The words would need to be spoken again - and this time the Stone Tamer had better get it right. King Adamant might forgive her for losing one of his servants - but even the stone monarch's patience was not infinite - he would surely not forgive her if she released a second.

Overview

During the Spring Equinox of 383YE, the Urizen coven Ashen Flame performed the arcane projection "The Three Watchers". The ritual allowed the Urizen call in a boon from the eternal Adamant, to send a legion of his koboldi to aid in the construction of a great wonder. Under the careful direction of the Urizen, the little creatures carved three immense statues out of the mountains - each nearly two hundred foot tall - of Highborn soldiers guarding the pass from Morrow to Zenith. Towering over the surrounding landscape, they are a permanent tribute memorialising the Highborn sacrifice for all time.

At the base of the central statue is a small shrine created in anticipation that people might travel to gaze upon the work. The shrine was consecrated with true liao by Aurum of the Nightingale Temple, and now bears a powerful aura of Loyalty. The scale of the statues is breathtaking, but combined with the power of the true aura, the Urizen works will have a dramatic effect that will resound through the ages.

The High Pass

  • Any Highborn or Urizen army attacking Zenith from Morrow will see their morale boosted

The most obvious impact of the gigantic statues is to inspire those Highborn and Urizeni soldiers who see them to fight the enemies of the Empire with every fibre of their being. Of course soldiers are relatively unlikely to fight within the shadow of the Three Watchers, but any force fighting in the vicinity of the mountains will receive a significant boost to morale.

The location of the Three Watchers has been carefully chosen so that they guard the High Pass, the main route between Zenith and Morrow. This means that any Highborn or Urizeni army that attacks from Morrow into Zenith will gain a 20% bonus to any territory captured and suffer a reduction in casualties caused of 10%.

The same benefits would also apply to any army of those nations that attempted to defend the pass. A Highborn or Urizeni force that was defending Morrow by trying to prevent an army attacking Morrow from Zenith would gain a 20% bonus to defend territory and suffer a reduction in casualties caused of 10%.

There is some concern that the statues will need guarding from the Druj, but that appears not to be the case. The Druj rely on fear as a weapon against their enemy, but also use it extensively to terrorise their own people. While fear can be an effective weapon when used to control recalcitrant nations in this way, the example of the Sand Fishers in Ossium demonstrate how it weakens the virtue of a people over time. The Druj use of fear to break people's spirits has left them vulnerable.

The first reports were uncertain, but after three months the evidence is now overwhelming that every Druj patrol that has approached the high pass has turned tail and run at the sight of Three Watchers. The work is so exquisite, so real in appearance that it is easy to imagine them coming to life to defend the passes themselves. Combined with the subtle influence of the aura created at the base of the statues, it seems that the Druj simply cannot bear to gaze on them.

The Loyal Pilgrim

  • Highborn military units require fewer wains of mithril to upgrade until the start of the Autumn Equinox 384YE
  • Highborn armies will receive additional natural resupply for the same period

As predicted, the site has quickly become a popular destination for Highborn pilgrims and those who ponder the significance of human destiny, Loyalty, and Courage. A steady tide of Highborn pilgrims has already made the journey south to gaze upon the face of the Three Watchers and contemplate the sacrifice of those who gave their lives to defend Urizen and the Empire. It is almost impossible to stand in the shadow of these towering sculptures and not feel that you have a manifest destiny to serve Highguard and unite all humanity.

Many of those returning to Highguard are eager to commit themselves to the battle against the Empire's enemies. As a result there is a steady stream of pilgrims looking for opportunities to serve in the Imperial military, either fighting directly with an Imperial army or as part of an independent military unit. Sadly Highguard is no longer able to support a fourth army, but there are sufficient volunteers that any Highborn army that is in a position to benefit from natural resupply will gain an additional 500 strength each season (in addition to the base 500 resupply), and any large army will receive an addition 750 strength (on top of the usual 750 resupply), effectively doubling the speed their armies will recover from battle. This benefit remains until the start of the Autumn Equinox 384YE.

Highborn Exarchs and captains in charge of military units can also benefit from the enthusiasm and motivation of these keen recruits. For the same period, any Highborn military unit can be upgraded for one mithril less than the normal costs. A military unit can only be upgraded once each season, but they could, potentially, be upgraded every season, saving one mithril each time.

The Three Soldiers

  • The Highborn assembly can provide the armies of their nation with new strategies.

The power and majesty of the Three Watchers is not confined to soldiers, it has an enduring effect on everyone who sees them. Each mountain top has been carved to resemble a Highborn soldier, guarding the pass, clothed in armour, weapons at the ready to turn back any who attempt to invade. The Urizen have left an indelible mark on the landscape to demonstrate their gratitude for the commitment of the Highborn armies in the defence of their people. But the aura of Loyalty that infuses the statues reminds everyone of the pivotal role that virtue plays in such a defence. It reminds everyone who sees it that the the purpose of the past is to inspire the present.

Although the Highborn armies are elsewhere, news of the completion of the statues travels quickly. When word of them reaches the soldiers of Highguard in their camps in Feroz and Brocéliande, it lifts their spirits. Those who lost friends and loved ones fighting the Druj in Zenith are reminded of the losses, but also of the battles won, and the knowledge that while the statues endure their sacrifice will never be forgotten. To know that your actions were responsible for such an inspiring monument to human virtue is humbling and rewarding.

As a consequence, the Highborn assembly has the opportunity to pass a mandate that will provide a permanent addition to the strategic options of the nations armies. The two mandates compete with each other - it is not possible to urge the Highborn armies to inspire virtue as they fight and to put the Druj to the sword. The priests of the Assembly must chose one or the other. Whichever mandate the Assembly chooses would need to be passed and endorsed in the coming season, otherwise this benefit of the statues will be lost.

Thanks to the intervention of the Wisdom assembly and the sword scholars, the mandate would need to achieve a greater majority or it would fail to be enacted.

Crusade

Every Highborn child is taught that Virtue and vice are contagious - that a virtuous life leads the faithful to further righteous action. To have their deeds recognised after having achieved so much makes them eager to emulate the great heroes of Highguard - to take the fight to the enemy and to embrace their manifest destiny to drive the enemies of humanity before them.

As a result there is an opportunity for the Highborn National Assembly to pass a mandate encouraging the Highborn armies to zealously embrace their manifest destiny.

The empire is our manifest destiny. We send {named priest} with 75 doses of liao to urge every citizen serving in the Highborn armies to be filled with the zeal to virtuously drive the enemy before them

Synod Mandate, Highborn National Assembly


If this mandate is endorsed during the coming season then all Highborn armies will permanently gain the ability to issue the Crusading Storm attacking order.

Crusading Storm
  • Casualties suffered by this army are increased by a fifth
  • The ability of this army to capture territory is increased by a fifth

A Highborn general who seeks to embody the virtues can achieve victory at any price by ordering his army to attack in a crusading storm. The army will spend the season directly assaulting the enemy troops, attacking with total Ambition and unwavering Courage. They will demonstrate the righteous virtue of the Empire as they carry the crusade to her enemies. This kind of attack is dangerous - casualties will be higher than normal - but the army will gain more ground during that season.

Crucially, if the army is able to engage the enemy during the season that they carry out a crusading storm, then the virtue of the soldiers will be an inspiration or a terror to those who witness it. In that situation, the campaign will automatically generate an opportunity to carry out a mandate that will influence the ongoing campaign and the hearts and minds of those in the territory where the fighting took place. The more crusading armies are present in a territory, the more potent the impact of any mandate will be. The precise wording of the order to carry out a crusading storm given by the general will usually be significant in shaping any mandate.

Punishment

There is another option however. The statues don't simply remind every Highborn of the incredible sacrifice of those who fought against the Druj - they also bring back memories of the terrible nature of their opponents. Of a people who kill what they cannot enslave and destroy what they cannot capture. Of a people so vile, so utterly bereft of virtue, that they can think only of cruel murder and bloodthirsty killing. There is almost no Highborn soldier who has not lost family or friends to the war against the Druj. First in Reikos, then in Zenith and Morrow.

Every day that the Druj still breathe is a reminder that the manifest destiny of the Empire will never be complete until these barbarians are eradicated. As a result there is an opportunity for the Highborn National Assembly to pass a mandate encouraging the Highborn armies to never forget that the Druj are motivated only by wickedness and that no Highborn can rest until they are destroyed and their empire scattered to the winds.

The Druj are motivated only by their own vile wickedness. We send {named priest} with 75 doses of liao to urge every citizen serving in the Highborn armies to be filled with the zeal to put these barbarians to the sword

Synod Mandate, Highborn National Assembly


If this mandate is endorsed during the coming season then all Highborn armies will permanently gain the ability to issue the Put them to the Sword attacking order.

Put them to the Sword
  • When fighting the Druj, casualties inflicted by this army are increased by a fifth
  • When fighting the Druj, the ability of this army to capture territory is reduced by a fifth

A general who gives the order to put a Druj enemy to the sword instructs their soldiers to show the enemy no mercy. Downed foes are summarily executed to ensure that they cannot be saved by their allies. The army will not attack civilians, but anyone supporting the army, in the baggage train or the healing tents, will be treated as a soldier. The army must be cautious, to avoid giving the enemy the opportunity to respond in kind, so they will need to sacrifice territory gained.

This order will only be effective against the hated Druj, against a different enemy, the order would default to a balanced attack. When the day comes that the Druj are finally destroyed, the Highborn Synod could use an appropriate mandate to indicate which enemy should replace them.