Virtue

Tian's status as the oldest recorded Paragon of Ambition, which had been mooted by the Highborn Assembly of the Virtuous, was confirmed by the Imperial Synod at its first assembly in 1 YE. Tian's legend claims that she took fire from the sun to keep her people safe and warm, but forever burned her hands in doing so.

Biography

The legend of Tian have been traced to the people who would go on to found Terunael. How much further back the legends go before that time is not known.

Even now, the legend is incomplete. What remains are scattered verses of what is known as the Tianese Epic. A copy of this text was unearthed by scholars of Highguard even before the Revelation and were widely prized, not least because the story of legendary twins held resonance. Following the Revelation, it became clear that the text related to one who was, or could have been, a Paragon of Virtue. The oldest known copy of the text is stored in Bastion.

While many of the verses are lost, and the provenance of many that remain is debated, the general outline of Tian's legend is clear.

From her very birth, her attitude is contrasted with that of her twin brother, Jian. A lost verse supposedly details her dragging him back within her mother's womb to ensure she was the first-born; some accounts suggest this also spared her mother's life, but others decry this as a later addition.

Tian strives with great determination not to settle for indulgence in the many luxuries that her position affords her, while her brother tries to convince her that achievement is for the lower orders and that she should simply allow everything to be handed to her, as he does.

In the time before fire, winters were harsh and deadly and Tian vowed she would do the impossible and bring the warmth of the summer sun to her people. In the story, she seeks out a wise and ancient being who shows her the way to the highest of all mountains, where the sun dips so close that it can be touched. At first Tian plans to lead her people to the top of the mountain to meet the sun, but rejects the idea of settling for less. So she overcomes many challenges and obstacles to ascend the highest of all mountains and takes the fire from the sun bringing it down to her people then, and evermore.

Some voices have attempted to show her mastery of courage through the stories of her many travails, facing great snow-wolves, grey-blue orcs that freeze over at night and hunt by day, and the many rockslides and switchbacks and crevasses that the mountains bring. But noted scholars point out that many of the stories involve how she avoided such confrontations where possible, with an unwavering focus on her goal driving her to use any stratagem that would bring success.

It is, however, the story which continues after she returns triumphant to her people - one of the most poignant verses detailing her injuries, the hands that would never again hold a spear or a pen - that cement her virtue as that of Ambition, and not that of Loyalty. Not satisfied with saving her own people, for she has to oust her brother Jian who has usurped her position and is ruling poorly, she determines to take the gift of fire to other tribes and peoples, even those with which they have been at war.

The closing verses of the Epic are somewhat cryptic descriptions of all the places to which Tian brought fire, and dwell on several landmarks, although the copies that remain are fragmentary. It is believed by a few scholars that should one be able to collect the entire set of closing verses, the location of Tian's tomb could be found. Some have speculated that her remains could be found in the ruins of Terunael, but there is no evidence to support such a claim.

Speculations and Controversies

  • Some scholars have speculated that Tian may not have literally taken fire from the sun, but that the legend is a metaphor for the discovery of summer realm magic, and inspired the discovery of other magics for which Terunael and the people of that era were famed.
  • Tian's paragon status was disputed by an orc named Bloodhammer Krydak in an incident known as the Krydacian Blasphemy

Signs

  • Tian's liberation was contested by the orc Krydak in the Krydacian Blasphemy, but the claim was never properly evaluated by the Synod. Subsequently, the claim has been discounted out of hand by many due to orcs being unable to receive past life visions. No credible claim of being a reincarnation of Tian has been presented; historically, some Highborn chapters kept secret verses of the Epic to test false claims against.
  • The very early point in history that Tian's exploits took place in means that nothing is recorded that might be an indication of her past lives, so the sign of revelation is impossible to confirm or refute.
  • Tian is one of the standard examples of the sign of benevolence for bringing fire, not for her own sake, or those of her kindred, but to all people everywhere.
  • The Tian's legend has inspired scholars from all nations for generations, and has held an enduring place of regard. Some pious wizards, who believe Tian's fire is a metaphor, have also been known to reference Tian in summer-themed rituals.
  • Tian's acquisition of fire from the sun is also a standard example of the sign of miracles. While there are now known many standard and commonplace ways of making fire, none of them involve carrying it down a treacherous, mountainous journey in one's own hands, straight from the sun itself.
  • While there was no organised religion in Tian's time, her journey to the summit of the highest peak has been cast by some as a pilgrimage of Ambition.
  • Tian's achievement of the sign of salvation is debated. Her deeds were in response to the physical and practical needs of her people, rather than the improvement of their souls and assistance in the Labyrinth. More pragmatic scholars have taken the view that promoting the mortal wellbeing of her people enabled them to pursue Virtue, though others regard this as tenuous.
  • Attempts to claim fire or any form of magic as Tian's legacy have tended to be contested. However, the Tianese Epic itself is considered to be enough for the sign of legacy, given its status and preservation through the years, although some still point at the remains of the final verses and claim that part of this legacy still remains to be found in the final resting place of Tian's mortal remains.

A long way off, a light, a light;

the weakened sentry cries in darkness
bringing rough spears to order
wary, weary from their night


Hushed voices in uncommon chorus
whisper of forbidden memories
the dark-haired girl, her dark-eyed passion
the mirror of her dark-hearted brother


And so they stand out against the blizzard
out trembling in their ragged clothes
as measured stride flickers onwards
bringing light here through the snow


As the fragment of sun grows nearer
ghostly figure puts one foot before the other
iron control in cold-cracked voice
"Come drop your cloaks,


gather branches, take this burden
this gift, this light, this life
I have come too far to end here
I have come too far to end here."


It was not a voice that left
room for doubts or questions;
whatever they had against the snow,
they shed and gave to her


The first bonfire rises;
the flames lick anxiously upwards,
as if they could be reunited
with the sun they were torn from


They send for balm, they send for relief
they send for a healer
but when she cannot move dead wood
with dead hands
she carries the boughs in her teeth

-- First Stanza of the Verse of Triumphant Return, on display in the great Basilica of Tian in Bastion