Haydin watched the Faraden trader carefully. He'd been fascinated by his fellow traveller ever since the woman had joined the caravan at Anozel. The woman was clearly devout. He'd been employed by the caravan master to deliver a small celebration of Prosperity each evening after they made camp, and she hadn't missed a single one. But she kept herself to herself, she never sat with the Freeborn and on more than one occasion, Haydin was conscious that some of the things he'd said had upset her - but thus far he couldn't work out what or why.

Being a good sutannir meant understanding your audience. He'd heard that Kasir i Vara had visited Faraden once, so he'd sought the drover out and tried to pump him for information. Kasir wasn't exactly garrulous, but he'd agreed to tell Haydin what he knew in exchange for dinner at the parador. So here they were, quietly discussing the matter when by sheer chance the Faraden merchant had come in and taken a seat as far away from all the other diners as possible. The paragons were smiling on him today!

Now, instead of talking to Haydin about the Faraden, the two of them were getting a chance to discreetly observe their fellow traveller. Haydin was fascinated, the woman had ordered the paradors speciality, a plate of devilled eggs served with golden couscous and wild mushrooms, but she'd asked for the chef to boil them in water in their shells and serve them with slices of toasted bread. Boiled egg and soldiers was a strange meal to request, when she could have had one of the best dishes from the finest parador in Sobral.

When the eggs arrived, the woman thanked the waiter and then carefully broken open the eggs and spread the contents onto the bread. Rather than begin eating, she stopped to mutter a few words under her breath. Was that some kind of prayer he wondered? She reached into the folds of her long flowing robes and draw out a small pot. It was a beautiful piece, smooth and polished perfectly symmetrical brown stone. She put the pot down, carefully unscrewed the top and placed it to one side. Her precision was measured and precise, it was clear she had done this a thousand times before. She touched her fingers briefly to the pot and then cast her hands outwards over the plate. Some kind of spell maybe? She repeated this twice more, before carefully putting the lid back on the pot and returning it to her robes.

He nudged Kasir discreetly and tilted his head in the direction of the woman as she was finishing the ritual. "Is that some kind of religious ceremony?" he whispered.

Kasir snorted slightly and shook his head laughing. "Nah. That's just the Faraden. They eat all their food like that. They put salt on bloody everything - I've even seen them put it on porridge. It's horrible."
Icon of Cora Holdfast.jpg
Even some folk who profess to follow the Way can bring strange new ideas to the Empire, as this icon of Cora Holdfast created by the Free Folk demonstrates.
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At the recent summit, the Pride Assembly approved a judgement submitted by Ubarius of Tropiaon Citadel that urged priests to redouble their efforts to convert those who have been allowed to settle in the Empire without adopting the Way. The Virtues have united the Empire for the best part of four centuries, the one thing every citizens has in common. Empress Teleri took the Throne by claiming that the Way was the only thing that could hold the nations together, and without it it would be doomed to fall apart. The power of the Imperial Synod has waned a little since Teleri's time, but the Empire's commitment to the Way has never wavered. And so the Empire has remained as strong as its devotion to the Virtues.

Recent events have begun to test those bonds. There have always been foreigners dwelling in the Empire who kept their own faith. But in recent years there has been an influx of people who have sought the benefits of dwelling among the Imperial nations, but seem to have no interest in adopting the Way.

Pride and Prejudice

The number of large extant groups dwelling in the Empire who don't observe the Way is growing by the day. The hylje in Wintermark, the Jotun thralls in the Marches, and the Feni all across the West of the Empire. There are various enclaves and embassies across the territories of the Bay of Catazar. In Feroz, the Empire gave Asavea permission to build a great temple to the Black Bull, and look how that turned out! There are Sand Fishers in Holberg, and entire septs of orcs living in Skarsind, none of whom follow the Way. Ubarius' statement urges their fellow priests not to accept this status quo and calls on them to redouble their efforts to convert these newcomers.

The virtuous do not demean others, they inspire them to greatness. By allowing various foreigner such as the Feni, the Great Forest Orcs or other similar groups to settle in our lands without them adopting the Way as directed by our Synod, we are letting them languish in their own error-strewn beliefs. In doing this we demean them by denying them a chance for greatness by living lives of Virtue. We urge the priests of our Empire to not be complacent, but strive for excellence in missionary work and convert these misguided souls to a true understanding of the Way.

Ubarius, Pride Assembly, Winter Solstice 384YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 285 to 26)

Missionary work is inherently difficult. People don't change their religious beliefs easily, and it is very challenging to predict the outcome of attempting to do so in advance. The Empire has had some successes in converting others to the Way in recent times. The Grendel claim they were brought to the Way by Urizeni missionaries more than a century ago. The Lasambrians were convinced to embrace the Virtues, although that seemed to benefit the Jotun more than the Empire. The Sand Fishers probably represent the Empire's greatest success in recent times. They have eagerly embraced some virtues since settling down in Holberg, but even so they show only limited interest in the Way.

The best way to improve the chances of a positive outcome would be to send missionary priests to talk about the Way, but with instruction to find out as much as they could about the current religious beliefs of the people they are talking to. This won't convert anyone to the Way but it would provide the Empire with the kind of information they have about the Axos religion or the misplaced ideas of the Mournwold thralls.

It's not possible to approach every group of foreigners in the Empire at the same time, there are simply too many of them to gain meaningful benefits in that way. But the devotees of Pride have been enthused by Ubarius' statement. Each summit for the next year, until the end of the Winter Solstice 385YE, the Cardinal of Pride can submit a mandate to the Pride Assembly to indicate who they should focus their missionary work on.

The Virtuous inspire others to greatness. We send {named priest} with 75 doses of liao to urge priests to engage with {named group} to learn their ways to discover if we might bring them to the Way.

Synod Mandate, Pride Assembly

If this mandate gains the approval of the Assembly then it will provide the Empire with a better understanding of the religious beliefs of the group named, and of any possible conflicts with the Way.

Who to Speak To

There are many groups that the Empire could approach - the civil service have outlined some of the most obvious choices.

The Faraden

Moonwater Hall has been destroyed, but Faraden traders are still a common sight in the Empire. These traders seem to follow the Way, or at least a version of it. They embrace Courage, Loyalty, Prosperity and Pride and a fifth "Virtue" - Vengeance, or "Justice" as the Faraden call it. Their pursuit of Justice has brought repeated conflict with the Empire, but in recent times they have made a concerted effort to reign in the more extreme adherents of the false power. Yet even with all this contact, the exact ins-and-outs of the Faraden religion have never really been explored. Just how close to the Way are their beliefs?

The Feni

There are several large groups of Feni living in scattered communities across the West of the Empire. They have consistently refused to embrace the Virtues for the best part of five centuries. They are often hostile to Imperial citizens and many survive by raiding and theft. They have never shown any interest of any kind in embracing the Way. They appear to worship gods of their own, who they claim keep them safe from their enemies. Any outreach to the Feni could be dangerous, they are often hostile towards the Empire, especially its priests.

The Great Forest Orcs

The Great Forest Orcs take their name from the Great Forest of Peytaht, one of the largest forests in the Empire that covers parts of the Barrens and the neighbouring territories. The Great Forest Orcs have grown closer to the Empire in recent years, but they have been reluctant to discuss their religion with anyone. They appear to be idolators of some kind, seeming to believe that the Great Forest is alive and they can communicate with it.

The Hylje

The Hylje of Wintermark claim to be shapeshifting cousins of the Suaq. There is surprisingly little known about hylje beliefs, despite the fact that they are close allies of the Mark. They do not seem to possess liao or have any use for it - it is not clear if they could learn to use it.

The Marracossans

These exiles from the Asavean Archipelago are unrepentant idolators. They may despise the Nemorian ruling class, they may have rebelled against the Plenum, but they still worship their three gods. The Senate recently ceded the town of Trajadoz to them, allowing them to create an independent enclave in Madruga. They trade with their neighbours, some even seek employment with the Freeborn, but they have been very clear they have no interest in, or desire to learn about. the Way. Now the land has been ceded to them, they will almost certainly begin construction of a temple to their so-called gods. Missionaries could be sent to show them the error of their ways, but the concedence would mean that if they responded badly the Empire would have limited legal recourse to respond.

The Montanians

What remains of the Freedom Heresy, the Montanians have taken great care to keep their religious beliefs to themselves. They live in Therunin, but a few have recently ended their self-declared exile and return to roam the trods with the Great Forest Orcs. They are known to follow the Way - and will sometimes deal with Imperial priests on matters of faith. Unfortunately their keen embrace of the malign spiritual presence of Freedom makes it difficult to reconcile them with The Way.

The Sand Fishers

The Sand Fishers have settled in the marshy forests on the edge of Holberg far away from the city itself. They seemed impressed with the virtues and very impressed by Imperial priests, but there has been little direct contact in recent seasons. Still they are very favourably inclined towards the Empire, and have embraced the Virtues - so an approach to them is likely to be easier than most other groups.

The Septs of Skarsind

There are four distinct septs in Skarsind; the Ethengraw, the Illarawm, the Yerende, and the Tamazi. Each of these is a different group - all of whom could be approached by Imperial preachers. However, negotiations with all these orcs are at a precarious stage - any incautious approach by missionaries creates a significant risk of upsetting delicate relations with the septs.

Other Groups

Other groups exist, and could be the target of the Cardinal's mandate, but the civil service advise that the power will fail if used to send people to engage with the Axos. Their religious beliefs are well know and there is nothing more the Empire could learn about them. The Cardinal could ask the Assembly to approach the Mournwold thralls or the Iron Confederacy. There is a great deal known about these groups already, but the knowledge is scattered among a handful of individuals in the Empire who have had personal contact with them in their visits to Anvil. So missionaries won't discover much or anything that is currently unknown, but it would allow the civil service to collate whatever was discovered and publish it widely.

Further Reading