After two days of toil, the work was finally done, the bales piled high on the dockside. "Where will you go next?" she asked him as they finally took a well deserved break.

"I'm not sure." Samuel responded. "I want to try and follow the trod south as far as it will go. I spoke to a Navarr vate, Ifan, and they said that was the best way to do this. You walk out as far as the trod goes, and then loop round and come back. Take a different route where you can. That's what they told me."

"Well - if you change your mind - you'd be welcome to stop here a while. The bed has been spare since my eldest left home. We could always use people who know how to graft. We pay well..." The dhomiro flashed him a beautiful smile. He'd seen her wife, so he knew she wasn't flirting, but she was clearly trying to charm him into staying a little longer. She'd told him three times she was short-handed at the moment and that there would be a new ship tied up here by the morning

He pondered the thought of returning to the dusty trod... weighed it against the luxury of the dhomiro's family home. The scales did not balance well. A pilgrimage was not supposed to be easy he reminded himself.

"Thank you - that's very kind - but I must set off. Perhaps if I come back this way, I could help again?" They'd been unloading bales of cloth from a wide Freeborn caravel moored in the harbour. It had been back-breaking work, carrying each bale on your shoulders down the gangplank, but he'd been determined to prove his worth. He needed coin for food for the road and she'd paid well and fed and boarded him with her family to keep both their costs down, so it had worked well for everyone.

"Only if you agree to stop one more night and have dinner with us. You can meet Ibbie and the rest of the family." She flashed him another charming smile and then went in for the kill. "You can ask Isabella some of those questions you asked me." she said in an encouraging tone. "Her cousin's a sutannir, so she's bound to have answers for you."

A proper chance to talk with the dhomiro and her wife was just too much to pass up. The hot meal and the hot bath was just a bonus he told himself. "Well if you don't mind - that would be very kind - thank you." he inclined his head as he spoke, humbled by her generosity.

"It's not charity!" she grinned having already won her negotiation. "The charge is that you promise to ask her the same questions you asked me... Ibbie adores a challenge and it will be so nice to talk about something more important than the price of fish for a change. No more arguments then - I'll have Cari make up a fresh bed and draw you a bath."

The pilgrim inclined his head once more and thanked her again. The trods through the Coast were hot and dusty, but the people, like the Coast itself, were full of fire. He would definitely have to try and come back this way if he could.


The grey pilgrims have fanned out across the Empire as they traverse the trods seeking to aid the Navarr in their quest to weaken the vallorn. Guided by the statements passed by the Highborn Assembly and with the backing of the Assembly of Nine, they have also taken every opportunity to speak with those they have met - to question them about their faith - and to encourage them to ask questions in turn.

For the most part, the pilgrims have been respectful and polite when speaking to people. They have been considerate when talking to people, listening to what they have to say and asking questions about people's faith. They are having an impact because they are showing due respect to the people they are engaging with them.

The goal of this inquiry is to encourage the faithful to question their beliefs, to think about their faith and to ask themselves if any part of what they are doing is contradicted by doctrine. Such conversations are often challenging; most of the people the pilgrims are talking to are not priests and they lack any formal religious or scholastic training. Many find it difficult to answer the questions that conversation with the pilgrims has provoked. Priests across the Empire have noticed absences from their congregations as citizens sought answers elsewhere.

With the Synod about to convene at Anvil for the Summer Solstice, the chance has arrived to provide the Empire with answers to some of these questions. Presuming answers exist of course.

Travelling Along The Way

In addition to weakening the vallorn the grey pilgrims seek to help the Empire perfect their understanding of the Way. Part of that desire is based in genuine humility - a realisation that all knowledge of the Way is incomplete - so the pilgrims have questioned Highborn beliefs just as fiercely as those of other nations. The ultimate goal of such questions is to help humanity identify false beliefs and deal with them.

The civil servants who examined the original mandates used to provide guidance to the pilgrims assumed that the current difficulties would endure until a nation had taken steps to address their heretical beliefs. But that calculation presumes that the hetrodox beliefs that are undeniably present in parts of the Empire are intrinsically heretical. Questions alone cannot establish that - for a definitive ruling on such matters, most people look to the Synod - more specifically to the General Assembly. Only the General Assembly has the power to change doctrine - as such they are the obvious body to rule on whether some of the more unorthodox beliefs and practices found in the Empire constitute heresy.

As a result of the tireless questions of the grey pilgrims, the General Assembly is now faced with an array of questions - in the form of mandates that they could choose to pass. These questions each relate to some of the more questionable religious traditions found in each of the human nations of the Empire.

The Synod does not need to accept these beliefs - that could well be a step too far for many. However if they confirm that these beliefs or practices are not in direct conflict with religious doctrine then that would help to answer the questions posed by the grey pilgrims. As a result, if the mandate listed below for a nation is endorsed, then the current penalty affecting congregations in that nation would end.

If the mandate is declined, then the penalty will continue until some other action is taken to resolve the issue identified.

The Brass Coast

Followers of the Way on the Coast often take a very different view of the virtues and their appropriate place in society. Such views are epitomised by the feast of the Broken Wheel, the annual celebration where turn virtue on its head and celebrate the contrary. There have numerous attempts to declare the Feast to be blasphemous over the years, but the Freeborn have always successfully resisted them. However the recent arrival of the Zemress Islanders has brought a more sombre tone to the Coast. It is clear that many of the Islanders are scandalised by the Feast and the lies, the foolishness, and the pranks that accompany it. Coupled with the challenge posed by the grey pilgrims, people on the Coast are questioning the role the Feast plays.

The doctrine of the Way is not diminished by the parody of the Broken Wheel, precisely because it is a parody. What matters to the faithful is the beliefs people hold in the heart, not the practical jokes they play on their friends. We send (named priest) with 50 doses of liao to reassure the Freeborn that there is no need for concern about the feast

Synod Mandate, General Assembly


Like the Brass Coast, Dawn has a relationship with the Imperial Synod that is fractious on occasion. The central role given to glory and love in Dawn sometimes eclipses the importance of the virtues in the minds of Dawnish folk. When the Dawnish Assembly last spoke on the subject they were clear that "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.". But to absolutely settle the matter, at least for a generation, would need a mandate by the General Assembly.

The Doctrine of the Seven openly acknowledges that qualities other than the seven Virtues may benefit humanity - and there can surely be no doubt that Love and Glory benefit humanity. We send (named priest) with 50 doses of liao to encourage the Dawnish to celebrate love and glory.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly


The grey pilgrims have not confined their discussions to the lands outside Highguard. Although they are travelling the length and breadth of the Empire, they return frequently to their home and there they continue to question. If anything their questions here are deeper, more penetrating, for being Highborn themselves, they know much already.

At first it seems there is little to find. Highguard has the same potential for cults dedicated to false virtues as any nation does, but it doesn't have any widespread practices that could be considered unorthodox or against doctrine. The Way was discovered in Highguard and spread by them when they founded the Empire. Centuries of commitment to orthodoxy has meant that the Highborn nation has no obviously questionable practices.

But as they continue to probe, the grey pilgrims unearth a deeper truth. Highguard often likes to claim that the Empire is their destiny, and there is a commonly held view that Highguard shoulders the burden of ensuring that the Imperial Synod and by extension the Empire itself, remains committed to Virtue and the Doctrines of the Faith. But increasingly Highborn citizens question whether this commitment still endures. The Synod appears to turn a blind eye to the presence of the folk devoted to false virtues like the Whittle folk living in Mournwold and Tassato, the freedom heretics living with the Great Forest Orcs, or the Faraden traders spreading our across the Empire. It has allowed the Asaveans to construct temples to their false gods on Imperial soil, and watched as the Imperial Senate paid them to construct a parade of blasphemous commissions. The Imperial Senate commissioned a giant sacrifice to Rhianos, in the most blatant idolatrous act of propitiation of an eternal imaginable.

In many of these cases the Imperial Synod investigated the matter, but little action seemed to come of it. Highborn children are taught from an early age that only actions are virtuous - talk of virtue will not speed your passage through the Labyrinth. The example of the Cinderpath Exchange shows what can be achieved by taking a principled, virtuous stance. But both virtue and vice are contagious - the more the acts of blasphemy, idolatry, and heresy that the Empire tolerates then the more these diseases spread.

A virtuous life leads the faithful to further righteous action but vile behaviour spreads just as easily if not checked. Blasphemy, idolatry, and heresy have been allowed to spread unchecked through the Empire for too long. We send (named priest) with 50 doses of liao to commit every citizen in Highguard to the struggle to eradicate the seeds of corruption from the Empire before they can flourish.

Synod Mandate, Highborn Assembly

This mandate can be passed in the Highborn Assembly, because it is not a question of doctrine, but rather one of commitment to it. If this mandate is passed, then the current reduction in attendance in Highborn congregations will cease. However the need for Highguard to lead the fight against tolerance for religious crimes in the Imperial Synod will endure for the coming year. As a result, statements of principle in the Highborn Assembly that do not directly address matters of orthodoxy and false beliefs in the Empire will be significantly less likely to result in a mandate.

The League

The League is notable for being one of the nations of the Empire whose religious beliefs and practices are almost as orthodox as the Highborn - perhaps a reflection of their shared history. However there is one cultural practice - dead reckoning - that has provoked concern. In particular one feature of dead reckoning, the part where every guild keeps a count of those who have worked against their interests in the past, because such offences represent a debt that is still to be repaid, begs the question "Is that not a dedication to vengeance?"

Vengeance is a malign spiritual presence. It is commonly practised in Faraden but it was deemed unvirtuous by the Early Synod and forbidden. It is impossible to reconcile the spiritual presence of Vengeance with the current Doctrine of the Seven, but is Dead Reckoning actually an act of Vengeance, or as its defenders argue, just good business sense?

The essence of Dead Reckoning is an embodiment of prosperity, a system to ensure that people get the just rewards for their labours. We send (named priest) with 50 doses of liao to encourage League citizens to remember that it is virtuous to despise the thieving bandit, the lazy wastrel, the grasping miser, and those who take without giving.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

The Marches

In the Marches questions are being asked about the belief that a dead soul spends an amount of time being reborn as a non-human between lives. Not everyone in the Marches accepts this view, but it is surprisingly widespread and generally accepted by most folk there. Such beliefs are at odds with the orthodox beliefs in the Labyrinth of Ages, but their defenders argue they do not directly contradict any of the Doctrines of the Faith. This strange belief is not the only area of concern. The practice of shriving, where a trusted friar or monk takes on the sins of another to share the burden has no direct approval in doctrine, though it has on occasion been taken up by priests in other nations.

Neither the practice of shriving nor the belief that humans can be reborn in the bodies of trees or animals are directly contradicted by any part of the Doctrines of the Faith. We send (named priest) with 50 doses of liao to reassure Marcher citizens that their traditional customs and beliefs are an acceptable expression of the Way.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly


As part of the Way, most Navarr express a firm belief in the The Great Dance, the idea that there is a "right" time and place for each soul and it is the duty of a guide to help a pilgrim their place. The idea that people who find their perfect partner in the Dance are destined to find that partner again and again each time they are born is not something that is supported by doctrine. Like many older national beliefs, the Navarr understanding of the Great Dance predates the formation of the Empire and the spread of the Seven Virtues and the fact that the Navarr have synchronised this belief with the Way concerns some philosophers and religious scholars.

The essence of the Great Dance is the belief that each person must find the time and the place where they can become their most virtuous self. It is a practical way to help people become more virtuous and we send (named priest) with 50 doses of liao to confirm to Navarr citizens that there is nothing in the Great Dance that is incompatible with the Way.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

Our understanding of the Way is based in doctrine, reason, and logic. Following the example set by Sulemeine i Taziel we encourage all who would test their wisdom to accompany the Sword Scholars in engaging the Grey Pilgrims in spirited theological debate.

Aspar, Urizen Assembly, Spring Equinox 383YE, Upheld (107 - 0 Greater Majority)


The dialogue between the grey pilgrims and the people of Urizen, and the response of the Urizen Assembly, has motivated people to consider the role of the controversial Urizeni figure, Sulemaine, daughter of Taziel. Sulemaine was active in Urizen in the early years when Highborn priests first began to spread their faith to the world, before the Empire was formed. She would challenge priests to debate and - according to all the stories - she would embarrass and shame those unable to sufficiently ground their beliefs in reason and logic, and then execute them for their failure. A few wry wits ask if the Urizen Assembly is subtly suggesting that the Urizen people should butcher any grey pilgrims they find deficient in reason or logic as Sulemaine once did, but most people are fairly certain that the Assembly would have been explicit if they had wanted people to follow that example.

However the statement by the Assembly does serve to focus minds on Sulemaine's relationship with the Way. The sword scholars, those who follow Sulemaine, hold that their founder was a Paragon of Wisdom, and ascribe various miracles to her. However she is not recognised as such by the Imperial Synod and the definition of blasphemy is the promotion of false virtues and the teachings of false exemplars or false paragons.

Although the Synod does not accept that Sulemaine meets the criteria to be judged a paragon, it is clear that she taught and practised widely on the virtue of Wisdom. As such she cannot be regarded as a false paragon. We send (named priest) with 50 doses of liao to acknowledge to Urizeni citizens that is it acceptable to call for any virtuous human to be recognised as a paragon.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

...(Varushka) is a land of Virtue and deep faith. In Autumn 381 it was recognised as an Orthodox nation. It is the home of Exemplars like Olga (Vigiliance) and Chernobog (Loyalty). Of Paragons such as Vardas (Vigilance) and Zoria (Wisdom) as well as the Pilgrimage site of Wendell's Hope (Courage). We tore down the false idols of the Asavean architect. With the building of the Seminary School "The Hearth of Virtue" the light of the Way shall burn ever brighter in our lands. We celebrate the naming of Father Drakov as "Tender of the Hearth" to guide and train the next generation of our Assembly. Let none doubt our faith or virtue.

Father Drakov, Varushkan Assembly, Spring Equinox 383YE, Upheld (172 - 0 Greater Majority, Primacy)


Like the League, Varushka is one of the more orthodox Imperial nations, perhaps a reflection of the need for clear rules that are strictly adhered to here. "Do not stray from the path" is one of the first things every Varushkan child learns. At the last summit a judgement that laid out in clear terms Varushka's commitment to orthodoxy was raised by Father Drakov and supported by the National assembly with a greater majority. As Father Drakov pointed out it was Varushka - of all the nations in the Empire - that acted first to tear down the false idols of the Asavean architect Almodin Oktístis.

Although they are not named, it is difficult to read the judgement as anything other than a clear rebuttal of the probing questions posed by the grey pilgrims.

But there is one question that has not been answered. Varushka is a hard land in no small part because of the presence and influence of the sovereigns. Wise one and volhov alike often treat with these malign inhuman creatures, making pacts and bargaining with them. And therein lies the danger. Imperial law defines idolatry as subsuming human will and destiny to any inhuman entity or force.

Does bargaining with a sovereign amount to idolatry?

Sovereigns are clearly inhuman entities, but the doctrines of the faith do not prohibit bargaining with them anymore than they prohibit bargaining with eternals or their heralds. We send (named priest) with 50 doses of liao to remind every Varushkan that humans are the greatest of all beings in creation.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly


At the previous summit Rane Sherarding raised a statement of principle that laid out how Wintermark heroes should deal with the Krampus. Some have interpreted this statement as a rejection of the questions posed by the grey pilgrims, but the Highborn have had few conversations about the Krampus - if any - and most of them seem to assume it is nothing more than an unusual manifestation of the Wintermark egregore.

Rather, discussion has focused on the heroes interred in the swamps at Kallavesa, and the way some Wintermark venerate these ancestors. Many nations keep detailed records of their lineage and family tree, and Wintermark is unremarkable in that sense. But those who spend time in the far north all comment that some citizens of the Mark have a unique view of their ancestors, seeing them as a source of Wisdom and in some cases as figures to be honoured. The idea some have - that the spirits of their ancestors are sleeping in the swamp where they are interred - could be at odds with the Doctrine of the Labyrinth which states that human souls go to the labyrinth on their death.

“To sleep in Kallavesa” is a metaphor that describes the heroes reward and interring the bodies of heroes in the Wintermark swamp is no different to the tombs and mausoleums of Highguard. We send (named priest) with 50 doses of liao to assure every citizen of the 'Mark that it is right to be inspired by the heroic and virtuous achievements of our forebears.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

We embrace the diversity and faith of all nations under the banner of the Empire and find pride in our differences, rejecting the Grey Pilgrims’ criticism of national hearth magic and interpretations of the Way and instead urge tolerance not persecution.

Mazo i Zabala i Erigo, Freeborn Assembly, Spring Equinox 383YE, Upheld (140 - 0 Greater Majority)

We, the Navarr national assembly embrace the diversity and faith of all nations under the banner of the Empire and find Pride in our differences, rejecting the Grey Pilgrims critique of national hearth magic and interpretation of the way. Instead we urge tolerance not persecution.

Aniera Exiles End, Navarr Assembly, Spring Equinox 383YE, Upheld (138 - 0)

... To preach in subversion of local leaders... flies in the face of the principles of Pride. The Grey Pilgrims should reassess their methods and move forward as though with the affirmation of Pride, an anointing which teaches us not only to feel our own self-worth but to acknowledge the worth of others and to treat them with respect. The virtues inspire others to greatness they do not demean them.

Constanza i Kalamar i Guerra, Pride Assembly, Spring Equinox 383YE, Upheld (257- 0 Greater Majority)

Alternate Mandates

The office of the Tribune have taken the unusual step of issuing additional advice regarding the lack of possibilities for alternative mandates in this case. They have indicated that it is not possible to submit an alternate mandate repudiating any of the beliefs or practices under debate. If the Synod do not wish to endorse the practice then all that is needed is to vote against the mandate if it is raised. If a priest wishes to enact a mandate denouncing a specific religious practice then they would need to start by raising a statement of principle that made clear why it was in conflict with doctrine.

Likewise it is not possible for most national assemblies to submit mandates affecting the current situation, they would need to first pass a statement of principle. Two national assemblies have passed statements rejecting the pilgrims' criticism of hearth magic in their lands and urging tolerance not persecution, but no pilgrim has shown the slightest interest in matters of hearth magic. Their concerns are for faith, doctrine, and religious practice, not magic.

Moreover there is no persecution here - they are simply talking to people about the things they believe in, and asking them questions about that. Most Imperial citizens are well aware that their religious practices are tolerated or approved of by their own priests. But discussion with the grey pilgrims has made them question some of the beliefs unique to their nation. They are seeking answers from the General Assembly to those questions because they understand that it is the General Assembly that settles doctrinal matters. That engagement is not something that a national assembly can currently affect with a mandate.

For similar reasons, no mandates are available to the virtue assemblies to affect the current situation. The Pride Assembly has issued a strong statement of principle discouraging the grey pilgrims from asking further questions, but those who has spoken with the Highborn travellers claim to feel neither demeaned nor disrespected. The visitors have been unfailingly polite, and have talked to people as equals, discussing their faith with them as fellow travellers on the Way. The questions have arisen because people have been exposed to different viewpoints, often for the first time in their lives, not because anyone has told them they are doing it wrong.

... We've held true to the Way and Virtue as long as we've had it, and the Paragon Kethry exemplifies sticking to your roots despite whatever sods make you question yourself. "Embrace your past, never be ashamed of it!" ...they were clearly false with their stated intent to fight the threat of the Vallorn. We encourage good Marcher folk to shun the pilgrims; offer them no bread, nor shelter, nor friendly ear until they stop sticking their noses in our business.

Mel o' Bleak House, Marcher Assembly, Spring Equinox 383YE, Upheld (72- 0 Greater Majority)


Two national assemblies passed statements defending hearth magic and their cultural traditions but Mel o' Bleak House raised a judgement that passed with a greater majority that urged the Marcher citizens to turn the grey pilgrims from their door, offering them neither bread, nor shelter, nor a friendly ear until they stop asking questions about matters that don't concern them.

While it is difficult to convincingly argue that the Highborn assembly falsely stated their intent to fight the threat of the vallorn since they are clearly walking the trods with the same dedication the Navarr show, it is inarguable that there was no mention of their role as pilgrims when they asked the Empire to support them. Many Marchers have a dim view of people poking their noses into their business and it is not difficult to turn sentiment in the Marches against the pilgrimage with a suitable mandate.

If the mandate below were passed it would not resolve the current spiritual questions being asked by Marchers but it would make the Marches an inhospitable land for Highborn travellers and halt any future exchange of religious views between the two nations. There would be no more risk of the pilgrims sticking their nose into Marcher business.

The grey pilgrims have no right to be encouraging people to question their faith - it ain't their place to be asking their questions. We send (named priest) with 50 doses of liao to urge every citizen to shun the pilgrims.

Synod Mandate, Marcher Assembly

In addition the pilgrims would be shunned which means that the Marches would no longer support the pilgrims. Highguard could support them without further penalty if just the Marches took this approach. However if more nations joined the Marches then the deleterious effects of the pilgrimage on the Highborn economy would resume, at least in part.

Some folks argue that the Marchers should go further than just shunning the pilgrims. The folk of Whittle are particularly indignant and seem to take the pilgrims as something of a personal affront. They argue that a good dose of rough music whenever a Highborn citizen dared to show their face in the Marches would show these foreigners that there was no place for them there.

Highborn folk should stay in Highguard, not come over here asking hard-working folk questions no-one needs answers to. We send (named priest) with 50 doses of liao to urge every Marcher to drive the Highborn off with rough music wherever they appear

Synod Mandate, Marcher Assembly

This mandate would be go much further than the previous one, basically making life in the Marchers unbearable for the grey pilgrims and indeed for any Highborn citizen. In effect this mandate is in competition with the one above. The mandate would effectively render the Marches hostile territory for the grey pilgrims as well as any other Highborn citizens who came here - and force them to adjust accordingly.

Highborn and Marcher businesses that make a living by trading with members of the other nation - or those whose profits rely in that trade would be hit. Highborn armies could not be resupplied while in Marcher territories, either naturally or with emergency resupply. The impact of the pilgrimage on the vallorn would also be diminished as the pilgrims would simply be forced to abandon any hope of traversing the area using the trods.

Dawn does thank the Grey Pilgrims for their gift. In their words and deeds they show us the Highborn Way. In gratitude we offer this, our own gift. To as troubadours come to the Highborn. And so in word and deed show them Dawn's Way.

The Earl of Fools, Dawn Assembly, Spring Equinox 383YE, Upheld (164- 16 Greater Majority)


Like the Urizen Assembly, Dawn has issued a clear statement that Dawn should respond in kind encouraging troubadours to travel to Highguard. The idea of giving Highguard a dose of their own medicine has some appeal to a fair few, although cooler heads point out that the grey pilgrims are asking questions of everyone, including the Highborn. But the other way to interpret the statement is as a genuine and gracious gesture of thanks - one that attempts to return the honour by encouraging Dawnish troubadours to travel to Highguard and show them Dawn's way.

The Highborn have come to Dawn to show us the Highborn Way in their words and deeds. We should rise to the challenge and send our best troubadours to teach them about Dawn. We send (named priest) with 50 doses of liao to urge every troubadour to travel to Highguard and teach them about glory and love.

Synod Mandate, Dawn Assembly

This mandate does contain some significant potential for making the current situation worse. While the official view of the Dawn Assembly is that love and glory are paths for the virtuous to follow, there are not an insignificant number of Dawnish troubadours who hold a more traditional view, one that predates the formation of the Synod or even the Empire. Dawnish priests travelling through Highguard singing tales of adventure, of romance, of love and glory risk inflaming opinion in Highguard and the wider Empire.


Every mandate regarding questionable practices save that of Dawn was enacted by the General Assembly. The Dawn national assembly sent Mael Donjeon of House Remys to spread understanding of love and glory in Highguard.