Will to survive
Around one fire, three figures sat. Two were dressed in the distinctive uniform of the Drakes, their equipment and weapons still by their side. They sat in each others arms, watching the firelight and thinking. Tomorrow the long trek to rejoin the rest of the army beckoened - but for now there was nothing to but wait; and talk to the curious third who'd joined them in the early evening, like them fleeing the oncoming forces as they'd overrun Overton. He was dressed more lightly- though he wore light armour, beneath that his brown robes and cassock distinguished him as a friar.
"So where did you say you were from, Friar?" asked Jill, the taller of the two.
The man sighed, his face suddenly crinkling with time-worn worry. "Whittle, if I ever see it again. Virtues, let them be safe... thirty years we waited, you know... and now the whole Mourn is fallen again."
Grace piped up. "Whittle, I heard of that. You ain't seen nobody and nothing outside your land since the Mourn fell, that right?"
"That's it - though a few of us 'ave been to Anvil, now. I went last season. Didn't fill me with much confidence, to be honest. Seems you brave folks are led by donkeys - ah, it was ever thus. I remember when I were a lad, visiting Anvil, were just the same."
Jill shivered. "Fuck the Jotun. Fuck what they've done, you know, fuck all of this. They call it honorable war - s'not honorable to tear a people from their land. Not right." She fell silent, staring into the fire.
Holding her closer, Grace picked up the refrain: "Yeah. We shouldn't give them an inch, you know, shouldn't have let them creep in. This is what peace brings, you know: it's just delayed horror. Back in my home village, they always said you should stand up to bullies: well, here it seems we give them the pity of picking up their honored dead and leaving the battlefield. They don't deserve it."
The three of them started in silence for a moment. Then, the Friar spoke.
"You know, we have a saying up Whittle way. 'Tolerance is the first crack in strong foundations'. Seems like you might agree."
Grace snorted, and nodded. "Yeah, that's a good way of putting it. Seems to me if we'd done a lot less tolerating of the Jotun before their armies got as big as they are now, we wouldn't be in this mess."
Friar Robin nodded. He seemed to think for a moment, and then the worry lines faded from his face, replaced by a decisive look.
"Look. Things are fucked, here. But I've got a message to spread. Mayhaps it's the only way we've got. Kept us safe in Whittle for a long time..."
The two women looked at each other, then at Robin. "What are you saying?"
"Hear me out, at least, right? Let me tell you about the purest form of will that there is. Let me tell you about hatred..."
The Mournwald has fallen. All seems lost. The armies of the Empire retreat. Across the Marches, those who have been waiting for thirty years to see their homes again feel the deep sadness and disappointment - not for the first time - that they shall have to wait a little longer. Even in this time of great hope and optimism brought about by the new Empress, it's hard for many of the Marcher-folk who yearn for the hill of Freemoor beneath their feet again to feel content.
And from perhaps an unexpected source comes... an opportunity? A threat? Salvation?
The village of Whittle still stands isolated within what is now squarely Jotun territory. Indeed, for all anyone knows it has now fallen. However, some of its residents were staying in Overton - along with a large cache of liao collected by those kind enough to donate to them - and, emboldened by one of their Friars who has made his way to them, they have begun to openly spread the secret of Whittle's survival these long years. They begin to talk openly of the virtue of Hatred... and they are finding many a sympathetic ear.
The Power of Hatred
The friars of Whittle have begun to overtly preach Hatred - and it quickly becomes clear that at least one of them is dedicated to it, and when they find receptive converts, are happy to pass on this dedication to others. Though no-one will admit to accepting such an aura, they are certainly around - and on more than one occasion Hallowed weapons of Hatred are found, or campfires which have been consecrated to that virtue.
If your character has a military unit that has spent time in the Mournwald in the previous season, you may have a ribbon for one of these hallowed weapons in your pack.
Any character who has spent time in the Mournwald this season may have have been exposed to the effects of a Hatred consecration which are as follows:
- You have a profound sense that your will is strong enough to defeat all that you hate. You feel no pity for foes, only righteous contempt.
Obviously, the effects will no longer be actively affecting your character in the field - but of course the purpose of an aura - virtuous or not - is to encourage someone to a certain way of thought.
Auras of hate have not been seen in the Empire in many years, but there is no denying the fact of their presence in the Mournwold now. Not everyone is keen to accept the unorthodox blessings, but those who do find they gain a reserve of inner strength they had not known before. A source of resilience that wells up inside them helping them find the will to go on when all seems lost. Those who embrace Hate feel driven to resist the Jotun.
The Marcher Assembly, the General Assembly, or the Assembly of Nine, may raise a Statement of Principle worded in such a way as to indicate that they support the spread of Hatred of the Jotun. The judgement must include a named priest who will be responsible for finding the Marcher priests who are preaching of the virtue of Hate and providing them with the liao they need to help to spread the word. The named priest will need to provide at least 50 doses of liao for the creation of auras that will encourage Marchers to resist the Jotun.
Spreading auras of Hate across the Mourn will have a significant effect on the Jotun occupation of the territory, encouraging resistance to Jotun rule and suppressing any thought of collaboration. As a result, every region in the Mournwold will be easier for Imperial forces to retake (each region requires 2 less victory points) - due to the help of the Marcher inhabitants. This effect will endure throughout that season - and for each campaigning season thereafter that a further 50 liao are spent sustaining the auras, provided they are continuous. If there is a season's break in the support for the work of the Marcher priests, it may not be possible to resume support later.
These priests could in theory be held responsible for aiding and abetting the religious crimes carried out by the Marcher priests who are directly spreading Hatred. Religious crimes involving dedication to a false virtue usually carry the death penalty, and depending on the specifics of the condemnation that could potentially apply here. However unless and until a relevant synod assembly condemns them, the magistrates will not act; and they cannot interfere with the freedom of priests to speak, to exercise their voting rights, or to collect liao.The positions in the synod hierarchy of the conflicting assemblies would be taken into account when considering the evidence at any trial.
Alternatively the Marcher Assembly or the General Assembly may raise a Statement of Principle reminding the Marchers of the Mournwold of the Virtues of the Way and denouncing Hatred as heretical. The statement would need to be include clear wording that the Empire opposes Hatred of the Jotun and include a named priest who will be responsible for opposing the preaching of Hate. The named priest will need to provide at least 25 doses of liao for the creation of auras that will discourage Marchers from resisting the Jotun.
Such a judgement would put a stop to the spread of Hate in the Mournwold. It will not make it any harder for the Empire to retake the Mournwold, though it well mean that more young Marchers take up arms to fight for the Jotun.
In the event of multiple contradictory statements from the Synod, the one supported by the most liao would win.
Into the Abyss
Many of the soldiers who were fighting in the Mournwold this season have reported the presence of hallowed weapons. Many soldiers have found the spiritual power of these weapons help maintain their will to fight even when the night is at its darkest. Unfortunately, it seems that the auras of these weapons draw their power for a virtue that the Synod does not recognise. Yet at the same time they fan the flames of warrior fervor in those who use them - giving them an outlet for their frustration and directing it against the enemies of the Empire.
During this season, the presence of these hallowed weapons allows the general of the Drakes, the Granite Pillar, the Strong Reeds, the Tusks or the Winter Sun to choose to issue the "Into the Abyss" attacking order in place of their normal order, provided they are fighting in the Mournwold .
- Casualties inflicted by this army are increased by two-fifths.
- The ability of this army to capture territory is increased by one-tenth.
- Casualties suffered by this army are increased by two-fifths.
While the weapons are key to the use of this order, it also reflects a deep antipathy towards the Jotun felt in some parts of the Empire. In particular, the recent tendency for some of the Imperial armies to insist on treating the barbarian attackers as an honorable foe whose traditions should be respected, rather than an invader to be exterminated. There is an undercurrent of anger in some parts of the Marches that Jotun burial mounds are being raised on Marcher soil - an honour that is not generally extended to anyone outside of their nation.
Individuals could be condemned for illegal actions they personally took on campaign if magistrates were made aware of them: but it is not in and of itself illegal to act hatefully; the crime of blasphemy relates to the promotion of Hatred as a false virtue. At trial the magistrates would consider whether the evidence shows that the accused has elevated hatred to the position of a false virtue.Dedication to a false virtue is not required for a successful blasphemy conviction, although it is certainly strong evidence in favour of such.