"We invented the Way."

Laloc frowned. The Sumaah priest look unimpressed at the Imperial merchant's claim. "Discovered. You discovered the Way."

Harro floundered slightly. "Invented. Discovered. The point is that was us. We don't have to listen to what you say."

"It's an important distinction. Your people discovered the Way. You did not create the Labyrinth, did not create the Virtues. In truth what your ancestors did - your ancestors mind, not you - was refine a better key to a door that has always existed."

Harro was regretting stopping to talk to this odd priest now; he really should have just unloaded his cargo of oranges and been on his way. He felt he should be polite when he was approached and now he couldn't seem to get away and all his attempts to disagree with the fellow were not going the way he'd imagined they would. "So we agree that the Empire discovered the Way?"

"Of course - we dispute your ethics, not your facts. But consider how you appear to us. You are like the old smith who has discovered a single technique for smelting and now demands that every other smith in the world must obey their dictates. Worse - the Way tells us to be ambitious and proud. Do you really think that, as believers, we should put our Ambition and Pride aside and accept the yoke of people who are less committed to the pursuit of truth than we are? Did you think we would always look to Bastion because centuries ago your predecessors discovered how to see a little farther than those who came before?"

Harro scratched his head and tried to think of something to say. He had a vague sense that he was not going to win this argument. He'd been here before, once, years ago. Arguing with a a Highborn priest about the nature of Prosperity. It was the liao that did it he reckoned - it filled people up with a burning belief that they were absolutely right about what they were doing. At best that kind of conviction could be awfully persuasive, but if you were inclined to disagree with them it was like trying to move a mountain. Bravely he thought he should give it one last try.

"I think you should accept the fact that the Synod know what's best and listen to what they say." He nodded as he spoke to add extra emphasis to what he was saying. "That's what I try to do - most times."

Laloc smiled as he leaned forward. "Does that sound like Pride to you?"

The True Way

The Sumaah Republic has never denied that the Empire helped them find the Way. What they increasingly take issue with, however, is the idea that they should look to Bastion and the Imperial Synod for guidance.

They recognise the same Virtues as Imperial priests; study the same ceremonies; harvest liao; explore the mysteries of true liao; look to the same doctrines; debate the nature of the Labyrinth, the paragons and exemplars, and the Creator just as much as their peers in the Empire do.

Yet in contrast to the Empire, their Republic is guided at every level by the Praster of the Way. Their guidance informs the thoughts of nearly every citizen. The people of Sumaah strive constantly to spread the Way to all other humans. They are inflexibly intolerant of heretics and blasphemers - of any deviation from their strict interpretation of their faith. And, over time, their understanding of some of the virtues - perhaps most especially the virtue of Loyalty - seems to have diverged from that of the Empire. Now, while the Empire and the Republic are at peace, the Houses of Virtue have set themselves in direct opposition to the Imperial Synod proclaiming themselves the true guardians of the faith.

We have heard the claim of Sumaah that they now hold the heart of the Way, and that they intend to encourage the faithful of other nations to pilgrimage there. We reject this insult to our Pride, and reaffirm that Bastion, the White City, is the heart of the faith. The Imperial Synod and the people of the Empire will continue to prove this through virtuous action and so act as a beacon to all the world.

Statement of Principle, Edward Novarion, General Assembly, Summer Solstice 382YE, Upheld (1066-193)

As a result Sumaah missionaries have spread out across the world - including to the Empire. These devout followers of the Way preach in ports along the southern coast of the Empire. They expound upon the doctrines of the Way and the tenets of the virtues both publicly and in private meetings with citizens interested in what they have to say. In addition to their sermons on the importance of orthodoxy, and of denouncing and opposing blasphemy, heresy, and idolatry, they have repeatedly denounced the Imperial Synod, claiming that the Virtue assemblies in particular have allowed political expediency to blind them to the true path of Virtue.

They point to a number of clear examples of this - the presence of the Temple of Balo and the Black Bull in Feroz for example. The shrines to the Asavean false-god of magic dotted around Tassato. They describe the recent Yaelian Schism that nearly tore the Empire apart; the insistence in declaring orcs to be paragons and exemplars despite the many questions still unanswered about their souls and the clear doctrinal issues with placing a non-human in a place of authority over a human soul; and point to tacit approval of hate and anarchy and vengeance. Their most serious concerns are for Imperial citizens who they say practice blasphemy in place of true religion; with nearly four hundred years of tolerance for ancestor reverence, and non-doctrinal spiritual beliefs be they magical dances, superstitious nets, glory, love, and whatever it is the priests of the Marches preach.

We the priests of the Empire denounce any as unloyal to the faith if they reject the authority of the Synod or that Bastion is the heart of the Way. We have substantial proof that Bastion is the heart of the Way. The current claims of the Sumaah Republic that it is not are unfounded.

Statement of Principle, Daubravka Nadijaovna Vanek, General Assembly, Autumn Equinox 382YE, Upheld (685-138)

Needless to say, Sumaah priests can become easily as passionate as their Imperial counterparts. These missionaries make use of auras - especially anointings and hallows of Courage and Wisdom - to encourage lay followers of the Way to accept their words. They continue to encounter mixed response, but some people at least are listening to what they have to say.

During the Autumn Equinox, the Synod upheld two statements of principle, but only one - from the Assembly of the Nine received a Greater Majority and even that statement was not unanimously supported. The first statement - that by the General Assembly - draws criticism from the Sumaah missionaries aware of it. They claim that it yet again reinforces the Imperial misconception that the virtue of Loyalty can be mandated or demanded by an outside force rather than coming solely from within the individual. They seem to think the only saving grace was that more than half the priests of the Synod abstained or voted against the judgement suggesting that at least some Imperial priests understand the true meaning of Loyalty.

Bastion and Timoj

The Sumaah have declared their holy city of Timoj to be the true beacon of the faith, rather than Bastion. They encourage followers of the Way across the known world to look to their white granite ziggurats for guidance rather than the basillicae of the paragons and exemplars in Highguard. By all accounts, the previously insular Sumaah have opened Timoj to pilgrims, carving a great white road through the jungles from the coastal city of Zemeh to allow access to travelers.

While reports of Timoj are few and far between, there is every indication that the Sumaah holy city is at least as glorious as the great Highborn city of Bastion. However there are also reports that the Sumaah have engaged in additional construction in Timoj to prepare it for its role as the focus of their version of the Way. A few Highborn priests are concerned about what they have heard; some point to the recent proposals for the palaces of the Cardinals as a way to compete with what they imagine Timoj may look like. A very few grumble that the Empire will never be able to compete with a nation where people look to religious construction before fortifications or economic infrastructure or foreign jewelry shops...

Once Timoj successfully completes their new inspirational buildings, it will be very difficult to avoid comparisons with Bastion. It is in the nature of people to be impressed by such things and inevitably there will be consequences for the Empire in allowing the Sumaah to have visible symbols of their Ambition and Pride when the Empire does not. Unless rectified it will inevitably impact the Empire's ability to claim to be the heart of the faith.


The Way was founded in Bastion, and Sumaah merely follows in our footsteps. The Imperial Synod is the custodian of the Way, and the White City of Bastion is at its heart. We send (named priest) with 250 doses of liao to Asavea, Summah, Sarcophan, the Commonwealth, and Jarm to urge all true followers of the Way to ignore the jealous false claims of the Houses of Virtue.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

If the General Assembly enacts this mandate, missionaries will travel to all the great powers of the world to refute the claims of the Sumaah that they are the true guardians of the Way. The focus of this mandate is on the great powers - while there are some Sumaah missionaries closer to home (in Faraden, Axos, and perhaps even the Iron Confederacy) the number of followers of the Way in these nations is extremely small due to the strength of the local religions.

This is no small mandate, but assumes the Synod wishes to send their missionaries equally to all five of the great powers. They may choose to leave one or more of the foreign nations out of the mandate; each one they exclude reduces the amount of liao required by 50 doses.

It is almost impossible to predict what effects these mandates may have on the nations in question, but one thing the Civil Service agrees is that they indicate categorically that the Empire refutes the Sumaah claims, asserts its authority as the arbiter of the Way, and intends to fight to defend that authority in the eyes of the world.

Hinder Us Not

Severin von Holberg has submitted an alternative mandate

The Way is an ever-evolving faith, whose truths must be Ambitiously pursued. While The Way of Sumaah fails to alter its Doctrines to address The Imperial Way's Doctrines of the Howling Abyss and the Ancestors, the Imperial Synod considers them nonconformist to the Imperial Way, but not enemies. We claim no temporal authority over those who look to Timoj, and we will continue to spiritually aid all those who cleave to the true Virtues. We fully reject any notion that the Sumaah Houses of Virtue have any authority over those who look to Bastion. Where souls can be saved by Sumaah, we will aid them, if they hinder us in the salvation of others, we will resist them. We send (named priest) with 200 doses of liao to bring this message to all nations of the world, excepting Sumaah.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

While this mandate is similar to the one above, it also clearly states that the Sumaah are in the wrong - in that they are not conforming to the Imperial Way - but stops short of declaring them to be enemies. It explicitly denies them the same rights as Imperial priests - saying that their Synod cannot excommunicate or Inquisition people. It contains the implication that the Empire and the Sumaah follow different faiths - but makes clear they're in the wrong. The Sumaah are not "equally valid" - they are an associated religion, but one that is now significantly differnet from the Imperial Way.

The mandate explicitly avoids sending priests to Sumaah (thus meaning it costs 200 liao), although it is extremely unlikely they would not be aware of it if it were enacted. There would be nothing to stop the Synod excluding other nations if they wished, reducing the cost by a further 50 liao each time.

The Empire respects Sumaah

Benedict Pacelli Von Holberg has submitted an alternative mandate

The Imperial Faith discovered liao. The Imperial Faith defined the Doctrines used in Sumaah, and beyond. The Empire respects Sumaah's efforts to spread the Imperial Faith. Let all look to the Imperial Faith as the true understanding of The Way. We send (named priest) with 250 doses of liao to bring this message to all nations of the world.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

While this mandate is similar to the one above, it puts the emphasis on the Imperial Faith rather than referring to the religion as the Way. There is an implicit but clear rebuke to Sumaah's claim to be seen as the source of moral authority on matters of the Virtues. It makes clear that the Sumaah are following the Imperial Faith with all the implications that has for a hierarchy of perceived authority. It would mean that the Empire does not recognize the authority of the Sumaah to inquisit or excommunicate but implies they should recognize the authority of the Synod in these matters. It will be taken as a deliberate slight by the Houses of Virtue. The explicit claiming of the Way as the Imperial Faith will likely be received poorly by pilgrims in other foreign nations.

Closer to Home

The Way was founded in Bastion, and Sumaah merely follows in our footsteps. Their understanding of the Way is flawed, and their criticism of the Imperial Synod based on hubris and misunderstanding. We send (named priest) with 50 doses of liao to warn citizens of the Empire to ignore the missionaries of Sumaah flocking to our shores to spread their foolishness.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

If the General Assembly enacts this mandate, they will warn the people of the Empire to ignore the Sumaah missionaries and their criticism of the Imperial Synod. While a few may still be convinced, the majority of the faithful will give the Sumaah missionaries short shrift, neutralising any impact they may have in the short term. The missionaries will remain, however. While it is unlikely they will make any significant inroads into the Empire in the short term, if they continue to preach to Imperial citizens then the impact of this mandate will be steadily eroded. A year from now, if missionaries continue to come, it is likely that the Synod will find itself in the same position again.

The Way was founded in Bastion, and Sumaah merely follows in our footsteps. Their understanding of the Way is flawed, and their criticism of the Imperial Synod based on hubris and misunderstanding. Their arrogance in seeking to teach us - the creators of the Way - how to follow its teachings is an offence to the devout, and we should neither accept nor tolerate their assault against our Pride. We send (named priest) with 150 doses of liao to urge citizens of the Empire to drive out these so-called missionaries of Sumaah, to disrupt their sermons, and to shun those who tolerate their empty claims.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

This mandate goes much further than the earlier one, and competes with it. If it is upheld, Imperial citizens will do more than ignore the Sumaah missionaries, they will actively disrupt their efforts to preach and encourage them to return home. The mandate is not without risks - there will be outbreaks of violence and some of the missionaries could be assaulted by zealous Imperial adherents of the Way with damage to property in the territories where the priests are preaching. But it will send an unequivocal message to the Sumaah that their missionaries are not welcome in the Empire.

This provides a more long-term solution to the missionaries flocking to the Empire; it will make it dangerous for those missionaries to remain and prevent them successfully preaching for up to two years. Unless the situation changes then the ability of the missionaries to spread doubt in the authority of the Synod will be curtailed for at least two years, and for the foreseeable future.

Declared in Dogma

Edward Novarion (aka Edward Watcher) has submitted an alternative mandate for judgement of the Synod.

The Way was founded in Bastion, and our example led Sumaah to Virtue. They now bring us Virtuous challenge. By raising Timoj as a rival to Bastion they show Ambition, which we have the Courage and Loyalty to meet: virtue teaches that we should not tear our fellows in faith down. Yet where their Virtue is declared in dogma and stone, ours recognises that the heart of the Way is secured by the action and destiny of each citizen in our Empire, guided by the Synod, not dictated to by our rulers. We send {named priest} with 50 doses of liao to travel the Empire and encourage citizens to Virtuous action and the discovery of their own path to Virtue. In doing so we prove to the Sumaah preachers and to the wider world that our faith burns strong.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

The outcome of this mandate would be equivalent to the first mandate above warning the people of the Empire to ignore the Sumaah missionaries and their criticism of the Imperial Synod. It would declare the Sumaah's approach to faith to be based in dogma and stone, and claim that only the Empire recognises the heart of the Way. As a result, people will give the Sumaah missionaries short shrift, neutralising any impact they may have in the short term. The missionaries will remain, however and a year from now, if missionaries continue to come, it is likely that the Synod will find itself in the same position again.

Not a Trickle, But a Flood

Ephron of Adina's Charge has submitted an alternative mandate for judgement of the Synod.

The Way was founded in Bastion and the Sumaah follow in our footsteps. But the Proud seek to raise others up not cast them down. The Imperial Synod issues a challenge: if the Houses of Virtue wish the world to look to them for guidance, they must prove their claim. Send us not a trickle of missionaries but a flood. Let the vision of the Way that shines the brightest inspire the faithful. The Imperial Synod still leads the Virtuous and shall prevail.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

Rather than encourage Imperial citizens to reject the words of the Sumaah priests, this mandate encourages them to issue the Sumaah with a challenge, encouraging them to send more missionaries to the shores of the Empire - to turn a trickle into a flood. Assuming that the Sumaah respond as requested, that would result in many more missionaries coming to the Empire looking to convert Imperial citizens, so the penalties to existing congregations would spread and could increase.

An Extreme Solution

There is one other solution suggested by a small handful of priests that is both unprecedented and may be legally dubious, but would send an unequivocal statement to the Sumaah. The Imperial Synod could deliver a writ of excommunication to the entire nation, and all who look to them for guidance. A writ of excommunication can only technically be delivered against a single individual but in this case, who will argue with the Imperial Synod?

The Imperial Synod denounces the Houses of Virtue, and the praster of Sumaah. We declare them excommunicate; their heretical beliefs mark them as no longer being true followers of the Way. We send (named priest) to deliver this writ to the people of Sumaah. If they wish to be reunited with the faith they must mend their ways and petition the Imperial Synod to remove this writ.

Writ of Excommunication, General Assembly

As with all writs of excommunication, this catastrophic pronouncement would require a greater majority. It would however leave Sumaah and the world in no doubt as to the Synods position. While it would not cause the collapse of the Houses of Virtue or anything similar, it would make it clear to the entire known world that the General Assembly rejects not only the claims against them but also their claim to be equal to or pre-eminent over the Imperial priesthood. It would seriously damage Sumaah attempts to preach to Imperial citizens, effectively removing their claim to be preaching the Way.

There are two likely outcomes; that the Sumaah pull back and seek to negotiate the removal of the writ, or that they in turn excommunicate the Imperial Synod, permanently declaring the two faiths to be estranged and separate.


Not everyone is in agreement with the Imperial Synod however. A number of priests, primarily among the Navarr, the Freeborn, and the cities of the League, take a different tack. The Way does indeed encourage pilgrims to be Ambitious and Proud. It also leaves space for disagreement between priests about the precise nature of the virtues. Furthermore as the Sumaah have claimed several times over the last few years, human understanding of the virtues and the Labyrinth is by no means complete and very much a work in progress.

They further point to the encyclical of Severin von Holberg which states that "any attempt to incite people to confront religious differences or spiritual conflicts" as something that the Synod should avoid. Inspired by this idea, they propose a different mandate.

The Way was founded in Bastion, and the Sumaah were among the first to follow in our footsteps. We are not tyrants however; we do not seek to chain those who accept the truth of the Way to a single dogma. The Imperial Synod acknowledges Timoj as the equal of Bastion, and the Sumaah Houses of Virtue as equal to the Imperial Senate. Equal yet separate; we seek no dominance over them but likewise grant them no authority over those pilgrims who look to Bastion for guidance. We may be in opposition, but we are not enemies, and may gain as much together by cooperation as we do alone through ambitious pursuit of the truth. We send (named priest) with 150 doses of liao to bring this message to the people of Sumaah, and the world.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

At a stroke this mandate recognises the Sumaah Houses of Virtue as equal to, yet separate from, the Imperial Synod. It acknowledges that the Sumaah follow the Way, but effectively identifies them as a different religion to the Way as practiced in the Empire. It further includes a strong implication that the Synod will not recognise the right of the Sumaah to excommunicate or inquisition anyone who looks to Bastion for guidance - and at the same time that the Synod will not use those powers against those who look to Sumaah.

If this mandate passes, the implication is that from that point onward the doctrines of the faith would begin to diverge - there would be no expectation that doctrinal changes in the Empire would be reflected in Sumaah, nor vice versa. The understanding of the Virtues might also diverge - again with no requirement for either faith to acknowledge the changes of the others unless they proved to be egregious subversion in some fashion.

It is not clear what the Sumaah response would be to this - but at the very least it acknowledges recent complaints that the Empire looks down on them, or treats them as servants, and ignores their concerns.

A Sea of Savagery

Jorma Steelhail has submitted this alternative mandate for judgement of the General Assembly.

The Way was founded in Bastion, and the Sumaah were among the first to follow in our footsteps. For so long Bastion has been a single light in sea of savagery and ignorance - the Imperial Synod is heartened to learn there are now two with Bastion's counterpart in Timoj. Rather than seek division through political pettiness, the Imperial Synod has a grander vision and so sends (named priest) with 150 doses of Liao to urge the citizens of the Empire and the Sumaah Republic to seek common ground and focus on our shared Ambition in spreading the Way to the world.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

This mandate will encourage Imperial and Sumaah citizens to view Timoj and Bastion as equals in the Way, with a shared single faith. They disagree on elements of it - but it's one faith. It would urge Imperial citizens to reach out and embrace Sumaah with a view to developing a shared understanding of a shared faith, with Timoj and Bastion sharing equal status in the eyes of the faithful. The results of that could depend unpredictably on how Sumaah respond.

Not Bound To The Empire

Solas of the Spire of the Waxing Sun has submitted this alternative mandate for judgement of the General Assembly.

The Way of Virtue is an enlightened faith; while we have Pride in its roots in Bastion, the Highborn discovery of True Liao, and the understanding this brought us. The true heart of the Way is anywhere discoveries are being made and understanding realised. Such events can happen anywhere and are not bound to any individual location in the Empire, Sumaah, or anywhere else. True pilgrims of the way, those who seek to understand and thus pursue Virtue, should challenge and combine their experiences and understanding so that the resulting faith is built on the strongest possible foundations. We send {named priest} with 150 doses of liao to bring this message to the people of Sumaah, and the world.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

This mandate suggests that the position of Bastion as the centre of the faith is a historical matter, not a religious one. It lays out that the discoveries made are not bound to any location in the Empire or in Sumaah - in effect rejecting the moral authority of both the Imperial Synod and the Houses of Virtue. By stating that true pilgrims of the Way are those who seek to understand Virtue and look to combine their own experiences and understanding, Solas is encouraging citizens to seek their own interpretation of the Way outside the guidance of the Synod.

If the mandate were passed it would inhibit the ability of the Sumaah to use liao to influence the people of the Empire. It would also inhibit the ability of the Imperial Synod to use liao to influence the people of the Empire. It would encourage a diversity of views on the Way and encourage people to take a more independent and personal approach to their interpretation of the faith, reducing the ability of the Synod to guide them from that point onwards.

Potential Complications

Obviously nothing is every simple. Any of these mandates has the potential to greatly impact relations with Sumaah Republic - just at the moment where the Empire is considering closer ties with the House of the People. There is some separation of church and state in Sumaah but it is very slight and carefully circumscribed by tradition and custom.

As with all such complex international and religious situations, there are any number of possible approaches not mentioned here. In addition to alternative mandates for example strongly worded statements of principle, or even change of doctrine might improve (or worsen) the situation

The diplomatic angle should not be discounted either. It may be possible to reach a diplomatic agreement - the Sumaah ambassador Accalon of Felix's Watch has Imperial authority to speak directly to the Republican government and the Houses of Virtue. Such an agreement may take time however, and will certainly be complicated by any action from the Synod.

Competing Mandates

The mandates detailed under Appeasement and Refutation compete with each other. The mandate detailed in appeasment competes with both mandates detailed under Closer to Home.

Only mandates are in opposition - if the writ of excommunication detailed in An Extreme Solution is passed with a greater majority it does not compete with the former mandates but will likely supersede them.

Doing Nothing

The Synod could choose to enact none of these mandates. The Sumaah will, if nothing else changes, continue to preach against the Imperial Synod in the Empire and abroad. While it is difficult to predict how much influence the Sumaah may bring to bear outside the Empire they have already encouraged the Jarmish Magician-Prince of Limitu to close the Limitu Principality House of the Way. While this is a minor thing, an occurred in a nation with only minimal interest in the Way, it still represents a victory for Timoj and a loss for Bastion.

More significant are the missionaries preaching in the Empire. If they are left to their own devices, there will be a small but noticable loss in support for the Synod in some of the nations along the Bay of Catazar. The impact will be felt most strongly in those nations already given to a certain level of orthodoxy - specifically the League and Highguard - or those already predisposed to question the Synod - such as Urizen whose recent support for the sword scholar philosophy is very much in line with looking askance at the unquestionable authority of the assemblies. As a consequence every congregation in Sarvos, Tassato, Redoubt, Spiral, and Necropolis will provide 1 less liao and 2 fewer votes in the Synod by the start of the Spring Equinox.

If the Sumaah missionaries continue to have unimpeded access to the Empire over the long term, then it will become increasingly difficult for the Synod to move the hearts and minds of people they interact with (with statements or mandates).

Any of the mandates detailed under Appeasement, Refutation, or Closer to Home (with the exception of challenge), or the excommunicaton of the Summah houses of virtue will prevent the reduction in congregation strength at least until the start of the Spring Equinox. The exact outcome depends on the response of the Sumaah to the Synod's judgement.

We recognise Sumaah's challenge of the truth and to our pride, and in virtue we will rise to meet it. We are custodians of the Way. The Way was founded in Bastion, it was our Exemplar Mani who first refined liao, and our first Empress who joined us together in Virtue. Sumaah only follows in our footsteps. The citizens of the Empire should continue to uphold the teachings of the Way as preached by the Imperial Synod, so that we may be a beacon of virtue to all. We call for priest to go to Zemeh to share the true way.

Cardinal Sariel, Statement of Principle, Assembly of the Nine, Autumn Equinox 382YE, Passed with Greater Majority (5-0).


During the Winter Solstice several mandates were brought before the Imperial Synod. Erasmo di Tassato proposed appeasement; Solas of Urizen declared that the Way was not bound to the Empire; Ephron of Adina's Charge declared that faith was Not a trickle but a flood; and Severin von Holberg declared that the Sumaah should hinder us not. All were defeated or withdrawn at the request of the raising priest. In the end the Imperial Synod supported the mandate presented by Jorma Steelhail - urging the Empire and Sumaah to seek common ground. If Jorma enacts the mandate, it will be up to the Sumaah how they wish to respond.

Regardless, the missionaries of Sumaah continue to encourage the people of the Empire to question the Synod.