"Excuse me, bishop!" the orc waved to attract Camina di Tassato's attention and pushed his way through the crowd towards her. She paused at the top of the steps, waiting for him.

He was clearly from Skarsind - he practically still had snow on his heavy boots, clean linen strips tied at his wrists and collar. He wore an iron circle of nine spokes about his neck on a heavy chain. He was smiling, but there was an edge to his smile. As was usual for his kind, he was not alone. Two other orcs followed in his wake. She frowned very slightly when she recognised them. Both wore white tunics cinched at the waist with leather belts, over which they wore embroidered woolen jackets, and soft leather boots on their feet. They were graduates of the Trivento school; she found following their heavily accented Imperial to be a trial.

"Can I help you?" she asked as the orc preacher came bounding up the steps two at a time.

"Perhaps, Bishop. Perhaps." As he drew level she marked tattoos of leaping flames on either cheek. He held out one calloused hand to her and she took it a little gingerly. he was much larger than she was, for all his smiles, and she did not doubt that he could tear her arm off if he wished.

"I am Preacher Tokk, and I enjoyed your sermon," he continued without preamble as he released her hand. "I enjoyed it very much, especially the parable of the spider's web. As one preacher to another I was very taken with the ease with which you drew comparison to the big bridge between the League and the Brass Coast. An ambitious undertaking and no mistake!"

She smiled and nodded, but she had little time to discuss professional skills with the orc.

"I am late for another appointment," she said with a regretful tone. "But perhaps we can speak again later?"

The orc fell silent as she spoke - then started speaking again as if he had not heard her.

"Mejink and Kohnad are regular attendees at your services as I am sure you know." He laughed suddenly. "I imagine they stand out quite a bit!"

Bishop Camina smiled weakly and made a noise that sounded like a yes.

"They tell me that in the year or so they have been in Tassato, you have many times mentioned the paragons and exemplars of Ambition and drawn parables from their lives and doings. The duels of Adelamr. The legacy of Atuman. The grand vision of Aldones - of course. The quest of Tian."

She nodded along.

"Yes, yes, I am sure-" she began testily but the orc cut her off.

"Yet not once have you mentioned Thrace, or his life, or his deeds, even though he is an exemplar of Ambition recognised by the Imperial synod several years ago. Why is that?"

She bridled immediately. Who did this orc think he was, accosting her on the steps of her own church, with these two moon-faced assistants standing morosely in his shadow.

"I do not need to explain myself to you, Preacher... what was your name?"

"No you do not," he said quietly and she heard menace in his words. "You can give whatever sermons you like. But it is odd that you have not spoken of Thrace, when you are so keen to speak of the others. And odd that in all the months they have been coming to your church you have never once spoken to the only two orcs among your congregation. Why is that, Bishop?"

He looked so smug, she wanted this conversation to be over right now. She was already late for her meeting with the Prince.

"If I have not told stories of Thrace," she said in an icy cold tone. "It is because the majority of my congregation are humans. They have nothing to learn from your orc rebel whatever the assemblies at Anvil might decree. This is my church and my choice who to use to inspire my people. I have had no complaints."

She turned to go and the orc laid hands on her, catching her by the elbow. She whirled, afraid, but he was still smiling - now with an edge of triumph.

"Thank you Bishop," he said quietly. "For being honest with me at least."

He let go of her arm, and exchanged a conspiratorial look with his two companions.

"I'm sorry to have taken up so much of your time. Bishop." he said formally ."I am sure we will speak again. Very soon."

His words sent a tremor through her, but he had already turned and was walking back down the steps with the other two orcs, heads close together, talking furiously, leaving her alone in the archway of her great stone church.

Benevolence, Work, and Tests

Severin von Holberg delivered his sermon almost a year ago. It sparked a period of reassessment, of exploration of the Imperial Synod and its role in the Empire. It also helped to discourage some of the conflict that had arguably brought the Empire close to the brink of disaster in the wake of the Yaelian schism. The effect of his encyclical is beginning to fade, but its legacy is likely to be with the Empire for some time to come as the Synod continues to examine its priorities, and how best it can uphold the virtuous spirit of the Empire. Many of the proposals made over the last year remain relevant today as they were when they were first put forward.

Nations and Paragons

In Spring, the role of the national assemblies in formenting discord was discussed with moderate voices calling for the removal of their power to raise statements of principle and more radical calls that they be dissolved altogether. The new year also brought discussion of the role of paragons and exemplars, and whether the signs of the paragon and exemplar were still fit for purpose. There were also early rumblings of the importance of addressing the Sumaah question - which have recently boiled over into open conflict between the Synod and the Houses of Virtue.

Virtues and Revocation

By Summer, the discourse had moved on. Theologians debated the seven virtues and their role in the Way. These discussions saw greater credence given to the Assembly of the Nine as representatives of the virtues and the voice of the Synod. There were also proposals to grant the Virtue assemblies more prominence; restore the Cardinals vote in the Senate; and build grand palaces to both reflect the role of the Cardinals in leading their assemblies and create a modern wonder in the city of Bastion.

At the same time there was a close examination of the power of revocation, one of the most powerful tools at the disposal of the Imperial Synod. One proposal was to remove the protection provided by reappointment, another to actively make it illegal to reappoint a citizen who has been revoked to the same title for the next year.

Supporting the Empire

Finally, in Autumn the role of the Synod in supporting the other houses of power was discussed. Chaplains to advise the military council were proposed, in part due to statements of principle raised in the national assemblies in support of more guidance for generals on the path of virtue. The powers of the grandmaster of the Sevenfold Path were reviewed, and suggestions make that they could be expanded to make the grandmaster and their order more effective at guiding the Conclave. The virtuous wayleave was designed - a proposal to assign one of the Imperial Wayleaves to the Synod, in a similar manner to that which was assigned to the Imperial Orcs, allowing the Synod to commission its own constructions without reference to the Imperial Senate.

Finally, ways that the Synod could support the Senate were explored and evaluated. The appointment of ambassadors could be overseen by the Synod, freeing the senators to use their motions on more important matters - and ensuring harmony between the virtuous and Imperial foreign policy. Possible refinements to the powers of the Chaplain Consular, Auitor of Senatorial Accountability, and even the Imperial Inquisitor were laid out.

In the End

In the end, nothing immediately has come of this period of evaluation and contemplation apart from a great deal of discussion. That said, none of these proposals rely on transitory opportunities. The Imperial Constitution does not change dramatically over short periods of time - these proposals will continue to have weight for years to come.

Perhaps some day soon, some Imperial citizen will take one of them up and use it to transform the face of the Empire - demonstrating their own benevolence, inspiring those who follow, and leaving a lasting legacy for generations to come.

Stormcrows who do not make full use of their congregation and powers by voting and raising judgments in the Synod are wasting their power and influence. I call on any Stormcrows who are not regularly making full use of their powers to give weapons and shields to their congregation and encourage them to fight as a military unit, engaging in virtuous causes such as the retaking of Sermersuaq and fighting slavery.

Eska Crowspeaker, Statement of Principle, Wintermark National, Autumn Equinox 382YE, Upheld with Greater Majority (243-10)

The Priests of Wintermark

During the Autumn Equinox, the Wintermark Assembly upheld a statement of principle from Eska Crowspeaker calling for stormcrows - a type of priest among the Winterfolk - who do not fully represent their congregations to think about pursuing a new calling.

With the support of the Assembly, Eska has laid out what she sees as the responsibility of those Winterfolk who are members of the Synod. Specifically, to raise judgements and vote in support or opposition of those judgements and the judgements of others. Those who do not wish to exercise their rights as members of the Synod, she argues, should give weapons and shields to their congregations and encourage them to fight in virtuous causes such as the retaking of Sermersuaq.

Alone, Eska's words would have minimal impact. With the full support of the Wintermark assembly, however, they serve as call to action for the priests of Wintermark.

Those Winterfolk who are members of the Synod have a duty to represent their congregations. Those who are neither raising judgements in pursuit of their goals, nor voting in support of their understanding of Virtue, shame themselves. We send (named priest) with 50 doses of liao to urge any priest of Wintermark who does not make full us of their powers to take up arms and lead their congregations in heroic battle.

Synod Mandate, Wintermark National

If the Wintermark National Assembly upholds this mandate, and it is enacted, then during the Spring Equinox any Wintermark character with a congregation personal resource will have the option to change resources to instead command a military unit without paying the required 2 crowns to do so. Furthermore, if their congregation is upgraded, their military unit will have the same number of upgrades.

This transformation will only be possible one way, and will only be available during the Spring Equinox, or in until the close of downtime immediately following the event.

Priests of All Nations

The Wintermark priest Eska Crowspeaker, who raised the original statement of principle has suggested an alternate mandate.

All members of the Synod have a duty to represent their congregations. Those who are neither raising judgements in pursuit of their goals, nor voting in support of their understanding of Virtue, shame themselves. We send (named priest) with 100 doses of liao to urge any priest in the Empire who does not make full use of their powers to take up arms and lead their congregations in heroic battle.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

If the General Assembly upholds this mandate, and it is enacted, then during the Spring Equinox any character with a congregation personal resource will have the option to change resources to instead command a military unit without paying the required 2 crowns to do so. Furthermore, if their congregation is upgraded, their military unit will have the same number of upgrades.

These two mandates are not in competition, but if both are upheld and enacted the effects are not cumulative.

The Freeborn Assembly notes that the effort to rescue slaves from the Grendel of the Broken Shore is Ambitious, Courageous, and Loyal. Such deeds uphold the right to a free life following the Way for all people. We hope that all citizens will be inspired by the virtuous example of the heroes of the Empire, notably Sagramore de Gauvain and General Skar of the Iron Tide.

Tiana i Zaydan i Riqueza, Statement of Principle, Brass Coast National, Autumn Equinox 382YE, Upheld with Greater Majority (102-0)

Free More Slaves

Tiana i Zaydan i Riqueza spoke passionately in the Freeborn national assembly about the raid against Dubhtraig, and the virtue that lay in upholding the right to a free life following the Way for all people. The Freeborn assembly agreed, with no dissenters and few abstentions. Coming as it does on the heels of mandate against slavery enacted by Eska Crowspeaker, these words set the people of the Brass Coast to careful thought.

That the raid against Dubhtraig was a resounding success cannot be denied; the free slaves have been welcomed with open arms across the Brass Coast. Another plan to free slaves from Mareave is already underway, but there is another issue that weighs on the hearts of some Freeborn that this statement brings to the fore.

As the Imperatrix herself said "crushing a slave rebellion is an act that debases the Empire", and her words were unanimously supported by the entire Assembly of the Nine.

Rescuing slaves is an act of great Virtue. Crushing a slave rebellion is an act that debases the Empire. We are born free, and it falls to us to uphold the right to a free life following the Way for all people. We send (named priest) with 75 doses of liao to urge the people of the three tribes to take up arms and free not only the slaves of the Grendel, but those who had fought free who we condemned to return to their chains.

Synod Mandate, Brass Coast National

If the Freeborn national assembly upholds this mandate, the effect will be twofold.

Firstly, assuming that the liao is received, every Freeborn military unit that takes part in the raid on Beoraidh following the Winter Solstice will gain one additional rank (effectively cancelling the penalty incurred by their support of the Highborn pilgrimage).

Secondly, the mandate will create a new opportunity during the Spring Equinox for Imperial captains to raid across the border from Feroz and attack the slave camps of the Iron Confederacy in the territory of Kalino, freeing as many of the slaves there as possible and bringing them back to safety in the Brass Coast. The Freeborn are not fools - a raid against the Iron Confederacy will not be legal. However, it is likely that there are precautions that can be taken to ensure the magistrates are unable to identify any military unit that takes part in the opportunity. It would create a diplomatic incident, and likely the priest who enacted the mandate would face serious consequences - but if it were successful the raid might go some way towards addressing an act that the Assembly of the Nine suggest has debased the entire Empire.

Missed Opportunities

Following the inquisition of the Asavean Architect Almodin Oktisis I conclude the following: the crime of idolatry is defined as worship, veneration or exaltation of any inhuman entity or force. That Oktisis is an idolater is not in question, he assured me quite unrepentantly that he would continue to use idolatrous imagery (hidden or otherwise) in structures of our Faith. That cannot be overlooked by the Synod, our duty is the preservation of the Way.

Veikko Bondforger, Condemnation, Autumn Equinox 382YE, Upheld (1129-10)

Idolatrous Statues

It has been nearly a year since Severin von Holberg delivered his encyclical, and while its influence is beginning to wane a little, it still has some sway. During the Autumn Equinox, Veikko Bondforger of Wintermark raised a strongly worded condemnation of Almodin Oktístis the so-called Asavean Architect who was. Until recently Almodin - a self-confessed idolator and priest of the Asavean builder god - was employed by the Senate to oversee large scale constructions including several of Lorenzo Macelliao von Temeschwar's legacies of virtue, the Great Game casino outside Temeschwar, the Pallas Docks in Cargo, and even the Spiral Sword runeforge. Every project he worked on, however, was ultimately tainted by his corrupt ways - and apart from Aleksandra's Watch in Karsk (where the Asavean elements were removed at great expense), the lewd statues, blasphemous mosaics, and even idolatrous statues he incorporated into every structure are still intact, still mocking the virtue of the Empire.

Were it not for Severin's caution against engaging in attempts "to incite people to confront religious differences or spiritual conflicts" it is likely that Veikko's condemnation of the architect would have prompted a significant reaction especially from the people of the League, Wintermark, and Urizen where many of his dubious constructions still stand. Instead, while there have been grumblings and questions about what is to be done, nobody has presented any particular plans to deal with the problems.

That said, if an assembly were to make a strongly worded statement of principle during the Winter Solstice supporting Veikko's words, and it were to receive a greater majority in an appropriate assembly it is likely that during the Spring Equinox opportunities for the Synod to address these problematic commissions would be available - especially if the magistrates were to find Almodin Oktístis guilty of the crimes of which he stands accused. To have the most impact, such a statement of principle would ideally need to be raised in the General Assembly or the Pride Virtue Assembly, although a statement from one of the nations where Almodin's idolatrous eyesores are located would surely have at least some localised effect.

The Orc Crisis

There is another growing problem in the Way, and for the time being Severin's sermon is keeping it contained - but it is only a matter of time before the storm breaks and chaos ensues.

During the Autumn Equinox, the General Assembly of the Imperial Synod recognised Skywise Rykana as an exemplar of Wisdom. This follows on from the recognition of the orc rebel leader Thrace during Spring 379YE. The recognition of Thrace passed with little direct opposition from the faithful, but in recent years there has been a great deal of talk about the nature of orc souls, culminating in the creation of the Doctrine of the Howling Abyss and the Doctrine of the Ancestors - seen by many as counterparts to the Doctrine of Reincarnation and the Doctrine of the Paragons. There has been an orc Cardinal, and orcs changing doctrine, and orcs having authority over humans in all walks of life and for some, this most recent recognition is the final straw that causes them to say "no more."

The Doctrine of Human Destiny says that "humans are the greatest of all beings in creation for only human spirits gain strength, knowledge and enlightenment through rebirth." The Doctrine of the Paragons says that "A truly virtuous spirit, one who is a paragon of Virtue, is capable of freeing itself from the Labyrinth of Ages through transcendence." The former is seen as a primary supporter of the concept of idolatry - defined as "Subsuming human will and destiny to any inhuman entity or force. This includes the worship, veneration or exaltation of any such being or power."

Many people cannot reconcile these developments with current Doctrine. Orcs are not humans - the new Doctrines accept that and make it very clear. They are inhuman. It is a crime - a religious crime - to subsume human will and destiny to something that is not human. This includes the veneration of such a being. By that logic, an orc cannot be an exemplar or a paragon. It is too much.

It is a problem that has been brewing ever since the Imperial Orcs became part of the Empire, and it feels very much as if the creation of this second orc exemplar is bringing it to a head.

At this time, the civil service has no advice for the Imperial Synod. The obvious thing to do is to use statements of principle to discuss and assess how to proceed, and hope that leads to mandates that can address this fundamental doctrinal flaw - that orcs who are part of the Way cannot reincarnate, and cannot transcend the Labyrinth; and that the literal wording of the law of idolatry means that actually the faithful of the Way should not subsume their destiny to orcs in any way.

The lingering influence of Severin's cautious words means that this crisis is contained for now - but it is not going away. It is likely that the first rumblings of dissent regarding the role of orcs in the Way will begin to be heard at the Spring Equinox.


Two priests raised mandates relating to the exchange of congregations for military units - Rafe in the General Assembly and Severi Jarlmarison in the Wintermark national assembly. Either or both priests may enact those mandates - although their effects are not cumulative.

Tiana i Zaydan i Riqueza raised the mandate to encourage the Freeborn to free those slaves given over to the Iron Confederacy, but it was not passed by the assembly. While it achieved majority support, the Throne employed her Custodian of Virtue power to require that it reach a greater majority to pass and so, ultimately, it as not upheld.