"Wintermark and the Marches were the first I think, oh and the Freeborn of course. But now they've been joined by the Imperial Orcs as far as I can tell." Abigail kept her voice moderate, a mark of respect for her elder that concealed how she was really feeling.

Hiram, the old archivist sighed at the news, though it hadn't been unexpected. "Near half then?".

"I'm afraid so. The Varushkans are utterly unrepentant of course, and the Navarr are hardly a surprise. The Urizen were a close run thing though. If it hadn't been for Zeno..." her voice trailed off as she left the thought in the air.

"Quite. I suppose our Urizeni friends would call them a node." Hiram snorted to himself - "superstitious nonsense - but we should be grateful for small mercies I suppose."

"Yes. But the split is only growing worse. Frankly it seems irredeemable - I genuinely cannot see how she can solve this."

Hiram pondered the implicit question for a while, but like his younger colleague he had no ideas either. He shook his head, "No, and this time there is no messianic figure who we can fortuitously discover later was a committed liar. No easy way out this time."

"Exactly. Coming so soon after the schism, I am genuinely worried that this could actually tear things apart." The younger archivist look genuinely troubled now as if seriously contemplating the possibility of a irrevocable split in the faithful.

"Let us not be alarmist Abigail. The Empire has stood for nearly four hundred years. Once the dust settles, hindsight will show that this is simply another chasm that the Empire has traversed unharmed, just as it always has."

"With respect Hiram... I was reading Pontius' History of the Mad Throne the other day and apparently people felt much the same then too." And with that rather sobering thought she swept out of the scriptorium leaving the older scribe to his books and his thoughts.


In Spring 381YE the Varushkans completed the training and equipping needed to raise the Iron Helms. This army has a long and bloody Imperial history, famed for its cruel tactics and the employment of brutal force in battle. When the army were finally let off the leash in the Mournwold the results were as effective as they were difficult to stomach for many. The issue has grown increasingly divisive, with three nations backing the bloodthirsty approach to war, and four opposing it.

Increasingly these bitter divisions have begun to impact the ability of the Empire's armies to fight alongside each other. The Assembly of Nine has unequivocally condemned such tactics - but until the General Assembly can make a similar ruling (a statement of principle with a greater majority) it seems unlikely that these new divisions will heal.

The worth of our armies is not written with cruelty, our legends are not made by harming civilians. We do not need dogs and beasts to fight our wars for us. We are heroes of the Empire, we are Imperial Orcs.

Gralka, Imperial Orc Assembly, Autumn Equinox 381YE, Upheld 36 - 0

Imperial Orcs

There has always been a difficult relationship between the Varushkans and the Imperial Orcs. Of all the lands of the Empire, this is the one where the chains of orc slavery were the heaviest. When the Freeborn reached out to Thrace to bring the Imperial Orcs into the Empire... the Varushkans were the ones who fought to the bitter end to keep them as slaves. Now Gralka has led a greater majority of the Imperial Orc assembly in passing a judgement that contains a clear tone of contempt for the Varushkans and the tactics adopted by the Iron Helms.

The great irony of humanity is that a people who believe that they are reborn over and over again are so afraid of death that some of them will do anything to avoid it. The Varushkans believe that they must be virtuous to be reincarnated yet they debase themselves with cruel tactics and justify steeping their arms in blood by saying its the only way to survive in a harsh world! Every Imperial Orc knows that they have only one life to live - if you are to cross the Howling Abyss then you must make it count. Salvation is to be found by raising yourself up, reaching for a heroic ideal that will inspire the ancestors to aid you and grant you the strength to cross the Abyss when you die. If you choose the path of cruelty... the path of cowardice... then you may live another day - but death will still take you in the end and when it does nothing but oblivion will await you.

To reaffirm this statement the assembly can now pass a mandate urging the legions to show their disdain for the Iron Helms and their cruel ways. If this mandate is enacted by the national assembly, then all the soldiers of the Imperial Orcs will acknowledge the unvirtuous nature of the Iron Helms and show them the disdain they deserve. Wintermark and the Freeborn assemblies have already enacted just such a mandate, this would place the Imperial Orcs firmly in their camp and against the Helms and their cruel ways.

The cruelty of the Iron Helms is unvirtuous, it demeans our Empire to use such tactics and it betrays the ideals of our people to fight alongside those who do so. The assembly sends X with 25 doses of liao to urge our soldiers to reject the Iron Helms and their cruelty."

Synod Mandate, national assembly

If this mandate is enacted then for the next year, if the Iron Helms are deployed in a territory alongside an Imperial Orc army, they will suffer a reduction of one tenth in the number of victory points they contribute to that campaign. This bonus is cumulative for each additional nation (not individual army) that has passed the mandate that are present in the territory. Wintermark, and the Freeborn have already passed the mandate, so if the Imperial Orcs passed it and the Iron Helms were engaged in a territory where there were armies from all three of these nations then the Varushkan army would suffer a penalty of three-tenths to victory points.

Heroes of the Empire

The judgement of the Orc Assembly did more than simply scorn the dogs, beasts, and dark magicians of the Iron Helm army - they reminded the Imperial Orcs that the worth of an army is far more than a matter of how many are slain when the battle is ended. They called on every Orc to remember that they are heroes of the Empire. Now there is an opportunity to pass a mandate that would allow the general of the army to seize an opportunity to permanently abandon the traditional brutal tactics adopted by the Summer Storm in favour of something considerably more heroic.

We are the heroes of the Empire. First to battle, last to leave. We will charge into the breech when others stumble. We will hold the line when all others have failed. We send X with 50 doses of liao to urge the Summer Storm to adopt new ways of fighting, ones that truly reflect the spirit of our people.

Imperial Orc Assembly Mandate

If the Imperial Orc assembly enact this mandate, then it will automatically incorporate the effects of the first mandate urging the soldiers of the Imperial Orcs to shun the Iron Helms - but in addition it will permanently change the quality of the Summer Storm from relentless to heroic. The army will no longer be able to submit the order to cut them down but will gain the ability to issue orders to make a triumphant charge or a final stand.

Imperial Orc Mandates
While they can benefit from auras, orcs are entirely unable to use liao; it makes them nauseous. While it is a simple matter for a human priest to annoint an orc, or consecrate an area for an orc preacher to use, this can often prove counterproductive, distracting from the priest's words and rendering the mandate ineffective. Most preachers as a result do things differently. When they need to undertake a mandate, they usually take the liao to a friendly human priest along with important items of worth - the Halls of Worth in particular have proved valuable in providing such items. The priest can use the liao to hallow the items, so that the preacher can take them and share them with the orcs to whom they speak. Hallowed items of worth have additional significance for orcs, and when combined with the oratory of the preacher, are just as effective at spreading a mandate as any amount of anointing or consecration.


Thus far Dawn, Highguard, Navarr and Urizen have all chosen to stand with the Iron Helms and Varushka. Some of these have passed statements of principle in favour of the Varushkan approach, but both the Navarr and the Urizen have been inspired to pass mandates to adopt similar tactics.

But of course the Freeborn can never see a consensus without having to try and stand it on its head. Equally it should come as no surprise that the Imperial Orcs are using this as yet another excuse to criticize. It's a shame that the Marchers and the Wintermarkers are being so high and mighty about the issue, but in fairness these are nations of hunters and farmers who border the Jotun. It's not like either nation has ever been threatened by an enemy who was really trying. As Empress Varkula was fond of pointing out, people are always full of high-minded ideals that usually last right up until the point where the Druj are about to burn your house down.

What is beginning to irk many Varushkans is the way the Iron Helms are being singled out in all this. As if somehow the fact that they are prepared to get their hands dirty when fighting the barbarians was the problem. The Freeborn love to defend their unorthodox ways as important cultural traditions, part of their rich heritage. But of course they're not prepared to accept the idea that the steel from which the Iron Helms are forged is part and parcel of the Varushkan tradition. Ours is a dark land... those who walk the roads come nightfall need more than a torch to see the sunrise.

Perhaps it is time to show the Assembly of Nine and these other nations that they cannot single out the Iron Helms for special treatment any longer. The Iron Helms reflect the ways of the people of Varushka since time immemorial, but there are other traditions, other customs, other ways. If they choose the Varushkan National Assembly could choose to enact the following mandate to encourage the whole nation to remember their roots and to reflect the realities of this hard land.

Every established nation of the Empire has traditions that go back to the founding and before. Let all our people look to their past, and let our soldiers remember who they are and where they came from. We send X with 50 liao to encourage all Varushkan soldiers to embrace our rich heritage.

Varushkan Assembly Mandate

If the Varushkan assembly enact this mandate, then it means that all Varushkan armies will then be affected by the penalties for fighting alongside Wintermark, and the Brass Coast, rather than just the Iron Helms. In effect all the Varushkan armies will make clear to the Empire that they stand together as one nation.

In addition, the soldiers will look to their history for lessons on how to comport themselves. As a result, whoever is general of each army will receive a single opportunity at the following summit to update the quality of their army to better reflect the rich heritage of the Vard and Ushkan people.

If you think me cruel, cardinal, that is because I am cruel. Not because of this winter-touched flesh and blood as you have claimed but because I choose to be cruel. Why do I make this choice? I choose to be cruel because when the night grows darkest someone must wield the knife and cut out the heart, so that everyone else may live to see the dawn. I choose to be cruel because someone must carry the burden or none of us will reach our destination. I choose to be cruel, cardinal, because I am strong enough to make that choice. You flatter yourself that you have made the better choice - but you have not. The truth is that you never had a choice.

Empress Varkula

Limited Opportunity

As with most mandates, the ones listed here are available only at the Winter Solstice. While it might be possible to get similar mandates at a future event, that would be dependent on the use of an appropriate statement of principle with a greater majority. There is no guarantee that the same mandates would be relevant at a future summit.


The Imperial Orc national assembly unanimously refused the opportunity to change the quality of the Summer Storm. The Varushkan assembly passed a mandate to send Bogdan Bogdanovich to encourage all Varushkan soldiers to embrace their rich heritage.