Revision as of 10:10, 5 May 2023 by Rafferty (talk | contribs) (→‎Further Reading)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
The late Autumn sun was sloping off to bed, and the gloaming pressed close round its heels. In the monastery courtyard, the monks were setting out the long trestle table for the evening meal. The labourers - their visitors from so far afield - insisted on helping.

The gentle buzz of conversation, and tired laughter, drifted over to where Abbot Thomas sat, quietly, under the Green Oak in the garden behind the cloister, reading a book. His battered straw hat was pulled forward over his forehead, shielding his eyes from the exhausted sun. A long rake leant against the bole of the tree beside him. His stomach grumbled a little; dinner could not be ready soon enough. It had been a long day. He wished he'd had the good sense to save some of the lunch his wife had prepared; instead he'd shared it with one of the Free Folk labourers, enjoying their lively if occasionally somewhat problematic discussion of Pride and Prosperity. A shadow fell across him; he looked up from his book.

A young woman - barely more than a girl, he guessed, perhaps a year younger than his granddaughter - stood shyly between him and the sun. He squinted at her. She was one of the Free Folk, wearing a rough homespun dress, her long brown hair tied back by a rainbow scarf. She'd been present at the impromptu lunch-time symposium, but he didn't remember her speaking. He gave her his best smile, and she returned it with a nervous little smile of her own.

"I hope that it is alright," she said, the words tumbling over themselves. "But I made this for you."

She thrust something towards him. At first he took it for a poppet, woven from the stalks of the recently gathered harvest. A beautiful piece of work - the girl had carefully woven a dress of dark green grass, and topped it with a crown of yellow meadow flowers. He wondered where she'd found the time to craft it - she'd been hard at alongside her family all day, busily filling her basket and going back and forth between the field and the well making sure everyone working the fields had water to drink.

"Thank you, young lady," he said, seriously. "It's a right beautiful piece of work and no mistake, but -"

"It is L'Impératrice du Soleil," she interrupted him, the words gushing out as if she could barely contain them. Her hands twisted in the skirt of her dress. "The Sun Empress I mean. Sungold Richilde, who teaches us never to be ashamed of who we are. I wanted you to have it because..."

She trailed off. He turned the little effigy over in his hand. It really was a beautiful piece of work but he wasn't sure what to make of it. He treated her to another of his smiles, calculated to encourage her. She swallowed.

"I wanted you to have it monsieur Abbot, so that if you were were worried or...if you were unsure about anything? You would remember that L'Imperatcie was there, and that you could make her Proud. I hope that it is alright."

He kept the frown from his face, kept his expression gentle.

"Course it is alright, young lady. Only a fool turns down a kind gift squarely given. I'll treasure it, so."

She looked relieved, let go of her skirt, and beamed at him, all trace of her earlier trepidation burned away. Without another word she ran off, back towards the courtyard and the work that needed doing. Once she was out of sight, Abbot Thomas' smile slowly faded. He turned the little doll - the little effigy? - over in his calloused hands. He was troubled. The Free Folk had odd ideas, and here was a little girl giving him something that, if she'd given it to the wrong person, might have seen her accused of idolatry. Or worse.

As he looked at the little poppet, with her green-grass gown and her crown of golden flowers, he wondered idly what Richilde would do in his place. And then, as he caught up to his own thoughts, his frown faded back into a smile.

"What would Richilde do, indeed?" he murmured, shaking his head. He stood up, tucked the little doll inside his jacket, and went down to join the others at dinner.
Harvest Gathered.jpg
The harvest is safely gathered, but there is still work to be done, always.
Click for audio version


The Free Folk are former Asavean slaves who fled to the Empire on Imperial ships. They were welcomed in Dawn, and are eager to become part of the Empire. The main point of contention is their religion. While they claim they follow the Way, some Imperial priests have expressed concerns about idolatrous undercurrents to their faith. Individual nations had reached out to the Free Folk, but the Synod as a whole remained divided on whether they presented a threat or not .

Last season the matter was brought to a head by two statements of principle in the General Assembly. The first, which received a greater majority, made it clear the Empire should embrace the Free Folk. The second, which received widespread report but did not quite receive a majority, laid out forcefully that the Free Folk were not a threat.

The Free Folk as a whole are relieved; they're planning a grand pilgrimage across the Empire to visit as many of the Imperial Nations as possible, and find out if those nations will accept them as citizens.

If you need a refresher on who the Free Folk are, you can find one in last seasons WoF

The Freefolk's goal to complete a pilgrimage of all the Imperial nations to share their history and struggles is an act of great Ambition and Pride for a people who have so keenly embraced the Way of Virtue. I encourage priests of the Empire to welcome them as they travel and discuss the Way with them.

Lady Laudine duLac, General Assembly, Autumn Equinox 384YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 2501-21)

The Empire is no stranger to differing views on the Way. If we fail to embrace the Free Folk now, we will lose the chance to both learn from them and teach them. We know that the Free Folk are capable of manifesting auras of virtue. There is much we can learn from them. Our actions toward the Free Folk will show others how we treat those with differing faiths; we must show ourselves willing to communicate. We are ten nations stronger for our differences and our convictions. This is an opportunity, not a threat.

Rikke, Wintermark Assembly, Autumn Equinox 384YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 323-0)

The Free Folk's beliefs and practices are heterodox but do not contradict doctrine. They are not idolaters, blasphemers, nor heretics. They refer to potential paragons as "the Divine Family" but do not believe them to be gods. It is merely a turn of phrase. The Imperial Way is evidence based, can withstand debate, and has evolves as a result. The spontaneous hallowing to Pride of the effigy of one they consider a potential paragon cannot be ignored! They bring to us people who could be paragons and have asked the Synod to help assess the signs. We should do this! Better to encourage free dialogue and trust structures of state to deal with individuals who break the law, than silence an entire people without understanding their beliefs.

Lady Eleanor Novarion, General Assembly, Autumn Equinox 384YE, Upheld (1659-193)

The Free Folk Pilgrimage

  • The Free Folk are planning a pilgrimage across the Empire

The Free Folk are enthusiastic to see more of the Empire as part of an ongoing pilgrimage. They are based in Dawn, and have already visited the Marches. By all accounts they intend to visit each of the other nations. Exploring the Empire in this way will give them a stronger sense of where they may want to settle down. It's not clear if they will stay together, or if each of them will find the nation that suits them best. The General Assembly has the opportunity to influence this pilgrimage if they wish. There are three possible mandates that might could be used to guide the Free Folk's journey.

Work and Worship

  • The Free Folk are keen to pay their way and work for their board as they travel round the Empire
  • The Synod can encourage the Free Folk to seek employment in the lands that have welcomed them

The Freefolk have been explicitly welcomed to the Marches, Wintermark, Varushka, and Dawn. While other statements of principle have been raised in other national assemblies they have not had the same impact as those raised by Tom Keeper, Rikke, Radomír Oleksandrovych Dvorak, and the Earl of Fools. While the Free Folk will visit all the nations eventually, they feel they will receive the best welcome in these nations. Hard working, Prosperous, and keen to raise money that they can invest in their futures, the Free Folk seek employment wherever they go - refusing to accept charity.

Let everyone strive, toil, and claim the just rewards of their labours. We send {named priest} with 75 doses of liao to urge Imperial citizens to share their Prosperity with the Free Folk. We will find common cause and shared purpose by working together.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

If the General Assembly upholds this mandate, then the Freefolk will find many opportunities to work in the nations they visit. As they do so, they'll share stories of their lives, and their paragons, and in turn absorb a littlie of the culture of the people they visit. They'll also spread a little of the Prosperity they hold dear to their hosts. This burst of prosperity will benefit each nation differently.

In the Marches and Dawn every farm in Mitwold, Mournwold, Upwold, Astolat, Semmerholm, Weirwater will receive a 1 rank bonus to production as the Free Folk help clear fields and plant new crops in anticipation of the coming year. In Wintermark, every herb garden in Kallavesa, mine in Hahnmark, and farm in Sermersuaq will receive a 1 rank bonus as the Free Folk enthusiastically meet with people from all three traditions and explore the meaning of heroism. Finally, in Karov, Miekarova, and Volodmartz every mine will produce one additional ingot of metal and every forest will produce an extra measure of material. These benefits apply immediately after the Winter Solstice and last until the start of the Spring Equinox. The mandate will only have an effect in Varushka if it achieves a greater majority of course.

Study and Spirituality

  • The Free Folk want to learn more about the virtues and how they are followed in different nations
  • The Synod can encourage Imperial priests in every nation to reach out to them and share their Wisdom with them

The Free Folk are keen to speak to fellow dedicates of the Way. With the Synod largely agreed their odd practices are not idolatry, they seek opportunities to share their understanding of the faith with Imperial priests. They will still pursue opportunities to work and to get to know the people of the nations better, but the Empire could encourage priests everywhere to embrace the visitors, welcome them into their congregations, and discuss the Way with them.

Wisdom knows all knowledge is incomplete. We send {named priest} with 75 doses of liao to encourage the priests of the Empire to engage with the Free Folk pilgrimage in good faith and help them to find the path of Virtue. By sharing our understanding we will navigate the Way together.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

If this mandate is enacted, every congregation in the Empire will benefit from the Free Folk visits. While they won't swell congregations directly, they will make donations to the priests they meet with. Every congregation in the empire will gain a bonus of 36 rings in the form of either actual donations, gifts made by the Free Folk, or the benefit of their hard work. Again this benefit would only apply to Varushka and Urizen if the mandate received a greater majority.

The mandate will also give the Free Folk a better appreciation for the true virtues, and a better understanding of the Way and their place in it. It won't reduce their reverence for their own Paragons, but they will learn more about the Empire's Paragons and vice versa.

Edit: The effect of the mandate would last until the start of the Spring Equinox 385YE.

Inspiration and Understanding

  • The Synod could urge the Free Folk to focus their interest in paragons and other inspirational figures
  • Their pilgrimage would expand to embrace places dedicated to such figures

Alternatively, the Synod could encourage the Free Folk to explicitly visit the many places of pilgrimage around the Empire dedicated to paragons and exemplars. There they could learn of the Imperial inspirations, something which appears to be very dear to them. There would no doubt be a little disruption - wherever the Free Folk have visited a place dedicated to a paragon or exemplar so far they have insisted on performing their own odd ceremonies of veneration, adorning statues in flowers or garments, wanting to touch things to make a physical connection to the inspiration and so on.

The Virtuous inspire others to greatness; they do not demean them. We send (named priest) with 75 doses of liao to encourage the custodians of our sacred sites to open their doors to the Free Folk. Sharing our inspirations will create a bridge we can cross together.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

If this mandate were enacted, then the Free Folk would visit the sinecures and sacred sites dedicated to inspirations across the Empire. They would not just visit the places dedicated to Paragons and Exemplars; the Free Folk are equally drawn to places where virtuous individuals are celebrated, making minimal distinction between such people and the Exemplars and Paragons recognised by the Empire - which may prove a little contentious.

Key sites visited would include the Basilica of Cora Holdfast, the Basilica of Seven Doors, Britta's Memorial, Good Walder's Orchard, Ratibor's Gate, the Imperial War Memorial, the Tower of the Sentinel, the House of Barbs, and Britta's Pool. If the mandate achieved a greater majority, it would also encourage Free Folk to visit the Maze of Zoria. For the next six months (until the end of the Summer Solstice 384YE) each of these sinecures would receive an additional dose of liao and 2 votes in the Synod to reflect their swelled congregations.

In addition, every congregation in Bastion and Necropolis would also receive an additional liao and 2 votes as the Free Folk visit the basilicas of the paragons, and the tombs of the dead thrones.

One Pilgrimage

  • These three mandates are in competition with each other

The pilgrimage of the Free Folk has many parts, but the General Assembly can only encourage one of these three elements. If multiple mandates are enacted, the one with the greatest margin will be successful. If none of these mandates are enacted, the Free Folk will still engage in their pilgrimage but in a disorganised, unfocused fashion that provides no additional benefits to the Empire.

A Little Disagreement About Idols

  • If any one of these mandates is enacted it will end the benefits created by the rejection of the Asavean Architect

There is one small fly in the ointment. Lady Novarion's statement of principle clarifying that the beliefs of the Free Folk are not idolatry did not achieve a greater majority. In Spring 383YE, Rafael Barossa di Tassato enacted a mandate that denounced the statues of false gods raised - perhaps appropriately - by the Asavean Architect Almodin Oktístis. The burst of Pride this created resulted in a small bonus to every congregation in the territories where the buildings stood as long as the Synod clearly stands in opposition to idolatry. If any of these mandates are passed, it won't be seen as an endorsement of idolatry, but it will raise enough disagreement that this benefit will end. Congregations in Tassato, Temeschwar, Karsk, Redoubt, and Hahnmark would all lose the additional liao and votes they have been enjoying since Rafael passed their mandate. This would apply in Varushka and Redoubt even if the Synod's mandate didn't achieve a greater majority - it is the Synod's stand that is important, not the effect of the mandate.

Finding the Way

  • The Highborn could reach out to the Free Folk and offer them tutelage in the ceremonial skills they lack

The Free Folk have a personal relationship to their faith, but they have few among their numbers who can perform spiritual ceremonies. Liao was extremely rare when they were slaves - only what little the Sumaah missionaries could smuggle to them. Before coming to the Empire, none of these pilgrims had been anointed, held a hallowed item, or experienced a consecration. They were familiar with auras, but only on those very rare occasions when they spontaneously manifested. Now that they are ready to start settling down in the Empire they request that the most spiritual among their number receive formal training in the ceremonial arts. Not only those that create auras, but the entire arsenal of abilities available to the priest - including excommunication. When - if - they become Imperial citizens they'll obviously be entitled to learn whatever they want, and can afford to pay for. They are ambitious and impatient however - they want to learn now. Many of them clearly feel that they have only been partially experiencing their faith - that they have been denied the numinous - and their Pride demands that they learn to channel their own spiritual powers.

Of all the nations, the Highborn are the ones in the best position to be able to provide training to new priests, especially those not raised in the beliefs of the Empire. They're also used to dealing with people who did not grow up in the Empire, or who have peculiar misapprehensions about the Way. One advantage of Highguard taking this role is that could explain the importance of tempering the more outlandish displays the Free Folk engage in. The disadvantage is that it would be expensive - it takes time and effort to teach a priest. But Highguard also has a class of people dedicated to virtuous use of their wealth - the benefactors.

The Free Folk wish to learn how to use liao to express their faith. We send (named priest) with 50 doses of liao to encourage our people to help the Free Folk find the Way. All that is worthwhile is shared with those who deserve it.

Synod Mandate, Highguard National Assembly

If the Highborn enact this mandate, every business in Highguard will suffer a -1 rank to production for the rest of the year. This money will go to fund scholarships, purchase liao, and provide access to tutors for the Free Folk who want to become priests. At the end of the year, the Free Folk would have easily a hundred priests capable of performing all the religious skills - but crucially they would have been trained by Highborn priests. While they wouldn't abandon their peculiar reverence of the paragons and exemplars, they would have a much broader understanding of doctrine, and the tenets of the virtues, and would begin integrating their beliefs with those of the orthodox Way.

The Winter Miracle

  • The Free Folk plan to visit Anvil again for the Winter celebrations
  • Their miraculous effigy is missing and the Free Folk believe it has been stolen

There is one matter that still weighs on the hearts of the Free Folk. Some of the Free Folk are intending to visit Anvil during the Winter Solstice. They plan to take part in the Day of the Dead celebrations once again. Last year, when they visited Anvil, they created an effigy of one of their paragons, La Parolanto de Morto - 'the Speaker for the Dead' in Imperial. They held a feast in honour of the effigy, and apparently experienced a miraculous sense of belonging that led to a spontaneous spiritual aura manifesting around it. They claim that the effigy was taken away by Imperial priests, and that despite multiple requests the priests are refusing to return it.

This miracle belongs to the Free Folk, they say. They have made it clear that unless it is returned to them before the end of the Winter Solstice they will take the matter up with Imperial Law, and ask that the stolen item be tracked down, returned to them, and those responsible for stealing it prosecuted.

One More Thing...

  • The Synod has addressed the primary obstacle to the Free Folk joining the Empire
  • Before they will become Imperial citizens, however, they ask that the Synod recognise one of the paragons of the Divine Family

At some point the Free Folk are going to want to join an Imperial nation. They're keen to find one that matches their temperament. one where they will be welcome, and one where they feel they have a future. They've lived in Dawn, and learned of glory, nobility, and the yeofolk. They've visited the Marches and learned of hard work, prosperity, and foot-the-ball. They've been invited to Wintermark and Varushka, where they'll learn different lessons. So far they have spent little time in Highguard, the League, the Brass Coast, Urizen, Navarr, or Skarsind. In the end though - most likely by the end of the year - they'll pick a nation where they feel most at home and petition en masse to join. Wherever they decide to settle, they'll establish farms, and businesses, and mines and such, giving a small but noticeable boost to the prosperity of the nation - and the taxation provided by their territories.

However! There is one final step before they'll feel truly at home in the Empire. Several of their storytellers have spent the last few months working with the Lepidean Library talking about their Divine Family. They share stories about their "paragons" with anyone who will listen, and it is clear to anyone who spends time discussing matters of faith that the Free Folk hold these virtuous figures at the heart of their culture. Some of them, inspired by their time among the Marchers, have begun to quote the famous demand put to the First Empress: "You must take all of us, or none of us." If the Empire wants the Free Folk, they must also acknowledge their Divine Family.

There are three ways the Imperial Synod could respond to the Free Folk request. They could recognise at least one member of the Family as a paragon. This would reassure the Free Folk, and smooth the way toward them joining an Imperial nation. At the same time, though, the Free Folk acknowledge that recognising a paragon is not a step to be taken lightly; more than anything they want to see the Divine Family honoured because the Empire agrees they are true inspirations rather than out of political expediency.

The Synod could recognise one of the Divine Family as an exemplar instead. For the Free Folk this would mark the beginning of a campaign to get another of their Divine Family acknowledged as a paragon- and it would not ultimately stop them referring to the exemplar as one - but it is a challenge they are prepared to accept. It would still be seen as an acknowledgement that the Divine Family are inspirational, virtuous figures.

Finally, the General Assembly might enact a mandate, inspired by the statements of principle upheld last season. Similar to the mandate regarding Sulemaine i Taziel, it would make clear that there is no bar to honouring inspirational figures, as long as they are virtuous, who are not formally recognised by the Synod.

Although the Synod does not yet agree that the Divine Family meet the criteria to be judged as paragons, it is clear that they provide virtuous inspiration to the Free Folk. As such they cannot be regarded as false paragons. We send (named priest) with 75 doses of liao to remind the faithful that is it acceptable to call for any virtuous human to be recognised as a paragon, and to draw inspiration from their virtuous example.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

This mandate would satisfy the Free Folk, and remove the final bar to them joining an Imperial nation with one exception. If the mandate did not receive a greater majority, it would not reach the people of Varushka and Urizen, and consequently the Free Folk might encounter future problems in their interaction with these nations.

There's no immediate rush - but the Free Folk will not become Imperial citizens until one of their Divine Family is recognised in some fashion by the Synod.

Further Reading

Freefolk Pamphlets

These are little pamphlets created by some of the Free Folk that tell tales of their "Divine Family"