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Word of the Emperor

A simple pocket-size edition of the Word

Word of the Emperor is an anthology of the Emperor's political and philosophical treatises and the official state ideology textbook of the Imperium of Sidhae. Since it's first issue in the late 2230's, the Word has inspired a quasi-religious following among many generations of Sidhae, and in the present day is almost universally considered a holy scripture.

History

There was no concerted effort to compile the Emperor's writings during his lifetime, nor a particular emphasis to impose a specific set of ideological tenets on the general populace. The Emperor was generally tolerant of divergent views as long as they did not fundamentally challenge his authority or try to undermine the general tenets upon which the Old Imperium was built. His following was built on personal charisma and a reputation of success rather than ideological requirement - the Emperor had repeatedly proven he had what it took to get seemingly impossible things done, so the majority of Sidhae were content with following his leadership simply for that.

That would change with the Age of War that followed his assassination in 2232. Torn by a violent civil war and assaulted from all sides by human and Skargh rivals, the Imperium was in a desperate need for something to unite the Sidh society against a common foe. The newly-ascended Empress rightly determined that to reunite the Sidhae after her eventual victory in the civil war and to prevent similar wars from happening again, the Sidh people would have to be given strict ideological guidelines for the future. She consequently authorized the establishment of Word Bearers, an organization dedicated to propagating this new state ideology and bolstering public morale under conditions of total war.

The source material for this new official ideology didn't take long to find, the Emperor having been a rather prolific writer on matters of politics, strategy, statecraft and philosophy. The early Word Bearers would consequently compile and revise his teachings, rendering them in a semi-poetic style of easily-memorized verses inspired by the styles used in the Bible and other religious scriptures of old. These verses were deliberately written in an archaic-sounding language to convey an impression of ageless wisdom. The central ideological theme of the Word was selected to be unity, the Word essentially being intended as a guidebook on how to attain a society that acts like one mind with a trillion arms. The compiled Emperor's teachings were consistently revised and edited to support that cause, removing any mention of ideas that would allow for plurality or ideological heterodoxy, something to which the Emperor wasn't originally expressly opposed to. The resulting book was then meticulously disseminated first among the military and then general populace, scores of skilled Word Bearer propagandists tirelessly lecturing the new doctrine to the masses.

In the centuries since, the Word has inspired the Sidh quasi-religion known simply as the Way and experienced very little if any revisions. In the present day, it is regarded as a holy scripture by most Sidhae, the Word's tenets being followed with religious zeal - rather ironically, considering the Emperor's own opposition to religious superstition.

Overview

The Word revolves around the core ideal of social unity in all things. All differences, however minute, are to be cast aside and rejected, for only in complete unity can the Sidh society survive and thrive in a dark and hostile universe full of untold terrors. The three main principles to which every Sidh must firmly adhere in all things to attain social unity are Duty, Loyalty and Honour, values that were already firmly established in the militaristic Sidh culture before the Word. Other virtues extolled by the Word are Industry, Frugality, Efficiency, Integrity, Self-improvement and Perfectionism. The majority of Word verses are aphorisms pertaining to these virtues.

One could say that the Word is a manual on how to be a Sidh. Sidhae themselves agree that Sidhness isn't something easily defined, let alone explained in a single sentence or even a paragraph. To a Sidh, the Word is what Bushido was to a samurai - a set of values, beliefs and practices far broader than any codified treatise on the matter can encompass, something that must be part of one's very nature and character in order to qualify as a Sidh/samurai rather than something that can be adopted simply by memorizing a textbook and striving to live by it.

The practice of living by the tenets of the Word is known as the Way, hence the common Sidh references to "Word and Way". It is not sufficient to memorize and follow the Word in order to qualify as a proper devotee of the Way, i.e., a Sidh - as said before, the teachings of the Word must be intrinsic to one's character, a natural part of one in order to qualify as a true Sidh.

Interestingly, the Word itself disclaims that those who seek spiritual enlightenment in it will be disappointed, for it is a book about building a functional society rather than enlightening on spiritual matters. That hasn't deterred contemporary Sidhae from developing various quasi-religious practices centered around the Word including prayers and meditations centered on its content.

Core tenets

The overriding purpose of all the Word's tenets is the attainment of unity. An ideal society is united to a degree where all it's members think and act as one. Only such a society, according to the Word, can survive and prosper in a hostile and dangerous universe.

Duty

The first and foremost tenet of the Word is duty. A Sidh must always set the common good of society above his personal whims and wants, and strive ceaselessly towards carrying it out to the best of his ability. Duty takes many forms, but in essence entails selfless service to the common cause, and is a key aspect of unity. Only such a society can be united where its every member selflessly carries out whatever duties are expected of him. One of the most oft-quoted verses of the Word therefore is "Only in death does duty end."

Loyalty

A Sidh must always stay true to his fellows and their common ideals regardless of the personal cost. Depending on circumstance, it can be loyalty to one's nation and race, loyalty to one's superiors, or loyalty to one's friends - what matters is that a Sidh has a purpose and principles higher than his own petty good to serve, and stays true to them even when faced with death. Being labelled a betrayer constitutes the blackest mark against Sidhness.

Honour

A Sidh must always strive to maintain pristine both his personal and collective reputation, and do so voluntarily, simply because he can rather than out of fear of punishment or condemnation, or out of a desire to appear virtuous and receive praise. In practice, it means refraining from impure and disreputable, "un-Sidh" actions and words, and demanding the same of others who call themselves Sidhae. An oft-quoted verse of the Word states: "Honour is more precious than life, for life is only lost at the end of a lifetime, while honour is lost for a lifetime." At the same time, a Sidh is not obliged to treat dishonourable individuals honourably.

Industry

The Word explicitly states that "Idle hands are the prime instrument of vice". A Sidh must therefore put himself to honest and diligent work to the best of his ability at all times, whether it be for the benefit of society or his own self-betterment. Even someone who performs the dirtiest, lowliest menial labour is infinitely better than an idler and parasite. In some interpretations of the Word, Industry is an aspect of Duty, since it is every Sidh's duty to work for common benefit. More broadly, it is simply the expectation that every member of Sidh society must pull his own weight and contribute something according to his ability.

Frugality

This virtue is deep-rooted in the origins of Sidh culture. Being generational spacefarers, early Sidhae had to be extremely frugal with their very limited resources, the later generations of Sidhae taking over the mindset that abhors waste. A proper Sidh never consumes more resources than is necessary to meet his needs, and treats every bit of leftovers and waste as resources rather than garbage. In practice, this manifests chiefly as rejection of conspicuous consumption and consumerist lifestyle, the conservation and recycling of resources. With that said, elaborate attire or ornate buildings common throughout Sidh society are not considered wasteful, since resources spent on constructing them serve a purpose of making them aesthetically-appealing. What matters is that every bit of resources are spent for a deliberate purpose, nothing being let go to waste. It is also interpreted as part of Duty.

Efficiency

Considered by many to be a subset of Duty and an aspect of Frugality, Efficiency is the virtue of doing everything for the greatest and longest-lasting effect. More broadly, it entails acting with foresight, planning in long term. In practice, Sidh engineering is the best reflection of efficiency - easily-upgradable yet extremely sturdy, built to last for ages. On a personal level, efficiency also translates as acting efficiently - treating anything that benefits the Sidhae as whole as good and righteous, and rejecting anything that doesn't as wrong and immoral.

Integrity

"A word spoken is a deed done" , so states the Word. Regarded as a subset of Honour by many, the virtue of Integrity revolves around honoring one's promises and obligations. A proper Sidh never makes a statement about doing something lightly or carelessly, since Honour and Integrity obliges him to make good on his words, lest his reputation suffer. A true Sidh has no need for oaths or written contracts, since his spoken word is expected to be as good as a sworn oath. In practice, a Sidh can indeed be called to court or challenged to a duel of honour for failing to make good on a simple verbal agreement spoken in the presence of two witnesses. A Sidh must both honour his own word and demand that others honour theirs, being in fact obliged to take action against those who break their word, and more broadly, commit any sort of un-Sidh action.

Self-improvement

A subset of Duty, it is the obligation of every Sidh to constantly strive towards bettering oneself, physically and mentally. Sidhae have taken this commandment to literal levels by embracing universal augmentation. While originally adopted mainly for practical reasons to help them survive in a hostile alien environment, augmentation has since become the most obvious cultural manifestation of the tenets of the Word. Obviously, augmentation alone is insufficient to qualify one as a Sidh - one must also constantly and deliberately strive for new knowledge and skills and the mastery of existing ones. Augmentation is merely a tool that helps one perform one's Duty even better. Consequently, it is customary to reward Sidhae who have distinguished themselves in the line of duty with access to new tiers of augmentation that will help them become even better at whatever they do in the future.

Perfectionism

A Sidh must strive towards perfection and beauty in all things he does. Whether it entails constructing an elaborate edifice, crafting a sophisticated device, creating a masterwork art piece or mastering a martial art, a Sidh must always strive to make his pursued goal nothing less than perfect. Even mundane and small things should be performed with deliberation and care - as the Word rather bluntly states, "Even shoveling shit can be made a form of art". Perhaps this obsessive strife for perfection in everything down to the smallest detail is what gives Sidhae their otherwordly grace that outsiders often take not of.

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Discipline

The tool with which these said virtues can be attained and commandments fulfilled is Discipline. In the sense of Sidh religious teachings, it means first and foremost self-discipline and denial. As the Word teaches, "Only he who has mastered his wants and desires is free." A Sidh should strive to abandon his individual wants and desires and immerse himself fully in commitment to Duty, Loyalty and Honour, thus setting himself free from the shackles of his cravings.

Obviously, in a social sense, Discipline is desirable in a more direct sense as well. A Sidh is expected to carry out his duties unflinchingly and obey his superiors without question, save only for when his superiors clearly act in an unworthy manner, against the best interests of Sidh society.

Another aspect of discipline is conformity. A Sidh may disagree with the community and voice constructive criticism, but once a course of action has been decided on, he is to set his disagreements aside and proceed with the plan unquestioningly. Conformity is especially true for views and ideas - a Sidh is expected to wholeheartedly embrace the views of his community, i.e., the Word, and reject all that contradicts it. "It is not the message that matters, but one's obedience to it."

Practices

The teachings of the Word affect every aspect of Sidh life in the present day much like any religious doctrine would affect an observant community.

While not legally-required, every self-respecting Sidh owns a copy of the Word, the importance of the book being such that ownership of it is compulsory by custom rather than law. Word of the Emperor is one of the few books in the Imperium still printed on paper in large numbers, most literature long since being digitalized. Various editions of the Word exist, ranging from simplistick pocket-sized editions with plain covers brandishing an inconspicuous Imperial Aquila to large and exquisite tomes encrusted with gold and jewels and hand-written in exquisite calligraphy. While the full text of the Word is naturally available in digital format, Sidhae make a point of keeping physical copies of the Word at their homes or with themselves. At home, the Word is usually kept on the household shrine dedicated to the Emperor, which devout Sidhae use to meditate and pray at. Outside of home, pious Sidhae keep a small pocket-sized copy of the Word on their person at all times, customarily carrying it in their left chest pocket over their heart.

Because of it's status as a de facto holy scripture, deliberate destruction or defacement of the Word is considered blasphemy of the worst kind, the act and the likely Sidh reactions to it comparable to publicly defacing the Quran in a devout Muslim society. Anyone who would have the mind to carry out such an offensive act would likely be lynched by an enraged mob long before the authorities intervened, assuming they would even intervene upon learning the reason for lynching. It is not the destruction of the book itself that Sidhae find offensive, but rather the lack of patriotism (in case of an Imperial subject) and disrespect for their lifestyle that such an act demonstrates, a person willing to carry out such an act clearly having no business in Sidh midst and most likely doing it to deliberately offend and inflame them. Should a copy of the Word be damaged beyond recovery accidentally, it should be disposed of by burning it privately in a respectful manner. The same reverential treatment applies to the Imperial Aquila standard, the symbol of the Emperor and the Imperium, and images of the Emperor and Empress.

Sidh devotees have devised a variety of quasi-religious practices centered around the Word. One of the most common forms is offering prayers to the Emperor. A devotee should kneel on one knee before a shrine or image of the Emperor, lower his head and make the Aquila sign (hold crossed palms with crossed thumbs over the chest in immitation of the Imperial Aquila) while reciting his prayer. Sidhae themselves deny this to be a religious superstition, since they do not claim to believe in the Emperor actually hearing their prayers. Rather, a prayer is meant to be a reminder for oneself of one's ancestry, purpose in life and obligation to live worthily, in accord with the Emperor's will as laid down in the Word. Meditations are likewise a common practice, devotees typically selecting a passage of the Word and then meditating to reflect on it's deeper meaning. A variant of this practice means concentrating on a pressing matter in one's life, opening the Word at a random page and reading the first verse that catches one's eye in hopes of finding an answer. A meditation then follows, trying to see the connection between the verse and one's problem.

More extreme forms of religious devotion involve assembling in large processions, usually led by one or several firebrand Word Bearers, and proceeding around the neighborhood, waving Imperial banners, displaying images of the Emperor and Empress and chanting religiously-themed songs and verses of the Word. Some devotees take it even further by carrying out public penances. While it is not uncommon for devout Sidhae to fast and flog themselves in private for real and perceived transgressions against the Word, some radicals take their penitence out in the street for everyone to see, assembling in processions of flagellants. Wearing masks of shame and carrying placards detailing their offenses around their necks (or strips of parchment pinned to their flesh), these penitents march in public flogging themselves in order to demonstrate their repentance and devotion. Society usually regards these fanatics as harmless loonies who have taken the veneration of the Emperor and His Word a bit too far, though the authorities usually look down on them with suspicion as borderline-heretics, citing their actions as a perversion of the true purpose of the Word.

The Word has also influenced Sidh law and legal terminology, which has adopted religious terms of old to describe specific offenses. "Heresy", for example, is used as a cover-all term for political offenses, i.e., unpatriotic and/or un-Sidh views and practices. "Blasphemy" refers specifically to unpatriotic or derogatory remarks about the Emperor, the Empress, the Word or the fundaments of Sidh lifestyle and ideology in general. "Sacrilege" in turn refers to actions of the same nature, such as desecration of the Imperial standard, the Word, images of the monarchs or national monuments deemed sacrosanct by the general public. While prosecution for these offenses usually involves charges of secular nature (i.e., sedition, treason, etc.) in keeping with the government's formal secular stance, these terms are often used interchangeably in formal records.

When quoting the Word, it is customary to proclaim "I speak His Word!" before proceeding with the quote, any who hear it being expected to respond with "Ave Imperator!"

Quotations of the Word often adorn public spaces as elaborately-painted or engraved slogans. Sidh armor, ships and other military vehicles often have verses of the Word lovingly painted on them by their crews. Tattoos featuring Word quotes and patriotic/religious imagery are also widespread, social conventions dictating that none may be placed in areas below the waist to avoid disrespect. One exception to this rule is tattoing Aquilas or emblems representing the Word (an open tome featuring Alpha and Omega letters on it's pages) on the knees, symbolizing that the wearer shall kneel before no-one.

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