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Oaths

Societal Expectations

Oaths, Vows, Honor and Promises

'Oaths' and 'Vows' are used often interchangeably but they have a subtle distinction in Arvani culture. An oath is given to another person, but sworn in the presence in Limerance, as the god of fidelity notes it and makes it have religious and cultural seriousness as an unbreakable obligation until formally released. A vow is given from a person to the gods themselves, or other spiritual or supernatural force, and only the Faith could speak for the gods and release one from a vow, since it was made directly to the gods. And while Arvani take honesty extremely seriously in an honor based society, a promise does not formally have the weight of either an oath or a vow and is informal, unless it follows specific forms.

As an honor based society, the importance of being able to be seen as honorable is absolutely paramount. If someone is understood to be an oathbreaker, this essentially means that their word is meaningless, and any kind of formal agreement with them is not necessarily binding. In other words, if a liege becomes an oathbreaker, they are probably politically dead, because no one will ever take them seriously or feel they can negotiate with them in good faith. Someone could recover socially from being a convicted murderer. They are unlikely to from being an oathbreaker, it is far more serious.

-Oaths

Expectations: Oaths are very formal promises given before witnesses, and the god of fidelity Limerance is also considered a witness, so it is typical for a godsworn member of the faith to act as a witness for an oath. These are typically intended to be binding for life, but they can be for specific periods of service, and the holder of the oath is always welcome to release an oathgiver from the confines of the oath. For example, a vassal to a liege swears they must provide soldiers when banners are called, they must pay taxes, and defend and justly rule the lands they are given, and the liege swears they will demand no service that would forever dishonor their house. The latter is the only oath a liege takes in turn, so that they could not demand a service that would be dishonorable, such as ordering bannermen in war to massacre children, but that's a very, very narrow scope. It is considered incredibly dishonorable to ever try to abuse the letter of an oath rather than the spirit of it, for example, for someone to swear an oath whose wording would exempt behavior that both oathgiver and oathholder would think of understood. Once an oath is given, someone is expected to perform to the letter and spirit of it to the best of their abilities regardless of circumstances, unless it contradicts another oath. If someone does have conflicting oaths, and they fail to uphold one, they are likely still going to be considered an oathbreaker. Honor is unyielding. However, it is critical to note that someone being released from an oath is never, ever considered an oathbreaker, and typically the only person who is thought to have the right to label an individual an oathbreaker would be the holder of their oath. Most common oaths are oaths of service between vassal and liege, but legal agreements and important treaties will often be accompanied by an oath to fulfill the treaty to the best of their abilities, to underscore the seriousness. Oaths of fidelity in marriage are considered an oath, rather than a vow, which means the only person that has the right to say their spouse is unfaithful would be the spouse, as it would be up to the holder of the oath to decide whether the spirit of their agreement has been violated, and the oath for marriage is typically worded as, 'I swear an oath before Limerance to be faithful'. Most oaths are worded in very general terms which give the oathholder most of the authority on whether they consider it violated, but the form is very specific, with someone making a clear note of, 'I give my word of honor', 'I give my solemn word', 'Under the view of Limerance, I swear an oath to...'. These are always solemn, emphatic and clear that an oath is being given.

Oathbreaking is not something that can be resolved with a simple honor duel. It is much like an accusation of high treason or a capital offense, where if someone was to fight an honor duel when accused of oathbreaking, and then lose the duel, they would be dead regardless. Therefore, much like trial by combat and capital offenses, these are customarily done as duels to the death, where a loser usually will be executed or exiled if their champion dies. If someone is ever accused of being an oathbreaker, it is expected that the accused give the accuser a chance to walk back the accusation, in case they misunderstate their seriousness. This is analogous to a deathly silence when someone asks for clarification, 'Are you calling me a liar?' and then violence is sure to follow if the affirmitive is given. If at any part someone withdraws the accusation, then the slight from someone even speaking of it could be a much less serious honor duel, but the accusation of oathbreaking should never, ever be done trivially.

Obligations: Oaths are considered legal agreements in Arvum. It is usually assumed that a godsworn representative of the Faith to be present, but it's not strictly required. Anyone bending the knee would be swearing an oath of service, and would be assumed to be swearing it before Limerance whether a godsworn representative is present or not, therefore anyone that openly rejects the Pantheon in a violent way or mocks the existence of the Pantheon would not be permitted to bend the knee, though a shav agnostic allowing for the possibility of Limerance might be tolerated. For being released from an oath, this does not necessarily need to be public, but it is customary for it to be to avoid any accusations of oathbreaking if the oathholder is not available to speak for someone. Examples of this would be if the holder of an oath would release someone privately from an oath, then immediately die, and be unable to speak as to whether the released individual was an oathbreaker, making their family or the Faith honorbound to speak for the deceased. Terms being in writing is not that uncommon.

It is important to note that virtually all oaths of service from vassal to liege are sworn not to the liege's person, but to the liege's house or to an institution such as the Crown. This means that a Grayson sworn sword takes an oath of faithful service in battle to House Grayson, and this does mean that in civil wars, it can be very vague who is speaking for the House. This also means that during the Crownbreaker Wars, when multiple individuals declared themselves King of the Compact simultaneously during some periods, a King's Own knight might have had ambiguity in who they owed their loyalty, with different members of the Faith or lieges declaring individuals oathbreakers without a clear distinction who was in the right.

-Fine to Say or Do
--Take any oath that would not reasonably conflict with another oath of service
--Ask permission to be released from an oath from the oathholder you are sworn to
--Release an oathgiver from their oath if you are the oathholder

-Questionable to Say or Do
--Swear an oath when either the oathholder or oathgiver do not have a clear, shared meaning of the terms
--Swear any oath that has the potential to conflict with another oath
--Swear any oath that might have terms that could conceivably be impossible to keep
--Demand an oathgiver perform any action that could be considered dishonorable

-Ruinous to Say or Do
--Call someone an oathbreaker, particularly if one was not the oathholder
--Break an oath
--Attempt to pervert the letter of an oath and violate the spirit of it

-Vows

Expectations: While an oath is a binding promise to another person, a vow is a solemn promise of personal conduct given directly to the gods. For example, a knight takes an oath of service to their lord, promising their faithful service and sworn sworn in battle, but they take vows of chivalry before Gloria, promising to defend the weak, show courage in battle, and to be true to their word. A vow is usually done to show dedication to an entirely new way of life, such as godsworn vows when they vow they will never take any responsibility that will get between themselves and the gods, such as having children to care for. Typically, the Faith of the Pantheon are the arbitrators of vows, and are the ones with the moral authority to formally declare someone an oathbreaker for failing in their vows. It is not all that rare for some arrangements to have both an oath and a vow, when both makes a commitment to the person they make the oath too, then a personal commitment of something they might sacrifice or dedicate themselves to in the form of a vow before the gods.

Obligations: The Faith of the Pantheon is typically the only ones that police a holy vow before the gods being broken or not, and unless a vow has grave significance, they are unlikely to. An example of a vow the Faith of the Pantheon would police would be the vow to never reveal the contents of a Black Reflection, and if one breaks that vow, they must become a Silent Reflection or be executed. An example of a vow that the Faith are unlikely to police would be a knight make a personal vow of poverty that they only mention in passing to those close to them. If someone does not make a vow part of the public domain, and does not make it before members of the Faith to note it, it is unlikely to be taken in a formal way. This is why it is ambiguous whether many knights uphold vows of chivalry, since the details of any vows taken when they were knighted varies so wildly from region to region, and how diligent a knight has been in keeping thos vows, that is usually not considered in the interest of the Faith to police unless someone has a written record or witnesses of vows they took in a clearly public fashion. This is also why the Oathland knights are thought to be 'true' knights, since the oathlands is far more strict than other regions about how seriously vows should be taken, and a dishonorable knight there is far more likely to be held to be an oathbreaker. As a rule of thumb, the Faith is the only one with the power to formally declare someone an oathbreaker for breaking a vow, and only then for egregious and visible cases that happen clear to the public, that force the Faith to act.

-Fine to say or do
--A knight taking vows to defend the weak, speak only truth, honor the gods, never show cowardice when they are knighted
--A senior godsworn representative of the Faith releasing an individual from a vow
--The Faith of the Pantheon trying a godsworn member in their own courts for violating a sacred vow

-Questionable to say or do
--Making a public vow before the gods, such as in white journals, for a claim that cannot be verified. ('I swear before the gods this happened')
--Making a trivial vow, showing a disrespectful for the seriousness of vows
--Discussing a previous, unverifiable vow, such as claiming one had a vow of poverty they were released from.

-Ruinous to say or do
--Break a formally declared and witnessed vow.
--Call someone an oathbreaker for breaking a vow without very clear, unambiguous proof, nor were they released from the vow by the Faith
--Violating guest right or sanctuary, by inflicting grievious harm upon a guest, host, or one on holy ground
--Kinslaying

-Promises

Expectations: Honesty is a highly cherished virtue in the Compact as an honor based society, though promises do NOT carry the weight of vows or oaths, and someone who breaks a simple promise is not considered an oathbreaker without a formal oath. Someone who promises money for a delivery and then never pays up would have a terrible reputation for dishonesty and dishonorable practices, but they are not considered an oathbreaker until and unless they formally give their word of honor for an agreement, which would then be considered an oath. Being considered a liar is a serious thing, but it is still something that can be settled by regular honor duels over slights, and is not anywhere remotely as serious as being considered an oathbreaker.

Obligations: Verbal agreements are far and away the most common agreements in Arvum, so being known even as a liar will seriously hamper one's ability to conduct business, even if it won't be as ruinous as being an Oathbreaker. Lying is considered a particularly terrible affront in the Oathlands, however in the Lyceum, lies aren't considered anywhere near as serious as oathbreaking and it is seen as very crude and insulting to insist upon binding oaths in the southern city-states, where oaths are thought of as an extremely blunt instrument that removes nuance and subtlety from dealings.

-Fine to say or do
--Give a misleading statement in the Lyceum
--Tell a white lie to spare someone's feelings over something trivial

-Questionable to say or do
--Give a misleading statement anywhere outside of the Lyceum
--Tell a white lie in the Oathlands, even over something trivial
--General dishonesty

-Ruinous to say or do
--Lie about something critically important in the Oathlands in a public fashion
--Mislead others in a spectacular way that would eradicate any form of lasting public trust, except in the Lyceum.
--Make others believe you are under an oath or vow that you aren't, such as false flag attacks, attacks under truce.