Was the symbol of the Devoted School different before Bitters were an acknowledged school? If so, when and how did it change? If not, what did the sixth point represent pre-Bitter School?
This came up on the Phoenix: Dawn Command Facebook group, and it’s a good question. The Bitter school is the darkest of the six Phoenix schools. A Bitter dies in failure, and is driven by anger and revenge. In the description of the Bitter school, it notes that “The origin of Bitter Phoenixes is a mystery. There’s no record of any Bitter Phoenixes in the Dawn Legion or the Phoenix Imperium; it seems the first Bitter Phoenix appeared after the Civil War. Some scholars fear that Bitter Phoenixes represent some sort of corruption of the Phoenix Flames; others believe the Phoenixes of the past were simply so arrogant they never saw themselves as failures.”
However, we also have the Devoted school, which has certainly been around throughout the history of the Imperium. It’s noted that The Devoted sigil shows six points around a circle. It represents the Phoenixes of a Wing and the greater whole of the Wing itself. As a Devoted, you know that unity is power—that a Wing working together can accomplish things no lone champion can achieve.
A wing contains one Phoenix from each school, and hence the question: If Bitter Phoenixes weren’t part of the Dawn Legion, did the Devoted symbol only have five points? Or if it had six, what did people think that meant?
First of all, this is a valid question for people to have in the world of Phoenix itself. There is some mystery around the Bitter school. Is it a manifestation of the Dread? Or is the Dread simply bringing it out in a way it didn’t come up in the Empire? Like the Mourning in Eberron, I don’t want to give you one single answer: I want each Marshal to be able to decide if the Bitter school is a corruption or functioning as intended.
With that said, in canon I will say that the Devoted symbol has not changed. The first Phoenixes didn’t design these symbols or create the schools; they inherited them from whatever power created the flames. I believe that scholars in the Imperium debated this question, likely arguing some of the following ideas…
- The six points represent a group of people working together; it’s not specifically a wing of Phoenixes.
- The sixth point represents the Empire, which is always with the Phoenixes.
- The symbol could represent the Empire and its people: Ilona, Skavia, Grimwald, Wynderi, Pyre and the Shadovar.
- There is a sixth school which for some reason we haven’t seen.
With that in mind, I also see a few ways a marshal could develop this.
- The description says “There’s no record of any Bitter Phoenixes…” which isn’t the same thing as saying “There never were any Bitter Phoenixes.” The Dawn Codex used the Schools as a model for righteous paths citizens of the Empire should follow. It’s possible that one of the early Emperors – likely Aegis – decided that the Bitter school was a flawed school that cast the Phoenixes as a whole in a bad light and instituted a policy of obliteration to conceal this cancer from the Empire. Phoenixes are always reborn first in the Grand Aerie, and Bitter Phoenixes could have been immediately imprisoned or executed… though a few might have escaped, or somehow managed to be reborn elsewhere in the Empire. The Shrouded Empress Verity would certainly have ensured that there were no records of these renegade Phoenixes, but there could have been some out there; they might even have aided the Humanists during the Civil War.
- Perhaps there was a different sixth school in the distant past, and the Bitter is a corruption of that previously unknown school. In which case, is it possible to find an ancient Phoenix of that school? Or could a Bitter find a way to cleanse their flame and be reborn as a member of this unknown school?
Mainly this comes to a question of how you want to handle the story of a Bitter player, and especially their mentor. One option is that a Bitter has no mentor; they are the first Phoenix of their flame to ever follow this path. They could seem to have no mentor, but discover a connection to a force seeking to corrupt the flames — a powerful Fallen, or perhaps the entity described on page 226 of the Marshal’s Guide. But a third option is that they have a mentor who lived during the Phoenix Imperium and opposed the Empire, a Bitter Phoenix whose actions were erased from history. Dawn Command isn’t the same as the Dawn Legion, but how will this affect the Phoenix’s decisions and relationship with the Empire moving forward?
If you have other questions about Phoenix: Dawn Command, ask below!