Of the many traditions in Central, none are as famous or as anxiety-inducing as the maxims. Anyone who has visited Central on even a casual basis will have encountered these curious greetings the moment they arrive. And anyone who has ever gotten them wrong will remember the awkward silence and impatient glares as they try to correct their mistake.
More than just a set of greetings, however, or a regional oddity, the maxims are a way of life.
“Welcome to Central,” said the attendant with a polite smile as she arrived. Her voice was clipped but clear, with a lilting tone unlike the more rounded sounds in Northbrook. “May the fortress bring you peace.”
Was that… a maxim?
The birth of the maxims
The year is 652MT. Early in the morning of a cold day in December, the remaining population of the world awakens to plumes of smoke choking the skies above a barren valley. Weak rays of sunlight reflect off the broken shells of countless mechanical monstrosities, their remains running to the horizon and beyond. But for each of their number fallen, the shattered form of a person lies in the valley’s keep, their lifeblood painting it a permanent red.
It’s a moment of momentous victory, but equally momentous loss. This was the survivors’ first victory, but not their final battle. This advance alone cost the lives of countless families, all in the name of stopping the enemy rather than pushing them back. If safety and security are to be won, it will be a gift that future generations enjoy; not their own.
And so a pair of figures appear in that barren landscape. The survivors recognise the one who rallied them to the cause – Sampson Valent – and the fierce woman who led them to victory – Wendy.
One by one, they gather the survivors about them and begin to speak.
From that day on, those who fought in the valley are to call themselves souldiers. A representation of that which sets them apart from their enemy, and the very thing they must fight to reclaim. They shall be bound by a concord, a promise spanning generations to remind them of their cause. And they shall greet one another using a from of ritual phrases that reinforce those values and the bond each member of the community holds to one another.
And thus the maxims were born.
Every tradition that outlives its origins must establish a system to pass on its wisdom to future generations. And so it was with the maxims. When the survivors spread across the free territories, settling into new cities and towns, they took the maxims with them. In the years that followed, they repeated the maxims Sampson and Wendy gave them, and for a time, it seemed their success was guaranteed.
Time, however, had other plans. At first, the peoples of the free territories repeated the same set of maxims using the same structure and format as each other. As time went by, some of the regions introduced differences to better reflect regional circumstances while others created new maxims entirely.
In under half a century, the number of maxims in circulation ballooned from little more than twenty or so to almost a thousand forms and variants.
To combat the ever-growing collection, the peoples of the world handed control over to a new office in Central – the Office of the Adjutant General. The office drew members from across the free territories to create a complete catalog of all available maxims and their variations, then cut down the set to one that could be more easily remembered and that represented the core ideals Sampson and Wendy handed down.
Four years after the effort began, the office announced the first ever set of official maxims, giving the world the set of 250 maxims still in use even today.
What’s in a maxim?
All maxims follow the same basic structure – a greeting (known as the “call”) matched with a set response (the “refrain”):
|May the day be yours||I shall make it mine|
|May your actions invite esteem||I shall always be true|
Most calls and refrains are set, but some maxims allow conversation partners to choose from a range of refrains according to the situation (for example, “may the weather be a sign”), or the time of year or an event (for example, “may you remember those who give their lives”). Some maxims can also be chained with others to create a set of calls and refrains spanning multiple responses, allowing conversation partners to express more nuanced ideas.
|First round||May the day be yours||I shall make it mine|
|Second round||And may it be yours also||Our fates are intertwined|
The maxims might be highly ritualised, but they aren’t static. As the currents of the world change, the Office of the Adjutant General updates the set to better reflect the needs of the time.
Whenever they do so, they issue a new epoch or verse.
An epoch represents an update to the entire set of maxims, and is only issued once a decade or after an important event. While some calls and refrains are carried over from one epoch to the next, the majority change completely. Even when a call or refrain does remain, the wording often changes to reflect a new nuance or situation:
|Maxim||Epoch 249||Epoch 256|
|May the day be yours||It belongs to us all||I shall make it mine|
When the Office of the Adjutant General issues a new epoch, it distributes the new set to important organisations such as the heralds, Railway Corps, and Adjutant Corps to memorise in advance. Members of these organisations must use the new set of maxims from the official issue date without exception. Members of the general public, however, are given a transition period during which use of the new maxims is encouraged, but not enforced.
Compared to the complete overhaul of an epoch, a verse represents a minor adjustment to the calls or refrains of several maxims in the set. More common than epochs, verses allow the Office of the Adjutant General to reflect trends in maxims and common interpretations:
|Maxim||Epoch 256, Verse B||Epoch 256, Verse C|
|May the fortress bring you peace||It offers us protection||I welcome its protection|
|May you think of those who give their lives||They shall remain in heart and mind||They shall live within my memory|
Despite best efforts to maintain a single set of calls and refrains, different groups and peoples have had different ideas over the ages. Indeed, the maxims have become such a core part of life in Central that residents often modify them or use them in ways other than originally intended.
Perhaps most egregious amongst these are the souldiers themselves. Not only do the RFC maintain their own set of maxims, the souldiers often chain maxims together to create speeches or adopt parts of common maxims as slogans and mottos:
|May you carry the Line|
May you live to see the dawn
|Carry the Line, greet the dawn|
|May the Line be quiet|
|Hope for silence, prepare for fate|
Competition amongst the great families is also common. Children of the great families often participate in competitions to recite or match calls and refrains during their school years, with those aiming to become heralds on attaining adulthood priding themselves on their ability to remember entire sets and their changes. Printed copies of the latest set of maxims are often a cherished addition to the personal libraries of those families able to afford them, as are seasonal decorations using maxims as motifs.
While the reach of maxims has grown immensely since their beginnings at the First Triumph, the spirit that began them remains the same. And, as they gain more and more importance amidst a society eager to hold on to relics of the past, it is almost certain that an interesting future awaits them in the decades and centuries to come.