Vigilia (c. 518-553, by the Thorian calendar, current year 1845) was a Thedanese atheist anarchist thinker and writer. Born to the Gent-Myrie dynasty, she enjoyed a comfortable upbringing and a good education, but was disowned to protect the family’s reputation after her father, Yrinques Asquebateux Serangesse d’Aublix-Gavaque Gent-Myrie, learned of her now lost essay Vridom a Freship (lit. “Freedom of Mind and Freedom of Agency”) in which she discussed two types of freedom for the individual that were incompatible with the all-powerful Law of Faitour, a type of theocratic autocracy which she would later die trying to amend.
Though she lived in the Thedanese city of Colvyr, she worked most often at the academy in Nolleth, a cosmopolitan city which attracted people from the neighbouring lands of Gephala, Aldweyn, and Ruris. As a lecturer she specialised in the in the fields of literature and anthropology, but she spent much of her time teaching literacy to children. She was fluent in several languages and her famous anarchist texts are mostly written in Rurisian, which most closely resembles Anglo Saxon and Middle English, and which she considered the superior literary language of her age.
Despite the shortness of her life, Vigilia’s wealth and status as an upper class lady afforded her a great deal of opportunity from an early age. By her early twenties she was widely travelled, and her detailed observations of culture, society, and state power in Thedan, Ruris, Aldweyn, Gephala, and Ochvad gave her the knowledge she needed to secure her career as a lecturer throughout the country. At the same time, she began to develop the foundations of the anarchist philosophy for which she became infamous after her death, and which would immortalise her and carry her name all the way to the present day, well over one thousand years after the fact.
Vigilia was born Marine Martaresse Yrinqeux d’Aublix-Gavaque Gent-Myrie. According to what is known of naming conventions within the Thedanese aristocracy, the Gent-Myrie naming structure is quite eccentric. The only name by which she would have been addressed in everyday society is simply Marine, or Lady Marine by other aristocrats. Gent-Myrie originated with the marriage of Loussarac Gent and Evalline Myrie, who begat, among four other children, Aublix Gent-Myrie. Aublix married Cybele Gavaque and begat several children, all of whose names end in d’Aublix-Gavaque Gent-Myrie, as those of their children and so forth. The reason for using the first name of the father and the family name of the mother is unknown, and is possibly an arbitrary decision of that particular marriage. Martaresse (Martarée) is the direct matronymic, while Yrinqeux (Yrinques) is the direct patronymic.
The name Vigilia is a later invention, originating with Sax Sicladoun’s Vigilia on Trial. However, Sicladoun’s life as a courtier kept him fairly isolated from the world outside Thedan, and it is highly unlikely that the language from which the name is believed to derive was known to him. Vigilia herself, however, was fluent in at least four languages, and may have had contact with early Thorian settlers during her time travelling in Ruris. In “Church Thorian” (the superficially Latinate orthography from which church figures get their names), “vigilia” is a feminine form of “vigilus”, which means, somewhat boringly, vigilant. The weirdness of Church Thorian is a (probably rather short) story for another time, but it is worth noting that in Vigilia’s day it likely did not exist, at least not in a form we recognise.
When I created Vigilia it was out of simple necessity. Early on in the worldbuilding process I had come up with a group of people called “Vigilantes”, the plural of a word which has a real world etymology, one that wouldn’t necessarily make sense in the world I was creating, since it wouldn’t have Spanish and all. Well, I guess it could have a mangled kind of superficial Spanish, as it has mangled superficial Latin and French and various historical forms of English, but to the point that I got with it, it just doesn’t. Vigilantes, much like in the real world, are people who take the law into their own hands. I had initially planned them to be followers of a worldview set out in a planned epic Middle English poem called O the Virtuous Wanderer by a Eòrnaic poet called Cheshan of Caol Elish. When this ended up not being feasible for a staggering multitude of reasons, many of them blindingly obvious, I started looking for other ways to do what I wanted to do.
For the condensed epic poem, I eventually wrote The Elideiad. Originally it was going to be a sailor’s journal, but having recently read John Barth’s tedious colonial American satire The Sot-Weed Factor, I got the idea to write a maritime narrative poem as that novel’s protagonist tries and fails to do owing to his growing disillusionment with America. But this informal society of vagrants, the Vigilantes, was still in want of an origin and an ethos. I wanted the Vigilantes to be an important part of the social fabric of the world. I think I took the idea from those ancient figures whose names are often reduced to just a single word (Aristotle, Euripides, Cicero etc.), and by simple association ended up with Vigilia, which had a kind of robust feel to it. It was a name that I could imagine seeing on the spine of a volume in the Penguin Classics range.
I decided that she would be an anarchist thinker, not directly related to the Vigilantes, but a point of origin who, like so many prophets, would probably have hated to see what realities her writings had spawned. As Kipling’s poem The Disciple says: “He that hath a gospel to loose upon mankind […] it is his disciple shall make his labour vain.” As I developed the concept of the International Zone, it occurred to me that it had to have had its beginnings in rebellion, and when I began writing I the Judge I saw how well the two fit together. Very quickly Vigilia became the intellectual mother of two major revolts against the concept of the state, and one of the most important figures in the history of the world.
[A little research into creation dates in my lore books folder tells me that in fact I wrote Vigilia on Trial at least two weeks before I the Judge, but looking at the huge “Notes” document I had compiled at the start of my work indicates that I had the idea for both her writings and her trial and execution at approximately the same time.]
Vigilia’s trial and execution came about because I wanted to have a martyr (possibly I was inspired by Carl Theodor Dreyer’s beautiful and harrowing 1928 film La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc), and I felt that it was kind of necessary to have her ideas be an assault on the society in which she lived, and for that society to overwhelmingly and violently rebuke them and the person who dreamt them up. The context of the trial serves both to exemplify her concept of personal justice, and to show the deep injustice of the Thedanese court. As the prosecution notes, under Faitour there is no law that protects someone from being forced into sex. A reader of our time might be inclined to conclude that this is only true in the case of female victims, certainly it is hard to look at a case of sexual assault in which the victim is punished for defending herself without seeing some kind of patriarchal conspiracy against women at work. I avoided clarifying that point because a) I wanted to avoid political point scoring, if the game came out and caught a wave I didn’t want to have my work turned into a dead frog for social media “intellectuals” to dissect; b) gender politics aren’t really relevant to Vigilia’s philosophy, for reasons detailed later in this essay; and c) the player who would be interested enough in the world to read books such as this one would probably be intellectually independent enough to come to their own conclusions based on the text itself.
Faitour, as noted by the translator of Vigilia on Trial, is a man selected to relinquish his Self and receive the spirit of the Thedanese god Ferren in its place, thus becoming Ferren’s physical manifestation. With this appointment, which is for life, the Faitour is given executive power to establish and abolish laws as seen fit, but he is also kept isolated from the world, and is seen and spoken to only by clerics. Since the Thedanese theocracy is a government of men and men exclusively (as is the court, Vigilia being the only woman present at her trial), and the Faitour is never a woman, a very literal patriarchy does indeed exist in Thedan. For Vigilia this is meaningless because all states are examples of “Man as Man’s Captor” (I the Judge, p. 3), whether or not women are of the captor class is a useless consideration. Note that her use of “he” and “Man” are general, in the way they are in most old real world texts, and do not distinguish between male and female.
Given the patriarchal nature of Thedanese government, the reader may be surprised to note that Vigilia is allowed to speak at her trial. For whatever reason (I never came up with one in-universe, I just liked the character of Vigilia and wanted to write more of her) the accused in a Thedanese trial is allowed to offer comment on statements made by the defence and the prosecution, and no distinction is made between men and women at court. Although I hadn’t planned it at the time, I think it helps to highlight, along with the obvious kangaroo court nature of the trial, at least as recorded by Sicladoun, just how arbitrary the Law of Faitour was. Even the prosecution says, in near enough the same sentence, that Faitour’s Law can only be changed by Faitour, and that it is immutable, an example of Vigilia’s theory of the “mobility of Law” in action. There is definitely a satirical element to the text, maybe I was drawing on Yes, Minister, maybe Preston Sturges (while I don’t like the film much, the commentary on electoral fraud in The Great McGinty certainly made an impression on me), or maybe Chris Morris.
At the end of Vigilia on Trial, Sicladoun sets a precedent for the mythologising of Vigilia. In the final paragraph, as he recounts her last days and execution, he makes her more than human. She tells him, prophetically, that her trial will be her greatest work, and that Sicladoun himself will be the one who ensures this. Then he describes the stoic quality of her face as she dies by hanging. Is it true then that she does not fear death? If so why? Because her death is a vindication of her ideas? Because she knows she is going to be immortalised? It doesn’t matter why, it’s an exclamation mark on the word “defiance”. The real question is: does Sicladoun invent these details for his own gratification? If so, to what extent can we trust in the veracity of his record? In the real world, I often wonder if the obsession some people have with discovering genius is actually the manifestation of a desire to be The One Who Discovers Genius. The ability to recognise genius marks one out as special in some way, not on the same level as if one were to actually possess genius oneself, but special nonetheless. So, too, Sicladoun’s mythologising of Vigilia may be opportunistic, not born out of concern for Vigilia or what may be her importance, but the seizing of the novelty of Vigilia that he may ride her coattails and gain immortality for himself. After all, it must have been pretty depressing being stuffed in his courtier’s chambers all day long, rarely if ever finding himself in a larger space that wasn’t the courtroom itself or some adjoining hall. Whatever Sicladoun’s real intention may have been, his record of the trial made Vigilia into a deity, and his (strongly suspected) covert distribution of her writings was the spark that lit fires of rebellion, revolution, and bloody civil war around the world.