"There's a dozen of them no more, and they're in Hahnmark. We can take them all no bother."

Onni had his bow out, an arrow resting against the wood. Wulfra shook her head at the folly of youth.

"It's not about numbers, little idiot. If it was about numbers they'd have come five thousand strong. It's about the law, and about the virtues."

The younger warrior furrowed his brow behind his mask. He was an adequate soldier, and tried to be a good man, and maybe he had the makings of a true hero even - provided he lived long enough to grow up a little and learned when to speak and when to keep quiet. Wulfra suspected he was also a little drugged, which was normally not a problem here in Southridge but along the borders would be a much more serious matter.

"Unless the Thane sends new orders, we watch, and we let them walk. Nothing more."

Unfortunately, Onni was just young and stupid enough not to know when to let something go.

"I was talking to Veeta round the fire last night and she said that the law isn't actually clear at all. They're protected while they're at Anvil, and on their way back from Anvil - as long as they go straight back home - but the wording means that we can do what we like to them while they are on their way to Anvil."

Wulfra rolled her eyes.

"Veeta thinks she is a damn sight cleverer than she is. The law is not a game of words. Do you think when they made the law the Senate expected orcs like these to somehow sneak to Anvil unseen? To fly maybe? To swim through shadows like Mäkäräinen swam the night in the storybooks? Oh, you could try your maggot-mouthed interpretation of the law when you're dragged up in front of the magistrates and I don't doubt that they'll listen with interest, and nod, and then your soul will be on its way to the Labyrinth before you feel the steel at your neck. The intention of the law is clear as a mountain brook."

Onni was not to be quieted.

"They're orcs," he said stubbornly. "And they're walking through Hahnmark like they own the place. They shouldn't be here!"

"They're Jotun," countered Wulfra. "And they are under a flag of truce."

She threw her hands up then with a great exhalation of frustration.

"Think boy! Are your eyes so poor that you can't see any further than you can shoot? What's the lesson of the Sapling and Shears?"

Onni concentrated hard, rubbing his closely-shaven head. He was not expecting the question and his wits were low.

"Things... end?" he said at last. "And... things begin?"

"Thing's end." she echoed. "And every ending begins somewhere. This might be the beginning of that end. Do you think your children will thank you for prolonging a war whose end has come? And even if they are not walking to Anvil to talk about peace, they may be going to talk about the beginning of peace, or the beginning of that beginning."

"Peace is not a virtue," he said then, insolently, a self-satisfied grim beginning to spread across his face. So she slapped him, open palmed, leaving his cheek stinging and red. He yelped, surprised rather than in pain.

"You won't speak to me like that," she said coldly. "Do you understand?"

He nodded then, and in the moment he remembered who she was and what she was capable of. His face paled behind his beard. She took pity, then.

"They are no threat." Her voice was quiet. "They are not stealing or raiding. They are clearly not spying, they are traveling the road openly. They are not demanding, nor asking for our aid. They bear a flag of truth, and they are Jotun. They mean what they say, whatever they say. So we will watch them until they pass out of our reckoning and then we will tell the Thane what we have seen, and that will be that. We may never know where their skein takes them, or what our choice here today means, but I have made it and now it is done. So put your bow away and go and get Vikka. And while you're about it splash some water on your face, and if you show up for duty stoned one more time I will slap you so hard your brother will feel it at the other end of the valley. Is that clear?"

Onni looked a little startled at the sudden steel in the captain' voice, but he nodded his head vigorously a few times and scuttled away to follow her instructions. Now to have a long conversation with Vikka about the law, and the difference between words and spirit. Perhaps it was finally time for Vikka's skein to twist in a different direction?

Below the tower, the Jotun continued to walk south, paying no heed to the watchers at its top.

Jotun Orcs

The Jotun have invaded Sermersuaq and, if the reports are to believed, have dispatched a diplomatic delegation to speak to the northern orcs. Yet it is not just the Thule to whom they are sending representatives. A little over a month ago a band of perhaps a dozen Jotun orcs left Sermersuaq heading south under a flag of truce. Moving on foot, they joined the Blood Red Roads near Kalpaheim, and have made no attempt to conceal their destination - Anvil.

They camp in the open rather than using Imperial inns or Navarr wayhouses, and are clearly disinterested in talking with strangers. Militia patrols have approached them and been met with the message that they are invited guests on their way to a meeting. Furthermore, they are well aware of the laws regarding the protection of delegations, although they will not speak of their reason for visiting the heart of the Empire. The contingent is led by an old pale skinned orc called Ustigar who is apparently one of the northern Jarls, an along with a light honour guard. Observers have also noted the presence of two orcs of the Hierro clan among their number. Both of these former Lasambrian orcs have visited Anvil before - the orc "priest" Kenza and the former diplomat Juevar.

The delegation is expected to reach Anvil shortly before the summit. Legally, the Imperial Consul, Aureliana Perpetua Nicasia Saverio di Sarvos, would expect to be the host for any formal diplomatic delegation, but the orcs claim to be guests of Liissá of Sigehold bound for a meeting with the Jarl of the Golden People, Avisena i Kharizmi i Guerra. Their party of five are waiting on formal instruction from their hosts to know exactly when they should arrive.

The Orcs of Otkodov

Following the Winter Solstice visit to Anvil by Rak Who-Speaks-For-The-Dragons-United and companions, there is still no sign of a new peace treaty with the northern orcs. The Thule Ambassador is philosophic; he seems confident that the Empire can still avoid war with Otkodov. With the Summer Solstice, and the end of the existing peace treaty, fast approaching Rak has announced that the Dragons are sending him back to Anvil to continue negotiations with the Imperial Ambassador to Otkodov.

He has publicly cautioned, however, that the Thule have no intention of surrendering the ancestral lands that the Empire returned to them as part of the earlier peace treaty. That is not a matter the Dragons are prepared to discuss - and if the Empire chooses to demand that the Thule quit the Silver Peaks and Krevsaty then the negotiations cannot help but end in failure.

Rak Who-Speaks-For-The-Dragons-United is expected to arrive at Anvil on Saturday afternoon. He has again requested a formal meeting with the Imperial Ambassador and their staff.

The Navarr

According to Rak, the Navarr people entered into some agreements with one of the Dragons that do not seem to be bearing fruit.

The Thule have been asked to withdraw their archaeologists from Hercynia. Arguments have been raised that an agreement with the Navarr gave the Thule unrestricted access to the northernmost Navarr territory, but now the Empire has asked them to leave. Rak is unhappy, but in accordance with the Empire's request all the Thule visitors to Hercynia have been recalled to Otkodov. There are few specific details, but Rak appears to believe that the orcs were given leave to recover items of worth that have cultural significance to the Thule - and now that permission has been revoked.

The Dragons are not angry but they are disappointed. The rulers of Otkodov has agreed to allow the Navarr to perform The Dance of Navarr and Thorn in the eastern territory of Sküld, should they be able to locate a suitable regio in the territory. Now that agreement looks as if it has been severely imperiled; it appears that the Navarr and the Dragon they negotiated with have different recollections of what was agreed during their meeting.

Rak urges that the Navarr identify some among their number who can negotiate in good faith. This person should then work with the Imperial Ambassador to arrange a meeting with him when he visits Anvil during the Spring Equinox so that they can discuss the situation and find an acceptable solution while there is still time. Rak has specifically mentioned the assistance of the one known as "Merel" who he believes may have been substantially involved in negotiations with the Dragon.

Orcs of the Great Forest

The Great Forest orcs continue to settle in Therunin. People are adaptable; both the Navarr and the exiled orcs are learning to live with one another with only occasional problems which are largely sorted out by arbitration. Work has begun on the Holt of the Oak but so far the orcs are making little progress - they still need a significant amount of weirwood and money if they are to complete the construction of the fortification. As a structure built of weirwood, rather than white granite, the current enthusiasm for building defensive structures sweeping the Empire with the consecration of the Silent Sentinel has had no effect on the time and materials needed.

It is still not clear if a delegation of Great Forest Orcs visited Anvil during the last season. The civil service have attempted to explain to them that there are certain protocols to observe when visiting Anvil as regards formal delegations, but their explanations appear to he largely falling on deaf ears. "If it is not the law, then we may do as we choose," is their response. "Why should we need formal delegates to talk with our friends?" they ask. They continue to pay little attention to suggestions they deal with the Imperial Consul, preferring rather to speak directly to the senators of the Navarr. It is all very frustrating.

That said... the orcs of the Great Forest have somewhat grudgingly confirmed that they are sending some of their number of Anvil for the Spring Equinox. Again, however, this is not any sort of formal business - they simply intend to speak to the senators for Therunin and Reikos, and deliver gifts to them in recognition of the bounty of herbs that have been provided to them. The delegation is expected to reach Anvil "at some point on Saturday, probably in the afternoon". There is a small chance that the Secretary to the Diplomatic Corps may know more.


One other matter has been placed at the door of the Great Forest Orcs - and at the door of their briar allies. A month after the Winter Solstice, a little over a hundred and fifty yeofolk and a handful of nobles from the houses of Dawnguard in the Barrens arrive with little warning on the doorstep of Remember Exile in Reikos. They are accompanied by perhaps sixty warriors of the Great Forest orcs and three dozen humans, the majority with obvious briar lineage.

Apparently, during the Winter Solstice, with the aid of allies they will not name but which there are strong hints represent allies on the field at Anvil, they were able to liberate these Dawnishfolk from a labour camp in the Barrens. Over the last four weeks they have been leading the escaped prisoners through the Great Forest of Peytaht, where the Druj would not follow. The escaped prisoners are shell-shocked, and recount harrowing stories of their treatment at the hands of the Druj - but they are glad to be free.

The orcs and their briar allies waste no time returning to Therunin after delivering the liberated slaves; perhaps two dozen of the yeofolk choose to accompany them. The remainder of the freed Dawnish slaves are keen to return to their own people, and where possible to rejoin their houses-in-exile.

(OOC Note: If you are a member of a Dawnish noble house exiled from the Barrens, you are welcome to role-play that some of your missing members, especially missing yeofolk, are among the people who emerged from the forest into Reikos. They will tell harrowing tales of casual cruelty by the Druj, and of hours of back-breaking work in the weirwood forest under the watchful gaze of malicious overseers.)