A heap of broken images
The one in the middle, who had been doing most of the talking was watching her closely. The other two were looking anywhere but at her - scanning the farm, the house, and the surrounding hills. He tried again, changing tack, narrowing his eyes as if concentrating hard on trying to remember something.
"We have offered you coins, because we want to buy the food from you. It is not Prosperous for you to refuse to reward our hard work in this way."
She stared at him, in much the same way she might stare at a goat that had stood on its hind legs and started to sing the Fire Maringo.
"What?" She hated how stupid she sounded.
"It is not Prosperous. We have gained these coins by ... by hard work." One of the orcs flanking him grinned, the nasty scar across her face twisting the expression into a snarl. "You must recognise our hard work by rewarding us with the goods we desire."
The orc looked triumphant, allowed a smirk of self-satisfaction to spread across his face.
"I told you, that is not the price. I told you the price, which is what the beasts are worth. I am not going to sell them to you for less than that price - and by rights I don't really want to be selling them to you at all. Lasambrian."
The orc scowled. All pretence of pleasantry disappeared. His voice was flat.
"It is my ambition ..." he tasted the word and found it to his liking. "It is my ambition to eat goat meat for my supper, and there is no price too high to pay to get what I want."
He took a step forward, and the two burly orc warriors stepped up with him. She held her ground, even though the warriors towered over her. They were wrapped in heavy leather straps and buckles, with sheep- and goat-skins thrown over their shoulders to give them even greater bulk. She did not doubt that they could kill her before she could do more than cry out once. But she still held her ground.
"Well, Lasambrian, that threat means that the price has tripled. Because you have been rude, and because it is clear to me that you do not have the first idea what the words you are using mean. If you won't pay, then you can get out of my farmyard, and take your attack dogs with you."
The scarred orc warrior rested her hand on the pommel of her scimitar, and leered at the short Freeborn woman.
Before things could escalate further, Jorge and Reisa came around the side of the farm house. Her husband had his vicious bhuj slung casually over his shoulders, and his sister Reisa already had an arrow nocked in her short bow.
"Is everything well, Amira?" asked Jorge, ignoring the orcs.
"Everything is well, husband." she replied. "These gentlemen were just leaving."
The two warriors eyed the newcomers. The scarred one locked eyes with Jorge and tried to stare him down. He held the orc woman's gaze easily, and it was she who looked away first. The third orc - the ringleader - put one hand on her shoulder and shook his head once, sharply.
"It seems we have failed to agree on a price, Freeborn. We will go away and consider the best course of action, and then we will come back and see if we cannot leave with your goats another time."
There was a naked threat in his voice. He made little effort to conceal it.
"After all, you should never accept defeat. You should adapt your strategy and try again."
He inclined his head to her curtly, spun on his heel, and began to tromp back toward Anduz, his guards falling into step behind him.
Reisa raised her bow slowly, and Jorge put his hand on her arm.
"Not in the back, Reisa." He walked over to stand beside Amira.
"Do you think they will come back?" He asked.
"I don't know." she replied, not taking her eye off the shorter orc who had clearly been doing his homework. She had pegged him as a nasty piece of work, regardless of the fact he was a Lasambrian. "But I think that we should prepare for malice ..."
Her husband's sister, joining them at the gate, caught this last and grinned grimly. She rested one hand on Amira's shoulder and completed her sentence.
" ... yet thwart malice before it strikes against us."The three of them stood in silence then, watching the orcs stomp back the way they had come.
The Hierro clan of the Lasambrian orcs are still in Segura. The Imperial Senate resolved to provide support to them, allocating 75 thrones from the treasury to the project. Their makeshift camp south of Anduz is looking a lot less makeshift than it was before the Autumn Equinox.
At the same time, the general assembly of the Imperial Synod appointed the Navarr priest Taryn of Exile's End to oversee efforts to bring the tenets of the Way to the displaced Lasambrians. One hundred liao was made available, and numerous volunteers offered their aid in meeting with and speaking to the orcs.
The Lasambrians were at first suspicious, but the “miraculous” auras that the Imperial priests were able to create commanded their attention. The Hierro appear to have no formal religion as the Empire understands it; instead they revere the dead spirits of their ancestors. It seems that there are not many shamans among the Hierro clan – there is some talk that the Naguerro clan took the lead in advising on spiritual matters whenever they came up. Indeed, beyond the common orc belief in the Howling Abyss most Hierro orcs seem to have given little thought to matters of the soul.
The Way is of great interest to these orcs. The Virtues teach powerful lessons – about personal strength, the importance of ambition, and the drive to achieve great things. Unfortunately, the Hierro interpret the teachings Taryn and his companions bring through the lens of their own experiences and their own culture.
Consequently, the missionary work among the Hierro is having mixed results. Some of the orcs insist on twisting the virtues to fit their preconceptions. For example, they point out that the tenets of Courage entirely support the idea of running away and attacking from ambush. They argue that banditry and raiding are both seriously risky, difficult jobs – and that Prosperity and Ambition alike support the idea of taking what they want from others.
In particular, they scoff at the idea that there is anything special or unique about human souls; rather than accept the reality of the Labyrinth they quickly latch onto the idea that the Virtues provide the spiritual strength to cross the Abyss to the lands of their ancestors – and more than one Lasambrian has openly mocked the idea of “wandering around lost in a maze” as an afterlife worthy only of cattle. Heresy and blasphemy (in their technical terms) are commonplace.
If anything, the Way is making the Lasambrians bolder. When they arrived before the Autumn Equinox they were a broken people, fleeing, defeated. The teachings of the Way seem to be strengthening their spirits – restoring their Ambition, Courage and Pride. Unfortunately it seems that the Lasambrian outlook is strikingly at odds with the Freeborn people they are sharing a land with. Now that the spirit of their people is being restored, the Freeborn and the Lasambrians are finding it increasingly difficult to peacefully coexist.
Inspired by the missionaries, the Lasambrians are becoming more strident in their requests – and their demands. And now they are also showing an interest in joining the Empire … although not in the way anyone expected.
The Imperial Senate has agreed to support the Hierro, and will pay 75 thrones each season to do so. While the Senate continues to disburse these funds, the Lasambrians have no need to engage in banditry to support themselves or their families.
The Lasambrians cannot currently receive natural resupply. Their army is in a seriously depleted state – while there are many orcs, less than three thousand of their number are fighting fit. Representatives of the Hierro clan have approached both merchants in Segura and members of the civil service looking for assistance to resupply themselves, expressing concern not only about the Jotun to the west, but about the Iron Confederacy to the south, who appear to be engaged in ruthlessly butchering every Lasambrian they can get their hands on.
They have made a formal request that the Empire provide them with 100 mithril or weirwood so that they can begin rebuilding their strength. In the event that the Empire is unable, or unwilling, to help them then they will have to consider moving to a safer location – their current camp in south-western Segura would be an easy target for both Confederacy forces and for an invading Jotun army.
While they have formally asked the Senate for assistance, any citizen could provide the general of the Hierro with weirwood or mithril with which to resupply themselves. This would be entirely legal, unless the Senate chooses to declare the Lasambrians to be barbarians in which case providing them any assistance would be treason.
As before the General Assembly of the Imperial Synod may continue to try and spread an understanding of the Way to the Hierro clan. Again, this will require a successful Statement of Principle, a named priest, and the accumulation of another 100 liao.
Before this statement of principle can be effective, however, the assembly will need to make a decision about the interpretation of the Way by the orcs. Should they tolerate the cultural interpretations of the Hierro, bordering as they do on heresy and Blasphemy? Or should the priests of the Way require adherence to orthodoxy, refusing to give ground on doctrinal issues? The decision of the Assembly should be clear from the wording of the statement of principle.
An Eleventh Nation
However, they still refuse point-blank to join the Imperial Orcs or otherwise surrender their identity as the Hierro clan. Delegates are being sent to Anvil, but their “request” can be broken down into three main points:
They will not be rootless vagabonds. Like the so-called Imperial Orcs they will require a homeland. They are prepared to accept Segura, but they would prefer Madruga because it does not have a border with their known enemies. This is not negotiable. Either they have land of their own and a Senator, or they will remain independent. Once they are established, they will set about recovering the lost territories of Reinos and Kalino, of course, and adding them to their new Imperial nation.
While they understand this may be difficult, they are more than happy to simply conquer Segura or Madruga if this will make life easier for the Empire.
They wish to discuss the nature of egregores; they are currently suspicious. The virtues of Vigilance and Wisdom alike help reinforce this suspicion. They require proof that the egregore is not some method of attempting to dominate their people.
The civil service have remained neutral but have pointed out both to the Hierro and to those citizens who have made inquiries that the Lasambrians joining the Empire would require both a motion before the Senate and ratification by The Throne.
Needless to say those citizens of Segura and Madruga who are aware of the “request” are less than thrilled by it.
(OOC Note: While the Lasambrians are requesting admission to the Empire as an eleventh nation, Profound Decisions will not be making them an available choice for player characters regardless of whether players choose to admit them or not. The Lasambrian orcs will remain non-player characters, and a former Hierro is not currently available as an option as a background for an Imperial Orc character.)
Much of the consternation among the Seguran population about the presence of so many non-believers, has now abated in the light of the growing numbers of Lasambrians taking up a version of the Way. Many Freeborn citizens are increasingly accepting that there is now a place for the Lasambrians in the Empire - the problem is where. They can't stay in Segura... they're simply not Freeborn - and it's very clear that they don't have any intention of becoming Freeborn. As one Brass Coast citizen puts it "their idea of honesty would shame a League mountebank". The general view is that they either need to be dispersed across the Empire as the Imperial Orcs were - or else given a homeland of their own... as the Imperial Orcs were.
That last analogy makes a lot of people in Segura very concerned. Many Freeborn citizens are not adverse to claiming that if the Senate was prepared to take Skarsind from Wintermark and give it to the Imperial Orcs - why wouldn't they take Segura from the Brass Coast and do similar? The more level-headed are pointing out that Reikos is a very long way away from the Lasambrians' enemies - and conveniently is up for allocation. More hot-headed voices are openly suggesting that the sensible thing to do is to "encourage" the Lasambrians on now... before the Senate makes its mind up one way or the other.
The Synod may choose to respond to this consternation in several ways.
A suitable judgement raised by the Freeborn Assembly, the General Assembly, or any Virtue Assembly could give the green light to those among the Freeborn who are keen to take matters into their own hands and "encourage" the Hierro to move somewhere else. Such a judgement would require a named priest to carry the message to Segura but would not require any liao to be effective (but see below in relation to conflicting judgements). It would likely result in outbreaks of violence between the inhabitants and the newcomers - which would cause further damage to the Lasambrian fighting strength - but would cause the orcs to be displaced to an adjacent Imperial territory.
A suitable judgement raised by the Freeborn Assembly or the General Assembly could urge the Freeborn people to continue to tolerate the presence of the Lasambrian people on their land. A single named priest, armed with at least 50 liao would be influential enough to carry this difficult view across the territory. The current troubles could be quelled for a season in this way - perhaps buying time for a more permanent settlement to be found. If the priest uses 100 or more liao, then it would improve acceptance of the Hierro sufficient for them to successfully purchase the resources they need to gain the equivalent of half a season of natural resupply. In theory such an action could be repeated next season, although it would likely require more and more liao each time as supplies grow scarcer.
The Freeborn Assembly could pass a judgement calling on the Freeborn people to evacuate Segura or Madruga in preparation for action by the Senate or invasion by the Hierro. Such a judgement would be incredibly contentious. The current mood in these territories is very much opposed to such an outcome. The Assembly would need to name a priest and would require at least 100 liao to make a noticeable difference to attitudes. This would not be an instantaneous affair, but the only way to find out exactly how long it might take would be to attempt it.
In each case, the assembly must name a single priest who will be responsible for collecting and distributing liao to support their judgement. If the Synod attempts to pass multiple conflicting judgements, then the judgement with the most liao backing it will take effect.
In the event that the Synod does nothing, the situation in Segura between the Freeborn and the Hierro clan orcs will continue to deteriorate. An outbreak of violence is certain, as one side or the other takes matters into their own hands. In effect a decision to do nothing by the PCs in Anvil will mean that the decision is made by the NPCs in Segura.
(OOC Note: While there is an opinion among the Freeborn that Reikos would make a much better homeland for the Hierro clan, it is important to note that it is not legal to assign Reikos to these foreigners. It is only legal to assign a territory to an Imperial nation)
There are several complex options here, but the mechanics of how the Synod employs them are the same in each case; a statement of principle by an assembly, naming a single priest who is responsible for overseeing the project. If the statement is supported by the assembly, the named priest should put the liao into their inventory at the end of the event. It is also helpful to e-mail Profound Decisions at firstname.lastname@example.org to remind us the liao is there.
The General Assembly of the Synod raised and passed three relevant judgements:
They raised the judgement that "The Synod supports Duke Ferrero to take liao and preach to Imperial Citizens that they tolerate the refugee Hierro clan of Lasambria whilst in Imperial lands. It is Loyal for citizens to support the Empire's plans. It is Vigilant to not turn a potential ally into an enemy. It is Wise to try a new path over reactive instinct. It is Ambitious to envision a new way to resolve an unusual situation."
Duke Ferrero gathered sufficient liao to influence the people of Segura, but not sufficient to allow the Hierro to perform wide-scale resupply. Throughout the Winter months, Duke Ferrero and his allies spread tolerance and understanding in Segura.
They raised the judgement that "The Imperial Synod recognises, with Pride, the efforts of the Hierro Clan in learning so much about The Way in just one season. We also acknowledge, with Vigilance and Wisdom, that the Hierro do not yet fully understand The Way and call upon them to embody Pride, Ambition, and Courage in aspiring to improve their interpretations of the Virtues. Elka Nadyanova Gremani will support them in this using the Experience of Pride and the example of the Paragon of Kethry. We look forward to seeing how the Hierro rise to this challenge and further earn the respect of the Empire."
Backed by 100 liao, Elka Nadyanova Gremani has some success in bringing the Hierro orcs to the path of Imperial Orthodoxy - they begin to see how their cultural interpretation has warped the essential message of the virtues.
Finally, they also raised the judgement "The Hierro orc clan should come to Holmauer in Holberg! They should see there is more to the Empire than the Brass Coast. Hierro should marvel at Holmauer's fascinating agriculture and exciting wildlife as part of earning their way into the Empire."
This judgement was not backed up with any liao, and appears to have had no immediate effect.
Further information about the situation in Segura can be found as part of the Spring Equinox Winds of War here.