An affirming flame
Her guide bobbed excitedly from one foot to the other, impatient to be on his way. The light from the burning torch he carried flickered off the cave walls, reflecting off the streaks of exposed metal. She nodded to him to continue on the way. It would not do to be late - it did not pay to keep royalty waiting.
As they walked the creature kept up a constant babble of chatter but she tried her best to ignore it. Reaching for her poise with each breath she sought to clear her mind and focus. She needed to be ready for this encounter. He would stand by his word - he was bound to it - but there was still much to negotiate.
The cave passage continued to grow as they walked, the walls losing their rough hewn texture and looking more and more like worked stone. Finally they came to a pair of improbably large metal banded doors, barring their way. A pair of guards stood in front of the door, great hulking beasts of muscle and armour, clutching heavy looking weapons.
She drew herself up to her full height. He might be the King in the Mountain, but she was an illuminate of Urizen! She bowed her head for no-one. Without looking down she addressed the little koboldi."Go - tell your master, that Furia Severia, the Stone Tamer is here. I have come to claim that which was promised."
We recognise and thank the generals of the League, Highguard, and Varushka for their Loyalty to Urizen in this time of need.Galene Netherwatch, Urizen National Assembly, Winter Solstice 382YE, Upheld 78-0
The last few years have been a desperate struggle for the Urizen. To drive the Grendel from Spiral, the Iron Helms unleashed the full horror of the Black Plateau, not once but twice. Zenith, the soul of the nation, was lost to the Druj. Now the inhabitants suffer under the crushing burden of the dreadful miasma the vengeful orcs have spread over the territory. Next the Druj invaded Morrow, risking the complete collapse of the Citadel Guard. Disaster was narrowly averted by heroic action during the Winter Solstice, as the Druj were driven out of the Caeli hills.
During their ordeal Urizen has received crucial support from other nations. Most notable was the brave sacrifice of the Highborn armies who fought a bloody campaign in Zenith. Their valiant efforts to cover the retreat helped many Urizen citizens escape the depredations of the Druj. After the Autumn Equinox, both League armies arrived in Morrow as part of a campaign to drive the the Druj back; they were ably supported by the Iron Helms and the Northern Eagle. With the Druj rampage finally on the back foot, the Urizen national assembly has recognised the loyal work done by the generals of Highguard, Varushka and the League.
The Business of War
- The Urizen applaud the role played by League armies in helping to preserve Morrow from the Druj.
- An opportunity exists to repay the League generals with a magical commission providing Prismatic Ink.
The League came late to the fight against the Druj, but their contribution to the wars that have scarred Urizen in recent times have been easier to applaud. Under the leadership of the Generals Barossa - Natalia of the Towerjacks and Gabriel of the Wolves - the League forces helped craft a strategy that turned the tide of the Druj advance into Morrow and drove them back. The League generals are widely seen as some of the most experienced military commanders in the Empire; both have earned reputation as brilliant minds with a deep understanding of the craft of war. People nod approvingly when their names are mentioned and point out that the pursuit of arete is not confined to the mountain-tops of Urizen.
The Urizen people are in ready agreement that something should be done to thank the League generals. But with war against the Druj still raging, resources are in short supply, and it isn't clear what gesture would be most fitting.
In the end an answer is supplied by a refugee from Zenith. Narses is young, but the horror of war with the Druj has aged him. He was forced to flee the destruction of his home - the Spire of the Silver Chimera - which one stood proudly guarding a high pass in Occursion. The spire was a school for those who studied the arts of war, especially the lives and the strategies of illustrious generals from the Empire's past. The Silver Chimera burned when the Druj captured Occursion, but Narses was able to save its most treasured possession; a quill given to the spire by Zakalwe in ages past. The quill is enchanted so that the tip is always ready to write whenever needed, but bears a further subtle magic that encourages the owner to think carefully about their words whenever they write with it.
After some discussion with a herald of Zakalwe, a plan is agreed to urge the construction of a new library to house the quill in Tassato Regario. The hope is that librarians working there could use the quill to create new manuscripts describing the Empire's military campaigns, starting by detailing the achievements of the current League generals. Over time the books would become an invaluable resource to those seeking to study military strategy from some of the Empire's best generals.
The Quill and the Sword
- Narses of Urizen, in conjunction with the eternal Zakalwe, propose a commission that will provide Prismatic Ink to one (or both) of the League generals in gratitude for their aid
- The Library of Imperial Strategy could be commissioned costing 8 wains of mithril, 8 wains of white granite, 8 wains of weirwood, and 48 Crowns
- Alternatively, the Barossa School of Imperial Strategy could be commissioned, costing 20 wains of white granite, 20 wains of mithril, 20 wains of weirwood, and 120 Crowns
- The requirement to amend the title of a general means either of these commissions requires the use of a Senate motion
Plans for the library have been carefully agreed with servants of Zakalwe. If they were approved then the commission of the Regario Library of Imperial Strategy would require 8 wains of mithril, 8 wains of white granite and 8 wains of weirwood, 48 crowns and take a season to complete. Once construction was done and the library was opened, Zakalwe would provide the Empire with seven doses of prismatic ink each season.
Narses' intent, in keeping with the statement of principle, is to show gratitude for the generals of the League and provide them with a resource to help fund divinations or other useful military rituals. As such, given the limitations of a Imperial Wayleave, he has politely stipulated that the Imperial Senate commission the library with a Senate motion. The civil service have confirmed to the young Urizen that if they did so, then they could amend the title of one of the League generals to make them the recipient of the bequest as part of that motion.
Of course there are two League generals. Zakalwe has agreed with Narses that if the Empire chooses, they could build something more grandiose. The proposal is for the Barossa School of Imperial Strategy - a small but elite institution dedicated to teaching the next generation of Imperial commanders. The library would still be at the heart of the school, but the much larger construction would include chambers where students could meet to discuss strategy as well as map rooms intended for studying campaigns and battles. This larger commission would be much more costly - it would require 20 wains of white granite, 20 wains of mithril, 20 wains of weirwood, 120 crowns and take two seasons to complete. In return for this deep and enduring commitment to the study of war, Zakalwe would provide 16 doses of prismatic ink each season, with the intention that it be provided to both of the League generals, permanently providing them with 8 vials of ink each season. It would be unconventional to do that with a single Senate motion - but it would be constitutionally acceptable if appropriately worded.
The bounty provided by either of these commissions would persist as long as Zakalwe was not placed under enmity.
The History of Conflict
- The people of Urizen feel a deep sense of gratitude to the soldiers of Highguard who helped so many of them escape Zenith
The League have aided Urizen in its time of need, but their sacrifice pales in comparison with that of Highguard. The three Highborn armies stood side by side for three seasons, fighting a desperate rearguard action to save Zenith from the Druj. Although they were ultimately overwhelmed by the weight of the barbarian armies, their virtuous sacrifice saved the lives of countless Urizeni citizens who were able to flee the territory. It also bought Urizen and the Empire time - given how quickly the Druj moved on after securing Zenith, the grim reality is that without the extraordinary Courage of the Highborn armies, Morrow might well have faced a similar fate.
The view of many is that the Highborn bled to save the nation of Urizen from murderous destruction at the hands of the Druj. That they failed to hold the line in Zenith only serves to underline the scale of the challenge and the cost of facing up to it. Nothing was held back - they fought for every inch of Urizeni soil as tenaciously as if it were their own homeland. Thousands of Highborn lives were lost in Zenith; thousands of brave soldiers who will never return home to their families. Much was lost when Zenith fell, but what was saved was paid for with Highborn lives.
How then to mark such a sacrifice? What can demonstrate the depths of Urizeni gratitude for those who gave everything to protect them from the Druj menace? Suggestions are made for various different commissions, but after much discussion, the settled view is that none of them are appropriate. Urizen is not a rich nation and there is concern that any grand plan will not pass the Senate - or if it does then there will not be the resources to pay for it. But anything smaller seems inadequate to truly convey the weight of what was done.
The Three Watchers
- Furia Severia proposes creating a permanent monument to the courage and loyalty of the Highborn armies using an arcane projection that calls on the favour of Adamant of the Summer Realm
- The monument could be consecrated with true liao to provide a powerful reminder of the events it commemorates
Eventually the answer is provided by Furia Severia, an an illuminate and resident of the Weave in Operus. She retired from political live after the death of Empress Britta and swore nevermore to return to Anvil, but in her day she was known as a brilliant sculptor, with a flair for work in stone or metal. According to legend, at the height of her powers she sculpted life-size statues of each of the regents of the Summer Realm, as part of a challenge set for her by the Lord of the Crossroads. So well received were her works that she was gifted one favour by each of the monarchs whose likeness she carved.
The story was often assumed to be somewhat fanciful, but Furia confirms that she still possesses the favour of The King in the Mountain. In preparation for the coming summit, the magicians of Furia's spire have created an arcane projection - a summer ritual of magnitude 80 that calls due the favour of Adamant. When cast, it will invite the eternal to send a horde of his koboldi to the Weave. Furia would receive the King's servants and put them to work under her direction.
The Weave overlooks one of the main passes that allows travel from Morrow to nearby Zenith in the shadow of the Three Sorrows - three great mountain peaks that lie in an arrangement uncannily reminiscent of that constellation for which the mountains are named. Furia proposes to employ the koboldi to carve the mountains themselves, to create three statues of Highborn soldiers guarding the pass, clothed in armour, weapons at the ready to turn back any who attempt to invade. The ritual would need to be cast by the magicians at Anvil, but if that could be accomplished then the results would be extraordinary. Furia's statues would stand nearly two hundred foot tall, towering over the surrounding landscape, a permanent tribute memorialising the Highborn sacrifice for all time.
Furia's work was noted in her day, not just for beauty of her sculptures but also for the deep sense of wonder and virtue they enjoined in those who studied them. If the Urizen magicians choose to perform the arcane ritual that has been produced, then it is certain that her pieces will invoke a deeply spiritual feeling in any who see them - a reminder of the sacrifice, bravery, and commitment of the Highborn soldiers. That seems only appropriate given the scale of the Highborn they commemorate, but of course more could be done to emphasize this element.
Furia already intends to construct a shrine at the base of the central statue, in anticipation that people might travel to gaze upon the work. If that shrine were consecrated with true liao then it would add profound spiritual significance to the statues and the deeds they commemorate. It is impossible for the civil service to be sure what would happen in that case because effective prognostication is often exceptionally difficult when dealing with spiritual matters. Furia herself has no answer to questions on the subject, saying only that those who study the Net of the Heavens understand the importance of people and places.
Given the scale of the work, and the importance of the events it is absolutely certain that using a dose of true liao to consecrate the shrine would have significant effects beyond the creation of a permanent aura. At the very least it would quickly become a popular destination for Highborn pilgrims and those who ponder the significance of human destiny, Loyalty, and Courage.
The Nature of Strife
- There is some criticism of the Varushkan armies for their role in the awakening of the Black Plateau.
- As a result the Urizen people are not persuaded to thank the Varushkans for their actions.
The thanks directed toward the generals of Varushka provokes a mixed response from parts of Urizen. While the Northern Eagle has played an important role in Morrow, helping to drive back the Druj advance, the actions of the Iron Helms have been more controversial.
Everyone agrees that the strategy was effective. It killed Grendel soldiers on a horrifying scale, wiping out entire armies. Of course the cost was that it also killed several thousand Imperial soldiers - and a similar number of Urizeni citizens. It feels like poor taste to compare it with the Mournwold - and it is certainly telling that people have not reacted in the same way as the folks who live there - but the impact was not dissimilar in terms of the indiscriminate slaughter that resulted. Only the relatively low population of Urizen territories and the depopulation caused by years of conflict meant the death toll was not significantly higher.
It also seems to have diminished the Grendel desire to invade Urizen. But there is a growing realisation that Spiral may never recover. The awful truth is that something fundamental has changed with the Black Plateau and it may never return to quiescence - at least not on time-scales relevant to any living person. Even with the Legacy it's not hard to imagine that the Grendel might baulk at the prospect of invading a territory so heavily and permanently blighted.
There are plenty of people who view the actions of the Varushkans as pragmatic and beneficial. An act of powerful magic that broke the strength of Urizen's enemies, forcing what little remained of their armies to flee. There are plenty of people who feel the actions of the Varushkans didn't go far enough. There are a few who lost loved ones to the Grendel slavers who would pay any price to see the entire Broken Shore cursed the way Spiral has been cursed. But as the seasons turn and the ruinous conditions in Spiral show no sign of abating, some people openly question whether the price was really worth it. The Grendel armies were broken... but they will rebuild in time and return. Spiral, in comparison, has been ruined for what now appears to be decades to come.
With such mixed views on the subject there is little prospect of the people of Urizen uniting around a grand show of gratitude towards the Varushkans as they have towards the League or Highguard. To achieve that would require some way to restore Spiral to its former grandeur, then the Urizeni who live there would judge the legacy of the Iron Helms positively, but without that it is impossible to convince everyone that this was in their interests.
Sadly, it is not clear that such a transformation is possible. The construction of the Block has been invaluable. It has prevented the slow descent into madness of everyone who lives there and brought a more normal existence to the spires that are connected to it. Without that the territory would have become uninhabitable and people are desperately grateful for its protection. It is not an understatement to say that the creation of the Block has literally saved Spiral from total and complete ruin.
But unfortunately the power of the Block is not sufficient to deal with all the problems encountered by those outside the warded spires. As a result, the people who live in Spiral are slowly being forced to accept that life will probably never return to the way it was before the Plateau exploded. Inevitably some of those people blame the Varushkans for that.
Following a national debate on the subject it is the position of Urizen that: any individual dedicated to the principles of Urizen who wishes to join the nation should be considered be they human or orc.Alcuin of the Auric Horizon, Urizen National Assembly, Winter Solstice 382YE, Upheld 89-0
The Shape of the Net
- A second statement of principle upheld during the Winter Solstice concerned bringing new citizens to Urizen - including orcs
At the same time that the people of Urizen are considering the words of Galene Netherwatch, they are also informed of another statement of principle with a greater majority passed by the Urizen National Assembly. In line with standard civil service guidelines for greater majorities, the statement is transcribed and copies sent to every congregation in Urizen for their consideration where it engenders a number of lively discussions.
Human egregores have tried to bond individual orcs to their nation before - but it has never succeeded no matter how compatible the individual orc appears. The settled view of most egregores is that a lone orc is simply too much, that the magic of the nation bond cannot be extended to an individual who is clearly so distinct. It is categorically not possible for the egregore to accept individuals or small groups of orcs into Urizen. It's not a question of the personal preferences of an individual host - or even a matter of persuading people of the wisdom of the action. It is simply that the magic of the egregore always fails when making the attempt with an individual or small group of orcs.
What is not known is if the answer would be the same with an entire population of orcs - for instance if they attempted to bring thousands of orcs into the nation as part of a conquest or similar. The egregores do know that such things are perversely easier to manage - that in some cases it is easier to absorb an entire society than it is to accept a single individual. Menos, the Urizen egregore is absolutely certain that any attempt to bond groups like the Grendel or Druj to the Urizen nation would meet with abject failure. The nature of the egregore bond is that it only accepts people who are alike in spirit already. It's not possible that a tribe of Grendel or Druj could ever fit that description - their nature is anathema to the Urizen.
Of course not all orcs are like the Druj or the Grendel. The Urizeni are an enlightened people and they understand that no two orcs are alike, any more than two humans are alike. When the Imperial Orcs were first freed, it was Urizeni teachers who taught them to read and write. The Imperial Orcs are clear proof that orcs can choose a different path if they wish. It would not be easy, but the people of Urizen could definitely be persuaded to accept orcs into the nation. The key problem is not the attitudes of the Urizen, but the lack of suitable orcs.
In the years since the rebellion, no amount of lessons in literacy were sufficient to turn Imperial Orcs into Urizeni. Instead they developed a culture of their own, one that reflects their physical heritage as much as it does their history. Orcs by their very nature are gregarious; they draw comfort from close physical company with friends and family. They also revel in battle and physical competition. None of these traits incline one to the cloistered life of the spires. Poise is not the first word that comes to mind when people talk about orcs.
In theory it might be possible to identify a society of orcs whose cultural, spiritual, and personal norms were close enough to those of Urizen that they might be accepted wholesale by the egregore. It has never happened in the history of the Empire - but that doesn't mean it couldn't happen. Menos has never attempted to bond an entire orc population, because they have never encountered an orc people who were even remotely close to the Urizen viewpoint.
The only way it could be possible for orcs to join the Urizen would be to find an entire population of orcs alike in spirit to the Urizen. Assuming that such a community of orcs even exists they would also need to be persuaded that they wanted to join Urizen. It is a narrow possibility - but it is the only one that exists.
The Three Watchers were created through the use of the ritual, and consecrated by Aurum with a dose of true liao.