An apple that falls
And all thanks to their cousins in Upwold and Mitwold. Well Bregasland too technically - but folk there were odd. These supplies were good solid Marcher staples, people in Bregasland probably eat exotic food like eels or seaweed or something. Still the bounty was thanks to all of them - that couldn't be denied.She shut the door of the pantry and walked back into the light. "Lost time is never found Jenny Thresher" she told herself. With so much food stored for the winter, she could turn her attention to repairing the hedgerows round the four back fields. And there was the long ditch between her farm and Spittlefields that hadn't been touched in years. She could spare the time to dig it out now. She was determined to make best use of this windfall, invest her time wisely and see her farm prosper again.
The situation in the Mournwold remains tense. The Jotun seem to finally be being routed - the war is almost over - but the anger remains. Those who try to reason with the Mournwolders over the actions of the Empire are met with frank words. People here talk less in terms of liberation... and more of the Imperial conquest of the Mourn. The Jotun are not completely gone but already a few people have begun to talk wistfully of how much better things were when the jarls ruled the Mourn. The Empire has won this war - but it remains close to losing the Mourn.
Only a civil tongue buys cheap apples.Marcher Proverb
The Empire took four significant actions last season to improve the situation in the Mourn. Marchers deployed their granaries and storehouses to help provide food for their neighbours which wasn't asked for but was all the more welcome for it. The Imperial Senate also approved a payment of 75 thrones to provide for the orc thralls through the coming winter, which was the least of the things the Mourn asked for - but still generated some respect. People were disappointed but not surprised that the Imperial Military Council did not support a plan to stop their armies giving ground. More than one Marcher laughs about "Dawn's glorious generals... always ready to give ground at any moment". But the Marchers did the right thing and put a stop to that for their own armies - showing everyone what it meant to be a Marcher and proving themselves in the eyes of many here.
Crucially the Marchers were able to reign in the Imperial armies, limiting further loss of life on all sides of the conflict. The orders issued to the four Marcher armies all amounted to a steady advance designed to minimize casualties, but it wasn't just the Marchers this time - the Imperial Orcs also took the same approach. If this behaviour continues over the seasons ahead it will have an increasing effect on attitudes on the ground in the Mournwold - blunting the criticism that this was is about killing the Jotun and that the Mourn is just a convenient battlefield for the slaughter.
Sadly the immediate benefits gained from the Empire's generosity towards the Jotun thralls were largely squandered by the message sent to the Mourn (and the wider Empire) from the Imperial Warmage in which he appeared to defend the decisions of his predecessor and affirmed that he would repeat them in the future. Following the Imperial Address, the situation in the Mourn is now so febrile that it is impossible for the Imperial civil service to fully assess the situation, indeed it is increasingly dangerous for anyone who isn't a Marcher to be abroad alone in the Mournwold right now... As a result they are unable to advise on clear solutions that might be implemented - the best they can do is summarize the key problems and identify possible areas where action might be taken to mitigate the situation.
What might help is that three of the leaders of the Mourn are intent on attending Anvil this summit. Mel Greenhill, Long Tom, and Edda Counter are all well respected prominent citizens - they are well liked and influential people from across the Mourn. Mel was in Anvil last season, but neither Tom nor Edda have set foot outside the Mourn before now. But the three of them are coming now, bringing the concerns of the friends and families with them. If these three people return home with good news and fair words - it'll sway enough folk to calm the Mourn. If the opposite happens then the Empire had better not remove its armies from the Mourn anytime soon...
Cruel Leaders Are Replaced
- The Mournwold seeks protection from the Imperial War Mage and the Imperial Conclave
In the aftermath of the magical slaughter wrought by the Empire, Martin Orchard raised a judgement that was passed unanimously by the Marcher Assembly: "The Urizen General has been rebuked by the Synod. The Warmage has lost his seat over this. Those responsible shall be held to account." This was far from sufficient to mollify those who had had to bury their loved ones - but it did at least give those loyal to the Empire a case to argue. Those responsible had been held to account and punished. Few people felt a "rebuke" was sufficient punishment - but the implication at least was that people understood that what had happened was wrong and that it would not happen again.
Then The Throne granted the new Warmage, Heilyn Bronwen's Rest, the right to address the Empire. When his words are heard in the Mournwold it causes riots. Couriers carrying the messages are threatened, two are beaten badly, one near to death. A few voices point out that the Empress is understood to be an ally of the Mournwolders, one who understand their anger and shares their tears - so the Warmage can't be using her address to say what he appears to be saying. There must be something more to it than that they reason.
Sadly most people see a different interpretation. Heilyn agrees, even knowing the death toll and how many innocents would die, with the decision to curse the Mourn. The idea that anyone has been rebuked, that anyone has lost their title as Martin Orchard claims are all irrelevant when the replacement indicates that they absolutely agrees with the decision of their predecessor. They also state clearly that they cannot promise not to do it again. That last part in particular is taken very badly - with more than a few people arguing that it is intended as a veiled threat... The Mourn had better not step out of line... because if it does... then the Warmage stands ready to kill the rest of us if needed...
When a dog barks, you don't bark back.Marcher Proverb
As a result of this "threat", the people of Mournwold are looking at what steps might be taken to protect themselves from the Empire - specifically from the Warmage and the Imperial Conclave. Their ideal solution would be to have these rituals removed from Imperial Lore - but they know now that that is unlikely to happen. The Imperial Senate has spoken flatly rejecting any attempt to place these rituals beyond use.
Even so there are things that might be done. The Conclave interdicting these awful rituals would be the least of them. It won't convince many of the Empire's good intentions - the view is that the Conclave would just remove the interdiction next time it wants to use them. But it would be something. Alternatively the Conclave could choose to replace the Warmage with someone who would promise not to use such magics again - someone who speak clearly to the mistakes of the past.
But "You don't expect your neighbour to plough your own fields" as they say in the Mourn. Perhaps the Marchers should stop relying on others to protect them and set about it themselves. To that end the landskeepers have drawn up a plan and sent one of their own - Long Tom of the Chalk Downs - to see if there is anything that can be done to make it happen. The plan apparently involves a chain of dolmens set at key points across the territory - which might protect the populace from the worst effects of any territory-wide curses. The only problem is that it would require a lot of mithril...
Bread without spice is better than spice without bread.Marcher Proverb
Sure Of Having Something
- The Mournwold seeks evidence that the Empire's interests in their land run deeper than claiming their mithril mines
One of the criticisms of the Empire is that it is interested in killing Jotun and the Mourn's mithril and not a lot else. Those citizens who support the Empire are pointing out that the Marcher folk are truly free for the first time in a generation. They no longer have the Jotun taking the lion's share of everything they produce. But those who are angry at the Empire for the slaughter they wrought point to the Singing Caves and claim that the Empire will be taking everything the Mournwold has just like the Jotun used to do. There are many things the Empire could do to address this criticism, some more expensive than others.
The Marchers of the Mournwold have already expressed their enthusiasm to see the Singing Caves declared a Marcher national resource. That way it will be run by a Marcher and the mithril it produces can be used for the good of all the Marcher territories. They could use the mithril to protect themselves from the Conclave's magic and help the landskeepers rebuild their mana sites. They could raise military units that would be used to defend the Mourn from any who sought to conquer it. Giving the Caves to the Marchers would blunt the accusation that this war was about more than mithril and murder.
Indeed, the Senator for Mitwold attempted just that in Autumn 380YE - but the motion was vetoed by The Throne. Wise heads point out that Imperatrix Lisabetta has made clear that no seat will be declared National. But the Marches is the only nation of the Empire that doesn't have its own Imperial Bourse seat - so the argument goes - surely the Empress can see the unfairness of that? Surely she'll see how the Mournwold people have suffered? Surely this time she'll make an exception...
If the Empress did choose to allow the Singing Caves to be allocated to the Marchers it would have a significant impact on the situation. They understand that the Empire's coffers are running dry and that a new mithril seat could fill them. Allocating the Caves to the Marches would not remove the grievances that all feel - but it would prove that the Empress was prepared to acknowledge that suffering that the Empire had inflicted on them. It would prove she was on their side and greatly improve her standing there. The wealth that flowed from the Caves would significantly improve the Empire's standing and that alone would be enough to ensure that there was no chance of open rebellion in the future.
One step the Empire has taken that has considerably improved sentiment in the Mournwold is the allocation of the Breadbasket to feed the Mourn. The people here are not starving, they fed themselves during the Jotun occupation and they can feed themselves now. This is Marcher land in its bones and so there are prosperous yeoman farmers here even now. But... there are nowhere near as many of them as are found in Upwold or Mitwold. The land there is just so much more fertile - in the Mourn the wealth of the land is in the mines dug into the hillsides - not fields of crops. Now they are beginning to see the prospects that this impressive feat of Marcher engineering might provide.
When the granaries and storehouses of the breadbasket were built the Mournwold was almost totally controlled by the Jotun - so there are only a few links to the breadbasket in place. But if the Empire spent an additional 20 wains of weirwood and 20 wains of white granite then similar silos and stores could be built across the Mourn. But these stores wouldn't be used to hold grain produced here - but rather to bring it here from the Marches. That would allow many more men and women, to work the more prosperous mines rather than herding sheep on the arid hills. It would mean permanently surrendering the ability of the breadbasket to support additional Imperial armies - but it would extend the financial benefits of the old breadbasket to every Marcher territory - and with the flow of wealth from the newly open mines, the returns for everyone would increase by half as much again.
If the Empire won't do either of those things (and there is a lot of scepticism that any of that will happen), then there are less impressive things the Empire might do. Sarcombe was once a prosperous mining town, rich off the back of trade in green iron from the Southmoor hills. It's a ruin now, destroyed in the previous invasion of the Mourn, but it could be rebuilt. The more resources the Senate was prepared to commit to the reconstruction of Sarcombe the greater the restoration of Prosperity to the region. Such a move would kill two birds with one stone as well - since it would help raise levels of Prosperity across the territory - which would mean that taxation rose quickly to the level seen before the Jotun took the territory. Sadly the fact that the Empire might well be the biggest beneficiary of such a move would limit any positive improvement in local sentiment if this were all the Empire managed.
Of course, before the town could be rebuilt the region would need to be liberated from the Jotun still garrisoned at Hillstop castle there.
You don't own it unless you can defend it.Marcher Proverb
Willing To Die For It
- The Mournwold seeks a way to defend itself against aggressors
Although the Imperial armies have largely driven the Jotun forces from the Mourn, two regions remain under Jotun control. Most folk here expect the Military Council to finish the job - it is just good sense to secure the territory while the Jotun are on the back foot. But then what? The Jotun have pulled back to Liathaven, they must be resupplying their armies already. How long until they return in force? A season or two? A year at most? They took the Mourn once - what is to stop them taking it again?
The answer of course would be to build some solid fortifications. Just look at how much effort the Empire is having to make to drive the Jotun out... A couple of solidly built fortifications would help to secure the Mournwold against the inevitable return of the Jotun. Perhaps if the Empire fortified the border - it wouldn't need to use ritual magic to wreak indiscriminate slaughter. Sceptics claim that such fortifications would take a year to build, but it is soon pointed out that it might not be in Imperial Lore but some magicians recently performed a ritual to speed the construction of fortifications. Perhaps the Conclave could begin to redress the balance of their crimes here?
A single fortification would not be sufficient to placate the Mourn - there was one of those in Overton and it fell quickly enough. But two would be mitigate fears - and three would calm them further. Perhaps the fortification at Overton might be rebuilt, with another at Green March and maybe Southmoor. If the Empire would just do what the Jotun do - and fortify their territories with a ring of castles - then the people might begin to feel safe.
Of course there is one step that the Empire could take to really improve the view of them here. They could build the fortifications - and then hand control of them to local Mournwolders. Never mind Imperial garrisons - give complete control of the fortifications to the Marchers who live here. Then the Mourn can take care of the Mourn. Of course such people would need to be paid - so it wouldn't save any money. In fact it wouldn't have any Imperial benefits at all. But if the Mourn ever tried to rebel... then the castles would be theirs to be used against any outside force that tried to impose its will on the people.
Not many people can see that happening. It would a lot of trust from all sides, and at the moment there isn't much trust to go round. Much more likely in most minds is that nothing will get done - the Senate will say it is too busy and too broke to build any fortifications in Mournwold and that will be that. Of course what it could do is restore the powers of the Imperial Master of Works. The title has always been a Marcher position and it served the Marchers will... until the Empire stripped it of its real powers. Giving the Master of Works the power to commission fortifications wouldn't improve the situation in the Mournwold by itself - but it would help to prevent it deteriorating further.
Edda Counter in particular is keen to talk to the Master of Works and to anyone who is prepared to discuss fortifying her homeland. She is interested in the disposition of the Mourn's mithril also - but as she said when she publicly rebuked the Elston Steward at the big meeting in Shaffy's Inn - "You don't own it unless you can defend it."
Nothing dries faster than a tear.Marcher Proverb
Silence is Argument
- The Mournwold seeks acceptance of their people and their beliefs
There is of course still the matter of the remaining people of Whittle whose village remained unconquered by the orcs for thirty years. Their attempt to help fight the Jotun, and their ultimate flight to Tassato, created ripples that have still not entirely settled.
Protracted effort on the part of prominent citizens of the twin cities - led by Senator Cesare - has gone a long way toward helping the Whittlefolk open up a little to their new neighbours in Tassato Mestra. "When we go home", they say, "we'll surely keep a piece of Tassato in our hearts". They are already taking steps to ensure the agreed flow of green iron to the Chamber of Commerce continues, even should they themselves return to Freemoor. Little Mournwold, as the enclave claimed by the Whittlefolk is already know, will continue - there are other Mournwolders, like some of those who fled the Greensward, who will happily remain in residence.
Home. The Whittlefolk dearly want to return there - the Whittle Hill is liberated by the Empire, the Jotun pushed back westward. There is a problem however. The Whittlefolk make no secret of the fact that in addition to the seven Virtues, they recognise the false virtue of Hatred, openly speaking of a force the Imperial Synod decries as ultimately malign, as blasphemy. A blasphemy that has already claimed the life of Friar Robin of the Whittlefolk, executed for his beliefs by the Imperial Magistrates at the behest of the Marcher assembly. Yet the Whittlefolk have made clear, time and again, that they will not abandon these beliefs, nor tolerate any dilution of them.
The folk of the Mourn, when asked, seem to support the return of the Whittlefolk. Despite everything, there was a band of Whittlefolk at Overton when it fell, fighting on the walls of Orchard's Watch against the Jotun, giving their lives alongside their fellow Marchers to try and defeat the orc invaders. Many Marchers take a practical view of religion. There is a sentiment that the religion of the people from Whittle Hill is a matter only for them - not for other folks, and most especially not folks outside the Mourn. After all, there are no shortage of people who hate the Jotun in the Mournwold. During the occupation the continued liberty of Whittle was a source of comfort to many living as thralls in the eastern Mournwold. To some, they are heroes. More than a few are keen to talk to the Whittle people when they return - to find out more about this spiritual force that gave them the will to resist the Jotun for so long.
The Marcher Assembly sends Sister Meredith with 50 doses of liao to spread the word in Upwold, Mitwold and Bregasland that the folk of Whittle are not good Marchers. Their refusal to abandon their misguided belief in the power of Hate marks them as blasphemers. They must be shunned until they renounce this blasphemy.Bridget Talbot, Marcher Assembly, Spring Equinox 381YE, Upheld 76 - 0
The Whittlefolk - led by Margaret Steward - are worried, however. While they have time and again been warmly received at Anvil by their fellows, the fact remains that the Marcher Assembly have repeatedly condemned them. No less a figure that Bridget Talbot raised the mandate spread by Sister Meredith encouraging Marchers across Mitwold, Upwold and Bregasland to shun them.
The truth the Whittle folk must endure is that those mandates decisively influence the behaviour of Marchers who do not attend the summits. It's all well and good having friends in Anvil but all their kind words aren't worth a bucket of pig shit when the Marcher Assembly condemns them. If their friends can't influence the Assembly to speak in their favour - then the Whittle folk may simply have swapped an orc enemy for a human one.
As the Whittle folk made preparations to return home, discussion of their fate is contributing to feelings of discontent with the Imperial Synod in the Mourn. There have been statements in some national assemblies that support the use of any available weapon - including the kind of weapons that resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians. Support for all weapons that is except for the spiritual force that drove the Whittle folk to successfully resist the Jotun for three decades. Apparently it's fine for the Navarr to hate the Jotun but Marchers who Hate them face condemnation and execution by the Synod. People compare this principled defence of spiritual rectitude by the Imperial Synod with its pragmatic acceptance of thousands of Marchers slain at Imperial hands and they don't like it.
Even those who sympathetic to the plight of the Whittle folk accept there is a clear danger in allowing the return of a group of unrepentant blasphemers - a people deeply proud of their Hatred - to a territory where passions are inflamed with raw wounds and fresh grievances.
The Imperial Senate could theoretically deal with this problem once and for all - if they passed a law making it a capital offence to be dedicated to Hatred, then the magistrates could purge the Whittle folk using similar methods to the ones used to root out the Vyig in recent years. Such a move would categorically end the risk of Hatred spreading through the Whittle folk - but it would be taken extremely badly by the other inhabitants of the Mourn. Head Magistrate Stanislav Karkovich has, however, expressed his opposition to such a move, and warns that at the very least such a motion would be subject to extensive scrutiny and would certainly be constitutional in nature. He has invited lawmakers to speak with him on this thorny subject during the Autumn Equinox at Anvil
We send named priest with 25 liao to urge Tassatans to come forwards with any evidence of blasphemous acts by the Whittle folk.General Assembly or League Assembly Mandate
If the Senate will not or cannot act, then the General Assembly or the League Assembly might pass a mandate urging citizens of Tassato to provide evidence against those among the Whittle folk who follow Hate. This would not be as effective as making the false virtue a capital crime - but it would provide the Synod with the means to call these people to inquisition or move directly to condemn them. It would be taken just as badly as intervention by the Senate - but it would also have the advantage of identifying any Tassatans who have been tempted into Hate, should such exist. Alternatively, the cardinal of Vigilance could instruct the Silent Bell to look into the Whittlefolk and identify any blasphemers among them.
The Whittle folk themselves are hoping that when the new senator is appointed they will make a public statement on the matter. They have asked the senator to send a winged messenger to Margaret Steward in Tassato to state whether they be welcomed home. The Whittle Steward appears to have identified that her people have no support of any kind in the Marcher Assembly - and no hope of getting any - so she intends to appeal directly to the elected representative to speak on their behalf. Any letter will be shown by the Steward to their critics - assuming it endorses their worth.
One option that would significantly improve the situation in the Mourn is if the Synod chose to repudiate their earlier calls to shun the Whittle folk and instead laud these people as heroes. It will be extremely difficult and time consuming to change the views of those in the other Marcher territories - who are now minded to shun the Whittle folk - but simply taking the action would be enough to convince the Mournwolders of the Synod's good faith - that it cares about land and people as much or more than it cares about souls.
The Assembly sends named priest with 150 doses of liao to spread the word throughout the Marchers that the Whittle folk are heroes who resisted the Jotun occupation for thirty years when all else failed.General Assembly or Marcher Assembly Mandate
If this mandate were spread across the Marches then it would cement the reconciliation between the Marcher people of the four territories and convince many in the Mournwold of the Empire's good intentions, especially if it were passed with a greater majority by the General Assembly. Of course it would also mean that folk across the Marchers were then inclined to view the Hateful Whittle folk as heroes to be listened to, rather than heretics to be shunned. That would go a long way to settling the current rebellious mood of the Mourn but would be certain to cause problems later.
Mel Greenhill of Mourn is a monk from the Mournwold who is well regarded by many there on matters of faith. Their opinion of the solutions sought by the Empire to this problem, along with the views Long Tom and Edda Counter, are likely to be pivotal in determining the views of the Mournwold going forwards.
Fair words won't bury grudgesMarcher Proverb
My End Will Be My Beginning
- The Mournwold demands a reckoning
There is one other action that might help to calm the mood of the Marchers. An old tradition - older than the Empire - some say it is as old as the Marches themselves. Less than a year ago the Empire took actions that resulted in the deaths of thousands of inhabitants of the Mourn. Even those who understand and can accept that there was a strategy behind it all are adamant that there must be a reckoning.
The Synod told the Mournwold that folk had been "rebuked" for the deaths. Rebuked!? In the Marches you rebuke a child for not doing their chores when they're told. Those that cast these rituals, those that brought death to the fields of the Greensward... they were not children. There must be a reckoning.
There were tens of thousands of deaths in the Mourn - even granted that most of them were Jotun - that still leaves thousands of Marcher citizens slain. That is a price that can never be balanced out. Everyone understands that an eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind. But still... there must be a reckoning.
Out on Old Tam Shaffer's farm - under the eaves of Black Hill Wood men and women are leaving piles of straw and wicker. Not a word is said to anyone, but the pile grows ever bigger. Folk who have the time lend the old Landskeeper of the Wood an hour, helping him weave the wicker into a frame. Steadily it takes shape, like a child growing into a man - a wicker man. The tears for the dead have all run dry. Now there must be a reckoning.
It remains to be seen who among the Marchers has the strength to be counted. Whose death will bury this grudge? Whose end will be their beginning? The wicker man will burn at the eleventh hour on the night of the Solstice. All Marchers are called to bear witness... There must be a reckoning.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
We appreciate that this is an exceptionally long and complicated Wind of Fortune. We apologize for the length - but the situation in the Mourn is fevered and complex - a consequence of the various actions taken by players over the last few years of the campaign. What we've tried to do here, rather than lay out a short simple list of things that the players must do to solve the solution is start by identifying what the primary problems are - the key bullet points in each section. There is then a more detailed list of the various things players might do to try and redress the situation. In most cases the most dramatic intervention is listed first, easier (but less effective) interventions are listed later.
The list is accurate but not definitive. Like with the inspirational idea last event by the players to repurpose the Imperial Breadbasket to feed the Mourn, there will be things that players might think of that we have not considered. We are always strive to be as responsive as possible to player actions - but on an occasion such as this where the problem is so complex, we wanted to underline the fact that anything that makes a substantive difference to life in the Mournwold - and which addresses the concerns of the inhabitants as defined in the bullet points - will have some effect on the problem. As with a mandate - we will try to add something to the wiki if you email your idea to us in the next few days (along with an appropriate explanation of how effective it would be). Otherwise you will have to take your chances at the event!
We did consider splitting each section into its own Wind of Fortune! That would have made it easier to read - but we wanted to make clear that these are all linked. The Mournwold has a set of concerns and grievances - making more effort to meet one concern would mean less needed to be done for others.
There will be three characters from the Mournwold at the event, Mel Greenhill, Long Tom and Edda Counter, all representing the people of the Mournwold. The outcome of the current rumblings of sedition will depend on the combination of the reports of these three characters with the actions the Empire takes to redress the situation. Please bear in mind that some of these characters are players, and not members of our NPC crew.
Through the Autumn Equinox, a number of actions were taken to address the problems in the Mournwold. Their outcome will be dealt with in the WInter Solstice 381YE winds of fortune.