Beg, steal, or borrow
The quarterly summits at Anvil are known as a time and a place where some of the richest and most influential people in the Empire gather. Most are here to engage in politics, of course, but there are also a number of them who are looking to trade fortunes in valuable materials and powerful magic. It is unsurprising then that people with something out of the ordinary to sell - or a need to buy such things - are drawn to Casinea during the Solstices and Equinoxes.
Not everything is about an exchange of money for goods however. There are mysterious Freeborn manuscripts and strange Feni letters to be sold, whose true value no doubt lies in the secrets they contain; a maggot selling loot; a refugee from burnt hall with a haunted jar; an agent purchasing religious relics; and a pair of Navarr who want to meet with monster hunters. In each case, they have made their intention to visit and the time and place of their arrival common knowledge with the aid of the Civil Service.
"That's right, apparently they're working for some Asavean prince who wants to buy up some 'relics of the exemplars' for his uncle's viagem." Zeke saw Seth twist around that last word, it was something strange, foreign.
"The thing is," Seth continued, watching his exarch's face for a response, "they wanted to test the Amulet, so they probably wouldn't have gone through with the contract even if we had wanted to.""Oh, well maybe they should go to Casinea? Its not like there aren't plenty more people with a lot more chance of having relics which would actually pass their tests." Zeke sighed, looking into the interior of the dank, dark shrine.
Ship captains from across the Empire bring back word, from trading in Nemoria, of the wishes of Lord Magnus Tullis to acquire some relics of paragons and exemplars for his dear uncle. It seems that Lord Magnus, who would take his uncle's seat as Plenum, is willing to offer reasonable rates for the relics. To this end, they have contracted a trader from Siroc, Jules i Conzara i Guerra, to attend the upcoming Anvil summit on their behalf to purchase religious relics. It is unclear at this time what the Asavean wishes to do with these items, but Jules may have more information to offer on the subject, for a price.
Jules i Conzara i Guerra is intending to arrive in Anvil at 3pm on the second day of the summit. They intend to set up shop in the Forge tavern, as every Freeborn knows that a parador - or a tavern at a pinch - is the best place to conduct complex business. Jules has sent out an open invitation to anyone who wishes to speak to them - and especially anyone who has relics of the paragons and exemplars to sell - but has also specifically requested a meeting with the Cardinal of Prosperity, Cesare Enzo di Trivento.
Maggots and Sharks
"A maggot actually approached my camp last week," Alfrun's contempt was evident "he said that he had taken a sword from one of their mages and was offering it cheaply, but it felt wrong. Grimy."
The two Kallavesi shared a drink, each of them looking into the dying embers of their campfire.
"I don't like it Alfrun, not one bit. It feels like we're fighting thieves alongside thieves. What would stop them taking your Skein Ripper if you fell? And selling it for coin to someone who knows neither your name, nor the axe's name."Alfrun gripped her axe tightly, looking at her friend with reproach. "You know me, I'll fight where the fighting is. But maybe the stormcrows should say something about this?"
Following the crushing defeat of the Grendel in Spiral, there has been a great deal of battlefield looting. Oh, the Red Wind Corsairs have been doing their fair share of plundering, as is to be expected, but recently they seem more interested in capturing enemy officers and ransoming them back than in nicking peoples' boots. What's a little less common is the thieving by soldiers from other armies. While it has always gone on, it seems the lure of the open graveyard that is the plain below Solen's Doubt has drawn opportunistic looters like crows to a dead dog.
Most of the items are taken from the Grendel, and are perfectly legal to trade in terms of Imperial Law. Unfortunately, some of the items turning up for sale appear to be of Urizeni origin, and there the legal situation is a little less clear-cut. Oswald the Red is one such battlefield looter, who has apparently done well enough that he is intending to attend the upcoming Anvil summit with some of the best items he and his friends have collected. He has made it known that he intends to sell the majority of his wares to whoever will offer the highest price, although it's not clear whether he means to auction them or simply meet with interested buyers. Despite some wild claims, rumour suggests that most of what he has to sell consists of artisan fare - magic items taken from fallen soldiers with a few seasons of enchantment still remaining. This kind of stock is unlikely to appeal to the movers and shakers of Anvil - a more likely market will be newcomers looking to make a name for themselves, or those new to anvil. Still, he claims to have at least one item that might appeal to more discerning customers - something that he describes as "definitely Eternal in origin" although he has been very coy about revealing which eternal he believes created the object.
Oswald the Red is intending to arrive at one in the afternoon on Saturday. They plan to travel first to the Wintermark camp to seek out other self-described maggots. While many Winterfolk despise the term, Oswald seems to take a perverse pride in being labelled as a battlefield looter and thief-from-the-dead.
"Sea and sand, it makes no sense!"
The tall, dark haired hakima pushed the letter across the table to Lani, who picked it up rather more carefully.
"An Inspirational Tomb, that was lost sometime before Guntherm's reign? Our coven found it once then lost it again and it's still lost now! What kind of story is this? You think you've found a letter from a Kohan that worked for the clan that claims this missing tomb's tied to the location of the Three Sisters' divining crystal. It's like a Broken Wheel prank. The crystal that is practically a myth anyway! And who has heard of Badir i Durr i Riqueza? What did he do to get a tomb? Because I have no idea and I paid attention to Imperial History at the Academy."
Naolin i Guerra, a skilled mage with a fondness for ambergelt and plain dealing, was spitting vituperatively - any moment they'd be stalking around the room, knocking things over.
"And that's without even discussing the business about ghosts or out of control magic. Do you really believe that there was a tradition of tying items up with lace and burying them with important peoples' ashes?"
Lani was wise enough to know that Naolin hadn't finished yet, and simply sat and watched.
"Do you actually want us to take this to Anvil? Even if there was some truth in it, we'd have to confess to half the Coast that the wise Red Hills coven was keeping an important historical letter hidden in a forgotten hayloft, in serious danger of being eaten by goats. We'd be laughing stocks either way and we'll ruin the reputation of hakima everywhere if it turns out to be the fake I think it is."
In mid rant, a loose end of Naolin's tagelmust caught the silver teapot balanced on the edge of the hearth and it went crashing to the floor.
Lani folded the letter, making sure to follow the original creases, speaking slowly and calmly all the while. "It is old. And it was stuffed in an old box with a pile of old contracts, in a rotting attic, in a Kahraman goat farm that we know the coven used to visit around the right time. Its written to Zabira, and that has often been the name of Red Hills' leaders."
There was a pause as Naolin stopped the teapot rolling in a circle and re-arranged their clothing. Once their attention returned, Lani continued, an implacable half smile fixed on their face.
"I think it is worth taking to Anvil. I have no intention of declaiming it the greatest discovery ever made or calling the sutannir out to arrange a party. I will simply go to the Library they have there and see if I can find someone to help authenticate it. And if there is anything to it, any scrap of truth, then I think it will do a great deal of good so long as we carefully control who we sell it to. Come with me or stay behind."
Lani shifted their bulk out of the chair and headed for the doorway as if to leave right away."I'm going to speak to Santi-Mateo and Elia and their friends. I'll be wanting a Kohan escort."
The Freeborn Lani of the Red Hills coven is expected to arrive at The Anvil Library on Friday evening of the Equinox. They are carrying an antique letter that apparently concerns a lost inspirational tomb, although their first order of business appears to be to try and locate someone who can authenticate it. If the item does prove to be authentic, there is talk of an auction, to sell the document to the highest bidder. As an important link to one of their most fabled items of legend - the divining crystal of Riqueza, it may well fetch a very high price indeed.
Under Beech Hill
No matter which way he turned from where he stood, he was met with a scene of devastation. Broken stalls, smashed benches and upturned carts provided the backdrop for squashed fruit, pulped vegetables and broken pottery. Blood spatters here and there provided glimpses of actual combat, but mostly the market of Beech Hill stood mute witness to the site of a crippling raid of property.
"Get down from there, lad. Tha'll fall and hurt tha sen!"
Sam glanced round at his father, Matt of Redston, and sighed. With a great leap, he bounded down from the plinth supporting the statue of Tom Drake that formed the centrepiece of the marketplace, and strode over to join his father.
"Any luck, pa?" he asked, his voice sullen with despair.
"Nay, lad. T'ain't any sign o' them. Guards ha' seen them off. Good riddance, I say."
Matt tried to cross his arms and winced with the pain. His right arm barely moved, slumped to his side uselessly.
"Pa, tha should see the doctor. That looks awful sore."
Matt shook his head. "Nay, the doctor needs her herbs and her time for other folk. I'll be fine."
Sam grew quiet, and stared at his feet for a short while. In the trees nearby, the bravest of the spring birds began to sing. Sam entertained a thought that by staring down, just listening, he could almost be in Beech Hill before the attack...
Suddenly, a dark thought crossed his mind. "What'll happen if'n the Feni find another market town? Will they do all this again?"
A sneer crossed his father's face. "None of tha business lad! None of any o' our business. What happens to other folk happens to them, not us. What's important now is our folk, and fixing this place up afore our reputation takes a dive."
Tall Sam looked up at his father, nodded with sudden confidence, and strode off in the direction of a small cluster of townsfolk making a pile of broken wood.Matt sighed, and unclenched his good fist. He looked down at the scrap of paper within, brooding.
A few weeks before the Solstice, the market town of Beech Hill in Ashbrook, Upwold was hit by a raiding party of Feni - part of the band that has been extending their recent raiding southwards. The prosperous townsfolk were mostly unharmed, but their property suffered extensive damage and many of their foodstuffs and goods were stolen or ruined in the attack. The normally quite insular Marcher folk of the town are outwardly grumbling about this misfortune, particularly the significant blow this has dealt to their profits - and more importantly to their reputation as a safe trading town.
As a result, the town's foremost alderman, Matt of Redston, has made it known that he is sending one of his dutiful guards, Loud Pat, to Anvil to try and raise as much money as possible to put right the damage. However, Matt is mindful that such funds are best earned, not begged, and is apparently sending Pat with a curious letter that was found on one of the Feni who was abandoned when their kin fled into the woods with their ill-gotten gains.
Matt promises Pat to be as tight-lipped about the contents of the letter as he himself is, save for noting that it contains "some very interesting news" about the Feni, making the scrap of parchment "more than worth its weight in ilium". Quite whether the document lives up to this bold claim remains to be seen, but it is expected that Loud Pat will be looking to speak to fellow aldermen, beaters and any other Marchers that might want information on the Feni who have recently caused so many problems for households throughout the eastern regions of Upwold. Pat is expected to arrive at Anvil on Friday evening, probably earlier rather than later.
Smoke, out here on the ice; the thick, greasy scent of uncontrolled fire, flesh-devouring, stone-scorching. Fierce and furious, far-away but fearful; what great blaze could cast its harsh shadow so far?
“There’s rock a mile back,” Mariika said to her sister, when she caught up, “If it’s the Jotun, we can break the ice around and defend that.”
Liina shook her head, pointing at a pack of shadows upwind, “Jotun walk tall. That’s not Jotun pride weighing their shoulders down.” She set off at a jog to investigate.
The strangers were hard-eyed and mistrustful, but they softened at the offer of meat. Their Thane introduced himself as Torvald of Torvaldshall, fifth of that name. Their Hall had burned, he said, not at the hands of the Jotun, but by some spirit of misfortune which, he claimed, had always worn at the edges of his skein.
At first, Liina was sympathetic, but an hour of similar complaining by this mean-spirited man wore her patience thinner than his threadbare skins. “So what are you doing about it?” she asked as the miser moaned about his melted money.
“We were great once,” he hissed, half to himself, “My great-great-aunt was a favourite of an Empress, an Archmage great and powerful! I have sent my eldest to Anvil to sell her most treasured possession: a jar with the ghost of some great foreigner or other. I don’t know; I never looked into it.” Liina tried to hide her contempt for his apathy; the Vigilant or Courageous would not suffer to leave such a matter.
“She had some scheme in mind which was cut short by her bitter enemies, and so it was left abandoned. Cursed, some say.” He took another bite of her seal-meat and shrugged, “No doubt someone among the fine fools of Anvil will open the blasted thing.”As long as their sales-pitch is better than yours, Liina thought to herself. “Then I hope your eldest has a hero’s tongue,” she said, by way of wishing him good fortune, and the heart you are lacking.
During the winter, the sorrowful news travels abroad in Wintermark that Torvaldshall, a small, mostly Suaq winter-hall on the border of Hahnmark and Kallavesa, has burned to the ground. Meagre-living and hero-less even before the fierce fire, its surviving inhabitants have set off onto the floes to survive by hunting, but one of their number is reportedly on the way to Anvil to find a decent price for a curiosity long-held at that humble Hall. It is a jar of foreign origin and unknown purpose, apparently containing a spirit of some kind, perhaps even a human ghost.
The rumour is embellished as it travels, of course – it is a foreign Queen, or an Imperial Archmage, or a wicked warrior so fearfully frayed as to have been banished into this blasphemous bondage – but the cunning Icewalker knows not to trust rumour, surely…
Ewan shook out his soft brown cloak as he bent his head under the low tavern doorway, making a beeline for the small Cambion who was carefully drying the hem of a similar cloak in front of a gently crackling fire. She looked up and grinned. "All calm at Twr Uchel?"
"I met the red headed twins on the road", he said. "All calm."
He drew another stool up to the fire. "As far as I can tell, the wounded Mandowla that House Tallstag had to leave behind stumbled off up into the higher mountains, where no miasma or vallornspawn followed. It wasn't infested. Bryn and Aelwen were hopping with pride that they finished it off themselves without any trouble." He paused to swig from a tankard on a table, grinning at Llinos and continuing his account before she could complain. "As for the infested ones, we already knew from the Pride of Hercynia that the Wyverns Watch and the Varushkans had done a good job taking them out. And there's been no more reports of miasma anywhere near Twr Uchel or Bont Goch for a week or so now."
"So it really works." Llinos gazed into the flames.
"We can travel the Empire and find villages under threat from the most dreadful beasts that can be imagined and then find the right heroes in Anvil to save them."
"It worked this time" Ewan allowed. "Though it's a good thing the Navarri were around to explain about the vallorn. And I'm not sure even they had seen infested Mandowla before."
"We need more experts then." Llinos eyes were glowing "There must be bands across the Empire who have bestiaries. Maybe not as beautiful as the Venatores Illustres one we gave to Wyvern's Watch. But still useful. We should bring them together!"
Ewan nodded. "Back to Anvil again, then."
"Yes, but it should be more than just wandering the camps seeing who we can find. We need a proper meeting."
"In a tavern." Ewan cheerfully agreed. "And people spread the pages of their drawings and notes across tables and we help them find patterns and hidden knowledge."
Llinos's enthusiasm was easy to catch.
"But who will come?" She second guessed herself, often.
Both of them turned their heads. The changeling at the far table had stepped out of the shadows.
"Shall I tell you how?"Llinos reached out and dragged another stool close to the hearth, invitation enough.
Two Navarr of Fabledwing Striding, on the good advice of an unknown changeling, have asked the Civil Service to make visitors to Anvil aware of their presence. During the Spring Equinox a meeting will be held in The Forge at 7 o'clock on the Friday evening. They are interested in speaking to people who compile bestiaries, or track important information about hunting the larger, rarer, or even the mythical beasts of the Empire. Fellow zoologists are invited to send representatives to share information, and perhaps, plan for future hunting parties, rescue missions, acquisitions, or even opportunities to study rare creatures in their natural habitats. Compilers of bestiaries are encouraged to bring their work, and the meeting is also open to folk with first-hand experience of fighting dangerous beasts prepared to share their tales.