"Yes, but what is it?" asked Lydia. She adjusted her dress and squatted down next to Jaffo. She pulled off one of her gloves, and somewhat gingerly picked up a handful of the white substance, getting a feel for it, letting the granules sift through her fingers as it fell back into the sack that lay between them. She dusted her hands quickly, wiping the on her crimson skirts leaving a pale residue on the fine fabric.

"As near as I can determine," said the alchemist slowly, "It's a combination of things. There's mithril in there-"

Lydia raised her eyes and opened her mouth to ask an excited question but Jaffo shook his head.

"- trace amounts of mithril. A little tempest jade, of all things. Some essential saltes. And something else. I've never seen the like of it, nor has anyone at the Guild. Or anyone else I've been able to talk to. It's mineral, definitely. Crystalline. But other than that..."

"So we have no idea if it will do what the Jarmish claim it will do?" asked Lydia standing up. "Prince Maria will be disappointed."

Jaffo shook his head again, likewise standing. He crossed to the bench where his paraphernalia was laid out.

"No, we're all pretty sure it does precisely what it says on the tin. In water, in a strong mana flow, it will speed the formation of crystal mana. Potentially quite significantly if you have enough of it. The solution reaches a point where its saturation rises above the Crystalline Mean..."

The alchemist noted Lydia's bored expression and choked back his technical explanation.

"Basically, if you use enough of it you can increase the amount of mana you can harvest each season from your average mana site by a little bit more than half. You need to be careful about disposing of the residue, but it's no worse than some of the runoff from the Mestra tanneries, or the copper mines up in the hills. You'd need to use sacks of the stuff for decades and pour it straight into your drinking water, frankly, before it would cause problems"

"And the Jarmish are just giving it away?" Lydia was thoughtful.

Jaffo swallowed, his face creasing with incredulity.

"...giving it away?" he echoed. "By the paragons Lydia, this sack cost me well over a dozen crowns! They are absolutely not 'giving it away'."

Lydia waved his minor monetary concerns away lazily. She walked over to the window and stared out across the river.

"And you're equally certain this is nothing new?"

Jaffo was. "There's an impromptu salon grown up over the last year or so with some of the Jarmish from that lodge out in the sticks. I've been talking with Vasile, claims to be the nephew of Magician-Prince Soreana. He's a very friendly lad, we have a lot in common."

"I'd heard," said Lydia, she turned slightly and arched one eyebrow at her friend.

Jaffo blushed, cleared his throat.

"Anyroadup as they say in Little Whittle, he's been pretty forthcoming about it. The active ingredient is a mineral from the northern mountains, and the Jarmish have been using it for a little over a century and a half. The Borașova are responsible for a lot of the mining, but there's about a half-dozen Magician-Princes in on the deal to sell it in the Empire. Vasile claims they're all expecting to make money hand over fist. If there's a trick here, I don't think Vasile or the others are in on it. "

Lydia pursed her lips and frowned slightly.

"So the last question then is why now? Why right now? Why a fortnight after the Radz make their exciting announcement?"

Jaffo shrugged.

"That sounds like politics to me. I'm just an alchemist. Politics is your department."

Overview

There has been some interesting news coming out of the Principalities of Jarm. In the east, Magician-Prince Barbara Radz of Rigia has made sweeping changes to the laws in her own principality. Changes she is attempting to enforce on the rest of the eastern alliance, a political affiliation of Princes commonly viewed as "upstarts" by the more traditional magicians of the north and south.

Barely three weeks later, one of the more influential princes of the northern faction, Soreana of Borașova, made a public announcement of her own and set about making supplies of something called beloye zerno (BYEE-el-o-yay zerr-NO) available to Imperial citizens. If this substance is as effective as it seems it could have a dramatic impact on the Empire's economy.

Radical Reforms

At the Autumn Equinox 381YE, Magician-Prince Barbara Radz - the leader of the eastern alliance - addressed the magician-princes gathered at her palace and announced major changes to the laws regarding the ownership of slaves. In her speech she announced that it would now be a crime to kill or mistreat a slave in her principality. Slaves must receive two meals every day and sufficient access to water, or their masters will face penalties as if they had abused a non-magician citizen. And any magician-prince who did not enact similar changes in their own principality would not be welcome in the Eastern Alliance and would have to fend for themselves.

There was, to put it mildly, uproar. Even the House of Princes are cautious about attempting to make sweeping changes to the laws codified centuries ago by Ion Inesca. In Jarm, each individual magician-prince has significant autonomy to determine the rules under which their household and their subjects will live. For Barbara Radz to attempt to force her allies to change their laws - especially in such a dramatic way - is an extremely bold political move.

The claim is that by adopting these enlightened, progressive views she hopes to guarantee the continued support from the Empire in terms of trade and political concessions. But the benefits of this trade are a drop in the ocean compared with the profits that the slave trade brings to Jarm. Even assuming that the deeply unreliable Empire can be counted on to uphold their side of the bargain, it is doubtful whether this will persuade anyone outside her immediate household. As a result, her position is now so precarious that the slightest misstep would undoubtedly bring certain ruin.

The matter was extensively discussed in the House of Princes - the forum where the magician-princes come together to discuss the direction of their own nation. There were a great many raised voices denouncing this act as yet more evidence of Imperial interference in Jarmish politics. But the majority of the princes of the North and South appear to be amused rather than threatened. When questioned on this development, Anton Trescher of the Hidden Hook (primary adviser to the House of Princes on matters of international trade) is reported to have simply said "wait", and shrugged his shoulders.

The Synod

In recognition of the actions and intentions of the Eastern Principalities of Jarm, and the understanding that they continue, to abolish the vile institution of slavery, it would increase the Prosperity of the Empire and its citizens, as well as that of the Eastern Principalities, if Imperial fleet captains were to visit the trading ports of the Eastern Principalities and engage in trade with the traders and merchants there.

Ezekiel of the Chantry, Autumn 381YE, Prosperity assembly, upheld 187-0

During the Autumn Equinox, the Prosperity assembly urged all fleet captains visiting Jarm to trade with Rigia rather than Vezak or Kavor. Under normal circumstances a statement of principle from a virtue assembly has minimal impact, but the events in Jarm create an opportunity.

The Synod recognises the actions of Magician-Prince Barbara Radz in moving to improve the condition of slaves in her eastern alliance. We send (named priest) with 25 doses of liao to urge every Imperial captain intending to visit Jarm to trade with the enlightened people of Rigia, rather than the corrupt slavemasters of Vezak and Kavor.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

If this mandate is passed by the General Assembly, any Imperial captain visiting Vezak or Kavor over the coming year would see their production reduced by 2 crystal mana. While there would be no immediate benefits to trading with Rigia, if the Empire were to sustain a consistent level of support for the eastern alliance it would go some way towards showing support for Magician-Prince Radz and her radical reforms, as well as being a clear rejection of the backward views of the Northern and Southern princes.

Alternatively, they could express even stronger support for Magician-Prince Radz.

The Synod lauds the action of Magician-Prince Barbara Radz in moving to improve the condition of slaves in her eastern alliance. We send (named priest) with 150 doses of liao to urge every Imperial captain intending to trade with a foreign nation to show their support for these reforms by taking their goods to Rigia rather than any other port.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

If this mandate were passed by the General Assembly, any Imperial captain visiting any foreign port other than Rigia through the coming year would see their production reduced by 2 ranks. Again, while there would be no additional benefits to trading with Rigia, it is likely that many traders would prioritize the eastern port and provide an even more obvious show of support for Magician-Prince Radz and her radical reforms, sending an overwhelmingly clear message to the Northern and Southern princes. Furthermore. as the mandate is aimed at Imperial citizens, and does not discourage foreign merchants from visiting the Empire to trade, it would not attract any sort of diplomatic repercussions from any nation other than Jarm.

Beloye Zerno

A few weeks after the dramatic announcement of Magician-Prince Barbara Radz, there is an announcement by Soreana of Borașova, the Magician-Prince of one of the most prosperous of the northern principalities. In conjunction with a number of her fellow northern princes, she has decided to make a small amount of beloye zerno available to traders dealing with the Empire. The import of this announcement is apparent only when someone is able to explain what beloye zerno actually is.

The magician-princes of Jarm use a lot of crystal mana. Part of their success is due to the presence in the mountains of northern Jarm of a rare mineral unknown in the Empire. In its refined form, the mineral appears to be fine white sand with tiny salt crystals - beloye zerno or "white seed". Added water, and with some basic maintenance, it causes mana to crystallise more quickly and creates larger, richer crystals.

Recognising the excellent trade relations between Jarm and the Empire, and after consultation with Anton Trescher, Prince Soreana and her partners - which include Tuernin of Limitu, the principality where the largest temple of the Way in Jarm is located - contacted the traders at the lodge in Tassato. Already familiar with the mana crystal markets of the Empire thanks to their work with the Tassato Mana Exchange, they are in the best position to provide white seed to Imperial magicians. The first shipment of white seed arrived on a heavily armed Jarmish vessel a month or so before the Winter Solstice, and the Jarmish merchants of Tassato are ready to sell this marvellous material to anyone who can meet their very reasonable prices.

Following the imposition of sanctions on the Principalities of Jarm during the Winter Solstice 382YE, the price for Imperial citizens to purchase white seed increased by roughly a fifth.

Total Money SpentAdditional Crystals
43 rings1 crystal mana
108 rings2 crystal mana
194 rings3 crystal mana
302 rings4 crystal mana

The White Seed

Beloye zerno (pronounced very roughly as BYEE-el-o-yay zerr-NO), or "white seed"' is a potent substance that can increase the amount and quality of crystal produced by a mana site. The Jarmish have cheerfully made a few small samples of the white seed available to alchemists and magicians eager to reassure themselves that this substance is what it claims to be. Examination via a variety of means has confirmed the properties the Jarmish claim for it. It is somewhat toxic if breathed in in large quantities for long periods of time, and will make a person or animal very ill if they eat it. It requires some care in handling it, once the crystals have formed the water containing the new depleted white seed must be carefully disposed of or risk tainting water supplies near the mana site. There is an upper limit to the amount of mineral that can be deployed each season - and its effects last only for a season.

The White Seed OOC

Anyone who owns a mana site will find a new downtime option available to them after the Winter Solstice. By purchasing and using some of this rare mineral (spending money), they can produce more mana crystals in the same way a mine owner might use their downtime option to produce more materials. Unlike a mine, forest, or herb garden however it is possible to use greater volumes of the mineral to produce more mana crystals - albeit with rather steep diminishing returns.

There is no actual commodity or lammy involved with white seed - to use this option, a character simply ensures they have enough funds in their inventory and selects the appropriate amount on their downtime screen. This material is only useful for improving the production of a mana site on a temporary basis - and only crystal mana at that (it does not help in the production of vis).

It has absolutely no use in alchemy or magic, and while it may make someone ill the sickness it causes can be treated with the purify spell so it is useless as a poison. Furthermore it is pretty clear to everyone who examines it, and the raw material from which it is produced, that this substance is utterly unfamiliar to Imperial scholars. It would be impossible for the Empire to refine their own white seed without access to a source of the raw mineral from which it is made, and nobody has seen anything like it anywhere in the Empire.

Resolution

The General assembly passed a mandate recognising the contribution of Magican-Prince Barbara Radz, and encouraged visitors to Jarm to trade with the Rigia rather than Vezak or Kavor.