City folk and country folk
Then there were the Regarians - not many, of course, because in the heart of Tassato Mestra, even in these peaceable days, there were streets down which Regarians did not wisely walk, and many were in this part of town. Some braved it - mostly those inspired, in fact, by the Prosperity of the stevedore's yard. More than one leader of a stevedore's walkout had been some hotblooded Regarian demagogue, though that just worsened the reputation of Regarians as more concerned with endless fancy words than the clear communication of brazen action that was a Mestran's stock in trade.
Then there were those that came from further afield. More than a few Navarri, who when their striding took them into Tassato would often venture into the city for a few days, on errands and messages - they tended to be excellent at knowing how to pack goods quickly and effectively, and there were a few choice tasks that the workmaster would often like to save for the expert eye of those who spend their whole lives living out of a carefully filled satchel and cart.
There were Marchers. A few were hardly Marchers any longer - they'd gone south in search of a different life and found it, and they'd sworn oaths to the Harlequin, and now that arming-jack felt less natural than a good suit of brigandine, and they'd bought hats, and those hats had feathers. Soon, they'd be Leaguers, and they'd miss their families, perhaps, but they'd never go back. Most, however, were passing through, often workers from Meade or the other market towns. Skilled at the trade but unfamiliar with the town, they'd visit the stevedore's yard to catch some trade while the merchants who'd hired them sold their wares. They'd return with a few good tales, safe to the soil of home.
And then, more exotic visitors. A couple Faraden - strange hats atop their heads, they were waiting and talking animatedly about some family matter, incomprehensible to outsiders. And the truly incomprehensible, some visitors from the Delves and some Commonwealers - hard to know why they were here at all, but here they were, standing in the cold winter sunshine. There was even a couple of orcs, who stood together in a group - probably not the Imperial Orcs they claimed to be, their manner and custom not quite there - barbarians? Well, maybe, but there's always strays, and the docks of Mestra tended to get all types. No-one seemed to pay them heed.
No-one except the four tall yeofolk standing silently in a corner of the yard, apart from all else. They were dressed in dull brown tunics, house colours faded and barely visible through years of washing without a chance to be dyed. They were from Whittle, of course, come in just two weeks ago, and in those two weeks they'd done the same thing each time. Queued up. Found some work. Worked it, silently and quietly, all day. Collected some pay. Went away, back to where they'd all set up camp outside the walls, for now. In all that time they'd barely said a word to anyone, but they'd done plenty of what they were doing now - a quiet seething. The whole scene - people of all lineages and none, from across the Empire and beyond, orcs, even, all working and walking and talking in one cosmopolitan mass - well. You could read it from their faces...
This just wasn't the Whittle way.
The sentries atop La Redotta Rezia see their approach, along the road which should be empty. Perhaps a hundred or so Marchers, on the old road from Freemoor... from what had been, since the invasion all those years ago, Jotun land. Who could they be but the Whittlefolk?
The Whittlefolk come bearing ill news. Their long hold on their village, unbroken for thirty years, is over. Their choice to aid the Empire has ended their uneasy truce with the Jotun of the region. Now with heavy hearts, they have been forced to flee their lands before the butcher's axe fell. It is not just the young. The elderly, the infirm, children - all have had to make the arduous trek out of Freemoor to the gates of Tassato. Not all have made, they say.
And so they take root outside Tassato Mestra, huddled in a makeshift camp in the shadow of the walled city. Bishop Scarpe Cattivo di Tassato, a priest of the Little Mother goes out to meet them encourage them to come within the city, where there is paying work that needs doing. A small delegation of the Whittle folk, led by Margaret Steward, do come into the city, but they seem in awe of the teeming streets and the hectic pace of the city and soon withdraw. The next morning, however, as the sun rises, a delegation of doughty Whittle yeoman arrive at the docks where there is a shortage of stevedores. They don't stint from the work, though they do keep themselves to themselves, not mixing with the other hands. As soon as the shift is over they take their wages and head back to their camp.
It continues thus for several days. The only Marcher from Whittle who spends any more time than she must in the city is their leader, Margaret Steward. She combs the city back and forth, talking to people and asking all sorts of questions. Those who can be bothered to find out what the Whittle folk want confirm she is looking to buy something - but nobody is really sure what. Tassato is a busy city and within a few days, everyone has lost interest in the newcomers. They seem honest enough and they work hard for their money - so who really cares if they are as friendly chatty as rocks?
Then a week before the summit, their steward approaches the Tassatan Chamber of Commerce with a proposal. The Chamber is a loose association of Tassato merchants, farmers and business owners, that was formed to share interests in commerce and politics. It is one of the few institutions that unites both sides of the Tassato - the river divides, but money talks. There are similar organisations in many cities and territories of the empire. The steward has identified two streets in Mestra, the Rua da Madeira and the Avenida da Penha, which the Whittle folk would like to purchase outright. The properties here are mostly empty already, as the area is somewhat run down due to its isolated position. The streets lie near the top of one of the tallest hills in the area and are just too steep for many to bother with, even in overcrowded Mestra. As a result, it mostly contains some cheap hostelries, board houses, and dilapidated commercial property - warehouses and the like.
The steward would like the city to agree to sell the two streets to the Marchers. They will pay a good price for the properties, so everyone is recompensed, then they will move their people to the area. She explains that those Marchers who are able to fight intend to travel on to Overton - to join the fight against the Jotun there - and that they are determined if they are ever able to retake their lands in Whittle then they will all return en masse. In the meantime, however, it is her responsibility to ensure that the young and the old are protected and looked after. Their dependents and enough folk to care and provide for them will move into the streets. They'll work hard and pay for everything - there will be no disruption and no trouble from the people of Whittle, she promises. All they want is to be left alone and they promise they'll keep themselves to themselves.
There are quite a few raised eyebrows at this proposal. Tassato Mestra is a big city - if the folk of Whittle just moved in and took up residence throughout the city, then nobody would be any the wiser. The city would swallow them whole - as it has done for thousands of others who come here every year. But the steward is clear that her people find city ways distressing. They'd rather just mind their own affairs and avoid the loud, brazen nature of the city leading any of their good people astray. She is polite at the meeting, and she never comes out and says it, but it is clear she considers the cosmopolitan ways of the city somewhat aberrant.
There is profit to be made in such a deal, and normally that would decide the matter there and then. But people have heard things about the Whittle folk - and not all of them good. There are some frank questions directed at the steward and she is fairly bold in her response. Yes, Friar Robin who was condemned by the Synod for blasphemy is with them, but he will not be staying in Tassato and will be travelling on to Overton once he has been to Anvil to face his accusers. However she is frank that the Whittlefolk believe in their ways, and those ways have included Hatred for more years than the youngest have lived. Yes, the Synod has condemned their friar - but they have also had messages of encouragement from Anvil, sent by "magic ways" to urge them to keep fighting - and they are adamant: they are loyal, they are proud, they are courageous, and they are prosperous - but they are hateful too. Everything they have ever had, everything they built with their sweat and blood, the very land they work has been taken from them by the Jotun. Hating the Jotun is what gives them purpose now - they will stop at nothing to see their enemies destroyed.
In the end, no agreement is taken on the day. The thought of the money is appealing, but a few are wary of provoking the Synod. They agree to postpone the decision and instead ask Senator Cesare to host a meeting of the chamber at Anvil. That way those that care most about the political implications of such a decision have the chance to find out what the potential consequences might be first.
Chamber of Commerce
The Tassatan Chamber of Commerce has asked their senator to host a meeting on Saturday at 5pm at Anvil for members to decide the matter. Given the unusual nature of the proposition, that it was put to them as a chamber, they think it is best if they decide collectively rather than making any rash choices. The chamber doesn't normally make a point of having a physical presence at Anvil, but they are confident that their resourceful senator will be able to arrange one for them.
Any player who owns a farm or business located in Tassato is welcome to roleplay that their character is a member of the Chamber of Commerce. By tradition, when the chamber votes on something, they usually carry out their vote with a show of hands - but if the vote is close, then someone can call for a formal count and a member of the civil service, most usually one of the Bourse, can then tally the votes based on the size of a persons business or farm. Members of the Chamber who do not usually come to Anvil are likely to attend - the issue has raised heated debate in some quarters, and people are keen to see their views represented.
If the Chamber decides to allow the Whittle people to take up residence in Tassato Mestra, then there will be benefits to the businesses of the city. Whatever else they are, the people of Whittle are hard working - and it is clear they have brought some considerable wealth with them. Much of it seems to be in green iron - the Whittle Hill was long known as a promising green iron mine, before the fall of the Mourn, though the richest seams were thought tapped long ago. They have turned up with a small fortune of ingots, and it is this they plan to complete the purchase in. Once overheads are paid for, the chamber estimates that a Whittle enclave in Tassato will provide 50 ingots of Green Iron each season for the next year - spread among all the businesses and farms in the territory provided the Whittle folk stay. There is some argument that it should be Mestrans alone that benefit, but the Regarian voices protest loudly that this would represent a violation of the Chamber's studied distance from the conflict between the twin cities.
The risks are sadly much more difficult to quantify. The Marcher steward is not hiding the fact that her people cling to a false virtue. What happens in the Synod condemn them all? Everyone has heard what happened to the Pledge... what happens if they excommunicate everyone in Tassato for taking the Whittlers in? It's probably a good thing that the Whittle folk want to keep themselves to themselves - what happens if they don't and other people start listening to their odd ideas? The city is too well fortified to ever fall to the Jotun, but orcs aren't the only thing you can hate. There was a time when Mestran and Regarian killed each other in the streets for their differences - and almost nobody wants to return to that.
The people of Whittle have sent word to the people at Overton. They are not keen to bring their dependants to Overton - the Greensward is not their home and they have no desire to settle there. But those that are able to fight the Jotun want to do so, and the garrison represents their best chance for that. Hence they propose that those of them who are armed and ready for the fight will travel on from Tassato, back into the Mournwold to join the garrison.
However, they are concerned that they may not be welcome there, given the recent condemnation of their friar by the Synod. They are now aware that their views are neither orthodox nor acceptable to the Imperial Synod. What they are not certain of is what that means for them as a community. They consider themselves loyal Marchers - and they are certainly keen to fight the Jotun. Encouraging them to move to Overton would provide a boost to the fighting strength defending the settlement. But there is no way that they can be serving as part of the garrison without spreading their views. They cannot form their own enclave, as they hope to do at Tassato, so if Overton takes them in then they will be accepting their faith along with their bills. And Overton could prove fertile ground - it's not like the people there have suffered any less at the hands of the Jotun than the Whittle folk have.
The actual decision of whether or not to welcome the Whittle Marchers into Overton is is one for the Sheriff. Obviously, the Sheriff will listen to the views of various people, but ultimately they are responsible for the protection of the people of the Mournwold and their office is housed in the old garrison. If they allow the fighting men and women from Whittle to join the others stationed at Orchard's Watch then all they need to do is let the Marcher egregore know. Word will reach the people of Whittle shortly afterwards.
Of course, if the Sheriff decides not to take them in - that still leaves the question of where they are to go - but at that point at least the Whittle folk won't be a problem for the Sheriff.
Margaret Steward has made clear to the Chamber of Commerce that Friar Robin, the leader of the spiritual community in Whittle, is heading to Anvil to face those who have condemned him. She speaks of him with fondness, but also with a certain sadness - it is not clear that, were he to be convicted of blasphemy, he would ever return to Whittle or his people - the magistrates take a very dim view of such crimes. He is travelling with at least one other Friar, and a few others who wish to see him safely travel to his destination. They include some of those who were the first from Whittle to come to Anvil; they have made the journey before, and are willing to do so again.
Margaret also mentions that Robin and the other Friars have a strong desire to make a spiritual accommodation with the Marcher Assembly. The people of Whittle have no desire to cause a schism within the faith - and they seem quite disturbed by the wider rifts that exist due to the revelations of Yael - but they have their beliefs, and they will not be changed. The Whittlers are quite frank that they believe that Hatred would be beneficial for their fellow Marchers to adopt... but, in the words of Margaret, "they have no wish to be cast out from their beloved nation, from the arms of their people". Robin is said to be seeking to talk to his fellows in the Synod - not about "matters of intricate theology, but practical spiritual concerns".
He is presumably seeking a strong statement from the Marcher Assembly on the matter - but the details are a matter for the delegation and the assembly to agree upon. Whatever statements the Marcher national assembly pass - they are likely to have a significant impact on the way the rest of the Marchers respond to the Whittlers if they are passed with a greater majority.