"Your father sounds like he was a wise man." Alemenus of Kantor finished cutting his pomegranate in half. Using his knife to score the skin, he rapped it firmly with the haft and sent a cascade of crimson seeds into the silver bowl. Once, twice. He pushed the bowl toward the middle of the low table, and carefully selected a few of the seeds between finger and thumb.
Gulls called overhead, twisting and diving in the mid afternoon light, raucous and unruly. They were neither neat nor orderly, and that quite irrationally irritated him.
Zana followed his gaze and smiled a little sadly.
"It's the storms," she said. "They come further and further inland to avoid them, following the river. In some places there is a belief that the environment can influence a creature's form, or habits. If the storms continue to ravage the southern coast, the gull may become a permanent fixture here."
She sipped her cool fruit juice, and watched him eat his pomegranate seeds, together in companionable silence.
"Creating a map is like translating a voice that speaks in a language you don't understand, who tells you to go to a place you've never been. It's a riddle, or a mystery. By comprehending the riddle, by unravelling the mystery, slowly we make the word more understandable. That is what my father said, anyway."
"He had a way with words, then, your father."
Zana nodded again. She took out a scroll, unrolled it, laid it on the table and secured the corners with her cup, his cup, his knife, and - to his irritation - the bowl of pomegranate seeds. She traced the line of the mountains, of eastern Urizen, with her finger.
"No passes that I can see, not on any of the maps. Not from poor Zenith, not from poor Spiral. Perhaps a proper map would help to find them, what do you think."
Alemenus of Kantor stopped being annoyed that she had moved his bowl, and leaned forward to look at the map.
"It is the same on our side, I understand. Studying the space between, we might find more about the edges. About the borders of your Empire, and our land. It is a worthy endeavour, I think."
"Maybe," said Zana carefully. "But you can see why there are questions. The Empire has prepared this opportunity to explore the Mountains of the Moon. We paid for it, we secured the weirwood, the funds. Axos may be keen to help, but the Empire does not in point of fact need your help."
The Axos ambassador spluttered, and made a negative gesture with his hand. Before he could construct a coherent sentence, Zana removed the weights and let the scroll roll closed.
"It is not my decision to make, however. Nor yours. The Military Council, or the Senate, will decide if they will permit Axos to send their scouts. The Ambassador will advise, I am sure."
"And who will advise the Ambassador?" snapped Alemenus. "If not you?"
Zana smiled sadly."We will, of course, advise the ambassador. But we will give the same advice, the right advice, regardless of all this." she gestured vaguely to take in the apartment, the bowl of pomegrante seeds, the bottle of wine. "The Empire does not need your aid - but that does not mean they will not want it."
There are six great powers in the known world; the Empire is one of them of course. The other five lie many weeks away across the seas. The Asavean Archipelago and the Sumaah Republic to the west; the Commonwealth and the Principalities of Jarm to the east; and the Sarcophan Delves - the Empire's closest neighbours - to the south. Relations between the six are often fraught. They have their own politics, and their own agendas. Yet each must engage in international diplomacy with the others - the other nations are simply too powerful and influential to ignore. At any given point, the best one can do is take a snapshot of a few days in time - and say "this is the current state of affairs; be careful because it might change at any moment.
There are other nations of note on the same continent as the Empire - Faraden and the Iron Confederacy in the south-west, and Axos to the far east are all relatively well known. Because these foreign nations are so much closer it is a little easier for the Empire to influence them, but their ability to directly impact the Empire is significant despite their smaller size.
- The Sumaah Republic remains at war with the Empire.
- The port of Zemeh remains closed.
During the Winter Solstice, an envoy of the House of the People in Sumaah visited the Empire. Envoy Azcan was hosted by the former ambassador Vera Runova Helgerod in her camp. By all accounts the pair engaged in a long discussion of Imperial-Republic relations culminating in proposals for a peace treaty between the two nations. Shortly after receiving a copy of the proposed peace treaty between the two nations, however, Envoy Azcan and his companions abruptly left their rooms at an inn on the outskirts of Anvil. They then returned to Sumaah, without further discussion with Imperial authorities.
Three months later, Envoy Azcan is back, accompanied by Tipoa the Insightful (perhaps best known for their work around the changes to Doctrine related to the Imperial Orcs). They have sent a request to the new Ambassador to the Sumaah Republic, Accalon of Felix's Watch, for a formal reception at the Senate building at half-past-six on Friday night, shortly after the official beginning of the summit. The request makes it absolutely clear that if the Ambassador does not receive them in the Senate as befits a serious political delegation from a powerful nation, they will return home without further discussion.
Peculiarly, there is also a request that Tarquinius of Ankarien, the current Ambassador to Axos, also be present. The civil servant Secretary to the Diplomatic Corps, John Cooper of Upwold, double-checks the detail, but the Sumaah say there has been no mistake. The presence of Tarquinius of Ankarien is requested by Envoy Azcan.
- Every Imperial Fleet trading with Nemoria receives an additional measure of iridescent gloaming and an additional ingot of orichalcum
- Imperial fleets no longer receive herbs from Asavea; a standard fleet trading with Nemoria will receive 36 rings rather than 2 Cerulean Mazzarine.
- Two Asavean provinces are in violent revolt against the Plenum; Nemoria calls for Imperial mercenaries. You can learn more (here)
- Questions around ordaining Asavean priests of the way have arisen. You can learn more (here).
Relations with Asavea remain warm. Imperial captains trading with the Asavean Archipelago continue to receive preferential treatment and Asavean merchants are, in turn, an increasingly common site in the Brass Coast and across Sarvos. The Temple of Balo and the Black Bull in Feroz continues to prosper. Reports from the Temple of the Seven Virtues in Nemoria are broadly positive, although there is some uncertainty about what to do about Asaveans seeking ordination as priests. More pressingly perhaps, the outbreak of war between the Plenum and two rebellious satrapies has seen Asaveans keen to recruit mercenaries to help them suppress armed insurrection. With the inquisition of the Asavean Architect Almodin Ostikis, and the questions around Leri Tarquinius and his white granite, there any number of threats to the stability of Asavean-Imperial relations have come to the fore this Summer Solstice.
Regardless, at the moment the Asaveans are keen to trade with the Empire. A consequence of the presence of so many merchants from the island republic has been an increase in the amount of tempest jade passing through the public auction. At the moment these merchants are very interested in securing healing herbs, especially bladeroot and marrowort - they are taking steps to secure supplies of these herbs wherever possible. Consequently the amount of these herbs being sent to Anvil has significantly declined. It remains to be seen if this enthusiasm for Imperial herbs continues.
Principalities of Jarm
- The southern port of Vezak will supply an additional crystal mana to each visiting ship.
- The eastern port of Rigia is closed to Imperial shipping.
- The mandate of the Imperial synod means Imperial fleet captains trading with Vezak or Kavor receive two fewer mana crystals.
The far western nation of Jarm continues to welcome Imperial captains - ironic in a way as Imperial captains are increasingly reticent to visit the Principalities and risk the censure of the Imperial Synod. Even more ironic, perhaps, is the news that the port of Rigia - the one the Synod sought to encourage virtuous captains to favour - remains closed. The news from the eastern alliance is that the damage to the docks was more significant than was initially believed, and it has simply proved impossible to reopen the quayside this season. Perhaps after the Autumn Equinox the repairs will be completed.
A new embassy has been established in Vezak, with the aid of Lord-Magister Anton Trescher of the Hidden Hook.
(Note: Even though the port at Rigia is currently closed, the Synod mandate discouraging trade with Vezak and Kavor still stands. Imperial captains trading with either of these ports receive two fewer crystal mana than they might normally expect.)
During the Winter Solstice, a representative of Magician-Prince Matvei Kobarid visited Anvil to explore the possibility of selling enchanted jewelry to Imperial magicians. Kobarid is well-known among the Principalities for its fine jewelry - in particular they are known for crafting the glazamy neba. These "star jewels" are talismans keyed to the constellations used by skilled Jarmish magicians to wield incantations more frequently, often on the battlefield. Such magic jewelry is not cheap, and even in Jarm the secrets of their manufacture are closely guarded. Their representative having clearly enjoyed the hospitality of Cesare Sanguineo Rezia Di Tassato, the Kobarid have decided to pursue further opportunities with the Empire. As such, they have approached the civil service for advice on how to proceed.
|450 rings||Firebird Jewel||Cast heal|
|450 rings||Jewel of the White Palm||Cast purify|
|450 rings||Jewel of the Cup||Cast empower|
|450 rings||Mountain Jewel||Cast repel|
|900 rings||Jewel of the Red Queen||Swift cast heal|
|900 rings||Fate's Jewel||Cast shatter|
The Kobarid are proposing a fortified exchange patterned after the famous Mana Exchange in Tassato. Such a structure would require 8 wains of white granite and 4 wains of mithril (to secure the vault), and 24 crowns in labour. It would also require a senate motion, and count against the seasonal limit of commissions. It would take three months to complete and once it was finished someone would need to be appointed to serve as liaison to the Kobarid. While the Jarmish would sell their jewelry directly to those who could afford it, the liaison would have the ability to purchase up to three pieces of their rare magical jewelry each season at a bargain price. The liason could be appointed by any number of means but the most likely would be open auction on the Imperial Bourse, or appointment by declaration of the Conclave.
The enchanted jewelry is not cheap, but is unique in the Empire - Imperial artisans have nothing comparable to offer - so in theory it represents a unique opportunity to make a profit. The Kobarid also know how to create other star jewels, and might be prepared to offer one that aligns with a specific spell for sale if requested by their liaison. There might also in theory be a possibility of allowing Imperial artisans to learn how to make some of the lesser jewels - but this would require at least a year of profitable business with the Empire.
The Imperial Ambassador to Jarm, Oswi Twiceburned, may have more information about the Kobarid and their offer. The Jarmish magicians have placed a hard deadline on their offer of the end of the Autumn Equinox - if the Empire is not interested they will look elsewhere for a chance to secure a new market for both their magical and mundane jewelry.
Each star jewel is a talisman that allows the character who is bonded to it to cast (or in some cases swift cast) a specific spell three times each day without expending any mana. The character must already know the appropriate spell to be able to use the jewel - although in theory it could be combined with an item such as an Acolyte's Mercy that grants the ability to cast a specific spell as if you knew it. Each takes the form of a piece of jewelry, usually worn in the wrist or hand, in a Jarmish style set with several carefully selected pieces of tempest jade.
- The completion of the south-west road network brings increased prosperity to Segura territory.
- The number of Faraden merchants visiting the Empire continues to rise.
The completion of the new road network in Segura, linking Anduz to Tassato via Siroc in Madruga has seen a further increase in the number of Faraden merchants visiting the Empire. The new roads have brought prosperity to Segura, and the new influx of merchants has in turn brought more wealth into Madruga. The road network connects with the Blood Red Roads at Madruga, but an additional road connection Siroc to Calvos that cuts across the territory, rather than following the coast, has also been constructed for the use of the notoriously sea-averse Faraden.
The Faraden are now exploring the trade opportunities offered by every corner of the Empire. They remain enthusiastic about trade enclaves similar to Moonwater Hall built in in Volodmartz (Triosk most likely), and central Astolat (Laroc and Oldheart would be ideal) allowing them easy access to Varushkan timber and ore, and to Dawnish luxuries. So far, there has been no movement on these enclaves - the newly appointed Ambassador to Faraden is likely to know more once they are appointed and receive their briefing from the Secretary to the Diplomatic Corps.
The presence of so many Faraden traders, especially in the western Empire, continues to increase the amount of orichalcum and weltsilver on the public auction. There also seems to be continuing interest in auctioning mithril to Imperial citizens, organised through the Bourse. The decimation of the iridescent butterfly in Faraden means they continue to be very interested in purchasing large amounts of Iridescent Gloaming, reducing the amount available through the public auction.
Citadels of Axos
- Axos remains friendly to the Empire.
Relations with the eastern nation of Axos remain positive. Imperial captains visiting the Towers of Kantor continue to receive a warm welcome. Indeed there are so many Imperial captains in Axos at the moment it has begun to become a source of humour - that there are more Imperial sailors in Axos than there are in the Empire. Not every Axou citadel welcomes the Empire of course - the citizens of the Chambers of Issyk continue to ascribe sinister motives to the Imperial captains visiting Kantor. Very few Axou are listening to them however.
Imperial captains also comment on an increasing number of Commonwealth ships, and merchants from the Sarcophan Delves, on the docks at Kantor. There is even talk of a new dock exclusively for the use of Sarcophan vessels, given that the existing quayside simply cannot cope with the demand from foreign vessels wishing to make a berth there. It is likely that the Ambassador to Axos Tarquinius of Ankarien may know more.
The Axou are keen to see a land route between their Citadels and the spires of eastern Urizen. The spy network that the Empire has recently completed in the Mountains of the Moon is of particular interest to them. Axos has offered to dispatch five hundred Agema and Toxatai scouts to support Imperial efforts to map the territory, but the matter is somewhat sensitive. If the Axou are allowed to support the spy network, they will share the intelligence gathered with the Empire but Imperial scouts will in turn share information with them.
As such, it will require a vote by the Imperial Military Council or the Imperial Senate to grant permission to the Axou to send their troops to assist the Imperial scouts in the Mountains of the Moon. In the absence of such an invitation, they will not be permitted to support the spy network. Such collaboration should make it easier to map the territory but of course it also means that they will also gain the same maps that the Empire receives.
- The port of Robec remains open to the Empire
The troops belonging to the Duke of Kalino have returned south across the border out of Feroz, now that the slave rebellion has been decisively crushed. Almost immediately, however, further demands come from the Suranni. They are deeply concerned that Imperial liao is being smuggled through Feroz into the Iron Confederacy - a substance that is quite illegal within the borders of the nation. There is also extensive concern about Imperial ships spying on the Confederacy - the recent effort to map the Bay has ruffled feathers all along the Iron Confederacy's western coast.
As regards the former, the Suranni are demanding that the Empire shut this operation down or face the consequences. There is also talk of reparations for the invasion of Confederacy coastal waters. The Ambassador to the Iron Confederacy Zadkiel de Coeurdefer will have received more information in his briefing from the civil service, as the demands have come directly through his office rather than from the Duke of Kalino.
Relations with the Commonwealth have not deteriorated, but neither have they improved particularly. There is one ray of light however - the Commonwealth is aware of plans to arrange a summit to discuss an international effort against nations that embrace slavery, and is keen to send representatives to attend. They anticipate that the Autumn Equinox would likely be an excellent time for such a summit, and are prepared to use whatever influence they have to get both Sumaah Republic and Sarcophan Delves to participate, should the Empire decide to go ahead.
- Situation continues normal
The completion of the warehouses in Necropolis have seen more Sarcophan merchants in Highguard particularly. Representatives of a powerful guild of herbalists and apothecaries in the Delves, the Kruidenkenner are keen to explore the new markets for their product that have opened to them with the construction of their trading enclave in Highguard.
Discontent continues with regard to the agreement between the Sarcophan and the Grendel, but with the current magics protecting Imperial ships that discontent is muted. The Sarcophan appear quite interested in how the Empire has secured such a powerful, and valuable, effect and are certain to be making enquiries of the Ambassador to the Sarcophan Delves, Thanmir Hrafnar.
The Kuidenkenner have expressed an interest in selling some of their merchandise through the public auction in Anvil, during the coming summit. Several shipments of premium Imperial Roseweald have been secured with the Bourse already.
Situation in Cargo
- Three nations have an interest in aiding in the defence of Cargo
The Empire chose to take advantage of all three offers made by foreign nations to assist in the fortification of Cargo. The town, site of three embassies, is under immediate threat of Druj invasion. Using designs prepared by the Axos, and white granite imported from Sarcophan, and with the support of Jarmish ritual magic, the fortification there is already half completed. In another three months - assuming the remaining materials are sourced - the town will be positioned to put up a significant fight against any invading Druj force.
Demand for Liao
- Demand remains constant, maintaining the price once again to 18 rings a dose
Only two nations - the Empire and the Sumaah Republic - produce liao in any great quantity, and the Sumaah are loathe to allow too much of it to fall into the hands of heathens and heretics. There is a significant demand for the spiritual substance in a number of places, however. The temple of the Seven Virtues in Nemoria means that the novelty-seeking Asaveans are even more interested in acquiring the drug than usual. Several nations make use of the liao in their own spiritual rites - the Faraden and the Axou in particular. Others look to exploit the mild narcotic properties of liao, or to trade on its exotic reputation - merchants from the Sarcophan Delves in particular are keen to buy crates of the purple substance to sell to select markets abroad.
Yet the Empire's stock of liao is carefully regulated, distributed to congregations based on their size. With a few exceptions, the liao that is so much in demand must be purchased directly from Imperial priests. At the moment, any Imperial citizen who leads a congregation can sell their liao for 18 rings each dose, either to entrepreneurial Imperial traders or directly to foreign merchants.