"Why now?" Lumi looked at Päivä hopeful that the old crone would enlighten her. She had felt honoured when she was chosen to accompany the ancient mystic deep into the swamp but actually things had been pretty boring until she had managed to get the woman talking.

"Huh." Päivä's snort invited Lumi to respond but she knew this trick now and was not fooled. She kept her mouth shut and waited for the woman to continue.

"Might as well ask why it rains. Why does it snow one day and the sun shine the next? Who knows?" The old woman shrugged her shoulders and sighed theatrically. "Perhaps some questions are not meant to be answered? Perhaps some questions have no answers? Maybe the answer is less important than the question? Did you ever consider that?"

Lumi nodded her head slowly in what she hoped looked like a sage gesture of deep contemplation. "Maybe... some great hero... it could be their skein to die?" she said, speaking slowly to make herself sound wise.

"Huh-huh-huh" The old crone's body was wracked by shudders and Lumi feared she was going to fall. She stepped closer to prevent the woman sliding into the bog, before she realized the sound was laughter.

"Maybe it's because I took a shit in the swamp last night... Huh." The crone stopped mocking her and pulled up herself up to her full height using her walking staff. Well nearly full, the stick sank at least three inches into the mud Lumi noticed.

"Why must it always be about the biggest? The strongest. The most heroic? Are they the only ones whose stories we should hear?" She laughed again, swatted a fly against her face and then popped it into her mouth. "Every hero has a story. Every hero goes into the swamp... Hmph. Every hero but one."

"Surely there must be some explanation for it? Things don't just happen!"

The old crone pushed her hood back to stare into the young girl's eyes. Her skin was lined like old bark and one eye was white with a cataract but the other was bright and sharp and it fixed the girl in place. "Everyone always wants an explanation. Everyone wants a reason. Reasons are the noises that foxes make when they're mating."

"I thought it was the job of the mystic to explain things?" Lumi countered.

"Hah. Reasons kill mysticism. The job of the mystic is to ask questions."

They continued on their way then. Lumi had many more questions, but she was no longer certain that she wanted the answers.

Overview

The Imperial prognosticators have discovered a major conjunction - not so large as those used for battles, but enough to take the entirety of a single nation. The conjunction is set for late in the evening on the second night of the summit, but the civil service are unsure of the ramifications or context for the conjunction - as it opens into the heart of the great swamp, not far from the bridge that bears the name of Guthwulf of the Red Embrace, the last Wintermark egregore to fall in battle against the Jotun.

The civil service are still trying to identify some military or political significance to the conjunction, but thus far they have found nothing. The destination is far from the site of the Jotun armies in Stark. While it is theoretically possible that a small group of Jotun scouts might make it this far south without being spotted - perhaps from the forces left behind in the north-west - it is just not possible that the kind of force that would require the combined fighting strength of the Wintermark heroes to combat it. All attempts to use Day magic to divine some purpose for the conjunction have failed and so, somewhat reluctantly, the civil service have been forced to accept that the conjunction does not appear to military in nature.

However, more than a few Kallavesi mystics claim to know exactly what the conjunction is for. Although it has not happened in their lifetime, and likely will not again, the conjunction is intended to allow the great and the good of Wintermark to travel to the marsh at the summit to pay their respects to the dead interred there. They claim to have no easy explanation for why the conjunction has opened now; but open it will and the people of Wintermark will be there to greet it.

Pilgrimage

There is an opportunity for everyone from Wintermark to take part in a pilgrimage to the Kallavesa Marsh. A conjunction will open at the Sentinel Gate at 11 o'clock on Saturday night, large enough to allow the entire nation of Wintermark to travel through. This feat is achieved through the magic of the bonds of the egregore, so characters of other nations will not be able to accompany them (though a single entire nation could in theory go in their stead). (OOC Note: Please do not e-mail in asking for an exception to be made; the Sentinel Gate simply will not allow people from more than one nation to use this conjunction.)

A handful of warriors and mystics of Masi, the traditional settlement of the Kallavesa marshes are making ready to receive the heroes of Wintermark. Once the host has arrived, they will perform a traditional song to sing to the spirits that rest in the marsh to ask them to prepare to accept more heroes to sleep among them.

Hopefully there will be none, but if the heroes of Anvil have the bodies of any who have fallen that they feel are worthy to inter in the marsh, then they should bring the bodies and their accoutrements with them when they travel through the gate. In addition any Wintermarker who wishes to remember the fallen may bring grave goods belonging to the slain or simply offerings with which to remember them.

It is typical for a scop or a friend of the slain to recite the greatest deeds of a hero when their body passes into the waters. Everyone who travels through the will have an opportunity to leave something to remember their slain by - but because the time for this conjunction is limited, there will simply not be enough time for everyone to speak. The Masi mystics suggest that the stormcrows should pick three heroes who have died in recent times whose deeds are most worthy and then three Wintermarkers to speak of their deeds. This will meet the demands of tradition, but still allow the assembled host to return to Anvil before the conjunction closes.

According to the oral records of the Masi, the last time such a major conjunction opened was during the reign of Emperor Guntherm. At that time the crows chose to inter two famous heroes of the Mark, Manni the Bold, one of the great Wintermark generals who had fallen in battle three years earlier and Ulf the Twice-Betrayed, a much-loved scop who had entered Sydanjaa the previous winter. Guntherm also chose an obscure mystic, Jussi the Grey-beard, for reasons that were never explained. There are no records of what happened when they reached the swamps, nothing was written down and the people who travelled there refused to speak of it to any outside the Mark.

The path of the hero is the path of the Virtuous. The exemplars of the Empire are the heroes we seek to emulate, and the greatest of heroes are paragons.

Wintermark National Assembly, 381YE Winter Solstice, Gunnbrand Ironwill, Upheld 219 - 14

Inspiration

According to legend there are more Wintermark heroes interred in the swamps of Kallavesa than there are stars in the sky. Many of the names have been lost to history but many endure to inspire the scions of the storm. Empress Britta lies here, though Emperor Guntherm and Empress Mariika do not. In addition to these important historical figures, two great Imperial legends, the exemplar Inga Tarn and the paragon Isenbrad are both known to have been interred here.

Despite this - or perhaps because of it - neither of these legends possess an inspirational tomb. The pilgrimage represents an opportunity to right that wrong. If the heroes of the Mark can obtain a dose of true liao, they could use it to create a powerful permanent consecration in the heart of the marsh. Of course there is no body to inter in a tomb, but it is always possible to commission a structure of white granite and weirwood to serve as a place of memorial for the faithful after the pilgrimage is complete.

Regardless of any commission, the primary impact will come from the use of the true liao. If the precious substance is used to consecrate the grove at the heart of the marshes to Pride, it will serve as a reminder of their oldest traditions to every citizen of the Mark. That this is the land of heroes, that a hero has a name, and that their story ends with a good death.

The resulting upsurge in pride and heroism will affect every citizen in the Mark and will permanently lift people's spirits. It has never sat right with some Wintermark folk that Emperor Guntherm's body lies in state in Bastion, instead of returning to the swamp. People of the Mark rarely give voice to the complaint but there is a sense sometimes that the orthodoxy of the Way has supplanted the mystical Wintermark traditions of reverence for their heroic ancestors that have existed for hundreds of years before the Way came to these lands. A powerful permanent aura of Pride would show that Wintermark remembers its past and that her oldest practices are still valid.

If the Wintermark nation are able to consecrate to Pride the site of the pilgrimage with a dose of true liao, then the ability of the entire Wintermark nation to support armies will be increased to four. This effect will be permanent - or at least for as long as the aura endures. The warriors of the Masi would protect the aura, it could only be lost if the entire Kallavesa Marsh region were conquered by an enemy that chose to despoil the aura.

The path of the hero is the path of the Virtuous. The Exemplars of the Empire are the heroes we seek to emulate, and the greatest of heroes are Paragons.

Gunnbrand Ironwill, Wintermark Assembly. Winter 381YE, Upheld with a greater majority 219 - 14

Heroism

The people of Wintermark admire heroism and believe that it speeds the passage of the dead through the Labyrinth of Ages. Although heroism is not one of the seven Virtues, the Winterfolk have argued since the beginning of the Way that acts of heroism encompass any or all of them to some extent. Many of these ideals seem to be shared with their orc neighbours to the west. The Jotun and the people of Wintermark have faced each other in battle for as long as anyone can remember. They have even fought beside Wintermark in the past - in the reign of Emperor Guntherm warriors from the two nations joined forces for a short time to fight the Thule, for example.

Since the Mourne, however, things have been different. There is something in the air, something threatening. A road has been chosen that cannot easily be unchosen, say the mystics. Wintermark warriors used to fight the Jotun as heroes - not as butchers - and the Jotun would return the respect the Wintermark warriors showed them. Those days may have gone beyond salvaging... or perhaps not.

During the Autumn Equinox 381YE, Gunnbrand Ironwill was sent by the National Assembly to urge the warriors of Wintermark to face the Jotun on the battlefield as heroes, to strive with every sinew for victory, not for slaughter. To let the grimnir of either side treat their fallen. A clear sign sent to the Jotun that the people of Wintermark are their equals in heroism. As it stood, the effects of that mandate would persist only for a year. But the reminder from Gunnbrand in the National Assembly that the path of the hero is the path of virtue has helped strengthen that resolve to fight as heroes.

We do not compromise even with ourselves. The mantle of the hero is not easily shrugged on and off again, it is a quality of the soul that endures beyond life. We send X with 50 doses of liao to remind all the people of Wintermark of the path that we all walk.

Synod Mandate, Wintermark National Assembly

If the Wintermark Assembly passes this mandate then the effect of the current mandate will become permanent for the foreseeable future. Any Wintermark army that fights the Jotun will gain 10% more victory points but inflict 20% less casualties. The change of tactics that ensures this reduction of casualties will be apparent to everyone present in the territory where the campaign takes place. This represents the warriors of Wintermark choosing to fight the Jotun as equals in honour.

In addition, the warriors of Wintermark will look to their history for lessons on how to comport themselves. As a result, whoever is general of the Fist of the Mountains and the Green Shield will receive a single opportunity at the following summit to update the quality of their army to better reflect the heroic legacy of the three peoples of Wintermark.

Accessibility

Accessibility guidance for the conjunction is available below. Please be aware that this information may contain possible spoilers.

CategoryStatus
Combat Unlikely or Contained May use the non-contact gesture as needed. Comes with same risk as if in Anvil; any combat will be in a contained area that is easily avoided both IC and OOC.
Walking You will need to travel a couple of hundred yards to the start of the encounter, but once started it is designed to take place in a reasonably contained area.
Light Encounter takes place late at night and will be poorly illuminated.
Smoke Encounter will include significant use of smoke as an essential component of the encounter.
Mobility Encounter takes place in the woods which can be difficult underfoot with rough terrain and other obstacles.
Accomodations Possible If you wish to partake in the encounter but the combination of poor light, distance and mobility will make that a challenge, please talk to us well beforehand. We will try to arrange for you to travel earlier than the other players, by a separate route with better illumination.

Resolution

Gunnbrand Ironwill was dispatched by the Wintermark assembly with 50 doses of liao to urge the people of Wintermark to embrace heroism.