Death of a salesman
So his chances of the big time were over. His career was going nowhere. He leaned back, basking in the luxurious comfort of the cushions of Parador of the Saffron Sails and grinned like a Grendel with a salt stick.
He remembered when he and his brother had joined the service - dreaming of a life in Anvil - the politics - serving The Throne. Maybe he'd make Speaker! He'd been to Anvil just twice and frankly it was a lot less impressive and a lot less comfortable than he'd imagined. So now he was stuck in this dead-end post spending his time in the private residences of the wealthiest people in the Empire - haggling for family heirlooms... He picked up his cup and congratulated himself on the tragedy of his life as he sipped the exquisite syrah. He considered himself something of a connoisseur of the drink - and the Saffron Sails made the best.
"So I'm sorry Yevgeny, but the deal is done. The Axou black robe paid a fine price for it - and bought my entire stock of liao at the same time. I would have preferred to sell it through the auction - such a powerful relic of the Empress Richilde should really have stayed in the Empire. But the money..."
Yevgeny sat bolt upright, a cold shiver running down his spine. After the disappointment with the Carta Raisa in Tassato and then the rejection in Meade. Now this... he'd been relying on this. The Daeros always had something worth buying. "Surely you could have held out for more Inez, I don't know what the Axou paid but it can't compare with the returns from the Bourse auction!"
Iñes i Daero i Riqueza stared at Yevgeny. She liked the Varushkan, even if he did put two lumps of sugar in his Syrah so it tasted like a child's syrup drink. But bless him, he really wasn't the sharpest knife. She closed her eyes and contemplated telling him what he wanted to hear... but lying split your soul they said. She took a deep breath, summoned her courage and began to explain to the civil servant why it wasn't going to be worth his time coming back this way. That when the bidders in an auction risk excommunication... that has certain knock on consequences for the reputation of that auction house...
For an auction house to be successful - it has to have the confidence and trust of the vendors - people only use the house if they have faith that it will fetch a good price. The reputation of the Bourse private auction has suffered dramatically in recent years. There was the notable incident recently with the Marcher friar publicly railing against the Bourse, but the truth is that it has been in trouble for years. Despite the huge profits made by members of the Bourse, the returns on items have been poor. The recent excommunication of the owners of the Pledge was the final nail in the coffin, but there were rumours for years of a cartel to keep prices low.
Everywhere the acquirers go the answer is the same... the citizens of the Empire are happy to sell their common goods in the public auction - but anyone who has rare or exotic items to sell is looking elsewhere for a buyer.
The acquirers who work for the civil service finding items to sell in the private auction have returned empty handed. The number of lots had dropped in recent times - but it has now stopped completely. As a result the civil service had had to announce that at the coming summit there will be no private auction.
The civil service have spent some time looking at ways that the situation might be addressed at the coming summit, but thus far they have come up with nothing. The reputation of the auction house for delivering the best price for rare items has been irrevocably damaged. It is not unthinkable that the trust might be restored, nothing is impossible, but the civil service are unable to identify any steps that could help. Most of the civil servants responsible for acquiring objects for the auction have been assigned to other departments within the Imperial Bourse.
Fortunately the loss of the private auction has caused now opportunities to flower. People still have rare items to sell - they are just no longer interested in doing so through the private auction...
With the end of the private auction, a number of citizens are looking to arrange to sell their own items. Iñes i Daero i Riqueza of the Saffron Sails is sending agents to Anvil to arrange the sale of an ancient heirloom for a family friend, the dhomiro of the Martinez i Guerras. She has posted notices to the effect that they are looking to hold an auction for the relic in the Freeborn camp at 4pm on Saturday. The precise location is still to be determined - presumably if there is a sufficiently large tent available they will look to hire it - otherwise the auction will probably take place at the centre of the camp.
The lot for sale is a piece of wood, though not just any piece of wood. Though it may look like many that wash ashore on the coasts of the Empire – it is its provenance and well-recorded history that give it its significance. The ill-fated fleet of Emperor Barabbas set sail in 199YE, on its maiden campaign against the Grendel. Destroyed by a great storm – possibly the work of Grendel sorcery – only a handful of ships return, and in the modern day only one remains afloat. However, this piece of wood is believed to be a fragment of a ship of that fleet. More than that – a fragment of Barabbas's flagship itself.
Legend tells that the flagship was attacked at the height of the storm by an enormous kraken. Whatever the truth, this wood was found a day or so later by one of the surviving ships of the fleet, a small vessel belonging to a band of Freeborn corsairs of the Martinez i Guerra family.
Pilgrims of Ambition who had been stalwart supporters of Barabbas, they had the piece of wood hallowed in memory of a man who reached for the sun - “for even when it burns you, is not the fire sweet” is a saying passed down in the family. The wood has been continuously hallowed ever since that time – there are clear records of that fact, which can be provided on request, and the testimony of multiple members of the Martinez i Guerra family through the generations. It is perhaps one of the oldest continuously hallowed items known.
It sadly comes to auction now because the Martinez i Guerras have fallen upon hard times. The decision to sell this precious family heirloom has not come lightly – but it is a historical relic the value of which cannot be overstated.
Of course it is no secret that the dhomiro could have sold the item through the private auction. The fact that Iñes i Daero has chosen to handle this auction herself is probably something of a deliberate snub to the civil service. It is possible that this auction is a one-off - but the Saffron Sails are known to deal in rare items though they have never come to Anvil to sell them directly before. If they are able to get a good price for the relic it seems likely that they will return in the future with more items to sell.
There has been some excitement recently at the Torfast Trading Post with the discovery of a peculiar white tablet in a pouch. Apparently it was recently found by an orc who was hunting a boar in the Crow's Ridge area of Skarsind. There was some argument over whether the orc should have been in the area, he was apparently forced to abandon the hunt by angry Winterfolk who drove him off - but he was able to keep hold of his find and bring to the trading post. At the post he sold the tablet to an Imperial Orc bonesetter called Whed, apparently the two were former comrades who fought together in the Summer Storm and he refused to consider selling it to anyone else.
The item (a hinged white tablet) is being auctioned together with the writing case, pen and letters it was found with. These appear to be correspondence between a Kallavesi mystic and Thule from Neeyukir, discussing the question of how to find out more about the past and containing several references to the eternal Phaleron and the Attendants of the Great Library. The letters are dated 160YE.
Whed has decided to come to Anvil to try and find a buyer for the item. His intention is to locate Sunhammer Krag, the current overseer of the trading post and ask the orc to help find a buyer for the item. The bonesetter has little experience of Anvil and is dependent on Krag and others to help him get the best possible price for the item. He expects to arrive some time towards the evening on the Saturday.
Word has been sent by a herald of Basileus Flint, the lord of the City of Locks, that he wishes to sell the services of a unit of spies. Espionage and treachery are the meat and drink of the City of Locks, so its master is offering the chance to borrow - well to hire really - the service of the Shrouded for two seasons.
The Shrouded are minor servants of the City of Locks, but they are skilled spies able to move easily between the realm and the world - which makes them highly effective spies. Whoever hires the Shrouded will be able to send word somehow to the Patron of Spies and Traitors to choose a territory that they know the name of. The Shrouded will provide a report of activities in those territories next summit, of a quality equivalent to that produced by five units of men-at-arms assigned to a spy network.
Flint is known to have a mortal agent in the Empire - who will presumably be tasked with dealing with some of the details of the hire and subsequent communication. Flint has asked the civil service to help facilitate an auction to take place after the Imperial Conclave session on the Saturday night. Payment will be accepted in mana crystals or Autumn vis.
There is just one small issue - in the spirit of an honest and fair transaction - Flint wishes to be clear that he has already offered the Shrouded to the Grendel for the two seasons - their bid (which is sealed) will form the floor for the auction.
A group of traders called the Red Maggots have recently acquired a deserted estate half-sunk into the West Marsh, a remote reach of Kallavesa. The structure is distinctly different in the style of its construction from the stilt-houses and wooden thane-halls of the region. Its sodden, tumbled stones scarcely call to mind the architecture of any of the Winterfolk at all. Among the collapsed buildings, a fertile garden of herbs and rare, exotic plants has erupted from once well-tended borders and overrun much of the estate's still-dry land; a rich crop could be harvested here.
Stranger still, though, are the dark blooms of Realmsroot that can be found scattered throughout the garden. Civil Service assessors report that the plants are in various stages of their six-year life-cycle, so a vigilant herbalist could continually gather a small but not insignificant number of roots every season.
According to the civil service records, the estate was owned by a Navarr Thorn called Hywel who was originally a refugee from Liathaven. Hywel pawned the estate to the Red Maggots when he rejoined the Imperial army to fight there. As he was numbered among the fallen, the site is now the property of the Maggots. Records before this are sketchy, but an eagle-eyed administrator managed to locate a writ assigning the land to one Anja Oksanen in 202 YE, and that she had significant amounts of both white granite and weirwood shipped to the location. After this, the estate and its garden simply drop off official documents.
Since the site is of primary interest to a Wintermarker, the Maggots are looking to sell the land in the Wintermark camp at 6pm on Saturday at the next summit. Whoever acquires the garden and its estate will gain both its herbal bounty and a regular crop of Realmsroot.
There are rumours spreading through West Marsh that the strange location is not safe, and that the magical energies that have stirred the Realmsroot to bloom flow from nearby regios of Winter or Night. Bleak, cold woods rise from the marsh near the estate. There are some fanciful claims of twisted shapes flitting amongst their trunks, and the glint of hungry eyes in the dark. It is unlikely that any of this is true - most people in Wintermark despise maggots. The Red Maggots seem to revel in that reputation and so few people have anything good to say about them when they are about their business selling things.
The Black Garden is a level 3 herb garden personal resource located in Kallavesa. Instead of its upgrades producing more of one of the standard herbs, however, the Black Garden uniquely produces Realmsroot instead. As part of its production, the garden grants the owner four doses of Realmsroot each season. Any further upgrades would produce regular herbs selected as normal. Of course, if the garden is not operated by someone from Wintermark, this production will be reduced as usual.
The Heirs of Lepidus are a group of stewards of the dead dedicated to finding and recovering records of exemplars and paragons. The Heirs have recently completed a significant piece of work - working with the School of Epistemology in Tassato to recover and collate the information on Berechiah, an exemplar of Vigilance. Berechiah was a controversial figure and the Heirs have dedicated many hours to gathering and pouring through all the available records to ensure that they had the details of his life correct.
Now that the work is complete, the Heirs are keen to continue their work, but their funds are limited. After some discussion, the Heirs have concluded that they should approach the benefactors of Highguard see if they will consider supporting their work. To facilitate this, they have written to Escon, who was Ehud, part of the egregore of Highguard and formerly a benefactor himself, to see if he will arrange a meeting. As a consequence, Escon has requested Highborn citizens with money - farmers, business owners, Bourse seat holders, and benefactors - to come to council at 5pm on Saturday in the Highborn camp. The Heirs of Lepidus will be able to address them there and see if they can convince them of the virtue of their undertaking.
Ironically, having announced the benefactors' council, Escon was quickly contacted by another Highborn group. The artisans of Esther's Forge are a small group of artisans whose chapter house is near Necropolis. Having heard that Escon had called the benefactors together, the artisans have requested the chance to address the council to see if they can persuade them to invest in the work being carried out by the Forge.
Escon has agreed to the requests - though he has reminded both groups that his only power is ask people to attend. Any Highborn who has wealth that they might invest in the virtue and prosperity of Highguard should seek out Escon for details of where the meeting will take place.
We have take the decision to cut the Bourse private auction for the time being. The auction was a massive investment of time and energy by various plot writers and having examined the concept at great length over winter, we have become convinced that we should try to see if we can't get a lot more plot and game by investing that time elsewhere. Some of those ideas are being trialled in this and other winds of fortune. If they work well and create game then we'll put our efforts into more plot of this kind in the future.