Gorislav could not remember a time he had seen a group of miners who looked so exhausted. Two of them were practically carrying their friend between them. All were dark eyed, dull faced, shuffling like the unliving dead. The last in line, the foreman, dragged her pick behind her. The stone sparked where the axe touched it, and the dull metal scored a furrow through the granite. Gorislav couldn't take his eyes off it. He also couldn't get over the idea that when he had seen these people, six hours ago, they had been bright-eyed, fresh-faced, and laughing about the fact they were receiving full pay for a short shift.

Timinova came running over, looking a little wild around the eyes.

"There's... there's another cart coming," she said, unable to contain her excitement.

"That's... how many? No, I mean how much actual ore?"

"I've not checked the purity yet," said Timinova, although they both knew that would not be an issue. "But I can tell you that by volume it's the same amount that the entire twilight shift produced on a full schedule."

Gorislav chewed his moustaches, and turned to look at the herald. Pickwielder's four arms were all in motion, in a way the overseer still found unsettling, as it carefully retrieved the oddly whorled picks and shovels from the exhausted miners. None of them argued. They just wanted to get bathed and fed. He suspected some of them would skip the bath, and maybe the meal, and go straight to bed.

"How does it... how does it work?" asked Timinova haltlingly. She was staring at the herald as well. Gorislav idly noted that the whorls and curls on the green-armoured shell that completely encased the creature were a mirror of those that decorated the tools it was retrieving. He wondered if that was important, if it was part of the magic. He realised with a slight start that the things faceless head was angled toward him, even as it collected the last of the tools, without looking.

"I don't know how it works," he admitted finally. "But I do know one thing."

Pickwielder sequestered the last of the enchanted tools about its person and became completely still. The only part of it moving was the heavy green cloak that hung down its back, shifting gentle in the wind.

"I know that we are going to be rich, Timinova. And I'm not talking 'hard working rich', or 'rich, considering' rich I'm talking 'rich for Varushka' rich."
The roads are the only safe way to pass through the wilderness between the vales, but the completion of the Iron Roads opens up any number of new trade opportunities.


Autumn magic isn't the only thing encouraging trade along the roads of Varushka. The completion of the Iron Roads has provided new opportunities for even the more isolated vales to trade with partners across the nation. A statement of principle raised by Witold Stefanovic Petrov and upheld by the National Assembly has encouraged everyone to do just that, and it could not have come at a better time.

Thanks to the existence of the Blood Red Roads and the Northern trade network, there are also plenty of opportunities to trade with the other Imperial nations as well. While there has been a rise in depredations by the monsters that lurk in the darkest places, there are also plenty of wardens, schlacta, sell-swords, and even foreign mercenaries and adventure seekers prepared to ensure people get where they want to go without being eaten, having their blood sucked out of them, losing all their memories, or becoming infested with tiny screaming worms.

The Karov Mercer's Compact encourage loyal citizens to engage in trade, barter, and exchange with their fellow Varushkans to ensure the growth of Prosperity within the nation. This virtuous endeavour will fill all with pride and encourage further ambitions.

Witold Stefanovic Petrov, Spring Equinox 385YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 282-0)

Wealth of Varushka

  • Opportunities exist to further enhance the Eternal Shafts of Time and the Granites of Veltsgorsk

One of the impacts of the Iron Roads has been to improve access to, and consequently production of, the four Bourse Seats in Varushka. The Eternal Shafts of Time, the Hunt of Alderei the Fair, the Granites of Veltsgorsk, and the Night Quarry have all seen the number of wains they can produce each season increased for as long as the roads remain open. This increased access, coupled with the emphasis on trade, and the burgeoning Pride of the Varushkan people in their growing wealth, presents a further opportunity to improve some of these resources.

Specifically, with the backing of Oksana Lyava Pinavora and her associates, plans have been put forward to draw even more wealth from the Granites of Veltsgorsk and the Eternal Shafts of Time. It's no coincidence that these plans only include the two Bourse Seats controlled by the Varushkans; while she hasn't come out and said it directly there are plenty of hints that similar plans exist for the Hunt and the Quarry... but while they remain Imperial resources the Varushkan association has no interest in sharing them.

Eternal Shafts of Time

Forge of Hours
Commission Type: Folly
Location: Corota, Karov
Cost: 10 white granite, 30 crowns, three months to complete
Effect:Establishes a ministry allowing the holder of the Eternal Shafts of Time to purchase additional mithril
Opportunity: This commission has required elements; if any are not all fulfilled the commission does nothing
  • With the aid of a volhov, a herald of Estavus has shared a secret of using the Eternal Shafts of Time to their best potential
  • A special forge, using white granite, would be built at the Shafts
  • This would allow the owner of the Shafts to spend money to gain additional mithril
  • The additional mithril would cease to be available if Estavus were placed under enmity by the Imperial Conclave

The Eternal Shafts of Time have always been a mystery, albeit a profitable one. Located in the mountains near Vorota in Karov, they were old long before the Empire was born and common belief is that they were once worked by creatures neither human nor orc who have long since disappeared from the world. Time often seems to run oddly here, and workers claim that some days simply run longer than others. The output of the mines seems to support these claims. The heralds of the Autumn eternals Ephisis and Estavus appear to know more but all they would say previously is that "the bargain has not yet run its course so it would be inappropriate to discuss it."

That seems to have changed with the casting of Bounty of the Brilliant Broker. A herald of Estavus names Pickwielder appeared at the Shafts a few months ago apparently at the invitation of a volhov named Piotr Ponyvero Pinavorich - the vagabond younger brother of Oksana Lyava Pinavora. After a great deal of discussion with the mine foremen and the workers, the stone-skinned herald acknowledged that its mistress was prepared to share the secrets of taking full advantage of the mine's peculiar aura with the Varushkans. When asked what had happened to change the mind of the Forgemistress, Pickwielder said only that "one bargain does not automatically by its nature invalidate another" and would be drawn no further.

The herald's proposals require the miners be equipped with specially designed tools that will apparently allow them to attune themselves to the aura and do more work for the same expenditure of energy. These tools need to be partially infused with magical materials, and Pickwielder insists that they must be constructed on-site. This means building a special forge; Pickwielder is very clear that the most important part will be "a solid foundation of white granite, the weight of which will keep the hours slow and contained." What this means is anyone's guess but the herald is adamant. "Perhaps the Reckoner of Hours could find an easier way to build this, but they are no more and so we must do this the slow way."

Once complete, the forge will allow Pickwielder to oversee the construction of the tools - and after some questioning he admits that he could not remain if the Conclave were to declare his mistress an enemy of the Empire. Although he dismisses that as a concern, it does mean the additional mithril would not be available to the Empire if that happened.

Timeless Pick Rhythm
72 crowns3 wains of mithril
168 crowns6 wains of mithril
288 crowns9 wains of mithril
432 crowns12 wains of mithril

There is one other odd challenge to overcome. As with the well-known enchantment Timeless Hammer Rhythm, anyone who works in the mine with the specially prepared tools will find themselves exhausted, famished, and dehydrated once they actually stop working. If they don't take regular breaks, they might even accidentally work themselves to death! Pickwielder doesn't see this as a problem, but the miners prepared to risk using the magic tools and the strange aura demand premium rates. Coupled with the cost to make the special tools, this means that if the holder of the Eternal Shafts of Time wants to take advantage of the opportunity, they will need to pay well for doing so - effectively making this a ministry.

A few people express concerns about this arrangement. Few can explain The Bronze Artisan's motivates - why is Estavus is suddenly keen to help the Varushkans out now? Others shrug and point out that making deals with "dark inhuman powers" does not always have to mean sovereigns.

Granites of Veltsgorsk

Inn of the Granite Stag
Commission Type: Folly
Location: Brez, Volodmartz
Cost: 10 weirwood, 30 crowns, three months to complete
Effect: Establishes a ministry allowing the holder of the Granites of Veltsgorsk to purchase additional white granite
  • The Inn of the Granite Stag could be established in Veltsgorsk at the base of the mountains of Brez
  • Employing the best storytellers would allow the owner of the Bourse seat to use money to get more white granite

The mountains of Brez are known to be home to dark spirits and it has long been suspected that something awful lurks in or around the great quarry of Veltsgorsk. The white granite cut from the foothills here is sometimes streaked with pink quartz and storytellers claim it is steeped in the blood of all those who have died fighting over Volodmartz in the past. It is common practice for the overseers to engage the services of a storyteller to work alongside the labourers here, calling out tales of the Varushkan heroes whose blood is said to suffuse the granite. As each block is raised, the cry of "Remember!" will reverberate around the mountains.

While some claim the practice is a waste of money, and a distraction for the workers, there is some evidence that whenever a storyteller is not engaged, accidents among the workforce increase tenfold. Some volhov who visit the quarry claim that the presence of the storyteller, and the reverence for the past, helps to propitiate whatever malign force is associated with the quarry. Yet recently some volhov have noticed that relying on a single storyteller, with a limited repertoire of stories, seems to become less and less effective at fending off misfortune as time goes by.

In the past, the overseers have made do with whatever storytellers they could engage, very much on an ad hoc basis. The Granites lie at the very northern edge of the Empire, and in the past it has required a certain amount of effort to reach them. Now the Iron Roads make it significantly easier to get here, and that presents a possibility. Reasoning that if a storyteller memorializing the dead heroes of Varushka helps keep bad luck away, Oksana and friends propose that the better the storyteller, and the more fitting their tales, the easier it is to get granite out of the mountains. They propose that a specific building be built and set aside for visiting storytellers, one with suitably comfortable apartments as well as a small library to store tales of Varushkan heroes. More storytellers, and more stories, would provide the opportunity to work faster, to risk delving deeper, and to make more profit.

Storytellers and Miners
72 crowns3 wains of white granite
168 crowns6 wains of white granite
288 crowns9 wains of white granite
432 crowns12 wains of white granite

The Inn of the Granite Stag would require 10 wains of weirwood, 20 crowns, and take three months to complete. Once it was finished, it would allow the Bourse Seat to engage the services of the best storytellers in the nation, as well as beginning to build an archive containing tales of the heroes of Varushka, allowing more miners to be employed and more granite to be safely extracted. This would allow the owner of the Granites to spend money to gain extra wains each season.

Unlimited Opportunities

There is no time limit on these two opportunities to improve the Eternal Shafts of Time and the Granites of Veltsgorsk, and they remain accessible until the situation changes significantly. One change that might have an impact here would be the Imperial Conclave declaring enmity against Estavus - the eternal would retract their offer of aid if she were considered an enemy of the Empire. In that case however it might be possible to negotiate a similar arrangement with Ephisis whose former Reckoner of Hours had a particular affinity for time.

Boyar of the Iron Roads

Offices of the Iron Road
Commission Type: Folly
Location: Varushka (Special)
Cost: 30 wains of white granite, 30 wains of mithril, 15 thrones, six months to complete
Effect: Establishes the Boyar of the Iron Roads
  • There is enthusiasm for a Boyar of the Iron Roads, a Varushkan selected to maintain the roads and improve trade throughout the nation
  • Offices would be established in settlements attached to the roads in each territory
  • The Boyar of the Iron Roads would be able to build ministries in Varushka that were appointed by Tally of the Votes

Like playing pieces slotting into place, the statement of principle of Witold Stefanovic Petrov, the mandates of Vaclav Mladenovich Kosti, and Amris Johan Merikovich, and Jared of the Suns of Couros, the Autumn enchantment, and the completion of the roads have all come at just the right time to encourage people across Varushka to think about trade and Prosperity. But also of Pride - Varushka prides itself on having the best miners and foresters in the Empire. More metal and measures come from Varushka than anywhere else, and people are justly proud of that. Yet there is a grumbling undercurrent that points out that Varushka is always having to look outside its borders when it comes to doing things everyone knows are for the best. This is particularly true when it comes to establishing trade between vales - the need for the Senate to specifically approve each little commission is seen as unnecessary red tape. The solution is the Boyar of the Iron Roads - a Varushkan specifically responsible not only for keeping the Iron Roads working well, but for increasing the Prosperity and Pride of the entire nation.

A Boyar traditionally looks after a single vale, but here the Varushkans would be choosing someone whose job was to look after the vital paths that ran between the vales. Five offices would need to be built, one in each of the five territories linked by the roads. They would need to be in settlements, attached to the Iron Roads, but which five were chosen would be a necessary detail selected by whoever raised the motion to build the offices.

Boyar of the Iron Roads
Title: Varushkan national position
Appointment: Annual; Tally of the Votes
Powers: Commission Ministry (via Senate Announcement)
Responsibilities: Maintain the Iron Roads, increase the Prosperity and Pride of Varushka

The Boyar of the Iron Roads would have a responsibility for ensuring the roads are well maintained and patrolled, and kept clear of monsters. This would involve recruiting a dedicated group of soldiers, the Schlacta of the Iron Roads, who would work with the adventurers currently performing the job on an ad hoc basis. The mithril and white granite needed to establish the "offices" would ensure there was somewhere for these schlacta to stay, and plenty of weapons for them to do their jobs.

More importantly, the Boyar would also be responsible for improving the Prosperity and Pride of Varushka. While they would have offices to help them with their duties, they would be expected to travel around the vales seeking opportunities to encourage trade between neighbours.

The Boyar of the Iron Roads would have the ability to announce a single commission each season that would not count against the limited number of commissions the Senate can create. It must be used to create a ministry in a Varushkan territory, as a national position appointed by Tally of the Votes by default. They would only be able to take advantage of opportunities that fit these exact criteria. The title would be appointed annually by the Tally of the Votes - by decision of Varushka's mine and forest owners.

The Metal of Triosk

Triosk Metal Exchange
Commission Type: Ministry
Location: Triosk, in Livardz, Volodmartz
Cost: 16 mithril, 6 thrones, three months to complete
Effect: Creates the title of Overseer of Veresk
Opportunity: This commission has required elements; if any are not all fulfilled the commission does nothing
The Eagle and Stag Exchange
Type: National position
Appointment: Annual appointment; Tally of the Votes by Varushkan mine and forest owners
Powers: Can purchase from the Mines of the Mountains ministry. Can upgrade a level one mine in Volodmartz the season they are appointed
Responsibilities: Protect the town of Triosk, and the Triosk Metal Exchange. Offer assistance, guidance, and mediation to the mine-owners of Volodmartz in particular, and the northern mountains in general; seek opportunities to build the prosperity of Volomartz
Wealth of the Mountains
7 crowns3 ingots each of green iron, orichalcum, tempest jade and weltsilver
17 crowns6 ingots each of green iron, orichalcum, tempest jade and weltsilver
30 crowns9 ingots each of green iron, orichalcum, tempest jade and weltsilver
60 crowns12 ingots each of green iron, orichalcum, tempest jade and weltsilver, and one ring of ilium
  • The Eagle and Stag Exchange require a commission, 16 wains of mithril, 6 thrones in labour costs, and three months to complete
  • Once complete this would create an Imperial title that has the power to purchase metals from across Varushka
  • This is an opportunity; there are several restrictions on where the commission may be built and the nature of the title it creates
  • This opportunity remains available until the end of the Autumn Equinox 385YE

For over a decade the town of Triosk in Volodmartz was at the frontier of the war with the Thule in Karsk. When peace was forged, the town settled down again, becoming something of a crossroads for travellers from the eastern vales, and from Karov to the south and Miekarova to the west. It was also a popular destination for miners and wagon raiders keen to find markets for the metals and minerals they extracted from the mountains of Brez and Opascari. Even before the completion of the Iron Roads it was a bustling, prosperous settlement. Now, however, with the wave of Prosperity breaking across Varushka, it has a chance to become something else.

The current boyar of Triosk is Sobiebor Uniewitov Nevlev, and while young they are known to possess a fierce Pride not only in the people of their vale, but in the strength of Varushka's miners. More than any other nation, claims Sobiebor, the miners of Varushka must face constant dangers. Not only from the earth they work, but from the dark creatures that call the cursed hills and mountain slopes their home. Inspired by the words of the National Assembly, Sobiebor has taken counsel with the wise ones not only from Triosk, but from vales across the northern regions. With their help he has drawn up designs that would see the derelict remains of the old barracks - no longer needed now that Karsk has been reclaimed - repurposed into the Eagle and Stag Exchange. The plan is to establish a market and exchange, similar to those growing up across the eastern territories, dedicated to supporting those involved in exploiting the boundless mineral wealth of Varushka. Given Triosk's central position, it could draw traders from across the nation eager to buy and sell iron and copper ore, stone, and ingots of the magical metals, as well as mine owners looking to recruit miners, or secure the finest-quality tools and building materials.

While the people of Triosk would handle the day-to-day running of the exchange, the boyar's Pride and Ambition demand more. Inspired by what he has heard of the Dhomiro of the Cinnabar Hills in far off Kahraman, Sobiebor proposes the establishment of the rather grandiose title of Eagle of Triosk, to help oversee the exchange. The title would possess three clear responsibilities; to protect the Eagle and Stag Exchange, and by extension the town of Triosk; to offer assistance, guidance, and mediation to the mine-owners of Volodmartz in particular, and the northern mountains in general; and to seek out other opportunities to build the prosperity of Volodmartz.

In addition to having access to a wealth of metals and minerals, establishment of the exchange and its clear emphasis on the Pride, Prosperity, and Ambition involved in mining would attract skilled miners to the region who would offer their support to newly established mine owners. Once each year, during the season when the title was elected, the Eagle of Triosk could nominate a mine somewhere in Varushka to receive the benefit of these skilled miners. That mine (provided it was a standard mine, rather than one with upgrades) would be upgraded to a rank 2 mine.

OOC Note: The newly elected (or re-elected) Eagle of Triosk would need to email into plot@profounddecisions.co.uk when elected with the CID of the owner of the mine to be upgraded that season. The workers of Veresk can only upgrade a mine to level 2.

Northern Prosperity

  • The prosperity of Varushka sends ripples through the Northern Trade Network
  • Each of the non-Varushkan ministries has additional opportunities to purchase goods
  • The Custodian of the Assayer's Guild has also benefitted
  • Developments in Otkodov have seen changes to how the northern trade routes operate
  • Establishment of the Temeschwar Mana Exchange has impacted the other partners in the Trade Network

It is not just the Varushkans themselves who have benefitted from the increased trade the Iron Roads bring. Merchants across the north have been given unprecedented access to the wealthy mines and forests of Varushka, which is very good news for the Northern trade network. Four of the component ministries (Torfast Trading Post in Skarsind, Treji Wayhouse in Hercynia, Northbound Trade in Temeschwar, and Kalpaheim Tradeholder in Hahnmark) now have increased opportunities to purchase goods from Varushkan merchants. The Custodian of the Assayer's Guild has also found a significant increase in the number of traders bringing fine metals through Karov to be weighed and stamped especially now the woods of Metri are once again safe to travel.

The result has been an additional purchase rank on the eastern trade route for the Bonesetter of Torfast Trading Post; an additional ministry for each of the other four non-Varushkan ministries giving them the opportunity to invest in Varushkan goods; and an additional ministry track for the Custodian of the Assayer's Guild allowing them to purchase even more metal from the miners and wagon-raiders of the eastern nation.

This burst of Varushkan prosperity comes at the same time as notable changes to trade with the orcs of Otkodov. The establishment of the new mana exchange in Temeschwar has seen more Thule orcs visiting the city there and selling their mana reserves to the Keeper of the Tome, at the expense of the Temeschwari's other trading partners. Just as importantly, as the Summer Solstice rolls around, there has been a shift in emphasis for the Thule visiting the Imperial markets. After negotiations with the Ambassador to Otkodov during the Spring Equinox, they have begun trading their crystal mana not for measures and ingots, but for money with which to purchase large amounts of food to send north.