"What of our vow Delyth? We're sworn to oppose the vallorn. We can't go back on an oath."

Delyth shook her head passionately. Only her respect for the old vate stopped her from cutting in, but as soon as he paused for breath she interrupted him. "You know as well as I do that while the curse is in place, the vallorn will be quiescent. Perhaps the curse brings ruin on the enemy just as it does to us. If we're really sworn to fight the vallorn then it makes more sense to leave the Broc for somewhere like Hercynia or Therunin than to remain. There at least we can prosper and oppose the vallorn."

"We're needed here, Delyth. There is a chance to permanently push back the vallorn. A chance like that might not come again in our lifetimes. We've fought hard for this - and not just us. What will those who bled alongside us say if we abandon our homes now?"

"They don't have to live here Gwilym! It is our home that is cursed, not theirs. Actions have consequences - we must face up to ours and act. If you and the other vates cannot take that curse down then we must take responsibility for that and leave."

"You have a family already - surely the curse doesn't mean so much for you?" As soon as the words had left his mouth, he realized the mistake from the way Delyth's eyes narrowed and her lips pursed

"It's not me I'm worried about you old fool, it's them. What effect will it have on the children? Growing up under some twisted winter curse? Yes I have a family - all the more reason not to deny them theirs."

"Corey Wayfarer asked us to stay, Delyth. The Assembly asked us to stay. All of them." He stopped, expecting another interruption, but this time she just stared at him in silence so gamely he carried on. "The magic takes time to have an effect, a few seasons won't make any difference."

"Fine! One year, Gwilym, you've got one year. But once the leaves fall again, if the curse is not lifted then the Welcoming Fire Steading becomes the Welcoming Fire Striding. I vow it."

Folant stared at his niece and for once he found himself stuck for words. All he could do was nod silently in agreement.

Overview

Wither the Seed is an extremely potent curse woven from Winter magic.

Last Summer, a union of Navarr magicians placed the curse of Liathaven; this Summer just passed they also placed it on Brocéliande. In both cases, the purpose of the curse was to impede the spread of the vallorn in the territory and weaken its spawn. The ritual is very effective at both tasks - provided nobody provokes the vallornspawn of course.

Withering the seed is a powerful weapon against the vallorn but it is not one that is used often. There are still stories among the Navarr of the pall that dampened the celebrations when Miaren was finally liberated from the vallorn during the reign of Emperor Giovanni. The curse is one of the most enduring known to Imperial magicians, taking fully three decades to run its course and having far-reaching implications for a generation at least.

During the Summer Solstice, Corey Wayfarer raised a statement of principle in the Navarr national assembly urging the inhabitants of Liathaven and Brocéliande to remain in their homes and not let the presence of the curse drive them out. The statement was upheld by the assembly with a greater majority, and now the people of Navarr are faced with difficult choices.

This assembly asks the nation to examine its loyalties and consider supporting fellow Navarr in Brocéliande and Liathaven to stay in their homes following the casting of Wither the Seed.

Corey Wayfarer, Navarr assembly, Summer Solstice 383YE, Upheld (158-8)

Withered Seeds

Unlike many curses, Wither the Seed has no immediately obvious effects. While the fertility of the target territory undergoes a marked decline, it can take a year or more for the effects to become apparent to those living in the territory. Fewer and fewer animals and people are born, and while plants are not as seriously affected, they tend to produce less blossom and thus less fruit. Cereal crops become sparser, and less fruitful, which may lead to increasing hunger or even famine. Over time the population of people and animals in the area will drop dramatically.

The effects of the curse are not restricted to the territory upon which it has been laid. It can have lingering effects on creatures who have spent a lot of time in the area, making conception more difficult if not impossible without magical assistance. The exact definition of "a lot of time" is very hard to determine and seems to vary by individuals. Those with briar lineage are anecdotally more resistant to this lingering effect, while those with naga lineage appear particularly vulnerable to it.

The curse is not without its silver linings. Vallorn and vallornspawn in the target territory tend to become slothful and quiescent for the duration; they are not harmed, but they rarely expand beyond their borders unless provoked. Left to their own devices, the vallorn and its spawn will slumber fitfully, a danger only to those who venture within the bounds of the miasma - although as recent developments have demonstrated they can still be roused to fury by outsiders actively seeking to provoke their wrath.

Theoretically, the curse may also mean that the few children born or raised in the territory will be more likely to manifest the draughir lineage - a potential boon to people living in a territory where food will become increasingly scarce.

The effects last for around thirty years.

Magicians in the area are likely to become aware of the curse first, but even the relatively unmagical Jotun will realise what is happening by the time the first harvest is gathered in.

Withered Liathaven

Years of fighting with the Jotun has seen Liathaven almost entirely depopulated, but there are still a few people living there. For some of those few who remain, the imposition of this powerful curse is the final straw. It's a fundamental part of Navarr society that when one is unhappy somewhere, one should simply leave. While the vallorn was in danger of spreading, and the opportunity to recover West Ranging existed, there was reason to stay. Now that the immediate crisis is over, there is a chance for people to assess their situation and make preparations to leave.

At the moment, the impact of Wither the Seed in Liathaven is limited. Anyone with aspirations to make a life elsewhere has already left. Should Liathaven be reconquered, it would prove extremely difficult to persuade any Imperial citizens to move to the territory. As a consequence, it is likely Liathaven would remain a drain on the Imperial treasury at least until the curse had run its course.

Furthermore, the curse and the lack of population together would combine to ensure that regardless of which nation Liathaven were assigned to, it would not increase their ability to support armies.

Leaving Liathaven

Any Navarr in Liathaven who chooses to leave the territory and move to Hercynia, Miaren, or Therunin can do so without the usual fee for moving territory. Furthermore, if they do so before the end of the Winter Solstice 383YE they will receive additional help to find a resource of commensurate value - meaning that they will not lose the upgrades from their personal resource.

Jotun Presence

The Jotun must be aware of the effect of the curse by now. They can be in little doubt as to where the curse originated, and are likely to see it as an attack on their thralls. It is very unlikely any Jotun would encourage a thrall to risk staying in Liathaven; most likely all remaining thralls will be evacuated, further reducing the value of Liathaven in the eyes of the Jotun. On the other hand, many Jotun warriors expect to die in battle fighting the enemies of their people. There are sufficient numbers of warriors who will prioritize their quest for heroism over their desire to raise a family that there is no certainty the Jotun will completely abandon the territory simply because of the curse.

Feni Presence

It is not clear if the Feni are aware of the curse yet, but they cannot fail to have noticed that there are fewer animals in the territory. As a people who hunt and gather in the woods, they will be significantly impacted by the curse. Even if they retreat into a regio as they did in the Mournwold, this will only protect them from the worst effects of the curse; the need to feed their people will soon become a pressing concern. As a result, the civil service anticipate the Feni launching raids into the southern Mournwold and Bregasland, and potentially even Kahraman to acquire the resources they need to survive.

The Bound King and the Ashen Prince

  • Tharim and Surut have offered to extend their influence to Liathaven
  • Unless the Jotun were able to stop them, this would turn the territory into an accursed wasteland

The fact that Liathaven is drowned in powerful Winter magic has not gone unnoticed by the sovereigns of the Winter realm. Two members of the Thrice-cursed Court - the Bound King and the Burnt Knight - have offered significant aid to the Navarr in recent years. Surut helped to fight the vallorn in Liathaven, while Tharim offered his cold assistance in Brocéliande. With the threat in the east subsiding for now, heralds of these two eternals have reached out the the vates of Navarr and made an unexpected offer.

They propose that the Imperial Senate cede the regions they control in Liathaven to the Thrice-cursed Court. If they do so, the eternals will take control of them and unleash their uniquely malicious magics. Their influence will be confined to West Ranging and Westwood initially, but the Court are clear that they intend to spread their power across the territory if given the opportunity. If the Jotun are unable to stop them, which is likely given their weakness with magic, then by Spring Equinox 384YE they will have blasted and blighted Liathaven to the point where it will be uniquely hostile to any armed forces moving through it.

Every region in the territory that does not have the vallorn quality will gain the cursed wasteland quality. While small groups of scouts will be able to move through the territory, any campaign army that moves into or through Liathaven will suffer 500 casualties, and an additional 1,000 casualties if they end their movement in the territory. This will provide a significant deterrent to the Jotun - they are known to be superstitious and will be loath to risk moving armies into the accursed forest if there is any alternative making it much more difficult for their armies to reach the Mournwold.

By ceding the territory, the Senate will effectively wash its hands of Liathaven. As such, the drain on the Imperial treasury represented by the territory will be removed; all the money currently spent maintaining Liathaven will be recouped by the Senate.

This has painful implications for the Navarr who are still living there - every Navarr who is not a player character will leave. Any player characters are free to remain, but their personal resource will lose 80% of its production for as long as the territory remains cursed.

Once the curse has run its course - some time around 413YE - the Thrice-cursed Court will withdraw from Liathaven. The territory will still be blighted, but the Empire will be free to reclaim it as they see fit.

There are two flies in the ointment.

The first is the involvement of Skathe - an eternal who has been placed under enmity by Conclave. While she is not directly mentioned, it seems unlikely that once the territory is ceded to the Court she will not be involved in its ruination.

The second is the weirwood grove recently discovered in West Ranging. The eternals appear ambivalent to its existence, and are prepared to allow the Empire to harvest the weirwood there if they make that a requirement of the agreement. The civil service would need to assess the situation once the eternals take ownership of the territory, but it is their assessment that the costs of exploiting the weirwood grove, both in terms of initial investment and operation costs would increase "significantly".

As part of the offer the Court swear oaths not to seek to spread their influence over the borders of Liathaven into any surrounding territory (Imperial or Jotun). They also confirm that the forces of the Burnt Knight will have no problem keeping the vallorn contained while Liathaven remains in their care.

Withered Brocéliande

  • The people of Brocéliande want the curse removed from their territory.
  • They understand the need to maintain the magic until Dark Ranging is freed from the vallorn, or the opportunity is lost.
  • If the curse is still in place at the end of the Autumn Equinox 384YE, there will be a slow exodus from Brocéliande.

Brocéliande is a different matter, however. The territory is no more Imperial than Liathaven, and the presence of the vallorn means that it is very unlikely that it will become Imperial any time soon. On the other hand, it still has a significant Navarr population. While most of the Navarr live in Boar's Dell and Elerael, there are also steadings scattered throughout the area claimed by the vallorn - the largest and best known of which is the Broch. Furthermore, the Empire has just spent a year fighting to protect the people who live there from the machinations of the Heirs of Terunael. Preparations are being made across the territory to recover Dark Ranging, and to create a bulwark against future schemes by the enemies of the Navarr.

The idea of giving up on Brocéliande is deeply unpalatable - but so is the idea of seeing one's line wither and die. Thirty years is a long time for an individual, but the vallorn has endured for a thousand years and shows no signs of going anywhere. If the people of Brocéliande are forced to choose, many will simply leave their steadings and join a striding. Abandoning Brocéliande for three decades will be painful, but it will be done if the curse is left to run its course. The vallorn is a known threat - and the Empire has just proven conclusively that it can weather whatever Brocéliande might throw at them. The Winter curse, however, is something else entirely. To stay in Brocéliande would mean giving up their future, and not many of them are prepared to make that sacrifice.

Even with Wither the Seed in effect there are those prepared to make the sacrifice and continue to maintain the steadings. Yet their defences would be greatly weakened - and the Imperial Treasury would need to commit even more funds to helping them maintain a presence in the cursed territory.

The people of Brocéliande are not fools however. They have listened to the words of Corey Wayfarer and it has stiffened their resolve to remain - at least for a while. The vates advise that it will take some time for the worst effects of the curse to be felt, so people are resolved to stay long enough not to lose the opportunity to reclaim Dark Ranging, or squander the goodwill of the other nations. As a result they are determined to remain for the moment, and many hope that some way may yet be found to lift the curse. In practical terms, this means that the inhabitants of Brocéliande will wait until the end of the Autumn Equinox 384YE (time enough for Dark Ranging to be freed, or for the opportunity to be lost) before taking any precipitate action.

But if the curse is still in place by the end of 384YE, then a steady exodus from Brocéliande will begin.

Renewing the Seed

  • Removing the curse from Brocéliande is a significant undertaking.

Removing the curse is a major undertaking. In theory a powerful Spring magic enchantment might end the effects of the curse prematurely, but such an effect is likely to be at least two-hundredth magnitude and could conceivably be higher. Any magician with a grounding in the lore of Spring and ten crystal mana to spare could create an arcane projection that would break the curse - that is the easy part. The difficult part is actually working the magic.

As an arcane projection that would be very challenging indeed, and there is no indication that anyone has a ritual text that would create such an effect. Even with assistance, the Lyceum would struggle to codify such an effect in less than two and a half years. It is also unlikely that the Empire would be able to gain much assistance from the eternals in dealing with the curse - the obvious candidate to help remove it is Yaw'nagrah who is in open opposition to the Empire.

Furthermore, it is astonishingly unlikely that this could be done without the use of a regio, and as Brocéliande is not part of the Empire (and unlikely to become so any time soon) it would either need a regio in the territory or the aid of the Citadel Guard.

Calling the Vates

  • The Navarr assembly could encourage their people to find ways to support this magical working.

The Navarr assembly has called for the nation to come together to support the people of Brocéliande. The people of Brocéliande have been reasonably clear what they want - the curse removed from the territory once Dark Ranging is recovered or the opportunity to do so is lost. Yet there are more threats to Navarr right now than the curse hanging over Brocéliande. The Heirs of Terunael present a significant immediate threat to the entire nation - but at the same time the assembly will need to work quickly if they are to rally the people in support of Brocéliande.

The people of Brocéliande stand guard against the vallorn, but they should not sacrifice their future to do so. The curse can be removed, but it will require a great working of magic to do so. We send {named priest} with 50 liao to urge all the people of the nation to identify ways that we might raise the magical might we need.

Synod Mandate, Navarr assembly

If the Navarr assembly upholds this mandate - which will of course require a greater majority thanks to the intervention of the Wisdom assembly - then at least three opportunities related to securing magic items, potions, or other forms of aid to remove the Wither the Seed curse from Brocéliande will be presented during the Winter Solstice.

This would certainly include the location of a powerful Spring regio sufficient to work the arcane projection required to remove the curse.

Other Concerns

  • There is an opportunity to remove the vallorn from Dark Ranging in Brocéliande, and several proposals about improving the territory: you can learn more about then here.
  • There is a wider threat to the Navarr nation which you can learn about here.

While Brocéliande is (relatively) peaceful, this is a busy season for the Navarr and for Imperial citizens opposed to the vallorn. Additional events of note are covered in two other Winds of Fortune.

One concerns the wider situation in Brocéliande - the opportunity to clear Dark Ranging and proposals for ways to prepare for future conflict in the territory which you can find here.

The other concerns a wider threat to the entire Navarr nation and can be found here.