"We've been through this - three times. Would you like the same answer I gave you the last three times or I could make something up?" Jorge i Satane i Guerra loved his sister like his own child - she was family after all - but the virtues be damned she was beginning to try his patience.
"What I'd like is for your answer to cost us a little less money. The Asavean was perfectly happy for us to deliver to the temple - we could have left his goods there - collected our money and been half way to home. Instead we've paying a crown for a five ring room in this sorry excuse for a parador. How is that good business?"
"I don't trust the priests. I don't like dealing with them, they're too... friendly."
Maria gasped in mock horror - "Call the Synod! Call a magistrate!" She paused theatrically and pretended to ponder "Remind me again - being friendly - is that blasphemy... or heresy? I can never remember which one of those is which?"
"Say what you like Isobel - but I just don't like it. It's a temple... it's not a fit place for business."
"Oh you're so right! What was I thinking? We must not offend Wailo the Foam by profaning his temple with a wagon load of figs. How would we endure it if his magic cow curses us?" she waved her hands in mock fear, then put them her fingers to each temple as if they were Cambion horns "Look out... it's the Asaveans' magic cow.... Moooooo!".
"Stop mocking me Isobel - I'm not an idiot. I don't believe in any of their stupid superstitions. Blood and vice - sometimes I'm not sure they believe any of it. But they use that blasted temple for everything... their priests lend money, witness contracts, provide escrow, host meetings... Don't you find it all just the least bit... odd?"
"Cheap. That's what I find it. Cheap."
Jorge i Satane i Guerra sighed - he loved his sister like his own child - but three more days of this was going to kill him.
The saga of the Temple of Balo and the Black Bull grinds on. The temple itself is finally complete. A little under a fortnight before the Spring Equinox the temple opens its doors to the Asavean sailors and merchants who wait outside. Some of these visitors will travel on to Sarvos, Tassato, and Crown's Quay, but many will conclude their business in Oran and return to Nemoria with holds full of freeborn fruit, cloth, wine, and stone.
The Plenum appears moderately pleased, and the story of the new temple circulates in the Asavean capital. Captains and trade-princes alike are reassured that the Empire is a welcoming destination, committed to good relations between itself and the archipelago. The Plenum has further recognised Franco i Erigo as the Delegato Imperiale presso i sacerdoti di Balo e del Toro Nero, giving them an opportunity to make lucrative deals with the idolatrous merchants visiting the temple.
Oria i Shartha i Riqueza, the senator for Feroz has further sought the support of the Imperial Senate to begin work on a temple of the Way in distant Nemoria, to both offer spiritual support to Imperial citizens abroad and to bring the light of the seven virtues to those Asaveans who express an interest. The senator has already secured the white granite needed to construct the temple. along with funds to pay for emancipated Asavean labour. With the Temple in Feroz completed, the Plenum have allocated land in Nemoria, and given permission for the work to begin - the temple is expected to be completed shortly before the Summer Solstice - assuming nothing goes wrong.
In hopes, perhaps, of ensuring everything goes smoothly, the Synod has mandated that Lucifaro Figlio del Mattino, a Madrugan hakima, encourage missionaries to travel to the Archipelago and spread knowledge of the Way to the people of Nemoria. Yet, at the same time, J'zarr i Shartha i Guerra and the Freeborn national assembly continue to express severe concerns about the influence that the Temple and its resident priests may have over the people of Feroz.
The Freeborn Assembly calls upon the people of Feroz to remember their Loyalty to the Way and support their fellow citizens in resisting the lure of false gods and idolatry that presents itself as an easy route to money. Prosperity is not just the accumulation of wealth. They call upon all Freeborn to have Pride in the Way and the traditions that have brought us to Virtue.J'zarr i Shartha i Guerra
Finally, and peripherally, as of the Winter Solstice the Imperial Senate has secured the services of the Asavean architect - and priest of Baddu the Builder - Almodin Oktístis. He has been set to work designing and overseeing the building of a set of docks at Cargo in Redoubt, and appears to be enjoying the stipend the Senate has provided him. He remains a public symbol of the Empire's tacit tolerance of the Asavean faith - at least to a point.
The construction of the Temple has been plagued by opposition from the Imperial Synod. The General Assembly appears to consider it to be a minor issue, and seems committed to encouraging good relations with the Asaveans - but the Freeborn concerns cannot be ignored.
Isolating the Temple
The Imperial Synod sends X with 50 liao to encourage the people of Feroz to remain vigilant against the influence of the false Asavean religion. They must not forget that those who worship at this temple are idolators, and deserve neither sanctuary nor succour.Synod Mandate
If the Synod wishes to endorse the message of the Freeborn Assembly, then the General Assembly or the Assembly of the Nine may issue a mandate using the above wording. A named priest and 50 doses of liao will ensure that the people of Feroz keep their distance from the Temple of Balo and the Black Bull. This will greatly reduce the chance that any Freeborn will visit the Temple, and will discourage any Imperial citizen from travelling to Oran to speak to the priests there.
The civil service calculate that doing so will result in the people of Oran, and of the territory as a whole, presenting an unfriendly welcome to Asavean visitors. The Asaveans mix trade and faith freely so there is no way to single our their religion for this treatment. The Freeborn have a reputation for hospitality - so there is no chance that the cold shoulder will go unnoticed - Asavean traders will understand that they are being snubbed and respond accordingly. The snub will permanently reduce the production of any trade that a Freeborn fleet captain engages in with Nemoria by a fifth. At the same time, it will temporarily reduce the income of every business in Feroz by a fifth until the start of the Summer Solstice.
This mandate will not completely reverse the relative good feeling in the Archipelago engendered by Lucifaro Figlio del Mattino, but it will reduce it somewhat. Any future Asavean opportunity to build something in the Empire will likely include a caveat that they cannot be constructed on the Brass Coast.
The Imperial Synod sends X with 25 liao to encourage the people of Feroz to embrace the opportunities presented by the Temple of Balo and the Black Bull. While those who worship there may be idolators, they are not Imperial citizens and their faith is not the concern of the Freeborn as long as they abide by our laws. Making a guest welcome in your home or place of business is not an offence against Prosperity.Synod Mandate
The Freeborn Assembly, the Prosperity Assembly, the General Assembly, or the Assembly of the Nine may issue a mandate using the above wording. A named priest and 25 doses of liao will send the clear message to the people of Feroz to stop worrying about the Temple and take advantage of the opportunity presented by the influx of Asavean visitors. In the short term, this will see an increase in the number of Imperial citizens speaking with the priests of Asavea, but it will also provide a small boost to the income of Freeborn businesses in Feroz - an increase in production of around a fifth - until the start of the Winter Solstice.
This mandate will continue the work begun by Lucifaro Figlio del Mattino in improving Imperial/Asavean relations. It will also mean that there will be no further opportunities for the Synod to interfere with the operation of the Temple in Feroz unless there are significant changes in the relationship between the Plenum and the Imperial Senate, such as a Declaration of War against Asavea, or the abrogation of the temple at Oran.
Enlighten the Idolators
The Imperial Synod sends X with 50 liao to encourage the Asavean sailors and merchants visiting the Temple of the Black Bull in Oran to learn of the true faith of The Way, and to enlighten these visitors to our shores in the ways of Prosperity. In this way we may turn them away from the worship of their idolatrous gods and bring them to Virtue.Synod Mandate
Severin Teyhard von Holberg, Priest of Ambition has asked the civil service to calculate the effects of a mandate designed to enlighten the idolators by teaching them of the Way of Virtue.
After some consideration, the civil service are unhappy to report that they cannot be certain what the outcome of such a mandate would be - the situation defies divination using the normal tools due to the complexity of the situation and the confounding factors. There are some broad possibilities they have identified which are outlined below.
It is certain that using 50 liao would result in some Asaveans gaining an interest in the Way of Virtue. The auras created using liao are potent and influential and they move people. Even if the effects only last a season, they can often be life-changing. So whatever happens, some Asaveans would adopt the Virtues.
It is certain that not all Asaveans would do so, no matter how much liao was used. While auras are potent, they are not mind-control and people do not easily give up the traditions in which they were raised even when presented with clear evidence that they are wrong. Therefore the empire would be in a situation where some Asaveans have shown an interest in the faith and some had rejected it.
The civil service have examined all possible auras and are unable to find any virtuous aura that is certain to persuade someone to abandon their cultural and religious traditions. Consequently they are confident that the Asaveans will not abandon their "gods" even if some of them do take an interest in virtue. Their gods appear to play a central role in their organization of their society - and their extended pantheon may well be syncratic in nature - which would mean the likely outcome is that those who do convert adopt the virtues alongside their existing gods, rather than replacing them.
The civil service wish to advise caution and point to very recent historical examples that show that attempting to convert foreigners can bear strange fruit.
The other point of caution is around the current religious detente. The Asaveans are perfectly aware that it is illegal to preach their faith in the Empire - and thus far they have avoided any attempt to openly proselytize. If the Empire breaches that tacit agreement then the civil service can see two credible outcomes:
- The Asaveans are enraged by the asymmetry of being unable to preach, while being preached at in return and make formal complaints to the Empire about the matter.
- The Asaveans take the Empire preaching as an indication that it is now acceptable for them to preach their own faith in return - and react accordingly.
A third outcome, in which the Asaveans welcome the religious instruction but remain content not to preach their own faith was considered by the civil service but discarded as not remotely credible.
If the Asaveans do begin preaching from the temple - then the Synod will have to decide whether to denounce them for idolatry - if they do then the magistrates will arrest them and are likely to execute them. There are insufficient precedents for a diplomatic catastrophe of this scale to be certain how the Asavean government would respond - the best the civil service can say with certainty is that it will not go so far as to involve the use of military force by the Asaveans against the Empire on Imperial soil.
Denounce the priests of Baddu the Builder
The Imperial Synod sends X with 25 liao to denounce the idolatrous, blasphemous practices of the priesthood of the false god Baddu the Builder. The Senate has shown themselves to be impious by retaining the services of Almodin Oktístis. He, and his fellow idolators, should return to Asavea immediately.Synod Mandate
The Freeborn Assembly, the General Assembly, or the Assembly of the Nine may issue a mandate using the above wording. A named priest and 25 doses of liao will send a clear message to Almodin Oktístis that he and his fellow priests of Baddu are not welcome in the Empire. Further, it will encourage some Freeborn to make their displeasure public. The likely outcome is that Almodin Oktístis resigns his stipend from the Imperial Senate and quits the Empire permanently.
If the Imperial Synod does nothing, the situation will remain roughly as it is now. Asavean worshippers of their false gods will visit the Temple of Balo and the Black Bull; local citizens will continue to cater to them; some Imperial citizens will seek out the priests at the temple to learn more about the Asavean religion.