"Has to be. Amanuensis Two was the last."
"Well, good riddance." Atia closed her eyes and tried not to listen to the wind howling through the Spire's corridors.
"Atia," Servilia hissed, "it's your turn."
"You do it. Nobody'll know the difference."
With a groan of protest, the teenage scholar stood and wrapped her cloak about herself. As she opened the door the biting wind rushed in, waking scholars and sentinels alike with its nipping teeth. She followed the corridor round to the cold-water room, past the dressing-rooms and the coal-store, and there she found it. Compulsatrix, the oldest remaining ushabti in the Spire, immobile and uncanny on the floor by the Western Hall. Its joints were frozen as if they'd been baked that way, and its head and back were smashed wide open. Deep red clay-dust was spread across the floor, glittering with mana like a construct's blood. Which, in a way, it was.
Now as far as Atia was concerned, losing Compulsatrix was no bad thing. Among its many responsibilities the ancient ushabti was tasked with waking each of the Spire in turn, and as such, it had literally tormented her for as long as she could remember. But this was the fourth of the ushabti to simply collapse in the last few months. Rebuilding them was a painstaking business, and in the meantime, the life of the Spire was disrupted by menial tasks like laundry and tidying.
While she swept up the remains, the light changed subtly around her. She looked out of a window to see texture in the black skies. The cursed storm that had been hammering the whole of Redoubt on and off since the equinox was still there but from the change she judged that it must be dawn somewhere beyond the endless roiling clouds.
...and there would be no Compulsatrix to wake her for her dawn calisthenics.All-but melting at the thought, Atia quickly shoved what was left of the ushabti in the corner and resolved to tell the Arbiter in the morning. Or the afternoon. Whenever someone woke her up. Yes, she would take her punishment when it came for this, she accepted, as she snuggled up warm against the heated bath-house floor. Whatever it was, with the Spire and all of Redoubt in the state they were in, it couldn't possibly beat the glorious excess of the first lie-in in her entire life.
The Winter Solstice announces that the New Year 381YE will be a time of storms. The coastlines of Spiral and Redoubt are battered by the furious energies of Spring, tormenting the Grendel navies positioned there and the armies who rely on the rations they bring from Dubhtraig. Terrifying winds cascade in unpredictable spiral patterns, capsizing the unprepared and creating patterns of waves which make no sense to sailors well-accustomed to riding through storms. Wreckage is found as far north as the Necropolis, for the storms' effects spread far and wide.
...but they are not the only storms along the Bay this season.
As observers in the Tomari Heights Spire watch the clouds gather over Redoubt in the days following the Solstice, they notice something strange in the patterns of force. An effect extends outwards over the territory of Redoubt itself, its form initially appearing to mirror the energies of the storm off the coast. And with it, all the same rain and wind.
It is immediately clear that the effect is magical, and debate ensues. Either this ritual was performed at Anvil - perhaps by those some forces that have laid magical curses on the Empire in recent times - or else someone obtained Presence within the territory. For that they would need a regio and it would need to be a powerful Spring regio. If that is the case, then suspicion falls on the Spring regio at the spire of Evenstar in Naris - the hospital where Urizen practitioners of Spring and Day magic worked their magical arts to treat the sick. The spire fell to the Grendel during the Winter solstice - and has been under their control ever since.
The Heliopticon dully flashes theories back and forth using what little light it can glean from the clouded skies until a central relay tower is misaligned by flooding in Ventosi, and the network is brought down, for a time.
After six weeks, the lowlander Urizeni grow weary of the screaming wind and the rain that bites like sharks' teeth. Arête suffers as damp, cold bodies fail to respond promptly to disciplined instruction. Poise fails as arête suffers. The walls close in as many abandon their lofty suites temporarily for rooms nearer the centres of their Spires, nearer the chimneys, nearer the fires that support hypocausts and keep the water hot. Tea and coffee supplies dwindle, and recent paperwork is lost to damp and wind - which causes them to dwindle further.
Damage to the spires themselves is minor, but frustrating: anything damaged, anything old and worn, rusted, chipped or cracked is finished off by the pressures of the storm. The broken stone that young Gaia was going to replace falls away, leaving spiderweb cracks across the courtyard below; the worn external staircase that Titian thought was a good idea crumbles, leaving the old Stargazer trapped in his tower; elsewhere, a visiting Holberger silk-merchant is woken from her lover's bed by the collapse of the roof over the other half of the room.
Outside the spires, much dead wood is cleared away. The last of the heavy Winter snow is softened and dislodged by the constant rain, leading to a number of small avalanches and prolonged flooding in valleys normally only bothered by the snowmelt. Trees are dislodged and washed away, and with them, the land begins to subside in places. One landslide blocks a path to a long-abandoned spire in Ventosi; another washes away part of the cliffside where Mount Siluri reaches the sea. A young sentinel, bravely taking her morning run, witnesses a displaced pride of gryphons fighting a pair of mandowlas for the bodies of a handful of drowned goats. No-one believes her.
Redoubt is a difficult territory to traverse even with the trods but it soon becomes clear that the storms are exacting a terrible toll on the mountainous territory. Several crucial mountain paths are lost to rockfalls, while a handful of older bridges are washed away in one of the innumerable floods that swell the rivers throughout the season. But the worst damage occurs when a rockfall completely blocks the main pass on the Cargo Road on the edge of Iteri.
The surveyors arrive to find the road buried beneath hundreds of tonnes of rock. Climbing cautiously in the high winds, a pair of sentinels gain the top of the pile, only to discover that it continues for around sixty yards. Work quickly begins to clear it, but the sheer scale of the task is intimidating, and the weather is literally the enemy of progress. Wooden stairways soak and warp until they collapse, and every effort to lean something against the pile only results in something shifting dangerously. After a sentinel loses a foot, the plan changes.
As the storm begins to fade in the days leading up to the Spring Equinox, Urizeni engineers finish a temporary path up the hillside and around the landslip debris. It's little more than a goat track, but it's just about enough to move cargo with the help of a handful of cranes and shadufs.
More than that is going to take a lot of time and effort.
The storms have badly damaged several key travel routes through Redoubt including a major rockfall which has completely blocked the main road leading into the territory from the northern side of the Siluri mountain range.
While travellers can take other routes into the territory, these are smaller paths which wind up and down the sides of mountains, or which have gone unused for decades and are in poor condition themselves. The result is a major inconvenience for any lone traveller or small group bringing delays and long detours - but it is a disaster for any army trying to move through the territory.
As a result of the damage, any army passing through Redoubt will be delayed - requiring the same time normally required to pass through two territories rather than one. Any army that moves through Redoubt while this effect lasts can move one less territory than normal that season.
Fixing the problem
Urizeni engineers are already hard at work with the civil service assessing the damage and what can be done to fix it. Road-building is a specialised task, but there is also a shortage of labour in Urizen. Because of this they estimate it will take a year to clear all the effects if the Empire is not in a position to send assistance. The above penalty will remain in effect throughout that time.
Of course, an army is itself an excellent workforce. An Imperial army which put its back to the task could unblock the road in two seasons, having it open again by the Autumn Equinox. However, an army with the Siege quality possesses enough soldiers with expertise in building works that they could complete the task in a single season, having the roads restored and the main pass open again by the Summer Solstice. Unfortunately, given the small spaces involved, only one army can work on the problem at once: two armies cannot be tasked to the area to work twice as fast.
A general would need to move their army to Redoubt, order it to take a defending order, and include in their personal order to the army an instruction to undertake the repairs. An army ordered to repair the roads in Redoubt would be able to be resupplied - provided no external factors interfered, of course.
Any army entering the territory to perform this task would not suffer the penalty to movement for trying to move through Redoubt.
The Northern Eagle have set to work repairing the roads and bridges of Redoubt. As of the start of the Summer Solstice, the task is half-done and will take another season to complete. As such, the penalty to movement through Redoubt continues.