Fight or flight
"You've double-checked all the figures? Heads will roll if there's a mistake in the costings." The question was pointed, but there was no hint of accusation in the tone. It was due diligence, not doubt.
"It's all correct Madam. I was surprised how cheap this was - so I recalculated every figure myself. " He tried to make his voice sound as confident as it should - but he had a horrible sense it wasn't working.
Mila snorted "No Anton it's not cheap at all. Breaking things is rarely expensive. It's putting them back together that empties the purse...." Her voice trailed off, out of the corner of the eye she caught the effect her casual words were having on her young apprentice and quickly corrected herself. "Excellent work Anton - well done. And please pass on my thanks to the rest of the team. We all hope the Senate won't have to do this - but they have the information they need if they view it necessary. Well done."
Anton's face broke into a broad grin. "Yes Madam. Thank you Madam". He just managed to stop himself bowing as he slipped out of the door, leaving the report in her hand - he was not in Dawn now.
At the Autumn Equinox 382YE, the Imperial Senate commissioned the civil service to investigate the options for evacuating Morrow. Having successfully conquered Zenith, five Druj armies had pushed on to attack Morrow and it seemed likely that the territory might suffer the same fate. Desperate to ensure that the people of Morrow would not suffer the same terrible fate of those who remained in Zenith, the Senate, instructed the civil service to carry out an appraisal to see what might be done to save them if the worst happened.
Evacuation of Morrow will not be easy - and most importantly, it will not be safe. There is a huge Druj force present in the territory, intent on slaughtering and enslaving the Urizen population. If the magicians and sentinels who occupy the mountain top spires attempt to leave without protection, they will be easy prey for roving bands of Druj marauders. The only way it would be possible for the Empire to evacuate the populace of Morrow - given the current presence of the Druj - is to station some large, organized military force in the area to carry out the task.
There are two ways this might be done, either using an Imperial army, or by asking Imperial military units to deal with the problem. Either solution would require an Imperial Senate motion to authorise the civil service to carry out the requisite planning and logistics needed to support the evacuation.
An Imperial general could order their army to move to Morrow an issue an order to carry out a heroic stand centred on helping Urizeni citizens flee the territory in safety. The army would not contribute any strength to the defence of the territory, and would not inflict any casualties, but they would still take casualties as normal if any fighting took place in the territory that season. Instead of taking part in the fighting, the army would be aiding with the evacuation, helping citizens to gather up their belongings, and crucially protecting them on the long dangerous journey out of the territory.
If a full strength standard Imperial army (with a fighting strength of 5000) were committed to the evacuation of Morrow, then it would allow the majority of the people there to be saved. The civil service predict that 80% of the population would be evacuated. An army that was not at full strength would be able to save proportionately less people. Two armies could issue identical orders to help with the evacuation to combine their effective strength, but it would not be possible to save more than 80% of the people living there, no matter how much force is brought to bear in the problem. In another territory it might be easier, but the inhabitants of Urizen dwell on mountaintops, making them difficult to reach.
The only magic that could be used to assist an army carry out the evacuation is Clarity of the Master Strategist, other rituals that improve the fighting strength of an Imperial army would be of no benefit in helping people to flee.
The obvious alternative to diverting an Imperial army from the defence of the Empire would be to request independent military leaders order their units to carry out the logistics of the rescue. Previous ad hoc military actions, such as the raid on Dubrtraig, have showed the power and effectiveness of wielding the Empire's small military units as an effective military force. With authorisation by the Senate, the civil service could provide the central organisation needed to coordinate the military units and allow them to perform the same task that would otherwise need an Imperial army.
Clearly it would require significant support from military units - the force would need to achieve a total fighting strength equivalent to a full strength Imperial army, 5000 points in total. That would be sufficient to rescue the maximum possible 80% of the population. If less military units were committed to the evacuation, then the results would be proportionately less. In theory there is no reason why the Empire could not achieve the required level of force in the territory through a combination of one or more Imperial armies carrying out the evacuation and support for those armies by the military units. Provided the total strength was 5000 or more, then everyone who could be evacuated would be.
Military units acting in this way would not generate any wealth from their activities. The Empire would need to consider whether the action was to be included for a share of the Guerdon, otherwise the units would not be paid for their efforts.
The plan the civil service have drawn up is to evacuate the citizens to the neighbouring territory of Redoubt. Although Morrow has only a small border with Redoubt, there is a good road that leads away from the territory and towards Cargo. A military force defending the evacuees would be able to keep the road defended and open, allowing refugees to move quickly to relative safety.
Moving thousands of people to Highguard, as some have suggested is possible but present a new challenge, notably crossing the Couros. The best place to cross would be the bridge that leads to Bastion city - that could be protected and refugees could make their way over the fast flowing river to relative safety on the other bank. It would not be possible to flee directly to Necropolis - the Couros would make that impossible, though they could be encouraged to disperse there from Bastion in a following season if they fled there first. Reikos would be similarly impossible, the road and trod network are inadequate to the task of moving so many people to safety in that direction.
In theory it might be possible to evacuate the Urizeni to Therunin, but this would be much more difficult. The people could be evacuated to Peakedge Song in Therunin - but the presence of the vallorn in the neighbouring regions of Sweetglades and Greenheart risks leaving the refugees trapped. If the Druj somehow manage to pursue the escaping Urizeni citizens into Therunin, there is a risk that they could be trapped there and slaughtered or enslaved en masse.
The civil service thus recommend that any evacuation of Morrow be to either Redoubt as the best option, but to Bastion or Necropolis if that option is not available for any reason.
The purpose of the evacuation would be to save the lives of all those who could be reached, but sadly there would be an economic cost involved that would be proportionate to the effectiveness of the evacuation. The Empire would experience an immediate loss of taxation and civil service costs equal to the percentage of the population that were saved. That means if the maximum 80% of the populace were successfully evacuated, then there would be an 80% reduction in taxation income from Morrow.
The territory that the refugees moved to would experience an economic boon, equivalent to half the revenue from the lost taxation of Morrow. That would mean if 80% of Morrow were successfully evacuated to Bastion, then Bastion's taxation income would increase by 40% of the current taxation income for Morrow. This would reflect the refugees attempting to set up new businesses and endeavours in their new home. In effect only half the lost taxation would actually be lost - the remainder would move to whichever territory the refugees fled to.
The costs involved in supporting the Imperial citizens of Morrow would travel with them, but are not expected to rise or fall. That would mean that if 60% of Morrow were successfully evacuated to Redoubt, then 60% of the current economic costs of supporting Morrow would move to Redoubt. In effect there would be no change in the costs to the Empire, but costs would move from one territory to another, as the people moved.
The long term impact would be more severe. An organised evacuation would mean many more people than usual leaving the area, effectively depopulating most of Morrow. If the Empire were able to retake Morrow in the future, then it would take longer than usual for the territory to return to normal. As a result, the normal steady rise in taxation that a territory experiences when it is claimed by the Empire would be delayed by one year (costs would accrue as normal throughout this time however).
"It's just not possible, Portia. You're letting your personal feelings get in the way of your judgement. This is not the job we're here to do."
She ignored the grave insult and summoned her poise to avoid grinding her teeth. She hadn't joined the civil service to be told what was or wasn't possible by a thirty year old upstart of a boy barely passed his citizenship. She reached down, embraced her feelings, and brought them under control.
"I am fully aware that it appears impossibly difficult. That was my understanding too on first hearing - but we've checked and rechecked every element of the proposal and it works. Here in Urizen - it works. All I need you to do is to look at it."
"We're here to carry out an appraisal. That's the job we've been given by the Imperial Senate. We don't have time for flights of fancy I'm afraid."
She tried not to gasp. He hadn't tried to shut her up by name-dropping... the Imperial Senate had he? Seriously? No... he couldn't be that... She put her head in her hand as if she were too worn out to hold it up. It was an easy gesture to fake, exactly what people expected of an old woman. Once her mouth was safely obscured her poise cracked and her laughter met the shape of her mouth. "Oh my Empress - what would you say if you could see me now?" she thought.
The young firebrand would have told her to cut this fool down to size. But she was gone and Portia would have to fight this battle alone. Very well then - let us draw weapons!
"You are right Master Roberts - I have allowed my personal feelings to influence my assessment of this situation" Right now she wanted to drown this fool in a bucket of his own pomposity - so part of that was true at least. " It's just that I happen to know the Empress herself is most concerned with the situation here in Morrow." Well if she wasn't she bloody well ought to be. "I shall write to her in the morning and let her know you've taken the decision to put a stop to this nonsense immediately. I am confident she will be certain you have taken the right decision."
Master Roberts blanched, but he tried vainly to stand his ground. "There's absolutely no need to be bothering the Empress with any of this..."
"Oh it's no bother - Lizabetta is always telling me how much she enjoys getting my little letters. She says it does her good to know what's going on in her Empire."
"Absolutely. That's the mark of good Empress you know. Attention to detail. Just like Nicovar. Well before... obviously..."
Hmm, that last bit might have been too much. Still it was clearly doing the trick. What was it about people? How could anyone possibly believe that if you knew the name of the most famous person in the Empire - that somehow was evidence that you were on speaking terms with them? It was just absurd. And yet it never failed! She'd give him "Imperial Bloody Senate" - seriously.
Her old friend would have hated it - she couldn't abide people dropping her name and she rather suspected that this new Empress was probably no different. However, since neither of them were remotely likely to ever meet the Imperatrix it probably didn't matter.
"Well - lets not be too hasty. I don't think it would be good for anyone's career... " He stopped and changed tack "I think we can afford to include this element in the official recommendations - if it really does do what you say it does....
He reached for the papers and Portia handed them to him with a smile. One narrow-minded middle-level bureaucrat defeated she thought. She swallowed down a smile. It wasn't exactly Conclave - but it was still fun... even after all these years... Focus on the big picture Portia - she reminded herself sternly. Be Urizen.Where there is darkness, bring light.
The tragic loss of the Halls of Knowledge has been a knife in the heart of the Urizen nation, near fatally wounding their pride. For centuries they have seen themselves as the greatest magicians in the Empire, perhaps the greatest magicians in the world. Their mastery of magic was near peerless, rivalled only by the secretive necromancers of Axos, the sinister immortals of Otkodov, and the wealthy magician-princes of Jarm. But they were unable to prevent the destruction of the Halls, forced to endure the loss of generations of accumulated knowledge. The Druj knew exactly what they were doing; their attempt to extirpate the learning contained within the vaulted chambers of the Halls, both the books and the people, was nothing less than an attempt to break the Urizeni spirit. Some openly question if the attempt has succeeded; talk of evacuating Morrow has done little to dampen such fears.
In theory rebuilding the Halls of Knowledge might go some way to restoring Urizeni national Pride, but the costs involved are significant, and the Urizeni are not in a position to meet them. Perhaps in a few years the situation might change... but even if the Empire were to build another college of magic, would they build it in Urizen - after the last one was destroyed? Even if they did, what would be the odds that they would make it a national position rather than an Imperial one? There are wizards in every nation, what if the Landskeepers of the Marches or the Wise Ones of Varushka argue that their nation is better placed to host a new college?
Some, deep in the grips of despair, go further. Why would those spires who have kept their books safe while the Halls burned, who have carried their libraries on their backs to the temporary sanctuary of the Canterspire, risk everything by donating them to a central repository that could be burned by the Druj? Better to keep the books apart they say, only that way can they be kept safe.
Slowly though a new note emerges from the funereal tones of Urizen's pain. It plays a song of ambition and pride that beckons to every Urizeni who hears it. Of them the song asks "Are we not the greatest magicians in the world? Then let us prove it - let us do what no other nation in the world can do."
Masters of Magic
A college of magic works by bringing together scores of the finest magicians in the Empire, and provides them with access to the finest magical tomes available. In theory a coven could codify a new ritual by themselves, but working alone is the work of a lifetime. The genius of the Halls of the Knowledge was to bring so much mastery of magic together in one place that they were able to effectively work together on the problem, reducing the time involved from decades to months.
The Halls are gone, but the spires of Urizen remain - the majority of them dedicated to the study of magic. Even the smallest spires possess their own cadre of talented magicians and a collection of tomes containing unique magical insights. Individually they are insignificant compared to the resources once possessed by the Halls - but together - in totality? Then they would rival it - indeed they might even exceed it.
Critics quickly point out the obvious - the effectiveness of a college of magic is dependent on bringing everyone together in one place so that they can collaborate under common leadership. It's impossible for the magicians of Urizen to work together unless they can communicate easily - and that is impossible when they are spread across the high mountains of Urizen. For a while that seems to be the end of the idea, but inventive minds soon point out that the Heliopticon, the ancient network of lenses and mirrors that allows the Urizen to send messages from one spire to another could be used to bridge the distances. It would not be cheap, but it if worked then it would allow the magicians of Urizen to cooperate. The lines of the Heliopticon would become the strands of a great net - holding the nodes - the spires of Urizen together.
A New Hope
Portia the Elder - a former Provost of the Halls of Knowledge who retired several years ago - took the path many older citizens take and joined the civil service. Where civil servants of other nations might have ignored the suggestions of the Urizen as pipe dreams, Portia listened. Working with several of the magicians behind the proposal, she helped to prepare their ambitious plan for presentation to the Empire. To the surprise of many, the concept of an entire nation of magicians cooperating on solving the same magical conundrums will work - but only in Urizen.
The Senate would need to authorise repairs to the Heliopticon network. That would be expensive - but trivial compared to the costs of building a college of magic. The central heliopticon towers in Morrow and Spiral would need to be replaced. The most most expensive component would be the mirrors needed - which would equire 12 wains of mithril and 24 crowns, while the actual costs of the towers themselves would be bourne by enthusiastic Urizen citizens. This outlay would be enough to restore the damage the network has suffered in Spiral and Morrow. Once the network was again operational, new opportunities might open up, but it would definitely enable the magicians of Urizen to work together on magical projects - provided that they could be convinced to do so. No easy task given the traditional independent mindset of the average Urizeni wizard.
After discussion with the Urizen egregore, the best answer appears to be for the Senate to create a national appointment to oversee the research carried out by the nation. Provided that the title clearly represented the will of the Urizen nation, it would be possible to convince the various spires to commit sufficient people and resources to support the work.
By the time of the approaching summit for the Winter Solstice, a concrete proposal has been created. The Imperial Senate could pass a motion to restore the Heliopticon network and at the same time create a new Imperial title of Doyen of the Spires. The title would be a national appointment, but would need to be voted on directly by Urizen magicians, each magician receiving a single vote. The civil service propose to carry out the election in the Hall of Worlds after a suitable debate between eligible candidates is concluded.
Each candidate could present a single arcane projection for the magicians of Urizen to codify. The assembled magicians could consider the merits of the different proposals and vote for the candidate whose ritual they preferred. The civil service have calculated that working together, the magicians of Urizen could codify the ritual, the more magicians that worked on it, the faster the work would proceed. It would require three months (one season) for every 5 ranks of magnitude per Urizeni territory that the final ritual will have. That means that with three Urizeni territories under Imperial control they could codify a magnitude 30 ritual in two seasons. The nation could codify 20 magnitude per season if Zenith was reclaimed and the Helitopticon network there restored.
(The civil service warn, however, that if more than half the population of Morrow were evacuated that territory would not contribute toward that project).
As soon as the work was complete, the title would come up for re-election at the following summit. The varying election schedule would be highly irregular, but the constitutional court have indicated that it would neither be unconstitutional nor would it create precedent for other titles, given the clear practical basis to justify its use in this case. The title would be subject to revocation by the Imperial Synod as if it were a title appointed through the Senate (electing a title in the Hall of Worlds is completely different to electing a title in the Conclave).
The system would not be cheap. It would require 5 thrones per Urizen territory simply to support the constant operation of the Heliopticon network. In addition the Imperial treasury would incur the normal costs involved with running any normal college of magic (at the time of writing 25 Thrones each season). The network would require magicians to be paid to work on the project exactly like a college of magic - so wages would still need to be paid.
But it would completely remove the need to pay a small fortune in mithril, white granite and weirwood to rebuild the Halls of Knowledge. It would be resilient - an enemy might attack Urizen - but it would be impossible to target the entire nation the way the Druj singled out the Halls of Knowledge for attack. And it would stand as a testament to Urizen Pride for generations to come - a feat of magical expertise that could not be duplicated anywhere else in the known world.
- The Senate can use a single Senate motion to authorise the repair of the central Heliopticon towers in Morrow and Spiral.
- This will cost 12 wains of mithril, 24 crowns, and take a season to complete.
- The motion creates a unique Imperial title Doyen of the Spires who will be appointed by majority decision of the magicians of Urizen and hold the post for as long as it takes them to codify a single arcane projection. They will be able to be revoked by the Imperial Synod.
- The magicians of Urizen will function like a college of magic, but the speed of research will depend on how many territories are part of the Urizen nation and connected to the Heliopticon network.
- This project will add additional costs to each Urizen territory, and require the usual upkeep of a college of magic (at the moment 25 Thrones).