"These are excellent quality," said the orc trader, weighing one of the ingots in her hand. "Very pure, very fine. If all the rest are of similar quality then you can be sure I will be back next season."

Francine di Temeschwar wanted to punch the air, but restrained herself - just. "It's the Assayer's Guild," she said offhandedly. "They set the bar high."

The orcs passed the ingot back and forth. One of their number, who had not spoken yet, tapped it with a tiny chisel and hammer, peered at it closely, and then a wide grin split his tattooed face. Francine idly wondered who he was - his skin was marked with tiny black Wintermark runes, as were his midnight-blue robes, as were the wide orichalcum bracers he wore on each wrist.

Bokka leant forward across the table, then. The bonesetter opened the weirwood chest to reveal the carefully arranged rows of green iron within.

"As you can see, there is plenty more where that came from. Are we agreed then?"

The Thule merchant looked to her companions, who each nodded in turn. One handed her a reindeer hide sack, and she upended it. A stream of glittering crystal spilled forth, bouncing on the table.

"We are agreed. You will find everything in order, but I understand if you wish to count it."

She extended her hand first to Bokka, then to Francine. Her grip was firm as she shook hands with both of them briskly. The bonesetter pushed the chest of iron ingots across the table, and two of the Thule upended it into the now empty sack. Bokka reclaimed the empty chest and quickly began to fill it with crystal mana - counting quietly as she did so. The Thule seemed well pleased with the trade.

"Actually, I'm a little surprised that you are trading mana," said Francine as if she had only just thought of it.

The Thule merchant shrugged.

"Why wouldn't we? The dragons have plenty of crystal to spare, and your merchandise is extremely good. Our artisans will be able to forge many wonderful... things... with it."

"I meant, with the peace treaty coming to an end. Are you not worried that we will use the crystal against you?"

The orc across the table blinked and shot a concerned glance at her three companions.

"No," she said firmly. "No we are not. I have every confidence the Empire will be sensible, and the dragons will be magnanimous."

She paused for a moment before continuing as if contemplating something unsavoury.

"And if the Empire is not sensible? Then the materials you have been selling us will ensure we win the coming war, and then the dragons will not be so magnanimous."

Thule

  • The Thule peace-treaty is coming to an end.
  • A delegation from Otkodov is expected to visit Anvil on Saturday afternoon.

During the Summer Solstice 379YE, the Empire negotiated a peace treaty with the Thule orcs of Otkodov. That treaty has remained intact since - despite threats from a disgruntled Wintemark thane. An Embassy has been built in Miekarova, and with the assistance of the sorcerous orcs the devastating threat of the red star was averted, and a new Bourse resource - the Gift of the Dwindling Star secured for Varushka. There has even been some thawing between the Thule and the people of Wintermark it appears - negotiations have resulted not only in the return of slaves taken in the Silver Peaks and Skarsind, but also the recovery of a valuable artifact, the Blood Cloak. Indeed, only this last season another dozen Imperial slaves kept by the Thule were returned to Raknar of Wintermark. There are also rumours of extensive contact between the Thule and some of the Navarr, in Miaren and Hercynia, and talk of agreements relating to the secrets of the vallorn.

With the approval of the Imperial Senate, Thule merchants now travel down through Crow's Ridge as part of the Northern trade network - bringing a bounty of crystal mana to the Bonesetter of Torfast Trading Post, Broker of Treji Wayhouse, Overseer of the Westward Road, and the Northbound Trademaster. A few brave Imperial merchants have even made the long journey north from Skarsind to trade directly with the Thule in southern Otkodov.

Of course not everyone welcomes peace with the Thule. They are still believed to hold many humans as slaves alongside their own orc slaves. They control not one but two regions in Imperial territory - and while the Varushkans seem on the whole unconcerned about the Thule presence in Krevsaty, there is still a great deal of bitterness in Wintermark over the ceding of the Silver Peaks.

All this, off course, might be about to change precipitously.

The original peace treaty was negotiated for three years. Those three years come to an end during the Summer Solstice 382YE.

With that in mind, the Thule dragons are sending a delegation to Anvil during the Winter Solstice to discuss the peace treaty. They will want to speak to the Ambassador to Otkodov - Juha the Cave Spider - and have requested a formal reception be arranged on Saturday afternoon once the time of their arrival has been confirmed.

Castles and Armies

Shortly before the Winter Solstice, the residents of Branoc and Crowslook in Karsk report that there is now a castle in the Thule-held region of Krevsaty. Unlike the magical castle conjured permanently from the Summer realm in the Silver Peaks, this castle has been built the old-fashioned way - with slaves. According to the woodcutters, charcoal burners, and wagon raiders, there is also a substantial Thule force there - almost certainly an army. At the same time, Suaq hunters in Suaq Fount and East Floes speak of seeing large numbers of orcs moving around on the flanks of the SIlver Peaks.

There are absolutely no signs of hostility; the armies are simply there. As near as the observers from outside the regions can tell they are simply drilling, hunting, and doing all the other things an army does when it is on furlough. Yet it can be no coincidence that the Thule have chosen this particular time to make a show of strength, albeit a restrained one.

Great Forest

  • The Great Forest orcs abide peacefully in Therunin
  • There are some questions about how the Holt of the Oak will function.
  • A delegation is expected to turn up at some point over the weekend.
  • A new Great Forest Orcs page has been created.

For the most part, the Great Forest orcs live quietly in Therunin alongside their briar allies. During the Autumn Equinox a number of opportunities to improve relations between the Great Forest and the Empire were secured.

The Great Forest Orcs had requested if they might have access to Imperial Lore - the name given to the great body of Imperial rituals that allows magicians from all over the Empire to master any ritual they choose. Volfe of Ashenhall, the Archmage of Spring, successfully raised a Declaration of Dissemination in the Imperial Conclave to have ritual text for Rivers of Life created and bequeathed to the Great Forest Orcs, while Kay Carter, a yeofolk of House de Ryland raised the same declaration for Blessing of New Spring. Ironically this was a much more expensive option than the aid the Great Forest Orcs requested, but it does ensure that they will not gain access to Imperial lore with all the attendant risks that that would have.

The ritual texts have been provided to the orc magicians, but their arrival appears to cause some concern. The wealth they had gathered to pay for access to Imperial lore is basically everything the tribe have in the world - having been forced to flee their homes by the Druj. They are happy to pay that for a chance for their offspring to learn to wield the kind of powerful magic the Empire has - but these two ritual texts are only a fraction of what they had asked for. While they do not wish to appear ungrateful, they appear concerned that they are now expected to provide the original payment they offered for these two rituals only, and are eagerly seeking clarification.

They want to stress that they are not ungrateful - Blessing of New Spring was one of the specific rituals they identified that they believe will help them adapt and prosper in their new home. They don't clear land and put it to crop the way the Marchers do, but there are some among them who have experience keeping flocks of goats, sheep and other animals and the ritual will benefit them. But they had only intended it as an example of the sort of things that would be useful to them - it was access to the body of Imperial lore they were really seeking. However they do understand how immense the thing they asked for was, so while they had hoped for more they are not angry or insulted that the Empire chose not to grant it.

Rivers of Life is more challenging for them since it is an expensive ritual that is difficult to cast, but they are keen on the prospect of learning such a powerful ritual. They can see it would benefit them over the coming winter but they are cautious and want to be sure that the Conclave is happy for them to attempt a ritual that pours Spring magic into the entire territory of Therunin?

The Navarr National Assembly passed a mandate charging Tynan Lonestriker to urge the people of Therunin to share their herbs and supplies with the great forest orcs. This will significantly impact the herb gardens and businesses of Therunin (they will produce 2 fewer herbs or 36 fewer rings respecively each season for the next year). At the same time the Imperial Senate voted to amend the use of the Gardens of High Chalcis, to redirect the bounty of herbs they provide to support the Great Forest orcs. It is not entirely clear what will result from taking advantage of both opportunities, but it is certain that the Great Forest will have more than enough herbs for their needs in the coming year.

The Conclave has also asked magicians to teach magic to the Great Forest Orcs to help them regain what has been lost. This is well received by the Orcs, who are eager to learn, but the magicians soon report that although they are able to provide rudimentary instruction in magic, what these people really lack is access to a wide body of ritual lore. That would allow them to learn to master powerful and important rituals. Their teachers are very wary of teaching them those rituals without explicit direction from the Conclave to make Imperial Lore accessible to their pupils, so it is impossible to provide significant help without that.

The Great Forest orcs have also been given permission by the Imperial Senate to take over the operation of the Thimble. This has several effects. It removes the upkeep of the Bourse seat, but it also allows the Great Forest orcs to claim a portion of the weirwood produced to allow them to establish herb gardens and farms in Therunin. This reduces the amount of weirwood received by the Navarr custodian of the Thimble by 4 wains each season.

Finally the Great Forest Orcs have been given permission to construct a great fortification - the Holt of the Oak. The orcs of the Great Forest claim to be masters at working with weirwood, and offered to construct a fortification to protect Therunin out of wood rather than stone, if the commission was ceded to them for the duration of their stay in the Empire. All they require is someone to provide them with the materials they will need to build such a fortification. The Imperial Senate voted to accept the offer - which the orcs are delighted about - but thus far they have not provided any of the materials required so that the work has not yet begun.

It is believed that the Great Forest tribe intend to send a delegation to Anvil during the Winter Summit but, as is typical for the orcs, they have provided no information about when they intend to arrive. It is likely that the Secretary to the Diplomatic Corps may know more.

Grendel

  • A delegation from the Grendel, headed by Speaker Morna, is due to arrive in Anvil on Friday at 19:00

Shortly before the Winter Solstice, a sleek ship, adorned with finery in an Asavean style, arrives in the docks of Sarvos, bearing Grendel banners. The harbourmaster makes clear to the dock workers, and the public, that the ship is expected and that the Grendel are here under a flag of truce. They are coming to Anvil to talk.

Sending word ahead through the Civil Service Speaker Morna has made his intention clear. They plan to arrive in Anvil on the first night of the summit, at the seventh hour and they wish to speak with the Imperial Consul. The Grendel appear to be in an altogether pleasant mood, though their reception in Sarvos is frosty considering the last time the Grendel were there. It is not certain at this time if the Grendel seek a formal audience with the Consul; the Secretary to the Diplomatic Corps will presumably know more.

The magistrates, somewhat wearily, remind everyone that while they are in Anvil under a flag of peace, and while traveling too and from Anvil, the Grendel are protected by Imperial law.

Resolution

The Thule ambassador, Rak Who-Speaks-For-The-Dragons-United visited Anvil along with a companion. The ambassador met with Yevgeni Katzev, proxy to the Imperial Ambassador, and several others. No resolution regarding a new peace treaty was reached. Meanwhile, his companion spent time with Imperial magicians including visiting the Sentinel Gate and the Imperial Conclave as an observer.

The Grendel "ambassador" likewise visited Anvil. The peace treaty offered by the southern orcs was deemed unacceptable.

It is not clear if a Great Forest orc representative reached Anvil or not. Thanks to the provision of ten wains of Weirwood by Cybi Farkas, senator for Therunin, it appears work on the Holt of the Oak has now begun. A significant amount of weirwood and money still remains outstanding before the fortification can be completed however.