The orc pulled his heavy velvet robes back to let him reach the scroll case hanging from the belt beneath. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Theodota stiffen slightly at the movement. She made a note to speak to him later about it. She doubted the orc, or his heavy-set bodyguards, had noticed, but a sentinel would have seen the motion and understood what it meant. She smiled politely at the orc, while she idly contemplated whether she could draw her sword fast enough to slit his throat before his guards intervened.

The orc studiously ignored her and concentrated on opening his scroll case instead. He fumbled the binding slightly and cursed as he nearly dropped it. He was clearly nervous Clelia realized. For all his fine apparel and huge entourage, the orc carried himself with all the poise of a first-year apprentice.

The messenger unrolled the scroll, coughed slightly, and then began to intone. "By order of the Salt Lord Mahiri Kaliact..." Clelia moved her attention from the speaker to the orcs behind him. It had been delivered to half the spires in Cinion, so she'd heard every word of this speech a week ago thanks to the Heliopticon. She didn't particularly need to hear it again. This time was better spent studying him, studying them, their self-styled new overlords.

"...earnestly desires a prosperous coexistence with all the citizens of her territory..." The orc droned on and on. He stopped to draw breath occasionally, but he kept his focus firmly on the scroll as if worried that he might lose his place.. "...promises that those who obey the laws will be treated fairly..."

Most of the orc guards wore crude mithril armour over drab, cheap looking robes. Few had anything dyed the Imperial purple the messenger was wearing. She noticed one of them flicking his eyes from one of her sentinels to another, weighing them up and studying their weapons. Unlike the speaker, this one wasn't nervous, she realized. He was eager, just itching for an excuse to draw his blade. Her unwanted "guests" outnumbered Clelia and her sentinels three to one, easy to see why the orc felt the odds favoured them. She made a note to kill him first if the fighting started.

"...will be required to provide hospitality for any of the Salt Lord's servants... " the orc continued to read off his scroll describing what would be expected of them and what recompense would be provided in return. Typical Grendel, there was always a price. "... mana that any spire has surplus to be offered for first refusal to the agents of the Salt Lord..."

She caught the eye of an orc at the rear of the party and he smiled at her. She realized in that moment he had been studying her, just as she had been studying them. Her face betrayed no emotion, but the orc raised a huge steel crossbow just enough to bring it into view. It was already loaded with a heavy iron quarrel - the Grendel did love their subtlety.

"...hopes that together we can usher in a brave new age of cooperation..." He was getting to the end at last. A few words more and he would be finished. She stood as still as a statue and waited for him to be done, so that she could deliver the agreed response.

Victory at a price

UrizenMagician.jpg
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During the Autumn Equinox, the Imperial Senate ceded the regions of Ankra, Cinion, and Ateri in Spiral as part of the Grendel peace treaty. Provisions were made to allow citizens currently in those regions two seasons' grace to relocate to Imperial territory with all of their possessions.

Despite the constant threat of the Black Plateau and its nightmares, the Grendel have moved armies into Spiral to lay claim to the conceded land. Reports from scouts in the territory - most of them cambion who are better able to resist the oppressive atmosphere in the territory - say that they are not only claiming the vacated Imperial regions. Some of their force is moving to take control of Ossuary, and Screed, as well as consolidating their hold over Apstrus and Apulian. In the absence of any armed opposition, the Grendel will have claimed the entire territory of Spiral by the start of the Winter Solstice.

Of course their conquest comes at a price. The madness and despair that hangs over the entire territory like a shroud will surely take its toll on their soldiers, but the Grendel seem to believe control of Spiral is worth that price.

WingedMessenger.png
"Salt Lord Kaliact has announced herself to be the Grendel governor of Spiral. A Winged Messenger can be sent to her at her court in Apulian, Apulus, Spiral..

The New Boss

  • The Grendel governor of Spiral is Salt Lord Mahiri Kaliact who has established her court at Apulian along the southern coast
  • She has sent messengers to the spires of Urizen urging them to cooperate with the new regime
  • She also warns them not to resist her domination of the territory

As orc armies move through Spiral, emissaries are sent north and west from the Grendel court at Apulian. Mahiri Kaliact does not style herself Governor, but rather wears the title of Salt Lord, and her messengers accompany the armies as they sweep across the territory. Whenever they find an Urizen spire that still stands, they come ahead of the army to talk to the inhabitants. There is a great deal of trepidation at first, but the heliopticon is soon alive with news.

The new Grendel rulers of Spiral seem eager to demonstrate the differences between them and the Druj who lie over the border in Zenith. The Salt Lord's minions announce that she intends to rule with a light hand. She claims that nothing need change for "her citizens" as she refers to them. As long as they don't resist, as long as they don't cause trouble, then their lives will continue as normal. She makes it clear that as part of this friendly detente they'll be required to shelter any Grendel travellers moving around the new territory, but she has no intention of seizing their assets or imposing crippling tariffs on the spires that remain. Those Urizen who live in Spiral will have the same rights as any Grendel who dwell there - for as long as they remain there.

That's not to say there won't be some changes - she has no interest in leaving her borders open for spies and troublemakers to come and go as they please. She is aware that the Empire imposes sanctions on trade with foreign nations that don't share the moral high ground with them, and she intends to respect that by ensuring any caravans travelling either into or out of the territory pay similar tariffs. But whatever mana sites, mines or whatever the citizens of Spiral maintain will be left alone.

All assuming they cooperate.

The Salt Lord is not waiting to see how the Urizeni citizens respond to her rule. Instead she has focussed her attention on Ossuary, and her new border with the Druj, rather than on the Empire. As the Winter Solstice nears there are scattered reports via the heliopticon of Grendel slave caravans heading north through Apstrus carrying large amounts of white granite - it appears that Kaliact intends to fortify the region against the Druj - securing the Legacy and the Twilight Gate.

Don't Start Anything, Won't Be Anything

  • For as long as this situation continues, Urizen, the Empire, and the Grendel will benefit
  • Personal resources in Spiral will not receive the conquered territory penalty.
  • The Doyen of the Spires will be able to draw on the scholars of Spiral to help them codify rituals more quickly, though the Grendel will know what they are working on.

Thus far, all the signs indicate that the Grendel intend to make good on their offer. Provided the situation does not change, that provides some unique benefits to Urizen and the Empire.

First, for as long as the current situation endures, personal resources will not suffer the conquered territory penalty. These benefits would end in the season following any Grendel decision to end the current policy of cooperation.

Secondly, after a short period of readjustment, the magicians and scholars of Spiral could continue to work via the heliopticon to support the Doyen of the Spires, restoring the speed with which it can codify rituals to one season per 20 magnitudes of the final work. Like the conquered territory penalty, this option would end the season following any Grendel decision to crack down on the spires.

Since the Grendel are known to be capable of monitoring heliopticon communication, they would know of any discussion of formulating rituals. Their ability to use that information in any practical sense is limited, but they would know what the Urizen were working on. The effect of any arcane projection being codified with the assistance of the Spiral magicians would be revealed to the Grendel Wind Lords. The Doyen would be responsible for letting Profound Decisions know when they selected the arcane projection whether the magicians of Spiral were involved in the work or not - and this decision would need to be made when they began formulating the ritual.

Finally, the civil service are confident that such cooperation will provide benefits for the Grendel. There are innumerable small benefits that accrue to the new Salt Lord if she can rely on the cooperation of the remaining population rather than having to crush their resistance. It is impossible for the civil service to quantify these benefits, but in particular it is likely to make it easier for the Grendel to complete commissions such as the new fortification they are building in Ossuary. Trade in mana and other resources that Spiral produces will also grow which will likely make the new Salt Lord and her supporters rich.

Look To the Assembly

  • The Urizen Assembly can affect the relationship between the people of Spiral and their new Grendel overlords
The influence of the Sword Scholars and the Wisdom Assembly should mean that all these mandates need to be upheld with a greater majority to be enacted. However, thanks to the spiritual pilgrimage called for during the Autumn Equinox, for this season only, mandates only need a simple majority to be enacted.

Years of warfare followed by the eruption of the Black Plateau means that Spiral is very sparsely populated even for an Urizen territory. Many of the people displaced by earlier conquests have already made new lives for themselves in Morrow and Redoubt, and few have much interest in returning to their former spires given the current situation. Those remaining in the territory are those stubborn enough to refuse to leave - or those who find the relative isolation conducive to their magical researches. Few of these communities are currently planning to leave, not unless the Grendel force them to do so. However, they are still Urizeni citizens and they still look to the Urizen Assembly for guidance.

During the Autumn Equinox, the Urizen Assembly did not uphold any statements of principle related to the situation in Spiral. As such there has been a mixed response to the dominance of the Grendel, and the offers of the Salt Lord. As it stands, very few people have chosen to depart the territory - a trickle of people along the Onyx Path. Mostly individuals, and a handful of smaller communities who have simply had enough of Spiral, all under the watchful eye of Grendel soldiers camped near the ruins of Fort Mezudan.

There are three obvious mandates that the Urizen Assembly could pass if they chose to do so, either to fight, to flee, or to cooperate.

Consequences are the price of Ambition. If Urizen is to prosper, then we must rally our strength where we still hold ground. We send {named priest} with 25 liao to urge every citizen to join us in Redoubt and Morrow and to abandon Spiral once and for all.

Synod Mandate, Urizen Assembly


This mandate would mean the remaining Urizen spires in Spiral would be abandoned. The Grendel treaty grants the inhabitants two seasons grace to leave if they choose, but it is very clear that is not what the Salt Lord hopes will happen. Maybe one day it might be possible to drive the Grendel from Spiral, but given the enduring presence of the Black Plateau, it would be very difficult to persuade any Imperial citizens to return here. In effect this mandate would mean abandoning Spiral. It would however deny the Grendel Salt Lord the benefits of cooperation with the people who dwell there and the people settling in Morrow and Redoubt would strengthen those two territories.

Do not fear to act; only be shamed by inaction. The Grendel have conquered Spiral, but they remain vulnerable. We send {named priest} with 50 liao to urge every Urizeni living in Spiral to seize any opportunity to strike against our enemies.

Synod Mandate, Urizen Assembly

This mandate would see armed resistance break out across Spiral, as the population fight to resist Grendel rule. There is no possibility of any kind that they can win such a conflict, not while the Grendel maintain an army in the territory. But all the benefits of cooperation that the Salt Lord is looking for would be lost and her strength would be constantly sapped by the resistance of those who remain. The Salt Lord has openly threatened to crush resistance of this kind, and the Grendel are as good as their word, so many Urizen would lose their lives as a result. But the flow of mithril, mana and wealth to the Salt Lord's coffers would be cut and fortifications and other commissions would be harder to construct.

Enjoy the fruits of your labour today; no one knows what the morrow holds. If the people of Spiral embrace the chance for trade with the Grendel they can prosper. We send {named priest} with 50 liao to urge every Urizeni living in Spiral to cooperate with the Salt Lord and ensure that opportunities for profit are not wasted.

Synod Mandate, Urizen Assembly

This mandate would solidify the current détente between the Grendel conquerors and the Urizen who have remained behind. It would mean the Urizen embraced the Salt Lord's offer of peaceful coexistence, but go further in encouraging them to seek out opportunities for trade with their new rulers. Since the Grendel are now foreigners, such trade would not be illegal - though it is hard to say who would benefit more, the Grendel or the Urizen. Regardless, if the mandate were enacted it would create an opportunity for both sides to benefit further in the future.

These mandates compete with each other. If the Urizen Assembly chose not to pass a mandate then the current status quo with a tentative collaboration between the Grendel and the Urizen in Spiral will continue. If they pass either of the first two mandates above then the current benefits of cooperation will end.

The Succour of Mithril

  • The Salt Lord proposes a bargain with the Empire
  • They want the secret of protecting settlements from the oppressive aura of Spiral
  • In return they offer to allow the Urizen living in Spiral to support the Citadel Guard for the next six months
  • The Senate, Conclave, and Synod all have avenues to influence the decision to share the information in Spiral

The Salt Lord's forces are suffering due to the effects of the oppressive aura of Spiral. They are able to employ Sky lore to help counter the worst of the effects of living in Spiral, but it is expensive, inconvenient, and impossible to employ on a large scale or for extended periods of time. They quickly discovered that the Urizen have a means of protecting their spires from the oppressive presence of the Black Plateau and the Salt Lord is keen to know more about how this works. Her magicians have discovered that it is linked to the Block in Cinion but they are unable to work out how to replicate or extend the effects.

It would be very much in the Grendel interest to acquire knowledge of how to ward their own settlements against the aura emanating from Screed. Thus far, the Urizen remaining in Spiral are loathe to explain how to form the web of mithril nodes that protect their spires. While the Grendel are legally foreigners, there is little sense among the people of Urizen that they are actually friends of the Empire. It is made clear to the Salt Lord representatives that they will get no help unearthing the secrets of the Block without the Empire's tacit or explicit approval.

Destroying the Block
The Block helps protect the spires of Spiral from the worst of the Black Plateau oppression. If it were destroyed, which the Grendel could do reasonably easily, then the production of all mana sites, congregations, herb gardens, mines, and forests owned those living in Spiral would drop by a quarter.

It would also mean that the scholars of Spiral would find it very difficult to concentrate on their studies, removing the bonus to codification they provide to the Doyen of the Spires whatever else happened.

If Spiral were later liberated, the Block would need to be rebuilt - something that is not a cheap proposition.

After some delay, an emissary appears on the border of Redoubt proposing a bargain with the Empire. On her behalf, they are requesting that the Empire permit the magicians of Spiral to share details of how the ward works so that the Grendel can protect their own homes. Citing the shared virtue of Prosperity, the emissary claims that Salt Lord Kaliact does not expect this valuable information for free. If it is provided, she will allow the Urizen in Spiral to continue to offer support to the Citadel Guard. For the next six months - until the start of the Summer Solstice 384YE - after which she will be prepared to negotiate circumstances under which this state of affairs may continue.

Unfortunately the bargain is not the Salt Lord's only word on the subject - it seems she cannot resist including a threat. The message makes clear that if the Urizen refuse to share their secret, then there would arguably be no reason to allow the Block - which is a massive piece of valuable mithril after all - to continue to exist. Should it continue to be useless to her, the Salt Lord will have it destroyed, ensuring that nobody benefits from its protection. Alternatively, the spires that are protected could benefit her if their current human occupants were replaced by loyal Grendel - if Kaliact cannot build her own protected settlements she might just tell her soldiers to seize the ones that exist.

There are several ways an unequivocal message could be sent regarding sharing - or not sharing - this information with the Grendel. A suitably worded Senate motion would resolve the matter comprehensively. Alternatively, the Imperial Conclave could pass a Declaration of Endowment naming the "secrets of the Block" as the knowledge to be shared. Alternatively, a statement of principle upheld by the Urizen National Assembly would also influence the people of Spiral in this matter. If more than one such avenue were explored, and any of them were in opposition to each other, the people of Spiral would maintain their default position - not telling the Grendel how to protect their settlements.

While providing the Grendel with the secret of protecting settlements might seem to be of advantage only to the orcs, it has been pointed out that once the territory is part of Urizen again, any such structures they have constructed would remain behind, to be repurposed as part of any repopulation effort.

Salt Lord Kaliact expects an answer by the end of the Autumn Equinox. She claims to be patient, but her patience is not infinite. It is likely that if she does not get the answer she desires, the situation will escalate. Obviously, the Salt Lord wants to avoid unnecessary violence in the shadow of the Black Plateau, but a short period of conflict would be preferable to allowing the nightmares and despair to challenge her control of the territory. While she might destroy the Block out of spite, it seems she is more likely to instruct her soldiers to seize the spires of Spiral and garrison them with her own troops.

A Crumbling Citadel

People of the Urizen, the Citadel Army is starving. At the current rate of decline we can only expect to lose more spires and territories, to this end, I urge you all to search your stores for supplies to provide the army with.

Menander Seaspirt, Autumn Equinox 383YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 170-0)

The spires, temples and citadels of Urizen commend the soldiers of the Citadel Guard for their service and offer those disbanded from the army to join the House of the Wanderer, and any other temples, spires or citadels in lieu of their lost homes.

Faber Aerarius, Autumn Equinox 383YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 155-0)
  • The Citadel Guard is deteriorating, and the concedence of Spiral is not helping that situation
  • Urizen would need to control a significant number of regions in Zenith to stop their army crumbling
  • If taken, the Salt Lord's deal would give the Citadel Guard a six month reprieve

The survival of the Citadel Guard has been threatened since the Druj invaded Zenith, but conceding the remaining regions of Spiral may have sealed its fate. Already crumbling thanks to earlier losses, the beleaguered nation of magicians simply lacks the resources to support a standing army any more. The Marcher granaries are doing their best to help, and both mithril and ritual magic can stave off the eventual dissolution of the army, but these are stop-gap measures that simply serve to delay the inevitable.

The Urizen Assembly upheld two statements of principle with a greater majority during the Autumn Equinox. Meander Seaspirit urged the virtuous to search stores for supplies to support the Citadel Guard, while Faber Aerarius encouraged the spires to take in any soldiers who left the army as it declined. Neither statement has lead to a mandate. There have been donations made to the Citadel Guard, but the scale of the problem is not one that can be addressed by any amount of gifts from spires that in many cases are already struggling to support themselves. Those soldiers leaving the Citadel Guard for the most part simply return to the spires they already belonged to, or join their fellows in exile in Redoubt or Morrow where their former homes have been lost to the orcs.

The only known way to permanently stem the dissolution of the Citadel Guard is to reclaim lost territory, or conquer more. As a result of recent losses they would need to reconquer several regions in Zenith or Spiral to restore the supply of the Citadel Guard. Unfortunately, Zenith has been the playground of the Druj for some time now, and the destruction of the Golden Cascade has damaged the ability of the territory to support an army. If not Zenith or Spiral, the Empire would need to conquer a new territory and assign it to Urizen - once new spires were established in prosperous new lands the slow decline of the Citadel Guard would end.

The proposal by the Salt Lord of Apulus would provide a temporary respite for the army. If the Empire took the appropriate steps to provide the secrets of the Block, then the Grendel would allow the Urizen of Spiral to contribute to the Citadel Guard. That would mean that the army would immediately cease to suffer decay. Such a reprieve would only be brief however, the Grendel have offered to allow the support for two seasons only. It's likely that they might make a new offer after that time, but given the nature of the Grendel, the price is only likely to get more expensive. Of course this option would only work if there are citizens in Spiral, there would be no-one to support the army if the Urizen Assembly urges them to abandon the territory.

Another alternative might be to attempt an appraisal. Such things have been attempted in the past with mixed results. Civil servants have been able to identify some options to delay the decay of a nation's armies when needed, but the benefits have been temporary and the costs involved have almost invariably been found to be too expensive.

Game Information

Supply is a mechanic that represents the ability of nations to field Imperial armies, and Urizen's low population and magical focus means that it has the least ability of any Imperial nation to maintain a standing army, a situation made significantly worse by its recent loss of swathes of territory to the orcs. The only way to permanently stop the Citadel Guard declining is for Urizen to replace its lost territory. The Salt Lord's offer works because Spiral already contains Urizen citizens and spires who can contribute to the upkeep of the army - something that is not usually possible in conquered territories. Other methods can slow the decline or restore strength to the army, but that is all. Ritual magic, synod mandates, senate motions, and conclave declarations cannot stop the decay of an army by themselves.

Resolution

Following the Winter Solstice, Alcuin enacted the mandate to encourage the people of Spiral to cooperate with the Grendel; Veikko Bondforger used the power of the Cardinal of Loyalty to support this judgement.

Further Reading