"By the paragons!" The pen dropped from Senzio's hand. He stared owlishly down at what he'd written, mouth slightly open.

"What?" Astibar moved across, leant over to see what his friend had written. He'd been head-down over the documents for over an hour, pen scratching away as he attempted to break the code. Several of the pages had needed to be soaked in a bath of special salts to remove the bloodstains that make parts of them unreadable. They were still drying - Senzio had idly tried to see if he could work out what one of the less damaged pages held... and it looked like he'd been successful.

"It's... we need to contact the Voice of Liberty. No, we need to tell the Senate. This is bigger than we expected, bigger than any of us guessed...."

Despite himself Astibar rolled his eyes a little. His friend had started out on the cheap stages of Sarvos, and never passed up an opportunity to be overly dramatic. It was one of his least endearing qualities.

"Well go on then, don't leave me in suspense."

"The Noble Lady of the Sea. She's not a person at all. Not some glorified merchant-prince..."

"Come on Senzio! Stop milking it! This isn't Patrico Sarvosa's counting house and you aren't Doctor Sentirsibene."

Senzio folded his arms grumpily and stuck out his bottom lip.

"Well if you're going to be a prick about it... It turns out the Noble Lady of the Sea is a ship. The flagship of a mighty armada of warships belonging to some people called the..." he checked his notes. "The Slave Lords of Rachensgrab. Slave Lords Astibar. And it's not an idle name either by the looks of it. They've got an entire city state behind them, on the other side of the Sea of Steel. They provide slaves to corrupt nations across the known world, and they have not only been doing it for quite some time but from what I see here they make the Ceruleo family look like a couple of amateurs running a three-card-monte outside a tavern. And that's just the start. There's pages of this stuff."

Astibar chewed one end of his moustache in a way Senzio found very annoying.

"We'd better let the Senate know," he said after a moment. "Manage their expectations as it were."

His friend looked back down at the paper again.

"I think they probably want to let the ambassadors know as well," he said. "I feel like we're going to need all the help we can get."
Masterful planning.jpg
Destroying the Slave Lords of Rachensgrab will require careful planning, but time is short.
Click for audio version


Last season, the Empire joined forces with the Commonwealth and Sumaah, their allies in the Liberty Pact, to launch a surprise attack on the city of Chalonsio in the Asavean Archipelago. There was no declaration of war, no warning given of the coming attack. The first the Asaveans knew was when the sails of their enemies appeared on the horizon. The docks were burned, the cities defences overrun, the bridges were torn down, the gates of the Sapphire Gate torn asunder and the priests of the God of Chains were slaughtered. The cobbled streets of the island city of Chalonsio ran with the blood of slavers.

Perhaps the greatest victory of all was the capture of vital information about the Noble Lady of the Sea... which it turns out is not a person at all but a ship. A dangerous, powerful ship, the flagship of an armada of warships belonging to a group called the Slave Lords of Rachensgrab. Their red-sailed raiding ships have attacked every coastline in the world at some point, and then shown up weeks later to sell human misery in the slave markets of Asavea and Jarm. They are known to be frequent visitors to Dubhtraig, and may even engage in trade with the Iron Confederacy or the Druj. Everywhere that intelligent people put their fellow creatures in chains, the red sails of vessels like the Noble Lady of the Sea are found.

The location of Rachesngrab has never been discovered - until now. The priests of the God of Chains knew where it lay, and when their temple was destroyed the victorious alliance was able to snatch that information from the flames - literally as one of the high priests of the God of Slavers was trying to burn the maps rather than allow the Liberty Pact to capture them. That priest is dead - and the fact they failed to destroy the vital clue died with them. As a consequence, the Liberty Pact now has a narrow window to strike at the Slave Lord's stronghold.

Across the Sea of Steel

The seven seas fill the spaces left by the Creator's hand, surrounding and separating the great powers of the world. East of the Sea of Sighs and the Sea of Teeth lies the Sea of Steel. One of the largest of the seven seas, believed to be thousands of miles across, it takes its name from the large number of warships that cluster along its shores and ply its waves. The Commonwealth controls much of southern waters and Jarm dominate the western shores but the north is hostile waters and few ships that have sailed that way have returned.

Now it is revealed that the home port of the Noble Lady of the Sea lies here. An archipelago of islands, romantically called the Tears of the Moon, can apparently be reached by sailing dead north from Volkavaar. A daring journey for anyone who does not know their destination, the chain of islands lies more than three weeks away across the storm-wracked waters. The largest of the countless Tears is the island of Rachensgrab, a swarming, cosmopolitan island whose rakish inhabitants dress in fancy silk doublets that would be the envy of a League bravo. This is the home of the Slave Lords of Rachensgrab, the powerful alliance of cutthroats and criminals who have bought and sold slaves all over the world to build themselves a life of power and indulgence.

Based on the evidence they have gathered from the priests of the God of Chains, the Empire has been able to put together a daring plan, a chance to launch an assault on this aerie of the slave lords and potentially deal a fatal blow to the vile trade in living beings.

The Assault

  • Fleet and military unit owners can take the Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords action in downtime
  • The option is located on the privateering or independent action dropdown respectively

This time, there is no question of legality. Digging through old civil service records on the matter, Magistrate Abraham has discovered a decree issued by Empress Deanne declaring war on the Slavers of Rachensgrab in 316YE. There's no record of such a declaration ever being abrogated and the Senate never mention the isle again, so the state of war legally still exists. Thus the obstacles to overcome are strategic, not political, for the stronghold of the Slave Lords of Rachensgrab lies leagues away across an open sea. Too far for the Empire to send a navy even if it still had one; too far in fact for even the Commonwealth to consider such an idea.

Thus it is Imperial fleets and military units that will be essential for any assault to happen. This time the Sumaah Republic has no ships to spare, and precious few soldiers - they must instead shore up their defences in preparation for the inevitable retaliation from Asavea. The Commonwealth will provide a haven for any slaves who can be freed, but beyond that they can spare only a few ships for the effort - they must guard their own waters from the threat of Jarmish aggression.

For fleets, there will be an additional option accessible through the independent action dropdown menu - Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords. Any number of fleets can take part in the action, and enchantments that effect privateering, such as Blood and Salt, will provide additional strength to the opportunity. For military units, the additional option is accessible through the Independent action dropdown menu, and enchantments that improve paid work such as Merciless Wrath of the Reaver.

The Raid Admiral

  • The General Assembly could appoint an admiral to take charge of the raid
  • The admiral will be better able to coordinate ships, allowing them to seize enemy vessels captured during the attack

It will help boost the effectiveness of the raid, if the Empire are able to appoint someone to lead, just as the Marchers and Winterfolk did for their raid on Skallahn. The Admiral would rally people, secure resources, and otherwise act very much like a field marshal might on the battlefield. Previous marshals have been appointed by the a national Assembly, but this attack will have to be an Empire-wide assault if it is to succeed. As a result it will need to be a figure appointed by judgement of the General Assembly

To appoint an admiral, the General Assembly will need to raise a statement of principle naming a single citizen. In the event that the assembly raises more than one statement naming different admirals, the one that passes with the highest margin of success will take precedence. If either statement gains a greater majority, it may even lead to a further opportunity of some sort at the Winter Solstice - just as with any other statement of principle.

Assuming the Empire's priests are able to cooperate to name a single character to act as admiral for the raid, then the named character will be able to coordinate the capture of several valuable ships from the raid, depending on how much strength is recruited to take part. The admiral will be able to allocate these vessels as they see fit by instructing the civil service to register the new owners.

Targets and Rewards

  • There is no-one to pay for the assault unless the Empire applies the Guerdon to the action
  • Fleets and military units receive no automatic production for taking part in the raid
  • There is loot that might be had if the assault is successful

With only limited assistance from Sumaah and the Commonwealth, the success of this mission is largely in the hands of the Empire. The total strength of fleets and military units contributed by the Empire will determine the outcome of the raid. According to the intelligence the Empire has recovered, the Aerie is well defended, a vast keep that sits on a bluff overlooking a fortified harbour defended by catapults and chains and protected by a sea wall. The Empire will need a significant force to penetrate such defences.

There is no-one to pay for the assault, unless the Quartermaster General chooses to instruct the civil service to pay the the guerdon to those who support the action. However the Empire will be able to loot the Slave Lords ill-gotten wealth and distribute it among the attackers, if the raid is successful.

Up to 5000 - Scatter the Ships
The raid does not have enough strength to put to shore, but they can launch a lightning raid on the harbour, attacking ships that are docked or at anchor. A few will be sunk, many will be forced to scatter to avoid a similar fate. The Empire will be able to launch fire arrows into the dockside warehouses and stores, burning whatever wealth the Slave Lords have stored there, but the damage will be limited. Operations will be disrupted for a season, and they will be forced to shore up their defences in case another attack is forthcoming but there will be little lasting damage.

5,000 - 15,000 - Burn the Harbour
Imperial fleets will be able to get put soldiers on the docks, where they can fire the warehouses, attack the defenders, and loot some of the ill-gotten gains the Slave Lords of Rachesngrab have left exposed. Any ships that do not flee the approaching armada will be attacked, and many will be sunk, with a few of the smaller ones captured. The raid will cause destruction and confusion, spreading chaos among the slavers and throwing their operations into turmoil for a year until they are able to replace lost vessels and rebuild the dockside facilities.

If the Empire has appointed an admiral to lead the invasion, they will recover possession of four level three fleets, which they can distribute amongst those who supported the attack and who would benefit from a bigger ship.

15,000 to 25,000 - Melt Down the Statues
One of the Slave Lords of Rachesngrab is apparently some kind of cult leader. A false priest called Mordrammo, they are said to worship a being they called Pharam Vex, the Voivode of Chains. Mordrammo's temple is not far from the docks, for it serves not only as a place of blasphemous worship, but also as one of the biggest auction blocks in the city. There are said to be great gold statues of Pharam Vex inside the temple, and claims that the god itself is sometimes seen there.

Mordrammo won't be caught there - the temple is fortified but not well defended and the shrewd priest is too canny to be trapped. He'll retreat to the Aerie as soon as it becomes clear that the Empire are attacking in numbers. But the temple itself can be burned to the ground, thousands of slaves freed, and the statues of false idols melted down. Temple guards are said to be armoured with golden scales and equipped with magic weapons bought and paid for by the proceeds of the temple's vile trade. Thirty magical weapons of various types will be amongst the loot taken from the raid and spread randomly among those who partake and every fleet and military unit that took part will gain 4 crowns when the gold is sold.

25,000 to 35,000 - Loot the Sacrificial Tower
The city contains a site of magical study, ominously referred to as the Sacrificial Tower, where they primarily study Autumn magic. The way into the tower is said to be filled with all manner of magical traps, but with enough force, the Empire can be confident of breaching it. The tower and the apprentices who study there are ruled by Ajakstu of the Many Masks, another of the Slave Lords. Said to be a master of disguise, Ajakstu is the "face" of the Slave Lords of Rachesngrab - their apparently cultured representative to the wider world. If the tower can be mastered, Ajakstu can be hurled from the top, and the corrupt tomes he has gathered from a hundred shattered libraries burnt - and the enslaved crafters and artists that he has gathered in the cellars beneath finally freed from bondage.

If the tower is destroyed, it will permanently damage the effectiveness of the Slave Lords operations. Denied access to their Autumn enchantments, and robbed of their acceptable face, they will be forced to rely on more mundane, brutal methods which will curtail the scope of what they can attempt. It won't force them to stop their raids entirely, but it will be enough to ensure that their ships don't dare to sail as far as the Bay of Catazar for a generation, denying barbarians like the Grendel and the Druj access to new slaves.

The tower is also said to contain a wealth of magical riches - every fleet and military unit that took part will gain 1 pouch of warm ashes. In addition a dozen magical items used to enhance Autumn rituals will be among the loot taken from the raid and spread randomly among those who partake. If the Empire has appointed an admiral to lead the raid, then they will receive copies of two Autumn rituals recovered from the library in the Sacrificial Tower, though how useful such magics will prove remains to be seen.

35,000 to 45,000 - Sink the Armada
Most of the ships docked in the harbour will attempt to flee at the first sign of trouble, but with enough ships, the Empire will be able to throw up a blockade around the port, making it much harder for them to leave. A few will manage to slip through the blockade, but many more will be sunk, and more than a few of the red-sailed ships will be captured. The Slave Lords' pirate armada will be crippled. There is plenty of weirwood on Rachensgrab but even so, it will take five years for them to rebuild their fleet. Five years in which the world will be free of their raids and five years for nations like Jarm and Asavea to survive without access to the slave traders they have come to rely on.

If the Empire has appointed an admiral to lead the invasion, they will capture four additional level three fleets and two level five fleets, which they can distribute amongst those who supported the attack and who would benefit from a more powerful vessel.

45,000 to 55,000 - Assault the Aerie
The seat of the Slave Lords rule is a squat fortification on the high ground overlooking the city. It is allegedly an impressive structure, that sounds every bit as intimidating as some of the smaller fortifications in the Empire. Storming it will not be easy to take, but with the advantage of surprise the Empire can breach the gates and slaughter the defenders. The current leader of the Slave Lords, a buccaneer called Feetla controls the slave trade from here, along with any of the other slave lords who have been able to flee the attack. With one fell strike, the Empire can execute them all, ending the threat they pose for good.

With the Aerie and it's defenders dealt with, the Empire can take the time to raze Rachensgrab to the ground. All the slaves in the city can be freed, and those who imprisoned them put to the sword for their crimes. The international trade in slaves will collapse leaving a vacuum in its wake. Ending the threat of the Slave Lords won't force nations like Jarm or Asavea to change their ways, but it will cause them huge problems. They will be unable to buy slaves to replace those they have lost, and unable to sell those they wish to dispose of. Both powers will be forced to consider some changes or else make deep sacrifices to continue as they are.

Over 55,000 - Loot the Slave Lords Treasury
According to the tales, the Slave Lords possess immense wealth stored in labyrinthine vaults beneath the Aerie. According to some partial notes found in the Temple of Chains, these vaults are impregnable and protected by terrible guardians - colossal living statues of bronze and steel. Whether these creations are some kind of ushabti or perhaps some nightmare from the realms is unknown, but they pose a terrible threat to anyone who would try and claim the slavers treasure.

If the Empire attacks with overwhelming force, they can depose the Slave Lords, storm the keep, and then press on into the dungeon. In this case, every fleet and military unit will have a chance to receive one of the hundred wains of Bourse resources recovered from the vaults - mithril, weirwood, or white granite.

Limited Opportunity

  • The Slave Lords of Rachensgrab are not aware that their hidden fastness has been compromised
  • If the Empire does not act immediately, they will realise their weakness and take steps to protect themselves

The clock is ticking on the raid; it will only be available in the downtime following the Autumn Equinox. It is inevitable the Slave Lords of Rachensgrab will realise they are vulnerable, and take steps to protect themselves. At the very least, they would potentially be able to call on the Principalities of Jarm to provide them additional protection, making their position unassailable.