House of earth
She leaned back in her chair and glowered at Hjordy. "Wipe that bloody smirk off your face you smug bastard".
Hjordgar grinned at her "That's three straight games you've lost Gwen - perhaps you'd like to play against one of the children?"
"Very funny. Isn't it enough already that you've won? Anyway, I didn't walk all this bloody way just to play games - there's news."
Her companion's smile disappeared in an instant and he turned serious. He swept the tafl pieces back into the bag and then poured her another mug of ale. For the next thirty minutes he said almost nothing, just drank it all in, as she proceeded to relate what she'd heard from Landry who said he'd got it from Shem who'd got it from Edda. Finally he spoke.
"So what does it all mean? Are they going to let us stay? Keep our farms? What?"
"Paragons! I don't know - I wish I did. I'm not sure they know." He nodded at that musing over it while she continued "One thing's for sure - there won't be any thralls no more. They don't hold with that."
He snorted then "Right - well that'll make all the difference in the world that will. I'll bet there'll still be taxes though? You're not going to tell me they don't hold with taxes are you Gwen?"
She grinned at him "Would I piss on your back and tell you it was raining? Course there'll be bloody taxes. Some things never change. Now enough of my yapping, what's the news from your side?"
"Not good... Ysra and Gudmundur have had some almighty falling out. Each side blames the other for the thrall deaths. Only thing they both agree on is that the Empire has to pay. They say Gudmundur has sworn a blood oath not to lay off the killing until the ancestors fall silent.... It's not good..." He shook his head and his voice trailed off. He picked up the flagon but it was empty and now he realized that the fire was almost out. "I've no more ale Gwen" he said apologetically.
"It's an omen!" she said her eyes wide with alarm... and then ominously "It is time".
"An omen... time for what... what does it mean?" he asked a note of fear creeping into his voice.
"It means it's time for me to go home you daft bastard." Gwen's face broke into a wide grin - she'd got the better of the little bugger at last.
Not all the Jotun have left the Mournwold - there remain significant numbers of Jotun thralls living throughout the Mourn, but especially in Green March, Southmoor, and Chalkdowns. These people are very different from the people that the Empire have been fighting, in temperament at least, for they possess no effective weapons and seem to have little or no interest in fighting. Large numbers of them fled west marching with the Jotun armies as they retreated before the Empire's advance, but the majority remained behind. And now the question is what to be done with them.
Since Summer, the Empire distributed 75 thrones each season to pay for supplies to feed the orcs. This aid was pivotal in ensuring that none of them faced starvation - but it also affected attitudes. While many were displaced by the advancing armies, the majority have now found the confidence to return to their farms and begun to work them once more. They are clearly cautious of the Empire but thus far the Empire's largess has convinced them to stay. If the situation stays as it is now then the thralls do not need any further help from the Empire to feed themselves.
Which raises the difficult question of what to do with them. It is well known that some of the Marchers in the Mourn are trading with the thralls. At present the magistrates are largely turning a blind eye, pending further guidance from the Senate. Technically they are still barbarians - technically they are still Jotun. Presumably something will have to be done, not least because somewhat inconveniently they are currently occupying some of the most important farmland in the Mourn.
A Question of Status
The first question seems simplest to answer but has potentially complex consequences. The Imperial Senate can declare peace with the thralls in the Mournwold, just as they did with the orcs of the Great Forest in 380YE. This would immediately resolve the question of their status - they would be treated as foreigners rather than barbarians. It would be legal to trade with them and they would receive the protection of Imperial law.
The protection of Imperial law is a two-edged sword however. It would not be legal to displace them from the farms (and other resources) they have claimed and certainly not legal to send an army to drive them out of the Mournwold.
Encouraged by the generosity of the Empire in feeding them, the Jotun thralls have returned to the farms, mines and businesses they abandoned when the territory was over-run. Now that that has happened, provided they are allowed to remain where they are then they will be able to feed themselves and do not require any further help from the Empire. Obviously if the Empire chose to take a different approach and push the thralls off the land, then the question of their deprivation would become relevant again.
We invite Marcher and Imperial Orc preachers to the Mourn to talk to the free orcs of the Mourn (the former Jotun thralls) and preach to them about the Way. We encourage the Virtuous folks of the Mourn to support these preachers and ensure their voices are heard. In return, we invite stewards or other leaders of the free orcs of the Mourn to come to Anvil and make their concerns heard, so that the Empire will not decide for them, but with them.Hrodin, Marcher Assembly, Autumn Equinox 381YE, Upheld 62- 0
At the last summit, the Marcher Assembly passed a judgement encouraging people to take the Way to the former Jotun slaves. The civil service have attempted to assess what would happen if a suitable mandate following on from this statement of principle were passed, but the outcome of such an action is difficult to forecast. Matters of faith are always complex and very resistant to any attempt to use day magic to forecast them. The last time this was attempted was with the Lasambrians, and that was not an unqualified success.
At the request of those cut off from the Empire in the Mourn, and in conjunction with our statement of principle and shared understanding on the use of cruel tactics, we intend to send missionaries to bring the Way and support reintegration of the Mournwolders, led by Bloodcrow Losak.Atla, Imperial Orc Assembly, Autumn Equinox 381YE, Upheld 36- 0
The Way To Where
A suitable priest, presumably a Marcher and ideally even a Mournwolder could attempt to spread the faith to the Jotun thralls. There are a large number of them so it would take a few seasons and significant amounts of liao to take effect. In some ways the time required is a benefit, as it means that the civil service could update the Empire each summit to let them know how successful the attempt was being, what the current results were and advise on any further possibilities.
If an attempt to convert the thralls was successful, the obvious question that would raise is what next? The Marcher egregore is adamant that these people cannot become Marchers - while they do share some characteristics of their neighbours (the most obvious of which is a well developed sense of attachment to their land) - they are not Marchers and there is no realistic possibility that they ever could be. In theory they might become Imperial Orcs. Nobody has yet had a chance to ask the Imperial Orc egregore for their opinion, but the Orcs are traditionally quite dismissive of the idea that all orcs can be Imperial Orcs. And how would that work anyway... if they continue to live in the Mournwold rather than Skarsind?
These are all difficult questions - but perhaps they might be easier to solve once the Jotun thralls have been successfully enlightened to the Way of Virtue. For the coming season that would require an appropriate mandate and 50 doses of liao.
The Marcher Assembly sends X with 50 doses of liao to the orcs of the Mournwold to bring them to the Way of Virtue. We encourage the Virtuous folks of the Mourn to support these preachers and ensure their voices are heard.Marcher Mandate
Because of the Imperial Orc Assembly's statement encouraging an approach to the inhabitants of Mournwold and the Marcher Assembly's statement inviting the Imperial Orcs to support the efforts to reach out to the Jotun thralls it is also possible that the Imperial Orc Assembly could pass a similar mandate with a similar effect. Imperial Orcs are not able to use liao of course, but there are a number of skilled friars and monks in the Mournwold who can assist if they are given the necessary supplies and the right leadership and direction by someone appointed by the Imperial Orc Assembly.
There is - in effect - an outstanding invitation to the Jotun thralls to send representatives to the Empire to negotiate, but it is clear that there is not yet sufficient trust for that to happen. These people seem genuinely fearful of the Empire, they are prepared to trade for what they need with their Marcher neighbours but not much more. They don't currently trust the Empire to keep their word and of course just as many of them as Marchers lost their lives to the indiscriminate curses that wracked the Mourn, and they are not ignorant of the source of those curses.
The one thing that the civil servants have been categorically able to determine is that if the mandate above is spread, then among any other effects, it will generate sufficient trust that representatives will be forthcoming. That would categorically give the Empire's diplomats someone to treat with.
Of course diplomacy is just one of the ways that the problem could be resolved...
At present the Marchers in the Mournwold occupy around two fifths of the territory. The Feni infested woods at Alderly are largely a no-mans land but the rest is held by the Jotun thralls. This is not a matter of military control - all the regions here are now fully under the political and military control of the Empire. It is simply a question of who lives where.
Unfortunately the failure of the Jotun thralls to leave alongside their warlike masters does cause some military and economic complications. It won't be a problem for taxation into the Imperial treasury - civil servants are already compiling lists and it's clear that the thralls who own farms will pay taxes just like any Marcher would. However their participation in the Empire ends there - they certainly aren't going to sign up to support the Imperial armies - indeed it is fairly clear that they do not want to fight as part of any military force. Any Jotun thrall with the will to fight would have ceased being a thrall when they came of age.
If the thralls were gone, then the Marchers could move onto the land, spreading out across the territory as they took over the best farms. If that happened then it would not be long before the Mournwold would then become self-sufficient enough to support an additional Marcher army. But that isn't going to happen for as long as the Jotun thralls remain occupying the fertile farms and running the most profitable businesses.
The other problem is the issue of ownership. Whenever a territory is conquered, the Imperial civil service identify the most valuable resources in a territory which are not legitimately owned by Imperial citizens. These assets are claimed by the Military Council as spoils of war - who are then entitled to dispose of them as they see fit. That presence of the Jotun thralls has complicated that process - as three of most prestigious resources identified by the civil service have been claimed by the thralls. One of these was built by the thralls - the Golden Hoof. The other two - the Black Hill and Eversweet Orchard - were seized by the Jotun during the original invasion and redistributed to their thralls. There are no living descendants of the original owners, but that is exactly the sort of thing that would normally be added to the spoils of war.
These spoils of war can be redistributed by the Military Council just like the others identified in the Mournwold by the civil service - as long as the thralls have not been recognised as foreigners by the Imperial Senate. While the Jotun thralls are technically barbarians, it would effectively be an act of war to seize the properties - but the current owners have no way to resist the Empire. If the assets are claimed, the current owners will simply have to accept that fact and move on. Presumably they will be able to start again somewhere with a new farm or whatever - or more likely they will follow the Jotun armies and go back where they came from over the border to Hordalant.
The general population is a more difficult problem, simply because of their numbers. However, they could also be dealt with, provided the Military Council were prepared to commit sufficient military force to oversee their eviction - and again assuming their legal status has not been changed by the Imperial Senate. One army could clear the thralls from the territory in two seasons by issuing a suitably worded order to carry out a cautious advance - two armies acting together could sort the problem in a single season. There might be some sporadic fighting, but very little. These people just don't seem very interested in fighting, so there would be no real casualties. So few in fact that the army could still resupply while engaged in the basic operations needed to clear the thralls.
Although they don't want to fight, the thralls also don't want to leave. They appear to have acquired the same stubborn streak that everyone who lives in the Marches acquires, and of course there would be a dangerous trek back west through Liathaven. But assuming the Navarr or the vallorn didn't attack them on the way, most of them ought to be able to reach the Hordalant.
Once they are gone then the land would become available to the Marchers - and that would enable to the Marchers to raise an additional army, assuming that the mithril can be found and that the Imperial treasury will stand it.
However, many inhabitants of the Mourne will be very unhappy if the Empire drives the thralls out at sword-point. A lot of people in the Mourne - not all - but a lot - feel more affinity for the Jotun thralls than they do for the Empire at the moment. It's not a clear cut situation however - some Mournwolders who are now returning from exile would like to see the thralls gone - and a few of the more extreme Mournwolders that are holding grudges against everything Jotun, would like to see the thralls killed. But most of the Mournwold want to see a resolution from the Empire that treats their neighbours well having laboured together under Jotun rule for thirty years.
The Marcher assembly passed a mandate to send Sister Meredith to bring the Jotun thralls to the Way.
During the Winter Solstice, the Imperial senate voted to recognise the thralls living in the Mournwold as foreigners. it is not legal to drive them from their farms with armies, nor to remove them from their residences.