Hap tore off a piece of the bread and passed it to Sharp Jack. He'd built up a fire, while the archer skinned the rabbits he'd shot. Now they were sharing bread while they waited for the meat to cook. The smell was growing increasingly delicious.

"What use is a basket made out of bread anyway?" he asked his companion.

"T'int that sort of basket." the Marcher corrected him with a laugh. "It's grain stores and the like. Everyone puts spare grain and the like into the store. That way there's enough to make sure no-one goes short."

"And now they're sharing it out? Why they doing that then?" The Marchers fascinated Hap, they were almost as hard-working as orcs. Sometimes he could almost imagine they were orcs. Then just as he got used to thinking of them as proper people they'd do something he couldn't understand at all.

"It's to make sure there's enuff for the wassail festivals - and t'encourage everyone to come together and share what they've got. If it happens, you'll probably get an invite. It's all part of trying to get you all to become proper Marchers."

"I thought you said we couldn't be Marchers even if we wanted to, because the Empire doesn't believe orcs can reincarnate?"

"That's what I heard." said Jack. He sounded somewhat apologetic. "It's in the doctrine see - only humans can reincarnate - orcs aren't allowed to. You'll be breaking the rules if you do. Then they'll have to eximmunicate you and that's proper bad. You can't reincarnate if you're eximmunicated."

Hap stared at Sharp Jack. The man was deadly with that bow - that's why he hired him - but sometimes he thought the fellow might be dangling him over the Abyss. "So we're not allowed to reincarnate... but the Synod says it's ok for you to come back as trees?"

"Yup! My grandfather is planted near here you know. Did I ever tell you that - it's just up the way - past Bogs Hill. There's a lovely orchard up there. My Grandfather, his second wife, and two of his brothers are up there."

Sharp Jack rambled on, but Hap was staring into the fire and not really listening. He was imagining himself tasting fresh cooked rabbit - and that made a lot more sense than his friend did.

Lily Guildenstern.jpg
Lily Guildernstern has made the breadbasket available to all the folk of the Marches in support of a grand Wassail.


The Marchers have continued to press forward with their plans to bring the Jotun thralls living in the Mournwold into their nation. At the Summer Equinox, Lily Guildenstern made the breadbasket available to the folk of the Marches with the express intent that it be used to encourage both peoples to come together to celebrate the Autumn Wassail. Their actions were endorsed by an important statement passed in the Assembly urging people to share what they have. If backed with a mandate it would be effective in helping to bridge the gap between the thralls and those Marchers who still see them as the enemy. At least it would help with those Marchers who are prepared to consider the idea - there is one group of folk living in the Mournwold who are not remotely prepared to countenance celebrating the Wassail with the hated Jotun.

The village of Whittle in the Mournwold has played a role in recent events that it out of all proportion to its size. The inhabitants resisted the conquest of the Jotun for thirty years, driven by their Hatred of the invaders. Their priest was condemned by the Imperial Synod for his faith and executed, but still the Whittlefolk refused to abandon their beliefs. Perhaps it is something about Hatred itself - the more Synod priests tried to persuade them to put aside their beliefs, the more fiercely they clung to them. Eventually the settlement was over-run by the advancing Jotun armies and the Whittle folk were finally forced to admit defeat. Beaten, but not broken, some fled to Tassato, while the remainder fought alongside the Imperial armies.

When the Mourn was liberated the majority of the Whittlefolk soon returned to their homes to resume their old lives and their old practices. They are always careful not to be seen openly preaching hatred, but it is clear to anyone who spends a few hours in their company that their views of orcs and of the Jotun have not softened one iota. As the Empire wrestled with the problem of what to do with the large population of Jotun former thralls living in the Mournwold, Whittle became the focus for those who shared their view that the orcs must be driven off or killed.

When the prognosticators' office was asked to assess what could be done to assimilate the former thralls, their analysis was uncompromising. If the Marches accepted the Jotun thralls into the nation without first dealing with Whittle then violence would surely follow. There were few good ideas on how to deal with them - even though the area is known to be a hotbed of Hatred, the law as it stands at present only allows the Imperial Synod to condemn people by name. People cannot be tried and executed simply on suspicion of being hateful.

The obvious first step was for the Marcher Synod to speak plainly on the matter with an appropriate mandate. With few other palatable alternatives, that process was begun at the Summer Solstice - all that remains now is to decide how best to finish the matter.

Lily Guildenstern is making the breadbasket available to all those wishing to celebrate Marcher traditions and beliefs at fayre or fete or upcoming wassail. Use this bounty to draw Marcher and Mournwold Orc from near and far, to bring our community together, so none is left a stranger, and all can benefit from closer ties between market town and households.

Anna Perrin, Summer Solstice 383YE, Upheld (Upheld (114-0) Greater Majority)

The Autumn Wassail

The Wassail is a traditional Marcher festival to celebrate the collection of the harvest at the end of summer. Wassailing varies from place to place but typically involves parading through the village singing and drinking to the health of the fields and orchards. Food and drink produced during the year are consumed or left as an offering. It is a time for the community to come together and share what they have. As folk go from house to house they share food and drink with their community and receive in return a taste of the food that each household has in excess from their own harvests.

Even the situation in Bregasland does not dampen the spirits of the Marcher people - for some celebrating the harvest in the face of the Jotun conquest demonstrates their defiance of the Jotun invaders. Indeed, it is the spirit of wassail engendered by Lily's statement that has gone some way toward creating the circumstances that would bring the people of the Marches - orc and human alike - together to fight the invaders in the event the Military Council chooses to fight at Bill Sabbey.

The Jotun thralls also celebrate the Autumn harvest, although they do so in a very different way. Each household keeps a shrine to the ancestors - either a single favoured ancestor (usually Raðljóst or Ulven), or else one that celebrates all the faðir in the Jotun pantheon. Members of the household leave offerings at the shrine through the Equinox hoping to attract the blessings and protection of the ancestors for them and their household. In some ways it is little different to Marcher traditions of harvest offerings - ale used to toast a barley field or a pat of butter buried in a dairy pasture. Yet more common ground between the two peoples.

To ensure the effective use of the breadbasket, the Marcher Assembly could endorse the following mandate.

The breadbasket reflects the bounty of the Marchers, the fruits of our hard work. We send {named priest} with 25 doses of liao to urge every Marcher to share this bounty with all their neighbours. Let us invite the thralls of the Mournwold to feast together with us, so none is left a stranger.

Synod Mandate, Marcher National Assembly

If this mandate is passed, then Marcher households across the Mournwold and - perhaps more importantly - beyond will share the largesse of the breadbasket with their neighbours. It will help to forge closer ties between market town and households, as well as with the thralls of the Mournwold. Invitations will be issued to the orcs to visit Upwold, Mitwold, and beleaguered Bregasland as guests for the harvest festival. There may be problems - some people will be meeting the thralls for the first time and that will bring difficulties. But these difficulties are unavoidable if the Marchers are really committed to going down this line. The open mandate that would allow the Marcher egregore to bond the Mournwold thralls will remain an option, but the amount of liao needed to complete it will be reduced by 25 doses.

Many years ago, the Marchers made the decision to join the Empire and follow Imperial doctrine. The victors of the Cousin's War lived with the seven virtues in their hearts. The Whittle folk must now decide whether they wish to stand with their fellow Marchers and reject Hate as a virtue, or choose to be declared heretics. The law must apply equally to all Marchers, but in respect of their past deeds against the Jotun, the Assembly wishes to give them that choice.

Sister Meredith, Summer 383YE, Upheld (Upheld (106-0) Greater Majority)

Sadly the appeal of the priests will fall on deaf ears in some parts of the Mournwold. The Whittle folk will not be inviting the orcs to share their repast.

The Last Die

The Marcher Assembly passed a statement of principle that offered the Whittle folk one last chance to recant their heretical views.

It is a vain hope - the Whittle folk have repeatedly refused to denounce Hatred - they are clear that it was only the enduring power of their faith that gave them the strength to resist the Jotun for so long. Why should they abandon their faith now, simply because it is inconvenient for the Synod? But it is clear to everyone that the Marcher Assembly is acting with a heavy heart - nobody wishes to see the Whittle folk pay the ultimate price - but if that is the sacrifice needed to resolve the matter of the Jotun thralls then so be it.

The response is as predictable as it is unfortunate. Mel of the Mourn receives a note from the Whittle folk that says simply this:

Our faith is a sword to defend everything we hold dear. It was sharp enough to see off the Jotun, reckon it'll be sharp enough to see off the Synod too. What's needed in tha Mourn is a drop more Courage. It's that as teaches folk to cleave to the truth through thick and thin. There's enough Courage in Whittle that we'll not give up the virtues for you. If our neighbours over the border had a dram more Courage than they wouldn't be for changing our ways to take in the Jotun. But they're too frit to see this war through to the end, so they're full of talk for taking in Jotun as if the orcs had been raised in the same village all of a sudden. We'll have none of that round here. We remember what it means to be Marcher - we take Pride in that - even if everyone has forgotten.

Sally Thatcher - Whittle

On the surface the inescapable reality appears to be that nothing is going to persuade the Whittle folk to abandon their faith - nothing. They cling to their faith as strongly as the most devout Highborn initiate. It defines them - and they will not give it up. Not for the Empire, not for the Marcher Assembly, not for anyone.

In practice, most priests who have spoken with the Whittle folk believe that there are probably little more than a score of ringleaders that keep the community together. Without their leadership, Whittle would probably collapse. Some of those who were left behind - those less committed to their ideals - would take up an offer to rejoin their brethren in Tassato if one were forthcoming. The problem of Whittle could be dealt with - provided that the Synod can lay hands on the people in charge and try them for their crimes.

That will not be easy - but there are two clear options.

The Ineluctable Law

  • The Imperial Senate could instruct the magistrates to investigate Whittle and identify the ringleaders

It is not possible for the militia to arrest any citizen for religious crimes unless they have first been condemned by the Imperial Synod. But the Imperial Senate could pass a Senate motion instructing the magistrates to carry out a thorough investigation of Whittle, with a view to identifying and naming any resident who they identify as a follower of Hatred.

That would take a season to carry out - and clearly the folk in Whittle would be aware of it happening. At the next summit, the magistrate would present the Synod with a list of suspects they had identified and the Synod could then pass judgement on them. The magistrates could then send the militia to arrest anyone condemned by the Synod - they would be tried and those found guilty would executed.

This is not a fast process - and it has the obvious disadvantage that the Whittle folk would be completely aware of what was taking place. They might choose to flee, or they might attempt to put up a fight. In the view of those who have dealt with them, the latter option seems more likely - and certainly more likely than the idea that they will cooperate.

But once complete, the Empire would be done with the matter. Whittle would probably be abandoned, and there would still be some lingering remnants of Hatred in the Mournwold, but any public resistance to the integration of the Jotun thralls, or opposition to the Marcher Synod, would be gone. This method would identify and potentially eliminate all the most public, most committed devotees of Hatred in Whittle.

Vigilance teaches us to seek out the blight in our neighbour's field lest our own be blighted. Whittle is a festering plague that needs action. My assembly make it clear with these words, if the Marchers are unable to cure it, then my assembly will do so. Vigilance thwarts malice.

Ser Ancél Watcher, Summer 383YE, Upheld (180-10)

Vigilance Thwarts Malice

  • The Silent Bell, potentially with the assistance of the Grey Pilgrims, could thoroughly investigate the presence of Hate in the Mournwold

The Vigilance Assembly have made clear that if the Marcher Assembly will not take the neccessary steps to deal with Whittle, then they will. At the recent summit they passed a judgement stating that if the Marchers did not deal with the blight in their field, then the Vigilance Assembly would do it for them.

This is no empty threat. The Silent Bell is a small but deeply committed sodality dedicated to gathering information about internal threats to the Empire. They operate a loose, but extensive, network of informants throughout the Vigilance sects in the Empire. By drawing on that network, they can potentially track down information about specific threats. Mournwolders who are members of the Silent Bell (and there are more than a few) could be tasked to spy on their neighbours in Whittle to try and discover who amongst them was the most influential.

However the Silent Bell could be even more effective, if they were tasked to work with the Grey Pilgrims walking the Mournwold trods. By using the Grey Pilgrims as their eyes and ears, the Silent Bell could attempt to hunt down any hateful figures currently active in the territory. To do this the Assenbly of Nine would need to pass an appropriate mandate.

The practice of Hatred in the Mournwold cannot be tolerated any longer. We send {named priest} with 25 doses of liao to lead the Silent Bell in tracking down those whose heart has turned to Hate with the aid of the Grey Pilgrims.

Synod Mandate, Assembly of Nine

Like using the law, this is not a fast process - but it would have the clear advantage that the Whittle folk would not be aware of what was happening unless someone tipped them off with a winged message. The Synod would be able to identify the heretics involved and pass judgement without the Whittle folk being aware of what was taking place.

The Silent Bell do not have any legal powers to arrest lawbreakers, but like the militia they could provide the Imperial Synod with a list of those responsible. If the Synod chose to condemn those named, then the militia could then deal with them the following season. Again, this would deal with the matter of Whittle once and for all, but it would also potentially root out any vestiges of Hate in the Mournwold. This method would attempt to identify and potentially eliminate all the most influential and important devotees of Hatred the territory.

The Fateful Step

  • The Empire could force the Whittle folk to play their hand

The third option is to force the Whittle folk to play their hand and reveal themselves. The Empire could just press ahead with their plans to bring the thralls into the Empire and ignore the opposition of Whittle and those who share their hatred of the Jotun. If that happens, then Whittle will rise up in armed opposition, but that will render issues of the law moot, and the Imperial armies can be sent in to deal with them.

This would be a much faster process - and provided the army orders are clear then everyone involved would be captured or dead. While this seems a somewhat brutal option - it may come to putting down an insurrection with an army anyway if the Empire are not careful. This approach at least has the advantage that it will be the decision of the Whittle folk to take the fateful step and not the Empire.

The Tassato Option

  • There is a proposal that the Whittle folk join their brethren in Tassato. You can learn more about it here

Some of the Whittle folk never left Tassato after the Jotun were driven from their lands. They continue to live in Little Mournwold - an enclave of Marchers in the heart of Mestra. Merchant-Prince Mariana of the Wildriver Crossing Guild has proposed that the problem in the Mournwold could be solved by offering the Whittle folk sanctuary in Tassato, far away from the former thralls - at least for the immediate future. Her proposal is being discussed by the bishops of the League, and it will be up to them how to proceed.

Many Marchers fear that while the Tassato option may offer some resolution to the immediate problem, it does nothing to address the wider issue of the Whittle folk's acceptance of the malign spiritual power of Hatred.

Every orc who hears the ancestors' call to battle and feels themselves ready to face the challenge of the Abyss has a place in the Imperial Orcs. We send Bloodcrow Udoo with 50 liao to make them aware that a life in the Imperial Orcs will help them to cross the Howling Abyss.

Bloodcrow Udoo, Mandate, Imperial Orc Assembly, Summer 383YE, 72-0

A Place to Fight

  • Those orc former-thralls who wish to embrace the life of the warrior have been offered a place among the Imperial Orcs

The former thralls do not fight - this is what makes them thralls in Jotun society. But some of their children are not interested in a life of back-breaking toil in the farms and mines of the Mournwold. They hear the roar of their ancestors in their blood, and wish to seize their one chance to cross the Howling Abyss. During the Summer Solstice, the Imperial Orc assembly sent Bloodcrow Udoo and a handful of preachers to the Mournwold to speak to the thralls, to those youths considering their options, and to the Marchers who know the former thralls best. In the process, they made it clear that any young orc who wished to fight and win the favour of their ancestors could do so among the Imperial orcs.

The immediate effects are likely to be minimal; there are not that many young orcs coming of age in the Mournwold who wish to fight. Those who do will become Imperial Orcs - there are no restrictions about the former thralls joining the nation. They will not hear the voices of the Imperial Orc ancestors of course - they will hear their own Jotun ancestors - but as they grow up and start families, their descendants will hear both the Imperial Orc and the Jotun ancestors.

Further Reading

You can learn more about the Mournwold thralls here. The page also includes a list of previous Winds of Fortune dealing with the Mournwold situation, and links to other useful pages.