"And you're sure it will be safe?" the young orc demanded.

"Yes - Druj" she snarled "It will be perfectly safe. The Bourse certificates are guaranteed by the word of the Empire." Isobel Hoop had joined the civil service with dreams of becoming an advocate or similar. It hadn't worked out - but a life operating a civil service warehouse had never given her cause to question her choice - until today.

"The word of your Empire? That is not worth so much in these days I hear? The Grendel claim they trust us more than you these days!"

He was laughing at her. Not subtly mocking her with his words as before - now he was just laughing. In her face. Really - it was too much. She considered trying to stab him with the letter opener she carried. Probably best not to... the best possible outcome she would be up for murder of a "foreigner". More likely the bloody creature would probably eat her.

"If you would like your Mithril back - perhaps you would prefer to ship it to the Grendel?" She smiled sweetly trying to inject every ounce of bile into her facial expression.

The Druj "trader" (why would a trader be armed to the teeth she wondered) shook his head. "We have a treaty with your Empire - mithril for white granite. An excellent rate, very profitable. Very profitable. Even the most simple-minded Grendel would never give us such an easy profit."

And there it was again... Pride! You were definitely allowed to murder people if you did it out of Pride. She was sure she'd read that in school - something to do with clemency.

"Our Bourse certificates are valid anywhere in the Empire - and in any civilized land beyond it." Oh that was fun - any more emphasis on civilized and she'd had spat the word in his face.

"Huh - you think your Empire is better than ours eh?" the orc snarled, clearly annoyed.

"Only while the sun rises in the east and sets in the west." Isobel Hoop, who had once dreamed of being an advocate, smiled sweetly and gave thanks to the paragons for giving her that moment as she thrust the certificates into the ungrateful Druj's hands and walked away.

Bite the Hand

Druj traders have passed out of the Barrens and into the Empire. They have registered eighteen wains of mithril with the civil service and are travelling to the summit where they intend to exchange the certificates them for the white granite that was promised. They have other traders in their number though - magicians seeking business with the Conclave and one among their number looking to trade herbs for resources and mana.

The magistrates have asked the civil service to remind citizens that these Druj traders are treated as foreigners under the law - that means it is illegal to attack, rob or kill them - even if they do insult your Pride. Citizens are warned to expect the Druj around in Anvil around 2pm on Saturday.

Droplets of Night

The last boggart hung lifeless, the fine silver chains holding the limp body over the table. Yacasta felt a slight pang of sympathy for the creature, this was bloody work and she was no butcher. Boggarts were a terrible threat to any Spire, but it was a cruel way to end one of the little creatures lives in this way. Cruel but useful - as the black ichor ran down the chain it was collected in the vial below. Soon it would be full and then she would be able to send the vials to Prascylla and finally clear her debt.

And who knows maybe more Night boggarts would appear? There had been none near the spire for centuries - there wasn't so much as a weak night regio within a days march of here, so why they should suddenly have appeared in the Spire's cellars at this time she had no idea. If only they had not killed the first dozen so quickly before one of her colleagues had though to check the remainder for traces of magic. Whatever strange magic had brought the boggarts to this world had also left them filled with potent night magic, and it was then just a matter of careful excision to acquire it.

A careful excision - hah! She wished it had been as clean as that made it sound - the bloody things bit hard and never stopped struggling. Well... not until the deed was done. And now it was done - time to write to House Cudo, and then she could return to her studies

House Cudo in Redoubt are somewhat unusual in Urizen for their obsession with money, something that might have begun with their origins as a Holberg guild of Autumn magicians who immigrated to Urizen in the Second Interregnum. The mages of House Cudo have strange views about the role of value in the Net of the Heavens. Their arbiter Prascylla, is a notoriously shrewd woman who drives a hard bargain and is known to keep in contact with a dozen agents in towns and cities across the League who send her information about local market conditions. In previous years the House has been a regular source of useful items of value on the Bourse Private auction, but now they are planning to attend the summit in person.

Prascylla's agents have in their possession three droplets of night these small glass vials allegedly contain "tears of the Night realm" - a mawkishly poetic turn of phrase to describe what is almost certainly nothing more than some form of magical geode, a compression of magical energies trapped in the mortal realm. Still such things are always unusual and usually valuable. According to the magicians of House Cudo, drinking the contents of the vial during the performance of a Night magic ritual will invoke the power of the tears and reduce the magnitude of that ritual by ten levels of magnitude (to a minimum of two). Sadly the effects cannot be combined - only one can be used on a given ritual. It is not clear where House Cudo came by the tears, but the indication is that they do not believe that the source of the droplets will endure beyond this season.

The agents are under instruction to present the droplets for sale to the mages of Urizen, one for coin, one for mana, and one for ingots of common artisan resources, beggar's lye, green iron or the like. Their arbiter is quite specific, her agents will only take payment in the specified forms for each of the three droplets. In the case of the resources, they will treat all resources the same - and exchange the droplet for the largest total quantity of resources. They plan to arrive at the summit at approximately 6pm on the Saturday - in time to conduct their business before the Conclave begins.

A Spirited Find

"Well? Is it genuine?" She stared at the magister, trying to sound more confident than she felt.

The magician put his wand and the relic back on the table with exacting care. "Fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. Where did you say you found it again?"

"I didn't. Now I've paid you for the ritual... so how old is it?" The magister was holding out on her - that was a good sign.

"Well it's definitely pre-Imperial - but I can't be certain exactly when - I'd need to check some details with a colleague in the Necropolis. Realistically it's probably not worth that much - but I'd be prepared to offer you two thrones and three crowns for it?"

She smiled as placed a defensive hand over the relic. "I don't need the sales pitch magister... just the results of your ritual will do. Now what else did you see?"

The Wandering Star is a minor chapter house based in Necropolis whose members are devoted to painstaking maintenance of historical records of genealogy. In fact, while most of the members of the house are meticulous archivists - Naomi, the eldest daughter of the chapter's exarch is known to have a little more active approach to curating history. She has led her group across Highguard on numerous expeditions seeking lost tombs, ruined libraries, and abandoned shrines. All of these expeditions have been expensive, most have been a failure.

This time however she appears to have made a significant find - a pre-Imperial relic recovered from a small Highborn village near the border between Reikos and Brocéliande. A number of tombs have been disturbed by Llofir's magic so Naomi and her followers have been combing the area looking for items of interest. It seems their prosperity has finally paid off, as the item they have found has been confirmed to be pre-Imperial in nature by Tobias Gard, a local magister with a good reputation.

Naomi has a number of debts from outstanding expeditions... and a number of expeditions planned. As a result she is travelling to Anvil seeking to find a buyer for the relic. She has sent word ahead so that benefactors and others who might be interested in the item will be in a position to make an offer when she arrives on the Saturday afternoon. She would like to sell the item to a fellow Highborn if she can - but she has made it clear that she will not part with the relic for less than it is worth. Those with an interest in pre-Imperial history would be well advised to seek her out, if only to get a chance to see the item before it disappears into some private citizen's collection.

Seal the Deal

"How much for that sausage?"

The old woman pointed to the large sausage, surface covered in spice and seasonings, prepared in the classic Temeschwari style. It sat impudently atop a pile of similar sausages, jutting proudly. The pile was just one of many on the stall - furs, carved whalebones, trinkets, Varushkan dolls, pickled cabbages, even some wood carvings which was distinctly Imperial Orc in style. Behind it, a man stood, well-dressed and with a wide smile on his face.

"Well, ordinarily, it'd be five rings, but to you, Good Lizzy, I'll sell you it for three - and I'll throw in this fetching pair of gloves." The man picked up a pair of fur gloves that could - optimistically - be described as fetching.

"Three rings? I could get two just like it for the same price down the street, and it'd be Marcher pig too."

"It's the fact this isn't Marcher pig that makes it costly, Liz. Look, I enjoy a plate of nice sausages and good vegetables as much as the next Marcher, but this is special stuff. They do some wonderful things with spices up north. And you know it's getting harder to get sausages made round 'ere, so much going to the war effort."

"...Fine." Grumbling, Lizzy counted out her coins. "I has to try it, I think. I was hoping to get summat for the wife, too. Been saving special and it's her birthday soon. Gloves'll be nice..."

She looked around at the stall, and pointed to something hung up at the very back. "Although that'd be nicer. Looks like it'd keep the rains off. How much for it? I'll pay a bit more instead of the gloves."

Walter looked round, and smiled his big smile.

"Ah, Lizzy. You couldn't afford that in a thousand seasons, I'm afraid, not with what your bakery makes. And anyways... it's got a buyer. But can I interest you in these socks instead? Made of seal skin too, you know, very waterproof - it'll be just the ticket for your missus..."

Walter Applecart is a trader based out of Meade. A relatively well-known figure amongst those that that buy and sell at the Grand Market, he specialises in importing goods from the northern nations of the Empire and finding buyers in the south. Mostly, these items are food, trinkets, clothes - and their sale has made Walter very rich. He is said to have a knack for always getting the most out of a deal, a shrewd operator always looking for an opportunity - the very archetype of the moxie that the market towns represent.

Rumours have been spreading for some months that on his last trip to Sermersuaq, he brought back a strange seal skin, said to be imbued with powerful magic. He is apparently heading to Anvil after receiving some interest in buying it - though given that he has not been public about its properties, it seems strange that someone has inquired, perhaps they know more about it? However they have heard about it, there is clearly at least one party interested, but Walter would not be as rich as he is today if he were to sell to the first person who makes him an offer. It is likely - given his background - that he might want to talk to others in the Marches who represent the interests of the market-towns - he will likely pay well for information regarding any and all potential buyers.

A New Dance

Emris Oakhaven sat on the ground, exhausted. The last few months travelling along the Paths of Lan Thuven were ones that he would never forget. Although many of his striding had been slain by the Jotun over the last year, Emris and his elder sister, Catrin, had stayed together and stayed healthy. He was not the warrior she was and he remembered proudly the day she sworn her thorn oath. A solitary tear ran down his cheek. He wiped it off his brow with the sleeve of his shirt. She would not want him to grieve for her, she had died a thorn, proudly standing fighting the creatures of the Vallorn as part of the rear guard as the army walked through the vallorn-filled Westwood.

Emris, looked at the road ahead. Across the trods that wove across the Marches, and then to Miaren to start a new life. He had finished his term of military service two seasons ago but stayed with his sister who had sworn to serve the Black Thorns until she fell. In his hand was a small pouch of rings, a small leaf shaped pendant and small knife wrapped in cloth. He slowly unwrapped the knife and looked at the blade, old and covered in dirt and moss where it had rested in the ground for many years. He had found the knife half buried in the ground by Catrin's fallen body. As one of the vates had spoken the words to turn the circle, Emris remembered looking around at the many bones that seemed to be in the undergrowth, small scraps of metal too and then he had seen the knife. He had performed the incantation and knew that there was history and power in this knife. If he could get to Anvil and get a good price. then he could find his place in the Great Dance as a broker. He was determined to get a fair price, this was for Catrin.

Emris Oakhaven is travelling to Anvil to speak to brokers about the new path he is to start walking. Like many who had called Liathaven their home for many years, the transition to other regions is a difficult one and they all know loss in their own way. Emris has an ancient relic, lost long ago in the darkness of Lan Thuven. He would prefer it to go to a Navarri, one that would honour the history it represents, although he has sworn an oath of pride that he will get the money that is needed to set up a new life as a broker and allow him to start a prosperous business.