Iron and wine
Some of the dancing phantasmal horses that had been called up by one of the Reckoner covens were still prancing and turning on the surface of the river - albeit with a lot less definition. She expertly spat the pit so it passed through the forehead on a particularly fine stallion, and felt a rush of satisfaction as it exploded into shimmering droplets of water and mist.
She was more than a little tipsy. It had been a good night, but she was considering retiring now. There had been no fireworks for nearly half an hour, and even the musicians back in the main hall were beginning to become a little unsteady - probably more due to the drinks they had been putting away than due to exhaustion. She tried to decide if she wanted more more drink before bed, and whether she was prepared to endure another half hour of political maneuvering from the other guests to get it.
The decision was made for her. Quick, slim fingers plucked the spent glass from her hand and tossed it into the river, replacing it with a fresh glass of something tall, translucent and gold. Luija slumped heavily against the parapet next to her, and took a big sip of her own dark violet concoction. She set the half-full ambergelt goblet down on the smooth marble of the railing, and pushed her golden mask up onto the top of her head, dislodging several of her butterfly hair pins. She was flushed, and sweaty. She mopped her face, and snapped open a small practical fan to try and cool herself down.
"I thought you might have taken refuge out here," she said as Maria took a sip of her drink. It was surprisingly refreshing - a hint of apple and orange companionably mixing with more than a subtle suggestion of strong spirits. "It is far too damned hot in there."
Maria made a face. "No, it wasn't the heat. Bloody d'Bauser will not take a hint, even when it's wrapped around a fairly pointed insult and jabbed into that gut of his."
Luija winced. "Oh dear. Still on at you about that Temeschwar business?"
Maria nodded. "Yes. And some new madness of Duke Ferrero's. And of course the election. He kept trying to bribe me into going to Anvil to support him as Senator. Can you imagine d'Bauser as Senator for Tassato? They'd eat him alive!"
Luiga paused at her fanning for a moment, coincidentally covering her mouth with her fan. "I was talking to a delightful little naga just this evening who reckons that d'Bauser is being funded by the vyig."
Maria was not surprised, but neither was she entirely convinced.
"Yes, but people say that about everyone from Temeschwar. And d'Basuer is too much of an idiot even for those tattooed thugs. Anyway, I thought they were all done and dusted?"
Luija made a noncommital noise. Before Maria could ask for more details, her Prince suddenly burst out laughing.
"Oh my! Maria! Could you imagine dear Cesares face if d'Bauser actually turned up to try and challenge him?"
Maria could, just about, it made her smile. Cesare Sanguineo Rezia Di Tassato, Senator of the Twin City, had cleverly managed to get himself named to oversee the collection and expenditure of funds for the grand celebrations. She could not fault his commitment to excess. The wise had marked fairly quickly that there were as many posters of Cesare looking stately - nay, regal - in his role as "Prince of the League" as there were banners and flags with Empress Lisabetta's face on them. It had been his idea to dye the Vassa with wine and gilding - and his idea to shower bunting across the entire city. Golden horns in Mestra, red foxes in Regario. There was a man of ambition. A man to watch. The two sipped their drinks companionably for a few moments, then Maria furrowed her brow and asked:
"Did you and he ever ..." she left the sentence hanging.
Prince Luija composed her features into a coy look. "A lady does not brag about such matters, and another lady should not speculate."
"Yes," said Maria. "But this particular lady knows you have a fondness for rugged cambions, so ...."
Luija smiled, but she made the subtle gesture with her fan that meant "I would like to change the conversation", and Maria complied.
"Actually, on a related topic, I've been thinking about the Empress' message. Especially with the barbarian practically at our door, as it were. I think we should do something."
Luija nodded, gestured "go on" with her fan. Pulled a piece of yellow fruit out of her drink, inspected it owlishly for a moment, then flicked it into the river.
"Before d'Basuer turned up, I was talking to Pesca. She knows someone who knows someone at military procurement. We make a reasonable profit through potion sales to the rich, but I think that if we invested slightly in refitting the Temple Street shop a little, we could look at a different market. The soldiers of the Empire are forever being injured - stabbed, cut, shot with arrows, bludgeoned, hacked, trampled, gored -"
She realised she was just listing ways a soldier could be injured and realised she was a good deal more tipsy than she had at first thought. With an effort she stopped talking and took a breath.
"Anyway. Pesca thinks - and I agree - that we could negotiate a pretty good deal with the civil service to supply the big five potions - the easy ones everyone knows how to make but nobody ever makes in bulk. Bulk for potions, I mean obviously. With our contacts in Feroz and Madruga, and with Pesca keeping an eye out for good deals at the Apothecary House, we could make a reasonable profit, I think."
Luija had been nodding along for several moments as she spoke.
"I like it, but ... we make enough as it is. Would the profits really be worth the effort?"
Maria pondered for a moment. "Not really," she said slowly. "But ... there are other benefits. Once you have your feet under the table at military procurement you're in a better position to secure other opportunities. We'd be known as people supporting the Empire, and that never hurts not with the Jotun just over the horizon. But really ... well ... destiny. The Empress ... you know."
She trailed off, blushing. Prince Luija chuckled, but gently.
"Yes, yes I do know. I do indeed know." She pulled her mask back down, resettled her hair, and extended an arm for her sister who slipped her own through it companionably.
"Look into it first thing in the morning." Luija looked Maria over, checked herself. "First thing tomorrow afternoon, I meant to say. Now! Let's go and see if we can't snag ourselves a couple of ambitious nephilim to make sure the evening ends with a bang!"Laughing together, the sisters returned to the party, leaving their empty glasses balanced on the stone wall above the wine-red river.
The coronation of Empress Lisabetta took place at Anvil during the Summer Solstice. Crowned with a wreath of flowers, rather than with the Imperial Crown, before the assembled leaders of the Empire, she formally became the twentieth Throne of the Empire in a glorious and touching ceremony. Celebrations quickly spread across the entire Empire, inspired by the Empress' coronation address and supported by funds donated by private citizens, the Imperial Senate, and the Imperial Synod alike.
Proud, loyal and prosperous Imperial Citizens, now is a time to join together in joy and celebration, the like of which has not been seen in our lifetimes! But let us not forget, in the midst of our revelry, that our necessary wars have a terrible cost in Imperial lives. I ask that all of us act howsoever we can, to stem this tide of Imperial blood. Let us ensure that our sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, may continue to fight on in pursuit of our Empire’s great destiny.Empress Lisabetta's Celebratory Message
The Senator for Tassato, Cesare Sanguineo Rezia Di Tassato, took the lead in arranging disbursement of funds to help these celebrations spread joyous festivity across the entire Empire. The impressive five-hundred Thrones raised at Anvil encourages private benefactors from all the nations to reach into their own pockets and supplement those monies with donations of their own.
The celebrations begin extravagant, but rapidly expand to become legendary in scope.
Revelry in the League
Let us join our souls in song, Let us sing together
In honour of our Empress, crowned in rose and heather
Sing with us, sing her name, Empress Lisabetta
Anvil forges steel her heart, Holberg's walls protect her
Battle tempers her resolve to tread the path ahead her
Everybody sing her name, Empress Lisabetta
The virtues always guide her thoughts,
Her actions guide the Empire
Through courage and ambition
May the Empire thrive forever
Vivier Iskander van Temeschwar
Unsurprisingly, four League cities lead the way with a week of non-stop revelry that allows nothing so paltry as the rising or the setting of the sun to curtail their festival. Given the location of the cities, it would be a mistake to think that the revelry in the League is only for the League. Citizens from all nearby nations are welcomed to the cities to enrich the festivities.
The citizens of Tassato Mestra and Tassato Regario (as always) compete to outdo each other but under the guidance of Prince Cesare the festivities are not marred by unnecessary levels of violence. Indeed, between them, they manage to turn the Vassa purple-and-gold as far south as the Sapphire Stair through a combination of prodigious amounts of red wine, and gilding from Imperial Mint, thrown into the river.
Some celebrants focus on the Empress' well known affection for Empress Richilde, seeing this as an opportunity to focus on matters of art and culture. A group of citizens in Holberg works feverishly to complete a great frieze, celebrating the Empress who many see as a patron of their city. In Temeschwar, a beautiful statue of the eternal Janon commissioned by Lorenzo La Volpe of the Bloody Butchers has little effect itself but does inspire discussion of the role of public art in a city traditionally considered more dour and brutalist than their cousins in the other cities. A song written by Vivier Iskander van Temeschwar, commissioned specially for the celebrations, proves extremely popular ensuring that Vivier's name is heard throughout the League and in the more civilized parts of the Empire as a whole.
Down in Sarvos, even the accursèd statue of Mirislav in Caricomare gets involved in the festivities. Where once the statue possessed the scandalous, conspiratorial mien of a snake-person, it now shows the ex-Senator smiling triumphantly mounting a set of stairs with an oddly reflective coin in one hand and a lantern in the other. No sculptor claims credit for the alterations, and so it has been simply chalked up as yet another miraculous occurrence by the residents of Caricomare.
Across the Empire
From the League, the celebrations spill out across the Empire. Every nation places their own unique stamp on the festivities, whether it is drifts of enchanted lightstones illuminating the night sky in Urizen, or great fairs and competitions in the Marches. It almost goes without saying that a Grand Tourney is held in Dawn, on the fields surrounding the Castle of Thorns. Despite the lingering influence of the curse on Astolat, troubadours whisper that this tourney has never been matched before, certainly not since the days of Empress Richilde ... and perhaps not even then.
People will talk about the celebrations following the coronation of Empress Lisabetta for decades to come.
Beyond the Empire
Not only the citizens of the Empire participate in these celebrations. The rest of the world takes note, albeit in a more restrained fashion. The foreign ambassadors leave the embassies - with the notable exception of the Sumaah embassy - and merchants from the Commonwealth, Asavea, Jarm, Sarcophan, Faraden, Axos, and even the Iron Confederacy make small fortunes providing the festivities with foreign delicacies from across the world. While Sumaah does not take part in the celebrations, the dour ambassador preaches a sermon on the steps of the in Necropolis in which they readily admit that if nothing else the Empire understands the role of celebration in the path of Prosperity.
The scope of the festivities is sufficient to attract the attention even of the eternal realms, especially Summer and Night. Barien opens a regio near the Semmerstones, and welcomes the nobles and yeomen of Dawn to attend a grand fair where heralds of all the competing Summer kingdoms rub shoulders under a flag of truce. Sadogua and Janon both waste no time in unleashing as many of their heralds as can travel to the Empire, to join the celebrations with gifts of strange liquor and exotic fruits. Prospero, Sovereign Lord of the City of Bridges, sends his heralds to Meade, to Siroc, and to the cities of the League, to join in the festivities, and a quiet trade in small favours weaves and wends through the drunken streets.
To grant 30 Thrones from the Virtue Fund towards the Empire-Wide coronation celebrations. The bulk of the costs are being met by private donations but we believe this endeavour should be supported by the Synod also. It will lead to lasting benefits for our Empire.Astrid Fjellrevening Rezia di Tassato
However extravagant and exotic the celebrations become, they are guided by the celebratory message of Empress Lisabetta. Supported by the legendary festivities, there can be nobody in all the ten nations who has not heard this message and given at least some sort to what it might mean
The Empress' message seems quite clear on two points. That the Empire is engaged in necessary wars, in pursuit of its grand destiny; and that the Empire must do whatever it can to stem the flow of Imperial blood being spilled by the barbarian foe. The effects of this message on the people of the Empire are subtle, but far reaching.
Physicks and Healers
There are a number of skilled physicks, chirurgeons, and healers who are not combatants. Since the celebrations, many of these skilled practitioners of life-giving medicine have been filled with a fervor to help the Imperial armies. Furthermore, young magicians are choosing to focus their studies on the magics that preserve life - heal, restore limb, and purify]. These doctors and magicians turn their attention to supporting the Empress' vision of Imperial destiny - expanding the Empire while doing everything in their power to reduce the cost in Imperial lives that must be spent to achieve it.
Going forward, a new basic army order will be permanently available to all Imperial armies (but not navies). This is an attacking order, and will always cause a military campaign to be initiated in the territory if there is an opposing force present. If an attacking force is victorious - they will capture land - the greater the victory the more land they will take in a season.
- Casualties suffered by this army are reduced by a fifth
- Casualties inflicted by this army are reduced by a fifth
- Only Imperial armies may take this order.
Every army is now accompanied by a cadre of battlefield physicks and chirurgeons, and magicians skilled in healing magic, who are more than prepared to take risks to help minimize Imperial losses. By adapting strategies to make the most use of these resources, a general can ensure no part of the army is ever too far away from skilled medical attention. At the same time, the general ensures that the soldiers in their army eschew risky tactics, or those that would lead to unnecessary loss of life, in pursuit of spilling enemy blood.
Steady conquest is as effective as balanced attack in claiming enemy territory and securing strategic objectives, but significantly reduces the casualties suffered by the army - at the cost of inflicting less casualties on enemy forces. This order became possible after the coronation of the twentieth Throne, Empress Lisabetta, when Imperial strategy was reassessed in the light of significant losses inflicted by the barbarian orcs.
Opportunity: The Quality of Mercy
In addition, there is significant interest among more battle-hardened healers in doing their part to help the Empire. From the grimnir of Wintermark, to the herb masters of Navarr and Highguard, to the warmage healers of Urizen, to the weavers and war-witches of Dawn, there are folk in every nation who are no strangers to warfare and have experienced first hand the need for reliable, skilled healing on the battlefield.
The Imperial Senate could take advantage of this interest to encourage the battlefield healers of one of the Imperial nations to focus their attentions on a single army. One existing Imperial army may be chosen to be the focus of this interest - representing Imperial support for the war healers of that nation. A motion of the Imperial Senate can select an existing army that over the coming season will lose its current army quality and instead permanently gain the physick quality. There would be no cost to the Empire, and with the aid of the civil service the change can be made without impeding the chosen army's ability to campaign.
To take advantage of this opportunity, a senator would need to raise a motion in the Senate that the Empire should make this change. At the next senate meeting, any senator would be able to put forward an army as a candidate (following the same guidelines as an appointment by the Senate).
While there is a great deal of interest in the armies this season, that interest will quickly wane. This opportunity remains available only until the end of the current Imperial year (380YE), so if no decision has been reached before the end of the Winter Solstice (the first event next year), the opportunity is wasted.
Obviously the grand celebrations take place in downtime, which is one of the reasons we have glossed over the specifics of how each nation made those celebrations their own. We encourage anyone who enjoys such things to come up with their own stories of extravagantly excessive festivities their characters might have thrown or participated in.