He struggled up the side of the hill, pushing hard against the wind, but making slow progress. One of the group was shouting his name, and waving, clearly agitated, but it was impossible to make out what he was saying.

As he got closer, Henk could make out half a dozen shapes stood next to the dig site. Two of them were his people, Ussa, his dig foreman and young Slu, the Skywise kid who was apprenticing to be a researcher. The other group he didn't recognize and that wasn't right at all. There shouldn't be anyone here but his people. He doubled his pace, straining for breath as he marched.

"What in virtue's name is going on?" he demanded as soon as he arrived.

"Henk, these orcs are - ooof!" Slu got half-way through an explanation when one of the strangers he didn't recognize clobbered the kid round the head knocking him to the ground.

Henk's eyes narrowed and his hand went to the shiv at his belt. It was a scram, an old Wintermark knife he'd taken off a battlefield in Skarsind years ago. First weapon he'd ever owned. Wasn't going to do him much good against four of them, but he wasn't falling into the abyss without a fight, that was for sure. From the floor he saw Slu mouth the word "Thule" at him.

"What are you doing here Thule? These are our lands." He tried to sound calm and intimidating, ignore the pit of fear in his stomach. A voice in his head told him to keep his weapon sheathed. For once he decided to listen to it.

"These lands are claimed by the Dragons... Imperial." One of the orcs he didn't recognize was clearly addressing him, the last word had just enough emphasis to convey an air of hostility and contempt. He realized the group were wearing thick leather jacks under their furs and carrying axes. This didn't look good. "You're trespassing. We have tolerated your presence here in the name of peace between us. But we will not tolerate stealing the wealth of our mountain."

"What wealth?" Henk snorted in derision. "We're here to look for signs of the ancestry of this place."

Slu was mouthing something and trying to pointing at an item the spokesperson was holding, half concealed in his fist. Henk's eyes narrowed when he saw it, recognising it as another piece of slate like the one with writing on it they'd found this morning. "That's ours" he said, with more bravery than he felt, and pointed at the slate. "You can't have it".

The Thule fell silent for a moment, a strange look on his face, a mix of concern and anger, as if weighing his response carefully.

"Maybe it's yours, maybe it's ours." he said in response, then turned to the rest of his group. "Take the lot of them. Him as well. They can plead their case to the Dragons."

Thule

  • The orcs of Otkodov are not relinquishing their claim to Sungold Pass
  • Grand Warlock Fljajokull and Rak Who-Speaks-For-The-Dragons-Undivided intend to bring a formal delegation to the Empire on Saturday; they expect to meet the ambassador in the Senate at seven in the evening
  • The ambassador to Otkodov is Yevgeni Katzev of Varushka

Good relations with the orcs of Otkodov have been threatened due to recent developments with the Liberty Pact.

Rak Who-Speaks-For-The-Dragons-Undivided has informed the Empire that he and Grand Warlock Fljajokull will be making a formal delegation to the Empire during the Spring Equinox. As before, he anticipates that the Senate building will host the delegation. There are two primary matters for discussion; the unexpected imposition of tariffs and the matter of ransoming Imperial slaves back to the Empire. He anticipates that once these matters are addressed there may be chance to talk about the military alliance between the Empire and the Thule against the Druj.

Sanctions

  • The Thule are unhappy about the sanctions raised against them as a consequence of the Liberty Pact and have engaged sanctions of their own.
  • As part of their sanctions they are no longer allowing Imperial citizens to harvest ambergelt or mana crystals in Krevsaty.

As a result of the Liberty Pact the Empire has instituted trade sanctions against the Thule. They are, after all, a slaving nation as defined by the pact.

Rak Who-Speaks-For-The-Dragons-Undivided has expressed a great deal of concern and anger over the discovery of these new tariffs. The Thule, he says, were neither consulted nor appraised of the possibility these new tariffs might be imposed. That they were not invited to attend a meeting with such a potentially volatile outcome appears to be nothing less than a studied insult. Rak makes it clear that it is not the existence of the Imperial tariffs that has angered the orcs of Otkodov, so much as the way that they were imposed unilaterally without discussion or warning.

The immediate response from Otkodov has been to announce tariffs of their own. They have also taken steps to crack down on travelers crossing the border of Krevsaty in Karsk. Previously, they had maintained a cautiously relaxed attitude to Imperial citizens harvesting ambergelt from the Krevsaty Yelta and crystal mana from the Proritsatel Oloy. This arrangement has come to an end, at least until the business of tariffs can be addressed. No further production will be available from these resources until the current tense situation is resolved.

For the moment the ilium bounty of the Gift of the Dwindling Star continues to be available - the seat itself is due to be chosen by the Varushkans this summit in fact - but there is nothing to stop the Thule choosing to withdraw it if they cannot reach an amicable agreement with the Empire.

Slave Negotiation

  • One key topic to be discussed during the coming negotiations will be the disposition of Imperial slaves in Thule lands.

The Thule agreed as part of the peace treaty to "liberate all Imperial citizens and their descendants that they hold as slaves and return them safe and well to the Empire provided an appropriate and mutually agreed ransom can be arranged between the Thule and the Empire." There have been some delays; but it seems the meeting is due to take place at the Spring Equinox.

Rak vouchsafes that the Thule have identified a little shy of three thousand Imperial citizens - or more commonly humans that could be considered to be the immediate descendants of Imperial citizens - who work the farms, mines, and quarries of Otkodov. In the event a ransom can be agreed, they will be delivered to Skarsind or Miekarova. He cautions that the ransom demanded is likely to be directly influenced by the outcome of the negotiations about sanctions, but offers reassurances that even if these negotiations stretch out over several seasons the slaves will be given some protection from the wrath of their individual masters.

He does, however, make it clear that any ransom is likely to be paid in weirwood, mithril, and white granite rather than coin. The warlocks will relinquish their slaves immediately if the Dragons tell them to, but the rulers of Otkodov will not do so if they think this will cause harm to their nation. Slaves must be replaced, either with willing workers, enhancements to the mines and quarries themselves, or with more slaves.

The Immaculate Architect Arrangement
The ritual was a gift from the Jarmish House of Princes, one they have encouraged the Conclave to add to Imperial Lore. At the moment the ritual text is in the possession of a private individual - one who was not present at Anvil last season. Grand Warlock Fljajokull accepted assurances, and agree to support the Empire on the understanding the ritual would be forthcoming next season.

The Imperial Conclave voted to support that agreement at least in theory. In practice, before they can actually Disseminate the ritual, it would first have to be entered into Imperial Lore. The civil service has confirmed that the Conclave could pass both the Declaration of Imperial Lore and the Declaration of Dissemination in the same session. As long as the costs for both Declarations were met - 10 Thrones and the ritual text for Imperial Lore, and a further 10 Thrones for the Dissemination - the Civil Service could ensure a copy of the ritual text reached the Thule before the start of the Summer Solstice. That said, a Declaration of Concord has no binding implications - they are under no legal obligation to provide this ritual to the Thule at all.

Alternatively, of course, the citizen in possession of the ritual text could simply hand it to a Thule diplomat - but given that the Principalities of Jarm have stressed the ritual is a gift to the Imperial Conclave and the Empire, doing so could conceivably lead to legal complications.

Indeed on that latter point, there are a few scattered reports from Ossium of Thule warbands taking Druj orcs captured on the battlefield as prisoners and dragging them off into the depths of the Bonewood - although there seem to be few reliable eyewitness reports to this practice. The rumours are very specific - the Thule are taking captured soldiers north, not members of the subject tribes. Indeed, they seem to be going out of their way to minimise contact with the orc of Ossium who live south of the Bonewood until they receive Imperial approval to speak to them.

Ossium, Skarsind, and Karsk

  • The Thule are consolidating their hold on regions in Imperial territories.

A major force of Thule warriors supported the recent fighting in Ossium, aiding their Imperial allies from their base the dark northern forests of the Bonewood. During the Winter Solstice, Grand Warlock Fljajokull negotiated an agreement to provide the ritual known as The Immaculate Architect to the Thule in return for their continued aid in Ossium.

While relations with Otkodov have become somewhat chilly since the ratification of the Liberty Pact, the Thule are clearly still interested in Ossium - indeed they are interested in making overtures to the orcs who live there.

Further west, expansion work on Crow's Keep in Skarsind continues apace. The central fortification is supported by watchtowers and garrisons overlooking the passes into Urdur to the north, and the Silver Peaks to the west. Observers anticipate that the castle will be completed shortly before the Summer Solstice 383YE.

Recent reports from Karsk indicate that work has also begun on a fortification in the hills of Krevsaty, although it is apparently not very far advanced at this time.

Sungold Pass

  • Both the Thule and the Empire lay claim to Sungold Pass and the orichalcum mine there. You can learn more here.
  • There has been an incident in which an expedition from the Department of Historical Research has been taken into custody by the Thule.

Sungold Pass continues to be a bone of contention, high in the mountains of eastern Varushka. It is likely the disposition of the mine will be part of the negotiations with Rak Who-Speaks-For-The-Dragons-Undivided. On one level, the situation there has not changed significantly since last season. The Thule and the Empire both claim the pass - and the orichalcum mine - is in their territory. Neither side has made a move to reopen the mine. Both sides are watching the other to see who will make the first move.

One thing has changed however. During the Winter Solstice, the Minister of Historical Research commissioned a report on the pass. As part of compiling the report, an expedition from the Department was dispatched to the Opascari mountains, lead by the young Imperial Orc scholar Snowstorm Henk. Unfortunately, under circumstances that are not entirely understood, the expedition either accidentally or intentionally strayed into Otkodov. The scholars and their guides have been detained by the Thule, accused of trespass, theft, and espionage.

The researcher and four of his companions are currently believed to be in the Thule camp in Sküld. They have apparently not been seriously harmed - a Navarr magistrate was grudgingly allowed into the camp to see them - but they have not been released. It is likely that Rak Who-Speaks-For-The-Dragons-United will be expecting to discus their situation when he visits Anvil.

Great Forest Orcs

  • The Great Forest Orcs suggest an embassy be built in Therunin
  • The Imperial Consul, Skywise Fal is technically responsible for dealing with the Great Forest orcs

The opportunity to receive the aid of the Great Forest Orcs to map the Mallum over Winter was not taken up by the Empire, and now that Spring is coming the hunters and scouts are turning their attention to other matters. This includes supporting the construction of the Holt of the Oak. A small delegation of orcs visiting the Navarr during the Winter Solstice and received a significant donation of weirwood toward the construction of the fortification. With a donation of funds from Lisabetta Giacomi von Holberg, work has finally begun on the Holt. There is still some way to go - another 15 Thrones and 50 wains will be needed before it is completed - but the orcs seem pleased that they are now able to make real progress toward helping protect their new home - and their new allies.

WingedMessenger.png
Chief Valack is the warchief of the Great Forest Orcs and may be contacted by Winged Messenger at the Great Forest Encampment, Lower Tarn Valley, Therunin

For the last few years, the orcs of the Great Forest have seemingly struggled to understand how the Empire works. Perhaps this is understandable - for much of that time they have been working to establish homes, or exploring the Empire alongside their Navarr allies. As they have become more settled, they have begun to look to ways they can show their thanks to the Empire that offered them sanctuary - or at least to the parts of it that are Navarr and Highborn. They shared their extensive herb lore with the Empire, for example, as well as helping to free Dawnish slaves from the Barrens, and offering to help the Empire map the Mallum. They are now a regular sight along the trods - albeit always in company with their Navarr guides - having traveled from one end of the Empire to the other and visited each of the ancient woodlands they seem so fascinated by. Only recently, they and their briar allies have offered to help escort lost orcs to safety in Skarsind, and to work with the Empire to rescue the children of the Barrens. That is not to say that everyone welcomes the orcs and their human allies - as the recent statement of principle raised in the Way assembly demonstrates.

One sticking point, however, has been their apparent refusal to deal with the Imperial Consul, or indeed any official Imperial title, preferring instead to deal directly with the Navarr, or at best the Senator for Therunin. It comes as something of a surprise, then, when a week before the Spring Equinox an emissary of Chief Vallack arrives at Peakedge Stead with a suggestion that the Empire may wish to build an embassy to the orcs of the Great Forest.

The Embassy at Peakedge Stead

  • The Great Forest Orcs will help to construct an embassy at Peakedge Song if the Empire wishes.

The Great Forest Orcs are primarily based in the Lower Tarn Valley, but their traders, scouts, and explorers have spread across the whole of Therunin. They seem to have a particular affection for Peakedge Stead - not only is it a place of healing but it is also an ideal place for them to meet with the friends they have cultivated in Reikos. They suggest that if the Empire wishes to build an embassy, Peakedge Stead would be the ideal place to do so.

They are aware that the Empire has a peculiar affection for building with white granite - a material the Great Forest orcs have little patience for. With that in mind, they offer to work with Imperial engineers to design an embassy more in harmony with the woods and gardens of Peakedge Song. Such an embassy would require 50 wains of weirwood, and 50 crowns in labour costs. The Great Forest orcs have volunteered to help raise the structure itself, however, allowing for it to be built entirely of weirwood, and saving the Empire half the labour costs (included above).

Approving the embassy would require a Senate motion, and count as a commission; as with other embassies it would have an upkeep of 5 Thrones each season.

Total Money SpentProduction
192 Rings15 random herbs and a Sovereign Specific potion
720 Rings45 random herbs and three Sovereign Specific potions
1440 Rings75 random herbs and five Sovereign Specific potions

When complete, it would create the Imperial title of Ambassador to the Great Forest, with the usual powers to create a treaty, host a delegation, receive a briefing, and enjoy mercantile support from the orcs of the Great Forest - and their briar allies.

Chief Vallack asks for one additional concession however. While they have now spent some time getting to know the rest of the Imperial nations, they would very much prefer that the ambassador be either Highborn or Navarr. They understand from discussions with a Navarr magistrate that this is unlikely to be a legal requirement that can be placed on the title, but instead indicate that they will be reticent to deal with an ambassador who is not of that nation. There is one further proviso - if the Empire ever appoints a Dawnish citizen to the title of ambassador, the Great Forest orcs will have nothing to do with them (at the very least this will deactivate the mercantile ministry until the ambassador changes). This is presumably a response to the Dawnish involvement in the events that lead to them being driven from their homes in the Barrens.

They understand the Empire has wider concerns, but Chief Vallack expresses a hope that since they have been encouraged to go through "proper channels" for so long the Empire will not wait too long to help them to do so. If the embassy has not completed construction by the start of the Winter Solstice, they will take this to mean they should instead continue doing things as they have been so far - on an entirely ad hoc basis.

Mournwold

  • The former Jotun Thralls continue to live in the Mournwold relatively peacefully
  • While the Marchers of the Mourn are familiar with their orc neighbours, there are difficulties when they travel further afield
  • While abiding by Imperial Law, the Thralls continue to be extremely suspicious of the Magistrates
  • While the Imperial Consul has the legal power to negotiate with the Thralls, they have so far shown no interest in engaging with the office preferring to speak directly with representatives of the Marchers and the Imperial Orcs

Relations between the former Jotun thralls of the Mournwold and their immediate neighbours remain relatively cordial, but it is not clear how long that situation can continue. As discussed previously, the former thralls seem to be becoming more confident in their position in the Mourn - which is both a blessing and a curse as they begin to spread further afield.

While Bloodcrow Losak proposed a statement of principle calling for the Imperial Orcs to reach out to the former Jotun thralls, it did not come close to achieving a greater majority. Indeed, it gained half as many votes in opposition as it gained in support. As such, the situation is not improving. On the other hand it is not deteriorating either - but it is not clear how long the status quo can continue given that there are also voices calling for the thralls to be ejected - and not just in the Mournwold.

WingedMessenger.png
There is not one, but four, orcs respected by the former thralls who might be contacted by Winged Messenger to discuss the Mournwold situation.

Diplomatic Relations

There are four former orc thralls in the Mournwold who are known and respected by their wider community. Any one of them could be contracted by Winged Messenger - indeed at least one of them has been to Anvil before in response to such a missive. A message to any one of them would be equally effective at gaining the attention of the entire thrall community, but each one has their own area of interest and expertise.

Matriarch Hamma the Lame owns the massive Eversweet Orchard on the Chalkdowns and is considered exceptionally wise; ritual magician Casta the Black lives at the Circle of the Steel King in Southmoor; Hap the Soft, who takes in orphans both orc and human and trains them as shepherds, lives at Golden Hoof Farm in Green March; and the timber merchant Sigdór, at Sigdór's Stead, the Greensward, and is understood to be some kind of expert on the thrall religion.

WingedMessenger.png
One of the more outspoken opponents of the former Jotun thralls is Bill Tavistock of Whittle. They can be contacted by a Winged Messenger sent to Whittle, Whittle Hill, Freemoor, the Mournwold.

In addition to the various orcs, there is one other person who might be considered to "speak" for a branch of the Mournwold community. Bill Tavistock of Whittle is an outspoken opponent of the former Jotun thralls. According to Bill, they are no better than the Jotun who once occupied the Mournwold, and any compromise with them is an insult to the brave yeomen who gave their lives to protect, and later to liberate, Marcher soil. Their words resonate with those who feel the orcs are a threat, or who resent their control of some of the best farmland and mines. Bill is not shy about encouraging anyone who will listen to oppose any further moves to support the Jotun thralls, pointing to their refusal to accept the Way as proof that they can never truly be trusted. A Message sent to Bill Tavistock, at Whittle in Freemoor may be used to contact this committed agitator.

Jotun

  • A delegation of Jotun are coming to Anvil during the Spring Equinox
  • In the absence of a Jotun ambassador, diplomatic duties fall to Skywise Fal, the Imperial Consul.

The Empire continues to engage the Jotun in Sermersuaq and Segura, and now a third force of western orcs have moved into Liathaven. While there is hope that a diplomatic solution might eventually be found that might end the war with the orcs of Kalsea and Narkyst, that day appears to still be some way in the future. There are some indications that it might not be impossible, however.

A small delegation, representing Jarl Haska Whitemane, is on its way to Anvil. Arne Emblasbarn and Val Longarm come to talk with the mediators of Wintermark. Arne is very clear they are here primarily to discuss the destruction of the Meeting Place, and of the fate of the destroyer. Word has reached the civil service that, whilst the Imperial Consul does have the authority to deal with them, they are here to talk to Wintermark, not the Empire. They can not bar the Consul from being there, but they will not discuss anything with them, though the mediators may wish to.

Val does have a request however, that the delegation is permitted to attend and observe the Night of Worth hosted by the Imperial Orcs. They wish to take part in, and perhaps learn more about, this cultural practice of the nation. The delegation is due to arrive in Anvil at TBC on the second night of the summit.

Tsark

  • The spy network in Tsark has been discovered

The spy network in Tsark was completed only six months ago - just before the Autumn Equinox - and yet it seems it has already been discovered by the orcs and humans who live in the Mountains of the Moon. How they have become aware of it is uncertain, but the civil service reports that they appear to have become extremely alarmed, and are taking steps to shut the spy network down. This includes significantly increasing their vigilance along their borders, and an increase in the number of patrols looking for people who do not belong. There is no chance of any Imperial citizens being captured at this time, but the various caches, hides, and secret camps created in the Mountains of the Moon are being systematically located and broken up.

As a consequence, it is no longer possible for Imperial military units to assign to support the spy network. The Senate will not need to pay the upkeep as of the start of the Spring Equinox, and it will have been effectively completely dismantled by the start of the Summer Equinox.

It is not clear whether the people of Tsark know who built the spy network; there should be little physical evidence that it was the Empire. However, the civil service caution that there is no indication the people of Tsark found it through the usual methods - scouting their own territory. Rather, they prognosticate that someone, somewhere, has told them of the existence of the spy network and prompted them to take steps to locate it.

Grendel

  • The Empire has raided Beoraidh; the Grendel have invaded Feroz
  • Grendel pirates continue to harass merchant vessels passing through the Bay of Catazar

There have been no further diplomatic overtures to the Empire from the orcs of the Broken Shore. The Grendel and the Empire seem trapped in a struggle for dominance of the Bay of Catazar. While Imperial ship captains have completed a daring raid on Beoraidh, the Grendel armada has conquered nearly half of Feroz. At the same time, the pirates of the Broken Shore continue to harry Imperial trading vessels berthed along the southern coast... although with morale high following the attack on Mareave an ambitious suggestion has been made that it is time take the fight to the pirates...

You can learn more about this suggestion here.

Druj

Since their "peace overture" to Urizen during the Winter Solstice was so soundly rebuffed, were further diplomatic messages from the orcs of the Mallum until just before the Spring Equinox. You can find details of their grim communication here.