"But they are so very delightful," sighed Geoffery. "I was hoping I might be able to convince one of them into letting me take a few stray feathers..."
"Delightful or not," replied Gwendolyn, "they're a disruptive influence to the yeofolk. Just the other day, Martin Smith was asking me whether the forge he was tending really had to make weapons, or whether we could make ploughs and shears instead!"
"They do have a point, though." Geoffery looked out of the grand window wistfully. "If our Juliette hadn't gone off to the Barrens, caught up in the grand crusade..."
"Don't you dare use her name against me like that!" cried Gwendolyn. "It is our duty to the Empire - our Pride and our Glory - to forever push outwards - and they were going to overrun Drycastle if we did nothing."
"Would that have been so bad?" asked Geoffery. "They just wanted to secure their own lands, take the castle - they didn't mean to unhouse anyone, they would all have been allowed to stay. Or so the birds tell me, anyhow."
"Well, we can't stop now," insisted Gwnedolyn. "Or do you think the Druj will mercifully leave us in peace?"
"They're offering to split the land," Geoffery reminded her. "We'll have more than we started with. And maybe Angelina won't get it into her head to follow her sister's path.""Or so the birds tell you, anyhow," Gwendolyn mocked.
Visits from by heralds of Lashonar have been a common occurrence throughout the last few years - especially in the East near Dawn and the Barrens. These visits have brought both weal and woe at times - and this time is no exception.
Once again the bird-like creatures are about in force, performing songs in every tavern, hostel and inn across Dawn. This time their music is entirely focussed on the wars being prosecuted by the Dawnish forces - particularly the current campaign in the Barrens. Sad songs of families torn apart by lives lost to war. Songs of sorrow and tears not just for those you have lost but for all those who have died. The mood of these songs is clear - war is a horror to be avoided at all costs - it brings only death and misery.
The songs are moving - deeply moving - and at first they are welcomed. It is bitter-sweet to remember those who have passed away in pursuit of glory. But as the weeks turn to months and the singing continues - they become wearing - a constant reminder that tears are the wages of war.
The sad songs sung by the enticing bird-like heralds of Lashonar have begun to sap the morale of the Dawnish. The songs are catchy - and people find themselves whistling the tune absentmindedly - even while telling themselves to ignore the heralds. But there is no ignoring them - they are relentless, performing every hour of the day, anywhere they can find an audience. Even the biggest glory hound eventually tires of hearing constant reminders that the people they are killing were people who came cap-in-hand to sue for peace. The heralds of Lashonar have set out to undermine the morale of the Dawnish armies - and they are succeeding.
This is not something a mortal agent might easily have achieved - but there are heralds of the eternal Lashonar, they have a fluency, a power which is supernatural in nature, that they get from their master. One of the Earls consults with the weavers of Weirwater to find our if this is some magical curse - or whether the effects are mundane. Their response is that this is not a spell like the Empire understands it - but that Lashonar is being of magic - an eternal isn't capable of doing something that isn't magical.
Whether the cause is natural or magical in nature - one thing is clear. The morale of all four Dawnish armies, has suffered due to the songs performed by the heralds of Lashonar. As a result they will be one fifth less effective on campaign this coming season. They will be able to defend themselves normally, but will inflict 20% less casualties and capture 20% less territory when attacking. These effects will last for the coming season - and beyond if the heralds of Lashonar are not stopped.
There are a number of ways that the Empire might deal with this threat. It is possible that a suitable arcane projection might counter the effects - but this is likely to be difficult. Lashonar excels at magics of this kind - attempting to defeat the eternal at their own game using raw magic is possible but is likely to be expensive. Fortunately there are at least two easier options that have been identified by the Imperial civil service.
The simplest way for the Conclave to deal with the challenge posed by Lashonar is for the Imperial Conclave to declare enmity. That will prevent the eternal's heralds from re-appearing in the Empire making it impossible for Lashonar to continue in the current vein. The current effects imposed on the Dawnish armies in the barrens would endure for the Autumn campaigning season but would fade and be gone by the time of the Winter summit.
Eternals are often angered by declarations of enmity - but Lashonar is going to be far less annoyed by this than by a direct attack on their heralds.
The Murder of Crows
If the General Assembly of the Imperial Synod, the Dawnish Assembly or one of the Virtue assemblies passed an appropriately worded judgement calling for the extermination of the heralds then they could address the situation. The judgement would need to name a priest who would travel to the area to incite the local noble houses to hunt down and wipe out the Lashonar heralds. The priest would need 25 liao to create auras needed to encourage virtuous action in the area.
This option should be effective no matter what the Conclave decide with respect to Lashonar, but it is worth noting that it is technically illegal to attack the heralds of an eternal who has amity. A successful campaign to eradicate the menace will mean that the malign effects being suffered by the Dawnish armies stop immediately. Once sufficient heralds have been murdered - Lashonar will be forced to think again.
There should be no danger involved in and attacking and killing the heralds of Lashonar - the creatures possess little ability to defend themselves effectively. Of course Lashonar is likely to be incandescent with rage, but the Conclave can choose to make it exceptionally hard for the the eternal to retaliate directly.
If the Conclave and the Synod can coordinate their efforts then it is possible to take a third option. Provided the Conclave removed amity from Lashonar then a clearly exclusionist judgement by the Dawnish assembly or General assembly backed by 100 liao would be sufficient to convince people to ignore the siren call of the birds. The judgement would need to name a priest who would travel to the area to support the creation of suitable auras.
Provided that amity was removed and the judgement passed then the current effects imposed on the Dawnish armies in the barrens would endure for the Autumn campaigning season but would fade and be gone by the time of the Winter summit. While this is no more effective than the Conclave imposing enmity alone, it is the route that it is least likely to anger the eternal.
According to all the reports, what has driven the eternal to lash out at the Empire is the war in the Barrens. Lashonar desired peace in the Barrens and this is his response to having those desires thwarted. The Synod could urge the citizens of Dawn to ignore the herald's songs - but the alternative is that they could encourage everyone to embrace the peaceful resolution that Lashonar seeks.
There are some good reasons to do this - mostly notably the threat facing the Empire as it tries to fight a war on three fronts. Some will question the virtue of making peace with the Druj - but there is Wisdom in choosing which battles to fight and it takes Courage to face up to unpalatable truths. A clearly worded judgement by the Assembly of Nine or the General Assembly demanding an immediate peaceful resolution in the Barrens - backed by appropriate action at Anvil by the Empire's diplomats and generals could bring a peace - albeit temporary perhaps - to the Barrens.
If Lashonar can see that the Empire has striven for and achieved a peaceful resolution in the Barrens, then the eternal will withdraw their heralds immediately. A treaty alone would not be sufficient - the Empire's reputation with treaties has not been good in recent years - but it would work if backed by a clear mandate from the Synod demanding an end to war in the Barrens.
Of course putting the entire credibility of the Synod on the line is not without its risks. If the Empire did later break the treaty, that would compromise the moral authority of the Synod in the eyes of the world as well as its own citizens. The least of the consequences would be to render futile any attempt by the Synod to throw their weight behind any future negotiations.
The Synod need not expend any liao to adopt this approach - but they could choose to use liao to endorse this approach if needed to oppose another judgement. As always, in the event that multiple incompatible judgements are passed, the judgement that has had the largest amount of liao spent on it takes precedence.
You may cry, and mourn for those you’ve lost,
But your love is gone, their sacrifice the cost,
And the Empire’s wars, they are still there to be won
So don’t listen to the Heralds of Lashonar.
The Imperial Conclave decided to strip Lashonar of its amity - although they did not declare enmity. At the same time, the National Assembly of Dawn stridently opposed the message of peace being spread by the agents of the eternal. Lady Tamain Sepulchre has been named by the Assembly to directly oppose the influence of the night eternal, and supplied with a hundred liao to support their efforts. Lady Tamain composed and popularised The Heralds of Lashonar in order to combat the insidious threat posed by Lashonar.
As a consequence, the effects of Lashonar's heralds will have been entirely countered by the start of the Winter Solstice - but will be at full effect during the months between it and the Autumn Equinox.
The National Assembly of Dawn condemns the message of Peace distributed by the Heralds of Lashonar, and encourages the citizens of Dawn to disregard this message and remember the true Virtues when in the presence of these Heralds. If sufficient liao is raised then Tamain of House Sepulchre will spread this message among the citizens of Dawn.
Dawn National Assembly, Autumn 380YE