"How on earth we gonna persuade everyone to give us that much white granite?" The old Landskeeper dropped the architects letter into his lap. They'd asked the man for a scaled down plan - and instead he'd come up with designs to make it rain money and mana from the sky. If only the plough would drag itself round the field as his father used to say. Why did no-one ever listen?

"We've been through this Shem - it's all there at the Caves - we just have to persuade everyone that this is what they should use it for. Then they trade some of the mithril for granite and the harvest will come up golden."

"You make it sound easy Nell." He shook his head, they both knew it would be anything but easy. Impossible some people would call it.

"It'll be crazy difficult - and the naysayers will contribute a bushel of snide remarks same as always. Two bushels in this case. But it can be done if everyone puts their mind to it. And unless they've changed Ambition recently, that seems like a good enough reason by itself I reckon."

Shem smiled at Sharp Nell but he shook his head. "Talking about ambition and prosperity and vigilance won't get this built."

"Don't give up on me Shem. We got the castles didn't we? Well this is more important than any of them. One last push - then we can all rest. The living and the dead."

The old Landskeeper nodded. Sharp Nell was right - as they usually were. They'd been a damn good steward back in the day so they knew more than most folk about how it worked at Anvil.

"Plus we've got friends in high places - now. Dunlain's a senator now... and that Meredith woman whose always sticking her nose in other folks' business seems to have the Assembly's backing. And who would've believed that our Mel Greenhill would end up as Conscience? Any of them could weigh in on this if they wanted to. And if they all decide to go for it then I reckon we'll get it."

Shem looked wistful and unconvinced. "They've done a lot already - they'll say it's other folks turn."

Nell's faced turn bitter and sour at that. "Other folks didn't have to bury their children after the Empire murdered them. I'll grant you the Caves and the castles goes a way to setting things right. And Nedry did what needed to be done. But folks here won't rest easy until we know that what was done can never be done again. If they're serious about making peace with folks here - then this is the last thing that needs to be done."

"I hear you Nell but it's a lot of money."

"They had a chance to do it cheap. But Conclave just took a huge shit on that chance. Now it has to be done right. Things are always expensive when you do 'em right."

Shem nodded at last - that was definitely something they could agree on. Things were always expensive when you try to do them right.


The situation in the Mournwold has continued to improve with each passing season. The news that work has begun to Fortify Freemoor and Greensward and that the Empress has granted an Imperial Charter to the market town of Sarcombe are serve to improve the mood of people here. Then when the news comes that that the Singing Caves has finally been allocated as a Marcher national resource is a cause for great celebration.

Now only one final problem remains. Many inhabitants of the Mournwold were labouring under the assumption that they had an implicit promise from the Imperial Conclave that they would ensure that Rivers Run Red - one of a pair of dreadful curses that caused so many innocent deaths here - was never cast again in living memory. Why else was the ritual interdicted?

Sadly not in living memory has turned out to mean not in the next six months. Not only was the ritual performed at Anvil, but it took place with the clear support of the Conclave.

When a dog barks, you don't bark back.

Marcher Proverb

You Don't Own It...

When news of the Conclave's actions reaches the Mournwold there is much anger at first. After the Empire had done so much to right the wrongs done here - how could they do this? A few Navarr travellers passing through the Mourn try to convince people that there was a need for the curse to be cast on Therunin - but that only fuels the anger. As the landskeepers point out, this is a powerful and expensive curse - nobody ever casts it unless there is a need for it. The bitter truth is that the ritual did shorten the Jotun war here - nobody imagines that the Empire didn't have a need to curse the Mourn. What they are angry about is that the Empire had a need for a quick victory against the Jotun and simply decided that thousands of innocent lives was a price worth paying for that "need".

The anger soon gives way to weary resignation. Nobody really expected the Conclave to keep the ritual interdicted for a lifetime but as Sharp Nell from the village at New Overton remarks "It would have been nice if they'd waited until the seeds were planted before they started harvesting." Almost no-one seems persuaded by the artful way the act was done - keeping the ritual interdicted but then telling the Navarr they could cast it anyway. Everyone just assumes that was some sort of political play to try and make the act more palatable to someone - presumably then. And as Nell says "We call it fertiliser 'cause it sounds proper... but we all know it's a steaming pile of shit really."

Don't ask your neighbour to bar your door for you.

Marcher Proverb

As folks here see it, they were fools to ever trust the Conclave in the first. "If you want a job done right, do it yourself" is a popular proverb even outside the Marches. A mechanism exists to ensure that that the Mourn is protected from the Military Council. The Jotun are bound to come back one day and folks here want to be sure that the Council will not decide that their children are a price worth paying for a second victory. But it's no good asking their neighbours to bar the door for them - they need to do it themselves.

Richard of Holberg created a design for a unique arrangement of menhirs that would provide a trove of crystals every season spread between the mana sites across the Mourn but crucially would also provide a powerful defence against curses like Rivers Run Red. Sadly the plans went nowhere - probably because of the costs involved. But now the Marchers are about to take possession of the Singing Caves... And not only that but all the time everyone has sat round arguing over who should till the field, has meant that a vast bounty of wealth has accrued at the site. More than enough to pay for Richard's menhirs hopefully!

A few people point out that the wealth of the Caves isn't technically the property of the Mourn - but legally belongs to the whole Marches. But there isn't enough mithril stockpiled at the Caves to easily build such a network across every territory in the Marches - that could take three or four years. Quite a few people pointedly ask what better purpose there could for the Caves that protecting the entire Marches from attack? But more realistic voices advise that brilliant though such a thing could be for the prosperity of the entire Marches - since the stones provide mana as well as protection - it would be very expensive. An alternative would be to create a cheaper, more limited set of menhirs focused only on defending the land from curses.

... Unless You Can Defend It

Letters are exchanged with Richard of Holberg and he confirms that he could do as asked. The original plans for the Mourn already exist - so they could use 80 white granite, 20 mithril and 25 thrones to create a menhir network protecting and enriching the Mourn. But he could extend his plans to cover the whole Marches. The costs would be vast - 320 white granite, 80 mithril and 100 thrones. But each territory in the Marches would receive 60 mana crystals a season and any curse used against any territory in the Marches would be a quarter as effective as normal.

Alternatively he could produce plans for a more limited set of menhirs that only provided the protection against curses. That would "only" require 80 wains of white granite, 20 of mithril and 25 thrones. It wouldn't provide any mana - but it would still halve the effect of any curse used against any territory in the Marches.

Easy come, worth less.

Marcher Proverb

However Richard also has another suggestion of his own to add. If the Marchers (or the Empire) were so inclined then he could draw up plans for a truly immense network of menhirs. Richard calculates that this network of stones would cost a king's ransom, 500 white granite, 140 mithril and 160 thrones. But it would create a wonder of the modern world, producing a bounty of mana crystals spread through every mana site in the Marches but also boosting fertility of every farm as well - increasing their profits. It would simultaneously protect against curses, so that the effects of any curse affecting a territory in the Marches would be reduced to a fifth of the normal potency. Best of all the improved fertility of every farm in the Marches would also improve the efficiency of the Imperial Breadbasket. As a result the storehouses could completely mitigate any penalties for a single Imperial army that could no longer be supplied by its home nation (rather than merely halving them).

However Richard of Holberg advises that he is not prepared to create the plans until the structure is commissioned. His letters make reference to "wasted effort", apparently a series of commissions prepared for the Conclave, none of which are now likely to be built in this lifetime. He would be delighted to prepare the designs as soon as one of his commissions passes the Senate - but will do no further work on any of them until that point.

Richard is an old man and his health is well known to be failing. This opportunity will remain available for as long as the ageing architect survives, but it is impossible to commission it without him, so the opportunity will disappear immediately if he dies before either plan is commissioned.


Working with Richard of Holberg, the landskeepers of the Mourn have prepared four proposals for the Marchers to consider. They are well aware that none of these plans are cheap, but they remind everyone that the Singing Caves are a national resource - they exist for the benefit of the nation - and on top of that they currently contain a bounty of a year's production of mithril! Whoever gains the seat next summit will immediately be handed more than 100 wains of mithril by Marta Vaskovich Kovar of the Bourse civil servants.

Any of these constructions would complete the ongoing work to reassure the majority of the inhabitants of the Mourn of their place in the Empire. It would lay to rest their last remaining doubt - that the Empire might well use Rivers Run Red or similar curses against them in the future.

Menhirs in the Mourn

  • Costs 80 white granite, 20 mithril, 25 thrones and takes 2 seasons to build
  • Produces 60 mana crystals spread between farms in the Mourn
  • Casualties caused to occupants of the Mourn from any curse target the Empire, the Marches or Mournwold would be halved
  • Can be commissioned at any time from already existing plans
  • The mana crystals produced assume there are no other great works effecting farms in the Mournwold; in the cast of multiple great works this amount might change.

Menhirs in the Marches

  • Costs 320 white granite, 80 mithril, 100 thrones and takes 6 seasons to build
  • Produces 60 mana crystals spread between the mana sites of each territory in the Marchers - 240 mana crystals in total
  • Casualties caused to occupants of the Marches from any curse target the Empire, the Marches, or any territory in the Marches would be quartered
  • Can only be commissioned while Richard of Holberg still lives, and after one of his other projects has been commissioned

Protection for the Marches

  • Costs 80 white granite, 20 mithril, 25 thrones and takes 2 seasons to build
  • Casualties caused to occupants of the Marches from any curse target the Empire, the Marches, or any territory in the Marches would be halved
  • Does not produce any crystal mana
  • Can only be commissioned while Richard of Holberg still lives, and after one of his other projects has been commissioned

Wonder of the Known World

  • Costs 500 white granite, 140 mithril, 160 thrones and takes 2 years to build
  • Produces 60 mana crystals spread between the mana sites of each territory in the Marches - 240 mana crystals in total
  • Produces nearly 20 thrones a season spread between the farms of territories across the Marches
  • Casualties to occupants of the Marches from curses targeting the Empire, the Marches, or any territory in the Marches would be reduced to a fifth
  • Improves the Imperial Breadbasket, allowing it to completely sustain a single Imperial army so that it suffers no loss from being out of supply
  • Can only be commissioned while Richard of Holberg still lives, and after one of his other projects has been commissioned
Curse reduction
While the details above describe how the menhirs would affect curses that cause casualties, they will reduce the effectiveness of any curse cast on one of the territories protected. It is simply easier to predict how the effect applies to curses that cause loss of life. It is also worth noting that the mnehirs protect against curses aimed at a territory or empire (such as Icy Maw Devours the Spark of Essence or Thunderous Deluge) but do not affect curses aimed at individual personal resources (such as Anathemic Call of Bug and Briar or Withering Touch of Frost).
Richard of Holberg has now passed away, so the commissions that require him to be alive are no longer possible.