The portly Asavean priest glided across the marble flagstones of the courtyard toward Tomas. Olybrius Pancratius, High Priest of the Outer Temple of Baddu, Initiate of the Three-fold Angle, Acolyte of the Weltsilver Chisel. The Asaveans did love their titles.

He wore a long, formal tunic under a polished mithril pectoral inlaid with tiny pieces of white granite that matched the statues flanking the portico. The little man beamed ear-to-ear, and enthusiastically welcomed the (slightly embarrassed) civil servant.

"I am very pleased you have come, Tomas." he said in thickly accented Imperial. "Very pleased. Are you ready for the grand tour?"

Tomas disentangled himself with a little difficulty.

"Yes, I thought I would take you up on your offer to have a look at this temple of yours. You made it sound like a wonder of the ages. I have to admit, you were not exaggerating as much as I had thought."

Olybrius beamed even wider.

"Thank you, thank you. It is exceptionally beautiful as you can see - but then it would never do for us to honour the God of Builders with anything less than the finest, most splendid building mortal hands might construct!"

Tomas winced inwardly. Despite nearly two years in Nemoria, he still found talk of gods and their temples discordant. Olybrius gestured for the civil servant to accompany him, and lead the way through the stone statue garden that surrounded the temple. It was indeed impressive - great white columns soared at least forty feet, supporting a great fresco showing the Asavean god engaged in various activities, primarily to do with construction and building. The craftsmanship was exquisite, Tomas could tell. Every angle perfect, every straight line immaculate. From his reading, he knew that the proportions of every element of the temple were carefully calculated to some esoteric geometry handed down by the priests of the god - the false god, he reminded himself.

They skirted a deep rectangular pool that occupied much of the central courtyard, where delicately calculated gets of water launched themselves into the air in a mathematically significant fashion.

The great stone doors that lead into the temple halls stood closed, which surprised the merrow civil servant a little. He expected Olybrius to lead him to a side entrance, but the priest quickened his pace slightly, and came to a halt at the bottom of the steps that swept up toward the portal. There was already a small crowd there. The priest placed one hand on Tomas' elbow to stop him, and the pair waited.

"It is beautiful," whispered Tomas. "Imposing. Impressive."

Olybrius smiled indulgently. "For the fane of a heathen god, you mean? What would your dour priests say!"

Tomas was used to being teased by now. It never ceased to amaze him how lightly even a powerful and influential priest like Olybrius seemed to take his professed faith. Since their first meeting in the hot steam room of one of the bath houses near the embassy, the rotund little priest had regaled his Imperial guest with tales of political maneuvering and scandal rather than with parables or homilies about Baddu, God of Architects.

"I can appreciate the beauty, the art, without worrying about the state of my soul, you know. I'm surprised you haven't making more of an effort to convert me." said Tomas, only half joking.

Olybrius attempted to give his guest a frosty look as he pretended to be affronted.

"I would not dream of such a thing! A woman or a man's faith is sacrosanct! Our temples exist to give aid and succor only to those who seek it out - we do not go looking for followers like a beggar seeking alms! The most sincere petitioner is the one who comes of their own accord. Or because they want something, as my father would often say. All we priests can do is demonstrate the many ways in which Baddu can help those who are truly deserving."

"According to the texts I have read, your Lords of Virtue are very ethereal - they provide aid for your soul as it departs this life. For us the gods are beings of this world - so the rewards for devotion come in this life. This temple was built to the glory of Baddu - and to show those who are curious what rewards might befall those who pledge their life to Him. We priests are here to demonstrate the wonders of Baddu - not hawk his secrets on the street corner!"

The priest shuddered, and then seemed to regain his composure. The smile returned, serene but with a conspiratorial look to it now. He leaned closer and whispered "Would you like a demonstration of the wonder of Baddu?"

"A demonstration?" Tomas asked, obviously intrigued, despite his concerns.

Olybrius did not answer. Instead he gestured for Tomas to stay where he was, and stepped through the crowd to mount the shallow steps. He turned to face the assembly, who fell silent. He had positioned himself in such a way that the peaked roof of the temple behind him was directly above his head - as was the noonday sun. A beam of light illuminated Olybrius - probably directed by concealed mirrors Tomas thought.

The priest raised both his arms and in his native tongue spoke what Tomas took to be a blessing. Several times, the crowd around Tomas murmured a few words - a catechism of some sort, he thought. Then, after only a few minutes, the sermon was clearly over. Olybrius lowered his arms and turned to face the portal behind him. He raised one hand, his fingers spread, and shouted a single word at the top of his lungs:

"Aberto!"

Nothing happened for a moment and then suddenly the pools behind Tomas exploded - seven jets of water burst upward, spraying the crowd with a fine mist that smelled strongly of jasmine. At the same time, a great gong sounded somewhere within the temple and the massive portals - each one apparently made from a single immense slab of white granite, weighing more than Tomas could imagine - began to swing smoothly open of their own accord.

The crowd began to stream up the steps. Olybrius beckoned for Tomas to follow him. The priest was rosy-cheeked, sweating a little.

"Was that magic?" asked Tomas in an undertone, curious. Olybrius shook his head, amused.

"No, not at all."

"Slaves then? Pulling the doors open on your signal?"

Olybrius looked even more amused.

"No. Why go to all that trouble just to have slaves do it?"

"How then? Those doors look as if they weigh a tonne!"

"Quite a few tonnes, actually," the priest said, a little primly. They had reached the top of the stairs and Tomas was again stricken by just how massive this structure was, and how cunningly the proportions worked to create a feeling of awe in the approaching supplicant.

"Would you believe me if I told you it was the power of the god of builders?"

"I ... well ... " Tomas floundered slightly. He did not wish to risk his new found friendship, but he was uncomfortable lying about something so important. "No. No, I'm afraid I can't believe that." He said at last.

Olybrius' expression became beatific. For the first time since they had met, there was no suggestion of slightly sardonic good humour, or world-weary cynicism, about the priest. His eyes shone with something else, something entirely different.

"Nevertheless ..." he said in a quiet voice, his expression serious for a change. "That is exactly what it was."

And then he turned and lead the way into the immense columned hall of the temple of Baddu.

Overview

Lady Madrianna of the Blue Stones (who advises the Asavean government on international affairs) has placed a public petition before the Imperial Senate on behalf of the Plenum. In conjunction with Hueva Joãon, Caesli Onorato, and Olybrius Pancratius - ranking priests of Asavea associated with Bahlo of the Foam, the Black Bull, and Baddu the Great Architect respectively - the Asavean government has requested that the Empire allow them permission to build a temple in the Empire. The temple would be dedicated to their patron-god of sailors, and to their beast-god of guardians and soldiers.

In Asavea, it appears, faith is closely tied to temples - places where priests can do their jobs in comfort, and where people can learn about the gods and make sacrifices.

At the moment, the lack of anywhere to give sacrifices makes many Asaveans reticent to come to the Empire. They take proper sacrifices very seriously. Of special interest to Asavean sailors in general, are the gods Bahlo, the gentle god of the sea, who in the Asavean pantheon provides sailors with good winds, fair seas; and the Black Bull, a warrior-god who provides protection against piracy, bandits and violent sea creatures.

The Asaveans assume that Imperial mariners, likewise, would appreciate the opportunity to offer sacrifices (?) and prayers (?) to the Seven Lords of Virtue (?) and so are more than happy to be magnanimous, offering an opportunity to build a temple of the Way in the city of Nemoria..

This represents a third attempt to gain the aid of the Empire - but their first formal request. In the past, they have tried going through the ambassador, and through the Synod, but finally - exasperated - they have approached the Imperial government directly.

Perhaps more significantly, they have been made aware of the newly created civilian commissioners and obviously seen an opportunity ...

Significance

The Plenum is prepared to give permission for the Empire to construct a large shrine or small temple in Nemoria (the capital of Asavea). This is dependant, however, on the Empire permitting the construction of a temple somewhere on the Bay of Catazar.

Temple of Balo and the Black Bull

In game terms, a temple dedicated to Asavean deities could be represented by a number of different commissions but in this case the Asaveans are talking about building a folly (albeit one that may function a little bit like a ministry). They are seeking permission to construct a temple in a region somewhere on the Bay of Catazar with the coastal quality (see below).

If given permission to build a minor temple, the Asaveans would complete the structure in a season. They will provide their own white granite - and employ local labour rather than bringing their own slaves. They will then dispatch priests and acolytes to operate it. In deference to Imperial sensibilities they have agreed that they will ensure the priest and their staff were free folk - minor nobles - rather than slaves.

If given permission to build a major temple, the construction would take six months. Again, they will provide their own white granite and pay local labourers to build the structure rather than importing their own slaves. While it is more difficult, they will do their best to ensure that everyone associated with the temple is a free citizen; and employ local servants and guards rather than bringing slaves to fill those positions. It is clear they expect the Empire to be bowled over by their munificence.

The immediate effect would be twofold. Firstly, an improvement of diplomatic relations with Asavea; and secondly improved opportunities for Imperial citizens trading with Asavea.

In addition, in the event that they are permitted to construct a major temple, they will be the opportunity for a named Imperial citizen to deal directly with Asavean merchants and potentially acquire valuable goods at a bargain price (effectively, a campaign resource allowing a named character to purchase Asavean goods such as orichalcum, tempest jade, iridescent gloaming, and cerulean mazzarine).

Temple of the Seven Virtues

As soon as permission is given to build a temple in the Empire, the Plenum will allow the construction of a temple of similar size in Nemoria, dedicated to one or more of the "gods" of the Way. The Empire would be responsible for building the structure themselves, however.

A minor temple of the way would require 10 wains of white granite to be provided. Labour costs would be significantly higher than they are in the Empire - professional labourers expect higher wages due to a lack of competition, and it might even be simpler to just import Imperial citizens to do the building work. Consequently the temple would require 5 Thrones to complete.

A major temple would require 20 wains of white granite to construct, and would take two seasons to complete. Again, labour costs would be significantly higher - 10 Thrones would be required to complete the work.

In either case, the entire cost in Thrones to build the temple could be waived it the person commissioning the temple chose to accept the kind offer of the Joãon family.

When complete, the immediate effect of the Temple would be a small improvement in diplomatic relations with the Empire. In addition, an Imperial citizen would need to be named to serve as an intermediary between the priests in Asavea and the Empire. This would certainly include providing them with the valuable liao needed to perform spiritual ceremonies, but this would also likely result in gifts from the grateful (effectively creating an Imperial title allowing the character to trade liao for Asavean goods). It is important to note that as the temple will be built on distant shores, it would not provide votes in the Imperial Synod, or doses of liao, however.

The Larger Picture

If a temple of the Asavean gods was built in the Empire, there would be a small but immediate improvement to trade with the distant port of Nemoria. Any Imperial ship visiting that foreign port would receive an extra measure of iridescent gloaming from each trip.

If the Temple of the Seven Virtues was completed, any Imperial ship visiting Nemoria would also receive an extra ingot of Orichalcum.

The effect of this improved trade would last as long as good relations between Asavea and the Empire were maintained. The same would apply to the campaign resources allowing the purchase Asavean goods.

Furthermore, a Temple of the Seven Virtues in Nemoria, might well provide further opportunities to spread the teachings of the Way to Asavea - although it is worth noting that there is actually no requirement for the Imperial Synod to be involved in these commissions in any way.

Arranging the Commissions

It would be possible for this opportunity to be dealt with through the Senate. In this case, the senator who raised the motion would be assumed by the Asaveans to be responsible for providing the materials to build the Temple of the Seven Virtues in Nemoria.

Alternatively, any of the new civilian commissioners could give permission to build the temple in a suitable region. In this case, the Asaveans would assume the civilian commissioner was also responsible for providing the materials to build the Temple of the Way in Nemoria.

The motion or announcement should include the necessary details of whether the Temple of the Seven Virtues is to be built with paid labour or with the aid of the Joãon. The motion might also decide to restrict the temple to one or more of the Imperial virtues, rather than to the Way as a whole.

It would also be important to note both who will be responsible for liaising with the priests of Asavea (and control the ministry they provide), and who would liaise with the Imperial priests in Nemoria (controlling the ministry in Asavea). The person responsible for the motion or announcement is free to either declare a method of electing someone or simply name the person they want to gain the position (in the case of the liaison with the Asavean temple).

In the case of the liaison with the Temple of Bahlo, the decision would need to be acceptable to the Asavean priests although that is likely to be a formality. Regardless of where the temple is physically built, a citizen of any nation might be named as liaison.

Suitable Locations

The Asaveans would want to build their own temple in one of the following regions: Cazar Straits, Fontargenta, or Oranseri in Feroz; Calvos Sound, Free Landing, Lightsea, or (especially) Siroc Plains in Madruga; or Naris in Urizen. If Sarvos were in Imperial hands again, they would also be quite prepared to build their temple in Bocche, Uccelini, or (ideally) Cigno.

For obvious reasons, they would prefer to avoid building their temple in Necropolis.