Snow and rain
"It is too damn cold for snowmen!" he shouted back. Wyl laughed.
"You should have bought some mittens! I told you you should have bought mittens!" He waved his own mittened hands for a moment, then squatted to begin rolling snow into a ball.
Maedoc raised his eyes to the heavens.
"He's your son," he grumbled to Baed. His wife patted him on the arm.
"I seem to recall you were at least slightly involved," she said archly. They shared a private smile, and then walked on, linking arms.
"Have you ever seen so much snow!" asked Baed, rhetorically. Maedoc puffed on his pipe for a moment, thoughtful.
"Nothing like this, not even when the Thule sent their fimbulwinter down before the attack on Skarsind. I'm wearing two extra layers under this coat and I am still feeling the cold!"
"That's not the cold, that's just you getting old," laughed Baed. Then she became serious, looking up toward the Northpines, towering above the forest to the north-west. "The winter is bad enough, but it is the Spring that I fear. All that snow that has fallen ... it is not going anywhere. It's going to come down the mountain one way or another."
Maedoc nodded. "I hear that some of the Pridestalkers have been talking about creating an avalanche on purpose, with just that in mind. I think they are mad. It cannot possibly help but go horribly wrong. Still, you know Pridestalkers ..."
Baed was only half-listening. She was staring off to the north.
"You're thinking about the orcs?"
"Aye. Their first winter in Skarsind is going to be a bad one. If it is this bad here, imagine what it will be like along the northern peaks."
"Not much we can do here," said Maeddoc.
Both Navarr wore Suaq snowshoes and had covered quite a distance despite the deep snow. They turned to look back along the trail to where Wyl had been joined by a handful of children and several youths his own age. They were already on to their second snowman. Laughter drifted on the still Winter air. They watched in silence for a few minutes.
"No ..." agreed Baed, her face lost in thought. "No much we can do here but ... there might be something we can do if we go there, don't you think?"
Maeddoc smiled broadly at his wife.
"I'll speak to some of the others and see what we can bundle together. It's the least we can do. The Winterfolk have been our neighbours for generations and without the Imperial Orcs ..."
His voice trailed off. Unconsciously he touched the stump of his left arm, his expression twisted by remembered pain. Baed touched his shoulder, concerned. Her husband shook himself, breaking the grip of the past, and grinned at Baed.
"Without the Imperial Orcs our Wyl would be working in a mine for tablescraps instead of trying to impress young Tarhad with his snowballs. Come, I'll race you back to the camp!"He set off without waiting, sliding quickly cross the snow with expert ease, his grin widening as his wife's voice raised in faux-outrage as she berated him for his cheating ways.
This Winter has been cold. Angry blizzards rage across Sermersuaq, Skarsind, Volodmartz, Hercynia, and Miekarova. Great drifts of snow leave some isolated communities in the northern parts of the Empire completely cut off for weeks on end. Some are able to endure the harsh winter months only thanks to the aid of intrepid Navarr stridings who help to ferry food and other necessities to the far-flung parts of the Empire.
Heavy snowfalls are common as far south as Mournwold and Bastion, with light flurries of snow even in Kahraman, Casinea and Necropolis. The food shortages caused by the disastrous Marcher harvest combine with the vile weather to create one of the worst winters in thirty years. Even where the weather is only poor - on the Brass Coast and in the mountains of Urizen, the effects are felt in the form of tightened belts and unseasonably cold winds.
Winter in Skarsind
Winter has been bad across the Empire, but nowhere has it been worse than in Skarsind. Indeed, it might be fairer to say that Skarsind has an atrocious winter. Week long snowstorms; several avalanches in the northern mountains; water frozen solid; packs of hungry predators pressing ever closer to civilisation; and even talk of nights so cold that they caused trees to explode. The cold weather brings with it a creeping malaise, and even the hardiest of orcs are prone to chills and colds.
The weather hits the farm owners worst of all - in that they need to break open their stockpiles just to keep themselves and their neighbours alive through the bitter, bitter winter. It is here that the one silver lining can be seen. With the entire territory in the grip of unspeakable weather, the quarrel between the native Winterfolk and the Imperial Orcs is largely put aside (at least temporarily), with members of both communities combining their efforts to endure the frigid months.
Vassa and Scorrero
Worse, once the weather begins to improve a little, the heavy snow begins to thaw, leading to flooding in several parts of the southern Empire. The Vassa and the Scorrero are particularly swollen by snowmelt, causing problems in Tassato, Cevia, Trivento, Cerevado, and Siroc. There is a serious possibility that the furious Vassa may burst its banks, with sandbags and other improvised flood defences being employed in the settlements along its length. Already a number of cellars and subterranean chambers have been flooded with freezing cold water.
The Scorrero is less likely to break its banks, but the rising is cause for concern especially for the net rigger communities who work on the Scorrero Nets. While the river tends to be slow moving, the dangerous currents it is famous for spell disaster for anyone who misjudges the water. There have already been several tragic incidents involving loss of life among the net rigger communities.
Needless to say, with a characteristic black humour, the dramaturgists of Tassato have made a point of performing several famous plays in which the character of Vassa does something extraordinary or unexpected, precipitating disaster.
As a result of the snow, and the floods, several scholars are questioning whether there might be a connection between the extensive use of Spring magic - especially magic that induces storms, or that encourages tumultuous rainfall. Over the last three years or so, the Empire has seen more widescale invocation of Spring magic than in the previous fifty years. Surely, say these outspoken theoreticians, it cannot be a coincidence that the weather is turning vicious. There has been some talk of encouraging the Imperial Conclave to take steps to restrict the use of large-scale Spring enchantments, especially those that deal with the weather, at least for the next six months or so.
After the harvest
The immediate after effects of the disastrous harvest in the Marches have faded, but the repercussions are still being felt. The Marcher farmers and stewards have sufficient stores to see them through, and even some to sell if they wish, but nowhere near as much as they might have expected. The national assembly of the Imperial Synod took steps during the Winter Solstice, urging the farmers of the Marches to tighten their belts another notch and sell their surplus at a reduced price for the good of the Empire.
Martin Orchard, a monk of the Pickham Monastery in Upwold, was the priest chosen by the Marcher assembly to deal with the food shortages. While the farmers have listened, they are not best pleased and Martin Orchard is likely to receive a cool welcome on many farms across the Marches for some time to come
Winter in Skarsind
The weather in most of the Empire is entirely natural, if brutal. The exception is in Skarsind where divination quickly reveals that the new home of the Imperial Orcs are under the effect of a curse woven with Winter magic. It is quickly identified as Naeve's Twisting Blight, but further information proves elusive.
As a consequence of the curse, the production of all farms in Skarsind has been halved over the previous season. While the worst effects of the curse have faded with the grim winter weather, there are still a few lingering traces.
Investigation of the curse on Skarsind will be hampered by the distances involved. One possible solution would be for a magician versed in the lore of the winter realm to prepare an arcane projection which would allow an effect similar to Wisdom of the Balanced Blade to be performed at the imperial regio, targeting the affected territory, to at least get some idea of what exactly the curse is doing. Any such divination will need to be potent enough to over come the effect of the shroud of night magic that has settled over the territory.
No doubt other possibilities may suggest themselves.
Opportunity: The Scorrero Nets
The risk of flooding along the Scorrero is a concern, but it is also an opportunity. Every year, ilium is washed down out of the hills and mountains and collected from the river by the net riggers. This year, with the rising water levels, it seems a lot more ilium has been loosened and washed down the Scorrero. The challenge is going to lie in finding enough people prepared to risk the treacherous waters to claim it.
The Scorrero Nets will be auctioned during the Spring Equinox, as they are each year. The new Seat may choose to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the swollen river by offering more money to workers prepared to take more extreme risks in pursuit of sweet, sweet ilium.
- With a small investment of 7 Thrones, the Scorrero nets would produce a total of 6 ilium each season over the coming year.
- With a moderate investment of 20 Thrones, the Scorrero nets would produce 7 ilium each season over the coming year.
- With a significant investment of 40 Thrones, the nets would produce 8 ilium each season over the coming year.
This does not require any intervention by the Imperial Senate; the Bourse Seat would simply need to ensure they had the appropriate funds in their inventory, and send an e-mail to email@example.com after the event. This option is only available until the end of the Spring Equinox 380YE - after that it will be too late to take advantage of the opportunity.
A Risk of Storms
If everything remains as it is, the worst of the flooding along the Vassa and the Scorrero should pass by the Summer Solstice. However any sustained period of heavy rain in the territories along the banks of the two rivers could be disastrous. Such weather would likely need to be at least as bad as that created by Thunderous Deluge and would almost certainly require the use of Spring magic.
If the dreadful weather occurred in Mournwold or Tassato, it is likely the Vassa would burst its banks, flooding the city of Tassato. This would inflict a significant penalty on personal resources in Tassato. Such a flood would also potentially damage the Sapphire Stair locks, and if it were severe enough could damage the Spider's Dream - the only safe way to cross the Vassa from Madruga to Sarvos - for good measure.
If the weather were to occur in Kahraman or Segura, the effects would likely be less severe, but still include some damage to the Scorrero Nets, and to the livelihoods of business owners in Segura and Madruga.
By a similar token, the rituals Rivers of Life and Rivers Run Red are likely to have additional effects if performed on the swollen headwaters of the Vassa (in Mournwold) or the deep Scorrero (in Kahraman). In addition to its normal effects of performing one of these rituals on one of these two territories, a Rivers of Life would give a small increase to the production of farms and herb gardens in the territories along the course of the river (in Tassato and Sarvos, or Segura and Madruga) while a Rivers Run Red would give a similar penalty to those resources.
In the extreme event that one of the Spring curses were combined with tumultuous rain, the effect on farms and herb gardens would likely be even further increased.