Edith threw her pencil back on the desk and gave a theatrical sigh. "This is a waste of time. The roads in the Mark are good enough already. We're not achieving anything with this".

Gytha's eyes remained closed but she cocked her head as if listening to something making Edith bite her tongue. Edith was a skilled prognosticator with formal training in mathematics, economics and Day magic - everything she did was checked and double-checked. Gytha took... a less formal approach to her work. She could be inspired, but working with the mystic was incredibly frustrating sometimes.

Gytha stood up and walked around the cramped office they shared, muttering to herself. Periodically she would reach out to touch a scroll or a chart, moving her hands over them as if she could read them with her finger tips. Then without warning she alighted on something, grasping a single sheet of parchment. She held it up to the light of the window for a moment, as if trying to see through the thin paper. Nodding to herself she dropped the paper into Edith's lap, turned on her heel and walked out of the room.

Impossible! How could anyone expect her to work with that! The bloody woman would be off to the lakeside to watch the flights of the birds, which she claimed gave her insight. Edith didn't like to demean the traditions of her own people, but seriously sometimes it did get a little much.

She glanced down at the sheet of paper her colleague had abandoned. It was a letter they had received asking them to look at the possibility for beacons along the borders of the Mark. Apparently Jorma Steelhail was creating plans for them so the author said. Intrigued she picked up her pencil and a fresh sheet of parchment and begin to write out some figures.

Overview

The Blood Red Roads link the four cities of the League, and pass through Casinea, Astolat, Semmerholm, Upwold, Hahnmark, Miaren, Karov, and Madruga. Their completion has connected the centre of the Empire, but they do not represent the only notable road-building project of recent years.

The roads of Karsk deserve a mention, for example. Completed at the beginning of 380YE, they not only helped rejuvenate the war-ravaged Varushkan territory but also aided in the restoration of the Iron Helms. While rarely mentioned in the same breath as La Volpe's masterwork, the Pilgrim's Trail in damp Kallavesa should not be overlooked - the roads and bridges may be on a less-grand scale that the white granite highways of the Imperial heartland but they provide valuable access for Imperial pilgrims to sites of spiritual power and religious importance.The South-West Road, already referred to by some as the Sunset Road, is sometimes dismissed as little more than an extension of the Blood Red Roads but in actuality represents a vital trade link between the Empire and its mercantile western neighbours in Faraden that brings a great deal of Prosperity to Segura in particular. Likewise, the Northern trade network, while it has involved little in the way of actual roadbuilding as such, has done its part to improve transportation of goods between the territories that comprise the trade route.

The successes of the Blood Red Roads have further served to inspire other, similar projects. The recently developed plans for the White Roads to connect the four Highborn territories to each other, and to the wider Empire, are in their own way just as impressive in their ambitious scope. If they were completed, they would bring pilgrims in greater numbers than ever before to the holy city of Bastion and to the tombs of Necropolis - as well as offering greater opportunity for traders operating from the south-eastern shores of the Bay of Catazar to reach the far corners of the Empire.

It should come as no surprise then that this flurry of building and planning has prompted wider interest. There have been several requests for the Civil Service to look into the feasibility of one set of roads or another. In response, a number of civil servants with qualifications in engineering and associated disciplines, have spent several months visiting far-flung parts of the Empire and making their assessment of the possibilities for building even more roads.

The Iron Roads of Varushka

The Vard built the first roads in Varushka, connecting their settlements and allowing for trade and the movement of troops. Without the roads that criss-cross the wild forests and hills, Varushka would arguably not exist as a nation but as a series of slowly declining, isolated settlements in a sea of darkness. Rather than gleaming white-granite highways, the roads of Varushka are first built with an eye toward protecting those who travel them from the threats of the dark forests and haunted hills. The spur of the Blood Red Roads that connects Delev with the wider Empire provides valuable access for (and to) the merchants of Karov, but La Volpe's ambitious program of road-building ends at the gates of the well-defended vale - perhaps the challenges of creating a safe, easily accessible road-network in Karov was beyond even the bold ambition of Lorenzo von Temeschwar.

The Crow Roads of Karsk for their part are more focused on improving internal transportation than they are concerned with bringing money and merchants into the territory. Still, the recent interest of traders from the Sarcophan Delves in Ivarsgard, or the oft-repeated suggestions from the Faraden that they would very much like access to Varushkan metal and wood, should not be dismissed, any more than Delev's connection to the Northern Trade Network. For the Varushkans, though, roads are about safe travel within the darkest nation not for the benefit of visitors no matter how wealthy they might be.

Building a road in Varushka is a significantly more complex task than building a road in many other parts of the Empire. Any road-building project requires not only dozens of workers but also the soldiers to protect them. Skilled Varushkan roadbuilders practice a hearth magic of their own, following traditional methods to lay out the roads, and every hundredth stone is marked with a warding sigil. This hearth magic grants the roads in Varushka powerful protection. The wolves of the woodlands and the hills cannot step onto the stone of a properly constructed Varushkan road, and on rare occasions merely touching the road can cause them to spontaneously ignite. The value of roads is mitigated slightly because the horrors that lurk in the shadows under the trees have learnt that roads mean people. Some monsters lurk near roads, trying to lure unwary travellers “off the beaten track” to their doom.

With all this in mind, the Civil Service have enlisted the aid of skilled Varushkan roadbuilders to examine the possibility of expanding or strengthening the existing internal roadways. Using the roads in Karsk as a template, they have developed proposals for a program of building across Karov, Miekarova, and Volodmartz that, looking back to the historical origins of they have dubbed their project the "Iron Roads".

Laying out the Roads

In Karov, the road builders have suggested a program of maintenance and expansion of the existing roads between Delev, Olvanshka, and Kolvy, with a special emphasis on providing improved access to several of the less well-known vales. At the same time, a new road would be constructed along the border with Weirwater, connecting Kolvy to the bustling port of Korotny. Korotny is already touched by the Crow Roads of Karsk, and while this would be potentially a dangerous project it would allow significantly easier movement for Varushkan traders from the eastern territories into the rest of the Empire.

In Volodmartz, their project is somewhat more ambitious. Rather than just expanding on existing roads, their plan involves building a major road along the edges of the foothills north of Triosk, passing by the Hunt of Alderei the Fair and then striking north-west through the dark woods of central Volodmartz to Void, and ultimately to Veltsgorsk in the shadow of the northern mountains. The new road linking to the Hunt of Alderei and the Fair and the Granites of Veltsgorsk will require careful planning, and protection from the wolves of the forests.

Finally, Miekarova. While the territory is heavily forested, a central road already links the rich mines of Essk, the prosperous trade-hub of Olodny, and the fortified trade-town of Mormyk. These roads see regular travel by Varushkan, Wintermark, Navarr, and Imperial Orcs traders. As with the roads of Karov, these could be reinforced and carefully expanded to allow access to several of the more isolated vales, forests, and mines. The plan drawn up by the roadbuilders and the civil servants includes a new road that cuts north-east from Mormyk to the Night Quarry, then skirts the southern foothills to Wendell's Hope and the Embassy to Otkodov.

Improving Bourse Resources
The chance to improve the production of these Bourse resources is an opportunity. This is a unique possibility that benefits from the geography and singular riches of Varushka. This means it is not possible to create a similar effect in another nation, even were it possible to request an opportunity.

Getting the Job Done

The Iron Roads represent a significant investment in the long-term infrastructure of Varushka. Between the maintenance of the existing roads, and the building of new ones across Varushka, the project will require 200 wains of white granite, 400 crowns in labour costs, and take a year to complete. Most of the preliminary work has already been done, so despite the size of the project it would count as only a single commission toward the Senate's limited number each season.

Once complete, the roads would greatly improve the prosperity of Varushkan mine and forest owners, who will find it much easier to access labourers, tools, and raw materials. The mine owners in each of the three territories would each get a share of 35 random ingots of metal, and forest owners in each of the three territories would each get a share of 35 random measures of material (that is 35 ingots an 35 measures in each of the three territories).

Perhaps more importantly, these roads would also improve access to the Eternal Shafts of Time, the Hunt of Alderei the Fair, the Granites of Veltsgorsk, and the Night Quarry. The production of each of these Bourse resources would be improved by 2 wains each season as long as the roads remained open.

Furthermore, Varushka is a rich nation, in terms of raw materials. Perhaps the richest in the Empire. A significant project here to expand its roads, providing easier contact to isolated vales and their resources, could well lead to further opportunities to invest in the industrial might of the north-east. An influx of wood and metal to the Northern Trade Network; more materials flowing to Temeschwar meaning an opportunity to expand the Assayer's Guild; easier access to the mines of Karsk; and further opportunities to invest in the richer vales might all present themselves if the three grand roadbuilding projects were completed.

Beacons and Watchtowers
The chance to build this special beacon and watchtower network in Wintermark is an opportunity. This is a unique possibility that benefits from the geography of the region and builds on elements of the Winterfolk's martial nature. This means it is not possible to construct a warning system identical to the proposed beacons of Wintermark in another nation.

The Beacons of Wintermark

Hahnmark, specifically the city of Kalpaheim, is already linked to the rest of the Empire by the Blood Red Roads. The marshes of Kallavesa are criss-crossed with trails, bridges, and paths intended for the use of pilgrims and designed to not disturb the rest of the heroes that slumber beneath the waters. Sermersuaq. sadly, is in the hands of the Jotun.

The Civil Service have discussed the possibility of building new roads in Wintermark, but found many of the people there broadly disinterested. Roads are useful, but the roads they already have are largely good enough for their purpose. A little bit of paving here, the repairing of a bridge or raised dyke there - that's all many of the merchants of Wintermark see a need for right now.

What they are interested in however is something that comes alongside the roads - the beacons and warning towers that dot the countryside especially in Hahnmark. While significantly less ambitious in scope than the heliopticon of distant Urizen, the beacons have long provided a way of warning other halls about potential threats from barbarians or organised bandit gangs. Indeed, some mutter, if they had been kept in good shape it might have been possible to put an end to the feni threat in southern Hahnmark before it became such a pressing problem. Had people been sufficiently vigilant, then the beacons might have provided advance warning of the Jotun invasion of Sermersuaq.

Towers of Fire

To expand and repair the beacons and watch towers in Hahnmark and Kallavesi would cost 40 wains of white granite and 40 wains of weirwood, and require 160 crowns in labour costs. The project would take six months to finish. It would count as only a single commission toward the limit of new projects the Senate can initiate each season. Once complete, however, they would provide a potent early warning system against military threats, as well as regular garrisons able to slow invading forces. The towers and beacons would provide two obvious effects.

First, the beacons would quickly send warning of any invading force across the territory allowing the halls to rally and coordinate resistance. Any barbarian force attempting to invade Kallavesa or Hahnmark would treat the invasion as contested (they would not receive the benefit for an uncontested attack), even if no further effort was made by Imperial forces to defend the territory.

Secondly, captains of a military unit would be able to assign their soldier to garrison the beacons and watchtowers as if they were a fortification. They would need to choose between Hahnmark or Kallavesa, and they would receive no additional fighting strength, but they would help directly in resisting an invading barbarian force.

The towers and beacons would not count as a fortification for purposes of magical rituals. They would be maintained and garrisoned by the people of the halls that stand near them, and so there would be no drain on the Imperial treasury. They would not take damage from an invading force - the only weakness would be that the beacons in a territory would stop working if an enemy force took control of Kalpaheim (for the Hahnmark beacons), or the Rundhal Marsh (for the Kallavesa beacons).

Fire and Water

When Sermersuaq is liberated, a similar network of beacons and watchtowers could be expanded to cover the third territory, although this would be a slightly more daunting proposition give the sheer size of the territory and the relatively light population. The civil service estimate the project would cost 25 wains of white granite and 25 wains of weirwood, 100 crowns in labour costs, and take six months to complete by itself, but it would provide the same bonuses to the northernmost territory as it provides to Hahnmark and Kallavesa as long as Sealtoq were not in enemy hands.

Restricted Opportunity

This opportunity is not a great work, sinecure, or ministry and so cannot be commissioned by the Bearer of an Imperial Wayleave.

Crossing the Marches

The Blood Red Roads run north from Tassato through Upwold to Stockland and thence to Kalpaheim. In conjunction with Moonwater Hall, they have brought a lot of foreign trade to Upwold - and not just from other Imperial nations. yet they have done nothing for the other territories of the Marches who (perhaps predictably) occasionally use this as an excuse to grumble about "stuck-up Upwolders and their Tassatan friends".

The Grand Western Highway

The Marches already have pretty good roads - understandable given their focus on moving large amounts of food and drink from place to place by ox cart but that is not to say that they could not be improved upon. The Western Road that leads from Stockland through Mitwold to Meade and Odd's End requires regular maintenance and has fallen a little into disrepair in recent years. A spur could be constructed from Meade to Graven Rock in Bregasland, taking advantage of the trod that runs south from the Marcher city. The road that runs down to Hay could then be expanded south into the Mournwold. Such a road has existed in the past, but in the three decades of Jotun occupation it fell into disrepair. The road could be extended further through the Chalkdowns to where Sarcombe is being rebuilt, and from there east across the Greensward to Tassato.

The project would be straightforward enough. With a Senate motion work on the Western Highway could begin. It would require 100 wains of white granite, 200 crowns in labour, and take nine months to complete. The entire "Grand Western Highway" would count as a single commission for purposes of the Senate's limit on new construction.

When it was complete, it would function a little like a great work in each of the three territories. It would split 450 rings between every business in Mitwold each season. It would also benefit the farms, and in conjunction with the Imperial Breadbasket increase the seasonal benefits of that great work to add another 180 rings each season split between the farms. In the Mournwold, where the breadbasket does not reach, each farm would receive a share of 450 rings. Each business, likewise, would receive their own share of 450 rings. At the same time, the south-western spur into Bregasland would provide much easier access to the mineral riches of Gravenmarch, meaning that every mine in the territory would partake of a seasonal bonus of 25 ingots of additional production each season.

The Otterway

Rather than stopping at Odd's End, the Western Highway could continue east along the raised earth causeway to Ottery, and then south to Sallow. Indeed, the Otterway is long overdue for a little attention - bad weather, time, and travel have all taken their toll on "the only dry road in the marshes" as it is sometimes known. This would also be an excellent opportunity to widen the road, and properly pave it for the first time since the reign of Emperor James.

This project would not be cheap; maintenance and expansion of the Otterway would cost 20 wains of white granite and 20 wains of weirwood, require 80 crowns in labour costs, and take six months to complete. At the end of this time, in conjunction with the Imperial Breadbasket, it would provide a bounty of an additional 360 rings each season shared among the farms of Bregasland. Alternatively, if the Senate were already undertaking the Great Western Highway project, they could specify that the Otterway would be part o that project. It would add another 20 wains of white granite, 20 wains of weirwood, and 80 crowns to the Great Western Highway project, and the whole thing would take three months longer to complete, but it would all count as a single senate motion and commission.

The Civil Service mention that they raised the possibility of extending the Otterway farther into the Fens and were met with what bordered on actual hostility. It appears that while other Marchers may welcome the benefits of new roads, the Bregas on the whole prefer their privacy thank you very much.

A Note on Canals
As mentioned in the main text, the Marches are quite flat. The kind of waterway being proposed is intended for use by narrow boats with shallow drafts, canal barges and similar. It is not something that would have any military use.

The proposed canal is completely inadequate for a warship which would need to be around twenty times the size (with concomitant costs) for it to have any benefit on naval movement, and would require major remodelling of the territories through which it passed such that every region along the river would gain the coastal quality. Such a project would be astronomically expensive, time consuming, and likely well beyond the capabilities of the any power in the world of Empire.

The Great Westward Canal

There is an alternative to the Westward Highway that has fired the imagination of several prominent citizens of Meade. Rather than build a road, they suggest, why not spend the money and effort widening and dredging the river Meade? The waterway sees a little boat traffic already, but with some work it could be transformed into a riverine highway - a canal running through Mitwold upstream into the Mournwold. The river reaches nearly to Sarcombe already, and with a little imagination all that would be required would be a small artificial river dug between the Meade and the new town and it could transport food and workers south, and valuable metals and stone from the quarries and mines north to Meade.

The canal would not be cheap. It would require 60 wains of white granite and 40 wains of weirwood, cost 100 crowns in labour, and take nine months to complete. At the end of that time, it would provide significant benefits. Every farm in Mitwold would receive a share of 216 rings; every business in Mitwold and Mournwold would receive a share of 560 rings; and every mine in Mournwold would share additional production equal to 32 ingots of metal.

Further Options

It is possible to build both the Great Westward Canal and the Grand Western Highway. This would require two motions and two commissions. The benefits would be significantly less than those listed here for each individual great work - due to the overlapping effects of the two proposals (see the rules for multiple great works)

Outside southern Mournwold, the Marches are quite flat. Once the Great Westward Canal were complete, there might well be opportunities to expand it further - perhaps into Upwold and Bregasland (which is after all mostly water and mud) - but the current proposal focuses on connecting Meade and the newly created market town of Sarcombe.

If either the Canal or the Highway was built, the easier access to Mournwold would have two further unpredictable effects. Not only would it help Marchers looking to move to the Mourn, but it would also allow the orcs living there to travel more easily around the Marches. It is impossible to predict what effect easier contact between northern Marchers and ex-Jotun Thralls might have.

Uniting the Brass Coast

There has been a recent flurry of roadbuilding in the Brass Coast. First the Blood Red Roads connecting the League with the city of Siroc, then the Sunset Roads built with the aid of the Faraden connecting Anduz to Tassato. The civil service have explored the possibility of building similar roads in the other two Freeborn territories.

Feroz: The Garden Roads

Feroz is a well-settled, civilised territory which already has some roads. As with other nations, the civil service have prepared a list of places the roads require maintenance, and proposals for places where they could be expanded to connect newer settlements to more established towns. The plans also contain proposals for expanding the existing highway between Johara and Mora past the Spice Gardens and across the border into Segura, ultimately connecting with Anduz.

The civil service also approached the hakima at Afar to discuss the possibility of connecting their distant settlement with Bramar in the south. They were received politely but told in no uncertain terms that the families of that far-flung retreat would actively oppose any attempt to build a road through the rolling grasslands that surround the isolated town.

This Garden Roads would require 40 wains of white granite, 80 crowns labour costs, and take six months to complete. Once work was finished, the roads would provide two benefits. First, a pool of 495 rings would be split each season between the businesses of Feroz. Second, the improved access to places such as the Spice Gardens would see a bounty of 38 random herbs split between every herb garden in the territory.

The new roads would also bring significant benefits to the Keeper. With easier access, the sinecure would provide an additional two doses each of Cerulean Mazzarine, Imperial Roseweald, and True Vervain to the title holder each season. In addition, the Keeper of the Spice Gardens would also receive two Realmsroot each season made available from isolated herb gardens in out-of-the-way parts of the territory.

Arbonne: The Sunlit Roads

Bramar is the southernmost settlement in Feroz, a trading port surrounded by rich agricultural lands. It is also the last major settlement in the Brass Coast before one reaches Kalino - the territory the Iron Confederacy calls Arbonne. One possibility the civil service has identified would be to build a road from Bramar south to the edge of Imperial territory, and either establish a trading post there or - if the Suranni Duke Guiscard were amenable - extend the road farther south to Ruenda. Most likely the Iron Confederacy would need to build their leg of the road, and given their generally xenophobic attitude to the Empire it might require careful handling, but once complete the civil service predict it would see an influx of Suranni metal and stone which would provide a boost to businesses, and allow the creation of a ministry similar to the Northern trade network dedicated to cultivating stronger trading ties with the Empire's southern neighbours. Negotiating such a road is beyond the scope of the civil service's commission, and would be a job for the Ambassador to the Iron Confederacy.

Kahraman: The Cinnabar Roads

The wealth of Kahraman lies in its hills. A treacherous land of broken rock, barren mountainsides, fast-flowing streams, and jagged-edged valleys, travel through the territory is notoriously arduous. There is precious little in the way of vegetation, only scrub that clings to the slopes, and as often as not poor weather makes travel even more hazardous. There are roads, but they require constant maintenance, and the scattered settlements that take shelter in the valleys often have more pressing concerns than ensuring a bridge two days travel from their walls is properly repaired.

In addition to repairing and enhancing the existing roads, the civil service have been busy looking for ways to provide easier travel across the territory. In conjunction with an adventurous band of kohan, they have plotted a route that would allow a road to be built from the town of Briante north-east through the hills to Fort Braydon, and from there north into the Mournwold to the site of the former town of Sarcombe. This road in particular would have numerous benefits, allowing easier access to the western borders for the garrison at Fort Braydon, and encouraging Marcher and Navarr traders to come south to Kahraman. The project calls for several bridges across a number of the worst of the gulleys, ravines, and valleys along the slopes of the northern peaks and would be by no means cheap.

The project would cost 80 wains of white granite, 60 wains of weirwood, 240 crowns for labour, and take nine months to complete. Once work was complete, the immediate benefits to the people of Kahraman would be three-fold.

First, it would encourage trade from the north - from the Marches, Tassato, Miaren, and even Wintermark. It would also make it easier for workers to reach the more out-of-the-way mines, and improve the ability to transport ore and metal to market. Every mine owner in Kahraman would share in a bounty of 38 ingots of metal, while every business would gain a share of 675 rings.

Secondly, it would significantly increase the reach of the garrison at Fort Braydon. With easier access to the western and southern regions of the territory, the fortification could provide a great deal more protection not only to the Freeborn citizens but to both the Damatian Cliffs and the Great Mine of Briante. Fort Braydon would become a rank two fortification, giving it a total strength of 6000. Keeping the roads clear and maintaining the enlarged garrison would increase the upkeep of Fort Braydon by 8 Thrones each season.

Finally, the burst of prosperity to Kahraman would have the (comparatively minor) effect of bringing even more miners and rivals into the territory, as well as traders from both the north and the south. The Dhomiro of the Cinnabar Hills would gain a second stream to their ministry allowing them to purchase League Weltsilver, Marcher Beggar's Lye and Navarr Ambergelt.

Restricted Opportunity

The Cinnabar Roads involve modifications to a fortification and so cannot be commissioned by the Bearer of an Imperial Wayleave.

A Navarr Connection

The civil service surveyors have also made some preliminary notes about expanding and protecting the route through the western mountains into Liathaven. In the past, control of the narrow passes here has been contested with bandit orcs. Indeed, in recent memory the efforts of these orcs were able to strangle trade between Beacon Point and Serra Damata - and even able to stop refugees fleeing southern Liathaven in the face of the Jotun invasion.

However, while Liathaven remains outside the Empire, they are unable to do more than make vague sketches. What they are confident of, however, is that once the Cinnabar Roads were completed.they would make it significantly easier for Imperial citizens to build new lives in the forests to the west.

Limited Opportunities

These projects presented by the Civil Service are not time sensitive. Obviously, if the situation changes dramatically they might become unfeasible but it is rare for that to happen. In theory if a key settlement were destroyed, it might require an adjustment to the plans but in general these opportunities will remain available for the foreseeable future.

However, the civil service has confirmed that should the Senate prove to be interested in investing in the long-term infrastructure of the Empire to the point of beginning work on one or more of these projects in the next two seasons, then that would spark interest in looking for similar road-building opportunities in those nations of the Empire not currently covered.

Resolution

The Imperial Senate approved the construction of the Wintermark beacons uring the Autumn Equinox. work has begun, and if it continues at the current rate should be completed shortly before the Spring Equinox.

Jack Counter draw two neat lines under the proposal using a straight edge. He stared down at the piece of paper - it seemed incredible to see it finally written down as a formal submission after all these years. five years of patient study as an apprentice, two more as a journeyman before he became a fully qualified civil servant... and all that time he'd kept his childhood dream firmly in his mind.

Even now it was nothing more than a pipe dream. The instructions from Gerard La Salle were clear enough - they had been asked to submit proposals for roads for consideration by the Senate. Not this... nobody had asked for this. That meant he was taking a big risk, but he knew it was worth it. His plan was every bit as good as the road - and his figures proved it. But he also knew enough of politics to know that figures didn't mean a damn thing by themselves; whether or not this got built would come down to politics. And that meant it was out of his hands now.

Jack Counter had dreamed of the day his dad's boat would sail all the way up the River Meade to its source since he was old enough to swim. Everyone had told him it was a just a foolish childhood dream. But he had always believed it could be done - and today he'd finally proved it. It might never get built - but if anyone in the Marchers shared his dream - then maybe... just maybe...