"And you've checked these figures?" Balian glanced up from his chair to challenge Kay, locking eyes with his subordinate.

Kay nodded briefly, "Twice sir. I'm sure they're correct".

Seemingly unconvinced, Balian decided to pick it apart line by line. "The League 12.9%... why is that so high? Didn't their general gave orders to plunder?"

"Aye - but there was a score of military units supporting them." Kay responded

"Fine. Dawn 41.8% of the land taken so far is attributable to the Dawnish. That's fine..."

Kay winced slightly, knowing what was coming next.

Balian finally dropped all pretence of disinterest in the outcome and got to what was really bothering him "But look this can't be right. The Varushkans took 45.3% of the territory? They didn't have any more armies there than us, how did they manage that?"

"It's correct sir, it was the Golden Axe. A large army... with orders to take their land. Theirs was by far the biggest impact." Kay tried not to sound defensive. After all it was just maths, it wasn't as if any of this were something he was responsible for. But there was a reason he'd checked the figures twice with a sinking feeling. Like his superior, he'd originally assumed the Dawnish armies would be leading from the front at this point.

Balian frowned again, but he pushed the sheet with the figures on into the leather folder and close it. "Very well, those are the figures. We'll pass them on."

The Forest Comes Alive.jpg
The Barrens has always been a prize, hanging temptingly halfway between the Empire and the Mallum.
Click for audio version


As the Empire divides the Barrens, so the Barrens has increasingly begun to divide the Empire. When the Imperial Orcs staked their ambition to claim the Barrens, Dawn responded as only Dawn can, by challenging them to glorious contest. Let this greatest of all prizes, a land that Dawnish knights have fought to claim for decades, go to whichever nation could fairly be said to have conquered it.

Having thrown down the gauntlet, the Dawnish armies have moved quickly to seize the advantage, their armies leading the Empire's invasion from north and south cutting the territory in two. With the full backing of their Assembly, as well as the Highborn, they seem well situated to continue the advance this coming season.

But the General Assembly are not so easily impressed. It seems that the priests who care to express an opinion are not well pleased by either the contest or the Dawnish advance.

We firmly reject the notion that the fate of the Barrens should be decided by a reckless challenge. We will not subvert the existing legal framework for the sake of vain glory. We prove our worth through service to this Empire, spending our blood and one life on protecting all nations and saving Imperial lives. We are Loyal to the core. While Ambition leads us to the Barrens, we will not abandon our allies.

Skywise Tulva, Imperial Orc Assembly, Spring Equinox 384YE, (Upheld with a Greater Majority, 117-0)

Falsehoods have been spread - the land that is liberated by an army does not become the property of that army's nation. The Barrens will be liberated and the Druj purged from the face of creation, but the nations who race across this territory in an attempt to lay claim to its identity forget the lessons of the past. Remember Skarsind. Remember Holberg. Rather than use them to keep score, let us rally the slaves and survivors of the Druj's campaign in the Barrens to our cause. Preach of the virtues and guide them on their path, and they will be inspired by the Empire.

Prince-Bishop Jonah Yakovitch von Holberg, General Assembly, Spring Equinox 384YE, (Upheld with a Greater Majority, 1889-218)

The Survivors of the Druj

At the Spring Equinox, the General Assembly of the Imperial Synod passed a mandate with a greater majority decrying efforts to claim the Barrens as a prize and calling on the nations of Empire to rally the slaves and survivors of the Druj's campaign in the Barrens to the Empire's cause.

Legally speaking, Prince-Bishop Jonah Yakovitch von Holberg is perfectly correct. The decision of which nation a territory will be allocated to is a political decision. The idea that it should be given to whoever fought for it has never been the law. Despite this, many nations often feel they have a right to a territory. Wintermark likely does not expect the Imperial Senate to allocate Sermersuaq to the League or the Marches. They have long ties with the land, and thousands of their people living there even now. That doesn't give them any kind of legal right to the territory - not in Imperial law - but it does create a powerful moral imperative that is often difficult to resist.

Such moral imperatives can arise in different ways. The Prince-Bishop cites the example of Holberg - a city that is infamous to many in Dawn. They fought and bled to liberate the territory, driving the Druj back - only to see the League snatch the prize from them in the Senate. It's not clear if citing Holberg is meant as a rejoinder... or as a threat. What happened in Holberg could easily happen again. The Dawnish armies could bleed to conquer the Barrens... and then the Imperial Senate has the legal right to give that territory to whomever they please.

Fortunately, this growing conflict between the Synod assemblies has little impact, because the decision will ultimately be taken in the Imperial Senate. The Synod can move the hearts and minds of the people of the Empire, but the hearts and minds of senators are a different matter. The Dawnish have made their challenge clear, and they certainly seem intent on pursuing it this season, whether or not the Senate recognize those efforts is a decision for those who elect the Throne.

However, the General Assembly could influence the course of the campaign in the Barrens by passing the following mandate.

The Barrens is a land to be liberated, not a prize to be claimed. We send {named priest} to urge the nations of the Empire to turn aside from this campaign of conquest. Let us rally the slaves and survivors of the Druj's campaign in the Barrens to our cause. We send (named priest) with 75 liao to discourage a campaign of brutal conquest.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly

If this mandate were enacted, it would raise doubt in the mind of every Imperial soldier sent to the Barrens with orders to conquer. Orders to defend captured regions, or to rally slaves to revolt would not be affected, but any other offensive order other than break the chains would suffer a 20% penalty to territory captured until the start of the Summer Solstice 385YE. It would send a clear unambiguous signal to every nation that the Imperial Synod seek a different path in the Barrens. Not every nation would be affected of course, neither Urizeni nor Varushkan armies would suffer the penalty unless the mandate passed with a greater majority.

The Survivors of the Empire

Unfortunately, while there are survivors of the Druj's campaign in the Barrens, it is far from clear that they are in any mood to listen to the Empire. With the Empire now firmly in control of two regions near the centre of the territory there is an opportunity for civil servants to cautiously assess the mood of the inhabitants to see if there are any opportunities for the Empire to influence them with a mandate. Sadly the outcome is not positive.

The orcs in the Barrens have rebelled twice in living memory. The first time was shortly after the death of Empress Britta, when the Black Wind Clan first tried to escape from under Druj rule. Their rebellion was ruthlessly suppressed by the much larger Druj forces and their leaders rounded up and tortured. At that point the Sentinel Gate provided the Empire with an opportunity for hundreds of Imperial heroes to attack the camp where the rebels were being held. The Druj were easily beaten, forced to flee, but sadly the rebels were not freed. Instead the Empire butchered the Black Wind captives along with everyone else in the camp. It was the greatest propaganda victory the Druj could have imagined and one they have not tired of telling to every subject in Druj lands whenever the opportunity arises.

Unfortunately, that was not the only time the Empire has seen fit to raise a sword against the orcs of the Barrens. When the Black Wind rose again, they were joined by the other clans, the Peytaht and the Rahvin as well as the human Montanians, and a sept of orcs called the Vendarri. The clans sent representatives to Anvil to negotiate for control of the Dawnish regions in the West and left the summit thinking they had a treaty. Tragically the treaty failed to pass the Imperial Senate, the regions were not ceded and when the rebel orcs tried to occupy them violence quickly followed.

In the resulting conflict, the armies of the Rahvin Clan were decimated. Caught between the Imperial forces attacking them from the West and Druj forces attacking them from the East, their armies had no possible hope of survival. They refused to consider surrender, fighting to the bitter end until eventually, the armies broke, ceasing to exist as the losses became too great to sustain. There are still thousands of Rahvin orcs living as Druj slaves in the Barrens, but they are leaderless and broken.

If anything, the fate of the Black Wind was even worse. To avoid their Clan being wiped out, the tribe capitulated to the Druj. Their leaders were brutally executed, for the Druj do not tolerate rebellion, but their sacrifice brought a reprieve for the soldiers in their army. Druj commanders were installed to replace the murdered leaders and the proud tribe were reduced to fighting and killing in service to the Druj. Grim though this ending may be, the rebel leaders of the Black Wind at the time considered it preferable to surrender to the Empire.

Only the Montanians and the Great Forest Orcs also known as the Peytaht managed to escape slaughter at the hands of the Empire and the Druj. These groups abandoned their cause and their comrades fled their homes and threw themselves on the mercy of the Empire. After a long negotiation, they were granted rights to live in Therunin and they have remained close allies of the Navarr since then. The Empire has slowly begun to gain the trust of this group, but they remain deeply distrustful, especially of Dawn, who they blame for the failure of the rebellion and the destruction of the Rahvin.

Having helped cause the deaths of not one but two entire generations of rebel leaders in the Barrens, those that survived are not receptive to the words of Imperial priests. They hate and fear the Druj, but not half as much as they hate and fear the Empire. The common view is that the Druj are a horror, but they are a known horror - and their rule is the only way to survive something even worse - death at the hands of the Empire.

As a result the orc inhabitants of the Barrens are about as hostile to the possibility of rising up against the Druj and in support of the Empire as it is possible to be. There are two key problems: widespread hostility to the Empire and the fact that every potential leader who might lead an uprising is dead, many of them slain by the Empire.

The assessment of the civil service is that there will be no possibility of effective resistance to the Druj rule for 10 years. It will take that long for new leaders to emerge and for the bitterness of memories of deaths at the hands of the Empire to fade. Only at that point would be effective uprising even be possible - only then would there be a chance to try and encourage them to take up arms against the Druj. Ten years is a long time... fortunately there are steps the Empire could take to try and rebuild trust and speed up that process.

The Winter Sun

The first army of the Imperial Orcs, the Winter Sun are freedom fighters who could come to the Barrens and mount a campaign to incite a rebellion. Each season the army spent campaigning in the Barrens with orders to break the chains of the inhabitants would reduce the time required to make an effective rebellion possible by one year, in addition to any other effects it might have.

Dawn has wronged the Great Forest Orcs. We have hunted them like beasts through the trees. The Imperial Senate rejected the first hand they reached out to us, and we turned our armies upon them, massacring them in the Barrens... ...Let us show respect for the Great Forest Orcs, for their lives, their traditions, their way of being, in such ways as our skills and Virtue permit. We cannot redress the wrongs of centuries. We cannot undo what we have done. It is too late for that. But we can say "No more!" and start to rebuild the trust that we lost.

Mael Donjeon of House Remys, Dawn Assembly, Spring Equinox 384YE, (Upheld 202-50)

Reconcile the Past

Mael Donjeon of House Remys raised a lengthy judgement in the Dawn Assembly which was passed with a simple majority calling on Dawn to renounce the mistakes of the past and to work with the Great Forest Orcs to rebuild trust. Although it did not get a greater majority, the Great Forest Orcs are aware of the judgement and the reaction to it. As a result, here is an opportunity to blunt the impact of the Imperial attacks on the Barrens orcs if the Military Council chose to take it. If the Empire were successful and the the Great Forest Orcs were able to conduct a ceremony of reconciliation (as detailed in the As the Water's Dripping Down battle opportunity) then in addition to the other effects it would reduce the time required for an effective rebellion to begin by two years.

Disposition of the Spoils

The one clan of Barrens orcs that are eager to fight the Druj are the Great Forest Orcs. There are very few of them left in the Barrens however, most fled to Therunin after the failure of the last rebellion. They have built good relations with the Empire, though there is still a great deal of mistrust. The Great Forest Orcs greatly desire to return to their homes in the Forest of Peytaht in the Barrens and Casinea, but they are fully aware that there is no prospect of that happening at the moment unless the Empire defeats the Druj and wrests control of the territory from them. Of course if that happens, then that still leaves the question of what might happen to the Forest of Peytaht and in particular to the valuable grove of weirwood trees that grow there. The Great Forest Orcs are no fools, they have seen first-hand how valuable such resources are to the Empire.

If the Imperial Senate passed a suitably worded motion indicating that the Heart of Peytaht and everything that grows there would be ceded to the Great Forest Orcs when the Empire takes the Barrens that would address the fears of the Orcs. They understand that the Empire cannot bind the hands of a future Senate - they understand that the motion won't have legal authority - but it will acknowledge a moral authority and that is enough for them. It would reduce the time required for an effective rebellion to begin by a year.

The Price of Freedom

There is one group of humans who could help raise a rebellion in the Barrens. The Montanians were crucial in uniting the disparate clans of orcs who dwell in the Barrens and inciting the second rebellion against the Druj. The Empire could reach out to them and ask for their aid to try again. Unfortunately, the Montanians are heretics - they're ardent advocates of the malign spiritual force of Anarchy. They have been utterly meticulous to avoid any hint of preaching their views inside the Empire's borders. They seem quite convinced that to do so would mean their deaths and quite possibly the deaths of their friends the Great Forest Orcs. But their care to follow the Empire's laws should not be taken as any indication that they have changed their mind.

If the Imperial Synod wanted to recruit the help of the Montanians they could do so - but it would require the Imperial Synod to directly address the role of Anarchy in the pantheon of human faith. The Imperial Synod could pass a judgement to make the following Change of doctrine:

The spiritual force of Freedom lends no aid through the passage of death to rebirth, but it does benefit humanity and should not be persecuted in any form.

Such a judgement would require a greater majority to pass. Anarchy or Freedom would not become part of the Way but it would be a clear indication to the magistrates that dedication to it should not be prosecuted, and that those who follow it should be allowed to proselytize their beliefs. If this judgement passed with a greater majority it would reduce the time required for an effective rebellion to begin by two years.

The Golden Hare

One eternal, more than any other, stands out as the most concerned with the plight of those who labour in servitude to others. Irra Harah, the Prince with a Thousand Foes is an implacable enemy of the Druj, though the being is no particular ally of the Empire either. Despite that, the eternal has proved happy to work with Imperial citizens in the past when it comes to helping people escape slavery and tyranny. Empire might be able to contact the eternal and try to persuade them to help inspire a rebellion in the Barrens. It is impossible for the civil service to assess how effective such methods might be, but given that such matters are solidly within the purview of this eternal, they believe it must be within their power to reduce the time required for an effective rebellion to begin by one or two years if they wanted to.

The knights and armies of Dawn have stood with Varushka to crush the Druj and help bring the people of Ossium into the light of the Way. Varushka, repay their Loyalty and Courage. We should enter the competition for the Barrens and stand beside Dawn. Fight with them to reclaim their land.

Warden Doubravka, Varushka Assembly, Spring Equinox 384YE, (Upheld with a Greater Majority, 204-0)

Pride demands the sternest measures in battle and crusade. We should stand shoulder to shoulder with our heroic comrades of Highguard and declare death to the Druj and an ending of their empire. We send Killian Mortére with 15 doses of liao to encourage Dawnish military captains not to go raiding in Skallahn but instead to look east and the close and glorious conquest of the Barrens!

Killian Mortére, Dawn Assembly, Spring Equinox 384YE, (Upheld with a Greater Majority (266 - 24) Liao Provided)

The Shortest Path

The decision of the General Assembly to denounce the competition for the Barrens passed with a greater majority, but it was far from unanimous with over two hundred votes cast against it. The Varushkan Assembly in particular ignored the statement from the General Assembly and passed the judgement of Warden Doubravka urging Varushkans to enter the competition and stand besides Dawn with a greater majority.

Varushka should repay the Loyalty and Courage of Dawn for standing with us in Ossium. We send {named priest} with 25 doses of liao to urge every schlacta and wagon raider to enter the Barrens, stand beside Dawn and fight with them to reclaim their land. Death to the Druj - and to everyone who fights with them!

Synod Mandate, Varushka

If this mandate is enacted, every Varushkan military unit would gain one additional rank when supporting Dawnish or Varushkan armies in the Barrens for the coming campaign season. Whether the mandate is passed or not, any military units that want to support the Dawnish claim to the Barrens can throw their support behind one of the Dawnish armies; the civil service includes military units regardless of any nation as part of the military strength of the army they are supporting.

The Dawnish Assembly passed a mandate raised by Killian Mortére urging Dawnish military units to turn aside from the raid on Skallahn and look east to the glorious conquest of the Barrens. The civil service suggested a mandate wording but Mael Donjeon, a Dawnish troubador has provided verse in place of it to provide a more inspirational mandate:

With five-and-twenty liao we send {named priest}

To summon Virtuous knights and yeofolk
Defy the Druj with shining spear and sword!

And free the captive Barrens from their yoke!

Synod Mandate, Dawn

If this mandate is enacted, every Dawnish military unit would gain one additional rank when supporting a Dawnish army in the Barrens for the coming campaign season.

Finally, the Highborn Assembly have previously endorsed a great contest for the Barrens and they are currently paying particular interest to the many judgements of the Dawnish Assembly.

It is the manifest destiny of the Empire to conquer the Barrens! We send {named priest} with 25 doses of liao to urge every Highborn citizen to embrace Virtue and help conquer the Barrens. Death to the Druj - and to everyone who fights with them!

Synod Mandate, Highguard

If this mandate is enacted, every Highborn military unit would gain one additional rank when supporting Dawnish or Highborn armies when campaigning in the Barrens.

Further Reading