Red roots clutched at broken rock under the hot sun of late summer.

Amira i Haour i Guerra sighed, and sword, and wiped the sweat out of her eyes. The ground was hard, uncooperative. The spade at times seemed to be actively fighting her, twisting uder her hands. She took a swig of water from the bottle at her belt, and made a face. It was warm, and tasted slightly brackish.

Still ... the job had to be done. If she wanted to expand her herb garden, she needed to break the soil up. Get rid of the larger stones. She had simply started to question the wisdom of doing it manually instead of paying someone else to do it for her.

She straightened up, then, and considered retreating the to the shade beneath the lone tree on the edge of the field, to eat her lunch. It was appealing, but she knew if she took a break now the temptation would be to have a quick nap, and then it would be getting late, and she would convince herself to go home and come back tomorrow. It's the job that never gets started that takes longest to finish, her mothers used to say. She privately had come to undestand that while that might be true, the job you give up halfway through easily ends up staying that way for weeks.

She pressed one hand against her protesting lower back, and groaned. Dust crickets chirruped and sang to each other nearby, apparently appreciating the heat more than she was.

To the west, in the distance, something was not right. She shaded her eyes. A cloud of red dust. Was it a dust storm? They were rare, normally, but it had been a very hot summer. A combination of strog winds, parched soil, and dry streambeds could produce a blinding, stinging tempest that left everything coated in fine red sand when it abated.

No. Not a dust storm. She remembered seeing something like this before.

She had been only a little girl when the orcs came. She remembered standing in a field not unlike this one, looking west with her mother, talking excitedly about the clouds of red dust. She remembered the fear; her mother dropping her rake and lifting her up and running back towards the farm; the shouting. The fighting. She missed her mother very much.

This was not the red wind, come to scour the paint from her door. This was an army. An army of orcs, marching out of the western hills.

She dropped her spade, and hitched up her skirt, and ran back down towards the farm, shouting

Overview

Five days before the Autumn Equinox summit begins, news begins to spread of an unexpected development in the south-west.

The news gathers speed as it spread. It hits the Brass Coast first; then Sarvos and Tassato; then the rest of the Empire soon after. A "significant force" of orcs has crossed the border from Reinos into Segura, in the south-western region of Anduzjasse.

Initial garbled reports pronounce it to be the vanguard of a Jotun invasion force, at least fifteen thousand strong! Within a day however, the true facts begin to filter through as the honest assessment of the Freeborn puts an end to rumour and speculation. The force is actually the remnant of the Hierro army, the Lasambrian defenders, recently allied with the Empire. There are several thousand orcs in the group. They are led by the warriors and raiders that formed the core of the army, but the baggage train includes countless members of the Hierro tribe who are not fighters, mostly children, and the elderly. The numbers are not stable; more arrive every day from both Reinos and Kalino.

They encounter no significant Imperial forces; the nearest armies are in Feroz, and the nearest fortification is in Kahraman. The local Freeborn population, however, are quick to take up arms - they remember only too keenly the invasion of 363YE, never mind the war of liberation that so recently freed them from Lasambrian oppression. There have been no engagements between orc and Imperial citizen, but the situation is extremely volatile.

Almost immediately after crossing into Segura, the Lasambrian orcs send out a small delegation under a flag of truce (just to be on the safe side), and waste no time declaring their intention to ask for support from the Empire. As the delegation makes it's tired away towards Anvil, the remaining raiders set up a makeshift camp twenty miles south-east of the partially rebuilt town of Anduz. They throw out defensive pickets, and send out a few scouts ... and that is where the problems really start.

The orcs appear to have with them only what they have been able to carry on their backs, and in a limited number of ox-drawn carts. Estimates suggest they have enough supplies to see them through until the end of the Autumn Equinox, and then for perhaps one more week. After this, they will be forced to scavenge for enough food to support themselves.

It is very unlikely they will be able to do so without incurring the wrath of the Seguran people... or resorting to full-blown banditry.

It is not as if the Lasambrians lack experience, after all...

Significance

The orc army out of the Lasambrian hills is not invading Segura as such. However, they will soon run out of food - and the dry plains of southern Anduzjasse are not precisely overflowing with fresh drinking water, either.

Then they will start to starve ... unless they take what they need from the populace of Segura. If this happens, their presence will be indistinguishable from an invasion. Although the Empire is currently at peace with the Lasambrians, the raiders who make up the Hierro army have have been raiding, robbing, and looting Freeborn caravans passing through Segura for generations.

Supplies

If the Senate chooses to, it can pass a motion to instruct the civil service to make food and other necessities available to the Hierro army. This will require a minimum expenditure of 75 Thrones for each season that the orcs remain in Imperial territory - effectively supporting the army and it's civilian baggage train. This is at best a temporary solution, but it would prevent the Lasambrian orcs from needing to engage in banditry simply to survive.

Alternatively, if the General Assembly of the Synod were to issue a judgement of rewarding, they could supply the orcs with supplies necessary to support them for three months ... provided they could gather the required 75 Thrones to do so. The judgement would need to name a single Imperial citizen who would be responsible for providing the funds and overseeing the relief effort (the player would need to have the 75 Thrones in their inventory at the end of the event).

These Hierro tribe orcs represent, or contain, the remains of a significant military force - a large army of reasonably well-equipped, and resilient orc soldiers. While they are in Segura, however, they cannot resupply themselves naturally ... but the Senate could instruct the civil service to provide them with weirwood or mithril in the same way they might perform emergency resupply for a Imperial army. The Quartermaster General of the Imperial Armies cannot perform this function, as their title only allows them to resupply Imperial armies - although the Senate could choose to expand the remit of the Quartermaster if they wished to do so.

Alternatively, any citizen could provide the general of the Hierro with weirwood or mithril with which to resupply themselves. This would be entirely legal, unless the Senate chooses to declare the Lasambrians to be barbarians in which case providing them any assistance would be treason.

Armies

The Hierro army has sent a delegation to Anvil - assuming it arrives safely there may be other opportunities to negotiate with these orcs and perhaps secure their assistance. The Lasambrian delegation is unlikely to arrive before Saturday afternoon at the earliest.

One thing is clear however; the Hierro have no interest in joining the Imperial Orcs. Inhabitants of Segura who have spoken to them say they seem to be at best ambivalent to the orcs who are already a part of the Empire - and in some cases, actively hostile to them. Whatever else happens, the Lasambrians are not joining the Imperial orcs at this point - nor any other Imperial nation.

Any general could instruct their Imperial army to attack the Lasambrians - but if they did so they would be committing an illegal act unless the Empire declared war on the Hierro.

The Way

A few residents of Segura have complained about the presence of such a large body of barbarians coming into their midst, none of whom acknowledge The Way. While there are foreigners living all over the Brass Coast, the size of the Hierro camp is huge, larger even than the biggest Imperial Orc camps. The General Assembly of the Synod could charge a priest to oversee efforts to bring the tenets of the Way to the Lasambrian orcs. This would require a minimum of 100 liao. It is impossible to say what reception the priests would receive from the orcs, but at least the missionaries would be protected by Imperial law, and their presence would at least quell the current concerns about the number of non-believers inside the Empire's borders.

Resolution

The General Assembly of the Imperial Synod appointed the Navarr priest Taryn of Exile's End to oversee efforts to bring the tenets of the Way to the Lasambrian orcs. The requisite 100 liao was collected and provided.
OOC Note: There will be more information about the outcome of these events in the run-up to the next event.

Real World Sensitivities

There are clear parallels between the trouble in Segura and the real world fate of the Syrian and Afghan refugees. There are nearly four million Syrian refugees in refugee camps in Turkey, Lebannon, Iraq, and Jordan and now that some of them have tried to reach Europe, our media has woken up and filled our televisions with images of their plight. It would be all too easy to fall victim to the disinformation cycle of our media and think that this is a problem that started recently, when in fact it is has been an ever increasing problem for the last four years.

In fact genuine comparisons between the Lasambrians and the Syrians and Afghans end with the fact that both have fled their homeland. The Lasambrians in Segura are the same Lasambrians who conquered the territory in 363. They are not helpless - they are well-armed and dangerous and pose a clear threat to the Empire. Rather than compare them with the current crisis we'd prefer our players to appreciate a more fundamental truism - "war is hell". The displacement of human beings is actually one of the less awful parts of war - the reason people flee a war-zone is because it is better than the alternatives they face if they stay.

In Empire the one topic we do not include as part of our game is sexual violence. Other subjects - murder, genocide, tyranny, starvation, slavery are explicitly included as themes of our game. We don't strive to force players to confront the realities of war - this is a LRP game not a social awareness course. But it would do a terrible disservice to the 220,000 Syrians who have been killed in the civil war if we painted the conflicts of the world of Empire as entirely without hardship, deprivation, or death.

War in all its forms is the single most terrible invention of humanity - it is also the fundamental context for the setting of Empire.

Real World Solutions