The honey offering
Mira cocked an eyebrow at him, but said nothing. She continued watched Palva and Bratan as they circled the camp driving warding posts into the rich, dark soil. They would be little help if it was Druj, of course, but if wolves or the spawn of the Spider Queen threatened the camp they would prove invaluable. Assuming she and the others could keep the attackers at bay long enough to let the wizards work their ritual.
"Ha!" sai Yusuf again, slightly louder. Mira sighed.
"What?" she said. "You've obviously thought of something."
"I just realised," he said. "Varushka is now larger than it has ever been. I keep forgetting that the Temeschwari betrayal came before the conquest of Karsk. So this is the first time we have ever been a five-fold nation."
"This again!" Mira shook her head. "Nobody else I've ever heard calls it the Temeschwari betrayal except you!"
Yusuf opened his mouth to retort, but Mira raised her voice and talked over whatever it was he was trying to say.
"Also you're missing the point. This is the first time any Imperial nation has been as large as us. And yet here we still are, dragging wagons into the depths of nowhere looking for that fortunate pay-day that will set us up for life. Assuming the Druj, or the spawn of the Spider-Queen, or whatever other horrors this place has to offer, or the damn insects don't kill us first."
"They didn't give us the Crawling Depths though did they?" grumbled Yusuf predictably. This was not a new conversation. One of the problems of the life, Mira mused, was that after a while you'd had all the conversations you were going to have. Some of the details changed but the scaffolding was always the same.
"So what if they didn't? Anyway I think someone should start looking at dinner. They've nearly finished with the warding poles."
Yusuf refused to be distracted.
"Well they still owe us for the Quarry, and the Hunt, and the Fortress." he said.
Mira was becoming exasperated.
"That was four centuries ago!" she exclaimed. "For that matter, have you been paying no attention these last few years? The only reason the Marchers got the Singing Caves is because the orcs gave up the Brilliant Shore. There was no way the Crawling Depths was going anywhere but into the pockets of the League."
"You say that," said Yusuf, a crafty expression creeping across his face. "But think about it. How did the orcs give up the Brilliant Shore? We've always been told it's impossible to change these things once they're decided. But not any more!"
Mira started to retort, then stopped, considering. Maybe the oaf had a point after all.
"More than that - I have been paying attention. To priests, among other people. They tell some pretty inspiring stories - of how its important to put your own nation first, and how the people at Anvil have clawed back things that were stolen from us all those years ago, and it makes you think. Doesn't it?"
Mira could not deny that it did make you think. She'd heard a few things herself.
"There was a storyteller in that last vale before we crossed the border, telling a story about a plucky young woman and her three companions - the hare, the eagle, and the little deer - and their search for the magic honey that can heal her friend. it got me to thinking. If we survive this, if we get the payday, then I think it might not be the worst thing in the world to put some of that payday aside. What was it they said? To secure the future, by buying back the past..."
- 1 Overview
- 2 The Deer
- 3 The Bees
- 4 The Hare
- 5 The Goose and the Spider
- 6 The Iron Roads
- 7 Resolution
Varushka is a prosperous land. The forests and hills may be haunted by horrors, but there are great riches to be found here if one is brave enough. During the Winter solstice, there were several significant Synod judgements and at least one Senate commission that all seem aimed at recognising or improving the prosperity of Varushka. While Bartimaeus tells the people of all nations to consider how the bounty of their nations might be used for the benefit of their people, the Varushkan national assembly speaks directly to the people of the forests and hills. Nisha Strascovitch brings word of wealth claimed, Yevanshka Nicolaiova of Prosperity wielded, and Belakov the Wolf of Karsk ensures that no threat will sneak into the vales under the shadow of compassion.
People of Varushka; the Eternal Shafts of Time are held by Tomasz Strascovitch. The Night Quarry is held by Tomislav Strascovitch. The Hunt of Alderei the Fair is held by Bors. The Granites of Veltsgorsk are held by Vitaly Dukov. The Gift of the Dwindling Star is held by Pavel Novak. The Overseer of the Western Trade Route is held by Borys Strascovitch. All traditional Varushkan Bourse seats are in Varushkan hands. In pride rejoice in the achievement of our Ambition.Nisha Strascovitch, Statement of Principle, Varushan National assembly, Winter Solstice 382YE, Upheld with a Greater Majority 106 - 0
Varushkans have long memories. Four hundred years ago, their shadowed nation was known for its great wealth as well as for its nightmares. That changed almost overnight when they joined the Empire. The prosperous territory of Temeschwar chose to join the League, taking with it the Fortress of Salt. The Night Quarry and the Hunt of Alderei the Fair were allocated as Imperial rather than National Bourse seats - an act that some Varushkans still consider tantamount to theft.
This "theft" nearly broke the Empire as it was being formed, in fact. History does not record what concessions were given to the people of Varushka to keep them in the Empire with only two of their five Bourse resources, but even without them they quickly secured a reputation for great mineral wealth and the finest timber in the Empire. Yet that undercurrent of resentment still remained, stifled by the Imperial Constitution and its requirement that once a Bourse seat has been allocated, it cannot be allocated again.
Proposal: Buying the Hunt
A number of prosperous Varushkan citizens have been inspired by news of the achievement of Tomislav Strascovitch and Bors, and by the mandate of Bartimaeus. Rich boyars and wealthy merchants alike are prepared to put their hands in their pouches and secure the future of their nation - by buying back its past.
Oksana Lyava Pinavora, the spokesperson for this loose affiliation, has a straightforward proposal. They offer to buy the Hunt of Alderei the Fair back from the Empire.
The group offers 1,000 Thrones to the Imperial Senate to use the power of relinquishment to allocate the Hunt of Alderei the Fair as a Varushkan national resource.
There are a few additional provisions, of course. What the Senate can relinquish once it can relinquish again just as easily. Oksana and her allies understand that it is unconstitutional for a current Senate to tie the hands of a future Senate. Instead, they make a promise. If the Senate takes payment for the Hunt, and then uses its power to return it to Imperial control, or seeks to balance the books by taking the Eternal Shafts of Time, Granites of Veltsgorsk, or Gift of the Dwindling Star out of Varushkan hands, this will be a clear betrayal of the entire nation. They offer no specifics, but suggest that their coalition, and the people of Varushka who would react poorly to such treachery, will extract repayment from the Empire in such a circumstance with considerable interest. This is not a threat, they hasten to add, but a promise.
Oksana and her collaborators have set their sights on the Hunt of Alderei the Fair, but it is not their first choice. There are many Varushkans especially in Miekarova who are keen to see the Night Quarry returned to Varushkan hands. Wise folk who can see which way the river runs, however. The Imperatrix has made it clear that her plan to fortify the southern coast will require all the Empire's white granite. While the boyars and merchants do not particularly care about the safety of those distant lands, they cannot ignore the economic and political realities. The time for the Night Quarry will come; for now their attention is focused on the weirwood grove.
However, if the Imperial Senate were persuaded to relinquish the Night Quarry instead of the Hunt of Alderei the Fair, they would leap at the chance to see the white granite once again under Varushkan control. This might be feasible if their countryfolk who attend Anvil could raise additional money - but these extra funds would have to come from somewhere other than the money pouches of the boyars and merchants who have put up the initial thousand. Even better would be an arrangement that allowed both the Hunt and the Quarry to be returned to Varushkan control, but like most of their fellows Oksana's alliance are cynically practical enough to know that likelihood of this happening is low indeed.
Still, as Oksana says, now that relinquishment exists it is simply a matter of finding the right price.
The Hunt of Alderei the Fair is next due to be auctioned during the Winter Solstice. The offer of a thousand Thrones to the Imperial treasury remains open until the Hunt is no longer held by a Varushkan. At that point, they will withdraw their offer, although the Varushkan assembly or a direct appeal to the group via their spokesperson might be able to persuade them otherwise.
On the road south-west of Delev, not far from the Eternal Shafts of Time, stands an old stone structure called the Iron Roundtower. Once it was at the heart of a prosperous vale, but the secession of Temeschwar changed all that. Before Varushka joined the Empire, it was a major trading post on the way to Temeschwar and the western nations. It also saw the passage of significant amounts of mithril (and salt) from the Fortress in Metri bound for the eastern vales. Now it stands as a lonely reminder of what might have been.
Following the urging of Bartimaeus - that people look to ways to strengthen their nation - a proposal has been raised that would see the Iron Roundtower restored. Inspired by the Cinderpath Exchange, it is suggested that the Iron Roundtower one again become a place of trade - specifically where Varushkan merchants would deal in Varushkan mithril for the benefit of Varushkan buyers.
|Total Money Spent||Production|
|72 Crowns||3 wains Mithril|
|144 Crowns||6 wains Mithril|
|216 Crowns||9 wains Mithril|
|288 Crowns||12 wains Mithril|
|360 Crowns||15 wains Mithril|
Proposal: Iron Roundtower
Commissioning the Iron Roundtower would require a senate motion (or an Imperial Wayleave), and would cost 10 wains of mithril and 20 crowns. It would take three months to complete. At the end of that time, the tower would be rebuilt and a secure vault built beneath it to protect mithril and money alike from opportunistic thieves. Trustworthy guards armed with fine weapons and armour would protect the tower, and ensure the safety of merchants traveling to and from the market. Given its location a small vale would quickly grow up around it, supporting the merchants and schlacta alike - a vale that would need a boyar.
Virtuous mine owners would bring their mithril Bourse notes here and exchange them for an agreed amount of money. Those using the exchange would be secure in the knowledge that not only were they enriching themselves, and receiving a just reward for their Prosperity, but they were helping their nation.
The Iron Roundtower would function as a ministry, allowing the purchase of mithril. It would need an Imperial title to oversee it - the Iron Boyar perhaps - appointed annually by the mine and forest owners of Varushka, through the Imperial Bourse. In addition to having custodianship of the ministry, the responsibilities of the title holder would also include securing more mithril, white granite, weirwood, and ilium for Varushka, explicitly for the betterment of the nation.
Only So Much Mithril
As with the Cinderpath Exchange, the Iron Roundtower would have an impact on the amount of mithril available to purchase from the public Bourse auction at Anvil each season. Citizens of Varushka who might otherwise have sought to make the most money possible would instead accept a fair price for their metal, and the knowledge that they were aiding the people of their nation. Indeed, some mine owners from neighbouring Temeschwar might consider the short trip along the Blood Red Roads to Delev and a guaranteed return preferable to the long trip to Anvil and the uncertain hand of the markets. As a consequence, 8 fewer wains of mithril each season would be available through the public auction at Anvil.
Interest in the Iron Roundtower project will wane over time. If the commission is not approved before the end of the Autumn Equinox 383YE it will cease to be available as its supporters turn their attention to other things.
In a very real sense the wealth of Varushka lies in the ground itself, whether it be the ore and stone extracted from the mines and quarries, or the wood and mysterious materials harvested from the forests. The Varushkan national assembly could urge the people of their nation to increase their prosperity, and the prosperity of Varushka, by embracing mines and forests.
The wealth of our nation lies in the hills and forests, and in the hands of those who work them. We send (named priest) with 50 doses of liao to encourage those who seek prosperity for themselves and their nation to look to the riches that lie in the mines and forests.Synod Mandate, Varushkan National Assembly
If this mandate were upheld and enacted, the benefits would be threefold.
Firstly, in the following season any Varushkan citizen would be able to exchange their existing personal resource for a mine or forest (as they saw fit) in any territory of Varushka - including Ossium. They would not need to provide the normal 2 Crown fee for changing a resource. In addition, if they possessed an upgraded resource they would be able to acquire forests or mines upgraded to the same degree. This opportunity would persist for the Summer Solstice event and the downtime following.
Secondly, for the coming season the output of every mine and forest in Varushka would improve by the equivalent of one rank. If the liao for the mandate is accompanied by a suitably Varushkan story that reminds everyone of the power of Prosperity, and the benefits of working mines and forests, then the bonus provided to mines and forests would last for an entire year rather than single season. The named priest would be responsible for choosing or composing the story, which would be spread along with the mandate. (OOC Note: the named priest should include the text of the story - for the wiki - in the e-mail they send to Profound Decisions after the event. The story should be no more than 1,000 words and we may edit it).
Finally, and perhaps of less interest to the Varushkan people, this mandate would lead to a permanent increase in the amount of mine and forest material being sent to the public auction by citizens of Varushka. With more people choosing to exploit the natural resources of Varushka, more people would be prepared to send their surplus to Anvil to see what price they could get for it.
Vasili Zoryakovich Zverokaz reminds us that slavery is unacceptable; Eska Crowspeaker urges us to open out homes to those who have found freedom. Yet in Varushka we cannot simply accept a stranger at face-value, and must be certain of the nature of those we invite into our homes. We send Belakov the Wolf of Karsk with 150 doses of liao to examine each of these strangers and determine whether each one is friend or foe.Dovbravka Nadjaovna Vanek, Mandate, Varushkan Assembly, Winter 382YE, Upheld with a greater majority (160 - 0)
The Goose and the Spider
Following the Autumn Equinox, a number of humans who had previously been slaves of the Druj in the northern forests of Ossium were freed by the Thule and brought to Ivarsgard. Following the Winter Solstice, the Varushkan assembly charged Belakov, the Wolf of Karsk with evaluating each of these refugees to ensure that they posed no hidden threat to the vales of Varushka.
Some one-hundred-and-forty of these refugees proved to be exactly what they appeared; people freed from slavery at the hands of the vicious eastern orcs. Some of them were Varushkan already, and the majority of those who remained leapt at the chance to find new lives in the forests and hills of Karsk. Indeed, a significant number chose to settle in Ivarsgard itself.
Of the remaining ten, a half dozen or so are currently unaccounted for. The Varushkan egregore is working with Belakov to locate them so that the final insights can be carried out. The egregore believes they have found the missing slaves, and has identified potential conjunctions of the Sentinel Gate that may be used to visit their locations and perform the last handful of evaluations.
It seems these evaluations may well be necessary as well. Three of the refugees evaluated by Belakov and their allies were discovered to be monsters. One woman was identified as a shapechanger, similar to a mora but with the aspect not of a bird but of a serpent whose paralysing stare is believed to have already been responsible for the deaths of two of her fellow slaves. Another of the refugees, a child of ten, was discovered to be a twisted creature similar to a dubik (a creature of animate wood and sap), but deissicated and filled with poisonous spiders.
A third appeared normal initially, but resisted efforts to evaluate him. A thorough insight discovered a terrible hungry darkness staining his aura. Investigation lead to the horrible discovery that the man had fallen into cannibalism in the Druj camp, and in some fashion attracted the attention of Wendigo. The man attempted to flee, and was plainly prepared to commit murder to do so. He died of his wounds before a magistrate could pass sentence.
Trade with Mine Owners
|Total Money Spent||Production|
|7 Crowns||5 ingots of Weltsilver, 4 ingots of Green Iron, 3 ingots of Orichalcum|
|17 Crowns||10 ingots of Weltsilver, 8 ingots of Green Iron, 6 ingots of Orichalcum|
|35 Crowns||15 ingots of Weltsilver, 12 ingots of Green Iron, 9 ingots of Orichalcum|
Trade with Forest Owners
|Total Money Spent||Production|
|7 Crowns||5 measures of Dragonbone, 4 measures of Ambergelt, 3 measures of Beggar's Lye|
|17 Crowns||10 measures of Dragonbone, 8 measures of Ambergelt, 6 measures of Beggar's Lye|
|35 Crowns||15 measures of Dragonbone, 12 measures of Ambergelt, 9 measures of Beggar's Lye|
The Prosperity of the Refugee
While it has been many years since Karsk was liberated (mostly) from the Thule, the territory is still sparsely populated. As with all the Varushkan territories, Karsk is wealthy but even now there are mines and forests that lie empty or are worked by skeleton crews, and vales whose population has never really recovered from the invasion. Now, thanks to Belakov the Wolf and the Varushkan assembly, there has been an influx of new people eager to make new lives for themselves. This presents an opportunity.
With an appropriate Senate motion (or the use of an Imperial Wayleave), work could begin to reopen those mines and forests that have been abandoned, or provide tools and resources to existing resources that are not being fully exploited. The influx of new citizens - certified as definitely not being monsters - would be able either to take custody of the new mines and forests or find work with the existing owners.
The project would cost 6 wains of mithril and 6 wains of white granite, 24 crowns in labour costs, and take three months to complete. It would also create offices for an Imperial title - perhaps at Ivarsgard, Kosti, Moresvah, or Veresk - who would be responsible for resolving any conflict between new settlers and old inhabitants. Going forward the title would also be responsible for mediating any disputes between mine and forest owners in the territory. In return they would be well placed to purchase resources from the mines and forests at a bargain price (as from a ministry with two purchase tracks).
This opportunity is only available until the end of the Autumn Equinox 383YE. After that, the refugees will have settled in to new lives - the necessities of preparing for Winter alone will mean that they will have to have made provisions for themselves.
Belakov the Wolf of Karsk and the Varushkan egregore will have details of the conjunctions that seem to lead to the locations of the last half dozen refugees, and will be able to determine what to do about them once the summit begins. These will be tent encounters, for a small number of players. Any one of them may involve combat, and the environment may involve smoke, or poor lighting.
The Iron Roads
During the Autumn Equinox the Civil Service presented a proposal for the Iron Roads, a network of Varushkan highways to link together the mines and forests and vales of the entire nation. The mandate of Barimaeus, coupled with the assignment of Ossium as a Varushkan territory, has sparked renewed interest in this opportunity to connect mines, quarries, and forests across the nation.
Full details of the proposal have already been presented, but the details of the commission are repeated here for completeness.
Getting the Job Done (Reprise)
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 planning 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.
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 and 35 measures in each of the three territories).
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; further opportunities to invest in the richer vales; and potentially other opportunities might present themselves if the grand roadbuilding project were completed.
The obvious next step once the roads were underway would be to consider how Ossium might be included; the first step towards achieving this would be securing a good quality map of the territory and its secrets. Most likely this will require the construction and operation of a Spy network in the territory. But if this were done, and the Iron Roads commissioned, it is likely an opportunity would arise to expand the roads even before the construction on the main project were complete.
The Varushka national assembly endorsed a mandate urging their people to look to their prosperity, especially in the forests an mines.