The price of liberty
He took a deep drink from his freshly filled goblet and then resumed his work. He doubted the pirates knew good penmanship from bad, but there was never an excuse for poor standards. At the other side of the table Lesław waited patiently, quietly sipping his own drink. He was a smart man, he knew better than to interrupt him.
Finally the letter was finished and he carefully dusted it with inkdust to dry it. He blew the dust away, carefully folded it and placed it in the trap. He picked up his knife, and with practised ease cut a section from a stick of sealing wax, so that it felt into the small metal bowl on top of the trap. Within a few moments, the traps magic was at work, heating the wax to the perfect temperature so that it rap out of the bowl and spread neatly over the visible edge of the folded parchment. He pressed his signet ring into the wax, and then quickly removed it as the wax began to cool.
With the letter sealed he withdrew it and held it up to the light. The impression was not quite perfect, but it would do. It was good enough for what Lesław needed certainly. He handed the letter of introduction to his captain.
"According to our ambassador, Lady Suriad's reign ended when the Imperials sacked Dubhtraig. There isn't time to find out who has replaced her - so your letter is addressed to their "Council". You'll have to do your best - I doubt they'll make an issue of it."
Lesław's face broke into a rough smile. "I'm not worried. The Grendel would put the Sarcophan to shame. They never make an issue of anything unless there's profit in it for them. They'll roll out a prince's welcome for me when see what is on offer."
"Be careful," Bożimir warned, "we're not ready to offer them anything... yet. The ink is barely dry on this wretched Pact - and you know what the Imperials are like these days. If they agreed the sun would rise in the morning, they'd be looking for a way to break their promise before the night ended. Who knows where we'll be in a year's time?"
"We should redirect the ships now - the Grendel will pay handsomely and we can buy cheaply in their markets. We'd make a killing both ways."
"Spoken like a true Sarcophan.... " Lesław's face fell and he went silent at the insult. "There's more to life than profits Lesław, much more. Find out what they'll pay per wain. Promise them nothing but see if you can get them to commit to a price. Maybe it's time to back a different runner - maybe it isn't. Before I make that decision we need to know exactly what our options are.
Lesław bowed deeply as he acknowledged his prince's authority. "As you command, your highness."
Bożimir waited for just a moment before giving the smallest nod of his head to dismiss the captain. He clicked his fingers again as he sat back in his chair. It was just so damn hot today, he was thirsty again already.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Impact and Mitigation
- 3 The Asavean Archipelago
- 4 The Principalities of Jarm
- 5 Faraden
- 6 Otkodov
- 7 Iron Confederacy
- 8 Non-Slaving Nations
- 9 Summary
During the Winter Solstice representatives of the Sumaah Republic, the Commonwealth, the Sarcophan Delves, and Axos journeyed to Anvil to meet with Imperial representatives to discuss the Liberty Pact, an agreement between states to outlaw slavery and to implement trade sanctions against any nations that fit the definition of slavers. All delegates, bar the Sarcophan Delves, signed this historic treaty and the ramifications are now being felt across the world.
Impact and Mitigation
- The total impact on the Imperial treasury will be a net loss of 143 thrones and 4 crowns each season.
There has been an immediate reduction in incoming trade from the nations that have been targeted by the sanctions. The majority of the affected nations have implemented equivalent sanctions against the Empire in retaliation. The overall volume of incoming trade is expected to halve by the start of the Autumn Equinox 383YE, compared with current levels. Commissions that generate profits from trade with those nations are all impacted as a result.
Across the Empire, the Liberty Pact has been met with a varied response. While most citizens are proud that the Empire is taking a stand to end slavery across the world, there is a vocal group who are unhappy that their livelihood has been damaged in this way. They point out that the Constitution guarantees liberty for Imperial citizens - it says nothing about people in other lands. They claim that their prosperity has been spent to pay for the liberty of others - what is to happen to the people who have lost their livelihoods they ask?
Ultimately the impact on the Imperial treasury is less than some have feared. As part of the appraisal, the civil service have identified the scale of these losses for each nation and one or more measures that could mitigate the impacts on trade and commerce in the Empire laid out below. These proposals contain a number of significant compromises, but most suffer from one fundamental flaw. Many people have assumed that the purpose of the Liberty Pact is explicitly to harm trade between signatories and those nations who practice slavery. On that basis, attempting to mitigate the harmful effects of the Pact on trade by encouraging trade runs would directly undermine the very purpose of the Pact.
The Senate did not specify which of the senior members of the Prognosticator's Office they wished to take the lead during the appraisal. As per protocol, Gerard la Salle determined that Naomi of Virtue's Rest would oversee the appraisal and seek out the most diplomatic solutions to the problem.
We will maintain close and productive relationships with the other signatories of the pact, and through our shared prosperity we will demonstrate to the world that all nations and cultures may thrive without the practice of slavery.
Statement of Principles, The Liberty Pact
The Asavean Archipelago
- The loss to the Imperial treasury will be 46 thrones each season.
The Plenum of Asavea are furious at the Empire's declaration of trade sanctions against them. Despite poor relations with the Imperial Synod, the Plenum have struck several important trade deals with the Empire in recent years and even granted them an opportunity to preach their virtues to the people of Nemoria. They feel snubbed by the refusal to invite them to the summit. The taxes imposed on Asavean trade by the Empire have hurt even more however and the Asavean Archipelago has responded in kind imposing high tariffs on a range of important goods from the Empire, Axos and the the Commonwealth.
The Heraclien and the Ragnabe families who supply the Cavabianca Dock with white granite have made their displeasure plain and are openly suggesting that there are other nations on the Bay of Catazar that would be willing to purchase their wares. The price for white granite at the docks has leapt as a result of the taxes but there may be a further reduction in amount of white granite offered as the families involved look to develop markets elsewhere. There are similar impacts on the options available to the Imperial Delegate to the Temple in Feroz and the Ambassador to Asavea. With fewer offerings being made at the temple to the Seven Lords of Virtue, the Liaison to the Temple in Nemoria has likewise seen an immediate reduction in the gifts and recompense they receive for the liao they donate to the temple.
Proposal: New Temples
- The impact of sanctions on trade with Asavea could be mitigated by building new temples along the Bay of Catazar
- Each temple would cost a minimum of 30 white granite an 60 crowns, and would need to be ceded to the Asaveans.
An obvious way to mitigate the impact on trade and relations with Asavea would be to construct and cede temples in each of the territories that lie on the Bay of Catazar. The effect of the temple in Feroz cannot be understated; the guards and the sailors of the ships who dock at Imperial ports are comforted by having a place where they can perform the ministrations, and seek advice, away from home. Building similar temples in Madruga, Sarvos, Necropolis, and Redoubt would demonstrate Imperial acceptance of the Asavean gods.
Each temple could be commissioned with it's own Senate motion, or the Imperial Senate could pass a motion to build a temple in every territory on the Bay of Catazar that has significant trade with the Asaveans and does not already have one. Whichever legal approach is taken, each temple would require a single commission, 30 wains of white granite, and 60 crowns as a minimum to construct. To be effective, the temples would need to be ceded to the Asaveans so that their priests can operate them. This can be done as part of the motion to approve the commission. While a Bearer of an Imperial Wayleave could in theory commission one of these temples, they do not have the ability to cede them to the Asavean priests and so would not be effective at mitigating lost trade.
In theory it might have been possible to get the Asaveans to help with the construction of the temples. However it is now extremely unlikely that any priest of Baddu the Builder is likely to risk coming to the Empire to oversee a commission in light of the fate that befell Almodin Oktístis. Any help with the costs is also doubtful unless the Ambassador to Asavea, currently Jarrigk Orzel, can find a way to assuage the anger of the Plenum
Naomi predicts that even one such temple would increase the flow of trade to the Empire. Each would provide 10 thrones of additional taxation to the Imperial treasury if constructed and ceded to the Asaveans so that their priests could operate them. The total potential loss that could be mitigated is thus 40 thrones a season.
Proposal: Supporting the Plenum
- A clear statement of support for the Plenum in their current conflict with the rebel satrapies, along with an apology from the Ambassador, would help smooth relations with the Plenum and encourage more trade.
Another way to mitigate some of the impact of the Liberty Pact would be for the Imperial Senate to uphold a suitably worded senate motion declaring both their support for the Plenum, and their condemnation of the rebels in Marracoss and Emphedor. If this were coupled with a formal apology from the Ambassador for not including an Asavean delegate at the summit (delivered by winged messenger along with their other formal correspondence), Naomi predicts that the resultant improvement in relations with the Plenum would encourage them to make similar conciliatory statements and persuade merchants to continue trading with the Empire. This would provide 10 additional thrones in taxation to the Imperial treasury.
Naomi cautions that there is a significant risk that this benefit would persist in the short term as it is purely diplomatic in nature. Next time there was a diplomatic incident between the Empire and Asavea, it is likely that trade would tail off once again. Furthermore, it is likely to be most effective if delivered during the Spring Equinox; leaving it longer will significantly reduce its value as a diplomatic move.
The Principalities of Jarm
- The loss to the Imperial treasury will be 49 thrones 4 crowns each season.
The House of Princes, the governing body made up of every magician-prince in the Principalities of Jarm, are seething. They feel they have offered much to the Empire in the years since the death of Empress Britta. They have provided ritual texts including the valuable The Immaculate Architect; they have supported the Imperial mana trade; arranged large shipments of valuable weirwood; they have arranged trade of white seed to support Imperial mana sites; ensured favoured trading-partner status for Imperial captains despite repeated provocation from the Imperial Synod; and even tolerated blatant Imperial interference in their politics. In response to the Imperial sanctions they have moved quickly to impose tariffs of their own on all goods coming from the Empire and are looking at what further steps are appropriate.
The Magician-Prince of Pӓrnau Principality, who supplies the weirwood bought at the Pallas Docks has registered their displeasure. In addition to the costs imposed by the new taxes there is a significant likelihood that the amount of weirwood being sent to the docks may be reduced in coming months. The Magician-Prince of Pӓrnau has made no secret of the fact that the Grendel are very keen to purchase all the weirwood they can produce. There are also far fewer traders seeking to curry favour with the Ambassador to Jarm so their options to purchase valuable goods have been similarly affected. Furthermore, in protest at the Senate's decision, the Jarmish enclave in Tassato are actively shunning the Tassato Mana Exchange, reducing the mana available for purchase there.
- Sharing Imperial Lore with the Jarmish Magician-Princes would help mitigate the loss to the treasury.
The single most effective way to mitigate the damage to relations with Jarm and promote high levels of trade between the Empire and the Magician-Princes would be to make Imperial lore available to Jarmish magicians visiting the Empire. All that would be required to do this would be a single appropriately worded Declaration of Concord by the Imperial Conclave.
The impact would be significant and far-reaching. The Magician-Princes of Jarm share magical lore among themselves only with great reluctance, so there would be scores of Jarmish magicians traveling to the Empire to study ritual magic for the foreseeable future. Where these wealthy magicians travel, trade would follow. Given the increase in tariffs, the Imperial treasury might even end up benefiting overall - at least where trade with Jarm is concerned. The civil service estimate that the gain to the Imperial treasury would be 60 thrones for as long as the declaration was in effect.
Allowing Jarmish magicians to study Imperial lore has a number of notable advantages. It wouldn't cost anything - no more than supporting Imperial lore costs the Empire now - and Jarmish magicians wouldn't easily be able to share their knowledge with magicians of other nations, so they would have to travel to the Empire and study there to benefit. By comparison, disseminating individual rituals would need to be done ritual by ritual, at a cost of ten thrones for each, and would create a ritual text that the Jarmish could then potentially share with others.
The main downside of this approach would be the delicate balance of Imperial relations with the Commonwealth. The staff in the Commonwealth Embassy have made abundantly clear that they would see any sharing of magical knowledge with the Magician-Princes as a clear sign of Imperial favour for Jarm. However in theory the Conclave could solve even that diplomatic problem simply by issuing the same declaration of concord with respect to the Commonwealth. That would largely forestall any argument of impartiality by the Empire, but also mean a boost in trade and taxation to the Imperial treasury equal to 10 thrones a season, from Commonwealth magicians traveling here to study.
- The immediate loss to the Imperial treasury will be 21 thrones 2 crowns each season.
- The Faraden have not currently imposed sanctions on Imperial trade; the loss will double if the Faraden choose to respond in kind.
The rulers of Faraden have been thrown into confusion and disarray by the announcement that their nation will be penalized under the terms of the Liberty Pact. Why would the Empire, after going through so much effort to increase trade between the two nations, now impose these sanctions on them? Did the Faraden contribution to the Seguran roads mean nothing? Why would the same people who passed the motion to construct a trade hub now punish the traders who visit? They have sent urgent letters to the Faraden Ambassador, Gonzalo i Riqueza, demanding answers before they decide what action to take.
The signing of the Liberty Pact comes at a time when trade with the Faraden is already threatened. The invasion of Segura by Lasambrian Jotun shortly before the Winter Solstice and the loss of seven of the Towers of Anduz has hit the profits of every parador proprietor, bazaar master, and trading post owner. The new tariffs will reduce the remaining profits generated by the Towers as well as the wealth generated by Moonwater Hall, and increase the costs of purchases by the Ambassador to Faraden and the Gloaming Road.
Despite their concerns, or perhaps because of them, the Faraden have chosen to delay imposing tariffs of their own until they have received a response from the Faraden Ambassador. If they were to do so, all of these titles and commissions would suffer another hit to their productivity.
Proposal: Conquest of Reinos
- Conquering enough of Reinos to allow Faraden merchants to enter the Empire without passing through Jotun land would significantly increase trade.
The most dramatic step that the Empire could take to improve trade with the Faraden would be to conquer the territory of Reinos. The territory lies to the west of Kahraman and Segura and is currently held by the Jotun. The Jotun have little interest in supporting trade with the Empire and thus charge heavy tariffs of any merchants attempting to reach the Empire via that route.
If the Empire were able to conquer Reinos - or at least enough of Reinos that the Faraden could reach Imperial territory without passing through land controlled by the Jotun - then Faraden caravans could trade with the Empire without having to pay taxes to the Jotun. That would benefit the trade between the two nations - which would alleviate the fiscal impact of the tariffs imposed on Faraden trade. That would mean that the 21 Throne 2 crown penalty was negated. It would also mean that the Jotun suffered an equivalent loss of taxation though any consequences of that are not likely to be visible to the Empire.
Proposal: The Justice Question
One of the points of contention between the Empire and Faraden is one of faith. The Faraden follow four of the same virtues as the Empire, but they both eschew three others and enshrine one that the Empire considers to be malignant - Justice (or as the Synod terms it, Vengeance.)
The General Assembly could pass a suitably worded statement of principle declaring that the spiritual force of Justice while not one of the seven virtues is a quality that may benefit humanity, and while it does not aid human spirits in their passage through the Labyrinth, it does not hinder it (in keeping with the Doctrine of the Seven). If they do this, and the statement receives a Greater Majority, it would go some way towards reassuring the Faraden families that the Empire is open to compromise, as well as encouraging traders who otherwise would not come to the Empire for reasons of faith that they will receive a welcome. Naomi estimates that this would bring in 5 Thrones in additional trade for the Imperial Treasury, and potentially even more depending on whether it lead to any mandates.
Naomi cautions that this statement would need to be clear and concise and be explicit that they are referring to the spiritual force of Justice. Anodyne statements about the abstract concept of justice will not help and may even risk causing the Faraden to become even more annoyed.
- The loss to the Imperial treasury will be 21 thrones 2 crowns each season.
It is no surprise that the Thule Dragons are not pleased by the new tariffs. Part of their anger appears to stem from the fact that they were neither invited to attend the summit where the Liberty Pact was signed, nor warned in advance of what might occur. Ultimately though they seem to care more for their lost profits than the insults. They have always made clear in all their negotiations with the Empire that the reason they have been pursuing peace is because they believed that trade could be more profitable than war.
The Dragons announce a range of punitive tariffs on goods coming the Empire; a clear retaliation for the taxes imposed under the terms of the Pact. But thus far there has been no word of whether these taxes will change their calculation of the benefits of peace with the Empire... for the time being the Dragons seem content simply to observe and see how the situation develops.
The new tariffs cause an immediate reduction in trade in and out of Otkodov. As a result all the trading offices that form part of the Northern trade network see the price of mana crystals rise and the availability drop. The merchants who seek to gain the support of the Ambassador to Otkodov have likewise been forced to increase their prices though the supply remains undiminished for now.
Proposal: Mountain Road
- A major road crossing the mountains into Otkodov would make it easier for Thule merchants to reach the Empire.
- The road would require 100 white granite, 200 crowns in labour, and take a year to complete.
The routes taken by merchants carrying goods between Otkodov and the Empire are treacherous and difficult. The roads are almost non-existent and what few do exist are often blocked by snowfalls in Winter and floods in Spring. The slow pace of travel makes any wagon attempting the journey a promising target for brigands and outlaws unless they are well guarded.
A sturdy well built road, ideally heading north through the mountains from Olodny in Miekarova into well-populated Erskjuvaten, could largely negate these problems. The road would boost trade to the levels enjoyed before the imposition of tariffs. It would be a significant construction - requiring a hundred wains of white granite and two hundred crowns - and would take a year to complete. But each season of full construction would see the impact of the tariffs on the Imperial treasury reduced by a quarter of the initial loss, until they were completely gone. Any such commission would need the permission of the Dragons since it would involve construction on both sides of the border; it would be up to the Ambassador to Otkoov, currently Yevgeni Katzev, to secure that permission.
The road would also have important strategic implications, since the road could be used by an invading army as easily as by a merchant caravan. Any Imperial army attacking Otkodov from Mieriada could do so without the usual penalty for attacking a new territory - unless the Dragons chose to build a fortification in Erskjuvaten to guard the road against just such an attack. By the same token, any Thule army attacking Miekarova from Erskjuvaten would receive the same benefit. While the Grimhold in Perumaki would protect Miekarova as normal, it wouldn't prevent an invading Thule army taking advantage of the benefits provided by the new road - only a fortification built in Mieriada could do that.
Regarding Imperial Lore
Naomi does not propose giving the Thule access to Imperial Lore. The benefits of doing so for Jarm and the Commonwealth are very clear, and the risks minimal. By contrast the proximity of Otkodov to the Empire, and the past history between the two nations, leads her to surmise that sharing Imperial Lore with the Thule could potentially have severe negative repercussions.
- The loss to the Imperial treasury will be 5 thrones 3 crowns each season.
The opinion of the majority of the Dukes and Duchesses of the Iron Confederacy is that the new trade sanctions are only the latest in a string of insults by the Empire. They make clear that the port of Robec was opened as part of a mutually beneficial exchange. In light of the Empire's decision they have chosen to embargo all trade with the Empire, the port of Robec has been closed effective immediately. Any traders attempting to dock there are informed that they may not load or unload, and warned that if they remain then they could be arrested and their vessels and cargo impounded.
The over-reaction seems strange given that it comes so soon after the decision to ratify a treaty with the Confederacy to resolve the issues of imperial espionage and supply of illegal drugs. Seasoned civil servants who work for the Secretary to the Diplomatic Corps warn that the response might well have worse had the Empire not attempted to address those problems at the same time.
The impact of the embargo on the Imperial treasury is relatively small; there simply isn't that much trade between the Confederacy and the Empire to disrupt. The only other notable losses are those faced by the Ambassador to the Iron Confederacy themselves. Although Imperial merchants are not permitted to cross the border or dock at Robec, there are still some Suranni merchants brave enough to travel to Imperial ports. However the benefits derived from merchants attempting to cultivate favour with the Ambassador are heavily reduced.
Proposal: Wounded Pride
- There seem to be no obvious ways to mitigate the loss in taxation due to Suranni merchants.
After investigating the problem an in discussion with Jeanne de Hibernat, High Priestess of Evra the Smith, the civil servants working with Naomi are unable to identify any mechanism that would mitigate the losses. In part this is because the losses are relatively minor, making any large scale commission of dubious benefit. More importantly, the Suranni are simply not very forthcoming with suggestions on what might benefit the relationship between them and the Empire, making any planning difficult.
In the short term the best suggestion they have is for the Ambassador to the Iron Confederacy, currently Lord Colwyn de Rondell, to work on solving other ongoing diplomatic issues that the Confederacy have. If their other concerns are dealt with, then the ambassador may be able to persuade them to re-open the docks at Robec, albeit with heavy tariffs imposed.
- Some of the impact of the Liberty Pact sanctions could be mitigated by increasing the number of traders from non-slaving nations coming to the Empire.
One way to mitigate the impact of the Liberty Pact on the Imperial treasury would be to encourage trade from non-slaving nations. This is difficult to appraise in detail; too much depends on the actions of the ambassadors to those nations who would be responsible for negotiating closer ties between the Pact signatories. The easiest way to partially offset the impact of the Liberty Pact sanctions would be if the Empire could convince one of the other signatories to offer a free trade deal to the Empire without them reciprocating - but Naomi considers it very unlikely any of the four non-slaving nations could be easily persuaded to do this as it is very much not in their interest.
There are some possibilities, however, for encouraging foreign traders to come to the Empire from the four non-slaving nations.
Proposal: Bonds of Faith
One way this might be achieved would be if the General Assembly raised a suitably worded statement of principle encouraging Imperial citizens within the Empire to embrace trade with one of the non-slaving nations. If the statement passed with a greater majority, it is likely that any resultant mandates would include a possibility of bringing in additional money or would help local businesses damaged by sanctions. The Synod would need to pick only one of the nations; the more even-handed they attempted to be the less impact their words would have. Such a statement would be most effective if the Synod chose the Sarcophan Delves, Commonwealth, Axos, and Sumaah in declining order of impact.
Proposal: Sarcophan Enclaves
The Sarcophan Delves has already presented a number of proposals for mutual enrichment; in particular the construction of Sarcophan enclaves in Sarvos and Karsk. If either or both of these enclaves were approved they would encourage more traders from the Delves to visit the Empire, as well as potentially providing support for the businesses being damaged by a loss of foreign trade.
Proposal: Commonwealth Magicians
As mentioned above, the Conclave would receive a boost to trade from the Commonwealth by permitting their magicians to study Imperial Lore. As already detailed, however, offering the Commonwealth access to Imperial Lore without offering the same to the Principalities of Jarm would cause relations with the Jarmish to deteriorate further.
Proposal: Sumaah Detente
The Sumaah Republic are no longer at war with the Empire, and both nations are signatories to the Liberty Pact, but that does not mean that there is no conflict between them. Right now, the Sumaah and Imperial synods appear to be locked in disagreement over doctrine and the nature of the Virtues. While the port of Zemeh has been reopened to Imperial ships, the number of Sumaah who come to the Empire to trade remains low. If the conflict between the followers of the Way in both nations could be resolved, this could certainly be a first step toward encouraging trade.
In particular, if the conflict with Sumaah could be resolved one way or another, Naomi believes that the Empire would be able to draw more traders to their shores by encouraging pilgrimages by followers of the Way and agnostics in other nations. Obviously there is a steady trickle of visitors to sites of religious significance across the Empire, but at the moment they are reasonably insignificant in terms of trade. A strong resolution to the current schism between Bastion and Timoj might lay the groundwork for increasing that trickle to something more impactful - especially if an ambitious project such as the palaces of the cardinals were undertaken to transform Bastion into a beacon of the Way.
Proposal: Road to Axos
Currently, the Citadels of Axos are having problems of their own, but Naomi anticipates that relations will return to normal within the next six months. One of the biggest obstacles to increased trade with Axos is the lack of an accessible land route. Most trade come via the Bay of Catazar and is subject to interference of the Grendel. The Axou have been keen to see a land trade-route for some time. The problem is that the Empire does not have a land border with Axos - or with a nation that is at peace with bother of them. At the moment Naomi suggests there are three territories that might potentially allow for a direct route to the Empire.
She is confident that newly discovered Tsark borders the westernmost of the Axou territories, but of course there is no diplomatic link between either nation and the strange inhabitants of the isolated teritory. Secondly, it is possible that the Sarangrave in the Mallum is north of Axos but it is difficult to be sure without further investigation. Finally, the Axou might be able to secure a route via Skoura if the territory of Mareave were not under the control of the Grendel although that would ideally require confirmation from Ilarch Maxatious.
Obviously the first step would require either military or diplomatic action to secure access to land on the borders for either the Empire or Axos (or both).
|Nation||Response||Loss of Taxation||Imperial Commissions Affected|
|Jarm||Sanctions||49 Thrones 4 Crowns|
|Thule||Sanctions||21 Thrones 2 Crowns|
|Faraden||None Yet||21 Thrones 2 Crowns|
|Iron Confederacy||Embargo||5 Thrones 3 Crowns|