The worth of a life
Kejek slammed her mug down on the table, loudly, clattering platers and sending her fork pinwheeling off the table.
"Oh for the love of ... can we not talk about something other than politics?"
Eft and Yantl exchanged a quick look. Eft rolled his eyes heavenward while Kejek recovered her fork from under the table.
"We could but this Thane needs to be ..." he began, conciliatory.
Kejek reappeared, slammed the fork tines-first into the table. She leaned across, bringing her scowling grey face close to her companions' and grabbing a handful of his shirt.
"I think it's time to talk about something other than politics." She growled, making it clear to the other two that it was time to talk about something other than politics.
Yantl finished chewing his mouthful of mammoth and said mildly: "Isn't it so much colder up here than Dawn?"
The other two glared at him. He grinned.
"Sorry, is weather still off the table then? How about we talk about the real problem then? The mines."
Kejek rocked back onto the bench on her side of the table. "Go on. What mine problem?"
Yantl sliced off another hunk of meat as he spoke.
"Mines. Do you want to work in a mine? Underground. Picks. The rattle of chains. That kind of thing."
Eft shook his head emphatically. "That's no life for an orc. No life at all. My grandparents died to get us out of the mines."
"Everyone's grandparents died to get us out of the mines." said Yantl, swallowing another hunk of meat and chewing it meditatively.
The three sat in silence for a moment. Then Kejek raised her mug, and the other two mimicked her in a silent toast, and they each drank a deep mouthful, and then returned to their conversation.
"The mines of Skarsind are rich." Said Yantl. "Really rich. It'd be a crying shame to let them go to ruin. More than that ... Skarsind is rich. It's not Varushka-rich, not Karov-rich, but it is richer than we've ever had before."
Kejek frowned. "Are you saying we should all ... I don't know. Stop thinking of all the orcs who died in mines and take up a pick? Maybe get the preachers to ..."
Yantl shook his head, swallowed convulsively, coughed madly for a few moments while Eft pounded him on the back and gulped down a mouthful of beer.
"No no no, bugger that idea. No I think we just face facts. Orcs don't mine. But we do like having our shiny Knight's Redoubt and our Shieldbreaker axes. So why don't we just face it. We're not beggars, nor paupers. We've all got money set aside. Let's just pay people to work the mines for us. I think its probably even prosperous, which will make the preachers happy. And more importantly its sensible."
"Wise." said Eft. Yantl and Kejek looked at him. He shrugged. "It's wise, not sensible, and we're the people to make it happen."
Kejek nodded thoughtfully. "We've got a lot of experience dealing with the Dawnish and the Leaguers, it's true." she said. "How much harder can Winterfolk, Navarri, and ... well we're on the Varushkan border and they do know a lot about mines ..."
Eft looked surprised, but Yantl nodded along with her, his enthusiasm growing.
"Yes. There's more bonesetters in Skarsind now than there has been in one place since the end of the rebellion. And we've got fifty more years experience with the humans than we had back then, and we're ... we're established now, you know what I mean?"
They knew. They'd fought hard to be people, and much of that fighting had taken place since the rebellion technically ended.
"So ... what else?" asked Yantl. "We can pay people to work the mines ... and I think we need to look at Southpine as well. We're going to need all sorts of things now, food from the Marches, labour. Wintermark has Hahnmark, they never really needed to worry too much about the trade routes but all we have is Skarsind."
"And herbs." Said Eft. The others looked at him. "One life make it count." he quoted. "I think it's time we stopped being proud of ... of window boxes on the backs of wagons and looked at what we might be able to grow in actual soil. Look at the Hearth Tithe, and the gardens at Treji. We could do that. And bigger. Better. Together."
The other two smiled at each other. The fire of enthusiasm had caught the big orc physick as well.They talked long into the night, before tumbling exhausted into bed, all worries about thanes, and stormcrows, and the Thule and the war in the Marches banished in the face of a new-found ambition to build something.
The Imperial Orcs have never really had land before. Living an itinerant life between armed camps and barracks, camping with the armies on campaign ... all that has changed now. For many Imperial Orcs, especially the youngest and the oldest, Skarsind represents an opportunity to live an entirely new kind of life - a life of stability.
This is not to say that the orcs have undergone a change to their nature; they are still warriors, still bound to each other by instinctual ties. They are simply focusing their decades of experience in military procurement, battlefield engineering, and last-ditch medicine, on a new serious of problems. In particular, groups of orcs such as those who inhabited the main Imperial Orcs training camp in Estcastle have arrived in Skarsind and set to work establishing a new base of operations for themselves.
This presents several opportunities.
These opportunities are somewhat transitive however; the orcs who can help facilitate them are keen to settle in Skarsind. While they are available at the Winter Solstice, they may not continue to be available - at least in the same form.
A large number of experienced bonesetters have moved to Skarsind, and are looking for ways to serve their nation. Three possibilities present themselves. Note that in each case a motion would need to be passed in the Imperial Senate to grant permission for the commission to go ahead but these motions need not be brought by the Imperial Orcs senator.
The Miners of Gulhule
Orcs do not like to work in mines. It reminds them of the centuries they spent as slaves - and it reminds their ancestors as well. Orcs often experience the angry tirades of their ancestors when they work underground, and this discourages them even more from taking up pick and shovel. However, there is never any shortage of people prepared to dig ore out of rock for a good day's pay - and the Imperial Orcs have the chance to take advantage of that.
By establishing a suitable structure in Gulhule (or Gildenheim if they want something more central), the Imperial Orcs could organise their efforts to locate and recruit human miners prepared to either make the trek north (or in the case of Winterfolk already in place, to put personal prosperity ahead of politics). This would function as a national ministry, and would automatically create an Imperial title to oversee relations between the Orcs and human miners. Such a title could be appointed by unanimous decision of the Orc senator, but it would also be appropriate for it to be appointed through the Bourse by vote of the captains of Imperial Orc military units.
There would need to be some investment in materials and money, however. Structures would need to be built and fine-quality tools purchased, as well as cash spent to recruit the workers.
A minor ministry focused around ensuring plenty of workers for the key mines in Estermark would require 6 wains of mithril and 12 crowns in labour costs, as well as an outlay of an additional 12 crowns towards active recruitment across the Empire. It would provide a ministry, allowing the purchase of green iron and orichalcum.
A more significant ministry that expanded the operations across northern Skarsind would require 8 wains of mithril and 16 crowns in labour costs, and an additional outlay of 16 crowns towards active recruitment. It would provide a more advanced ministry that allowed the controller to purchase green iron, orichalcum, and tempest jade.
A large ministry that encouraged human works to operate mines across Skarsind and sell their products to the Orcs would require 10 wains of mithril and 20 crowns in labour to set up, and an additional outlay of 20 crowns toward active recruitment. It would provide a significant opportunity to purchase green iron, orichalcum, tempest jade, and weltsilver and potentially other, more valuable, materials.
One Life to Live
The bonesetters of the Orcs have a lot of experience with desperate last-minute medicine on the battlefield, and know that they can never have enough herbs. In the past the Orc master physicks have been scattered across the Empire. Now they are together in one place, and working to adapt their strategies for cultivating herbs to the cold north. Yet there are many Orcs who will never see Skarsind. They died, often in battle, fighting for a homeland that they will never enter. Many have been laid to rest in far distant fields, the same fields they shed their blood to conquer or defend.
Taking inspiration from the Navarr, and their Memorial Gardens at Treji, a group of older bonesetters calling themselves the Fellowship of the Red Blade have proposed that a similar structure be built in Skarsind to memorialize all those Imperial Orcs who will never see it. They will oversee and maintain such a place - and share the lore they have gathered from the masters of herb lore across the Empire. Such a place would not only be a memorial to the dead, but would honour their name by spreading the healing arts of the chirurgeon, physick, and apothecary far and wide to help as many other prevent as many premature deaths as possible.
Such a structure would be a Great work. In addition to maintaining the memorial, the Fellowship of the Red Blade would help any orc who wishes to settle down in Skarsind to establish herb gardens. With an investment of 45 wains of weirwood, and 90 crowns in labour costs, this would provide a seasonal pool of 90 true vervain that would be distributed equally among all Imperial Orcs characters in Skarsind who own a herb garden themselves.
Crossroads of the North
Southpine and Solvihill are, respectively, on the border with Temeschwar and Hercynia, and with Karov. In the past, the Winterfolk maintained trade routes south and west from the town of Torfast. In the years since Skarsind was recovered, the roads were repaired and some work went towards re-establishing trade, but the Wintermark focus was more on the routes through the passes into Hahnmark in the north-east.
The opportunity exists to significantly improve Torfast's trade with the rest of the Empire. By creating a ministry in Torfast, the Imperial Orcs could establish a merchant-boneseeker imperial title who would be responsible for protecting trade south from Skarsind south through Temeschwar, east into Varushka, and west into Hercynia.
In this particular scenario, an opportunity exists for the Orcs, the League, Navarr, and Varushka to co-operate if they wish. An outlay of 8 white granite and 16 crowns in labour costs would establish trading offices in Torfast, and allow the creation of a basic ministry which would have the ability to purchase goods from the rest of the Empire. If a similar ministry was established by the League in Temeschwar, by the Navarr in the Glen of Shadows, and by the Varushkans in Delev, then the Skarsind ministry would be directly improved by it, having a wider range of goods that it could purchase. In each case, the exact goods available to purchase by any of the ministries will depend on which, if either, of the other three ministries is completed.
Commissioning this project would require four separate motions, and the four ministries would need to be constructed separately, but they need not be established at the same time.
The Senate has commissioned the a ministry in Gulhule to encourage human miners to work orc-owned mines. They also began work on trading posts in both Torfast and the Glen of Shadows, to begin establishing the "crossroads of the north."
The opportunity presented by the Fellowship of the Red Blade to establish a great work in Skarsind has likewise been completed.