Think of the children
"Don't piss on my back and tell me it's raining Will Tanner." Bridget stood with her arms folded by the table, back stiff as an iron rod. "She looks exactly the same as every baby ever did. A bald head, a big mouth for crying, a belly that needs feeding, and clothes that needs changing six times a day."
"She looks like..." His voice trailed off as he choked up a little. "She looks... like..."
"Don't Will Tanner! Just don't! The magic took her and she's dead and that's all there is to it. I've said that you and I are done with crying. I won't cry anymore. I know you want another, and maybe we will in time, but this is someone else's baby not ours."
"He were my cousin though... I reckon we owe him."
"Third cousin the friar said. You never even bloody met him. And he were one of them. One of them Wegarra things. It's not our child. It's got to go."
The friar coughed slightly. This was proving more difficult than he'd hoped. "Her name is Gull." he said softly.
Will repeated the name quietly to the child and threw another desperate pleading look at his wife. Her eyes narrowed, clearly furious at her husbands attempts to win her round. But the friar had seen that look enough times to know she was losing ground.
"There is one other thing." He reached into his robes and pulled out the heavy pouch, he let it drop onto the oak table, just far enough so that the noise of the coins carried. "It's not much, but it's what's left of the estate. It was sold to a family moving back from Upwold. Like I say, it's not much but it'll cover her food for a year or more."
Bridget stared at the pouch on the table. She knew damn well it would be rings and crowns, not thrones, but still. It would more than pay for the seed they needed to plant the new field they wanted. But after a moment she cleared her throat and shifted her hard stare back to the priest. "That ain't fair Friar. We're decent hard-working folk - this ain't about money."
"All that is worthwhile is shared with those who deserve it." The friar's tone was gentle.
"We've still got the crib... and the clothes your mother sewed." Will Tanner looked at his wife imploringly. "The Friar said she's got no-one else. What if... what if the curse had taken us instead... and the Friar had to find someone for our baby?"
"You'd want our daughter being raised by some bloody fool who thinks he's a Jotun would you?" Her voice was harsh.
Will Tanner looked his wife in the eyes and said "I'd want our daughter to live, Bridie. And that's all I'd want."
Bridget Tanner blanched, her face white and shocked, like she'd been stabbed. She backed away only slightly as her husband approached her and placed the sleeping baby into her arms. He turned his back on her and approached the friar.
"It's time to go now, friar. You can drop off the baby's things in the morning. We'll take good care of her."
Cesare Enzo di Trivento, Cardinal of Prosperity, has led the Assembly to pass a clear statement calling on the Empire to support the building of a great orphanage to house and educate the orphans of the Mournwold. The statement has been circulated by the civil service to the congregations of the Empire devoted to Prosperity and has provoked interest from some surprising quarters.
That the children of Mournwold recently orphaned through the Jotun war and Imperial magic require a great orphanage to house and educate them. I propose the Empire offers their support in the building of this great work.Assembly of Prosperity, Summers Solstice 382YE, Cesare Enzo di Trivento, Upheld 215 - 0
Many orphans died when the curses wracked the Mourn, as the baleful magic fell hardest on the young and the old, taking a heavy toll. But the war also created many new orphans, especially among the Jotun. It is not clear if Cesare's proposal is intended to benefit just Marcher children or whether he intends to help all of those who dwell in the Mournwold who have lost their parents.
Orphans in the Marches
Cesare is from the League which has a long tradition of orphanages - most famously those run by the Little Mother which exist to provide children with a home, a schooling, and an opportunity to get ahead in life. The children of the Little Mother are not coddled. In return for their second chance in life, they work hard, learning the fundamental importance of prosperity as they acquire a trade that will serve them well when they leave the orphanage, as well as learning their letters, their numbers and the Way of Virtue. The best priests of the Little Mother will use their contacts with the successful business men and women of their city to find a secure apprenticeship for their charge when they come of an age to leave.
However the rural life of the Marches is very different to the busy world of the League cities. Of course there are just as many orphans in the Marches, but the scale of life is very different. In the great League cities thousands of people will live in an area of land no bigger than a single Household's estate. People in the cities move around, as jobs and new opportunities open up. People in the Marches tend to be born and raised on one piece of land - and to raise their own family there in turn. There are churches to the Little Mother in the Marches, but rather than a mother figure running an orphanage, she is portrayed more like a steward, taking in those with nowhere to go and helping them learn how to work a field, so that they might themselves one day become successful.
Rather than build a great orphanage to house those who have lost their parents, what friars usually do is look for a home for a child who has lost their parents. They will take homeless orphans and seek out relatives and do what they can to persuade them to take them in. Where they can they will seek out the closest relatives they can find who are in a position to help. If they cannot find close relatives then they will look further afield, distant relatives, then friends of the family, and ultimately just charitable souls if nothing else presents itself. Hap the Soft, a Jotun thrall who lives in the Green March is a good example of just such a charitable soul. He is well known for having taken in dozens of orphans over the years.
As a result there is precious little enthusiasm in the Mourn for this idea of a great big orphanage. A place you pack all your brother's children off too if he dies - so that someone else can take on your responsibilities instead of you? Sounds like just the thing... for a city full of town-folk who think Loyalty is something to do with the rings on your fingers.
Register of Households
Rather than a grand orphanage, Friar Margaret from Green March has suggested that would be more useful is a single central repository of records in the territory. If the Friars could keep a register of the births and deaths in every household, then that would be an invaluable tool to help them find a home for an orphan. Of course ideally such a register would have existed for many years, but the friars of the Mourn could dedicate what time they can spare over the next few years compiling new records of the existing Mourn households. It would take a long time to complete, but it would be an invaluable tool helping those seeking to find the best home for an orphan. She also suggests that those families who had space for another child in their house - or especially those families that had found themselves wanting children but unable to have them - might leave notice with the register.
The obvious place to keep the register would seem to be the new market town of Sarcombe. There is a large abandoned two-story building on the north side of the town that was once a bustling tavern a generation ago. It would need to be gutted and restored, so that it could house the registers, but it has a single common room more than large enough for the purpose of keeping records no matter how extensive.
As the idea takes root in the Marches, more people contribute. There is a suggestion that they could build shrines to the Little Mother across the Mourn and keep a small local register in each and collect donations there. The Friars could then copy those records to the main register at Sarcombe. And it is at that point that the sticky question comes of what to do with the Jotun thralls. This plan is not expensive, but it won't come cheap and Mournwold has made an awful lot of demands of the Empire of late. Nobody is quite sure whether the Cardinal intended to include the thralls in his benevolence or not. In the end the decision is made to ask the civil service to look into all three options and then leave it to the powers that be. It would be a kind deed to help the thralls as well - it would show good faith. But if money is tight...
The Sarcombe Register
- A familial register could be created to help place orphans with relatives and willing foster families
- There are several ways it could be built
The proposal to create the Sarcombe Register is a modest one. The Jarl's Head, the old abandoned inn, that Friar Margaret proposes to convert is large enough for the purpose but it has fallen into disrepair and would need some work to rebuild it. The civil service estimate that it could be restored at a cost of 6 wains of white granite and 12 crowns. That resulting folly, the Sarcombe Register, would provide a secure place to keep records of births and deaths throughout the territory.
Those records would be an invaluable resource for Friars and those of a similar ilk who were looking to find a home for an orphan. Rather than travelling the length and breadth of the territory trying to track someone down by name, they could first visit Sarcombe and use the records to find any trace of a person's family. It would be quicker, easier, and safer for everyone. There would be some small costs involved in keeping the records, but the Alderman of Sarcombe have indicated that they would be happy to hold the keys for the building, and are confident that small donations from grateful Mournwolders should be more than enough to pay the upkeep. If the Senate wished to then they could appoint an official custodian of the records - perhaps even give him or her a small stipend if they were feeling really generous - but otherwise the the Alderman will simply find one of their own to manage the Register.
It is perhaps a little short of the great work that Cesare had in mind - so the alternative would be to create something a little more impressive. In addition to the register, the Senate could order the construction of a set of shrines to the Little Mother, spread across the territory. Records of local households could be kept there - before they were copied to the Sarcombe Register - as well as serving as a valuable repository for donations from the faithful.
This is a much more ambitious plan, costing significantly more than the conversion of the Jarl's Head, but it would provide substantial benefits to congregations of Prosperity across the territory. In total, the creation of the network of shrines along with the conversion of the Sarcombe Register, would need 40 wains of white granite and 80 crowns. It would be even more effective at allowing the friars of the Mourn to find homes for orphans - but it would also provide additional benefits. The civil service estimate it would produce donations equal to 900 rings a season shared between congregations dedicated to Prosperity in the Mournwold.
Of course that cost only includes shrines in the areas currently settled by Marcher families... it doesn't include those areas where the Jotun thralls dwell. The Jotun orphans would have to look out for themselves... The only alternative would be to extend the network of shrines to the Jotun areas of the Mourn and include their names and households in the Sarcombe Register. That would be more expensive - it would need 50 wains of white granite and 100 crowns - and it wouldn't provide any additional benefits to Imperial congregations. But it would be another concrete sign of the Empire's intention to incorporate the thralls into the Marcher society - an implication which is not likely to be missed by those who live in the Mourn or elsewhere.
Civil Service Summary
- The Sarcombe Register, a set of records to help friars find families willing to take in orphans, could be built as a folly. It would cost 6 wains of white granite and 12 crowns.
- Alternatively, it could include shrines of the Little Mother across the Mournwold. This would cost 40 wains of white granite and 80 crowns, and share a bounty of 900 rings among every congregation dedicated to Prosperity in the Mournwold. This project would only include human settlements however.
- Finally, the shrines and the register could be built so as to include orc settlements as well as human settlements. This would cost 50 wains of white granite and 100 crowns, and provide the same benefits as the more restricted series of shrines above. It would also be another sign of Imperial intent to incorporate the thralls into Marcher society.
- Frederick di Sarvos has challenged the Cardinal of Ambition to make a "statement of endeavour"
The statement by Cesare has not just provoked the interest of the Marchers. Frederick di Sarvos is a talented architect who gave up a promising career working with the civil service on commissions to accept a tenured chair at the University of Holberg where he divides his time between teaching the secrets of architecture to a small group of hand picked students and exchanging correspondence with other architects, artists and engineers in the Empire and oversees. Only the wealthiest of Holberg's families can afford the tuition fees to be one of Frederick's pupils but he can demand such high prices because of his impressive reputation.
Frederick is known to be a passionate devotee of Ambition, in his early work he was noted for the need to create ever more ambitious works. Some say he retired because he had achieved everything he wanted to - but others said it was because he had grown fed up with being called on to build yet another small structure to enhance the production of mana crystals.
Now, fired up by the example of the orphanage, he has written an open letter to the Cardinal of Ambition, Viviane de Coeurdefer, of Dawn, challenging her to pass a statement of principle calling on the ambitious architects and engineers of the Empire to create something truly impressive. Frederick has sworn a solemn oath that if the Cardinal will submit a judgement to the Assembly of the Nine outlining what problem she would like tackled or what feat she would like achieved, then he will immediately devote himself to the task, assuming the judgement passes. What is more he will encourage all his peers, and his rivals, and indeed anyone who pursues the Path of Ambition, to apply themselves to the project. The goal will be to find the most ambitious, most ingenious design that will meet the Cardinal's brief.
Frederick has artfully suggested that the judgement be called a Statement of Endeavour. In legal terms it would be a statement of principle, but the practical impact would be the same. The architect understands the nature of the Assembly of Nine, and appreciates that the judgement may be rejected. Indeed he regards that as a positive, since it would be frustrating if he and his peers applied themselves to present something only to have the Senate reject it for some reason. Having the backing of the Assembly makes it more likely that any design will become a reality.
He is eager to start work, but content to wait until approval is forthcoming, so if the Cardinal submits a judgement that is rejected, then he will wait another season for her or her successor to try again. However, he does not intend to wait forever; he will lose interest and withdraw his offer if the Cardinal chooses not to submit a judgement of endeavour to the Assembly of Nine for any reason.