This land is your land
He should have gone with them of course... but he was too old to play that game now - and they were too young to admit they needed help dealing with a boggart. Still he was impatient to tell them the news, to let them know what Mel, Edda, and Long Tom had got agreed and now he nobody but himself to blame that where was no-one to share the gossip with.
Becks wouldn't believe it of course. She wouldn't accept that the Conclave had really banned the black curses that killed so many. She'd say it was all just children's tears, that they take the ban away as soon as their tears dried and it suited them to do it. Promises of castles and caves wouldn't convince her either. Promises of castles and are a sight easier to make than stone and mortar ones she'd say.
And she might just have a point. Becks always saw the pips in people, and she weren't always wrong. But Shem was not so sure. Surely after all these years the Empire knew what Marcher folk were like. Things had been proper bad round here for a while - but now they had a chance to sort it all out. But chop all their bloody trees down! If they just upped and changed their mind again, folks would be twice as mad as ever they were. The Empire wouldn't risk that... he hoped...
Landry would see it straight away. He'd argue fierce that the Empire had done almost everything they asked for. You can't plough a farm in a day, he'd say. Give them a chance to bring the crop in! And they'd argue for an hour and then that's where they'd settle the matter. Folk in the Mournwold would be well pleased by this good news and they had a right to that. A bit of cheer would warm hearts this winter so they'd encourage people to take what were promised on trust... and then it would be down to their landskeepers to ensure that the Empire kept its word.
In the distance he could see Landry and Becks coming up the path towards him. Becks had a bruise on her face the size of an egg. Looked right painful. He sighed again and braced himself for the coming argument. He really should have gone with them...
The Jotun have fled the Mournwold, driven out by a combination of Imperial armies and Imperial magic. But lingering resentment remains in the hearts of many who dwell, a bitter legacy of the malevolent magic used to break the Jotun. The potent combination of curses hurled at the Mourn have left long memories scarred by short graves. And this is the Marches... nobody holds a grudge like these people. There is a common saying in these parts "Plant a grudge in the soil, it will last a lifetime. Set in stone and it will last forever". Anywhere else that aphorism would be a warning on the dangers of holding onto old hatreds - here it's taken as useful advice on how to ensure they are not forgotten.
Determined to seek amends, the people of the Mourn selected three representatives to take their concerns to Anvil in person. Mel Greenhill, Long Tom, and Edda Counter are all well respected prominent citizens in the Mournwold. They were sent with a list of demands so see if they could get some recompense for the wrongs done - and to prove that it wasn't going to happen again the next time the Jotun try to raise their banner over the Mourn.
Nobody expected to get everything they had demanded - but "Things turn up for one who digs". And so it has turned out. Collectively the leaders of the Empire took decisive action to address some of the key concerns of the Marchers. As a result of the decisions made at the last summit, the Empire has settled the mood in the Mournwold. There is no longer talk of open rebellion - instead people are now content to wait to see how the situation develops and to see if the Empire delivers on its promises.
The Mournwolders have not entirely given up on their original ambitions. The mood here remains febrile, this could be a seminal moment in the history of the Mournwold. Any citizen who could help deliver some or all of the outstanding demands is likely to become a figure of legend throughout the Marches.
A tree is known by its fruit, not by its leaves.Marcher Proverb
A Landskeeper's Oath
Of all the news from Anvil details of the Imperial Conclave is the best received. Long Tom reports that they met with the War Mage and he tried to explain that he hadn't quite meant that he wasn't sorry and he'd do it all again when he wrote to tell everyone that he wasn't sorry and that he'd do it all again. Fine... whatever... "Nothing dries faster than a tear". But the Conclave did ban the casting of two bloody curses like those that wrote the butchers bill here. Admittedly the Senate didn't pass a motion to remove them from Imperial Lore forever (or to let the Conclave remove them though that distinction is largely lost on people here) but that is largely blamed on the senators of Dawn. Nobody is quite sure of their justification for that particular piece of racism, beyond Dawn are always causing trouble so it was probably them.
But the Mountain Remembers Its Youth - and Rivers Run Red were both interdicted by the Conclave. The Senate might still be eyeing the murderers cudgel with a keen eye, but the Conclave at least did the right thing. The clear acceptance that these rituals are beyond the pale impresses people here - they are moved by the Conclaves acknowledgement that what was done here was wrong and must not be repeated. While Rivers Run Red was one of the rituals used to devastate the Mournwold, the fact they've also interdicted Mountain Remembers Its Youth is appreciated nearly as much - given the way this ritual went into Imperial lore was practically a slap in the face to the grieving people of the Mourn.
This has wrought a widespread improvement in attitudes here - though that good feeling is contingent on the rituals staying interdicted while memories remain raw. If would be fine to remove the interdictions once people have buried their grief - say in a generation or two - but doing it before then would undo all the good work that has been achieved here and worse - it would paint the Conclave - and by extension the Empire - as a liar.
If either interdiction is removed any time in the next five years the results will be disastrous for the mood here.
The biggest impact is reserved for a single grand gesture by the entire Marcher people - and there is no chance of this one being reversed. Nedry Galest of the Cullach, General of the Tusks went to the wicker man to atone for the curses on the Mourn which had killed so many. Nedry Galest did the right thing - he stood by the traditions of the Marchers - traditions that are older than the Empire. He gave his life to shrive the sins of the war. It was the ultimate sacrifice - and it commanded the respect of everyone who was witness to it.
The folk of the Mournwold who had lost the most gathered by Old Tam Shaffer's farm where they met with their friends from the other Marcher territories and sang "Only Remembered For What We Have Done", as the wicker man burned. The Mournwold called for a reckoning - and Nedry Galest answered the call. His death has turned the field and left it ready for the new planting. The sins of yesterday will never be forgotten, but Nedry's sacrifice has renewed the faith of these people that there is still a place for them in the Empire.
You don't own it, unless you can defend it.Marcher Proverb
Sword and Shears
The main military demand was a way to protect themselves from the Jotun. Fortifications don't make a territory impregnable, but they do make it a damned site harder to take. So the Mournwold asked for three great fortifications to be built, and suggested a few good spots where they might be sited. And just for good measure they told Mel, Long Tom, and Edda to ask the Empire to hand them over so the Mournwold could run them instead of the Empire.
Much to the surprise of everyone the Imperial Senate passed commissions to build two fortifications - and there remains some hope that a third one might be authorised. Of course they haven't ceded the fortifications to the Mourn but that was a big ask. A few people try to get angry about that - but wiser heads point out that if they had been handed over then the Mournwold would have had to pay to maintain and upkeep the things instead of the Empire... not surprisingly people are less keen on that idea.
Deep down most folk are grudgingly pleased with what was achieved here. Many Marchers cling to the view that you don't really own something unless you can defend it. Two solid fortifications will go a long way to making the Mournwold feel safe. Three would have been perfect... but "Bread without spice is better than spice without bread." It's easy for those who want to criticise the Empire to claim it is interested in nothing but what it can take from the Mourn. This doesn't entirely refute that - but it does demonstrate that the the Empire is willing to do some good here. Provided work starts on the new fortifications soon it will start to remind these people what it means to be part of a great Empire. "Pride in small things... loyalty to great ones" as one old Marcher rightly puts it.
Of course the Empire had better start to make good on these two promises soon. People are being patient at the moment - lost time is never found is a common proverb here but they also understand that you can't plough a farm in a day.
The news about the Singing Caves the priceless deposit of mithril located near Overton is more mixed. The Senate haven't yet given it to the League (which is how folk here contemptuously view Imperial Bourse resources), but they are clearly minded to do so. There is some sympathy for the Empress, folks here are very self-reliant and there is a grudging respect for a woman who wants to ensure that the Empire can pay its way. Don't blame the woman for spending bad money on good seed is said a few times. But most folk are of the view that the Empress should definitely ensure that the treasury coffers are full - but she should do that with someone else's mithril.
But the rumours that the Imperial Orcs might be trying to give up their own Bourse resource so that the Empress can give the Singing Caves to the Marchers causes genuine surprise. The fact that the Imperial Orcs might be prepared to give up their own wealth to see right done by the Mourn is seen as a truly exceptional gesture. If it actually happens... then that will have a profound impact on how these people view the Imperial Orcs - and a marked improvement in their view of the whole Empire.
All good Marcher folk should recognise and support the Virtuous acts achieved by Marcher folk in support of the Mourn. That Thomas of Hay and Asher Holt convinced Conclave to sponsor a mana sinecure built by Dicky Holberg dedicated to healing and healing magics. The Loyalty shown by Unwavering Ned Cullach in taking the stain on his soul of the evil shit what's been done to us in the Mourn by entering the Wicker Man. That Robert Dunlain, our new Mournish Senator, has invited the Whittlefolk back home. That Benedick Goodfellow and Beatrice Greenhill have given to the Mourn the Prosperity-blessed wool sheared from the last sheep in the Mourn before it fell 30 year ago. A lot good been done for the Mourn, and the Marches as a whole should recognise this.Robin of Swindale, Marcher Assembly, Autumn Equinox 381YE, Upheld 72 - 0
All good Marcher folk should recognise and support the Virtuous acts achieved by Imperial folk in support of the Mourn. That Long Tom and Helios Bitter Chalice got Rivers Run Red and Mountain Remembers Its Youth interdicted in Conclave. That Cesare Enzo Di Trivento is bringing missionaries from the Church of the Little Mother to build orphanages and schools. That the Winterfolk passed through the Senate to build a memorial to the heroes what died fighting for the Mourn at Overton, paid for by the kiddies of the Artisan’s Arms. That Ricardo de Tassato has, as the Assembly of Nine, started the wider condemnation of the cruelty what we been seeing in the Mourn. A lot good been done for us, and the Marches as a whole should recognise this.Mel of Mourn, Marcher Assembly, Autumn Equinox 381YE, Upheld 72 - 0
To the people of Whittle. The Jotun drove you to hate. This was not your way before. This is the last chain they have on you. When you put it aside you will be free of their influence.Brother Hugh, Marcher Assembly, Autumn Equinox 381YE, Upheld 76 - 0
We invite Marcher and Imperial Orc preachers to the Mourn to talk to the free orcs of the Mourn (the former Jotun thralls) and preach to them about the Way. We encourage the Virtuous folks of the Mourn to support these preachers and ensure their voices are heard. In return, we invite stewards or other leaders of the free orcs of the Mourn to come to Anvil and make their concerns heard, so that the Empire will not decide for them, but with them.Hrodin, Marcher Assembly, Autumn Equinox 381YE, Upheld 62- 0
A Civil Tongue
People are pleased to see that the Imperial Synod is addressing the matter of the Jotun thralls. News of the invitation extended by the Synod to the thrall's leaders has been passed on and there is some hope that it will be taken up. The orcs are not Marchers and never will be - but they are neighbours and that is the next best thing. It would ease the minds of many here to see the matter resolved fairly.
There are two important statements passed by the Marcher Assembly, by Robin of Swindale and Mel of Mourn. They provide witness to the crucial decisions taken, and help to let everyone in the Marches know what has happened, and do demonstrate some Synod for traditional Marcher views. The other ray of light is the surprise decision of the people of Wintermark to fund the construction of a new monastery in Overton. That is generally well received but with one important caveat. Whose going to be in charge of this fancy new monastery? More than a few folk seem to think that Mel of Greenhill should be pushed forward to take up the position - and there's plenty of support for that - but it could be anyone provided they're from the Mourn and are ready to speak up for what folk round here believe - which leads to the matter of the Whittle folk.
The word in the fields is that the Whittle folk are coming home. Apparently the result of actions taken by Robert Dunlain, the newly appointed senator. People don't really like the Whittle folk much - they are guided by the Synod's warning that these people are blasphemers and should be shunned. But the common view is that Whittle Hill is the best place for them - and that that should be the end of the matter. If the Synod had declared the Whittle folk as heroes of the Mourn it would have healed divisions and given the people something to rally around. They clearly chose not to do that; but they also chose not to pass the mandate designed to dig up more evidence of blasphemy. As a result the hope is that the Synod intend to leave the Whittle folk alone from here on and they can just go back to bothering nobody but themselves.
Still the most recent words of the Synod on the matter do give cause for concern. It strikes many as hypocritical that it's apparently fine for the Military Council to kill thousands and thousands of innocent people to fight the Jotun... but if the Whittle folk Hate the Jotun then they get executed for it. Few people in the Marches can see any real difference between this spiritual power of "Hate" that the Synod keep banging on about and good old fashioned hating people who are different from you.
The official view that there is a difference between "Hate" and "hate" is generally regarded as venal sophistry by many. "Right and wrong is not a matter of capital letters" is how simple folk put it. The idea that it's alright to hate the Jotun provided you don't "Hate" just baffles these folk. By that argument it's not virtuous to courageously fight the Jotun... but if some priest comes along and uses his liao to make it Courageous then suddenly it's good for your soul? This understanding of the Way isn't buying any apples here; most feel that the Imperial Synod have got the cart before the oxen.
As for "This was not your way before" - that produces more than a few belly laughs. The Marches is a land of grudges - people here take to hate like a duck takes to water. As Good Jack from East Banks Farm in Whitewater points out, his family have hated the folks over on the West Banks for longer than any of them can remember. Hating Sarah Mallet from the other side of the river is what drives him to get out of bed at dawn each day - to prove once and for all who the better yeoman is. Sure the folk from Whittle take it a bit too far, but nobody here needs a dictionary to explain what hate is. A few friars try to point out that the fact that the Marchers are not exactly shy about regarding people who are different with suspicion is precisely why they need to especially careful about the risk of a false virtue like Hate - but they don't convince many.
In the end the problem seems to turn on the idea that there is a crucial distinction between the malign false virtue of Hate and the kind of traditional contempt for the people in the next village along that is normal for Marchers. The judgements passed by the Synod seem very concerned with the use of auras and the dedication of your soul, but most people in the Mournworld are not dedicated to any virtue, just like the rest of the Empire. Their focus is very much on the actions that people take - for them what is real, what is important, is weighing the virtue in the actions that they take every day. Because the common people of the Marchers don't see any real moral distinction between the false virtue of Hate and the everyday experience of hating other people, attempts to distinguish between the two are struggling to gain traction.
Nobody has a solution to this problem - indeed it likely does not have a solution. Grudges have been a tradition in the Marches since before there was an Empire - the Marcher way of life predates the Way. The Synod has already convinced everyone who is listening not to pursue auras of Hate - the people of Whittle have been shunned and isolated. But trying to convince the Marchers to go further and give up their grudges, their rivalries, their tendency to hate outsiders is going to be well nigh impossible. From the broken bones of the football match to the broken bodies of the Cousins War these people have hated anyone different to themselves since time immemorial.
As a result, the Synod has been very effective at convincing them not to use the power of Hatred against the Jotun but largely unsuccessful about trying to persuade them not to hate. Crucially these people just don't see a meaningful distinction. They've done what the Synod says - the people of the Whittle have been shunned - because they listen to their priests and broadly follow their guidance. If the Synod says the Whittle folk are to be shunned, then they accept that and follow it. But it causes consternation in part because, fundamentally, they do not share the Synod's concern with the false virtue of Hate as a spiritual power as distinct from the everyday experience of hating the Jotun and anyone else who has ever crossed them.
The wider risk is that too much emphasis on the crucial role of the spiritual force of Hatred risks weakening the influence of the Marcher Assembly - both in the Mournwold and beyond. The danger is that if people come to believe that the moral judgements of their Synod are divorced from the actual actions that people take - which is what most people who aren't priests actually care about - then they will lose respect for their priests. If the matter is not handled with care, then the fact that a degree of hatred is often accepted as pretty normal by many Marchers but Hatred is condemned by the Marcher Assembly risks creating a situation where individual Marchers do not feel that their Assembly reflects or represents them. The challenge for the Marcher Assembly is to make the lessons about the spiritual dangers of Hatred resonate with a stubborn people who often take disdaining outsiders for granted.
At the invitation of the Senator for the Mournwold, more than half the remaining Whittlers have left Tassato and returned home. They remain shunned by all their Marcher neighbours, but they seem perfectly content with that outcome. More than a few people comment that many of the Whittle Folk are "as cold as a Bregasland eel". Rather than make any attempt to work with their fellow Marchers, the Whittle Folk keep themselves to themselves. Indeed their very first priority seems to be restore the fences and walls that protect their lands, repairing the breaches made by the Jotun.
There are some that remain in Tassato, but these people seem different in manner and mood to those who have returned to the Mourn. Mostly it is the younger folk who remain and they seem more interested in getting to know their neighbours and learning to live with them. It is likely that this Marcher enclave in Tassato will remain for the immediate future - in fact if anything it is prospering now more than ever. But with every passing day the people there are coming to reflect the ways of their fellow Tassatans every bit as much as their Marcher roots.
The same cannot be said for the Whittle folk. It is patently clear that the people who have returned remain firmly motivated by the spiritual power of Hatred, despite (or perhaps because!) of everything the Imperial Synod has said. Hatred gave them the power to resist the Jotun invasion for thirty years and they see absolutely no reason of any kind at all to give that up now. But they are shunned by their fellow Marchers - so they are not spreading their religious or philosophical views to the common people even if they wanted to - and in fact there is no sign of any kind that they intend to do that. That means that unless the Synod is prepared to take the step of sending inquisitors to the Hill then there is almost certainly nothing more that can be done. These people will simply live out their days here and provided that nobody from Anvil goes to Whittle for spiritual guidance then that will be the end of them.
Taken together, the decisions of the Empire described in the reports of Long Tom, Mel, and Edda and the sacrifice of Ned of the Cullachs have achieved what was needed to heal the wounds that have scarred the Mourn. People remain confused by the Synod - but that is increasingly being seen as a "problem with the Synod". Concerns remain about the Military Council - the view of many is that most of them are probably as cruel as the Iron Helms they sent here. But that doesn't matter provided the Marcher armies have shown that they can defend the Mourn which is how most people feel it should have been in the first place. And crucially their generals have already proved they understand what being a proper Marcher is all about.
So the commission of the two new fortifications coupled with the generosity of the Wintermark and Imperial Orcs leading to rumours that the Singing Caves might yet be made a Marcher holding have reminded people here of all the things they gain by being part of the Empire. It has renewed their pride and in doing so it has reminded them of old loyalties. The decision of the Conclave to interdict two curses that could so easily be used to repeat the atrocity committed in the Mournwold has convinced people that the Empire can learn from its mistakes and can be trusted to do better in the future.
If the Empire begins the work on the two fortifications it has commissioned and gets them built and the two terrible curses remain interdicted for the next five years then the situation in the Mournwold will remain stable. Even with no other action, these gestures would be enough to placate the anger of the worst affected and give Mournwolders who support the Empire a basis to defend the status quo. In effect, if the Empire does nothing more than this to improve relations with the inhabitants of the Mourn, then the situation in the territory would be broadly comparable with views throughout the Empire.
However the Empire still has the chance to go beyond this - to make a grand gesture that would go beyond fixing what was broken. There are three opportunities to create a lasting endowment for the Mournwold that would really win hearts and minds. If handled right it would mean that these people would become the Empire's fiercest advocates and those who were seen as pivotal in achieving them would pass into Marcher legend.
The answer lies in the soil.Marcher Proverb
Richard of Holberg has offered to design some kind of grand structure that would produce a trove of mana crystals. Apparently he made this offer to the Conclave as some kind of complicated politics involving eternals and things nobody here understands very well - or frankly cares about. Such a thing would be incredibly welcome - all the more so following the work that the landskeepers have done with the architect.
After talking to the landskeepers, Richard has been able to formulate an elegant plan to create a a set of great stone menhirs, each inlaid with mithril filigree that would be erected in every region in the Mourn. Such a construction would not be cheap - it would require 80 wains of white granite and 20 wains of mithril, cost 25 thrones to erect, and take two seasons to build. But it should produce a trove of mana crystals - around 60 - spread through every farm owner in the territory.
But thanks to the assistance of the landskeepers, the protective menhir network would have a second effect, providing a powerful magical defence that would make the territory considerably more difficult to attack with a curse. As a result, any magical curse targeting the territory which caused increased military or civilian casualties would be weakened - the casualties inflicted would be reduced to half of the normal level.
Note that since Richard has done all the work and made the plans publicly available, anyone could commission these menhirs (under the normal rules for commissioning a great work), and there is no time constraint as to when they can be built.
Hard work wins wars.Marcher Proverb
The Third Pie
The Empire has passed two commissions to fortify Greensward and to fortify Freemoor, but it rejected the third motion to fortify Southmoor. People are well pleased with this news, but they have started to refer to the new fortifications as "the Three Pies". The name is a reference to a local story about a legendary feast that features three hearty pies - the first is a simple butter pie, tasty but filling, the second is rich, made with venison and thick gravy, but the final pie is sweet and filled with rhubarb, apples or other fruit. The point of the story is that it is the final pie that transforms the repast into a feast. Two fortifications will make it difficult for the Jotun to retake the Mourn - but a third might be just enough to make the territory virtually impregnable. The people could finally be assured that the Jotun were never coming back.
At present there is a sense that the Empire has promised a lot to defend the Mournwold - they've given them a hearty meal - but it is not quite a feast. If the Senate could be persuaded to reconsider the final commission to fortify Southmoor - then the Mournwold would have their three pies. It would be go beyond what anyone expected - it would be a feast to remember for years to come.
Folks have some idea of just how expensive three fortifications would be - but that is precisely why making such an effort would have such a significant impact. Thus far the Empire have passed two fortifications - one is to be funded by the Empress - but there is no mention of how the other is to be funded. Folks here feel that if the Senate can be persuaded to pass a third fortification then the Senate can pay for one, the Empress can pay for one and the Mournwold (or perhaps the Marchers) can raise the money for the third. It would cost a fortune of course - but "Easy come, worth less" as the proverb goes. Nobody expects any of this to be easy - they understand that this is a big ask - anyone who could achieve this would be creating a lasting legacy making the Mournwold safe for generations to come. Perhaps old Jonah Gold might finally rest.
The mining town of Sarcombe in Southmoor would be the obvious place to fortify in the minds of many. The foundations of Hillstop, the ruined Jotun fortification are still present, but just as importantly the work would help to restore the fortunes of the ruined town - bringing workers and families back to the settlement. If the Empress saw fit, she might grant the town an Imperial charter, to create a new market town. That would renew trade with the Navarr once they have retaken Liathaven and also with the people of Tassato ("Little Mournwold", the Marcher enclave in the city continues to prosper despite many of the Whittle folk returning home). If Sarcombe's position as a trade hub were restored, it may go some way toward rebuilding the prosperity of the Mournwold.
A handsome husband is common property.Marcher Proverb
The single most important thing the Empire could do is to grant the Singing Caves to the Marches. The people here are aware that the Senate badly needs money into their treasury to pay for the Empire's wars "...but the Singing Caves is part of the Mourn". And besides, the Marches don't have a single national Bourse position at present so this is really only their due.
Most people here fully understand the complexities of the idea that the Imperial Orcs might give up their national Bourse resource to allow the Empress to grant the Singing Caves to the Marches, but if that does happen then they will be enormously to the Orcs for such a generous gift. Happily, the scholars of the Constitutional Court have indicated that they believe such a change could be constitutional provided the appropriate Senate motions were passed (see box out). It remains to be seen if anyone will still think this is a good idea now that it appears to be legally possible...
But people are quick to point out that if the Singing Caves were made a Marcher national position, then the new occupant could provide the mithril needed to construct the dolamn network. The entire thing could be self-funded by the nation over the next two years and still leave plenty of mithril for other important projects. A few people point out that anyone granted the title would be under no legal obligation to fund the dolmans, to which people respond that "that's what rough music is for". The point is that by giving the Marchers permission to build the dolman network and granting the Singing Caves to the Mourn, the Empire could meet two of the needs of the Mournwold for the price of just one.
It is a tall ask even given that... but if any citizen can make it happen they will win the undying gratitude of folk in the Mourne. The people here are fond of keeping their grudges for generations... but it can't be denied that they also remember those who have done right by them with the same fervour.
- The Imperial Senate pass a motion with a constitutional vote to create a new power for the Senate to relinquish a territory or Bourse resource. The power could be used to relinquish a national or Imperial resource, or to relinquish a territory.
- Any motion of relinquishment would require a constitutional vote to pass and would be subject to a veto by the General Assembly, the Council of Nine and by the national assembly of the nation relinquishing the territory or resource if it were not Imperial.
- The relinquished territory or resource would become eligible for allocation or assignment as appropriate at the next Senate session.
The court is clear that they would not permit this as an extraordinary motion as happened with Skarsind. If the Senate wishes to go ahead with this then they must change Imperial law to make this new legal power of the Imperial Senate clear to everyone.
Construction has begun on the fortifications in Greensward and Freemoor.