Those who worship
The Freeborn mistress of the Paradour smiled and arched an eyebrow. "Trade secrets? Really?"
The Asavean architect smiled back at her, tipping his cup of syrah in a mocking, friendly toast.
"But really it's not a great secret. Imperial roseweald is the secret. Properly prepared of course. And chili peppers. Never scrimp on the chili peppers, as my mother used to tell me."
The architect nodded scooping up a fingerful of the sauce with obvious enthusiasm. He followed it with another olive, spitting the stone into the shallow bowl at his elbow with practiced skill. Then he pushed his plate away and leant back.
"Truly, a repast fit for the Gods." He said expansively.
A little lull settled around him, a well of silence, as the diners to his left and right fell silent. After a moment, conversation resumed. The Asavean looked a little flustered.
"I'm sorry I didn't mean to -" he began.
The paradour mistress waved him away. "I shall take it as the compliment you obviously intended," she said. She caught the eye of her son, giving him a quick nod. He came over to clear the plates away, and then returned with a jug of freshly squeezed orange juice and a plate of savoury biscuits.
The Asavean sighed heavily.
"I keep forgetting, I'm sorry. I'm still not used to Imperial ways even after two seasons. I blame your weather."
The paradour mistress poured herself a glass of fruit juice. "How so?"
"It's warm, it's dry. We're on the coast. If I close my eyes and relax I can imagine I am sitting in an eating house on the docks at Santuário, I forget I'm thousands of miles away in a strange land surrounded by strangers with strange customs. And so I honour the Gods, and then people look at me strangely. It is the same at work."
"Do you mention the Gods a lot at work?" The paradour mistress sipped her fruit juice.
"How can I not? Baddu guides my hand when I'm drawing. He's in the spirit level and the plumb bob. He helps me keep my head when people are being idiots. Without his teachings, without the measure and the line, it is so much more complicated to explain how long your carpenter is meant to be cutting the planks. You know I've had to employ a young man to translate all my instructions into something that won't cause your people to start waving their arms and hooting about idolatry? Another expense."
He paused, looked guilty.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I should not rant. I seem to spend so much of my time either apologising or ranting these days. I like your country, but it is tiring sometimes. Your people can be so humourless."
He helped himself to a glass of cool fruit juice. Then he leant forward conspiratorially.
"Now if we were at home, after such a fine meal and such pleasant company, you know what I would do? I would thank you, and pay my bill, but on the way out I would toss a handful of coins into the bowl before the little shrine of Esoran el cocineritoo pequeño. There would be one by the door. I'd thank the God for my fine meal, but in the evening when the last customer has gone, the money from the shrine would be collected and split between the servers and the cooks. I thank Esoran for my meal with a prayer and an offering, and Esoran thanks you by sharing the money - and keeping the prayer for themselves. The more I like the meal the more money, and the more effusive my prayer. It is elegant, and polite. Here though? Here I have to constantly ask for the price of things or run the risk of offending someone."
He sighed again. The paradour mistress looked thoughtful.
"And this is a custom shared by all Asaveans? Or just architects?"
Her guest shrugged.
"Everyone I know does it, architects, labourers, builders, carpenters. Sailors."
Her thoughtful look became speculative. "Sailors, you say?"She began to smile.
The Asavean temple of Balo and the Black Bull nears completion in the port of Oran. Despite delays caused by opposition from Agnetha de Rondell and the Assembly of the Nine, the impressive structure will soon be complete. It has taken significantly longer than estimated, and run significantly over budget, but the building itself is now built and the next three months will primarily be taken up with final finishing, decoration, and installation of furniture and the like. Unless the situation dramatically changes it will begin offering idolatrous services to Asavean sailors, in time for the Spring equinox.
Once the temple is complete, work can begin on a temple of the Way in Nemoria, the capital city of Asavea.
The Black Bull
The Temple of Balo and the Black Bull is a major work, and when it is completed in Spring it will have two immediate effects. Firstly, it will improve diplomatic relations with Asavea; and secondly it will offer improved opportunities for Imperial citizens trading with Asavea.
Once it is complete the Asaveans will look to appoint an Imperial citizen to serve as liaison with the temple priests. The Asaveans have indicated that they will be guided in this appointment by the temporal power of the area the temple has been built - in this case the decision of the Senator for Feroz. However, this is not classed as an Imperial title as the decision to appoint the post is taken by the Asaveans and the occupant can only be changed by them. The selected liaison will enjoy the opportunity to deal directly with Asavean merchants and potentially acquire valuable goods at a bargain price (effectively, a campaign resource allowing a named character to purchase Asavean goods such as orichalcum, tempest jade, iridescent gloaming, and cerulean mazzarine).
Unless something catastrophic happens, the temple will be complete and the successful applicant will be appointed by the Asaveans at the Spring Equinox 381YE.
The Temple of the Lords of Virtue
At the moment, the Asavean government assumes that the Senator who raised the original motion to allow the building of the Temple of Balo and the Black Bull in Oran - Maher i Zaydan i Riqueza, who was Senator for Kahraman in Spring 380YE - will oversee the project. In practice, however, anyone could collect the 20 wains of white granite required to begin building a major temple of the Way when the temple in Oran is complete. Once the wains are collected it will be up to this individual whether they provide the 10 Thrones necessary to pay for emancipated labour to build the structure, or to accept the offer of the influential Joãon family to undertake the building using the unpaid labour they own.
Construction of the Temple of the Way in Nemoria will take six months. Once it is complete it will automatically create an Imperial title responsible for aiding and liaising with the Imperial priests attached to it. The method of appointment was not specified in the original Senate motion so the necessary details are left to the senator - Maher i Zaydan i Riqueza to determine how the title will be appointed. The obvious methods for appointing the title would be appointment by Senate motion (if the title is seen as primarily diplomatic), appointment by judgement of the General Assembly, or the Assembly of Nine (if the title is seen as primarily about matters of religion). A case could also be made for making it an Imperial title auctioned through the Imperial Bourse (if the title were seen as primarily economic in nature).
The title-holder would be responsible for ensuring the priests of the Nemorian temple received the valuable liao they need to perform spiritual ceremonies, but this would also likely result in gifts from the grateful (effectively creating a ministry allowing the character to trade liao for Asavean goods). Obviously, as the temple will be built on distant shores, it will not provide votes in the Imperial Synod, nor doses of liao, however.
Completion of the Nemorian temple will see a further improvement in relations with the Plenum and a small improvement to all Imperial trade with Asavea. Any fleet visiting there would earn an additional ingot of orichalcum going forward - as long as relations between Asavea and the Empire remain good.
The temple may create the potential for future opportunities - to secure better diplomatic ties, to spread the Way to Asavea, or to secure better trade opportunities depending on how the title was appointed.
The Imperial Synod does not appear particularly enthusiastic about building a temple of the Way in Nemoria. An attempted veto of the original building project from the Urizen priest Solas very nearly scuppered the project before it began. A judgement in the Assembly of the Nine raised by Serrusto Caeli Rezia di Tassato during the Spring Equinox 380YE was withdrawn without voting. Likewise, an attempt by Vitor di Mestra to secure funding for the temple in Summer 380YE was also withdrawn. Without their support it might prove difficult to actually operate the temple - and if they were in active opposition then it would prove almost impossible.
Supporting the Temple
The Imperial Synod send X with 25 doses of liao to endorse the creation of a temple of the Way in Asavea and encourage missionaries to travel there to spread knowledge of the Way to the people of Nemoria.Synod Mandate
If the Imperial Synod wishes to endorse a temple of the Way in Nemoria, the General Assembly or the Assembly of the Nine may issue a mandate using the above wording. A named priest and 25 doses of liao would smooth over residual bad feelings arising from earlier interference. This would set the stage for relations between the Empire and Asavea to improve further.
Opposing the Temple
The Imperial Synod send X with 10 doses of liao to denounce as blasphemous any construction of a temple of the Way in NemoriaSynod Mandate
A mandate raised by the General Assembly or the Assembly of the Nine using this wording would create sufficient opposition to completely prevent any opportunity to build a temple in Nemoria, provided it is issued before work on the temple in Nemoria begins. It would need to name a priest who was given the mandate to use 10 doses of liao to spread opposition to the temple in Nemoria and at home.
If the Imperial Synod pass this mandate then it will have immediate repercussions, damaging relations with Asavea. It is now too late to get the temple stopped without publicly snubbing the ruling families of the Asavean Plenum.
Such a mandate may also bring the Synod's commitment to missionary work with foreign nations into question - refusing an open invitation to build a temple in Asavea could be interpreted as the Empire is disinterested in spreading the Way or else has adopted the attitude of the Sumaah Republic that the Asaveans should not receive teaching in the Way.
Supporting a Revolt
The Imperial Synod send X with 50 doses of liao to denounce as blasphemous any construction of a temple of the Way in Nemoria; rather than dealing with the idolatrous tyrants of Nemoria, missionaries should focus on supporting and empowering the rebellious slaves who fight to overthrow them.Synod Mandate
Alternatively, the General Assembly or the Assembly of Nine may issue a priest with the above mandate and 50 doses of liao to spread the relevant auras.
This mandate would have a catastrophic effect on relations with the Plenum, and confirm the suspicions of the Asavean priesthood that the Synod is their enemy. There is no possible route by which the Empire can provide effective support to people who are trying to overthrow the Plenum without causing outrage in Asavea.
It would however allow the Imperial Synod to reach out to the rebels against Asavean rule who are also receiving nominal support from the Sumaah Republic. If the mandate is passed with a greater majority this would send a very strong signal to those who are fighting against the Asavean rulers that the Empire would support them. Both parties are likely to react accordingly.
Any option that offends Asavean is likely to please Sumaah - given the state of war that exists between these two Empires. With the right diplomacy, it might be possible to use such any such act to improve relationships with the Sumash.
Almodin Oktístis, Priest of the Builder
One of the Asavean dignitaries who came to the Empire is Almodin Oktístis, a prestigious priest of the god the Asaveans call "Baddu the Builder" - the patron of architects and builders. As work on the temple nears completion, the majority of the structure itself has been finalised and much of the last three months work will involve finishing the interior - "a job for artists not builders" as the priest has commented several times. Apparently a genial sort, Almodin Oktístis has spent an increasing amount of time enjoying the pleasures of Oran, and has made several trips to Joharra, Bramar, and Mora. Finding the climate of the Brass Coast acceptable, he has begun making noises about possibly taking a sabbatical and spending a year or two exploring the Empire and its architectural styles.
Now that Almodin has some experience of working with the Civil Service on a commission, he has some constructive comments to make about ways that the process could be improved. He has presented a formal offer to the Ambassador to Asavea, to put his expertise in the service of the Imperial Senate. Working with his own team of Asaveans, in conjunction with Freeborn architects and builders with whom he has developed a good working relationship, he believes that he can oversee two commissions each season without using any of the existing resources of the civil service.
He is not prepared to do this out of the goodness of his heart, however.
Firstly, he would require a salary. His expertise (and that of his team) does not come cheap. It would cost 8 Thrones a season to retain his services. Secondly, he is an Asavean patriot and could not countenance working with the Empire if relations between the Imperial people and the people of Asavea were to decline. Finally, he is looking for a challenge not for make-work; he is prepared only to work on commissions (excluding armies and navies) that involve the investment of at least 30 wains to complete. Lesser projects are simply beneath his notice.
If the Senate wishes to retain his services, he will be available from the Winter Solstice. The Imperial Senate must pass a motion agreeing to retain his services and assigning a suitable stipend to him. As soon as this passes, the Senate can increase the number of commissions they can perform by two, by assigning projects to Almodin and his team in the body of the motion.
If the Senate does choose to take his offer on board, they may specify that he will only be given work by the Senate, or may allow a Civilian Commissioner to make use of his services. In either case, the minimum size of project applies. If Almodin is assigned a project that is beneath his notice, he will refuse to oversee it and thus the commission will fail.
The Imperial Synod chose to endorse the building of a temple in Nemoria, and mandated that Lucifaro would use liao to encourage missionaries to travel there in support of the temple, and to help spread knowledge of the Way.
The Imperial Senate agreed to provide a stipend to Almodin Oktístis, Priest of the Builder.