Thoughts are free (Trade Winds)
"I don't see a problem at all."
"Well, the enslavement of sapient beings is a very vague term, what does it even mean?"
"It means people owning other people. I think it's pretty straightforward."
"Yes, but even allowing for that, you can't really point at one nation or another and say 'they're slavers' can you?"
"Are you being thick on purpose? Of course you can. Nations that don't allow slavery - the Empire, the Commonwealth, the Sumaah, the Sarcophan probably. Nations that have practiced slavery for so long they're pretty damn good at it - Faraden, Iron Confederacy, Asavea, Jarm. You'll note two of them are the Empire's current primary trade partners. Oh and then there's Axos which kind of allows slavery while treating anyone who does it like they're idiots, but can't be bothered to actually make it illegal."
"Well, yes, but didn't Soratio point out that banning trade with slavers would damage the economy to no clear benefit?"
"Sure, but the Prosperity assembly didn't agree! I don't know what you point is!"
"My point is that the slavery issue is complex! What does it help us if a bunch of foreigners are emancipated, but the Empire gets burnt to the foundations by barbarians because some well-meaning idealist says we can't buy white granite from Asavea!"
"Oh for.... why do you always say idealist like it's an insult? And for that matter... look, I am nowhere near drunk enough for this. It's your round.""Fair. Same again?"
The Empire does not exist in isolation. Every season, brave captains set sail from Sarvos and Tassato; from Meade and Siroc; from Korotny and Lacre; and from a dozen smaller ports across the Empire. Their ships cross vast distances, holds burgeoning with Imperial goods, returning weeks later with exotic goods from distant shores.
Yet the Empire is by no means universally liked, or respected. The international arena is as brutal and bloodthirsty as any fighting pit. The captains who risk the open seas to visit foreign ports return with more than mere trade goods - they often bring with them the first warning of changes in the political landscape that might have profound effects on the Empire at home, as well as abroad.
The administration of government, like a guardianship ought to be directed to the good of those who confer, not of those who receive the trust.Marcus Tullius Cicero
Developments in Sumaah
The Sumaah Republic remains at war with the Empire - and the port of Zemeh remains closed to Imperial visitors. That is not to say that there has been no communication however. The Sumaah continue to send diplomatic dispatches to their embassy in Necropolis. There have also been a few unofficial envoys sent to the Empire and it is clear that while the Sumaah are still greatly offended by the Empire's descent into heresy they do not consider the entire Imperial Synod beyond hope. For example, the Sumaah Synod is apparently discussing the life of the late Highborn Asher of Felix's Watch, and considering his acceptance into the list of Sumaah Paragons and Exemplars.
Sumaah diplomats continue their criticism of the Empire, however, denouncing the Imperial Synod as schismatic heretics and blasphemers. Their words carry weight with many foreign nations. To add further substance to their accusations, they are claiming to be in possession of the Imperial Crown - and that the fact the Empire has lost it is proof that it no longer understands either Pride and Vigilance. The House of the People (the Sumaah equivalent of the Imperial Senate) is apparently locked in debate about what to do about the crown. There have been no formal offers to return it and it is unlikely any will be forthcoming while the state of war persists.
The Sumaah have responded to an invitation to attend the forthcoming symposium - scheduled for the Winter Solstice 380YE - by indicating in no uncertain terms that there is no possibility of any of their priests attending while it is a hotbed of heterodoxy, heresy, blasphemy, and idolatry. They would like to attend - but will only do so if they have assurances that the entire symposium is orthodox and heretical and blasphemous speech will not be permitted.
Trade with Asavea
The delay in completing the Temple of the bull in Feroz, coupled with the formal statement of the Imperial Senate denouncing the practice of slavery have not gone down well with the people of the Asavean Archipelago. Of the two issues, it seems that the Asaveans are more concerned about the Imperial Synod's continued opposition to their construction on the Brass Coast than they are to the Senate statement of principle. Still, they have not yet withdrawn the invitation to the Empire to build a temple of the Virtues in Nemoria.
Unfortunately, delays in the completion of the Temple of Balo and the Black Bull mean that work will not be able to begin on the Temple of the Virtues until after the Spring Equinox 381YE at the very earliest. Likewise, any benefits to trade between the Empire and Asavea are unlikely to be felt until that time - and potentially not at all if the Synod continues its open opposition to the priests of the western archipelago.
Concord with the Commonwealth
By contrast, the Senate's statement regarding slavery has directly contributed to a thawing of the attitude of the Commonwealth to Imperial ships. The staff of civil servants who tend to the Imperial embassy in the port of Leerdam have reported a surge of interest in trade opportunities and cultural exchange with the Empire.
The stratocratic government of the Commonwealth, however, remains cautious. The additional tariffs and trade restrictions on visiting ships have been rescinded, restoring the status quo - but that is all. The diplomatic back channel suggests that the Commonwealth is now waiting for some concrete sign of the Empire's commitment. After all, idealistic but ultimately short lived efforts to restrict trade in some goods imported from some slaving nations aside, the Empire seems loathe to actually oppose the vile practice in any meaningful way.
The Amusement of Princes
The various trade restrictions the Jarmish princes in the North and South had placed on the Empire have now been relaxed to the point where nobody is bothering to enforce them anymore. The House of Princes will likely rescind them entirely in the next few months, but politics often moves quite slowly in Jarm. Apparently, the statement of the Senate about slavery has been largely dismissed by the Jarmish - treated as a political manoeuvre rather than a declaration with any real passion behind it.
Rumour suggests that the primary advisor to the House of Princes regarding international trade - Lord Magister Anton Trescher of the Hidden Hook - has dispatched a representative to the Empire to engage in formal negotiations with Imperial contacts. It is likely such a diplomat would expect to speak to representatives of the Imperial Conclave, at the very least.
The Sarcophan Delves continue to present a neutral face toward the Empire, remaining open and welcoming to Imperial trade. Unfortunately, they make no secret of the fact that they are also open to Grendel shipping. Indeed, reports are reaching the Empire that the Bedelaar Huisbaas have received a formal embassy from the Grendel Salt Lords, and reciprocated by sending diplomats of their own to open an embassy somewhere on the Broken Shore. They continue to make no demands of the Empire - neither reasonable or unreasonable - but several Sarcophan traders have expressed cautious approval for the Empire's statement against slavery.
One note of interest - there have been several inquiries made by Sarcophan merchants as to the nature and identity of the Krakenfire Armada, believed to be a Freeborn family of corsairs. Their interest in the Freeborn is unclear but does not appear threatening.
A Welcome in Axos
Following a visit to the Empire by a group of diplomats representing the remaining Axou citadels, the Imperial Senate has commissioned the construction of an embassy in Cargo, not far from the Jarmish embassy. The Axos have reciprocated, inviting the Senate to send civil servants to take residence in the Towers of Kantor - a bustling and vibrant citadel on the eastern coast of Axos. They have sent a formal invitation to captains of the Empire to bring their vessels to Axos to trade. Axos is believed to be rich in beggar's lye, and perhaps most seductively crystal mana.
The merchants of Kantor are looking forward to sending their own black-sailed ships to Imperial ports in hitherto unseen numbers which can surely only prove of benefit to the Empire. It remains to be seen whether they will endure the constant threat of Grendel pirates in the Bay of Catazar, or find alternate routes - this could be quite a boon to the ports on the shores of the Semmerlak should they choose to risk the Barren Sea approach.
Thoughts are free, talk is cheap, and actions are expensive. What's your worth?Noel DeJesus