"And where exactly are you going young man?"

Siward stared at the old woman and gulped nervously. Ymma was frail, she needed a stick to walk these days and her glasses were so thick they often fell off her nose, but the woman could still be intimidating when she put her mind to it. He reminded himself that the scops had named him Siward Cloud-Scraper because he was a full head over six foot tall and could swing a pick one-handed. It didn't help.

"Well? What have you got to say for yourself young man?" She raised the stick, and poked him with the end of it. Ymma Crowsbane was a legend in these parts, the only woman who made the Crows nervous when she asked what you were doing. She was certainly making him nervous now and the worst part of it was that he had absolutely no idea why.

"It's a treasure I found, working the mine, Ymma. It's mine by law." The last bit came out much more defensively than he'd planned. It was his, he dug it up, that's all there was to it.

"I never said it weren't yours Siward. What I asked was what you were planning to do with it?" She glowered at him over the top of her spectacles, made only slightly less intimidating by the fact that she appeared to be staring at his neck.

"I was going to send it to Anvil, Ymma - the service say they'll sell it for me at the auction."

Even as he said it, he could see it was a mistake. The old woman poked him again, "You'll do nothing of the sort young man! Don't you listen at all?" She waved her stick in the air, like a weapon. "The Crows say we're to send nothing to Anvil until we get what's ours. You find a buyer round here young man. The treasure goes to Wintermark or it stays in your pocket."

He was left staring at her back as she turned and walked away. He looked round the room, for some support from his fellow miners, but everyone turned their back, studiously minding their own business when he looked at them. A local buyer would pass less than at Anvil but it might be worth it if it kept Ymma Crowsbane off his back.

Overview

During the Winter Solstice three mandates were raised in the Prosperity, Highguard; the Highborn assembly sent Raziel of the Shattered Tower to urge the Highborn not to deal with the public auction; the Prosperity assembly sent Edna of the Chantry to urge the prosperous to do the same, the General Assembly. All three were upheld - one with a Greater Majority. The General assembly sent Bartimeus to urge people to strengthen their nations rather than line their pockets.

The Benefit of the People

  • The mandate of the general assembly urges Imperial citizens to look to ways to invest in the strength of their nations.
  • Fewer wains of weirwood and mithril are being sent to Anvil for auction. No wains of white granite or rings of ilium are being sent to Anvil for auction
  • Fewer metals, natural materials, crystal mana, and herbs are being sent to Anvil for auction
  • Statements of principle that encourage citizens to put money ahead of virtue, or encourage nations to sacrifice themselves for the "greater good" are less likely to lead to mandates.

The mandate of Bartimeus reminded Imperial citizens that "the virtuous build up their fellows, and take pride in their people. Rather than looking to line their own pockets, Imperial citizens should seek ways to strengthen their own nations - and by doing so strengthen the Empire as a whole." This has had a number of significant effects.

The mandate contains a refutation of the idea that Imperial citizens should put money ahead of virtue, or that any nation should feel obligated to sacrifice themselves for some notional "greater good". The Empire is made up of ten equal nations - it is the Empire that should support the nations and not the other way around. Statements of principle that promote personal wealth as more important than personal virtue, or that encourage a nation to make sacrifices so another nation can become stronger, are very unlikely to produce any significant effect until at least a year has passed (until the start of the Spring Equinox 382YE).

The Public Auction

The amount of mithril and weirwood being sent for auction at Anvil has halved, as people withhold their resources in line with the urging of the Prosperity Assembly. It is unclear at the moment whether this will be a temporary dip, and numbers will begin to climb again over time; a new status quo; or only the first signs of a lack of confidence in the public auction.

There has also been a noticeable drop in the amount of metals, natural materials, crystal mana, and even herbs made available. The drop in the latter has been somewhat mitigated by the presence of herbs supplied by merchants from the Sarcophan Delves. Again it is unclear what will happen in the long term.

The Synod mandate has been exacerbated by an unlikely source - Faraden traders. Already disgruntled by the imposition of sanctions against their nation, they further claim that the public auction is "rigged". They claim that the metals they placed for auction at Anvil were purchased for an absolute pittance then - allegedly - resold for a major profit. In their eyes, this is a crime against Prosperity as well as an indication that the auction cannot be trusted. Their accusations fall on deaf ears as often as not - but for all the differences between the Faraden and the Empire it is difficult to deny that they are both generally trustworthy merchants and that they embrace the virtue of Prosperity as fervently as any Imperial citizen.

Proposals

The mandate encouraged citizens to suggest methods whereby the bounty of their nation, and the wealth of its citizens, might be put to work for the benefit of the nation itself. Proposals in the Marches to support soldiers billeted there have in part been inspired by this mandate, as has the proposal to fortify Graven rock. Varushkan enthusiasm for purchasing Bourse seats from the Empire has been inflamed as much by Bartimeus as by Nisha Strascovitch and Yevanshka Nicolaiova, as has continued interest in the Iron Roads, and the Iron Roundtower is explicitly patterned after the Cinderpath Exchange.

There are also suggestions from Navarr, and the Brass Coast to be considered. These are only a few examples, and while not every nation has created proposals for ways the people could work together to create something greater, it is likely that opportunities such as these will continue for the next year (until the start of the Spring Equinox 384YE at the very least).

Further Guidance

  • A statement of principle in a National assembly that relates to strengthening or improving the prosperity of that nation an receives a simple majority will receive the same attention as one that receives a greater majority.

One message has come back repeatedly from people of all nations; there are any number of things that could be done but in some ways it is the role of the priests of each national assembly to advise their people on the best course of action. As such, any assembly that has identified specific ways that their people may strengthen the nation rather than line their own pocket is encouraged to submit a statement of principle suggesting courses of action. Given the current interest among the people of the nations in such proposals, any statement specifically suggesting ways the nation could be strengthened will receive the same attention if it gains a simple majority as it might if it gained a greater majority.

The Saga of the Cinderpath Exchange

  • The Cinderpath Exchange has not been commissioned
  • Virtuous citizens across the empire are withholding their white granite; there will be none available on the public auction.

In the first place, it seems clear that the Synod - at least the Highborn and Prosperity assemblies - are very keen on the construction of the Cinderpath Exchange. With work on the Virtue's Rest finally finally underway, the Highbon need for white granite is even more acute. Even after they are complete, their impact will be significantly reduced without suitable roads for pilgrims such as those proposed by Johanna of Ravensfell. Then there is the proposal to refurbish the Basilica of Seven Doors, and of course the suggested Palaces of the Cardinals which - although they would benefit more than just the Highborn - would mark the White City as the equal in beauty of far away Timoj. Of course all this white granite has to come from somewhere, and the situation made much more complicated by the Imperial plan to fortify the southern coast against the Grendel.

Despite the mandates of the Synod, there has been no further movement by the senate to commission the Exchange. Following the urging of the priests of both Highguard and the Prosperity assembly, not only have Highborn citizens with wains of white granite declined to sent them to Anvil for sale on the public auction, but so too have prosperous citizens across the Empire.

As a consequence, there will be no white granite for sale through the public auction during the Spring Equinox. Indeed, unless the situation changes dramatically, there will be no white granite available until the Cinderpath Exchange is completed. If the Cinderpath exchange were constructed, then a significant proportion of the white granite being withheld would make its way to Anvil in the seasons following, while the material kept back by the people of Highguard would likely be offered to the custodian of the Cinderpath for first refusal.

Constitutional Challenge

  • If the Cinderpath Exchange were built - the only constitutional path for appointment would be by the Imperial Bourse.

After the Winter Equinox a challenge was submitted to the Constitutional Court, asserting that appointment by judgement of the Highguard Assembly would violate the constitution which asserts that "The Bourse shall control access to those resources..." (meaning materials such as White Granite) and that it "...shall be free of all interference of the Senate, or from the Synod."

After consideration, the Constitutional Court have confirmed that this interpretation is correct. If the Cinderpath Exchange were built the constitutional appointment path would be via the Bourse, which in Highguard would mean by vote of congregation owners, rather than a judgement by the Highborn Assembly, a subtle but important distinction.

The Wealth of the Forest

There have always been Navarr who are bitter about the fact that their lands contain not one but three large weirwood forests - but only one of them is actually in Navarr hands. The Golden Trees in Miaren and the Heartwood of the Great Vale in Hercynia are both Imperial resources. The Navarr territories produce nearly a third of the weirwood used by the Empire - yet they control less than a fifth of that production. More than a few brokers grumble that this situation is unfair; the creation of the new Senate power of relinquishment gives them some hope this injustice might be rectified - but that would require significant political power. However, with the approval of the Synod, some of them have been inspired to lay their own version of the Cinderpath Exchange before the Navarr senators.

At various points in Imperial history, loose conglomerates of Navarr brokers have "bought back" what many see as their legacy - using unexpected monetary reserves to seize the "missing" Navarr weirwood and using it to improve the herb gardens and forest reserves of the Navarr. Inspired by the concept of the Cinderpath, they suggest formalising that arrangement going forward.

Where the Cinderpath Exchange is seen as a manifestation of the Prosperity of Highguard, the Navarr are perhaps more concerned with ideas of Loyalty and Pride. Showing loyalty by building up one's fellows, and the kind of national pride that inspires and celebrates. Recognising that the Navarr produce a significant portion of the weirwood used in the Empire, and encouraging the people to see it used for the betterment of the nation rather than lining their own pockets, could be a powerful message to send.

Total Money SpentProduction
96 Crowns4 wains Weirwood
192 Crowns8 wains Weirwood
288 Crowns12 wains Weirwood

The Invisible Cord Brokerage

Miaren is central not only to the Navarr but also in the Empire, as well as having one of the largest known weirwood forests. As a consequence, the city of Seren would seem to be the ideal location for a brokerage dedicated to collecting weirwood from across the nation.

The Invisible Cord Brokerage would function just like any other ministry, but rather than providing mundane materials it would allow virtuous foresters and lumerjacks to bring their weirwood here and exchange it for a fair amount of money. Those using the exchange would be secure in the knowledge that not only were they enriching themselves, and receiving a just reward for their Prosperity, but they were helping their people and their nation.

The ministry would need an Imperial title to oversee it - the Broker of the Invisible Cord perhaps - the constitutional path for appointment would be through Bourse by the owners of herb gardens. In addition to having custodianship of the ministry, the brokers who have proposed the title suggest that the responsibilities of the title holder include securing more weirwood for Navarr, explicitly for the betterment of the nation - expanding herb gardens and forest enclaves, building new structures, supporting the armies and fortifications, and so on.

As with the Cinderpath Exchange, brokerage comes with its own set of consequences. The amount of weirwood available through the public auction would drop by eight wains each season; a significant decrease that reflects how much weirwood is taken from the Navarr woodlands.

Constructing the Brokerage would require a Senate motion (or a wayleave), and would cost 16 wains of weirwood and 32 crowns. It would take three months to complete. The constitutional path for such an appointment would be appointment by the Bourse.

The Treasures in the Depths

Wintermark is not rich in the materials that allow for grand constructions; its wealth lies rather in its people and the materials from which magic items are created. The exceptions were the Stonefield Ice Caves (ceded to the Thule along with the Silver Peaks,) and the Brilliant Shore (ceded to the Imperial Orcs along with Skarsind). Even the recently located Pride of Ikka's Tears has fallen to the Jotun.

The loss of the Brilliant Shore means that Wintermark has no ready source of white granite to build and repair fortifications. The loss of the Pride of Ikka's Tears means they struggle to strengthen their armies. The loss of the Stonefield Ice Caves means they struggle to find the starmetal needed to create powerful artifacts to equip the heroes of Wintermark. The Synod's mandate reminds the proud Winterfolk that alone of all the nations of the Empire they have no seat on the Imperial Bourse, and little access to the vital materials that would strengthen their nation.

Total Money SpentProduction
96 Crowns4 rings of Ilium
192 Crowns6 rings of Ilium
288 Crowns8 rings of Ilium

The Clever Magpie

Wintermark has long been an important source of ilium in the Empire. The Stonefield Ice Caves once served the runesmiths and artisans of Wintermark before it was given to the Thule. The loss of that Caves has made it harder for the smiths of the Mark to fashion wondrous new artifacts. Ilium comes from three places commonly; from the sky, from the waters, and from deep underground. Wintermark has more than its fair share of all three sources - but most of it ends up on the public auction or used for personal projects.

The Suaq suggest purchasing the ilium... but not just from Wintermark. Thanks to the roads that connect Kalpaheim to rest of the Empire, they can get ilium from anyone who is prepared to sell it to them. They urge suaq merchants to turn all their cunning to acquiring Ilium from across the north and returning it to Wintermark.

To facilitate this ambitious plan would require a suitable trading hall, the Clever Magpie, in Kalpaheim, where the various trades could be managed and recorded. It would require weirwood and white granite to construct the hall but also mithril to create a secure vault and provide for the guards needed to protect it. This would mean a Senate motion (or a wayleave), and would cost 6 wains of weirwood, 6 wains of mithril and 6 wains of white granite and 36 crowns. It would take three months to complete. The constitutional path for such an appointment would be appointment by the Bourse.

If the Clever Magpie were completed and Sermersuaq is freed of the Jotun and returned to Wintermark, then the maximum ilium available to the Clever Magpic would increase. There would be an option to pay more to purchase 10 rings rather than a lesser amount.

The supplies of ilium to the public auction have recently dropped as a result of the Synod mandate passed by the General Assembly, however the civil service do not anticipate them dropping further if the Clever Magpie were constructed.

There is Pride in Sanctuary

  • A hostelry dedicated to helping those seeking sanctuary in the Empire could be built in Madruga

One statement of principle that on the surface appears to buck the trend for focusing purely on internal national mattes was raised by Constanza i Kalamar i Guerra and upheld with a greater majority by the Freeborn national assembly. Not only did it call on the people of the Brass Coast to take Pride in the ties that bind them together, it urged them to support those who find themselves in need of family - albeit in typically Freeborn manner it suggested that helping refugees was as much an investment in the nation as an altruistic act.

During the Autumn Equinox last year there was some discussion of creating a sanctuary specifically designed to serve as a base of operations for Imperial citizens dedicated to offering assistance to those seeking a new home in the Empire. The statement of Constanza i Kalamar i Guerra comes at an opportune time, when the difficulties faced by newcomers to the Empire are all too clear.

The House of Guerra

Total Money SpentProduction
7 Crowns6 liao
17 Crowns12 liao
34 Crowns18 liao
50 Crowns24 liao

As such, there is a proposal that alongside the Zemress seminary in Calvos a hostelry and office called the Hand of Guerra could be constructed. It would require a commission by the Imperial Senate or the Bearer of an Imperial Wayleave. The structure would require 20 wains of white granite to build, and 40 crowns in labour costs. It would take three months to complete.

The commission would create an Imperial title - the suggestion is that it be called the Hand of Guerra - that would be responsible for helping refugees adjust to new lives in the Empire, as well as for spreading the philosophy of Guerra to the Empire - and indeed the world. To aid them in this, supporters would make amounts of liao available to help the Hand of Guerra support mandates that opposed the institution of slavery, or helped those fleeing oppression to find sanctuary in the Empire.

The title would most likely be appointed by the Freeborn national assembly, but there is no requirement that the title holder be a priest. It would be a Freeborn national position, however. In addition to the ministry, and the responsibility to promote abolitionism and provide safe homes for refugees the Hand of Guerra would be an obvious person for other abolitionists to contact with proposals that will help spread Guerra's philosophy.