The heavy ball arced across the field, water flying from the leather as it spun. The day had started dry, perfect weather for foot-the-ball, but an hour before kick-off rain clouds, thick as clotted cream had turned up. By the time the two teams were ready, it was raining cats and dogs. As the match wore on the field was churned to ankle deep mud. Now with twenty minutes left to play the game had descended into a contest of endurance more than skill.

That suited Wayford Wanderer's star player just fine. He was a beater by profession, well used to walking the hills in any weather. A little bit o' rain and mud was not going to put Jim Moor off his stride. There had been heavy betting on Oddmire before the match and their rivals had tak'n an early lead. Two goals behind after fifteen minutes shoulda been the end of it. But the muddier it got the harder Oddmire were finding it to tackle Jim. He'd pulled one goal back already - one more and they'd be level.

What was left of the crowd were screaming. Only the most loyal ones were still watching - but to be fair the rain was so thick now, it was getting hard for anyone to see what was going on. Most of them were Oddmire supporters, but there was one shouting Jim's name.

A great hulking shape loomed out of the dismal rain. Drew Irons, the Oddmire fullback was a giant of a man, slower than pig slurry, but six-six and fists like anvils. Jim tucked his head down and looked to swerve the fellow. If one of Drew's fists connected, you were not getting back up in a hurry.

It was only at the last minute that he realised that the man in his way stunk like a week-long fishmarket on a hot day. That should have been the clue that it was not who he thought it was... but no-one like Drew Irons much and good cider takes good apples.

Quick as eel the fellow pounced on him, bearing him down into the mud. The ball came free, but instead of letting him go, his opponent reared back and then lunged forwards to bite a chunk out of his shoulder.

"Aggh!" he screamed in pain, feeling a dozen razor sharp fangs sinking into the flesh through the thick leather of his jerkin. Finally, much too late, he realised this was not Drew Irons, nor any of the Oddmire regulars. At first he thought the little bastards were fielding a bloody ringer, but the murderous look in the creature's eyes quickly cured him of that notion. The thing's face was a mass of murky grey scales, with two great big black eyes bulging out of his skull and a mouth full of pike's teeth. Quite a few of the Oddmire lot were fendwellers, but this one didn't look like any bogfisher Jim had ever seen.

They wrestled in the mud rolling over and over, but the thing was as strong as an ox, and within seconds Jim could feel a pair of cold clammy hands wrap themselves round his neck and begin to choke the life out of him. He struggled desperately, but the monster was just too strong. He flailed around wildly, as he clawed for his last breath. Somewhere he could hear the crowd screaming, but it was all going dark.

Then he felt something rough and hard under his right hand, bigger than a goose egg but small enough to grasp. He grabbed it and with his last breath, slammed the rock into the side of the monster's head with all the force he could muster. The creature roared and reared back, the grip on his throat gone for just long enough to gasp a mouthful of air. He pulled back and swung the rock a second time, striking the creature full in the face so that one of the bulging eyes burst like a bag of wet sick.

The creature roared and tried to pull away, but Jim grabbed at the thing and rolled over so that he was on top. "You're not going anywhere, you fishy little bastard" he spat and he slammed the rock down over and over until the thing lay still.

Clambering to his feet he looked at the carnage around him. The field was panic-stricken, people screaming and running everywhere, creatures running after them like wolves after a flock. At least three of his team mates were down, with sharp toothed monsters tearing into their bodies.

For a brief second he contemplated running. But there was no way he was getting away, so he started marching straight towards the nearest one. If he was going down, then so be it. These bog-eared bastards wouldn't take him without a fight...
When Saturday Comes.jpg
Pride in small things, Loyalty to great ones.
Click for audio version


Thanks to the soldiers of Cold Sun, the entire Empire has been in a state of turmoil. Yet some nations have more than their fair share of disruption and chaos. The Marches is one such nation. While fortifications and armies billeted in Upwold and Mitwold have helped deal with the invading heralds of the Day realm, it sometimes seems as if the people of the Marches are their own worst enemies. In Mitwold, the attack from the Day realm is complicated by savage heralds of the Maelstrom, although the outcome of these attacks is entirely unexpected. In Bregasland, the lingering impact of Mathilda Fisher's attempt to establish an independent nation between Jotun and Empire are still being felt. In the Mourn the matter of the Mournwold Orcs comes to a head - less violent and disruptive than anarchic entities and simmering grudges but with much further reaching implications, perhaps. At least Upwold is quiet; Freeborn and Navarr soldiers rubbing shoulders with human Marchers and Mournwold orcs and the occasional Free Folk straggler, all working together to tend the harvest under the Summer Sun. In between fighting off the emissaries of Cold Sun, of course.

Stormy Monday (Mitwold)

Hue and cry! Marchers be vigilant! Siakha heralds are present in Marcher lands and have started hunting Mitwolders. The Marcher Assembly calls for priests to prepare. Anoint your fellows. Consecrate your spaces. Hallow your weapons. Hue and cry! Hue and cry!

Friar Jonathan Piper, Summer Solstice 385YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 174-0)

Drakes, we have campaigned hard this year against the Jotun, now we turn for home. We will help with the harvest and billet with our families, but stay alert! For Foes hunt abroad in our land.


Folks grumbled a little when Tancred of Meade ordered the Drakes to billet in Mitwold. Of course it's great to have a little extra help with the fields, people love the Drakes, but shouldn't they be off in Tromsa with the other armies hunting down Mathilda Fisher? The orders come down that everyone is to stay alert because an attack is expected, but there are more than a few eyebrows raised. Where is this attack coming from? The Jotun are bloody miles away... The warning by Friar Jonathan Piper provides an explanation, but people struggle to appreciate the scale of the threat. There's no sign of this Siakha and surely the heroes at Anvil can deal with a dozen heralds?

Those grumbles come to an abrupt end when the forces of Cold Sun attack. In reality Forte Fidelis would probably have been enough to ensure that Cold Sun is unable to get a toehold in the territory, but it doesn't hurt one bit to have the Drakes there watching every farm for any sign of trouble. They quickly deal with the incipient threat. More than one tankard of ale is raised in thanks to the general for putting Marchers first for a bloody change. Everyone is relieved that the danger has been averted.

And that's when the sharks come...

The Attack

  • The Drakes have taken 30 casualties and cannot resupply
  • The army has managed to protect almost everyone, but the Wayford Wanderers are no more

The first sign of real trouble is when the foot-the-ball match between the Wayford Wanderers and the Oddmire Allfriars is attacked by a pack of hungry sharks. Not sharks precisely, these monsters have a human-ish body topped with a fish-like head with a mouth full of razor sharp fangs. They come out of the Eastmere, during a heavy storm, and attack everyone at the match, apparently intent on consuming everyone present. A bloody battle ensues - most of the sharks are dead or fled by the time the fighting is done, but there are only a handful of survivors from those participating and watching the match. The Allfriars managed to flee the worst of it, but Jim Moor, the Wanderers' captain, and his team mates go into the good earth. By the time it's all done, the Wayford Wanderers have played their last match and are no more.

There are more attacks in the weeks that follow, scores of them the length and breadth of Mitwold. They are usually presaged by heavy storms that seem to blow up out of nowhere. There is no rhyme or rhythm to the attacks. No strategy that anyone can perceive. Just wild abandon, murderous rage and an apparently insatiable desire to consume every living thing in Mitwold. Not just lives are threatened: the creatures take delight in firing farmsteads and salting the earth in fields, farms and gardens.

Shark mouths.jpg
Siakha's heralds are invariably savage killers.

It is hard to conceive how badly Mitwold might have suffered... were it not for the presence of the Drakes. Everywhere the sharks show up, Tancred's soldiers are ready for them. Wild savagery may be terrifying for a helpless friar or a defenceless landskeeper, but it's no match at all for a line of bills and stout brigs. Scores of the shark monsters are literally gutted like fish, in skirmishes running the length and breadth of Mitwold. From the Meadows to Oddmire to the Golden Downs, wherever the monsters attack.... Tancred's forces are ready and waiting for them.

They don't get off scot free of course. The best part of thirty lives are lost to the attack and any hope of a quiet season of resupplying in Mitwold are lost. But a hundred lives are saved for every one that is lost. Tancred's prudent foresight and planning has saved Mitwold from an unimaginable fate. By the end of the season, the Drakes are struggling to keep order in the ranks, because every time one of them goes to a tavern or an inn, there are a dozen people trying to buy them a drink.

The view of most folk in Mitwold is that Jim Moor might not be on the pitch anymore, but it's still Marchers 1, Sharks 0 at full time.

The Aftermath

  • In recognition of their strength, the Maelstrom offers a boon to the Drakes
  • Accepting the Maelstrom's offer is almost certainly illegal while Siakha is under enmity

If there was ever any real doubt who is behind the attack on Mitwold, then it is largely dispelled by the arrival of a messenger as the season draws to a close. A ragged orc arrives onboard a merchant ship in Meade. They are dressed in the colours of the Grendel but claim to serve the Maelstrom rather than the Salt Lords' Council. They ask to parlay with a representative of the land's defenders. There is some reluctance to accept the parlay, but technically the Empire are still at peace with the Grendel and so eventually they are shown into the presence of a representative of the Drakes.

Once there the orc confirms that the attacks on Mitwold represent the will of the Maelstrom. He claims that the Maelstrom has taken what was offered - no more and no less. But the Marchers have proved they are a match for the Mother-of-Wrecks and thus she has decided to grant them the boon the Empire requested.

Once - and once only - the general of the Drakes may invoke her aid by issuing orders to their army calling on the Empress of Sharks to join them in battle that season. If that happens, then Siakha will send their heralds to prey on the weak, the wounded, and the bloodied on both sides. There will be more deaths in every army; the Maelstrom does not play favourites. If that happens then the savage, brutal cruelty will also terrify the weak-willed - those armies on either side that lack the strength of will to survive will break.

If the boon is invoked, all casualties taken by armies in the same territory with the Drakes (and the Drakes themselves) will increase by a tenth. Any army in the same territory that falls below a military strength of 1,500 (or 2,250 for a Large army) will break. The presence of Siakha's blessing is impossible to conceal and is always obvious to all other armies in the same territory. Invoking the Empress of Sharks curses a territory so that all participants in battle are pushed towards fury and bloodshed. Soldiers fight with ruthless zeal, butchering any enemy they get an opportunity to kill. Casualties of all forces are increased as soldiers seek out opportunities to punish the enemy. Every opportunity is taken to maximise the suffering of the enemy, those who are captured or surrender find themselves brutally executed and summary justice is meted out to any civilian who acts to support the enemy.

Despite the use of various different sobriquets, it is painfully clear that the "Maelstrom" is simply Siakha, an eternal that is very definitely under enmity. Trading or dealing with an eternal under enmity is illegal and will be investigated as treason. That means it is illegal to use the boon. Nor can the Conclave endorse the use of it - the only thing they could do is lift the enmity on Siakha - which would make the Empire vulnerable to further attacks from the eternal. If this "boon" had a physical form - if it was an item that someone could hold, then Imperial law instructs the militia to confiscate and destroy the item. But there is nothing to seize here - and no possibility that Tancred can be accused of breaking the law simply because this promise has been made. It would only be a crime if they (or their successor) chose to invoke this boon while Siakha is under enmity.

Of course that assumes anyone in the Marches has the slightest interest in the accepting the "reward" of an eternal that has just spent three months trying to slaughter every living being in Mitwold.

OOC Note: There is no time-limit on this boon but it can be invoked once ever. It must be absolutely clear from the general's orders that the boon is being invoked otherwise nothing will happen.

A Passing Grade

  • Mitwold fleets that raided the Jotun coasts return with double the returns they were expecting
  • Marcher fleets that are enchanted with Blood and Salt this downtime will receive an additional four additional measures of Tempest Jade

Not everyone in Mitwold suffers in the attacks taking place in the territory this season. Those Marcher fleets that spend the months far away from home and only return at the end of the season are broadly oblivious to what is going on... But not it seems, too far to be affected. When the first Meade ship returns from raiding along the Gullet Shore their holds groan double the returns they were expecting. They speak of sharks in the Gullet, and of peculiar assistance in finding rich Jotun targets to attack. Captains have strange tales of assistance from powerful shark-like creatures that shadowed their vessels the whole time, waiting for any opportunity to attack their enemies. Some were led to where damaged ships waited, lilting in the water. Others find their vessel steered by chaotic winds towards the most vulnerable Jotun settlements, or report a strange bird with a bloodied beak that led them to the easy pickings on a Jotun caravan too close to the water's edge. The Landskeepers make a careful investigation of the phenomena. There is no sign of dubious enchantments on the vessels themselves. There is some boon at work - some powerful Spring magic - but there is no evidence at all that it is any part of the captain's doing.

At the same time the ragged Grendel is meeting with the Drakes, an even more peculiar emissary visits Jarvey "Strongoar" Oddsboy, the steward of the small Marcher household who oversees Steward's Landing. A massive mad-eyed "orc", skin marked with contrasting piebald patches of black and white, with a mouthful of pointed teeth apparently dragged herself out of the waters of the Gullet and sought out the Marcher steward with a message from Blood-in-the-Water. The creature - it becomes increasingly clear that they are no kind of orc - has been charged to deliver a message to the "soft, meaty southern folks." Their strength has been noticed and Blood-in-the-Water recognises it and offers boons to the saltfolk and soilfolk alike. It takes a little while to understand precisely what is being offered but once the details are untangled, the creature departs. Strongoar immediately sets about sharing what he has learned.

"Blood-in-the-Water" is clearly another name for Siakha. The eternal sees the Drakes as indistinguishable from the people of the Marches. She offers a boon during the Autumn Equinox. Any coven or magician from the Marches performing Blood and Salt or Merciless Wrath of the Reaver on Marcher targets can draw on the boon. The targets must be cut - enough to inflict a wound (that is, a cut inflicting at least a hit of damage) - and blood allowed to flow. The contributors must invoke Siakha by one of her common names and accept her boon. If this is done, then the ritual will be empowered. (OOC Note: The ritualists will need to make sure the referee knows they are invoking the boon so it can be recorded alongside the ritual effect).

  • Blood and Salt will provide two additional ingots of tempest jade to anyone taking the privateering action, or four additional ingots if they participate in the Raid Kalsea's coastline adventure.
  • Merciless Wrath of the Reaver will provide two additional ingots of tempest jade if they undertake independent action, but unlike the normal effect of the ritual the target military unit will also gain the benefits of the ritual if they support a Marcher army.
  • In both cases the roleplaying effects of the ritual are heightened; rather than fading after ten minutes they persists for as long as the enchantment lasts.
  • If one of the two rituals is made permanent with ilium both the heightened effects and the roleplaying effect are made permanent.
  • The effect on the fleet or military unit are also heightened; your crew or soldiers will be noticeably bloodthirsty, violent, and keen to engage in brutal combat even when guarding a caravan or patrolling a region. You should consider including elements of this in any story you make about what you and your personal resource do during downtime.

The obvious problem with this boon is that it comes from an eternal under enmity. It is a crime to invoke this boon, and anyone caught doing so will likely face prosecution, so anyone planning to do so would need to avoid being caught by the militia. The discern enchantment effect of detect magic will not reveal an enchantment on a personal resource. However, Bright Lantern of Ophis cast on a character whose resource has been enchanted in this way will reveal that they have been used as the conduit for a ritual empowered by a Spring eternal provided the magician specifically asks the referee.

The Marcher assembly recognises the service of the folk of House Greywater in support of the Strong Reeds in Bregasland as equivalent to two years service in a Marcher army, entitling them to a parcel of Bregas land, as any others who serve would receive.

Friar Rosemary Stamp, Summer Solstice 385YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 176-0)

War Requiem (Bregasland)

The defenders of Bregasland draw on the power of magical wards to help protect the scattered households from Cold Sun. While the invaders are a threat, they are a straightforward one that can be resolved with martial might.

If only all the problems in Bregasland in the wake of its liberation from the Fishers could be settled so easily! As it is, there is a swirling stew of grudges, old rivalries, jealousy, and anger bubbling away in the fens, and it is dangerously close to coming to a boil. The rejection of the Greywater's request coupled with the offers of forgiveness extended to those households who were turned against the Empire has left the territory in a febrile state. The magistrates and militia are doing everything they can to maintain order at present, but the situation demands urgent action.

House Greywater

With the Greywaters mostly returned to their holdings, it should be possible to send a Winged Messenger to Steward Margery Greywater at Greywater Farm, North Fens, Bregasland although what sort of reception such a message would receive is hard to predict..
  • House Greywater are unhappy with the response of the Synod and Senate

When the Jotun and their self-styled Steward were in Bregasland, House Greywater were front-and-centre in the resistance. They worked with the Strong Reeds to stymie the orcs and the Fishers at every turn. The Marcher Assembly recognised their Loyalty, Courage, and Vigilance, and urged their neighbours to put the House's bad reputation behind them. Before the Summer Solstice, Margery Greywater suggested that if the Assembly really wanted to reward them, the household could get good use out of the damaged Bregasland breadbasket buildings. They would store food and seed in the silos, and charge other farmers to keep their excess supplies in them. This would provide a good living for House Greywater, and secure their Prosperity. But it would mean no more Breadbasket in Bregasland, which would have obvious downsides. There was no sign the Marcher senators are interested in giving the Greywaters what they have asked for - or anything else in fact. At the Summer Solstice, the Keeper of the Breadbasket (working through a proxy) stumped up the money to restore the Bregasland granaries and seed stores, and the Greywaters are smart enough to know that means their request isn't going to be fulfilled.

Friar Rosemary Stamp suggested that their "service" to Bregasland was equivalent to the service any Marcher might give if they fought alongside an army; that they could be given a parcel of farmland as a reward. Leaving aside the fact that no national assembly can change how the reward of land secured in the Imperial Constitution can be applied, the suggestion is of no benefit to House Greywater. Margery Greywater publicly points out that her Household already has farmland - much of it secured by exactly the kind of service Friar Rosemary suggests. They have as much land as they can farm already, more won't help them one iota. What she wanted was an actual reward for the Loyalty of the Greywaters, for their Courage, and Vigilance, during the occupation of Bregasland. It's clear she's not happy with the Assembly response, nor that the Senator for Bregasland considered it more important to establish a sodality of artefact hunters than offer any kind of actual, measurable reward to her household.

It's probably not intentional, but the outcome has reinforced the prejudices of the Greywater's detractors. House Brawness in particular, known enemies of the Greywaters, are at the forefront of those suggesting that perhaps their contribution to the fight against the Jotun was not as great as they had claimed after all. Other households who have had problems with the Greywaters in the past agree; surely the Strong Reeds did the real work, and the Greywaters have overplayed how much support they gave them? Maybe they're just trying to poach some of the gratitude due General Amberlain and the brave soldiers of the 'Reeds. Perhaps the National Assembly was too hasty in suggesting that their virtues should be recognised in the first place. Maybe their vaunted "deep knowledge of the marshes" comes from the amount of sneaking around they do when they're looking to get rich off other peoples' hard work. And so on.

And a few Bregas mutter darkly that this apparent snubbing of House Greywater is exactly the kind of thing old Bushell Sykes was talking about. That the Empire, and the well-dressed Marchers who visit Anvil four times a year, talk a good game but once push comes to shove discard anyone who is no longer immediately useful to them. "Pride in small things, loyalty to great ones indeed," they say, and spit.


  • Three significant households stand accused of collaboration with Mathilda Fisher

Mathilda Fisher may have come with Jotun support, but she made a song and dance of trying to turn Bregasland into an independent nation rather than a vassal of the orcs. She made any number of claims about her plans, and about the Empire, and some people listened to her words. In the last few months of her tenure at Fisher's Rock, she went so far as to set up a Council of Bregas - inviting Stewards from many of the households in the territory to send representatives with whom "she planned to share power." Allegedly Bushel Sykes suggested the idea to her as a way to demonstrate Loyalty to the people who all too often viewed her and her family as foreign conquerors. It was not a great success, and seems to have been purely advisory, but now that Bregasland is back as part of the Marches, its legacy is one of suspicion.

It's no secret in Bregasland that some households were a little more... enthusiastic... about the presence of the Fishers than others. Mathilda did her best to woo any household that would support her reign, or listen to her wild claims and criticisms of the Empire. The Strong Reeds, the Greywaters, and the Marcher Assembly did their best to discourage people from paying too much attention to her obvious lies, but the Marchers are a practical and Ambitious people. Sometimes accommodations have to be made, if you don't want to give up your land. Few people are questioning those who kept their heads down in pursuit of a quiet life. Unfortunately, some people maybe went a way beyond that. Three households in particular are seeing a lot of angry glances in their direction now that the water is going down a little and the mud needs clearing.

House Brawness of the North Fens

Among some of the loudest voices questioning House Greywater's actual contributions to resisting the Jotun is House Brawness. Arguably they might be wiser to hold their tongues right now. During the occupation, they initially presented themselves as "neutral" with regards to the Fishers and the Jotun, and urged their neighbours to do the same. This didn't stop them being implicated in an attack against House Greywater's farms while they were busy fighting the Fishers. The orcs involved were stopped, and no conclusive evidence as to whether House Brawness were actively collaborating with them was recovered. There were claims at the time, reiterated now Bregalsand is free, that Steward Aldith Brawness and her yeomen allowed the Jotun to rest and recuperate in their lands, and that they received payment from the Fishers for their cooperation. Aldith herself took part in Mathilda's short-lived advisory council. The Brawness are a large household, and several smaller households in the North Fens looked to them for guidance. There are claims that that guidance was to work with the Jotun and the Fishers.

The Droverbill Clan of Grey Fens

The Droverbills of the south-eastern Grey Fens refer to themselves variously as a "clan" or "family" and it's a fair descriptor. The household encourages strong blood-ties, and nobody who isn't a Droverbill by birth or marriage has ever done well in dealings with them. They're known to be fairly Ambitious as well, always needling away at neighbouring farms, trying to persuade their fellow yeomen to sell up or join the family. The household is also notable because it's widely believed to have connections with the Feni of the deep marshes. They don't deny they did well during the occupation; they claim it was money earned by selling the produce of their lands. There are accusations that they were paid by Mathilda Fisher to use their influence with the Feni families to keep them from causing trouble for the Jotun. The Greywaters claim they turned down repeated requests for assistance against the invaders, claiming they weren't prepared to risk reprisals from the orcs. Steward Tress Droverbull sent her eldest daughter Joan to serve on the "Council of Bregas," and it's easy to see why folk in southern and eastern Bregasland are unhappy with the Droverbills.

The Clakes of Beandown

In the Rushes, not far from Sallow, the Clakes of Beandown served on Fisher's council and were gifted lands and animals taken from other households in the region. Their neighbours say that these gifts were given to them in return for information provided about households that were helping the Greywaters and the 'Reeds, or in some cases just talking about doing so, or just criticising the Fishers in general. Sammy Clake, steward of the house, has denied this, and returned some of the land, but argues that they worked hard in return for the goats the Jotun gave them - although he's remarkably reticent about explaining what that work was. Shortly after the Summer Solstice, three of the neighbouring households banded together to play the rough music for the Clakes. Shortly before the Autumn Equinox there is a more serious disturbance when a large group of yeomen attempted to take back goats they claimed were stolen from them, and found the Clakes waiting for them. Three people died in the resulting fracas, and the magistrates arrested two members of House Hiswen and Sammy Clake's elder brother Rory for their parts in these deaths.

Taking Action

  • The Magistrates have asked the Imperial Senate to provide a clear statement to help quieten tensions in Bregasland
  • Neither the Imperial Synod nor the Silent Bell can provide any additional help to resolve this situation
  • Every available option has significant drawbacks

There has been some talk at Anvil that the Bregas should show "benevolence" to those "who were turned away from the Empire by Bushel Sykes." While the words of Edmund of Barrowby came within a hair's breadth of a greater majority, the Assembly was clearly divided on where the problem lay. But even if they had been supported with a greater majority, it's not clear they would have made that much difference. There is a strong argument to be made that it wasn't Bushel Sykes that turned the Brawness, the Droverbills, the Cleeks, or any of the other larger households that ultimately supported Mathilda Fisher. They were turned, claim many of those who did not prosper under the Fishers, by their own Ambition and greed. All Bushel Sykes did was urge folk to put their Loyalty to Bregasland ahead of Loyalty to the Marches or the Empire.

Despite the calls for calm many in Bregasland are inclined to grudges, and as the business with the Clakes shows they're not afraid to act on them. Margery Greywater has been adding fuel to the fire pointing out that those who sided with the Fishers got fat purses full of thrones while those who opposed them got nowt but fair words. While three households are the target of most of the ire, there's a growing tide of resentment between people who think they suffered more than their neighbours did under the Jotun yoke, or who believe the folk from three farms over of having been sympathetic to the Fishers. There's even a few people who didn't pay a lot of attention to Bushel Sykes while he was alive, but who are now wondering if maybe he had a point.

The Silent Bell can't help - there is nothing they can discover that isn't widely known already. Their speciality is in finding threats to the Empire, with the Jotun gone and Bushel Sykes dead, there are no immediate threats. There's no suggestion that anyone is making any attempt to work with the Jotun or the Fishers now that they're gone. Likewise the Imperial Synod cannot calm this situation with statements or mandates, attitudes have hardened too much for people to be talked round now. A statement to get people fired up would be put a spark to the fire, but no-one is any mood to listen to an attempt to reduce the tensions at the moment.

The situation is becoming intolerable and the magistrates have asked the Imperial Senate to provide a statement, it won't carry legal standing, but it will led people know where they stand. That won't solve the bickering, but if the Senate act, it will be enough to stop a descent into violence - at least for now. As a result, the Civil Service have only been able to identify three possible courses of action that the Imperial Senate could take, each of which comes with very significant drawbacks.

Nothing dries faster than a tear.

Marcher Proverb

Draw A Line

  • The Senate could inform the Bregas that the magistrates have done all that can be done to investigate this matter and that they now intend to draw a line under the sorry affair
  • The Greywaters and everyone who opposed to Jotun will be furious that those who collaborated have gone unpunished

Guided by the magistrates, the militia have not been tardy in investigating matters in Bregasland. Chief Magistrate Karkovitch is eager to identify anyone who might have committed treason or other crimes during the occupation and see that due punishment follows. Sadly they have been stymied at every turn - there are wild accusations flying everywhere, but precious little proof. Every household that sat down and talked with Mathilda Fisher is close-mouthed and uncooperative - they deny everything they can. Nobody can give evidence against another house without incriminating themselves. A few unpopular individuals are identified and ratted out, to face trial, but it's painfully clear that the ringleaders of any collaboration with the Jotun are currently escaping justice.

Regrettably therefore, Karkovitch and his magistrates are faced with the unavoidable truth that unless they take extraordinary measures they are not going to find the proof they need to pass judgement on those who are guilty. What information they have amounts to gossip with no little evidentiary basis beyond hearsay and rumours. That summary (presented above) presents an unedifying picture, but it does not amount to sufficient to try anyone of importance for treason. Of course, they will always be open to new evidence, but as things stand, Karkovitch has asked the Speaker to inform the Senate that there is nothing further he can do and that the best thing now would be for the Senate to use a motion to let the Bregas now that the magistrates have done everything they can and that the Senate intends to draw a line under the matter and take no further action.

Such an approach also appears to be broadly in line with what the Marcher assembly wants. The statement of principle by Edmund of Barrowby seems to suggest that it is passed time for everyone in Bregasland to draw a line under this whole sorry mess. The Imperial Senate could adopt that as their official position - and if they explicitly use the phrase "draw a line" under this issue, then people in Bregasland will at least know where they stand.

This approach will obviously appeal to those households and their allies who are currently facing hostility of their neighbours. The problem is that it will infuriate House Greywater and everyone like them who refused to collaborate. The Greywaters gave everything to fight the Fishers. They left their lands to take up the fight, their homes were attacked and damaged, and they risked death at every turn while the Brawness and their allies profited by siding with the Fishers. What was the point in fighting for the Empire, they will bitterly ask, pointing out that they would have been better off siding with the Jotun. They won't take action now, the Senate motion will see to that, but it will store up trouble for years to come.

Sow, tend and reap; fight, toil and weep.

Marcher Proverb

Send In the Magistrates

  • The Senate could instruct the magistrates to go into Bregasland in force
  • Rooting out the traitors will cause massive upheaval in the territory will incur costs of 25 thrones and cause widespread disruption in the short term
  • The allies of everyone who is punished will grow more hostile to the Empire

In the past, when faced with the most dangerous recidivist elements, the Imperial Senate has given the magistrates the approval to use an overwhelming show of force to get results. Karkovitch has confirmed that that would be possible here, he is prepared to send hundreds of militia into Bregasland and turn over every household looking for evidence. Such an approach would be invasive, and divisive, it would create a great deal of hostility, albeit more from those who had something to hide. However, based on past experiences, Karkovitch believes it would work, it would give the magistrates the opportunity to find the evidence they need to prosecute those genuinely guilty of treason.

Legally, Karkovitch has the power to proceed, but rather than doing so, he is asking for the Senate to approve this course of action, because the costs are not inconsequential. Such approval will mean that more of the resulting anger is directed at the Senate and less at Karkovitch's people. And there will be significant anger - top-to-bottom searches of every household property, every farmstead, every barn, will cause widespread disruption in the lives of ordinary Bregas. The prognosticators calculate that such disruption would cost 25 thrones in the coming season, paying for losses and damages. More significantly, the upheaval would mean every personal resource in the territory take a -1 penalty to production following the event where the motion was passed (including fleets and military units).

As long as the motion backing the raids are raised by the Senator for Bregasland most of the Bregas would cooperate (although they would grumble about it). If a different Marcher senator raises the motion the grumbling would be louder; if a non-Marcher senator raised it then there might be open resistance to and opposition to the work of the Magistrates. Regardless of who does the dirty work, the nature of any investigation like this is that it will reap a harvest of bad feeling among everyone who counts one of the traitors as a friend. The punishment of the magistrates will fall squarely on the shoulders of the guilty, no-one who is innocent will be harmed. But there is a wide river between "guilty of treason" and "sympathetic to the Empire." Everyone whose sympathies lie with any of those who end up being executed will inevitably feel their friends were hard done by. They won't be in any position to do anything about it right now - because everyone who might have openly opposed Imperial rule in Bregasland will be dead - but it will store up trouble for years to come.

There's two ways to bury a hatchet.

Marcher Proverb

Let It Run Its Course

  • Karkovitch strongly advises the Senate not to leave the matter to the Bregas to resolve themselves
  • If that happens then Bregasland will explode into violence, as people take matters into their own hands to settle the scores
  • The Greywaters will extract their revenge, but the scars will harden into deep grudges for many years

If the Imperial Senate does not act, and nothing else is done, then the civil service predict that Bregas will take matters into their own hands. The simmering violence will explode and the households that supported the Empire will take bloody retribution from those who chose the other side. The violence won't last long - it will be a hot fire that burns out quickly. But Bregasland will face a season of chaos and carnage as people use this opportunity to settle old scores. The militia will do everything they can to maintain order, but as the situation with the Clakes shows, things can get out of hand very quickly. Imperial commissions in the territory will definitely be at risk unless an army is stationed in Bregasland to protect structures like the recently repaired Breadbasket.

Imperial prognosticators calculate that the Greywaters and their allies will likely come out on top, not least because they will probably be the instigators of much of the violence. Individual members of House Brawness, the Clakes, and the Droverbills might remain, but the households will be gone. Their leaders will face rough music or worse, and their estates will be looted and fired. The wealth they acquired from collaborating with the Fishers will be shared out amongst those Households who remained loyal to the Empire.

This will be a disaster for the rule of law in the Empire, and Karkovitch strongly requests that the Imperial Senate do not take this route. To do would be tacitly accepting that the people of Bregasland are going to take the law into their own hands and go way beyond rough music and shunning. The magistrates will do what they can to stop the violence and to investigate afterwards but they will be powerless to stop it unless the Imperial Senate acts.

If that happens, then those who likely collaborated would pay the price. The taxation derived from Bregasland would be permanently impacted as a result of the lost households but it would ensure there was no possibility of anyone collaborating with Mathilda Fisher or her kin should they return in the short term. However it will store up trouble for years to come as those on losing side who survive will nurse bitter grudges against their enemies, in the Marches and the Empire.

The Death of Bushel Sykes

  • Poacher and instigator Bushel Sykes has been killed
  • Accusations of murder have been made naming several prominent Imperial citizens

No discussion of collaboration in Bregasland would be complete without a mention of Bushel Sykes. An unrepentant poacher, the man openly threw his lot in with Mathilda Fisher and her household. He helped the Jotun widen Odd's Way, and used stolen liao to create auras of Loyalty supporting the Fishers. There were concerns that he could continue to spread rebellion even after the Fishers themselves were driven out. He claimed to be motivated more by a dislike of the Empire than any affection for the self-styled Steward and her family. In the end though he turned up in Ottery, making no attempt to hide. And then he turned up dead.

Most people would be unsurprised that a man as cantankerous as 'Shel Sykes met a bad end, but there is a significant problem. According to a witness, Harry Brewer, the landlord of the Wet Dog tavern, Sykes was murdered by "folk from Anvil." Harry raised a hue and cry, but Sykes' killers evaded justice; it's believed they were visiting Ottery through the Sentinel Gate and fled to Anvil after the deed was done. Harry identified two of the killers - none other than Amberlain P. Black herself, the general of the Strong Reeds, and her fellow general Highborn General Asenath of the Granite Pillar. They were accompanied by three others including a Freeborn, a Marcher priest, and another Marcher. Harry Brewer has provided sworn testimony that they killed Sykes in cold blood. The landlord was not privy to the entire conversation, but says that Sykes was killed to prevent him telling folk in Bregasland to cleave to their Loyalty to Bregasland rather than the Empire.

Bushel Sykes was a notorious poacher, and few people actually mourn his passing. He was a collaborator - he supported the Jotun and the Fishers. He was a seditionist - he openly spoke about Bregasland being better off without the Empire. At the same time, he was a Marcher citizen, and there's no indication he was given anything approaching a trial. On returning to Anvil, the citizens involved plead guilty and were tried by the magistrates; details of the outcome are given in the court reports.

In life, Sykes was not well-liked. Now that he's dead, even the few friends he had are being very careful who they talk to about it. It's possible the man himself is likely to be forgotten, but the manner of his death unfortunately adds credence to his claims that the Empire, and "the fine people who go to Anvil" don't actually care about Bregasland, don't respect its people, and don't care what they think or what they want, and will simply crush them if they dare to step out of line. It remains to be seen what impact this poacher's legacy will have on the people of the Marches.

The prosperous are not selfish and the proud proclaim their virtue by actions not words. Let every Marcher yeoman and steward welcome to the orcs of the Mournwold, and treat them as they would any other young Marcher seeking hard work and fair pay. We send Aliss Thorn with 75 doses of liao to ensure everyone knows that it is our ambition to make one people out of two, and a job that never gets started never gets finished.

Aliss Thorn, Summer Solstice 385YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 200-0)

The Mourne orcs are our neighbours. At the request of Hap the Soft, this assembly urges Marchers to offer shelter and sanctuary to the Mourne orcs, should the need arise.

Sister Meredith, Summer Solstice 385YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 190-0)

The Field (Mournwold Orcs)

  • Orcs have travelled from Mournwold to all the Marcher territories, and been assured of a welcome by the National Assembly
  • Orcs and humans worked together to repel the attacks of Cold Sun
  • The Egregore has reported that Mournwold Orcs could join the nation as Marchers

It could have been better timed, obviously, but the last three months has seen an influx of young people from Mournwold into the other three Marcher territories. During the Summer Solstice, the Marcher National Assembly gave assurances to the Mournwold Orcs that means that a significant portion of these young folk are orcs for the first time ever. Coupled with the orc labourers working alongside their human neighbours on the Black Canal, and the handful of orcish merchants trading with their peers to the north, this now means that most Marchers have met or know someone who has met one of the Mournwold orcs. A lot of them have worked alongside them, eaten and drunk with them, played foot-the-ball with and against them. Thanks in part to the urging of Sister Meredith, they've also seen them work to keep people alive in the face of Cold Sun's attacks, healing, carrying, bearing messages; they may not fight themselves but they're as likely as any Marcher to play a part when lives are on the line. It's not been entirely idyllic - Aliss Thorn and their fellow priests have had their work cut out for them smoothing over misunderstandings and helping to answer questions from folk who've never travelled far from home. There's still people out there who don't want to see orcs in the Marches, or don't see why they can't all move to Skarsind. But those people are in the minority. For a very great many Marchers, the question of the Mournwold Orcs is not if they can join, but when.

As predicted, the mandate, and the visiting orcs, is being seen as a clear communication that the National Assembly is working to bring the Mournwold Orcs into their nation for good or ill. It's perhaps surprising how quickly some people switch from asking "can these orcs even really be Marchers?" to "Let's get our orcs into the Marches by the new year, we can't let the League steal a march on us!" Or perhaps not; this has been a long time coming and with the Apulian orcs joining the League, it is clear that the old superstitions about whether orcs and humans could belong to the same nation are being upended.

Shortly before the Autumn Equinox, the real impact of the hard work done by the Marcher Assembly becomes clear. The Marcher egregore Jack confirms what some people already suspect: it is possible for Mournwold Orcs to bond to them and become Marchers. They could join tomorrow, if they wanted. This isn't widespread knowledge yet, but with the pig out of the sack, it's a matter of time before every Marcher - human and orc alike - knows it.

At Odds With The Synod

  • The Marcher national assembly could enact a mandate to bring the Mournwold orcs into the nation

Just because it can be done, doesn't mean it should be done, of course. People have been patient - perhaps they can be patient for another few months? The issue is that while the Marchers as a nation are prepared to see the former Jotun thralls as their neighbours in spirit as well as in geography, the rest of the Empire might not be. The glaring problem that the Marcher orcs believe that they reincarnate - putting them at odds with the Doctrines of the Faith - remains. It just isn't, apparently, a concern that would stop the other Marchers accepting them.

There's a saying, older than the Marches, that suggests it is easier to act and deal with the consequences than it is to get everyone agree to what should be done. When the Assembly threw its weight behind the innocuous-seeming encouragement to welcome the young orcs onto Marcher farms, they told their people that they were working to bring the Mournwold Orcs into their nation for good or ill. In spite of whether it might set them at odds with the rest of the Synod, and with the intention to seek a change of doctrine in the General Assembly.

Those orcs who once were thralls of the Jotun are Marchers. They've been patient, and we won't keep them waiting while the rest of the Empire argues about what we know to be true. We send (named priest) with the egregore Jack to welcome them into our nation, and we will look to the paperwork later.

Synod Mandate, Marches National Assembly

If this mandate - which requires no liao - is enacted then the Marcher assembly makes it clear to their own people, and to the Empire, that the Mournwold Orcs should be Marchers. The job isn't over - doctrine will still need to be changed. The Synod will need to accept that orcs are capable of reincarnating, most likely meaning that the Doctrine of Human Destiny and the Doctrine of the Howling Abyss will need to change. It will make the entire issue much more pressing - but you throw water on the roof that's burning as the saying goes. Such precipitous action might be just the push the Synod needs to accept what the Mournwold Orcs and their friends are saying. Or it might plunge everything into a bitter argument, ten times worse than what is going on at the moment. Its hard to say - but consequences are the price of Ambition after all.

Hap, Graime, and Knott (Conjunction)

  • Questioner Graime has been turned away from Golden Hoof Farm and shunned by the folk there
  • An invitation has been sent out for Imperial Orc preachers to visit the orc spiritual leader
  • A conjunction of the Sentinel Gate has been identified to allow seven people to visit Golden Hoof Farm, Green March, Mournwold at 16:30 on the Saturday during the coming summit

The souls of the Mourn orcs are in danger. While the Marchers' efforts to accept the Mourn orcs as their own are praiseworthy, more has to be done. The Mourn orcs are still suffering under the lies of the Jotun, deceived into throwing their souls into the Abyss. The Mourn orcs do not need to lay down the plough to pick up a sword if this is not in their nature - a Legend soaked in rhubarb is as much a Legend as one soaked in blood. However, a Legend not sought is a Legend not to be. To cross the Abyss we get no second chances. We encourage the Marches to throw away the lies of the Jotun instead of the souls of their orc siblings. We encourage the Mourn orcs to listen to their ancestors for guidance and seize their Legend for themselves in this, their - one life.

Bloodcrow Knottt, Summer Solstice 385YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 78-0)

At the same time all this is going on, an Apulian Orc questioner by the name of Graime turns up at Golden Hoof Farm to talk to Hap the Soft. He's apparently there to offer advice to the Mournwold Orcs about how best to navigate the treacherous waters of joining an Imperial nation, and the importance of compromise when it comes to matters of belief. Apparently, the League orc is there at the behest of his peers in the Synod. He is welcomed, a little warily. He spends a little less than an hour talking to Hap, and is then invited to leave. More than that, he is actively shunned by Hap and the folk who live and work on his farm. After Graime has left, Hap makes it clear that folk like that are not welcome on his farm. "Anyone who'll throw their beliefs into the fire when the weather changes brings shame on themselves, and anyone who listens to them," he says.

Shortly afterward, however, Hap is apparently made aware of a statement of principle raised by the Imperial Orcs in their own National Assembly. It's not clear who sent the messenger who delivers the statement, and the orc is apparently as perplexed as anyone else. After reading it, he pays two crowns to a Navarr messenger to deliver an invitation to Bloodcrow Knott to come and visit him during the Autumn Equinox to talk about it. Hap has no idea if the Sentinel Gate will support such a visit, but is interested to find out. He asks that Knott bring some other Imperial Orc priests along, perhaps including Bloodcrow Udoo who he spoke to briefly at the Summer Solstice. He further requests that if there is a conjunction, Sister Meredith or Aliss Thorn should either accompany the orcs, or select one or two Marchers to do so on their behalf, just to make sure everything stays above board. He's confident there'll be no need for shunning or rough music, but best to be on the safe side.

Examination of the Sentinel Gate has identified a conjunction leading to Golden Hoof Farm, Green March, Mournwold at half-past-four in the afternoon on Saturday during the coming summit. It will allow up to seven people to visit the farm for around half an hour - a narrow window to discuss weighty topics.