The masked guards formed a thin line in front of Suresteel Farn. "Where are you going, orc?" one of them demanded, making no effort to conceal the tone of malice and contempt from his voice.

A voice in Farn's head urged him to push the man from the dockside. In his heavy armour, he would sink like a stone in the dark waters. His friends might get to him in time... maybe... He ignored the voice, this was not the time for violence, no matter how much he wanted to show these virtueless dogs what he thought of them. The wrong move here and it would not be Axou bodies they were fishing out of the bay.

"I'm an Imperial Orc. I'm here on the Imperial vessel, Suresteel Victory. We've got a consignment of cabbages to sell... and twenty doses of liao. Imperial liao." He put as much emphasis on the word Imperial as possible. He nearly claimed they were Imperial cabbages. Still the point was made, he could see them thinking it over.

"Orcs can't use liao." said one of them accusingly. The insinuation was clear... and dangerous. The idiots thought he was lying.

"No. No we can't. But we can sell it. If we can find someone who wants to buy? Obviously if the Axou are not allowing an Imperial captain on an Imperial fleet to dock here... then I'll have to take my Imperial trade somewhere else?"

He was pushing it now... but he'd finally got through to them. With some grumbling the guards pulled back and let him past. Damn Gralka's eyes he thought, if he'd realised how bad it was out here... well he'd probably have come anyway. But that wasn't the point.


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The orc slaves may have been freed when Axos signed the Liberty Pact, but all reports indicate they are living in dreadful conditions. There is absolutely no sign that the majority human population of Axos are interested in making the situation better. All attempts to encourage change through diplomatic channels simply breed resentment of the Empire for interfering in their affairs.

During the Autumn Equinox, Skywise Gralka raised a statement of principle to the Imperial Orc National Assembly calling out the situation in Axos - the Empire's near-eastern neighbour - and asking the reavers of the nation to take action.

Reavers long have you shown your worth in supplying our legions but now your preachers come to you with a plea, those orcs in Axos who have gained their freedom own little and are restricted greatly. Supply them where you can when you visit this foreign nation, show your prosperity, but if they wish to leave Axos show them the way to our Empire.

Skywise Gralka, Imperial Orcs National, Autumn Equinox 383YE, Upheld (with a greater majority 54-0)

One Flaw With The Plan

  • The Imperial Orcs lack the capability to aid the orcs of Axos by themselves

The statement of principle raised by Skywise Gralka encouraged Imperial Orc reavers to travel to Axos and offer supplies and escort back to the Empire. A small handful of the mercenary adventurers have taken the time to visit far-away Axos, travelling on the limited number of Imperial Orc fleets that trade with the distant Towers of Kantor. They report back that the situation is as bad as it has been presented. The orcs of Axos are technically "free" - but they have none of the rights due to the human citizens of Axos. They are treated with suspicion and fear by the Axou, forced to take the most menial jobs, watched for any sign of sympathy with the Druj or the Grendel. None of this contravenes the Liberty Pact, or any agreement with the Empire. The orcs are clearly not slaves, and the Pact does not mandate how any signatory nation treat its citizens.

Almost all of the reavers of Skarsind are captains of military units. They have no way of getting more than a handful out of Axos, even if the Axou were minded to let them. The Imperial Orc nation as a whole does not have many fleets - even before settling Skarsind there were simply not that many Imperial Orc ship captains. The difficult reality is that the Imperial Orc nation simply does not have the resources to help these people.

But the Empire as a whole does.

To Sanctuary

  • The General Assembly or the Assembly of the Nine could urge Imperial fleet captains to offer sanctuary to the orcs of Axos

Last season Snowbound Dukka (a preacher who spent some time in Axos) warned that it was unlikely the Imperial Orc assembly by itself would be able to resolve the plight of these foreign orcs. Only the General Assembly or perhaps the Assembly of the Nine would have sufficient influence to encourage enough Imperial citizens to engage in getting orcs out of Axos. Skywise Gralka's words are enough to get passions fired up, but it will need the mandate of a higher authority to ensure that enough is done.

The Virtuous inspire others to greatness; they do not demean them. We send {named priest} with 50 doses of liao to urge captains and corsairs to bring the orcs of the Axou cities to the Empire.

Synod Mandate, General Assembly or Assembly of the Nine

If this mandate is enacted by either the General Assembly, then it would send a message to Imperial fleet captains that they should travel to Axos, reach out to the orcs there, and offer them passage to the Empire. There are plenty of Imperial Orc soldiers and reavers already moved by the statement of Skywise Gralka prepared to accompany those vessels, and speak to the orcs on behalf of their nation. Grud the Unshackled (in one form or another) could also travel with these Imperial Orcs, and add their voice to that of the reavers. There is no doubt that most orcs offered the chance to get out of Axos would jump at the chance. There are only two problems; the number of ships required, and the attitude of the Axos.

Sufficient Ships

  • If the mandate is enacted, the option to Provide passage out of Axos will be made available to Imperial fleet captains after the end of the event
  • The success of the action will depend on the total strength of the fleets supporting it

If the mandate is enacted, then immediately after the Autumn Equinox a new action will be available under the independent action options for any Imperial fleet to take: Provide passage out of Axos. Any captain who choses this action would commit their fleet to getting as many orcs as possible out of the eastern nation. Of course such assistance will not come without a price. The profits of a fleet are based on the assumption that they carry a profitable cargo there... and back. Any captain that chooses to support the Axou can expect to make only half the profits they might normally acquire.

How effective the project is will depend on how much effective strength the Empire can bring to bear. Enchantments that aid independent action would apply their full effects, but the fleet would not receive the normal production for independent action. A standard fleet taking this action receives 1 measure of beggar's lye, 1 ingot of orichalcum, 1 ingot of tempest jade, 1 crystal mana, and luxury goods worth 12 rings; higher or lower rank fleets will receive commensurately more or less.

At least 5,000 strength

  • The majority of orcs currently trapped in Axos would be brought back to the Empire.
  • Sufficient Axou Orcs would be rescued to create an opportunity for the Imperial Orc nation.

At least 10,000 strength

  • All the orcs currently trapped in Axos would be brought back to the Empire
  • Sufficient Axou Orcs would be rescued that they would represent a significant force in Skarsind, at similar in impact to the Ossean septs.

Imperial Orc reavers stand ready to ensure any Axou Orcs reaching the Empire will be escorted to Skarsind, should they wish to go there, or to provide them with assistance reaching the House of the Proffered Hand or the House of Guerra, or a similar structure. There would be no repeat of the incident where they left to wander the Empire without assistance.

Upsetting the Axou

  • The Axou will not be pleased if the Empire interferes with their treatment of the orcs
  • The current Ambassador to Axos is Tarquinius Ankarien

The people of Axos are part of the Liberty Pact, and trade extensively with the Empire. Indeed, the Imperial Synod has only recently confirmed that trading liao to the Axou is not only acceptable but encouraged. They also have enclaves within the Empire. However, there is no doubt that their attitude to their former orc slaves leaves much to be desired. While adhering to the letter of their agreement with the Empire, and their membership of the Liberty Pact, it would be easy to argue that they are violating the spirit.

Attempts to reach out to them through diplomatic channels have been unsuccessful. The Axou are refusing to budge, and react poorly to what they clearly see as another attempt by the Empire to interfere with their nation. It's one step too far for the Ilarchs, and the powerful Axou families who rule the nation. There is absolutely no doubt that sending a large number of ships to spirit their orc "citizens" away to the Empire is definitely going to cause a diplomatic incident.

On the other hand, the civil service are convinced that the Axou will be forced to suck it up. While they may try to interfere with Imperial ships offering sanctuary to orcs, they're not going to risk war with the Empire. Nor are they going to risk their lucrative trade with Imperial merchants for the sake of a few thousand orcs that they patently do not want. If they put up too much of a fuss, they might even endanger their membership of the Liberty Pact.

But the Axou are nothing if not unpredictable and fractious. They can be as full of Pride as any Imperial citizen, and as Vengeful as any Faraden. Spiriting the orcs out of Axos is going to cause tension between the Empire and it's smaller neighbour, tension that will likely fall to the Ambassador to Axos to deal with.

However, it appears that it is not just the Empire that has noticed what is going on in Axos. Another major nation has decided that enough is enough.

The Commonwealth Complication

  • The Commonwealth is planning to take action of its own

The Sumaah Republic does not trade with Axos - they consider them blasphemers and heretics and it is very likely that if they had closer physical proximity they would launch a crusade to forcibly convert them to the Way. The other signatory to the Liberty Pact, the Commonwealth, takes a much more practical approach. Like the Empire, they seem to be taking a long-term view of Axos and carefully nudging them toward more enlightened views. But the Commonwealth has just as many visionary idealists as the Empire does, and sometimes it is they who move their countryfolk to action rather than the more studied strategies of their generals.

Information has reached the Empire through a number of routes - letters to the Eska Crowspeaker and Ianthe of Suns of Couros (the signatories on behalf of the Empire), as well as informal correspondence to the Civil Service (and allegedly a few emergency reports to the Regario Dossier) - that informs them that the Commonwealth plans to offer sanctuary to any Axos orc who wishes to leave the country. They are already putting in place plans to send their own ships to Kantor and Issyk - ships crewed by orcs and humans alike - with a view to putting an end to the unacceptable situation there. They've requested that the Empire not inform the Axou for fear that they might "overreact" but they are set on their course of action and have made clear that they will not be swayed.

It's also clear that they are unconcerned about any potential backlash from the Axou. They are a small nation and the Commonwealth are a distant and much greater power. Like the Empire, the Commonwealth are many times the size of the Axos cities. The Axou may direct their ire at the Commonwealth rather than the Empire, which that risks straining relations between Liberty Pact members, but it seems the Commonwealth are sanguine about that prospect.

What this means is the Commonwealth will decisively solve the Axos orc problem by the start of the Spring Equinox, if the Empire does not act first. They will escort any remaining freed slaves far away from Axos and work to integrate them into the Commonwealth (along incidentally with any human slaves who want to leave the nation - all are welcome). On the other hand, if the Empire wishes to offer a home to the Axos orcs themselves, they'll need to move quickly if they are to get there before the Commonwealth fleets.

The Orcs of Axos

  • Not very much is known about the former orc slaves of Axos

The Empire doesn't know a lot about the former orc slaves of Axos. Snowbound Dukka confirms that there are several thousand of them, and that they bear superficial similarities to the Imperial Orcs - a mixture of many different origins united by experience as slaves of the Citadels. They express a strong reverence for, and connection to, their shared ancestors. The relationship they have with the spirits of their ancestors has some echoes of the Axou near-worship of their forebears, and maintaining ties to those ancestors who hold memories of a time before their descendants were enslaved.

They also have two characteristics that set them apart from the Imperial Orcs - they are used to living in cities and while the Axou have a done a lot to try and restrict their access to magic this has been only partially successful - there's clear signs that a significant proportion of the Axou orcs are at least familiar with the basics of spellcasting, and have some knowledge of ritual magic in the necromantia tradition. Either of these qualities might prove a benefit to the Imperial Orcs.


Following the Winter Solstice, Skywise Gralka enacted a mandate to encourage fleet captains to liberate orc citizens from Axos.