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Lindir wasn't used to being the centre of attention. When she stopped at the Dog & Eel she'd expected a good meal, a comfortable bed, and maybe a relaxing evening of stories and songs around a welcoming hearth. Instead she found herself talking to an entire taproom full of interested Marchers about the distant peaks of Urizen. She still had no idea why they were so fascinated. The innkeeper had asked where she'd come from and when she'd mentioned Zenith there'd been a notable upsurge in interest. The taproom wasn't exactly full, but they were sending people out to get more farmers to come listen to her talk. She half regretted mentioning Zenith at all, but whenever her throat started to dry up someone would press a mug of sweet water into her hands and ask another question.

They were asking a lot of questions she just didn't know the answer to. Technical questions about dirt, water, rainfall, and the like. At least when they asked about roads she was on firmer ground, so to speak. One group, all with pewter badger badges on their shapeless felt caps, were especially interested in the roads. How fit for purpose were they? Would it be quicker to go through Highguard or Therunin if, say, you had a cargo that needed to get to its destination before it went off.

The most peculiar questions were coming from a pair of fellow travellers. Still Marchers, but clearly not local. Also clearly related - a stout merrow woman and her whip-thin son. The young man showed no signs of lineage, but his questions were just as probing and carefully phrased as those of his mother. A casual comment led her to believe they were Bregas - refugees from the Jotun-conquered fens to the west. They were very interested in the little Druj beasties she'd mentioned were now infesting the marshes and lakes of Zenith.

"I don't know what more I can tell you," she said a little helplessly. "They're poisonous critters with hateful, beady little eyes. They're like the octopuses of the Bay of Catazar only they can survive out of water for a while and I think I heard someone say they drank blood. Enough of them mob you and you end up paralysed or dead."

A shudder went through the assembled crowd. The young man frowned.

"Wait on now." he said. "They leave you paralysed or dead, aye? So are these buggers poisonous, or are they venomous?"

Lindir spread her hands, answering the young man's frown with one of her own.

"Does it matter?" She said, a little exasperated. "Venomous? Poisonous? The important thing is that they're nasty little things that swim in packs and they aren't afraid of jumping out of the water at your face if you get too close."

"It matters," interrupted the merrow woman. There was some nodding from some of the other Marchers. "It matters cause poisonous means they're tainted through and through but venomous means they have venom, but as long as you're careful you can cut out any sacs or reservoirs or what not. I'd have expected a Navarr of all people to know t'difference."

There was some guffawing, and Lindir bridled slightly at the implications, but before she could retort the young man leant forward.

"T'important thing is that poisonous vermin ain't worth nothing but nailin' up as a warning," he said as if explaining something simple to a child. "But if they're just venomous, then you can eat 'em. And if you can eat 'em, you can farm 'em, hateful beady eyes or no. And if you can farm 'em... then I'm willin' to bet Freedom's Price that what works on eels will work on octopuses. You 'ad me curiosity, but now you 'ave me attention!"
Enjoy the fruits of your labour today; no one knows what the morrow holds.
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For the best part of two years the Marcher Breadbasket has supported the Urizen army, providing the vital supplies they need to keep their sentinels equipped and fed. None have begrudged them, there's an abiding respect for folks willing to fight to defend their own, and besides... that is what the Basket is for. Now though, with Urizen mostly whole again, the pressing need is gone and so folks are hoping to start putting a few stores of their own down. Now's the time every farm in the Marchers ought to be planning for the year ahead.

So there's a few pursed lips when word comes from the monks and friars that the National Assembly is calling on Marchers to dig a bit deeper and do what they can to help the folk of Zenith get themselves back on their feet. It's a fine show of Prosperity to help your neighbour, but it's still asking a lot. And while that's being digested there's a call to the beaters to take to the hills and woods and watch the borders. Sound advice, given the Jotun are out in force in Bregasland and massing in Liathaven. Last time they did that... the Mourn fell. There's more than a few folk saying that if the beaters are all that is holding the Jotun back, then maybe it's time Marchers did something for Marchers for a change.

Whatever's done, though, everyone agrees, it's best it's done together. No field gets ploughed if everyone's pulling in a different direction. This is yeoman business, so it'll be down to the yeoman to decide what to do. They'd best make a decision quick, because something proper odd is happening with the thralls in the Mournwold. Someone, something, has stirred them up like a bear in a bees nest. It might be owt or it might be nowt, but but getting the question of what to do with the coming year out of the way before whatever's going on there becomes a problem... that's only common sense.

In the interests of Prosperity, the Marcher national assembly encourages those Marcher farmers who are able to assist in re-establishing agriculture in Zenith once it is recaptured. The Marchers know a thing or two about farming cursed land, and that hard won knowledge should be Prosperously shared.

Edward Greenfriar, Summer Solstice 384YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 120-0)

Beaters of the Marches! This season the protection of our lands falls to you, as has been the way for as long as beaters have beaten! Our armies defend the lands of our neighbours and do for Zenith as they did for Mournwold. Vigilance will be your greatest ally, to keep you safe as you keep our borders safe - keen eyes, sharp wits, and sharper blades: eyes out, knives out, look twice, shoot once!

Bryce Tanner, Autumn Equinox 384YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 112-0)

The expression of discontent is not unvirtuous. It cannot be assumed that people are acting from the false virtues of hate or vengeance because they have acted in line with tradition.

Sister Meredith, Autumn Equinox 384YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 112-0)

Pride, Vigilance, and Prosperity

  • Any Marcher with a farm personal resource may vote in a special Tally of the Votes on Saturday
  • The outcome of the vote will determine which opportunity the yeofolk embrace

During the Summer Solstice, Edward Greenfriar urged the farmers of the Marches to help the people of Zenith, once the territory was recaptured. Zenith is now fully part of Urizen again, and facing some significant problems. Yet the Marches have problems of their own in Bregasland so perhaps now isn't the best time for them to be looking to the far east of the Empire? Or maybe.. it's the perfect time. Nothing in the statement says the Marches have to give things away for free, and it specifically mentions vigilance. More recently, Bryce Tanner urged folk to look closer to home - to protect the bounds of the Marches against the threat of invasion. Finally, Sister Meredith reminded everyone that "the expression of discontent is not unvirtuous, and that's also got people thinking about whether it might be time to think about tradition.

Rather than generate a mandate as might be expected, these statements of principle have stirred a certain stubborn garrulousness among the yeofolk of the Marches. Sister Meredith mentioned hatred and vengeance in her statement, but there's a stubborn streak of independence in the Marchers that outsiders might see as ploughing a little close to another of the darker spiritual forces. They are stubbornly independent, and they are never ruled. The yeomen also have a lot of sway - the farm is the source of most political power in the Marches.

With that in mind, there's a strong undercurrent that rather than wait for the Marcher assembly to tell them what to do, the yeofolk should make their own decisions. With the support of the aldermen of Meade and Sarcombe in particular, the civil service have been asked to conduct a tally of the votes. During the Winter Solstice, the yeomen will vote as to which of the three paths ahead of them they will take.

They could Feed the Wizards, and throw their support behind the people of Urizen as they rebuild Zenith. They could Beat the Bounds, and throw their weight behind the beaters and soldiers of the Marches against a possible Jotun attack, or they could Tend the Hearth and focus on securing prosperity for their own families and households. The National Assembly can of course offer guidance, but the final decision rests with the yeofolk. Whatever is decided at Anvil will shape the fortunes of Marcher landowners for the coming year.

On Saturday, the yeomen of the Marches will be able to make a decision about what they think the best course of action will be. The Civil Service will conduct a tally of the votes, allowing any marcher with a farm to vote, following the usual rules. There are three options on the table.

Feed the Wizards

  • The yeofolk of the Marches could help the people of Zenith as they reclaim their homes

If this is the decision of the yeofolk, then for the next year every farm in the Marches will support the people of Zenith as they rebuild their ruined territory. This is not simply a matter of food, the Marchers farms could supply seed for planting, livestock to establish new herds and cuttings from the best fruit trees. Each farm will receive an additional mana crystal during this time - representing payment from the grateful Urizeni in recognition of their aid.

After a year, whatever else is happening in Zenith there will be sufficient new farms and farmers established with the support of the Marches that the Urizen will be able to support the Citadel Guard indefinitely without needing to rebuild the Golden Cascade. Perhaps more importantly, the largesse of the Marches will mean that Urizen will become sufficiently prosperous to support a navy if they wished to build one at the newly expanded docks of Elos.

You can find further details about the situation in Zenith in the Write your own ending wind of fortune.

Beat the Bounds

  • The yeofolk of the Marches could look closer to home and focus on the defence of their homes

If this is the decision of the yeofolk, then for the next year the farms of the Marches will focus on supporting the beaters and soldiers who protect the nation. There's always a meal for a beater in good standing at most farms in the Marchers, but this would mean digging deep and giving them enough provisions to keep them going for days on end. With that kind of support, the Beaters can afford to swell their numbers and focus on watching what the Jotun are doing.

There'll be no change to the farms themselves, but during any campaign in Mitwold, Mournwold, or Upwold there will be 1,000 additional force applied to the Imperial side. This will apply to a Marcher army fighting in the territory, or to a fortification if there are no Marcher armies present. Furthermore, as long as the Strong Reeds do not leave Bregasland they will also gain 1,000 strength for purposes of fighting in the territory. While that won't do anything right now, it may come in useful once the Marcher push to retake the territory.

Tend the Hearth

  • The yeofolk of the Marches could look to their own Prosperity

Marchers have split the pot with everyone in recent times, the better to support their neighbours. But the Winter Solstice would be a good time for every farm in the nation to start planning for the year ahead. There are fields to be ploughed, ditches to be dug, walls to be raised, and gates to be hung. If the Marcher yeofolk know that they can devote their efforts in the year ahead to improving their farm, they can take advantage of that.

If this is the decision of the yeofolk, then for the next year the farms of the Marches will look to their own prosperity. Every farm in the Marches - even those in Bregasland - will produce an extra 72 rings. Also, for the next year, upgrading a Marcher farm will require one fewer wains of weirwood. This would mean that a standard farm could be upgraded for 1 wain of weirwood, for example.

A Turn of the Year

Whatever decision the Marcher yeofolk take the effects will be felt for the year ahead, lasting from now until just before the next Winter Solstice in a year's time. However, that represents a commitment by the yeofolk to devote their efforts to this plan throughout that time. If the folk of the Marches are persuaded to abandon their efforts in favour of some other important endeavour, then any benefits provided here will be lost (there will be clear warning of this in any wind of fortune that presents this option).

The Orcs of Mournwold

  • There has been a peculiar gathering of former Jotun thralls in Green Stead
  • Some Marches beaters may know more

Before they make a decision, the yeomen might want to give a thought to what is up with the former Jotun thralls... While some of them are starting work on the Black Canal, and apparently making a fine job of that - something notably odd is happening in the Mournwold.

As news starts to filter in that the Jotun are back in Liathaven in force, the orcs who live in the Mournwold start gathering in Green March. Some stay with other orcs, some pay for rooms nearby, but most bring tents with them and set up camp on the fields around the Golden Hoof. It seems that one of the orc leaders, Hap the Soft, has called the meeting, and the other known leaders of the former Jotun thralls - Hamma the Lame, Casta the Black, and Sigdór the Wise, are making their way there. Orcs from across the Mournwold are travelling to meet them. They aren't trying to be stealthy as such, but they move in small groups and are closed mouthed about their private business. If the beaters weren't keeping an eye out for anything peculiar, it might have gone unnoticed for a while.

As it is, it soon becomes clear that there is something serious going on. From the reports of the beaters, maybe five hundred orcs gather in at Golden Hoof farm. The proximity of so many former Jotun to the Bregasland border, and the border with Liathaven, makes some people very nervous. This concern is compounded by the fact that for the first time in a long time, the otherwise gregarious Hap the Soft politely asks his neighbours to stay away. Marchers drawn by curiosity or vigilance are politely turned away. There's no violence, and on the one occasion someone tries to push the matter Hap reminds them of the unwelcome visitor defence. It seems laughable that orcs so-well known for their pacifism might turn violent, but even so... a hundred stern-faced orcs glaring at a body all at once can be a deterrent all by itself. In the end the unwelcome visitors are given two jars of Hap's mutton jelly and sent on their way. No harm done. But the only humans welcome at Gold Hoof Farm are a couple of orphans Hap has raised as shepherds.

A few beaters are able to get close enough to get a feel for what is going on. At first it's a little like a big market. Many of the orcs are taking the time to renew acquaintance, do a little trade, even celebrate. But then one morning everything turns serious. In an open space in front of the farmhouse, Hap calls everyone to order and almost immediately an argument breaks out. Over the next three days there's a lot of impassioned speeches. Tempers flare. There is some pushing and shoving, although obviously nobody comes to blows. Voices are raised. Then, abruptly, maybe fifty of gathered orcs suddenly pack up their things and leave. The remainder watch them go, stony faced. They have no more interest in speaking to Marchers than they did on their way in.

The remaining orcs continue their discussion for another day, well into the night. Then the next morning the camp begins to break up. The orcs take down their tents, and return to their homes, families, and jobs across the Mourn. None of the orcs involved give any explanation as to the nature of these peculiar events, but everyone with an orc neighbour can tell something is afoot. There's a tension in the air, and a lot of quiet conversations between orcs that fall silent when they spot a Marcher. Obviously, this does very little to alleviate the nervousness.

OOC Note: Additional details about this odd behaviour will be included in a pack insert for any Marcher character with the beater archetype.

Further Reading