The orc was shaken out of their reverie by the arrival of a bleak figure walking slowly across the fresh snow. They quickly bowed their head, looking down at the ground. It would not do for one such as them, a mere merchant to catch a dragon's eye. Nothing good would come of that. Instead they kept their eyes firmly fixed to the ground and waited to be addressed.
It was cold on the hillside, winter was coming and the wind was bitter, with flecks of ice here and there that it had swept up form the ground. The merchant pulled their furs tight to the body to try and keep the wind out, but discreetly. It was not a good idea to fidget, no matter how long they stood here in the cold.
Time passed, an hour, perhaps more and still nothing was said. It just stood there, staring out over the pass. The cold began to seep into Einar's bones chilling them to the marrow. The old orc gripped their teeth together firmly, to stop them chattering.
Finally the creature spoke in a low hollow voice. "The Imperials have not attempted to seize the mine?"
"No Great One" they responded. Einar had no idea who they were speaking to - better to not to make assumptions. Not here, not now.
Minutes passed before the creature spoke again. "Take a cadre of warriors. Complete your assessment. Avoid the Empire where possible, but apprehend anyone you find on this side of the mountain. Send word to Nithoggir when you are done. You will be ... rewarded."
And with that the creature turned on its heels and walked back the way it had come. Einar shivered and pulled their furs closer still, though it was not the cold that bothered them now.
- Grand Warlock Fljajokull intends to attend the Military Council meeting on Saturday afternoon
- The Thule have released 150 humans who were Druj slaves near Ivarsgard in Karsk - which creates its own problems
- The orcs of Otkodov are not relinquishing their claim to Sungold Pass
- The ambassador to Otkodov is Yevgeni Katzev of Varushka
Peace with the orcs of Otkodov continues to hold steady. A major force of Thule warriors supported the recent Imperial invasion of Ossium, conquering and holding the dark northern forests of the Bonewood. Rak Who-Speaks-For-The-Dragons-Undivided has sent word that Grand Warlock Fljajokull - the general of one of the Thule armies engaged in Ossium - will again be visiting Anvil to negotiate further aid in the war against the Druj. He is also apparently bringing with him a gift prepared by the Dragons for the vate Merel, finally completed - a ritual text of interest to the Navarr. He has expressed his intention to attend the Saturday afternoon meeting of the Military Council.
With regard to military developments it is clear that Thule expansion work on Crow's Keep in Skarsind is continuing apace, with several additional towers and garrisons overlooking the passes into Urdur to the north and the Silver Peaks to the west. If work continues at the current rate, the castle will be completed shortly before the Summer Solstice 383YE.
During the negotiation of the recent peace treaty, the Thule agreed to "liberate all Imperial citizens and their descendants that they hold as slaves and return them safe and well to the Empire provided an appropriate and mutually agreed ransom can be arranged between the Thule and the Empire." There was a plan for Rak Who-Speaks-For-The-Dragons-Undivided to attend Anvil during the Winter solstice to begin these negotiations. At the last minute, Rak has postponed the negotiations to the Spring Equinox without explanation. It is possible the Ambassador to Otkodov may know more.
There is one other piece of information, however, relating to allegations common in the Empire that the Thule feed their slaves on the remains of other slaves. Apparently this story has been brought to the attention of the Thule by Imperial merchants dealing with the orcs through the Northern trade network. Rak Who-Speaks-For-The-Dragons-Undivided has unequivocally condemned this practice. While he accepts that some foolish overseers might think this is a way to keep slaves in line, no Warlock would countenance cannibalistic acts of this nature whether human or orc. To do so is to give power to the entity known as the Hunter in the Wastes which no sane warlock would countenance. While the Thule do little to deny that their slaves are poorly treated, it seems important to the Thule that the Empire not believe they engage in forced cannibalism for some reason.
The Slaves of Ivarsgard
That is not to say that the orcs of Otkodov have not freed any slaves. Three weeks before the Winter Solstice, a Thule warband emerges from the hills of Krevsaty and unceremoniously delivers nearly a hundred-and-fifty human slaves into the hands of the surprised people of Iversgard. These people represent Imperials enslaved by the Druj, or the children of the same. They have little more than the clothes on their backs, and a handful of threadbare cloaks and woolen blankets provided by the Thule to ensure they survived the trip to Imperial lands.
There is some consternation in Ivarsgard; many of these slaves are broken in body or spirit after years in the thrall of the cruel Druj. Some seem to believe that, against all the odds, their liberation is another Druj trick. Others know little of the Empire beyond twisted tales told to them by their wicked masters that cast their Imperial cousins in the worst possible light. The majority are either former Varushkans, or the alleged children or grandchildren of Varushkans, but a handful have links to other nations - primarily Dawn and Highguard.
One other titbit of information that has come from the freed slaves is that while the hundred-and-fifty humans represent (as near as they can tell) all the human slaves in the Bonewood, there were many times this number of orc slaves working the woodlands for the Druj. They have no idea what has happened to these slaves; all humans were separated out as soon as they were liberated and sent west by the Thule.
What to do about Ivarsgard
Varushkan hospitality is a complex thing. The Imperial Synod in the person of Eska Crowspeaker has given clear guidance to the people of the Empire - that they should "reach out to help those who have been enslaved - all that is worthwhile is shared with those who deserve it". The Varushkan National Assembly has itself condemned the practice of slavery - most recently in a statement of principle by Vasili Zoryakovich Zverokaz - but has done so in a less united fashion. The judgement failed to secure a greater majority suggesting that not every priest in Varushka feels as strongly about the institution of slavery - or about the wisdom of embracing strangers.
Consequently, while the people of Ivarsgard have offered some simple hospitality to the released slaves there is a significant question as to whether they should embrace them as long-lost cousins or give them food and drink for the road and send them on their way to build new lives for themselves elsewhere. They are, after all, strangers - who is to say that all of them are even human?
One way to resolve the concerns would be for a priest to make use of the insight ceremony to examine them for interlopers, and reassure the people of Ivarsgard that they are not only not a threat but deserving of aid. But doing that requires a significant amount of liao - one for each of the former slaves in fact. Without that certainty, any Varushkan community that takes in these freed slaves risks taking in more than they bargained for - a shapeshifter such as a mora or a rusalka or something even more pernicious. Who can say with any certainty what might dwell in the depths of the Bonewood?
The people look to the Synod - to the Varushkan national assembly - for guidance.
Vasili Zoryakovich Zverokaz reminds us that slavery is unacceptable; Eska Crowspeaker urges us to open out homes to those who have found freedom. These people have been released from bondage and we should embrace them as cousins. We send (named priest) with 50 doses of liao to urge the people of Karsk to offer homes to the slaves brought to us by the Thule.Synod mandate,Varushkan national assembly
If the Varushkan national assembly passes this mandate, the people of Karsk - and Ivarsgard in particular - will be reassured that the slaves are not only not a threat, but potentially an asset. They will welcome them and help them integrate into the town and the surrounding vales - those who are prepared to embrace Varushkan ways at least. If there are any monsters hiding among their number, however, these creatures these will be free to prey on the people who have taken them in.
Vasili Zoryakovich Zverokaz reminds us that slavery is unacceptable; Eska Crowspeaker urges us to open out homes to those who have found freedom. Yet in Varushka we cannot simply accept a stranger at face-value, much less strangers who come to us from the Druj through the hands of the Thule. We send (named priest) with 25 doses of liao to urge the people of Varushka to remain vigilant, and to encourage those former slaves to disperse across the Empire so that if any are a threat that threat is minimized.Synod mandate,Varushkan national assembly
Alternatively, the Varushkan national assembly could pass this mandate. Once the slaves are fed and clothed they will be invited to find other places to live. This pattern will be repeated across Varushka - the strangers will be treated as such and while a handful may prove their worth the majority will be given beds for the night and then encouraged to keep moving when the morning comes. While harsh, this will ensure that there will be no significant threat to the people of Varushka - and any monsters among their number will be no greater threat than is usually posed by such creatures to vigilant vales.
Vasili Zoryakovich Zverokaz reminds us that slavery is unacceptable; Eska Crowspeaker urges us to open out homes to those who have found freedom. Yet in Varushka we cannot simply accept a stranger at face-value, and must be certain of the nature of those we invite into our homes. We send (named priest) with 150 doses of liao to examine each of these strangers and determine whether each one is friend or foe.Synod mandate,Varushkan national assembly
If this expensive mandate is upheld by the Varushkan national assembly, a program of insight will be begun during which the aura of each of the freed slaves is thoroughly examined. Once it is clear that a person is not a monster, they will be welcomed to settle in one of the vales of Karsk. Participation on behalf of the former slaves would be voluntary, but any who refused to participate would be marked as a potential threat and urged to move on. This mandate would ensure that the slaves settling in Varushka would have no monsters among their number - except of course for the human kind but Varushka is no stranger to dealing with people of that nature, either.
Each of these three mandates is considered to be in competition with the others.
The people of Varushka may choose to do nothing, but it is Winter and the former slaves have nowhere to go. Hospitality even in Varushka only goes so far. It is likely that if no mandate is enacted, the former slaves will need to make their own arrangements. Some will simply die - they have after all laboured under the yoke of the Druj for decades. Others will find sympathetic allies among the Varushkans of Karsk. The majority however will be forced to turn to banditry - to try and take what they need to survive - or become prey to the wolves of Karsk which may present its own problems.
The Senate reasserts that the Sungold Pass and the mountain known as the Traveller are part of the region of Opascari, in Volodmartz, and that the exploitation of resources in Imperial Land by foreigners without the direct invitation of the Empire is not acceptable.
Proposed by Karov, seconded by Sarvos.
Following the storm that wracked northern Varushka last year, a hidden mine was uncovered high in the nothern mountains. Allegedly built and worked by the Terunael, it was dubbed Sungold Pass. Shortly after its discovery, there were reports that Thule scouts exploring the mountains had also discovered the mine - as well as signs that the orcs of Otkodov may have been there well before the Empire but lost access at some point in the past.
Perhaps in response to Thule interest, the senator for Karov Vuk the Wolfeater raised a motion during the Summer Solstice claiming Sungold Pass for the Empire with the support of the Senator for Sarvos. In the wake of the declaration by the Senate, some Imperial soldiers have taken it on themselves to keep an eye on the Pass. Shortly after the Summer Solstice, a similar force of orc warriors arrived from the other side of the pass, accompanied by wagons and slaves equipped with building tools. After a flurry of messages between the Imperial and Otkodov embassies, the Thule were informed of the Senate's decision.
Restoring the ruins would require a commission. They would cost 20 wains of mithril and 10 wains of weirwood, and labour costs of 30 crowns. It would take a season to open the mines, restore the smelting facilities, and perhaps even replace some of the damaged sections of mithril designs. This would create a title - Warden of the Sungold Pass - and the civil service suggest that it would function as a sinecure providing 20 ingots of orichalcum each season.
The well worn path for appointing this title would be through the Imperial Bourse - either a private ballot by the mine owners of Varushka if it were national, or a public auction if it were Imperial.
Repeated from the earlier wind of fortune for completeness
Rak Who-Speaks-For-The-Dragons-Undivided has formally announced that the Thule do not accept the Imperial claim. The Thule believe that the "Sungold Pass" is on their side of the mountain and is thus theirs to exploit as they see fit. The presence of Imperial forces is neither welcomed nor appropriate. With Rak's visit to Anvil postponed until the Spring Equinox at the earliest, and no further word from either ambassador, the status of Sungold Pass remains ambiguous.
In response to questions, the civil service has restated their position that it would not be illegal under Imperial Law to begin work on exploiting the resources of the 'Pass in light of the Senate declaration. As with the other opportunities presented by the storm, the proposal to re-open the mine high on the slopes of the traveler is not time sensitive - although should the Thule decide to begin their own excavations the Empire is not in a position to stop them. The civil service have also confirmed that it would be possible for an expedition from the Department of Historical Research be dispatched to explore the ruins on the slopes of the Opascari mountains (or indeed the monument at Wendell's Hope or the Bredavoi Cave for that matter). This would require someone able to commission historical research to use their power in the normal way.
Participation: Any commander of a military unit who took the paid work this downtime is free to roleplay that they have been stationed overlooking Sungold Pass,and paid by certain rich merchants, traders, mine owners, and wagon raiders who want to ensure the Thule do not begin excavating the mountain. At the moment both sides are effectively preventing the other from exploring further into the ruins.
Great Forest Orcs
- The Great Forest Orcs have provided some information about the Mallum
- They are prepared to commit their scouts and hunters toward helping the Empire create a rough map of the Mallum
- While the Imperial Consul has the legal power to negotiate with the Great Forest orcs, they have so far refused to engage with the office preferring to speak with the Senator for Therunin
- The Senator for Therunin is Cybi Farkas
The Great Forest Orcs remain in Therunin - apart from the ones who have chosen to walk the trods with the Navarr stridings who will have them. Their interest in the Empire - and its forests - have not waned in the last three months. While early estimates suggested perhaps a hundred or so orcs had chosen to take advantage of the chance to travel the trods, more recent estimates suggest perhaps twice that number have now taken the opportunity to walk with the Navarr. A small handful of briars have likewise continued to travel with their orc allies, although they continue to receive the cold shoulder from most Imperial citizens - the rumours that they are heretics and blasphemers has spread ahead of them.
The orcs have also offered a measure of support against the vallorn in Brocéliande, while expressing concerns about the progress being made on the Holt of the Oak. You can learn more about this opportunity here.
It has taken some time, but the orcs of the Great Forest have also begun to tell tales of the Mallum, working with their Navarr friends to spread the information they have across the empire in the hope it may prove strategically useful. For the most part, the orcs of the Great Forest are only aware of the places where the armies they used to support have travelled, and the subject tribes of the Barrens were never entirely trusted by their Druj overlords. They are able to give a rough summary of the territories they are aware of that comprise the Mallum.
The Empire knows of the Barrens themselves - which the Druj as a nation have always coveted. They represent not only great wealth but allow the Druj to move their armies quickly and efficiently between the various territories they control - and the Imperial territory they covet.
Likewise the Empire has experience of Ossium. In this, they actually know more than the orcs of the Great Forest. As near as anyone can tell none of the Great Forest warriors were ever sent to Ossium, which they understand is composed of dark, ancient forests. There is a theory among the Great Forest orcs that the Druj intentionally kept them away - other orcs from the Barrens spoke of being sent there occasionally. They are keen to join any Navarr striding intending to walk the trods to Ossium in the coming season, and will certainly do so unless they are somehow prevented.
East of Ossium lies the Forest of Ulnak, another heavily forested region that covers the land at the base of the great mountains that touch the sky. The Druj clans here are less insular than those of Ossium, and according to the Great Forest orcs there is a great and terrible mine cut into the roots of the mountain where thousands of slaves toil ceaselessly to provide stone for the orcs to build fortresses to protect themselves from some threat they fear to the north. The woods here are also rich in weirwood, according to the Great Forest orcs. When the Druj became aware of their skill at working the precious material many of their elders were forcibly taken to the Forest of Ulnak to work in the weirwood groves. Their information is a little out of date, but according to the orcs there is an immense fortress here at the foot of the mountains with terrible dungeons beneath it said to be the home of a powerful buruk tepel whose mastery of the herbal arts of poison and fear is unparalleled.
To the east of the Barrens, are the Salt Flats of Sanath. The woodlands in the north give way to broad plains crisscrossed by dark waterways. The ground is damp, and the further east one travels the more water there is. Eventually, one reaches the port of Leen - the Great Forest orcs believe it is the largest settlement in the Mallum, controlled by a powerful clan who also dominate the shifting islands to the east of it. The Grendel are known to visit Leen regularly trading mithril for weirwood.
Finally, south of the Barrens is the Sarangrave. Much of the land here is marshy, or wooded, but the great forest orcs believe it is the most fertile of all the Druj lands. Great plantations worked by slaves and fed by the many rivers and streams provide large amounts of both food and herbs. As with the Forest of Ulnak, they believe the Sarangrave has a great fortress - not quite the match of that in Ulnak but certainly larger than the Towers of Dusk in the Barrens. It was built centuries ago, according to the orcs, and thousands of slaves died bringing the white granite that served as its foundation south across the breadth of the Mallum. The Great Forest orcs speak of the Sarangrave in dark tones. They say that there is something corrupt in the marsh, a malignant presence that the Druj commune with. Some speculate that it is perhaps related to the terrible spirit that occupies the great ruins that lie along the northern river - the river that feeds into the Feverwater in Therunin.
These are the lands of the Mallum that the Great Forest Orcs know about. They cannot say with certainty if they represent all the lands of the Druj or not - but they are all the lands that border the Barrens. They also stress that there are more than just Druj living in these lands - the Druj have subject tribes who do most of their menial labour - but warn that the spirit of rebellion has been all but snuffed out. Each of these territories is infused with the same miasma that apparently hangs over Ossium, eroding the will of those who are weak in the face of Druj oppression.
Spies Like Us
The Great Forest Orcs have an advantage that the vast majority of the Empire does not - namely that they are orcs, and they have visited the Mallum. They also have more experience actually interacting with the Druj than any other group save perhaps the Grendel. Their assistance might come in useful should the Empire wish to establish a spy network in the Forest of Ulnak, the Salt Flats of Sanath, or the Sarangrave. The spy network in the Barrens has been destroyed by the Druj - but there is no reason it could not be established again and once it were complete the Empire would be able to expand it into the rest of the Mallum.
More immediately though, the Great Forest orcs have many scouts and hunters who have actually travelled in the Mallum while they were thralls of the Druj. They are prepared to put those orcs at the disposal of their allies in the Navarr and in Highguard - and by extension the Empire. One of the most powerful tools the Druj have is secrecy and uncertainty. With the assistance of the Great Forest orcs it would be possible to move small bands of scouts around the enemy territory without the Druj being aware of their presence.
The Imperial Senate can pass a properly worded Senate motion accepting the offer of the Great Forest orcs, and take advantage of the opportunity to send scouts into the Mallum. Similar to the recent project to map the Bay of Catazar this would give Imperial military units a chance to create large scale maps of the Mallum. While these maps would not be detailed enough to allow scrying, they would allow the Empire a significant insight into the layout of the Druj nation, significant fortifications, and many points of interest.
The motion would cost the Imperial Senate 30 Thrones from the treasury. This would partly go toward providing additional civil servants to collate the information gathered, and to help support the Great Forest orcs - while their scouts and hunters are out helping explore the Mallum they would not be providing for their families or their people.
If the Senate passes and funds this motion, in the coming season, there will be an additional option accessible through the special project dropdown menu - Scout the Mallum. This may be taken by any military unit captain, and represents committing scouts toward creating an Imperial map of the Druj nation.
Each standard military unit assigned to the "Scout the Mallum" action effectively adds 100 points toward successful resolution of the opportunity. Each additional rank for an upgraded or enchanted military unit adds another 20 points. Rituals and other effects that increase the ranks of a unit assisting a spy network such as Sharp Eyes of the Corsair) will increase the effective strength for purposes of this special action. In a similar manner to a spy network, the total strength assigned to the opportunity will decide the outcome.
- If at least 1000 points of strength are assigned to the "Scout the Mallum" action, the project is partially successful. A map showing the rough locations of the Druj territories adjacent to the Barrens will be produced, along with some basic information about the terrain of each.
- If at least 3000 points of strength are assigned, the territory map will be more detailed. The map will also show the locations, names, and ownership of each territory under Druj control (including the Barrens and Zenith), as well as major settlements and fortifications.
- If at least 5000 points of strength are assigned, the map will be significantly more complete. In addition to the information provided at the previous thresholds, major geographical features in each territory will be uncovered, as well as the presence of prominent sources of Bourse resources (mithril, weirwood, white granite, and ilium). Some other points of interest may also be discovered, perhaps including the equivalent of Imperial sinecures.
The project will be aimed at mapping, and acquiring intelligence, not looting or raiding; as such the military units assigned will not receive any production. As it is a special project, it would be possible to make this project more appealing by apportioning a share of the Imperial guerdon to it either as part of the senate motion required to set the opportunity up, or through the auspices of the Quartermaster General of the Imperial Armies.
The individual captains participating in the project will receive copies of the maps and descriptions of the territory before the Spring Equinox; after the Spring Equinox the information gathered will be shared with the rest of the Empire by the civil service (that is it will go on the wiki). It is however important to remember the Druj are sneaky - while everything that appears on the maps will be there, there may be things that do not appear on the list. In the same way the maps will not be suitable for scrying, there may be other resources or features that do not show up on this wide-scale survey of the territories.
The Penumbral Watcher
While this project does not precisely represent a spy network, there is still an opportunity for the Penumbral Watcher to use their distilled shadow-tar to support the project. They would use the special material in the normal way, but name The Mallum as the target. If they do so, the amount of effective strength required to get the top level map will be 4,500 instead of 5,000. This will not effect either of the lower thresholds, but the Penumbral Watcher will still receive a copy of the information gathered as normal.
This opportunity exists only at the Winter Solstice. The Great Forest orcs are prepared to help with this project through the Winter months, but after that it will not be available unless the Empire is able to negotiate with the orcs and arrange another chance.
- The former Jotun Thralls continue to live in the Mournwold relatively peacefully
- While the Marchers of the Mourn are familiar with their orc neighbours, there are difficulties when they travel further afield
- While abiding by Imperial Law, the Thralls are refusing to cooperate with the Magistrates
- While the Imperial Consul has the legal power to negotiate with the Thralls, they have so far shown no interest in engaging with the office preferring to speak directly with reprentatives of the Marchers and the Imperial Orcs
Life continues as normal for the ex-Jotun thralls in the Mournwold. Like their neighbours, they have brought in their harvests, and where they are welcome they have brought their goods to the Autumn fairs across the Mournwold. This attempt at increased integration has not been without incident - but they have tended more towards drunken Marchers starting fights than anything else. The Thralls may be pacifists, but many of the younger generation in particular seem to view brawling as a sport rather than an actual fight (to the despair of their elders). There have been a few more serious incidents - although they have stopped short of murder - but the problem is that in every case the thralls have refused to cooperate with the magistrates. They have not resisted; they've simply refused to offer any assistance or answer any questions.
As near as can be determined, this refusal is based around an unfortunate legal case during the Summer solstice in which a thrall accused of murder, executed by the magistrates after he fled to Anvil. It seems that the thralls have listened to the advice of Hap the Soft and the statement of principle raised by Anna Pernn in the Marcher National assembly to engage with the senator to resolve disputes rather than bother with the magistrates who they increasingly distrust. This is obviously a potentially significant problem - while the orcs appear happy to abide by Imperial law it is clear that they have absolutely no faith in the Imperial legal system, nor any interest in dealing with it. It is only a matter of time before this reticence leads to further tragic consequences.
With the Autumn harvest taken in, further problems raise their heads. Some of the more adventurous orcs take wagons and oxen and leave the Mournwold either to explore north into Mitwold, Upwold, and Bregasland or to visit Tassato. They seem oddly reticent to travel south across the Greensward into Kahraman however. Again, it is mostly the younger orcs undertaking these trips - and the people of the Marches in particular have no idea what to make of them. Marchers are relatively used to dealing with Imperial orcs, but these thralls are clearly not from Skarsind. There are a few more incidents when people react poorly to them - not to mention at least one public clash between a trio of orcs and a caravan of Faraden in the town of Hay.
Then there is the ongoing problem of the orc religion - the Synod appears no closer to resolving the thralls' concerns about the Way. The orcs are thus even more reticent to talk openly about their beliefs, which is giving some of their opponents an opening to denounce them as dangerous heretics.
- The Grendel armada is still anchored off the coast of Sarvos
- During the coming season all fleets from Tassato, Sarvos, the Brass Coast, Highguard, or Urizen will suffer a 1 rank penalty to production if they engage in trade.
- As a barbarian nation, formal negotiations with the Grendel would be the responsibility of the Imperial Consul, Skywise Fal
According to observers in Sarvos the Grendel armada remains anchored off the coast. True to their word, in return for the money they were given by the Imperial Senate they have not moved to attack any coastal territories. There have been no notable developments there since the raid on Dubhtraig. The silence is beginning to become a little worrying.
While the armada is stationary, the same cannot be said for the independent pirate captains who sail the Bay of Catazar looking for Imperial ships to attack. If anything, in the wake of the attack on Dubhtraig, they have redoubled their efforts. Unless something is done about them - such as the powerful Imperial magic that has kept them at bay in previous seasons - the effects of their raids will again be borne by Imperial traders. While they may be less confident in their dominance of the Bay, this has done nothing to slake the pirates' thirst for Imperial blood and coin.
Every Imperial trading ship passing through the Bay must contend with the threat of Grendel attack. If the situation does not change, every fleet based in Tassato, Sarvos, the Brass Coast, Highguard, or Urizen will continue to suffer a 1 rank penalty to its production if it engages in trade in the coming season representing the need to employ more marines, and losses to probing pirate raids. Any captain from one of the effected territories or nations is encouraged to create a story of their encounters with Broken Shore pirates, who fall into two broad camps.
The majority are reasonably typical Grendel - quick pirate ships crewed by orcs more interested in robbing and enslaving Imperial crews than in sinking their vessels. The remainder are significantly more of a threat - bloodthirsty pirates keen to spill the blood of captured humans as an offering to the eternal Siakha. These pirates are less organised than the run-of-the-mill Grendel, and are somewhat easier to outrun, but they also possess magical advantages that are not be be underestimated. In addition to the obvious benefits provided by effects similar to the Blood and Salt enchantment, some ships are accompanied by packs of sharks or shark-like creatures, presumably heralds of Siakha. In several cases they are accompanied by aberrant weather phenomena - especially rough winds that threaten to tear the sails of their prey, or dangerously unpredictable shifts in the currents that slow escaping vessels and make them easier to board.
There has been one successful negotiation with the Grendel, however. The whole story is not public knowledge, but it is believed that during the Autumn Equinox General Talbot of the Drakes met with a representative of Salt Lord Moorvain to negotiate the release of the Grendel's daughter and her soldiers. Apparently an accord was reached - Innevia, daughter of Moorvain, and the fifty other Grendel prisoners have left their makeshift pen on the island of Mariposa and returned to the Broken Shore. Details of the exchange are not commonly known, but it is believed that the General of the Drakes arranged a lavish feast for the orc prisoners before they returned to their people.
- The Jotun are angered by the raising of the dead and by destruction of the Meeting Place
- A message is to be delivered to the Military Council from the Queen of Kalsea during the Winter Solstice
- The Lasambrian Jotun engaged in the conquest of Segura have delivered an offer to the Empire.
- As a barbarian nation, formal negotiations with the Jotun (Lasambrian or otherwise) would be the responsibility of the Imperial Consul, Skywise Fal
The Jotun continue their conquest of the western Empire. In the north, despite spirited Imperial resistance, they still control the whole of Sermersuaq. In the south, the three armies of the Lasambrian Jotun have made significant inroads into Segura. There are reports of Jotun scouting parties tentatively exploring the marshes of Bregasland and Kallavesa, and some small groups of raiders have been sighted as far east as Pakaanan's Pass in Skarsind.
The western orcs have been largely disinterested in diplomacy in recent years, but the ice may be melting slightly. In the last week a report has come from the north that an emissary of Yrsa Jansdottir, Queen of Kalsea, Jarl of Jarls of the northern Jotun, has approached the Wintermark armies in Sermersuaq camped south of the ancient Suaq town of Sealtoq. Precise details are not common knowledge, but rumour suggests a message from the Queen has been delivered - or will be delivered - to the Imperial Military Council as part of the Muster.
It is questionable how diplomatic this message will be. In the last six months, the Jotun have been further angered - if such a thing were possible - by what appears to be particularly malignant magic used by the Empire. First, in the run up to the Summer Solstice a scourge of unliving horrors rose from the battlefields of Sermersuaq - including many orc and human warriors who had fallen in honourable battle in the previous months. Hungry for flesh the beasts attacked Jotun and Thrall alike, indiscriminately. That the attack came in the immediate wake of the Imperial withdrawal could easily be seen as proof the Empire was behind it.
No sooner had the Jotun dealt with the abominable hordes, however, than news emerged that the Meeting Place had been desecrated and the stone that marked the traditional spot where Jotun and Wintermark might come together peacefully was destroyed. The Jotun are no fools - they know fine well that the Empire's Sentinel Gate allows them to reach the Meeting Place, and they appear in little doubt that it was Imperials who smashed this ancient symbol of the understanding between Wintermark and Jotun and slaughtered the orcs nearby.
But the Jotun are also shrewd - the idea that the people of Wintermark might embrace dark magic and desecration while at the same time fighting with the kind of honour and heroism displayed by their armies creates a contradiction. Perhaps if the real culprits behind these attacks can be identified, there may be a chance to overcome the distrust and begin to restore the understanding between the two northern nations.
The Corazón, the Hierro, and their newfound cousins among the Escuta are Jotun, but they are also Lasambrian. Infused with a peculiar understanding of the Virtues, they are engaged in the conquest of Segura. While they have conquered part of the territory, they have delivered an offer - or more precisely an ultimatuum - to the Empire.
They intend conquer the whole of Segura, and Feroz - lands, they claim, were taken from their ancestors by the ancestors of the Freeborn. At that point, they are prepared to negotiate a ceasefire with the Empire, and to use whatever influence they may have to encourage the rest of the southern Jotun to do the same. Alternatively, if the Empire wishes, they may end the invasion of the Brass Coast now. If the Empire cedes Segura and Feroz to the Lasambrians, they can ensure that the Jotun attempt no further invasion of the southern territories.
Even if the Empire is not prepared to go so far, then in return for a show of good faith - ceding of the remaining regions of Segura - they will arrange a summit between the southern Jotun and the Empire at the Spring Equinox to discuss a more long-lasting arrangement.
Regardless, they say, any Freeborn who wishes to leave their conquered territory will be allowed to do so. Those who remain behind will not be treated as thralls however - the Lasambrians have no interest in stealing their Prosperity. Instead, they and their descendants will be offered the chance to become part of the new Lasambrian nation.
You can read more about the invasion of Segura here.
- The Druj offer a ceasefire to the people of Urizen.
- As a barbarian nation, formal negotiations with the Druj would be the responsibility of the Imperial Consul, Skywise Fal; the Druj have requested to speak with the leaders of Urizen however
Shortly before the summit of the Winter Solstice is due to begin a pair of heavily armed Druj warriors accompanied by a thin emaciated draughir cross over to the Imperial position, bearing a roughly torn white flag of truce nailed to a crude looking banner pole. They advance towards the Imperial position in Morrow. There is some discussion of the propriety of simply shooting the orcs and rescuing the draughir, but in the end cooler heads prevail. Not that they don't deserve it, most people agree, but it would be a pitiful thing to be executed by the magistrates for giving the Druj what they deserve. So, drawn bows pointed at them, arrows ready to fly at the slightest evidence of treachery, they are allowed to proceed until they are in hailing distance.
Somewhat reluctantly a well armed sentinel goes out to receive the parley. He is informed that the Druj are representatives of the Buruk Tepel, the leaders of the Druj. They have come with a proposal for a ceasefire - to be discussed with the leaders of the Urizen. They agree to abide by the rule of the Empire for the duration of their stay and expect safe passage in return "as is your law".
A tense discussion ensues by the end of which it is clear that the Druj are not here to discuss a surrender, neither to demand one not to offer one. But they are interested to see if it is possible to agree a cessation of hostilities between them and the Empire in Morrow and the adjacent territories. The sentinels query this last point with them - do they explicitly mean only the adjacent territories? The orcs grin like wolves and confirm that is the case. They are repeatedly asked to name their terms, they repeatedly refuse - they make impolite references to the political significance of the people they are talking to and stress they will present their terms to the "Buruk Tepel of Urizen" and no others.
The sentries who guard the Empire's borders are not empowered to negotiate, but even so people are not slow to ask the obvious. Why would anyone trust the Druj - their word is worthless. In response, the pale figure steps forth from behind the two warriors. Many folk had taken the creature for a slave, it is so emaciated and thin, but it is clearly more than that. From within its ragged furs it withdraws an old battered golden scroll case. Opening the case it pulls the scroll out and reads aloud.
It would appear that the Druj have found a way to appeal to the potent winter eternal Sorin - and offer to commit themselves to a geas, a magical oath that would bring ruin to either or both sides if they broke the pact. That doesn't make their terms any more appealing of course - but it may create the basis for a kind of trust if the Empire chooses to be similarly bound.
The Thule general visited Anvil and engaged in negotiations with the Imperial Military Council. Apparently as a result of these negotiations the Imperial Conclave passed a Declaration of Concord regarding their intention to share a ritual with the orcs of Otkodov. At the same time the Minister of Historical Research commissioned further investigation of the mine at Sungold Pass.
Meanwhile, the Varushkan National Assembly chose to dispatch Belikov the Wolf of Karsk to gain insight into the true nature of the slaves currently seeking sanctuary in Ivarsgard. If the mandate is enacted it should address concerns about the slaves' identity one way or another.
Great Forest Orcs
The Imperial Senate chose not to take advantage of the offer by the Great Forest Orcs regarding mapping the Mallum. They did however approve the resumption of work on the Holt of the Oak fortification in the Lower Tarn Valley.