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Gaterender Sark started at the visitor with undisguised contempt. The Thule might have freed their slaves, but that didn't change the fact they had the morals of maggots as the Wintermarkers would say. Beside they made his skin crawl, something about the way they went around... alone... it wasn't natural. He wished Brik were still here to tell everyone what to do. He would have thrown this Thule out on his ear, he was sure of it. Some days he thought he could still hear his old friend's voice shouting across the school's courtyard. It would be great if Brik had some advice for him now.... but no - it was just him... and this Thule.

"Right", he said, dipping his quill into the ink well. "Like I said, three times already, there's no-one here who can make a decision like that. But I'll write it down and make sure someone gets it."

"See that you do" the Thule responded in that creepy voice, not quite monosyllabic, but all dry and flat, suggesting ennui, or perhaps the idea that he was not quite awake. Sark eyed the strange medallion hanging round the orc's neck. He'd once heard someone claim it was their amulets that did the actual talking. If it weren't for the fact that the warlock's mouth was moving he could believed it.

"And it's a book you say you want? You don't know it's name? But you're sure it exists?" He didn't bother to hide the scorn in his voice.

"Quite sure. We've had it's existence confirmed by the Glass of the Heavens. It's not a book - it's an almanac. We are certain you have it. Not you personally. Your Empire."

Sark rolled his eyes at that. Not your personally? Bloody warlock seemed to think he was simple. He ground his teeth together and concentrated on writing it down.

"I wil need to... see it. Touch it. It must be the original, otherwise it will be impossible to confirm its authenticity..."

A voice shouted in Sark's ear, causing him to sit bolt upright in his chair, his friend's voice unmistakable. The voice came again, but quieter this time, whispering a quiet warning.

Sark stared up at the visitor, his eyes narrowing accusingly. He still had no idea what this book was, but now he knew what questions to ask "Confirm it's authenticity eh? And how exactly do you plan to do that?..."
Orcs By Night.jpg
The orcs of Skarsind and the orcs of Otkodov have a tense relationship.


In response to the decision of the Thule Dragons to outlaw slavery, the Senate elected to remove the tariffs and taxes on Thule trade. This has brought an increase in trade over the northern border, with Thule merchants appearing in various locations in Wintermark and Varushka keen to trade. As part of this burgeoning trade, the Thule have also made a number of overtures to the Empire looking to take advantage of this new situation. First they made two offers to Wintermark - now they come with two more offers, this time for the Imperial Orcs. They offer valuable rewards in exchange for knowledge.

It seems that the Thule are suffering from a significant shortfall of food. As Winter draws on, the Dragons are making efforts in the short term to deal with that problem. The Empire could, if they wished, extend the hand of friendship to the Thule and offer aid to them. An act of charity in their hour of need? Stranger things have happened and it would surely be well received. Alms are not the the only thing the Empire could send north though - there is an opportunity for the Freeborn to send preachers and demagogues to frozen Otkodov. That would likely be less well received.

Lore's Labour's Lost

  • A Thule Warlock presents an opportunity to trade herbal knowledge for magical knowledge

For reasons unknown, the Thule emissary, the Warlock Lirk, chooses to travel to the College of Warcasting in Eastermark to put his offer to the Imperial Orcs. Lirk claims to be a ritualist, with knowledge and experience of battlefield rituals as well as the personal enchantments favoured by some warcasters. He claims to have access to rituals which are not contained in Imperial Lore, rituals that the Thule know, but which they might be prepared to trade with the Imperial Orcs.

Lirk is prepared to offer the Imperial Orcs a single ritual text in exchange for what he seeks. If the idea interests the Skarsind Orcs, then Tathenon the Gyre would instruct people to provide the Imperial Orcs with a short list of rituals from which they might chose one. Once they have selected a single ritual, the Ancient One would create a ritual text for it and once that was done, the exchange could take place.

What Lirk's master wants is not a ritual in exchange but rather herbal lore. Tathenon believes the Imperial Orcs have gained a tome of herbal lore - an almanac taken from the Druj. They have apparently taken some of the recipes from this text and spread knowledge of them throughout the Empire. Tathenon desires access to these rituals, but more than anything he wants the almanac and the lore that is contained within it. The Thule Dragon is offering to provide a ritual text of the Imperial Orcs choosing in exchange for the almanac.

Lirk is insistent it must be the original text - they point out that the Empire has had ample time to make copies already, so they are not denying the Empire anything. Tathenon simply wants the original to ensure that there is no possibility of any errors creeping in during transcription.

If the idea of the exchange is amenable to the Imperial Orcs in principle, then the senator for Skarsind, or the Preceptor of the College of Warcasting, would need to use the coming summit to send a winged messenger to Rak Who-Speaks-For-The-Dragons-Undivided, who dwells at the Embassy to Otkodov, Mieriada, Miekarova. If Rak sends word to Tathenon that the Imperial Orcs are open to the idea of a trade, then Lirk will attend the following summit with a list and description of possible rituals.

The Preceptor, or some other suitable Imperial Orc could then examine the summaries, while Lirk examines the almanac and uses simple ritual magic to assure his master of its provenance. If a deal can be agreed, Lirk will return at the following summit with the chosen ritual text to exchange for the almanac.

It is not a complicated scheme, but it is long and drawn out. Lirk however stresses the advantage of this approach - it will give each side a chance to get to know the other better. Tathenon is apparently eager for better relations with the Imperial Orcs and hopes that this careful, measured trade might facilitate that. And besides, his master is undying so he is happy to take the time to ensure everyone is satisfied with the bargain.

The position of Preceptor of the Skarsind College of Warcasting is currently vacant following the recent death of the title-holder, Gaterender Brik.

Taming of the Cattle

  • The Thule are keen to study the particular techniques employed by the Shepherd of the Great Herd
  • They are prepared to offer an ancient artifact mask in return

The second offer comes direct from the Thule ambassador Rak, this time speaking for Freynir. The Black Dragon wishes to send warlocks to the lands of the Shepherd of the Great Herd to study the novel herding techniques pioneered by the Skywise and the other Imperial Orcs. The Thule apparently possess large open tracts of land that might benefit from the "no fences" approach employed by the Shepherd and his assistants. Rhak sends Freynir's assurances that his warlocks will provide the minimum possible disruption, but they will need to undertake extensive study, and will need to ask the people who work the farm many questions to ensure they understand exactly what they are doing.

These intrusions would have some impact on the performance of the farm halving the production, but the effects would only last a single season. The warlocks would be there for a season and then they would be gone. There would be no lasting impact - at least not on the Shepherd of the Great Herd. A clear demonstration of the skills the Imperial Orcs have mastered are likely to provide long lasting benefits to the Thule if they can reproduce them in Nithoggir and Urdur.

Rak is at pains to stress that the Thule do not expect to receive this knowledge for free. In return they would present the Shepherd with Strágríma, an ancient artifact of the Thule crafted long ago before they were forced north of the mountains by the Empire. Strágríma is a potent ritual focus, a magical mask that provides benefits equivalent to an Imperial Straw Mask. Strágríma is old, incredibly old, but it's power is as strong today as a thousand years ago when it was made, such is the potency of the star-metal used. However Strágríma's long age does mean it has accrued a small flaw, those who wear it are plagued by strange voices that whisper in their mind. This is a nuisance, but it doesn't affect the utility of the mask in anyway. Rather, the Thule see this as a sign of its worth.

If the Shepherd of the Great Herd is prepared to host the Dragon's warlocks on the farm for a season, in exchange for Strágríma, then they would need to send word of their agreement by winged messenger to Rak before the end of the next summit. The ambassador won't commit to the offer being available after winter passes.

The position of Shepherd of the Great Hunt is currently vacant following the recent death of the title-holder, Luga.

Dignity and Liberty

The Thule have just outlawed slavery in their nation. This is an immense step in Virtue and should be encouraged. They have done this because they want our help, because they are in danger from the Jotun. We the Freeborn Assembly believe that it is more Virtuous to reward them for their Virtue and provide that aid, than it is to travel to Kahraman to kill wounded Lasambrians.

Rocio i Fijadoz i Guerra, Brass Coast Assembly, Autumn Equinox 384YE, Upheld (Primacy 174-0)

To be freed from slavery is to have a right to now choose where to call home. Slaves freed from the Thule should be encouraged to seek virtue and consider emigrating to the Empire to start a new life, no longer being under their ex-master's thumb. The House of Guerra in Madruga will always welcome refugees to help them find a place to call their own.

Ahshen i Fiel i Guerra, Brass Coast Assembly, Autumn Equinox 384YE, Upheld (Primacy 192-12)

Very shortly before the Autumn Equinox, the Thule Dragons issued a decree outlawing slavery. Rak Who-Speaks-For-The-Dragons-Undivided indicated that any slaves with even a tenuous tie to the Empire would be allowed to travel south from Otkodov and arrive within weeks. The Varushkan, Wintermark, and Imperial Orcs national assemblies urged their people to prepare for an influx of travellers. In the end perhaps eight hundred humans, former slaves of the Druj, were returned to eastern Seremersuaq and northern Karsk. It became clear reasonably quickly that by "even a tenuous tie to the Empire" the Thule meant "human" - almost none of these people know anything about the Empire and its nations. The egregores and priests of the respective nations - along with the newly created Hearthtender of the Unbroken and the Warden of the Trees and Hills - are doing their best to house these folk and find homes and jobs for them.

It was not only those nations that border Otkodov that raised statements in the Synod relating to the Thule and their former slaves. Far away to the south, Rocio i Fijadoz i Guerra celebrated this manumission, while Ahshen i Fiel i Guerra declared that slaves freed by the Thule should be encouraged to seek virtue and consider emigrating to the Empire to start a new life. The Brass Coast Assembly agreed with them, and both statements were upheld with a greater majority. So some thought has been given as to how the Brass Coast might recognise and encourage the Dragons' actions, and how best to reach their former slaves. It's a very long way to go, and the climate is apparently atrocious, but the orcs of Otkodov and the Empire are at peace; there should in theory be no bar to Freeborn missionaries crossing the mountains and extolling the virtues of dignity, liberty, and prosperity to the former slaves.

Freeborn chain.jpg
It's a very. very. very long way from the Brass Coast to Otkodov.... but the Freeborn have never been afraid of a little walking.

A Caravan of Hope

  • The Empire could send a caravan of food north to Otkodov to recognise the face they have abandoned slavery

Recent communications between Thule diplomats and the people of Wintermark have suggested that the orcs of Otkodov are running short of food. Askja of Volham hints that the decision to make all of their slaves free has left the Thule with mouths to feed that are no longer content to consume whatever weak gruel is given to them. The hunters, fishers, and farmers of Otkodov will presumably be able to deal with this increased demand in time, but in the short term there may be starvation in the north. The Thule are in negotiation with the Empire to extend their hunting rights, but in the meantime the Brass Coast may be able to help take up some of the slack. If the Brass Coast really want to encourage the Dragons, they could arrange a caravan of food be sent north during the Winter. This would be a charitable act; if the Freeborn demand payment for this food it isn't a gift, it's just a service.

Not that anyone in the Brass Coast would ever dream of demanding that anyone contribute charitably. Giving a donation, just as with giving a gift, is a matter for the individual and their own opinion of virtue. Prosperity may say that "the Prosperous are not selfish; all that is worthwhile is shared with those who deserve it" but the virtues don't try to dictate who counts as deserving. But the fact remains that if the Freeborn want to encourage the Thule, one way to do that would be to send food to them without strings attached.

The Civil Service can help organise this charitable donation, but it would be time consuming and difficult. To arrange anything on a large scale would require a suitably worded Senate motion. If the Senate approved it, then it would create an opportunity for any Imperial citizen who wanted to to donate money to support the project over the next three months. The amount donated would determine how much food would be donated, and how effective it would be.

There's no way to know how much food the Thule need to ensure they get through the winter without problems. The Civil Service conservatively estimate that if the project will need to raise at least 50 Thrones to have any impact at all. There are four territories in Otkodov, presumably all with their own populations of suddenly-released slaves. If the project raises at least 200 Thrones, it is very likely that the orcs of Otkodov - freed slaves and citizens alike - would have a much easier Winter.

Would they be grateful? Again, there's no way to tell. But surely the Prosperous don't give a gift in anticipation of receiving one in return.

OOC Note: If the Senate authorises this it will create a commission page that anyone who wants to can contribute money to in downtime. We'll provide a link and further instructions on the interlude page following the event.

Tales of Liberty

  • The Brass Coast could send priests all the way to Otkodov to let the former slaves know there is a place for them in the Empire
  • This will cause a major diplomatic incident

The matter of sending missionaries to encourage the former slaves to leave Otkodov is one for the priests of the Brass Coast to consider. The Thule do not welcome Imperial citizens wandering around their territories - and indeed the Empire knows very little indeed about Otkodov other than Verthandi. There are regular trade caravans however that pass through the mountains into the Thule lands, and priests could easily accompany them. A mandate has been prepared, should the Freeborn wish to go ahead with Ahshen i Fiel i Guerra's proposal.

The fundamental right of any being is to live freely in the manner that they wish, and the former Thule slaves are no exception. We send (named priest) to Otkodov with 50 doses of liao to let everyone there know that they do not need to live under the thumbs of their former masters. Let them come to the Empire - there is a place for them there.

Synod Mandate, Brass Coast National Assembly

If this mandate is enacted then over the next few months Freeborn priests will travel to Otkodov, and preach of the Empire's virtues to any Thule prepared to listen. Where possible they'll focus their efforts on the former slaves, but it may prove difficult to tell them apart from other poor Thule. It's likely that this will encourage some of the orcs to want to leave Otkodov and come to the Empire. The Hand of Guerra and similar people would be able to offer them a place to stay temporarily, and help them find new homes. Some might be prepared to join the Imperial Orcs, but even those who aren't could be found homes among the various independent orc communities the Empire is allied with, and other opportunities may present themselves.

This pales into insignificance, however, next to the likely response of the Thule to Freeborn priests meddling in their affairs. The Dragons have not been shy in the past about making it clear that they do not welcome Imperial interference in their nation. It's notable that no orc former slaves have come south. Even when the Thule sent the slaves liberated from the Druj in Ossium into Varushka, they were all human (apart from a small number of horrible monsters pretending to be human, but that's not the point). The Civil Service estimate that this mandate, if it is upheld, will cause a major diplomatic incident with the Thule.

Provided they don't mind causing a diplomatic incident, there is another approach that Azir i Shartha i Riqueza has suggested:

Ambition teaches that the greatest of journeys start with a single step. In liberating their slaves, the Thule have taken such a step. We send (named priest) to Oktodov with 50 doses of liao, to engage with the Northern Orcs, encourage them to treat their newly freed populace with dignity and virtue, and demonstrate that doing so will be prosperous for all concerned.

Synod Mandate, Brass Coast National Assembly

If this mandate is enacted then Freeborn priests will still travel to Otkodov, but rather than speak of the virtues of the Empire, they will instead try to use Prosperity to encourage the Thule to change. It is difficult to assess how receptive the Northern Orcs will be to this outreach, but it won't cause anyone to leave Otkodov and head south, rather any changes will take place within the lands controlled by the Dragons. If that results in civil unrest, or in changes that the Dragons do not appreciate in anyway, then it is certain to cause a very serious diplomatic incident indeed.

But that said, if the Freeborn truly believe in the legacy of Guerra... what's a little diplomatic incident alongside the chance to bring liberty to an oppressed people?