"Beware" he said a moment later, but quieter now since he no longer needed to shout to make himself heard. Behind him he heard the sound of blades being quietly drawn as his entourage unsheathed their weapons.
Ahead of them on the road was a slim looking orc, dressed in expensive armour that was dotted with runes. Geir stared at him, something was not right, though he couldn't put his finger on it. There was something of the Summer-touched to the orc - it was a look in his eyes.
"My master the Lame Smith sends his greetings, Jarl Geir. He bids that you are well and that your journey is swift but challenging."
Geir stared at the creature, realizing now that this was no orc, though it bore the face of one. He struggled for the right answer for just a moment, but then remembering his court manners he inclined his head, just a touch and spoke. "The Iron Bull accepts your greetings and returns them. We would consider ourselves blessed if you would travel with us."
This time the herald bowed his head. "Alas I cannot, for my master bids me return swiftly when the message is delivered."
"Speak then - we will hear your message." he responded, but the creature only shook his head. Instead he approached the band, and without saying another word, withdraw an ornate scroll case and offered it to the Jarl.
Alaung, his Godi, stepped forward and took the case. Geir kept his gaze firmly on the newcomer, but the being had already turned and was walking away.
Either end of the case was decorated with ornate filligree in the shape of an owl. Alaung removed one, pulled the yellow parchment clear of the case and swiftly read it through, once and then a second time. Once the priest was certain he had the right cadence he began to orate.
"The Lame Smith challenges Jarl Geir, the Iron Bull. The People of the Mark are gathering at Anvil, preparing to pit their skills against each other for a prize, a great shield. The Reeve of the Summer Lands defies the Jarl and his warriors to enter their contest and win this worthy shield for the Jotun."
A murmur of excitement coursed through his warriors at the news. This was a challenge worthy of a Jarl. Perhaps there would be more honour here than this thrall's errand had first offered!"
A New Home
- Nearly forty Imperial military captains supported the efforts to escort the freed orcs to Skarsind
- The military captains received support from the Winter Sun, heralds of Irra Harah, and the Great Forest orcs and briars
- The military captains have received rewards due to the Imperial Orc National Assembly passing a mandate
As discussed last season, a great many orc slaves who were freed during the sack of Dubhtraig were lost throughout the Empire while attempting to make their way to their new homes in Skarsind. Scatterd from one end of the Empire to the other, the task of locating them all and escorting them to Skarsind appeared monumental. Luckily, the heroes of the Empire rose valiantly to the task to finding them and getting them safely to their new homes.
Find and Retrieve
Nearly forty captains of military units volunteered for the task, working alongside bands of Imperial Orc soldiers from the Winter Sun. Though overwhelmingly made up of Imperial Orc captains, only the Navarr did not directly contribute to the rescue effort - no doubt having their hands full with the vallorn.
Notable help is provided by the Great Forest Orcs and their human allies, after their offer of assistance was approved by the General Assembly. The Imperial Orc assembly further requested that any preachers able to do so travel with the orcs and briars of Therunin - an arrangement that worked surprisingly well once the preachers had accepted that the Great Forest orcs were not interested in discussing religion. To the surprise of some, the briars travelling as part of these mixed bands were more than happy to talk about matters of spirituality with the Imperial orc preachers - provided the topics remained restricted to the nature of the spirit and virtues such as Pride, Courage, and Loyalty. Despite a few careful attempts to broach the subject, the briars would not speak of their blasphemous beliefs about Anarchy - although they were more than happy to talk about Imperial politics and the need for every citizen to enjoy liberty, dignity, and prosperity.
Further assistance was provided by heralds of the Golden Hare, who are currently enjoying the benefits of Amity. While no more than a score of Papa Otec's emissaries appeared active in the Empire, they proved adept at finding small groups of orcs who had wandered into dangerous environments, especially those who had become lost in Hercynia, Bregasland, Kallavesa, and the forests of Temeschwar.
A Brand New Day
- Every Imperial Orc who owns a business, farm, forest, or herb garden gains one rank of production until the start of the Winter Solstice 383YE..
Working together, the various groups were able to account for all the former orc slaves known to have been recovered from Dubhtraig, and bring them to Gildenheim where the civil service have been busily helping them to find new lives. Perhaps a hundred and fifty or so immediately set out for Astolat, where the Winter Sun were billeted - the offer of a parcel of land in return for military service is a keen motivator. The remainder have sought out opportunities for employment across the territory. A few have chosen to join the communities of the orcs who helped them directly, while others have been recruited by orcs business owners, foresters, farmers, and herbalists across Skarsind. A handful have sought admission to the College of Warcasting, and a few no-doubt inspired by the preachers who helped rescue them have sought training at the Legion's Rookery. Perhaps twenty in all have thanked the Imperial Orcs for the offer of a home, but declined and instead returned to Therunin with the orcs of the Great Forest.
Regardless of where they have ended up, this influx of new citizens has proved to be a boon to the Imperial Orcs. Every Imperial Orc who owns a business, farm, forest, or herb garden will gain one rank of production for two seasons after the Summer Solstice as the newcomers settle into their new lives.
Great Forest orcs
- Construction continues on the Holt of the Oak in Lower Tarn Valley
- The Great Forest orcs once again offer to help with the construction of an embassy
- A delegation from the Great Forest tribe is expected to arrive in Anvil during the summit
- The Imperial Consul, Skywise Fal is officially responsible for dealing with the Great Forest orcs
The Great Forest orcs have been busy. The majority of their warriors, those who still carry their spears, have gone to aid the Navarr in Brocéliande. Another large contingent, including many of those who had been traveling the trods alongside their hosts, have spent the last several months working with the Imperial Orcs to help the scattered refugees from Dubhtraig make their way to Skarsind. The remainder continue their lives in the Lower Tarn Valley - building, working to raise their crops and their families, and slowly but surely making Therunin their home.
Construction continues of the Holt of the Oak. All of the required resources to complete the fortification have now been provided to the tribe, and work continues apace. If nothing changes, the weirwood castle should be completed shortly before the Winter Solstice. The orcs of the Great Forest are already making preparations to move many of their people within its walls when they take control of the structure.
A small delegation from the Great Forest is believed to be attending Anvil during the coming summit. As usual, there are no details as to the nature of the delegation nor exactly when it will arrive. The closest estimation the Civil Service are able to provide is "probably Saturday after noon". On a related note, the suggestion to the Empire that they might wish to build a formal embassy remains on the table - although as before Chief Vallack has indicated that if the embassy has not completed construction by the start of the Winter Solstice, he and his fellow orcs will take it as a clear sign that their relationship with the Empire should continue to be on an entirely ad hoc basis.
- The briars of the Lower Tarn Valley have requested the Senate grant them permission to construct a facility to refine their own liao.
While they are not themselves orcs, the humans who live alongside the Great Forest orcs are treated as close friends and allies so their concerns tend to be lumped in with the concerns of the tribe. About a month after the last summit, a surprising request comes from them, delivered to Peakedge Stead by a pair of friendly briars and an emissary of Chief Vallack.
During the Spring Equinox a group of heroes, led by Eadric Fjellrevening, knight-errant of House de Rondell, journeyed through the Sentinel Gate to a location just outside of Sweetglades. According to rumour, the expedition uncovered the lost Liao Garden of Therunin - a sinecure built in the early Empire that took advantage of the unnatural fertility of the vallorn to help grow vinum more efficiently. It was overrun by the vallorn during the reign of Emperor Nicovar, and believed destroyed. It seems that Eadric and their companions found the remains of the old facility and were able to clear some of the vallornspawn infesting it. The exact details of what happened there are unclear, but the outcome seems to have been that the briars and the Great Forest orcs were able to recover a large supply of preserved vinum sap, and a number of pieces of equipment related to its refinement.
The briars believe that they can set up a vinum refining system. They are a little cagey about the details, but it appears that there are still a few among their number who know how to refine liao - but the tools needed to do so on any meaningful scale were lost when they left Dourfell Keep. It clearly doesn't sit well with the briars that they need to ask the Empire to allow them proceed with their plans, but it is equally clear that their Great Forest allies expect them to obey the laws of the Empire in this regard.
Their proposal is that the Senate give them permission to build a workshop and some storage using the salvaged material. This would require a Senate motion, but would not count as a commission for the Empire - the briars would do all the construction work and provide all the materials themselves, and build their facility in the Lower Tarn Valley. The result would be that the humans living in Therunin would be able to produce their own liao. The legitimacy provided by the Senate motion would also mean that Navarr traders would be happy to sell them with more vinum sap once their reserves run low - assuming they were for some reason unable to cultivate their own vinum.
After some discussion, an alternative is grudgingly proposed. Rather than simply giving the briars permission to build it, the Empire could work with them to construct the workshop and storage at Peakedge Stead. This would result in a sinecure, ultimately controlled by the Empire. It would require a Senate motion (or the use of an Imperial Wayleave), and require 8 wains of weirwood and 16 crowns in labour costs. The resulting sinecure would need someone placed in charge of it - ideally a Navarr citizen - who would receive half the liao produced each season (predicted to be 6 liao). The briars would receive the other half of the production. The person raising the motion could define their own appointment method but the one most acceptable to the briars would be either unanimous decision of the Navarr senators, or appointment by the Navarr national assembly.
There is of course no requirement to deal with the briars at all. It is unlikely they will be able to get much use out of the tools they have recovered without Senate approval, and there are obvious concerns about allowing a group known to harbour heretical and blasphemous beliefs to produce their own liao.
Also somewhat grudgingly, the briars have given the name of one of their people - Ursol Gwin - who is prepared to receive missives from Imperial citizens. In addition to being a magician, Ursol is not especially mobile, and they rarely leave the Great Forest encampment in Lower Tarn Valley, making them ideal as a point of contact for anyone wishing to communicate with the briar community.
- Rak Who-Speaks-For-The-Dragons-Undivided has extended an invitation to the Ambassador to Otkodov to join him in the Caucus Forum
- The current Ambassador to Otkodov is Yevgeni Katzev of Varushka
During the Spring Equinox, Rak Who-Speaks-For-The-Dragons-Undivided visited Anvil with an acolyte to begin negotiations for the release of Imperial slaves held by the Thule, The negotiations did not produce a treaty, consisting primarily of the two ambassadors laying out their expectations for the negotiations and what each side was prepared to offer or was interested in. In particular, the Thule took custody of the ritual text for the ritual known as The Immaculate Architect - as agreed during the Winter Solstice summit.
As a result of these preliminary negotiations a small number of Imperial slaves have been released - no more than a hundred - possibly as a token of goodwill. The slaves were deposited at Wendell's Hope in Miekarova without ceremony - dressed in warm clothes and with a note saying that they "had been purchased by Erska Crowspeaker". The civil service are doing their best to deal with these former slaves, offering what assistance they can to help them begin new lives in Varushka. Many appear to want to travel west to Wintermark, however, to find out more about this "Crowspeaker" who secured their freedom from their orc masters. The staff at the embassy were able to secure the assistance of several Varushkan mercenaries to provide an escort to the former slaves - allegedly out of concern that there may be misunderstandings when they passed through Skarsind. It is believed these slaves were met in Kalpaheim by the Wintermark egregore who has taken a personal interest in helping them find new homes in the 'Mark.
The Thule ambassador to the Empire, Rak Who-Speaks-For-The-Dragons-Undivided, is not planning to visit Anvil this season. Rather, he has extended an invitation to the Ambassador to join him in the Caucus Forum - a magical chamber maintained by the eternal Lashonar. The main topic under discussion will be the negotiations regarding slaves, and the matter of the ongoing sanctions against the Thule, but Rak indicates that Grand Warlock Fljajokull will also be in attendance. The chamber will be available from 11pm on Saturday night and Lashonar will send a herald to the Hall of Worlds to collect the Imperial delegation; Rak invites the Ambassador to bring up to four others with them when they visit. (Accessibility: Visiting the Caucus Forum will require some walking between the Hall of Worlds and an encounter tent; Combat unlikely and players may use the non-contact gesture as needed.)
There have been other cautiously positive developments as well. Following a formal apology from the Ambassador, the imprisoned Imperial Orc scholar Snowstorm Henk and his group have been released by the Thule at Sungold Pass. They are apparently none the worse for their short period of captivity; Snowstorm Henk is keen to receive reassurances that the Minister of Historical Research received the notes he had smuggled out of his prison; he apparently intends to write a full report on Sungold Pass for the Imperial Archivist at his earliest opportunity.
Not everything has been quite so positive, of course. The Thule are still concerned about the trade sanctions the Empire has imposed on them following the ratification of the Liberty Pact. The Ambassador has, however, issued another formal apology, this time for the way the sanctions were imposed. Rak has grudgingly accepted on behalf of the Dragons, and has made some guarded comments about the need to act quickly when an opportunity presents itself. It is clear the orcs of Otkodov are still chafing under the trade restrictions that have been imposed however.
They are still laying claim to Sungold Pass, and a resolution to that dispute seems if anything even further away. They are also extremely concerned about some recent developments along their borders with the Empire that have left at least one Thule mine owner dead.
- Thuli, the owner of a mine in Krevsaty has allegedly been murdered by Imperial citizens
- An opportunity exists to perform an investigation via the Sentinel Gate
Shortly before the Summer Solstice, news comes from Thule-held Krevsaty in Karsk that a mine owner named Thuli has been murdered by Imperials. Exact facts are somewhat light on the ground, but the orcs are claiming that a small band crossed the border into Krevsaty, attacked Thuli's mine, and killed the overseer. A number of warriors were also injured or killed apparently, but they are of less account. The motivation for the raid is clear, claim the Thule - the murderers also stole several dozen slaves from the mine and transported them back into Imperial territory.
|Thuli's Mine, Krevsaty, Karsk||19:30 Friday||4 people||45 minutes|
|Accessibility: Combat Unlikely Or Contained. May use the non-contact gesture as needed. Comes with same risk as if in Anvil; any combat will be in a contained area that is easily avoided both IC and OOC.|
The Thule peace treaty explicitly says that "there will be no conflict or raiding between the Thule and the Empire." While the wording is not explicit, the Thule have made it clear that they expect any attack on themselves to be treated by the Empire as an attack on Imperial citizens. There has not, as yet, been a demand for reparations - it seems that the Thule are waiting to see how the Empire chooses to respond. Indeed, an invitation has apparently been received by the Ambassador to bring a small group of investigators to Thuli's mine to evaluate the evidence for themselves.
The Varushkan egregore has confirmed that a conjunction of the Sentinel Gate exists to Thuli's mine in Krevsaty. It will open at half -past-seven on Friday evening, and allow up to four Imperial citizens to pass through. The expectation is that the Ambassador will put a team together to take advantage of the conjunction.
According to the Thule, while most of the murderers escaped with their stolen slaves, one was captured alive. Reading between the lines, the prisoner has apparently refused to speak to the Thule, and it seems that the orcs interrogation methods have proved ineffectual. It is likely that their invitation is based on the premise that the prisoner will be more likely to speak to Imperials - something the Ambassador may wish to bear in mind when selecting their team.
Ossium, Skarsind, and Karsk
- The Thule are consolidating their hold on regions in Imperial territories.
A major force of Thule warriors remains in Ossium. With the Imperial armies there engaged elsewhere they are the only major military force in Ossium. Work has begun on a fortification in the Bonewood and according to scouts it is already half completed in just three months. Reports from Karsk indicate that the work on the fortification in the hills of Krevsaty begun last season has also progressed at supernatural speed - it is likely to be completed by the start of the Autumn Equinox. It seems the Thule are making good use of The Immaculate Architect.
Further west, the new Thule castle at Crow's Keep in Skarsind has been completed. The central fortification at Crow's Rest is supported by watchtowers and garrisons overlooking the passes into Urdur to the north, and the Silver Peaks to the west.
- A delegation of Jotun journeyed to Anvil last summit, and agreed a weregild with Wintermark
- A band of Jotun warriors will arrive on Saturday to join a contest in the nation of Wintermark
- In the absence of a Jotun ambassador, diplomatic duties fall to Skywise Fal, the Imperial Consul
During the Spring Equinox a delegation of Jotun, representing Jarl Haska Whitemane, visited Anvil. Among other things, they negotiated a weregild for those Jotun murdered during the destruction of the Meeting Place. Following discussion with the mediators of Wintermark, a blood-price of 200 thrones was agreed. No method of actually paying the weregild was discussed at the time, however. The Jotun are keen that the Winterfolk impress upon their Imperial allies that this blood-price is not for a lump of stone, and not even for the damage done to centuries of tradition, but for the Jotun murdered when the stone was shattered, in a place of parley and peace.
Shortly after the Spring Equinox, however, a small group of Jotun cross the Ford of Berusen and approach Atalaq under a flag of truce. They are on their way to Anvil, but before making the long trek south they disclose the reason for their delegation to the Winterfolk.
Among the people of Wintermark gathered in Anvil a contest has been held in the last year to claim ownership of a finely crafted shield. The bouts to decide who claims the item will begin at 3pm on the Saturday of the Summer Solstice. Word of the contest has evidently reached the Jotun by some means - there is a story about an owl with iron feathers bearing news of the contest but that is most likely a metaphor. It appears that a team of kirkja warriors has sent to compete against the Winterfolk. Led by Jarl Geir, The Iron Bull, the warband has already beaten other Jotun challengers to claim the right to journey to Anvil.
Jarl Geir has made it abundantly clear that the team of warriors he leads are there for the contest and have no interest in partaking in any form of negotiation; nor will they take messages back to the Jarl of Kierheim. However, they have also explained that they have a diplomatic mission as well as a mission to engage the Winterfolk (meaning they are due the protection granted to any barbarian delegation with a diplomatic mission, as per Imperial law).
They have been charged with collecting the weregild the Empire has agreed to pay for the murdered Jotun. They anticipate taking all two hundred thrones back to Kalsea with them when they leave. Or possibly not. As they point out, it is not too late to simply hand over the murderers - all the murderers - to face Jotun justice rather than pay the weregild.
- The spy network in the Mountains of the Moon has been dismantled
The spy network in Tsark was completed less than a year ago, and now it is gone. Last season the Empire received word that the orcs and humans who live in the Mountains of the Moon has discovered its presence - although how they became aware of it is still unclear. They immediately increased their vigilance along their borders, and sent out many new patrols looking for people who did not belong. The various caches, hides, and secret camps created in the Mountains of the Moon were systematically located and broken up. The spy network is gone. And then...
... and then nothing. Without the spy network there is obviously no way to know what is going on in the Mountains of the Moon, and the people who live there have made no effort to contact anyone outside their mountainous borders.
- The Grendel have requested that the Imperial Senate grant the Imperial Fleet Master the authority to deal with them as an Ambassador
- Amending the title would require a senate motion
The Grendel continue with their invasion of Feroz, and the Empire has retaliated with a convincing challenge to orc supremacy of the Bay of Catazar. A fortnight before the Summer Solstice, a message is received in Sarvos apparently dispatched by order of Salt Lord Moorvain of Vorlach. It suggests that before any further negotiation between the Grendel and the Empire can take place a formal ambassador must be recognised; there must be someone in a position of authority to discuss the surrender of Feroz after all. The Grendel are not interested in embassies and such rubbish at this time; what they are most interested in is ensuring that someone worthy of respect is appointed by the Empire to treat with them. They have had enough of dealing with committees and people with dust and mud in their veins.
They suggest that if the Empire wishes to have any diplomatic contact with the Grendel they appoint the Imperial Fleet Master - currently Esteban i Del Rio Blanco i Guerra - as ambassador to the Grendel in recognition of his Audacity, Ambition, and Cunning.
The civil service interpret this request as asking the Senate to amend the powers of the Imperial Fleet Master to include the responsibility for, and authority to engage in, diplomacy with the Grendel. This would give the title the powers and responsibilities of an ambassador - the ability to draft a treaty, to receive a delegation, and (should the Grendel and the Empire construct embassies) potentially to receive briefing and mercantile support.
It is, of course, not quite that straightforward. Currently the Imperial Fleet Master is appointed by the Imperial Military Council. The current well worn path for appointing an ambassador is that the Senate does so by itself. This would place diplomacy with the Grendel under the aegis of the Military Council, which may not be in line with the Senate's plans.
Regardless of how the Senate wishes to proceed, the southern barbarians have made clear that they will not recognise the Imperial Consul in any dealings with the Empire. They will continue to request to negotiate with the Imperial Fleet Master until they have been granted the authority - in which case they are given leave to send a Winged Messenger to Salt Lord Moorvain.
The Jotun warriors lead by the Iron Bull visited Anvil without incident, and returned home bearing the weregild promised by the Empire - in the form of two hundred Throne pieces.
During the Summer Solstice 383YE, the Imperial Senate ratified a treaty with the Thule that among other things set in place a system of payment to release Imperial citizens who were slaves. It also ceded Sungold Pass to the orcs of Otkodov - although this clause has caused some concern as it is not precisely what the Thule were expecting. Also during the summit, the Senate voted to amend the powers of the Imperial Fleet Master, making the title responsible for diplomacy with the Grendel.