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"I can't do it."

Gerard look fluxomed by the refusal, his mouth open slightly. "It's not really a request Lutomysla - this is the instruction of the Senate. Someone has to appraise this - I was hoping you might... " He trailed off, not quite sure what he was hoping.

The Varushkan smiled at her boss, trying not to enjoy the awkwardness of the encounter. "It's not really a refusal Gerard." they said. "I'm not saying I won't do it. I'm saying I can't do it - because it's not possible. I'm very sorry but you'll have to tell the Senate what they have asked for is not possible. From time to time they're bound to ask for something that is... unwise."

Gerard furrowed his brows and rubbed the bridge of his nose with his hand. He briefly imagined telling a room full of the most powerful people in the Empire that a semi-retired Varushkan cabalist had refused their instruction because they felt it was "unwise".

"Perhaps you could provide me with a more technical explanation of why you feel this task is too difficult for you?" he said. He regretted the snide tone as soon as the words had left his mouth. It wasn't like him at all, but Lutomysla had a way of getting under his skin. It was all well and good hiring former archmages but all too often they acted as if they had seen it all before.

Lutomysla just grinned at Gerard. "You already know why this won't work - but sure, I'll spell it out for you. An appraisal is all about finding a way to do something. You have something you want to happen, we work out what would be needed to achieve that. But this? This is asking for us to find a way to make something not happen. And not a specific thing either... There are an infinite number of ways our many enemies might raid us... each raid would be different, each would be unique. Each one would require a different way to stop it."

Gerard sighed heavily. "It's like they're asking us to stop the rain from falling..." he agreed.

"Hah!" Lutomysla laughed. "That would be much easier. We'd just have a plenipotentiary with the Cupbearer or the Hungry Wold and work something out..." she trailed off slightly. The pained expression on Gerard's face had taken all the enjoyment out of making fun of him. "Why don't you ask Graciana?" she said in a more conciliatory tone.

Gerard brightened at the suggestion. "You think she'll be able to manage this?"

"No." said Lutomysla shaking her head. "But she's unwise enough to give it a try."

Gerard rolled his eyes at the aging cabalist. "Thanks - you've been a great help." he said sarcastically.
The best tool.jpg
Graciana has come to the conclusion that the best tool for thwarting barbarian raiders is most likely the Sentinel Gate, supported by the Vigilance of Imperial citizens.
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At the Summer Solstice, the Imperial Senate requested an appraisal on "how the Empire can defend itself against raids, preferably without the construction of fortifications or the commitment of armies." The motion didn't specify which of the four senior researchers were requested so the decision was left to Gerard La Salle, the Imperial Auditor. After some discussion with the team they chose to appoint the Freeborn Night mage, Graciana i Lòpez i Guerra, to the task.

The appraisal represents a significant technical challenge. Graciana points out that there's no single way to stop raiding; as soon as you stop an enemy entering through the door by barricading it they will enter through the window. The Empire simply cannot prevent every barbarian from venturing across every border, nor discourage every lazy thug interested in taking things that do not belong to them, not while the Empire has something worth stealing.

What they can do, what they do currently, is track incursions and look for opportunities to use the Sentinel Gate to move to intercept those raids. Of course that doesn't always work, but that is the nature of armed conflict. If the prognosticators could appraise a way by which the Empire could win every battle, they would have done that centuries ago!

As such it is not possible to appraise a way to stop all raids - but Graciana is able to provide some suggestions for ways that might help in some cases.

Fund Mercenaries

  • The Senate could hire mercenaries to patrol the Empire's borders
  • This would require a Senate motion and would cost the Senate ten thrones per territory each season
  • The motion would only prevent a raid that explicitly aimed to damage the production of every personal resource in a territory
  • There are currently fifteen territories that are under threat from raiding

Graciana has talked with citizens who have suffered from the Jotun's recent raids into the western Empire, as well as those who endured the depredations of the Druj over the years. She has even a moot with the folks of Wintermark who suffered from the Thule before the peace treaty. The single best way the Empire can defend itself from raids would be to encourage Imperial citizens to do the work themselves. That way, the people that would benefit most could support the effort. It would still cost money, but done in this way, it might cost far less than would otherwise be imagined.

Funding these mercenaries will be sufficient to prevent raids that would harm the holdings of individual citizens. This would be enough to ensure that such holdings were protected from sweeping raids. To carry out an attack like that, the barbarians tend to fan out across a territory looking for any weakness. Patrols of schlacta, thorns, knights and others, will be more than capable of dealing with small bands of barbarians who venture across the border in an attempt to steal herds of cattle, troves of mana crystals, or loot patches of herbs.

What the mercenaries wouldn't be able to stop are the warbands of barbarians who are focused on pillaging civilian commissions, nor prevent them from conducting an organised raid targeting a specific named personal resource such as Jonah's Lament in the Mourn. The protection of these structures would still fall firmly under the purview of their custodian and most likely require intervention through the Sentinel Gate.

This solution would not be sufficient to prevent the actions of armies, particularly those intent on plundering. The raids that an army like the Red Wind Corsairs conducts can't be stopped by hiring a few guards. Ultimately, ensuring that the Jotun don't send an armed force of several hundred Jotun raiders to attack a specific target like the Singing Caves requires the intervention of the Imperial Military Council through the disposition of the Empire's armies or the heroes of Anvil travelling via the Sentinel Gate.

Bind the Hands

  • It is possible to use magic to protect the personal resources in a territory from raiding
  • An unknown enchantment has been laid over Imperial territories a number times over the past three years
  • It is unknown if this is being performed using an arcane projection, or if someone has access to a ritual text
  • The Raven's Plight in Wintermark are willing to support funding it being codified with the provision that it be added to Imperial Lore

Rather than the Imperial Senate funding mercenaries and guards to protect every territory that is at risk, the Imperial Conclave could attempt a similar solution using magic instead. Several times in recent years, powerful Autumn enchantments have been placed on territories in the Brass Coast. The ritual magic uses the subtle resonances of the realm to misdirect raiders. It has no noticeable impact on invading forces but it will prevent a plundering army having an effect on personal resources in the territory.

Graciana doesn't know who has been casting the ritual, nor how, since there is no ritual in Imperial Lore, but presumably someone at Anvil knows how to do it. Either they have their own ritual or ritual text, or else they are creating arcane projections to achieve the effect. The latter option would be expensive, but whatever technique is being employed, it definitely works. Of course if it is a ritual then it will require mana, and presumably a coven to cast it, and it would need to be cast on each territory that the Empire wanted to protect. But it might be cheaper than paying for soldiers to protect every border and more flexible.

If the Imperial Conclave could identify the magicians behind the enchantments, they might be able to negotiate for the ritual to be put into Imperial Lore. Of course if there is no ritual text, then it would mean codifying a ritual at one of the Empire's colleges of magic, which would have to be arranged and could be expensive depending on the magnitude of the ritual. Graciana believes that it is unlikely to be cheap given it targets an entire territory.

To help facilitate the endeavour, a Steinr coven in Hahnmark called the Raven's Plight have offered a reward for whoever created this unique enchantment if they will share it with the Empire. Provided the ritual ends up in Imperial Lore, they will present the Conclave with Gulnar's Eye, a rare artifactual stone that was found in the Deeps centuries ago. The Eye is a talisman that boosts a ritual magician's autumn lore by one rank twice a day. The Plight have placed the Eye in the care of the Prefect of the Conclave with instruction that it be available to be bequeathed to whichever magician the orders identify is responsible for creating the original ritual.

The Black Feast

  • The Conclave agreed that Tharim could feast on the mana sites and herb gardens of the Brass Coast
  • A number of Freeborn families have complained that this amounts to being raided by the Bound King

It is not only barbarians that can raid the holdings of Imperial citizens. Whilst the threat posed by the heralds of Agramant, Siakha, and Skathe are obvious, it is the actions of the King in Chains that are worrying some families in the Brass Coast. Over the last season their patches of true vervain have wilted, and a number have reported that the mana crystals that they managed to harvest have been wan in colour, appearing to have been drained of their magic.

These families understand that the Conclave has signed a contract with The Bound King - that the Enthroned Monarch has been given license to steal the Prosperity of Freeborn holdings in return for providing his knights to fight the Jotun. However they point out that it could be illegal for the Imperial Senate to make such arrangements - if these arrangements were considered to be a tax then they would clearly be unconstitutional. Ultimately what is the difference between the Jotun raiding their herb gardens and Tharim doing it? It amounts to the same thing in their view.

The Freeborn aren't stupid, they're aware that the family magicians and hakima who visit Anvil and take part in Conclave must have had their reasons not to stop the declaration and that Izarra i Riqueza, who raised the concord using the Golden Pyramid's declaration, must have had their own reasons for doing so. Moreover they do not intend to challenge the arrangements now - clearly the Coast and the Empire have some kind of contract with the Shackled Crown, and contracts must be kept. When the people of the Coast give their word, they keep it.

But the Brass Coast isn't Navarr or Highguard; the people in the nation don't expect to sacrifice their hard earned Prosperity in order to support an army that is already paid for by their taxes. They suspect it's not actually possible for the Imperial Senate to make it illegal for the Conclave to pay for its deals with other people's wealth. However they give fair warning, there must be no more agreements of this kind with Tharim, or indeed any other eternal, in the future. At least not that affect the Brass Coast. Any they have a simple ultimatum for if that doesn't happen - if there are any deals with Tharim involving the resources of the Brass Coast after, then they will respond in kind, withholding their taxes from the Imperial treasury.

Chief Magistrate Karkovitch has requested that, before anyone does anything precipitous, anyone who is visiting Anvil this summit who wishes to raise a complaint about Tharim's depredations come and speak to him about the legal options that are available.

The Brass Coast Assembly, however, could use a mandate to inform these aggrieved families that the current deal that the Conclave has made does not reflect a legitimate contract signed on behalf of the Brass Coast.

Despise the thieving bandit. Tharim has no right to the mana and herbs of the Brass Coast. We send {named priest} with 50 doses of liao to encourage citizens to refuse to pay their taxes until these raids are dealt with

Synod Mandate, Brass Coast National Assembly

If this mandate were enacted then taxation from Kahraman, Madruga, and Segura will all drop by roughly one tenth. If it continues and isn't stopped at the Winter Solstice 385YE then that will rise to one fifth, increasing to two fifths if it is not resolved during the Spring Equinox 386YE.

Jared of the Suns of Couros has offered an alternate mandate, using the Partner of Greatness power, to the Highborn National Assembly.

Seek out the poison in your neighbour's fields, lest your own crops be blighted. Highguard stands with their Freeborn siblings as a Partner in Greatness and demands that Conclave refrains from sacrificing the hard-earned Prosperity of the Brass Coast to the hungers of the Eternals. We send {named priest} with 50 doses of liao to encourage citizens to refuse to pay their taxes until these raids are dealt with.

Synod Mandate, Highguard National Assembly

If this mandate were enacted then taxation from Bastion, Casinea, Necropolis, and Reikos will all drop by roughly one tenth. If it continues and isn't stopped at the Winter Solstice 385YE then that will rise to one fifth, increasing to two fifths if it is not resolved during the Spring Equinox 386YE.

Design Notes

We have done our best with this appraisal to present methods that the players can use to deal with some of the raids that have happened in the past in the Empire, or which are happening currently. In general however, it is not possible to use an appraisal to stop other kinds of raids. We create raids as part of the plot of the game, they represent opportunities undertaken by the Empire's enemies (just as the Empire has opportunities against the barbarians) - and they are an important part of the military side of Empire. Some armies are able to undertake raids as part of a special action they can take - the Empire can't stop the barbarians attempting that - anymore than the barbarians can stop the Empire's armies doing the same.

More generally, raids against key locations in the Empire are a key tool that helps to keep battles and skirmishes relevant to the ongoing campaign. They are part of the dramatic storyline of the game - they are part of the plot of Empire. You can't use an appraisal to take away one or more of the tools we use to create plot!