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==Ashes==
 
==Ashes==
The [[No_evil_shall_escape_our_sight#Ringing_the_Bell|Silent Bell]] have been sent into Whittle by the Assembly of [[Vigilance]]. They have their work cut out for them. Even more so that other isolated Marcher towns, the Whittlefolk are suspicious of and unwelcoming to strangers. Initial attempts by Silent Bell agents from other nations to explore Whittle are rebuffed, in some cases quite rudely. Only Marcher agents have any success with the Whittlefolk. Masquerading as travellers, pilgrims, and merchants they observe the people as clandestinely as possible, compiling a list of those they identify as likely dedicated to the [[Malign spiritual presences|malign spiritual presence]] of [[Malign_spiritual_presences#Hatred|Hatred]].
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The [[No_evil_shall_escape_our_sight#Ringing_the_Bell|Silent Bell]] have been sent into Whittle by the Assembly of [[Vigilance]]. They have their work cut out for them. Even more so than other isolated Marcher towns, the Whittlefolk are suspicious of and unwelcoming to strangers. Initial attempts by Silent Bell agents from other nations to explore Whittle are rebuffed, in some cases quite rudely. Only Marcher agents have any success with the Whittlefolk. Masquerading as travellers, pilgrims, and merchants they observe the people as clandestinely as possible, compiling a list of those they identify as likely dedicated to the [[Malign spiritual presences|malign spiritual presence]] of [[Malign_spiritual_presences#Hatred|Hatred]].
  
 
Their task is made more difficult by the challenges of using the [[insight]] ceremony clandestinely. Examining a person's spiritual aura gives them a strong sense of being observed, so the Silent Bell agents cannot fall back on this tool until the very end of their investigation. Having spent months putting together a list of likely candidates, they performed a flurry of ceremonies and then immediately quit the area with their findings - which include a list of individuals they have proof are dedicated to Hatred. As is their standard practice with such an investigation, the Silent Bell have provided this list of ringleaders to the [[Cardinal]] of [[Vigilance]].
 
Their task is made more difficult by the challenges of using the [[insight]] ceremony clandestinely. Examining a person's spiritual aura gives them a strong sense of being observed, so the Silent Bell agents cannot fall back on this tool until the very end of their investigation. Having spent months putting together a list of likely candidates, they performed a flurry of ceremonies and then immediately quit the area with their findings - which include a list of individuals they have proof are dedicated to Hatred. As is their standard practice with such an investigation, the Silent Bell have provided this list of ringleaders to the [[Cardinal]] of [[Vigilance]].

Revision as of 14:38, 14 April 2022

Georgia met up with them five miles outside Whittle. They'd arranged a signal - the positioning of the lanterns - so they could warn her off if they thought they were being followed. All three lamps were lit so she hurried out of the bent copse across the scrub. Esther hauled her up, and then scrambled back inside the wagon, ceding her position on the seat to the senior agent. Toby, driving, acknowledged her with a wink, but his face was drawn. She'd known them both long enough to know that they were taking this particular investigation to heart, and didn't press the issue. But one part of her immediately began to consider if their empathy for their subjects might become a problem. She hated that part of herself.

After another mile or so, Toby began to speak. His tone was light but he didn't look directly at her as he spoke.

"It started off fine, same as last time." he began. "A little banter, a little 'how's the family would you look at this weather'. All normal until we brought out the wine."

Georgia nodded encouragingly. This was the third time Toby and Esther had visited Whittle, posing as travelling merchants. Although perhaps "posing" was the wrong word - when they weren't acting for the Silent Bell they actually were merchants, although their routes rarely took them this far north. It made their cover more believable.

"The Red Mystery," prompted Georgia.

"Aye, the Dawnish vintage. Yon innkeeper was interested, you could tell. I don't want to talk the Marches down but most of our local vintage is pure piss and everyone knows it. They may be a bunch of stuck up arseholes, but you have to admit they know how to cook wine. it's about all they do know."

Georgia frowned, exchanging a quick look with Esther. Toby's partner nodded, and mouthed "just keep listening."

"Anyway, she's interested. We're talking about price, but it's obvious there's something on her mind. Then the priest comes in, with a couple of heavy types."

"We're not absolutely sure he was a priest," said Esther quickly. "He didn't introduce himself as one, but the way Carla - the innkeeper - reacted it was like someone had thrown a bucket of cold water over her. All the confidence just drained out of her. it's hard to describe."

Toby looked irritated by the interruption, and took control of the tale again. "He starts asking us a bunch of questions. How was our journey, what about this weather, how's the family stuff as you do, but then he keeps going. What makes proud Marcher folk sell Dawnish slop, that kind of thing."

"The weirdest thing is how everyone kept smiling," interrupted Esther again. "But it was the kind of smile everyone has just before someone gets stabbed. Not a happy smile, is what I am getting at." She drew her shawl closer around her shoulders, and looked pensive. Georgia wondered how many times Esther had seen that kind of smile. Had worn it herself maybe. She'd never really asked how a former Tassatan mountebank, a confidence trickster and conwoman, had ended up in the Marches married to a merchant, and a soldier in the Silent Bell. She took it on faith that someone had, but made another mental note to look into it herself at some point.

"The point is, it was clear that we weren't going to sell any Dawnish slop, and that if we pressed the issue things might get messy," said Toby testily. "So we didn't, obviously, and as we'd agreed I shared a few choice words about Dawnish wine makers, and about how their knights in shiny armour just show they don't do any real fighting and the like. And they lapped it up. The priest - he claps me on the shoulder and says it's just a sign that the Dawnish lack the pure will to defend what they hold dear."

"Those words," said Georgia intently. "Were those his exact words?"

Toby pondered, shook his head in frustration. "I can't remember exactly. But as we're leaving - all friends now, and us the richer for two sheep carcasses and a dozen ingots of green iron - the priest fella hakes my hand and looks right into my eyes and says 'trust the feeling in your gut that reviles from that you do not understand' and..."

The big man faltered and fell silent. He kept his attention focused on the road, but his face twisted into unfamiliar expressions. Esther touched Georgia on the shoulder to get her attention. In a quick whisper she shared her observation - the priest had poured something over his hands before touching Toby, she thought. From a little bottle he kept in a pouch at his side.

"It was... for a moment I felt really good. Really good. It just welled up inside me. Knowing that I was a son of the Marchers - a son of the people who left Dawn behind to find a better life away from their bullshit. These people around me - these Whittle people - were like me. We'd nothing in common with those noble pricks, and everything in common with each other. All those "jokes" you hear about the Dawnish, when the drunks are trying to outdo each other? Yeah, right there and then I felt them all and I knew they were true. And it was... it was good."

His voice shook, and he squeezed his eyes shut. When he opened them they were glistening.

"And I caught myself thinking - I'm so sorry Esther - I caught myself thinking that it was a shame I wasn't married to a real Marcher."

His wife touched him reassuringly. and he took a ragged breath, and set his face.

"I think we've got em," he said grimly. "I've been anointed before, and I would bet you a crown to a cracked pot that's what the prick did to me. I've been keeping a watch on myself since, keeping it tamped down, so you can take a proper look but as soon as you've confirmed it's an aura I want it gone, and I'm not going back to Whittle. I'm sorry Georgia, but I'm not. You'll need to find someone else. I think Esther agrees?"

His wife nodded emphatically. Georgia cursed inwardly - this was the perfect opportunity to get agents inside the sect. None of the others had been anywhere near as successful. If she asked them to, she knew they'd go back. But she also knew that she'd lose them - lose them from the Silent Bell - and the Whittle folk weren't worth it. She pulled out two phials of liao from her satchel, and told Toby to reign in the oxen.

"We'll do it now," she said crisply. "No point dragging it out. It's not proof, but it's another bundle of sticks for the pyre. What you're describing isn't any kind of virtuous aura, I'm sure. Let's check it, and then let's get this filthy thing off you, and get back to civilisation."

"Somewhere with hot water," growled Toby. "I want to scrub my skin off."

Georgia patted the big man on the shoulder. "For what it's worth, I agree. I think we've got them. I think we've finally got them."

Overview

In recent years the eyes of the Marches have been fixed broadly on the Mournwold. First as a literal battleground between Imperial forces and the Jotun, but now as a more metaphorical battleground. Between the people of Whittle, and the Mournwold thralls, the hills and fields of the Mourn have echoed with a different kind of conflict - one arguably tied to the heart of what it means to be a Marcher. As 383YE draws to a close, three topics of conversation keep cropping up across the Marches. What is to be done about Whittle? What is to be done about the Mournwold thralls? And what is to be done to protect the Marches from future Imperial curses?

Ashes

The Silent Bell have been sent into Whittle by the Assembly of Vigilance. They have their work cut out for them. Even more so than other isolated Marcher towns, the Whittlefolk are suspicious of and unwelcoming to strangers. Initial attempts by Silent Bell agents from other nations to explore Whittle are rebuffed, in some cases quite rudely. Only Marcher agents have any success with the Whittlefolk. Masquerading as travellers, pilgrims, and merchants they observe the people as clandestinely as possible, compiling a list of those they identify as likely dedicated to the malign spiritual presence of Hatred.

Their task is made more difficult by the challenges of using the insight ceremony clandestinely. Examining a person's spiritual aura gives them a strong sense of being observed, so the Silent Bell agents cannot fall back on this tool until the very end of their investigation. Having spent months putting together a list of likely candidates, they performed a flurry of ceremonies and then immediately quit the area with their findings - which include a list of individuals they have proof are dedicated to Hatred. As is their standard practice with such an investigation, the Silent Bell have provided this list of ringleaders to the Cardinal of Vigilance.

Accusation

  • The Cardinal of Vigilance has a list of names detailing those Whittlefolk the Silent Bell believe are the leaders of the sect of Hatred
  • If these people are condemned by the Synod, the magistrates can move quickly to bring them to trial after the summit
  • The current Cardinal of Vigilance is Ser Ancél Watcher

A sanction of condemnation naming those Whittlefolk who are known to be the leaders of the sect of Hatred in the Mournwold would empower the magistrates to try them for blasphemy. The wording of the judgement must be unequivocal. They must be accused by name of the crime of blasphemy - of promoting false virtues. If the judgement is upheld, the priest who raised it must submit their evidence to the magistrates. At this stage, the findings of the Silent Bell are likely to be sufficient to launch the investigation, which will see those named Whittlefolk tried and likely executed. Blasphemy is a serious, generally capital, crime in the Empire.

While it is most likely the Marcher, General, or Vigilance assembly will raise the sanction against the people of Whittle, any assembly can raise the judgement, and it requires only a lesser majority to be upheld. There are several forms the judgement can take, but only condemnation will be effective in dealing with the Whittlefolk. They will simply ignore any penance they are asked to perform. There is no value to castigation - everyone knows the Whittlefolk have embraced hatred and they have categorically refused every urging of the Marcher assembly to abandon it. In the same way, there is no value to a judgement of inquisition - the Whittlefolk will simply refuse to come to Anvil. If the Synod wishes to deal with them, only condemnation will have any meaningful effect.

A bad broom leaves a dirty room.

Whittle Proverb

Trial

  • If at least three-quarters of the leaders of the Whittle sect are condemned, the threat they represent will end
  • If fewer than three-quarters of the leaders of Whittle are condemned, the sect will survive

It is not necessary for the judgement of sanction to condemn every one of the leaders. If at least three-quarters of those named in the report given to the Cardinal are condemned, then the sect of Hatred in Whittle will be destroyed. There will still be individuals here and there who take their grudges too far, or allow their suspicion of outsiders to get the better of them, but the organised threat posed by the Whittlefolk sect will be removed. In addition to rooting out the corruption in the Mournwold, this will remove one of the significant voices of opposition to the Mournwold thralls.

If fewer than three-quarters of those named leaders are condemned for any reason, the sect will suffer a major setback but will survive. The most likely outcome is that they will rally their supporters, and enter into open rebellion against the Empire. It's not clear how much damage they can do, but they will certainly move against the Mournwold thralls and against anyone they identify as having conspired against them. It's likely the sect will still ultimately be defeated, but it will require armed force to put them down.

If nothing is done the situation will continue to fester. The Whittlefolk will continue to spread their poison, which will inevitably lead to conflict between them, the Mournwold thralls, and their supporters. Leaving the corruption to spread will only end in violence.

A weed left in the garden means a hungry belly in the Fall.

Whittle Proverb

Guilt

  • The Silent Bell believe there are followers of Hatred at Anvil

There is one area where the Silent Bell is unable to provide reliable evidence. They believe from their observations of the Whittlefolk that there is at least one or more followers of the corrupting force of Hatred among the Marchers who visit Anvil for the summits. They have few leads - they think it likely that these people are from the Mournwold but they cannot rule out the possibility that they have corrupted Marchers from other territories as well. They are not in a position to investigate the entire Marches for what they hope is a handful of individuals - they would not know where to start.

Yet they are confident these people exist. They may even be attending the Winter Solstice. The best they can recommend is that the Assembly of Vigilance may wish to turn their unblinking eye on those Marchers at Anvil during the coming summit, and see if they can identify these malefactors themselves.

Obviously now this news is out, they will want to get their dedication removed or changed so they urge every priest at Anvil to consider examining the soul of any person who approaches them about becoming dedicated, or abandoning an existing dedication. Indeed the Vigilance assembly might want to remind people to do this in all cases, perhaps with a statement of principle - it's just good practice. Any priest who can't perform the ceremony of insight themselves will almost certainly be able to find a member of the Vigilance assembly prepared to help them,and those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear.

You can't grow good apples in bad soil.

Whittle Proverb

Buckle and Bend

  • If any of the Whittlefolk are condemned, the arrangement with the Tassato chamber of commerce will end
  • If any of the leaders of the sect are found to be citizens of Little Mournwold, that enclave will collapse

During the Autumn Equinox, the League assembly addressed the issue of the community colloquially referred to as Little Mournwold. Ophelia Sanguineo Rezia di Tassato raised a mandate intended to offer the Whittle folk sanctuary in Tassato, as long as they accepted that preaching Hatred would not be tolerated. The mandate was not upheld by the assembly. No sanctuary was offered.

There has been a connection between the folk of Whittle and Tassato for several years now. At one point several Whittlefolk families moved to the city in the wake of the Jotun conquest of the Mourn. Indeed, the Mournwolders still send shipments of green iron to the city each season in recognition of the debt they owe the League, to the enrichment of local businesses. If any judgement of condemnation is raised against the Whittlefolk, this arrangement will obviously come to an end.

Furthermore, critics of the Little Mournwold district have openly worried that there may be agents of the Whittle sect in the city, potentially fanning the fires of discord between Mestra and Regario. It's not clear at this time what the Silent Bell may or may not have found out about the Marchers still living in Tassato, but if even one of their leaders turns out to be a member of the Hate sect, the backlash will be immediate. While there will be no violence, the people of Tassato will turn a cold shoulder to the Marchers living in Little Mournwold. In the face of such hostility, the enclave will fall apart, and the citizens there will scatter, most of them returning to the Marches.

If it turns out that fears of a secret Hatred cult in Tassato are unfounded, then it will lay these concerns to rest. There will be no sanctuary for the Whittlefolk, but Little Mournwold will continue to prosper. Indeed, if the League Assembly upholds a suitably worded statement of principle reaffirming the friendship and shared history between the people of the Marches and the citizens of Tassato, it may lead to the opportunity to cement that relationship, recognising the Little Mournwold district as being a benefit to the city and the Mourn.

A Common Old Song

Tens of thousands of orcs, the former Jotun thralls, remain in the Marches. When their masters, the Jotun, were driven out by the Empire many of the thralls refused to leave. They control some of the richest farmland in the Mourn, and thirty years of living and working alongside Marcher subjects of the Jotun has left some of them feeling they have more in common with their neighbours than with their warlike masters. In Summer 383YE, the Imperial Senate commissioned an appraisal to examine how they might become full Imperial citizens, and the report laid out certain steps that could be undertaken. Now it seems one of those steps may be about to be completed, but the situation is still far from settled.

Game Information: We've added the quality Foreign Orcs (Mournwold Thralls) to the regions where the former Jotun thralls are most populous. There's no penalty associated with this quality at this time; it's simply a reminder that there are tens of thousands of foreign orcs living in these regions, controlling some of the best farmland.

Details of the orcs are summarized on the Mournwold thralls page, and you can find the results of the appraisal into integrating the Mournwold thralls in the Heart of gold wind of fortune,

Imperial orcs, be vigilant. No evidence of reincarnation has ever been presented for our kind. Orcs have but one life. To think otherwise will invite apathy and the Howling Abyss. Stay vigilant in our ways. Guide those orcs new to our nation in our ways.

Irontide Lok, Autumn Equinox 383YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 63 - 18 (Greater Majority))

Bury some seeds

  • The former Jotun thralls who wish to fight have been offered a place among the Imperial Orcs
  • The Imperial Orc assembly has made it clear they will not accept the thralls' peculiar spiritual beliefs

During the Summer Solstive 383YE, Bloodcrow Udoo of the Imperial Orcs raised a mandate in their assembly that offered a place in the nation to any Mournwold thrall who was prepared to fight. The message was reasonably well received; previously any young orc raised by the thralls would have to head west into Jotun lands if they rejected the peaceful ways of their parents.

During the Autumn Equinox, however, the mandate was followed by a statement of principle raised by Irontide Lok that made it clear the nation would not accept the peculiar spiritual beliefs of the thralls. The orcs living in the Mournwold firmly believe that they are capable of reincarnation - a belief starkly at odds with the Doctrine of the Howling Abyss. There is some concern that this statement might lead to further trouble with the Mournwold thralls, but nothing of the kind happens. When they learn of it, the orcs are broadly unsurprised. They appear unconcerned that the Imperial Orcs reject their beliefs - if anything their respect for that nation is increased by their refusal to compromise their own beliefs for the sake of expediency.

There is no need for a mandate: none of the Mournwold orcs plan to move to Skarsind anyway. This statement sounds a death knell for those who might still have held out hope of encouraging the Mournwold thralls to leave the Marches; there will be no welcome for them among the Imperial Orcs. That said, it was never going to have much traction among the thralls - if they had wanted to give up their homes in the Mournwold they would have done so when their former masters were driven out of the Marches. As much as anything else, it is the strength of the bond between the thralls and the land they farm that makes it even possible that the egregore might be able to accept them as Marchers.

All in all, the orcs are happy on their farms in Green March and Southmoor and elsewhere. They are content to remain foreigners if they must, and it's a common joke shared with their neighbours that even as foreign guests of the Empire their taxes are significantly lower than when they were in Jotun lands.

Expect some strong branches

  • The Marcher Assembly can still choose to issue the mandate to invite the Mournwold thralls into their nation
  • The first obstacle to the mandate - dissent - could be addressed by condemnation of the Whittlefolk
  • The second obstacle to the mandate - faith - remains an issue

The open mandate to take the momentous decision to invite the Mournwold thralls to join the Marches remains available to the Marcher National Assembly. Of the two major problems identified by Naomi in her appraisal, the Empire is closest to addressing the opposition of the Whittlefolk and their allies. If that is done, one of the obstacles will be removed. The other - the matter of faith - remains as apparently insurmountable as ever, however. If anything the statement of the Imperial Orc assembly exacerbates the problem even more. The Imperial Synod may have accepted that Marcher beliefs about reincarnation are not in conflict with the Doctrines of the Faith, but the Doctrine of the Howling Abyss is very clear: Orcs live only one life. After death, the orcish soul either is lost to the Howling Abyss or crosses it to become an Ancestor who can guide and advise living orcs.

For now, it appears the situation is at an impasse. Unless the Imperial Synod can find a way to reconcile the Doctrine of the Howling Abyss with the former thralls' beliefs, they remain heretics in the eyes of the Way. Mind you, as some Marchers remark wryly, up until the Synod spoke up about reincarnating as trees, that's been the attitude of some Imperial priests to every Marcher, so maybe it's not something to worry about. They're only half serious.

Watch That Old Fire

  • The Mournwold orcs are experiencing problems with bandits and thieves

Apart from the question of whether they can be integrated into the Marches, the Mournwold thralls and their neighbours are reporting an increasing problem that has nothing to do with questions of faith. The thralls will not defend themselves with weapons. They're perfectly at home in the rough-and-tumble of a ball game, but even games with sticks make their elders nervous. When it comes to fighting, they would rather die and be reincarnated than risk condemning themselves to oblivion by picking up a weapon.

Unfortunately, opportunistic jackals have realised that this makes them easy prey. The worst elements of Marcher society - outlaws, bandits, and thieves - are beginning to gravitate to the regions where the Mournwold thralls are concentrated. They steal with impunity, knowing that the orcs will not fight to protect their wealth. It is beginning to become a serious issue. When they travel - and the orcs do travel to other parts of the Marches to buy and sell like any other citizens - they are able to hire caravan guards. At home, however, the task of protecting acres of farmland and small villages is one that they are finding insurmountable.

In the west, the responsibility to protect the thralls from predators - whether they go on two legs or four - would fall to the Jotun. In the Marches there is nobody to officially take the role of protector and the orcs remain easy marks. Furthermore, the problem is beginning to spread. Bandits and thieves are emboldened by the ease with which they can rob the orc farmers, and some are beginning to turn speculative eyes to the least well defended farms of human Marchers as well. In discussion with their neighbours, the Mournwold thralls have come up with a proposal.

Meet All Their Needs

  • The Mournwold orcs suggest the establishment of a dedicated militia in their lands
  • The Bailiff could be responsible for protecting Mournwold orc farms, or could have a wider remit similar to the Bailiff of the Grand Market

On the whole, the Mournwold orcs are not poor. They control some of the most prosperous farms in the territory after all. Their problem is not paying for guards, it is finding and coordinating those guards. As such, and inspired by the example of the Bailiff of the Grand Market, they propose the construction of a Bounders Hall somewhere in Mournwold, where groups of beaters can work with the pacifist orcs to keep their farms free of thieves and bandits.

Sarcombe would probably be the best place for such a structure - which would not need to be especially big as the actual practical work of dealing with bandits, outlaws, and raiders would be done out in the wilds not in a comfortable office. The proposed structure would cost 12 wains of white granite, 24 crowns, and take three months to complete. It would be given the responsibility to protect Mournwold thrall farms and settlements from those who wish to take advantage of their non-violent ways, coordinating with local militia, willing stewards, and beaters to drive off outlaws and bandits. A title such as Bounder of the Fields or Bailiff of the Downs. In return, the title holder would be able to claim an income of 15 crowns each season, partially as payment from the grateful orcs and partly as goods confiscated from defeated outlaws.

When news of the propsal begins to spread, however, there is a counterproposal from the people of Sarcombe itself. Mournwold can be a dangerous territory. The hills are ideal for bandit hideouts, there is the constant threat of Jotun raiders crossing the border, and the vallornspawn of Liathaven have never been shy about boiling across the border (and indeed are currently quite agitated, apparently). As such, they propose that in addition to protecting orc farms, a position with a much wider remit to keep the Mournwold free of threats to farms, towns, and mines alike (such as the raiders who recently attacked the Singing Caves for example) could be established.

Bailiff of the Green HillsProduction
7 crowns8 ingots of green iron, 4 random ingots
16 crowns16 ingots of green iron, 8 random ingots
30 crowns24 ingots of green iron, 12 random ingots

They propose a much larger structure - still at Sarcombe of course - and a title such as Beater of the Mourn or Bailiff of the Green Hills. Their proposal would cost 25 wains of white granite, 50 crowns in labour costs, and take three months to complete. The title holder would not only receive the money promised by the orcs (15 crowns each season) but would have the opportunity to turn that money into valuable metals sourced from the markets of Sarcombe if they so wished.

Either proposal sounds good to the Mournwold thralls. In both cases, they are prepared to contribute to a project that will bring them significant benefits. As long as the Senator (or Bearer of an Imperial Wayleave) commissioning the Sarcombe Beater's Hall is a Marcher citizen they will provide up to 25 crowns toward the labour costs (paying for the entire lesser hall, or half that of the greater hall).

Neither opportunity is particularly time sensitive, but the longer the situation persists the more likely it is that there will be a major incident that might need to be dealt with.

Try To Hold On

  • Rivers Run Red remains interdicted by the Conclave
  • The Marchers continue to enjoy the special diversification option
  • With the Imperatrix definitely not returning, talk turns again to removing the ritual from Imperial Lore

It has been a little shy of three years since the Mournwold was devastated by Imperial curses during what is arguably the most bloody season of that entire campaign. In the wake of the curses, the outrage of the Mournwold, and many of their neighbours to the north, was unparalleled. The Imperial Conclave interdicted one of the ritual involved - Rivers Run Red - and it has remained illegal to perform it in the Empire since.

While Rivers Run Red and Mountain Remembers Its Youth remain interdicted, the landskeepers of the Marches continue to offer their expertise to yeomen who wish to supplement their crops with magical menhirs. Only the most optimistic believe this will be anything like enough, but there are those who consider each such menhir created a reminder of the need to keep the Conclave from wavering.

Some landskeepers and threshers are worried however. There have been some signs that the Conclave may already be wavering in its commitment to the interdiction. One of the strongest champions of the interdiction was the Imperatrix, and she shows no signs of returning. There are, perhaps unsurprisingly, rumblings of concern especially with the current situation in Bregasland. There is real concern that the Conclave will remove the interdiction, and another Marcher territory will be subjected to murderous curses. The effects were bad enough in the hills and fields of Mournwold, some Marcher magicians paint a bloody picture of the kind of horror that would result if the Bregas marshes were to run red.

There are three practical steps discussed by Marcher magicians who share this concern. The most common is to maintain a watch on the Conclave and actively oppose any attempt to overturn the interdiction. This will mean Marcher magicians securing allies, and standing fast against attempts to make the unacceptable, unforgivable curse legal again. The other two are much more ambitious.

The Declaration of Remorse
First posited in Summer 381YE, this is a placeholder name for a new power that the Imperial Senate could create. It would allow the Imperial Conclave to create a new declaration that would serve as an "escalation" of interdiction. If the declaration were passed, a ritual would become illegal not only to cast but to own. All known ritual texts would be sought out and destroyed, removing the ritual from Imperial lore. it would cost 25 thrones per named ritual to seek out and destroy every copy of each of those ritual texts in the Empire. If a ritual were removed it would not prevent anyone who had mastered the ritual from continuing to cast it, but it would no longer be part of Imperial lore and could not be learned without a ritual text.

What We Need Most

  • There has been further discussion of the so-called "Declaration of Remorse"

A number of the landskeepers have returned to the early discussions in the wake of the first casting, when it was suggested the ritual might be removed from Imperial Lore entirely. The wryly named "Declaration of Remorse" does not exist, and indeed an effort to create it in Spring 381YE was defeated in the Senate. But it could be done, in theory. Doing so would be a major reassurance to the Marchers. Seeing the ritual that blighted the Mournwold and killed tens of thousands would be a sign - albeit a belated one - that the Empire was committed to ensuring none of its people suffered this way again. The landskeepers are a little more divided on the subject of whether Mountain Remembers Its Youth needs to be destroyed - it is after all an equally vile curse but it works primarily through corrupting hills and mountains. It seems that several vocal Mournwold landskeepers support its destruction just as much as they do Rivers Run Red, but their colleagues in Upwold, Mitwold, and Bregasland are more sanguine.

What Will We Do?

  • The Marcher assembly could use a statement of principle to encourage reprisals against anyone who curses Marcher lands

There is a third suggestion, which primarily comes from the threshers of Mournwold and Bregasland. In pre-Imperial times, any magician who harmed their neighbour or their land with dark magic would often find themselves on the receiving end of a visit from a thresher. Those who look fondly on those ancient days take a darkly pragmatic approach to the situation, referencing the traditional role of their calling. Anyone who curses a Marcher territory - and arguably anyone who uses a large-scale curse to the detriment of Imperial citizens - should be killed. If the law will not do it, the threshers might.

Most stop short of actually agitating for murder - but only just. "Make a scarecrow of the sorcerer" is an old saying still used by some threshers who see merit in making a very pointed example of magicians who harm their neighbours. The practice of hunting and killing sorcerers is very much in the past (officially) for Marcher threshers, who these days tend to work more closely with the Magistrates. These days.

One of the threshers, an unrepentant old woman with the remarkable name of Alisoun Bathwater, has openly suggested that others who share her calling not balk at "plowing the hard furrow" and taking matters into their own hands should the Conclave waver. "if the Conclave won't do what's right... the threshers will have to. People got off lightly last time, and that makes them cocky. We need to let 'em know that won't happen next time... Thas the only way to make sure there ain't a next time..."

She has been cautioned that her words are unwise, but she refuses to withdraw them. Indeed she has openly called for the Marcher National Assembly to take a stand. She challenges them to enact a statement of principle using the strongest possible language, encouraging every Thresher to do "what needs to be done" to deal with any ritual group that curses Marcher lands in the future.

Further Reading