"Virtues, these things are melodramatic!" said Gincenzo loud enough to be heard.
"Shussh!" his companion hushed him.
The latters D... O... O... M... appeared in dripping blood on the pillar spelling out a single word - doom.
"I'm just saying is this really the best they could come up with?"
"Shussh!" said half a dozen people around him. "It's topical!" hissed his companion.
"Topical? It's trite is what it is!"
Two members of the audience in front of him turned round and glared at him. The look on their faces was considerably more alarming than the playwright's piss-poor story about some watery doom that was coming for Sarvos and he sunk back into silence.
Gincenzo was unmoved by an implacable force of evil hell bent on the destruction of everything that made life dear, but he didn't fancy his chances against a couple of bravos with too much cheap wine in their belly.
At the Summer Solstice 383YE, mortal agents acting on behalf of the the Hag Queen found a way to inflict a terrible curse on Sarvos - simultaneously shattering every mirror in the Jewelled City. The curse destroyed every shard of silvered glass to be found anywhere. It was not just the the countless elegant wall and vanity mirrors found in every wealthy Sarvosi home that were attacked. The Hag Queen has struck directly at the city's Pride, destroying the mirrors installed on every roof that once made Sarvos famous throughout the world. The city no longer glitters in the sun; the jewels have been shattered.
Replacing the mirrors is no easy business. The cost to replace so many mirrors is eye-watering, but in theory they could be borne by private citizens. Sarvos is one of the wealthiest cities and the people are nothing if not ambitious. But mirrors created and installed over five hundred years cannot be replaced in five hundred days. Glass making is a skill that takes years to learn and the assorted glass-making carta in Sarvos jealously guard their secrets and protect their supplies of high-quality sand even more. As a result the cost of mirrors has rocketed. Wealthy citizens are paying a Throne's ransom for a small handheld mirror, while poorer citizens are having to make do with a bowl of water.
To add insult to injury, the source of this terrible curse, the location in Caricomare where this bitter magic was unleashed is now a twisted place; a site of despair and hunger.
Averting the Doom
- There is an opportunity to define what Sarvos will become
Folk legend has long held that if the mirrors are shattered then the city will surely fall. No-one ever imagined such a thing might occur but now that this doom has come to pass, many citizens grow fearful. Most knowledgeable magicians believe that this legend is nothing but superstition, but a few point out that there are powerful hearth magics tied up with mirrors. Mirrors are important in creating, defining, and revealing identities, which are important in magic. Has the character of Sarvos been destroyed along with her mirrors? It is hard to reassure people that the worst is passed.
Rituals are performed and then repeated over and over, but the results are always the same. The Hag Queen's curse has run its course; it has left no enduring tendrils of power. Sarvos is not cursed as Imperial magic understands it, rituals like Wisdom of the Balanced Blade are of no use here. But still the nagging fears will not abate, and a malaise that lingers in the air. And some scholars of magic claim that it is possible for something to be doomed, a controversial idea of a terrible confluence of hearth magic and fate that has nothing to do with being cursed.
The popular mountebank, Ricardo di Sarvos, provides a more hopeful outlook. He claims that the old legends that Sarvos will be lost if the mirrors are ever broken is correct. But he says it is the Sarvos that people knew that is gone, the Jewelled City that sparkled like gems in the sun is no more. That identity is destroyed, like a theatrical mask it has shattered into a thousand pieces and is no more. Ricardo is hard at work touring the city he loves, performing his popular shadow puppet play, the Rat-Prince and the Beggar-Queen (which has received rave reviews by critics). After each performance he speaks eloquently to the crowds about the need for a new Sarvos to rise from the shattered shards of the old.
Perhaps there is something in what Ricardo is saying? The ideas soon catch fire in the febrile crowds he gathers. If the Jewelled City has fallen then perhaps what Sarvos needs if it is to survive is a new epithet.
The City of Songs
- Sarvos could embrace its heritage as a city of art and beauty
- An ambitious young architect proposes to renovate an old playhouse dedicated to the arts - the Palace of Glass
Since the settling of Sarvos before the wars between the patricians and the chapters of Highguard, it has been a city of art and beauty. Travellers come from across the Empire to visit The Blood Red Quays Art Gallery, and the area around the Asavean Embassy has become known as a hot spot for artwork, especially beautiful embroidery in the Asavean style. Not just paintings and sculptures, the city is also well known for the performing arts, opera and ballet are the preserve of the rich, but to visitors it can seem like there is a theatre house on every street.
Many citizens now feel that the future of Sarvos lies in embracing art and beauty. This has always been a tradition of the city and what better way to rebuke Skathe than to embrace everything she hates? The best way to embody this decision would be to refurbish the Glass Palace.
The Glass Palace was a magnificent theatre originally constructed during the reign of Empress Giselle. The vast structure was expensive to build and expensive to run and it was never able to sell enough seats to recoup its costs. Near the end of the reign of "the Unwise" it was closed down before opening under new owners... only to close down again six months later. The same sad story repeated over the years until the structure fell into such a state of disrepair that it was eventually abandoned.
Interest has been renewed in the old theatre by a young architect who wishes to see it restored to its original beauty. Bethany Gustava von Sarvos, who studied in Holberg under Frederick di Sarvos, wants to make her mark on the city and believes that this is the perfect opportunity. Bethany has offered to oversee the complete renovation of the theatre, with the intention to reduce the space given over to seating so that these areas can be used to house a long winding art gallery that will run around the outside of the building.
It is an ambitious project, but her plans do not stop there. The architect wants to use the seemingly endless supply of glass shards that have been collected throughout the city from the broken mirrors. Bethany has a theory regarding what she refers to as "the golden hour", and the use of a vast patchwork behind the stage that would allow theatre troupes to create scenes of beauty never experienced before. The merrow is also happy to point out that bringing about immense beauty from the disaster would be sure to annoy Skathe.
Renovating the Glass Palace would be a huge commission that would require an appropriate Senate motion to overhaul the folly. Fortunately most of the construction work was done years ago - so the project would need only 10 wains of mithril. The downside is that it would need a vast array of skilled artisans to carry out the painstaking work needed to realize the young architect's dream. The civil service calculate it would take sixty thrones and need six months to finish the work.
The result would produce no money - the Glass Palace has never been profitable. As a result the folly would not need the Senate to create a title to oversee it - but they could create something like the Director of the Glass Palace if they wanted to. The Director could have a role in the production of the plays performed at the Glass Palace and more importantly act as a champion of the arts right across the City, the League and the whole Empire. Or the Senate could simply commission the architect to carry out the work and leave the Palace to run itself - not everything in the Empire needs a citizen at Anvil to take responsibility for it!
The City of Masks
- Sarvos could embrace its heritage as a city of style and elegance
- A powerful merchant-prince seeks to build a school of fashion and design
According to their history, the League tradition of wearing masks begin in Sarvos. Whatever the truth of this claim, the city has always prided itself itself on possessing great style and panache. The latest fashions often start here; "to dress like Prince" is a common saying referring to someone of high ambition. Less sophisticated inhabitants of other nations or even other cities might criticize this emphasis, calling it vain and shallow - but they would be naive and foolish to do so. There is powerful hearth magic in appearances - to don the clothes of someone is to take on a part of their identity - any skilled magician knows that to be true. If you want to play the Prince then first you must dress the part.
As a result a large number of citizens believe that the future of Sarvos lies in embracing the tradition of style and exuberance that have imbued it since its earliest days. The finest way to show Skathe that she has gained nothing is for Sarvos to dress in its finery as never before. One way to embrace this idea would be to approve the creation of the Night Masks.
The Night Masks is the brainchild of Merchant-Prince Genia Bourné di Sarvos, the merchant-prince of House Bourné. During Winter 380YE, in conjunction with popular publication The Looking Glass, House Bourné shared the designs for six marvellous magical robes with Imperial artisans, and now their Prince has a proposal for the Empire. She plans to commission an extension to the Diora University, a new School of Fashion that will train students so that they can make Sarvos the pre-eminent home of grace and fashion not just in the Empire but throughout the world. Genia Bourné proposes to cherry pick the most talented designers from among those who visit the school and offer them a place there to study and learn, with a view to ushering in a new age of elegance and style for Sarvos.
A crucial part of the Bourné plan is to make use of the countless shards of broken glass that litter every house and street. Her idea is to invite citizens to gather up the glass and bring the fragments to the school. When there is a chance members of the House will show citizens how to affix the fragments of mirror to a suitable masquerade mask. These new mirror-masks, "night masks" as Genia calls them, will become a powerful new fashion in the city. They will be exciting and mysterious and flicker as they catch the light if worn at night. Thus Genia plans to build the new city of Sarvos from these shards, transforming the City of Mirrors into the City of Masks.
The proposal is not cheap. The building is relatively modest, just 6 wains of white granite and 6 wains of weirwood are needed to provide the facilities for the new school should the Senate choose to commission it. But the folly is expensive - due to the costs needed to gather up all the glass and store it for years to come. The civil service estimate that it will cost no less than 45 thrones in all.
The school would not provide any direct benefits, and the Senate could leave the management of it to House Bourné. Alternatively the could create a title to oversee the school, perhaps the Chancellor of the Night Mask School if they wished. If they do that, Genia suggests that the title be given the responsibility to act as a champion of fashion and design right across the Empire, and leaving the everyday running of the school to the vice-chancellor.
The City of Spices
- Sarvos could embrace its heritage as a city of fine dining and exquisite taste
- Noted epicure, Martina di Sarvos, seeks to commission an impressive restaurant in the heart of Caricomare
One of the things that visitors to Sarvos are often surprised by is the bewildering array of food and drink on offer. Most Sarvosi adore exotic food and pride themselves on their deep and sophisticated palate. According to the legends you can dine out every night of your life in Sarvos and never eat the same meal twice. And the city is home to a great many establishments that serve dishes and drinks native to distant nations, often in settings designed to cleverly evoke the sensation of actually being in one of those nations.
This is great source of Pride for many Sarvosi who view the incredible array of dishes on offer as evidence of the impeccable tastes of those who dwell here. The Hag Queen may have shattered the mirrors of Sarvos, but she is powerless to touch the true beauty of the city which lies in the wealth and wonder of fine meals and fine drinking that delight the senses they say. Sarvos is the greatest city in the world for gourmets and epicures - the fabled mirrors may be gone but in their place they have revealed a city that is rich in appreciation for the finest things in life. It is time to let the world get a taste of Sarvos as it could be.
To cement Sarvos' position as the finest city in the world for dining, Martina di Sarvos, proposes to build a great open-air banqueting hall in Caricomare that she calls the Greatest Taste. The best chefs from around the city will be invited to compete to create the finest dishes and serve them to the guests of the Greatest Taste so that collectively they may pick a winner. In this way she hopes to showcase the best the city has to offer as well as making young Sarvossians dream of creating new dishes that may one day win them fame and riches.
The plans for the Hall are expensive, as they involving clearing an extensive series of slums to make way for the beautiful dining area in such a way that diners might enjoy pleasant views out over the bay. It would only require 8 wains of white granite, but would need 40 thrones in all to pay for the clearance. It would not provide any direct benefits, and would not need anyone to run it, but in theory the Senate might be able to recoup some of the costs involved if they auctioned the title of Arbiter of the Greatest Taste through the Bourse. If they wish to do that then Martina suggests that the Arbiter could have a role in judging the finest dishes - people might pay well for an opportunity to eat meals prepared by the finest chefs in the Empire every night for a year!.
A Fitting Epithet
The Imperial Senate could choose to commission to any, all, or none of the follies listed above. If they do commission one or more of the follies listed above - then any one of them could become the basis for a new future for Sarvos. The Jewelled City of Sarvos is no more - but from that disaster comes the unique opportunity for this ancient city to reborn as something new.
At the point where one or more of the three commissions above is complete then that would create the potential for the League Assembly to pass a mandate encouraging the inhabitants of Sarvos to embrace the ideals embodied by the commission as the future for Sarvos. This will determine what the city of Sarvos becomes most famous for in the years ahead, helping to define the cities identity and epithet.
In theory there is no reason why the League could not choose to approve more than one of these commissions, should they wish to do so, perhaps to spite Skathe and prove to her just how badly she has lost. But whatever happens the city can only truly have one epithet, so it can only pass one mandate to encourage everyone in the city to embrace a new character for the city. If more than one commission is completed, then each commission will have its own competing mandate.
Whatever happens, no statement or mandate will have an effect until an appropriate commission is completed. Without a focus for the new vision, there can be no future for Sarvos.
The Shape of the DOOM
- If the citizens of Sarvos do not choose a new future for their city, then its future will become one of doom and despair
Of course it is entirely possible that the people of the League will decline any of these futures. The civil service calculate that any of three options laid out above would be effective if they are completed any time in the next year - that is before the start of the Autumn Equinox 384YE. If that happens then the current malaise that affects Sarvos will be lifted and the city will go proudly forwards with an exciting future.
If for some reason that does not happen - perhaps because of the costs involved, perhaps because citizens simply cannot agree - then the future looks less promising. A few people are already whispering of a new name for Sarvos - calling it the Doomed City or the Sinking City. A year from now that fate will become reality and likely it will be difficult or impossible to shift thereafter.
What might happen if that occurs? Few can say and none with any certainty. Philosophy and linguistic sophistry aside, there are many citizens in Sarvos who feel certain that inescapable doom is imminent. The only question is what form will that doom take?
- Sarvos has been subject to terrible floods before; the district of Caricomare was ruined during the storms of 348YE.
- There is some fear that a similar flood will prove to be the doom of the city.
Sarvos is built on an island - one is never far from the sea. In the past, flooding has been a regular problem particularly for those who live in the poorer parts of the city. The worst floods in a century came with the terrible storm that ruined Caricomare in 348YE, but with there are cellars across Sarvos that flood during the high tides of Spring and the storms of Autumn. Perhaps it is from the sea that the final doom of Sarvos will come - a great flood that washes away the towers and drowns the theatres?
The tidesmen at the Caricomare docks have not failed to notice that the peak high tide marker has risen three times since the Summer Solstice...
- Francesco Falenjame di Sarvos has called on the Senate to do something about the threat of fire in the city
- The Senate could commission a firehouse or construct a series of wells throughout the city
- Commissioning the firehouse would require 20 wains of white granite, 5 thrones and a senate motion
- Commissioning the wells would require 20 wains of white granite, 20 wains of weirwood and 10 thrones and either a senate motion or use of an imperial wayleave
While doomsayers talk of rising waters and wail that the city is sinking, the more practical minded folk who dwell in Sarvos point out that the real threat to the city is the same as it has always been - fire. Space is at a premium in Sarvos - cramped streets flow between soaring towers, choked with densly packed buildings. While there has never been a significant blaze in Sarvos the simple reality is that a major fire could destroy the entire city before it could be dealt with. The inhabitants of Caricomare are always worrying that the city is sinking - but the real threat is fire.
The leader of the Falenjame Cartel, merchant-prince Francesco Falenjame di Sarvos, has called on civic leaders to do something about this threat. For years now numerous free companies have operated as volunteer firefighters, often whilst resting and recuperating in the city. Francesco has been approached by the Carta du Incendio who would like to take control of the efforts. They have engaged a local architect to draw up a design for a firehouse which could be built in a central part of the city which they own. They will be happy to provide all the wains and thrones required, provided that the Senate commission and concede the folly to them.
If the Senate wished to retain control of the firehouse they could commission it as a sinecure and create a title to oversee the firehouse, Warden of the City perhaps, who would be responsible for acquiring donations from local business, warehouses and visiting merchants to ensure that the city is kept safe from arson. There would also be some businesses who would likely pay a premium price in return for guaranteed response, resulting in a seasonal income of 2 thrones and 4 rings.
Alternatively the senate could commission a rejuvenation effort to both improve existing wells, and establish new ones in strategic places across the city. This would not be cheap however, costing 20 wains of white granite, 20 wains of weirwood, and 10 thrones. It would however mean that the guilds of volunteer firefighters supported by the travelling free companies would be more than enough to provide adequate protection against the threat of fire. The network would also provide easier access to fresh water for those citizens of Sarvos who own herb gardens, functioning as a great work. Each owner of a herb garden would see a share in a bounty of 45 cerulean mazzarine and 30 true vervain.
Of course there is nothing to say the Senate cannot choose both options, the Carta du Incendio would be happy to make use of an extended network of wells throughout the city, it would make their job easier after all.
Iron Helms will make a strong defence in Sarvos. They remain Vigilant in the long watches.Magnus Anatolyvich Prochnost, General of the Iron Helms
- The Iron Helms and the Wolves of War are stationed in Sarvos.
- Some of the husks accompanying the Iron Helms have been disappearing.
- There is circumstantial evidence that a malign presence is loose in the sewers beneath the city.
The Iron Helms were stationed in and around Sarvos this season, which was a brave choice given the presence of a thousand moaning flesh-eating animated corpses that march with the army. Still the people of Sarvos are nothing if not cosmopolitan and provided the Varushkan general keeps his cruel troops and his army of walking corpses well away from the city most people are content to let it lie. The Military Council surely knew what they were doing camping an army of ravenous winter zombies next to a city - so provided nothing happens then it's not a problem.
The City of mirrors has been broken by a treacherous curse, and portents from the Night Realm foretell that the city shall fall. But we are virtuous citizens and we make our own destiny. We shall root out spies and defy prophecy. Guard the gates of what is still the most beautiful city of the bay.Gabriel Barossa, General of the Wolves of War
But something is happening. There are claims that some of the quickened dead are... missing. The magic binds the winter spirits in place for a year, forcing them into mortal husks for as long as the enchantment endures. Only once the magic ends are the spirits are free to go about their business. If a body is destroyed so badly that it cannot march and fight, then the magic forces the spirit to animate a new body (to be fair, these capricious winter spirits need little encouragement in this matter). They have no business disappearing, none what-so-ever, and certainly not so close to Sarvos.
So it is particularly worrying that as the Autumn Equinox draws near there are increasing reports of corpses appearing in and around the sewers of Caricomare. The sewers are designed so that the city's night-soil can wash out to sea. Things that fall into the sewers are rarely seen again unless they are found floating in the waters of the Bay. Nothing should be coming up the sewers, so it is far from normal for there to be bodies washing up there.
Panic breaks out when the first reports surface of husks walking through the sewers, attacking any who try to go down there. A patrol of brave volunteers is quickly dispatched into the sewers to root out the monsters but after they fail to return the sewers are sealed off. Better that whatever is down there remains trapped at least until the problem can be solved somehow. But each night brings ever worsening news with new tales of people disappearing from the streets of Caricomare at night.
According to the most lurid reports, the devastation unleashed by Skathe has created a powerful winter regio somewhere in the sewers beneath Caricomare. Those who venture into the dark tunnels claim that something has changed, that the place has taken on a sinister quality and a feeling of great hunger and despair.
Is this regio linked somehow to the winter spirits that have fled the control of the Varushkan general? Impossible to tell, but it is with great relief that the civil service identity an entire sequence of minor conjunctions all leading to points in the Caricomare sewers. They are hurriedly putting the information together in the hope that it can be published before the summit so that the heroes of Anvil can deal with this nuisance directly... before it has the chance to grow worse.
The essence of Dead Reckoning is an embodiment of prosperity, a system to ensure that people get the just rewards for their labours. We send Ophelia Sanguineo Rezia di Tassato with 50 doses of liao to encourage League citizens to remember that it is virtuous to despise the thieving bandit, the lazy wastrel, the grasping miser, and those who take without giving.Ophelia Sanguineo Rezia di Tassato, Mandate, General Assembly. Summer 383YE, 1247-140
A Dead Reckoning
- A group are coming to Anvil who wish speak to all reckoners
- They are due to arrive at the League Camp at 11 o'clock on Friday
Not all the responses to the attack on Sarvos (or the one on Holberg) are so positive. There are wild rumours throughout all the League cities of curses being levied against the territories of Highguard, against the Imperial Synod for the clemency plea offered in the trial and some even suggest against the magistrates of Anvil. One common thread throughout all the rumours though, is that the reckoners present in Anvil came together to present what they considered to be a just response.
If they didn't, so folk say, then they certainly should have. What does it do to the reputation of the League if such a slight is allowed to go unpunished? Those who harm the cities of the League must be prepared to pay the price for their foolishness.
Eduardo von Tassato, representative of a group of those who support trade along the four rivers, is visiting Anvil and wants to speak to prominent reckoners from the four cities. They request that a tent be made ready and that each group send at least one representative to the meeting. They have refused to be forthcoming about what they are wanting to talk about, but it's even odds that it will involve a reckoning for the two curses or something just as serious.