Society Name: Taltheran
I. The Merchant Council
The great expedition of 1404 was a mixed bag, but in the endcertainly not as successful as desired. The Chaling family has consequently lost much prestige and influence. However, the general desire to push the boundaries of Taltheran's trade is still strong. The debates over the winter in the Merchant Council are strident and convoluted. Many argue for simply consolidating the contacts made during last year's explorations. Others point out the benefits of trying to establish a trade nexus further up the valley for future explorations. Debate flairs on whether to try to investigate Wyr further, or whether to build on relations with Hadrair. Still others insist the logical thing to do is to strike out another direction: they suggest trying to find out what trade opportunities exist in and beyond the desert.
(A few also point out that Taltheran's image abroad has been somewhat tarnished, with rumors from Celpalar, Videssian, and even next door to the north among the Morvali tribesmen, suggesting a fair amount of antipathy. Other than castigating a couple Minor Families who have been engaging in some reckless trading practices, however, these issues are lost -- for now -- in the maelstrom of discussion.)
In the end, there is no consensus. For many merchants, 1405 is business as usual. However, two significant efforts do emerge.
First, a plan is put together to try to make arrangements with the rulers of Hadrair for special trade concessions (by Taltheran) in exchange for making Hadrair into a significant trade base (which should benefit both parties). The reasoning is that this will inevitably lead to trade development in and around the valley in time, while providing a good base for the future expansion.
Action 1: Trade center at Hadrair (1/2)
Nature: External Strategic (Trade) (2 years)
Determinant: Trade (Good, +1)
Difficulty: Normal (0)
Qualifiers: + Strong contacts from last year
+ Trade concessions offered
-? Possible penalty if Extra Action #1 fails badly
+? Possible bonus if Extra Action #2 succeeds
-? Possible penalty if Extra Action #2 fails badly
Result: +1 -0 +1 +1 + (+1 -1 -1 0) = +2 Great Success!
The Hadrairtherani welcome their eastern kin warmly, and the new trade center is a great success. The Hadrairtherani have been improving their agricultural production, and are excited to have a market for the excess produce arrive ready-made on their doorstep. They also welcome the influx of varied goods which the Taltherani provide. On inquiry from the Taltherani, the city elders readily agree to convert a rundown and mostly uninhabited outskirt into a marketplace and staging point for caravans and trade expeditions. Arrangements are made with various provisioners in and out of town to provide the necessary supplies and repairs for trade expeditions.
Word gets back to Taltheran of these developments by mid summer, and by fall trade is already gaining a sense of 'status quo' for the residents of Hadrair, the more prosperous of whom had already been feeling a bit of an itch to find out what had been transpiring in the world at large since the Fall of Cedonia. A few Hadrairtherani even journy to Pran at the end of the year, and are well-received.
[The Merchant Council -- continued]
Second, a small faction decides that the size of last year's expedition was a crucial mistake. Instead, they assemble a hand-picked, well-honed group of seasoned traders, taigan, soldiers, and support staff. The total complement of the group is around 30 people, including one mage representing the Wizards Guild.
The group's mission is to head north, and try to discover trade opportunities in and beyond the desert. They take a few sample wares, but their mission is primarily to explore and to establish positive contacts. (Part of the rationale for a smaller group is the hope that they will be less encumbered and more mobile.)
Records are consulted from the days when caravans crossed the desert, and plans are carefully laid. Allowances for desert difficulties are made in consultation with informants and foreigners familiar with the desert. Maps of oases are retrieved from archives. All trip members are hardy, experienced travelers.
Notwithstanding, no one is sure they will come back...
Action 2: Explore to the North
Nature: External Tactical * (Exploration/Diplomatic)
Determinant: Trade (Good, +1)
Difficulty: Very Hard (-2) (Nasty unknown semidesert terrain.)
Qualifiers: + Hand-picked top-notch group
+ Well prepared and organized, magical support
- Unknown territory
Secrecy: Not publicized outside Taltheran, but not secret.
[ * Note: The duration for this action is somewhat open-ended. Barring major setbacks, the explorers hope to continue until they have something worthwhile to return with. This may result in a two, or even three, year action if results this year are neither compellingly positive nor negative.]
Result = +1 -2 +1 +1 + (0 +1 +1 0) = +3 Superb success!
This year's expedition managed to depart on schedule and with substantially more alacrity than last year's explorative caravan. They headed northwest, skirting the southern periphery of the Calarnar desert. The first leg of the expedtion passed uneventfully through Morvali territory familiar from last year's travels, and picked up the remains of an old overgrown but usable track. After three months, they reached the foothills of some small mountains, which, according to ancient maps, were called the Olozog Hills. The party continued to follow the track as it turned north and traced the line of the hills. In this area they suffered a bit from the harrassments of a tribe (or tribes) of hillmen. The hillmen tried to design their attacks to take the group off guard. However, thanks to careful scouting and good defensive arrangements the travellers suffered no incapacitating injuries. In each case, a show of force coupled with a bit of sparkle from the Wizard were sufficient to route the attackers, who melted back into the rough terrain without opportunity for parley. Further north, they encountered the remains of a fortified town, which a map suggested were all that was left of the city of Sarunor. There were no people remaining, and no signs of recent habitation. The party spent some time evaluating the site as a future trading post or waystation, however. From Sarunor, the path turned west again. After careful consideration, the party decided that the odds of success were better following the road than by continuing north into harsher desert terrain, even though their original aim had been to target the northern border of the desert, so they too went westward. Consequently, around about the turn of the year they arrive in view of the largish river-mouth settlement on the western coast [Myr-Kun].
To Be Continued next year...
II. The Wizards Guild
Not much is known about what the Wizard's Guild gets up to. But one thing is sure (based on unsubtle inquiries among expedition returnees, if nothing else): they aren't happy about Wyr! A magic-shielded wizard-hating city the size of Tal?! This has the Guild in a severe state of not-happy.
Unfortunately for the Guild, they take a long time trying to decide what to do about it. Seems they're a bit stuck in the status quo (which has worked for them lo these many generations), and not very good at reacting to new changes and challenges. So by the time they decide to act, it comes as an Extra action.
Unknown to anyone outside the upper power structure of the Guild, they send a trio of carefully selected, well-trained young wizards to Wyr. The three, equiped with a variety of magical talismans and aids (with emphasis on scrying and hiding), are on a mission to try to infiltrate Wyr undetected and determine the nature of, and motivation for, the magic screen encountered there last year.
The spies are under instructions to avoid active magic use as much as possible enroute, relying on their talismans to deflect any hostile scrying. Additionally, they are to abandon their distinctive robes and garb themselves (in both dress and manner) as plausible itinerants. From the Guild treasures, they are further given two potent magical items, which can be expended to transmit a brief message to corresponding items in Tal in the event that the spies are unable to return in person.
Action EXTRA #1: Investigate Wyr's Magic Screen
Nature: External Tactical (magical espionage)
Determinant: Magic Sophistication (Great, +2)
Difficulty: Hard? (-1)
Qualifiers: - Extra action
+ Last year's encounter serves as a reconaissance
Secrecy: Very Secret
Reaction: Risky (could severely damage potential Relations with Wyr; consequent backlash could reduce Guild Authority)
[Dylan's notes: If they're not using magic as much as possible, the primary determinant wouldn't be magic sophistication. Perhaps more Art sophistication, i.e. the art of subterfuge/disguise/acting. Which is Great (+2) also, as it happens. Kenny (the Tyrea GM/Eerith player) is working on some new determinants with regards to stealth/espionage, so in the near future there'll be a clearer mark we can use. Extra mod: -1 due to scry- blocking taslismans. If they are scryed-upon, the lack of result will give the game away too!]
Result = +2 -1 -1 +1 -1 + (+1 +1 +1 0) = +3 Huge success!
Adventure in Wyr
III. The King
King Agrigax was quite satisfied with his successes last year. However, he's well aware that he can't rest on his laurels.
The Royal Guard is now growing into a more substantial unit. Equally importantly, the pride and spirit of last year's core is communicating itself to the new recruits.
However, Agrigax keeps the pressure on his commanders to train hard and well, focusing this year on honing the newly expanded Guard into a potent fighting force. As was done last year, in addition to the basics, emphasis will be on training forces for duty away from the capital, including posting in other cities or at fortifications in remote locations. This means encouraging resourcefulness and quick thinking amongst particularly the officer corps, but also the troops in general.
He also spends money and influence on making sure that the Guard has the barracks and training facilities it needs to handle its increased size. (Fortunately, unused portions of the old caravansery on the west side of Tal is serving as adequate -- if temporary -- bivouac and training grounds for the winter.)
Action 3: Expand the Royal Guard
Nature: Internal Strategic (second of two years)
Determinant: Royal Authority; Wealth (Good, +1)
Difficulty: Easy (+1) (the Guard is rightfully well respected)
Qualifiers: - The Merchant Council would like to keep the Royal Guard in its present, diminished, state.
+ Very successful last year
+ Agrigax offers good pay and benefits
Reaction: Normal (not much exposure either way)
Result = +1 +1 -1 +1 + (+1 +1 0 0) + 1 + (0 0 0 -1) = +4 Legendary success!
King Agrigax gets his expanded Royal Guard. [Military size for Royal Guard increased from Very Small to its maximum limit of Small.]
The remarkable thing is that, rather than diluting the existing high-quality core of the Guard, the recruits have instead been thoroughly integrated in both deed and spirit. In fact, the newcomers have actually increased the already high level of pride and spirit, resulting in a morale level which would be the envy of any commander anywhere.
[The King -- continued]
Agrigax's other significant initiative, building a shipyard, is off to a good start, but is by no means a sure thing. Last year, he took advantage of the absence of many of the cleverer and more powerful members of the Merchant's Council to get the project under way. This year, however, he meets with much stiffer resistance from the Merchant's Council. Many major families worry (with reason) that the King is trying to increase his power at the expense of their control over trade.
This year, therefore, the King must rely more on his Influence to keep his project going. He continues to try to mask his intention to maintain Crown control over the fleet after construction. He also argues that no single family has the resources to build this facility, and that it will provide great benefits to Taltheran trade. He also highlights the benefits for Saltrim and the south-east. Finally, he plays different Merchant Families against each other with regard to supplies for the construction (and other Royal interests) in order to prevent a (potentially devastating to the project) concerted boycott.
At least he still has the support of the Wizards Guild.
Action 4: Royal Shipyard Construction: design and construction
Nature: Internal Strategic (second of four years)
Determinant: Royal Influence; Wealth (Fair, 0)
[NB: last year's determinant was Authority (Good)]
Difficulty: Hard (-1)
Qualifiers: + Promises good jobs and increased trading prowess.
+ Support by Wizards Guild (limited magical aid)
- Taltheran has Poor regard for Crafts and craftsmen
- Resistance from Merchants Council
+ Good expertise available due to last year's recruiting
Reaction: Risky (if this flops, it's an expensive waste)
result so far . = +1 -1 +1 +1 -1 -1 + (1 0 1 -1) -1 +1 + (-1 +1 +1 0) + .
As King Agrigax feared, in the early part of the year a number of Major Families in the merchant's guild attempted to starve the shipyard project by embargoing various products and goods. Fortunately, Agrigax had prepared for this. He managed to tighten belts and make back-door agreements with other Families to make up much of the difference. This was at some cost in favors regarding access to ships after production starts, but in the end it was worth it. Faced with an embargo which was costing them revenue without achieving its goals, the merchants relented. Moreover, although the embargo did impede construction somewhat, the shrill protests from the affected workers and businesses in the Saltrim area benefited the King's Consent at the expense of the Merchant Council's, even as the King's Influence made itself felt. So in the end, Agrigax succeeds in keeping things moving. The initial foundations for the new dockyard are well underway, and most of the support buildings (such as lumber milling facilities, smithies, and so on) are built and contributing significantly to the ongoing construction. Additionally, good maritime talent continues to be available, and the designs are sound.
[The King -- continued]
Finally, Agrigax has an idea for his newly-expanded Royal Guard which evolves nicely from his continuing emphasis on "training forces for duty away from the capital, including posting in other cities or at fortifications in remote locations."
He sends a small contingent to occupy the vacant manor house discovered up the Taltheran Valley last year. This unit is under strict orders to be non-confrontational with the regional powers-that-be (if any). Their assignment is to protect Taltherani traders and citizens, and provide other assistance against lawbreakers as requested (*if* requested) by locals in the area. They are to assume no authority, seeking only to support the maintenance of law and order. Significant risk-taking is discouraged.
Agrigax's goal here is simply to establish an expanded Taltherani presence up the valley, and to subtly indicate to the locals that Taltheran has a king, and that he hasn't forgotten about them (and that this is a *good* thing). The garrison commander is under strict instructions to avoid any issue of sovereignty. "Not for me to say, sir, just following orders" would be the desired attitude. If the garrison's occupancy meets with significant resistance from law-abiding locals, they are to withdraw and not risk a confrontation. The hope, however, is that they will prove sufficiently beneficial that the locals will be glad to have them there...
Action EXTRA #2: Garrison Manor House
Determinant: Royal Consent (Fair, 0)
Difficulty: Normal (0)
Qualifiers: - Extra action
- Second extra action
+ Trade and law enforcement benefits for locals
+ Small-scale action
+ Cautious approach
+ Assignment in line with Guard training
- Potential sovereignty issues?
[Dylan's notes: Extra mods: -1 "Agrigax who?" Royal Consent meaningless. -1 "We've managed OK without soldiers. What are they after ?" Suspicion of newcomers.]
Result = 0 -0 -1 -1 +1 +1 +1 +1 -1 -1 -1 + (0 -1 +1 +1) = 0 Partial Success.
To His Royal Majesty,
King Agrigax son of Madrogax of House Milarandos,
Defender of Taltheran, Keeper of the Balance, &c.
As your Highness requested, I provide herewith details regarding the despatch of various select troops of your Majesty's Royal Guard to garrison the manor house encountered by last year's trading expedition. The Senior Guardsman in charge has reported to me that the garrison has successfully occupied the building without incident. He relates that, while they have not been welcomed by the locals, neither has their presence incited any objection. The garrison has been occupying themselves by converting part of the manor house into barracks and making it as defensible as feasible. The commanding Guardsman also reports that the troops have already had opportunity to escort Taltherani traders through the region, and that said escort went without substantial incident. [If I may venture to editorialize: I suspect (knowing the Guardsman in question) that "without substantial incident" likely indicates that the escort was not wholly without purpose.] As your Highness directed, the garrison has been instructed to make themselves available to the locals to enforce reasonable laws and to maintain order, but only on request. My officer indicated cautiously that he feels the locals are becoming accustomed to the garrison's presence, and is optimistic that such requests will come in due time. I trust that this is all to your Majesty's satisfaction. I remain
Your Humble Servant,
Aviando of Siabra
The Sword of the King