Bastran does not want to be dealing with this right now. He's so tired.
His mental model of Altarrin is deeply unhappy about all of the proposed solutions. Bastran is currently kind of sick of listening to his mental model of Altarrin. Yes, of course, Altarrin would be able to solve these problems brilliantly and without destroying any value permanently. The thing is, if Altarrin were there then he wouldn't have this problem, would he.
The proposed solutions...are in fact not good ones. Altarrin used to talk about burning nebulous resources you can't see or touch - precedents set by the early founders at great cost, or trust in the Empire's law and righteous cause carried by people and institutions over the centuries - but this isn't even that, this is burning next year's seed corn. He might have to, anyway, but there are pragmatic reasons to try to avoid it, not just ideological ones.
They need a different kind of move. Some sideways step that changes the game they're playing.
...Buying the help of Iomedae's enemies with diamonds is that, but he doesn't like it. For one thing, isn't Iomedae's foremost enemy Tar-Baphon? She might be lying about the danger there but...overall he doesn't think so, and it would be an awful gamble to take even if he did. For another, even if they invest in interworld Gating, it's going to be very hard to make strategic decisions that actually achieve what they want, in a world they know almost nothing about.
Is there anything else.
An important skill that Bastran learned - from Altarrin, mostly - is how to interrupt a debate that isn't going anywhere, and say the things that no one else can say, because he's the only person in the room who doesn't have to fear how anyone sees him.
"We can discuss the obvious plans in a minute," he says. "I'm going to propose some less obvious plans. All of which are probably bad, thus why they're not obvious, but I'm hoping we can workshop something, with this many clever people in a room.
Probably-stupid alternate plans!
- They can't negotiate for peace with the Knights of Ozem, who are clearly untrustworthy with commitments, but they still might be able to bribe them. Even untrustworthy people follow incentives, usually, or at least the successful ones capable of pulling off any big projects do.
- They could, in fact, back out of Oris. This does have various costs - and will be incredibly unpopular - but holding Oris also will, and for decades. At that point, the Knights at least have no reasonable ground to intervene.
- They could make diplomatic overtures to Ithik, bribe them with favorable trade deals to back out of supporting the pretenders.
- Also on the theme of 'tolerating gods', they could make a deal with the temple of Anathei, if there's still any kind of organizational structure to work with. Let them back into Oris, commit in writing to at least a 20-year grace period, give them lots of aid in the form of food and Healers, and in exchange ask the priests of Anathei to get the locals to settle down and accept being a province of the Empire.
- (Bastran is probably only thinking this at all because he's very angry with Altarrin, though he's mostly not aware of it in the moment because everything is numb) Wasn't Archmage-General Norean claiming to be one of Bastran's true and loyal allies, fighting to free him from Altarrin's evil mind control? Well. The fact that Altarrin has now defected to another world is arguably grounds to make overtures to him and give him a face-saving route to reconciling with the Empire, at which point they'll at least be down to two wars. The cost is of course that it makes it vastly more complicated to reinstate Altarrin to his position, if they get him back intact and still loyal to the Empire, but Bastran doesn't currently see a route to do that anyway.