(Avesia, Early Spring 37 IA)
Sergeant Nadia Korsakov sat on a beach, enjoying the evening sun with a novel. A fair number of soldiers had taken to doing so recently. It was only about twenty minutes bike ride from the base and it was a good way to unwind after a long day's work. A few guards had secured the area and it was a nice place to unwind.
"Good evening sergeant." A pleasant tenor voice said. She looked up and saw that a sailor had come over carrying two bottles of Kvas. "Would you rather have mint or strawberry?"
She smiled "Mint, petty officer..."
"Gogol. Dimitri Gogol of the Destroyer." He handed her the bottle and was surprised that it was still cold.
"Nadia Korsakov, Forth Rifle Division." She said as she pulled the stopper. "So, your on Shore Leave?"
"Yeah, the Destroyer rotated off patrols yesterday night."
"Lucky bastard. You'd think it'd be over once the last of those bastards were shot, but we have to drill the companies. They got passion in buckets, mostly respect their leaders and would gut a slaver in a heartbeat, but that's it. All they could do is blaze away, bash and hack. That's before the fact that they're stubborn as all hell and the language barrier. We've gotten the up from Hopeless to Pathetic and hopefully we can get them up to being merely bad."
"Well at least the fighting's over for you footsloggers." Dimitri replied "They're still pirates, raiders and slave traders coming in with loads of captives and we've got to intercept and liberate them. At best the bastards surrender with bad grace and often at least some of them put up a fight. And that's before you get in the holds."
Nadia swallowed a swig. "Well, slaver's aside this is a nice island. Pity about the pests."
"Well at least those pests have been stamped out."
"I'll drink to that" With that they settled into a pleasant exchange which would ultimately lead to in a more up close and private encounter.
(Dragonstorm Bay, Spring 37 IA)
Commander Nrelix ti'Kaelnor of the Brig Melgorth
* was not in a good mood, even though things had technically speaking been going quite well for him. He was the son of one of the major houses of Janilonas and had managed to gain a command after thirty years of service. This was not unusual for those of well connected families though said promotion mostly came from the fact the war with the Coldlanders had left a lot of dead man's shoes to fill. A few more years or a victory and he'd be made a captain and be given something that could hold her own in a fight. But doing so involved going on patrols of Dragonstorm Bay. Four months of tedious circuits around the western half of Dragonstorm Bay. Occasionally there was some loot from an Imperial cargo ship or some other puppet of The Eternal Foe which would try to sail in, but most of the Trade with them happened either in convoys or the Interterran sea. All other traffic was either good enough trading partners to preclude casual piracy or had given up hopes of sending ships. Mostly they looked out for activity from the Nemesis Kingdom, but given the cycle of events that had been going on for the last couple millennia anything besides the odd trade convoy was unlikely. It beat being sent to die against an Ironclad, but he was looking forward to returning home.
It was about half past ten in the morning when he heard the cry of the lookout "Arrowship Sighted East by Southeast! Range 16 miles Approaching fast!" He sighed at his general lot in life. The Skryer that they had assigned him was a newly minted journeyman who was operating on her own for the first time and the High Elves did not lack for mages who could conceal lone ship. He'd have to chew her out for this and have her shocked for her failure, which was a distasteful part of his job but rules were rules. But that was to be done latter.
"Signal the Grelsath
** of this. Helm, set course to 30 degrees North and prepare for Full Speed. Roll out all guns and prepare for action." Soon enough the two brigs had broken off from each other at a 90 degree angle. The Arrowship could attempt to intercept one of them, but not the other. Much to his annoyance the Melgorth
became it's quarry. There were other patrols out there and hopefully they could team up on it, or they might be able to escape them in a sprint. If worse came to worse he had rifled 10-Vauls which could bloody the Arrowship's nose with the first punch, but hopefully it would not have to that.
The pursuit went on for four and a half hours and as every one went by the Arrowship gained a few miles on them. The Arrowship had better legs than she did or her captain was willing to burn through mana on a mad dash. Thing were looking more and more grim, then the lookout gave a relieved cry "Drow Frigate sighted 17 miles due north!" There were some cheers even from the slaves. Nrelix gave a smirk.
"Very well. Helm bring us about and send up a Manaflare!" The ship then turned around and a column of splitting light rose into the sky for a few seconds. Even so the maneuver did cost them some speed and allowed the Arrowship to converge even closer. Nrelix observed the High Elvish ship as it got closer and did some quick mental math. It would be close but they should be able to keep enough of a lead so that the frigate would be in a prime position to strike. While he knew to reign in his enthusiasm, he could not help but thing of the prospects this encounter offered. Even if the Frigate did most of the heavy lifting in the coming battle he'd still had a credit in it's defeat or destruction. His House would gain another deed to the list, he would gain a feather in his cap and promotion would be that much closer.
Even so things did not go as he had hoped. The High Elves were a bit faster than he'd estimated and they managed to close to nearly two miles. He'd had the guns rolled out and had them ready for a salvo while his archers stood ready to send off off a long range volley. Oddly enough, however the High Elves did not loose a single shaft and on inspection most of the crew on the white and gold ship was below decks. Even so, it was time to strike. "Fire Starboard broadside!" A few seconds latter the five guns went off in rapid succession. Three missed and splashed into the ocean, one skipped once across the water before impacting amidship doing minimal damage and one hit near the aft. More drills were clearly needed. Even so, guncrews scrambled to get their weapons ready for a second volley.
Even so about twenty seconds latter, to Nrelix's surprise the High Elves returned fire with a single shot. That was the first thing which he noticed as odd, why fire one gun instead of a broadside. The second thing was the range, usually High Elvish ships would only open fire at about a mile at most. The third was also the fact that the brief whiffs of white smoke instead of billowing clouds of it. He wondered about this until a powerful boom and a sudden tower of water rising into the air made it clear. "By the Gods they've got Infrastructural Guns." Some other people got wind of this and there was a lot of shouting, which was soon followed by five more explosions, one of which blew right into the Melgorth'
Captain Weithyn gave a pleasant chuckle as she saw the sudden eruption of fire, smoke and splinters from the Drow brig. She'd read the reports and had done a few live drills, but actually seeing what they could do firsthand was another thing altogether. By her judgement that little ship might be able to limp to shore if things went well or it might break apart anytime soon. Either way it could be left alone for the moment. The Frigate was a juicer target that could still flee back to safety. Besides, leaving a few to live (for the meantime) would serve her purposes. The prospect of facing High Elvish ships with with Infrastructural Artillery would spread and with it fear.
*A breed of Pitdog used in Dark Elven gladiatorial matches
(Norgensport, Allergonian Empire, Spring 37 IA)
The last few years had been good for Dolfis Vherinsdorf. His regular business of making a circuit through the kingdom of Kiefelwald selling dwarvish iron, nails and tools from Stalshen had turned up more coin than usual and did so more quickly, allowing him to make more runs. Some of which he'd invested in a new sack cloth factory in Schiegart, which did quite well. He put in 300 marks for his share of it, which he sold for 873 marks after it was up and running. Others he'd put down in other investments which had yielded a respectable net return. As such he'd decided to move onto bigger things. He'd also made a few more investments. He had his son Yorin do the Kiefelwald circuit while he took 84 tonnes of iron ingots that he'd been stockpiling, chartered a barge and sailed it north to Norgensport. What an amateur would have done was flogged it to the Infrastructurals first chance he got. That was a reasonable option and a good fallback position, but Dolfis had other plans. As such he rented out a corner of a warehouse, spent some time in the taverns, asked some questions and sent a few Viertals to freshen memories. After a week he found what who he was looking for and a meeting was made.
The merchant captain that came was a beast of a man, six feet tall, broadly built and clad in a leather vest. He also carried a sword. Carrying a blade was hardly unusual in the Empire, nor was this unexpected, but it did send a message. He also came with a pair of sailors who stood outside. Dolfis doubted that worst would come to worst, but he did pay a couple of goons to wait in the shadows in case anything might happen.
"I'm here to see what you've got." The captain said briskly.
"Of course." He showed them to a crate, opened it up, extracted an ingot and handed it over. "Stalshen Dwarves pride themselves on their purification processes."
The merchant regarded it, judged it's weight and gave it a tap. "Indeed." He continued inspecting the ingot, before setting it back down and looked a the crates. "This will do. I'll take the lot."
"Excellent my friend!" Dolfis said cheerfully as he extracted a piece of paper. "Now here's the bill."
The merchant read it and scowled. "Is this a joke? I'm not amused."
"No, I'm quite serious." Dolfis in a light tone. "100 Marks a Ton. Take it or leave it."
He raised his finger "Don't think I'm some ignorant bumpkin blacksmith. I know what the Dwarves charge for this and what the foundries pay. Even the Infras would pay a half of this!" There was a slight sneer with the mention of the Coldlanders, which was enough to confirm the rumors in his Dolfis' book to any relevant degree.
"And if your ship could sail overland you'd be in Stalshen right now paying those rates. The Eisengrenze Mountains are a long way from the sea, leaving aside transportation, storage, stevedoring and crates. They also routinely do business in hundreds if not thousands of tons. My store here is a modest affair by comparison, a small reserve of iron set aside for those in need for it right now while the Coldlanders and Naval Foundries are gobbling up everything they can get their hands on."
"You're not the only game in town."
"Maybe I'm not. But I have a significant load of pig iron ready to go right now that can be in your hold in less than a day. If you decline my offer that's your business, but if you are still interested in iron that will mean weeks of haggling with merchants, blacksmiths, peddlers, scrap dealers, mudlarks and other less savory characters to get the same thing. If not for the same price then for less. Your time is valuable, Captain."
The captain stood motionless for a few seconds then responded. "Ninety Marks a ton."
Dolfis waited for a few more seconds. "Very well. Ninety marks a ton it is." They shook, an amended bill of sales was signed before a lawyer he'd brought in and the load was soon emptied. The Gold was transferred to his account at Johrensson and Kivi a few hours latter. In total he'd paid 1,891 Marks for that load (which he'd been stockpiling), transportation, crates and storage. In return he'd gotten 7,560 Marks. Three of which he splurged on a round of drinks for everyone at one of the better taverns as he boasted on his deal as he bragged. It was an enjoyable night and moreover it served his purposes quite well. There would be some fellows that would try to recreate his success, making the Kiefelwalders desperate for the stuff. As for the merchant captain who was willing to pay that obscene bill, Dolfis felt that it was his duty as a loyal subject of the Allergonian Empire to gouge the shit out of him. He was the plucky honest trader who used his wits to recover the ill gotten plunder of the Dark Elves via their proxies.
(House Valcas Estates, Valnothron, Spring 37 IA)
Talnara ti'Valcas entered a room with a single slave attendant. Inside sat the leader of House Darltas, a great house that was of intermediate disposition. A newcomer to the great houses from a merchant background and was still actively involved in trade. In the last two centuries they'd branched into agriculture in the colonies while raising more household companies to gain their position. Several of those companies, two of their cutters and several of the House's promising sons and daughter were cut down outside Daagsgrad. She gave the requisite pleasantries and got down to business.
She extracted a small glass and metal object from her pocket and clutched it in her hand "I have good feelings about the course of this war." She said calmly. With that the Truthstone glowed a faint green. The Dartlas representative nodded. "We've taken massive losses against the Coldlanders, the Eternal Foe hunts the seas with Infrastructural guns and Venoa is mobilizing for war to protect their debters." The enchanted quartz quickly blinked out. "Moreover we have reports from the Human Realms and Coastal Dwarves that all speak of the same thing: foundries, workshops and shipyards casting new guns, building engines and testing new designs. Many of whom are doing so to use against us when the opportunity arises."
"And what of the mechanical marvels you've been promising?"
"All of our progress reports have been accurate and we have a few private projects I have confidence will impress upon revelation. Leaving aside the Committee's pet humans we are still a leader in many fields and Valnothron should be able to keep that position if we manage our affairs properly. However there is a considerable complication in regards to any major industrial project that anyone of our state might plan: Raw Materials. Specifically coal and iron. Simply put we've been consuming them faster than they can be procured and what reserves we have had are nearly exhausted." She tightened her grip "Our mines are not up to the task, Galthririth's output is being bought out at an alarming rate and the human states, who are running low on it themselves, are gouging our buyers for every vaul of it at a time when the cost of a fresh slave has gone up by eight to thirteen scimitars."
The Darltas leader chuckled. "If this is such a problem we would be glad to begin serious mining in the colonies, our lands have some hills that more than meet the needs of our local smiths. Beyond that you could scower the city for scrap, and in the end there's always raiding. There was that Coldlander ship full of scrap and ingots that was brought in yesterday."
"In regards to the point about mining, the gesture is appreciated and it will be useful in the Long Term. But said expansions would take time and our problems are more immediate. Anyone with an interest in metal based manufacturing has been buying up scrap metal at three times it's usual price for some time now. And yes, 344 ven of iron appearing on the market was a welcome development. However as it stands it's load was five days worth of of consumption for our foundries alone, it leaves aside the matter of fuel and capturing Infrastructural ships is risky at the best of times. We've been looking into places to cut corners, but even a sloop needs 40 ven of iron and steel for it's engine. An ironclad needs at least 700 ven, which is leaving aside the new cannons, shot, stoves, anchors, chains, nails and the machinery to produce and maintain them. At current rates given our estimates Valnothron two or three months before we'll exhaust what stores we have and the flow of new iron and steel products will come down to a trickle. We have more specifics in this summery." The slave walked forward head bowed and offered a folder to him.
Ti'Darltas took it as his eyes narrowed. "Why is this matter of tradesman's logistics of my concern? This predicament seems to be of your own doing. You've pushed steamships and ironclads as the only solution to our problems and took more orders than you could manage."
"Oh don't play the fool." Talnara snapped. "You've read the battle reports. Against an Infrastructural fleet traditional warships are just floating piles of kindling. If we want to maintain naval dominance upgrading our fleet is a necessity. We had a gunnery advantage in the last war with the High Elves and steam engines and armored hulls mean that we can keep it and improve on it. But as it stands we're loosing ships and skilled sailors too fast, we won't be able to keep up replacements and more foes are gathering. If we continue on at best we're looking at a drawn out conflict that will deplete our fleet and leave the colonies vulnerable for little gain. At worst, this costly mess spirals into another Great War." The last two words said in a calm matter of fact way. Great Wars were not just the regular campaigns of the High Elves where both sides tried to set the other back, they were fights to the death in which the kingdoms of men get drawn in that go on for decades. They were costly at the best of times and saw states destroyed at the worst. Eventually the Drow States would lay waste to Illvanas, enslave humanity and the dwarves and establish an eternal dominion over this world, but now was not the time.
"So what do we do?"
"At this point, the best option is to cut our losses and seek peace with Infrastructure."
"And let them get away with establishing a foothold on our continent?"
"Our continent is thousands of miles away from their little fort in an area the Raptors have denied us. This was a petty ill conceived war launched against a foe we did not understand without anything but the most basic planning. We might have been able to smash them and reap the Coldlands if we'd moved more quickly and we probably could still do so if all four of us threw everything at them and nobody else interfered, but that's not happening. What we can do is stop the Coldlanders from laying waste to every slave port, prevent escalation and let us get the resources we need to drive the Eternal Foe back to their realm."
"And what's in it for us?" he asked.
"Besides avoiding a long disastrous protracted war leaving your Household destitute or dead?"
"Very well. Your estates include a lot of inland territory well away from the major waterways. If you support our efforts, we'll build rail line from your estates to the nearest port and we'll provide you with a locomotive at the conclusion of the conflict."
"A reasonable start, add a five year slave feed contract and a 20% discount on farm equipment and we have a deal."
And with that the discussion came a negotiation for price which went on for the next five minutes, eventually she got his vote for the initial rail proposal and a considerably reduced version Lord Darltras's counter offer, which was an obvious probe. With that she she had the majority that she needed. She would have her people work on the orders right away. Dark Elves had a reputation for lies and backstabbing, a reputation which was the bane of any Drow who sought a career in commerce. The only real solution for those who sought to trade with them in the long term was counterbalance: be as honest as possible in in your commercial dealings with humans and Dwarves. House Valcas had learned this fact, her parents and tutors had instilled it to her and she kept it up, even to a degree with her fellow Drow. Truthstones were a bit of an annoyance, but unfortunately a bit of unambigious clarity was required at times.
(Auvorin, Prinipality of Oestia, Spring 37 IA)
Bureaucrat (level 7) Mavia Norgovosleb was a junior member of Infrastructure's Oestian embassy who'd been assigned to this posting a few months before the war began. She soon came to enjoy the capital city of Auvorin with it's warm weather, local peoples, exotic food and fine architecture, fashion and artwork were quite lovely, even if she spent most of her time in an office dealing with dull matter of commerce and states. These were of course important tasks to help support the war effort, but they were hardly the most stimulating. A few times she'd attended some function or other, which was usually something of a mixed experience for her. On the one hand, the Princess and her Lords were skilled at holding glamorous events with a regal grace and an ornate pageantry that she quite admired. On the other hand even if she was trained in administration the daughter of a village potter in a minimalist uniform was always out of place among the glittering ladies of court. But that aside they were still comparatively rare compared to the regular business in working out sales and deliveries, materials procurement, shipping, payment plans and loans.
Then on a warm spring day she received an unusual order from her superior in regards to the Avesian Campaign. Some Thirty Six ships (mostly commandeered vessels) from Avesia were arriving in Auvorin this afternoon full of repatriated slaves, which she was to take pictures of. It was important enough so that she was ordered to take some pictures. This was important enough for her to get a new Film Camera. The ships first docked at 14:30, there was some push back by some dock official until the lord mayor of the city cleared things up and so at 15:48 the ship began unloading it's passengers.
Mavia had gotten a few shots of the ships docking and similar beforehand, which were technically proficient even without a tripod, but what made the whole thing worthwhile was the procession which came down the gangplanks and out of the Auvorin's streets. Some of them wore the ragged clothes of slaves, some wore infrastructural and others wore slaver outfits, most of them were a bit ripe from being on board old fahsioned sailing ships without showers and all but the very young among them had makeshift purses with a few commandeered coins. Even so, they all radiated a joy. Men, women and children who had been beaten, starved and treated like livestock and prepared for a life of miserable servitude on plantations, down mines, in brothels or in perverse mockeries of proper factories under the lash now had their wishes come true. Their might be complications down the road: they were still unemployed and by the looks of it not all of the people who were brought here were originally Oestians. Even so, they once again had the chance that all free people had. As another batch passed she put her fist to chest in salute.
That night, the prints would be developed and soon they'd be sent off to be engraved for use in a broadsheet the Embassy published as part of an article. Empathy was as much of a weapon for the cause of Infrastructure as any rifle, rocket or cannon.
(Petrolium Colony, Spring 37 IA)
Like most of the Lords of Avesia baron Hermano de Saulde had been shocked when he received word of an Infrastructural invasion. He was more shocked when a company of them came his way on strange wheeled devices with a horseless machine wagon with some sort of horrible hose gun came to his estate two days latter as he was preparing a militia force. A couple of his men were overzealous and got shot for their troubles. That was enough to convince him to surrender. He, his family and two hundred men women and children were then lead back to Porta Liberium under armed guard. Older male slave drivers were screened out and led in front of a wall. He did not see what happened to them, but he heard the fusillades. The rest of them were put in slave pens for the next few weeks under guard of mercenaries, in no small part to protect them from the freed slaves. Children between about 5 and 16 were separated from parent in a section of the pen that had been walled off. Basic soup was issued twice a day, people were not chained up, the mercenaries did not intervene save to break up fights. The invaders set up speaking machines around the pens which constantly constantly gave an hour long speech, which consisted of common Avesian words (Man, Woman, Adult, Child, Sleep, Eat, Food, Move, Ship, Work, etc.) followed by it's Coldland equivalent. The litany concluded with a brief speech in Avesian before repeating...
"Misery, pain, fear and death are the foundations of slavery. It perpetuates tyranny, war and criminality: producing grand devastation so a cruel and callous few may reap the benefits of the many without due compensation. Rejoice former Slavocrats of Avesia: for this evil has been cleansed from this island, your complicity in such barbarism has now ended and soon you shall be reformed and absolved of the crimes of your now defunct culture. Hail Infrastructure!"
There was some discussion about what this meant, besides the obvious disdain that the Coldlanders had for the natural order of things. Hermano had heard several theories, ranging from them simply rubbing their faces in their conquest, plans for annexation of the island to efforts to use their business connections to further their nefarious ends. It was something to distract them from having to sleep outside in tight quarters while being treated like, well, slaves. Afterwards he and his wife (as well as a thousand or so more prisoners) were selected and loaded up onto their iron ships. There was little resistance, many simply wanted to be gone of this place now that the Infrastructurals had left it to their former property. The next sixteen days were spent in it's hold listening to a new language primer (this one including some stuff about grammar and a line about "learning how to become productive members of society in the Petroleum Colonies") and occasionally being let about above deck in small groups under armed guard for half an hour or so. After their arrival they were escorted out onto a rough port by a ramshackle town built around a small fort. There they were met by a number of soldiers and a few officials in black (most of them being women). He saw a line of children being unloaded at the same time, but they were being processed separately.
The adults were broken up into groups of five which were recorded in a book, which were then grouped into groups of 25, given numbered badges that they were told not to loose and marched out to a fenced off section of land at the edge of the town full of tents, a couple of wooden towers and about thirty men about with uniforms with badges of their own, floppy hats, pistols, black truncheons and most striking of all spectacles of smoked glass. One of them gave a quick speech. He only knew a smattering of words and a basic understanding of sentence structure but he got the gist of it. They were all bad people for dealing in slaves so they were going to teach them how to be good honest people through hard work over the next few years before they would be let into this society. Said number would either shrink if they worked well, did not cause trouble and mastered their language and other lessons they had for them or conversely if they did not behave themselves it could go up, and their groups of five and 25 would share in some of the rewards or penalties they earned. There was nowhere to run and they were adept at running down escapees and there was only one way to get through this: be quiet, obey and learn why slavery was a bad thing.
The first task given to Hermano and his fellow was the creation of their new lodgings, which first of all involved digging out basements. They were given shovels and set to work moving soil. Some disobeyed and were sent away for a night in a shed with their five man groups getting an extra hour of work. That got the rest of them working. The overseers would continue to monitor them as they worked and gave a few sharp commands. The guards did not threaten or insult the Avesians, they just patrolled behind them, gently tapping their palms with their truncheons. He was exhausted come sundown, where he was fed a meal of bread and vegetable soup and collapsed in his tent with four strangers. As he dozed off for his first night of Reform Through Labor, he wept for all that he'd lost: going from a Lord with an fief with three hundred hands to an indentured servant on some foreign shore with nothing too him but the now quite ratty clothes on his back.
(Noldolia, Kingdom of Torion, Spring 37 IA)
Stepania Popov, assigned to the Noldolia Consulate had spent the last few weeks doing some work that was neither usual nor her cup of tea. It involved reviewing a package which was airdropped at the consulate, reviewing files, getting updates from the island itself, writing letters, sending messages via the Kingdom's Linkglass network on behalf of Infrastructure and getting from both some rather unpleasant correspondence in return. The usual matters of making out contracts, negotiating sales and even dealings with the banks never had so much Venom in them as this byproduct of the Avesian Invasion. Even though it was standard practice in the wars of these western kingdoms and there had been a few instances of this in Unification Wars the whole thing seemed distasteful to her and the sort of behavior that civilized peoples should avoid. She was both looking forward to the end of this whole mess, but dreaded getting there. A small fleet had come in to Noldolia to mostly drop off freed slaves.
A day after it put into Port the first part of that came through, the Count Diego DiGruzman had made his visit to the consulate with his small entourage. He dropped off a bag with 800 Trono on her desk...
"Here is your metal master's damnable fee. Blind to breeding as they may be at least they should be able to hire a better class of whore to do their dirty work with it. Now where is Juanillo?" This had been more or less typical of his comments about her.
She inspected the coins, weighed them, stashed them in a safe box and produced a reciept. "Very well Lord DiGruzman, please sign here." She spoke calmly and professionally. She then pulled up speaking tube "Corporal, the DiGruzman case has been settled." She set it back into it's rest and picked up her clipboard. "If you would follow me." She soon led the noble to another room and waited their for about thirty seconds. Then the door at the opposite side was opened and the Corporal manhandled a young Avesian noblemen in, giving him a last shove which sent him stumbling. His clothes were a bit worse for wear and could use some laundering but he was unharmed. She checked off the appropriate box. "Very good. We hope to see your custom in more amiable circumstances in the future."
"Damn you and your infernal realm of Ice, Iron and Impertinence. May it's cities burn, it's cause be dashed and you end up in Galthirith's seediest brothel." The count sneered. "Fellipe! We're leaving this nest of corruption, i'll find a place for you on my estate." He barked as he turned about and stomped out
"Yes Uncle." The young Avesian responded meekly as he followed the unpleasant old man out. That was one down, Forty one to go for her lot. The Pirates which created the Kingdom of Avesia were first after money, but after slave trading and managing slave manned estates had got them their dreamed-of pile of il gotten gold they turned their eyes to prestige. Like their king, many Avesian nobles sought to gain that by marrying into mainland nobility. To their credit, the majority of the continental lords gave Avesian slave traders the same sort of respect Diego gave her, but there was a steady supply of families that by war, failed investments, gambling, drink or simple stupidity had depleted coffers and piles of debt which could be solved by marrying off a daughter or third son to an Avesian family and the occasional one which would do it to gain a sudden injection of cash or to solidify alliances. Bit by bit the slaver lords had gotten their foothold into the old aristocracy and developed connections to the point that almost all of them had some reasonably close ties to one or more mainland aristocratic lineage and the thing about the prominent heads of said households which ran said houses was that they cared about family. Both for the selfish reasons of dynastic politics and collecting assets that might still be in their name and out of a common idea that you protected your own.
Fellipe would most likely be made to sign over whatever holdings and assets he might find and be married off to some merchant's daughter after being allowed to loaf around the count's palace for a short while. It was not a universal thing and some had made enough enemies abroad that they were unsuitable for ransom, still there were plenty of them that could be used to provide a quick burst of cash to keep the flow of raw materials steady. It was a common enough practice in local warfare. It was a distateful game to play, but if it could be played now to save the Great Machine so be it.
(Dalatyr, Spring 37 IA)
Infrastructure's Corps of Engineers
had an increasingly pronounced divide between its older and younger members. The first batch of Engineers were generalists: men and women who were expected to know their way around Steam Engines, Machine Tools, Radios, Generators, Mines, Drydocks, Factories, Construction Sites and Steamships. Newer engineers were typically specialized: The Academies focusing students in on specific fields such as architecture, nautical engineering, electrical systems and so forth. Natasha Smedth saw the value in the change as the gear she worked with became increasingly complex and common and appreciated that she had people who understood the gear better than she did. She'd heard a few of them lament that they were not as likely to see and do the things that she did and would likely be sorting out the same problems in the same general area for the rest of their stints. She could understand where they were coming from but at the same time knew that they would not like to be out in the ass end of nowhere trying to turn it into somwhere when it was twenty below zero hoping that Wildspawn don't eat you.
Thankfully her last few projects had kept her in Dalatyr. Battlesteamer production
was now proceeding smoothly and she'd handed that off job to it's team with confidence and so she had been reassigned to work on another Advanced Manufacturing project. The larger iron components were supplied from Foundry-III and a team of machinists and technicians made the rest of the components in house from steel. Security was tight, which was a pain, but she understood why that had to be done. What they made was the whole reason why this damned war had started.
Even so she wished it had been something that was better smelling. Even with improved ventilation systems the damn things smoked up the place something fierce, especially when they went wrong. On their own they were hardly impressive: simple cubes with a couple of cylinders riveted to each side, a wheel sticking out the front, a tube in the back, a smokestack on top, and a few minor doodads here and there hooked up to a battery. Each of them was fed some form of petroleum distillate through a mixer device. If the wheel was spun while fuel was fed in and the battery was engaged the device would soon sputter to life and keep the wheel going, usually at speeds of 200 rotations per minute. That alone was notable, you did not need to get it's water boiling and the power in even these small ones was impressive. There were a few crap outs, in which case the machine would be taken apart and examined with a camera observing the dissection. Depending on the severity of the breakdown it might be rebuilt, or it might be dissected with instructions given for it's modified successor.
As Natasha made her rounds she noticed engine number Seven as it chugged down it's latest bottle of fuel without a care in the world. It had done quite well over it's three days of life without any major breakdowns. Hopefully they were getting things right and a production model could be introduced. There would be some hassle in introducing the new system, getting factories set up to make them, training technicians to maintain them, all the bungling which inevitably happens with new machines that people don't understand and the matter of fueling them. Even so she could see a lot of places where these new Internal Combustion Engines could be very useful.
(Infrastructural Embassy, Venoa, Spring 37 IA)
Of the human states of Ilvamicum, Venoa was modestly open to Drow merchants and commerce. It was not a slave port who's economy was dependent on the Nine States or a Tributary forced to pay homage or an open trade partner like Nycon or Oestia. The Docking Fees and Tariffs on Drow Goods was twice that of most other commerce and outside of a few exceptional underground cases nobody was selling slaves. For all of that it was still better than The Allergonian Empire where trade was simply banned and the political situation was one of either truce or shooting war and the state was wealthy enough to provide a respectable market. As such the Drow States maintained an embassy to help things go along smoothy. Elistaren ti'Norvas was Valnothron's ambassador, a position which had caused her increasing frustration recently. It was an important posting that she was proud to have achieved even if it was hardly glorious and she usually found it stimulating but not overwhelming. At least it had been until it looked like the Serene Republic began to threaten war. She'd seen the Steam Galleys
that they had been flowing out of The Arsenal and had read the increasing reports of confrontation between Valnothron's fleet and the navies of the Four States still engaged with the Coldlanders
. All while The Eternal Foe
had launched a new wave of attacks and the Allegonian Empire was preparing for war. She'd been calling in favors and arranging moves to sway key Patricians to obstruct things and had several meetings with the Doge and his associates to hopefully defuse matters. She'd hoped and prayed for them to relent and recall their fleet before disaster happened which might cost her her life and would inevitably cost her career and family. What she got instead was a message from Home, but it would have to do.
On a warm summer morning she made her way via carriage to another embassy. It was fairly typical of the higher end architecture of it's district, but nobody could mistake the metallic tower sprouting from it's roof, the hexagonal banners fluttering in the wind from its side nor the Riflers standing at attention guarding the place. She disembarked and made her way to the door before pulling out a set of papers truthstone.
"I am the Ambassador of Valnothron. I carry no arms and have no hostile intent. I speak for my city and am here to deliver a message on behalf of my lords to your Committee through this embassy." The words were in Venoan, formal and perfect.
This caused some commotion but eventually the guards let her pass, under escort of course. She waited in a lobby for about twelve minutes getting a few stares before being ushered upstairs to the ambassador's office. Outside of a few posters and a few devices under crystal domes and an odd metallic clicking sound it was fairly normal, even if the runestones were more extensive than usual. She was soon let in and saw the man in his universe using something that seemed to be a writing engine of some sorts.
"What do you want?" He asked.
"Learned Bureaucrat." She let the words pass her teeth with just a hint of aristocratic annoyance. "The State of Valnothron now feels that this war has run its course and desires it's conclusion." She extracted a small message tube. "I have been instructed to deliver this list of peace terms, the general summation of which is that our campaigns against Infrastructure shall cease and we recognize the validity of your colonial assets
on the southwestern continent in return for ceasing actions against our assets and those of our close trade partners. Further details are open to negotiation with a dedicated diplomatic team."
She set the tube before him. He sat silently and impassive for two seconds after the conclusion. "Very well, the Committee shall be informed. Is there anything else?"
"Delay in finalizing peace terms costs you the lives of your countrymen. I suggest you work quickly."
"Then I bid you farewell."
"Indeed." She said as she made her way out with a flourish. With that the end of the Escort War had begun.
(Dalatyr, Spring 37 IA)
By the tenth Day of the Third Month of 37 IA there were over six hundred and fifty factories in Dalatyr. Most of them were State Industries and they ranged in size from huge operations like the main Ironworks which employed thousands to small operations with twenty workers. One of Supernovas's
regular tasks was inspecting them. The Bureaucracy and Engineering Corps had gotten skilled enough at snooting out problems, but it never hurt to check things out for herself, it was good for morale. Besides, she could process a lot of administrivia while she did the job. On that day she was inspecting a garment factory making cotton shirts. Bolts of cloth were cut into standardized lengths, given to workers (most of whom were young women) at sewing machines which hemmed seems and made tubes, who handed them off to other workers who assembled finished garments before having them tagged, stamped with logos and packed for shipping. Total output now averaged about 2,000 daily, which was respectable for the workforce. Things seemed to be going smoothly, even though she still had some recommendations for the foreman.
When she was about halfway along the central pathway of the factory floor she got a message from the embassy in Venoa. The radio systems that they had set up in the embassies were crude affairs with a low effective bit rate, but the message conveyed all that it needed to and had the proper codes. She'd wondered if and when their offensive campaign
would have yielded fruit. Now was time for a show.
She stopped in her tracks and gave an amused giggle. This was enough to get the workforce's attention and work stopped. A few seconds latter a young women by the name of Aneta responded "Is...something wrong Ma'am?"
Supernova beamed as she focused on her. "No. Everything is fine. May I ask, is anyone in your family serving?"
"My cousin Oliwa's in the Navy ma'am. She's a Machinist."
"Well with any luck she won't be in harms way for much longer. While things are not yet certain I believe we just won this war."