(1,246 km South South West of the Infrastructural Petroleum Colony, Southwestern Continent, Spring 37 IA)
Tolish, third of Coreth had a rough life which got rougher. Born into a lumber camp in Galthirith, his life had involved long days of felling and planting trees, hacking off branches, gathering resin, doing the odd bit of repair work and chores in and around the stables, cramped, cold barracks and far flung work cabins of the estate. Like most of his fellows he went about his duties quietly and with enough diligence so that the overseers rarely bothered with him for forty years of work. Then one day a badly aimed axe took off his right hand. The wound was burned and tarred and the man who'd made the blow was whipped to an inch of his life for his blunder. For the next nine months he'd tried to adjust as best he could and continue on but eventually he was replaced. His masters sold him off to one of the big chattel dealers in the city who put him in a caged pen in a warehouse with a couple dozen other cripples. They were rented out to do a few odd jobs and were given a couple of bowls of slop to keep them going in the short term. Over a month in the pen twelve more came into into the pen, nine of it's residents were sold and five were taken out to the blade drop machine and were no more. Unmovable inventory was a waste of food.
He was spared from that fate by the Navy, who'd bought him up
with the entire lot of cripples for the fleet. He had been told that he'd learn the job of sailing as they went, even if there were few people to teach him. Not that he had much time to learn as in the first battle his sloop had been blown to pieces
. He'd known enough basic swimming to keep himself afloat and avoid drowning long enough for him to be scooped out, even if some of the Drow grumbled about salvaging him. He'd lost a finger and an eye, maimed his left foot and suffered some other minor injuries escaping the blast. Never the less the ship's healers gave him enough treatment to pull through. He'd heard a bit about how they'd been fighting "Infrastructures", whatever they were, but it was not his place to pry in to such things.
After that, Tolish was dropped off in Valnothron's main naval base and since he'd done a bit of basic woodworking he was assigned to the repair crews. He came to the opinion that this was a better job than hauling logs through the frozen forest in the dead of winter, or it would have been had he been if he'd been all in once piece. Less because the simple tasks he had been assigned were hard and more for the fact that he'd only been put there because the navy had been pressing a lot of their yard carpenters into shipboard service and needed to fill the gaps with someone. His overseer Bariath was not happy with this: his well drilled skilled team had been gutted and replaced with half trained apprentices, untrained workers who'd never touched a saw and worst of all "Excuses". Those that were still learning he could cultivate, those that were outright incapable at carpentry he could comfortably delegate simple tasks such as lifting and holding while he had them shown how to do basic things properly. Excuses however were those older slaves which had served as handymen making the odd chair out of old boxes or fixing doors every now and again in an easy "a few nails and she'd be right" sort of way which the clerks thought were acceptable substitutes for real carpenters in a pinch but as far as Bariath was concerned only had a collection of presumptions and bad habits that made mere ignorance look like actual skill. The fact that he was a crippled Excuse earned Tolish the lion's share of Bariath's frustrations for a year and no shortage of cane strokes.
Then about two and a half months ago he and a few other yard workers were taken away from the yard and put into a holding pen in the port in a gradually growing crowd of his fellows. The day after that they loaded onto a steamship with a bunch of crates with the Valcas logo. He spent six weeks below deck in that hold ship's hold which was at first cold, then hot and always damp. He'd noticed they were in a small fleet when they were let above deck for exercise and the priests assigned to them ran sermons on their new lives in a new lands. The crew were always a bit wary. How they would face new challenges, from wild men to the wicked men cursed with the six sided mark who desired their corruption and remember to keep the faith. The voyage also ended unexpectedly at sea at night. The ships dropped anchor with land a distant line on the horizon and readied launches. At dawn he and the remaining slave passengers were instructed up to the decks and shortly afterwards a purple triangle went into the air from the shore in the lingering twilight. Then the captain came up on deck, pulled out a piece of parchment and read it's contents.
"Listen Now and Take Heed! For I speak the words of her excellency Lady Talnara of House Valcas. Remember this mission as you go forth, subdue this land in honor of your Mistress, multiply and thrive, heed the Priests and their wisdom, the scribes and their knowledge, the adepts and their skill, the Jannssaries and their bravery, work with the wild mercenaries and their kin and count them as being your half brothers, beware those corrupted by Infrastructure and above all else Keep the Faith. Take these lessons to heart. Do you understand?"
"Yes." The gathered slaves said in chorus.
"Very well." He extracted a piece of parchment and signed it. "Then by the word of Lady Valcas and before these witnesses on the sixteenth day of the third month of the year 4246 of the Age of Ascension the Breaking of Bonds is made*." Several of his officers signed the document as well. "She renounces legal claim to you as her chattel. One day the world shall be under the yoke of it's Rightful Masters, but for now your fate is your concern."
And with that, the newly freed slaves were sent onto the launches and made their way to the shore. Enough fishermen were on board to make the trip to the landing site without any accidents. They set up a camp and began to wall it off with logs. Over the next two days the ship was unloaded, concluding with a bag of red rocks being sent to the ship in exchange for a single link coin and a piece of paper which were shown off. Tolish did not see the point of that, so he focused on work. He soon set up a lean-to of his own and focused on his work. He may have been just an Excuse for a carpenter here, but his workmanship was good enough for most people and to got his measure of biscuits, bread, dried vegetables, fish, salt meat and grog from the stores even if the land was dreadfully hot and he came to spend the noon day in his little lean-to. He also earned the interest of Unmis, a short thin woman who'd been a scullery maid before her right foot was crushed, leaving her with an unsightly limp. Her and now she did work in the fields. For the first time in as long as he could remember, he felt that his lot had actually improved.
Not that everything was perfect. It was hot and even for a slave his shelter was crude and bare. There were wild men out there, some of which ran of the backs of giant chickens (he would not have believed if he had not seen and eaten a few of them) which had been causing problems and had killed a few people. Fortunately their little town of ex-drow slaves had some protectors. There were about sixty former-janissaries armed with rifles who guarded their little town from attack who took their job seriously. They had the respect of most of the freed slaves. The same was not true about the foreign mercenaries
hired by House Valcas to bolster the guard. They kept to themselves in their own small section of the camp when off duty, most of them barely spoke anything in the proper tongue and they had impropriety woven into the fiber of their being. This ranged from mockery of the rituals of deference to a instances of them being disgracefully and dangerous drunk. They were useful in a fight and he saw the wisdom of keeping the around for defense but they were still feral and wild.
Not that he wanted to pick a fight with them or anything, even if he had not been told not to do that as long as they did their job he had no delusions on how a confrontation between a cripple. Even so, he had a tendency to glare at them from time to time when he heard of some bad news relating to them. Generally when their attention was elsewhere, but still he knew he added to their discomfort by just that bit. But even with these untamed men that they had to work with, a heavy load of things needed to be done and aside from the threat of attack by savage chicken riders he was actually looking forward to the future in this new land.
*While rarely utilized for obvious reasons, the protocols of Renouncement and Release from slavery exists in Dark Elvish legal code, being penned by the First Dark Emperor herself. Primarily to allow for the ransoming of hostages.
(House Dailath Estates, Janilonas, Spring 37 IA)
Lord Gatahrin ti'Dailath had been enjoying a snifter of finest brandy and a book of poetry in his family's townhouse. He had held a seat on the Janilonas council for eighty two years and had kept it through diligence against attacks on it from all threats, be they the blades of assassins or the various political plays. Since seven in the morning he'd been hard at work in the council and at a dozen meetings with his various supporters, military leaders and other notables as well as two tours of manufactories and going through a pile of notes. In twenty minutes he'd meet with the head of House Desslian about their lighting proposals. Rebuilding after the defeat at Daagsgrad to new standards was a big task in of itself, especially since his state had lagged behind the other three states still in the fight. Doing so with a raw materials shortages looming
, the Venoans rattling their sabers
, Avesia being ransacked
and The Eternal Foe going on the Hunt
with Coldlander guns made things that much more hectic. Despite all that he was still determined to keep up the fight. There were avenues which had not been fully persued for getting raw materials, new weapons being tested, machines which might even the gap and ideas that the admiralty had to make better use of what they had while they still had plenty of warriors and ships. Conceding defeat so soon would only embolden their foes further, even if a growing number of misguided fools were electing for the route of cowardice. His family had fought and died for their race and their state with distinction for two millenia and he was not about to relent just because things looked a bit dicey now. Right now, however, he simply wanted a little bit of time to unwind without having to dwell on such matters. The fire, the patter of rain on the window, the delicate taste of the drink and Xemlis the Younger's mastery of prose gradually combined to create a pleasant private little world of tranquility where his cares could melt away.
As such it came as a most unwelcome intrusion when one of his personal servants came in with a message cylinder before quietly leaving. He noticed it, sighed, got to his feet and set aside glass and book as he came to deal with the unwanted missive. He'd made sure that his personal manservants knew that there were matters that warranted his attention even when he was relaxing and what they were. He opened the cylinder, extracted the paper and began to read. A few moments latter he Drew his scimitar and sliced the note in half as it drifted down.
He'd read reports on the political situation in Valnothron and some of the dealings that Lady Valcas made with some of the fence sitters
, but it was still a shock that they elected to sue for peace with the Coldlanders.
It was especially galling given that the sister city had the lead in manufacturing and had just launched her third Ironclad last week with at least two more under construction and another two being refit while his state's shipbuilders were just getting started on their first. Up until this point, he was certain that they could salvage matters. If they could not yet lay siege to the Black Ports again they could snatch up their merchant fleet. One of their metal hulled cargo ships had been brought into Janilonas' harbor two days ago and they'd been nabbing some of their smaller steamer refits as well. Maybe they could go after their convoys again or take out some of their warships one by one. If they planned to continue their campaigns against slave ports they could go for their supply lines and send troops to help defend them from attack. But to apply that pressure and keep it up they'd need a unified front that could take losses. Now that more than a quarter of their power had decided to quit, the political will to keep up that fight would falter, especially since it would inevitably be faltering in Galthirith and Hansoliath as well for the same reasons.
It was like a phalanx when the first man ran, the craven leaves a gap which compromises his comrades in arms and forcing them to run or die. Worse still he'd read enough reports that the Committee had more of their infernal contraptions planned and if left unchecked would proceed to make more of them. But for all of that he knew that seriously opposing the peace process would cost him and his family hard won political capital in a gesture which would most likely be futile.
His mood ruined, he sheathed his blade and sat back down to fume about this. And it had been such a nice little break.
(Vanothron, Spring 37 IA)
As the political will to keep up the Escort War crumbled Jailys zi'Valcas
focused on her job. She was not in a position to question the policy choices of her mistress and in any case she found her projects far more interesting. Electric motor production was hitting it's stride, the new wire works was moving along nicely even if copper was becoming scarce and work was underway on numerous generators to meet a rising demand for power. She had to do a fair bit of delegating as the number of tasks increased. Even so she had a particular enthusiasm for one specific project, which on a cool spring morning was undergoing it's final test out in the open.
The Drow States followed a broadly similar pattern, there was comparatively small parcel of land surrounded by walls and Watchtowers which contained a substantial city and was mostly extensively cultivated. In this case this posed some security risks which were only partially minimized by making deals with a few of House Valcas' partners and posting guards. There was still some risk of theft and they were probably being monitored by spies, but that did not make too much difference. Her operation consisted of two parties, one with her, a few slaves and some guards with a table on which was a machine powered by batteries and a hand operated dynamo which stayed still and another party led by one of her subordinates with a similar device on an ox cart and a surveyor's wheel. Jailys spent most of her time waiting with an odd trumpet shaped device in her hand waiting as the machine made slight humming noises. She mused about this new sound at 11:32 and how common it would be in the future and how it's operator had decided cover his ears partially while it was in use. Given how it could go from a quiet buzz to a screech sometimes she allowed it as long as one ear remained uncovered. She'd considered doing a similar thing herself, but decided against it when some of her Drow colleagues told her that it might be seen as a sign of weakness.
Then the machine made a stuttering sound which resolved itself into words. "...esting, testing...this is Tolnir with the Snowbox at 6,600 yards. I repeat this is Tolnir with ... Snowbox at Six Thousand six hundred Yards. Are you hearing this?" The words were tinny and artificial, but were recognizable. The slave operating the machine quickly jotted down the time and distance listed.
She brought the trumpet to her mouth and squeezed the switch. "This is Jailys with Five. I've received your message and you are to proceed to 6,700. I repeat that this is Jailys with Five and I've received your message and your to proceed to 6,700. End message."
"Message Received and proceeding to 6,700. Message Received ...nd proceeding to 6,700." She grinned with that. So far this was working very well even with the stuttering and tinniness. That was an issue that the Infrastructurals had not been able to do away with either even if they were better at it. The Snowbox was a fairly new unit captured off an Infrastructural Cargo Ship
and was invaluable as a yardstick and for testing their own work. So far, Number Five has done quite well, being able to send signals more than a thousand yards further than number four could while holding up a lot better than Number Four thanks to improved valve quality and the addition of a small electric fan. While she was prepared for a slip up of one sort or another she did not think that this would be an issue.
While she was not of a nautical bent she understood the concerns of communications. Linkglasses offered instantaneous communications over long distances, but they were expensive, hard to produce, delicate and only worked with their paired counterpart. For this reason ships in fleets often relied on manaflares
and signal flags for communication in battle, but they were clunky and cumbersome at the best of times. Radios could be invaluable in coordinating a fleet's motions in battle, allowing an admiral to better know what is going on with her fleet and allowing her to give orders to her ships in battle even in a foggy night. They could also be useful for civilian ships or trains to summon aide when something went wrong, or to observation posts and many other roles. Number Five was the first design which she felt confident in presenting to her mistress as a workable design fit for mass production and while it might be too late to use them against the Coldlanders they could prove invaluable about The Eternal Foe.
(Janilonas, Spring 37 IA)
In general terms the Escort War died with a whimper. After Valnothron gave it's official bid for peace, it's fleets were ordered to avoid contact with Infrastructural ships for the time being and were re-diverted against the High Elves. As the other three states
involved followed they did the same. There were several attacks on infrastructural cargo ships at this time due to communications problems, but things were never the less winding down. Talnara ti'Valcas was confident that the admiralty could handle matters and concerned herself more with the diplomatic side of things. While this war needed to end having the four states form a unified front would bolster their bargaining position, with said treaty being hammered out in Valnothron. All four states agreed on that implicitly and most of what they were talking about were matters related to specifics and fine details on where to stand firm and what to give in on. She'd expected most of them to have the same general desires and her predictions were correct and things had been going smoothly. Most agreed to go with her initial draft in the broad strokes with only a few adjustments in general priorities with a couple of minor power plays that she could comfortably delegate to subordinates to sort out and would not loose sleep over loosing. The process was tedious, but most of the requisite signatures had been obtained and one specific proviso of her contrivance had been preserved in the depths of the document.
She was never the less surprised when she was met with Lady Nilsim ti'Mahrciteth of Hansoliath after she'd been confronted by the issue. The conversation started with some comments on minor issues in which a few rather clumsy maneuvers had been thwarted before it let to the question.
"...there are plenty of opportunities in this day and age for those willing to jump on them. Which brings me to something."
"What is it?"
"Well I noticed that in the treaty's list of trade partners was a place called 'Fidelium', but I can't seem to recall the locale. Have you uncovered anything of note?"
Talnara had considered this possibility and had formulated two responses. Since Nilsim was a more reliable partner in that neck of the woods and one willing to understand she'd decided to indulge her. "Something to that effect. I was planning on revealing more on the subject soon enough on behalf of my government, but I could satisfy your personal curiosity, with a promise that this stays in our confidence of course."
"Then you have it."
"Very well. Meet me in my office after dinner."
A few hours latter the two had met again in her citadel office and after a few pleasantries and the signing of a waiver Talnara produced a package of reports and a few maps "This should give you a sufficient outline of Fidelium and our relations with that state.
Nilsim began leaf through these, which included sailors reports, manifests of men and chattel, legal documents and a couple of maps. "Well...that was certainly audacious. I can't believe you managed to get your council to back this scheme."
"The basic idea had been floating around the council for decades as a possible avenue into the continent, the disaster at Daagsgrad is what got it pushed through. Some investment in our part helped it sail through."
"It's still a High Risk venture given that you are treading on the Southern Continent and risking the wrath of the Raptors
"We've considered the issue." Talnara said "Sufficed to say they have their own politics, a crippling obsession with precedent and technicalities which is on our side. Their bans against us do not apply to our ex chattel or hireling. Being trade partners helps of course."
"Really though, a trade partnership with a camp aspiring to be a shanty town home to less than a thousand ex-slaves and common sellswords?"
"Think of it as investing in a loss leader and the more invested in it the more secure it is."
"And what if they send a squadron of skyships to burn the settlement to the ground?"
"A few hundred humans burn, even the best investor makes the wrong call now and again. But if it takes we'll have a counterbalance in place."
"Do the Coldlanders know?"
"I doubt it. It's nearly eight hundred miles to the south as the dragon flies. Not that secrecy on that front needs to last beyond the final pen stroke."
Nilsim shuffled through the papers. "Huh. Your emancipated rabble found iron ore in the region."
"There's also a fair number of natives in that region that could be reaped."
Lady Mahrciteth gave a slight grin. "If this scheme works, I would like to see my house in on the ground floor."
(Dalatyr Citadel, 37 IA)
walked through the Dalatyr Citadel, standing out like a sore thumb as he went past Bureaucrats and Guards. Over the last two weeks he'd met with Bureaucrats and a couple of the more mechanically minded Committee members in which he had been strung along. Now he had one chance left to try to end disaster in one last appointment. In less than six hours Supernova would be on a train heading to Borogskov. For his king and his conscience he had to make an attempt. He managed to get through and into one the complex's spartan rooms where the woman-like being stood.
Her obsidian eyes fell on him "Ambassador Telsion, punctual as always." Her tones were cheerful.
"Lady Committee member, on behalf of His Radiance I am honored to by your time and attention."
"Thank you but I must decline." Coldlander tea was stronger and sweeter than he cared for, in any case he did not have much time.
"Very well. I trust you are here again about the Peace Talks."
"There is no other issue as pressing as this Supernova. This bid for peace of theirs is a sign that now's the time to press the advantage, especially one as great as your ironclad fleet. If nothing else you could dictate your own peace terms on them." He kept his voice calm despite proposing the obscenity be delayed.
"Or it might escalate matters drawing in more states with fresh reserves and convincing the four we are at war with to redouble their efforts against us. While the exchange rate is in our favor our advantage is not absolute, especially with improvements in their gunnery, shipbuilding and tactics."
"Thus we should form a unified front together with Venoa and the Empire and scour them from the seas."
"A commendable plan, but one which ignores several complications in regards to cost and delays to our long term development plans as well as the risk of a concerted assault. Ambassador, the Committee has discussed these issues with you several times, our position has not changed since then. The cessation of hostilities at this point is in the best interests of Infrastructure."
The High Elven lord marshaled himself, he'd been beating around the bush for some time and now he was ready. "I do not claim to know what diplomacy is like where you are from, but you must understand that this foe is not like some clan of barbarians or a human kingdom who's next monarch might seek your favor. This is a foe that has striven for four millennia to conquer this world. When they ask for peace what that means is that they want a few decades to rebuild their fleets and raise new armies for the next assault. It is only by the blood of my people and those who have stood with us that your chilly domain is not under their yoke tended by their chattel who'd have long forgotten anything but the lash of their masters. By inches we'd managed to cull their ranks over the span of centuries until they began setting up colonies in the Far West. A War is coming, one in which their hosts shall march forth and reap not towns or the odd city, but entire Kingdoms. You stood up to a few myriads of their warriors and slave fodder, how would you fare against that force tenfold prepared for your new type of war? You have given us the best chance in years to avoid this disaster if..."
"...we get dragged into a series of events which might bring about these events and will in the best case set us back by years." Supernova interjected. "A fresh shipment of shells is being readied for your government to keep up you fight, but it is of paramount importance that we continue moving through development phases, most of which have been delayed by the shift to War Production. As it stands the peace treaty shall go through."
"I must inform you that His Radiance and the People of Ilvannas will not be pleased with this development." Lord Telsion said.
"Unfortunately for the sake of our nation we must do things that others might find objectionable."
Lord Telsion let out a soft sigh of resignation. He knew that this meeting was likely in vain going in, but there had still been at least an ember of hope among the coals. "Very well, regret it as I may I shall inform the High King of your Committee's decision. I wish you a good day." With that he made his way out.
(Svobodagrad (formerly Porta Liberium), Free Republic of Avesia, Spring 37 IA)
If there was one thing that Sergeant Korsakov
liked about Avesia
it was the climate, even so it was not the best weather for wearing armor in. As such she elected to were a Kepi on patrols through Svobodagrad. For the first couple of weeks after the Liberation of the city things had been rather dangerous as a handful of slavers hid in odd places at lashed out against Infrastructural troops or freed slaves. While much of the city was still in shambles, but between the efforts of Army soldiers and the new Free Republic's
people a basic semblance of order had been achieved. Things were still rough and tumble, but drunks, muggers and pickpockets were now a bigger issue than retrogrades. With that in place ex slaves and a smattering of pre-invasion free avesians brought in produce and plunder while a few foreign merchant ships came in to trade their cargoes and wares. She and her men knew enough of the local lingo to get fresh produce, fish, poultry and spices for the kitchen. Most people were well inclined towards Coldlanders and the deals were usually pretty good. Others were inclined to express gratitude in other ways.
As she and private Marshak walked by a stall selling dried tomatoes, the young lady tending it gave titter and said something in Avesian to him. Marshak smirked and said "I'd be off in two hours" as he marched by. Nadia rolled her eyes. Marshak had seen this young lass a couple of times and she was confident that he'd seen her more than that. She'd just hoped he'd remembered to use the latex preventatives the medical division had begun issuing. She'd give him a reminder about that, but nothing more. No reason to ruin what would be his last night on this Island.
She liked the place. It was rough, it was backwards and there was still a couple of bands of slavers in the mountains causing trouble but she had enjoyed her stay. From what she'd gathered she'd expected to spend another month or so here resupplying before they moved onto liberate a place called Halrizuud
. Instead her squad had been selected to serve as an Honor Guard for the Peace Talks with the Drow States. As much as she enjoyed watching the New Avesia forming, coming home to friends and family now secure was something she wanted even more.
(Bluewine Bay near Venoa, Spring 37 IA)
On a small Venoan herring boat Matelleo Tovani plied the waters of Bluewine Bay with his son Paulo. It's lateen sail catching the modest morning wind in pursuit of the shoals. So far they'd brought in a small catch and if they were lucky they'd be home sometime this afternoon. Not that they did not enjoy their work, but getting more things done that day would be good for the family in general. Matello's expert eye was good at finding signs of the fish. Paolo was not as sharp about it and was more concerned with sail and wind, but he was good enough for a teenager. Even so, they took note of the other ships around them which if nothing else helped pass the time.
A slim majority of them were Venoan or hailed from other Anvosian states, but he made out a fair number of foreign ships as well. He'd made out several ships that were probably Dalisid, Torionese, Nyconian and Imperial and a fair number that were not clear. Those from the east usually had ports for oars and lateens and those from the east (save for the occasional craft from the Rajs) and north generally had a more extensive sail plan, but many shipbuilders copied the elements from each other. A few steam galleys
paddled about as did couple of enginized freighters. They'd first showed up a decade ago
and were still a small minority, but their numbers had risen considerably over the last few years.
Matello saw the steam virtues but still did not care for them. He'd seen a couple of the damn things burn to the water line and that was enough to turn him off the idea. Keeping a big fire in a wooden craft was asking for trouble. They were apparently getting better at preventing that and some of his fellow fishermen had been talking about the prospects of outfitting their boats with steam engines, but leaving that aside there was fuel. Getting enough for the stove back home took up enough of the family budget as is while the wind was free. The merchants who wanted to cross the sea in a few days could have their steamships, Matelleo would stick with his sailboat. There was a good chance that Paulo and a better chance that five year old son Lazzarno would spend a couple years on board a steam galley was their time to serve the Serene Republic, he'd just hoped that the worst of that era had past.
When he saw a few pillars of smoke coming in from the east he was not surprised or inclined to give it too much consideration. A while latter he noticed that there three ships in that fleet, none of them any masts able to carry meaningful amounts of canvas. That got his attention and Paulo's. Outside of a few tugs and floating experiments there was only one nation in the world which took to the sea without sail. Even before he saw the fluttering flags, Hexagons and cannons did he knew that these were Infrastructural Navy ships. They trumpeted a couple of times and flashed a few times to Galleys which flashed back with some of those new Semaphore Lamps and continued on towards shore. As they did so, they passed by their small craft and he got a good view of them.
The leading ship
was enormous, about a hundred yards long as far as he could tell. Not as long or as high as a Prosperity Class
ship but stouter. This was a brute with two massive turrets carrying four massive cannons like tree trunks topped with two smaller turrets. It's boxy central hull contained a broadside of six smaller guns and it had four tube shaped affairs in the front. Printed on her prow was "SH-1 AVATAR". The Hunter class ship
which followed it was more modest, but was still obviously quite a powerhouse in it's own right. The Cargo ship which took the rear was comparatively mundane, but by in large it was overlooked. A couple of Steam Galleys escorted it in, but that was mainly for show.
"Well, guess the broadsheets were right." Paulo said.
"You're right my boy." Matelleo replied. The Infrastructural Embassy made various announcements which got out through it's own newspaper and gave official releases to the local print shops. The description of what their fleet had done at Daagsgrad were amazing and terrifying. Some of it was inflation, he knew that, but when you saw it motor by you definitely felt that at least some of it was true. If any ship could go up against ten times it's number of Dark Elven warships it was currently heading to his home city. As methodical and practical as they were supposed to be, the Infrastructurals were excellent at making a show.
(Rotunda of the Serene Republic Triumphant, Serene Republic of Venoa, 37 IA)
The City of Venoa had acquired a fair amount of money through trade and it's respectable overseas holdings. Much of which one way or another got funneled into architecture. The Rotunda of the Serene Republic Triumphant (better known as Filnorri's Dome) was one of the better results of that. Built in the style of a Third Empire
temple, it commemorated Venoa's victory in the 25 Years' war (582-557 BIA) which cemented it's position as the dominant Anvosi city state. It had been used for a variety of ceremonial odd jobs by the Republic's leaders, from swearing in new Doges through remembrance services to being the sight of the most exclusive of balls. On the 29th day of the 3rd month of the 37th year of the Infrastructural Age, it would be for the twenty ninth time the be host to peace talks. On that morning the Doge
waited patiently near the center and to a casual inspection alone. In reality a regiment of soldiers stood on guard, as had dozens of mages and a number of assassins from the City's Guild which even their Dark Elvish counterparts
respected hidden cunningly. A couple of photographers and artists were also hiding out in the alcoves. He did not fear that either party would attempt anything stupid here, but there were other players which might try something on top of the damn fools. He watched as the seconds ticked down on his watch until it reached 10 AM. A few seconds latter the doors opened.
From the western door marched in the the Infrastructural procession. Two dozen of their soldiers marching in lockstep flanking a small group of Bureaucrats led by Supernova and Drive. Their uniforms neat but stark and functional save for the simple insignia of their realm and it's ideology. While the Bureaucrats were a bit antsy the soldiers and especially the Central Committee members themselves carried themselves with the mechanical efficiency which they so esteemed.
"Your Serenity, on behalf of the Great Machine of Infrastructure I extend the Committee's thanks to you and your city for hosting these talks." Supernova said in clear Venoan, in spite of the not so subtle pressure he'd been levying against her state. He gave a polite nod.
From the eastern door marched the Dark Elvish procession. Sixteen warriors flanked a dozen courtiers and four lords of the four cities present, all of which were clad in fine runic armor even if none of them had elected to carry overt weapons for the proceedings. Making a display of force even when circuitously admitting defeat. Hardly a distinctly Drow thing to do but a tendency which was common enough among the Drow. He made out a couple of the figures including Lord Silnorain of Hansoliath and Lady Valcas. Had this been the Seraphate or Torion they would have brought along slaves, but sapient chattel was banned within the City's Walls.
"Most honorable Doge" Lady Valcas said "you have proven yet again that the Serene Republic is a valued friend to help smooth over this unpleasantness." He picked up a faint trace of relief on her voice. Probably carefully measured to be there. He thought of half a dozen things that this could mean here and now idly as he took in the scene. He nodded to her as well.
Before him stood two of the great powers of this world, each with distinctive strengths that had been locked in conflict for more than three years. One which had upset and was still upsetting the already shakey balance of power even if one side had yet to bring all it's power to bear and the other could not directly threaten it's foes homelands. Both sides had decided to come to the negotiating table and work out something before this war expanded into something truly disastrous. This was a good thing in of itself, leaving aside the fact that it secured the well being of a lot of valuable loans
. They were not out of the woods yet but that these two bodies were here was a good sign. If it failed
"Members of the Central Committeee, Great Lords of Gathirith, Valnothron, Hansoliath and Janilonas and their esteemed followers. On behalf of the Serene Republic and her people I welcome you and am honored to make this grand hall available to you for your peace negotiations. I and my diplomatic staff am at both of your disposal in mediation of these talks. I hope that both parties can find reasonable and agreeable terms swifty in a spirit of reason and amiability." He gestured forward to a table set up for such a development and both parties wandered to their assigned seating. To his relief nobody fussed over whom sat by whom. "Now let the talks commence..."
(Rotunda of the Serene Republic Triumphant, Serene Republic of Venoa, 37 IA)
The Negotiations lasted for a day and a half and were for the most part pure tedium. In general more than 90% of the terms that had been presented were acceptable to Drive and Supernova but there were a few technicalities which were of a concern and had to be adjusted and redrafted. Despite the losses the Dark Elven delegation made it clear that this was no unconditional surrender and were not above posturing to make that point known. A few minor power plays had been made by the various Drow States which were hammered out in private session with speech handled in coded language just to be safe. This had been expected by all parties, Drow, Doge and Core
alike and it meant that the treaty needed to be revised on a few points, and while it did waste time it ultimate was productive. The biggest adjustment to the original draft was an agreement to repatriate those slaves taken by the forces of the Four present states who were younger than the age of thirteen years. Further attempts at prying into matters risked discussion about the repatriation of prisoners of war the other way.
There was only one point where a risk of derailment happened. Two hours into discussion on the Second Day, Supernova took note of a minor point. Part of the Peace Treaty had been a cessation of hostilities between Infrastructure and the trading partners of the four gathered Drow states, one of which listed in the margins of a rather unremarkable list.
"The Central Committee must inquire as to the whereabouts of the listed country known as 'Fidelium'." Nomenclature was a rather tricky business, given that each kingdom would usually have at least it's own distinct dialect often with distinct names for both regions and states both archaic and contemporary. Even so nothing registered about this polity.
Had the Drow Delegation not have been the products of centuries of cutthroat politics and business dealings they might had choked. They might have responded a beat too late or too soon. They might have stuttered or blinked or made their face blank. Instead Lady Valcas gave her response with the same slightly annoyed hautiness she'd employed throughout the meeting.
"Nations fall and nations rise, Supernova. The deficiencies of your charts are not our concern. I'd recommend against attacking random settlements in the interim."
Supernova was not satisfied, but she did not pry further. The precedents of diplomacy and navigation meant that no nation was obliged to share their charts. She figured most likely situation was that it was some recently established enclave born of some fringe religious group desiring to set up their holy society which some Drow Lord decided would more valuable as a captive market and source of native POWs rather than something to be reaped.
And so the agreement was struck and the treaty signed. Talnara and Supernova added their signatures last. The Dread Sorceress Mistress of Many and Puppeteer of More and the Alien Machine Lifeform in Her Artificial Body observed each and for a brief second gave each other a polite smile. Both of them wondered what secrets and schemes the other had planned and how they would manifest when war once again came to pass. But both of them knew that would be a challenge for another time. And so with two final names were signed. The leather bound document was closed and with that the Escort War ended.
(Vertebograd, Infrastructure, Spring 37 IA)
Located on the shores of the Coldland's Great Southeastern Lake, Vertebograd had been raised by the Committee's orders. It started out as a minor logistical base in the wars of unification delivering men and supplies to that frontier in 13 IA. Soon into it's life it was facilitating a flow of resources back north to Dalatyr and by 15 IA it was designated the regional Hub Town after some minor uprisings in that area. After that it had two decades of steady growth as the regional shipping center. Drydocks were set up to repair and eventually build paddlesteamers fed by growing sawmills and eventually an ironworks. Wool and flax were processed nearby leading to textile mills. A steady flow of people came in from the countryside to work in these factories along with an influx of managers, technicians, Engineers and Bureaucrats from Dalatyr. More locals came in to support the factory workers, build the factories and were eager for the prospects of education in the increasing number of schools. It's population grew to 19,300 by 34 IA. By the summer of 35 that had more than doubled. Seven new Industrial Facilities were ordered by the Central Committee including a new Steel Mill, Arsenal and Machine Tool plant. Aggressive recruitment campaigns had secured a large number of volunteers from the countryside to build and man these factories and build new accomidations. Labor Conscription provided the rest. Between a largely untrained and sometimes indignant workforce, hasty construction, supplies of old and obsolete machines and simple and rather slapdash new ones that were effectively several development phases behind the current standard these factories would be less productive than those in Dalatyr or The Yards. But efficiency was not the Prime Concern of this effort. There was Serious Concerns
that Dalatyr might be destroyed and if that happened something would be required to rise again from the ashes. This is also why a new Engineering Academy had been rapidly developed. As rushed as it was, Vertebograd was coming into it's own as a City.
Vertebograd had three market squares in which peasants and village craftsmen could sell their produce and wares and where people naturally congregated. There were a few other such public spaces within it's boundries, one of which had a public video screen
but all of them had a set of Public Loudspeakers used for general announcements, music and news. There was usually a few people who took an interest them, in praticular out of towners, though many locals paid them little attention. This was the case on an evening as a soft Balalaika and Violin duet filled the air with a familiar tune which came to it's conclusion on a lazy evening. This was followed by a familiar if unexpected fanfare and it's accompanying notification.
"And now a Message from the Central Committee of Infrastructure".
This got the full attention of a few people, but most simply continued on with what they were doing. Messages from The Committee may not have been an everyday occurrence but were hardly uncommon and it would likely be repeated in the a few minutes in any case. Even so, there had been official reports and rumors circulating.
"People of Infrastructure" Supernova's voice filled the air. "It is my pleasure to Report that as of 17:24 Dalatyr Time on the 30th day of the 3rd month of the 37th year of the Infrastructural Age that a treaty of favorable terms has been agreed upon and signed by The Central Committee and the Dark Elven States of Galthirith, Valnothron, Janilonas and Hansoliath. The Great Machine has withstood the privations of a War Economy and the Ravages of War only to emerge stronger. On this day, against some of the most feared foes of this world, we stand victorious. We mourn our glorious dead, the men and women who gave everything in defense against the menace of the Drow Slavers, but know that their sacrifices were not in vain. Celebrations shall be arranged to mark this auspicious event in the coming weeks and to mark this occasions all people engage in Civilian Sector National Service are now released from service and all government employees shall receive doubled wages for this most auspicious of days. Rejoice, for once again we can put our minds and efforts towards advancing the Great Machine of our Society for the benefit of all. Hail Infrastructure!"
During the announcement men, women and children stopped what they were doing to take it all in. Afterwards there were cheers of joy.