Infrastructure (Original and Illustrated)

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Zor
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Re: Infrastructure (Original and Illustrated)

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Coinguards are a catch all term for security firms in the Anvosi Peninsula, most notably Venoa. In the Serene Republic wealthy Patricians, Prominent Guilds and Joint Stock Companies all have the need for muscle beyond what can be provided by the Constabulary or the hired guards they keep on staff. When this happens go to the Coinguard Companies. They perform a variety of jobs from guarding people, items and buildings, patrol city blocks for thieves as well as evicting, repossession and in general send a message. Most of them come from poor backgrounds, had active military service and spun that into a career. In Venoa it is normal for Coinguards to have some decent armor such as this breastplate as well as some substantial weapons, all be it ones optimized for fighting in confined environs (such as this fellows revolver, shield and shortsword, they'll also often times carry wooden truncheons when lethal force is not required). They are cheaper than mercenaries and are less rowdy. The basic system had it's origins in gangs which found that taking contracts for the rich was a more profitable and safer venture than robbery, extortion and similar. Coinguard Companies try to present themselves as being skilled professionals which provide firm and sometimes distasteful but legal and ethically sound services, though many Venoans think of them as being somewhat cleaned up street thugs that have been given a scrap of legitimacy by wealthy patronage.
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WHEN ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE ON EARTH, ALL EARTH BREAKS LOOSE ON HELL
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Re: Infrastructure (Original and Illustrated)

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For millennia the Dark Elves have made use of slaves (mostly but not exclusively human) to help man their ships, both for their civilian fleets and their warships. While they have been employed in a variety of functions based on their requisite skills for most of the span between the rise of the First Dark Empress and 37 IA, their main function had been as rowers for galleys and while normally proven slave rowers were seen as being assets worthy of cultivation and reasonable preservation often slave soldiers they were seen as consumable assets to be pushed hard, used up and discarded as required by military necessity. As naval gunnery emerged in recent centuries this resulted in restructuring as banks of oars gave way to gun-decks. Even so, some of the attitudes of that era persist.

This fellow is your typical human slave sailor used by the Valnothron Navy. More specifically he's part of a gun crew on a frigate, specifically a swabber cleaning out the cannon barrel between loading. Gunners are the most common positions filled by slaves on Dark Elven warships under the oversight of a Dark Elven Chief Gunner and often supplemented by a couple of junior Drow Sailors, especially manning the larger guns. In the Dark Elven reckoning the aiming and firing of a cannon to cut down foes is an glorious action and a fit duty for a warrior. The minutia of getting it loaded and ready to fire is simple dull work fit for slaves and those fresh Drow sailors who've yet to prove themselves worthy and are as such "apprenticed" to those that have. Regardless of this, serving on a gun deck as broadsides (or worse if they face foes flying The Hexagon) are exchanged and with nothing more than old tunic and shorts wounds are common. Beyond gunnery there are numerous manual tasks that need to be performed to keep a warship working. In their home port, Slave Sailors are often employed as stevedores and do various other bits of manual labor to support their ship and fleet.

Like many of the slave sailors, he did an unremarkable job doing physical labor for his master (in his case it mostly loading boxes off of and onto wagons) before he was bought up by the navy and put onto a ship and thrown into a Crew, assigned to a team with a Drow overseer and made to follow their lead or suffer. The internal hierarchy for Slave Sailors is informal and loose but undeniable. Normally at it's top are experienced slave sailors of proven loyalty and a valuable trade such as carpentry, if they are Consecrated they are naturally are ranked higher but are somewhat of an anomaly on naval ships. Below them are loyal slaves with either a trade or years of nautical experience. This fellow falls into the latter category as he is afforded the special privileged status of being weapon rated and is trusted enough to be issued an axe or a pistol in boarding actions primarily for defensive purposes.* Below that are the general mass of basically competent if unremarkable slaves integrated into the crew able to perform their jobs, then general trainees. Below these junior members are captives recently ceased and pressed into temporary service and at the very bottom are Disposable Slaves used to pad out the ranks in times of war. They are motivated by the prospects of better and greater rations, grog and the fear of their masters lash.

Unlike Janissaries naval slave sailors are not given a high level of indoctrination. As the ratio of slaves to Drow crew is usually in the area of 2-1 and they are generally not armed, the threat of mutiny is not an overwhelming concern. Attempts at escape are seen as a more common issue, but still one which is manageable in most situations as swimming to shore is usually suicidal even if they can get into the water can escape being used as target practice and Drow Warships in Foreign Ports tend to keep their slave crews chained up. Those that do escape successfully end up as outcasts and pirates. In the traditional reckoning specific training is not necessary. Either a slave will learn the ropes on the job in their first few months and if they don't they can either be sold off or at worse tossed overboard. At the same time there is often a high attrition rate among slave sailors as they are often in the firing line with the High Elves and various human powers that would usually fight to the death against Drow warships. Finally there is a give and take between the Drow Merchant Houses and Navies in which both groups will sell experienced slave sailors to each other trained up as a byproduct. The downsides of this approach is that standards for Drow Slave Crews are generally lower than that of most human navies. There has been some individuals which have been pushing for reform among the Drow Navies, especially in the light of new technological developments which require new specialized skills to use but will change the nature of warfare.


*This roll is somewhat controversial among the Dark Elves and only four of nine states employs such slaves with three explicitly banning the practice. On the one hand there is some concern about slave mutinies, on the other hand having at least some armed slaves among the ranks fighting for their masters does add to the security of a ship and means that borders are less likely to try to call on the slave crew to aide them.
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WHEN ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE ON EARTH, ALL EARTH BREAKS LOOSE ON HELL
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Re: Infrastructure (Original and Illustrated)

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For the Infrastructural Navy's Corps of Divers the Battle of Daagsgrad marked a turning point. Most of what they'd done before that point had been tests with the odd job here and there and the occasional training run. Afterwards, there was a lot to do, from helping repair a couple of damaged drydocks to salvage. Over the last few months their numbers had more than doubled despite loosing six trainees in accidents. For Lieutenant Vadim Valcaw, the most immediate consequence of victory was that they could now go at a slower pace, which lowered the rate of mistakes and more time to get the newbies ready for sea floor work. The suits were cumbersome and heavy by design, vision was limited even with the headlamp and sometimes people panicked when they saw an Akula swim by even though the damn things were at worst a bit curious and interested in the critters that divers dug up or otherwise screwed up. You made mistakes when you were overworked and when you were new to the job and mistakes could be fatal.

He kept this in mind as they worked on their latest target. The remains of the Drow attack fleet were full of salvageable material. Cannons, shot, engines, gearing, props, anchors, chains, stoves, tools, weapons, armor and more could be salvaged for iron for the foundries. Copper, bronze and brass were also in high demand for a variety of applications from wiring to diving helmets. Runic armor, weapons and Prow Rams could be sold off to foreign runesmith guilds. Gold and silver were also gathered with special enthusiasm since the Diving Crews got a cut of what they recovered. Vadim had already put some 54 Kilocredits in his account from this work from salvaged coinage alone, more than a decade's worth of wages even with his Hazard Pay and the salvage crews had only gone over eight wrecks so far.

Two days after the singing of the Peace Treaty Vadim had been assigned to the ninth wreck which was identified as being called the Raethis. While far from the largest ship in the fleet, it was the one which the Navy was the most concerned about. The immediate reason for this was obvious as he and his team began taking off large slabs of iron armor with their crowbar axes and small blasting charges. It was not as strong as an Infrastructural Ship would be, but the pitting in it's plating showed that could take a beating. It was a sobering sobering thought. But Vadim would find something that made that vision all the worse.

On the third day working on the Raethis they broke into her gundeck, they found something unusual among the artillery pieces. Most of them were fairly typical examples of rifled Drow guns, but one of them stood out even with a layer of rust over it. As such Vadim and Ensign Mikhailov spent two hours moving it into place, cutting away the remains of it's truck and setting up a harness for collection.

On the salvage barge there were a couple of Naval Intelligence personnel looking over the Salvage, most of the time they were looking over items of salvage and in general they were bored out of their minds. When his shift was over, Vadim noticed that they were all focused on the cannon with interest. When he came up he was soon met by their leader Lieutenant Kulik and had a brief interview about the object. What he gathered from the exchange was this: this cannon was a steel breechloader of a distinctly Drow design. Something which was closer to Infrastructural artillery than anything they had here-to-fore made or used. It was an important enough find that he and Mikhailov both got an extra 500 credit bonus that day.

He'd been wondering about that since he'd found the damn thing and now his fears were confirmed. The Drow were testing not only Ironclad ships but modern cannonry and if they could make one, they could make more. After the interview he was certain that in Hellish Foundries iron was being made into plates and steel was being used to cast more of these cannons and their bigger cousins to be put together by hordes of slaves driven by cruel supervisors in nightmarish shipyards to make dozens of Ironclads that would be at least as good as the Raethis. The Dark Elves were excellent sailors and warriors and even with their obsolete fleet they did manage to destroy a few Infrastructural Navy warships at Daagsgrad. He did not sleep well that night.

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NsiTharn* Birtim, Sixth of Mishi was not in a good mood. He'd seldom been in one for more than half a year, though the nature of his displeasure had shifted. He had not only Consecrated but was also forth generation Janissary Stock. His father survived his twenty eight years of Janissary service to a honorable discharge and his mother was the daughter of a Janissary Veteran, as was all of his grandparents and great grandparents. From birth he was slated for esteemed service to his masters worthy of his proud pedigree and at age thirteen his wishes were granted and he was assigned to the Corps. He would get to follow in their paths, helping his masters fulfill their destiny and impose their order across the world. Four years of drilling turned him into into a deadly fighter and a decent handler of conscripts. Over the next eight years he saw a few skirmishes and minor battles in which he did his duty and gave as well as he got.

Then came the Assault on Daagsgrad.

His platoon had gotten within two hundred yards of the Infrastructural trenches pouring fire in. He and his men were doing well: Drow warriors and Janissaries were going over the trenches, he'd silenced the defenders and he knew that if this up the day would be theirs before suddenly an order to retreat was given and they had to drop everything and flee to rescue ships. A bullet grazed his shoulder in that mad retreat, but he pressed on as quickly as he could. He collapsed at the landing site, but fortunately there was a conscript from his squad which carried him the last hundred yards onto a waiting transport a minute before it cast of. Both of them stumbled into hold and collapsed into a corner together, all that remained of an entire company. As the two of them sat lay in a heap next to some crates despair set in.

He was ready to die in battle, one huge bound up the divine ladder with either a decent shot of coming back as one of The Masters or to solidify it after the next round of life. Retreats, if ordered, were sometimes necessary. He had done as was commanded without question or fear. Things had seemed to be going well, right up until the end and then he'd fallen back. He pieced together that the Coldlanders had reinforcements coming in, but that did not change the key issue, the battle was a disastrous defeat. Things had looked like they'd been going well, even his company had taken some gruesome casualties getting up close (though not as heavy as the vanguard) and then the Powers that Be decided to call things off. Birtim had lost all of his friends and almost all of those he was tasked to care for and thousands of those Drow Warriors that he revered were cut down by peasant machine worshipers led by uppity golems.

He'd did the task he was given and was in front of him, be it to advance or retreat. In that dark wet hold he wondered if he could have done things better, wondering that if he and his men had pushed on just a bit faster or had crawled along the ground as they fired, possibly moving in small bursts crouched down, had pushed forward harder or some other thing, his company might have made it to that trench-line, slain the Coldlander defenders, made a breach in the lines to let Janissaries and Warriors in. At worst he would have died gloriously. Now he was left with loss and doubts. Eventually he did get past his despair, largely because it fermented into frustration and anger over the hand fate had dealt him.

Then he and eighty two other Janissaries (most of which being fellow survivors of Daagsgrad) were loaded onto a ship sent off some Gods Forsaken patch of wilderness where they were dumped along with a camp full of bewildered fieldslaves, craftslaves and other examples of humans taken from their proper place as well as a gaggle of Feral Mercenaries with some final orders and most surprising of all were formally released. Of all the things he'd considered might happen, the Breaking of Bonds was so far removed that he was left flabbergasted. He'd paddled until they made landfall at this camp called "Fidelium" with his book of instructions in his pack. It was only after a conscript asked him what to do did it all sink in.

They were alone.

They were out in a potentially hostile environment with a gaggle of confused civilians.

They were beyond Drow Guidance and correction, untethered in a chaotic world.

Their only hope in this land of physical and spiritual peril lay in hard work, following the last plan that their masters had given them and remembering to keep the faith in spite of everything. Part of him considered the whole wretched affair to be a subtle sort of punishment by his leaders and he wished that they had simply given them a flogging or have told him to fall on his sword instead. Even so, he had a job to do.

The fact that there was plenty to do kept him focused on matters. He answered to a recently promoted Jaifrel** who had plenty of tasks for him and his men to do, from cutting down clothes to deal with the perpertually warm weather to stenciling in the five ring symbol to arms and armor to setting up shelters to gathering resources to cooking to hunting to farming to training. They had a lot to learn about survival out in the wilds where there were pests larger than rabbits and where supplies were tight even before arms practice. Most of them just knew enough to know what end of a spear you put in the enemy, but it soon became clear that even with them and the blasted Grunderhunds on patrol this was hostile territory. There were people here, angry chicken that came in screaming out of the grass with intent to kill and despoiling their little bastion in this. Fortunately they had little real armor beyond some makeshift helmets and none of it could stop a bullet at two hundred yards or grapeshot. In two months he'd faced down five of their attacks and sent each of them running. In the heat of battle, each bullet he fired and especially those that hit home carried with it a bit his frustrations and brooding anger.

There was still a fair bit of it in the aftermath as he looked overt he fallen as well as the general frustration of searching for a needle in the haystack. The peoples of this baked grassland had little in the line of valuables worth taking. The giant chickens were good eating and they had a few goods which were alright, but there was little in the way of worthwhile jewelry, no coin and their arms and armor rarely got better than just okay. Still, on their own with resupply a long way away, it was worth collecting whatever they could. Finding it in the tall grass was also a pain even with the crows.

On the fifth salvage operation he found something fairly quickly, a young man, a few years past twenty lying in the fields, A bullet had gone through hist torso and he had collapsed. He seemed to be breathing and after a toe prodding he moaned. He was weak, but he probably would survive with a little effort. He used is short sword to cut off part of his cloth armor, made a makeshift bandage to stop the bleeding before tying him up with one of his binding ropes.

"Get up scum..." he growled. Nothing he squirmed a bit, but nothing happened. He did not expect more than that, but a moment's caution was better than a quick death. He then looked around "NsiZaen!***" he barked. A nearby soldier turned around. "Yes sir?"

"We got a live one that can't walk, help me with this bastard."

"Right away sir!"

And so the two of the carried the hogtied native back to the camp of Fidelium to be given a quick look over, a healing potion and finally dropping him off in the Slave Pen. The fieldbosses were having a hard time managing adjusting to managing Free Men and complying with the orders limiting chastisement, but those restrictions did not apply to those natives which they had put into irons. Right here and now, it meant extra hands working to get things in order. In the long term it was something grander. As absurd as this situation was, at the very least Birtim knew that souls were being saved from degeneracy by this act. These poor wretches would soon learn man's place in the divine scheme and their souls shall be refined and set on the along the right path to Drowhood and Godhead. As perilous as this ordeal was, at the very least their was a few noble causes behind it in the long term.

*Literally "Second Blade", a rank roughly equivalent to Sergeant in Valnothron's Janissary Corps, third highest Janissary rank.
**Best transliteration"Elect", Highest rank for Valnothron Janissaries and by far the rarest. Given away to proven veterans of exemplary performance and basically means "First Blade who can order about other First Blades even if they are senior to him". In Fidelium it soon became the equivalent of "Captain".
***"Second Spear", Valnothron Janissary rank equivalent to First private, usually a experienced conscript.

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For it's two centuries House Drinjol had mainly focused on making clocks. It was born from a family of Valcas Wards that had found most of their success in the making of clocks and had scrimped and saved until they had enough (with a loan with their patrons) to buy their status as a Minor House Valcas Vassal and that was the main skill that they cultivated among their generations. They had a modest home with attached workshops, a few slaves, a greater degree of freedom and opportunities than wards and connections which helped keep their position even if many looked down on them for still having to work with their hands more often than not. Drinjol Clocks and Pocket Watches were well regarded both in Valnothron and beyond (if often unnoticed), but the sons and daughters of their home always aspired for their house to rise in status, wealth and power. In general they had modest successes and modest failures which on the whole evened out, until one fateful day in the Summer of 37 IA.

Phyrith ti'Drinjol was one of the family's junior members who was remarked as having an unusual keenness for clockwork and mechanisms and was prone to tinker in his spare time. His parents had mixed feelings about this, on the one hand he did have a good eye for working out how clockwork and the products he made did bring in a reasonable amount of cash. On the other hand he had little interest in poetry, dance, fashion, games of wit or strategy, martial arts, pit fights or other such signs of civil culture and instead enjoyed getting his hands greasy and talking about his manual labor. In a society in which craftsmanship was generally considered the domain of lesser beings this was a major crimp in his social life and marriage prospects. Even so, on top of the income nobody doubted that he was loyal to the House and he had completed his military duties with sufficient competence not to shame his family and so he was indulged and admittedly he was right on buying those new metal lathes, grinding machines and so forth based on Infrastructural designs.

One of his projects which had a more practical bent had been on a machine for making paper cartridges for the army. He'd seen the virtue of the idea ever since they were introduced a couple decades ago and had wondered if he could mechanize their production especially after hearing stories of the Coldlanders. He had begun work on the project with the backing of the Lady Valcas herself. He' spent more than two years going through prototypes and making subtle adjustments and simply needed a little more funding to finalize matters which he might have gotten if it was not for someone else working out a few simpler mechanisms and adjustments to procedure shortly afterwards which had already bolstered production considerably. At the same time, interest in paper cartridges was on the wain with brass cartridge production hitting their stride and there was doubts as to how much longer paper cartridges would remain in use. He'd been unusually dejected afterwards, then he remembered something from his stint in the Valcas Companies thirty years before. He asked his younger sister, an offer in the Janissary Corps about it and apparently it was still the case. That gave him an idea.

He and his slaves took apart his mechanism and put it back together. He'd worked out a system of adjustable frameworks for this purpose. A few new parts were made while others were adjusted. He ordered new varieties of paper and did and did some experimentation with them, from the use of glues to a few hand made examples to a few more personal tests performed by his workers who were quite eager. He spent six scimitars for a pair old hand grinders and he refined his process. The basic shape of things was similar though more simple and it had the advantage of not having to deal with the risks inherent to explosives. Within two months the system worked and after two more it worked reliably.

On a rainy morning Phyrith operated the machine after some final adjustments made the last day. Large dried leaves were fed into the top, were torn to shreds in the grinder and came out the other end rapped in a neat cylinder of paper three inches where they accumulated in a small basket. The system went smoothly without grinding or the ping of breakages as more than five hundred of these items was made. All of them were neat and regular. Most of them were put into a box for storage, which would be put into the house for storage.

Looking over his work, Phyrith felt magnanimous. "Dohlm." He said to one of his slaves.

"Yes Master?"

"Please take a couple as a final test."

"Yes sir. I am not wor..."

"Here and now you are." While he saw the value in the rituals of respect in general often they were simple tedium. He handed Dohlm a pair of matches and the underling picked two of them from the basket. The man put one of the stuffed tubes into his mouth, carefully lit it and began inhaling. The end of cylinder began to glow and smoke began to waft up. Phyrith collected a few and made his rounds around the office, giving the other four members of his team a tube from the box from elderly Tavlir to nine year old Nilhron which they accepted graciously. Then he did so to the kitchen staff and a couple of maids going about their jobs.

When he returned Dohlm had finished his first and had moved onto his second, having bummed the remnants in an old earthenware saucer. "Is it acceptable?"

He extracted the tube "Oh more than that, master. Just like the last batch was." He took another drag. "If I may speak..." Phyrith gave a nod "...you got the recipe down long ago. It's the mechanism that rolled 'em all up that had been giving trouble your eminence."

"True enough, but thoroughness is a virtue." Phyrith said as he basked in his success here. "When you're done we'll make some more for good measure."

"It's a joy to serve." Dohlm said, making a slight bow with the cylinder in his teeth.

Latter that day, he'd arranged a meeting with House Valcas. A week latter he'd met with Daijyth ti'Valcas (Great Granddaughter of Lady Talnara) and showed her both the product and the mechanism which made it, explaining to her the opportunities that it could offer if refined. He also offered her some 5,000 of these cylinders to be given out as incentives for slaves as a trial run. A few days latter she came back with an order for more signed by several senior slave overseers and higher ups in the family as well as a contract for further development of this mechanism which included use of a room on the Valcas Complex and eight hundred scimitars for assembling new machines and procuring raw materials exchange for a 35% cut of all sales to other customers beyond House Valcas.

While it had little for elves there was something in tobacco leaves that got into their smoke when burned and soon engendered an immensely strong craving for it in Dwarves and Humans. It had been falling in and out of fashion since the last days of The Third Empire among the realms of the Primary Continent being more popular in warmer territories. Around a thousand years ago the Dark Elves found that it could be a useful incentive for their chattel. This was especially true in the last two centuries as new colonies arose and new plantations grew. Pipe weed, chewing tobacco, snuff and for the the highest of the consecrated cigars were given out to those who met their expectations or exceeded them. Despite his upbringing Phyrith ti'Drinjol had no love for cruelty and had contrived a way for the slaves of the Drow to more effectively receive one of the few pleasures of their lives while bettering the standing of his family.

Over the next century tens of millions would die as a result of his work and those which followed his lead.

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Zia Maleev was like a lot of people in Dalatyr. Her family moved in from a village in the east fifteen years ago when she was five in search of a better life. She did reasonably well in school and got a job in a Ministry of Distribution grocery store at thirteen. First as as an assistant doing various odd jobs before being promoted to a cashier four years latter. The pay was a modest thirty six credits a week with a uniform allowance and a discount on staple foods, but she made them in the warm and light with the smell of baking bread. She hoped to get into the Bureaucracy and she'd been taking the exams four times without luck so far. But that was no reason to give up on it, there was always the next one. Management was another career course which could still be useful for starting a bureaucratic career down the line. Even so, it could still be stressful.

Like most people she was glad that the war had ended well, though it had some consequences. First and foremost was the matter of prices. During the war, people were encouraged to spend less, prices on some things were increased while restocking became less and less frequent on a lot of items. Likewise people bought less leaving aside the occasional person stocking up. There were rumors going about involving rationing, though fortunately it did not come to pass before the war ended. When victory was declared people began coming back in droves, eager to make use of accumulated spending. Even so this had it's own strain beyond simply having more to do. During the war she'd got her share of grousing about shortages. Things had not so much changed.

A young man came came up in the queue with a list. "One wheat sandwich loaf, a can of greenbean, a can of carrots, a can of beets, a can of pork, a large yellow onion, a jar of mustard and another of raspberry jam, a pack of glazed biscuits and a bottle of syrup." He had not gotten through the canned goods before Zia had picked a fresh loaf from the trays and bagged while she moved onto the canned goods. Once the spiel was completed Arkhip went out to fetch the jam, vinegar and biscuits. With practiced efficiency she filled a tray of the requested goods, set it down and began bagging them.

She'd just put the Strawberry Jam in when he gave a response. "You sure that was Raspberry Jam? Because it looked like Strawberry." With that, she picked up the Jam Jar and inspected it.

"Yep, Raspberry." She put it back into the bag and continued loading it. She let out a slight sigh of exasperation. She'd collect the appropriate condiment on the off chance it

"Well they're been mixups and strawberries make my mother break out in hives. You guys need to keep a closer eye on things."

She forced a smile "Sir, I'm sorry for any failure of staff but I do check as I go." She did, but she could see how the mistake happened. Jam supplies had been low a week and Arkhip or some other kid probably figured that most people could not tell the difference and that it was better to provide something similar than say 'we're out' and cause a fuss. Or maybe they made made a mistake during rush hour.

"I'm sure your co-workers thought the same!" he responded waving his finger.

"If you have a complaint, the comment box is near the door. Providing input to the Ministry of Distribution directly helps the Great Machine of Infrastructure better serve it's people." The route response was remarkably useful. Even so, this one could be a problem here. "I'll talk to the manager about this." She conceded.

After filling a second paper bag she typed in the order into the new Registering engine before giving it a final crank. "That will be three point eight credits." The notes were proffered with minimal fuss and the next person in queue moved on. Things had been getting better as far as supply went but a lot of people still felt that the pre-war situation would come back overnight. Things had improved and were still improving between shortages, a surge in the size of the population and post victory splurging there was still some deficits which were still going strong months after the treaty. But the best thing she could do about that was her job, quietly and competently even when confronted by people at their worst and flat out jerks. The Ministry was setting up a couple new grocery stores and they'd need experienced hard workers to handle them.

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Five years ago Ratmir Pelmitov came to Dalatyr from a small village in search of a better life for his family. He and his wife Elena had both heard enough of the incredible new city and their daughter had done well in the village school that it seemed like a good idea to move there. Like many recent immigrants without much in the line of skills or education he and his wife ended up doing a bunch of odd jobs to get by. Then the Escort War happened. At first that meant that the odd jobs were a bit different than they were before, but five months in he got permanent employment at Dalatyr Arsenal-7.

He'd help put up the building beforehand. There were a number of crash construction projects with day laborers shifting between them doing basic carpentry, mixing mortar, shoveling and similar jobs were needed to either refit old buildings or set up new ones. He'd worked on seven of them intermittently and just happened to be on sight when they were finishing up Arsenal-7's main structure when a Foreman asked him about setting up the machines. Once that was done he was offered a job in the factory itself as it slowly came "On Line" and began to turn out Revolvers. First he worked as a sander and varnisher but with some training in the basics of machine tool use and maintenance under the tutelage of skilled technicians. By the end of the war he was decent lathe operator and mechanical odd job man who could help sort out common issues.

While he did not have much experience to compare things to, he did hear a lot of grumblings from the Technicians and the Engineers about the gear. From what he picked up it was not as good as they used to be. All but one of the machine tools were hooked up by belts running from the ceiling instead of being electric, two of them were old and others were apparently just slapped together using older designs and there were more complaints on top of that. Other industries had it worse. Ratmir had to take their word for it, but there was a fair number of reject parts which they had to either send back or throw out as well as breakdowns.

With the conclusion of The Escort War, the days of Arsenal-7 were numbered. There was less of a need for weapons what was in truth a rather slapped together operation was no longer required. For a few months production continued to finish their current quota and once the last revolver was boxed and sent on it's way and the facility was shut down. Most of the staff was soon transferred elsewhere leaving Ratmir and about two dozen other guys to take things apart under the supervision of Engineer Filhod. Ratmir felt a little bit sad as he finished the process by tarping up the last Milling Machine as other such items loaded up onto wagons and lorries for reallocation to other projects of which there was. His task completed, he went home with a letter of recommendation in his pocket which would help him find other work in a wide range of factories.

There were myriad consequences of the Escort War for Infrastructure economically. In a few respects it did accelerate plans. Ratmir and thousands of people like him did gain some skills which would be useful in other fields due to crash training programs. But in far more it was setback. A large section of the Industrial Output of the nation went towards building weapons, warships, munitions and materiel and rapidly expanding the capacity to produce said things. This had come at the expense at basically everything else, most notably the development of newer and better mechanisms. Before the war a lot of Infrastructure's resources were dedicated to making cutting edge equipment with the goals of producing even better equipment in the long term. Instead efforts were focused on producing at best current generation gear and more often last generation if not older designs and otherwise simplified equipment. Things that worked for their immediate needs and could be produced in large numbers with what they had on hand, providing a short term boost to total productivity in certain fields at the expense of a net drop of the productivity of each individual worker and delaying further further breakthroughs. When combined with other things such as delays to expanding the rail network, reduced production of agricultural machinery, transport capacity being used for military ends, breakdowns due to a lack of spare parts in other fields or improper maintenance, cancelled projects, shuffling of resources, industrial accents, mounting debts and other such factors the result was that the Committee's plans were delayed by more than five years.

Getting back on track meant shifting people and gear to more productive enterprises. About half of Arsenal-7s machines would be assigned to Roadsteamer production with others being allocated elsewhere, put into storage or auctioned off. Fourteen Years latter Ratmir would be surprised to see the "For Lev" milling machine again in a friend's workshop, which would spark a pleasant conversation.

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One of the most important skills required by a leader was delegation. The ability to hand over important tasks to competent people so they could focus on the big picture of the operation. A first class education and thirty five years in the finance business had taught Vintenzio Di'Hanseti the importance of delegation and how to delegate well. He was proud to have noticeably increased the family's net worth by his efforts and had maintained and cultivated a staff of competent family members, clients and employees to handle most of the day to day affairs of the the Hanseti Bank that needed no micromanagement. Regardless, there were some events which he felt best overseeing personally even if someone else could handle it.

He heard news of an arrival of a heavilly built wagon under the escort of two dozen Coinguard he set down his pen, walked out of his office with a speed which often surprised those which looked no further than his girth and made his way downstairs. A tall freckled woman in a distinctive dark uniform had met with one of his clerks and had signed the appropriate paperwork as several coin guards entered the building escorting a low built wheeled cart pushed by a porter on which was a chest made out of polished steel and had a built in rotary lock. All of which made clear what it was.

After the forms were signed he made his way past the armed security without much issue. "Learned Bureaucrat, good to see you again!" Vintenzio said happily.

"Signor Hanseti, always a pleasure." Bureaucrat (Level 7) Lena Leskov said "I trust that business has been going well?"

"Reasonably so." He replied honestly enough. His biggest issue was that his vaults were not as well topped off as they could have been and a large number of bonds that he'd issued meant that he'd have to pay off a lot of people in the medium term. Fortunately this issue would soon be slightly less pressing. "And by the look of things it has just gotten better."

"Galthirith delivered their section of reparations to our embassy yesterday, some three hundred thousand Scimitars. This chest contains one quarter of that."

"Seventy Five thousand Scimitars, that's one hundred twelve thousand five hundred Lyra."

"That's about six thousand two hundred less what on our reports on exchange rates estimate this is valued at. A report's been given to your clerks." Lena said, Vintenzio did not object to the claim. A Venoan household was doing well if it made a hundred Lyra year and a hundred thousand usually represented about half a year's gross income for his bank.

"Well well. In any case this is a bit shy of a sixth of Infrastructure's outstanding debt with us. If only all borrowers were as prudent as your Committee." His actual opinions were more complex for a variety of reasons, from obtaining valuable property from foreclosures to, not that this principle could be applied to foreign states like Infrastructure. This delivery did mean that the total interest Infrastructure was incur would be significantly reduced compared to what it would have been if they'd simply paid off the loans at the same rate that had previously been going at. But in the end, while it did mean that some of the higher end figures he'd though of would likely not materialize receiving more than a hundred thousand Lyra was more than welcome, especially in times like these. "Anyway, let's get this counted and locked away."

"Of course. Liuetenant Dini I believe your men know the way."

"Of course ma'am." A powerfully built Coinguard with a fancier hat and breastplate than the rest said "Unisse and Enrico." Two more Coinguard came up, took the chest by the handles and carried it down a hallway with a young clerk following them.

"Per the Central Committee's request, consider the chest a gift. It's combination is in the paperwork"

"Most generous of you." It was an impressive container and if nothing else it could fetch a few dozen Lyra from the right buyer. But even with that was a statistically insignificant part of the deal. Despite being a high risk operation backing the ploy to have the Serene Republic to apply pressure to help end the Escort War had been a most profitable investment.

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For the people of Infrastructure, the End of the Escort War meant peace. For the Drow States, it meant that efforts were shifted from the upstart power to the Eternal Foe. After the defeat at Daagsgrad, the High Elves had launched their squadrons to stalk the seas for Dark Elven warships and merchantmen to take advantage of their losses and diversion. Some of them outfitted with Infrastructural Guns to make already fearsome warships all the deadlier. The High Elves made good use of the new weapons against a largely distracted foe, taking out dozens of Dark Elven ships in a month with minimal losses and continued to make a good show even as the Dark Elves mustered a proper response. While there were plenty which felt that they were throwing in the towel too soon in the fight against Infrastructure few could argue that the shifting scenario meant that their Seaborn Strategic Situation had improved, even if there was still hard fighting ahead.

On a hot summer day south off the coast of the Protectorate of Nycon a trio of Arrowships spotted a Dark Elven light squadron of four ships. Two of which were brigs along with two sloops, one of which might have been a small frigate. A target large enough to be worth pursuing but weak enough for them to dispatch easily enough. The fact that they were all steamers was just icing on the cake to Commadore Liamir of House Rilhim, eager to avenge a lost father and sister. While they did not have Infrastructural Guns, about half their cannons were now rifled. They formed up to try to envelop the formation and moved to intercept. But as they closed it became clear that there was something strange about the largest vessel in that small force, especially when it began to motor towards them head on. The first salvos of the battle were arrows from the Waveriders bows, boosted to extreme range and carrying either a basic fire, rupture or rune eater spell. There was little effect as the crew and marines were below deck. But the real shocker came at a mile and a half as an Arrowship fired off eight Twenty Vel cannons into the drow waship. But while seven roundshot struck home, none did more than dent the Iron Hull of their target.

Onboard the armored wheelhouse of the Tanxal*, Captain Thalzarin ti'Volnan felt the ringing impacts watched as the first salvo was taken and took note as her gunners returned the favor. Eight silvery barrels poked out from her gunports and over a span of two seconds fired. As that return salvo was launched Thalzarin briefly mused on how the old way of reckoning things it was a fairly wimpy response as they fired a third of the weight on metal that the Arrowship did. Then shortly latter the first of those eight projectiles struck home. Two of them missed, two more slammed into their hulls doing moderate damage. But four of the Five-Vaul shells worked as intended, exploding either on or within the Arrowship shortly after impact. The sight of living wood and Illvanan Scum were blasted apart got her blood racing. It was not enough to kill her, but a few seconds latter a second salvo was off, then a third just before a ragged return volley was sent their way by the stricken craft. She did not know if the forth volley they sent to the Arrowship was necessary to finish her off and the fifth honestly just seemed redundant, but when dealing with the High King's Hypocrites it was better to play it safe and make sure they're dead.

By that time, however Tanxal was under fire from both port and starboard. One of the ships came about and cast a Shard into her hull. She had her mages brace the ship against this and the offending magical projectile skittered across it's bow carving a groove before being reflected into the waves to slice some random fish in half before fading away. Another cut across side a short while latter with same marginal effect while a third probably went a bit deeper. She grinned at that, Shards were useful in ambushes and taking out enemy masts but with mages and foresight a few of them were easy enough to counter iron hull or no. While they might get lucky and get one through a gunport if they they were down to using Shards like this they were getting desperate.

"Helm," she ordered letting only a glimmer of her satisfaction pass her lips "Maintain distance if possible. Tell gunnery to Fire At Will."

"Yes Mistress!" her helmsman and a junior officer Corused, enthusiasm dripping from their words. The metal hulled warship cut through the waves relentlessly, taking salvos in stride and replying with an erratic but steady hail of return fire. The rest of the squadron provided some assistance as well using more conventional naval artillery for what it was worth, though as far as she could tell most of what they did was provide a distraction. But none of that detracted from the savor of this triumph in progress. Every Drow aboard Tanxal was feeling some measure of Catharsis right now but the captain more than others. She was based on the Raethis, Valnothron's ill fated first Ironclad. A Revolutionary Warship that could and did successfully engage it's Coldlander Counterparts that was by all indications squandered in a suicidal charge against their full Line of Battle, along with one of her sisters. It was because of that loss that Lady Valcas recommended her as the commander of Tanxal. Vengeance against the Coldlanders would have to wait, but there were plenty of scores to settle with the Eternal Foe.

Soon enough the High Elven Squadron was nothing more than burning wreckage. As she admired the floating piles of burning flotsam, she was soon met by a lieutenant as she began to make her way below deck. "Mistress. I am glad to report that damage was minimal and we have suffered no loss of crew. Two Sailors and a slave have suffered minor wounds from iron splinters, a slave's foot was crushed by a gun carriage and another was concussed when he stumbled into a bulkhead after loosing his footing. All are expected to make a full recovery."

"Very good. What of the rest of the squadron?"

"I'll check on that now." He said as he ran to a small compartment near the forecastle where an odd device was secured in a specially designed table with a couple of sailors operated it. One of which put a device to his ear and spoke into a trumpet, both connected to the contrivance by wires. He quickly jotted down the message onto a piece of paper, gave it to the lieutenant and returned to his CO.

"Thirteen wounded in total, three seriously. One sailor and two slaves dead on Tharlim and one dead slave on Qailneth**. Minor hull damage and one broken spar. The Commadore sends his congratulations."

"A victory without loss of life on our part would have been a fine thing to boast about, but all and all the I feel that this has been an overwhelming success." Up until now a trio of arrowships would have a notable if not insurmountable advantage over a full squadron of four frigates and almost any engagement with them, even if they were victorious would be hard fought and bloody. A handful of casualties and some minor damage for what mostly a light squadron was an incredible run of luck. So far, House Valcas' second Ironclad warship had passed its first trial by fire with flying colors and the Radio equipped experimental squadron had fared quite well even if the thing were finicky and temperamental. By all indications she'd had gotten lucky this time in that they were not expecting an Ironclad, but as it stood she felt she could take on a high elven Tempest and at least hurt a Maelstrom. Not that she'd engage with heavier elements if it could be avoided, her job was as much to test this craft out under live fire conditions to train up crews and provide House Valcas' shipwrights with notes to help them make better Ironclads for them to man. But bloodying the High Elves for minimal losses was always worthwhile. "Relay my gratitude to the Commadore. Have the Kitchen to prepare a feast and get the Venoan wine out. This calls for a celebration."

*Crossbow Bolt
**Both brigs were named for villages in Valnothron.

[CENTER]Image[/CENTER]
In the months following the conclusion of the escort war, tens of thousands of people were honorably discharged from the Infrastructural Military. It was the logical move economically and from the perspective of morale. A respectable number were still retained, among them a few wartime recruits but also many of the prewar career soldiers and sailors. Admiral Petrov Miles was firmly in the latter category, having been in the Infrastructural Military from it's earliest days as the Dalatyr Militia and for all of that he still had a few years left in him before mandatory retirement. Those decades in uniform had instilled in him a strong sense of duty and he knew that the Navy could use an experienced flag officer with the respect of it's crews, even if there was a promising new generation on the rise. In the days following the Peace Treaty the crew of the Avatar had been given shore leave and spent some time admiring the old city's grand architecture, a few truly excellent meals and shopping through the markets and shops. Despite spending a few months at sea leading a convoy escort to the colonies, it was well worth it when he returned home.

About six kilometers out of Borogskov was a villa. One of a series of homes built by Black Port Slaver Lords that had been confiscated by the Infrastructural Army when they were conquered and subsequently auctioned off or given to prominent servants of the state. It was a far cry from some of the villas and manors that foreign elites had built for themselves, but even before it had been renovated with improved heating, electrification and running water it was still far beyond the log cabin of his childhood or the Barracks of his early adulthood. On a warm summer evening he rolled up to it in a Navy Roadsteamer and with the assistance of his attendant and the house's two servants brought in a number of parcels containing linen, fine porcelain and glasswork, perfume, cheese, a couple of dresses and several bottles of wine, one of which he brought. When he came in, he saw something that he'd all to little of. A solidly built woman who'd helped him through a quarter of a century of conflict. His wife Anastasia. She'd been to him a lover and a friend, a mooring through turmoil, one to whom he could drop the facade of military stoicism and tempered bravado. A mother to three children, two of which had started promising careers and the youngest had excellent grades.

"Well, I hoped you had fun at sea darling." She said in just the right tone.

And with that man who'd started as a humble fisherman's brash son who'd come to lead soldiers, cannons and ships. Who'd faced down bandits, warrior hosts, slavers, pirates and the fleets of the Dark Elves. Who'd met with warlords, officers, captains, nobles, patricians, doges and frequently dealt with Committee Members. Who'd helped build an Army, a Navy and a Nation. Quietly wept. "A bit my dear, but it's good to be home."
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Re: Infrastructure (Original and Illustrated)

Post by Zor »

Image

n the spring of 37 IA, the maritime policy of Infrastructure changed. Demilitarization was part of this, Work ceased on new warships and Shchuka Boats with partially completed craft either being scraped for parts or converted into cargo ships, fishing boats or pleasure craft. Similarly a good number of naval craft in service were put up in drydock or slated for breakup or disassembly. Overall construction was reduced to the relief of overworked workers, but a few projects were accelerated. Similarly Infrastructure could afford to loosen up it's policy in regards to transoceanic transport. Smaller convoys launched more regularly with only one escort. This reduced costs, accelerated efforts and granted a greater degree of flexibility as far as meeting the needs of a growing colony was concerned. In one of those convoys was a ship launched three months earlier than was planned when she was first laid down under the command of captain Fenya Morisleb, simply named Bottle.

The first of her kind Bottle was 60 meters long, 8 in breadth and weighed in at 1,000 tonnes. Her rear mounted triple expansion engine could make up to 1,400 Kw of power despite being smaller than that on a Dalatyr class freighter, allowing her to make up to 30km/h in emergencies and maintain a steady cruising speed of up to 25. She had a crew of 30 sailors who were quartered in her prow underneath her sole 7.5cm defensive cannon. Her cargo space lay in her center and was in truth basically a separate hull in of itself with only a thin spacing with a few pipes and cables between it and the water. Said inner chamber had a few wells for Bottle's emergency sails breaking it up as well as some structural elements and a single airtight corridor through which one could go from the engine room to the crew quarters below deck and drains in it's bottom through which fluids could be pumped in or out with a total volume of just over 1,300 cubic meters. She had three sisters under construction: Barrel, Cask and Flask which would be entering service over the next nine months. The names of the first ships of the Bottle Class were not idly chosen, all of them were vessels for transporting liquids. Infrastructure built fleets, fought wars and reached around the world to fill the tanks of ships such as her.

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The Bottle's voyage proceeded without incident and soon arrived at the Colony on a pleasantly mild evening. She and her convoy were soon docked at a newly built harbor for vitaling, with most of her crew receiving a stint of shore leave for the next week. The next day captain Morisleb and four of her sailors took her out and puttered along to a secondary docking facility a kilometer up river. A rough palisade wall enclosed an small area under the watch of a guardtower that contained a single proper building, an sheltered open air workspace (both of which had solar panel lined roofs, a sign of the importance the Committee gave it), a paddock for draft animals (including oxen and the strange shaggy behemoths of this land), some machinery and piping a pair of large cisterns looking like oversized squat beer barrels. A fair number of stevedores worried about the area and to her surprise to see a Committee Member monitoring the operation which came to meet her. More specifically she was Transition Of Mobile Macrofauna From Marine To Terrestrial Enviroments-402122 (Transition) and she made a quick inspection of the Bottle before declaring that everything was in order and that loading would begin.

A long hose of Rubberized canvas was soon unpacked and affixed to a specialized crane before being affixed to one of the two cargo port. Soon a big electric motor began to rumble, the hoses began to shake and petroleum flowed from the cistern's to the Bottle's Bunkers. Over the next hour, a thousand cubic meters of the black liquid were poured into the hold, leaving the tanker heavy and low in the water. After everything was secured, the Bottle puttered back to the main port where her own fuel tanks would be filled with Kerosene.

At this time, Infrastructure had set up a couple of Oil Wells nearby operate infrequently due to security reasons and the colony's limited storage and transport capacity. These filled wooden barrels a few of which were decanted refined for local use or, with the majority of them, loadup as regular cargo on return voyages to the Coldlands for study, stockpiling and the limited distillation efforts already in place. It was an expensive, ungainly and unsafe set up which was not viable for the Committee's long term goals. It would still take years to expand the Petroleum Colony to meet said goals, but with the war over that was simply a matter of Infrastructural Development.
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Re: Infrastructure (Original and Illustrated)

Post by Avrjoe »

So the Dark Elves are an adaptation to lower mana zones? This is an interesting piece of lore. Have any other races formed such a higher lower magic level evolutionary split?
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Re: Infrastructure (Original and Illustrated)

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(Anvosi Peninsula and the High Kingdom of Illvanas, Late Summer 37 IA)

On a warm evening in a timber warehouse in Venoan Territory a state meeting happened between a Dark Elf and a free Human. The meeting went unnoticed by those not involved save for a rat more focused on her own ratty concerns. Dark Elves, or at least those with money, were tolerated and there were means of bipassing. A couple Scudo* were more than enough to get the cooperation of the staff for a quiet meeting in silence and a few local hirelings provided covert security. The Human was somewhat more unusual. He was not a native, nor was he one of the usual foreigners which did business. He was a Proxy, part of the small class of free humans retained by the Dark Elves for external engagements where their presence would be counterproductive. In this particular instance, espionage.

"Good evening sire." Juarando Sacerdorez said quietly. The reverence which slaves had drilled into them childhood was counterproductive for proxies, but some acknowledgement of superiority was required.

"Good evening. Your work has been satisfactory and so the Council has entrusted you with a high priority assignment." Shahim ti'Werith replied businesslike to his charge. From a concealed pocket he produced a message cylinder. "This documentation is to be leaked to the High King through their channels without them knowing that this was our intent. I trust the expertise of your network."

"Does the council desire any unusual specifics in execution?"

"Have the leak happen somewhere other than Venoa if possible, preferably Norinto or Tardovia, but if that can't be arranged in more than a month a Venoan Leak will do. Beyond that and the paramount importance of secrecy in this endeavor, you have full discretion. Success on this front warrant a considerable reward." What failure would warrant was left unsaid but was plainly clear.

"Very well." The Proxy said. "Is there anything else."

"Nothing beyond the normal need for reports. Code words are on the note taped to the cylinder's sides. Sufficed to say we will know if the leak was successful. Good luck."

"As if I need it. It will be done" Juarando said before bowing slightly and making his way out. Being able to mouth off to a Dark Elven superior was a privilege that few could ever know and he savored the moments that he felt he could get away with. Other than that they departed without a word.

A week and a half latter after a few letters and linkglass messages had made their rounds he was on a stagecoach going southeast. Two days after that he arrived in a small town famous for it's Mushroom Sauce, picking up several large jars of the stuff while having a meeting with another traveling merchant. A handsome young man named Enrico Capecchi from whom he collected a dozen reports and to whom he provided the Cylinder, a few other tidbits of information, sixteen Lyra for his troubles and some general instructions. The twenty six year old was charming, eloquent, an excellent listener and utterly mercenary. He was part of no less than seven spy networks, though Juarando was his best customer by far. Both because he could afford to pay him better than the competitors and that he had enough leverage over him to ensure both cooperation and discretion. He was definitely the right man for the job.

Five days latter Enrico had the cylinder's reports with several other items compiled into a single folio. In a respectable bar in Norinto's Ceramics Quarter he handed them over to one Ascanio Rovetti. Those involved in the spying trade were a diverse lot and this low key meeting confirmed it. Where Enrico was handsome, outgoing, talkative and was adept at charisma and improvising the older Rovetti was paunchy, subdued, methodical and to the point. More notably while Enrico was in for the money and the challenge, Rovetti was in it for King and Country, as well as the notion that Countries should be Kingdoms. In his eyes the Serene Republic had been setting a dangerous precedent for centuries and had been giving ideological ammunition to traitorous rebels who'd tear down the divinely ordained system of monarchy and replace it with the madness of the mob or the veneration of coin above all, degenerating the nation and leaving them vulnerable to Drow corruption. Both of them felt that they knew the other well enough (though in this field Enrico had the edge as Rovetti was more of a known factor) and if they did not like each other they both were professional enough not to let that hinder their activities. A bottle of respectable wine was shared and Enrico's Folio was exchanged for a few letters of import and eight Lyra.

The next day Rovetii shifted through the documents he'd acquired before he noticed the relevant documents, which pertained to the hiring of mercenary company called the Grunerhunds and shipping them out. Usually dry stuff and increasingly irrelevant nowadays, save for two points. First of all was their destination, which was far far off to the South and West in the general direction of the Coldlander's new colony. In of itself unusual and worth remembering. But whom hired them was far more important.

A day latter a messenger swan touched down into an artificial pond in Tialansyrn, the Southern Port of the High Kingdom. There a loving keeper tended to the wayward bird and quietly removed her package from it's harness and handed it off. In an hour's time it was in the local Hall of The Watchers with it's contents being given over to Acolyte Linilaen Ialsiin. In general she liked her job, but the fact of the matter was that it was punctuated. The most common activity of the Watchers was making sure that the son of the right human noble house married the right noble born daughter and that families kept up their Anti-Drow stances, which did have plenty of interesting information and events to parse through and recommendations to make but there were times when not a lot was going on and she was left looking through the banalities of barons and barons to be. After a rather pleasant lunch she looked through the fresh reports she'd received hoping for something juicy about the son of the Count of Ginvoldi that could get him hitched with the Widow Marchioness Velano. What she got instead was a report on Drow Activity in the Southwestern Continent.

An hour latter she was discussing the matter with her superiors. A day latter an inquiry had begun. Two weeks latter the ship which had made the voyage across the sea had been tracked down. A week after that it's crew had been pumped for information which confirmed the story. Plans for the Red Gull to either get impounded or suffer an unfortunate "accident" were contrived in the coming months, but in the meantime the Corrupted One's plan would end in fire.


*Venoan Coin, 1/24th of a Lyra and 20 Serpenti. About 0.66-3 days wages for a typical worker.

Image

(Southwestern Continent, Late Summer 37 IA)

Five hundred meters above the coastal grasslands a Skyship Heavy Cutter* of the True People flew, moving south at a considerable pace. Aboard it's decks Scout and Aviator caste lookouts surveyed the surrounding lands for things out of the ordinary, along with one Diviner. For Yellow and Orange Orchid Blossom* observation of the landscape was more of a matter of personal curiosity than anything else. Nearby one of the Cutter's three Solar Lances (a medium sized Carnataur) sat, the gylphed rings of its focusing cylinder rotating. She was confident that of the ship's complement to operate the vessel satisfactorily and that their eyes were keener than hers and the chances that she'd notice something that those bred for the task was negligible. Even so, it did not hurt and she enjoyed flight. The wind her her crest was a fine sensation and the view of this magic parched wilderness was beautiful. There were many of her fellows which would have confined themselves to their quarters for the flight as much as possible, but a wide variation of thought was part of the Diviner Caste's makeup. She was also curious as to the nature of the plot that had been unfurled that the so called "High Kingdom" had informed them of.

The basic issue was as far as most true people part of a wider problem in regards to the various breeds of hominoids that had arisen, spread and occasionally struck against true people out of a combination of envy and ignorance. For most of their history they were just a race of clever beasts, but eventually some of them managed to bodge themselves together into something that could vaguely approximate Civilizations. Transient as they were, those at the apex of their shoddy social pyramids could gather up from their rabble myriads of monkeys that they would arm, armor and point in the general direction of their foes and marginal mastery of such mobs tended to breed madness and gross miscalculations of their power in said mammals. Every few centuries a human warlord would attempt to march into the Celestial Realm where they would be a nuisance and a marginal hazard until they and their city was cleansed with light. A few of such forces were worse than others, most notably transoceanics from the Far East. First there was a Human Realm that was apparently the product of a comparatively successful human realm who managed to take out a surprising number of Skyships and a millennium latter the spawn of the outcasts of the juvenile High Kingdom of Illvanas came, established themselves on the Northern Continent before making an incursion. Despite some initial victories these Dark Elves not only inflicted remarkably high casualties but resisted numerous attempts at repulsion, enough that the rival empires of those that attempted to dislodge them made their moves and started a war. In the end a 256 Year Armistice was struck with Drow States: they would cease their raids and would not set foot on the Southern Continent. A perimeter of Obelisks was erected to detect the presence of elves. So far things had held up well enough, there were only a few minor violations most of which were their sea-ships being blown off course in storms. Some of them might have been the Dark Elves testing the system, but these could not be reliable proven and even if this was the case it would still not be enough to reignite the war.

The Report that the High Kingdom had sent them was more worrying, about them arranging for a small mob of human warriors and possibly more to be deployed in the Southwestern Continent. The best guess was that they planned on destroying or removing the Obelisks in that area so they could launch a raid on the Southern Empires. This would be a futile gesture if they simply blew a few obelisks up or ripped them out as the rest of the perimeter would detect their absence. It could be that a team of mages might rework enchantments to leave them technically active but unable to detect Dark Elves, though this was no sure thing, especially with human magi. Something else was up and Orchid Blossom was concerned about it. Her mission was mainly one of investigation, but while she would do her job to the best of her abilities never the less she was afraid of what she'd find.

*Names translated, Raptor Speech includes a wide range of sounds many of which are unpronounceable by human vocal cords.

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(Fidelium, Late Summer, 37 IA)

This was the greatest challenge in the life of Thimarn First of Tonith. It was something which he had dreaded for the last few months, but he knew would come sooner of latter. It was not the sort of thing that would fall on his shoulders, but fate and the will of his Masters had placed the burden on his shoulders. Both his parents were Slave Priests in Valnothron and from an early age it was clear that he would follow in their footsteps. Between consecration, pedigree, temperament, admiration for his parents and his performance in his lessons it was clear to his masters that he was fit for the cloth. At age ten he was given over to a seminary, at age fifteen he was inducted in as an Initiate and at age twenty he was a full priest in service to Valcas industries. For two and a half decades he'd did what he could to help his fellow slaves through their lives and saw to their spiritual well being, from providing daily services to helping freshly captured wild humans to their place with kindness and sympathy. He felt that he did his job reasonably well despite a fair bit of fretting over small failures in private and he'd receive praise both form his fellow slaves and even from The Drow at times. Two of his four children had followed in his footsteps and he'd trained a couple of Initiates. He assumed that he'd be sold back to the Seminary to help in the training of new priests before a brief retirement, quiet dignified death and a respectable shot at joining his masters in his next life.

He did not expect to be shipped with his wife half way around the world with a few hundred other slaves to some empty wilderness full of hostile beasts and natives with a Janissaries and Wild Mercenaries, much lest to be have the indignity of having his bonds broken. It was less of a shock to him. He was one of fourteen priests assigned to the expedition which he was put in charge of as "Prelate", an office which had a seat on the ruling council of this colony of Fidelium along with two other priests, three clerks, three adepts, a long serving overseer and a veteran Janissary. The Prelate had a few special powers in said council which made him preeminent, though hardly the sole master. Each of them had been given some briefing during their voyage as what they were to do in this New World, the threats they were to face and a list of objectives they would need if they were to survive. Natives were one threat, starvation was another, so was exposure, beasts and disease. But they were things that this mob had the skills and tools to deal with. They had warriors and weapons. Vitals, seedstock, hunters, fishermen and farmers. Potions and healers. Artisans with tools, tents and supplies to set up shelter and with a bit more work more substantial dwellings. There had been some complications, setbacks and even a few deaths but in general things were shaping up quite well. Never the less, there was one task that fell on him: to steer the colony along the one path which might lead to it's survival.

He and a few others knew this day would come and the signs, which materialized on a rather mild afternoon. A lookout noticed a strange shape flying in from the north coming towards them. One that soon resolved itself into an odd combination of kite and ship. Soon enough it spotted them and came about. Janissaries and Mercenaries were soon quickly donning helmets and grabbing rifles, though to keep order among the nascent village. One instruction was clear to them: to fire upon that strange craft meant death for all of them. If preventing that meant executing a panicked Fidelian on the spot for taking aim, so be it. Fortunately this was not necessary. The craft soon landed and from a rope and wood bridge came forth a group of five creatures, four armored and one clad in red and gold with a gold headpiece. They were led led into the center of the camp by a Jannissary and a Clerk. A crowd had gathered to gawk at these strange beings as they were brought to a central platform where he stood.

The Dark Elves only gave their slaves a partial outlook on the world beyond their domain, but these creatures were known to them. Man sized monsters that seemed to be somewhere between a lizard and an eagle and all predator. They had had flesh ripping teeth, bone crushing jaws and terrible claws. But these were not beasts, but thinking beings. They were dubbed Raptors and while they were not The Eternal Foe nor Abominable Undead, though they had no moral qualms about reducing men, women and children to cinders. Never the less, there was a possibility to achieve the salvation of his congregation and associates.

The lead raptor was introduced by it's minions as Yellow and Orange Orchid Blossom in the Dark Elven language, who then replied. "I am curious..." the apparently female creature told her. "...curious as to the reason of your transgression."

"Honored Diviner," Thimarn said, quietly "We must inform you that we have meant no offense against you or your people. But for all of that we are not in transgression against the realms of your kind nor it's works."

The Raptor stalked around him "Really? Your tongue betrays you, as does your raiment. We know that this rabble are slaves of the Dark Elves and others were sent here by them, undoubtedly to undermine the Perimeter."

"We were, though our bonds were broken. Our lives are now our own in this wilderness. While we lament the loss of our old lives, our goal here is but to survive as best we can. We have no linkglasses with which to converse with those across the seas. Besides, on the Northern Coast of this continent are there not a few towns of Escaped Slaves?" Part of him was repulsed by the concept, though he was too fixated on his script to dwell on that at this moment. As he understood the history few Drow Ships had been forced aground on the Southwestern Continent during the First War with the Raptors and afterwards by storm or after battle with the High Elves. The Dark Elves who manned them were slain by the Raptors, but the human cargo was ignored and they built a few small villages. Since then, the misguided souls would make there way to these feral enclaves in lands denied to the world's Rightful Masters with a few succeeding. They were marginal, mean and squalid places home to those degraded in body and soul. But the relevant point was that the Raptors not only let them happen but on occasion approved on their development. "Or of the Coldlanders to the North? It is our law that No Drow shall set foot on Fidelium." The Raptors were intelligent in many ways, but even their were bound by a certain rigidity of thought.

"And what of the others the Dark Elves had sent from across the seas?"

"Protection, oh great one." Thimarn replied. "This is a hostile wilderness with wild animals and men who'd have on occasion attacked us. On three occasions on the last two decades ships from Oestia and Nycon had ventured across the seas to those lands to those villages of escaped slaves to trade under Drow Contract without any objection by your realm."

"But the question remains, why are you here in the first place?" The Diviner's voice was in the same tone as it had been, but her reply was just a few beats late.

"Simply to be, Diviner. To live, to love and hopefully to succeed in some small way. It is the role of men to serve the Drow, but they may end this service as they see fit. We of Fidelium are now a sovereign people and their trading partners." The fact that all they traded so far was a few rocks was a detail best ignored. "We stand a thousand miles from the nearest border to the Celestial Realm and thousands from your northern Empire. It should be evident that we will not be a threat to you or your kin."

The Diviner soon reared up to meet Thimarn face to face. Her snout inches from his. He could make out the fine fibers and scales on it's nose, feel the breath from her nostrils, the two catlike eyes and most of all could make out the rows of faintly yellow serrated dagger like teeth in fine detail. He steeled himself for three seconds, then she spoke. "Well human of 'Fidelium', we shall see." With that she turned around with a graceful motion and her guards followed her. A few minutes latter she was back in her skyship which circled around the settlement like a shark. Thimarn led the people of Fidelium in prayer. Surprisingly a few of the mercenaries joined in, even if he learned that at least some of them muttered their own prayers in their native languages.

The magical vehicle loomed over the small enclave for seventeen days. It failed to respond to every attempt to contact it while the people of Fidelium attempted to adjust. A few dug holes over which rain barrels or llama troughs could be put. The mercenaries packed up kits with food and supplies ready to move out at a moments notice. There were a few instances of binge drinking of home made (for want of a better term) Beer and a few relationships which unfolded more quickly than they otherwise would have happened. Most simply got on with their work, figuring that it was better to act as if there would be a tomorrow even if fiery death might come down upon them at any moment. Then the skyship landed once again and he was met with one of the Diviner's Guards.

"Pay heed, humans of Fidelium for I speak the words of Yellow and Orange Orchid Blossom, whom speaks by proxy for Our Imperial Majesty!" He bellowed "The Transgression of the Drow State of Valnothron has been noted by the Empire of the Northern Archipelago, it levies censure against the act and the people involved. Despite this, it has been deemed your Fidelium can never the less persist. Do not take up arms against the Celestial Realm nor harm the Perimeter and you can make a home in this mana parched land." He repeated the declaration three more times before the skyship flew overhead, let down a rope with a stirrup on the end which reeled him in. The skyship then departed to the North as swift as a dragon. Thimarn watched the ordeal as he quietly gave a quick prayer of thanks and as the craft slowly dwindled away he gave a sigh of relief. The worst had happened and was done with the plan working as desired. He ascended to the platform, waving his staff for attention.

"Brothers and Sisters. I must express to you the lifting of a burden from my soul. The council has known that this challenge to our holy mission would come, though we kept this knowledge so your toil would not be marred by the dread of it. Humanity is flawed creation and one of our weaknesses is our vulnerability to panic. Fear is like fire. It has it's place in our hearts for our own safety and that of others. But if the conditions are right for it, it can spread from man to man like a blaze through a wheat field without control consuming our focus, our sense of perspective, our coherence until we are consumed in a blaze of panic. In such a state we think only of ourselves in the now and blunder and stumble, blinded and deafened to all but what is immediately in front of our face. The Book of Anthropics speaks of Fear and Panic and I found solace in these words. While you may feel some resentment for having that been denied this knowledge, know that this secret was in of itself taxing on the heart and in the absence of the ravages of panic we have achieved much in this new world. Also take comfort in the discipline that you showed in the face of fear, acting with dignity in the face of destruction."

"But beyond that, this is not a day for bitterness. No, my children. Today is a day to rejoice. Of all the physical perils of this continent this one was the greatest. Their numbers are legion, their powers are terrible while our colony is still nascent. Never the less, in her wisdom Lady Valcas had foreseen this crisis and Lady Valcas had given us all that was needed to overcome their threat with but a few memorized words. Is it not clear that her insights are blessed and her plan favored by the Gods? There will be more challenges to come, but these will be challenges that our within our power to meet if we Keep the Faith. But here and now, it is time to get out the kegs, cook up double rations and strike up the band. For tonight, we Celebrate!"

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(Empire of the Inland Sea, Late Summer 37 IA)

A servant set down a plate and a flask on a finely polished stone table. On said plate was a set of dainties with a name beyond the capacities of human vocal cords. Seasoned stripps of meat and a compound made of pulverized sweet potato and the juices of fruit delicately cooked with oil and a fair bit of magic involved to create fine helical sticks. They were reserved for the Diviner Caste of the Raptors and were optimized for their tastes in any case. Combined with a dark beverage that would count as a mild mana potion in human circles it made for a welcome mid afternoon snack for Hatchling Of The Evening Stars, Thirty Forth in the line of the Throne of the Empire Of The Inland Sea. A brief respite in between the usual diplomatic dealings with other Empires and consultation with subordinates in the Satellite Cities. He lounged back on a saddle like seat and relaxed. To his annoyance an attendant came in with an usual artifact in her talons.

"Your Excellency." She said automatically. "We have a message from the High Kingdom!"

He gave a quick snort of exasperation. "Very well." With that the attendant set up a bronze holder and inserted a glowing Linkglass before making her way out with a fine unobtrusiveness that eighty thousand years of breeding could achieve. As she left the image of an armored hominid resolved itself above the servicable but inelegant communication system.

"What news do bear, High Marshall of the Sea?" Evening Stars said, putting the title of the High Elven commander in his own tongue.

"I've heard about your ruling about the Fidelium matter and I must protest!"

"I presumed as much. Lady Faiyin has made your Kingdom's opinion on the matter clear." With casual hand waves he caused the flask to levitate and poured it's contents into a cup of finely crafted porcelain.

"And it deserves repeating. The Corrupted Ones have violated your treaty in seeding their minions onto the Southwestern Continent. This could not be a more obvious plot against your realms!"

"That this is a move by the Outcast States is true enough, but regardless this move did not violate the armistice."

"And why do you constrain yourself as such legalities which the Drow hold in contempt?"

"Because a war with them now would disrupt the balance of power and jeopardize numerous treaties and destabilize the Celestial Realm. There would almost certainly be a war between the Empires and most likely a major one. In any case a Deal is a Deal even with one we despise."

"Are you saying that some of Celestial Realm's Empires would side with the Drow?" The Marshall replied

"No," Evening Stars said "I am saying that the ruling Dynasties of the Empires would consider that terminating a treaty on marginal grounds would be in of itself a sign of weakness. Termination clauses would be taken out, trade deals would suffer and our position within the Celestial Realm would be marred for centuries to come. Societies are built on a foundation of reliability Marshall, and our civilization's foundations are granite." He casually lapped at his drink.

"Save for the Drow who've made do with Treachery and Cruelty." The Marshall spat "We know that the True People are thoroughly civilized, but expecting anything close to honor from the Dark Elves can only end in misery and pain."

"Never the less, there is a case that could be made in their defense. This collection of humans they released in the south is of marginal concern in any case."

"It may be small now, but undoubtedly they'll expand it."

"So what if they do? So far they've sent members of their worker caste and a small group of human warriors trading service for rare metals, all of which are simple humans that the Dark Elves can only loosely oversee and monitor." The concept of mercenaries was to Evening Star's mind (and in the minds of most True People) a sign of the weakness of hominid society. In most situations all members of the Diviner or Supervisor caste had to do was to give an order to a member of the lesser castes and they'd do it. Each caste had been bred for their specific purpose in society and submission to proper authority. The Empires traded with each other and there was some trade between cities and provinces within them, but said transactions were done with goods, economic obligations and political concessions or obligations to provide said things at a latter date. The idea of a group of master-less killers who'd fight in exchange for who was willing to pay them the most lumps of gold was perverse, but as long as they stayed clear of the Celestial Realm their existence was tolerable.

"And those poor souls view their masters as Divine Agents and that their only hope lies in obedience to their will. They've been twisted into fanatics."

"Some of them and to a degree. We've seen others flee their masters." Slavery was seen in a similar light to mercenaries by the True People. There was no need to abduct random low caste members and beat them until they obeyed out of fear. Similarly rewards for good service was a secondary means of motivation. Whatever efforts had been made the Dark Elves to breed in compliance to their dominated humans were not only new but scattershot, token and undermined by constantly bringing in feral stock. "But more to the point this is not simply a matter of the individuals present. At ten millennia your High Kingdom is still a Juvenile in this world and we feel that it can endure for Myriads to Come. The same can not be said about the mayfly domains of men. A Dynasty of their Priest Kings may be worshiped as the kin of their gods and in 256 years its surviving members are dung collectors. Warriors who dominate a society may in turn be dominated by merchants in five generations. Any stability they may enjoy is a transient thing. They Fidelians may be overwhelmed by a host of Goshon" he used the name for those grassland peoples that was up to date from his tutor's lessons 283 years earlier "or the commissioned warriors may seize control or the Drow might loose interest in this project, but even if none of this happens and Fidelium not only survives but thrives in a century's time it will have diverged and grown on it's own lines in a century or two. If they want to die either with their masters 102 years hence when the ceasefire expires or destroying the perimeter, we will oblige them. But for now they may be an annoyance, but a tolerable one."

"Wise Diviner," the Elf said with more pronounced frustration "with all due respect there have been troubling developments recently. The Drow have been striving to replicate the machines of Infrastructure and at least some of their vile efforts have yielded fruit. Their firelocks and cannon now shoot farther, faster and harder. All nine states now have ships with steam engines to propel them and at least two of them now have Ironclads of their own. But what they are building now worries me less than what they will be building twenty or forty years hence, which is pressing here as they will send some of their infernal devices to their puppets in Fidelium."

In truth there was some concern about this. Cannons had been an unpleasant surprise during the scoring of the Third Empire in Exile a millennia ago and subsequent encounters with them in more recent centuries had given airship crews a grudging respect for the mundane fire tubes. The notion that they were being improved and improved so rapidly was something that should not be dismissed. Even so he waved a hand with a helical stick in it. "We shall consider this, but still this will not change the fact that even with a few improved guns they can not hope to mach the might of the Celestial Realm. The Skies remain in our talons and the greater the threat they pose to the Celestial Realm, more of it shall rise to burn them off the continent when the time comes with your assistance." He gave a quiet signal which summoned the attendant "But when that day shall be is our decision. And with that and for now, I bid you and your kingdom farewell." Before the Marshall had a chance to response the Attendant had taken the glass, silenced it and was removing it from his quarters. With that Evening Star went back to his snack and tried his best at salvaging what remained of his respite. Latter that day, he was pleasantly surprised that he succeeded.

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(Fidelium, Late Summer 37 IA)


Shortly after the leak reached the ears of the High Elves, it was relayed to the Central Committee. A Drone was sent down the coast in search of the encampment, when it returned it had footage of the settlement and the skyship orbiting it, more concerning was the five ring flag over the largest building. The was dispatched again for further investigation and found the skyship gone, but the small settlement remained. Reports from the High Kingdom confirmed that the Raptors had elected to spare this expedition due to complex internal politics. For the Central Committee the minor mystery of Fidelium had been answered, and not in a pleasant way.

The settlement would from that point on be under regular Drone surveillance. Over the next few weeks it's population was judged to be approximately 850, most of whom were involved at least part time with agriculture, clearing and cultivating fields within about two km of the main shantytown. There were also also dozens of makeshift rafts and boats plying the waves for sardines, crabs and other such seafood. There was a raid by Gosho party repulsed with several of the attackers ending up in chains. There was also several instances with native traders doing business with the settlement, with an impromptu trading post being set up outside the settlement's walls.

Taking note of these reports Transition saw potential resolutions to the issue expire, even after the Raptors withdrew without firing a shot she had hopes that Fidelium would either fall or fail but as time passed those possibilities became equally unlikely. By all indications they had enough supplies to see them at least through to harvest and were sufficiently well armed and dug in to resist a direct assault. A hurricane might do them in, as could a coalition of Gosho hosts or other native tribes. But for now at least they were doing well enough. On the one hand Infrastructure's options at this time were limited at this juncture, on the other hand particularly pressing issue. It's population was small, it was over 1,250 km from the Petroleum Colony as the drone flies, by all indications it's magical resources were limited and and beyond firearms it's technology was very basic. Never the less, after three weeks of observation a mission was dispatched.

The Dalatyr class Cargo Ship Beluga made its way down the coastline over the span of four days, aboard it was Bureaucrat Misha Nordov and her two subordinates. She was among the most qualified figures, having negotiated numerous trade agreements with the Klebba, Issan, Shol and various riverine traders and being fluent in five languages including Allergonian and High Elven. There was a certain amount of trepidation about this, but never the less she was hopeful as the ship put into the bay fluttering a banner of parlay on a sunny afternoon in (in this hemisphere) spring.

Soon after their arrival a reply was sent up using common signal flags and placards printed in Allergonian allowing for a landing party to come ashore, though not to the collection of docks that had been set up by the settlement. Instead they made their way to a beach a short distance to the north. There Misha and her party was met by an thin bearded bespectacled man in a tall conical hat, brass bracelets and robes which made him out to be a slave priest along wit four guards, two mercenaries and two men who had the bearing and rough uniforms of Valnothron Janissaries despite the five ring insignia that had been added to their gear. Either way, the only purpose they seemed to serve is as a bodyguard. Upon disembarking, she made a show of taking out her sidearm and handing it to the two sailors in the rowboat. She put a smile on her face and approached the Fidelian.

"Good day." She said professionally in Allergonian "I am Misha Nordov, Bureaucrat Grade Six and representative of Infrastructure. On of the Central Committee and in the spirit of peace and cordiality between nations I offer the hand of friendship to your people. It is an honor to be the first Infrastructural to arrive in your nascent state and it is our hope that this is the beginning of a relationship that shall be mutually beneficial to all."

The Fidelian Priest looked at her intensely for a few seconds before he began to speak. "Very Good." He said in the same language, but heavily accented Allergonian. "I am Thimarn, Tonith's Firstborn, the Prelate of Fidelium and the one who is speaking for the Council of Fidelium. Tell me Buh-yoo-rah-khar-at," even though his grammar was far from perfect, Misha had the distinct impression that Thimarn was deliberately drawing the word out "why would Fidelium be wanting to work with your Khom-mitt-teh?"

"So that we might prosper together." Misha replied quickly.

"Like you are doing with Venoa, and like how your Committee steered them against our Sacred Custodians?"

"You mean your former Dark Elven masters? Because their actions over the centuries have not earned them a lot of love." In years to come, Misha would look back with regret on this choice of words. In retrospect she knew that he most likely went into the discussion with his mind set in stone, but she still wondered if a better turn of phrase could have changed matters.

"So the hypocrite clearly is shown herself to all!" He said proudly. "We know that of your Unification Wars where Infrastructure was making itself with rifle and cannon across your Land of Ice. We know that of people who did not want your Hexagon or Committee who forced toil in mine and camp. We know that of Fleet sent third of way around world in search of Stone Oil. What the Committee wants the Committee takes, the stone or the land or the human. All for them. We won't be taken."

"And we have no interest in taking you by force." She said in a conciliatory manner. "All we would like to do with you is to work together."

"Work together." He snorted "Working with the Infrastructure means it falls over us like Iron Net. Like the Iron Net, the Infrastructure is unnatural. Life is struggle, life is challenge, life is growth. But the Infrastructurals deny it..." and with that the prelate went off on a diatribe for the next eight minutes. It decried Infrastructure for it's centralized approach, making it out not to be robust and able to focus its' efforts on key goals but as a plodding cumbersome behemoth. It went against it's notion of human equality as being self evidently wrong and a sham for being dominated by superior beings. It railed against the notion of The Great Machine as men were different from Steam Engines which were static and unchanging and that instead it should be ruled by those fit to rule who should compete with each other and thus elevate themselves their dominions by proxy. How the Infrastructural lifestyle was shallow, materialistic, hedonistic and only concerned with the acquisition of transient pleasures at the expense of spiritual fulfillment. An enviroment which could only be corrosive to the soul in the ascent of life. He thought of Infrastructure as a philosophical, social, economic and religious blight on this world. Misha could not get a word in and forced a smile through it all.

"...and That" he spat the words "is why the Fidelium will not let in the Infrastructure. Are you knowing of Sovereignty?"

"Of course..."

"Then you know that we have it, you know that if you violate it the treaty with Galthirith and Hansoliath and Janilonas and Valnothron" he flourished a copy of the treaty's relevant sections in front of her and said the last name with a noticeable measure more reverence "is dead and war will be again. So tell your Committee this of Fidelium: there will not be any trading or the building of embassies or visitors. All the Infrastructurals are Persona non Grata here from now on. This is where the talking ends. Now go, go and stay gone!" He spat the last words and pointed out to sea.

"Very well. I regret that communications have broken down and implore you and your fellow Fidelians to reconsider this hard line stance, but I will report to the Committee of your policy." She gave a slight bow "Thank you and good day." With that she made her way back to the rowboat. This was a possibility she'd been told to expect.

As the craft made its way back to the Beluga. As the small launch rowed back to the craft she began work on her report in her notebook. A couple of times she glanced shore-ward and noticed the priest glowering at her, then she noticed him walk off somewhat deflated. In truth while Thimarn was good at denouncing, he took no pleasure in it and he was glad to be done with it.

When she arrived back in the Petrolium Colony she'd filed her report, gave an interview with Transition and learned that a pair of ships ship had made their way to Fidelium and was unloading additional supplies and what was eventually calculated to be an additional 220 ex-slaves as well as three cattle, four horses, six donkeys, nine goats, twelve sheep, twenty five pigs*. From aerial photographs printed in the Colonial Report, the new pens and tents were clearly visible in the layout of the enclave. For it's first few months, Fidelium's purpose was simply to establish itself and exist. The Fidelium that Misha had left was, depending on how you looked at it, either a foot in the door or a seed. Now that said existence was at least temporarily secure, it would be fed and it would grow.

*In terms of livestock only Pigs, Poultry and a few Llamas were present in Fidelium up to this point.

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(Valcas Estate, Valnothron, Autumn 37 IA)


When news that the second supply fleet to Fidelium had returned without incident reached the ears of Talnara ti'Valcas, the first thing she did was organize a Dinner Party. Not a huge feast in the great hall, but a respectable meal for figures of four of Valnothron's great houses and the heads of twenty one middling ones, none of which were her vassals. A fortnight latter all the figures had attended and took advantage of exquisite food and fine wines while a little light business was conducted. For the most part the Lady was a graceful if unobtrusive hostess who monitored the gathering for incidents and was pleased to find none. Most of the figures were at the household level on positive terms with each other, but individual rivalries were a harder thing to keep track of. Regardless the meal went down well and as as the gathering was on desert the hostess came to her feet wine goblet in hand.

"Honored Lords, thank you for attending." She opened, as she got to her feet a number of servants quietly assembled an easel under a velvet curtain. "I hope that my kitchens were up to task to satisfying your refined palates as much as they did mine." There was some some assent from the assembled lords. "Never the less, I would like a few minutes of your time for a proposal. In particular one involving Fidelium..."

The velvet cover was removed revealing a series of large sheets, the first of which had Fidelium's flag printed on it. "As you have heard recently, the Raptors have elected to officially ignore our experimental settlement in the Southwestern Continent and have not interfered with our efforts to expand the settlement while Infrastructure is unwilling to jeopardize the peace treaty by launching an attack. The project has passed through it's greatest threats and has emerged unscathed while it is meeting more mundane challenges in a commendable manner. Their first harvest is being brought in and they've repelled numerous native raids. Noble Lords, the seed that has been sown has sprouted and with it we have have a foothold into said land." She waved her hand and the sheets shuffled, revealing a map of the area. "The area in which we've sited the settlement is lightly wooded grassland, slightly hilly and warm year round." She had the sheets shuffled again, revealing a print of the landscape based off a sketch made by one of the dispatched slaves. "It's situated at the mouth of a navigable river providing easy access to the interior and the soil is well suited to agriculture, including wheat and barley..." She went on for several minutes outlining the natural resources of the area with similar prints providing visual reference to her talking points.

"While we are denied direct access to the region, a firmly established and cooperative human settlement in the region would allow us to reap it's bounty by proxy. Our government has spearheaded the venture, while House Valcas has provided out of our own pocket additional resources to aid and accelerate it's development. Our reasons for this are multiple, but two reasons eclipse all others. First of all as a counterbalance to the Infrastructural Incursion, an asset in the next war and as a solid signal of my feelings to the Central Committee." There was some laughter among the assembled guests. "The second part is the potential for profit for the reasons outlined. Either way, the quicker that it moves beyond it's current nascence the sooner it will be of use. But there is no reason why House Valcas alone should profit from this venture. For this reason, I am proud to announce the creation of Fidelium Fund." A set of slaves moved past the guests, giving a pamphlet to each. It included information on the goals of the Fund as well as the Charter.

"In short, the Fidelium Funds' purpose is to accelerate the development of this enclave. It accepts donations from concerned individuals and sends them to the emergent nation to accelerate it's development."

"It pains me to make a statement which might be misconstrued my lady," A snide voice said from the dinner table "but this venture you propose sounds to me like a Charity." There was a few murmurs which followed the accusation. In Drow society it was not considered a virtue. At best it was seen as a crass display of excessive wealth akin to lighting a cigar with a banknote. At worst it was seen as a social evil born of kindness run rampant, in which soft hearted fools encouraging dependency and indolence among the lower orders while letting the unfit scrape by.

"Not at all. Charity implies payments gratis with no benefit to the donator beyond whatever self satisfaction overindulged empathy might bring. Donation to the Fidelium Fund is more akin to the buying of futures or the financing of trade missions. When Fidelian farms have grown past subsistence to surplus, we can procure it for a pittance, then reclaim the gold with with the sale of our wares. The sooner that our pet colony passes the post, the sooner we can profit from it. Similarly the larger Fidelium is, the less the Committee can ignore it. In the past fifteen years we've lost both the Black Ports and Avesia to Infrastructure, it's time we make a replacement."

"I trust that this Trust would not be a Valcas animal." Another voice said.

"Of course, the fund is not a Valcas Holding, though we are it's initial financiers. The charter calls for a board of twenty one trustees charged with the managing of it's affairs. Each seat comes with a monthly salary of five scimitars and I have put aside 2,000 scimitars into an expense fund for such a purposes. Thirteen of those seats are available and we'd be glad to accept applicants from esteemed houses such as your own." That got some people interested. If nothing else, the Fidelium Fund would be a decent place for a house to dump one of their unremarkable junior member for a year or so. "And if nothing else the matter of it's finances would be transparent and open to review.

"Let us assume that all of this is true, why should we donate to this fund instead of buying up a load of slaves, farm tools and provisions and shipping them off ourselves?"

Lady Valcas grinned a little brighter at this development. "In all honestly for some Great Houses this could be the most productive use of their resources in facilitating Fidelium's growth and if for those to whom this is the case I have only encouragement. But such a venture would have risks and costs. The ship might founder at sea or be destroyed by the Eternal Foe. But even if all goes smoothly there are costs, including that of a ship taken out of normal mercantile ventures for several months to make the delivery. With the Fidelium Fund the risks are spread out and more parties can effectively contribute to the process. Moreover the fund will be able to deal in bulk, train slaves for their new lives ahead of time and have better information as to what Fidelium needs to grow."

"Are you interested in donations of cash or kind?" Another lord said.

"Cash is preferred, but donations of compliant slaves and useful supplies would not be amiss." The next few minutes followed the same general pattern before she left them to their desert. Afterwards, she managed to get seventeen attendants to sign up and make at leas a token initial payment to the fund which added up to 797 scimitars, fifty two wagon wheels and two fieldslaves. A modest sum given the scope that the project and the canvased donators but respectable for a first venture and their names would be useful for getting additional support. She had four more parties planned with other prominent Valnothron, Janilonas and Galithirith figures with a similar aim, as well as several of her children and grandchildren doing similar canvasing among the middling to minor houses. It would take several months to dredge up the requisite funds and viable resources, but by the end of the year the Fidelium Fund would launch it's first supply ship, bringing an additional hundred and nine slaves, a hundred tonnes of barley and beans, twelve draft horses and an eclectic but never the less useful selection of tools and second hand gear. The second was launched not long afterwards.

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Re: Infrastructure (Original and Illustrated)

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(Dalatyr, New Years Day 38 IA)

Winter Solstice had always been a big deal in the Coldlands. To peoples who lived with long severe winters, the point when the night began to shorten held special meaning in of itself, showing that Spring would come. This was leaving aside the fact that it was also New Years Day in both the Order of Keeper's and Infrastructural calender's. Coldlanders had traditionally made what festivities they could and as Infrastructure rose people had more to work with. War had made the last three Solstices lean affairs, but the Thirty Seventh had been grander and met with a special enthusiasm to make up for lost time. At the Smedth residence seventy three people had gathered for the festivities enjoying a grand feast and exchanging kilocredits worth of gifts ranging from toys to bricks of tea to Samovars to Bicycles and fireworks shows at midnight. General Sven retired around 3:30 and slept in until 14:20 the next day and he soon heard Kahrine Kornovski's "Satyania in Spring" by string quartet. The General smiled knowing who's favorite song that was and soon made a couple cups of tea, one with milk and brought it upstairs. There in an armchair sat an old man listening contentedly to a phonograph.

"Good afternoon dad..." Sven said exaggerating his lingering sleepiness while he handed the hot cup "...and happy new year."

"Happy New Year." Boris Smedth said. "Hard to imagine you waking up so late. Normally you'd be up and about by six like clockwork." He took a long sip of his tea.

"It was a good party, Natasha made sure of it. Besides, classes don't start again for a week and I'm never commanding again."

"The Committee has told you as much?" His father was a bit worried about that.

"Got a note from Drive himself: the new generation of officers has produced some exceptional people tempered in war against formidable foes. The chances that they'd need me for anything other than a few speeches is basically nil." The matter of Fidelium looked like it would probably be trouble, but that would be years away.

"That's good to hear." Boris replied. "I knew a fair number of people who did not return from the wars, even officers."

"Believe me, you know how quickly it can all end on the front lines." Sven replied. "I'm glad to be done with it."

"I'm glad to see it, and to have seen this party. Don't think i'll be here for the next."

"Dad, don't..." Sven.

"Oh don't lie to this old fool." Boris said "I've already outlived most of my childhood friends one way or another and i've got a bunch of problems. I'll be with your mother soon enough. My father just showed me how to beat out swords and shield brims before he was scooped up by some horse riding thug one day. I helped build a better world for you and you helped build a better world for your children, who're building something better for your grandkids. No warriors smacking you on the heads with spears for talking to their crush in Infrastructure, nor children going hungry in winter. To me, that's enough." The old blacksmith said quietly. "But I see it unsettles you, so we'll move on. Have you ridden one of these 'bike' contraptions?" With that the exchange between father and son went on with more pleasant subjects.

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(Proto-Omnium, Dalatyr, Winter 38 IA)


The last year had been good for Zia Maleev. Her supervisor had given her a good review at a time when operations were expanding and so was promoted in fall of 37. She went from grocery clerk to a sales representative at the Proto-Omnium, the largest of the Ministry of Distribution's stores and one of it's the most prestigious operations, especially as far as sellers were concerned. Pay was better and work here was usually a prelude to a management position somewhere else. She was bounced around a couple of times around the store from the Deli to Toys to Clothes and finally to Appliances and Electronics. She got along well here, even if things worked differently. At a grocery store people came in regularly who mostly knew what they wanted, occasionally adding or subtracting some item or another from whatever reason they might have on the spur of the moment. With Appliances and electronics the need was less frequent, many of the passers by would be browsing the goods and you often needed to help the navigate what was in stock and persuade them into opening their wallets, as well as running through a few points with "is your home electrified?" being the most common. Doing so could be tedious, but the fact that she got a commission to every sale she had a hand in went a long way to keeping her mind on moving units.

Doing well in this department did require homework, including reading up on electrical systems and the various models. Fortunately three of the other other six people who worked in Appliances and Electronics were obsessed with the department's wares and loved talking about the various products they peddled. Listening to Milla, Erik and Lars at breaks and asking them questions made up a good part of her training. They also were a font of rumors, most notably one about the delay of the release on a big item apparently caused by the lead Engineer setting up the factory disappearing one night with at least some important blueprints. There was a lot of speculation about this, though it would remain unresolved. It also had her interest peaked when it finally showed up on a cool February morning.

The HRT-38 was a boxy item with an outer case made of varnished with a couple of handles on it's top, a few nobs and gauges and a Infrastructural hexagon shaped portal covered by a loose weave of cloth, with the words "VOX" inscribed on it. Inside there were wires, valves and other such electrical bits. When the display unit one was taken out it was seen with a particular reverence by the three electrophiles which was kind of contagious, especially when they set it up at the main counter, plugged it in and turned it on. At first it produced a grinding noise, then after a little fiddling of the nobs that was replaced with voices. A man and a woman talking to each other about someone coming over to dinner, but one of them said something which got Zia laughing. Soon all of her coworkers were laughing along with it. She'd heard plays on record and this one was pretty good. It was over in ten minutes and with that supervisor Vera got everyone back to work as the store began opening up. Never the less the machine continued to operate. After a brief interlude in which Supernova announced that this was Infrastructural Broadcasting Radio-3: Drama and Arts, which was followed up by some rather nice orchestral music. There was some experimenting with the dial over the day which brought up news, an educational station and a few different types of music, but eventually it came back to Radio-3 by common consensus.

During that day, a fair number of people came by to investigate the Vox. Some had been following reports and adds about the invention while to others it was entirely new. Several times in the first week Zia had been asked where the record went and she'd have to explain that they were more like the public loudspeakers for your home with a selection of stations. They'd received two hundred units on the first day and by noon they'd sold out despite their steep price of 600 Credits. With her commission bonuses a Vox would cost Zia nearly two months of her income. Her coworkers were soon talking about plans to bring the price of a Vox down and saving up to buy one themselves, but for 38 IA Zia was content to make use of the display Vox at work.

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( Detentional Mining Camp-37, Dragonspine Mountains, Winter 38 IA)


It had been more than seventeen months since the Defeat at Daagsgrad. For Talsi ti'Xolcas former warrior of the now defunct and disgraced Amethyst Bow company this had meant several hundred days of bland routine in Detentional Mining Camp-37 in the Dragonspine Mountains. Get up at 5:00, get cleaned up at the wash house, get dressed, get to the kitchens by 6:00, make breakfast, eat breakfast at 8:00, clean up mess hall, make lunch, eat lunch at 12:00, clean up mess hall, lessons or free time at 13:30, back to the kitchens at 15:00, make dinner, eat dinner at 17:30, clean up mess hall, get back to the barracks by 19:00, collapse into bunk at 20:00. A half day off every week, which you could bump to a full day off with six reward points, though there were a few other events.

She still felt lucky, one only needed to see the poor sods who'd spent the day shoveling ore into wheelbarrows and haling it to the smelter to see why she was lucky to get the post. Especially in the long mountain winters. She'd seen a few troublemakers in the kitchens get sent to the mine crews and the occasional replacement be brought up from their ranks. She'd simply kept quiet and tried to get along as best as she could. She'd gained a measure of popularity among her five person team and twenty five person cadre for that reason, as well as the proxy benefits for what that had been worth. This mostly overcame the resentment that she got for the same reason. By this point all of the prisoners in the camp had come to terms with the workload the Infrastructurals imposed, but there was division in that framework. Some tried to do the best they could do for the rewards or to lose their frustrations in manual labor. Others felt that to retain whatever honor they believed they still had, the only proper course of action was to do the minimum that they could get away. The specifics on the issues were complex and there had been a decline of the latter school in the kitchens, but you'd still get the occasional confrontations over it as well as bad attitude. There was a similar divide over Lessons. Unlike work lesson attendance was technically not mandatory, though as the alternative was to have that time filled with more work most prisoners took them. And while sitting down and listening either to a human or their. For the first year they'd been on the Coldlander's Language and writing it. Useful stuff in truth as most of the guards only knew a few phrases in the Drow Language. But recently the lessons had gotten more abstract and their contents have gotten more controversial.

As such, on a cold winter's day after Lunch fifty Dark Elves trudged through the snow to the lecture hall. They took off their jackets and boots and went to their desks, sectioned off by a set of curtains into rows of four. Each of them was assigned an envelope and at the tolling of a small bell each of them took up their pencil and began to work. She read the first question, written in the Trade Dialect of Drow Language...

1: What is the Thirteenth Refutation?

Carefully she wrote down her answer: "Hyper Aggression is a poor survival strategy. Conflict for the sake of Conflict is weakness." This was basically the phrase word for word from 32 Refutations, the text that they'd been studying.

2: Give an example of the Thirteenth Refutation in action.

Talsi's response "A person fights everyone all the time and fights to kill. She's an exceptional fighter but she only makes enemies. Everyone hates her and they all want her either gone or preferably dead. In one fight she gets wounded, this leads to another wound in the next and her loosing in the one after that. If everyone did like she did there would be no cities or farms or any product of civilization as nobody could work together. This principle still applies if she made an occasional exception and got along with a small number of others, but still fought most people."

3: What is the First Refutation?

Her answer "The Drow claim ownership of everything but the Dark Elves have failed to conquer the world for 4,000 years."

There were twenty questions in total, each of which followed the same basic pattern: give the summarized version of one of the 32 Refutations and explain or elaborate on the outlined details. The book was composed of common Dark Elven beliefs as well as a response there-to. In general, the policy back home was to despise whatever delusions the humans had constructed as irrelevant noise from which they would be dispelled once the beasts of burden had been broken in. Only those of weak of spirit would give such nonsense any credence and those which held to such soft headed nonsense were disgraced by their foolishness. That attitude was still present among the POWs, though it was a shadow of what it once was. After all, once you've been captured alive any other disgraces you might have earned were pale shadows. She finished her responses fairly quickly, handed them with forty minutes to spare and spent it reading one of the magazines on the bench.

The next week in the usual routine of work, lessons and sleep. Then the marks were posted up on the lecture hall. She was somewhat surprised when she saw she got a perfect score. With that, she got some slaps on the back and some cheers and congratulations from her team and cadre. Even the few brief dirty looks she got from a few could not sour the experience.

The basics of the Point/Merit system was simple. Points could be used for extra rewards, ranging from time off to better rations and treats. Demerits either nullified points or resulted in more work, limited and reduced rations, unpleasant tasks such as clearing out the latrines and similar. You incurred demerits by causing trouble and failure to meet expectations earned Points by keeping your head down and not causing trouble, going above and beyond what was required as well as out performing your fellows and getting into the top 10% for productivity. Doing well or failing an exam also did the same. If you got less than 50% on an exam, you could get up to fifty demerits. Hand back a blank page and you'd be in for a miserable fortnight from the penalties and more. Just getting 50% would leave you with no better or worse off. For some, that was the goal that they strove for as there was a fair number of mark just over 50%. Do 51% or better and you began to earn more points in a fairly complicated scheme, but the gist of it was that higher scores earned more and that a perfect score got you 125 points. This was a big deal because of proxy points: every time you earned 5, everyone in your team gets one and every time you earn 25 everyone in your cadre gets one. Talsi had just earned more than a week off with extra rations and either tea or beer at every meal by her efforts alone and everyone else she worked with directly would have things a little bit easier in days to come. Whatever resentment she might get going forward would be eclipsed by that, especially since she'd use some of her new spare time to help out her fellows for the next exam in six months.

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(Valcas Complex, Valnothron, Spring 38 IA)


Deep within the House Valcas' main complex, Lady Talnara quietly made her way down a winding series of corridors. Over the course of nine centuries this domain of industry of her family had grown incorporating the buildings of defeated rivals and was subject to innumerable rebuilds because of refurbishments, upgrades, fires, industrial accidents, acts of sabotage, slave riots and on a couple of occasions overt attacks by rival Houses. This meant that much of the extended facility was a rat's nest of hallways and odd rooms both above and below ground. Many of which were seldom used if at all and even then mostly for storage. Mostly they were retained simply because it was not worth the cost and bother of clearing them out. But they were also a prime place to hide things.

As such, after passing by several heavy oak doors and a couple of hidden checkpoints, the Lady found herself in small knot of rooms including a kitchen, dining room, dormitory, improvised bathroom, storage chamber, overseer's office and a workspace of several rooms that had been opened up to a degree. While the passages which led to this place were dark, cool, dingy and deliberately neglected this area was by contrast clean (or failing that neat), orderly, warm and was well lit, both from electric lights and the glimmer of forges. It was home to eight slaves which soon came out to prostrate themselves before their mistress, all of them Dwarves. This was slightly unusual in general terms. Only about one in twenty of the slaves in Valnothron were Dwarven in spite of high demand. They could last four times as long as human and could be excellent workers, even if they were as a rule hard to catch and break and bred slowly. On the other hand, most of them were owned by large industrial concerns such as Valcas Industries. What was more unusual was that three of the Dwarves had been captured from the wild. More specifically they had been Sand Dwarves from the Southern Deserts, the best of forty five bought at some expense from the Markets of Halrizuud.

She faced the main overseer, a descendant of her forth son who'd proven himself both a respectable manager, capable runesmith and one who could be trusted with sensitive information. "Mirnaln, you've reported a breakthrough."

"Yes Familiarch. Our biggest problem had to do with incorporating the glass element without disrupting the spells, but we've managed to work out a viable solution. We've tripled Flask capacity and I am confident we can improve on that."

Lady Talnara nodded. "And what about accidental discharge?"

Mirnaln looked nervous "That is still a bit of an issue if it is jostled around, though when it does happen total output is about on par with a Lightcell and it's easily disabled. It is a matter of fine craft, this is still new to us. Would you like to inspect our latest example?"

"Indeed."

"Duniel, bring the lady Flask 22." A female Dwarf rushed into a workshop, produced a small squat cylinder from a workbench and presented it to Lady Valcas. She took the artifact in on hand, feeling the weight of it. It looked a bit like an unlabeled cannister of food or a shell for one of the new cannons. It's outer shell was a cup made of cast iron with two bronze bands near each end, each engraved with runes. This outer cup was filled with glass of a remarkable blackness. An abyss from which no light could escape, which was in many ways the point.

"Pity we can't fill them with fireboxes." She said as she gave the flask back Duniel. "Then again, that was sort of the point of this enterprise. Keep up the good work."

A year had past since the end of the Escort War, a war which had taught hard lessons for this new age. The most obvious of which was driving home the absolute necessity of keeping up technologically, but just as important was the role that resources would play in the new Industrialized World. The resource situation had eased up over the past twelve months as new mines were opened in the colonies, existing mines were upgraded and international prices stopped rising. Even so, she could see the need for viable alternatives. In small desert holds cut off from timber or coal deposits, the Sand Dwarves had found one. First they used mirrors to focus sunlight for smelting minerals, then they worked out how to use runic magic to bottle it.

Lady Valcas had made a big show of supporting the Fidelium both as a military asset against the Coldlanders and their masters and a venture which could bring in millions of scimitars in the long term and made a big show of supporting so that others would get on board with it, accelerating it's growth. But in no small part her backing of Fidelium was a cover for another project she had in her mind. One that by all indications could get House Valcas a fortune, but untold leverage and might even give Valnothron an edge over Infrastructure.

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Re: Infrastructure (Original and Illustrated)

Post by Zor »

(Vertebograd, Infrastructure, Spring 38 IA)
Shortly after the war Nadia Korsakov was demobilized. She'd considered staying on full time, but that would mean serious complications to other desires she had for her life. She spent a short while in Dalatyr, but eventually she decided to go south to Vertebograd. Infrastructure's first and greatest city was still too crowded and too dirty for her taste. The newer southern city proved to be a better fit and she soon carved out a niche for herself. She'd had a few credits saved up at discharged which she used to buy an Army Bike. Even with the general post, there was still a fair number of people who'd pay for courier work. Teaming up with a couple of similar vets with the same idea made things easier and more profitable. Winter was a problem as all three members of the Vertebograd Cycle Courier Cooperative (Vertebograd 3C as they soon called themselves) agreed, but when spring came business was booming yet again. To their surprise, they got an odd contract from the Ministry of Distribution.

Thus Nadia found herself one spring morning a kilometer outside of town on a stretch of country road with her bike in her old army uniform with a small collection of other people operating from a small ox cart. After a few minutes of set up they were ready to begin. She mounted a new bike, worked up a decent speed and then flourished her Cutlass. As she went by, a photographer got off a shot of her. They did so again and again about thirty more times. A couple of times she gave out a battle cry. She had to admit it was fun, even if it was absurd. Charging about with a sword like that was not approved doctrine, you were supposed to dismount and fight on foot. Even so, they seemed satisfied with her performance, even though there was a Thunderstorm on the horizon. She signed a few documents and made her way home. A hundred credits for her, fifty for Rolf and Cibor.

A week later on her usual rounds she saw herself on a factory wall. A poster of her rolling forward sword outstretched with a devil-may-care look on her face. She paused for a moment and looked at it closely and read the caption.

BE FEARLESS!

That was done in big bold red letters.

Sergeant Nadia Korsakov of Vertebograd 3C

That was done in her handwriting. Below the image was some more text

Model 38 Bicycle, now available! Starting at 135 Credits.

Sold and Serviced at Vertebograd Commercial Machinery, 38 Cooper Street

Ministry of Technology and Industry, Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Distribution


Advertisement was of course nothing new to her, but it was strange to see her face put up like this.

"Hey Lady!" A young boy came up to her.

"Yeah?" She replied, more curious.

"Is that you?"

"Well, yes." She said somewhat embarrassed.

"Wow!" His mother soon came up to him.

"Hroldir, don't go bothering the lady." She said, turning to look at Nadia and saw the poster. "Well it is a good photo."

"Thanks." Nadia replied awkwardly. The mother then escorted her boy off to school. She'd soon see plenty more posters like that and get more comments about them in the coming weeks. Even so, business and Vertebograd 3C did well.

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(146km from Fidelium, Summer 38 IA)

The last year of Lianril ti'Darmyl's life had been dull, dull, dull. There were of course worse things than Dullness, he knew this fact quite well. The son of vassals to a middling Valnothron merchant house, most of his working life was spent on one ship or another both civilian and military. In his twenty seven years at sea, he'd faced storms, pirates and enemy warships, including one encounter with The Eternal Foe. Whatever the stories had to say about the thrill of battle against a worthy foe, for him the prospect of an agonizing death rather spoiled it. Similarly his family would be better served by a living son. He soon worked out that the best way to avoid that fate was to avoid it and while many of his over eager peers threw themselves for death and glory, he maintained a polite distance from peril while under arms. Most of his superiors generally considered considered him useful and left it at that, just as he wanted. One of the downside of that was you ended up doing more of the tedious load, but he'd long since accepted that as being a small price for his skin.

However there were other downsides to that plan, namely that the powers that be often see an unremarkable sailor and naval gunner as an expendable asset. He was brought back into service three years ago for the Escort War and while he was lucky enough not to be brought into an Ironclad's field of fire, he and ninety seven other poor sods and as many slaves were taken from the crews of a naval squadron and dumped on some tiny island in the middle of nowhere.

Ilianvir* Island itself was a tad less than twelve square miles of warm wet hilly forest, broadly triangular in shape with a bay on it's southern side. It was Uninhabited by anything beyond birds, lizards and turtles. The only signs of intelligent life was the occasional bit of nautical flotsam which washed up on shore and a single cottage set up by a scouting operation fifty years ago. Only a few officers had knowledge of the plan beforehand and they soon set about work. First setting up a camp and storage dumps, then a few cottages, and workshops, then a dock, traps and some lookout posts and finally a few bare bones fortifications. Hard work and with only a small workforce of slaves the garrison had to do more grunt work than would usually be expected. Lianril took much of it in stride and better than most, Dark Elves who were not part of an established house had to do things which would demean one of High Birth. Besides, the sooner it was done the more secure he would be.

On a quiet summer (or winter at this southern latitude, though seasons here usually manifested in rainfall more than anything) Lianril was stationed at the Western Battery. There were three batteries on Iliatin, each with fifteen Valcas rifled cannons (twelve 20-Vaul guns and three 30-Vaul heavies), one of which he leaned against as he peeled an apple with his knife. A fresh shipment had come in which had a few snow cooled barrels full of the fruit and he'd been making the most of them while they lasted. Of all the tasks on Ilianvir, this was the easiest. A little cleaning of gear, housekeeping of the shelter and magazine, keeping an eye out on the small number of slaves also stationed on that shift and an eye to the sea every now and again and beyond that the job was mostly just lounging around with the bi-weekly drill or rainy spell mostly spent indoors playing cards or Dynasty. In short, it was the easier job he'd ever had.

All of which, however assumed that nobody unpleasant showed up. They had enough firepower and elevation to do some serious damage to an attacking frigate and a decent reserve of arms, but not the manpower to man every gun with a full crew at once with lookouts and infantry screens. A couple of Arrowships or an Allergonian Navy Ship of the Line with a merchantman troopship could destroy their position, especially if they focused on one battery and landed forces elsewhere. Not that they were to withstand serious attack, at least at this stage. Their primary defense was secrecy and remoteness with the treaty with Infrastructure providing a useful secondary layer of defense. So far this had worked, though Lianril knew that everyone fretted about some leak or a snooping scout exposing them. Everyone knew that the powers that be would gladly expend far greater assets than them and that their destruction would be a setback to plans rather than their hard and fast conclusion.

But that was not today. As the peel was cut away Nainryth, a junior daughter of a minor warrior house, surveyed the seas. "The Newcomer's just rounded the bend."

"Sure it's them?" Lianril replied.

"We got a paddle galleon and an old trade brig flying the Valnothron Banner flying the right signal flags. Unless things have gone massively and utterly wrong it's them you human-brained moron." The tone of her voice made it clear that it was all in jest. The sequence had been given out to both ships via linkglass last night.

"Just checking, can't be too careful." He said as the last of the peel fell to the ground.

"Well when you're done with the snack, we should help our esteemed guests unload."

"Very well." He sighed as he began to cut wedges off the core. One of the advantages of such a remote post where nothing happened was that you could do without a lot of the stiff etiquette of the homeland. You know everyone and nobody is going to make a snit about matters. That would likely change as they got reinforcements and would change further if things went as planned.

In total another eighty Drow warriors, a hundred and sixty slaves and twelve human Proxies disembarked along with some additional provisions and weapons, including eight additional heavy guns. Lugging those damn things into position would be a major pain, leaving aside the shot. Even if they were a considerable boost to the island's firepower. The biggest addition to Ilianvir's assets however would be the brig Zhun**, which would call the small island base home. Five days after it's arrival, the little 150-ven ship was loaded with eighty slaves. Before it cast off, captain ti'Khairvas and a few drow witnesses administered the protocols of Renouncement and release. From the western batter, Lianril watched the Zhun make it's way towards the setting sun. Three days latter at noon, it returned safe and sound empty of passengers but full of reports.

As small and remote as it was, Ilianvir had one thing which made it desirable for Valnothron: location. Being ninety one miles from the Southern Continent, it was far enough that the Raptors gave it no consideration (as probing efforts had found out) and close enough that it served as a useful staging point for another operation. Instead of having to move supplies and slaves slowly ashore in launches, a cargo ship could simply unload it's payload on the island from which it would be quickly shuttled to Fidelium.

As time would go on, this base would grow and would be reinforced. Some of the original garrison would move on as career and family required while a few would stay on given the opportunities presented. Lianril was in the latter camp and while he did rise in station considerably, he would miss those easy early days.

*Rest Station
**Ox

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(Valcas Compound, Late Autumn 38 IA)

Even though there were less crises to sort out over the last nineteen months, Lady Talnara's schedule was still full. Between the Council, Fidelium and the house's various industrial concerns and projects she was constantly busy. In general she had enough people to delegate the tasks that she assigned them and many skilled underlings and slaves to accomplish their required tasks. But there was still an incredible amount to do at the top, which was only getting more complex as time went on. Money was flowing in like never before but so were expenses. On a cool winter day she went to inspect something which was not only bringing in the former, but also alleviating the latter.

In one of the larger structures on the growing main complex after a meeting with it's senior management, she toured the operations under the guidance of Weitas ti'Halsath, an ironmistress who was one of their best experts on steam engine manufacturing mostly from elevated walkways. She showed the lady around the various chambers where iron was cast, massive drop hammers where steel was forged, lathes bored, grinders ground along with a large number of regular slave smiths with hammers. While there were windows the setting was mainly Illuminated by the glow of furnaces and new electric lighting. Pipe were formed out of lengths of steel. Some smaller parts were made in smaller workshops. Large parts were carried along either by hand cart or on suspended rails to assembly stations, where teams of slaves worked to bring it all together. It was impressive to see all of this in action

In the end she was led outside where over a hundred slaves were gathered and bowed before their mistress. Between them was their handiwork, which had recently completed some tests. Weitas eagerly explained the workings of the machine. Seeing blueprints or even photographs of these machines was one thing, but having one in front of you was another entirely. In particular she took an interest in the modern set of gauges in the cabin. The fact that these things could burst was definitely something to be worried about was reason enough to put them in, but the insight that they provided on the workings of the machine were both obviously useful beyond that and intriguing in their own right.

"The reports said that you have doubled it's strength?" Talnara asked,

"Better than that my lady, we measured Number 34's output at 220% that of our first batch's average. We've made a few adjustments since then, boosting total performance by 12%." Weitas replied.

"Any complications with these revisions?"

"Nothing unusual. Most of them were reinforcement of the structure at key points and post test inspections are promising. If anything we've improved on reliability."

"So it should beat it's speed record of forty six miles per hour?"

"Possibly my lady to a small degree, though the larger benefit would be in towing capacity." Weitas said with that subtle nervousness one gets when correcting one's liege on a point which remained positive. "Speed records may be impressive, but locomotives don't usually move with just a tender. Being able to pull a full load at 26 miles per hour vs 23 and being better able to handle hills is a more substantive advantage."

"Of course. Matters mechanical are your domain, though given to whom Number 37 is destined to serve this is good to know." This locomotive would be sent overseas to a line set up to serve House Zharhys, a colonial upstart who's estates were sited on some coal rich mountains. A 170 mile new line (their longest line yet) was under construction linking Talyrisvel to that estate which should be completed in about three months. Once done it could bring in hundreds of tonnes of premium anthracite for export (or the growing new Valcas Talyrisvel Ironworks) every day, going up to thousands once there was a down line.

At the time there was one operational railway in Valnothron's home territory and another in the colonies, plus three more under construction, with five more in the planning stages. All of them set up were Valcas operations and all but one of them set up after the conclusion of the Escort War. They were costly undertakings due to resource shortages, but efforts were being pushed forward on that front for a variety of reasons. Fulfilling obligations of past deals was part of it as was helping to alleviate the immediate shortages as well as those houses who desired a piece of the action. But the biggest motivation was the need to preserve their lead establish Valcas dominance in the emergent rail network quickly as possible. Oddities such as using a more nautical engine design was a byproduct of this rapid development. But that lead to another question.

"What about the next generation project?" Lady Valcas asked.

"Preliminary castings for the new body are underway, as well as the new horizontal piston assemblies. We should have a basic mock up for stress and power trials ready in about six months so we can iron out the kinks, after that we should have a new Coldland pattern prototype ready for trials a year from now, give or take a few months." Weitas was enthusiastic, a sign of someone who liked her work. "I'd still recommend that continue with the Double Expansion units for at least the next two years even if everything goes as planned. We're making a new one every week now and we can use parts from the riverboats division and vice versa and they'd still be useful in mines and shunting. Scaling back their production gradually lets us work out residual kinks and adjust the set up piecemeal without much dead time. But once that's done we should be able to get locomotives that can get up to sixty miles per hour on it's own pulling full loads along at 30 to 35, and that's for the first run and that's being conservative my Lady."

"I'd agree, but there are other Houses working on locomotives both at home and abroad. Even so I am pleased with your work so far."

"It is an honor my Lady." the Ironmistress said making a polite bow.

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(Dalatyr, Winter 39 IA)

On a cool winter morning in Dalatyr, Oxana Mironov disembarked from a train and made her way inland. Most people would have seen a kindly late middle aged women with skin made leathery from hard work in the fields, an assessment which was not wrong but overlooked important. Most notable of which was that for the last ten years she'd been Foreman of Vilsimi Agricultural Cooperative (Coop 42), an organization of 43 farms about eighty kilometers from the capital city working together and among the successful of such organizations in the Oblast in no small part beyond of her leadership, deal making and the operation of side ventures such as running a profitable brewery and jam factory. Now she had another venture in mind.

She made her way to the Ministry of Transportation's head office, produced a letter for an appointment and waited for about half an hour until she wash led to a small forth story office and was met with a young Bureaucrat, one Dinara Dobrynin (Level 8). She hung up her jacket and pits and made her way in. The small room had a number of posters and technical diagrams pinned to the walls, a good sign.

"Good day, Foreman Mironov." Dinara said. "I hope your trip to the city was pleasant."

"It was my dear," Oxana replied sweetly "and I hope you're doing well. I am here on behalf of my cooperative" she tapped her official badge of office "to look into getting a Lorry."

"Of course." She said as she fished out some papers from her desk. "As it stand the Dalatyr Motorpool has thirty one lorries available for sale including six Series-7 units, six Series-8s, sixteen Series-9s and three Series-10s." She handed the sheet to Oxana who turned it down.

"Thank you, my dear, but we are not interested in a used Lorry. Rather we'd like a new one, one of those new Series-12s." Oxana gestured to a poster on the wall. "Lovely Machines that they are."

"This is rather irregular," The Bureaucrat replied "All new construction is slated for Ministry of Transport use."

"And we would not think to impose on the efficient execution of the Central Committee's plan. Instead we'd like to commission one of those fine vehicles."

"Any particular reason why you'd want a new one?" Dinara said, curious.

"First of all, we'd want something which would last us a good while. Secondly by all accounts the new Type-12s are real marvels, the drivers which come by for pickups always speak highly about them. Third they're quick, and when you're bringing eggs, fruit, vegetables and milk to market it's best to get them there as quickly as possible. Forth a nice shiny new Lorry with the Coop's Badging would be good for business. We have a capable mechanic on hand who's kept our tractor and other machines going."

"Fair enough," the bureaucrat asked "but I must warn you that it won't be cheap."

"I know that and I'm prepared." She produced a check and handed it over. "Would 25 Kilo cover it?"

The Bureaucrat looked at the check with satisfaction. There was a 2% Commission on vehicles sales, nearly three weeks salary. "Very well, I'll have to make a few calls. Please take a seat, i'll call up some tea."

And so for the next two hours Dinara sent requests, signed a number of documents brought her way talked, with a few of her fellow Bureaucrats in person and more on the phone and eventually drafted a note. Eventually she gave her a contract to sign and told her to come back tomorrow at eight the next morning. When she returned, Dinara told her that the request had been approved and that the new Lorry should be ready in two to three months. Seventy six days latter, it was delivered to the Coop 42 with a photographer to put the image of the new vehicle in the news.

The Central Committee had a certain reticence about the sale of Roadsteamers to private firms, preferring to maintain a fleet of Lorries, Vans and Buses for it's own uses renting out services for businesses. There were several reasons for this ranging from to the expense to build and operate the machines and a desire limit the spread of technology beyond Infrastructure. As it's fleet grew and improved, older machines were auctioned off starting in 27 IA. The Committee quietly changed the policy after the escort war, but even so it took a fair bit of time before anyone seriously inquired about obtaining a new vehicle. That someone was willing to pay several year's wages on a road vehicle was good as far as the Committee was concerned as it kept the currency circulating. Over the course of 39 IA, another forty four Series-12 roadsteamers would be commissioned by coops, collectives, companies and other such concerns. This was only the beginning.

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(Outside Fidelium, Late Winter 39 IA)

For thirteen years Kanslu Tijan-Kromkah Tivosh had been Warlord of the Tivosh Host, a nomadic group some 4,300 souls strong which roamed the southern grasslands. One did not become a Warlord by birth, one had to prove himself to his fellows with deeds and leadership on the battlefield and the right words, attitudes and connections off of it. One stayed a Warlord by one's wits and whatever private doubts and worries he had about his capacities, he knew that there were plenty of Warlords which were blatantly deficient in that regard. He'd personally slain one of them, had his men dispatch three more, forced several others into retreat and had seen or heard reports of many more. He took the latter of these with a grain of salt, but often confirmation and corroboration would often come to to light.

As an example he'd heard reports over the last year or so, a set strange people came in boats from the open ocean and set up a village near the mouth of the Gnoi-Halkhom River. A passing host would attempt a raid, only to find that these people had heavy armor and barking thunder weapons which could cut men and terror birds down at a very long range and be either repulsed or destroyed. Which host did so varied, as did specifics of the raid (sometimes it was just a party that was destroyed, other times it was one or more companies) and the defenders and there was of course the usual inflation that came up. Either way, he was not impressed. He could understand a serious raid being repulsed once or twice or the loss of a couple of scouting forces, but repeated failures against an unknown but obviously powerful force was in his mind either the result of hosts led either had idiot glory hunters or ineffectual ditherers unable to reign in their more reckless subordinates. Especially since this lined up with more remote tales from the north. Even so, if even part of the story was true Kanslu saw potential.

Six months ago, he'd steered the host off the usual track into foothills around Gnoi Bay for a couple of days. Once there and after his scouts had confirmed that something was there, he sent out an envoy: Two porters, two guards on Terror Birds bearing the Host's symbols and playing flutes, an Elder who was good with languages and a sloth bearing an assortment of trinkets. They were told to make no hostile moves, to flee at the first sign of trouble, to offer a gift and if possible open up talks. To his relief, the plan worked like a charm and the next day sixty two llamas (each carrying a load of maize) was traded for a selection of iron pots, pans, tools, knives, a couple wagon wheels, a bunch of other odds and ends, a few boxes of iron arrowheads and seven odd but definitely deadly forged war blades. Definitely a good hall, though they were told that an even better one would be ready in half a year for the right price. After spending the next months wandering, trading, extorting and on one occasion raiding another host. When they returned near the summer solstice he met with a party of them near their town, which had noticeably grown since the last time he'd come.

As they discussed matters, Kanslu took in as much as he could about the newcomers. There were two different types of them, each of them dressed differently and spoke a different language among themselves among other more subtle distinctions. The main group dressed more simply as a general rule and tended to be quiet and unobtrusive even when carrying arms, though among them you'd see most variety. There were stoney face warriors among their ranks, but also timid workers, fixated scribes (one of whom acted as a translator) and leading them priests in long gowns and tall hats. Something approximating the peoples of Piscap or Azikalr, though he'd only ever been to the former twice and knew of the latter only from stories and occasional news from the Far South. One of their priests officiated over the deal, consulting with her pet scribe as she went and occasionally giving a brief prayer to the heavens in her tongue. The other were less numerous but quite visible. They were all warriors from what he could see, spoke their own, wore more armor and a lot of clothing that was worn but also more ornate and colorful than their counterparts. They carried themselves with a mixture of sarcasm and swagger, but were always wary. Their leader was covered from head to foot in cloth and metal including a helmet with a set of metal dog ears. Occasionally he'd give a couple of words of commentary when asked, but mostly he just stood there undoubtedly cooking in his metal get up. From what he could gather the mainstream of the colony defined themselves as by being defined by passionate piety and a devotion which drove them while the outliers were fighting men working the more common type as they were somehow profiting doing so. Useful information to be sure.

The negotiations were not exactly short, but proceeded fairly smoothly. He inspected the contents of their crates and they looked over what he brought and there was some distorted commentary. The newcomers had enough general Gosho words to form coherent if mangled sentences more often than not, even if they spent a while going on with "him foot...walk odd walk hard...lift high that foot always" and so forth to try to convey that one of his stock had a bit of a limp. Even so, he managed to strike a bargain he found more than acceptable. Thirty Six slaves and Fifty Five Llamas with loads of maize were exchanged for more of those trade goods, including forty swords, thirty halberd heads, fifty helmets, twelve breastplates and one of their Fire-Tube weapons with three hundred shots worth of it's explosive food and lead balls and the assistance of one of their warriors in explaining it's complex operation. Enough gear to outfit two whole parties of warriors with them along with an excellent if still rather limited weapon.

Over the next few months, Kanslu's doubts about dealing with these "Fidelians" gradually faded. His people were doing well from trade, tribute and war, deaths were down and his popularity among his captains and his elders remained solid as they prepared for the next trade stop at the mouth of the Gnoi-Halkhom River. A new partnership had been struck, one which would in coming decades spread terror far and wide.

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Re: Infrastructure (Original and Illustrated)

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(Bluewine Bay, near the Anvosi Penisula, Late Winter 39 IA)

In Bluewine Bay on a cool winter day, two ships were on patrol. The flag of the Serene Republic of Venoa fluttering from their lookout towers. The SVS Ferlando il Vecchio and the SVS Temporale (formerly the Crocomander*) steamed along at a sedate seven knots, following the coast of the Anvosi Peninsula as their flags fluttered. A squadron of steam galleys leading ahead of them, another following their rear just in case, though none of the other powers dared cause trouble.

From the Bridge of Ferlando il Vecchio, Captain Malonso Cosetti surveyed the seascape, taking in the sailboats in the distance and the faint outline of land on the western horizon. It was normal and calm and muffled rumble of the engines chugging along was a pleasant underscore for this. By dint of extensive command experience and a couple of victories against Seraphate Privateers in the Dragon's Teeth on the Scia a year ago he'd been given command of her. She was not the first Venoan Ironclad, that honor had gone to the Brocchiero, though she was a regular steam galley with iron plates bolted on in hasty preparation for a war which fortunately never came. Ferlando il Vecchio in contrast was purpose built from stem to stern as an ironclad for an age of Ironclads. Eighty two yards long, she was bigger than any warship he'd ever served on, on top of being the hardest. Up to 10 Uncia* of of cast iron plate would do that. She was armed for the New Age based on reports of the Escort War. She currently carried two massive 160-Pounder rifled cannons in a forward mounted fully enclosed turret, plus twenty three 24-pounders broadside and chase. What she lost in Weight-of-Metal compared to a Ship of the Line she made up for in range, accuracy and power per shot. Especially given that there were plans on the Drawing Board for better guns. If all else failed she had her Runic Ram.

In short, he loved his new command. Some features like the large Venoan Naga Statue on top of the bridge was a bit much for him, but he could forgive the Arsenal. Even so, in his shadow sailed a ship which he had mixed feelings. Last year, after much negotiation in distant Dalatyr, the Serene Republic managed to buy an Infrastructural Navy warship. She had been monumentally expensive, about 253,000 Lyra from what he'd heard, more than the Ferlando il Vecchio cost to build despite She small size. She was delivered a couple months ago with everything in place save for her Radio signaling device. Technically she was a marvel, he would not deny that. She had a remarkable 2,410 horsepower engine and a top speed of 19 knots (nearly as powerful and seven knots faster than Ferlando despite being a fifth of her displacement), was steel hulled rather than iron hulled, could handle the high seas better than most Venoan warships, leaving aside it's sixteen Coldlander Guns. On top of that there were other small things he'd admired about Temporale when he toured her upon her arrival. The ugly little ship was impressive and had a reputation, which was part of the reason why she was sailing around the peninsula. A show of wealth and strength to the other Avonsi states as well as the Drow and the Dalisids.

For all of that, Malonso questioned the wisdom of employing her directly like this. As powerful as she was, she could still be lost in a storm, being swarmed or by sabotage. In his mind, it would be best to keep Temporale near Venoa or possibly stationing her the Dragon's Teeth while letting The Arsenal's engineers and shipwrights look over her every rivet and bolt and pipe day and night until they could build something as good. If that meant dismantling her to take notes of all the parts, so be it. He knew that he was not the only captain in the Venoan Navy who felt like this, but for now the Admiralty had other plans for their new toy. Naval warfare had changed and by all appearances would continue to change. He just hoped the powers that be in his nation would keep up.

*Improved Hunter-class, launched in 36 IA
**26cm

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Treinevin, High Kingdom of Ilvannas, Spring 39 IA)

Tormias Yvianne, Third Master of the Red Circle of the Order of the Crescent Moon was not an outgoing sort. He loved the royal city of Treinevin, but he found much of what intrigued many of his fellows to be quite boring. The politics and intrigues of the court and the nobility, the galas and balls, the constant background chatter of gossip, all of which were either to him as dull as dishwater or a troublesome bother. The works of magecraft, from the martial to the practical to the aesthetic and the collections of arcane lore were another matter entirely. He'd spent most of his five centuries in his workshop or one of the various libraries and common rooms where he could talk shop with his various colleagues. There were always new mysteries of to unravel and new challenges he was presented with. The latest of which had been a particular challenge, though one he had met.

He was reading up on reports on novel applications of Geomancy by the humans of the Southern Continent when there was a slight dimming of the lights which announced the arrival of a formal visitor. He got to his feet and opened the door. On the other side was a serious woman he'd come to know.

"Lady Beilvian." He said politely, Kailvei Beilvian had been his liaison to his majesty's government for the last few decades.

"Master Yvianne" she gave a slight bow "I ask that I might enter?" Like most servants of the High King she put a high importance of formality, normally Tormias would find this annoying but despite that he'd developed a good working relationship with her. She knew when he was on the right track, how to find the help he needed, how to nudge him back without fuss and she made an honest effort to understand at least the basics of what he was doing.

"Of course." He replied. She stepped over the threshold.

"By your last report this simple venture has reached it's conclusion?" There was just a touch of the sardonic in that sentence, his current assignment had taken two years. A not insubstantial time frame even for someone who might live to see his thousandth birthday.

"Yes, after plunging into the unknown filling up several codices, painstaking experimentation, consultation with specialists, false starts and delicate magecraft, I can safely say that I have achieved what the High King has required of me. Give me another example and I could get the work done in a fortnight at most."

Kailvei gave a nod of the head in acknowledgement. "May I see your finished work?"

"Certainly." Tormias said as he led her into a formerly locked chamber and lit a floating manalamp. On a table lay the object in question. When you saw it in person it was quite horrible, though Tormias had been working with it for some time.

"However they make this material, treating it like cloth or leather just won't work. What I came up with in short was based more on ceramic restoration and golemcraft than that. It was a delicate process, but i've contrived something which can mend itself from cuts, scrapes and abrasions, incorporating in new material. Yesterday I made some minor incisions on the left arm..." He held up the appendage "and there is now no sign of them. It will require occasional Mana infusion in the Coldlands, but that can easily be arranged and if she treats it as we'd treat our skin it should last for centuries."

"And the special feature you talked about?"

"I brought in a member of the Golemwright's guild for that and I've confirmed what I had surmised. It was a basic application of a secondary attribute, without place for a proper chem we could not do more than that."

"Nor would we want to. They possess incredible strength and such a move would cost us in the long run. There are subtler means of rebuke and this one falls within the stipulations of the boon."

"Of course. I was simply outlining the process. In any case we'd achieved the desired ends with more basic imprinting."

Kailvei grinned. Most people who saw it agreed that the thing on the table was horrible, a shockingly accurate simulacrum of a human skin with a uniform texture. A thing used by a member of the Central Committee of Infrastructure to resemble their subjects by literally putting on a pleasant face. Tormias thought so too when it first arrived two years ago, but in time it just became another item to work with. He had been tasked by the High King to fulfill a boon he'd extended to one of those strange beings, admittedly that was before they took the first opportunity to give up the fight against The Corrupted despite their nigh invulnerable fleet.

Royal Boons from the High Kingdom had been a useful tool of diplomacy for millennia. A useful lever to steer the realms of men and dwarves along the proper path. They had their limitations, of course. These gifts were never a sure-fire way of getting results and when the offer is extended and taken up the Throne was bound to try to fulfill it besides the most extreme circumstances. Even so, there was room for more subtle rebukes in creative interpretation for those which displeased the High King. A shimmering dress of shifting colors which turns vivid green when the user lies. The finest runic blade which is exceptional at cutting things, but one who's spell was always at least partially active which (among other things) made conventional scabbards useless. This one was more subtle, its effects less pronounced and it's potential for physical harm was remote. Enough for deniability in the face of inquiry but enough to convey the displeasure of the High King and help change Supernova's alien mind.

Tormias could appreciate the sentiment intellectually but not emotionally. To him the fact that he managed to meet and overcome this challenge was the real prize.

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(Fidelium, Late Spring 39 IA)

When Acel Nicellon of Fallion's Fists company first found himself in Fidelium, his first thought was to find a bar. This was his usual custom when finding himself in a new place, though he was both more eager to do so after the ten week long voyage and more able to do so quicker than usual given his new position. During the voyage Captain Tsionis died of a stroke and he was voted in to replace him. The position came with a few special privileges including the services of Kenth, an orderly that would handle his gear. As soon as his people had disembarked and he'd made sure that the provided quarters were in good order (better than he'd expected in fact) and the lieutenants and Vernsburg the quartermaster could sort out of the rest of billeting he went in search for a place to drink without jostling with his men. Of the two present, he decided to go with the one not set for the the general population. It was little more than a shack surrounded by an awning and a few rough tables, but he'd delved far worse dives in his career. The fact that it was mostly empty was a positive sign in his books.

To his surprise, he was soon met by a short fellow who came up to him. "Could I buy you a drink? We got Beer or Grog with or without lime." He spoke in Allergonian.

"Beer with lime, at least to start." Acel replied. "I've had more than enough Grog for now."

"Understandable. Adele, two beers!"

"Well that's kind of you Mr..."

"Diels, Captain Gerhart Diels of the Grunerhund." He tapped a patch on his doublet. "And I gather you're the captain of our newest company?"

"I'm new to the job but yes." Acel replied. "I trust that you don't have a problem with that." Mercenary companies often butted horns when put together.

"Why should it? We're both getting paid by the Ash-Hides mostly for security work. There's little worthwhile plunder over here and Their Holy Hatnesses and their pet scribes are decent at divvying that up for what it's worth. Thirteen Months ago Pawel Rotblat came in with Steel Weasels and we've gotten along by the same rules: keep your boys in line and don't be an ass and we'll get along just fine." A pair of mugs was set by them by a woman. "Thanks Adele."

Acel got his mug and took a swig. "Not Bad." He said, a man who was quite familiar with bad beer. "It's Adele's brew?"

"Hers and Markus's, when he's not on patrol that its. He's one of my men, apparently he was apprentice brewer until he was caught sleeping about with the master's daughter and had to leg it."

Acel nodded, it was a normal enough reason for a lad to join up with a company. "Well, one more reason not to start a fight then."

"I'd drink to that" Gerhart said before taking a swig. "But it's far from the biggest reason. You know what that is?"

"What?" Acel said.

"Back home we're just discount gristle for the grinder. Here, me and my men have something to look forward to beyond debt and a mass grave. Fidelium may not look like much now, but it's coming together and growing. The Drow dumped three hundred more slaves here last month and they dropped off our wives and kids the month before that. They're making a huge cheese, we're going to get a nice thick slice of it and we'll do anything to make sure it happens. And you know what I'll do right now to see that gets done?"

"What?"

"Get you Lunch of course! We're in this together with a mountain of money and more in sight, why trip each other up with some stupid grudge that never needs to happen? Adele, two heavy Roast Llama Sandwiches, extra dripping!"

"HA!" Acel said as he slapped the table. "Can't agree with you more."

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(Open Ocean, West of Dragonstorm Bay, Early Summer 39 IA)


On the deck of a cargo galleon that was part of a small westward bound fleet there was a sparing match. Two at a time, men would take up a shield and wooden sword and attempt to land blows on the other. Three strikes and you'd be out. As this happened seventy eight other men would cheer, jeer and make small bets for a few pfennings. A couple dozen youths between ten and twenty wearing the heraldic jackets of squires and pages. Spirits were generally high among the fighting men, everyone went in with at least a gambeson and a padded cap with some having more serious steel armor. They all knew the importance of keeping their skills up and it was fun. In particular there was one fellow who proved himself, beating five challengers without taking a single blow, a handsome man of twenty three years named Danhil von Kaninsholz. As he managed to best a sixth challenger with an impressive faint and parry, the cheers of his peers rose higher than it had done this morning. After his page returned to him his actual blade (signifying that he was out for the day), he heard a loud slow clap of massive man clad in full runic plate as he approached him. The rest of the gathered passengers gave a slight bow.

"My Graf." Danhil said to his commander and liege lord Graf Ervin von Dachshügel, a well respected battle-scared veteran of several campaigns against the Drow, orcs and the breakaway Kingdom of Tormalvia who'd lead all these men on campaign, even if Danhil had just been a squire back then.

"Herr Kaninsholz, a Ritter needs more than just skill with a blade. Especially in this new era. Nor is sparing a substitute for battlefield experience." The Graf's voice was gravely and firm, but he grinned. "That said, your performance in tourney, sword drill and the marksman's range are impressive. Remember to keep that handsome head on your shoulders and you'll go far my lad."

"Thank you Sir." There was a cheer from Danhil's fellows as his fellows jostled him.

"You're real trial by combat will come soon enough." He backed away and his voice shifted in cadence to something which carried more easily. "On that note, the captain has informed me that we are out in the open sea and more than a hundred miles from shore and our course will keep us from land until it's conclusion. We're far from prying ears and so I'm at liberty to disclose our mission." There was a mutter of grumblings of the 'about time' nature. As much as they respected him, the Graf's knights had not liked being dragged off hundreds of miles from their fiefs and stowed on a ship with nothing more than 'we've got orders from high places' as a justification. "It turns out in that to the south of the Coldlander's colony in the far Southwest the Dark Elves have managed to set up a colony of their own, from what we gather the Ash-Hides can't set foot their themselves but they can dump their chattel there with some Janissaries and some discount mercenaries to keep them in line in a mess they call 'Fidelium'. We don't know much about this land, but anything those degenerates have planned can't be good. The High Kingdom is barred from this land as well and the Committee have their hands tied by a short sighted peace treaty. That leads good honest Allegonian men to clean this up."

"Assigned to this expedition are two companies of levies and one company of armsmen. The Navy has three frigates and the Ship of the Line Rache, providing fire support and carrying another two companies of marines. And of course we should not forget ourselves." There was mild laughter. "According to Infrastructural scouting there are about six to seven thousand people in Fidelium, among them about five hundred mercs and four hundred Jannies while they've dug in and have thirty two naval guns set up in batteries along with maybe a hundred horses and these strange giant riding chicken things. They also were apparently arming their populace, for what little that's worth. A few more may arrive before we show up, but things are not likely to change. They have have a slight advantage in numbers and are dug in, but we have more firepower and some of the finest knights in the world. As always, we must be careful and cautious. Even so, Eighty Ritter astride mighty destriers thundering across these southern planes, bullets plinking off their armor with gleaming blades aloft and master-craft pistols in hand as they crash through the their ranks. Such a magnificent death we will give these wretches. And when the dust settles by Imperial Decree, the Fidelians will know true freedom as we fragment that farce of a realm into new set of fiefs fit for this old badger's fine collection of fellows."

And with that the there was a cheer. Distant lands or not, nothing motivated a knight to battle like the prospect of a new fief full of peasants for him and his house.

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(Open Ocean, Early Summer 39 IA)

Five days after the Graf's announcement the lookouts sighted something strange to the southwest. A long narrow craft with three tall masts with sails lowered and a trail of smoke which belied the engine carrying it forward. At first people had thought it was one of the big Coldlander cargo ships, but it flew no flag and bore no Hexigon. Instead there was a sharp angular design on it's prow, which was enough for the alarm to be given. Danhil was eating lunch when the bells began to ring and the crew ran to their stations. The Ranche and the Frigates formed a defensive line by the cargo ships, frigates in front to take it's flanks and the Ship of the Line behind it to hammer it once engaged. Danhil and his fellows rushed into their armor as quickly as they could with the aide of their squires. Anyone who'd try to board the Summer Rain would be in for a nasty surprise. There was some shuffling, but everything proceeded smoothly and people were in a good mood as they made their way to positions they thought advantageous.

In Danhil's case, this was behind a launch, offering him cover, a place to leap out from and a view of the proceedings. A few seconds after he'd sat down, he saw the Frigate Ahlspiess ravaged by the first salvo. Wood was sent flying while two plumes of water rose up around her, one of which followed by an explosion. He heard the roar of explosions two seconds latter and report of the cannons which launched them shortly after that as a distant rumble. He could make out the distant figure of the ship on the horizon and soon he saw it's bow guns fired a second salvo. Ten seconds latter the Ahlspiess was hit again by three more Shells. Three seconds after impact, one of the shells went off, setting off the others and soon after the magazine. The remaining three ships turned to avoid the burning wreck. The remaining three ships responded as best they could, with the wind at their backs they could not retreat, but they could try to fight their way past this assailant. They fired their forward chase guns at extreme range, but their chances of hitting anything were poor even with the new rifles. The Arbalest was dispatched three minutes after that despite the first salvo sent it's way failing to hit anything besides it's sails. The Glaive lasted a bit longer, being in the arc of only three guns and larger. It's magazine did not go off and it it's gundecks fired off a respectable number of shots, but it was soon enough left a burning broken wreck. Once the last of the Frigates had been destroyed it turned to bring itself to bare on the Rachne. The Imperial Ship of the Line got off the first broadside, thirty four guns spoke throwing over a ton of metal into the Aggressor. Ten seconds latter, it fired off a broadside of it it's own with nineteen guns, seconds latter the Rachne was wracked by explosions. Two masts toppled and fires were set. A second broadside a minute and a half latter was enough to finish the job.

The next few minutes on the Summer Rain were panic. The crew of the ship desperately tried to heave-too and get away as that unstoppable juggernaut closed in on him, bossing knights to help them with the rigging. Some objected, Danhil didn't. There was a lot of shouting and a fight of some sort that ended with the Graf giving someone an ass kicking, though the shouting persisted. This concluded when the rear half of the ship was blown apart. In the panic, a coherent thought managed to get through his head, he began ripping off his armor as fast as he could, using his runic sword to cut straps that he could not fumble open. He'd freed up his legs and arms when a second shell burst. Ironically enough what was left did save him from fragments, though by that point the ship was taking on water and listing badly. Several people led by the Graf and the Summer Rain's first officer struggled to get a launch into the water the right way up, but there was soon a scrum over it and people began falling overboard. Several knights floundered, a decent chunk of their number did not know how to swim and many that did found that wearing twenty kilos of steel made it a hell of a lot harder. When he hit the water Danhil cut free his breastplate and tossed off his helm, letting both of them along with the rest of his 312 Marks worth of armor sink without him. Despite everything he kept his sword with him as he swam to what he thought was a door and drove it into the timber as he began to paddle away. The Summer Rain's powder supplies exploded soon after that. They were not big, but they were large enough to some mayhem on the wreck.

For about a hour he rested on his bit of flotsam as he watched further carnage unfold as the other three cargo ships were wiped out. Then he watched as the aggressor sailed by after turning around passed by him. He got a better view of it than he had beforehand. From what he could see, not only had it wiped out a respectable Imperial flotilla it had done so without suffering any real damage. He'd heard the reports of the Coldlander's naval victories and like many people had thought that they had been embellished. Now he knew better, even though he knew there was a bitter irony given who'd built and operated it. He'd suspected it before and he could just make out enough to confirm it. To his relief, they were not in the mood to shoot survivors and if they had not started now, they would not start latter.. He'd seen a few boats laying low, all he had to do was wait until the ship passed, call to them to pick him up and sail east to the shipping lanes, or Torion or Oestia.

Unfortunately for Danhil, the battle had attracted the attention of other minds. One that knew not of the conflicts of men and elves. that strangely shaped floating things floated along the surface which would occasionally group up, make a awful racket and drop into the water (among other things) a lot of protein. The only warning that Danhil got was a slight shift in the water by his legs as pair of massive jaws opened up in front of him before suddenly closing with incredible force, dragging him under and then swallowing him whole. To a fifty-one meter long Leviathan a lone human male was just a morsel, but there were plenty to go around.

Captain Darhymis ti'Xhalin of the Zaethan* observed him go under from the bridge of her newest command as she surveyed the remains. The giant sea lizards were just one of the hazards of the open ocean but if the damn thing wanted to feast on remains of the Imperial attack fleet headed for Fidelium it was more than welcome. There were a couple of boats afloat, including one with a surprising number of juveniles, though she'd been told to let them go. Not that it was a huge loss. Gathering up a few dozens slaves would have only taken a couple hours at most for a few extra scimitars, but the Admiralty was eager to inspect the damage her ship had suffered and they wanted someone to bare witness to it's power. Most Allergonian launches had a Condenser Flask that could separate salt from seawater and if they did not hit a storm they had a decent chance of survival. She'd have a few manaflares sent up just in case. Loathe as she would be to admit it to anyone, the thought of the High King's pawns (human and High-Elf alike) facing the same dread she'd known when she'd sailed to Daagsgrad was deeply satisfying. Beyond that, she was confident that the Zaethan could engage an Infrastructural Ironclad one on one and win, at least one of the little ones. Along with that there was the knowledge that House Valcas's myriad minions were busy not only making more like her, but were also working hard on ships and guns that were better.

*Scimitar

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Re: Infrastructure (Original and Illustrated)

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(Fidelium, Summer 39 IA)

Early one morning a small ship put into port at Fidelium. Soon after it had docked and had been moored, it disgorged a stream of people manhandling crates and barrels as they did so leaving a set of stevedores to handle the rest. Soon afterwards they were led to a small rough structure nearby. Most of them waited, but one by one they were processed. At the front of the queue was a young woman in a straw hat.

"Day's blessings. Do you have your documentation?" He asked in a brisk if sympathetic tone.

"Of course honored-one." She said, giving a faint bow before handing over a small cheap booklet, each of the other new arrivals had one like it or a folio or envelope with similar reports. Law required that records be kept by masters, overseers and dealers, though the format was still not standardized. This example was far more ledgible. He began to read through it.

"Name?"

"Beili Sixth of Yuliaj." The man in the lectern began to write that in.

"Age?"

"Nineteen." Beili replied.

"Consecration?"

"No." She looked a bit awkward as she said it.

"State of Origin?"

"Valnothron."

"Previous masters?"

"House Kairyth, born and raised."

"Previous designation and skills?"

"Fieldhand, mostly. I've also raised pigs, made sausages, driven carts, done needle work and some cooking on the estate. I also did some label sticking, net weaving and work in a paper mill in town during the winter."

"Any goods assigned to you in particular?"

"Just my clothes and my papers."

"Any disciplinary problems?"

"Nothing too serious..." she said hesitantly "...just the mistakes of a foolish girl with proper correction applied by the masters." He looked over the list of infractions and it was broadly true. Not flawless but nothing truly serious that had got her anything worse than the occasional lash or caning.

"Have you been sent to Fidelium with anyone from your estate with whom you would describe as either a blood relative, conjugal partner, part of a physical relationship or close friend?"

"Tavis Third of Ovnis. We've shared a barracks and have been friends since childhood and were purchased as a pair." He jotted that name down on a piece of scrap paper.

"Any children in your care?"

"No." Beili said to the clerk's lack of surprise. Leaving aside the families of mercenaries, it had so far been exceptionally rare for new immigrants to come with children. It only happened seven times, including his Feiniv. Even so protocol was protocol.

"Are you in good health and if not would you describe your malady?"

"I'm still a bit queasy from the passage, but other than that i'm fine."

"Nothing unusual with that." He said as he finished the last words on her report. "And everything seems to be in order." He picked up pair small painted wood tokens from a box, one with a picture of a sheath of grain and another with a picture of a barracks with two overlapping circles, and them handed them to her along with the note. "You are to proceed to the office of the Housing Deaconate where you will exchange this token for temporary accommodations and your ration card as well as establishment of a financial partnership with Tavis pending her approval. Then you are to proceed to the Labor Deconate and proved them with this token for a job assignment, most likely in farming." In practical matters, this would mean roughly a couple of years working on land prep and tending newly cultivated communal land until Beili and Tavis got assigned a 40 acre plot of it as their own. But it was not his job to describe that and frankly he'd had done enough fieldwork for a lifetime. "Both of which are marked out with the symbols on the tokens. After that, there is a special sermon in the main plaza this evening. Welcome to Fidelium, remember to keep The Faith. Next."

The past two and a half years had been busy and stressful for Golthrin Second of Jaryth. Hard work in of itself was nothing strange, he'd been working long shifts as a clerk since he was twelve and he'd spent a fair number of nights getting an assigned task done to avoid his overseers' wrath and eventually earn his Consecration. Even so, he generally knew what he was supposed to do and whatever shifts did happen usually were fairly big and had some time to let him get up to speed. In contrast in his time in Fidelium had meant being shifted about regularly as there was a lot to do and not enough people to do it all, especially stuff that required paperwork. In the past six months alone the priests had tasked him with organizing latrine digging teams, nightsoil removal efforts, taking inventory, handling trade with the Gosho, interactions with the mercenary companies, organizing militia drills, work on the new water mill, allocation of bonuses and more. The same could be said about his wife Rinah, as both of them were bounced from deaconate to deaconate as demanded.

Fortunately Processing new arrivals from the homeland was a comfortable task. It was fairly straightforward and he liked to see the new faces. It was also compiling essential information for the colony's development. It was also convenient that the priests thought that he was the best man for that job. Six days in the last week there had been a ship in port with the new blood and he'd been manning the arrival ledger in five of those. To his delight, there would be more of these people coming in. The backers of the Fidelium Project on the Valnothron council for funds to send an additional 2,400 slaves and 400 Janissaries that year as soon as possible, as well as a secondary ferry to shuttle them over the last stretch more quickly. Among the new arrivals which came that day were twelve additional clerks. A welcome relief.

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(Kingdom of Torion, Summer, 39 IA)

On a thankfully overcast summer morning Master Engineer Oleg Fomenkov went about his usual routines, checking up on the various mechanisms and crew to see how things were going. There was of course a few issues, but they were minor ones. His two subordinate Engineers and the dozen technicians assigned to the project were a capable crew in general, though there were plenty of issues with the local help. There were a couple of Dwarves and they were skilled, hard working and excellent despite the language barrier. They were fine, the illiterate human peasants and artisans on the other hand were another matter. When he was looking into an issue with the crew putting up Well-5, he received word that he had a visitor. He got to his feet and went to meet him. The man in question contrasted with the engineer strikingly. Where Oleg wore his Utilitarian uniform the newcomer wore well tailored riding gear that was most out of place for this warren of sheds, pipes and barrel storage yards.

"Lord Salas," He said as he met with the newcommer "it's an unexpected pleasure."

"Indeed Master Engineer." Baron Marcos Salas de Ferenzo said in accented and slightly awkward but perfectly intelligible Coldlandish. The fact that Torion Nobility were by custom expected to know multiple languages and that Infrastructure had come into vogue in that circle was a welcome relief. "How do your things progress?"

"For the most part things are coming along quite well. Even so, we have some big plans in the works. Would you like to see them?"

"Of course." The baron replied. As such the two of them made their way to his office, where he quickly collected a set of plans. He unfurled them for the lord.

"So far we have four wells in operation and we're setting up two more." He pointed out the locations on the map. "Yesterday, we extracted about 600 cubic meters. Three thousand seven hundred and fifty wine barrels." He made a quick conversion to the unit that the Baron would be familiar with. "We've set up a second storage cistern and barrel filling station here and we have plans for a third here. However we have something more ambitious in mind than simply more of the same which we would."

"Indeed, what would this be?"

"I'll show you." He grabbed a second set of plans and led the nobleman to the edge of a camp. Several theodolites were set up to examine a pathway marked out with string.

"As it stands, it's rather expensive to send barrels down to the Marivon." He referred to a tributary of the Torios, the main river of the Kingdom. More specifically he was referring to a small barge loading port at the village of Nornia. "It's nineteen kilometers, that's nearly twelve miles. On a good day swapping out teams, a wagon can do two trips and even a heavy eight horse wagon can carry only forty barrels a day. This is a lot drayage and we'll need more as we expand, leaving aside barrels which fall over and burst. We have something better in mind." He opened up the plans.

"We're looking into laying a pipeline from there to Nornia. It would be a bit of an investment, but once completed it would mean that we could send the petrolium from the wells directly to storage cisterns to be loaded onto barges. All of which is pending your approval of course."

"Interesting. The Cooper's Guild, they would not be happy with this, if it works. Nor would the teamsters."

"Unfortunately not my lord." Oleg repeated.

"Even so, I get five Trono from each barrel barrel sent to your Committee. Two of those get eaten up by Barrels, Stevedores and Carters and oats for the horses. Too many barrels break, getting me nothing but a smelly patch on the road and angry peasants. It will have to make a deal Count Verengez, but you will get to make your pipeline."

Oleg grinned "Thank you sir."

For the next stages of Infrastructure's economic development a stead supply of Petrolium was necessary. The Committee was willing to send ships and thousands of people around the world to access the oilfields of the Southwestern Continent and fought a war to preserve said colony from Drow aggression. This did not mean that said distant land were the only sources of that black sludge. There were several prominent fields closer to hand which could fuel the industrial efforts of Infrastructure. But dependency on foreign suppliers for that essential would be costly at best and a potentially terminal liability at worst. Now that the Petrolium Colony was secure at interest in the applications of oil by the Kingdoms of Illvanicum had been sparked it was the time to get a slice of that pie. Not that Oleg was privy to said specifics, all he knew was that the Barony of Ferenzo was rich in the stuff and he was to set up the equipment to let the baron extract it and sell it to Infrastructure.

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(Galthirith, Autumn 39 IA)

Tholyth Hall was a moderate estate in the mountainous interior Galthirith, not too far from the frontier. Three centuries prior after the fall of House Tholyth it had fallen into the hands of House Noljas; which had used the compound as a hub for local forestry, ranching and mining operations and occasionally as a hunting lodge. It's care was handled by a set of junior Noljas family members and a rotating selection of figures from vassal houses who regarded it either as either as mild banishment or an easy if boring assignment. Daijan ti'Noljas had been in the former category when he spent a bland decade there nearly a century ago, but saw it from the latter perspective in hindsight. Either way, as he approached the old manor house on nightdrake back it was a good place for the project he had been sent to inspect. Twenty five Drow specialists and a hundred slaves had been dispatched to this remote posting officially to upgrade the sawmills and turpentine production, but that was only part of the matter.

After the usual courtesies of the housekeepers reserved for an official visit, a change of clothes and a warm cup of coffee and some spiced pastries by a warm hearth, Daijhan met the woman he'd come to see on what was once a bedroom on the second story. She was a minor daughter of a vassal minor house, but for all that she had proven to be an unexpectedly valuable asset in recent years. She was no great mage or warrior, but she was an master of the alchemical arts who had a respectable grasp of the mechanical. The room contained numerous tools of her trade plus a variety of mechanisms as well as a faint rumbling.

"Tharsien ti'Uival." He said.

She gave a respectful bow "Lord Daijhin, I trust your journey was well."

"Reasonable," he'd never been much of a flyer but complaining about it to her would be of no use "But I've heard you had made a breakthrough."

"Indeed my Lord. We've had some false starts over the past three years even leaving aside the explosion last midsummer." That event had come dangerously close to getting the project cancelled "Even so, we've managed to work out a proper method of refinement based on reports from the Coldlands." She picked up a small glass bottle of brownish black liquid and handed it to him and gestured to the device outside in the wall, puffing away and gurgling. "The important thing to realize is that stone oil will break down into multiple substances when distilled, each one condensing at a different temperature." She took back the jar of Stone Oil and replaced it with a small white candle. "A sort of mineral wax* is one of the products you can get out of it, according to the test the ones we've been making burn like the finest tallow."

He stared at the object, unimpressed. "I doubt the Committee sailed around the world to make better candles."

"I would say the same thing, but there are a surprising number of applications for wax. Vharaj also says it could be useful as a lubricant, grease to smooth the motion of wheels and pistons. Demands for which are going up. But as it the real prize is this." She produced a bottle of clear liquid from underneath a table and handed it to him.

"Stone Oil Distillate, Clear**" Daijhin read. "I trust it burns better than the raw rock sludge?" He had the misfortune of being near the stuff when it burnt when it was used as an incendiary by privateers in the Interterran Sea. Even a couple seconds dealing with it's thick black smoke was a miserable experience before it was snuffed out.

"Oh yes, in fact I'm burning some right now." She led him to a small device which turned out to be a small steam engine of the sort that were now being made as training aides. His knowledge of said things was limited, but he soon noticed that there was no real firebox. Just what looked like a spirit lamp underneath a small metal boiler with light spilling out of a small hole in a pipe between them. "And it looks like it will be going...now." The main piston was slowly pushed forward as a hiss of steam was let out and was then brought back by the reciprocating motions. The next turn was faster, the one after that faster still."

A short while latter she looked at a gauge "And we have fifty...fifty one, fifty two revolutions per minute." She put up her finger. " What we've made is a clean burning potent liquid fuel."

"Could you power a ship with this?" Daijhin asked.

"Ships, sawmills, stoves, trains, threshers, heaters and basically everything that works by burning something. We can also produce Dark Distillate***, which burns well but is more noxious than Clear Distillate and a few other things."

"Alright, let us suppose that my esteemed Grandmother decides to take your research and apply it commercially. How long could it be before you could distill, say a hundred barrels a day?"

She paused for a moment, giving it some thought. "A Still that size would take about two years to build and test if everything went right, maybe three if things did not or we took our time ironing out the kinks first. Rushing it would be a bad idea. Similarly would be the need to train up a workforce to properly operate it. A shoddy still manned by idiots blowing up will get House Noljas nothing. But the team was thinking about more ambitious goals than just processing a hundred barrels a day. They were thinking about starting off with building a still able to handle twenty to thirty barrels a day, making several more of them and using that to work out how to scale up to five hundred for the next generation. There's a lot of Stone Oil in the northern districts and reports of more of it in the colonies. I could see Clear Distillate replacing wood and coal for cooking in coming years my lord, though it would need new stoves."

The last sentence was a bit off in Daijhin's reckoning. As far as he was concerned the main value of this project lay in naval applications. That's what the Infrastructurals were apparently using it for. That the Committee reached around the world and was willing to fight the Dark Elven states for Stone Oil was enough to convince House Noljas of it's value and to investigate what they were doing for the past five years. They had not been able to get their hands on any Engineers involved in the practice, but they could work out the basics of the process by observation and spying their activities, including the big Distilleries that they'd been building at Borogskov and Daagsgrad. Daijhin knew they were not the only ones doing so, but as far as they can tell they were in the lead including House Valcas. Even so, it was not a bad thought. "If new stoves and ovens are required, that's just one more thing for our factories to make and our factors to sell. I'm looking forward to the full report and I believe I won't be alone."

*Paraffin
**Kerosene
***Fuel Oil


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(Greenvale Forest, Southwestern Infrastructure, Autumn 39 IA)

A team of eight men walked onto an articulated rail car two by two, each pair with a large pair of heavy metal clasps between them. With well timed practice, each pair placed their clasps onto a ten meter rail about 2.5 meters apart and as one lifted the length of steel up. They marched down the ramp at a steady pace along a path of wooden ties. Technically four men could do the job of moving the 300 kilo objects, but having eight to a rail meant that the men tired out more slowly, work proceeded more steadily and there was less injuries due to accidents. To either of the rail haulers were gangs of workers with wheelbarrows of ballast and men carrying fresh ties two at a time. Soon they walked past teams of men hammering in spikes to hold rails already laid firmly in place. Shortly after that they maneuvered in into position, as defined by a pair of chalk marks and set it down. A Technician and a couple of assistants would make small adjustments afterwards to insure alignment.

"That's thirty." One of the lead handlers said as he made an about face, a heavily built fellow even by the standards of the team. "Three credits in the bank already and I've not even broken the sweat."

"Try not to Artyom." His counterpart in an uskhanka said. "I doubt it will go above twelve degrees today and sweating when it's cold is a miserable thing."

"I know, besides this isn't so hard Timur. I've carried a hundred kilos of firewood three clicks back on the farm."

"I don't doubt it, but we're working as a team and we're still seventy away from our quota." Rail carriers got most of their pay as piecework, a desi for every rail you put down before the quota and an extra desi for every four over that. "Take it steady and we can get 120 rails down today easy. Maybe a gross. But none of us can do that by ourselves."

"Alright, I was just trying to be positive. Sorry if I caused offense."

"None taken."

The two of them continued on. Timur Polikov had learnt some of that the hard way a few years ago. For an outdoorsy man without much education, railway work was hard but well paying. His brother told him that and he got on the labor crews about six years ago. The only significant problems with the job that could not be levied on his other employment opportunities as far as he was concerned was a bit of over-enthusiasm on his part and the Drow States deciding to start a war. Rail construction was soon scaled back as factories switched from rails to armor for ironclads. He was lucky to stay onboard for the limited construction and maintenance duties and even he had to do a fair deal of odd jobs on the side. Now things were back on track.

He heard some people describe the Infrastructural Railway as being like a net or a great snake. Timur thought of it like strawberry plants, sending runners out from Dalatyr to take root at towns and mines and logging camps. There the railway would gather up new supplies and use it to drive out more runners. The plan was to try to link every Garrison Town in Infrastructure with a rail line. Currently they were driving to Fort Surebev and there was pressure to get as much done before the snow started to fall. There had been a few wildspawn sightings, but nothing serious so far and there was enough security to keep things safe.

As such Timur continued with his work with his. They were a decent lot on the whole and there had not been major upsets with them. Artyom was a new addition, recently transferred here after Taras' accident a fortnight ago. Poor fool pushed himself too hard and pulled an arm muscle. He would not want something like that happening to Artyom and not just because he thought he was handsome. There was forty six more kilometers to go and he'd do what he could to get this lot through them unmarred.

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(Keramigrad, Southern Infrastructure, Early Winter 39 IA)

Around Dalatyr their were numerous clay beds. These had been rich and productive and had more than met the simple needs of local potters for millennia. When the Committee arrived, the clay pits soon were expanded to provide brick as well as supplying an increasing number of potters. As such, it seemed odd when in 14 IA the Committee began to import to the capital white clay from the foothills of the Greytooth Mountains. At least until they explained to a cadre of apprentice potters how to use the Kaolin, glaze it and make porcelain. It took them some time to get a hang of their craft and output was slow at first but within a few years they were turning out respectable work, both for the domestic market and export. It was not as fine as the products of the kilns of the Elves, Dwarves or Eastern Empires, but it was still better than the earthenwares and stonewares that the humans of Illvanicum could produce. By 22 IA Infrastructural Porcelain Factory (IPF) wares could be found in the dish drawers and display cabinets of Bureaucrats, Engineers and both foreign and domestic merchants. But the Committee had other purposes for this type of ceramic beyond consumer goods and accumulating capital. One that were less savory, but one that they considered far more important.

Inessa Kwolek dabbed her head with a rag. It was snowing outside, but the Kiln Hall was always at least warm. There were eight Kilns in the Keramigrad Fixtures Factory; not the overgrown bread oven affairs you'd find in villages but massive two-story walk in affairs with a massive set of steam driven bellows. Normally at least four of them would be in operation at any one time and when one of them was opened a wave of hot air would flow out. By her luck, two of them were cracked open within two minutes. Still she pushed through. If this was the height of summer, Hall and Kiln work miserable experience even with the fans going full tilt and the windows open. Now it was more annoying than anything.

KFF was divided into three main sections: Pre-Fire, the Kiln Hall and Packaging. Unfired greenware was molded, cleaned up and glaze coated in Pre-Fire before being fired in the Kilns and sent off to packaging. Her job was to move things from A to B and then from B to C on a small push-trolley. In front of each kiln was a pair of pallets, one for greenware coming in and the other for fired product coming out. Actually loading and unloading the kiln was not her job, there were special workers for that who could do that heavy lifting without breaking valuable product. Regardless of the Trolley operators hoped to join their ranks regardless since it meant an extra three credits every day.

She saw a couple finished bowls at Kiln-5 and so wheeled her cart over to collect them. These were the heaviest items, but you did not have to carry them more than a meter. Once two of them were onboard, she strapped them into place and moved them down into Packaging. Each of the two massive bowls would be lined up with the other components produced here and others made elsewhere, packed up in crates of straw and old newspapers. Soon the kit would most likely be on a riverboat heading north. Possibly a Paddlesteamer would carry the set to it's ultimate destination. Possibly it would make the rest of the journey by train after being loaded up at Fort Surebev. She went back to provide them with more, and continued on for the next four hours minus a couple of quick breathers.

Keramigrad was a factory town, built specifically to support KFF and it's workforce. KFF was sited in the Southwest because it was near the Foydoreg Kaolin Mines. It had opened up in early days of the Escort War and was operated at 25% capacity. Now it was working full tilt. Inessa's first experience with it's products happened on her first day at work at KFF a year ago when nature called. Up until that day, her notion of a privy was a shed in the garden or an earthen ware pot. Now she knew better. Flushing toilets were not unknown to the west, but outside of the more successful dwarfholds they were the domain of the rich. Detail however was determined to improve the general level of health of Infrastructure's populace, with KFF being the tip of his spear against filth.

Inessa agreed with all of that and took some pride in it, even so her biggest motivations for working at KFF was getting enough money to start a family on the right footing without having to deal with pigs that had not had an appointment with a butcher. She'd had to deal with her family's herd of the damned beasts for seventeen of her eighteen years, feeding them, mucking them out, dodging them, put up with their screams or when when they were in in a bitey mood and she was damn certain she was 100% done with their shit.

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(Dalatyr, Winter 39 IA)

Thirty two years ago Lars Valen arrived in Dalatyr and made a modest living selling roast potatoes to armory workers from a hand cart with a makeshift stove. He did well enough to upgrade his operations to include a surplus field kitchen and eventually a tavern. The place did well, but was loud and rowdy and not to the taste his son Vasili or his wife Olga. As such (with some assistance from Lars and the Ministry of Distribution) they opened up Valen's, a small cafe downtown near one of the main Omnibus routes in 32 IA and despite a rocky start due to war it managed to do well.

On a cold morning a fortnight from new years Ela Visonikov (Bureaucrat Grade Seven) was went into Valen's. She worked for the Ministry of Agriculture dealing with various farmers, foremen, suppliers and the other ministries to help ensure that Infrastructure was fed. It was busy work, remaining so even when the fields were buried under a meter of snow. Her husband Ingmar's schedule was similarly filled, generally leaving them with little time for (among other things) cooking. In that regard Valen's was a life-saver, being close to the office, open early and a nice place to have a relaxing breakfast or a quick supper. She hung up her hat and jacket coat, found a seat and ordered Sirniki (thick cottage cheese pancakes) with raspberry jam and a warm cup of sweet tea. They showed up on her table a few minutes latter and she proceeded to take her time with them at a careful pace. She had to be in the office by 7:45, but she still preferred to savor the taste and the atmosphere. The clean dining room, the smells of cooking food and sounds of eating and overlapping conversation all added up to a pleasant enviroment. Recently it had been supplemented with music from their new Vox-2 radio set. Vox-2s were a bit cheaper than the original Vox-1s, but there were still fairly uncommon. She and Ingmar had considered getting one of either model, but it was still several month's disposable income even with their combined paychecks.

When she was about half way through breakfast a song ended, it was followed by the announcer saying that there was a special message from the Central Committee. That was enough to get her attention and to spark some low key anxiety. Had the Dark Elves attacked again? Was there some natural disaster in some distant oblast? Was the Colony lost to some horde? What was so pressing that it warranted an announcement on Radio-3 instead of Radio-1?

"Citizens of Infrastructure," Supernova's voice announced "...the Central Committee must give to you an apology. The past decade has held several major setbacks for our great nation. The Escort War required a massive shift of resources to the military, leaving many other fields neglected. Even shifting our economy back to a peacetime footing held it's own costs in terms of time and manpower. Never the less, over the past two years we have been able to bring matters back on track. Delayed as they have been several notable projects have been completed, several targeted goals in production have been met and several new industries have been established and are coming into their own. For this reason, it is the consensus of the Central Committee that an action which we originally calculated would be implemented in 36 or 37 be carried out. As of the 17th day of the 12th month of the 39th year of the Infrastructural Age, a general wage increase of 25% shall be implemented for all state employees not undergoing disciplinary review...."

With that Ela pounded the table, shaking her cup of tea. Several other patrons gave brief cheers.

"...Individuals under disciplinary review shall have their wages increased in six months at the latest. We regret that this must have been delayed, never the less by your efforts the Great Machine has expanded and grown and as you partake in your slice of it's increased bounty remember that further rises in pay shall come. Hail Infrastructure."

"Hail Infrastructure!" Ela said as she raised her cup, several other diners and Olga who was waiting repeated the chorus soon afterwards. That brought her up to 37.5 Credits a day, let alone Ingmar's salary as a floor supervisor at the Light Cell factory. She'd been thinking about getting a Radio for the flat sometime in the next few years, now she was thinking about one in the next few months as well as a toy or two for little Greta and Jan. For other people this meant moving out of a bunkhouse and into a flat, a new set of clothes or rail fare to go see mom and dad back in the village. It was little surprise that when Ela got to the office people were in a good mood. This was a welcome new years' present and the next decade of the Infrastructural Age was looking bright.

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(Dalatyr, Early Spring 40 IA)

In the span of four decades, Dalatyr had rapidly grown into a city of 305,000. Around the original small town rose waves of foundries, factories, workshops, warehouses, housing, offices, markets, schools, stables, shops, slaughterhouses, taverns, inns and more. Construction and reconstruction was constant. It was the core of Infrastructure's rapidly growing industrial base and a cornerstone of it's economic development. This did not mean that there were no downsides to rapid urban and industrial development. From the tenement slums to coal smoke, garbage, human waste, animal waste, fires, crime and more; a variety of issues emerged and magnified by the growing city. The Committee did attempt to address these by various means, from hiring Enforcers and garbage collectors to laying water supply and sewer pipers, though there was still a lot to do and the city continued to grow.

At the tail end of 39 IA and the beginning of 40 IA, several thousand workers, dozens of Engineers and several factories were tasked with addressing with one of the more overt issues of expansion. Three weeks ago, the fruits of their labor were officially opened with pomp and ceremony. There had been crowds, a military band striking up a jaunty tune, banners and flags and public appearances by First Dawn* and Supernova as well as foreign dignitaries who were treated to Tram 001's maiden voyage along the Ironworks / Progress Plaza line and then a fully catered reception. Jan Hansinev had been their driver and had a seat at the table. The next day there was a queue of passengers to get as people were enthusiastic to see what things were like on the new smokeless vehicle. Three days after that, a young couple came on board with a Keeper and got married. Things had gotten so rowdy that he had to pick up an Enforcer the day after that. For this reason, Jan was happy as things gradually calmed down.

On a cool spring templeday morning at 10:30, Tram 001 rolled down the line. It's frontal current collector picking up power from a line held from a series of wooden poles. Jan checked things out as he went from stop to stop. There were not many commuters out at this time, but there were a few. There were also a couple of people willing to spend two decicredits for a ride simply for the novelty of the experience. There were a couple of them onboard now, a young couple just sitting back and enjoying the scenery. Since they were quiet and did not try to damage the the seats, he had no objection. They past down Smedth Street, an upscale neighborhood mostly home to Bureaucrats, Engineers and Foremen and they admired the finer buildings.

As a settlement grew, it took longer to cross. That was the heart of the issue. It would usually took about 45 minutes for an adult in good health to walk from one side of Dalatyr to the other and the same again to go back. For this reason most people tended to work close to their home. The Committee had set up a variety of measures to mitigate the problem, most notably operating a set of Horse and Roadsteamer Omnibuses. They did alleviate matters to a degree, but the population kept growing and the city kept expanding. Small electric rail vehicles powered by an overhead cable able to reach speeds up to 45 kph could move more people more quickly and more cheaply. So far there were only two routes in operation, but work on three more was well under way.

Jan knew that these vehicles were made for practical purposes first and foremost and dealing with a bunch of over enthusiastic passengers could definitely try his patience. Even so, there was something about that attention that he got in those early days that he missed. That the machine that he operated had been for a brief spell of time been more than just an efficient way to get workers to the steelmill and back again. Leaving aside the honor of demonstrating Infrastructure's latest marvel to a collection of foreign lordlings and their lackeys. He looked back at the couple as they took in the architecture. He doubted that he'd ever be in a position like the one he had on the first day of service again, but he hoped that some spark of the wonder of Trams would endure.

*First Dawn On A Newly Formed Planet As It's Star Ignites-80013, Infrastructural Minister of Transportation

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(Cendoliath, Late Spring 40 IA)

The Dark Elven states were each ruled by a council of their highest and mightiest people. Mostly a council's seats were filled by the heads of it's Greatest Houses of if they were absent a senior family member who'd fill in for them. The remainder given over to prominent guilds, senior magical orders, High Priests or the leader of some other such institution. They would elect one of their own to serve as High Lord, though the actual powers of a High Lord were limited. Ambition and a drive to dominate were considered virtues in Drow Society, but for the most part the ambitions of their rivals kept too much power accumulating in the hands of one person. There was of course variation from state to state and more when you considered the apparatuses beneath the ruling council, but the general pattern was clear. In the case of the state of Cendoliath, the Obsidian Council had 21 members, sixteen leaders of Great Houses, two orders of mages and three to prominent guilds. Usually they met every other day unless pressing matters were at hand, which was not to say that the business of government

On an quiet day in late spring it convened as normal, it's members grateful for the various features mundane and magical which kept the inner chamber cool. Located on the Obsidian Isles Cendoliath was the Southernmost of the Drow States. Each of them took their seat at a long table quietly and without fuss. Most of them had a sip of water after they sat down before the High Lord called a fateful meeting of the council into session.

"My Lord, if I may start today's discussion...." said Lady Kaithal ti'Zaljan said. One of the quirks of the Obsidian Council was that it's members were barred from bearing arms while in session and only the High Lord was permitted to wear a suit of armor. A particularly noticeable fact in a culture where it was common to leave the house with at least a dagger. Less formally regular Council Members shunned the more overtly militaristic of fashion, this was even the case the Sons and Daughters of Warrior Houses like House Zaljan. The Lady had commanded ships, armies, fleets and Nightdrake flights and had personally dispatched hundreds of enemies in battle, among them at least a score of The Eternal Foe over her three centuries. Similarly House Zaljan had been created by First Dark Emperor, had held a seat on the council for more than three millennia and directly owned 2,100 square kilometers of territory and some 150,000 slaves. Combined that with her outlook and she was one of the more prominent conservative figures.

"Very well." The High Lord said.

"Thank you. First of all, I must concede an error in judgement on my part. In previous sessions I have voiced skepticism towards the more radical plans for our navy." This was a clear understatement, she'd been a vocal opponent of most of the proposed plans to upgrade the fleet and had derailed, delayed and cut back numerous projects for naval modernization. Her coalition had nearly scuttled the Zaencendol* while she was still taking shape in the yards. "In spite of this, the last seven years have demonstrated the necessity of modernization in fire and blood. The losses against the Coldlanders make this clear, with repeated reports of the new ships of Houses Valcas, Noljas and Kaileth against the High King and his pawns and skirmishes between the Venoan Navy and the Seraphate's squadrons in the Bluewine repeat the same story: we are in the age of the Ironclad and have fallen behind. As of today, Infrastructure has twenty Ironclads in service and about twelve more in reserve. Valnothron has thirteen in service, Galthirith has ten as does Venoa, Hansoliath and Janilonasten both have five each as does the Empire and there are at least twenty more in service of other Human or Dwarven kingdoms. As it stands, we have one Ironclad in service with another under construction which will with the favor of the Gods be ready next year and more with active ironclad projects. If we are to avoid being left behind and make up lost ground, decisive action must be taken."

"As such, I have consulted with both my colleagues and with House Galxrath. In spite of our differences, we both seek the glory and dominance of our State in this hostile world. As such, we have drafted a proposition for this council's approval which we have named the Barded Leviathan Project." Her attendant distributed copies of the bill, several of which came with secondary letters. "It outlines both a funding proposal and a policy to focus our State's efforts towards rebuilding our fleet. This is no time for half measures, Lords of Cendoliath. To this end, House Zaljan along with House Weitharl, Brenolth and Xholmar have a voluntary commitment to this project of one million scimitars should this measure pass today." This was a bit unusual, but using one's personal wealth to leverage policy was hardly unprecedented. Never the less, it did cause some conversation, as did the individual notes. "Enough time has been wasted."

"Very well, Lady Zaljan." The High Lord Said as he perused the issue. "I must say that your change of heart on this matter is surprising, but I must tentatively call it a welcome one. Does anyone have any comments on the proposal."

There was a series of statements, most of which were positive. A common response to Barded Leviathan could be summed up with '...finally...' mostly from the merchant houses and the guilds, a couple of conservative warrior houses were shocked at the development and they felt that it was something of a betrayal. The four other houses which conspired behind the project were of course overtly enthusiastic. A couple of lords floated minor tweaks to the list of proposals, mostly to claim a small stake in the profits. Even so, one of the most unusual dissenters was in the form of Lord Narvil ti'Celizoth. He was a newcomer here, his house rising to prominence only a hundred and fifty years after inheriting much of their disgraced former overlord's assets and considerable shrewd dealings. Recently he'd made considerable money in shipping and manufacturing.

"Honored High Lord, I am overjoyed that my peer has come to see reason in regards to developments in naval warfare and I do feel that we should strive for it's targeted goals sooner rather than later and that the funding listed would be adequate." His tone was controlled and polite. "Even so, this Barded Leviathan requires comes numerous questionable means and methods to bring this about. Diversions of steam qualified slaves and slave machinists, limitations on the use of steam power and taxes on 'non essential large-scale metallic machinery'?"

"I should remind you, Lord Celizoth," Lady Zaljan purred "that we have serious threat to meet and our resources are limited. Iron and coal are the most obvious, though Lord Galxrath has informed us of others. Skilled workers are a major limiting factor, task a field hand to tend a steam engine and he is liable to have it's boiler burst and get scalded to death. Properly training these machine keepers takes time and preferably an adept to guide the novices. When our fortifications have been damaged by incursions this council has pressed masons and bricklayers into service to repair them. The same principle now applies in regards to the fleet and the shipyards that will build them. Then there's the matter of to machine time, a manned lathe can be put to making the pistons and wheels of a Warship's engine or bore out rifle barrels. Or it could make table legs, some mechanism for bristling brushes that will require mechanics to tend or some novel curio. But the latter items will not expand our fleet or strengthen our army. The tax with both discourage wasteful applications of resources and provide a stream of revenue from the best of mechanisms."

"And who determines what's 'non essential'?"

"The Mechanical Military Relevance Board, as outlined." Lady Zaljan's voice was calm and steady. "They will evaluate designs and prototypes, review their intended functions and determine if will be a useful asset for our fleet, our armies, our shipbuilding or arms industry, metallurgy or mining. We need these new mechanisms to expand our fleet, we don't need to mechanize tasks which regular slaves have been doing perfectly well for millennia."

"Then why the taxes on the importation of new machinery? If you are so concerned about the scarcity of mechanisms why make them difficult to acquire?"

"This is not just a matter of today. We need to cultivate our existing industrial base. Sure, it might be cheaper to import gear from House Valcas or Noljas in the short term, but we can not let ourselves become dependent on imports which we might be cut off from. Remember, four decades ago the Coldlanders were a collection of ragged clans who could barely beat a lump of hot iron into a subpar short sword. If the Committee could coordinate those cretins to build these contrivances en mass, so can we."

"High Lord, this is absurd." Lord Celizoth said, visibly angry "Lady Zaljan and her clique have been playing a long game on naval procurement, sabotaging the security of Cendoliath to undermine their rivals...."

"Your excellency, I object to these slanders." Lady Zaljan "If two captains disagree on how to best take a castle, this does not imply malicious intent from either party. Nor does one mostly coming around to the other's point of view after reviewing the evidence. One might as well argue that Lord Celizoth seeks to undermine our state by having us build a trickle of ships so he can squander our mechanisms making forks while leaving us dependent on the whims of Valnothron."

"My Lord that's the most absurd..."

"Enough!" The High Lord bellowed. "Lord Celizoth, can you substantiate you accusation with more than speculation?"

"....with a thorough review of the minutes of..."

"In other words you can't. Beyond that whatever disagreements you may share and power plays she has in motion there is a considerable gap between being opinionated and opportunistic and willful malicious undermining of Cendoliath. As for the Barded Leviathan Program Lord Zaljan have any objections to the addendums proposed before Lord Celizoth's interruption?"

"No, My Lord".

"Then I am calling for a vote here and now. All in favor?"

Fifteen Dark Elven Lords raised their hands, including most of the merchant block, a good chunk of the warriors, the High Lord and Lady Zaljan. Numerous figures glowered at him, lady Zaljan smirked.

"All Opposed?"

Six hands went up, two from the most terminally set in the ways of of the Warrior Houses, the Academy of the Quarter Moon, House Celizoth and two other merchant houses.

The High Lord let out a sigh of relief "Fifteen confirmations, six oppositions, no abstentions. Let it be remembered, let it be written, let it be proclaimed, for by our will it is now law." He clapped his hands together and there was a flash of magical light. The ritual of confirmation was a straightforward affair which they had all seen hundreds of times. Even so, for much of the council there was relief. For most, if it was not a piece of legislation that they would love, but it was long overdue and yielded much of what they wanted. The rest of the day was largely spent dealing with the fine details of the Barded Leviathan Project and it's implementation as well as the usual horse trading. Two days after that, three new Ironclads were ordered from Galxrath Shipyards, along with a 300,000 Scimitar contract to upgrade their Ironworks and Shipyards. A week latter the first meeting of the Mechanical Military Relevance Board convened and began work on their index of relevant industries and items while import fees were imposed. Several minor and middling houses were soon making protests against the new laws but their words largely fell on deaf ears, despite Lord Celizoth's advocacy.

When compared to Valnothron or Galthirith, Cendoliath had lagged considerably in terms of industrialization. Part of this was a dearth of iron ore and especially coal on the volcanic Obsidian Isles. Part of this was that the fact that their focus was on the Interterran Sea and their colonies to the West. But the biggest aspect was the prominence of the largely traditionalist Warrior Houses. This was not to say that they were to the last unthinkingly dismissive, but on the whole their perspective was skewed. After they encountered them around 17 IA, they soon saw the virtue of flintlock rifles and their gunsmiths were soon enough making copies. The same applied to percussion caps, improved cannons and other such weapons, but there was little enthusiasm for things outside the directly martial even among the Merchant houses. House Galxrath built it's first full scale steam engine in 33 IA using Valcas blueprints. Their involvement in the Escort War was a rude awakening and there were soon demands to modernize the fleet. Reaction was inevitable.

It should be noted that some of the skepticism of new means, methods and machines voiced by Lady Zaljan and her block were their legitimate concerns, at least to some degree. But far more significant to them was how this would effect Cedoliath's balance of power. Million of scimitars flowing into Merchant House Coffers would be bad enough, but far worse would be the wealth and economic leverage they might gain after they spent that capital on new steam powered factories. Infrastructure proved how far their tentacles could reach and Valcas and Noljas proved that a mechanically inclined MerchantHouse could easily become too big for it's breeches. The Conservative Block's tactics so far had been a delaying action gradually loosing ground until an opportunity presented itself with a strategic alliance with House Galxrath. It had been costly, but with with the Barded Leviathan Project they accepted a strategic concession to achieve a greater victory. Let the Ironclad Fleet be built, it's builders were now in their place.

*Obsidian Spear

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Re: Infrastructure (Original and Illustrated)

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(85 km from Dalatyr, Late Spring, 40 IA)

A tributary to the Loriv River System, the Tsilni was one of several smaller rivers which drained from the swamps to the north of Dalatyr. While short, it was also comparatively fast flowing which made it rather hard to navigate. A pair of fishing villages had sprung up around it, both of which had cobbled together some basic waterwheels to mill grain before the Committee's arrival. These were expanded in the three decades of the Infrastructural Age, along with the construction of a few more for sawmills. These were minor improvements in quantity and quality of systems which had been in play for millennia. Even so, a more ambitious plans were made; These were delayed by the requirements of war, but construction continued never the less.

Some early prep was done starting in 34 IA, but the work proper in the autumn of 36 IA, when a workforce composed mostly of three thousand Janissary and Slave Sailor prisoners of war taken at Daagsgrad was brought to a stretch of shore, first they built their lodgings and then they began to dig the foundations. With the assistance of blasting charges, a steam shovel and a few other mechanisms they carved a alternate course for the Tsilni over the course of winter, then in the spring they built two major embankments along the natural course and opened up the temporary canal. The Penal Laborers had little knowledge of what they were doing, but were impressed at how fast things went especially given the fact that they were not pushed hard. After some pumping, this left half a kilometer of the original waterway dry. This roughly coincided with the end of the Escort War. Most of the Detentional Laborers were transferred away afterwards over the summer, but work continued as a new workforce of citizens came in.

Into the riverbed, piles were driven for the foundation, on top of which rebar structures were built and Concrete was poured and let to set to form structural elements which were filled with crushed rock. There were a few delays due to breakdowns and construction was severely slowed during winter. Never the less, the barrier rose steadily. At it's foot a small building was built to accommodate machinery which began to trickle in.

Early one spring morning 40 IA, a man fussed atop the main structure as a crane brought a load of timbers in place on the scaffolding. It was nothing new, even so a man made a note of it on his clipboard. For nearly four years, Engineer Overseer Maxim Averin had overseen this project. In general his workers were diligent and the new crane was a impressive mechanism, but one had to be careful where fresh timber while it was out of the crane operator's view. The project only got it three weeks ago and protocol for it's use in this situation still have not been fully developed. He'd have a word with the foreman about this. Concrete laying should be done within four or five days and he hoped that things were not getting lax. The last thing he wanted was a death just before the biggest stage of the project was complete.

Once this was done, they'd finish off the control and mechanism buildings, finish the line connections, remove the crane, convener and other such construction equipment. Finally they'd run some mechanical tests and final structural tests to make sure everything was sound. Then the temporary channel would be sealed off, the main sluices would be opened and the turbines would spin. This plant was rated to produce up to eleven megawatts of electricity at full capacity which would be sent over ninety seven kilometers of high voltage cables to feed Dalatyr's increasingly thirsty grid, as well as supplying a couple of Coops along the way by summer.

The Tsilni Dam was not the first hydroelectric station Infrastructure built, but it would be the biggest completed up to this point. For Maxim that was a minor point to boast about, though the fact that the project had been inspected twice by members of the Central Committee and on both occasions they gave broad approval. Currently there were five Hydroelectric Dams under construction elsewhere in Infrastructure and he heard that there were plans for at least a dozen more were planned including several that were much bigger. Hopefully he'd not have to work on another one. It was not that he hated his work, but he had a wife, two sons, a daughter and another one on it's way and he spent too little time with them. The camp was unacceptable for a family and going back to Dalatyr meant at best a full day of travel via boat and train. Part of the job of being an Engineer was at least twenty years of service, being sent to where Infrastructure needed you and doing the job you were assigned. He just hoped he could get a cushy job in a factory or oversee construction work in the capital for the remaining eight years, or at least somewhere with rail access. In no small part, he was building a better future for them. He was damn sure about that.

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(Fidelium, Summer 40 IA)

Three years ago a nineteen year old named Raliqal of the Fhamesq had joined a raiding party forty strong and marched off to war with spear and shield. His father had done the same when he was young, as did his grandfather before him and his great grandfather before him, though the foe he'd face was something new. Rather than their old rivals in the Yarulet, Sisnok or the Dimoiw tribes, they were raiding the newcomers which had arrived by boat and set up camp at the mouth of the Gnoi-Halkhom River. He'd heard some of the stories and rumors about them, but also reports that the Sisnok had successfully raided them and as far as he had been concerned their prowess just meant more valuable loot to make off with and more glory to be won. His party moved onto one of the fields the newcomers were beginning to work and charged one of their patrols screaming. Then suddenly there was an horrible burst of pain in his side and he stumbled to the ground lying in agony.

The next few days were a blur. When he regained lucidity, he was in the newcomer's camp and bound in iron. He was soon met by a stone faced man and while he could only say a few words that Raligal could understand, the implications were obvious. He was a slave. Slavery was nothing strange, his family had one who'd helped them around the farm for the customary twelve years. It was one of the risks of life and going on raids in particular, but slavery here was different. They did not bother with try to ransom him off, they just put him in a pen with a few dozen other slaves once he could walk and he was put to work by the strangers who called themselves Fidelians. At first they had him make fishing nets and clean pots as he recovered but soon he was helping them clear out farmland, harvesting firewood, gathering water, cleaning latrines, helping them build their strange buildings, digging up rocks, harvesting crops and any other task they had. Those that disobeyed got caned or flogged. This he expected, though they were also more severe. The strange part came from the holy men and women. Every few days, they'd be dragged before one of them who'd give to them a speech, mostly in their own language which he was soon picking up, largely because his overseers had a dim view on anyone speaking Gnoikheg. They told them that they had been slaves themselves before being released in this land and they also held their former masters in a bizarre reverence. They said that though it was harsh, being in chains was a virtuous thing as it taught people things like restraint, humility, modesty and diligence and was good for one's soul in the next life. He thought it was rubbish, but voicing that notion was a good way to earn a beating.

As time moved on, Fidelium grew. More boats sailed in bearing more people, strange beasts like Cows and Horses and supplies. More buildings were built and more farmland was worked, docks were built for massive boats. More slaves were also collected. These including captured Gosho raiders and slaves that the Gosho had traded. A few slaves attempted escape, but most of them were hunted down and either beaten or shot. At first the slaves were held as a common asset, but as time went on a few of them were given away to favored established Fidelians. Raligal's fate would be different.

Early one morning, he and thirty nine other slaves were selected from the Slave Barracks and were chained together and marched down to the docks where one of the Great Boat named Zhun was moored up. He'd unloaded it yesterday. Now he and his crew were loaded onboard and down into the depths of it's hold. A Priest had followed them, gave them a brief speech about how they would be set on the path to spiritual fulfillment and enrichment in the Crucible of Life. She soon departed and shortly after that the ship was under way. That evening, they docked and they were marched out to another pen. This time, however the guards were different. There was a fair bit of variety among the Fidelians and they did not look like him or those of any tribe he knew, but they were still men. Tall, slender with long mobile ears. These could be nothing else than the Fidelian's Masters, the Dark Elves.

He and his cohorts were examined and cataloged. They measured their weight and height, examined bodies, teeth, scars, tested their eyesight and reflexes and more, writing down information as they went. Their language was broadly the same to that of the Fidelians, but with some noticeable differences. Eventually they were simply given some water and bread and sat down in a pen.

One of the habits that Raligal had picked up as a slave was silence. Leaving aside work songs if the boss wanted you to speak, they'd tell you to speak and if he did not they'd express their displeasure in a sharp painful manner. Never the less, he stewed. He'd held on top hope that he'd manage to earn his freedom somehow or he might escape back to his tribe. Now even if a dozen Gosho hosts crashed down and laid waste to that stinking midden they were building. Now that was dashed. For all their strange beauty and apparent long life, he saw these Dark Elves not as a higher order of life and the rightful masters of the world but as just another set of owners with delusions of grandeur. As one marched by before they were to be loaded onboard another ship, he glowered at him.

---

Lianril ti'Darmyl made an inspection of this first shipment from Fidelium. It was not a big haul and far the best stock, but they were in mostly good shape and much of the fight had been taken out of them. The notion of trade with the former slaves of Fidelium at first had seemed perverse to him, afterwards it simply seemed like children play-acting. So far most of what came out of Fidelium was iron ore and a few iron ingots. Fidelium now produced maybe five Ven* of the former and smelted six hundred Vaul of the latter each day most of which the prelate sold to the Navy, shipped out to Ilianvir through one of the shuttles where it was unloaded an reloaded then reloaded onto cargo ships on their return to Valnothron. It barely made a dent in the costs of the Fidelium project, this would be the case even the former slaves gave the iron for free. Their production was increasing, but by what he heard prices had only been going down.

Slaves were another matter, a much higher value commodity who's value was perennial. This was not a perfect lot (at least tone of them still had some defiance left in him) and forty was not a huge haul, but he could easily see them fetching at least seventy scimitars a piece at auction. Since the garrison stationed on Ilianvir got an (admittedly small) cut of revenue, he was looking forward to this. Especially since he knew that it was not just a one-off, but merely the first fruit that the sapling Land of the Faithful would bare.

*1 Ven is 1,500 Vaul.

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InsaneTD
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Re: Infrastructure (Original and Illustrated)

Post by InsaneTD »

That was a big update. I love this story.
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