Chapter 2 - Strategy for Legitimacy

"Where is Elspeth? I had hoped you would bring her."

Kaede heard Pascal inquire as the four of them made their way towards the nearby Garrison Headquarters. It had been the most heavily-warded building in Nordkreuz, and despite Skagen's focused bombardment the fortified stone structure managed to remain intact.

"She's out helping the townsfolk while running a few errands for me; Sir Robert is with her," replied Sylviane. "In fact, I told all my armigers to go out and make themselves useful. Mari too -- not that she would leave even if I had my meteor around her throat."

The Princess walked beside her fiancé, her sapphire-blue phoenix Hauteclaire standing regally upon the left shoulder. Her right arm held level and steady, supporting the Samaran girl who shuffled along at her other side.

Kaede felt as though she was being escorted to a dance. But for the moment, she was just glad their destination was close enough that the Princess didn't try to carry her again.

Glad and... a bit disappointed as well, as begrudging as it was to admit.

"I would be negligent in my duties if I allowed you to be rid of me that easily," a calm voice responded from behind as Pascal began casting a Farspeak spell.

Kaede glanced back at the armiger and lady's maid. Mari Annick d'Averton appeared somewhere in her early twenties, which for a Hyperien mage meant anywhere between actually twenty to over half a century old. She stood only a hint taller than the Princess at one-seventy-two (5'8"), with chestnut-brown hair that barely draped over her narrow shoulders. Her eyes were a cloudy gray, and while her face held the ideal 'almond' shape, her wide nose and freckled cheeks were just proportional enough to not be homely.

Mari wore heavy half-plate armor, although Kaede had never heard it clink. The armored maid also carried a towering kite shield shrunken to buckler-size on her back. Her armament was a classic Lotharin dual-purpose flail -- steel links ran from the rod at her side to a heavy flail-head carried behind her waist. The weighted head had vicious, stubby spikes, which could be affixed onto the rod for use as a morningstar.

"Lady Mari, have you always known the Princess?" Kaede spoke out in curiosity, breaking the silence that had began to settle in.

The maid's expressions ranged from serious to stern, which left the smaller girl convinced she was a disciplinarian caretaker of sorts when the Princess was growing up.

But the reply was instant if not somewhat terse:

"Not since her birth. I'm not that old."

"I didn't mean it like that!" Kaede almost squeaked out, which only pulled down an amused smile from Sylviane.

"Mari is a childhood friend, only six years older than me," the Princess explained. "She's been my guard since I was seven, albeit still in training back then."

"I started only a few months before that incident."

Despite her level voice, there was a strong sense of guilt and shame buried beneath Mari's words, which Sylviane certainly did not miss:

"There's hardly any need for you to remember that every time, Mari," came a soothing, if not forgiving voice. "You were thirteen, facing off against Weichsel's best. It would be unrealistic to expect any more of yourself back then."

'That incident' must refer to the raid on Silverglen Castle, Kaede concluded.

That was when the Knights Phantom marauding deep inside Rhin-Lotharingie territory captured the young Sylviane. They took her to Nordkreuz to be held as a prisoner and hostage, where she soon met Pascal for the first time.

"It would be the greatest disgrace upon me if I ever forgot such a deed Your Highness," Mari retorted. "I should have died there with your other guards..."

"--And how would that have helped me?"

Sylviane sighed after interjecting against her stubborn maid. She then stopped and turned to face Mari:

"I was going to be captured one way or another; von Mackensen had a far superior force and caught us with total surprise. What I should have done was surrender as soon as they broke through the defenses to barter for your lives. But I was just a kid back then! I didn't even realize what was happening until only you and Sir Robert were left from my entourage!"

But she did surrender in the end in exchange for Mari and Robert's lives.

Kaede couldn't help but smile as she remembered her conversation with Sir Robert the other day. It was no wonder that the young knight cared so much for the Princess' well being. A liege willing to go that far for her subjects was a ruler to die for.

"Your Highness..."

"Remember Mari," Sylviane cut her maid off, never even leaving the opportunity to interject. "You're no good to anyone dead, me least of all. If you have to feel like you owe me something, then repay it by continuing to stay by my side!"

Swiveling back to keep walking, the Princess' cheeks colored as she squeezed out her final words:

"I won't forgive you if anything should happen because you were being reckless!"

Kaede never saw Mari's expression as Sylviane led her on, but she hardly needed to as the stern maid replied in the most gentle voice yet.

"Understood, Your Highness."

For several minutes afterwards, only an comfortable silence lingered between the four of them. Then...

"And done," Pascal noted as he ended the communication spell. "Elspeth and Robert will be with us in five minutes."

"They must be close by," Sylviane commented, her eyes glancing about as they made their final approach to the small keep that was the Garrison Headquarters building.

"And it looks like we might as well wait outside," he finished with a sigh.

Before anyone could ask why, Pascal strode away towards a group of five locals who came running in. They began bombarding him with loud questions as soon as they drew close, their rowdiness eliciting a subdued chuckle from Sylviane.

Why is that funny?

Kaede tilted her head as she looked to the Princess.

"Don't let the sigh fool you," Sylviane grinned back. "Pascal loves the work, though perhaps not all at once."

Looking back to her fiancé, the nostalgic smile soon spread across her countenance:

"That man is a born architect. If he wasn't the son of a Marshal, he'd have picked urban planning or industrial organization as his choice career."


----- * * * -----


Pascal ended up commandeering the Garrison Headquarters' map room -- a conference hall designed for dozens of officers, now occupied by only the six of them.

In addition to Pascal, Sylviane, Kaede herself, Mari, and the ever-dashing Sir Robert, they were also joined by the young Lady Elspeth de Martel.

Elspeth had been the one who brought news of Gabriel's treachery. She was the younger sister of Lindsay de Martel, the Highland Guard commander who fought to the end as Emperor Geoffroi's personal bodyguard. Covered by her comrades, Elspeth had been the only one who broke out of the encirclement, dodging patrols as she fled Alis Avern to bring the dire news to Sylviane.

Even now, she was still recovering from a broken arm that had gone untreated for too long. Perhaps the paranoia of having fled from death was why, at first, Elspeth looked at Kaede as though she saw a ghost.

But then, so did a few of Sylv's other armigers, Kaede pondered before pushing the thought aside.

The petite armiger seemed no older than a ninth-grader in Kaede's eyes. She was around the same height as Kaede herself at near one-fifty-seven (5'2"), with fluffy orange-brown tresses flowing like caramel-whipped marshmallows to just beyond her shoulders. Below them lay a pair of inquisitive, apple-green eyes and soft, red cheeks that begged for the Princess' prodding finger. Yet her most beaming feature was her innocent smile; as forced as it had to be given her recent circumstances, it was still sunny and infectious.

Shuffling a few steps over in anxious curiosity, Kaede came close enough to compare before pouting in silence:

Seriously? Even she's a hint taller than me!

Kaede did not find it surprising that Elspeth already wore the cerulean cape bearing the Princess' crest. Sylviane would have loved to make the cute girl her armiger, even if she wasn't already four cohorts short after the Air Battle of Nordkreuz.

Besides, those things look vicious...

The familiar girl held no doubts about Elspeth's worth as a fighter either. Sylviane once described Elspeth as 'charming, sweet, and outright sadistic in battle' to Pascal. As a result Kaede found her eyes drawn to the two dagger-like blades sheathed at the waist. Each had a sharpened hook exposed to the side, as well as an attached steel rope that trailed up to bracelets around the wrists. They reminded her strongly of the Japanese Ninja's kyoketsu-shoge, except with narrower but thicker blades designed to push through armor gaps.

I wonder how she uses them without losing fingers...

"Now that we're all gathered, Pascal?" the Princess began, her gentle voice masking the impatience beneath. "Kindly inform us why your plan involves me sitting around in Nordkreuz for several days."

"Just so you know, I was going to explain this at dinner tonight," Pascal exhaled a faint sigh as he stepped up to the map table, a rod suddenly appearing within his gloved right hand.

With a flick of his wrist, he expanded it to a telescoping metal pointer to tap on the three-dimensional map of the northern continent.

The Empire of Rhin-Lotharingie and its vassal kingdoms: Gleann Mòr, Ceredigion, Avorica, and Garona

"Best as we know from Elspeth's information, Duke Gabriel de Gaetane was leading an army of fifty thousand past Lake Alise. They were supposedly on their way to the southwestern front in Avorica, when he launched a surprise attack on the Lotharin Capital of Alise Avern. The attack was spearheaded by at least three hundred Knights Templar, possibly reinforced from the Holy Imperium as their Lotharin Chapters lack the numbers."

"Emperor Geoffroi was killed during the attack, alongside most of his Highland Guard, though not before inflicting heavy casualties upon the Templars," Pascal added before pausing for a moment of solemn respect. "We could reasonably claim that the Lotharin Chapters of the Knights Templar had been effectively wiped out during the engagement."

"If it weren't for that 'Holy Sword', His Majesty would have smushed that traitor too!" Elspeth added as her schoolgirl soprano ran sharp and acidic.

"The Sword of Fortitude, was it?"

"So I was told, Your Highness" she answered Sylviane, ashamed as she looked down in a mutter. "I wasn't there at the initial standoff."

"It's not your fault. I would imagine that Gabriel knew the palace grounds better than any guardsmen, after growing up there with father."

The Princess then nodded back to Pascal, signaling him to continue on.

"Our main problem is that the Sword of Fortitude had only been given in history for one purpose: to entitle the Defender of the Faith," Pascal noted as his lips twisted into a disgusted scowl. "This means that Duke Gabriel has the full backing of the Knights Templar, the Papal Inquisition, and even the Holy See in this succession struggle. And make no mistake about that..."

His gaze swept the room as he met each Lotharin in the eyes before finishing his summary with a declaration:

"War with the Caliphate notwithstanding, the Empire of Rhin-Lotharingie is now also in a state of Civil War."

"Wouldn't this increase the urgency of the situation?" Sylviane reasoned as she latched on. "For every moment we wait, Gabriel will only tighten his grip on the Lotharin heartlands."

"That would normally be a concern, if the Lotharin heartlands were not already squeezed dry," Pascal countered as he waved his pointer to encircle the central Rhin-Lotharingie plains between the two Lotharin Rivers.

"These realms where royal authority held strongest are all but emptied at this stage. Since the first day of the war, Emperor Geoffroi had mustered all the reinforcements he could dispatch to the front from these regions. Even the garrison at Alis Avern had been stripped to a bare minimum. I very much doubt the towns and nobles of the region could cough up much more than some old militiamen and household guards."

"And if he tried to," Sir Robert noted as he rubbed his shaved chin. "He would only gain resentment from the commons and nobles alike."

"Precisely," Pascal nodded back as he pointed toward the Lotharin Belgae region, west of the lake from Nordkreuz. "This means the army of fifty thousand he brought with him from the northeast -- courtesy of his wife and House Louvain -- are all that he has available for the immediate future."

"Fifty thousand isn't enough, not to uphold the authority of the crown by force," muttered Sylviane as she caught on, her scrutinizing gaze lifting to meet Pascal's encouraging smile.

"For all effective purposes, Gabriel's victory brought him little more than symbolic gains," he highlighted. "For a throne he cannot even sit upon, Gabriel undermined his own legitimacy by committing regicide and branding himself a kinslayer. Excommunicated or not, Emperor Geoffroi's prestige within Rhin-Lotharingie is undeniable, including a solid reputation built upon decades of popular support. Furthermore, no society shall look kindly upon those who usurp power for ambition in such desperate times."

Kaede smiled a little at the thought of a pretender who couldn't actually sit upon the throne. She still remembered her astonishment when reading up on the seat of Rhin-Lotharingie power -- when she saw that drawing and promptly dropped all thoughts, her curiosity pumping every bit of brainpower into absorbing the words that followed.

The 'Burning Throne', as it was called, did not receive its name from some mythical origin or symbolism of royal responsibility. It was known as that because the white marble seat was literally cloaked in purifying flames.

After all, only those who proved their qualities by bonding with a phoenix could ascend the throne... or capable of sitting down without being burnt by their ambition and greed.

"Therefore this marks my first point: I believe it is advantageous for us to wait for the news to spread before making our move," Pascal declared before looking to his Princess for her political insight.

With her hand curled right beneath her chin, Sylviane continued in deep thought for a moment longer before standing straight:

"You may be right. The initial reaction to my father's death will not be favorable to that 'Uncle' of mine; not under such circumstances, and not for most of the realm. However, Gabriel does have an army sanctioned by the Church, a strong base of power, and the likely promise of crusader support to repel the Caliphate's invasion..."

"I do not have any of those," Sylviane voiced her concern as her troubled frown looked back upon Pascal.

After all, 'Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun', Kaede thought of the famous quote from the twentieth century Chinese revolutionary. Modern Republics have shown that this statement wasn't always true, but it certainly held its merits in any turbulent era.

"No," Pascal admitted. "But as Gabriel begins courting the nobles in an attempt to sway them towards his symbolic throne, the reactions of the regional lords will give us a better picture of friend versus foe."

"Your Highness..."

The slight Elspeth swiveled to offer a knightly salute: her right arm leveled and bent, presenting a raised fist before her chest.

"You can always count on the support from Gleann Mòr and the Mackay-Martel Clan."

As ruler of the Glens, the Mackay Clan had been a steadfast ally of the Gaetane Dynasty since the Independence War. Generation of intermarriage between the clan and their mutual friend, House Martel, resulted in the unified Mackay-Martel Clan and an expansion of Gleann Mòr territories onto the Lotharin Plains.

Over the centuries, the Mackay-Martels have established themselves as ardent Royalists. Their 'Highland Guard' exemplified this dedication and the crown's trust in return, for the elite unit was handpicked by the King of the Glens to serve as the Emperor's royal guardsmen.

"Of course, your family has my firm confidence as always," Sylviane declared, her own hands clasping Elspeth's tiny shoulders in an expression of faith.

But it proved to be much more than just a political gesture. What surprised Kaede the most were the glistening emotions that collected in the Princess' eyes as she looked upon the petite girl as though a younger sister.

"Lindsay was almost like a mother to me," Sylviane fell to a near whisper as she spoke of Elspeth's elder sister. "Uncle of mine or not, I swear to you and your family that Gabriel will see justice for what he has done."

It was then when the young Elspeth's smile finally buckled. Tears pooled at the corner of her eyes as she bit down in self-control and nodded back at her liege. Had it not been for their official relationship, Kaede could almost picture the smaller girl throwing herself into the Princess' arms.

Feeling as though she was intruding, Kaede peeled her eyes away from the brief emotional exchange, which coincided in sharing a glance with Pascal.

"Lindsay was Sylv's combat and weapons instructor," he explained in telepathy. "You could say she even served as a role model of sorts."

...And she won't be the last of the victims when the Capital fell, Kaede thought. The most loyal and trusted retainers are also the first to forfeit their lives in the name of principle.

With her fingers still wet with the younger girl's tears, Sylviane wrapped one arm around Elspeth's back before returning her attention to the table.

"I have no doubts of King Alistair's loyalty," the princess spoke of the Mackay-Martel leader, more for Elspeth's benefit than anyone else. "But the majority of his forces have been trapped in the north ever since the early snow sealed off the mountain passes. We may wait a week or two to observe Gabriel's first move, but surely you're not suggesting I wait until the Spring thaw?"

"Not at all," Pascal dismissed. "It is imperative that we regain control of the country -- or the Capital at least -- before the next campaign season when the Cataliyan juggernaut begins anew."

"So long as we could hold on in the south until then," Sylviane exhaled a deep breath as she stared back at the map. "If Edith had done her job in Avorica then none of this would have happened!"


The subdued reply was most uncharacteristic for Pascal. Kaede was sure he had purposefully steered clear of a confrontation in order to stay on track:

"The fact is that the Armies of Avorica, Garona, and the Lotharin heartlands are all invested in defense of the south, and I cannot see the Army of Ceredigion coming to our aid with the Avorican battlefront pushing so perilously close to their borders..."

"The Rhodri Clan wouldn't be of help even if they weren't threatened," Sylviane added bitterly. "If their King had any sense for cooperation their troops would be in Avorica already, instead of dragging his feet all this time."

"If he had three brain cells to rub together he would have done the same," Pascal piled on even more contempt. "But my point is that none of the actors in the south, west, center, and north are available to provide us military aid. We can only look towards the east."

"And the northeast is dominated by House Louvain and Gabriel's allies..." Sir Robert added, even his bright optimism fading as the potential list of supporters narrowed further and further.

"That leaves only the Haut-Rhône region in the southeast," the Princess eyed the area opposite of Weichsel's Duchy of Kostradan with a sigh, "and Hugh de La Tours."

"Duke Huge the Rotund," Elspeth piped in.

The unflattering nickname might have been funny on another day. But at this moment it evoked a wry grin at best.

"I heard his son is quite extraordinary," Sir Robert sought a glimmer of hope. "The are many who speculate that he might even become the next Oriflamme."

"A single diamond in the rough cannot shine through thickets of unspeakable muck," Pascal declared. "the once mighty House of de La Tours has grown weak over the centuries, fattened by Imperial bribes."

"But if that's our only choice..."

"He's not suggesting we court the Tours family," Sylviane cut Sir Robert's objection as she continued to scrutinize the map. "He's suggesting we go around them, to the lesser dukes of the region. Because of our tense relations with the Holy Imperium, the lords of that area maintain far more troops than usual. The Duke of Colmar alone has nearly eight thousand professional soldiers to stand off against Imperial Legions stationed across the border."

The number was admirable, until one noticed the five Purple Dragon Standards gathered in Imperial territories opposite the Weichsel-Lotharin demarcation line. Each banner represented an entire Legion, and altogether they formed a professional army of nearly thirty-thousand men.

It was apparent why the Haut-Rhône dukes had yet to dispatch any significant forces to join the war.

"What about the battalions of Nordkreuz, Your Grace? Or even that of Weichsel's?" asked Lady Elspeth.

"The Ducal forces of Weichsel are all under the centralized control of the General Staff, our commanding officers sworn to only His Majesty the King," Pascal explained the difference between Weichsel's near-Absolute Monarchy and Rhin-Lotharingie's Feudal military structure. "I do intend to petition His Majesty for an expeditionary force into Rhin-Lotharingie. But that has to wait until after our army crushes the retreating Skagen forces in decisive battle -- which happens to be my second reason for waiting."

News had arrived yesterday of General von Blumenthal's successful strike against the beached Skagen fleet. His ground cavalry force had burned hundreds of the Northmen's trimaran 'dragon boats' before a remaining third could escape into the sea. With their naval transport force destroyed, the Skagen invasion army now lay stranded on the continent with no means to escape.

"Do you think he'll agree?" the Princess voiced her doubts.

Her fiancé's response came with an affectionate smile:

"Father saved me an admirable war chest in case something happened during your early reign. King Leopold will need coin to keep the army raised for any pacification of the Skagen Peninsula. I figure I can offer him some for reliable troops."

"You're going to bribe the King?" muttered Sir Robert in a thunderstruck daze.

"I prefer to think of it as 'chartering', only a few companies," Pascal's reply came unabashed.

"I thought you said the late Landgrave was saving funds to construct a Polarity Rail? One to link Nordkreuz to Falkenstrom and the Imperium's fledgling rail network?" Sylviane asked next.

The Polarity Rail was an innovation of Hyperien Geomancy made only in the past thirty years. What little Kaede found about it in the books described it as a propulsion system using magnetic forces. Its speed wasn't impressive, and could be outmatched by riders on overland journeys. But it could carry loads far exceeding any horse-drawn wagon, as well as tap the ley lines for an inexhaustible energy source rather than burning fossil fuels by the tons.

Not being a physics major, Kaede found the more technomagic details baffling. But she did understand the economic implications of a railway system that rapidly emerged into reality, its development pioneered by the Commerce Guilds of the Holy Imperium.

"And your father was supposed to reign for another few decades," Pascal's expression stiffened. "No one could have predicted how events were to unfold. It is best to pull these funds to do good now rather than years later, and I intend to support your bid with everything I have at my disposal..."

The slight, wry twist of his lips did betray a hint of the pain that came with the sacrifice of so much economic planning -- which Sylviane did not miss as she finally left Elspeth and approached her fiancé.

However, the young landgrave never gave her an opening as he pushed the discussion on:

"But even with the King's support, we still need a Lotharin force."

"I agree," Sylviane acknowledged as she drew up alongside him, her arm pressing against his. "It would not be right for an army that marches on our Capital to consist mostly of Weichsel soldiers. Gabriel only has to point it out to make me look like a puppet controlled by foreign interests."

"Pot calling kettle," Elspeth quipped.

"Sure, but his army is still mostly Lotharin, especially after he used the Templars up like meat fodder during the opening blow."

Sylviane then strolled around the huge map table, a curled hand pressing against her lips in deep thought.

But the silence that reigned over the room lasted mere moments. The Princess soon pressed both hands against the table's other edge, her back straightened to face them in declaration:

"We must win this without relying heavily on foreign intervention, even if it is my fiancé's country. Because only then will the Lotharins see me as a legitimate victor and ruler -- one true to Rhin-Lotharingie and no other."

Pascal nodded back in firm agreement, though Kaede could feel the stab beneath his mask of self-control. It wasn't even Sylviane's fault. In the eyes of the Lotharins, part of him would always represent the influences of foreign interests, and one miscalculated step could undermine the Princess' own legitimacy to the throne.

"Which is also why we will not be seeking the support of the Haut-Rhône Dukes. We're certainly not spending your fortune on bribing them," she announced once more, completely shredding the rest of her fiancé's proposal.

It left five pairs of bewildered eyes staring at her from across the table.

"Our empire comes to dire straits, and Gabriel reveals his hand to unmask his true intent -- he is greedy, he is ambitious, and he is opportunistic. He cares nothing for the plight of the country, only a crown for himself. Well, why not let him have it?"

Sylviane glanced back at them all with a broad smile... no, a hungry grin beneath the cold flames that ignited within her eyes.

"I would rather give the crown to another Lotharin than see it at the feet of the Caliph."

"But Your Highness...!"

Lady Elspeth was still mouthing her disbelief when Pascal began to laugh:

"Well played! I cannot believe I missed that! And I am supposed to be the military expert!"

"It's because you were focused on the military that you didn't think of it," Sylviane answered, still grinning. "This is a political solution; it just happens to rely on more martial means."

"Would Your Highness please inform the rest of us ignorant peasants?" Sir Robert added everyone else's thoughts with a sarcastic touch.

"What do you think is more important to the lords and people of Rhin-Lotharingie?" Sylviane swept her gaze, meeting each of them in the eyes as her arms gestured across the map. "That a ruler of royal blood sits upon the throne? Or that our nation, our people, and our lands are kept safe from the ravages of foreign armies and secular ambitions?"

Kaede blinked back. The answer to that was obvious.

"Let Gabriel have the throne," Sylviane went on after the pause. "Let him show the world that he cares more for dynastic struggles against his own brother than the welfare of the nation. That he yearns for the grace of the Holy Father yet turns a blind eye towards his responsibilities as royalty."

"Meanwhile, I shall show our people the exact opposite -- that I do not care for the crown, for authority, not even for personal revenge. All of those are but minor concerns in light of current affairs."

Speaking as a true heir of the Rhin-Lotharingie landscape before her, Sylviane declared her firm resolve for the journey ahead.

"The first and foremost responsibility of royalty is not to carry on the succession. It is to protect our realm, our beliefs, and our people's way of life. We shall go south -- join the front lines, blunt the invasion, and resolve this crisis that threatens all of Rhin-Lotharingie."

Light from the windows gleamed off the Princess' tiara in a crowning halo as Sylviane's final words reverberated through the regal air of Hauteclaire's burning aura:

"Then we shall see whom the people recognize as their legitimate and true sovereign."


Next Chapter ]

46 thoughts on “Chapter 2 - Strategy for Legitimacy

  1. Doskias

    I wonder, do people of Mackay-Martel Clan drink scotch, or do they drink cognac?

    1. Hakurei06

      Probably the latter? Mackay may be a scottish name, but Rhin-Lotharingie seems to be analogous to France, the low countries, and some of the Germanies, based on descriptions and names.

      That said, there are other types of brandy besides cognac, and it's namesake may go by another name on Hyperion, if it exists at all.

      As an aside, I wonder if the Imperials drink grappa?

      1. Doskias

        Brandy is too much of a carpet term for me, so it's a bit hard to see it as a signature national drink. Besides, Martel is a famous cognac brand for what it's worth.
        The problem with cognac is that it's made from specific types of grapes (good for pretty much nothing else) grown on specific soils (which also makes cognacs lack the variety that scotch exhibits), while malted barley is way less restrictive when it comes to production, making it more a question of the crafting process involved.
        But as we can only make assumptions about agriculture based on the Earth analogues, things can go both ways (i.e. as Aorii decides).

    2. Aorii Post author

      Scotch. Definitely scotch. In fact Rhin-Lotharingie would probably prefer scotch as a whole. I'll go into the reason at some point this volume =)

      1. Doskias

        No wines for the south? Interesting, even more so that in pre-industrial societies strong alcohol made from grain was hardly affordable for the general populace (hence wide consumption of beer and such). But, once again, agriculture...

        1. Aorii Post author

          Surely you don't imagine that a Hyperion which developed all those medicinal spells (to the point where only magical diseases can become epidemics), where mana-lines determine where cities get built, would be lacking in agricultural spells? =P

          Keep in mind that production of alcohol from grapes is a Mediterranean thing that was simply introduced to France. In a world where 'Gaul' retained many aspects of its identity instead of becoming 'Francia' under the xenophobic, genocidal Romans, things change ^^

          Grain is always affordable to the common population. Just use lesser, rougher grains. Keep in mind that in many countries across the world, alcohol is ONLY made from grains.

          1. Doskias

            Fair point, but with magical effects having very limited duration, and with people who are able to use magic being predominantly nobles, it's not clear how much use the magic actually sees in agriculture. Sure, we were introduced to enough commoners using magic, but with Weichsel it feels like if you can cast spells, you're in the army :)

            Wines can be a Roman tradition, but I can see demand for them even if they aren't culturally forced. And if there's demand, there will be people to respond to it..unless it's cheaper to just import.

            I was talking specifically about strong=distilled alcohol. Beer was a part of the meals rather than just entertainment, and things like sake made by fermentation are still fairly cheap to produce. It's distillation process that makes the product expensive, and strong alcohol is pure entertainment rather than a part of a diet.

          2. Aorii Post author

            Yeah, no. Even Prussia couldn't afford to maintain that large of a standing army during peacetime =P I think you missed the 'conscription' part of Weichsel's Writ of Universal Conscription. They still need to keep an economy going during peacetime so the government can collect taxes to maintain such an army during wartime ^^' Seriously, wartime spending is like if the state took its wallet to Las Vegas.

            Alcohol content is limited by the fermentation process, not ingredients as much. Scotch is a grain whiskey and can acquire extremely high proof (wiki listing 40–94.8%). So I don't see grape wine a requirement by any means.

  2. Glacierfairy

    I am not sure if it is a bug or not, but I am unable to view the map image.

  3. Bareus

    Sorry, I was bored....
    "I didn't mean it like!"
    "I didn't mean it like this/that!"

    ..., then repay it by continuing to stay at my side!"
    ..., then repay it by continuing to stay by my side!"
    -> not completly sure if it's "at" or "by", but so far I've only read "stay by my side" in other books with similar context (I think).

    1. Aorii Post author

      Should be fixed.
      Apparently 'stay by my side' is the more popular choice, although I don't see anything wrong with the other use. Mmmh.

      1. Anonymous

        Well 'at' means exactly the place mentioned and in this case, literally stay or even stick to his sides. whereas in 'by' it means like staying beside him...

      2. PrunJuice

        One stays AT a side for the same reason one stays AT a post, fulfillment of responsibility or obligation. One stays BY a side for sentimental reasons. At least that's how I've always interpreted the connotation.

  4. Sonoda Yuki

    >>After all, only those who proved their qualities by bonding with a phoenix could ascend the throne... or capable of sitting down without being burnt by their ambition and greed.

    Missing a few words after the ellipsis?

    1. Aorii Post author

      Nah it's an intentional follow-up sentence (or intentional run-on).
      Whether it's grammatically appropriate is another matter...

    1. Aorii Post author

      When I'm ready for it to come out of beta...
      Most likely this coming weekend.

  5. Cyregnosis

    Aori-san, I don't know the speed of an average rider in Hyperion because I can feel that they are not using horses so approximately how fast is the polarity train?
    By the way, yesterday I saw the clouds turn into flying tofu whales.

    1. Aorii Post author

      Actually by rider I do mean horses...
      Google says that the speed of a horse gallop goes up to around 30mph / 48kmph. So the Polarity Rail isn't particularly fast.
      But then, neither are freight trains, especially heavily loaded ones.

      1. Cyregnosis

        So what is the factor that is limiting the speed of the Polarity Rail?
        You may not answer this question if it is a spoiler.

        1. Sonoda Yuki

          Could be a lot of things. Electricity and magnetism are pretty much two sides of the same thing, hence the term electromagnetic force. The current conversion ratio from mana or ether to electricity might actually be pretty terrible. If they're actually using wheels on a rail instead of making a magical maglev then energy is lost converting rotary torque to linear acceleration. It could be that theres only so much energy that can practially tapped from a leyline at a time, which makes scaling up difficult. There's aerodynamics. It might even be that theres so many stops in between that the trains never reach their maximum speed because of low acceleration. Hell, it could be ll of the above and then some.

          1. Aorii Post author

            As noted above. All typical exerted forces are a factor.
            Most electric motors use electricity to generate a magnetic field to create magnetic moment to spin something and create force/power... except electricity isn't the only way of creating a magnetic field, just the most transferable one using our tech base.

  6. XRick

    Well, it sure was a long wait but as soon as I noticed a new chapter was out, I skimmed through it with great delight (and I'm not the biggest fan of these kinds of stories)...
    Now, gotta wait a few more months for a new chapter of yours to get done...
    I sure hope I manage to get my own story reorganized and ready to start rewriting before that...

    Keep going, it's great to see so much creativity in all aspects! Even in the geography :D

  7. mellester

    You dont need to hold rome to be crowned an emperor.
    however can they hold back the holy imperium should it choose to invade. because at the right time the holy see will declare a crusade and give reason for those legions to give support for the uncle. kill him now i say

    1. Aorii Post author

      Generally, not holding the Capital = low legitimacy in executive title. That was the reason why Capitals were important even before the dawn of bureaucracy, which made them into administrative centers.
      Actually it's pretty well known that Crusaders don't obey anyone except their own (and sometimes not even the Pope), which is why the Crusades were so chaotic.

      1. Sonoda Yuki

        And capital cities self perpetuate their importance by way of their economic and educational value, which isn't exactly hurt by the fact that they'll have a decent chunck of the population.

        1. mellester

          true it's a virtuous cycle. A city has good economic standing it is a good place for a capital. Being a capital brings good economic standing. Trying to win the loyalty of the army fighting the caliphate is a good move abeid a very risky one. When those 5 legions of the holy imperium start moving it will add oil to an already burning fire.

    2. Ved

      PR war.
      As pointed out, the more Gabriel relies on foreign troops, the more it makes him look like a puppet ruler. That's sort of the point of Slyv's plan. Anybody who gets a lot of foreign intervention to go kill off a relative in the middle of a crisis, particularly one that isn't openly bidding for the throne, doesn't really look that good. And as it is, it already looks bad enough that Gabriel went and killed his brother, heretic or not, and is violating their longstanding customs of succession. (Sitting on the throne is seen as a moral test. And the last emperor being a heretic won't sway the opinion of those who think the excommunication had political motivations.)

  8. Dain

    One way or the other, but Gabriel's gonna get his ass whooped. Can't escape the power of the force dude.

  9. Sanngrior

    Nice touch to the war of succession :3

    Certainly makes for more rewarding and interesting prospects than a fruitless fight to reclaim the crown under futile odds, where regardless of the victor, the empire is left open to assault and plunder from a great enemy.

    I like how Kaede is becoming quite attached to Sylviane, even if she doesn't realise it. It's only a matter of time before she is almost completely wrapped around her little finger as far as intimacy goes :P

    1. Aorii Post author

      Well, it is true that actually fighting a civil war only benefits external foes -- it's like holding up a neon sign saying 'free landgrabs!'
      For the last part, I get the feeling your wishful interpretation is accelerating the actual pace, at least a little XD

      1. Sanngrior

        Lol, I recognize the progression a small bit at a time for Kaede and know it will be a while to come for such an extreme result xD but it will depend on the number of events that cause a stir in her feelings and how long it takes her to notice and start thinking through what everything means xD the matter of time being longer than my previous words may have insinuated :P

        they started off on some relatively neutral - if not awkward - ground and the only real mishap between them was when Sylviane nearly lost control over herself. Kaede is slowly becoming more acclimatized to being around Sylv and her resulting treatment. She get's treated like a teddy bear, but is slowly coming to terms with the fact she doesn't dislike such treatment. She can see an aura in Sylv that she can't help but be dragged up in :3 And due to the relation between Sylv and Pascal, there is no option of 'escape' and thus she can only surrender to her fate.

        that said there is quite a bit of distance to go until she starts sharing any of her worries or conflictions.

        I wonder just how much effect the changes in the familiar link with pascal are having on her actions, whether subtle or unconscious. It seems to be steadily turning into quite an interesting bond between the two and seems to be striking me as getting slightly empathic.

        but that's just how I currently see things (noting that I haven't reread the entire thing recently, just the last few chapters as getting up to speed)

        1. Aorii Post author

          I do find it very amusing that you've been able to consistently interpret things in a very similar manner to Kadi (insofar as relationships go anyhow). The evolution in empathic bond was actually a recommendation from him which I took for the exact potentials/intrigues you are outlining XD

  10. Argetlam

    Seems to me that the plan is just asking for the assassination of all involved. Imperial mantis blade squads would find it laughably easy to slaughter all of them in the middle of battle. Add that to plots from the duke who would hand over the entire south to make sure they perished this seems a foolish plan.

    1. Sonoda Yuki

      From my understanding of the situation, I doubt Gabby has the balls to hand over lands of any sort when it's liable to A) cause a revolt when his military might is a bit under question, and B) piss off the Holy Imperium, who sort of want that territory under their control, not the Caliphate. Handing it to the Holy Imperium doesn't resolve the first issue and with the second, they seem like the kind of people to take a mile when you offered an inch and I sort of doubt even our little pretender is that stupid.

      As for the Mantis Guards, I think the advantages to going on a military campaign would be the number of soldiers at their disposal. Since assassinations are to be expected at this point, they might manage to be safer this way.

    2. Aorii Post author

      #1) Duke Gabriel doesn't have any authority over the southern military units yet (which are led by the leaders of Avorica, Garona, and the Oriflamme Paladins). Whether any of them recognizes Gabriel remains to be seen
      #2) One of the reasons (at least publicly) Emperor Geoffroi was excommunicated was because he ordered his forces to pull back from the forward provinces. Abandoning them to the Caliphate would be a sure way for Gabriel to lose his own support from the Holy See. Handing it to the Imperium... lol Garona will have a bone to pick with him, and this wouldn't fit into Gabriel's existing agenda anyway (he made it clear in vol2 that he is not 'just an Imperial/Papal puppet'). Feudalism and de-centralization makes this quite complicated because the Kingdom of Garona and Avorica mostly manage their own affairs.
      #3) well assassins could potentially be sent at any time. But if that means you go into hiding then they've already accomplished their purpose of making you inconsequential =P The best way to fight assassins is to have a good spymaster/intel/assassins of your own; plus plenty of guards.

      1. Sonoda Yuki

        Hence why a campaign is at least on par if not a better idea than holing up in some fortress, as far as security. Lots of soldiers with a vested interest in keeping their commander alive.

  11. Abyssal

    well there's also mercenaries to hire but that also out..
    this image battle getting hella interesting :D
    Good Work!!

    1. Aorii Post author

      Sadly, real life mercenaries are more annoying than the ones I can hire ingame.
      i.e. mercenaries in Total War = free cannon fodder every battle XD

      1. Sonoda Yuki

        Loyalty bought with coin only goes so far, and I thenk of them more as hired marauders than soldiers.

        1. krytyk

          Can't really agree, it depends on the times. Good mercenaries cannot just escape or betray their contractor, they would lose all the reknown and no one would hire them ever again, moreover in case of working for countries they might be banished or declared criminals, chased all over the world afterwards.

          Besides that, proper mercenaries were usually the best army in middle ages.

          1. Aorii Post author

            There's actually quite a lot of examples of reliable loyalty brought with coin. Heck, many personal guard units of the highest level are mercenaries -- like the Varangian Guard.
            Swiss Mercenaries in particular were known for not betraying those who hired them, even when (sometimes) everyone else did.
            So... it all depends on how much you're willing to pay =D

  12. MochiMochi

    Welcome back!!! Love this series! Love this chapter! MORE!!! Thanks for the chapter!


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