Chapter 16 - Judgment at Dawn

"Your Grace, please wake up."

Pascal's consciousness was still forming when a hand shook his shoulders.

"Your Grace."

"Kaede, stop..." Pascal mumbled as his arm reached up to his throbbing forehead. He had clearly fallen asleep on his desk again. "Just... give me a minute."

"I'm not your familiar," the voice spoke again before Pascal realized that it was masculine. "And we don't have a minute."

The fog in Pascal's head quickly began to disperse. His eyes snapped open as he stood up straight. His vision was still blurry as it locked onto the figure of a disheveled Oriflamme Armiger.

"Sir Robert."

The handsome young man stood just beside Pascal's desk in his cabin. Judging by the darkness through the window, the sun had yet to peak over the horizon.

"Your Grace, we have a problem," Robert began. "Major Erwan..."

Pascal tensed the moment he heard the name. Erwan was the commander of the Royal Lotharin Rangers Battalion, and -- according to Sylviane -- one of the few whose loyalty to the crown was undoubted. Because of this, Sylviane had requested for him to keep an eye on Edith-Estellise's activities.

Has the God-damned 'Saint' mutinied? The Landgrave stared at Robert with alarm.

"Major Erwan reported that one of the screening platoons he left behind was attacked earlier this morning by Cataliyan light cavalry."

Pascal blinked twice as he readjusted his thought process. To protect the army's retreat, the rangers left several detachments between eight to twelve kilopaces behind to screen the main force. It wasn't unusual for them to skirmish with Cataliyan advanced scouts, but...

He stared out the dark window. Not at this hour.

"By how many?"

"At least two hundred, before the Farspeak link cut," the armiger answered as the cabin door opened, admitting Sylviane and her maid Mari.

"I've sent orders to wake the army up," the Princess added, her hands still fixing her tiara and smoothing out her hair. "They must be raiding us."

Pascal pulled out his arcane pocketwatch. It was almost daybreak.

The Cataliyans should know that he reached Glywysing. With a town at his back and an early warning to alert them, there was no way a raid could inflict any significant damage. The only value of such an attack would be to disturb the army's rest, but when the soldiers were about to wake up anyway...

It just didn't make sense.

But if it wasn't a skirmish between scouts, and it wasn't a raid, then that left only one option -- an aggressive, all-out morning assault after a concealed overnight march.

The Caliphate certainly had the motive: to seek vengeance and restore morale after yesterday's disaster at Lysardh Point, plus the opportunity to strike while the Lotharin force remained divided.

He really should have expected this. Had he been in their shoes, he might have opted for the same gamble.

"No," Pascal's voice was solemn. "They moved up under the cover of darkness. This is a full attack."

"How---?" Sylviane looked back in surprise.

"I will explain later, but we need to assemble the entire army into battle formation, immediately!" Pascal stood up and strode towards the door.

There was no time to retreat. The Cataliyan force's combat elements were mostly mounted. If they shed their logistical units and traveled light through the woods, then they were most likely just twenty to thirty minutes out.

"And Sylv," Pascal stopped the Princess before she could follow her two armigers out. His concerned eyes met with his fiancée's pretty wisteria gaze.

This time, they truly had their backs to the wall. There was no river to cover a retreat. The army would stand its ground or be destroyed.

His fiancée's countenance softened with sentiment. This really could be their last private moment together.

However, Pascal's final statement was anything but romantic:

"You should give one more order to the men," his expression hardened. "Any officer or noble who retreats without orders today should be treated as a traitor. They are to be killed on sight and their family's rank and privileges stripped."

...Or, as Kaede once recounted during one of their military history discussions: Not a step back!

 

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

 

Edith emerged from her tent as she finished tightening the straps to her breastplate.

The sun's halo had just peaked over the horizon, its rays dyeing the skies a dawning red. A low morning mist still enshrouded the camp, and most of its soldiers either asleep or just waking up. But as the Saint marched between tents, she found the Knights Hospitaller of the Sword Lily battalion already assembled in neat rows and waiting.

Despite being a paramilitary religious order and therefore not officially part of the army, the Sword Lily was one of the most elite units in the Lotharin order of battle. In every engagement, Edith relied on them to hold the most critical junction in her front line. But after weeks of ferocious fighting, the battalion had been reduced from over two hundred sisters, to just twenty-nine.

King Alistair had left Edith several royal armigers to help replenish her numbers. Yet in this most critical moment, Edith decided that she couldn't trust them. No, only her sword-sisters would watch her back in the coup today.

Leading the unit was Mother Abbess Anne, who greeted her foster daughter and commander with a knightly salute.

"We're ready."

Edith nodded as she took a deep breath. This was truly the point of no return.

The two women paused as they heard a strange, unintelligible cry in the distance. Its direction coming from the center of the overall encampment.

"Must be one of the nobles," Anne puzzled. Then, with her annoyance rising: "I told the four of them to marshal their troops within their own encampments to minimize attention...!"

The blast of a distant trumpet interrupted Anne, with one prolonged note following another which called for an emergency assembly.

"Assemble f...!" the yelling grew closer.

"Someone must have warned them!" Anne glared into the morning mist before swiveling back to the Saint and Oriflamme. "We must act, now! While we still retain an element of surprise!"

But Edith stopped her with a raised hand.

Something was wrong.

Something was terribly wrong.

Edith wasn't sure why yet. But her intuition was screaming at her to stop.

What is the Holy Father trying to tell me?

Her gaze met the eyes of her phoenix Durandal, its majestic blue form perched atop her spaulder.

The trumpet calls spread as more platoon signalers woke and joined in.

"ASSEMBLE FOR BATTLE!"

This time, the distant, magically-amplified words rang loud and clear.

A column of two dozen noble armigers in half-plate emerged from the mist. Lead by the Duchess Jeanette, they hustled into Edith's encampment.

"Just what is going on!? What are you waiting for?"

Yet before anyone could reply, a runner sprinted in from the direction of the central camp.

"We're... about to be attacked!" The young signal officer halted before Edith, breathless. "Princess... requests for you to raise the cross!"

"Attacked!?" Anne demanded. "By the Caliphate? How!?"

"I don't know!" the officer answered. "Her Highness simply said it's an emergency! And that... and that..."

"And what!?"

"A-any commander who fails to answer the call to arms and deserts the field is to be summarily executed as a traitor!"

"PREPARE FOR BATTLE!" more yells began to resound across the camp.

"SENIOR COMMANDERS TO THE COMMAND CABIN! ALL FORMATIONS PREPARE FOR COMBAT!"

"I still need to inform Duke Roland. Excuse me, Milady," the officer added before running off.

He clearly wasn't concerned about Saint Estelle's willingness to fight.

"This is a trick," the Duchess seethed. "She knows!"

The Mother Abbess stared back, doubt and turmoil written across her face. Was this alert real, or a pretense? Were they truly under attack by infidels? Or was this just a ruse to round up the traitors?

Everything was rapidly spinning out of control.

A breeze seemed to pick up in the sparsely wooded army encampment, and the morning mist began to thin. It was not enough to see into the distance, but it was sufficient to spot a hazy, cerulean halo in the air -- the burning-blue figure of an Oriflamme.

Apart from Edith, there was only one other paladin in camp right now -- Her Highness, Princess Sylviane.

...And it was headed straight this way.

"Edith!" the Princess' voice resounded over the air. "Raise the cross! The Cataliyans are coming!"

"This is our chance!" Duchess Jeanette stressed at the saint from just a few steps away. "Seize command before she takes our heads and finds another reason to withdraw!

"Stand ready!"

The Duchess ordered her armigers to deploy into combat formation as the cerulean halo drew closer. Her orders were immediately echoed by Mother Abbess Anne.

"Stand down!" Edith yelled back at her own knights, leaving them at a loss.

Even Anne stared back in confusion, her gaze shouting 'what are you doing?'.

The timing weighed heavily on Edith's mind. The attack, the rally, the orders given that tolerated no retreat...

This cannot be a coincidence, the Saint's thoughts raced as she faced the incoming Princess. Nothing happened by mere coincidence!

She had asked for a sign last night -- a sign from the Holy Father which had clearly been given.

"Edith!" Her Highness soon landed with two armigers in tow, no more than twenty steps away with her hands still empty and unarmed.

Sylviane then paused as she looked upon the assembled knights and armigers, clearly realizing that something was wrong.

"Take her!" The Duchess pointed a steely finger. "Or we will all hang by nightfall!"

Edith had no doubt that the second half of the order was directed at her. But as twenty noble armigers charged forward with their shield and flails, the saint closed her eyes and reached one conclusion.

Thank you, Holy Father.

She felt the heat as the empathetic Durandal merged into her body. She felt the coursing of righteous authority, an absolute conviction in where her duty laid.

"IN THE NAME OF THE HOLY FATHER, YOU WILL STAND DOWN!"

The leading armiger had already swung his flail. But in a moment of distraction, his attack was easily deflected by the royal maid's shield reflex. The rest of the men half-halted, their turning eyes bewildered by clashing of orders.

Her Highness, however, did not hesitate. With no doubt of the perpetrator, she materialized her shield and meteor hammer from extradimensional storage.

"Elspeth!" Sylviane called her bodyguard as she pinned Duchess Jeanette with a death glare.

The petite royal armiger didn't even voice a reply. In a surge of magic, Elspeth leaped over the heads of the armored troops. She spun once in mid air and flung out a hook-dagger, its rope trailing behind as the killing edge shot straight for the face.

The Duchess' own shield was caught out of position and she barely stepped aside in time. The dagger's bladed hook drew a line of blood as it flew across her cheek. But as Elspeth's gloved fingers caught the rope and gave it a hard yank to her other side, the retracting steel pierced into Jeanette's cheeks and sheared off half of her face.

Bloodcurdling screams emerged from the noblewoman as she reached up to her mutilated expression. Yet even that lasted only seconds as Elspeth landed in a forward dash, and plunged another dagger straight into the side of Jeanette's throat.

With their liege killed before their eyes, the armigers turned their attention back to the Princess, their glares a mixture of turmoil, uncertainty, and outrage.

Behind her shield and that of the royal maid, Sylviane seemed to relax as she loosened her grip on the chains of her meteor hammer. She stood back straight, regal and confident, assured of her divine protection as she offered those present a chance for mercy.

"Do not make me spill another drop of Lotharin blood," she warned in a deathly calm voice. "Fight, today, not for me or that traitorous bitch, but for Rhin-Lotharingie and the Holy Father, for your home and for your families! Fight with courage, and I swear before the Lord: I will not hold any of you at blame."

A tense silence passed as the armigers remained still with weapons ready, some stealing peeks at others in confusion at what should be done now.

"ALL UNITS, PREPARE FOR BATTLE!"

Another round of calls resounded through the camp's background, and it was that which seemed to finally break the stalemate.

"We will hold you to your word then," the leader of the noble armigers growled back. His tone was still furious, but he nevertheless backed away before ordering his men: "Withdraw! We must prepare Her Grace's troops for battle!"

They left without a second of delay, leaving only Princess Sylviane, Lady Edith-Estellise, and their respective entourage still in the compartmentalized camp.

The Princess closed her eyes and took a deep breath, as though the worst was over. Her facade of composure cracked and fell apart. By the time her eyes reopened to meet Edith's, they were seething with disappointment and betrayal.

But instead of showing anxiety, the saint smiled a little and breathed a sigh of relief. It was refreshing to know that the Princess still trusted her to refrain from further violence before meeting their common foe. After all, as good as Elspeth and Mari were as armigers, neither of them stood a chance of holding back the crusader saint.

"Now you know."

For the first time in days, Edith felt a burden lift from her soul. There was no longer any plots to hide, any backstabs to scheme. She would face judgment, but with a clear conscience that she had done as the Holy Father commanded in the end.

"I had known, since before Gwilen," the Princess scorned. "But I'd never thought that you would go through with it."

"Neither did I."

Edith closed her eyes and shook her head.

"But even those blessed by the Church cannot always understand the mysterious ways of our Lord. I have erred in my arrogance, and now... my due penance must be paid."

Releasing Durandal from their union, Edith stepped forward and knelt down on both knees. Reaching down, she carefully drew the pristine Sword of Charity and presented it to her liege with both hands.

"Do with it as you will."

For a brief moment, the Princess stayed motionless, stunned. To a knight of the holy orders, their weapon was the symbol of their monastic life. Whatever else Sylviane had expected, a display of total submission was clearly not one of them.

Edith even bowed her head towards the ground, which would have exposed the back of her thin neck had it not been for her flowing blond hair. Given the circumstances, it would be perfectly reasonable for Sylviane to grab the sword and shove it down her spine, bestowing upon her a clean death.

"Your Highness!"

Her foster mother's pleading words came from behind, follow by the sound of armored knees hitting ground.

"The fault lays with me, not her. If--"

"Mother, please," Edith interrupted with her head still bowed. "The choice was mine to make, the sin is mine to bear. I must be allowed to take responsibility before the eyes of our Lord."

She heard the whimper of a mother in reply, but Anne said no more.

The Princess reached out with her hand, settling it on top of the holy blade. Edith felt it as the weight in her palms shifted. Any second now, her sword and life would be taken out of her hands.

Then, it stopped.

The weight of dragon-forged steel soon pressed harder into her fingers, before the Princess' armored boots stepped back.

"Keep it," Sylviane declared. "You'll need it today."

The Saint and Oriflamme looked up. Was she really being given another chance?

The Princess' phoenix-blue gaze remained a whirlpool of emotions. She sighed with exasperation as anger and betrayal mixed with mercy and kindness. But behind them all laid a firm wall of resolve, reflecting a gentle light from an unyielding will of steel.

"Edith," she began. "I know you're not loyal to me. You certainly do not respect me like the way you did my father. But... I also know that you would gladly die for the people of Rhin-Lotharingie, that you would never betray their interests and cause."

Grasping Edith's hand beneath her sword, Sylviane pulled the Saint back up onto her feet and tapped her armored shoulder.

"Fight well today, and we will never speak of this again."

It was the ultimate gesture of forgiveness, to wipe the floor clean as though it had never happened.

Edith bit her lips and nodded. A joyful relief flooded her thoughts, leaking even a few tears into her eyes as she grasped the Princess' hand.

Why did I ever doubt?

"And Edith," Sylviane added, "next time you believe the Holy Father has a problem with my decisions, I expect you to challenge me face-to-face, preferably in private so we can talk without some opportunist cutting in. No more of this behind-my-back business. It's not you, and it plays straight into those worthless nobles' hands."

"Yes..." Edith bowed and kissed the back of the Princess' hand. "Your Highness."

With one last respectful nod, the Princess turned and took off into the air. But before she could rush off to the central camp, Sylviane swiveled to shout back a final order:

"Don't forget the Cross!"

She didn't wait for a reply. Time was of the essence, and she flew off without another word.

Sheathing the Holy Sword once more, Edith closed her eyes to clear the water from them.

Her reply came in a whispered breath, her voice barely audible:

"Yes, Your Majesty."

She would have to thank the Lord for his guidance later. But for now, she still had another test to face, a battle to win.

 

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

 

Meanwhile in the command cabin, winning wasn't even on Pascal's mind.

No. Realistically speaking, the best he could hope for today was to stave off defeat. That would be a victory in its own right.

Certainly, he had the all the advantages of terrain. He had positioned the army camp just west of Glywysing, down the road towards the Ceredigion capital. With the town at their back and forest on both sides, the Caliphate would never manage their massed lancer charge.

Furthermore, after a night of forced marching, the enemy would enter the battlefield tired and hungry. The Lotharins might not have the leisure of a real breakfast, but at least they were near their supply wagons and could therefore pass out bread as the troops assembled into battle order.

The problem, however, lay in the comparison of forces.

By the scouts' estimates over the previous days, the Caliphate force chasing after them numbered fifteen thousand men. Even if they cast aside all logistical attachments, it would still leave a fighting force of ten thousand professional soldiers. Assuming a standard Cataliyan cavalry brigade's distribution, they would compose of one-quarter light cavalry, two-quarters heavy Ghulam cavalry, and one-quarter Asawira armored cavalry archers.

The Cataliyan Ghulams that formed the core of this force were trained from slaves in the art of war since they were boys. Although they performed best mounted, they were more than capable of fighting as heavy foot in a shield wall.

Meanwhile, the Lotharin army -- having broken off eleven hundred men for the Ambush at Lysardh Point -- was left with just four thousand troops. Logistics personnel accounted for thirty percent of their numbers, leaving only twenty-seven hundred properly trained soldiers.

They included all six hundred of King Alistair's remaining Galloglaich shock troops, plus another four hundred noble armiger heavy infantry. Five hundred were professional Rangers who patrolled the Lotharin border realms during peacetime, and the remaining one-thousand-two-hundred were militia longbowmen drawn from the hardy mountain tribes.

Lastly, there were up to three hundred militiamen from the town that Sylviane could muster. But even if they assembled in time, the Lotharins would still be outmatched four-to-one in terms of actual combat effectiveness.

The door to the cabin opened again and again, but Pascal only scratched his head as his gaze remained glued to the map on the main table.

There was no way he could hold a conventional battle line against such a superior and mobile force. The Cataliyans could easily envelop both flanks before crushing his center. Instead, he would have to bend both wings backwards like a half-circle, to make it as difficult as possible for the enemy to outflank him.

The downside to this was that it created a minor 'bulge' at every point along the defensive line, which the enemy could pressure from three sides. To counter this, Pascal would have to rely on a Weichsel concept he had been introducing to the Lotharin army -- the combined-arms battlegroup.

These independent, composite formations would hold the center and inner wings. Each of them comprised of a core of highly disciplined noble armiger heavy infantry, supported by four times as many longbowmen and logistical troops. Meanwhile, the Galloglaich shock infantry would hold the outer wings where they would have more mobility to countercharge, while the Rangers will be placed near the ends to pick off flanking attempts.

Even then, he gritted his teeth as he placed two Galloglaich markers at the rear. We will need to maintain a reserve in case anyone circles behind us.

Everything demanded more from his precious pool of units and men.

Reaching down into his pocket, Pascal retrieved a runic pebble with a reluctant sigh.

His spell wasn't ready yet. He had all the pieces to achieve the desired chain reaction. But the output wasn't stable, and he hadn't been able to assert full control of the tremendous energy burst even in small scale tests. If he deployed the runestones he had inscribed in combat, they could become a double-edged sword that destroyed everything without regard, both friend and foe alike.

But what choice do I have?

He placed the pebble at the extreme left flank and swiveled it towards the enemy.

Attacking armies traditionally placed their strongest units on their right flank, which in turn would seek to overwhelm the defender's left wing. If Pascal formed the Lotharin left wing in a straight line that bent back like a 'V', then he could -- hopefully -- fire off a semi-enfilade shot that would devastate the Cataliyan forces while minimizing casualties to allied troops.

"Pascal."

He turned to the Princess' voice as she entered the command cabin. Two dozen nobles and officers had already assembled around the map table.

"Is the battle plan ready?"

"Yes," the young Landgrave declared in an assured voice, forcing aside all of his own worries and doubts.

He took out his baton and extended it into a pointing-stick.

"We will deploy in this formation, with both wings folded back to minimize the threat of flanking maneuvers. The front center will anchor itself in Glywysing, taking advantage of the town's buildings as fortifications. The right wing will arc back gradually, using the outlying structures as well as the nearby creek. Meanwhile, the left wing will form a straight line that pivots back from the center."

Battle of Glywysing: Lotharin deployment.

"Your Highness," Pascal turned towards Sylviane. "I hope you will do the honors of commanding the center and holding the town. Your presence would offer the best chance of inspiring the townsfolk to fight alongside us."

"Of course," the Princess nodded.

Her fiancé never mentioned the other reason, which is that as strange as it sounds, the center was actually the safest position along the entire line. Glywysing had a population of five thousand, and although many of them lived in outlying houses scattered among the surrounding orchards, the town center did feature a stockade wall to keep animals away from its granaries and wealthy residents. Its streets could also be blocked off to restrict movement, while every building and window would turn into a guard tower with arrow slits.

'Urban' combat always favored the defender, and this would be no exception.

"Duke Lionel," the young Landgrave addressed the veteran commander next. "I would like you to hold the central right wing, stretching from the town to along the creek."

"Sounds good to me," the Duke agreed.

"Lady Edith-Estellise," Pascal added just as the saint rushed into the room. "You will hold the extreme right flank. From there you can retain the initiative to countercharge any attacks on our right wing, as well as engage any Caliphate flanking attempts."

The Polar Cross Oriflamme briskly made her way to the table and looked it over.

"Understood."

"But if you station all three of us senior leaders on the center and right, then who will lead the left wing?" Lionel puzzled.

Reaching out with his hand, Pascal released his weapon from the right glove's extradimensional storage. His swordstaff manifested into existence from thin air, just as his fingers grasped the shaft and slammed it into the cabin floor.

"I will."

Even the Princess looked surprised, and the Duke's following smile was only a hint derisive:

"I didn't know you could fight."

"I am fairly mediocre with a weapon, it is true," Pascal admitted. "But that is not why they call me the Runelord."

Realistically speaking, only the cadets at the academy called him that. But if there was ever an appropriate moment to brag, now was that time.

 

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

 

"Sir, Brigadier Ardashir's light cavalry reports having engaged a screen of Lotharin rangers!"

General Salim nodded. Although it was winter, the barren orchard trees and buildings scattered outside the town still made it impossible for him to survey the Lotharin deployment from the ground. The light mist only made this problem worse, obscuring the ground even from Hakim's attempt to scry the battlefield from three-hundred paces above.

We'll just have to get used to the low visibility, Salim thought.

After the loss of Brigadier Arslan at the Battle of Gwilen River, Ardashir's cavalry brigade had become his best formation. As such, they occupied the honored position on the Cataliyan right flank, advancing forward behind a light cavalry skirmish screen that probed the Lotharin lines.

"Order Ardashir to dismount his heavy lancers while the rest of our forces move into position," the General barked to his signal officers from atop his steed. "Pass word for any troops who haven't finished their breakfast to do so now."

"Yes Sir!"

The cooks had distributed two pieces of khubz round-bread with dried beans and nuts wrapped inside to every soldier before departure. The overnight march no doubt left them cold and unappetizing, but it was still better than fighting on an empty stomach.

Dismounting from his horse, Salim strode into a newly erected tent that his staff officers just expanded. They were still laying down a fresh map drawn with cartography magic when he leaned over it.

Thus far, contact reports from frontline units left much to be desired in terms of position. It was hardly surprising, given the commanders' lack of local geographical knowledge. But as Salim surveyed the map, he knew exactly how he would act had he been the opposing commander -- which was a good place to start.

"They know they're outnumbered, and their camp is on the other side of town. My bet is on them deploying in a concave formation with the town protecting their center and the creek on their right."

"I agree, Your Eminence," Hakim took his position across the table. "The town will be a hard nut to crack. We should begin with an assault on one wing to draw in their reserves, while simultaneously deploying cavalry further down both flanks."

"Put pressure on them while taking advantage of the morning mist," Salim met his partner's gaze and nodded in approval. "Their left wing will be the most exposed," his pointing hand circled the anticipated area on the map. "They will expect us to strike there. Why not give them the obvious?"

Hakim simply smirked.

"Tell Ardashir he has ten minutes to form his lines," the General ordered. "After that, I want his lancers to press a full assault on the infidel left. Simultaneously, he is to detach his Asawira cavalry archers to ride west towards the enemy's rear!"

"Yes Sir!"

Salim still had no idea who exactly was in command of the Lotharin forces now. The Caliphate's intelligence network had yet to recover since the last battle on the Avorican plains, nor had he been able to take a high-ranking prisoner who knew the politics inside the chain of command. It was even possible, since the Phantoms had been left behind in Roazhon, that the opposing leader was no longer the same as during the battle at Gwilen.

But as his gaze narrowed around the town labeled 'Glywysing', his teeth clenched before expelling a hot breath.

Let battle commence, his thoughts declared. And don't think I'm as easy as that foolhardy Admiral Kilic.

 

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

 

Pascal clenched his jaw shut as he looked down the line.

The fine mist still enshrouded everything beyond three hundred paces, and once more, he missed the presence of Kaede who always gave him an alternative viewing angle of the front lines.

After several minutes of skirmishing between Cataliyan light cavalry and Lotharin archers, the Caliphate right wing began a general advance. Their infantry marched through the forest in long lines behind disciplined walls of round shields. The Rangers did their best to break up the formations with arrow-imbued blasting spells. But without artillery support, the enemy's numerical superiority was proving too much to overcome.

"Cross fire!"

"Volley!"

Shouts from senior ranger commanders continued to echo across the line. It was a Lotharin tactic which involved dividing every group of longbows into two, with half of them shooting upwards in a high arc while the other half unleashed direct volleys. In this manner, all but the famed Imperial Testudo formation would fail to deflect half the attacks, as soldiers could either raise their shields overhead or protect their front, but not both.

Nevertheless, even without the Caliphate's Sandstorm Ignition Screen thanks to the forest, the lines of dismounted cavalry clad in green and yellow mail continued their unrelenting advance. The first two ranks shattered under a nonstop deluge of arrows. The next two had been cut down to mere dashes. But the Cataliyan juggernaut pressed on... and now, they were almost upon the Lotharin lines.

Now or never, Pascal bit down. More than two-thirds of the Lotharins wore leather, fur, or even padded armor. In a prolonged, close-quarters melee, they wouldn't stand a chance against their heavily armored foes.

"Cover me," he ordered the squad of claymore-wielding Galloglaichs that the Princess had hand-picked as bodyguards for him.

Pascal advanced three steps forward, out from the Lothain flank as though a maniac with a death wish. Swiveling due east on his heels, he faced the advancing infidel tide at an angle, just as he had planned.

His swordstaff vanished back into his storage gloves. Instead, both hands reached deep into prepared pockets to pull out fistfuls of gems and runestones.

"Levitation Field!"

He threw both types of rocks into the air, where they hovered in a menacing cloud around him.

"Activate: Vector Shift Screen!"

The first dozen runestones spun into a circle and activated, forming five layers of small but powerful barriers that sought to redirect all physical forces in one direction. They showed up in midair as a hemisphere of pitch, utter darkness, as not even the flow of light could exit its confines.

Meanwhile, around it gathered a ring of glowing gems, their compressed ether fueling the tiny ward's astronomical demands.

There were reasons why this 'invulnerability' magic was never adapted as a personal defense spell.

During his time in Nordkreuz, Pascal had consulted Kaede on just what were the most powerful energies in the universe as understood by her 'modern' world. His familiar had replied with four categories: electromagnetic, gravity, strong force, and weak force.

Electromagnetic was easy to grasp. All trained battlemages learned the fundamental physics of lightning to better imitate its armor-piercing killing power on the battlefield.

Gravity had been understood since the age of the dragonlords. It was recognized as powerful in its widespread perpetuity, but never useful as battle magic due to the difficulty in concentrating it.

'Weak force' was something that Kaede did not understand herself, evidence that she was no scholar of the physical sciences.

That left only 'strong force', which Kaede explained as 'the power binding atoms together, released as the self-sustaining atomic reaction that powered the sun'... and her world's doomsday weapons.

Their discussion left much to be desired, but it at least gave Pascal a hint to begin his research. Recovering in Nordkreuz at the time was the infamous and somewhat sociopathic Colonel Ulrik Rudel of the Dawn Sky Knights Phantom, the only spellcaster Pascal knew on Hyperion who focused on light-based offensive magic.

"Activate: Transmutation Matrix!"

Pascal had spent an entire afternoon for the conversation that followed, during which Ulrik passed one of his personal inventions -- a catalyst spell that could mimic the sun's power. But there was a catch: the ether required to initiate the spell was tremendous, yet the overall output efficiency was far lower than that of traditional elemental spells. Ulrik had already given up on this path of research when Pascal called.

In other words, it was a spell catalyst that lacked a cascading chain reaction. But thanks to Kaede's "high school physics", Pascal knew roughly what that missing elements were:

Extreme pressure and hydrogen fuel.

Now, he watched as the overlapping turquoise Transmutation screens formed normal and heavy hydrogen from airborne molecules. The final product was held in a vacuum funnel, sealed between layers of alchemy spells. A tiny, hollow ball formed at the tip of this cone as it pressed into the black hemisphere, which grew more spherical as its sides expanded to bite into the funnel.

"Protect His Grace! CHARGE!" Pascal heard the voice of his leading bodyguard.

The Cataliyan advance was almost upon him, and thrown spears had began to shatter his outermost Spellshields. However, the Galloglaich lieutenant realized what Pascal was doing and led not only his squad, but also two nearby platoons in a countercharge against overwhelming odds to buy time.

"Activate: Condensation Field!"

Every remaining runestone hovering above Pascal triggered, rearranging themselves to form a ball around the black spheroid and turquoise funnel. There, each of them pressed in with its own beam of compressive force, crushing the isolated 'ball' at the tip of the conic funnel as though millions of hammers beating in at once.

...And now, the finale.

Pascal still couldn't manage the catalyst spell through mnemonic casting. It was too complicated, too new, too much chance of mishaps. But thankfully, after dozens of attempts to graft its magic into stone, at least a few came out perfect.

Now, he pulled a fist-sized tablet from his pocket and turned it to the magical contraption floating in midair.

He had predefined the spell to target the 'containment core'. As trigger, all he had to do was read the inscribed name:

Catalyst Phalanx - Solar Initiation.

Pascal couldn't see the nucleus of the reaction, but he knew that fires hotter than anything on this world sparked within the tiny 'containment core' at the end of the fuel funnel. Both the black spheroid and translucent Condensation Field sphere trembled, a sign of the pulverizing forces that sought to rupture layers upon layers of magical containment. All that remained was for his Vector Shift barriers to widen the gap, and the chain 'strong force' reaction would spread like wildfire, detonating in a blast of raw energy several thousand times more potent than even the best Fireball.

"Rel--"

He never even finished his word when the containment core blew. The single barrier facing east was shattered in an instant, and the quintupled-layered black spheroid immediately cracked under pressure.

The overwhelming brunt of the explosion was still channeled eastwards -- a conic blast that swept outwards in the blink of an eye. Every man and tree within two hundred paces east was instantly disintegrated by the sun unleashed. Neither friend nor foe was spared in its wake, including most of the Galloglaichs who had charged forth to protect him.

Accompanying the directional fireball was an intense burst of light, flaying skin and blinding eyes as far as two kilopaces wide. Those within a thousand paces never even felt pain as the thermal pulse destroyed nerves on contact, leaving survivors aghast at the sight of insensate, burning flesh.

Following that came the destructive wave, a tide of flames amidst rolling thunder that consumed everything it touched. In the east, this apocalyptic current of raw, cataclysmic power swept on for nearly a kilopace. It left a forty-ish degree cone of barren, blackened earth, filled with the charred remains of men, trees, and empty cottages where a brigade once marched.

The Cataliyan troops weren't the only victims either...

Bursts of light and heat had rushed out from cracks in the magical containment, unleashing focused beams of energy that either disintegrated or torched anything that they neared. Over a dozen of these plowed into the Lotharin lines, killing and igniting men where they stood.

Pascal had prepared the best he could for such an eventuality, but his troops near the epicenter had neither the time nor the ether to spare. Countless charred remains surrounded his former position, their bones shattered and flesh burned beyond recognition. Black, imprinted shadows also dotted the ground around them, where leaking rays of fusion energy simply vaporized the soldiers in formation. Even what remained of the ground and atmosphere had been set alight, with smoke and dust still burning over lanes of a blackened wasteland.

It was as if Death himself had been summoned onto the battlefield.

And the caster himself?

A triple layer of boosted personal wards could not protect him from the power unleashed. Pascal's barriers endured for as long as they could, before a rupture threw him back like a rag doll -- his charred body later found mangled in the ditch surrounding the Lotharin encampment.

74 thoughts on “Chapter 16 - Judgment at Dawn

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  1. AVR

    Typos

    restore moral after
    restore morale after

    his expressed hardened.
    his expression hardened.

    from their unison,
    from their union,

    although they performed best mounted, they were just as effective
    (Not exactly a typo, but a direct contradiction. Maybe 'nearly as effective' ?)

    easily envelope both flanks
    easily envelop both flanks

    Will just have to
    (possibly 'We'll just have to' ?)

    of a mishaps.
    ('of mishaps' or 'of a mishap.')

    Reply
  2. Morfius99

    wOW....i MEAN WOW !.....Nuclear bang.....Wonder how his allies will react to him blowing up his own solders. Even though they were going to die anyway.....Still the the supreme commander killing his own men himself is just bad PR. On to another topic, wonder how much damage did he take? he was burned up to third degree...maybe fixable by magic.....what about radiation sickness.....worst yet possible genetic deformation??? Which he might pass on to his and Sylviane's children. Isn’t that the biggest problem for a monercy???

    Reply
  3. Hakurei06Hakurei06

    Not directly relevant, but for future reference: 1 calorie per stone would be approximately equivalent to 0.658 Grays (joules per Kilogram). Also: 1 gigacalorie is the rough equivalent of a TNT ton (conventionally 4.184 gigajoules).

    What relevance a calorie or a joule would be when the standard weight is the stone and the standard length the pace, I do not know.

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      If I ever have to use the word 'joule', someone slap me because I'm involving a little TOO much science.

      Reply
  4. Steele

    one question, did pascal use most of his jewelry box to cast this, or can this be conceivably cast by any one who understands the spell.
    if he did use the jewelry box, i think it would be appropriate to mention it to clarify the strain of the spell.

    ps if im just blind and missed it or you were planning on mentioning it later, my bad

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      Not all, but he used quite a few. But I didn't mention a singular, huge gem anywhere for a reason.

      Reply
  5. Litner

    Thanks for the chapter! One of the thoughts that crossed my mind this chapter was the chance that Edith dies in the attack as a martyr or something. I thought this to be rather fitting, though I must partially admit i thought it to be rather cool if Kanade were to take her place as an Oriflamme. Details are fuzzy in my head because of my rather bad memory, but I think theres only 12 Oriflammes at a time, right? And because it would be cool for two super cute samaran (practically) twin sisters to both be Oriflammes...

    Reply
    1. Hakurei06Hakurei06

      Kanade is a name that means to play (an instrument). It's also, unless I am mistaken, strictly feminine. There's honestly no reason the author would name the character as such, since 'she' was originally a 'he'.

      The character's name, Kaede, means maple and is unisex.

      Reply
      1. Evil Twin2146

        I knew this from angel beats. If memory serves correctly Otonashi means to tighten strings.

        Reply
  6. Enefeaa

    That what an un expected development.
    For east of pascal....is that to the town ? Also where is kaede in this army position ?
    Hope i got answer on next chapter.

    Reply
  7. Steele

    3 months later pascal recovers thanks to magic, buuuuttttt.... dies from radiation poisoning

    Reply
    1. Kearnaun

      Hmm, actually, since it was a fusion bomb ignited by magic and not a fission device, there shouldn't be any radiation poisoning worth talking about. Probably ...

      Reply
      1. nipi

        I wonder if the nearby city will have to be moved? I mean the region is still contaminated for 50-100 years. Keade probably wont know that. So will she assume a longer time period or that its safe?

        Reply
        1. Himeko Inaba

          If Kaede doesn't suggest this, no one else will even be able to consider it

          Reply
      2. AoriiAorii Post author

        It's mostly limited to the neutron burst. I read somewhere during my research that a fusion detonation would not leave long-lasting radiation, unlike materials in a fusion reactor which undergoes sustained neutron bombardment (though immediate exposure is still deadly). So the town won't have as much an issue. The people though... ^^'

        Reply
        1. Kemm

          Fusion creates gamma rays and, depending on the circumstances, stray neutrons, but that's only during the proccess; once it's turned off there's no remnants of radiation.
          Fision explosions, however, leave remains of radiactive materials that keep fisioning afterwards, hence the contmination by radiation.

          Reply
          1. nipi

            Ive been doing some reading up and its not that simple. Those stray neutrons can still cause neutron activation in the surrounding materials making them radioactive. So there would still be a lingering effect. One thats probably not as long lasting and not as severe as one from a fission reaction. The effect would be highly dependent on what kinds of elements are abundant in the area.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutron_activation

            A fission reaction is more "unclean" because not all the fissionable material is consumed and the fission products themselves are unstable.

          2. AoriiAorii Post author

            except I don't think stray neutrons tend to hang around... gamma rays do have remarkably penetration ability which means they scatter far and wide before being stopped by something like planetary crust.

          3. nipi

            Stray neutrons dont hang around. Some leave the area others get absorbed by the surrounding elements turning them radioactive. Different radioactive isotopes have different half-lives. So some of those new radioactive elements will release the radioactivity quite rapidly while others with longer half-lives will release theirs over a longer time period. And when radioactive isotopes do decay they also release other kinds of radiation (like gamma radiation).

            Earth is constantly bombarded by neutrons. Carbon and other radioactive dating methods rely on it. Its just that a nuke will add a whole lot of extra free neutrons to an area.

            The area will be more radioactive the question is how much more radioactive? As fusion reactions release (3 to 4 times) more energy than fission reactions and Pascal managed a yield that was less than 1/8 of Little Boys it might not be too significant.

            Also a small mistake. There is no chain reaction in fusion reactions. At least not in purely fusion reactions.
            https://www.euro-fusion.org/faq/how-do-fission-and-fusion-reactions-compare/

          4. nipi

            I forgot to add. Not all isotopes are unstable and thus radioactive but many are.

  8. Dalek149

    Gah, you update too infrequently to leave cruel cliffhangers like this! Nice chapter though! I hope that his recovery leads to more time spent with Kaede and Sylv. They don't hang out in friendly conditions enough and I really want more interaction and development there.

    Reply
  9. Riselotte

    Truely an explosive chapter... I wonder if Kaede will regret having shared this knowledge with Pascal. To be fair though, if it was me, I wouldn't have thought Pascal capable of creating a fusion device just from hearing about strong force.

    Reply
  10. nipi

    Im a bit surprised that Kaede released knowledge of freaking nuclear fusion onto the world. There is always the threat of the knowledge getting out to other "nations". And in this world religious fanatics still hold a lot of power. Pandoras box has been opened.

    May the almighty spaghetti monster save us all.

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      To be fair, Kaede didn't give him a whole lot of details. It's not like she handed over a blueprint for some nextgen weapon. Which is actually part of the issue here because Pascal doesn't even fully understand what he's working with.

      Reply
    2. Himeko Inaba

      If you ask me, it's still pretty scary that all the Presidents with access to the U.S. arsenal are Christians waiting for Armageddon. At least they have all claimed to be.

      Reply
  11. Cardinal Flame

    Explosion!!!!
    I wonder how messed up his body will be after this, there is definitely no full recovery. also you can't kill him cause then the Real MC will die too.
    also has anyone noticed the more uses of daybreak in the story, i smell PLOT DEVELOPMENT
    Thank you for the chapter love every part of the Daybreak series

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      "the more uses of daybreak in the story"???
      Technically, Pascal is the real MC and Kaede is the narrator incarnate, but few people seems to see it that way ^^'

      Reply
      1. Himeko Inaba

        No one thinks of Kaede as the narrator since the story is written in third person, and plenty of things she's not aware of get narrated

        Reply
      2. Hakurei06Hakurei06

        I think of the pair in terms of a Watson/Holmes dynamic. One's a prodigy well versed in several fields of expertise, the other is a skilled layperson with the common sensibilities and interpersonal skills the other lacks. At least Pascal isn't a junkie.

        He isn't, right?

        Reply
      3. LonelyLovelyLunarLunacy

        For a second there, I thought he was proposing 'Daybreak' as the name of the nuclear weapon Pascal invented and looking forward to more uses of it. It's past tense in noticed though so I think I missed something.

        I can see how Kaede is the narrator incarnate, however, she has a weak, submissive, meek and unassertive personality, no real strong ideals or biases either. Therefore she doesn't really have the force of personality to direct a story like a main character usually does. She's also mostly reactive rather than proactive, not really having taken much initiative towards anything in the narrative since the assassination attempt on Pascal in the first volume, simply chipping in otherworldly knowledge and ideas from history where they become relevant.

        A far-sight from the reckless and zany Pascal in this chapter who decided to take passing mention of a weapon from Kaede, run with it and not even run the idea or results past Kaede who would likely have more knowledge on nuclear weaponry in order to learn that it was a terrible idea. In this new bout of thoughtlessness in innovation and reckless stupidity I am reminded of Kaede's summoning itself, albeit the contextual circumstances are nothing alike.

        I don't see how someone could confuse Kaede for the MC, it is perhaps the whole 'person from our world in a fantasy world' concept that causes people to shift their perspective to align with Kaede's thus making her the MC for them by default.

        Reply
        1. AoriiAorii Post author

          A far-sight from the reckless and zany Pascal in this chapter who decided to take passing mention of a weapon from Kaede, run with it and not even run the idea or results past Kaede who would likely have more knowledge on nuclear weaponry in order to learn that it was a terrible idea. In this new bout of thoughtlessness in innovation and reckless stupidity I am reminded of Kaede's summoning itself, albeit the contextual circumstances are nothing alike.

          -- you really nailed my intentions there.

          Reply
  12. Kearnaun

    Uwah! Don't kill the nuclear wizard! But anyway, I'm terribly glad to finally got to read some more Daybreak on Hyperion. Thank you for the chapter! Any someone remind the survivors of this mess to figure out the minimum safe distance for this spell ...

    Reply
  13. Virian

    Did you just give barbarian with what can be considered schizo-tech hidrogen bombs???? Oh well this looks interesting.

    Reply
    1. Hakurei06Hakurei06

      I don't know what you've been reading that you'd conclude that Weichsel is in any way barbaric, but it certainly wasn't Daybreak on Hyperion.

      Reply
      1. LonelyLovelyLunarLunacy

        Well, Weichsel is basically a military autocracy, with magic-less commoners occupying a 3rd-Class citizen position. The Weichsel king holds Dhampirs under magical geas slavery. The king also possesses Black Eagles which can be somewhat likened to the SS or some form secret police maintaining constant surveillance over everyone. The country happens to be zealous about a single religious ideology persecuting those who criticise it or simply don't subscribe to it, also those that criticise their king -- likely those criticising the aristocracy itself, possibly carrying legal consequences (Freedom of Speech ain't a thing here). Oh, and slavery is considered a valid legal punishment (Magic mind leash and all). It is all incredibly dystopian from a modern perspective.

        Giving them nuclear weaponry, is like giving the Nazis a nuclear arsenal at the start of WW2 or something similarly terrible.

        Fucking catastrophic.

        -----

        I feel the need to clarify third-class citizen is my personal way of considering it, because directly below Aristocrats are the Yeomen, who are in a fashion second-class citizens and commoners are further below even that. Furthermore, I pick out the Black Eagles in particular because they are less intelligence bureau types and more:

        Person 1: That person criticised the king! Person 2: Make 'em disappear.

        *Militaristic autocracy, rather than a military autocracy, as in the form of a military dictatorship. Weichsel is simply an absolute monarchy (or near enough) which is highly militaristic. Lots of problems articulating my point, commenting after a few bottles of wine proves to mesh poorly with writing comments yet again. In summary, 'barbaric' is a relative thing, Weichsel is rather barbaric relative to modern day I think. The entire thing remains totally subjective however.

        Reply
        1. AoriiAorii Post author

          My cultural backgrounds teaches me that there are no bad governments, only terrible administrations/rulers. The US and UK are perfectly good example of Democracies who have condoned slavery and genocide -- as the Nazis themselves testified at Nuremburg, they learned "concentration camps" from the British's conduct during the Boer War (Victor's Justice is the only reason why nazi leaders were hanged, and UK PMs were not). There are plenty of historical monarchies and dictatorships who had progressive rulers who modernized the state. In the end, the only real downside of autocratic rule is that it's a "high risk, high reward" system. An enlightened ruler can reverse decades if not centuries of stagnation (i.e. Justinian's Renovatio Imperii), but an irresponsible ruler can destroy it by himself.

          (and humans being humans, we remember the bad ones far more than the good ones. Why else does the word "Autocracy" always bring to mind people like Hitler, but not say... Cyrus the Great?)

          As modern Chinese Confucianism criticizes Democracy: "people are not equal - as they differ in virtue, intelligence, knowledge, ability, etc. Hence, it is not plausible to give everyone equal rights without considering their standings."

          I'm not a fan myself. Why should people who have no knowledge of economy or international policy be allowed to select the executors of said policies? Democracy simply cannot be separated from populism, because it is simply a formalized process of mob rule - and the mob is ignorant, fickle, and easily mislead by cheap promises (as recent US/UK politics prove).

          But hey, Daybreak is not here to rewrite the theme of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. If you want to understand the Autocracy vs Democracy argument but can't bother to pour over history books, watch that.

          Reply
          1. LonelyLovelyLunarLunacy

            What you say makes sense. I think the reason why the 'bad' are remembered more prominently than the 'good' is due to innate cynicism. It is extraordinarily difficult to be selfless, virtuous and considerate when you have a monopoly on wealth and power and the ability to exercise it freely and people are aware of this. Naturally, following that, I would posit likewise that it is far too easy for irresponsible rulers to destroy nations if they wield absolute power.

            The 'people are not equal' statement has always been something I've found to be only a partial truth. After all, it depends on what measurement of value you are using and whether or not the measurements of such values translate into other areas. It is like the ethics philosophy exercise in which you debate, between two people drowning, whether to save the skilled middle-aged man or the young child. There's no real direct and objective comparison between the age and potential of the child to the developed skills and experience of the middle-aged man. One may factor in context such as the immediacy in which things are needed, whether or not longevity is required in the one selected, whether the child has defects or perhaps that the middle-aged man might be a notorious criminal -- but the issue still remains ambiguous.

            As to whether or not there are no bad governments, I tentatively agree? Aristocratic Monarchy and similar variations of Government I tend to view as 'bad' however, simply due to the arbitrary nature upon which a person's place is society is determined, not by ability, but simply by birth. A farmer can be motivated, ambitious, exceedingly resourceful and intelligent yet stuck working every day of their life all the time without proper education to meet their full potential, to barely afford scraps on their table and four walls whereas an aristocrat can be the opposite, throw around their authority a few times then reap taxes and be showered in luxury, comfort and everything they desire. I think it downright wrong in such a scenario that under such governments their stations cannot be changed to match their merit. I view Weichsel's pseudo-meritocratic military (Still super-heavily favours Aristocrats > Yeoman > Meatshields & Servants (Commoners)) as one of its few redeeming features.

            It is perhaps telling of general attitudes in Western culture that a quick search on google for definitions comes up with results that pair Autocracy as synonymous with dystopia and arbitrary as synonymous with autocratic.

            You didn't respond simply to hear me prattle though, I enjoy discussing such things. I feel the need to add that I really, really enjoy reading Daybreak on Hyperion and would like to express my gratitude that you are writing and sharing such an entertaining story with us.

            I must concur with the comments above, however, these constant end of chapter cliffhangers are breaking my heart and making me desperate to know what happens next. I think I have a fiction addiction.

          2. LonelyLovelyLunarLunacy

            Ah, lack of context in regards to the 'people are not equal' response. I kinda missed expanding the open premise and closing statement in favor of going straight for the examples and musing. People are not equal, that much I agree with as a basic premise, however, the way that people assess whether someone is worth more, or less and even their suitability for various things are inherently flawed, ambiguous, subjective and far from absolute. So I agree with the notion that 'people aren't equal' but question everything that a person usually follows such a citation with in regards to merit and worth. In relation to the closing of the statement, in light of the ambiguity and lack of direct translation of worth and value, I posit viewing people as 'more or less roughly equal by default' in general unless there are specific contexts or extenuating circumstances which make specific judgements and evaluations of a person's qualities a necessity (varying widely from everyday job assessments/interviews and the like to hypothetical ethics philosophy exercises and post-apocalyptic survival selections).

            I swear, despite evidence to the contrary in my running series of comments I'm not usually so inarticulate.

          3. AoriiAorii Post author

            Remember that there are elective monarchies. Some by vassals within the kingdom, others by the previous ruler (i.e. the Ottomans and the Chinese both had a system where Princes are asked to demonstrate themselves through administrative/diplo/military tasks, and the Sultan/Emperor chooses the most able successor). Of course, the limitation here is that there's a restricted list and sometimes the ruler has no good heirs. The Roman Empire exceeded this (adopted successors could become Emperors -- and some of their best emperors, like Augustus and Justinian, were adopted). But the trade-off is unclear succession leading to many, MANY civil wars.

            Meritocratic systems also exists under autocracy in many ways. For example, in the Chinese Imperial Examination System, scholars and soldiers who prove their skills can rise to any position short of the Emperor itself (Weichsel's "Commoner Marshal" was inspired by Wei Qing, a slave turned stablemaster turned grand general of the empire). Under the Ottoman Sultanate, many of the most second-most-powerful men were former slaves who proved themselves very capable under prominent masters and were successively promoted (i.e. Grand Vizier Ibrahim under Suleyman the Magnificent).

            ---

            As far as assessment of people goes -- there is no perfect system. As my economics professor once put it: "Information is the most valuable commodity". So in the end, as humans being, we take shortcuts based on our biases and prejudices. And the concept that "someone who is noble must be a superior ruler" is -- IMO -- no better than "someone who is popular must be a superior ruler"

            ---

            I promise I will seek to address the cliffhanger as soon as possible. I'm not cruel =P My chapter groupings are by theme, not because I wanted to string readers.

          4. LonelyLovelyLunarLunacy

            I'd argue that the elective monarchies were far rarer than those decided by arbitrary means, like the eldest inherits and such. Being the exception, more than the rule. Even so, the statement that there are no bad governments, only bad administrations seems like a broad generalisation.

            The criticism you bring up against Democratic Republics is one, everyone voting for a representative to fill a position that most voters don't understand. Instead imagine a pure Democracy in which everyone votes on every policy - genuine mob rule. Although labelling it 'bad' outright might be debatable with subjectivity, it is hard to imagine a Democratic Republic and a pure Democracy as equally 'good'. I think it is the same when it comes to Elective Monarchies and their estranged cousins without social mobility. So I'll substitute the generalisation of my viewing Aristocratic Monarchy as 'bad' for this here.

            ---

            We largely view assessment in the same way, though people may be prone to lines of thought based on emotion, it is quite problematic but I don't think that it is an entirely terrible thing. Thinking rationally is great, it allows a lot of people to surmount many difficulties and differences that knowing or unknowing prejudice and bias can exacerbate. Pure logic, however, without any human element is a truly frightening concept. So, while the state of things could be better in regards to people, popularity and perception -- things could be worse too.

            ---

            Glad to hear that my addiction will continue to be fed. Looking forward to it immensely.

          5. Dragon God

            I have a proposal for A system of government that seeks to compensate for the shortcomings of both a democracy and a monarchy.

            I'll be willing to paste it, where we can all discuss, but I'll need to type it out first(being in my head for God knows how long), and the comments aren't really conducive for this.

            Also LonelyLovelyLunarLunacy(gosh it's long, I'll call you 4L for short), Rationality does not imply an absence of emotions; that's Hollywood propaganda.

            Rationality is about forming systematically accurate beliefs(epistemological), and systematically raisng the utility of your decisions[read "winning"](instrumental). Like it or not, emotions are a part of pmbeing rational, unless you're unemotional to begin with.

            Being calm is an emotion, it is *not* rational to _not_ feel fear, when your life is seriously threatened. Being ruled by your emotions though, is not rational, assuming they don't met you win: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"

  14. deemerald

    Did an hydrogen bomb just get made and went out of control in an instant? Dang Pascal, take it a bit slower will ya.

    Reply
  15. Glacierfairy

    "The goal of the battle was not to inflict cruelty. But righteousness and faith are most bloodthirsty. In order to bring about the high principles they chant about, those in command must burn countless men alive and smash them body and limb. But as long as those in command are far from the battlefield, they must continue to insist that righteousness and faith are more important than human lives."

    And that is why Pascal and Sylviane are different. Or so I hope. But poor Pascal. What a horrible cliffhanger. >.<

    Reply
      1. Glacierfairy

        I immediately thought of that quote when I read this chapter. Seems fitting in my opinion. =)

        Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      Fun fact: I gave each one of the character a 'ethics summary' based on the Stellaris four-axis ethos.
      Pascal is [ Collectivist (strong) - Militarist (average) - Materialist (average) ]
      Because of this, he doesn't even have very strong moral ideals, other than simply be practical, uphold the use of force as a means, and focus on what's best for society instead of the individual.

      Reply
      1. Glacierfairy

        That's interesting to know, and I'm eager to find out how that would play out for Pascal in the long run. That is assuming he still lives though -.-

        Reply
        1. Hakurei06Hakurei06

          I don't understand, wouldn't collectivists be relatively against slavery?

          Then again, I do recall him showing tolerance for indentiture though, a practice that firmly ran against Kaede's sensibilities.

          Edit: google has been kind, I now somewhat understand. That said, I'm not sure the matter will see any more debate than it has already.

          Reply
      2. LonelyLovelyLunarLunacy

        Were these 'ethics summaries' made available on here somewhere? I'd find it quite amusing to see where the other characters lie. Though most are likely to fall under collectivist of some denomination due to the setting -- save for perhaps a few rogues.

        Reply
          1. LonelyLovelyLunarLunacy

            In relation to the bias towards Collectivism and slavery, it is possible that it results from the issues being viewed through a lens of how the key concepts of Collectivism and Individualism relate to one another.

            Individualism places a heavy emphasis on choice and freedom. Since Collectivism is viewed as the exact opposite placing emphasis on duty, societal expectations and obligations it is quite easy to connect the two and see how their relationship can be interpreted. Collectivism, as the opposite of Individualism can perhaps be misconstrued as being dismissive of freedom and choice therefore supportive of institutions that deny both, like slavery, traditional norms, ethnicity based discrimination, gender roles, class systems and similar things. At least, I think that may be the reasoning that leads people to believe Collectivism is supportive of slavery.

            Perhaps I have a wealth of experience on this 'western bias', as a staunch Individualist myself, the notion of Collectivism is the stuff of dystopian nightmares to me. I feel that the whole east-west bias thing goes both ways, however, as Collectivists would view placing the individual before society as being directly subversive and disruptive towards society as a whole in the same way that Individualists would see placing society ahead of the individual as being overly authoritarian, oppressive and unjust towards the individual.

            That last part seems a little redundant, considering that's pretty much the fundamental dividing line between the two differing views.

          2. Owl

            On the other hand, there are not many people that are 'purely' one ideology, even an individualist might see the good in a neighborhood watch system or pays his taxes to the 'greater good' government and even a collectivist might ask for opinions. Personally, I suspect a 'purely' xyz ideology will have trouble surviving in the world since compromise is the name of the game and such people are utterly incapable of compromise and hence removes himself from society either by incompatibility or ostracism.

          3. Dragon God

            I think I'll fall under collectivism. For what it's worth, I don't see slavery as inherently wrong. A form of slavery, in which slaves also had rights(couldn't be treated too unjustly) and could buy back their freedom or get promoted(Babylon, Rome?) is workable I guess{for a defeated country, if it must be done}.

            If magic existed in this world, I'd actively advocate for slavery as a form of criminal punishment.

            The only problem I personally have with slavery is when people are mass enslaved(a defeated country?), and slaves aren't even treated as humans.

            Slavery as a criminal punishment where they have some form of rights(lower than the UNUDHR, but above "nothing") is fine.

            Though maybe the slavery should be for a period of time in this case.

            Slaves shouldn't have children, or their children should be raised by the state? It shouldn't be inheritable though.

          4. LonelyLovelyLunarLunacy

            @Dragon God

            Slavery being acceptable? I cannot for the life of me afford it any grounds for consideration, I simply cannot see it as anything but inherently wrong. Any nation that indulges in slavery, in my eyes, is pretty much begging to become a lifeless wasteland, wouldn't shed a single tear for such nations if they were glassed from orbit and all their citizens, soldiers and officials went the way of the Dodo.

            For me, a heavy portion of the value of human life is dependent upon freedom, self-determination and choice. Practices which strip a person of those also strip a person's existence of value and are thus the worst of atrocities by my reckoning. It's also debatable what constitutes slaves being treated 'too badly' as being made a slave is pretty much one of the worst things that can be done to a person. It is a continuous process that isn't a one-off single instance like murder, which is comparable to a light-bulb being switched off. Slavery is, rather, a thorough and continuous violation of one's existence and will.

            Magical slavery, here, I find to be even worse than the historical equivalent. After all, if you were slapped in chains and watched by guards you could always escape them, there's a chance at freedom, you only need the opportunity and determination to seize it. At the very least you could perhaps kill some of your captors and go down fighting. The geas slavery in the Hyperion universe is different in that it is strikingly similar to the explosive slave-collar used by Raiders in the Fallout universe, perhaps yet worse given that it is entirely automated and seemingly cannot be bypassed or shut-off by stealing a key, detonator or something similar. The chances of escaping geas slavery are laughably dismal and you sadly cannot even raise a hand to harm your captors.

            Stating an objection to slaves being treated as though they weren't human pretty much assumes that you consider slavery itself proper humane treatment of humans to begin with. That is, I desperately hope, a notion a lot of people wouldn't agree with.

          5. AoriiAorii Post author

            Bit of a kneejerk reaction there...
            Honestly, people of the lowest socioeconomic class never had much freedom, just the illusion of it. Apart of European chattel slavery (which was easily the worst), many slaves in other societies could actually receive education and seek promotions. The Islamic empires who used slaves the most also wound up with slaves at the highest governmental positions, and often given far better treatment, opportunity, and trust than religious/ethic minorities. Had I lived in that era, I'd much rather be a slave to the upper class than a peasant/laborer, as it came with a better quality-of-life and opportunities for advancement.
            It's really not a cut-and-dry issue.

          6. LonelyLovelyLunarLunacy

            If presented with the same choice, upper-class slave or peasant/serf/labourer I'd not be content with either. Rather, I'd choose criminal enterprise and violence despite the exceedingly high likelihood of a premature, grisly and ignominious death. However, the value of life can hardly be objectively asserted to be reliant on length or comfort, but I would assert from a personal perspective more to do with how satisfied you are with it. The choices provided don't really allow satisfaction for me as either is an unacceptably shitty one by my reckoning, however, there is always an option to take matters into your own hands, though the chances of victory may be slim. As I mentioned with Hyperion's magical slavery, what makes it worse in my eyes is that it strips away even that last fleeting hope.

            There's a story of a dog and a wolf among Aesop's Fables which deals with the idea of a life of freedom versus one of wealth and comfort. It's a personal favourite of mine, I think a team of animators from some University recently did a project that gave it an accompanying animation and posted it on YouTube somewhere but I cannot recall the title or url.

            I fail to see how my response was 'knee-jerk' though, provided the intended meaning was 'automatic or unthinking'. I merely responded that I cannot see it as anything other than inherently wrong given my own values and ethics. I then proceeded to outline my reasoning for why I thought it was so. These lines of reasoning were often proceeded by phrases like 'For me' meaning that I did not assert it as objective truth. Just as Dragon God begins his statement with 'I don't see slavery as inherently wrong'. It was more of an opinion piece on either side rather than a factual debate to find the objective truth of the inherent nature of slavery. So some degree of baseless subjective assertion was to be expected.

            Honestly, in the modern climate of relativistic or subjective ethics and morality I find it is becoming exceedingly difficult to make a solid argument to the point. Things like freedom, choice, happiness or satisfaction don't seem to carry as much weight with others when someone can state 'but they get more money and food' or 'context' as a counterpoint reducing broad issues to a case-by-case basis. It has become rather depressing for me personally.

            I still heavily disagree with Dragon God on using slavery as a criminal punishment in modern times if we had magic, given that we have more ethical alternatives that seem to work to some degree. Though, due to not being a mage myself I'd likely not have a say in the matter.

          7. AoriiAorii Post author

            'Kneejerk' does not mean without reason. 'Reason' is easy. We can always write something that sounds reasonable. Perspective is much harder. I guess I used kneejerk because I didn't feel like you considered it from the other viewpoint in that particular post.

            This all depends heavily on ethical and political views. For example, the conservative/collectivist view of criminal punishment leans heavily on using punishments as an example/warning to others, while forcing the offender to repay some of his debts to society. In this instance, slavery as a sentence works excellent. The liberal/individualist view however is that focus should be on rehabilitation, which this doesn't work at all.

            Daybreak is all about relativistic ethics, lol. Although there's a very strong conservative bias, because you know -- monarchism. Even Kaede is a mild collectivist at heart (unlike most LN/WN protags, since anime is the most leftist of Japanese culture; not to mention her Russian half).

            I have access to the WordPress Admin dashboard comments display.

          8. LonelyLovelyLunarLunacy

            @Aorii

            In addition, that was one quick response. Do you have all the comment boards rigged with notifications even on the older chapters? That must get overwhelming at times.

          9. Hakurei06Hakurei06

            I keep tabs with an rss feed for site wide comments, but wordpress also has an admin dashboard of the most recent comments.

          10. LonelyLovelyLunarLunacy

            @Aorii

            Contemplating perspective in regards to the OP is difficult as it is rather vague, I outlined that 'treating slaves too unjustly' is such a broad statement that it loses meaning, especially with people who view slavery as wrong and therefore the sentence only highlights how extremely different the views of what is 'just' are.

            Systems of slavery that allow one to purchase their freedom are entirely dependent on how much a person could earn, if anything in given conditions, not to mention the possibility of being charged heavily for board and food which deepens debt and renders slavery inescapable. As far as possibility of promotion goes, one needs opportunity that isn't present for slavery in general. A slave that is forced into prostitution at some dingy brothel is very unlikely to end up promoted to balancing the nation's budgets, one needs the opportunity to display talent that is not granted with any frequency if their position/line of work is arbitrarily decided by an owner. Even if there are laws of treatment in place, the possibility of loopholes or outright ignoring standards of treatment exist and are incredibly likely given how vulnerable and reliant slaves would be in their state with limited/diminished rights. Even if one makes allowances for that, the difficulty and implications of creating a legally enforced double-standard and codifying the practice of stripping away human rights yet attempting to maintain human dignity and 'proper' treatment seemingly makes 'ethical' slavery a figment of pure imagination. It would match up to theory in practice in just about the same way as communism, which is to say, very poorly.

            From the very beginning slavery would need to be enforced with violence or the threat thereof, making coercion, torture and given that some will resist to the point of death, murder very real possibilities in everyday practice. Having these as base-line necessities, one questions exactly how the bottom line 'ethical' treatment of slaves could be determined in relation. With these in mind, it becomes rather difficult to afford other perspectives all that much weight, without additional clarification or context.

            While you make a point about punishment as a deterrent it must also be considered fair by the people, or else every time someone stepped out of line we'd be flaying people alive in town squares to dissuade disobedience or breaking laws. A great many people have employed immensely threatening punishments that would make anyone want to avoid getting done for crimes, in doing so, however, they plant grounds for assassination, rebellion, upheaval, insurrection and the like. It also wouldn't do to overlook civil wars and conflicts from our own history waged that stemmed from slavery specifically as well as poor/harsh or just ill-fitting administrations.

            In relation to the original statement that lead down this path of discussion, if you introduced slavery into the modern world, in the form of magical slavery as a criminal punishment as Dragon God endorses, the world would just explode. A great deal of countries uphold freedom as an inherent human right rather aggressively, so it could not be realistically instituted as a legitimate practice in a select few countries either. Even if it were instituted there's a high likelihood, increased crime, civil instability, rebellion and even open conflict would ensue.

            Enough of that though, if I continue fuelling the discussion I'm unlikely to ever stop.

            In regards to relativistic ethics, I was being more general towards discussions of ethics and morality itself, in the modern climate of discussion rather than strictly in regards to the narrative. The focus has shifted from the human element, happiness, being fair and equitable to simply what brings the greatest material benefit, fits status quo or is most convenient. Bringing up relativism, or that such things may be inherent in a different culture/country just shuts things right down and prevents any real progression of the topic either way. Which kind of makes the debate and discussion of morality and ethics rather moot from my perspective. It depresses me that I'm not eloquent enough to find a way to circumvent it, as I'm not as articulate as I'd like.

          11. LonelyLovelyLunarLunacy

            I made another poor incoherent post, effectively acting as an example of my inability to articulate points well. Three minutes editing time really vexes me. You can consider this second post the hand-book for navigating the mess of the prior one.

            The first part of it is outlining why I can't entertain the perspective without some additional context as to how one could possibly frame slavery as an ethical practice. The conditions provided by Dragon God as to why he'd view it as acceptable don't hold water for me, especially highlighted in relation to preferable alternatives we already have in place.

            The second part is in response to the notion of punishment for a crime as a deterrent. Then outlining afterwards that, based upon the previously mentioned premise that a treatment needs to be considered tolerable by the general public, applying slavery in a modern setting simply wouldn't work as a deterrent but rather cause for conflict.

            Then a conclusion.

            Titling it @Aorii makes it seem as though I'm forcing words into your mouth in regards to the first half. That's not how it's intended.

            Fair bit of continuity errors too.

            One day, I swear, one day I will learn how to make a post without making a complete fool of myself.

          12. AoriiAorii Post author

            I actually thought it was better written than some of your previous posts.

            Is 'Justice' is subjective? There's no doubt about that.

            Is 'slavery' an acceptable form of criminal punishment? Depends on whom you ask. Does it have cons? Side-effects? Can it be abused? Intentionally misused? -- well, those are problems plaguing any tool (and policies/rules are just tools of management).

            There's one line from the Crash Course guy I particularly love:

            If you think any of those questions are easy to answer, then I haven't been doing my job.

            Similarly, Daybreak is meant to pose some of those questions, but not to answer them.

            Btw, I'm neither an Individualist nor a Materialist (the traits that define modern western liberalism). In my eyes, the need for money -- which chains people of lower social/education to working ridiculous hours at multiple jobs -- is just another form of slavery, and one I see plenty in today's world. (Of course, still better than European chattel slavery).

  16. Dragon_ANGL

    Thanks for the chapters! It will be interesting to see Anne & co.'s reaction to the Weischel interloper's sacrifice and spell.

    Reply

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