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The Mammoth's Calving


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Tuesday afternoon, President Myllyharju and his staff after a PR session with the Cussian Information Network in Ttoille

 

Myllyharju smiled and allowed himself to remain quiet, taking in the excited and often crude comments of his attendants, body-guards, and secretaries. It amused him that so many within Beautancus thought that a mere half-dozen pretty faces and finely shaped feminine forms would charm vital secrets from him...perhaps that was just as well. It made his part of it easier.

 

Without breaking stride Myllyharju produced his masterfully crafted cigarillo tin from his stifling (it was nearing high summer after all) jacket, and waited for his personal secretary, a tweedy Marmakite simply called Mesheuk, to lite it. Puffing on the perfectly rolled tobacco for a moment Myllyharju sighed and savored the flavor of the robust Cussian leaf. Myllyharju's mother and the Imperial Surgeons were constantly after him to quit, but he doubted he ever would. Tobacco, like so many other seemingly negligible vices provided much needed release valves for the President...alleviating otherwise dangerous pressure. Smoke curled around the aging statesman's face as he walked, trailing back and over him. Those behind finally took note of the President's silence (only Mesheuk had thus far) and an awkward pause rippled through the sharp *clakclak* of so many polished foot-falls. A distant squawking horn accentuated the pause and deafening silence born from it, and Myllyharju chuckled. "Come now fellows, I may be a bastard, but I am not unapproachable- most of all by you all."

 

The first to laugh, and genuinely at that, was the chief of this detail of body-guards- a salty veteran warrior hailing from one of the proudest lineages in all Beautancus, Lord Beltik re'Rostem of Kalupsis. The massive Cussian's booming laughter always lightened moments like this, and Myllyharju was thankful that the warrior had the social graces to recognize as much. The rest followed suit, though nervously still.

 

"It's almost a shame that the (Cussian) people took to the internet so well...if it weren't for that, we wouldn't be worrying with answering silly opinion questions about the affairs of softer nations." Beltik's sentiment represented the majority opinion within Beautancus' warrior society. The common people, however now that they were being left to their own pursuits more and more- were looking to the wider world, if for nothing so small as idle entertainment.

 

"This is true. I'd much rather they had been busy worrying with our increased production capacity in the east, or the preparations we are making for our international government simulcast. But no, they are more concerned with events in a place that they were not even aware of ten years ago. Such is the way of things friend." Myllyharju let out another cloud of milky colored smoke.

 

It still did amuse Myllyharju that the Cussian people thought of foreign news, even internet news as something entertaining. He hoped that it stayed that way, at least until he was dead and gone. That was the price to be paid, as the foreigners often said. Myllyharju also wondered what the people of Tanasos might think if they knew exactly how so many Cussians viewed their crisis.

 

Myllyharju stopped himself, idle thoughts such as those were dangerous when stacked against a schedule as busy as his. Today's schedule was slightly more interesting than most; there was a special Cabinet meeting early this evening. Myllyharju preferred to discuss business with the closest members of the Cabinet over a meal and drinks, both to discuss or resolve the day's concerns, and to prepare an agenda for the next morning. "Mesheuk, call the car up if you please."

 

"Yes My Lord, we have other matters at hand, do we not?" Mesheuk already had a PDA in hand, dialing the driver's number. Myllyharju doubted he'd even needed to say anything for Mesheuk to know. A bare moment later, his great black Hoama sedan pulled beside them on the street. Scanning the street with hawk eyes, Beltik shouldered his assault rifle, and opened the armored door- allowing one of his hand-fast men to quickly scan the vehicle. "Everything's good Lord re'Rostam."

 

With a silent nod, Beltik dipped his massive bulk into the sedan, disappearing into its truly massive bulk. Myllyharju spared a final glance to the remaining members of his staff, "Good afternoon gentlemen. Heaven keep you 'til the morrow."

 

With that, the elder statesman of Beautancus slid into the sedan, followed by Mesheuk a three other body-guards. Without another word the sedan slipped away.

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In the Presidential sedan

(Hours after the Renposan Declaration of War)

 

Eli Myllyharju was rarely discomforted. It had been years since he had been truly unsure of something, and he couldn't recall the last time he'd been out and out uncomfortable with the thought of anything. He lit another cigarillo. Scanning the text of the message Mesheuk had received from Saulot Burghedes, with the Foreign Affairs Minister's personal authentication code, not just his office's.

 

The People?s Republic of Red Iberic Workers, a nation from far to the south was seeking a condemnation of the actions of "the Renposan fascists," a nation from even farther south. The government (nor any of its current members) had never had any dealings with either people, and so far as any member of the government knew- neither had any of the Orders. The conflict was known- if vaguely, and neither country, or ideological viewpoint stirred any great sympathy within Beautancus. Burghedes indicated that he was initially inclined to remain aloof from the situation, lest it set a terrible precedent for any further conflicts of this sort...though there was also some indication that Protector-General Haakon thought this a fine opportunity to at the very least have some method of observation in place should there be any real fighting (which would more than likely not involve the socialists Iberics), for reference in the not so distant future.

 

Myllyharju glanced at Mesheuk. His stoic Marmakite features remained totally impassive, despite being very aware of the enormity of the situation. Already many of Europa's great powers were becoming involved, a fact that did at least pique the interest of Myllyharju. Of course the great powers would react- and react predictably, something that they perhaps might be wont to do again...when everything was in place. "Mesheuk, draft a statement to Burghedes indicating that it is my opinion that we should remain uninvolved in this conflict. If he so wishes, he may reply with our deepest sympathy that the harmony the Iberic people enjoy has been disrupted. Nothing more."

 

Mesheuk nodded solemnly and began to type. "And what of Protector-General Haakon's desire to observe this conflict in a more intimate fashion?"

 

Myllyharju's face split with a wolf's smile. "I imagine the good General has means available already. I will have a few words with him when we return to the office...but I expect it will be only to legitimize yet another Intel operation better left completely in the dark."

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-Office of Lord Saulot Burghedes

Foreign Affairs Ministry, Ttoille

some hours later-

 

Burghedes drained the tumbler of the last of this batch of his uncle's gardener's potato liquor. At this point in the evening, it barely even felt warm- racing down his galvanized gullet. For most of the day, he'd fretted over the message from The People?s Republic of Red Iberic Workers...he'd pulled several thousand pages worth of research and Intel data on both the Iberics, and their seeming foe- Renposa. Interestingly enough, it seemed that the Iberics faced little real danger, whereas the Renposans were in about as bad a situation as a nation in Europa could be in. Burghedes jotted a note for Protector-General Haakon, and stashed it in his pocket- to wait for dinner later this evening.

 

Burghedes sighed and pushed the Iberics out of his mind. All in all, they weren't important to the meticulously cultivated plans the Foreign Affairs Ministry had been developing. To dive into such a committed action with a nation so far removed from Beautancus geographically and ideologically would be folly; and for that to be Beautancus' first international powerplay?

 

Burghedes rummaged around on his desk- and finding his nearly empty cigarette pack. He offered the Heavens a silent prayer that there were at least a few left. The tobacco had been cultivated in the east, in the fertile lands beyond the vast Cussian Steppe. The east...that was where his mind should have been directed. The Greater Holy Empire of Tagmatium- a great power with ties to Beautancus' murky past, and the The Sublime Principate of Akiiryu- seemingly the nation with the greatest chance of understanding the Cussian mindset. If Beautancus were able to successfully court a healthy relationship with both nations, concerns like those of the day would be resolved with considerable celerity.

 

"Baby steps Saulot, baby steps." Beautancus had come far fast...but it couldn't try too much without first being sure of a few things. He hoped to find those assurances sooner rather than later. Yet more to do with Protector-General Haakon.

 

OOC: I know this still has a bit to do with the Iberic/Renposan thing...but it has more to do with events that will occur at the end of this prolonged introduction. These thoughts will be the thoughts that frame the next phase in Beautancus' "Tomorrow Protocol."

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-Imperial Library, The Immortal scriptorium, Ttoille, nearing dusk-

 

The sound of polished metal soled dress shoes clicking against polished granite echoed down the scriptorium's corridor, signaling the Protector-General's presence long before arrived. Stepping into the low ceilinged chamber- lit only by a handful of aromatic candles- Protector-General Haakon cut a disparagingly solemn figure. The candles cast long shadows over the old soldier's craggy face, though the grim determination set thereupon was clearly evident.

 

Arch-Deacon Cyrus Kaphtraunt of the Immortal Order was well acquainted with the Kalupsopolitan's demeanor, and as always remained unperturbed by it. Neither man truly approved of the other, and at one point in their lives- if but for a brief time, they had been enemies. Though Haakon was older by nearly two decades, and possessed of a much broader pool of resources, they wielded a similar amount of power (and influence, though in very different ways) in the new Beautancus, and were often forced to communicate and, in some loathsome situations- work together.

 

"Good evening Your Eminence." Haakon offered the perfunctory bow to the warrior-cleric and crouched to Kaphtraunt's level. "Good evening Lord Protector-General." Kaphtraunt brushed a stray deadlock from his face, carefully studying the other man's features. Ashen, unusually ashen. Eyes searching, perhaps even unsure?

 

Silence loomed over them for another moment, and Kaphtraunt stirred from his place on the floor. "Well, General- I'm sure you're not here to check what the manuscripts say about the Dark Mother...so what can I help you with?" The Immortal nodded to the opened scrolls and ancient codices sprawled around his place on the floor. Most had something to do with an ancient people called the Haru by all who knew them- a people with whom the Cussians had the auspicious and unfortunate history with.

 

"Not directly...but as with many things in our nation your occultic notions color the lens through which the people view the world. It does, however have a great deal to do with the Haru, real and very dangerous race they are." Haakon had a low opinion of the Orders and the enormous influence they held with the people, and was as close to an agnostic as the government would allow. From Haakon's perspective, the legends and protocol surrounding the Dark Mother, destructive urge personified according to Cussian beliefs were totally irrelevant in this situation- if it could be called a situation yet. Haakon also knew that it would not be he dealing with the Haru, were that situation to arise. It would be Kaphtraunt.

 

"Tsk tsk General. One must be aware of every angle an enemy might be attacked from. I am correct in assuming that your intelligence indicates that such study is prudent?" Kaphtraunt again waved towards his "occult" literature. "If so, you might be interested to know that my intelligence tells me the very same thing...Hence, my study. Would you have me busy myself elsewhere?"

 

Haakon was taken aback by the bluntness of Kaphtraunt's reply. For so unnecessarily cryptic a man, that part of it had been rather easy. "I would have you somewhere else, surely o' wise Arch-Deacon, rest assured of that. This merely requires a state of heightened awareness of the Defense Ministry, and that includes a fair bit more cooperation from you and your wild lot. Will this be possible?"

 

Smug bastard. Kaphtraunt smiled- broadly. Military men were always so single-minded and dogged concerning the indispensable role the Immortals played in the government. "This will be possible General. Now if you will excuse me? We can discuss anything else this evening at dinner."

 

Haakon spared not a moment, spinning on his heels and stalking back out the way he came.

 

OOC: This one's kinda weak, but it foreshadows something important to come.

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-Presidential Residence, Canal District, Ttoille, Tuesday evening, just before sunset-

 

President Myllyharju did not care for dealing with baggage from past regimes. Myllyharju didn't particularly care for dealing with archaic- and in his opinion obsolete religious and tribal- rivalries. And yet, there were the thick folders labeled "Priority" and dozens of data-sticks packed with hundreds of pages of meticulously compiled Intel and a good many recent images and videos to back them up. Both the Immortals and the Foreign Advocacy were expressing very serious concerns about the impending and seemingly unavoidable threat posed by Beautancus' most ancient and deadly enemy- Machina Haruspex.

 

Tracing back to the creation myths of the Cussian people, and the earliest texts of the Sublime Articles, the Haru had promised a slow and savage end to all things. Countless millions of souls labored endlessly to power the Haru military-state, the likes of which the world had rarely known- thankfully. Beautancus was militaristic by any nations' standards, and had always faced their enemies without fear or regret. And it would again, if need be.

 

Myllyharju hated to think of all of his work dashed in such an apocalyptic struggle. It would take the full commitment of all Beautancus' considerable resources to meet such a task, and at the potential cost of millions of invaluable citizens and soldiers- if not more...Preparations would have to begin immediately, if they already hadn't. He was sure the Immortals were preparing for a protracted conflict, on a variety of fronts. The National Defense Brigades could be ready with a comparatively short period of time...but it would dip into the public works projects. Aluminum, gasoline, nylon, rubber, steel- the list lengthened dismally- all the major reserves and stockpiles would have to be diverted. If only the most pressing concern of the evening had remained the conflicts of the south.

 

 

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-after dinner, in the Presidential Residence-

 

Sliding from his arm-chair wordlessly, Eli Myllyharju helped to collect his dinner-guests plates, while Mesheuk tuned the antiquated radio-set to the local folk-music station. Smoke from Protector-General's pipe drifted gently on the air, filling the room with its aroma. "May I offer anyone a stronger drink?" Ever the gentleman, Myllyharju tipped the already opened bottle of bourbon in his guests direction. All accepted, and Myllyharju's sharp features split into a boyish grin. As far as anyone in that room knew, it was the finest bourbon in the world- and that was Myllyharju's reputation when it came to strong drink.

 

Settling back into his chair, again without a word- Myllyharju nodded his ascent for Mesheuk to take leave for a bit. "Well, what an excellent meal. Wouldn't you all agree?" A rack of sweetly barbecued pork ribs for each, with sauteed onions and peppers, with traditional Cussian fried corn-bread. For all his indulgences and aristocratic peculiarities, the stomach of the Cussian President still craved the same sustenance as his forefathers. Including finely prepared bourbon. Accentuating a drought from his broad tumbler, the President clicked the projector control he'd somehow slipped from a pocket. A massive LCD monitor lowered from the far wall- a new addition since the last time they'd all eaten here. Select clips from the past few weeks of international news flashed across the screen in rapid succession, followed by several graphs displaying regional economic and military ratings- highlighting the most brilliant of Cussian successes. After allowing the show to play over again, Myllyharju turned his attention back to his "Senior" Cabinet-persons plus Arch-Deacon Kaphtraunt. "Aside from making obvious the fact that it is time that the Cussian people had their own world broadcast news, what else did we all find there?"

 

"Strife." Protector-General Haakon answered grimly, and simply.

 

Serena Kaphtraunt chuckled good-naturedly at the old man's reply, and then answered for herself, "A lack of cultural cohesion on many fronts, perhaps a closing of minds on the parts of many outside of our blessed Cradle?"

 

Saulot Burghedes nodded, and broke in, "Opportunity, but opportunity with a greatly elevated risk. We must reach out to the world, or all that we have learned and all that we may offer will be wasted...but I wonder if perhaps the world will not attempt to pull us in one direction or another in an attempt to settle this growing series of disputes- if the world doesn't reject us from the start. I have no stomach for foreign political schemes, and I have less stomach for the idea of sending daughters and sons of Beautancus to fight, work, and die for their petty interests." Burghedes was perhaps the most idealistic member of this group, and genuinely believed that the world might be made somewhat better if the Cussian people were to take a more proactive role in its affairs. Burghedes was also the most jaded in the ways of foreigners, and despite his knowledge and respect for their customs, he was all the more keenly aware of the differences between his own people, and all the rest.

 

Myllyharju cast an interested eye in Cyrus Kaphtraunt's direction. "And what about you Arch-Deacon, what do you think?" The Arch-Deacon stirred in his chair for a moment, and smiled. The Immortals tended to have an enlightened, and at the very least informed opinion on just about everything. "I agree wholeheartedly with Minister Burghedes, all of these situations present our people- and the government- with an unprecedented opportunity. I do not however share Minister Burghedes fears of becoming entangled in foreign affairs. We are simply too large- and potentially too powerful to be pulled into such conflicts- barring unwarranted attacks on Our Cradle."

 

Myllyharju nodded. "Are things moving according to schedule with the preparations to send the first Emissaries out?" Myllyharju switched gears, or perhaps didn't and was just tying a few loose ends in his own mind.

 

Burghedes nodded and drained his tumbler. "The Tagmatine 'Commission' is ready, and requires only that I give the word. The 'Commission' to Akiiryu are making a few last minute adjustments and requisitions as we speak. I would prefer to send them both out simultaneously, so as to not offend either party. That is, if they accept our request to pay them a visit."

 

"See to it that a special envoy on behalf of the Immortal Order is present with both Commissions Saulot- with your leave of course Arch-Deacon. Kaphtraunt acquiesced with a silent head bow.

 

Myllyharju nodded in the monitor's direction again, this time with selected clips from the Haru Intel. "Let us hope that such blasphemous images never need be shown again at such an auspicious gathering. I trust that we are taking all necessary measures to prepare for any unfortunate circumstances?" All the Ministers nodded.

 

"Very good. Now, perhaps we might enjoy slightly lighter fair?" The monitor's display switched off, and the music again resumed control of the air.

 

 

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-Koreinau Estate, rural Marmak Province...two days after the Cabinet meeting-

 

Aubrehem re'Koreinau, Lord and Scion-Holder of the Koreinau Estate and Honorable Name, Loyal Servant and Sword to the Emperor, and perhaps most importantly- recently retired Beau-re-Gard Colonel knelt to cup his hands in the cool water of the creek running through his apple orchard. Great black and tan hounds bayed in the distance, lopping freely through the tall grass growing on the other side of the ancient stone fence hemming the orchard in. Sweat trickled down the length of his back, and stung at his eyes. Several baskets of sour apples lay not so far away, where his wife was lounging in the shade of an aging tree.

 

In all of Aubrehem's thirty-eight years he had never known such satisfaction as this, working the land his forefathers had won the right to settle, so many hundreds of years ago. Squatting down on his haunches, the former special forces operator splashed several handfuls of water over his tangled mane and sweat and dirt streaked face.

 

"Spiced brandy before the full moon, eh Precious?" Aubrehem called over his shoulder. His wife, Ismi whom Aubrehem most often called "Precious", hummed a response, somewhere between asleep and awake. The former soldier smiled. For much of his life, had he been presented with such a lackadaisical reply he would be barking curses in two languages at the soul stupid enough to have shorted him thus. As it was, today...he was the subordinate. Tracing his hands down the network of scars that spider-webbed across his shoulder and up nearly to his chin, Aubrehem thanked the Heavens for the President's long memory. He'd promised Aurbrehem a chance to enjoy the home he'd rightfully earned the right to call his own- so long ago now, when he'd saved Myllyharju from an assassination attempt at the hands of an Augustinian holdout.

 

Aubrehem stretched to his full height, and pausing to pop his constantly aching shoulder joints, he caught an unfamiliar sound on the air. The clearer the sound became, the more familiar it became, though nearly entirely out of place in this part of Marmak Province, where there was little desire for such things...as an official government sedan, polished black with mirrored windows. Aubrehem felt a moment's unease, he knew of no reason for a government official to pay him a visit, especially an unannounced one.

 

"Ismi, go to the house, I'll be up in a bit." The steady rumble of his voice drew his wife up, and in the direction of the great manor. She chanced a single brief look over her shoulder before disappearing into the cyclopean-stoned wall of the house.

 

The car had stopped some distance down the path, about halfway of the orchard's fence. The hounds had stopped barking, and even now were circling through the tall grass around the car. Aubrehem gave a shout, commanding them to "wait," rather than "kill." Already a tall, hopelessly gaunt form had emerged from the car, in the standard issue dress-green for officer-bureaucrats of the Defense Ministry.

 

Striding between trees quickly, Aubrehem closed the distance quickly enough to recognize the wolfish face of the officer, one of "his own" men- Leosik Urtenau, formerly a Major in the Beau-re-Gard, and now from the silver crescent inlaid with nephrite stars on his collar- a Colonel in his own right. "Leofsik, have you come to boast of your fancy new jacket and jewels?"

 

Leofsik smiled sheepishly, checking himself with a shrewd glance down. Like all men who served under another for any extended period of time, such as that was a gut reflex...the Cussian need for perfection in all things.

 

"No, not quite Colonel...I wish I were here under different circumstances, and in much less restrictive clothing..." Leofsik was a native Marmakite- like Aubrehem...and for most of the warm months, Marmakite men still wore little aside from a homespun kilt. Aubrehem rumbled laughter- for only a moment. The fact that Leofsik was here- in uniform was still something that required explanation.

 

"I received the assurances of the President."

 

"As did I. The President was not aware that the first black light of Doomsday was dawning on the far horizon when he gave us those assurances." Leofsik nodded in the direction of the car. "If you would join me for a drink- I thought to bring a bottle of my father's finest- the best corn liquor this side of the mountains."

 

"It seems we will need it." Aubrehem was still trying to close his mind around what was going on. Cryptic talk such as that was not normal for Leofsik, and surely a few months indoctrination into the upper echelons of the Defense Ministry hadn't changed him so...or had it?

 

The seats of the sedan were remarkably uncomfortable, but surely enough- there sat a home blown glass jug, half full with liquor that could have passed for spiced battery acid. A small travel-tray was already set up, with a laptop setup and opened. Leofsik waited for Aubrehem to slide in, and then sat. Rummaging through his coat's breast-pocket, Leofsik presented a data-stick. Handing it over, he poured Aubrehem a tall shot- and promptly got out of the car. "Put the stick in." He said no more, shut the door and disappeared from view.

 

Aubrehem drained the shot, and inserted the stick. Instantly, the laptop's monitor blinked, and went deep green, almost a swirling green...again, instantly an image appeared from the swirling greeness, a face- a very familiar face. Beltik re'Rostam, in a ceremonial garb that Aubrehem didn't entirely recognize appeared, greeting Aubrehem through the wonder of modern technology.

 

"Good afternoon old friend, and I pray to the Heavens that this message finds you well. Sufficed to say that I know you are consumed with questions right now, let me begin by saying this: The President fulfilled his obligation to you- his word has been upheld. What I am about to ask of you has very little to do with him, and a great deal more to do with that shining example of a wife sitting in your manor house. And the powerful sons plowing in the garden...Your family- your People and our Blessed Cradle have need of a man such as you- a man with fire in his liver and grit in his craw. We have need of you now in a way that none else may know of- a need that you take your rightful place amongst the greatest and most powerful of our holy kin."

 

Aubrehem was a pious man- in his own fashion, and recognized the final line from a rather obscure and apocryphal text penned by a mad Chronicler ((OOC note: The Chroniclers are another Holy Order, like the Immortals but solely dedicated to the collection and preservation of Cussian history and lore.)) two hundred and sixty years ago. It recalled a dangerous and fearful pact, made by the Lords and High-Priests of the Old Empire- a pact to forswear all else save a desire to see the Great Dream of the Cussian people fulfilled. The pact had bound those desperate men together in a body now scarcely known as the Izoklauro, or the Inquisition. In those dark days, the determined men of the Inquisition had lit a holy fire- and struck holy terror in the hearts of the Cussian people, broken by decades of sectarian strife.

 

"You have one day to set your affairs in order. After that time, you will report to the Imperial Library in Ttoille. I will be waiting."

 

The screen went blank, and the computer died.

 

Aubrehem opened the door, and called to Leofsik. "Care to barbecue a hog for supper tonight? It might be a while before we have another chance."

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TO: Minister Eugenius Wilson, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Greater Holy Empire of Tagmatium

 

FROM: President and Regent of the Glorious Dynamocracy of Beautancus, Eli Myllyharju-Ttoille, care of Lord Saulot Burghedes, Foreign Minister of the Glorious Dynamocracy of Beautancus

 

SUBJECT: Opening of Diplomatic Relations

 

On behalf of the Glorious Dynamocracy of Beautancus, and all of the Realms within the Blessed Cradle of the Cussian People; on Behalf of the Emperor Janus IV, of the House of Ttoille, Ordained by the Heavens to Safeguard the Blessed Cradle, King of Inner and Outer Beautancus, King of Kalupsis, King of Feizon, King of Marmak, King of the Beuadegaun, Ensurer of the Rights of the Cussian People; on Behalf of the Cussian People, Dispersed throughout the Blessed Cradle- and Beyond; on behalf of the Government of the Glorious Dynamocracy of Beautancus, sworn to uphold the will of the Emperor, sworn to usher in the Great Tomorrow, sworn to Cherish the Cussian People as if each were the Last Child of the Blessed Cradle:

 

Greetings and may the Peace of the Heavens be with you and your honored kin always,

 

"My sincerest hopes that this humble epistle finds you well, and the affairs of your house and nation in order.  For fifteen years, the Government of the Glorious Dynamocracy of Beautancus had endeavored to ensure a place in the modern world for the Cussian people.  In the further pursuance of that goal, the Government thinks it best to seek fruitful diplomatic relationships with the Great Powers of Europa.  Though the ancient texts speak of a different path taken by our two peoples, I feel that we could in fact gain and learn a great deal from future interactions.  Again, in pursuance of this goal, the Government of the Glorious Dynamocracy of Beautancus requests the outstanding privilege of sending an Imperial Emissary to the Greater Holy Empire of Tagmatium, for the purpose of discussing regularized relations.  I anxiously await your reply."

 

Signed,

 

Eli Myllyharju-Ttoille

 

ܥܠܝ ܡܝܠܠܝܗܐܪܝܘܬܘܝܠܠܥ

 

 

TO: Baron T'Nith, 1st Minister of the Akiiryan Baronic Council of the Sublime Principate of Akiiryu

 

FROM: President and Regent of the Glorious Dynamocracy of Beautancus, Eli Myllyharju-Ttoille, care of Lord Saulot Burghedes, Foreign Minister of the Glorious Dynamocracy of Beautancus

 

SUBJECT: Opening of Diplomatic Relations

 

On behalf of the Glorious Dynamocracy of Beautancus, and all of the Realms within the Blessed Cradle of the Cussian People; on Behalf of the Emperor Janus IV, of the House of Ttoille, Ordained by the Heavens to Safeguard the Blessed Cradle, King of Inner and Outer Beautancus, King of Kalupsis, King of Feizon, King of Marmak, King of the Beuadegaun, Ensurer of the Rights of the Cussian People; on Behalf of the Cussian People, Dispersed throughout the Blessed Cradle- and Beyond; on behalf of the Government of the Glorious Dynamocracy of Beautancus, sworn to uphold the will of the Emperor, sworn to usher in the Great Tomorrow, sworn to Cherish the Cussian People as if each were the Last Child of the Blessed Cradle:

 

Greetings and may the Peace of the Heavens be with you and your honored kin always,

 

"My sincerest hopes that this humble epistle finds you well, and the affairs of your house and nation in order.  For fifteen years, the Government of the Glorious Dynamocracy of Beautancus had endeavored to ensure a place in the modern world for the Cussian people.  In the further pursuance of that goal, the Government thinks it best to seek fruitful diplomatic relationships with the Great Powers of Europa.  Our two nations have had precious few dealings with each other in the past, allowing for a clear and open future untroubled with anachronistic concerns.  The Cussian people have a bright dream for Tomorrow, and would enjoy having at the very least a cordial relationship with the Akiiryan people a part of that Tomorrow.  The Government of the Glorious Dynamocracy of Beautancus requests the outstanding privilege of sending an Imperial Emissary to the Sublime Principate of Akiiryu, for the purpose of discussing regularized diplomatic relations.  I anxiously await your reply."

 

Signed,

 

Eli Myllyharju-Ttoille

 

ܥܠܝ ܡܝܠܠܝܗܐܪܝܘܬܘܝܠܠܥ

 

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To: President and Regent of the Glorious Dynamocracy of Beautancus, Eli Myllyharju-Ttoille

 

From: The Baron T?Nith, 1st Minister of the Akiiryan Baronic Council.

 

On behalf of P'Neonaric, Prince of the Akiiryans, The Baronic Council of Akiiryu, and the people of Akiiryu, I offer greetings to the Emperor, Regent, Lords, and people of Glorious Dynamocracy of Beautancus. 

 

I have been instructed by the Prince and the Baronic Council to advise you of the Sublime Principate?s acceptance of your proposal to send an emissary from your emperor for the purpose of discussing regularized diplomatic relations.

 

The Prince, Baronic Council and People of Akiiryu, believe, like you, that our nations have much to gain from clasping our hands in friendship and, thus, look forward to your emissary?s arrival. 

 

May your bow strings remain tight and your arrows always find your mark. 

 

T?Nith,

1st Minister,

Akiiryan Baronic Council

 

OOC: The Akiiryan?s aren?t much for long winded titles (cultural thing), not that they criticise it (much) in others. Also note this is merely the acceptance letter, I an working on the belief that lower government officials will work out the details of the trip?we can talk about that via PM. Finally, just one thing for when your guys arrive ? Akiiryans wear facial tattoos?see the fact book for more details.

 

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To: President and Regent of the Glorious Dynamocracy of Beautancus, Eli Myllyharju-Ttoille, care of Lord Saulot Burghedes, Foreign Minister of the Glorious Dynamocracy of Beautancus

From: Eugenius Wilson, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Greater Holy Empire of Tagmatium

Re: Opening of Diplomatic Relations

 

Honoured sir,

 

I am pleased to say that your message does indeed find myself well, and I pray that you are also in the fullest of health.

 

Although history does record that our two illustrious and most ancient Empires have had a less than peaceful past together, I do not doubt that the future will show the direct opposite. Therefore, I gladly accept the noble offer of Tthe Greater Holy Empire receiving an Imperial Emissary from the Glorious Dynamocracy.

 

Eugenius Wilson,

 

Foreign Minister

 

of

 

the Greater Holy Empire

 

of

 

Tagmatium

OOC: Not quite up to your standard, I'm afraid.

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-Ttoille Imperial Gardens, near the Lotus Promenade-

 

The Lotus Promenade was host to more visitors than nearly any other site in the city of Ttoille, literally teeming with tens of thousands of people (mostly senior-citizens and women) at nearly anytime during day. Lord (Inquisitor) Beltik re'Rostam thanked the Heavens for that small fortune, and continued his stroll at a leisurely pace. Few if any of the people he would encounter here today would recognize him, doubly so without his government-noble regalia. Though a lithe giant even amongst his robust race, it would not be so uncommon for a warrior to make a private pilgrimage here (most likely to honor his deceased mother or grandmother) as to attract any unwarranted attention beyond the good-natured anecdotes of a mendicant.

 

Careful to take note of anyone that looked more out of place than himself, paused to take a seat on a sturdy granite bench. He came here from time to time, to think- and to discuss business away from the normal venues of any who might question his motives. The latter was the case today, and the business at hand was of greater weight than his normal concerns. Inquisitors were taught from the very start to weave as tangled and indiscernible a web as possible, and Beltik held truer to that maxim than most.

 

Slipping from the crowd, almost without Beltik noticing- a lone Immortal, dressed in the simple garb of an wandering preacher approached him slowly. Ambling at the pace of a man simply enjoying the flowers, the Immortal paused and dipped his head. "Heavens be Praised! My son, how long has it been!?"

 

Arch-Deacon Cyrus Kaphtraunt sat beside Beltik, careful to never allow more than his great beard to jut from behind the relative security (and secrecy) of his cowl. "Greetings honored brother, and peace- for now." Kaphtraunt kept his distinctive voice hushed- no telling which woman out of the crowd might recognize it from radio and television broadcasts- or even from sermons in Cathedrals around the Cradle.

 

Like Beltik re'Rostam, Cyrus Kaphtraunt had long ago been inducted to the oily black coil of secrets called the Inquisition, the true rulers of the Dynamocracy. Both men had served in that capacity for nearly two decades, working from the shadows, improvising upon defeat and bountiful fortunes along the way- shaping a sprawling nation into an Order the likes of which the world had never before dreamt of.

 

"I apologize in advance, but I have other matters to attend to shortly- so I will be brief." Kaphtraunt waited for Beltik to nod his ascent before continuing. Beltik did not envy the enormous responsibilities placed upon the scarred shoulders of Cyrus Kaphtraunt and bore the man immeasurable respect for it.

 

"The Governing Council will convene this evening, for the triple purpose of inducting two candidates into the Secrets- and for deciding upon our course of action in facing the Haru. Our first steps into the diplomatic arena have been complicated by this, and I imagine that the Grand-Master and the other Chamber-Masters will have a great deal to say about that. I do however, have reason to believe that something far more fruitful than conquest might emerge from the coming confrontation. A vision of Tomorrow never before imagined. "

 

Beltik nodded. With the Grand-Duke Waelfwulf preparing to leave the nation as the Imperial Emissary to the Sublime Principate of Akiiryu, it fell to Beltik to perform the martial aspect of the induction ceremony, and when the living Sword-Saint Waelfwulf passed from this flesh to the next, Beltik would assume that role permanently. "By Heaven's Will it will be done, and may Heaven keep you until we meet again honored Brother." Beltik dared not ask questions about

 

The two disguised men rose, shared a bow and then departed into the crowd, flowing away from each other with the gentle pace of the Cussian matrons around them.

 

 

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-Just inside of Akiiryan Airspace, still several minutes from touching down-

 

"...Shouldn't be more than fifteen minutes Your Excellency." The flight officer nodded towards the eastern horizon, and their destination- Jaboicic Airbase. They'd already been in touch with air-traffic control, and everything on the ground was prepared and waiting.

 

Waelfwulf nodded approval again. He heartily approved of this people, the Akiiryans. He'd expected them to be prompt, and was greatly pleased to find they hadn't disappointed. Aside from that, it seemed to the "oldest soldier" that these warriors from the east presented the Cussian people with a true rarity, kindred spirits. There were minor differences, yes...but none so great that a healthy relationship couldn't bloom. The Inquisition, of which Waelfwulf was one of the most senior Chamber-Masters, had decided it was absolutely necessary for the growth and continued prosperity of Beautancus to seek out amicable relations with the Sublime Principate of Akiiryu, perhaps the only nation in all of Europa with a chance to understanding the Cussian mindset. The Cussian people craved some contact with the outside world, and it seemed they wouldn't be happy until they had it. So, the Inquisition would give them that, with nations totally of the Inquisition's choosing.

 

"Very good Colonel. Notify me well ahead of our arrival. This will be the first chance I've had to see a foreign military installation with my own eyes." Waelfwulf's voice was smooth and his command given without a doubt that it would be followed. Turning and stalking out of the cabin, the Grand-Duke of Kalupsis prowled down the catwalk leading to the "airship's" ((OOC: It is a cargo-jet but that's just the Cussian word/concept for any big flying machine.)) massive cargo-hold. Two dozen of his best soldiers, drawn from the Beau-re-Gard mulled about amongst the crates carefully packed with gifts for the Akiiryans. Most Cussians, and especially woodsmen such as these, didn't care for flying, but their faces didn't show it. In fact, most of them seemed to be as eager as he to get the chance to meet the Akiiryans, face to face. Upon noticing their Lord the entire lot of them snapped to attention, dim hold lights casting reflections off their polished breast-plates. Aside from his personal guard were a number of others- two champion kick-boxers, Waelfwulf's staff and attendants, numbering only ten for the purpose of this mission, four Cussian warhorses- three stallions and a mare, and two Immortals- looking far more comfortable hurtling through the air than anyone else in the hold. They (the Immortals) exchanged silent nods with the Grand-Duke, both fully aware of the enormous power behind this mission, of the enormity of this particular cause.

 

Waelfwulf made a point to inspect the horses- again. They were from his personal stables, and amongst the finest in all of Beautancus. These Akiiryans were supposed to be riders of the same sort as his own kin, and had he received such a gift, it would have left a deep impression upon him...hopefully it would be the same with the Akiiryan Prince. He also made sure that the crates, full of other smaller but equally fine gifts were in order, and ready to be moved. The intercom squawked over the drone of the great engines, and the flight officer's voice echoed through the hold. "We're making the approach now Your Excellency."

 

Waelfwulf motioned to the Captain of his guard, a bloody, laconic killer- Yezdegerd re'Rostam. He came from a proud lineage, renowned for its commitment to duty, and meticulous observation of their own warrior code. Reaching the cabin, Waelfwulf was instantly impressed by the orderly, fortified nature of the airbase. He couldn't make out any particulars of the buildings stretching out beneath them. "Take us down nice and easy Colonel. Order the escorts to hang back, give us a little cushion. "

 

Waiting until the last minute to return to the hold (so as to gain a view in greater detail), Waelfwulf gripped a safety bar firmly as the rumble of the landing gear lowering vibrated up through the floor-plates. An instant later, they were on the tarmac...and Waelfwulf and the Cussian people were one step closer to a better future.

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-Well inside of Tagmatine Airspace, still several minutes from touching down-

 

Lord Saulot Burghedes drained the last of his coffee (thick, and very black) from the ancient mug, probably crafted by a grandfather fifteen generations removed. The clouds drifted by at what seemed to be a leisurely pace, allowing him glimpses of the Tagmatine countryside below. It had been more than two decades since he'd visited this land, and a great deal had changed since then- everywhere- and seemingly for the better.

 

He smiled inwardly, and offered a silent prayer to the Heavens in thanks for having such a wondrous "path" set before him. His taste for such travel had been whetted as a young man, and now it seemed that he would have more and more chances to satisfy it, having neglected the call for so long. He was particularly pleased to be making the journey to a nation as illustrious and intriguing as the Greater Holy Empire of Tagmatium. If the climate was suitable to build a strong relationship with the Tagmatine government, there would be more opportunities for long distance travel. "Baby steps Saulot, baby steps." Burghedes had to remind himself of that fact a great deal...and it was growing hard to do that, with the explosive growth in all sectors of the government and nation. If his fortune held out, and again Burghedes offered a prayer to the Heavens, then that same pace would continue with his work here.

 

An attendant, from his personal staff at home, bowed into his sight gracefully, careful not to overstep her bounds. Burghedes was a noble born of a culture and ancient stock- and despite all his modernistic liberalism many of the servants who had been with his father before him still showed an amazing amount of difference...difference that Saulot wondered was even necessary. "Yes my dear?" Saulot extended a hand to the attendant. She accepted, being very use to his personality and unique temperament and sat gently beside him. "His Lordship, Colonel Baurehm wishes to inform you that he is now in contact with Air-Traffic Control at Tagmatica International Airport, and that everything is ready."

 

Saulot nodded, "Very good dear. If you would, inform Lieutenant Colonel Reimarez of the same if you will. I imagine he's already got those tin soldiers polished up and waiting...but just to make sure. Also- send the two Immortals- Deacon Kefjeh, and Brother Ezau up here. I'd like for them to be at my side when we disembark."

 

The attendant bowed again, and was gone. Barely a moment later the two Immortals were there, in their own form of Imperial Regalia. White Nehru jackets under intricately ornamented breastplates- both with an eerie green tint, and crisply pressed green-gray slacks tucked into silver and jade encrusted boots. "You wished to speak with us Lord Minister Burghedes?" Kefjeh bowed extravagantly, though keeping his eyes locked on Burghedes the entire time. Kefjeh was one of the youngest Deacons in the Immortal Order- and perhaps one of its most promising young leaders. And with the vital role his sect now played in the governance and growth of the nation, it was important that he was exposed to and experienced in foreign missions such as these...if he hadn't been already. He spoke perfect Tagmatine Greek (with a slight Kalupsopolitan accent), and better than perfect English (with a high-class British accent)- of this Burghedes had been assured when Arch-Deacon Kaphtraunt commissioned him for this task. From all indications, the other man- was his bodyguard...and one of the most gifted butchers of men in all the Cradle. Men like Brother Ezau made Burghedes uncomfortable more often than not, but he understood the Arch-Deacon's reasoning behind sending him as well. "Gentleman, if you would do me the honor of exiting the plane at my sides, I would be indebted to the both of you. I wish to present a totally united front, and I fear that though the Beau-re-Gard will do its job protecting me should the need arise, they might not exactly dazzle the Tagmatines with their conversational abilities."

 

Both the Immortals smiled broadly, Ezau more broadly than Kefjeh. There was a long standing rivalry between fighting men from the Immortals and the elite Beau-re-Gard...and alarmingly enough, the Immortals usually proved themselves to be the superior. Kefjeh would be a huge asset during the mission, due to a great deal more than his gift with languages...Deacons weren't ordained because they were pretty, or even good war-leaders...they were ordained because they could command attention from even the hardest heart.

 

"Very good Lord Minister. We serve at your pleasure." Kefjeh bowed again, and took a seat opposite from Burghedes. Ezau sat- more of an uncomfortable crouch, in the seat beside him, and started at the attendant upon her silent arrival.

 

She waited for Burghedes leave before speaking- again, and he really wished she hadn't in front of the Immortals, "We are making the final descent my Lord."

 

"Very good. Shall we have a look gentlemen?" Burghedes crowded against the window beside his seat, trying to catch a glimpse of the sprawling Tagmatica International Airport. The cargo-jet touched down smoothly quickly after that, and the slow crawl to their terminal began. Burghedes caught sight of the crowd and checked himself...that was an abnormally large guard contingent wasn't it? It was well enough if they were being careful for his sake...but was there really that much need to worry? Sighing, Burghedes rose and steadied himself. "Gentleman, let's make our way to destiny."

 

 

 

OOC: All done.

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T?Rorthic and T?Nith stood next to each other, dressed in their formal robes. A weak breeze played across the men, lifting the few strands of hair that had escaped their loosely braided pony tails and causing their cloaks to billow slightly. As the cloaks lazily rose in the wind the gold and silver thread detail on the men?s tunics? cuffs and high collars caught the sun and glinted, as did the torcs that both men wore about their necks. (OOC: for reference the robes are similar to those worn by Theodan in LoTR ? more decorated practical riding clothes than impractical court attire. This is about as formal how the Akiiryan?s get, understated practical court clothing, reflecting their nomadic heritage. Make no mistake the clothes are beautiful, expensive, and made out of the finest materials, but they are hardly like the court/formal attire of many other nations. The torcs have the head of each baron?s clan animal at each end.) Behind the two barons stood a small group of aides and minor officials ? the cogs and oil of the machine that was the Akiiryan government. Further back still and slightly to the left stood a company of Guards infantry in formal parade dress, the sun reflecting sharply off the highly polished bayonets affixed to their rifles and the equally brilliant buttons on their tunics.

 

T?Rothric watched the Cussian plane as it slowly taxied down the runway that run perpendicular to the one on which he stood with an expression of keen interest on his face. The half nodding to wards the plane he addressed his fellow baron. A small smile played on his lips.

 

?Well, T?Ka will be pleased to know the Cussians can land a plane correctly, no that he ever really doubted that. Well, no more than he doubted the Tagmatine military?s ability to do any more than parade up and down the streets of Tagmatica all their...what was it?... childskin finery.?

 

T?Nith suppressed a laugh, causing the tattoos on his cheeks to jump and twist. The Baron T?Ka, Akiiryu?s Grand War Marshal (OOC: Minister of War) was notorious for his jingoistic out bursts and short temper. A weakness that was only counteracted by the fact that the gruff bear of a man didn?t believe much of what he said about the incompetence of other nation?s militaries when it came to war.

 

?Quite, although he took to their wine pretty easily. He even mixes with his ma'laii!"

T.Nith shook his head and continued

"No, we should indeed thank the Stag the Prince needed him elsewhere today, the last thing we needed today was an international incident because T?Ka felt one of our honoured guest?s underlings looked at him the wrong way.?

 

T?Rothric laughed openly at his friend?s comment.

 

?Come now T?Nith, we both Know T?Ka has more brains than that.?

 

T?Nith waved his hand

 

?Yes, yes?still until we have a better measure of the Cussians I do feel it better to keep our blunt friend a little distant from them.?

 

T?Rothric raised and eyebrow with an amused look on his face.

 

?You feel??and am I to believe the Prince feels the same way??

 

?Yes?

 

?Ah. So rather than thanking the Great Stag I should be thanking the Prince and his 1st Minister then, eh? Where exactly is the Grand War Marshal today? I hope not in his office dealing with a ton of military minutia feeling slighted because we?re out here meeting new and interesting people and he?s not.?

 

T?Nith smiled.

 

?Oh no, not at all. In fact, I am sure he?s happier than a stallion with a thousand mares to himself. The Prince has him out preparing a demonstration of the capabilities of the new Rhino. He?ll be having a great time blowing things up.?

 

T?Rothric laughed again.

 

?Yes, I am sure he is.?

 

He turned his attention back towards the Cussian plane which was only now turning down onto the runway on which the welcoming party a waited. He?d travelled much in his life and had met many of the peoples of Europa but the Cussians had always been a mystery to him. That fact surprised him, given the similar histories of the peoples, but the Stag had a habit of throwing surprises at you?just to make sure you were paying attention. Those who weren?t often found themselves thrown from their saddles. ?Well,? he thought as he watched the plane shudder to a halt, ?I haven?t been dehorsed yet?and I am not about to suffer that experience now.?

 

The doors of the plane began to open, T?Rothric and T?Nith straightened their tunics and began to walk forward. Behind them the commander of the honour guard barked a short order and the 300 soldiers snapped to attention as one. Today was to be a momentous day for the Akiiryan and Cussian peoples.

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The great cargo doors swung down, allowing the light to filter into the formerly dimly lit cargo-hold. Waelfwulf's old eyes took a moment to adjust, but that didn't stop him from giving commands. With a voice grated by a life time of barking orders, and heaving up great battle cries, Waelfwulf's voice was one that the thunder itself might envy. "At your Captain re'Rostam."

 

The deafening crash to two dozen pair of polished boots against the metal of the loading ramp split the air, as did the smack of rifle butts against gloved hands. Every individual motion was one taken in perfect harmony with the greater unit, something for a commander to be truly proud of. Steadily ebbing down the ramp, the Beau-re-Gards heads cocked to face to the Akiiryan Barons proudly. The soldiers were clad in the normal dress normal of a Beau-re-Gardsman, olive green double-breasted soldier's tunic, and straight legged and crisply pressed slacks, of the same color, tucked into polished black knee-boots, with a tightly wrapped black turban to mark them as warrior-elite. Swaying gently at each waist was a wedge shaped scabbard and fully effective Cussian war-blade. Their rifles were of the more advanced, and much deadlier 7.62 Akinakes configuration, simple but efficient engines of the Dynamocracy's order. Captain re'Rostam broke rank and stood at parade rest before the Barons, waiting for all the soldiers to assemble outside of the cargo-jet. When the last line was down, the Captain barked a single order- in Cussian- and the entire host whirled to face the Barons, with not even a single eye blinking out of order.

 

Seeing this, Waelfwulf nodded to the Immortals at his side and stalked down the ramp himself. Hawk's eyes scanning over the 300 Akiiryan guardsmen, the Grand-Duke of Kalupsis rumbled approval. They stood at attention well enough. Catching a look at the two Barons, both men with obviously powerful characters, and bearing the marks of their honored lineage. Waelfwulf nodded in their direction, and covered the distance between very quickly, even on aching old legs.

 

"Hail, Hail and may the Heavens Smile Upon you and all your Honored Kin!"

 

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Grand-Duke Waelfwulf

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-Camp Haakon Training Facility, northern Feizon Province- a part of the Great Cussian Steppe-

 

Barely catching the whir of motion out of the corner of his eye, Kaurzon more than caught the impact of the bone crushing blow- directly under his cheekbone. Jaw rattled, eyes watering, and nose running, the raw recruit toppled over, blood welling from the gouges on the inside of his cheek. His breath came in ragged rasps for a moment, and the world spun around him. Becoming conscious of the fact that he was still on the ground, Kaurzon forced himself up, and standing tall- resisting the nearly overwhelming urge to vomit where he stood.

 

The grim-faced Sergeant before him nodded approval, and didn't push the sparring match any further. Both men, and every other watching knew that Kaurzon had been bested before he stepped into the circle...it was just a matter of whether or not he walked out of the circle on his own when all was said and done. The Sergeant- Terek, a dark-faced, hard featured Marmakite drew into a stiff bow, and waited for Kaurzon to reciprocate. Kaurzon bowed, careful to keep his mouth closed...the Sergeants had a thing for "not drooling that weakling filth on their righteous dirt," and a blow much harder than the one he'd been delivered would be quick coming if even the smallest drop fell- whether Kaurzon meant it to or not.

 

"You are free to rejoin the ranks Recruit. Will that hold 'til muster?" Sgt. Terek cocked a calloused thumb towards Kaurzon's blood swelled cheeks. Kaurzon nodded. "Good man."

 

Kaurzon trotted to his place in the ranks, and waited for the next recruit to be called. Waiting for the Sergeants to become distracted with the (minimal) action in the circle, Kaurzon gapped his mouth open and let the coppery flood drain. The next recruit wasn't as well prepared for Sgt. Terek's right hook, and it took several waiting stretcher bearers to gather the quaking teen up. He was a year younger than Kaurzon's own tender 17, and that would ensure he'd be cut a little slack...but not much. The Brigades didn't need weak Brigadiers, and if someone couldn't cut it...the factories always need more lever pullers.

 

That was one of the few things that inspired dread in Kaurzon, more so than any Sergeant...the monotony of "civilian" life. One mind-numbing occupation for all one's days in this life, with little to no hope of something else, even for a little while. Many of his cousins had resigned themselves to that fate, but not Kaurzon. Never. He'd take whatever beatings was required, and he'd wear his fatigues proudly thereafter, rich in honor, and never lacking something worth doing.

 

The rest of the sparring "matches" went over fairly well, with one extraordinary recruit scoring a vicious uppercut on Terek, almost knocking the rock-solid Marmakite out. Almost. Kaurzon was surprised Terek hadn't killed the talented brawler...but that wouldn't have served the Brigades needs, now would it? Before dismissing the "extraordinary" recruit, Terek inquired as to his name. "Kashtiliash...re'Rostam." It took all of Kaurzon's discipline not to gasp in shock, and realizing that he offered a hefty prayer to merciful au' Yil that no one else had either. A re'Rostam, in his company. That was outstanding...but why wasn't he already on the fast track to the Beau-re-Gard?

 

"You better not be sh*ttin' me boy. Nobody told me about you...and I'm damned sure they would have." Terek was face to face with Kashtiliash now. The younger man didn't flinch, and nodded. "Yessir, Sergeant. I assure you- I am a re'Rostam."

 

"And just what does one of your...kin...want marching with "common" men like these?" Sgt. Terek's voice was a bellow now...was he just trying to get a rise out of the boy? Kaurzon was almost boiling himself...nobody had ever called him common. He was sure that some thought him that...but he'd rarely encountered an attitude such as that.

 

"I wish to do just that Sergeant. To fight as a man. Not above them."

 

Terek's harsh face cracked, and spread into an equally harsh smile. "Well isn't that just poetic. You are free to rejoin the ranks...Recruit."

 

Kashtiliash rejoined the ranks quickly, without sparing a glance back to Terek. Kaurzon found it hard to remove his eyes from the other recruit...now that the cat was out of the bag, the company was sure to have something to talk about.

 

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-Che'el d'Yorn, capital city of Machina Haruspex-

 

"...and there will be no mercy to the fallen weak." The Empress' words echoed through the inner-most depths of Foreign Advocate Hemilkaur Barkei's being. It was not fear that bit at him, no- he had been steeled against such urges long ago, in a youth mostly forgotten...in the place of fear now rose a cold and unyielding hatred, glittering blade of the soul. Gripping his camera close to his heart, Hemilkaur remained motionless in the faceless crowd, careful to mirror the actions of those around him. He'd been in this gods-forsaken nation for...he couldn't recall the exact number, but long enough to fall into a routine, like the rest of the seemingly broken spirited folk of this nation. Only now did Hemilkaur see something of his own people's fire, ignited by the promise of blood and glory.

 

When it was clear that the Empress had imparted her twisted message in its totality, the real objects of interest for the Foreign Advocate came into focus. The vibrations swelled up from the ground and into Hemilkaur's boots, rising all the way to his stomach, which twitched in a sort of phantom exhilaration...it had been many years since he'd encountered a worthy foe on the field of honor- and he was now presented with thousands of them, all at once. Black armor reflecting against the multitude of camera flashes, the Haru tanks presented a formidable sight. The S-80U Main Battle Tanks promised untold death for his kin and country-folk. Things would be different from the last time, however, as now the Cussians could also field a truly mammoth main battle tank- and had more than enough of them to stem the Haru tide.

 

Then came the Haru armored personnel carriers, and the vaunted Legions. In the last struggle between their people, Hemilkaur had made a name for himself collecting the ears of such men as those wretches, and now he wished for nothing more than a bomb big enough to lay them all low where they marched. One day very soon he would have the chance to lash out against his bitter enemies, Hemilkaur soothed himself, going over the myriad of horrors he had concocted for these horrible people. Soon he would have the chance, but not soon enough.

 

With such obvious intentions, Hemilkaur was sure that the Dynamocracy's government was already preparing- but it was still imperative that he contact his handler in the eastern wilderness of Beautancus. Surely, there would be signs of where their first blow would land, and perhaps with the information he'd gathered thus far, Hemilkaur could thwart a small portion of their plans. He prayed to the Heavens that it would be so. The mind the Heavens had blessed him with told him something altogether different however.

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The change of plan had taken most people by surprise and would certainly be of one to the arriving Cussian dignitary. Minister Eugenius Wilson was definitely still rather shocked, but he had managed to shake himself out of it. He looked left and right, at the large formation of Holy Imperial Household Guards, the elite, vaguely sinister bodyguards of the Holy Emperor, dressed highly polished lamellar, chain mail and mask helms, as well as blood red uniforms underneath. Their swords weren?t only for show, as each man was highly trained in Tagmatium?s combat art. They?d die to a man to protect their charges. The elite soldiers were here to provide the Cussians with a spectacle once they arrived; the Imperial Government was well aware of the proud martial history of their guests. However, their main role was to protect one man, the Holy Emperor.

 

That was the reason why Minister Wilson was shocked. It was almost an unheard of event, the Imperial Sovereign of the Greater Holy Empire meeting with the emissary of another nation the first time Tagmatium opened relations with them; it was a huge courtesy towards the Glorious Dynamocracy and displayed how much Tagmatium valued relations with their north-western neighbour. The Greater Holy Empire itself was watching the changes on the Occident with trepidation; Suverina was no longer Tagmatium?s ally and the old enemy, the Aristocratic Confederation, had mutated into the Social Democratic Confederation, thereby flipping the Imperial Government?s foreign policy to that part of the continent on its head. On top of that, Beautancus? re-emergence onto the world stage and Haruspex rearing its head meant that the balance of power in the Occident had shifted significantly; Tagmatium was no longer the most powerful nation in the Occident, even though it continued to boast so. A friendly relationship with the Glorious Dynamocracy would benefit the Greater Holy Empire immensely.

 

Commodus James, the Holy Emperor, stood to the fore of the Tagmatine welcoming delegation, with the Foreign Minister to his right and the Domestic of the Holy Imperial Household Guard to his left. He wasn?t dressed as spectacularly as the Cussian delegation, wearing a conservative business suit and a tie in Imperial purple, the only hint of his position ? indeed, he had only worn the full Imperial regalia once, on the day of his coronation. Commodus disliked too much formality, but he made sure everyone stuck to their places in the hierarchy of the Imperial Government.

 

As the Cussian plane touched down, a military band, a detachment from one of the Imperial Guard battalions stationed in the capital, struck up with the Psalm of the Blessed Mother, the national anthem of the Glorious Dynamocracy, which had rapidly been learned after the diplomatic mission had been announced. The Greater Holy Empire was going to extend every honour to the emissaries from the north.

 

EDIT: Spelling mistakes rectified.

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Blinking back what could well have been an excited twitch, Lord Saulot Burghedes kept time with the Imperial Guard band, tapping it out on his leg. The pressure seemed to mount more and more by each second, with the face of the the Holy Emperor of the Greater Holy Empire of Tagmatium etched into Burghedes' mind's eye. This was totally unexpected, though far from unappreciated. Calls had already gone out informing President Myllyharju of this fact, along with instant permission to adjust any prior plans accordingly. Such a show of respect was, and would continue to resound deeply with the government of the Glorious Dynamocracy.

 

Lieutenant Colonel Reimarez's Beau-re-Gard detachment was on the tarmac already. There movements were precise, mechanical in a way that Burghedes didn't understand. They operated without a pause, as if this had been their intended reception the entire time. Lt. Colonel Reimarez hadn't seemed bothered in the least by the news that the Holy Emperor was in attendance- no he was all the happier to have a bigger story to tell when he got back home. Deacon Kefjeh flashed Burghedes a wolfish grin and wrapped his knuckles against Brother Ezau's breast-plate. Leaning in close, he muttered a few simple words- a rhetorical question that may well have changed Saulot Burghedes life, forever. "Shall we take our place in the Heavens Brothers?"

 

Burghedes felt himself gliding down the disembarkation ramp, somehow recalling the fluid grace of his father's measured step. With the Immortals at his sides and the Beau-re-Gard at full attention at his passing, time seemed to slow for the Cussian Foreign Minister. Turning on his polished boot-heel as perfectly as if he were one of the warriors at his disposal, Burghedes locked his eyes upon the Holy Emperor and did not let himself look away. The man had the bearing of a mighty leader, of the old sort; the sort that the world hardly knew in these troubled and murky modern days. Cussians were well acclimated to this sort of royalty, Burghedes more so than others. Living in the shadow the Emperor and his servant the President for most of his adult life had perfectly prepared him for this moment.

 

Drawing close enough to discern the exquisite shade of purple in the Holy Emperor's tie, Burghedes drew himself to his full height, and bowed- bending at the knees and nearly dropping to full prostration. Only the Emperor Janus IV would receive higher regard from a Cussian noble, and such was fitting for this man, Divinely Mandated Ruler of the Tagmatine people, and most respected Sovereign of the Occident.

 

Voice as smooth as silk, flowing from his tongue as if he'd rehearsed it a hundred times, Burghedes began: "Greetings, Most Blessed and Holy Emperor-Elect of Tagmatium- by the Grace of God may you know peace and prosperity for all your days." Sweeping his hand to the side in another gesture of deference, Saulot awaited the Holy Emperor's response.

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-Imperial Cathedral grounds, Ttoille-

 

The afternoon thunderstorm had left Ttoille balmy, which wasn't uncommon in sprawling capital which was itself constantly expanding into the steamy marsh land and swamps ringing its entirety. In the northeast the last of the storms now distant thunder swept out, like the voice of the Heavens itself- warning of dreadful things to come. The irony was not lost on Arch-Deacon Cyrus Kaphtraunt. These times might have been a new age for Beautancus, welcomed into the world community with open arms- by the most respected of Europa's powers. That possibility was complicated on all fronts by the impending and unavoidable conflict with the Haru. This round of hostilities wouldn't be the saber rattling of a few years back, no- this would be infinitely worse. At the behest of all the members of the Cabinet- including the now semi-permanent special adviser Cyrus Kaphtraunt, the President had issued a number of sweeping executive orders, diverting any and all possible resources to gearing up the war effort. It helped that Beautancus' industrial complex was already centered around such production- but it was still a cumbersome task.

 

"I must stop spending so much of my time with politicians and bureaucrats...My thoughts are strained over the production capacity of remote industrial complexes." Kaphtraunt allowed himself to give a sardonic snarl in place of a smile.

 

One of the three men accompanying Kaphtraunt snorted (the other two were the obligatory body-guards, faceless and nondescript). Deilaumeh ((OOC: That's a rank rather than a clerical title, even though it still carries ecclesiastical significance. It would be roughly equivalent to a Captaincy in a Medieval Knight's Order.)) Sahehn Emedeh well understood the Arch-Deacon's dismay at such thoughts slowly creeping their way in. He was charged with commanding the Immortal Order's most highly respected martial chapter, and had come into the order alongside Kaphtraunt, now a very long time ago. Kaphtraunt cast him a sidelong glance, "You can't deny that you're not concerned over the possibility that raw materials put into the production of our own weapons being drastically reduced- at least in quality and frequency."

 

Emedeh shrugged and tossed his head, a characteristically Cussian mannerism. "We've fought with less for most of our history- and most of our current lives. We can do so again if need be, and it will not lessen our resolve. And aside from that- that part's not really my concern. All I make sure of is the disposition of arms and ammunition amongst my own. If push comes to shove- we can always acquire our own on the international market." No matter what veneer the warrior-cleric might have put up, he still understood the complexity of the situation.

 

Kaphtraunt nodded. "Yes, but I don't know that we'll be able to spare that sort of manpower for such...delicate work. Distance is going to become a factor once we have to worry over our main routes becoming compromised. We might have to turn to the south- but I expect that will leave us sorely out-gunned. I hope to the Heavens that we can hold on to what we have long enough for it to make a difference."

 

"We can, and we will." Emedeh was utterly convinced. Kaphtraunt had faith in Beautancus' ability to throw off whatever lunge the Haru made...but the cost of it all loomed large over Kaphtraunt. How many innocents would die? How many Immortals would be shoved into their next lives as a result of all of this? Too many- on both counts.

 

"With men like you leading the struggle, I have no doubt. You are free to prepare your Chapter for deployment in the northeast. I suspect that there blow will come in that neighborhood- though exactly where remains to be seen. Au Yil bless you and keep you old friend. I'll be in touch." Kaphtraunt bowed and then clasped Emedeh's shoulder. The Deilaumeh nodded solemnly, turned and departed without another word.

 

Kaphtraunt watched him leave with a heavy heart. Would this be the last time he saw Emedeh? The growing darkness in the Arch-Deacon's heart gave him an answer that was horribly unpalatable. Piercing through the darkness, a verse nearly as old as the Immortal Order crept from his memory, and drifted out on his lips: "Prepare for war with peace in thy soul. Be in peace in pleasure and pain, in gain and loss, in victory or in the loss of a battle. In this peace there is no sin."

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The Holy Emperor acknowledged the Cussian dignitary?s bow with the slightest of nods. Protocol forbade Commodus from doing anything else ? it would show that the Holy Emperor considered the man an equal, and therefore the Glorious Dynamocracy as well. Strictly speaking, even recognizing the Cussian Emperor as such would be a gross breach of ancient procedure, dating back before Tagmatium had even been founded. After all, as there was one God in Heaven, there must be only one Emperor in Europa. However, it had never been viewed as politically wise for the Imperial Sovereign to do so, not unless he or she had an overwhelming urge to see the Greater Holy Empire politically isolated.

 

?It is an honour for Tagmatium to receive an emissary from the most noble Glorious Dynamocracy,? replied Commodus, smiling slightly. It was rare for anyone to give the correct contraction of the Tagmatine Imperial title. Commodus himself would have liked to have shaken Lord Burghedes? hand, but again it?d been a massive breach of tradition, and too much of a concession to a nation so new again on the world stage. Commodus turned and walked down towards the terminal building. ?I imagine we have much to discuss, especially about our neighbour to the north. Doubtless, the government of your nation is as concerned as I am about their recent broadcasts??

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Tagmatica International Airport

 

Burghedes face remained impassive, and his body language passive before the Holy Emperor-Elect. Careful to keep a respectful distance from the Holy-Emperor, while still keeping pace, the Cussian Foreign Minister spoke in a hushed, but clear voice. "Yes Your Holiness, we have a great deal to discuss concerning your immediate neighbor to the north- the most ancient and bitter of Beautancus' enemies. They pose a threat not only to my people, but to the entire Occident, and beyond that Greater Europa. I offer my utmost regrets that this is the nature of things, as we find ourselves on the cusp of what might have been an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity- that might now be dashed for the people of Beautancus and The Greater Holy Empire of Tagmatium."

 

Paying careful attention to Commodus' features and reaction, Burghedes motioned to the two Immortals in his wake. "Might I introduce the most Reverend Deacon Kefjeh of the Immortal Order and his aide-de-camp, the most Reverend Brother Ezau, also of the Immortal Order. They will be able to provide you- and your armed forces with suitable information and basic intelligence concerning the Haru-Dakat ((OOC: Dakat being Infidel/Heretic in the Cussian language, added to the name of any people or person in direct political or theological opposition to any element of Beautancus' government.)) and their recent unwarranted displays of aggression."

 

OOC: I'll need to discuss a few things with you Tag, before we I move any further with that line of thinking.

 

____________________________________________________________________

 

Toille, Central Administrative Complex

 

Flashing through the images for the second time, President Eli Myllyharju couldn't help but force another cigarillo between his lips. Most of the images came from within the capital of the Principality of Machina Haruspex- from their most recent saber rattling. It was now a forgone conclusion that Beautancus and the Haru would soon be at war- if they weren't already in truth. Now, it was a matter of anticipating where their first blow would land. With so long and geographically varied an eastern border, it would take great care to ensure that such a blow could be adequately deflected.

 

"And you believe that the attack won't be aimed at Kalupsis this time?" Myllyharju looked back to Protector-General Haakon's grim face. The old warrior shook his head, and waved his hand in the direction of the massive map of the Occident displaying on a far wall. Zooming the map down onto Beautancus' southeastern corner, Haakon highlighted the major military installations and considerable fortifications now in place throughout Kalupsis Province- which nearly lit the entire Province. "I would hope that they would be so foolhardy. We would surely smash whatever attack they launched, no matter the ferocity. I doubt that they will accommodate us thusly, however. I more believe that there blow will come in the north-east or east- somewhere in Marmak Province. It's where I would hit, if I were charged with it."

 

Myllyharju nodded. During their last conflict, the Haru had more than had their fill of war in Kalupsis Province, one of Beautancus' most important regions. Aside from Inner Beautancus, no other Province was so important to the Dynamocracy- and in the years since the last war, there had been a truly massive buildup and military personnel and fortifications in the former war-zone. No, it wouldn't be wise for the Haru to aim their initial thrust there. They would need to gain a foothold on Cussian soil before they could entertain hopes of extinguishing Kalupsis' light, much less an attack on either of the Two Beautancuses. "So Marmak it will be then...how are the preparations coming there?" Myllyharju had immediate doubts. Though one of the largest centers of mining and mineral refinement in Beautancus, Marmak Province also remained the most rural, and economically underdeveloped. It would provide great tracts of territory almost open for Haru occupation. From there they could springboard larger attacks further into the mountains, and from their into Feizon Province and northern Kalupsis. The only saving grace in this entire stream of possibilities was the utter obstinacy of the Marmakites, perhaps the most brutal of all the Cussian-kin.

 

"Well underway Your Excellency. The 3rd and 5th Marmakite Brigades are digging in around Gelaud ((OOC: Marmak Province's capital city.)) and we're shifting additional armor and helicopters from the northern coast. I still think we're going to have a hell a of time defending the city...to many wide passes that are going to be too hard to block for us. We've got plans in place to blow the dams east of the city, and flood the valleys there- but that will wipe out what little crop the mountain-farmers are going to have this year- and probably for the next few, and a number of vital railways and roads leading to the east, to Hamai."

 

Myllyharju grunted. "And what about Hamai? I imagine it's going to get bad there quick." That was also a forgone conclusion, if the blow landed anywhere in Marmak Province. Hamai was Beautancus' eastern-most metropolitan area, and the most densely populated area in Marmak Province. More that seven million souls lived tightly clustered around the former frontier town, now seemingly in the direct path of the Haru's onslaught. Myllyharju knew that it would be difficult to defend that city for long, out on the sweeping steppes to the east. Perfect tank country, and perfect terrain for bombers to pick their targets. Though Hamai itself was developed enough to provide a sufficient defense for a time, it would be difficult to evacuate so many people- especially when the quickest routes led to Galaud.

 

Haakon's face remained grim as before, but his voice seemed much, much colder. "Hamai will provide us with at least a few more days or weeks to fortify Galaud, and prepare forces further back east and south to push the Haru out...or Heavens forbid, provide sturdy defense outside of Marmak Province, and the mountains. Beyond that Your Excellency- it seems there is little hope of maintaining Hamai intact. The Haru will come at us with far too much to entertain hope of a swift and relatively costless resolution there."

 

Myllyharju nodded. "I'm sure that Lord Burghedes is looking after our interests as best as he can in Tagmatium. It would be a great boon for them to intervene in this conflict on our behalf...or even to condemn the Haru's actions and sour international opinion of them further. Though I don't know how any truly civilized nation could even seriously consider the thought of dealing with such...beasts. I wonder what the Communards are saying about all of this? Surely they think it another chance to insinuate their half-hearted philosophies and revolutionary chaos into our supposed underclass?" It never failed to amaze Myllyharju that foreigners thought Cussians capable of believing in such non-sense. History had proven more than once that Cussians of any class had little regard for foreign political theory, especially ones that so vehemently denied the existence of divinity...the bond that united all life, as recognized by nearly every Cussian. Faith was paramount to the Cussian people, and an indispensable part of the collective psyche. As far as concern for the workers went, the matter had been settled with the ascension of Janus IV to the Imperial Throne of Beautancus. From now on, this was the workers' paradise.

 

Haakon smiled, an altogether fearful thing for such a man. "I don't worry about such things Your Excellency. I am sure that the Cussian people are above such fallacies as the obvious weakness of southern heresies. I am also sure that the no Cussian could ever consider him or herself under anything. A fact that all of Europa will soon be well aware of." Myllyharju thought it funny that Haakon would even use the word heresy to describe socialism. He knew well enough that Haakon himself was as close to an agnostic as the government allowed. Myllyharju also found it comforting that Haakon knew the people as well as he did.

 

"Still it would be better to not have them meddling in our affairs. I suppose I shall have to draft a few correspondences to discourage any interference from our neighbors to the south. The Social Democratic Confederation is the only socialist country in Europa- aside from Tagmatium nominally- that we need concern ourselves with much. And I think that they would be less inclined to meddle if we were to express our intent to allow them to consolidate their territorial claims in the south without protest. I think that should provide them with enough goodwill to leave us be, and to our own devices." Myllyharju thought that would be enough, perhaps with opportunity of trade coming up in the future, if such an agreement could be reached. He made a mental note to draft a letter to the SDC as soon as possible, since the duty fell to him with Lord Burghedes in Tagmatium.

 

"Very good Protector-General. Keep me informed."

 

 

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-Hamai, Marmak Province-

 

Despite the protests of the city's Duke, District-Chamberlains, and some Prefects (from the surrounding rural Prefectures), the mass evacuation of all septs and clans not absolutely vital to the city's production capacity and defense was well underway. Though it was now widely accepted by all sectors of the Cussian government and military that the first attack in the coming Haru offensive would land here, most within the local leadership, and a surprisingly large chunk of the general citizenry wished to stay, and defend their home. When stacked against the potential loss of four million souls in the metropolitan area itself, that was a risk that President Myllyharju and Protector-General Haakon were not willing to take. That seemed an easy decision to make, even to Deilaumeh ((OOC: Once again, that's his rank/title.)) Sahehn Emedeh...though he was the farthest thing from a native. He understood that the Hamites were a proud lot, and concerned over their ability to continue working fruitfully, and to continue their competition against industrial zones all throughout the Dynamocracy- itself mean they were struggling for their lives to mean something more than mediocrity- but it seemed to him that few here understood just how likely it was that Beautancus was going to have to reclaim this city- meaning that its conquest by the Haru was highly likely, by anyones reckoning. Bravery and stupidity were not the same thing.

 

"It seems that we will all pay the price for the current Regime's past leniency, no?" Emedeh remarked, from his high-rise perch, overlooking the mass of railroad terminals, now choked with mostly unwilling refugees.

 

"Pardon, Holiness?" Brother Esukeaul- Emedeh's aide-de-camp- looked up from his computer.

 

"A great many holdouts from the Augustinian Regime were "allowed" or encouraged, however you prefer, to re-settle here after the Civil War. They've always been rather "hard-headed" when it came to following the President's Edicts to the tee...much less their stalwart resistance to the Blessed Word of our Righteous Order. And most of them are even monotheists!" The Deilaumeh turned from the window in disgust. That was more than likely the source of all the trouble. He'd already seen fliers painting this evacuation as just another way for the Janusite and Immortal Regime to keep "Orthodox" Cussians down, and without the power to decide their own fate through their own hard work. Even the Dog-Star Guard (and Emedeh was sure there were some of those blasphemous cowards here, and probably behind it all) had to recognize the danger presented by the Haru.

 

"Ah yes. I had noticed some rather unsavory artwork plastered on this wall and that...but you don't think that the Orthodox are that deluded do you? The President is more concerned over the survival of the Cussian people- all of them, even would-be rivals- than he is about pursuing some hidden agenda, particularly during 'war-time'."

Esukeaul continued with is work while talking- deployment numbers for armed Immortals amongst the neighborhoods that would remain un-evacuated.

 

"Some of them, though few of their public leaders, claim that the office of President is illegitimate...and that only an Edict from the Emperor, or Grand-Duke will be respected." Almost rocked by the thought that followed, Emedeh slowly took a seat at the table across from Esukeaul. "There's something more to all of this."

 

"Yes, Holiness, I imagine that there is." Esukeaul now looked up from his work.

 

"I wonder if perhaps the Haru-Dakat aren't already here? Or at least the agents of the b*tch-Empress- scattered throughout the true leadership of the Orthodox?" Emedeh's bronzed hawk-face had grown ashen-pale behind his beard.

 

"We've had no signs that there might be before- the Eastern Dakat had remained quiet in their oily pits...Most of the resistance prior to- all of this- could have been chalked up to divisions within Beautancus herself...Au Yil- mercy." Esukeaul was already grasping for his satellite phone.

 

Emedeh himself was up, and looking back out over the terminals. Somewhere down there- heretic-traitors had been loaded onto the train and taken back west- to an even more important defensive position. Surely, someone within the Order had foreseen this possibility?

 

Esukeaul appeared at the window beside the Deilaumeh silent, stone-faced and holding the phone out. "The Arch-Deacon is on the line."

 

Relating his suspicions to Arch-Deacon Kaphtraunt, Emedeh was rocked by something else- Kaphtraunt already knew as much. "Yes Sahehn (as only Kaphtraunt could refer to the Deilaumeh) such a reality has been well documented, for some time...years, I assure you. That is more than a good portion of the reason that I sent you to Hamai, aside from your Chapter's martial prowess I mean. When the time comes, you will be commissioned with rooting out and cleansing the heretic's taint...even with the enemy swarming around you. Any traitors to the Emperor will have their chance to come out in the open once the Haru-Dakat arrive...and then you will have your chance."

 

"I understand...but why was I not informed of this sooner?" In any circumstance, Emedeh expected to be provided with all the intelligence on a situation, especially one where his life, and the lives of his men were so greatly endangered. Though, it did seem that Kaphtraunt assumed that Emedeh and his men would be present after the initial assault- and conquest? Thoughts raced through the Deilaumeh's head faster than he liked.

 

"Old friend, you would have already made that your priority. For now, it needs to seem to all, and that includes your men, that you are present solely to prepare for the defense of Hamai." Kaphtraunt's snake-charming voice worked even over the phone.

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-Ttoille, Central Administrative Complex (many, many floors underground)-

 

As for everyday over most of the past month, President Eli Myllyharju spent most of his time locked far beneath the streets of Ttoille, away from the vibrancy of the city that he loved, and the people that he worshiped. Such a painful sacrifice had to be made- in the name of those things that Myllyharju so loved, and more- as well as providing he and the veritable army serving in (or beneath?) the Central AdCom an assurance of secrecy- and in the coming months, if they proved to be dark...protection.

 

Reminding himself that it would not be so, Myllyharju paused to allow the obligatory, and very precise security sweeps by stone faced Beau-re-Gardsman, and stepped into the Executive Conference Room. Protector-General Xerxes Haakon, Arch-Deacon Cyrus Kaphtraunt, Domestic Affairs Minister Serena Kaphtraunt, and Beltik re'Rostam (now re-commissioned as an NDB Field-Marshal and not assigned to a specific Regional Command instead to serve as a special liaison from the Defense Ministry to Galaud, once hostilities were under way), as well as a nameless servitor were already seated and waiting.

 

"Good afternoon to all. Shall we begin?" Myllyharju took his seat and began to leaf through the reports labeled "top priority," while Arch-Deacon Kaphtraunt motioned for the servitor to activate the room's projector.

 

The footage, from a feed just slightly less than live-streaming was grisly, to say the very least. All Cussians were accustomed to such violence, and accepted its necessity and existence as readily as any other aspect of life...but this violence was of a very particular, vocal sort. What had obviously been a family was in the process of being strung up by a number of Haru storm-troopers- who were somehow hauntingly familiar. Nailed to a concrete wall that had obviously witnessed similar events beforehand, the bodies of their dead were in a ghastly state- though one to be entirely expected considering the beastly nature of the Haru.

 

"Yes, yes, Your Holiness we all know how brutal the Haru-Dakat are...need we be subjected to such horrid fare just for the sake of reminding us why we must fight?" Serena Kaphtraunt used her brother's honorific, with emphasis within the walls of this room- partially to the chagrin of the Arch-Deacon.

 

Rather than responding, Cyrus Kaphtraunt pointed towards the feed, which had been zoomed in upon one of the men being nailed up. Dangling from his throat was an object of nearly endless fear and regret- drawn from Beautancus' not so distant past. An Augustinian Dagger- a Noble's Dagger, now remembered for the atrocities committed by a multitude of evil men with their graceful and exquisitely adorned blades- was lodged in the man's throat. The hilt was more than visible, as was a portion of the Cussian script masterfully scrawled down its length. "Of the Zebedseu Lineage." Kaphtraunt provided a reading.

 

"This is a very clear message, one that will very soon become public knowledge- whether it be at the time of our choosing or not. My man in Hamai has already clued himself in- sharp one he is. He'll be on the lookout there, as much as he can be without giving away what he's doing." Kaphtraunt's face was locked in a near scowl, entirely uncharacteristic for him.

 

Protector-General Haakon snarled and ran a gloved hand over his bald-shaven scalp. Haakon and Kaphtraunt had been the only ones aware of this development before the meeting, and it boded much more darkly for his operatives than the Arch-Deacon's. It was now clear that both the Foreign Advocacy and the Beau-re-Gard had been partially compromised in their operations in the Dakat-Principality. The Immortals however, were still very active and had provided this most recent footage without the loss of the Immortal sending it. "If they're willing to be so bold about it now, that means the hammer will fall before too long at all. This is almost like announcing a trump card to all the players at the table, and they have to be damned sure of themselves to do it."

 

Myllyharju nodded. "So is our assumption that elements of the Augustinian community will attempt to impede the defensive efforts in Hamai now verified?"

 

"More than that President, it is now clear that those "elements of the Augustinian community" are in direct contact with the Haru-Dakat, and already integrated into their command structure. Take a closer look at the features of those soldiers." Kaphtraunt motioned to the servitor again, who reversed the video and magnified the side profile of one of the, were they Tagnik Zun? Obviously the man did not bear the predominately East Asian heritage of most of his countrymen...more, his face was rugged and almost rye-brown (as opposed to pale amber), with a broad, and rather high cheek structure- and a wickedly curved hawk's nose. That, and all the rest of the Tagnik Zun in the video were unabashedly Cussian.

 

President Myllyharju was not known for his wrath- even amongst this circle, the inner most. His reaction however typified wrath more clearly than any other would have. It, like this betrayal spoke of an ancient heritage, and blood-fued- one that had torn a great house asunder thousands of years ago. "Per every fifteen Cussian-Dakat scalps collected by any Cussian in the service or not, there will be a Writ of Imperial Favor, as well as a Commission as a Noble, complete with land and hereditary honorific. I'll draft it as soon as we leave here for distribution and disbursement through the various Ministries and Orders."

 

All of the others present, most particularly Cyrus Kaphtraunt and Beltik re'Rostam had encountered such bitter resolve in the President beforehand, but it still left them unprepared for the near bloodthirsty zeal in the statesman's demeanor. "I will see this taint expunged from our Blessed Cradle, once and for all. You all my expect a televised address on behalf of the both myself...and the Emperor."

 

Standing, and pulling his cigarillo tin from the breast pocket of his shirt (the first of the meeting, which was unusual) Myllyharju allowed himself a moment to collect his thoughts- and allowed the others a moment to wonder what would come next. When he spoke, words that could ignite solid stone flowed- a rare moment where one could say that the membrane between divine and mundane became thin enough to allow the greater to mingle with the lesser...

 

"We did not ask for all of this...for this war. We found ourselves on the very edge of a new world- a better Tomorrow. Now, we are called to pay- again, for sins that are no longer our own...And forced to recall sins that we left unavenged. Now it falls to us, mere shadows of our forefather's glory, to right the course of two peoples, born as one...'If we do not fight this holy war, then we will certainly incur sins for neglecting our duties and thus lose our hope for, and right to a better tomorrow. People will always speak of our infamy, and for one who has been honored, dishonor is worse than death. Our people who have highly esteemed our names and fame will think that we would leave the battlefield out of fear only, and thus they will consider us cowards. Our enemies will describe us in many unkind words and scorn our abilities. What could be more painful for any Cussian? O children of the Cradle, either we will be slain on the field of battle and draw closer to our final lives, or we will conquer and enjoy victory on earth. Therefore get up and fight with determination..." Myllyharju paused to find that all the others had taken up the recitation of those final sublime verses, the central creed of the Cussian people...

 

"Prepare for war with peace in thy soul. Be in peace in pleasure and pain, in gain and loss, in victory or in the loss of a battle. In this peace there is no sin."

 

With the weight of the world bearing down upon then, those gathered in this room, so deep within the bowels of the Imperial capital, the greatest inspiration for waging tomorrow's war came from a yesterday so long removed that it was but a noble whisper, sustaining a wayward folk, seemingly adrift on the sea of time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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OOC: I suppose that the above will be my next to last post before the actual beginning of hostilities, in the thread that MH has already started in the military sub-forum. A note on styling the post above, much of last portion in italics owes a great deal to the Bhagavad Gita, which is an amazing read, whether or not you're a Hindu, or even religious...but there, that's a matter of artistic honesty. It has been heavily adapted and edited for my purposes here, so it can still be called mine at least in part. It's getting late, and I promised the wife that she and would watch a movie, so at this point in the evening, I must bid you all adieu. I'll post as soon as I can tomorrow, and from there we can shoot for the conflict itself gearing up on Friday/through the weekend and into Monday. Many thanks, and much peace.

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