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The Leopard's Roar

Tagmatium Rules

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The Leopard Throne.

One of the most important symbols of Tagmatium.

It stood on a dais of porphyry that was covered with a cloth of gold, under a canopy of the same, at the end of the grand state throne room, the Khrysotriklinos, of the Imperial Palace Complex. The heart of the Greater Holy Empire.

It was actually a dual throne – the left hand side was the vacant seat of Christ. The Holy Emperor, the Agios Basileos kai Autokrator Arhomanion, the Holy Emperor and Autocrat of Arome to give the more formal title, was the representative of God in Europa, sitting at His right hand. The throne itself was gold and studded in precious stones, a shining example of Tagmatine craftsmanship and nothing that mere barbaroi could hope to imitate. Its seats were covered in leopard skin upholstery and the sides were in the likeness of snarling big cats, ready to pounce. The teeth of the leopards on the sides were ancient elephant ivory, the red tongues made from coral, their spots picked out in pieces of carved jet and the eyes were crafted from amber. This imagery gave the throne its name.

To enter the throne room, two vast gold-plated doors had to be opened. These magnificent works of art were perfectly balanced and swung outwards smoothly and silently. They were kept oiled and were polished regularly by one of the myriad of servants within the Imperial Palace Complex. It was considered a high honour to be selected to carry out the task. Once inside the room, a visitor would be greeted by one of the most striking sights within the entirety of Europa. The walls of the throne room were a shining white, representing the purity and holiness of Tagmatium. The floors were a gilded mosaic, breathtaking in its magnificence. Glass, gold and ceramic tiles displaying proud moments in history, fearsome hunting scenes and the glory that was embodied by the Tagmatine people. Behind the throne was a multicoloured stained glass window of vast size which bathed the room in jewelled light when the sun shone through it. Unlike other, more heterodox Christian nations, there were no recreations of heavenly scenes or the Saviour Himself – depictions of holy figures was considered to be idolatrous by Tagmatium's particular brand of Christianity, the Iconoclastic Orthodox Church.

Great pillars held up the high roof. These were alternatively shining white marble or porphyry. Beyond them, the walls were as richly decorated as the mosaic floor and more large windows of stained or clear glass, alternating in the opposite way to the pillars, allowed light to flood into the state throne room. It was designed to overawe any visitor to the throne room, as if being in the presence of the Holy Emperor wasn't enough in itself. The throne itself, on its raised dais, sat under a semi-dome at the apse end of the room with the words “Christ, King of Kings” inscribed across the conch of the apse. It was no mistake that the throne was under the eastern end. The ruler of Tagmatium was appointed to this role by God Himself, manifesting His will on Eurth.

As a sign of the Holy Emperor's lofty position as the Thirteenth Apostle, those that approached the Leopard Throne's occupant were expected to acknowledge their lowly position. This act, called Proskynesis, signified the subservience of the one doing it and the recognition that the Holy Emperor was their rightful overlord. The act involved throwing themselves to the floor and kissing the Holy Emperor's feet with their arms outstretched. It had, however, become impolitic to expect foreigners to perform it these days. The overly proud Barbaroi found it very offensive, as they often did not recognise the primacy of the Tagmatine ruler over their petty overlords.

And as there was one Kingdom in Heaven, there was one Empire in Eurth.

That Empire had stood for centuries as a bastion of civilisation in a world of barbarism, a beacon of faith and light shining out and inspiring the lands surrounding it. It was a centre of culture, ever changing and evolving, and yet maintaining a link to the glorious past of the Aroman Empire before it, even if that past had yet to find the enlightenment of Christianity. This cultural heritage meant that it was Tagmatium's duty to shepherd the rest of Europa towards that enlightenment and the civilisation that it brought with it.

The throne was flanked by a soldier from each of the six guard regiments of the Tagmata, the Palace Guards unit that inadvertently gave the common name to the Greater Holy Empire. Their positions near the throne was kept in a strict rotation to avoid one being favoured over the others. The bodyguards were all brightly dressed, with horse hair plumes on their sallet helms the colour of their robes, clothes embroidered with golden thread and carrying shields decorated with symbols of Tagmatium.

A soldier from the Exkoubitoi, their name meaning “Sentinels”, currently stood on the right of the throne, the closest to it. Perhaps the most famous of the units from the guard corps, their red robes and black lacquered mix of lamellar and plate mail made them a distinctive sight throughout the capital of the Greater Holy Empire. They regularly accompanied members of the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion, the Imperial Government, abroad on diplomatic missions. Behind the Exkoubitos was one from the Ikanatoi, the “the Able Ones”, wearing red armour, cream robes and carrying a spear. Next to the Ikanatos, dressed in red robes and cream armour, was a Oikeios, holding a shield and a sword.

To the left of the throne stood a soldier of the Athanatoi, “Immortals”, in green robes and wearing a similar mix of lamellar and plate, although their armour was coloured blue. This soldier was armed with a short-shafted axe as well a sword. Behind the Athanatos was one of the Teikhistai, the guardians of the walls of Tagmatika. They were armed with heavy iron maces, dressed in blue robes and steel armour buffed to a mirror shine. Despite such defences being more or less redundant in the modern era, they were still amongst the most impressive sights visitors to the capital would ever see and were famous throughout Europa. Completing the row of three was one of the Archontogennhematai, “the sons of officers”, in shining steel armour contrasting with pitch black robes and holding a spear.

The appearance of the guards might be deceptive - they were drawn from decorated combat veterans from the Tagmatine army or from candidates that had especially impressed their instructors during training. They would die to protect their charges and took their roles extremely seriously.

As well as soldiers from the Tagmata, at all times dignitaries and attendants from the Court Aristocracy waited on the throne, even if it was vacant. They were dressed in jewelled robes of ancient, although not out of date in Tagmatine fashion, style. Whilst the positions within the Court Aristocracy were not hereditary, members of it were often granted great estates within Tagmatium. This meant that they would have the time to wait on the Holy Emperor without having to worry about money or the ability to afford the splendour in which they would have to dress. They may not have been as powerful as the Military or Bureaucratic Aristocracies in the reign of Kommodos III, but there was power in proximity to greater power. They were the cup bearers, the concierges and ushers, with their families having been in the service of the Greater Holy Empire for generations, even centuries. Being close to the Holy Emperor for many hours meant that they often had his or her ear and even become valued confidantes. They might be perceived as useless hangers-on by some but that often couldn't be much further than the truth. The Greater Holy Empire would last, and they would have their day again.

With the guards around the throne and the attendants surrounding it, completing the groups within the throne room were a choir of monks, chanting praise to Christ. Dressed in black clerical robes that were a sharp contrast to the sumptuous dress of the courtiers and the elaborate uniforms of the bodyguards. Bishops and other prelates were often in the state throne room too, as the Holy Emperor had such an important role within the affairs of the Church. The smell of incense permeated the cavernous room. If the Holy Emperor was present, then the chanting would cease and a respectful silence would dominate the room. Only if the Vice-Gerent of God willed it would that be broken. Court ceremony was entirely designed to emphasise the dignity and prestige of the monarch and to imply the superhuman nature of the one that sat upon the Leopard Throne.

Recent years had seen little in the way of activity from the Greater Holy Empire. At first, its attention had been focussed beyond Europa, then Tagmatium turned somewhat quiet. Unlike Adaptus, Tagmatium's closest neighbour and long time ally, the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion had not become destabilised. It would take more than a period of quietness and relative isolation to shake the ancient nation in such a way. Several programmes to improve Tagmatium's environmental impact had taken precedence over the military actions that had seen the nation's international prestige increase over the years. Sustainable power generation had been stepped up, from wind farms to hydro-electric power stations had been built across the country. There had been some rumblings within the nation's borders, primarily from pro-democracy campaigners, although these had been dealt with peacefully. They did not shatter the tranquillity and prosperity that had been earned after the hard shock of the Civil War in 2005 and the struggle of the nation finding its feet again in the years that followed.

Now the attention of the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion had been dragged from its own introspection and towards the west. Countries that the Greater Holy Empire had never had much contact with had started to rise and Europa was once again becoming a vibrant and active region. Tagmatium could not afford to slip into the background, even if it was self-evident that it was the centre of culture and civilisation. As yet, it remained to be seen how this most ancient and glorious nation would deal with those around it.

The leopard's fangs were still sharp, its claws keen and its roar mighty.

It would be heard across Europa once again.

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If the Leopard Throne was the heart of the Greater Holy Empire, it was not its brain. The throne was rarely occupied, even if the pomp and ceremony that surrounded it still went on as tradition dictated. Instead it was deep within the bowels of the building, in one of the many rooms that were often used for meetings of the Agios Basilikon Vestiarion, the Holy Imperial Cabinet. That was the group of close advisers to the Holy Emperor, who dictated policy and actions undertaken by Tagmatium. After all, one of the titles was “autocrat” and that title was lived up to. The room in use today was much like all of the others and something of a mirror of Tagmatium itself – a fusion of the ancient and new, antique and cutting edge.

The room was likely below ground level, although due to the labyrinthine corridors of the ancient building, it was easy to lose sense of direction. The only way to truly tell where the room was would be to climb out of one of the windows near the ceiling. And that would be rather beneath the dignity of any of the important figures present at the meeting. The room was dominated by a large oak table, probably older than many nations in Europa. However, that didn't stop it from being updated. At regular intervals along its surface, flat screens had been built into its surface adjacent to each seat. This was so that the occupants of the room could scroll through documents as necessary to what was being discussed. The floor was, again, decorated with a mosaic design, this time being geometric rather than illustrative. The walls were covered in wooden panelling, a design fad dating from the 18th Century – or 73nd Century by Tagmatine reckoning. When renovations were made, they often stayed. Other than that, the room was almost spartan in comparison to many of the richly, and somewhat gaudily, decorated rooms in the rest of the palace. It almost made the room suited to clandestine and secretive meetings, although that was not really the nature of what was taking place there.

The wood panelling did give the room a slightly claustrophobic air, in the opinion of the Megas Logothetes for War, Honorios Kontarian. It definitely was one of his least favourite meeting rooms. He much preferred the ones on the upper floors, or at least with bigger windows. They let much more light in. He had no idea why the Holy Emperor would have chosen this one. But, Honorios supposed, it was pretty much like all of the others.

He shuffled his bum on his seat and reached for the glass of water in front of him, draining the last of it and replacing it back on the table.

“Ultimately, @Adaptus once again becoming stable has made the handling of future events significantly easier,” he said. Other heads at the table nodded, especially the Megaloi Logothetai for Foreign Affairs and Internal Affairs. “It likely means that the only true local threat that we might face would be from the Great Queendom of @Suverina. And even then, they have been quiet of late.”

Whilst Kontarian personally had some old suspicions about Tonaras of Internal Affairs, he knew that Goulielmos of Foreign Affairs was sincere. All three of them, alongside the Tagmatine Intelligence Network and Epistrategai, the General Staff, had worked hard on various plans for the stabilisation of the Greater Holy Empire's western neighbour as it went through the period known within the Federal Kingdom as the “Great Lull”. As Adaptus became increasingly chaotic, it began to seem that direct intervention in the country would be within the best interests of Tagmatium, if only to stop the disruption to the economy of the western portion of Tagmatium's territories.

Whether the grand invasion of Operation Flavios or the smaller schemes of Operations Georgios and Mikhael, the projected outcomes were not good. The former would have had vast resources thrown into it, including large scale amphibious landings, paradrops and massed advances by land-based forces. The latter were more concentrated, aiming to penetrate and seize regional capitals with seaborne landings or the national capital with an airborne operation respectively, both coupled with large scale ground operations. However, no matter which of the options selected, the projected outcomes had varyingly been to ignite strengthening resistance against Tagmatine operations and then a tumble into all-out war between the nations or to precipitate a genuine civil war, into which Tagmatium was dragged.

So the Greater Holy Empire had been content to watch as Adaptus managed to settle itself onto a much more steady course, even with a couple of stumbles. But the untimely and somewhat suspicious death of King Jovian and the election of King Magnus caused consternation in Tagmatium. As the border war that Magnus had almost entirely caused himself began to intensify, a decision was made to try to stabilise the Occident and bring down the king-turned-military dictator. Operation Mikhael was given the green light.

When news reached the Agios Basilikon Vestiarion that Magnus had been deposed, there was perhaps the most genuine panic Kontarian had seen in the Tagmatine capital since the rebels had marched on it during the Civil War. He, in his own words, “shat a brick” when he had been told. The order to cross the Adapton border had already been given and the first units were beginning to advance beyond their start lines within Tagmatium.

'Large scale military exercise undertaken at short notice' was probably one of the pleasant euphemisms for what could have been the biggest clusterf*ck in Tagmatine history. The sudden order to halt had caused the largest number of related fender benders in the history of humanity as several army groups were brought to a sharp halt just short of the border.

“It does mean attention can be turned to our most pressing concern,” Kontarian continued. He tapped the touch screen in front of him and brought up a picture of the northern part of the Occident, focussing on both Beautancus and Machina Haruspex, an image that was mirrored on every screen in the room. It was likely redundant. Everyone within the room already knew what the concern Kontarian was talking about. “We have not heard from our ally for some time now. We – that is, the Logothesion of War and the Epistrategai, have been hesitant in carrying out active reconnaissance towards our ally, just in case we provoked something in return. However, both intelligence within the Logothesion, the military and the Tagmatine Intelligence Network have detected nothing from the Haru government in some time through passive means.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Andronikos Keftedes nodding along. Kontarian didn't like the pale spymaster all that much but this had been causing the pair of them not a little lost sleep. Precisely what was going on to Tagmatium's north and east needed to be investigated. Rumour did have it that the semi-civilised hill tribes had been crossing the border more and more regularly. That they were able to cross back at all was something of a surprise. Not like the Haru at all.

“Essentially, Imperial Sovereign, we need to undertake active recce towards the Haru, if they are still there,” said Kontarian, addressing Kommodos directly. Again, the spymaster nodded, as if his agreement somehow added more weight to the Megas Logothetes' words. Kontarian felt himself somewhat irked by it. “We will likely start off with high altitude overflights and then move from there. Small-scale foot recce is something that we have considered, but we will need to see if the Haru react to this. Our relationship had significantly improved because of the Karthay Incident, so we could get away with foot recce without anything untoward happening but I think that we should play it safe.”

The Holy Emperor had sat with his elbows on the table with his fingers steepled together, leaning slightly forward in his chair. Like everyone else in the room, his eyes had been flicking from the images on the flat screen in front of him, which had been showing images pertinent to what Kontarian was saying, and to the speaker himself. Once the man had finished speaking, the Holy Emperor sat up straighter in his chair.

Megas Logothetes Kontarian, that will be a sensible path to take,” said Kommodos. “Have that actioned as soon as possible. The quicker we get to the bottom of that, the better.”

“Thank you, your majesty,” Kontarian gave a nod of acknowledgement. Merely calling the Holy Emperor 'your majesty' might have struck some as too informal for the Agios Basileos kai Autokrator Arhomanion, but Kommodos allowed his more trusted advisers more leeway.

“Is there anything else that needs to be discussed at this meeting of the Vestiarion?” asked the Holy Emperor.

“Imperial Sovereign, two nations in Argis have suffered from Communist revolutions,” Goulielmos spoke. The images on the touch screens split, showing a map of Argis with the nations of @Ahrana and @Astriedan highlighted. “As yet, we don't know whether they are connected in any way. However, the reports from Astriedan are somewhat... confused.”

Goulielmos shrugged, the gesture causing enough movement for his glasses to slide down his nose. He paused for a moment as he re-seated them.

“It appears that it wasn't an actual Communist uprising, but something engineered by their monarch and his son. The former has been deposed and the latter is on the run.”

There was a pause for a moment. It struck Kontarian as quite a strange circumstance. After all, why would a monarch try to use Communists for their own end? It wouldn't likely go well. And, seemingly, it hadn't. Barbaroi were a strange breed.

“And in Ahrana?” asked Kommodos.

“The Communists overthrew their old king and they seem to be making a fairly good go of it,” the Megas Logothetes for Foreign Affairs answered. “Nothing seems to have put any Tagmatine citizens in danger, although I'll admit that I don't know how many are there, if any at all. I'd recommend that we towards normalising relations with them, even if they are Communist.”

“Is there any indication that the Ahranaian Communists had any outside help?” This question from Kommodos wasn't aimed at Goulielmos but they Kephale of the Tagmatine Intelligence Network. However, Kontarian was not the only person at the table who inferred what Kommodos was referring to. A decade before, a terrorist attack had caused widespread destruction in Easteia and the Communist Party of Tagmatium was to blame. Despite outlawing and then crushing the party, the leader had never been caught, even nearly ten years later.

“No, your majesty,” rasped the spymaster, shaking his head. “We have investigated all as closely as we can, but no links have yet to come to light.”

Kommodos gave a curt nod, apparently satisfied with the answer. “Then I see no reason for not recognising the new regime as the legitimate one.”

The Greater Holy Empire was pragmatic, even if the atheistic ideology ran counter to everything that it stood for.

“One more thing, your majesty,” interjected Goulielmos. “It appears that Adaptus has recently butted heads, along with a handful of other nations, with a nation called @Derthalen. The Federated Kingdom went so far as to put a blockade in place against them.”

Kontarian looked down at the map now showing on the screen. It focused on this new nation and displayed the area it had occupied, as well as a smaller inset map showing Adaptus. A few boxes also mentioned the nations that had protested the expansion. It noted that Derthalen was both expansionist and isolationist – a bit of a strange combination and one that hardly boded well.

“It is perhaps worth discussing the situation with Adaptus and the other nations involved, Megas Logothetes,” replied the Holy Emperor after a moment's consideration. “It is time that we contacted the Adapton government. I shall adjourn this meeting here and we will examine our response later.”

The Holy Emperor stood and the rest of the room got to their feet at the same time. They bowed to their sovereign, who returned the gesture.

“Good morning, Endoxotatoi.”

One of the Holy Emperor's personal bodyguards stepped forward and moved the chair back for him. There were eight of them, four from the Maghlabitai, who were akin to the ancient Lictores of Arome and four from the Spatharokandidatoi. The former were dressed in red robes and golden armour and carried maces in the manner of the fasces, whilst the latter wore pure white robes and golden armour. Along with them was the Mystikos, Nikephoros Boionnanes, the Holy Emperor's private secretary. They formed up in a group around the Holy Emperor and swept out of the room.

Bending forward to gather up his papers from the table in front of him, Kontarian resisted the urge to shake his head. Even after working closely with the man over over a decade, he wasn't sure whether the use of the title of' “Endoxotatoi” was ironic or sincere. It was a title due to the members of the Agios Basilikon Vestiarion and it meant “most glorious”. However, it was a senatorial title and Kommodos had not called that organisation together for years. Despite being democratically elected, the Tagmatine leader showed no love for democracy.

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  • 1 month later...

“Send them in.”

Kommodos didn't look up from his desk as he said the words. He didn't need to check to see whether one of his aides walked towards the doors of the Imperial Office and opened them. He knew that he would be obeyed. To the right of the Holy Emperor's chair stood Mystikos Boionnanes, who surreptitiously looked at his watch, carefully out of the line of Kommodos' sight. The meeting was exactly on time, five minutes past ten in the morning. To the left and slightly behind stood Protospatharios Hadrianos of the Spatharokandidatoi, Kommodos' chief bodyguard. The Holy Emperor had been steadily working since seven o'clock in the morning, after being awoken by a ceremonial three strikes upon his bedroom door. Then followed a moment prayer within a private chapel and then breakfast, traditionally taken on the Leopard Throne itself.

At first the entry of those outside was barred by two members of the Maghlabitai, who stood in the way of the doorway until a priest stepped forward and blessed them. The bodyguards then stood aside and allowed the group to enter the room. They walked forward for several metres until they came to the large mosaic of Europa on the floor of the room. At this point, the group of uniformed officers and a suited man gave a deep bow to their monarch. A second priest stepped forward from the right of the room and made the sign of the cross over them.

“You may rise,” came the voice of Kommodos.

There were some parts of the multitude of ceremonies and traditional Boionannes knew that Kommodos didn't like but in the aftermath of the Civil War of 2005, the Holy Emperor thought that it did no harm for the armed forces to know their place. In theory, the ceremony actually called for the full prostration on the floor before the Holy Emperor, but that was thought to be too much.

The sound of footfalls echoed across the wide expanse of the room in front of the Imperial Desk, the silken wall hangings not doing much to soften the noise of four pairs of shoes walking across the mosaic floor. The bodyguards ranged throughout the room snapped to attention as the party of four walked through the room towards the far end. That would have informed those who didn't know those attending the meeting were of a high rank within Tagmatium. Most of them wore uniforms, but three of them had were of especially high rank. Of these, one in the black of the Basilikoploimon, the Navy, the second in the blue/grey of the Basilikoaeroporia, Air Force and the third in the khaki of the Strates, the Army, although the light purple trousers marked him out as from the Paramonai. The man in the suit of dark grey had the badge of the Greater Holy Empire pinned to a lapel.

They walked towards the Imperial Desk in an order described by protocol – the soldier was on the Holy Emperor's right, as the representative of the senior service of Tagmatium, with the suited individual to the left from Kommodos' point of view. Behind the soldier walked the naval officer, as a member of the next branch of the armed forces. The air force officer was at the rear left, as the Tagmatine air force was the youngest of all the branches of the armed forces. All of them were of four star rank or above – it was considered beneath the dignity of the Holy Emperor to be briefed by anyone of below a three star rank.

As the group reached the end of the mosaic on the floor, they stopped and fanned out into a line. They then gave the Holy Emperor a deep bow. They held it until Kommodos spoke.

“Be seated.”

At that command, they stepped forward to the four chairs that had been arranged in front of Kommodos' desk. The suited man stepped forward first, taking the seat to the Holy Emperor's right, breaking the arrangement that they had moved towards the desk in. The officers then sat in the places in order of precedence of their branch whilst their aides stood behind them.

Despite this being an informal briefing for the Holy Emperor by the representatives of the Epistrategai on the plans that they had been preparing for the northern area, the start of it was dominated by ceremony. It was designed to remind the members of the armed forces that it was the Holy Emperor who was in charge of them and that he was appointed by God. That to undertake a coup against him was going against God's will. Boionannes knew that the three officers had been through it many times before and he also knew that he couldn't count the number of successful military coups against Holy Emperors in the past on the fingers of both hands.

Megas Logothetes Kontarian, Domestikos Mesardonites, Navarkhos Ethelred and Doux Spondyle,” said Kommodos, looking at each of them in turn. “May the blessing of Christ be upon you. I thank you for coming. May I offer you some refreshment?”

Again, it was still part of the ceremony. It wouldn't be until after a cup of tea, a glass of water and a sweet pastry had been put in front of them all that the meeting would actually start. It was supposed to represent the Holy Emperor as provider to all of those in the Greater Holy Empire. It didn't actually matter whether any of them even wanted the refreshment – to refuse would be a gross breach of protocol and tradition. One that would undoubtedly have deep repercussions on the one who did it.

“We thank you for allowing us some of your precious time, O most Christian majesty. We hope that it will be a fruitful meeting, God be willing,” intoned Mesardonites. As the most senior figure from the meeting, it was his duty and honour to reply.. He and the rest of them stood again and bowed. They returned to their seats as four functionaries stepped forwards and placed their refreshments in front of them. With that, it was almost like a switch had been turned off. The formal air didn't so much dissipate but it certainly dropped several notches. Kommodos sat forward in his chair and assumed his habitual pose, steepling his fingers and looking at the others over the top of them.

The Mystikos met Kontarian's eye and gave him a friendly nod of greeting.

“Since the Epistrategai's last meeting on the subject, it seems that the situation has moved forward,” said Mesardonites. He was a man of aquiline features, haughty and proud, dark hair greying at the temples. A true member of the Greater Holy Empire’s military aristocracy, right down to the fact that he was in the Paramonai Koursores, the prestigious cavalry. “ @Adaptus has begun to make moves towards the areas in the north of the Occident. Their plans have undoubtedly crossed your desk, your majesty. Personally, I think they are... somewhat ambitious. Their military hasn't fought a proper war since the AdSoc War and, even then, it was alongside several other major Europan powers. Precisely what sort of resistance they will face will be unknown until it happens. They attempted the same under Magnus the Aggressor. The Adaptons present it as merely border skirmishes but our analyses suggest that they were actually turned back by the resistance that they met.”

The cavalryman leant forward and picked up the cup of tea that had been placed before him. It would have been done to his taste, Boionnanes knew. Exactly to his taste. Years ago, when Kommodos had just attained the Leopard Throne, this had been done as the implication of a threat. If one's tastes had been known like that, then what else was known? The military aristocracy had loathed that the grandson of a coal merchant had attained the highest position in the Greater Holy Empire. Now, however, it was almost a courtesy. Taking a sip, the Domestikos sat back in his chair before continuing.

“The operations put forward by the Epistrategai remain almost the same as the thought experiments put forward over a decade ago, when we thought we might face Machina Haruspex.” The Domestikos motioned forwards one of the aides, who came forward and handed a briefcase to Boionnanes. Mesardonites then continued. “The main elements remain the same – a major push across the Jaehos river, towards the capital city, another one from the direction of Kalamanon and a large-scale landing from Glevokastron and Trapezon on the northern coast, accompanied by several smaller-scale advances from the direction of Trapezon.”

He reached forward again and replaced his cup back on its saucer. Although Mesardonites' face was calmed, Boionannes realised that this was the point that the army officer was building to.

“We think that at least a Thematon Bandon is needed for each of the major attacks, and a Thematon for each of the smaller-scales ones. And a reserve likely of at least half that many again.”

The Mystikos looked from Mesardonites' face to that of the Holy Emperor. Kommodos had remained silent as the officer was talking, taking it all in. In his own head, Boionannes did the maths with the vague numbers of the sizes of those units that he himself knew. It sounded like it was a lot of troops.

“If we begin the preparations within the week, it will take several months before we are ready,” Mesardonites said. “And one of our main concerns will be what, if anything, the warlords that have risen out of the ruins will do. There is even the possibility of a spoiling attack.”

He reached forward again, this time picking up the glass of water and drinking a mouthful. As if this was a cue, the naval officer to his left started to talk.

“The main concern of the Basilikoploimon will, of course, be protecting the landing attempts,” said Ethelred. He was a tall man, standing over two metres tall. Blond haired, blue eyed, he was clearly a barbaros, a foreigner, but Ethelred had risen through the ranks of the Tagmatine navy through his ability. “However, after our experiences at Karthay, I believe we can surmount these obstacles. Our northern neighbours don't have much of a naval presence but forcing a landing will always be difficult. What does worry us somewhat is our ally's current commitments.

“The Adapton navy likely will have its attention split three ways, once their invasion begins – undertaking their usual tasks, their @Derthalen operation and then carrying out operations against the petty states that have sprung up in the former Beautancus.” Like Mesardonites, Stylianos was a veteran of the AdSoc War and had worked closely with the Adaptons before. “We will only have to split our attention two ways – guarding our own shores and any attempted landings against the northern warlords that we might face. Which is why the Epistrategai suggests that we offer the Adapton Government that we take over some of their home defence tasks, in order to allow them to continue their actions.”

The Holy Emperor nodded. “That will be discussed by the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion.”

“Finally, your majesty, there are the weapons of mass destruction that the Haru used to hold.” Now it was the turn of the Doux to speak. The officers had likely thought long and hard about how to address the meeting with Kommodos, thought Boionannes. Although the best tactic might have been to address the most important issue first, rather than leave it to the last. “We have performed numerous aerial reconnaissance missions in the last few weeks, in order to determine the state of the sites we long suspected were the main stockpiles of nuclear, chemical or biological weaponry. Some of them appear to be reasonably well protected by the warlords, others... less so. There have been no indications that the warlords have been using them against each other but the Epistrategai feels that the risk of that will only increase in time. That, and the chance of them falling into the hands of other, unsavoury groups will also become more likely. The older plans had rendering these sites either inoperable or in our hands very quickly once the invasion started and the newer plans have these as an even higher priority.”

The Mystikos looked at the air force officer as she said these rather chilling words. She didn't seem particularly moved by them, sitting as she was almost impassively. Neither had Kommodos batted an eyelid at them. Only Kontarian seemed to shift uncomfortably in his chair as the Doux told the Holy Emperor one of the high command's biggest fears. It would probably worry much of the wider region, too. The movement caught the Holy Emperor's eye and he turned his attention to the Megas Logothetes.

“And you, Megas Logothetes Kontarian,” he said. He had not swapped position since he had placed his elbows on the arms of his seat. “What does the Logothesion think?”

The civilian shifted in his chair again. Until recently, the Epistrategai had been fairly hostile towards Kontarian, Boionannes knew. They regarded him as almost a traitor, rejecting his family's history as one of the main aristocratic military clans and joining the ministry of the armed forces. These days, they still saw him as something of a black sheep but were less overt in their contempt for him.

“Your majesty, mobilising on the scale that the Domestikos has outlined will likely reduce our ability to project any force across the wider region,” said Kontarian. “I have been assured – and I have reviewed the numbers involved myself – that our defensive commitments will not be compromised in any way. Along with the Logothesion for Foreign Affairs and the Tagmatine Intelligence Network, my Logothesion feels that there will be no large crises surfacing at least until the initial part of the invasion has been completed. That may, however, change, although your majesty knows that.”

He repeated the gesture of Mesardonites and reached for the cup of tea that had been served to him.

“I feel...” he paused and sighed quietly to himself. “I feel that we need to act now. The Adaptons will be advancing very soon and they will cause enough disruption that our invasion will probably benefit from it. We also need to be mutually supportive – both of our armed forces will be in a position to come to each others' aid, if need be. But I think we also need to put feelers out to see if we can subvert some of these warlord factions to ourselves.”

The Megas Logothetes turned in his chair and motioned one of his own aides over. Boionannes took the proffered briefcase and put it with the one from the army officer.

“There is at least one of them calling themselves the 'Christian Warlord'. He seems to be in the habit of baptising his soldiers with a fire hose. I wouldn't go as far as to suggest that that one might be a possibly ally, but I think that it warrants investigation. There are others than might be subverted, too.”

Once Kontarian had finished speaking there was a moment of silence. Boionannes knew that this was a momentous occasion. What the Holy Emperor chose to do from here would have a vast impact on the progress of Tagmatium and, indeed, Europa for years to come. The decision would not come now, though.

“My children,” said Kommodos, breaking the silence and abruptly starting the ceremony for the group to leave the room. “I thank you for bringing this to my attention. May the blessings of Christ be upon you.”

The military officers and the Logothetes got to their feet and bowed deeply to their sovereign and backed out of the room in a reverse of the ceremony that they had performed whilst moving towards the Imperial Desk. Picking up the briefcases, Boionannes opened them and extracted the USB drives from within them. There would be much to do over the next few days.

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  • 1 month later...

“Ideally, this would be a 'hearts and minds' affair but I'm not entirely sure who exactly it is that we're trying to convince here,” said Ghoulielmos. He was sat in room that adjoined the office of the Megas Logothetes for War. The room, although large, acted as a private reception and sitting room, a place where the office's occupant might unwind or receive honoured guests. It was part of the Imperial Palace Complex, so it wasn't as if any comings and goings could be held secret. A pair of bodyguards from the Ikanatoi stood outside of the main, and sole, entrance to the office suite and another two in the antechamber beyond it. The Megas Logothetes for Foreign Affairs nodded a thanks as a tumbler of brandy was sat on a coaster in front of him. It wasn't an old vintage – a decade at most. Ghoulielmos' host didn't believe in drinking truly expensive drinks. It was something that new money did and his family was anything but. It also seemed slightly crass, nothing more than an example of conspicuous consumption for the sake of it.

“Thank you.”

“And what do you mean by that?” The Megas Logothetes for War raised his eyebrow at his counterpart. He sat down in a deep armchair with his own brandy, looking at the amber liquid within the glass rather than the man opposite. The two of them were, almost oddly for high-ranking members of the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion, friends and not just colleagues. The formality that the The leather of the chair squeaked as he shifted to make himself comfortable. It was a warm enough day that the heating wasn't on but the palace as a whole always seemed to field cold. Kontarian guessed that it was the sheer amount of marble and brick made the entire place a heat sink.

“Well, there are really three factors, here.”

Sensing that he had provoked something of a lecture, Kontarian sank back further into his chair and itched at the collar of his shirt.

“The first is, of course, the people in the territory that we're annexing, if I may be so bold as to put it like that.” Kontarian shrugged and then paused for a moment before nodding his head. It wasn't something that the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion would go outright as to say but he doubted that any other government would see it as anything other than that. In his chair opposite, Ghoulielmos took a sip from his glass before warming to his subject. “No matter what is said, there is always the idea of self-determination, that people within an area have the right to forge their own destiny. It is no secret that that theory has never truly taken hold in Europa. Smaller nations are more or less fair game until a larger country decides to recognise them or they just become too strong to take over. Then there is the fact that the crumbling remains of a collapsing nation rarely seem to transition into anything other than warlordism.”

“Yes...” Kontarian really couldn't do anything other than agree, if cautiously. The final statement seemed to hold true in the main but the first one wasn't exactly that polite a train of thought. The Occident was, with the exception of @Fleur de Lys and @Orioni, the only stable area in eastern continent. Whilst there might not be open conflict burning across the region, it does not seem to take much to start it almost anywhere.

“We are to convince them that they're better off under the wing of the Megas Agios Basileia Arhomanion than their own rulers, whether warlords or actually someone who is trying to make a proper, functioning state. That's the first."

That might be relatively easy, at least in the populations of the areas bordering on Tagmatium. Even if the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion had been wary of provoking anything after the Haru government had gone quiet, at the local level cross-border trade and travel had started to happen. It had grown after Tagmatium and Machina Haruspex had become allies and picked up again after the central government collapsed. Further afield, there would be more resistance, especially the capital.

“The second is the wider world, of course. As we speak, a few of the nations to the west are going through more or less the same thing. @Prymont is undertaking a peacekeeping operation in the Hellenic Rus and it is widely suspected by my Logothesion to be the first step towards total annexation, whether they admit to it or not. And then, of course, there is the fact that we have joined in the efforts against @Derthalen, ultimately because of their expansion.”

“Although originally it was because of their savage threats to citizens of @Mauridiviah, rather than the expansion itself,” pointed out Kontarian. “That was decided that it was a step too far, threatening death in such a manner. Even if it is a nation of barbaroi.”

“Finally, the third factor. The people of the Greater Holy Empire. Ultimately, this will be the hardest, I believe. The collapse of our neighbours to the north has been quite a shock. On the one hand, I think many of them will react favourably to Tagmatine forces bringing stability to the strife that many think could spill over the border. However, if any of these warlords get into their heads to act in concert, then it could well lead to a long and bloody war.”

Kontarian sighed at that and looked into the bottom of his glass as if willing it to refill. “You really don't have to tell me about that. The Epistrategai feels that this will ultimately be successful. It just may run on for some time. What became the themata of Easteia took a long time to pacify entirely and these warlords to the north have access to some serious kit. In some ways we're luckier than @Adaptus – the warlords are pretty fractured, unlike the religious nutbags they're fighting in their southern theatre. But it will, in all likelihood, be pretty bloody.”

After that, both men lapsed to silence for a while, in their own thoughts. Unlike Ghoulielmos' office, this one was not on the side of the natural harbour that Tagmatika was built around. Instead, it faced towards the city itself. The noise that filled that silence wasn't the gentle sounds of the ocean but the bustle of a large city. It wasn't intrusive, not really, but it could be hard to tune it out at times.

“The busiest subdivision of the Epistrategai is the rail planning one,” said Kontarian, breaking the silence. “The movement of several themata banda to the north means that there is a lot more rail traffic than there would ordinarily be. As we're still on a peace-time footing, they're trying not to disrupt the normal timetables, for freight and for passengers. It's taken a lot of work to try to achieve that. It would be easier to just suspend civilian rail movement and give the military right of way, but both Khalkeos and Tzimekhes pushed hard against that.”

The Logothesia for Trade and Finance, working in concert, would be a hard force to push against, even for the Tagmatine armed forces. Even though it would ultimately slow down the deployment of forces against the warlords, the decision was made by the Agios Basilikon Vestiarion to make sure that the economic impact of the troop movements was as small as possible. Of course, the sudden emptying of barracks towns of a good chunk of their population would certainly have an adverse effect on the local economies.

Silence reigned again.

“Will they see us coming?” asked Ghoulielmos.

“They can't not, to some extent,” replied Kontarian. He drained the last of his glass and got up, in order to collect the decanter from a side table. “The Epistrategai has been undertaking the sort of deception that you would expect them to – false radio transmissions, blocking of passive communications, that sort of thing. But the sheer scale means that the warlords may well have caught wind of something. Before the invasion begins, the Basilikoaeroporia will start to hit air defences, strong points and the like, to distrupt enemy communications. We're also putting out chatter about military exercises.”

The Megas Logothetes for Foreign Affairs drained his own glass and held it out. It was dutifully refilled by Kontarian before he sat himself down again.

“Really, this shit with these fucking savages in Derthalen is giving us a convenient excuse to start massing shipping and pretending it has more to do with that than them,” the Megas Logothetes for War said. His friend suddenly noticed just how tired he sounded. “But that could backfire. If there Derthalers suddenly think that the invasion force is pointed their way...”

“They are increasingly isolated,” said Ghoulielmos. “Only @Ahrana seems to stand by them at the moment and they themselves appear to be coming under fire for this. The world more or less seems to be following us in viewing them as a rogue state. They aren't really in a position to trigger a war. And our relations with them basically can't get any worse.”

That last sentence was said with a slight shrug of the shoulders by the foreign minister.

“Either way,” Kontarian said, looking at his watch. “In less than twelve hours, the first soldiers should be crossing the border. Then we'll see how many hearts and minds we win.”

Edited by Tagmatium Rules (see edit history)
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“Did you see those pictures of the Adaptons advancing north?”

The question broke Axiomatikos Dagalaifos' train of thought. He had been watching a pair of blackbirds by the side of the road as they chased each other, both of them seemingly vying for a higher position than the other. As soon as one of the pair landed on a fence post or a branch above the other, the second one would fly off further away, trying to put some distance between them. He knew a bit about birds – both of the blackbirds were male, from the black plumage and orange beaks and rings around their eyes. He had been idly thinking about what had been about what was causing the problem between the two.

The thing which puzzled him the most was that the birds didn't seem all that fussed with a Tauros main battle tank sat a dozen metres away from them. It was a beautiful late spring day in the Jaehos Valley. Either side of the wide river, mountains were silhouetted against the sky. There were rolling plains on each bank of the river, dotted with small herds of livestock tended by figures in the robes of the region. It would almost be the perfect place for a holiday but for one thing. That one thing, which really spoiled it, was the bass rumble of hundreds of diesel engines. An entire kometon of massive tanks wound its way down a wide highway, topped by armoured cars and behind the tanks, well out of view of Dagalaifos, were infantry fighting vehicles from the armoured infantry units. The recce vehicles would scout ahead and the tanks and IFVs would engage any resistance that they found. All of them were from the élite Paramonai.

These were going to be the lead elements of the Tagmatine push towards into the heartlands of the northern warlords. Dagalaifos' tank was going to be the lead tank. It is a position that was considered to be an honour, although his position would be swapped to the back of his kontoubernion, or troop, at the end of the day. That way, the honour of being the lead would be shared between the rest of the platoon. It was the kind of honour that Dagalaifos wouldn't mind giving up. And he had been in this position before – during the Karthay Incident, his tank had been the first into Karthay City. He didn't really fancy being the lead tank into Parthen, too.

He sighed to himself and turned around in his seat towards the source of the question. It was his loader, Maioriana, and she was looking at her PDA with a smirk plastered across her features. Her eyes were obscured by goggles which he knew to have a heads-up display in them and she wore a tanker's helmet on her head. He was wearing a similar set himself. She waved the device at him, too quickly for him to actually see the picture on it but he guessed what it was. It would have been of the Adapton commander, dressed in furs and on horseback.

“They look f*cking mental, don't they?” The smirk broke into a full grin. “And I heard their king looks like a proper nutbag in his ceremonial clothes. Wandering around half naked and shit.”

“They've always been pretty f*cking mental,” came another voice over the tank's intercom. That was the gunner, Kouritikos, who was sat in the turret below and between Dagalaifos and the loader. “The AdSoc thing should have been the giveaway. And then the Fatherist thing before that. I thought that we were going to put a stop to all of their shit when King Magnus took over.”

“Instead, all we did was nearly run over a Vigla car,” replied Maioriana.

“That was pretty funny,” said Dagalaifos, despite himself. No one really liked the Vigla, the Tagmatine military police. The rest of the crew could almost hear the driver's furious silence over the intercom whilst they grinned at the shared memory. He didn't find it quite so funny as the rest of them. They had been digging at him about it for months now.

It hadn't really been Praeiektos' fault – the seventy-odd tonne Tauros had worked its way up to near enough full speed before the military police car pulled out in front of it in a desperate attempt to halt the advance across the Adapton border. Luckily, the bluecaps had been able to jump out just before the front of their vehicle was squashed almost flat beneath the tank's tracks. And almost an entire thematon bandon's worth of vehicles had been banged up in similar accidents as they ground to a halt just short of causing a major war.

“Does anyone want a cuppa? I'm going to make one,” said Maioriana, disappearing back through her hatch. Every Tagmatine armoured vehicle was equipped with a kettle. Tea was the liquid that lubricated the gears and cogs of the Tagmatine war machine. “I know the boss has got some biscuits somewhere. Go grab them, will you?”

The Axiomatikos smiled to himself as he climbed out of his hatch, careful to not knock the handles of the light autocannon on the hatch's pintle mount. He walked over the deck of the turret towards his pack. Opening it up and rooting about in it, he grabbed a tube of oat biscuits, which he'd got from his girlfriend before being sent out to the north western border of the Greater Holy Empire. He sat back down on the seat in the cupola and tore open the pack. A cup of tea was set down next to the cupola rim and in return he passed the packet into the grasping hand put towards him, but not before he put a couple of biscuits onto his lap.

Thinking, the armour officer bit into a biscuit. Karthay had been a hard, punishing fight. Urban combat in a tank wasn't a very pleasant experience. Although his own tank hadn't been hit, Dagalaifos had seen others from his unit get hit by mines, enemy armour and even swarmed by infantry anti-tank teams. And he knew that the Haru armour they would face was on a par with the Tauros, although the latest models that the Paramonai and the specialist Klibanaforoi were probably better. Probably. His eyes flicked to the clock he could see at the bottom of his HUD. H-hour was quickly approaching.

The loader's voice came over the intercom, muffled by a mouthful of biscuit.

“I'm surprised we haven't seen Messy trotting down the line on a horsie. I heard that he wears riding boots and carries a crop when he meets with old Kommodos.”

“Really? That sounds like bollocks,” replied the driver. There was a pause, likely the driver considering what Maioriana had said. “Well, probably the riding crop part. I bet he does wear the boots.”

“Messy ain't in charge, though,” said Kouritikos. “We've got Killer, instead.”

“He's a good commander, is Killer,” Dagalaifos said defensively. “I mean Strategos Akilios. He saw us through Karthay pretty well. Especially in the city fights.” He patted the cupola hatch of the tank. They'd gone through it in this actual tank. The rest of the crew made noises of agreement. “Our tourmarkhon won't be headed towards Parthen, anyway. We'll be on the plains of the Jaehos, clearing them.”

It sounded easy enough, from when the Kometes was explaining it. They were cavalry and they were going to act as one of the main thrusts, clearing the way for the infantry to follow on. All the while, the air force was going to pound any communications hub or areas of resistance. Even now, a half hour before the ground forces were due to advance, Dagalaifos could see dozens of aircraft overhead, on their way to ruin some poor sod's day.

The Megas Agios Basileia Arhomanion was trying not to telegraph its plans, but at this stage very few casual observers could miss it. An entire army group was hard to miss. The tourmarkhon was going to advance through the 'friendly' territory of the so-called 'Christian Warlord', some renegade general who had apparently embraced the Iconoclastic Orthodox Church in the hope that he would get recognition from Tagmatika. Now, he was going to get that in spades – some half million Tagmatine soldiers were going to use him as a something of a meat-shield before they burst across to the capital.

The armour officer checked the time again. H-hour was nearly upon them and he felt his heart beat harder in his chest. Necking his tea, Dagalaifos put the mug down and put a serious expression on his face.

“Alright, tea break's over for the moment,” he said, causing a chorus of groans from the rest of the crew. “Last checks. Run through it all.”

Despite the informal and close relationship, the crew flipped over onto a professional footing straight away. Kouritikos checked the primary and back-up circuits of the main gun, Maioriana gave a rapid count of the ammunition of the Tauros's weaponry and Praeiektos gave him the read-outs from the driver's position. All seemed good.

“There are no tinnies in the smoke launchers, Maioriana?”

A surprisingly large problem within the Tagmatine armed forces was that the standard vehicle smoke launchers could happily fit a 500ml can of beer in the tube. Booze was regularly smuggled on exercises that way. There was an apocryphal story of a tank launching beers rather than deploying smoke and giving its own infantry support several cases of concussion. It was a story that Dagalaifos could readily seeing happen.

“Nope, boss. Just Willy Pete.”

“OK. Now we sit and - ”

H-hour ticked over. As soon as it did so, the higher communication setting on the tank's system blinked on. The Kometes's voice broke through what the axiomatikos was going to say.

“Well, get a move on, then.”

A cool feeling washed over Dagalaifos. The advance was on. Still sitting in the open cupola, he hesitated before giving his driver the order. Over head, he could see flights of bombers moving off to start pounding anew anything that might give the Tagmatine advance any trouble. He looked over one final time towards the squabbling blackbirds. One of them had disappeared and the other one, sitting on a fence post, was starting to give an alarm call, as if it had just noticed that it was perched next to the lead elements of an armoured division.

“Driver. Advance.”

The sound of the tank's engine roaring into life and the tracks grinding and squeaking made the remaining blackbird fly to the nearest bush.

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  • 4 months later...

After a couple of drinks, he always wanted a cigarette. He had quit several years ago, after a few years of trying. It wasn't just that it was bad for his health, it was also that the government had started a drive to reduce the numbers of Tagmatines smoking. It definitely would not look good to have an exalted Megas Logothetes caught smoking by the press. Nonetheless, Kontarian sat and fidgeted slightly, swirling the wine around his glass whilst drumming his other hand on the table. The nicotine cravings were one of the reasons why he'd also cut down the amount he had been drinking over the last few years, but he couldn't turn down the invitation of his friend, the Megas Logothetes for Foreign Affairs. Goulielmos sat opposite him, looking particularly pleased with himself and Kontarian felt a spiteful need to puncture that.

“So will they make you sneak in wearing a false beard? Or maybe a wig?” he asked, putting his glass down a bit more heavily than he meant to. Perhaps he was a bit more drunk than he thought he was.

The look of hurt that passed over his opposite number's face made him regret saying it. The pair of them had been good friends since before Kommodos ascended the Leopard Throne well over a decade ago. They managed to avoid the infighting and bickering that characterised the relations between the various Logothesia of the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion. Both men were from very different backgrounds – Kontarian was a member of military aristocracy whilst Goulielmos was one of the “new men” favoured by Kommodos, much to the chagrin of the ancient élite of Arhomaneia.

“No, of course not,” replied Eugenios, pushing his glasses back up to the bridge of his nose with a finger. He used the movement to hide the annoyed look that passed across his face. They were sat in a small room just off his main office in the Imperial Palace Complex. Most of the ministerial offices had such rooms – they were sanctuaries for the occupants, away from the hustle and bustle of the palace itself. Whilst almost every logothesion maintained a headquarters within Tagmatika where the bulk of their staff and administrations worked, it was necessary to have a toe-hold within the beating heart of Arhomaneia, too. Kommodos wasn't in the habit of calling meetings at odd hours but that did not mean that crises didn't crop up at inconvenient times.

The room was entirely free of any listening devices, as best as either men's ministries could ascertain, although there was always the chance that someone else had bugged it. The room showed that it was used by the head of the ministry of foreign affairs – maps decorated the walls. Some were reproductions of early Tagmatine maps whilst others were foreign ones, displaying the quirks of their makers. A thick carpet covered the floor and both men had taken off their shoes at the entrance. It was a useful room to have a quiet chat and a drink on the rare occasions that their work allowed. This time, the drink was a red wine, watered down as Tagmatine custom dictated. After all, only barbarians had wine unwatered. “It is a diplomatic coup, though.”

Honorios nodded. “It's a shame that nothing can be made of it. Yet, at least. Letting bygones be bygones, that sort of thing.”

They were discussing the recent secret talks that had been agreed between the Megas Agios Basileia ton Arhomanion and the Republic of @Rihan. Kontarian was one of the few other officials that had been made aware of the communication between the two governments. Whilst the next stage had yet to happen, it did seem hopeful that the Rihannsu might be convinced to view Tagmatium not as a hostile entity but a friend on the world stage. Eight hundred years was a long time, after all.

“Let's hope that they do,” said Eugenios with a raised eyebrow. “After all, wasn't it one of your ancestors an officer in the force sent to deal with them?”

“It was along time ago...” sighed Kontarian. He did hope that that wouldn't come up. That the Rihannsu government needed to keep these talks secret from their own people didn't necessarily bode well. It seemed that they were very good at nursing grudges, if even they were nervous about even being seen talking to Tagmatine officials after nearly one thousand years. “What do you think will come of it, anyway?”

The other man lifted his glass to his lips and took a sip. “I think the best we can hope for at the moment is the normalising of relations. Perhaps a trade deal, although I'll leave that to that lazy arse Khalkeos. It's about time he earned his keep again.”

Takitos Khalkeos was the Megas Logothetes for Trade and had seemingly contented himself with bullying the smaller nations to the east of Tagmatium into deals that favoured the larger nation, rather than try anything with the powers in the rest of the world.

“The Republic will likely have a lot more to worry about soon, though,” said Kontarian thoughtfully. “I know that the Asgeirrian ruler is on a state visit there but I don't necessarily think that friendly relations will last forever. Most of the world has been distracted by @Derthalen and then @Greater Serbia when it seems like we ought to have been paying attention to @Asgeirria.”

Eugenios gave a one-shouldered shrug. “Maybe. It isn't like we have much in the way of interests down in that part of the world, apart from the hope of better relations with the Rihannsu. Anyway, a state visit is hardly going to presage the start of a shooting war.”

“They are always all smiles for the camera.” Honorios knew he was being a bit cynical. “And there is suspicion amongst the intelligence services that the Asgeirrians are looking to be a lot more aggressive in the future. Especially since their expansion to the islands near them went off without a hitch.”

“Bloody barbaroi.” It was the standard Tagmatine response to almost anything that was done by a foreign power or even a foreign national. Even if it was exactly what the Tagmatines themselves would do in their shoes. It was easier to portray the barbaroi as avaricious and grasping than it was to take stock of Aroman actions. There was a moment of silence, as both of them lapsed into their own thoughts. The average Tagmatine, when they thought of that southern nation at all, viewed them as a weird little nation, an odd knock-off of true Aroman culture and militaristic to a fault. They seemed to be ruled by a corporate oligarchy that masqueraded as a free and fair republic. Nothing like true Tagmatine democracy and proud martial tradition at all.

“And what of our own expansion?” asked Goulielmos. That, of course, wasn't how the Tagmatine government as trying to portray it but it was, ultimately, what was happening. The Megas Agios Basileia ton Arhomanion was trying to make sure that it was as secure as it possibly could be on the Occidental subcontinent of Europa. In response, Kontarian sighed again.

“'Events are progressing according to timetable' is the official response, both from us and the Epistrategai,” the Megas Logothetes for War said. “And, in fairness, it is. It's just that we have had some... set backs. I won't say anything before old Kommodos is briefed, though. That would not do either of us any favours.”

At that, he looked over at the door to the small room. Even if there were no bugs within the room itself, then it didn't necessarily mean that someone wasn't listening at the door itself. Although he did know that there were two soldiers from one of the Tagmata stationed outside. If it was someone who the Leader of the Free World didn't want listening in, then they would not be there.

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  • 5 months later...

OOC: Due to Machina Haruspex's return, him and I had a conversation about this thread. Since he intends to come back to RP in Europa, this has gone from me squashing some random warlords and eventually annexing what was his nation to the invasion of an ally of my nation. Therefore, we decided that the easiest thing to do would be to effectively declare this non-canon and sweep it under the carpet.

I had eventually hoped to open this up to outside participation, although as you can see, I kind of bogged down some time ago due to other RPs and lack of time.

So this thread is now closed.


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