By Tagmatium Rules
Spring was finally coming to Gournaion, the capital of the island of Efmoseia and the nation of the Hexanisa. It had been a hard winter across all of northern Europa and even the western countries of Machina @Haruspex and Tagmatium had suffered in the coldest weather in decades. Despite being the two most functional nations in either the Occident or Burania, many of their citizens had died in the cold weather and parts of them had been cut off due to the deep snow and blizzards. In the band of six large islands and innumerable smaller ones that marked the division of the Thalassa ton Kataigidon (Sea of Storms) and the waters of inner Europa, the weather had been especially hard because the islands had very little resources of their own to call upon. Some of the small fishing villages and semi-permanent logging camps that made up the settlements on the exposed northern coasts of the islands had to be completely abandoned. Vessels and aircraft from the Stolos, the militarised coast guard, were now going out to assess the damage to the settlements and to see if the inhabitants could return. The weather had been a shock after the warm temperatures of the summer and very few people had been prepared for anything other than the usual winter weather, although that was always quite harsh. The economic damage would have to be counted before the country could move forward. The long cold winter had delayed the planting of crops and prevented fishing for weeks when the fleets should have been out laying pots for crab or trawling for Adlantic salmon. Whilst the people of the Six Islands were unlikely to starve over the coming months, the finances of the country and its inhabitants would suffer. The last decade hadn't been kind to the Hexanisa and it seemed like the start of the new one wasn't going to be great, either.
Those were the thoughts going through the head of a warmly wrapped little old lady as she sat at a cafe table and took sips of a cup of tea whilst looking out over the harbour of Gournaion. The cafe had cast iron furniture arrayed around tables and segregated from the street by low planters with hardy plants, although most of them had died over the winter. A heavyset stheneloser dog lay curled at her feet, its thick black and white fur proof against the cold of the northern islands. There were still boats in the harbour, although most of them were out to sea, trying to catch up with the season's fishing. She had just come from a morning service at the Panagia Theotokos, the cathedral of the Hexanisa. A savoury pastry lay untouched on a plate in front of her. Several newspapers were spread across the table, some from the Hexanisa, some from Tagmatium and even one from @Orioni. It was the old lady's habit to look through the headlines in the morning after church before she pottered back to her house. The headlines, at least of the Tagmatine ones, were mainly about the Megas Agios Basileia's involvement in Ceris – two carrier groups and a corps were now in action there, with suggestions that more might follow on. She shook her head. It was unlikely that “Arhomaneia” was involving itself there for the benefit of the Cerisers, although no one could deny that the Sentists were a plague that wouldn't go away of its own accord. The Orinese paper was at least more hopeful, although it focussed on the ongoing EOS mission in the Bainbridge Islands.
The papers were full of just more examples of the powers of the wurld bullying the smaller nations. Although the Orinese were much less... conservative, blunt and chauvinistic than the Tagmatines, they were perhaps a bit more hypocritical. They tended to frame all of their actions as good for the people they were subjecting them to, even if it was entirely against their will. The intervention in the Bainbridge Islands had been going on much longer than any operation the Tagmatine armed forces had undertaken in decades. Under the aegis of EOS, the Orinese were bringing peace and stability to the south of Europa, whether it was wanted or not. After a moment looking out to sea again, she broke off a corner of the pastry and crumbled it up further. She then tossed the crumbs to a wagtail that was scavenging around the tables of the cafe but keeping a wary distance from the stheneloser. Another joined it and the two birds bickered for a moment amongst the table legs before seemingly deciding that the amount of crumbs was enough for the pair of them. She watched the small birds briefly before sighing to herself and pouring more tea from the pot into her cup.
A passerby called a greeting and waved at the old lady. The wagtails, always timid, scattered and chittered their outrage at being forced away from their crumbs. The stheneloser raised its heavy head and watched the passerby and the old lady's reaction to them, its eyes darting between the two. When she waved back, it put its muzzle back on its paws, content that there was no threat there and closed its eyes. She reached down and scratched it behind its ears and broke off another bit of the pastry. The dog put its head up again and gave a begging look. The old lady smiled at the big dog and gave it the rest of the pastry, saving a corner for herself. It chewed messily for a moment and nosed up the crumbs that it had dropped. She ate the corner she had broken off and sipped the cup of tea.
Of course, to the locals it wasn't just an old woman – it was Evangela Leotykhidissa, the Megas Kritissa, the Great Judge, of the Kritakrateia of the Hexanisa. A small bodyguard called the Skouterioi lurked nearby, attempting to make themselves unobtrusive but also trying to be a visible barrier between her and any possible threat. Unlike the bodyguards of the islands' western neighbour, they weren't in ostentatious armour and robes but coats and suits. It was clear that they were still bodyguards, as the tailoring of their suits couldn't quite hide the presence of holstered pistols. The Skouterioi had always made it clear that they weren't happy with the fact their head of government was content to sit in public and let the islanders greet her as they walked by. Although the islands weren't rich, they were strategic. The Arhomaiki Noimosyni Dykton was an ever-present threat, as were the secret services of the Exousiokrateia or the Volskoi. Any of them might try to engineer a takeover of the islands or assassinate the Megas Kritissa. They would likely then try to take advantage of either the islands' position or the possibility of mineral or oil wealth possessed by them. The Gharoiki have been carrying out “hydrocarbon mining” in the areas of the Thalassa ton Kataigidon under their control. It seemed to be a pompous way of saying “oil and gas extraction” and it couldn't be doubted that the Hexanisa were being eyed up by the northern barbarians.
Evangela took another sip of tea. The Megas Kritissa had been voted into the position in 2016 as a reaction against the regime of Kommodos Iakoumos, as she had been in the election six years before that. The old woman was one of the few of the Lipotakai, the Deserters, still actively involved in the politics of the Hexanisa. She had been repeatedly elected because she was seen as taking a hard line with Tagmatika. There was still an arrest warrant out for her in the Megas Agios Basileia, even though it had been over sixty years since the events at the end of the Long War which had caused the Hexanisa to break away from Arhomaneia. It looked like the relationship between the islands and the mainland were warming up in the reign of Theodosios VI but his death at the hands of an assassin and the civil war that followed had halted that.
At the time, some of the other Kritai had considered throwing in their support behind the cabal of naval and army officers attempting to revive the Navarkhokrateia but that scheme had been stopped by the then Megas Krites, Ioannes Hegesinos. It just would have meant a vengeful Kommodos landing forces on the islands and bringing them to heel by force. Some of the defeated rebels had tried to flee to the islands in the aftermath of the civil war but they had been turned away, most of those disappearing further east or south. There were rumours that the new regime in Tagmatika had shot dozens, if not hundreds, of rebellious officers. Handing over any refugees would have been as bad as murder even if it would have meant that Tagmatika might have warmed up to the Hexanisa.
The pot of tea was empty and Leotykhidissa stood to her feet, using the arms of her chair to help her get there. One of the Skouterioi stepped forward to take her arm but the old woman waved him off. The big dog stood up and followed the old lady at her heels as she started on the walk towards her official residence. It wasn't too far away from the harbour and the cafe. Gournaion was not a bustling metropolis by the standards of most nations, even New Wurld ones, but it was the largest city of the Hexanisa. The other people walking the streets knew the Megas Kritissa by sight and waved at her as she passed. Many other heads of state would use a car to get around but the size of the capital meant it was unnecessary and Leotykhidissa also loved to see the city. It meant that the old lady felt like she was more in touch with the ordinary people of her country than others in her position might be. And she could see the effects of the policies that she enacted or the repercussions of wurld events.
In recent years, the numbers of boarded up shops were more noticeable than ever before. As she walked through the cobbled streets of the port, it was obvious where the road surface had become worn or damaged and been replaced with cheaper tarmac. The Great Europan Collapse had not impacted the islands as badly as others – the government hadn't fallen apart due to economic ruin like in many other countries but the primary industries of fishing and logging had taken a hit. The tourist trade had been nascent but starting to bear fruit, with southerners coming to see the relatively unspoilt landscapes, although others came to see the remains of the battlefields of the Long War. Those were mainly Tagmatioi and their money was as good as anyone else's, even if the Hexanisoi didn't like their government. However, that had dried up and the tourist board of the Kritakrateia just didn't have the money or the pull to try to attract more people to the islands. Foreign faces were now entirely uncommon on the islands.
The Megas Kritissa got to the official residence of the head of the islands. It was no towering edifice but a low villa, almost in the classical style, if not for the modifications made to the architecture to take into account the frigid winters. A pair of guards in the dress uniform of the Taxiotai, the island's paramilitary police, stood either side of the door. Their faces were slightly reddened from the cold and their breath clouded in the early morning air. Leotykhidissa would make sure that the guards changed over a bit earlier than scheduled to get them out of the cold. The big dog walked up to the nearest and sniffed at the gendarme's boots.
The dog stopped sniffing about immediately and trotted after the old woman and into the building. It was a comfortable enough building, if slightly more grand than many others in the city. It was the old seat of the Exarkhos, the governor, of the Hexanisa, back before the Long War had dashed that all to the winds. It was, imaginatively, known as the Palati tou Exarkhou, the Palace of the Exarkhos, although “palace” was far too grand a name. Arkadios' nails clicked on the tiles in the hall. The vestibule was cold and a draught blew through it, even with the front doors now closed by the Taxiotai on guard. The only real nod to being in the building was when an aide stepped forward to take the Megas Kritissa's coat and held out a warm indoor robe. Waving the aide away with a gesture, Leotykhidissa took off her coat and changed into the offered robe.
“A cup of tea to warm you up?” the man asked. He was almost as old as Leotykhidissa and had the air of a trusted retainer about him.
“Yes, thank you,” replied the Megas Kritissa, giving him a thin smile that still managed to be warm. “Can you take it through to the study? There are some papers I wish to go through before I get anything else done today.”
“Of course,” he sketched a quick bow and stopped to give Arkadios a pat on the head before he did so. “Anything for this boy?”
“No, he's had a pastry already this morning,” Evangela said, looking down at the big dog, who was in turn looking up hopefully at the aide with big eyes. He was trying to suggest that he'd not been fed at all today, despite what was being said. “He sat patiently outside, waiting for the service to finish. He's been a good boy.”
Arkadios' tail wagged at the words.
“I will bring the tea through when it is ready, Megas Kritissa,” said the aide, finally stopping rubbing the fur on top of the stheneloser's head and walking down the hall. “The heating's on, so the study should be nice and warm.”
“Thank you, Leontios,” the old lady said and walked further into the residence.
One of the main changes from the traditionally designed Arhomaiki home was that the study wasn't in a commanding place in the building, open to both ends to allow a good view throughout. Instead, in a nod to the cold weather, the room abutted the kitchen, to allow it to take warmth in from the ovens in the walls. That, along with the underfloor heating, made it one of the most snug rooms in the depths of winter. For an elderly person, it made it very liveable. Arkadios padded into the room and went straight over to the dog bed that lay in between the desk and the door and curled up in it. His eyes were on the Megas Kritissa as she pulled out the chair behind the desk and took out a pad of paper. She looked ahead almost blankly for a moment before taking a fountain pen from the mug of pens on the desk and started writing. It took a long time for the words to start properly coming and the cup of tea that Leontios placed on the desk was stone cold before she took notice of it. Eventually, the big dog had started to fidget and whine slightly, making it known that he needed to go out to go to the loo before Leotykhidissa finally stopped her fitful writing and looked down at the words on the page.
She sighed and made the sign of the cross in the Aroman fashion – thumb, index and middle finger together, going from right to left – before sitting back in the chair. Of course, as she herself was not a despot, Leotykhidissa would put it before the other five Kritai to see what they would think. Personally, it seemed to be the only way to guarantee the fate of the Hexanisa but she had no idea whether it was the right choice. She was just tired of seeing her beloved nation rot and its people suffer like they had been doing for the last few decades.
Her status as a Lipotakissa and her stance on Arhomaneia meant that she would probably be the only person who could propose a reunion with the Megas Agios Basileia without it being immediately shouted down and the proposer being arrested for high treason. It was certainly shocking, even to Leotykhidissa, but perhaps it was time for her country to come in from the cold.
OOC: It's time to get the ball rolling on the first part mentioned here.
By Tagmatium Rules
In light of the recent occupation of Corinium by both @Seylos and @Haruspex, the northern entrance of the Adlantic is now in the hands of foreign powers. Certainly, one of those foreign powers is an ally and the other one is friendly towards Tagmatium, but they are still other nations whose interests cannot always be expected to align with those of the Greater Holy Empire.
Especially those damned savages.
Making a permanent military presence on the islands and enlarging the civilian population will make the Tagmatine hold on the islands secure. The plan will be to eventually make a port that is capable of acting as the Europan end of @Iverica's polar trade route, as well as the inevitable naval base to try to counteract Corinium. It will also help put the potential polar resources under Tagmatine control, although these are likely to remain unexploited, due to the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion's environmental policies.
The Nisa Herimiton
Also known as the Herimitireia, the Herimitika Nisa (the Hermitage Islands) are at the edge of the wurld. The eight islands are at the edge of Europa and within the Argic Circle. The only modern settlement of any size is the port and administrative centre of Basilikolimanion, or Imperial Port.
The islands are:
1. Nisos tou Iadridou (Eadred's Island)
2. Kyrios Khristos (Lord Christ)
3. Agioi Apostoloi (Holy Apostles)
4. Nisos tou Anastasiou (Anastasios' Island)
5. Nisos Arkoudon (Bear Island)
6. Megali Adelfi (Big Sister)
7. Mikri Adelfi (Little Sister)
8. Kyro Nisos (Cold Island)
The dot marks the location of Basilikolimanion.
Within the Argic Circle, the islands are bare rock and glacier, in the main. There is little vegetation and they are a haven for Argic wildlife, from seabirds to walruses and polar bears.
There are small monastic cells dotted about the islands, but these are isolated. There are also several watch posts for the border guard and financial guard, but these are not independent settlements. In several places, especially on the main island of Nisos tou Iadridou, there are abandoned whaling stations and mining settlements, in various states of decay. Basilikolimanion is also mainly derelict, with only the cathedral, attached monastery, headquarters for the guards and one of the wharfs in decent condition. The C19th fortifications are degrading but still in good condition and the Palace, previously a jewel of the island, is decaying and the lair of polar bears.
The islands were first discovered in 1593 by an Akwisian, Eadred Sunnason, also known Eadred the Mapmaker. The first landings weren't until several years later and were concerned with using the islands as bases for whale hunting. This became the main reason for landings on the islands, as they slowly became one of the centres for the whaling industry in northern Europa. Most of the nations around the Sea of Storms had small settlements at one time or another, but the islands came under the control of Arome by the end of the 1700s. This was primarily because of the seclusion the islands offered from the point of view particularly ascetic monks, although the hard environment meant that they often did not last long.
A permanent base was established at the site of what is now Basilikolimanion, which became the main processing and shipping point. The islands were placed under the control of Arome and an Exarch appointed to govern them. It was also used as a dumping ground for exiles, away from where they might be able to affect Aroman politics and society. As whale oil and products became ever more lucrative as the industrial revolution bore on across the wurld. This, in turn, meant that Basilikolimanion acquired state-of-the-art defences and a cathedral, signifying its prosperity.
Ultimately, by the mid 1800s, overhunting meant that the local whale populations had been played out and the whaling fleets were forced to go further and further, rendering the facilities at Basilikolimanion redundant. Despite attempts diversifying the economy with mining, the population dwindled until it was little more than an isolated prison away from mainland Tagmatium. Mining was a wasted effort, as coal and ore could be more readily sourced in Tagmatium itself. Or, failing that, another Europan nation.
By the early 1900s, the Hermitage Islands were little more than that – a hermitage for religious introspection, nothing else, along with a small group from the border guards and the financial guards. In order to make the outpost attractive postings, there had to be a level of rank inflation for those posted there. Even then, it was never a popular one. Before the Long War, another attempt was made to make the islands financially viable, but it was derailed by that conflict, which saw the islands almost completely isolated.
Now, Tagmatium hopes that it can properly re-establish control of the islands.
Government and Politics
There is no government to speak of – other than the main monastery at Basilikolimanion and associated monastic cells across the island, there is no administration for the island. The monastery is more or less self-contained, bar the fact that it needs a resupply vessel every few months.
The main authorities on the islands are Archishop Dorothios Maliasenos, Tribounos Pankratoukaina Tzamplakonissa of the Foussatores and Komes Theognostos Maroules of the Vestiaritai. The archbishop tends to keep himself busy with the affairs of the Church whilst the other two are more concerned with the roles of their organisations as well as the petty bickering typical of two Tagmatine organisations that have overlapping jurisdictions.
The only people on the islands are members of the Aroman Church.
There are roughly two hundred monks and a similar number of the Foussatores and Vestiaritai, although split between them. The monks are permanent but the members of the other two are rotated every so often. The Ministry of the Environment has several groups of semi-permanent researchers who monitor the animal and bird populations on the islands. Most of the population is focused around the “capital” of Basilikolimanion.
The Foussatores and the Vestiaritai are the only armed presence on the island and they are not military. The former is a border agency with only small arms and a few fixed emplacements around the capital/main port, which are drilled with but hopelessly obsolete. The latter is more of a coastguard and customs agency than a military, keeping an eye on ships that come near the islands and to make sure that no one else lands there without permission of the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion.
They would fold under any pressure and a landing in any force would brush them aside.
There is no economy to speak of, other than a low level black market in the two border agencies which is concerned with making or exchanging alcohol.
The islands themselves have significant mineral deposits, mainly coal and iron ore. It is currently not considered to be economically viable to bother with and all mines and mining installations are in a state of degradation. Surveys for oil and gas were carried out several decades ago and were not considered to be viable at the time.
By Tagmatium Rules
As Droungariokomes (Commodore) Sofia Ooryfaina looked the bay and the town of Basilikolimanion that was nestled around it, there were several things that struck her.
The first was that was a good, sheltered anchorage for ships, and the concrete wharves that jutted into the bay would make the unloading of equipment easier. So long as they were still in good condition, although they likely wouldn't have been used intensively for decades. They could well be corroded and weakened by years of being battered by the elements and unable to take much heavy equipment moved across them.
The second was that the large cathedral and equally large palace were incongruous amidst the dilapidated and crumbling houses and industrial buildings. They were from a significantly more prosperous time, when the Hermitages were at the centre of Arhomaneia's whaling industry a century ago. The islands where then, briefly, used for coal and iron ore mining until the Long War made it too dangerous for ships to cross. An attempt was made thirty or forty years ago to restart the mining, but it was deemed uneconomical to ship it across the Sea of Storms. She couldn't tell what state the wharves were in from out where her ship was. Or the palace and the cathedral, as they were just dark silhouettes against the the bare rock and small patches of vegetation that made up the hinterland behind the main settlement of the Hermitages.
The third was that it looked bloody cold out there. The wind was whipping off the tops of the waves and it looked like there was snow in the air.
“No sign of any life?” She asked the ship's captain, or Droungarios in her nation's naming conventions, taking her binoculars from her eyes and turning to her left to look over her shoulder. His name was Eufemios Kamoteros and he looked like the typical Basilikoploimon officer – smartly turned out in his black uniform, with a dark beard that was starting to show edges of grey. He was of below average height, not much taller than Ooryfaina herself. Both of them had regulation short hair and were wrapped up against the cold, despite being on the bridge of the command ship of the mission.
“None from the Foussatores or Vestiaritai, Kyriossa,” came the reply from the officer standing at her left shoulder. The Border Guard and the Financial Guard respectively, they were only on the island to protect what little Arhomaneia considered to be of worth on islands. Which was little. “The monks, though, have acknowledged our approach. I've asked them to get in contact with the others.”
Droungariokomes Ooryfaina gave a heavy sigh. The need for secrecy and the speed at which the operation was assembled meant that it hadn't been able to contact the remote stations that kept the Tagmatine claims to the faraway islands alive. It also didn't help that the islands were considered such a backwater deployment by the organisations in charge of them that it would probably have taken weeks for them to contact their subordinates on the islands. It was considered by the Epistrategaion to just contact them once the flotilla was close enough to the island. It could well have been something of an oversight on the part of the High Command.
“Well, keep having your people try them, Droungarios. I don't want any unfortunate accidents taking place.” The Droungariokomes turned away and walked over to the windows on the bridge's starboard side to look at the handful of vessels that were following the cruiser BPP Trapezon she was on.
Three tenders, filled with supplies and equipment to establish a proper base on the island, as well as a troop ship with a Apelatai regiment on it. Although it had initially been deemed a risk to withdraw a unit from the western border, the elite infantry were equipped and prepared to deal with the harsh conditions this far north. There were two corvettes and a destroyer accompanying the flotilla, watching for any ships or aircraft that might have suspicious intentions. A pair of submarines lurked nearby, acting as an unseen screening force. A conspicuously civilian vessels with too many antennas lurked between the tenders and the troop ship. It was from the Arhomaiki Noimosyni Dykton and other than its presence and its immediate movements, no one had explained to the Droungariokomes what it was going to be doing.
Ideally, the attention of the Gharoi would be on both Corinium or the Prognostikator watching them in the Thalassa ton Kataigidon, the Sea of Storms. No one should really have seen anything as the Tagmatine ships slipped anchor in the various ports on the Kentriki Thalassa, the Central Sea and then amassed on the eastern side of the island of Vanarambion. They kept to international waters as best as they could as they did so. The vessels then made their way north by slipping through the Fillipou Thalassa, the Kosscow Sea and between the islands of the Hexanesa under the cover of darkness. Nights were still long at this time of year and this latitude. The flotilla was approaching from the east, in order to try to further escape any possible prying eyes from other countries. The few ships they had seen were trawlers, although you could never be sure.
It seemed a good enough plan to the Droungariokomes when she'd been briefed on it but it was clear that it could spark off something, especially as the Seilosioi (@Seylosians) and the Iberikoi (@Ivericans) had tried to block Gharoi (@Haruspex) plans for Corinium. Only partially successfully, as the Gharoi pretty much now controlled the northern entrance to the Adlantic. There was a good chance that the northern barbarians were eyeing up the Hermitages, probably to create naval bases and despoil of their natural resources. Which was something that the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion wanted to avoid, as it would entirely put the seas surrounding Arhomaneia at their mercy.
As the Droungariokomes ruminated on the chances that Arhomaneia might kick off something bigger with establishing direct control to the northern islands, another officer leaned over to the Droungarios and muttered in his ear. He nodded and turned to Ooryfaina.
“It looks like we still can't get a hold of anyone but the monks, Kyriossa, but they've sent someone over to to warn the Foussatores and the Vestiaritai,” he said, a frown on his face. “Apparently it's common, or at least common enough, that someone's radio goes down and they rely on the others to communicate.”
Ooryfaina grunted. “Good start.”
The other officer shrugged. “As good as any, really. I suppose it can't be expected that this out-of-the-way shithole would be up to scratch. They have to get everything sent up to them and it's not like any of them are trained military.”
“Well, two of them are law enforcement of some sort,” the Droungariokomes said, shaking her head and walking over towards the windows in the bridge that looked towards the islands. “The buggers should really have their shit together a lot more. Especially out here.”
“It'll be a shock when two-odd thousand pissed off soldiers start stomping around the island,” replied the captain, a grin showing through his beard. The smile disappeared and was replaced by a more serious look. “The monks also suggest that we use the eastern wharf, as the western one is a bit degraded.”
“What's 'a bit degraded'” the female officer asked her subordinate, turning towards him, eyebrow raised.
“They didn't really say,” the other replied, with a shrug. “I suppose that we'll have to see as soon as we get there.”
Both of them turned to look towards the island. It was low down towards the sea but rose up towards the north east to a hill. A glacier covered the mountain and below that, bare rock. They were much closer now, able to see the individual houses that made up much of the settlement, as well as the walls of the fortress. Most of the houses were little more than ruins. The palace and the cathedral were easily seen.
“They call it the Palati ton Oston,” said Kamoteros. “Pretty ominous. Apparently, they made much of the flooring and door frames out of whalebone, from all the years of hunting.”
Again, the more senior officer grunted in reply.
The BPP Trapezon was too large to moor directly alongside the wharves, as it was much bigger than the colliers and iron ore cargo ships it had been designed for, some seventy or more years ago. That didn't bode too well for the plans to bring the port itself up to the standards necessary for acting as the Europan end of the Argic trade route. But, Ooryfaina considered as she stood in ready to climb out of the ship's boat she had left the cruiser in, it was likely already known by the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion. The iron rungs of the ladder from the water level up to the top of the wharf were slippery, corroded and occasionally missing. She almost lost her grip a couple of times. Getting a dip in the frigid Thalassa ton Kataigidon was not something that she was planning on doing today. As she hauled herself onto the top of the wharf, a band struck up the Arhomaiki national anthem.
The smell of incense wafted over the sea air and was whipped away by a strong wind and she looked towards where the music was coming from. The band was made up of ten musicians, half in the winter uniform of the border guard and half in that of the financial guard. It did not sound like they had every practised together. A group of monks, well wrapped in winter gear, were waving thymiata and carrying holy relics to bless the new arrivals. Striding towards the Droungariokomes was an elderly-looking priest carrying a crozier and with a mitre perched on a woolly hat, followed by what must be the two senior officers of the enforcement agencies that occupied the Herimitireia. They seemed to be having a typically Aroman struggle over who would greet her first in their order of seniority. The border guard could trace their roots to the forces that conquered Europa and Amutia whilst the financial guard were, strictly speaking, a unit of the Tagmata. Thus the two officers were surreptitiously trying to step in front of the other. Soon it was likely going to come to elbows jabbed in ribs.
“Welcome to the Herimitireia,” said the Arkhiepiskopos Dorothios Maliasenos, vapour from his breath curling away in the wind. He gave an appraising glance over Ooryfaina's rank tabs. “It is rare that we get anyone from the Basilikoploimon here, let alone a droungariokomes. Usually, it's a ship chartered from a civilian firm that drops of supplies for us. A supply tender for them comes from the navy but it's never someone of such a rank.”
The archbishop punctuated the last part of the statement with a jab of a gloved hand over his shoulder. The two behind him had finished their bickering but waited until the archbishop had finished talking to the naval officer. The statement of the archbishop seemed to be a bit dismissive of the other two officers but she couldn't quite tell.
“And now you arrive with that,” he said, giving a nod towards the flotilla sat in the bay.
“Yes, your beatitude,” replied Ooryfaina. “The Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion has decided that it is time for the Herimitireia to truly become part of Arhomaneia again.”
A pretty pompous line. The naval officer winced internally almost as soon as she said it.
“Some of it has already been explained to me by a communication from emailed over to me,” the archbishop said. “I am not sure I wholehearted approve, for many reasons. For one, we have got used to the peace and tranquillity of these islands. I rather it wasn't disturbed by building work, ships or soldiers.”
“I believe that will come a bit later, your beatitude,” the Droungariokomes replied. “I'm not sure when but I think that, considering what the Gharoi and Seilosioi have done, I imagine it will be soon. I'm not in charge of the building work, just securing the islands.”
Again, the expression on what little of the archbishop's face was visible between his beard and his woolly hat was unreadable. He turned on his heel without another word and started to walk back down the wharf towards his waiting entourage, who were still waving incense and chanting. Ooryfaina found herself staring after him, frowning. She hadn't been told anything about the Church disapproving of the increase in activity on the islands but, as she had said to the archbishop, that wasn't really her problem. Her job was to stop any other nation to trying to meddle in the affairs of the island.
Another woolly hat bobbed into view, but this with a tall domed hat crammed on top of it.
“Tribounos Pankratoukaina Tzamplakonissa of the Foussatores,” said the well wrapped little shape that lay under the hat. From the name, Ooryfaina guessed that the speaker was female but the amount of clothes rendered any physical appearance hard to discern. And in order to nip any pretensions of the other officer being anything other than inferior to the speaker, they continued. “And this is Komes Theognostos Maroules.”
The other officer narrowed his eyes at the slight but gave a half-bow towards the naval officer.
“Welcome to the edge of the Eurth, Droungariokomes,” the shorter figure said, with unnecessary dramatics. “We'll get you and your staff somewhere warm.”