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A Southerly Wind

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Two hours before the Tagmatine ultimatum elapsed.

“At the moment, as you all know, the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion is waiting on an answer to the ultimatum. Tagmatika is yet to receive an answer, either positively or negatively. The Epistrategaion – and by inference, his Aroman Majesty – expect that the Makhairakeioi will allow it to elapse without a response. They have threatened every nation around them and, with the Angleioi backing them up, they are unlikely to back down now.”

Navarkhos – the Tagmatine equivalent of a full admiral – Stylianos Ethelred stood with his arms crossed and his gaze sweeping around the room as he spoke. He was dressed a black woollen jersey and white shirt, with shoulder boards displaying his rank insignia. A short dark brown beard with a full moustache slightly obscured his mouth as he talked. Both beard and short hair were speckled with grey, as might be expected of a man in his early fifties. In front of him was a map of the southern coast of Dolchland. He stood within the conference room attached to the admiral's facilities on board the aircraft carrier, BPP Agios Pantaleon. A dozen or so men and women, most of who were similarly uniformed to the Navarkhos, stood around the table at various points, either looking at the map as well or watching the admiral's face.

A faint scent of incense wafted through the air, a reminder that the room had just been blessed in order to facilitate a successful briefing for the operations that were to take place in the near future. The carrier's head chaplain had led a small procession around the room before the briefing took place, bearing several relics purported to be from the namesake saint of the aircraft carrier. As commander of the operation, Ethelred had been blessed by the chaplain and had reverently kissed the reliquary that bore the holy remains. The reliquary was then placed on a shelf overlooking the room, with a candle burning on either side.

The senior officers of the strike group under Ethelred's command stood around the map table, looking at the map. It showed positions of several radar stations, as well as air bases interpreted as military, naval bases and other sites had been tentatively raised as possible missile batteries but there were likely numerous unknowns in and around the area. The air bases that had been deemed to be military was because of the the traffic that had been observed using them. Much of the military aircraft had been moving eastwards, towards the combat on Iwenland. Some still seemed to remain on the southern coast, however, as even the usual arrogance of the barbaroi did not extend to removing all of their nation's air cover of an entire coastal area.

“Operations are to take place within the Bight of Flunder and we will be striking military targets on the southern coast of Makhairakeia.” This was going over old ground. Since the ultimatum had been sent to Schlammburg the previous morning, all of the officers present had attended several such briefings and had been able to study the plans laid out for the coming conflict by the Epistrategaion, the Tagmatine High Command. “The outcome of this will be twofold – it will directly hurt the Dolch ability to engage in naval warfare against anything within the Dolch Sea and it will force them to turn their attention away from Ivenlandeia. That, in turn, will help our friends in the east turn back this invasion.”

And their northern front, too, but that would just be an added bonus in the grand scheme of things. No Tagmatine really gave much of a f*ck about what happened to the massed Velaherian ( @DPR Velaheria) conscripts that were being sent into the Dolchic guns. Their brutal and incompetent government had ordered terror bombing of civilians in the last war that they had been in. This was seemingly because they were too inept, both morally and technically, to be able to to do anything but that. As far as both the Holy Imperial Government and the average Tagmatine were concerned, both the Dolch and the Velaherians could bleed themselves white fighting their war against each other.

“Intelligence does point towards the Makhairakeioi receiving significant supplies from the Angleioi over the past eleven months, although the size of that help and nature of it is somewhat unknown.” The failure of intelligence that that represented was somewhat awkward and it had the potential to threaten the Tagmatine operation considerably. The Navarkhos looked around the room. He wasn't telling anyone anything that they didn't already know. They'd seen the news reports of container ships arriving at Dolch ports. Most of them had even seen the ships themselves and knew that their arrival on Dolchic shores did not bode anything pleasant.

“It is expected by the Epistrategaion that their air defences will have been upgraded by the Angeleioi but it is also thought likely that much of this will now be focussed on their eastern coast, to attempt to cover their landings on Ivenlandeia. They seem to have decided that we are not a pressing threat, or at least that is what is surmised by our intelligence analysts.”

Alongside the collection of Basilikoploimon officers, there were two Basilikoaeroporia officers, dressed in blue grey jerseys and dark blue trousers. They were from the units stationed in Secryae, which had been significantly reduced from the height of Tagmatine activity during the Ceris War. Three squadrons remained, one of which was a ground attack unit, along with a smattering of reconnaissance and transport aircraft. The ground attack unit wasn't judged to be useful in the coming operation, although the other two, an interceptor squadron and an electronic warfare squadron, were. They would be providing additional air cover for the Tagmatine naval forces in the Dolch Sea. Three of the other people in the room stood out from all the others, as they were wearing uniforms stylised after those of the Dolchic military. They were from Tagmatium's ally in Ceris, the Noble Republic of Secryae.

One of those was from the nascent Secryaean air force and another two from their navy, if the collection of coastal defence vessels could be called such a thing. They would also take part in the war against Dolchland. Ethelred had been briefed by the Protologothetes for Wider Wurld Affairs, Konstantinian Makarios, about the Noble Republic and its intentions. It was politically expedient for Tagmatium to allow the Secryaeans to take part but, as Makarios said, it was suspected that Secryae was not just aiming to be seen as a useful partner to Tagmatium. Certainly, it was the case that it wanted to be a useful partner to the Europan nation, but what the Ceriser nation really wanted to do was to show that it could be of worth to the North Adlantic Union. It was coming to be suspected by the Logothesion ton Barbaron that path the Ceriser nation now saw for itself was closer cooperation with the North Adlantic Union, rather than being used as a stepping stone into Argic affairs by a faraway country on another continent.

“Whether Makhairakiki inattention is what plays out will remain to be seen, of course,” continued the Navarkhos. “And we will be the ones who find out about that. God willing, their pants will be around their ankles.”

Since the invasion of Iwenland and the aggressive action against both @Seylosand @Delamaria had started, the Tagmatine forces on Ceris and Dolch Sea had been champing at the bit to get to grips with Dolchland. It was clear that war had been looming between Tagmatium and Dolchland since the start of the invasion of Iwenland. Although the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion had forbade any aggressive action against the Dolch by Ethelred's forces, Tagmatika had given the go-ahead for increased reconnaissance flights along the southern limit of Dolchic airspace. It had helped that the attention of the Dolch seemed to be entirely focussed to their east, where they were dealing with Delamaria, Seylos and Iwenland and to their north, where they were facing the Velaherians.

“And, more specifically, it will be your air crews that have to find out whether they have been so incautious, Droungarios Symbatios,” said Ethelred, looking over a naval captain whose insignia denoted membership of the Aeroporeia tou Ploimou, the naval aviation branch of the Tagmatine navy. “You will be hitting sites identified as enemy radar stations and anything else that tries to target us. I imagine your people are ready.”

The officer nodded. “Absolutely, Navarkhos. We are just awaiting the order. We'll render the Makhairakeioi blind and take down anything that tries to stop us.”

“Good.” Turning back from Droungarios Symbatios, the admiral produced a laser pointer and highlighted several targets marked on the map. “Simultaneously, the missile-capable ships of the rest of the group will be hitting the military air bases. This will disrupt their attempts at striking back at us. Anything that looks like it might be capable of launching a military aircraft will get a crater in it. Several craters in it.”

Possible military air bases, a nagging thought said in Ethelred's mind but he put it aside. God would guide the Tagmatine military to hit the right targets. It would be unfortunate if they did hit anything else but that was not going to be of concern to him at this moment.

“This will happen as soon as we get the order from the Epistrategaion. Either when the Makhairakeioi reject the ultimatum or when it times out, which ever happens first.”

Ethelred made an ostentatious play of looking at his watch.

“And considering we have been waiting for roughly the last twenty-two hours now for a reply from Schlammburg, I expect that we will get that order in about two hours and one minute.”

“And if we don't get the order, Kyrios?” asked Trierarkha Makroioannissa, captain of the BPP Defensor, one of the three Hippikos class destroyers that were part of the strike group of the BPP Agios Pantaleon. Her ship had been the one from the Tagmatine forces that had investigated the destruction of Liechnenfax. “If the Makhairakeioi realise they're about to get their teeth kicked in by Arhomaneia?”

“Then we forget this ever happened, Trierarkha,” replied Ethelred, with a shrug. He was now fiddling with the laser pointer, rather than shining it at anything particular on the map. “If the mud-eaters decide that they actually have a brain and not just cheese between their ears. We'll throw all these operational plans in the bin and keep lurking here, just off their southern shore.”

If the admiral had noticed that he had touched two of the somewhat mutually exclusive stereotypes of Dolch cuisine, he didn't make it obvious. It seemed to have gone over the head of the rest of the officers present as well. All he had needed to do was reference sausages as well and he would have scored a hat trick.

“I can't imagine that they'd like that, considering Arhomaneia's support for Delamareia and Seiloseia,” the Trierarkha said. “Although they seem to have been happy with ignoring us so far.”

The admiral shrugged again. “Unless they come and try to force us out of the area, then they will just have to put up with us here.”

“And the Agios Ioulianos? What will they be doing?” Another one of the other officers, the captain of the BPP Konstantinos Panaretos, spoke up. His vessel was the Protosebastos guided missile cruiser of the carrier strike group. That ship would be one of the ones that was going to trying reduce any length of flat tarmac in southern Dolchland to collections of the worst sorts of pot-holes imaginable.

The BPP Agios Ioulianos was the second of the Tagmatine carrier strike groups that had been deployed to eastern Argis over the last several years. It had been in the Geltic Sea, known in Laimiaic as the Geltiki Thalassa, after tensions in the area had raised significantly, due to a rogue nation in the area making threatening actions against its neighbours.

“They will be moving down through the Geltiki Thalassa and to the south of Seiloseia.” Ceasing to fiddle with the laser pointer, Ethelred use it to sketch a route on a smaller map of southern Argis that was inset on a corner on the larger map of Dolchland. “They will be reinforcing our operations here once they arrive.”

The captain of the Konstantinos Panaretos nodded. It wasn't exactly new information to the man, or any of the others present. A concentration of the Tagmatine resources in Argis represented the best way to break the back of the OCA in the area and deny Anglia a foothold there. In fairness, there was a good chance that Tagmatine involvement might not even be necessary – the Dolch had willingly thrown themselves into a two front war, one of which was against two of the most powerful nations in south-eastern Argis. The largest unknown factor would be precisely how Anglia was going to respond to the Holy Imperial Government's declaration of war against Dolchland, if that happened. If they didn't, then it would be a huge show of weakness. Perhaps one that undermined the strength of the whole alliance. That wasn't something that the Navarkhos was going to concern himself with, however. Southern Dolchland and the surrounding sea was going to be his focus.

“Well, I believe that just about covers it for the moment,” said the Navarkhos. “I think it is time that everyone got back to their ships. May the blessing of God be with you.”

One minute after the Tagmatine ultimatum elapsed.

To: Navarkhos Stylianos Ethelred, Commander of Arhomaiki Forces, Makhaira Thalassa

From: The Epistrategaion

Ultimatum unanswered; commence operation.

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  • 4 weeks later...

It seemed like the Dolchic plan was relatively simple – ignore the presence of the Tagmatine forces to their south as best as possible whilst conducting military operations against their northern neighbour and on Iwenland. Likely, they hoped that they could defeat one of the two as quickly as possible and hang onto their gains long enough that Great Anglia made its move in Argis. Or, now, Europa. The @Gallambrian declaration of war had probably come out of the blue for most of the nations and governments involved in the war in Argis. War was increasingly spreading out across Eurth, although it was probably true that it had never properly died down since the start of Great Anglia's campaign across western Europa.

“We estimate that Makhairakiki radar effectiveness is down to about 20% of what it was before our attacks started,” said Navarkhos Ethelred, directing the attention of Protologothetes Konstaninian Makarios to several areas of a map with a broad sweep of his laser pointer. “Most of their fixed installations have been destroyed but some of the more mobile ones have been eluding us so far. It doesn't matter in the short term, however – we've rendered the Makhairakeioi virtually blind across the entire Bight of Flunder and much of their south-eastern seaboard.”

He didn't want to be giving this brief personally but protocol demanded that a Protologothetes could not be briefed by someone holding a rank lower than that of a Heminavarkhos, a Rear Admiral in Anglish rank terms. Since the Protologothetes was still the main representative of the Holy Imperial Government in southern Argis and held something of a position between ambassador and governor, the Tagmatine High Command had recommended that Ethelred keep the man in the loop of the ongoing campaign. Out of courtesy to the Imperial Army, he had also invited the commanding officer of the Tagmatine forces on Ceris, Taxiarkhissa (Lieutenant General) Theodoula Parsakountena. There had been some consideration as to whether to involve someone from Secryae in this but it was decided that it would be better suited to go through more proper channels. Anyway, they already had officers attached to the Tagmatine forces in the Dolch Sea and their own naval vessels taking part, as best as they could.

“We have also managed to put out of action all of the airfields that are within striking distance of the Makhaira Thalassa, as well as many of their anti-shipping missile batteries that we have been able to engage,” continued the Navarkhos. “Although we expect that the mud-eaters have withdrawn numerous others out of our range or are hiding those that are still there.”

The Foreign Ministry official sat at the head of the table in a room large enough for the sort of long table that Tagmatines loved to have in their meeting rooms. The room was located on the ground floor of the town house that had been given over to Tagmatium as its chancery in Secryae, although the building was quite generously sized, even if not necessarily of a style high officials of the Holy Imperial Government were used to. A smattering of more junior officials and officers – attachés to one officer and official or another – were sat behind them, their presence away from the table making it clear that the briefing wasn't truly aimed at them and they were merely there to take notes for their superiors.

“It has not been a bloodless campaign on our end, of course. In the initial stages, the Aeroporeia tou Ploimou and the Basilikoaeroporia have both suffered losses and we've had several ships damaged by missiles before we were able to silence their batteries.” The expression of the foreign minister and the army officer didn't change. They probably didn't know anyone in the Imperial Navy personally. “We lost five aircraft in the initial suppression of enemy air defences, as well as seven more in combat against Makhairakiki fighters and ground defences. Two ships, the destroyers BPP Prokoursator and BPP Koursor, suffered damage, with both having to return to our facilities in Sekriaeia for repairs.”

The Protologothetes was dressed in the dark, conservative business suit with a dark green tie, which denoted ministerial rank. His rat-like face was furrowed as if in deep concentration and he had his elbows on the table in front of him, his fingers steepled together. It was a pose that was characteristic of the Tagmatine monarch and it struck the Navarkhos as someone trying to mimic the body language of a more successful person. Faking it until you made it didn't always work.

“Does this mark the campaign as over then, Navarkhos?” asked Makarios, looking at the naval officer from over the tops of his fingers.

It was a stupid question and one that he had expected the foreign minister to say. Ethelred had a low opinion of him, one that had only become more cemented in place over the few years of having to deal with the man regularly during the war against the Sentists. However, he caught the look in Makarios' eye and guessed that the man didn't really think that the campaign was over. Only a truly naïve person would have thought that and those sorts of people didn't rise near the summit of a ministry of the Holy Imperial Government.

“No, we are nowhere near finished,” replied the naval officer, shrugging a bit. He pulled out a chair and sat down behind the table himself, placing the laser pointer in front of him. “We've managed to suppress the Makhairakiki defences to the point that we can almost operate with impunity on their southern coast, but we don't think that that will last for long. So far, they haven't taken the bait that we – the Epistrategaion, that is – expected that they would. It was assumed that they would have to be forced to either withdraw forces from their northern front or from the Iwenlandiki front to attempt to fend off our attacks.”

“I doubt that they would show their faces again, not unless forced to,” said the Taxiarkhissa. Where Makarios sat forward in his chair, the general sat straight, her back stiff. She seemed to be almost buzzing with that sense of arrogance and superiority towards foreigners that rarely endeared Tagmatines to people from other nations. “The might of Arhomaiki arms has undoubtedly dashed whatever schemes that they were planning.”

Parsakountena lightly thumped the table with a fist to punctuate her words. The foreign minister looked down at her hand with a look of distaste in his eyes before he looked over at the Navarkhos. In a moment of rare commiseration, Ethelred caught Makarios' gaze and rolled his eyes at the army officer. She didn't notice, as she was still staring at the map, no doubt imagining the might of Aroman arms sweeping the Dolch from Iwenland and all the way back to their own coasts.

“Maybe, Taxiarkhissa,” replied Ethelred in an agreeing tone. “I do not doubt that that is the case, at least in the immediate term. But there's a chance that they think that they can weather whatever storm we throw at them long enough for other factors to come into play.”

Megas Angleia.” Makarios didn't need to say anything more than that. The look of patriotic fervour on Parsakountena's face dimmed a bit as the implication of that sunk into her.

“Exactly,” the Navarkhos agreed.

Ethelred sat back in his chair and gripped the armrests. “We currently have the Makhairakeioi over a barrel. If they want us to clear us out, then they would have to devote significant resources to do so. We've got two carrier strike groups here. Common sense would dictate that they withdraw forces from either of their attacks in order to stop us having the run of their southern coasts. At the very least, they should take aircraft from where they appear to be focussed – against the Velahereioi (@DPR Velaheria) – so that they can try to gain back some of that control. But they haven't. And, to an extent, that was the Epistrategaion's plan, to draw forces away from their other attacks.”

“Heinrich thinks that his forces can ignore us, ignore whatever damage we're doing, long enough for Angleia to come to their aid.” The Taxiarkhissa looked at the pad of paper sat in front of her. She had been using it to take notes at the start of the meeting. Now she was poking at it a bit restlessly.

The Navarkhos nodded. “It's massive gamble on their part. There are our two carriers, two of the Seiloseioi (@Seylos) – well, one of them and one of NAU, which is basically the same thing – one of the Delamareioi (@Delamaria) and the Iberikiki (@Iverica) ships now. Or soon. Whether the Angleioi can do anything will be unknown until they show their hand.”

“The Ghallamvrioi have declared war on the Angleioi.” Makarios didn't necessarily need to state that as both of the two officers were aware of the fact. It was going to be the turning point in the crisis, Ethelred guessed. He also reckoned that it would not be too long before Tagmatika followed suit and declared war as well. The Epistrategaion were likely putting the last minute touches to positioning and plans that they might not have been able to do with open war being in effect.

Ethelred drummed his fingers on the table for a moment. The instinctive reaction, the reaction borne of the perception of the civilian government of Tagmatium of the military and inter-arm squabbling, was to tell the foreign ministry official and the army officer that the Tagmatine navy had everything in hand. However, making the situation clear would be much more conducive to relations between the different services and the political machinery of the Tagmatine government. Anyway, Parsakountena would be able to find out through the Epistrategaion herself and Makarios undoubtedly had his own contacts to find out what was going on.

“Our biggest immediate problem will be supplies,” the Navarkhos began. He picked up the cup of tea that had been placed near him and took a small sip before continuing. “The Basilikoploimon stockpiled enough to keep a single strike group going for several months at the levels that we were expecting prior to the declaration of war against Makhairakeia. The stockpiles were increased as tensions rose in the Makhaira Thalassa. Now that the Agios Ioulianos and her strike group are here, we are burning through that all the more quickly. The Epistrategaion began to supply more as war became more likely. They have also been sending over supplies as quickly as they can but they are unsure just how much that Angleiki intervention will interfere with that. If the Adlantikos becomes too unstable, they may not be able to send anything else without significant escort. Ultimately, if war does break out between Arhomaneia and Megas Angleia, then we will have to work hard to make sure that our operations are not threatened here.”

“We have commitments to our allies in Argis that we cannot ignore.” There was a surprising warning tone in Makarios' voice, something that the Navarkhos had never thought the wheedling, blond rat would ever show towards anyone. The foreign minister sat up straight in his chair and gave a hard expression towards Ethelred. “I hope you're not suggesting that the Basilikoploimon is considering throwing our allies under the bus. His Aroman Majesty, may God guide him, would not allow it.”

“Absolutely not, Endoxos.” Ethelred shook his head. He used the courtesy title that Makarios was “I'm merely outlining to you both, as the highest-ranking representative of the civilian administration and the commander of the Basilikostratos on Ceris, the current thinking of the Basilikoploimon. We will continue to prosecute this war against Makhairakeia until victory.”

The Protologothetes sat back in his chair. “Good, Navarkhos. Obviously, these decisions are above us and concern God's representative on Eurth and the decisions that he makes.”

There was an awkward pause for a moment before Makarios broke the silence of his own making.

“What about an invasion of Makhairakeia?” The man's eyes looked from the naval to the army officer. “Taxiarkhissa, you and the Sekriaeioi have enough forces to do that?”

Parsakountena shook her head. “Although I don't doubt that Aroman élan will be able destroy the mud-eaters in any situation, my troops don't have the training to mount any sort of landing. They're here to protect Sekriaeia from a possible resurgent Sentist threat. Neither, I believe, do we have the vessels capable of doing so.”

“It's a bit of a dead end, Endoxos.” Ethelred kept his face carefully blank. He decided he ought not point out the hypocrisy of the Protologothetes planning on invading Dolchland off his own back moments after accusing the navy of running away less than five minutes before. It would not be conducive to further productive relations between them. “It may be something that our superiors decide on in the future, but not something that we can do off our own backs.”

Now that things were drifting into theoretical plans and schemes, it was probably time that Ethelred drew this meeting to a close.

Protologothetes, Taxiarkhissa, thank you for meeting with me today,” said the naval officer, rising from his seat. The other two, out of expected courtesy, rose from their seats as well. The naval officer made a gesture to one of his subordinates, who began to gather the files that he had brought with him. “I need to get back to my ships, after all.”

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  • 2 weeks later...

To: Navarkhos Stylianos Ethelred, Commander of Arhomaiki Forces, Makhaira Thalassa

From: The Epistrategaion



In light of success of the operation in the Bight of Flunder, his Aroman Majesty, Kommodos III, has given his blessing to an expansion of the current operation. It is felt by the Epistrategaion that for the war against Makhairakeia to be truly effective, the operation must be expanded to take in Morthal Bay as well. Ultimately, the aim will be to enact similar attacks against the western seaboard of Makhairakeia, in order to reduce their capacity for warfare and to force them to withdraw forces from the Ivenlandiki front.

To this end, the following ships will be dispatched to allow the scope of the operation to be expanded:


3rd Surface Action Group, commanded by Heminavarkhos Mikhael Dionotos.

BPP Proklos Markianos, Protosebastos-class guided mission cruiser (CG)

BPP Nystras, Limanion-class light aircraft carrier (CVL)

BPP Katafraktos, Hippikos-class destroyer (DD)

BPP Afraktos, Hippikos-class destroyer (DD)

BPP Politikos, Hippikos-class destroyer (DD)

BPP Venatios, Pneumatikos-class frigate (FFG)

BPP K-D, Karcharías-class submarine (SS)


12th Frigate Squadron, commanded by Droungaria Iosefina Krinippa

BPP Alexios, Pneumatikos-class frigate (FFG)

BPP Eulalios, Pneumatikos-class frigate (FFG)

BPP Leontios, Pneumatikos-class frigate (FFG)


9th Submarine Squadron, commanded by Droungarios Trofimos Sostratos

BPP K-B, Karcharías-class submarine (SS)

BPP K-H, Karcharías-class submarine (SS)

BPP K-I, Karcharías-class submarine (SS)

BPP K-M, Karcharías-class submarine (SS)

The BPP Haruspex, Prognostikator-class information/cyberwarfare cruiser (CC), will be attached to your command for the duration of this conflict, or until further developments take place.

Alongside this will be an increase in supply vessels to increase stockpiled munitions, fuel, spare parts, etc, to allow the Arhomaiki forces in the Makhaira Thalassa to continue to operate and force the Makhairakeioi to cease their offensive against Ivenlandeia, as well as Delamareia and Seiloseia.

You will receive further orders and specific targets when the reinforcements arrive and can begin operations. They are currently grouping in the Rhankes Thalassa and should arrive in-theatre in 4 (four) to 6 (six) days.

May God see to it that our actions are successful and the Makhairakeioi see the error of their ways.




To: His Excellency, Volkhardt Isenhour, State President of the Free State of Gadutea (@Stedoria)

From: the Holy Imperial Government of the Greater Holy Empire of the Aromans


Your Excellency,

As yourself, the government and people of Gadutea may well be aware, my nation declared war on the Empire of Dolchland several weeks ago, after presenting the Dolch government with an ultimatum to withdraw their forces from Iwenland and to cease conflict against the Commonwealth of @Delamaria, the Commonwealth of Iweland and the Kingdom of @Seylos. This ultimatum went unanswered and so Aromania declared war against Dolchland.

The Imperial Navy has been undertaking a campaign against the forces of Dolchland since that declaration of war. This campaign has inflicted a significant amount of damage against their military infrastructure on their southern coast, primarily along the Bight of Flunder. So far, this campaign has been successful but it is clear that the Dolch are not stopping their assault against their neighbours. Therefore, the Holy Imperial Government feels that more pressure – and force – must be brought to bear against them, in order to get them to reconsider their foolish actions. More blows must be struck, if freedom and democracy are to be safeguarded in Argis, and the wider wurld, as well as the independence of the smaller nations of your continent.

I have been asked by his Aroman Majesty, Kommodos III, by the Grace of Christ, Holy Emperor and Autocrat of the Aromans and Equal-to-the-Apostles, to enquire about the possibility of utilising the port facilities of your nation. It is well placed within Morthal Bay to act as a resupply base for the Imperial Navy, should they need to do so. My government is aware of your nation's history as a naval base for your former occupying power and that this means that the Free State has port facilities that may be of use to Aromania's ongoing campaign against Dolchland. The Holy Imperial Government would be interested in utilising these facilities for the possible expansion of the campaign against Dolchland. Aromania asks this, as both of our nations are part of the Argic Defence Coalition and are taking a stand against the warmongering and imperialist ways of both Dolchland and the Kingdom of Great Anglia, their ultimate puppet masters.

Of course, it is well understood by the Holy Imperial Government that the usage of such facilities does not come without cost. Therefore, Aromania would be willing to lease the port facilities from your government for the period that they are used, if your government is willing to do so. Although my nation's actions are in the common interest of not just Gadutea, but all of the wurld, recompense for using them will be willingly given by my nation.

Through cooperation and faith in Christ, the threat of the Dolch will be removed from the people of Argis.

Eugenios Goulielmos,

Grand Minister

of the

Ministry for Foreign Affairs

of the

Greater Holy Empire of the Aromans

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 4 months later...

The Morthal Bay and, to its south, the Bight of Flunder, burned.

That was an ominous statement if there ever was one. Unfortunately for the Dolch, the evidence bore that statement out. The allied forces had been hitting Dolch positions for months now. Very little that could oppose those forces remained intact on the the western and southern seaboards of their country.

Navarkhos Ethelred stood on the bridge of the BPP Agios Pantaleon and looked towards the coast. He had been tempted to get more of a view from the flight deck of his carrier, but the air wing was still flying sorties. They had been undertaking round-the-clock sorties since Tagmatium had declared war on Dolchland. After all, ignoring an ultimatum by one of the premier military powers of Eurth had to come with some consequences. Ethelred knew this and agreed with it. He wouldn't have been a full admiral in the Tagmatine navy otherwise.

Still, part of him felt that it hadn't necessarily been a fair fight, although he also thought that he ought to have been glad about that fact. That Navarkhos and his force had been fighting in south-central Argis for several years at this point. First, it had been part of the coalition that had forced the Sentists away from the northern half of the island of Ceris and making safe for the civilised nations that lay on the southern coast of the Dolch Sea – if barbaroi could ever be called that, of course. Now, his purpose here was defeating the threat that Dolchland clearly played to the mainland of Argis itself.

He adjusted his domed cap and stroked at his beard, thoughtfully. Precisely where things went from there, Ethelred didn't know. There were noises from Secryae, the Ceriser nation that Tagmatium had supported during the war against the Sentists, that they thought that their future lay within the North Adlantic Union, not as a independent polity surrounded by that organisation. It was said that they had offered Tagmatium use of several military bases on a near-indefinite lease as recompense, but of course they were still wishing for payment. And the presence of a significant Aroman military deployment was useful in deterring any Sentist incursions, even if the Kingdom of Hodrea and the nation of Ostros stood between them and the Sentists. With the threat of Anglia and its minions as present as ever before, resurgence of the Sentists could be a massive blow against the nations of the island.

A flight of M/T-01 Pelagikoi took off from the deck of the Agios Pantaleon, bound for targets to the east. As the Navarkhos watched those aircraft ascend as they headed east, the BPP Konstantinos Panaretos, a guided missile cruiser, belched several columns of fire and smoke. More cruise missiles headed towards the Dolch. The Tagmatine navy had begun to hit targets in support of the Velaherians (@DPR Velaheria) several weeks ago. That had initially hit the Dolch with surprise – apparently, they had not considered the idea that the ancient Europan theocracy might support its northern enemy, a nation otherwise entirely opposed to the ideals of Tagmatium – but since then the Dolch incompetence had been shaken off, at least in their northern theatre. Loses had mounted but the seeming inability – or unwillingness – of the Occidental-Azanian Pact to close the Adlantic to the traffic of its enemies meant that the Imperial Navy had been able to replace its loses in materiel, manpower and munitions, at least so far. The Epistrategaion had been initially vastly paranoid about a campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare across the Adlantic and had stockpiled a lot of munitions, spare parts and fuel in its bases in the Noble Republic and vastly expanded its stores as the war had spread. But so far those stores had not been threatened as much as they ought to have been by Tagmatium's opponents.

The Navarkhos turned towards the small shrine to Agios Pantaleon that was set in an alcove at the stern end of the bridge and performed a small obeisance towards it. That saint, an ancient soldier-saint from over one thousand years ago, was the patron and namesake of the ship. Saint Pantaleon had been a naval officer put to death for his Christian faith during the reign of Emperor Heraclian. The shrine contained relics of the saint himself, namely fragments of his skull and his spear-tip. A priest of the Aroman Church stood in front of it, murmuring prayers for the success of the ship's mission and the safe return of its pilots. As the admiral turned, crossed himself and bowed towards the shrine, the captain of the Agios Pantaleon stood from his station.

Droungarios, you have the bridge,” said Ethelred.

The captain of the aircraft carrier gave a bow towards the admiral, who returned it. The woman remained standing as Ethelred left the bridge and went to the stateroom set aside for the admiral commanding the strike group that the carrier was a part of. It was a suite of private rooms, away from the rest of the ship but with easy access to the bridge itself. In the main room, there was again a small shrine to the patron of the ship. This contained a fragment of chain-mail and some belt-fitings. As Stylianos entered, the smell of incense grew stronger. Another priest stood next to the small shrine, gently swinging a traditional Tagmatine thurible – three chains, representing the Holy Trinity, but no top cover. Again, the admiral performed an obeisance towards the shrine. Like all Tagmatines, the Navarkhos was slightly smell-deaf to incense and he sat down at his desk without much of a look at the priest who was stood opposite him.

The Navarkhos produced a tablet from his desk and brought up a map of the targets currently being struck by his ships. He placed it to one side and then laid out a paper map of the western coast of Dolchland on his desk. Stylianos was old fashioned in many ways. He liked to see what he was doing on a physical copy, rather than just a digital display. He spent a moment transferring recent the recent strikes made by his forces to the map laid in front of him. He used a red pencil to cross off strikes.

The sound of movement behind the admiral caught his attention, drawing his gaze away from the map in front of him. It sounded like the chains of a thurible jangling slightly, likely as the priest holding it began to wave it as someone else came into the admiral's suite. The Navarkhos frowned slightly. One of his own officers would at least have the decency to knock before they entered into his quarters, so it likely could only be one person. That one person had been invested with the same authority in southern Argis by the Tagmatine government as the Navarkhos had. Although, in fairness, it was actually the other way around – Ethelred had been given the same authority as the Protologothetes.

“All told, it has gone well, Navarkhos,” said a voice to the commanding officer's left, from towards the door. No introduction was used, although it ought have been.

Ethelred looked over his shoulder slightly before turned completely around. He rolled his eyes slightly before he did anything else.

Protologothetes Makarios,” replied the Tagmatine admiral, with the expected half-bow.

He could barely keep the sigh out of his voice. At least he had a handle on his contempt. He had given the politician license to come on to his state room without his direct permission a while back, so long as the First Minister neither touched anything or spoke to anyone but the admiral. The First Minister seemed to be oddly smug at the moment, despite the fact that the defeat of Dolchland would probably mean his role as virtual governor of the Tagmatine dependencies of Ceris would be at an end. “I had not realised that you were still aboard my ship.”

Navarkhos Ethelred.” The traditional half-bow was returned.

“At the moment, Navarkhos, it is felt that this is the best place for me,” said the Protologothetes. Precisely who felt that was intentionally unmentioned.

“I am sure it sure is, Protologothetes,” replied Ethered. He gestured to the chair in front of his desk. “Would you sit? I can have some refreshments brought to us, if you so wish.”

It was less about the wish of the guest than as part of the typical Aroman ceremony on the arrival of the guest. And even less about whether either individual liked the other or not. Makarios agreed; again, it was all part of the ceremony. It would have been a gross breach of etiquette to have either not offered or to have declined. An enamelled metal cup with the seal of the Aroman navy, not one of the sort of fine porcelain that a First Minister might have expected due to their rank, was placed next to Makarios. The man was clearly aware that this itself was a petty test and made all the signs of it being a great honour as the strong, black naval tea was poured into it, along with half-measure of brandy. That was a sign of having the honour of being the guest of an admiral of the Aroman navy. A spoonful of powdered milk was added as well, as that would have been all that would have been available to a member of the Tagmatine navy.

If it insulted the sensibilities of a member of the political elite of Tagmatika, then Makarios made no sign of it. Instead, he took a draw of the concoction put in front of him with every sign of enjoyment before returned the cup to the surface of the desk. In fairness to the Protologothetes, Ethelred would not have expected anything else. Such was the way of the power plays between the varying parts of the Tagmatine establishment. Someone would not get very far if they succumbed to these minor provocations.

“This will undoubtedly be a feather in your cap, Navarkhos,” continued Makarios. The rat-like man gave him a nod. It wasn't welcome. And it wasn't as if the minister was talking about the tea served to him. No, he was talking about the utter destruction Ethelred's forces were doing to the west coast of Dolchland.

But it wasn't as if the allied attack on the Dolch coast had been free of casualties. The initial attacks had seen several Tagmatine ships damaged and two virtually crippled, and numerous aircraft damaged or destroyed. As well as the grind of combat since then. Tagmatium was waging a war against a not-inconsiderable power, after all.

“I am just doing what is asked of me, Protologothetes,” said the Navarkhos, in as neutral tone as possible. “We are all working together to try to defeat the menace of the Angleioi, after all.”

Makarios stood and walked over to one of the portholes in the admiral's suite. Columns of smoke dotted the skyline, both from Dolchland and, beyond it, Velaheria. Here and there, the pall was thicker and black, as targets such as oil storage or refineries had been destroyed. In other places, the smoke was thinner. In those places, the fires were being put out or had burned themselves down.

“We hope to bring them to the table,” Makarios said after a moment. “We are unsure that the Dolch hierarchy is as keen on that as we are.”

Although it couldn't be seen from the Agios Pantaleon, the southern coast, especially the Bight of Flunder, had been hit as hard as the western coast of the Empire. Once the initial campaign to rid the seas and skies of Dolch naval ships and air defences had been completed, the allied fleets had been able to choose their targets as they pleased. This had gone from just naval and air force facilities to strategic installations such as ports and fuel storage to marshalling yards and bridges. After a certain point, the Dolch attack into Velaheria had been starved of supplies on its western flank and forced to use routes out of the range of the allied fleets. And that was before they had started to directly strike targets in support of the Velaherian advance.

The blond rat considered his own words before he continued. “No, that sounds defeatist. As you are aware, we are in the process of totally dismantling the western half of Dolchland.”

The admiral was aware, of course. He was doing it. The Protologothetes looked at the contents of his mug before continuing. There was a slight look of distaste before he took a sip.

“As you're undoubtedly aware” - Makarios waved vaguely at Ethelred's map – “virtually nothing smaller than an HGV can move along a road without being hit. Their arterial routes are wrecked. We could land a division and it would probably be unopposed.”

Whatever the plans of Emperor Heinrich of Dolchland had been, they had been turned to dust by the naval forces deployed against him. He had willingly decided to ignore the threat on the west of his empire in favour of attacking Velaheria to his north and Iwenland to his east. He had counted on Great Anglia coming to his defence and preoccupying any possible naval threat to his nation. As promised, the Occidental-Azanian Pact was to come to the aid of Dolchland and prevent this very situation from happening. Instead, the southern and western coasts of his nations were getting devastated, the Iwenland Front was beginning to tell in favour of the defenders and the Velaherian machine was starting to roll forward, despite horrendous casualties on both sides.

To an extent, the Navarkhos pitied the Dolch. They had been well and truly thrown under the bus by their government. And their government had been thrown under that same bus by their allies. They might have been able to resist the Tagmatines, the @Ivericans or the North Adlantic Union (@Seylos) individually but, together, the force against them had overwhelmed them, especially as they were also trying to fight on their northern land border, on Iwenland and their southern and western coasts.

“But we don't have a division to land. We don't think that the Sentists wouldn't make a move if we strip forces from Ceris.” Makarios took another sip from his mug. “If you forgive the double negative. It will remain to be seen whether we need to make a landing to force them to the table. Unfortunately, any attempt to shut off access to Iweland has been hit by the collapse of Delamaria, which was not anticipated.”

Unrestricted submarine warfare had been floated at least once during a Holy Cabinet Meeting, pun apparently not intended. Stylianos was told that the Old Tyrant had shot that idea down almost immediately. He was not sure what he thought of that. Hitting Dolchland even harder might be a bad thing, but Ethelred was aware that the Holy Imperial Government had more to think of that just the defeat of Dolchland.

“So Tagmatika wants me, us, to keep hitting the Dolch.”

It would have been a question but the Navarkhos said it as a statement.

Makarios didn't reply. There was an awkward pause for a moment and it was clear that the weasel was thinking about what he said next.

“Do you want us to move beyond military and infrastructure targets?” asked Ethelred. He suddenly guessed why the minister was here in person. He would absolutely be writing whatever came next down once Makarios had left.

In his defence, the foreign minister looked shifty for a moment. More shifty than usual. Rather unhappy at the words that he was about to say.

“Dolchland must pay the price. That is the order from the Holy Imperial Government. If we can strike it, it must be struck.”

All the while, the Morthal Bay and, to its south, the Bight of Flunder, burned.

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