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A Force to be Reckoned With
Fleet captains; Ambassadors; traders; priests
The Empire does not exist in a vacuum. Between the struggles of the five other great nations that seek to dominate the world stage, and the ambitions of the smaller nations that cluster around the Empire’s borders, the international situation has rarely been more volatile than it is now.
Here, among other things, you can read of the problems besetting the Asavean oligarchs; learn about the Lantir question; and discover trade opportunities presented by the Sarcophan Delves.
Closer to home, you can read about the civil war threatening the Citadels of Axos; the growing concerns of the Faraden families; and the increasing frustration of the Iron Confederacy to the south
“We stand on the edge of a knife.”
Annike spoke quietly. The early evening wind whipped at her vestments, sent her long white hair streaming out to the side, but she showed little sign of feeling the cold. She was leaning on the parapet staring out northwards, her amber eyes barely blinking, her brows furrowed. Like many draughir she had excellent night vision. Apart from the wind, her only movement was the slow tap-tap-tap of one bone-white claw on the stone.
She was clearly deep in thought, and Van Basten knew better to interrupt her. He stood quietly, his hands clasped behind his back. The music and chatter of the banquet on the floor below drifted through the open door onto the balcony. Downstairs, the other Bedelaar Huisbaas and their guests continued the robust and complex business of Sarcophan politics. The younger draughir privately wished he was back inside, supporting his grandmother at the table. These were volatile times, and who knew where a chance word overheard at the banquet might reveal an opportunity for wealth for the family?
Nonetheless he was an ambitious young man. Annike was known to be extremely generous to those who could be trusted to deliver results. What was good for Johan was good for all the Van Basten, after all, and while Annike was mistress of the Tower of Crows it did no harm to remain in her good graces. After all, it had been her decision to give him the diplomatic posting that might well be the making of his career.
Annike turned towards him, still frowning slightly. She pulled her long alabaster shawl closer around her shoulders - more to stop it escaping than from any lack of warmth, he suspected. She considered her companion carefully. His bone jacket was rich enough as might be expected from a Van Basten but there were spots of food on his white shirt and on his cuffs. Still, he was young. Precision is a skill best learned with age, she mused. His enthusiasm and ambition would be more valuable in the Empire than the caution of some of her older agents. The most recent report from Matthijs de Ligt was clear that the Senate continued to approve of the international summit at the Winter Solstice.
“You’ve been to the Empire before” she said then, prodding the Van Basten in his chest with one long bone-white finger. “How would you describe them?”
Johan considered for a moment, but not too long.
“It’s hard to put together a stereotype because they are so variable,” he said slowly. “So diverse.”
Annike nodded impatiently. “Yes, yes. Ten nations, one of them not even human. I understand that. Continue.”
“Then I’d say they are… arrogant. Not arrogant so much as unable to compromise. It’s as if they don’t even think about it. That’s what I mean by arrogant - they struggle with the idea that they need to cede ground to make a deal. They are convinced they are the centre of the world, worse even than the Asaveans I think.”
Annike pursed her lips.
“They have more reason than the Asaveans to be proud,” she said coolly. “Their star is on the ascendant and that of the Republic very much in decline. Go on.”
“They’re unpredictable too, especially in matters of religion and politics. With the Sumaah you know where you stand but with the Empire? In the same breath they berate you for your lack of virtue they’ll try to argue that you should give them your goods cheaply because of Prosperity. It can be exasperating.”
Annike laughed mirthlessly.
“Instead of telling me who they are not like, tell me who they are like.”
“I think they are closest in character to the Commonwealth or perhaps the Principalities - there is a wilfulness about them. An unquenchable ambition. They love politics, for all that they might pretend not to. They are not shy about wielding power. I think that we are lucky, in a way, that they are so unfocused.”
“Lucky? How so? How could their lack of focus be a good thing?”
Van Basten sucked his teeth for a moment, his eyes narrowed in the gloom as he considered how best to respond.
“The Commonwealth and Jarm keep each other occupied; the same with Sumaah and Asavea. The Empire… it has virtually nobody to keep it busy. The only people even close to them in power are the Confederacy - and they’re idiots. It’s true that the Empire is less cunning than Asavea, less zealous than Sumaah, less committed than the Commonwealth, and less powerful than Jarm. But … at the same time … it is more cunning than everyone except Asavea, more zealous than everyone except Sumaah… you take my point?”
“And your conclusion?” The old woman was watching him closely now, reading his face and his stance, looking for any sign of deception.
“If they focused, if they stopped being so fractious, if they truly spoke with one voice… then they would truly be a force to be reckoned with like no other.”
Annike was pleased. She had made the right decision in here choice of delegate. She allowed an apparently warm smile to break across her pinched features.
“Quite. You see the problem, or at least the outline of one part of it. Tomorrow morning I want you to come to my offices and we shall begin preparations to send you north. You will need to explain again the dangers of blindly swinging a stick in a room full of delicate china and nervous cats, and you will need to get them to listen to us this time.”
Her face darkened then, and again she turned to stare out across the waters.
“And if you cannot get them to listen then we are all going to tumble off the edge of the knife, and there is going to be a great deal of blood in the water.”
This season we follow up the Imperial Address wind of fortune with the Trade Winds, which you can read here → http://bit.ly/WoF_Force
It is not short I warn you now! There’s a lot going on in International Politics.
I’m aware there’s some broken links on the page, generally at the end of sentences saying “you can learn more about this here” - they’ll be fixed as later more specialised Winds of Fortune are released.
As you can see, I’m trying out a new thing with images for this season’s winds - I don’t know how its going to go but it will be interesting to see how it works. There’s also a theme running through many of the Winds of Fortune titles and some of the flavour texts; if you guess it do me a favour and leave it until Monday before you tell people
#ScenicTimojNowWithAGiftShop, #ThenTheresTheLantirQuestion, #PutOutTheLightsOnTheAgeOfReason