The Second Meltorian Civil War
#1
Written by Candanadium

Perisu Airport

There was a shape on the horizon.

Cestu watched as the little plane looped around the airport control tower, dipping its wings to accommodate for the turn before readjusting its position and preparing to land. The heat blurred his vision as the plane’s tires screeched against the grey tarmac, a wisp of white smoke trailing after the plane as its flaps deployed, slowing it down considerably. Beside him, a half-naked brown-skinned slave fanned at his perfumed and powdered master, who was sweating copiously beneath his dark blue uniform and feathered cap. Cestu himself stood as straight as the ceremonial spear he carried, his face obscured by the golden silk veil that befitted his office as Captain of the Imperial Household Guard, and despite his natural resistance to the heat (growing up in the south of the country did that to a man), a bead of sweat ran down the side of his cheek.

It was, invariably, hot. It was yet another forty-degree day in Perisu. While the northern hemisphere enjoyed their mild spring, Meltor was experiencing the hottest days of the year before the autumn rains relieved them of the oppressive bone-dry heat of the long summer. And now, some had said that, like the autumn rains, the Empress was coming home to liberate her people from the oppression of the summer lords. It did not appear, however, to Cestu that this was how a liberator returned to her people. She would not have come alone. She would’ve brought the armies of Kaltachia with her, and she would’ve freed Meltor with fire and sword as her ancestors did in antiquity. It would not be like this. Indeed, even as the diminutive imperial plane bumped along the tarmac to the terminal building that Cestu and the welcome party were standing outside, he could not shake the feeling that something was about to go seriously wrong.

---

“Read it back to me again, please.” The Empress dictated, examining the Perisu skyline outside the plane’s porthole-like windows.

“A proclamation from the imperial throne on the future of Our Domain of Meltor. Edelgard XV von Numenor, et cetera, et cetera, Empress Melotey, to all those to whom these presents come - a greeting. We hereby ordain that the cruel and barbarous practice of indentured servitude shall henceforth be outlawed in all Our domain with no exception nor derogation. We command Our good and loyal subjects to-” Herish read in a clear, high voice from the paper that Sieion had been working on.

“I still don’t like the sound of ‘we’.” The Empress interrupted her handmaid, turning back towards Sieion in the seat opposite. “It’s too anachronistic.” Sieion frowned.

“It’s what is expected of us, if you’ll forgive the expression. You are Empress Melotey, and you rule by Sothis’s grace. You speak with her voice.” Sieion turned towards the handmaid. “Keep it. Go on.”

“We command Our good and loyal subjects to give no quarter to those who would oppose Our decree and to deliver unto Us those who have been responsible for the proliferation of this act-” The handmaid cleared her throat.

“This atrocity. Not act. We need to call it what it is.” The Empress interrupted her again with a wave of her hand.

“Agreed. Make the change, please, Herish.” Sieion handed her a pen, and the handmaid quickly crossed out the word and wrote in the replacement. She continued.

“-so that they may be brought to justice under Our laws. We attaint and strip all titles from those who are named in the appendix attached as violators of Our peace and enemies of Our loyal subjects.”

“Gacrein, his relatives, the House of Helio, the House of Moria, the House of Victor, the Neya Mara, the Fire Sands and Concrete people, Silver Glass, and Iron Wings. Are you sure you don’t want Vexi on this list?” Sieion butted in once more.

“I’m sure. You know these families better than me, I trust it’s complete. Go on again, Herish.”

“We request all those who are friends of the Imperial House to come to its aid in its most perilous hour and to eradicate the scourge of slavery from our domain. Given under Our Hand in Our City of Perisu, this-” Herish paused. “There’s no date.”

“We’ll issue this when the time is ripe.” The Empress reassured her. “Thank you, Herish. You’ve been most helpful.” The little handmaid thrust the sheet of paper back at Sieion, who took it in a kindly manner, and darted off after a quick bow to the Empress. “And look, we’re just about to land.”

“Yes.” Sieion exhaled. “Shall we go over the plan once more?”

“Once the doors open, I will attempt to stall them as long as possible for you, Herish, and the rest of the handmaids and servants to get away. You will hold on to the proclamations, and you will seek shelter in the city anonymously. Once I return to the Tower, I will contact my Captain of the Guard, and we shall proceed from there.” The Empress recalled with minimal effort. They had spent long hours discussing the course of action for their return to Meltor, now that the cat was well and truly out of the bag.

“And if the Captain shall have betrayed us?” Sieion asked. The concern was perfectly valid, and the Empress knew that as well as he. Still, though, she dreaded the inevitable question from Sieion.

“He will not. The guard and the army are sworn to me.” The Empress’s tried to make herself sound more certain than she was.

“Oaths can be broken.” Evidently, her efforts were not enough.

“You do not know them, Sieion von Actu.” The Empress emphasized the noble particle in Sieion’s name. “I have grown up with them. Captain Hetar’s father swore his oath to my grandfather, who took his grandfather in his service when my great-grandfather died, and so on, back to the time of the first Emperor Siegion, your partial namesake. And through all that time, Actu conspired with Garic and Sectaria and sold men as chattel. Your own grandfather rose up against the crown when it suited him. These are families of freedmen who have served the imperial household for generations, and their loyalty have never been called into question. You, on the other hand, are a younger son of a minor kingdom that serves purely at my pleasure, serving in a position borne purely of courtesy and tradition and not of practicality or loyalty. If anything, it is your oath to me that I should be worried about.” Sieion dropped to one knee.

“You will have no reason to doubt my loyalty.” He bowed his head.

“I trust that you will not give me reason to. Rise, Sieion. We have a show to put on.”

---

“Your Sublime Majesty.” The fat slaver beside Cestu tipped his head forward a couple of degrees in what must have been the faintest bow of courtesy anyone has ever performed. His fan-slave paused his repetitive movement momentarily, seeing an opportunity to take a brief rest as his master was distracted by another matter.

“Lord Garum. Von Garic, is it? You do bear quite the resemblance to your father when he was young.” The Empress took off a leather glove and offered her hand for the slaver lord to kiss, and he obliged, giving the imperial signet ring the smallest peck and lifting his head once more, his beady little eyes darting up and down as if to examine the Empress. He dabbed at his moist forehead with a cloth as his partially sunburned face turned a deeper shade of red.

“Really? Do you mean it?” Cestu thought he saw the faintest glimmer of hope in those insect-like eyes of the fat man.

“I see those years in Cenaesia have not sharpened your wits any. Well, my lord of Garic, what shall it be?” The Empress’s tone had an air of mild bemusement as Garum von Garic began stumbling over his words in embarrassment and turned an even deeper shade of red. Behind them, the slaver’s companions and attendants snickered.

“Your… My… I mean, Empress… What do you mean? What do you suggest, I mean?” He managed to splutter.

“I mean that you should make up your mind about what you mean to do with me and my companions. As you can imagine, we are worn out from travel and would appreciate a timely return to the Tower to resume our work.” The Empress maintained a cool steadiness in her voice that Cestu had never heard from her before. It was as though she had returned from Candanadium a changed woman.

“What I… mean to do? With you? And your companions? But… My Empress, you are alone?” Garum von Garic seemed to still be at a loss for words.

“Am I? Well, in that case, you best see to my safe conduct back to my Tower. I can see you’ve brought the vehicles and the security.” There was a small smile on the Empress’s lips, almost mocking Garum.

“Back to the Tower… Yes. We will go back to the Tower.” The fat lord moved towards the limousine that was waiting behind him, almost moving to climb in. Cestu caught up behind him in a couple of long strides and seized him by the shoulder.

“You await the Empress’s pleasure.” He said stoically. Then the man exploded in a fit of rage.

“Who are you to dare to command and touch the heir to Garic? Lay your brown paws off of me, slave, and I may not have them chopped off you.” His voice was sharp and shrill, ringing out and echoing across the square before the airport terminal.

“Captain Hetar speaks with my voice as the commander of my Household Guard. You will address him with the respect he’s due, my lord, and you will obey his instruction.” The Empress appeared next to Cestu. “We shall proceed to my Tower. All is well, Captain.” Cestu released the squirming and squealing lord, who was at least half a foot shorter than him.

“As you command, my Empress.” He opened the door for her.
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#2
The Tower of Hegemony

The sky was falling.

She saw a great ball of flame, high up above the clouds. Then, a heartbeat later, the sound, like a hundred angry waves crashing against the white beaches of Perisu in an endless cascade. Only now, it was not water that was flying down against her face, but sparks, sparks that turned into small metal flecks and shavings.

She lingered there for a moment, watching that red cloud expand and hearing that thundering noise echo across the plaza. She saw as that mighty tower shook, once, twice, as if it was going to topple over. Then a strong pair of hands grabbed her, hoisted her over someone’s shoulder, and she was gone.

“My Empress.” Someone was saying to her. “My Empress.” Uncle Vexi’s voice had never trembled as much as it had that day. He was a large and lusty man, in the prime of his life, quick to laugh, quick to anger, but quick to forgive, someone who made every conversation more lively and elevated the mood of every room he entered. Yet on that day, he sounded like a man who was eighty years old. The fire had gone out from his eyes. Or rather, a different kind of fire filled his eyes - not of passion, but of hatred and revenge.

“My Empress.” She heard him call again, but now his voice sounded different, much softer, though firm. No. This was not Uncle Vexi. This voice was older. Confident, but in a learned sort of way. The Empress was no longer in the plaza. She was awake, in her own chambers. It was Captain Hetar that was calling for her.

“Good morning, Captain.” She slowly sat up from her bed, trying to find her voice. “Is something the matter?” It was usually Herish that would wake her with her soft but hurried steps, coming in to open up the curtains and bring the Empress her breakfast. Herish, though, was somewhere out in the city, in that maze of twisting alleyways and shantytowns. She had sent her there under the protection of Sieion, and he had told her that he knew of a safehouse. The Empress could only pray that they were, indeed, somewhere out there, and not languishing in the dungeons below her Tower.

“My Empress. I regret to disturb your rest, but the noble Chancellor Gacrein von Garic begs the honour of your audience.” The Captain was already dressed, resplendent in his light khaki dress uniform, three golden pips upon his epaulettes. He carried his cap tucked under one arm, a swagger stick in a leather-gloved hand, his pistol in a polished and buffed brown-leather holster at his waist.

“I doubt that was his exact verbiage.” The Empress sighed. “Very well. Leave me, and tell the handmaid that I shall dress myself this morning. Of that much I am still capable.” She emerged from her blankets and silks reluctantly, a bit slower than usual given the prospect of dealing with the most prolific slaver in all her realm.

“I beg your pardon, my Empress, but I was also instructed to bring you this.” The Captain reached into his belt and drew out a tightly bound scroll that was tucked between it and his tunic. “I am told that the time is ripe.”

Sieion. The Empress knew at once what he had meant. For nigh on three weeks she had been confined to her Tower, her own Household Guard supplanted by police and mercenaries from the Iron Fire Legion. It was for her safety, the wire from the Chancellor said. The whole country was in turmoil after what she had said to the Candanadian Parliament, furious at her for slandering the good name of Meltor on the world stage. The Chancellor, as her leal man, would supposedly govern the country in her stead. She did not doubt that the country was in turmoil. That much was evident from the RBS broadcasts she caught on her television set, between the sporadic interference from the state censorship bureau. The country was rising up not against her, but in support of her. She had spoken the unspoken truth that every Meltorian knew, and she had paid the price. Now, though, was when everything was about to pay off. She took the scroll from the Captain with a word of thanks, then unfurled it to read what was written in Sieion’s tidy but cramped hand.


Quote:Your Sublime Majesty,

I have rallied the members of your cabal, and I am pleased to say that our plans are ready to be put in motion. Gacrein shall call upon you today, but he believes you have summoned him to discuss future cooperation. Our friend the PM begs your forgiveness in having forged the imperial seal and your signature. Once G. arrives in your audience hall, you must appear to be earnest in wishing to concede. Your cue shall be the Captain entering with news of a security breach. G. shall be taken into our custody to be used as leverage against the other slavers.

The Imperial Army is sworn to your person. The Candanadian embassy indicates that Candanadium shall answer any request you send forth, and the rest of the KU as well.

I remain Your Sublime Majesty’s most humble servant.

S.v.A.



She read the note once more, then tore it in half, then half again, and flushed the pieces down her toilet.

---

“Lord Gacrein von Garic, King of Garic, Chancellor of the United Kingdoms.” The Empress’s herald cried out as the gilded double doors swung open. In strode the portly Chancellor of Meltor, dressed in the same uniform as the one he had worn when sending the Empress off. Perhaps he hadn’t taken it off since then, because the Empress could see splotches of sweat, food stains, and lord-knows-what-else on that dark blue uniform. He waddled towards the throne as quickly as his short little legs could carry him, not bothering to bow or greet the Empress, something the Captain would definitely have reprimanded him for if he had been here. The Empress mentally sighed.

“I hear that you want to discuss terms.” Gacrein stated, a smirk forming on his lips. “Here I am.” He crossed his arms.

“Yes. I wondered if you might respond to my request. It is good for you to have done so.” The Empress descended the steps of the throne. “Will you not take a seat, Chancellor?” She gestured to the conference table to the side of the hall. Gacrein eyed her suspiciously for a moment, then took the chair at the head of the table. The Empress ignored the discourtesy and sat down on a chair to his right.

“You see, Empress, the Imperial House has only a few simple requests.” He began, his bushy mustache trembling with each word he spoke. “We would not abolish the monarchy. However, we would require you to delegate all executive power to me or the Imperial House. You will still reign, but you would only enact laws at our pleasure. And any heirs you may, ah, produce would not be raised to the title of Emperor. Your successor will be chosen by us.”

“So what you are saying is that House Numenor must die with me.” The Empress stated as a matter of fact.

“Well, no. Your heirs will sit in the Imperial House as our advisors. And if you should choose to have your heirs with a suitable Meltorian husband, I am more than willing to forgo this entire procedure.” Gacrein smiled, showing a mouth full of crooked, yellow teeth. The Empress felt sick.

“Very well, you’ve made yourself more than clear. What else?”

“The People’s House will be abolished, and all its treacherous members must be placed under arrest for subversion of imperial power. We cannot allow the rabble to hinder the development of Meltor and to damage her name in the eyes of the world.” Gacrein was all business again. “Rest assured that any sentences that are handed out will still be in your name. The legal powers of the imperial crown will remain.”

So he would condemn me in the eyes of the people as well, after stripping me of my power. The Empress gnashed her teeth together.

“Yes, though I have a feeling that you have not arrived at your main point.” She managed.

“Precisely. The final and most important point is that you must affirm in the strongest possible terms that the right of your loyal and noble lords to ownership of property and legitimate business interests must remain protected under imperial law, and that no law should be passed in the future that would infringe upon this. This will necessitate an amendment of the imperial constitution.” The Empress knew instantly what he meant by this.

“You want legal protections for your right to keep slaves.” She said in a flat tone.

“Please, Empress. Property. Nothing more.” Gacrein sounded annoyed at this. There was a knock at the door of the audience hall. “Who goes there?” Gacrein called to the herald.

“The Captain of the Household Guard, with a matter of urgency.” The door swung open, the Captain striding in and bowing before the Empress.

“Your Sublime Majesty. There has been a security breach at the base of the tower. A large mob, slaves and freedmen alike. They have turned unruly.”

“What in the- How could you allow this to happen, you cur?” Gacrein seized the much-taller man by the lapels, his face swelling up in rage. “Get me somewhere safe. Now!”

The Captain brought his swagger stick down on Gacrein’s fat, balding head, sending the man stumbling backwards and falling onto his rear. Behind him, a dozen Imperial Guardsmen piled in, rifles at the ready, followed by a man in a brown trench coat, his long hair done up in a ponytail behind him. He had a pistol in his hand.

“Stand down, it’s just the one.” Sieion commanded the guardsmen, who obeyed immediately. The Captain grabbed Gacrein by the scruff of his collar, lifting him to his feet.

“What shall we do with this… creature?” He asked the Empress.

“Unhand me, you perfidious slave!” Gacrein’s little legs kicked the air uselessly. “I’ll have your hand taken off for this, maybe even your head!”

“Take him to the basement levels. Keep him under guard, but make sure no harm comes to him.” The Empress looked at Sieion, who nodded in agreement.

“Though don’t feed him too well. That might do him some good.” Sieion added. All the colour had gone out of Gacrein’s face as the Captain handed him off to a pair of guardsmen, who clapped him in handcuffs and marched him off. “My Empress. I hope that they haven’t treated you too roughly.” He bowed before her.

“I’ve been quite well, Sieion. Where is Herish? Is she safe?”

“Yes. She’s in her quarters currently. Shall I send for her?”

“No need. Are we in control of the Tower?”

“We are. Imperial Army units are moving in to secure the government quarter. Already Actu has declared for you, and more kingdoms shall follow. I can have the TV people here in a moment’s notice.” He pulled a sheaf of papers out of his jacket and handed them to the Empress. “If you’re ready, now is when it begins.”

The Empress took the papers. Flicking through them, she realized that it was a speech outlining everything that was contained in her decrees. Sieion had stripped away all the pompous legal jargon and left the essence of what she was trying to achieve.

“No.” She flipped through the papers again, then folded them in half. “Now it ends.”

---

The guardroom was silent.

Normally on a Tuesday evening, the guardroom would be filled with the snores of off-duty guardsmen, or boisterous conversation. Today, though, all ten off-duty guardsmen sat before the television set, waiting as the rat-tat-tat of gunfire echoed throughout the city below.

Cestu knew that his comrades in the Imperial Army had begun their storming of the Imperial House. He silently asked Sothis to give them the gift of foresight, to watch over them as they acted in her name.

Meltor was rising up.

And now, as the clock struck five, he switched on the television with a click of the remote. It was already tuned to the news channel, and the countdown to the five o’clock news was just about to end. Instead of the familiar studio, though, what replaced the graphics was a shot of the Empress in her study.

“Good evening, Meltorians.” She began. “I come before you today to inform of you of an important decision that I have made after consulting with my trusted and loyal advisors, which concerns the future of this country and our role in the world.” There was a pause.

“For decades, our country has been under scrutiny by the rest of the world for our continued human rights abuses, especially the horrendous atrocity that is modern-day slavery. All men are created equal by Sothis. This is known. And now, it is time that our laws reflected this reality. Today, I have issued an imperial edict of emancipation, abolishing the practice of slavery as illegal in all of Meltor. Effective immediately, every man, woman, and child in Meltor is free.”

“This is only the start of our work. To eliminate the scourge of slavery, we must bring those who have been responsible for this atrocity to justice. I have thus issued another imperial edict attainting the lords of Garic, Helio, Moria, and Victor, and imperial warrants of arrest for the owners of the Neya Mara Company, the Fire Sands and Concrete Company, the Silver Glass Company, and the Iron Wings Group. They will be held legally responsible for their crimes against the Meltorian people. This I swear to you..”

“To address the endemic elitism and corruption that exists in our society, I have signed a further edict abolishing the Imperial House and the role of Imperial Chancellor, as well as all other hereditary political offices. From this day on, political office shall only be held by those who have been elected by the Meltorian people. All Meltorian men and women shall have the right to elect representatives to the People’s House, who will elect the Prime Minister of Meltor. My loyal advisor, the honourable Elezar Oldo, shall continue to serve in this position until we are able to hold a general election. This I swear to you.”

“For centuries, the Emperor of Meltor has shielded the weak and defended the law. For years, I was too young to take on this responsibility. Now, however, I am ready to dedicate my life to you, the Meltorian people, to ensure that no more suffering shall come your way. I ask now for you to join me in achieving this noble cause. Any man or woman who picks up arms against the people who have held our country hostage and richened themselves off of our land shall enjoy clemency under imperial law, and will be rewarded as a true servant of the throne. This I swear to you.”

“To the freedom-loving peoples of the world, we ask that you come to our aid in eliminating the evil of slavery once and for all. I speak especially to the noble King of Candanadium, who has pledged me his full support. I would ask all men and women of sound judgement to join us in our struggle, and stand as a friend to the freedom-loving people of Meltor. We will not forget your assistance in the darkest hour. This I also swear to you.”

“Let it be known, then, that today, we mark the death of the Meltor of old. We shall enter the age of the Third United Kingdom of Meltor with renewed dignity.”

“Sothis be with you all.”

The television switched off again. The door to the room burst open.


"Captain!" The guardsman who had rushed in exclaimed. "Captain!" He paused to catch his breath.

"What is it?"

"He's escaped." The man's voice was shaky. "The Chancellor. Lord Gacrein von Garic." The Captain looked around at the gathered guardsmen.


“We swore an oath.” He began.

“And so we did.” A guardsman replied.

“And we shall honour that oath today.” The rest echoed.
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#3
Written in collaboration with Akarea, Alpenraum, Alayka, Jokullheim, and Satoyama

Festung Lorelei, Schwannburg

The ancient fortress of the Kings of Belkhomir sat atop its ridge, watching over the capital city of Schwannburg, overcast by the shadows of the Mirskai mountains looming over. It was said that King Gerald had raised this castle at the spot where his father, the King Wilhelmus, had granted him the right to rule Belkhomir as its lord, cementing the fact that the newest Kaltach domain in the west would not be ruled as a single realm. The historians liked to say that it was the most anyone had done for Kaltach disunity since the fall of the Old Kaltach Union, and it was with this in mind that Chancellor Friedrich Clark had designated Schwannburg, and Festung Lorelei in particular, as the seat of the institutions of the New Kaltach Union, which met in the innermost keep of the castle. The castle was not a true Burg in the Kanadiaans sense - it lacked a moat or high walls, but it also lacked the gargoyles and limestone and gilded windows of a palace-like Schloss. Thus, it was simply a Festung - a fortress. Armies of lockstep Oseanian spearmen and screaming Jokullheime raiders had broken themselves against the walls of this fortress, but in the end, it had fallen to the squadrons of Candanadian riflemen, and Gerald’s eagle banners had been pulled down from its ramparts, replaced with the crowned tri-maple.

Today, the flags and standards of the states of the Kaltach Union were draped above the ramparts of Festung Lorelei. The Akarean golden sun, the oak leaves of Kreyermark, the tree of Trefjall, the white eagle of Belkhomir, the lion of Caskhomir, the iron cross of Varskhomir, the raven of Jokullhem, the rose of Alpenraum, the double-headed eagle of Alayka, even the blue-and-white flowers of Satoyama. All that was missing was the crowned tri-maple, and as Pieter von Juppertal’s limo pulled up to the fortress’s gates, he could see two men on the castle walls unfurling that great blue-and-white banner, placing it in a central position between the KU’s blue eagle banner and the Alpenraumisch rose.

The Chancellor stepped out of the car and walked under the raised portcullis, his secretaries and assistants flanking him. He took the stairs to the right of the gate down to the cellar, then down a series of winding passageways and security checkpoints to a meeting room beneath the main keep, the keep designated the “Palace of the Kaltach Union”. Inside were gathered the leaders of the Kaltach world. The new Oberjall of Jokullheim was muttering something to the Trefjalli Prime Minister, who was nodding his head while looking across the table at Prime Minister Schlatzer of Alpenraum. The Kreyerian Chancellor was in the middle of a heated debate with the Belkhomirian Prime Minister, and the President of Caskhomir clinked drink glasses with the Federal Minister of Varskhomir, standing in a corner. In the corner opposite stood the Akarean Prime Minister speaking passionately with the Satoyaman President, who shook his head and offered his own equally inflamed response. The Alaykan PM stood away from the others, conferring with his ministers and aides. At the head of the table was the President of the KU, Erika de Jager, who headed the Caskhomirian delegation to the union. She had an assistant beside her, with whom she was consulting over a thick manila folder on the meeting room table. Spying the Chancellor at the door, however, she stood up and tapped her teaspoon against her mug, calling the room to attention.

“Everyone. Pieter’s here. We can now begin.” She announced in Kanadiaans. The various heads of government and state returned to their seats, and there was a great shuffling of papers and clearing of throats as the Chancellor took the seat at the other end of the table, opening his dark blue dispatch box and withdrawing his own notes for the meeting. He took a pen from his pocket and uncapped it just as an attendant brought him a glass of water, which he took with a word of thanks.

“I appreciate you waiting for me, and I’m very sorry about the delay. I hope I can make it up to the rest of you at dinner tonight.” There was some polite laughter from the gathered dignitaries. “However, I think it’s time to get down to business.”

“It is indeed.” The President closed her manila folder. “We all know that the Meltorian Empress has issued imperial edicts outlawing slavery and, essentially, declaring war on the sections of the Meltorian nobility and business elite that were responsible for the practice of slavery. Pieter has also told us about the pact which was signed in New Konigstadt during the state visit. The question is now whether we shall intervene or not, and if so, in what form.” She looked at the Chancellor. “Have you heard anything more from Meltor?”

“I personally have not. The Minister of Foreign Affairs tells me that the Empress’s speech made a direct reference to us, but whether he meant Candanadium or all of Kaltachia I am not sure. Our embassy in Perisu reports having had a visit from Sieion von Actu, who handled the initial negotiations, asking for us to reaffirm our commitment to intervene in Meltor upon request. I am told the Ambassador did just that.” The Chancellor looked over his notes. “Small correction, the Empress directly referred to Candanadium, specifically the King of Candanadium.”

The Akarean Prime Minister, Swen Lu-tsi, shuffled in his seat, peering down at his papers over the rims of his glasses which were perched at the end of his nose, double checking the numbers for his own sake moreso than preparing to say anything. “Of course, we are have been ready to move into Meltor should the need arise for a while, and we are in a position of observing, and we have seen an extreme surge in fighting in the country.” He cleared his throat. “The numbers are unpleasant. I think we are needing now to act.”

“I would agree with that.” The Chancellor looked around the room. “Have we all been making preparations for intervening?”

“The Royal Alpenraumisch Air Force has a fighter wing on standby. I can pledge troops from the Eternal Legion as well.” It was the Alpenraumisch PM’s turn to speak. He handed the Chancellor a folded note. “Our intelligence concurs with what Swen has proposed. There have been reports of gunfire in the capital, and several Meltorian kingdoms have already declared their continued loyalty to this Third United Kingdom.”

Kenshi Sonoda, the president of Satoyama, took a sip of his tea, before straightening the collar of his expensive, well-tailored suit. His face stayed in its signature stoic, serious expression. “It is saddening to see what has already happened in Meltor, and of course, what is happening at the present moment.”, he said in his deep, gravelly voice. Though his country had never experienced the brunt of a full armed conflict, he somehow had the stature and the aura of a man hardened by war. “We cannot just sit and watch all of this happen to the good people of Meltor. We have our military and Special Forces ready to deploy upon first notice.”

“Candanadian military intervention is, of course, the federal government’s prereogative, but I would be remiss if I did not bring up the question of diplomatic recognition and foreign aid.” The Prime Minister of Belkhomir added. “Should we recognize this new Third United Kingdom of Meltor? I was reading the Chronicle this morning and it was reported that the kingdoms sympathetic towards the slavers’ cause have declared independence from the Meltorian crown, establishing a breakaway state that they’ve styled ‘the Federation of Meltor.’”

“There can be no question here. The Third United Kingdom is the lawful successor state to the Second United Kingdom. Candanadium and the Union at large is united against slavery in Meltor, so there should be no talk of recognizing a slaver state.” The President of the Congress of Caskhomir said resolutely.

“Yes. To work against one’s will without any form of monetary compensation not only goes against our own values, but also those of any sane person on this planet.” Sonoda let out a sigh, taking off his thin-framed sunglasses and placing them in his blazer pocket. “I hereby recognize the existence of the Third United Kingdom of Meltor and therefore condemn the Federation.”, he continued, his furrow turning into an intense glare, eyes burning with rage as images of greedy slavers filled his mind.

“The legislation will be complicated,” muttered Swen Lu-Tsi, “but consider this an approval of the intent to do so.” He pulled a fresh sheet from the back of his stack of papers and scribbled furiously onto it, accidentally smudging a few characters on the right-most lines as he worked across, his right-handedness and traditional writing style conflicting.

“We’ve already given our ambassador in Perisu the go-ahead.” The Kreyerian Chancellor added, and the Varskhomirian Federal Minister and the Trefjalli PM nodded along.

“What do you say, Pieter?” The Alpenraumisch PM turned to the Chancellor.

“Recognition would require the King to issue an Order-in-Council, but seeing as His Majesty is attending the funeral of the late King Frederik in Küstenberg, I will announce that the Privy Council has consented to the recognition of the Third United Kingdom. The Meltorian agreement did not outline the procedure for recognition of successor states, but I suppose this will do.” The Chancellor’s secretary made a note of the decision. “What about aid? Armed intervention is already on the table, but we are still an ocean away from Meltor. Any strike force we put together will take days to get to Meltor and weeks to set up properly.”

“The Union can, of course, coordinate humanitarian relief packages and help secure loans from each member state.” The President of the Union at the other end of the table spoke up. “With the consent of our members present. Shall we vote? All those in favour of introducing Union-wide aid packages?” All the heads of state and government around the table raised their placards. “Passed unanimously.”

“Excellent. We shall provide military aid to Meltor as well, in the form of training personnel and military hardware for the Imperial Armed Forces.” The Chancellor added.

“Preparations have already been made in Jokullheim. The Outlanders will mobilize the second we end this discussion. The clans stand with the Empress.” The burly Oberjall of Jokullheim spoke, his formal suit seeming to strain to contain his muscular figure, the ever-present spear notably missing from his side. He was a man of few words, but the few words he offered were succinct and to the point. The recent addition of an eyepatch would catch anyone’s attention, a fresh scar peeking out from under it.

“We have a detachment of Rangers in Hautsing who can rendezvous with the Outlanders and deploy together. They can be our eyes on the ground and aid the Empress’s forces in coordination.” The Oberjall seemed satisfied with the Chancellor’s response, as he nodded slightly and grunted.

“Although it is good that we have come to an agreement, I could not help but notice that our Terran observer state has not spoken yet.” The President, who had not joined in on the earlier deliberations, suddenly made her own contribution. “We are more than quorate to make a final decision, but we must consider the implications for our relationship with Terra.”

“RIS reports that the Terrans are already in Meltor. The so-called People’s Free Meltorian Army receives Edofasian funding and equipment. Despite this, however, it seems that we are on the same side. The PFMA is primarily an anti-slaver force, and although elements within it call for republicanism and socialism in Meltor, we expect them to nonetheless join forces with the imperial government in eradicating the slaver threat.” The Chancellor hoped that this would placate the President’s worries somewhat.

“Although Alayka has troubles within her realm, mainly due to the Severii upstarts, Alayka is committed to helping the Union support the Third United Kingdom. Seeing that with the Edofasian violation of our land, the Alaykan government has broken away from its ties with the Edofasians and the Terran Commonwealth.” The Prime Minister of Alayka, Konstoan von Beck, finally looked up from his own papers and addressed the room.

“Forgive me if I’m interrupting, sir, but I believe that was exactly the President’s concern.” The Chancellor looked to the President, who nodded in agreement. “The Terrans may view our involvement as further provocation and may intrude further into Her Majesty’s sovereign territory as retaliation.” The Chancellor paused for a moment. “Come to think of it, we must consider the implications not only for Alayka, but also for Drulluhus. The Novmirans may also see this as an opportunity.”

“Although the Alaykan armed forces are weak as of this moment, Alayka can hold off the Edofasians if push comes to shove.” Von Beck then cleared his throat. “And with the Candanadian advisors supporting the armed forces, I wouldn’t be too worried about Alayka’s ability to defend herself and possibly Drulluhus in the future.”

“In any case, the Kaltach troops along the Drulluhus border will give them pause.” The Chancellor placed his hands on the table. “That settles it, I believe.”

Apropos, where is the delegation from Drulluhus?” The Alpenraumisch PM asked inquisitively. “Were they not invited to this conference?”

“All KU members and observers received invitations. Our understanding is that Drulluhus hasn’t had the time to respond yet.” The President looked back at the Chancellor. “You say that we and the Terrans are on the same side. But will this united front hold?”

The Chancellor exhaled through his nose. “The most pressing concern for me is not the Terrans nor the socialists, but the eradication of the slavers and their so-called federation as a threat to Kaltach interests in Meltor. We must act swiftly, we must act decisively, and we must act as a Union. Is there anyone here who would challenge that?”

“Not at all, Chancellor. In fact, we’d be content to let the Terrans fight them off on their own. We must unite with our enemies in this dire time to eliminate a common enemy!” Sonoda replied. “Down with slavery!”

“I’m not certain that we could describe the Terrans as our enemies, rather…” The Belkhomirian PM’s voice trailed off. “...strategic challengers. In any case, though, I agree. The slavers must be defeated before we talk of the Terran question.”

The Akarean leader continued nodding and scribbling furiously. In the past, his aides and advisors had tried to convince him to use a laptop or PDA, but he insisted on pen and paper, often citing countless ancient idioms to defend his position. Upon hearing talk of Terra however, he suddenly blurted out; “Our forces are watching also them, but we have also understanding to tread cautiously…”

"There’s a saying in Alayka,” von Beck began. “Pierad tvaram boĺšaha zla boĺš lahičnym vybaram zjaŭliajecca sajuz z voraham. which means ‘In the face of a greater evil, allying with your enemy is a more logical choice.’ Although relations with Terra will always be a pressing issue, the slavers in Meltor are the more pressing one.”

Der Feind meines Feindes. Yes. Though I suppose time will tell whether this will ring true in our case, or if it will come back to haunt us.” The Chancellor cited the same proverb in Kanadiaans. “I think the matter is settled for good this time. Any closing remarks?”

Swen Lu-Tsi scribbled for a moment more, before setting his papers aside and speaking once more. “When the time comes, we will be moving into Meltor with supporting of ground and supporting of air… for now, we will be maintaining the position of observing and intelligence.” His fingers rubbed against his chin, agitating the fine short hairs that protruded from it. His lips were slightly crooked, his expression almost reading worried. But he would be resolute. This much he could commit to himself.

The door to the conference room suddenly swung open, revealing a Candanadian civil servant, who rushed to the Chancellor’s secretary’s side and handed him a folder. The secretary glanced over the contents of the folder, then leaned down to whisper to the Chancellor.

“Vexi von Numenor, the exiled uncle of the Empress, has left Candanadium and is en route to Meltor.”

---

The Tower of Hegemony, Perisu

“Read this.” The Empress handed a folded letter which had previously been sealed with golden wax to Sieion. He picked it up off the table and began to read.


Quote:My beloved Edelgard,

I know it has been many years since I have written to you. Your imperial father and my own brother would have permitted it had his reign not been cut short by that monstrous act. Now that you have come of age and have truly come into your reign, I believe it is time that we could reconcile and meet once more, without the interference of Garic and the slavers who have kept you hidden away.

I served your father for many years both in a familial capacity and as his Grand Marshal. I trusted him with my life, and he would often say the same of me. Which is why when he was murdered by the slaver gangs, I took it upon myself to try and protect his heir from falling into the hands of our enemies. I know you have heard different tales of what I had done, but I must reassure you that what I did was out of necessity and out of my love for you and your imperial father. When the slavers found out, though, they were able to twist the facts and paint me as the enemy. I am no politician. I do not have the gall nor the wits for it. I was trained to lead and inspire men, not to lie in their faces and stab them in the back. Although I could have defended myself with force of arms, I could not do the same with words and guile. I was forced to leave the country, disgraced and villainized. Despite this, I have rallied other exiles around the world for your cause, and I have worked to bring more awareness to the plight that is ours in Meltor.

Now, however, I offer you my service, just as I did to your father. The time for politicking is over in Meltor, and it is, regrettably, time for us to speak of war. Your enemies are massing against your loyal subjects, but this is something you know better than I. I know that you have made for yourself some powerful friends in Kaltachia, but you have also made for yourself powerful enemies back home. In their momentary absence, I believe I can close the gap, militarily speaking, between your forces and those of our enemies. I am still remembered by the officer corps of the Imperial Army, and I have no doubt that your own Captain Hetar will recall the good years of the Imperial Armed Forces with fondness.

Alas, there is only so much that can be said on paper. I also write to you, my Empress, to tell you that I have left my home-in-exile to join your forces in Perisu. There is much and more that I would hope to say to you in person. I hope this is not presumptuous of me, and I will understand fully should you refuse to entertain my visit. In that case, I will gladly serve you in the rank-and-file of the Imperial Army. Your enemies are my enemies also, and I will bring the fight to them under any and all circumstances.

I wish you good fortune in the wars to come.

Your loving uncle,

Vexi von Numenor
Duke of Perisu


“So Vexi is coming back. What of it? Shall I draft a reply telling him to stay away?” Sieion finished reading and looked up at the Empress again.

“Now read this.” She handed over an official-looking piece of paper, embossed with the blue eagle of the Kaltach Union.


Quote:Your Sublime Majesty,

The states of the Kaltach Union has met in an extraordinary congress and have agreed, unanimously and unequivocally, to support your government in the struggle against the self-declared Federation of Meltor. The states of the Kaltach Union hereby extend their diplomatic recognition to the Third United Kingdom of Meltor. The Kaltach Union will heed your call for assistance - there is a pan-Kaltach naval strike force heading for Perisu as I write. They will be preceded by an advance group of military advisors and special operations forces, to be assigned at your pleasure. Following them shall be infantry and cavalry regiments from Candanadium, Alpenraum, and Akarea.

These units will be supplied by us via our bases in the Orient. Meanwhile, the Union is willing to offer the imperial government loans of up to and perhaps exceeding five hundred million thalers, as well as material, developmental, and humanitarian aid. The Candanadian ambassador in Perisu is able to provide you with more information on that front.

I have the pleasure to remain Your Sublime Majesty’s most humble servant,

Erika de Jager
President of the Kaltach Union


“Is this not good news?” Sieion set the dispatch down on the table to the right of the letter. “Vexi pledges to serve you, and now the Kaltach Union has offered its support. We should seize these opportunities.”

The Empress shook her head.

“Vexi said that the time for politicking in Meltor is over. The way I see it, it has just begun.”

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March 1, 2016
Embassy of Luxlein in Perisu, Meltor
7:00 PM Meltor Time


Noelia Victoria was simply staring out her window, overlooking a beautiful garden as the final rays of the sun withdrew into the horizon. She always wondered how the Embassy was capable of preserving such beautiful fauna in such a hot climate. Even back in Santangel the heat didn’t make the most beautiful of flowers die, she thought. The gardeners never told her, or any of the former Ambassadors, the secrets to eternal beauty for such a spacious area. Adorned with the most exotic of colors, she tried to focus on certain areas of the landscape below her. But her eyes kept wandering to uglier parts of it. She looked at the barbed wire cast over the once beautiful fence that decorated the walled area. She looked at the machine guns mounted on watchtowers built in the previous month at every corner of the building. She looked at the military and security personnel sent by the Luxerian Armed Forces to assist the Diplomatic Security Services, all of them armed from head to toe. Even the bullet-proof fiber glass made it difficult for her to enjoy anything.

The spell that enraptured her broke when 4 Diplomatic Security Service agents came bursting into the room.

“What is the meaning of this?” Noelia was furious about being disturbed.

“Apologies,” said one of the agents. “But we have a security situation that requires you to be kept away from the windows.” One of the agents pushed her away while another initiated the security measures. Huge steel panels started coming down, as if the walls of the compound were pushing in.

“Tell me what happened.” She demanded a response, and she knew it was hopeless in getting it from the agents. So she left the room as the clanking of the security roller shutters. Many possibilities ran through her mind. Was it a terrorist attack? A mass protest? She knew that the political situation outside of the Embassy compound was dire, especially after Ferrant issued the new sanctions.

Her Chief of Staff, Joan Pau España, appeared out of nowhere. “Ma’am, we have to start evacuating. The Imperial Army stormed the Imperial House; Empress Edelgard von Numenor emancipated all the slaves in Meltor and she has declared war against the slavers.”

“How many people in Meltor are there that hold Luxerian passports?” She hoped that the number would be less than 10, because no Luxerian will die under her watch as the streets start running with blood.

“Apart from Embassy and Consulate employees and staff, and our security and military personnel? None, especially after the Embassy issued the security alert urging all Luxerians to immediately leave Meltor due to increased security threats back in the midst of January.” Noelia stared at Joan Pau, hoping that he was right. “I have the President on the phone.” Noelia took the phone and held it as she reached the main office area of the compound

“Talk to me Emma.”

“Listen to me very closely,” the President said. “Evacuate all non-essential diplomatic and civilian personnel and their dependents. Process and issue Refugee Travel Documents to current and former Meltorian Embassy workers and translators that have assisted us. Don’t forget to issue Refugee Travel Documents for their relatives like their spouses and unmarried children. Only unmarried children under the age of 21!”

“Yes sir,” Noelia blessed the fact that she had a photographic memory, just like most of Luxlein’s Foreign Service Officers.

“Embassy personnel are ordered to destroy classified documents, electronics and equipment. The Embassy is too close to the center of the conflict. All essential personnel are to keep the Embassy open and continue to process the Refugee Travel Documents until they are all issued. Close the gates, lock everything, and head to the Consulate General in Norstro. Continue to perform consulate services from there. The Consulate will be our core diplomatic presence in the country and is more a secure location.”

“Anything else?” Noelia asked.

“Yeah. Stay safe.” And the line went dead.


March 2, 2016
Embassy of Luxlein in Perisu, Meltor
1:00 AM Meltor Time


6 hours later, Noelia Victoria was on the rooftop. The Embassy’s front gates were closed and chained; all windows and doors were locked and sealed off from the inside; all sensitive sensitive papers, computers, and phones were destroyed; 100 Meltorians that had Refugee Travel Documents issued had cleared background checks; and 200 Luxerian officials were airlifted alongside everyone else.

All that remained were the 4 Diplomatic Security Service agents from the beginning, Joan Pau, and Noelia Victoria. As Joan Pau and the agents loaded the last duffel bags and boxes onto the helicopter, Noelia went to the circuit breaker panel on the side of the emergency exit and opened it, pulling the breakers down. The compound plunged into darkness, with the blue lights from the generators turning on, flickering on every corner of the building.

Noelia stared at the flag that had flown over the Embassy since Luxlein transitioned to a democracy in 1980. Not once in the diplomatic history of the country has a flag been lowered. The 4 agents stared at Noelia and rendered the military salute, while Joan Pau stood at attention with his right hand over his heart. She started untying the knot on the halyard and slowly began lowering the flag, and as the flag lowered itself, Noelia unclipped it, secured the hayward, and folded the flag. When she turned back, she saw everyone still standing at attention with tears in their eyes.

“We will come back. When the trumpets of war no longer ring across this land, we will raise this flag once more, together.”

They all got into the helicopter and flew into the dark night, hoping to see the sun once rise again.


March 2, 2016
Consulate-General of Luxlein in Norstro, Meltor
2:00 AM Meltor Time


The Consulate in Norstro was equipped to help all of those originating from Perisu. Meltorian refugees, military officials and diplomatic personnel were awaiting for the Presidential Address to the Nation.

They stared at the televisions in the compound as the clock struck 2:00. And so it finally began. The news turned to the Presidential seal.

“This is not a test. This is your Emergency Broadcast System, and we interrupt your regularly scheduled programming at the request of the Government of Luxlein. The President of the United Republics of Luxlein will appear shortly. Please standby.”

The countdown began. 3… 2… 1…

The President appeared, and the speech started rolling.

Quote:“My fellow Luxerians.”

“The Government of Luxlein affirms its commitment to promoting and defending democracy, and the human rights and fundamental freedoms protected under democracy domestically, regionally and globally.”

“The Government of Luxlein recognizes that each sovereign nation has a unique history and traditions that shape its quest for freedom. But whatever the path or pace, Luxlein is prepared to respond to protect against emerging threats to democracy. It is not only the moral obligation of Luxlein to promote freedom, justice, human dignity, and effective democratic institutions. It is a national security imperative. Right now, the situation in Meltor presents an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of Luxlein.”

“As President, I am proud to declare that the Government of Luxlein formally recognizes the Third United Kingdom of Meltor as a sovereign and independent state upon this day, March 2, 2016. The United Republics of Luxlein welcome the birth of a new nation.”

“The Government of Luxlein is now being put to an extraordinary test in the international arena to advance human rights and democratic principles. The situation in Meltor has touched off extraordinary debates here at home. Right now, the outbreak of the Second Meltorian Civil War has echoed the reality of the situation: that the power of freedom is coming under assault by those who do not want to be accountable to their people and who do not want to accept limits on their power.”

“The danger to our sovereignty is grave and growing. But our cause is just, and it continues. We must help Meltor develop the democratic institutions that will ensure human rights are respected over the long term. We must help Meltor deliver on the high hopes of their citizens for a better life. We must call Meltor to account as it retreats from its international human rights commitments. The solution is straightforward. Where democracies are fragile, we will strengthen them. Where democratic institutions and democracy defenders are under siege, we will defend them. And where fundamental freedoms are non-existent - we will speak out for the repressed and the persecuted.”

“The Government of Luxlein does not desire military conflict, because we have worked since the beginning to never know the awful nature of war. Our sovereign nation values life, and we will never seek war unless it is essential. We call on all parties to the conflict to work together to address the legitimate grievances of the Meltorian people, in accordance with the democratic process, and without recourse to violence or the use of force.”

“The Government of Luxlein will be monitoring the very fluid situation in Meltor, and we believe that ultimately the future of Meltor can only be determined by the Meltorian people. Nevertheless, in light of our commitment to democratic values, respect for human rights, and peaceful relations with Meltor and its neighbors, the Government of Luxlein will be supporting Meltor’s transition to a democratically-elected and civilian-led system of government by providing immediate and substantial humanitarian assistance to the Meltorian people and by providing democracy transition assistance to Meltorian parties and movements with democratic goals.”

“The Government of Luxlein will also be engaging in a deliberate, civil and thorough discussion alongside the Kaltach Union in order to work together in helping the Meltorian people rebuild and form a just government.”

“We must choose between a world of fear, or a world of progress. We must stand up for the demands of human dignity. By heritage and choice, the Government of Luxlein will make that stand. The international community must do so, as well.”
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