Viewing as Guest
Chapter 29: Refuge
Date Published: September 8th, 2016
Arc 2: The Power of Knowledge
〘〙= Status, Combat Arts & Magical Spells
〚〛= Internal Thoughts
I got Stuck; reached some kind of wall with the story.
Originally I had written this chapter so that Elrick reaches Norfork, heals the sick and discovers that the source of the illness is the impurities caused by Goblin mining in the Harkin Mountains. An investigation revealed the presence of Goblins and a subjugation mission would happen over the next 3 chapters culminating in a final battle that would conclude the Arc.
When I read the 2 chapters I had written they seemed a bit too cliché so I hated them and I couldn’t come up with better rewrites so I started Soul Vessel Psyche as a diversion.
After reading the First Book of The Solstice War and other books I got back the spark of inspiration and finally decided on the next Arc; Everything is Politics and Politics is Everything.
I kept thinking that I’d post a chapter in a few days but it never materialized.
Chapter 29: Refuge
Snapping awake the Golem Armour returned control back to Elrick. The Golem Armour’s operation Heads-Up Display appeared in-front of him which necessitated Elrick’s prompt dismissal; now that he had a communications Golem Core the Heads-Up Display was unnecessary since he could directly interface with the Golem Armour’s Golem Core, and in the same way he could directly interface with Ayana’s Golem Core; which is what Elrick did next.
Elrick could hear through Ayana.
Bowden : " All STOP!"
Driver-Control : " All STOP Aye; Commander"
Elrick felt the immediate grinding to halt of the entire moving force.
Elrick would have preferred that the force keep moving and not be interrupted by something as minor as him waking up. However Elrick understood that Bowden is in command and it was likely there was something that needed Elrick’s immediate attention. If Elrick had to offer a guess it was that something had come-up that needed the authority of a Clan Chief. There were too many situations that would require the approval of the political leader; this is the reason Grinder had so readily approved of Operation Elven Light; to develop policies for long range large deployments.
As Elrick walked to the command vehicle he contemplated the complex relationship between Starlight Spark the Clan and Starlight Spark the Company. In simple terms the Clan Starlight Spark is separate from the company that is Starlight Spark; to be precise Starlight Spark the company is affiliated with Starlight Spark the Clan in a way a shop might be affiliated with the town in which it is located. Thus Starlight Spark the Clan has a limited authority over Starlight Spark the Company and cannot control the company or its assets.
When Elrick finally reached the command vehicle the entire force started moving.
Bowden : " Good; you’re here! I need you to take a look at the reports from the infiltration teams."
Elrick : " Alright."
Elrick is handed a digital Runic Book Reader.
One of the major benefits of a Golem Implant is that it enhances the speed with which you take in information.
The information flowing into his mind was disturbing, but the thing drawing his attention was a flashing icon.
~ Ding! ~
Reports not in Archive; would you like to index them in the Library Archives?
〚Elrick : " This thing! Automatic Archiving of every new thing I read?”〛
After clicking yes Elrick continued contemplating the information in the reports.
Elrick had been expecting Norfork to be in a precarious situation and the Eastal Security Agency reports had indicated as much, but it would seem the situation had grown worse. The whole reason Elrick was sent on this mission is because the entire region of the Kent kingdom was in a precarious situation and the analysis indicated that if the lords of the region continued on the path they were on it would destabilize the entire kingdom; a civil war sponsored by Kent’s neighbours is not out of the realm of possibilities.
The attack of the Demons had a number of strategic objectives; one of them was to weaken the nations of the Grandeur Continent. Weakening all the nations of the Grandeur Continent sounds like an impossible task but as it turned out it is not unfeasible; if you use the invading small creatures strategically. Some of the invading small creatures were poisoned and when burned they released toxins into the air, but the bigger problem had been the poisoned small creatures being directed towards the water sources.
Contaminating the water, contaminating the land but most importantly decimating the agricultural fields. There were hordes of locust-like creatures released by the demons upon the lands; creatures not native to Ado and likely genetically engineered to be resistant to pest control measures. Creatures too small to be considered a threat but ultimately the most dangerous threat to the people of the Grandeur Continent. The concern over rats, arachnids, snakes and worms allowed the locust-like creatures to fulfil their primary task; lay their eggs in the crops and fruit trees.
The situation was being repeated everywhere on the Grandeur Continent except for the commonwealth. The disparity is caused by the difference in agricultural techniques; the commonwealth relies more on hydroponics managed with Plant Magic. Therefore the citizens of the commonwealth remain oblivious to the suffering of everyone else; content to send food aid without helping the nations of the Grandeur Continent recover from the loss of production.
To some extent keeping the nations of the Grandeur Continent food dependent serves the interests of wealthy agriculturalist; their profits are higher. This is largely a political problem and treaties prohibit the interference of the Asgard Continental Republic. The nobles of the Grandeur Continent are making the situation worse because they are wealthy and the insecurity of the commoner population benefits the wealthy; making it easier for the wealthy to assert control over the society.
The reason the ESA sent Elrick is that he’s not limited by borders to the same extent as Eastal. The same treaties that guarantee the independence of nations from the Asgard Continental Republic also guarantee Atlantians freedom of movement in the nations of Ado. There are of course limitations on that freedom of movement but there are built in working loopholes. Elrick is here to take advantage of certain loopholes to the limitations on the ability of Atlantians to interfere.
Norfork found itself under asymmetrical attack from the nearby Landlords; they are pushing refugees on the town. The population of 280,000 has been forced to bare the weight of 215,000 refugees from all over the nearby towns and villages. The people should have gone to Forkland but soldier screens have thus far prevented any of the refugees from reaching the Forkland metropolis; leaving Norfork the only safe harbour.
For that matter it’s not just Norfork taking the brunt of the refugee crisis; all the towns affiliated with Forkland have been pushing refugees to unaffiliated towns. ESA analysis indicates that the Forkland alliance is deliberately weakening the towns and villages; softening them up for a takeover later on in the future when the towns and villages have been ruined by the pressure of the influx of people. Elrick knew that this is why he was sent here; the ESA couldn’t direct him to interfere in local politics, but if he concluded that the problems were political and made that public it could not be considered interference.
What Elrick couldn’t understand is why Kentridge was letting these things happen. The Capital of Kent would have been made aware of what the High Nobles were doing; so why aren’t they taking action. Elrick could only come up with 2 probable answers; 1) The prevailing faction in Kentridge wanted the current situation and 2) Kentridge is unable to move. If Kentridge is so overwhelmed by crises that it is unable to respond to the humanitarian catastrophe being created by the High Nobles of the region then things are worse than the ESA analysis suggested.
Elrick had to go into contemplation; put his thoughts together and apply his mind to the current situation. Fortunately it wasn’t just his mind, and by using his communications Golem he could link all his Golem Cores together; including both Armours and Ayana. It wouldn’t be anywhere near the computational output or functionality of a Class 6 Golem Core, but by tying the six Golem Cores with the veritable library that is the Magical Heritage Elrick could build a clearer picture.
The question Elrick wanted is; whether there is a Grand Strategy at work?
In the 22 minutes that it would take to reach Norfork Elrick needed to come up with a speculative answer because it would determine how he moves.
Bowden knew better than to disturb the Elrick in contemplation. He had delayed the force’s departure until he got the first reports from Norfork, and all the embarked Executives of Starlight Spark immediately saw alarm bells ringing in their heads. The analysis offered by the implanted Class 4 Golem Cores in consort with the tactical engine of the command vehicle said that Norfork was under asymmetrical attack. Who was attacking and why is a matter of speculation.
Since this was a political problem manifesting into a human catastrophe deciding how to react would fall on Elrick’s shoulders; at least politically. Once Elrick decided on the level of Starlight Spark involvement they could implement a number of strategic countermeasures. The biggest problem would be supplies; they had brought with them sufficient supplies but given the suffering they will encounter it would be impossible not to share supplies.
Apparently all the nearby resources had been cleared, and getting food from the local wildlife will mean travelling at least 100km from of Norfork. Sure the Norfork forest will recover in a few years but as it stood it had essentially been picked clean; the culprit being a town that far exceeded its carrying capacity; unrestrained harvesting of the local environmental resources. Bowden had already noted that even at Forkland the price of food was more done double that in Cobalt City.
Of particular interest to Bowden was Elrick’s information gathering abilities. Elrick had predicted both the political situation and economic conditions as well as the likely main actors and victims. Elrick explained it as the result of the superior analysis of his Class 5 Golem Cores. Though Bowden could not dispute the power of the Golem Cores there was the matter of the Golem Armours Elrick bought and the main question being; when did Elrick come into contact with the Elves of Light?
The Executives of Starlight Spark properly understood that somewhere between Chaos Island and Cobalt City Elrick had come into contact with the Elves of Light. The Executives of Starlight Spark decided that it’s best not to ask, and not knowing provided sufficient plausible deniability. Since Elrick gave control of Starlight Spark in Realm Eternal to Grinder it provided sufficient protection and minimized a large amount of the financial risks.
Now Bowden waited to see what Elrick would do, and even though his own inclination was to stay away from anything troublesome Starlight Spark had not become somewhat successful by following the predictable path.
The Golem Cores had reached a consensus of sorts; there was definitively a Grand Strategy at work.
That part is contentious.
The FIRST and probably most troubling is that there has been a pervasive Demon infiltration of the region.
The Devils are very humanlike, and if the wings are surgically removed it would be hard to tell them apart from humans. There exists corporeal magic capable of fooling even the Psionic Barriers protecting towns and cities. The analysis of Elrick’s golems suggested that the infiltration by devils has most likely been ongoing for generations, and that people with devil blood are probably amongst the nobles if not merchants and manufacturers. Part of their goal being to steal technology and to supply lower demons with weapons.
The behaviour of the nobles suggest that their mentality has been twisted to the point where they are as hostile to commoners as they are to lower demons. Why the Nobility has become so irrational is puzzling unless you consider the possibility of them being systematically influenced in a direction that is ultimately detrimental to them. The privileged entitled rich and powerful of the region seem somehow infected by the madness of greed followed by the arrogance of status.
Even in a time of crisis when they should be trying to save lives they’ve abandoned their roles as Stuarts of their society and indulge themselves in frivolity. The commoners are trapped in a cycle of despair with no hope of reprieve thus breeding their own full measure of discontent that will invariably drive their countries to dire civil strife that when combined with the cacophony of accumulating problems will collapse whole regions of the Grandeur Continent.
The ones who stand poised to benefit the most from the collapse of entire countries are not the delusional nobility who dream of independent fiefdoms but the prevailing demonic threat to everyone.
The SECOND and also disturbing is that the Northman are trying to cripple the countries of the region.
The Northman of Norse Island somehow made it out of the Vampire Attack with minimal losses and that means that for the first time in generations the bigoted Northman are in a stronger position than most of the Major Powers on the Grandeur Continent. Already the vassal states of Norse Island are flexing their muscles and threatening the vassals of the weakened Major Powers of the Grandeur Continent. Grandeur is in the middle of a crisis and the Major Countries are glaring at each other instead of cooperating in order to recover from the Demon Attack.
The Big Five of the Grandeur Continent the Vale Kingdom, the Celestial Forest, Norse Island, the Beastial Federation and the Eldritch Human Republic are more interested in expanding their National Power and it looks increasingly like more than a few vassal states are set to be crushed in the wave of violence to come. As if it’s not enough the Sixth most powerful Grandeur Country with vast territories and vassals bordering the Commonwealth looks increasingly unstable; destined for a collapse that will trigger the whole powder-cake.
The Northman of Norse Island are a genetically engineered subspecies of human; the product of the True Human Project.
In the wake of the Racial Hostilities that led to the exodus from the Commonwealth an extremist human sect initiated the True Human Project with the goal of producing the ultimate human race that would eventually challenge the Continentals for supremacy on Ado. What was produced was humans that have Attribute Stats similar to Beastials/Beast-Humans with the one major advantage being a lifespan 50% longer than the average normal human. The Northman are larger and more physically robust than the standard human.
The THIRD is that the Nobility of the region are attempting some kind of revolution that would see them create a new Super-State under their control.
In essence the stratagem would reproduce the Noblesse Republic in the East of the Grandeur Continent.
The Noblesse Republic is a Republic in name only and in actuality it is a collection of noble fiefdoms; its Vassal States are in reality noble fiefdoms that have been able to carve out and sustain a Semi-Independent Country. The fiefdoms of the Noblesse Republic were once independent territories set up by nobles of the Commonwealth Realm but when sustaining them proved difficult the Commonwealth Landlords banded together to form the Noblesse Republic.
The Noblesse Republic in the south of the Grandeur Continent is the Sixth most powerful Grandeur Country; a position intimately tied to a relationship with the Commonwealth Realm of the Asgard Continental Republic. The Noblesse Republic is in simple terms a creation of southern nobles of the Commonwealth Realm and stands in stark contrast to the Liberty Alliance; a creation of Northern nobles of the Commonwealth Realm and bordering the northern quarter of the Eastern Commonwealth border.
The Liberty Alliance which is ranked as the Eighth most powerful Grandeur multinational organisation is like a great power and its Vassals. The fundamental difference is that the Liberty Alliance is an association of 14 countries enjoined by treaty and there’s no single country in the Alliance that is a central major power; all 14 including the Ashcroft Republic are at the same level and govern the Liberty Alliance by committee. By treaty all 14 members are Democratic Republics.
There are long standing tensions between the Noblesse Republic and the Liberty Alliance; bourn from their diametrically opposed views on the natural states of individuals. The Noblesse Republic is much older than the Liberty Alliance and as such has spread its ethos far and wide across the Grandeur Continent. It is only recently that there has been a shift towards respecting the rights of commoners and the pre-eminent champion of the rights of individuals has been the Liberty Alliance.
The Idea of Nobility on Ado goes back to the founding of the Commonwealth. During the first Age known as the Age of Gods in the Arello Galaxy there were no nobles. Nobility came about as reverence to the magical skills of individuals during the Second Age known as the Age of Kings. In the second age nobility meant being part of a bloodline skilled in magic, and towards the end of the Second Age structured magic was a tightly held family secret that was never to be shared with strangers.
The Third Age known as the Age of Revival started in the aftermath of Ragnarök. The Third Age demanded Unity from the survivors and old rivalries were set aside to establish the Asgard Continental Republic. However humans and their subspecies brought from Earth didn’t live-through Ragnarök and had no inclination towards unity. The continentals wanted to control the new arrivals so they created the Nobility from the bloodlines of the ruling class of the Asgard Continental Republic to serve as their proxies on the Grandeur Continent.
Entitled from the beginning the children Fathered by the ruling class of the Asgard Continental Republic were granted privileges that had been denied to the rest of humanity; knowledge, weapons and advanced technology was given by doting father and indifferent parent alike. Privilege set Precedence and its fruit was Arrogance. An Elitist Class was born and with it limits on the aspirations of the common folk; no longer could they reach for the skies and wrestle the hands of fate to forge their own destinies.
In time the rules set out by the Asgard Continental Republic became too restrictive for the nobles; so they lured the unsuspecting to new lands and imprisoned them in the bondage of servitude. The Noblesse Republic was formed by descendents of those who found the restrictions on vile practices such as slavery stifling. The landlords thought it natural that they be allowed to own living sentient beings no different than themselves but for an accident of birth.
Nevertheless there were those who rightly felt that slavery is no less an Evil than that which would be perpetrated by the Demons should they gain a foothold on the Grandeur Continent. The Righteous amongst the citizens of the Commonwealth set out to free the slaves and establish new Countries free of the corruption of the selfish nobility. Finding strength in the character forged by the battlefield of a Righteous Cause Heroes emerged to form a new nobility defined by the Righteousness of their Character.
However with the passing of time even descendents of Heroes forget that they are Noble in the truest sense and are now seduced by privilege. Forgetting that they are Guardians and not Rulers of the land; forsaking their charges and indulging in grotesque opulent eccentricities. Constantly having to assert their legitimacy through the suffocating Boot on the throats of their subjects; Remaining in power by persistently beating down any aspiration of liberty. Murdering any that might inspire Hope.
In their Grand Stratagem they would seek to return Civilization to the regressive past when all Power was Vested in the Privileged Few.
Then Lastly and probably most likely is that there are multiple Grand Strategies coalescing towards a single climax.
The worst case scenario is that there are multiple storms moving the desert sand while Elrick was trying to hold a particular cluster of sand together.
Not even Elrick with all his talents could overcome such odds.
The analysis offered by Elrick’s 6 Golem Cores suggested that the Events orchestrated by one Grand Stratagem will likely trigger reactions in the form of other Grand Stratagems. What will happen is that multiple Grand Stratagems will interact with each other to produce an unpredictable result. The independent conspirators will likely get some of what they want but most will get a new set of problems that are beyond their ability to mitigate.
But no matter how Elrick looked at it the Demons will come out with the lion’s share of the benefits.
〚Elrick : " When the Game is Rigged Cheating is the only Way to Play”〛
Elrick realized that there was no way for Starlight to remain unaffected by the unfolding events. He wondered if the Elves of Light properly understood the current predicament.
〚Elrick : " There’s no way they don’t know; so why aren’t they moving more forcefully? It must be the restrictions of the Asgard Continental Republic.”〛
Elrick suspected that the Eastal is unable to take action because they are restricted by various treaties.
That meant that they had very little in the way of tactical responses that would violate treaties and Elrick’s mission is supposed to shine a spotlight on the dirty dealings of the Landlords of Kent.
Elrick : " Commander Bowden; we need a Strategic Conference!"
Elrick : " Worse!"
Bowden ordered the communications officers to contact the relevant people for an emergency Strategic Conference.
The relevant people were now looking at each other; including the Holographic projections of those coming in from Cobalt City through Hyperspace Communications.
〚Elrick : " Good; Everyone’s Here.”〛
Bowden : " So what’s got you in such a Panic?"
〚Elrick : " How do I do this?”〛
Elrick : " My Golem Cores ran an analysis on the problems at Norfork and produced some disturbing results."
Bowden : " Show us!"
Elrick : " Transmitting."
Elrick set the analysis reports to all present and waited for them to digest the info.
Egret Collins : " This is Bad; really-really Bad!"
〚Elrick : " As expected of a Prion”〛
Grinder : " This will seriously affect our business model; it could cripple our current business. We need to get started on countermeasures."
Bowden : " Are there any viable countermeasures? This is something on a continental scale!"
Elrick : " Even like this I’m only one man; one Prion."
Axil : " Yeah; they’re shareholders now."
Elrick : " But in terms of strategic Prion objectives in Realm Eternal it’s problematic."
Swordin : " There has to be something we can do"
There was now an obvious panic in the faces of the executives an military leaders.
〚Elrick : " I need more time to think, but we’ll be in Norfork soon and I’ll be busy tending to the victims. Victims, victims, victims”〛
Bowden : " Shit"
Axil : " Everything was going so well."
Swordin : " Too well."
Grinder : " Really; let’s hear it!"
Bowden : " Don’t keep us waiting."
Elrick can see some relief but he knows that once he speaks they are likely to be shocked by what he considers his only viable move.
Elrick : " When the Game is Rigged Cheating is the only Way to Play!"
Hammerin : " Here we go."
Elrick : " There are 2 primary components to the unfolding problems; Food and People Pressure."
Elrick : " Unless we solve these problems everything else will fail."
Arrow : " How do you solve them under these circumstances?"
〚Elrick : " Lets see”〛
Swordin : " Eh?"
Swordin isn’t the only one shocked by the numbers.
Egret Collins : " Of course; deal with the people pressure and secure food in a single move."
Axil : " You think the demons will try to assassinate the Pope of the Tree of Life."
Grinder : " How? How are you going to do it?"
Egret Collins : " There’s really only one way to do that."
Swordin : " What?"
Elrick : " It’s the only way to bypass the border regulations. The Clansman of a Commonwealth Noble gain automatic Commonwealth residency."
Grinder : " And Incredibly Expensive!"
〚Elrick : " A that”〛
Everyone realises the cost of having so many people join the clan.
Elrick : " Right now the Commonwealth Nobles have closed the border to refugees and most of the food aid is going to the Noblesse Republic which then promptly sells it off to other countries at a steep price. The Commonwealth Nobles are essentially raiding the public coffers to enrich themselves at the expense of the starving. Citizens of the Commonwealth have enough to eat but everyone else is starving. The simplest solution is to bring the starving to the Commonwealth."
Elrick : " But they won’t be able to do anything about it."
Bowden : " The Elves of light will protect you?"
Elrick : " Yes. The rest of the Continentals won’t want to antagonize Eastal in the middle of a war with the Vampires; they need access to their healing magic and manufacturing ability. In any case the Commonwealth is a domain of the Continentals and not of the local Nobles. The problem will be getting people across the land. Right now the only safe way for civilians to move from country to country is through the teleport system. So walking the distance to the Commonwealth would literally be a Death-March given the cacophony of deadly beasts out there. Having the refugees become my clansman removes all the restrictions that would prevent them from using the teleport system to reach the Commonwealth; the problem will be funds. However the 15 Copper Coins a day given to refugees in the Commonwealth is hardly enough to create stability so in the initial phase I’ll raise the funds to care for the first wave of Refugees."
Elrick : " Well; since we’re already in Kent the First wave can come from Kent. I’ll have Blackmail those bastard Landlords into giving in to things."
Grinder : " Ah; the Goblins"
Bowden : " About that; why did your Golem Cores reach the conclusion that there are Goblins in the Harkin Mountains?"
Grinder : " What? 200,000 Gold Coins would be enough to build a small town."
Grinder : " Got it! What about protecting the Pope? Even after we warn them the Nobles will sit on their hands until it’s too late."
Bowden : " We can redistribute the forces with leisure. However those Half Winged-Folk Half-Elves from the Air Cavalry are proving difficult to train. As it is none of them can fly, and will take a while since they need at least 2,500 《strength》 to flap their wings for sustained flight. That being said the glide pretty well so we our crafters rig them up a take off system powered by the Steel Air Storage Ball used for the Grenades and Pneumatic Motor Power Source."
Grinder : " Expert rank parties cost between 700-800 Gold Coins a month so 5 parties should be manageable. How quickly do you want them out there?"
Egret Collins : " You know; the Lady Lorelei would prefer that such a request be made directly to her."
Egret Collins : " I understand; I’ll make sure I impress upon her Ladyship the importance of her mission"
Elrick : " Thank you."
Grinder : " While were at it we should be asking for a Falcros Prion to take-on the role of CEO in the real World. We are too busy in realm eternal to keep a proper Eye on things as it is and it’s only going to get worse"
Egret Collins : " I understand; I’ll start the selection process immediately."
Vava : " That settles things then. I’d like to get the convoy moving and rest the Legions by midnight."
Axil : " It’s not possible to Enter Norfork in Dress Uniforms but we can stow the weapons so we don’t look so menacing."
Bowden : " Scouts are reporting an all clear. It looks like the whole town is rising to meet us. Light Elves at the Front! We’ll walk in under their Glow."
Vava : " Aye Commander!"
Elrick : " Aye Commander!"
Armlet : " Aye Commander!"
The Army dismounts to form a Column led by High-Elves of Light with their 〘Aura Glow〙 skill active.