The ice wars of dominia, p.16
The Ice Wars of Dominia, p.16Hylton Smith
Meridia was intrigued; Altocotl asked how this would help Itzan. The answer was simple.
“There will also be areas I can assess for relics which are trapped by only thin ice. If I can free them, we will avail of ready-made objects which only need repair as opposed to complete construction. Wind turbines will be a prime example. Together with the availability of metal ores we can shortcut a lot of tedious metallurgy for Itzan.”
It all sounded too good to be true for Meridia and she asked how they would convince Sendzai to reveal the location of his mineral sources. Karim said that wasn’t necessary.
“I can follow his caravans to these places, and he knows of such abilities of the Travellers from Kiozo. The barges will increase the inflow dramatically, and Sendzai is not stupid, we could do this without him, his quarries are not the only sources, they are merely the known ones. If we appeal to his acute sense of pride in his nation he will agree, for example, we can name the route as the Sendzai Canal. He would also benefit when moving to the proposed new territories, as the canal avoids any hijacking by untrustworthy Korellians.”
It was now important to invite the Tor-Azen leader while he still enjoyed that position, to cement the Quervos land distribution plan, and then sign up Khaled as soon as possible afterwards. This was considered as an urgent step, and required complete ratification before the fickle Korellians had another change of mind.
Thule believed he had created sufficient turbulence with Salamand to counter any immediate ambitions he harboured to become an obvious candidate for overall leader of Korellia. Quervos was new and had a reputation to accrue before he could become a problem. He now wanted to consider Jaden’s next objective.
It could always be described as winter in Dominia; it was a relative term. The shortening days were however anticipated with a sense of foreboding. Food stocks were critical over this period, and the precious daylight hours could not be wasted on anything but essential tasks. The timing of the grand summit for the proposed redistribution of land could have been better. The surreal hiatus in concentration finally revealed a factor hitherto ignored or not considered as an anti-lubricant. While the nations were busy with wars and politics, no irritant in the form of God, or gods had the required oxygen to surface. Unless it was broached in some way, it could become the most dangerous iceberg in all Dominia. Curiously, it was Jaden who brought it to Thule’s attention prior to his departure for the summit. It had been a source of hope for the young man in the worst days of his solitude. His innocent question to Thule was comparable to an unintended rapier strike.
“Do the citizens of all of the other nations believe in the prophet?”
The ramifications temporarily side-tracked Thule and he offered no reply. When Jaden repeated the question it didn’t seem so innocent in its intonation. Thule answered honestly.
“I do not think that will be the case. Some of them come from faraway places and over the period since the cataclysm there has been a general feeling that people’s faith has let them down. Our ancestors had to save themselves; there was no sign of any kind that divine intervention was about to rejuvenate our souls. It is a good question you ask Jaden. The Loci are from parts of the old world where other faiths were commonplace. Apparently there was a long history of wars, persecution, and power struggles rooted in religious intolerance. We do not have the luxury of time to make such mistakes. We must try to find out in an ordered and calm fashion if the residues of faith are important to any nation at the outset of the summit.”
The second controversial element for the three Korellian delegates was the relatively short notice they had received from Altocotl that Khaled would be present to represent Dominia. It was portrayed as being polite, it was a new beginning; they should have a say in the proposed inheritance of an altered pattern to their shared borders. There was no disclosure at this point about intended cooperation with the conceived Loci techno-economic bloc.
Altocotl was nominated to chair the historic attempt to produce a charter of mutual benefit for all nations. It was burdened with ambition beyond its capability to deliver, but this didn’t matter to some of its architects. On the other hand some of the individual aspirations were perfectly capable of being achieved – either through the charter or in spite of it. Even the name should have raised concern, but when the heady infusion of the aroma of personal gain abounds, the potential sacrifice of those who are being represented conveniently moves to the column of greater good. Altocotl made everyone aware of an anonymous request. It was to underpin the grandiose commitment to the rights of independent national laws within the framework of the charter, by the same respect for various faiths. With the gathering euphoria nudging toward exponential levels, the accommodation of more and more nebulous sub-clauses seemed acceptable. Thule began to wish he had kept the religious issue to himself. The free-for-all continued until the entire concept came full circle. It had, in essence, become an agreement to ratify the proposed land border changes, and everything else under the watery sun was pretty much as before. The morass of independent rights, in practical terms condemned the Charter of Five Nations to be a reference guide for the same hegemony which already existed. And that had always been how some had wanted it to remain.
The transition began with the Tor-Azen moving into the vacated West Korellian space. The Aurorans joined them and Salamand had satisfied his people that the other Loci plus the independent medical expertise of Dominia had declared the former Auroran territory as safe. Migration was slow in the beginning, but the populous fastened on to the opportunity of first come – first served with respect to the best sites. The Korellian integration would have to wait for a little longer to gain momentum, and the required access for the Tor-Azen to the eastern mineral deposits was set up. The trading of these metal ores with Korellia would begin when the unification was in place.
Altocotl felt it was the ideal time to ask Meridia to consider the advantages of marriage. She had always known this would happen and agreed to think about it. Having done so, she had a number of questions for him. The uppermost in her mind was the fate of her people; at least that is how she put it to Altocotl. He recognised that she would have a choice of whether to ask the remaining Aurorans to elect a new leader, or ask them to migrate a step further – into Machu land. He was sure she would like neither, and he didn’t want her to be distracted by having to rule her people from within his family. She had another suggestion but wanted it to be his idea, and she got her wish.
“My son is happier than I have ever known him to be, and much of that is because of his friendship with Lennart. Some of it is because I have ceased pressurising him to walk in my shadow. He can be of great value to his nation in another way, and it was you who made me aware of that. He would be pleased if I told him my successor will be Meridia of Aurora. If you and the remnants of your nation are prepared to move here and work toward the birth of a new nation I will revise my last will and testament.”
Meridia feigned embarrassment and at the same time asked how the rights of her people would be taken care of while he lived.
“You will be their champion and nobody else will know that we rule together. This will also serve to encourage integration if we are successful in our joint duty.”
She could abandon her list of demands if he would concede to one final question.
“I am, like any other woman or female leader, conscious of continuing the family lineage. If I marry it must be in a union which bears fruit. How do you feel about such an obligation?”
It would not be seen as such by Altocotl – they both had good reason to see a future heir from their own bloodlines. The announcement was well received by all Loci, and Dominia. It confused most Korellians. It disturbed Thule.
Karim wasted no time in beginning to carve out the canal, now that the charter was in place. He began his lightning strikes at the mineral fields and wo
The wedding was a triumph and the people embraced the name of Machora. The Tor-Azen were pleased that they didn’t have to share their land with anyone and became more receptive to trade treaties with the new nation. Sendzai chose retirement and set the date for the election of a new leader. Dominia also ratcheted up their formal involvement with the Loci bloc. The Korellians now began to glimpse how their desire for more land had been used to outwit them. Not only was the increase in their territory more difficult to police, it would be infinitely more complicated to defend if either Loci or Dominia had cause. Thule had a strong hand with which to call for a review of the integration plan. It would almost certainly question the acumen of the leadership, including him. His advantage over Salamand and Quervos was that he didn’t want the position; he wanted more time to groom Jaden. The meeting had to be broadened to include disappointed citizens. There was now a requirement for accountability in going forward. Salamand the Wise was now seen as having reached his limit of seniority, with whispers deriding him as Salamand the Simple. He didn’t even suspect that Thule had engineered his fall from grace, purely as a consequence of his main objective of keeping Korellian tribes separate for now.
Karim’s patience was being tested. Six months had passed and he had still not finished the preliminary phase of cracking the ice by directed lightning balls. He had taken extreme care to ensure the depth was regulated for fully laden barges. He desperately wanted to declare that these barges could be built, but Meridia had insisted that this would only happen when the canal was complete. She maintained it would not be prudent to advertise in advance that they no longer needed Korellian assistance to bring in minerals.
“They would then have leverage which could disrupt other programmes. There is also the small matter of me being pregnant. I want to be free of such distraction when the canal route opens.”
Karim noticed that Altocotl deferred to Meridia on many issues. It appeared as if he had found contentment in his marriage, Itzan’s happiness, and the prospect of a new heir. Life was good in Machora.
The Tor-Azen had chosen their new leader, confident that the charter would endure. Kanzaki was by far the best technocrat they had ever produced, and had assisted Kiozo in many of his designs. He had also demonstrated impressive acumen in economic theory; it would now be tested in practice.
Khaled had already structured Dominian muscle toward trade and had cleverly controlled the pace to suit the emergent economic practices of both the Machora and Tor-Azen. Thule had also negotiated concessions from Dominia to invest in more efficient agriculture. Having done this without reference to Salamand or Quervos annoyed them, especially when Khaled said he had reached the limit of his trade balance, but said he could review the situation in the future. Thule’s initiative was not solely angled toward trade, as he had asked Khaled to take Jaden under his wing, so he could assimilate the Dominian economic model. He had asked Khaled not to disclose this most appreciated favour to other nations. The unease in the western side of the new Korellian territory was palpable as there was a perceived wealth gap with their kin in the eastern region. This developing rift was accentuated by another knee-jerk reaction from Salamand. He persuaded Quervos to support an increased demand for technology from the Loci for the protected passage of metal ores through Korellia. Predictably, Thule vowed to distance himself from this myopic strategy, claiming it was the first step to permanent cleavage between his tribes and the rest of Korellia.
“You are arguing from a point of weakness, as we have not yet developed practical uses for the minerals we have already bartered for, with precious winter sustenance. Our food surplus is thin and to demand a change in the rate of trade with the Loci will prejudice fish imports. Even if they were willing to gift us the technology you have in mind, where does the implementation expertise come from? You are putting the cart before the horse again. I will not be part of this.”
Salamand and Quervos were furious at what they considered to be intransigence, and decided to press on with their demand. Once again they played into the hands of Thule, who wanted to be seen to have been forced to forge a separate path from the backwoods mentality of the other Korellian tribes.
The Loci response was predictable, and Meridia mirrored Thule’s delight in having to respond to the veiled threat. It got worse for Salamand and Quervos. The Machora and Tor-Azen were joined by Dominia in their condemnation of this opportunistic blackmail. Meridia had prepared well; there was more than enough mineral stored to bridge the gap until Karim’s project came online. She was able to play the statesmanship game with both Kanzaki and Khaled.
“I realise you each have a shortfall to consider, but I can redirect supply to you until this dispute is resolved, and believe me, it will be. We have to make these people realise they cannot behave in such a cavalier fashion with the lives of those with whom they have made commitments.”
Kanzaki was not totally convinced but Khaled agreed and said he was pretty sure Thule was against this action.
“I may be able to get him to bring ore through his territory to Dominia, and it is then a very short journey from our western border to the eastern equivalent of the Machora. If necessary we can detail military escort for this stretch.” All of a sudden the scent of conflict was in the air again.
Thule and Meridia were sublimely unaware of each other’s agenda, but that would change by the course of events which had been set in motion. The different orientation of their strategies had fortuitously one thing in common – to set Korellia on collision course with the building muscle of Loci and Dominian power. This ignorance of the other’s agenda would have its own influence on which piece of the jigsaw would fall into place first. Meridia’s canal or Thule’s enforced defection from Korellia?
Karim had delivered the damaged wind turbine to Itzan. It was of former industrial size and standard. The next issue was to be able to interface the generated energy to outlet facilities. Itzan asked his father if he could ask for cooperation from Kanzaki. The request received an enthusiastic response and Itzan travelled to meet with the new Tor-Azen leader, accompanied by Lennart, from whom he was now inseparable. Lennart’s confidence had soared in recent times, and his skill with semantic interpretation of other languages validated his contribution to such matters of Machoran ambition. Karim was very close to completion of the canal. The concept depended on both the extraction and receiving ends being kitted with a means to lift the ores up to the ice ledges, and the same requirement to lower them into the barges and distribution points respectively. He decided to construct a type of ski-lift to raise buckets of the ore to the ice ledges. This would have to be mechanical at first but would become one of the early uses for Itzan’s ‘national grid’. The distribution point would be placed at the most westerly point above Machoran territory, making it very difficult for any other nation to hijack the product. These lifts would also transport the manpowe
Thule received the ultimatum, but not quite the one he had expected. Salamand had managed to place informants near to the Korellian border with Dominia, and the reports confirmed the extent of the trading between Thule and Khaled. The accusation was not contested; it was defended vigorously as the sensible way to progress along the road of catch-up to the Loci in living standards and technology. Salamand saw it differently, and stated that this was a betrayal of the unification ideal.
“We could not understand how your tribes prospered so much more quickly than our own and you did not share this intent with us before you acted unilaterally.”
Thule’s rebuttal was based upon the many disagreements he had encountered with Salamand and Quervos, including the naïve pressure they had tried to exert on the Loci over passage of minerals.
The Ice Wars of Dominia by Hylton Smith / Actions & Adventure / Science Fiction have rating 2.3 out of 5 / Based on37 votes