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The ice wars of dominia, p.17
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       The Ice Wars of Dominia, p.17

           Hylton Smith
 
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  “You have realised now that I was right, and yet you protest that we have opted out of your doomed tactics of the past – namely acquisition by threat. Well, look what has happened, the Loci have suspended transportation of ore and we are all worse off. Do you call that beneficial? I was not going to accept your dictate that we have to suffer for your misjudgement, and I did the only thing I could. The Loci did not differentiate between Korellians, as I said would happen, and the only person I could appeal to was Khaled. He was sympathetic and has helped us through the worst of the food shortage, but we will have to repay this at some time. You left me with no other choice.”

  Salamand began to shout at Thule, and this indirectly led to entrenched positions on the issue. His lingering venom toward Thule exploded into a further accusation of treason.

  “I have given you time to offer transparency about all of your dealings with Khaled, but you have failed to mention the plot of bringing metal ore through your territory to Dominia. Is this a separate agreement from the one we had with the Loci?”

  A considerable silence ensued before Salamand angrily demanded an answer. The implications reverberated in Thule’s mind and he decided to provoke his contemporary even further for his lack of respect.

  “No, this is a request from Khaled which is part of my on-going trade with him and a means of reducing the deficit we have, so that we can avail of more food, especially fish from the Machora. Just exactly how you have the effrontery to label this treason is beyond me. You seem to blame everyone else for your mistakes and I am afraid you have become delusional in the process. I think you would be well advised to calm down, and think about the decision process which got us into this position, and who recommended it.”

  The ultimatum was articulated as this line of reasoning was brushed aside, and as a personal threat to Thule.

  “You will be judged by the majority of Korellians. I hereby charge you with the offence of privately selling that which is under common ownership of Korellia. The agreement to allow transport of foreign goods through common land, as defined in the charter, does not permit such unilateral departure. I will be supported by Quervos in this assertion, and you will face arrest in the coming days.”

  Thule disputed the validity of the claim on the basis that the charter did not depend on a united Korellia, which had not occurred anyway, and only detailed the sub-clause of ore transport through Korellia.

  “Although the charter ratifies which land is Loci and Dominian owned, it only implies by subtraction that the remainder is conceded to Korellia. Until there actually is a united Korellia, our former lands, wherever we have retained them, still signify the sovereignty of West, North and East Korellia. The charter did not specify which route had to be used. Your bullying tactics were branded as ill-advised by me, and yet you allowed your hot-headed tendency to prevail over the common good. You then have the nerve to accuse me of betraying your ludicrous policy, which will lead our nations into poverty. Of that, I stand guilty as charged. It is you who should be punished for this error of judgement.”

  The dam burst and Salamand abandoned the political approach, his departing threat was that Thule should be ready to defend what he thought was his land.

  “Quervos and Salamand will bring justice to Korellia. We will be redistributing territory following the justifiable assimilation of this proposed transport route of ore to Dominia. If you persist by opening another route you will face military conquest of all remaining land to which you have laid claim.”

  Thule lost no time in informing Khaled who in turn passed the news to the Loci. It was the signal for Meridia to offer military assistance. Khaled felt obliged to echo his nation’s solidarity within the techno-economic bloc. Meridia could now legitimately reveal her ‘emergency plan’ to protect the metal ore transport, by circumventing Korellia altogether. She informed Karim of the situation and suggested he could extend the target completion date. Without this facility in place, she had two legitimate reasons to temporarily acquire western Korellian land. It would commence with seizure of the southwest strip which separated Machora from Dominia and would secure her overland shipment of minerals.

  *

  Altocotl had good reason for his apparent withdrawal from front line decision-making. He had not been feeling well and Meridia had called in one of Khaled’s most reputable physicians. The diagnosis wasn’t good. The brain tumour was considered to be inoperable and unstoppable. The physician wanted to leave him adequate medication to dull the advancing pain, but Meridia asked for her husband to be taken to Carthos.

  “I do not dispute your findings but there are many aspects to consider. We are about to enter into conflict with Korellia and I want our leader to be safe. Carthos is the safest place for him, and it gives you a chance to confer with your colleagues on Altocotl’s condition, even if a second opinion confirms your diagnosis. You will also be able to monitor his condition and the appropriate levels of medication to be given. I am about to give birth to his child and I will travel with you so that the infant will also be safe. Altocotl needs this assurance so that he will avoid unnecessary anxiety while he fights his personal battle with the tumour.”

  The physician did not dispute her logic. Meridia left her objectives and the military execution of them to Aquades. He had been nervous of her presence at first but gradually recognised that her understanding of military strategy matched her political nous. Before she left he was handed the part the Tor-Azen would play in the initial phase; it had already been negotiated with Kanzaki, who had restored Mitsuno to lead their contingent. Meridia also told Aquades that she would be able to keep an eye on how Khaled marshalled his contribution while she waited for the arrival of the child. She had also overseen the construction of chariots and cannon, having had access to the original designs of Kiozo. Itzan had been supervising this work in secret for some time, and he was to accompany Aquades to the campaign, to provide technical advice and repairs. Lennart would be useful if prisoners were to be interrogated in their own tongue. Meridia’s image with the Machu element of the new nation was one of an inspirational figure. Heavily pregnant, she had found a way of protecting their leader and the unborn infant, organised the economic and military response to Korellian threat, and brought both the Tor-Azen and Dominia with her.

  *

  When rumours of the gathering forces and vastly superior armaments reached Quervos, he declared his North Korellian tribes were to remain neutral in this ill-advised conflict. He maintained he hadn’t supported the imposition of the higher tariff by Salamand for the mineral caravan rights. He had advised discussion to explore longer term valuation of a number of trading concepts. While he made it public that he believed Thule shouldn’t have made a separate deal with Dominia as a matter of principle, it served as an example of what could have been achieved by negotiation. Thule used this duplicity to persuade his people to seek even more formal alignment with Dominia. His rationale was simple. Korellians had never been able to embrace compromise, and in this new evolutionary world, failure to adapt to such trends would all but guarantee extinction. He wanted the entire temperate zone to be aware of the difference between East Korellia and other primitive nomadic tribes.

  Salamand was isolated and he realised his Sun had set. He had the choice of standing down or continuing to fight for a fair share of future wealth for his people. His Korellian heritage would simply not allow him to spend the rest of his life deflecting abuse for leading his nation so badly. Those citizens wouldn’t remember they had conferred the name of Salamand the Wise upon him not so long ago. He frantically tried to find a way of limiting the carnage coming his way by contemplating a predetermined cease-fire. He hadn’t accounted for the utter ruthlessness in the execution of Meridia’s plan, or the unbridgeable gulf he had unwittingly gifted to Thule. He still believed everyone had a modicum of honour; it was only a case of finding the appropriate appeal.

 

  Chapter 21

  Meridia gave birth
to a son in Altocotl’s presence and they concurred on the choice of his name. It would be made public after the conflict was settled. The tactics Salamand faced were confusing. Aquades advanced from the southwest and Mitsuno from the north. They engaged artillery followed by chariots, and then halted. At first he thought this was a chivalrous gesture to allow him to claim the fallen. However, the advance wasn’t resumed until offensive units had been sent to widen the flanks, and even then they didn’t advance as far as they could have done. The range of the artillery was increased and inflicted more casualties. This repetitive sequence finally caused the retreating Salamand to grasp the implied intent, but not before the rabble which had been his devoutly loyal army began to desert in groups. The enemy had suffered no losses, and such one way attrition was senseless. Salamand had no option but to call a total retreat in order to regroup and round up as many deserters as he could. The following forces of Aquades and Mitsuno were in no hurry to pursue them, the point of which was to allow Salamand to run into his real enemy to the East. Thule’s tactics were not so sophisticated. He had also benefitted from Jaden’s recall of the same Kiozo designs when he was with Sendzai. He didn’t have access to gunpowder, and therefore cannon, but had fabricated many chariots. His front line was instructed to stand firm in defence of their land. Salamand wasn’t to know this, and discussed the situation with his Generals. It was unanimous – deserters had nowhere to go. He could have chosen this to be the predetermined cease-fire, but he was convinced that his earlier venomous verbal attack on Thule would have destroyed any hope of leniency. He had been sure his call for a temporary halt to hostilities would have been to the Loci, and followed by a diplomatic settlement. What was left of the tribal fighting force opted for the traditional glorious Korellian sacrifice. They relentlessly charged and impaled themselves on the stationary chariot pikes. The East Korellian forces were dumbstruck and couldn’t quite take in the reality that apart from women, children and invalids, the West Korellian nation was gone.

  Meridia’s instruction was for the western drive to remain at the last artillery discharge point. She wanted to espouse the message that no further aggression from Korellian forces would be tolerated. As Thule had effectively demonstrated exactly that, and inadvertently reflected Meridia’s proclamation by his stand against the self-inflicted elimination of Salamand’s army, it left only Quervos to state his intent. His belated shelter of neutrality wasn’t accepted as sincere. This gave Meridia and Thule the opportunity to occupy the territories gained until Quervos agreed to make these concessions legal and permanent – the price of a salutary lesson. The import of this wasn’t lost on Khaled. His forces had been in readiness behind the front line of Thule, but not needed. He saw the expansion of the Loci land as both a threat and an opportunity. When combined with the news of the canal, the technical potential, and the economic diversity, it painted an embryo destined to dominate. His intuition told him that they would ultimately not need what Dominia had to offer; they would gradually develop the expertise to be totally self-sufficient. It accelerated his interest in the overtures of Thule for closer cooperation – much closer. In addition, the pipedream of a single Korellian nation was a corpse awaiting the official funeral.

 

  It was convenient for Thule to respond to Khaled’s sudden interest while Meridia and Altocotl were still in Dominia. He was curious to see if she had discovered that Jaden was being ‘mentored’ by the Dominian leader. It was bad news. Meridia seemed have inbuilt radar when it came to matters of state. She had also noted that Khaled had no heir as yet; his wife was thought to be barren by his medics. He had stubbornly refused to have a surrogate child. This caused Meridia to pay more attention to the paragon of modesty and humility by the name of Thule. She enquired as to the nature of his visit and was given an unconvincing explanation that he was here to officially ratify the overland mineral route to Dominia. Khaled made it sound more plausible.

  “Now that the former Korellian strip between our nations is under Machoran control, the route could be extended directly to your territory.”

  Meridia reminded him that the mineral fields belonged to the Tor-Azen and although they all had a lot to gain from the distribution of these ores, the owners should be present when alterations to the supply were discussed.

  “They were made aware of our intention to create the canal, and you should really inform them of this proposal to add to the agreed routing. I could imagine that they would rather the extension delivered the product to their territory than ours, but I may be wrong.”

  Khaled agreed and said he would therefore confine the discussion to the principles of Dominian and East Korellian supply. He added the barb that if he and Thule could satisfy one another on this, they would be unlikely to need extra tonnage from the canal option. Meridia allowed the use of the word ‘tonnage’ percolate for a moment. It reinforced the request of Itzan of the increasing need for an industrial scale forge. She was convinced that the future economic war would involve only two nations. North Korellia accreted importance as a consequence of this logic. She decided to leave with her son, who now had a name – Erik. Altocotl needed more homeopathic treatment before he would return, and it was time for Meridia to catch up with Karim.

  *

  Quervos had to decide which way he would turn to extricate his nation from its predicament. He had avoided similar fate to Salamand, but his reputation had suffered with both his people and the other nations. On balance he felt that resuming relations with Thule would be very difficult, if not impossible. The advancing Loci hadn’t attacked or provoked North Korellia when they could have sought justification for doing so. His instinct was that a period of reflection was advisable, even though there was a preferred choice. One thing was certain. They could no longer delude themselves about the need for internal change. If this was not addressed their nominal bargaining value would decline further.

  *

  Karim had finalised the downward leg of the ski-lift apparatus to take controlled amounts from the ice wall stockpile to the ground. He headed for Machora as Ragna, and Meridia was reminded of what a phenomenal asset he could be, if only he could be trusted. His account of his observation of the development of the new order was incredibly accurate, and assimilated while finessing a project beyond present human capability. He offered his congratulations for the design and implementation of her spider’s web and asked, “What now?”

  After some time they chose to prioritise their help to Itzan in repairing, modifying, installing and interfacing the wind turbine. Karim acknowledged Itzan’s insistence that they had to construct a forge. It also fitted with Meridia’s suspicion that East Korellia would ultimately be absorbed by Dominia, and therefore the Loci should counter that by tackling the old chestnut of enticing the Tor-Azen to soften their resistance to pooling power.

  “We should build a forge which has capacity for both nations and allow Kanzaki’s people to witness the philanthropic nature of our techno-economic bloc.”

  Karim knew that she wasn’t suffering post-natal depression, and sent for Itzan and his shadow.

  *

  Thule listened carefully to Khaled’s reasoning on how he imagined the future to unfold. It was a clever way to highlight the advantages of closer ties between their nations without actually saying so. Most of it he couldn’t dispute – the aloofness of the Tor-Azen, the transparency of the original Machu being clouded by the opaqueness of Meridia’s Machorans, and their advantage of having the last Traveller to advise them. When Khaled added the unpredictability of Korellians, he hinted at the likelihood of Quervos being spun into Meridia’s web. Thule took issue with this and asked Khaled if it was appropriate to offer a history lesson. The response was positive.

  “In the immediate aftermath of the cataclysm our ancestors had nothing to contemplate other than how to look after their families. The identity of all nations around the planet was temporarily lost. It was only when the next generation came along and knew not
hing other than the world into which they were born, that society began to re-emerge. At that time there were but two old regions in what we now call the temperate zone, and they both decided to translate the original names into ones depicting hope. You must recall how the subsequent branching occurred. The western culture of Illia remained relatively unaffected until Korell divided. The part of Korell which is now Dominia pressed ahead with the desire to restore agricultural society, with its attendant need for laws, and punishment for breaking them. The part which became disaffected with such homogeneous demands in the new world, wanted to retain the nomadic culture enforced by the cataclysm. They moved on and gradually integrated with Illians. The term Korellians is testimony to this. The remaining pure Korell wanted to differentiate themselves from this nomadic way of life, and chose the name Dominia, which my grandfather said was to define the land, or in his words, dominion to which they laid claim. You do know which part of modern Korellia represents the breakaway Korell don’t you?”

  Khaled did have a sketchy picture in his mind of what Thule had outlined. History lessons had pretty low priority in advancing Dominian culture when he was a boy, so he accepted that the detail of Thule’s monologue may be correct. However, the question asked of him did require corroboration from his Elders, because he didn’t know the answer in precise terms of how or when, and Thule’s assertion could potentially become political dynamite.

  “No, I am afraid I do not know, but I am certain you will tell me.”

  Khaled’s eyes widened when the claim was fleshed out. As it unfolded, his mind kept returning to the unmistakable visual evidence to which he had never given a second thought. East Korellians were far closer in appearance to himself than to either North or West Korellians. He told Thule that he wanted to invite some of the Elders into this fascinating recapitulation of their brief post-cataclysmic history.

 
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