What If

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Re: What If

Postby Dumanum » Fri Sep 14, 2018 7:51 am

Day One - Salve, Citizen. Salve, Soldier.

It begins with a phone call in the dead of night.

“Salve, Citizen. The Republic requires your service once more.”

He tries not to rouse his slumbering wife, but she is awake by the time he hangs up; she’s heard the whole thing.

“You’re off to war, then?” through groggy and disoriented, she is visibly distressed. He’d warned her since their courtship that this day may come.

He nods in acknowledgement. He tells her he will be back in the evening; it is no lie, so far as he knows, and kisses her goodbye.

He is ordered to present himself in the town forum in muster kit: armed with his service rifle and one magazine, and in uniform. “Uniformed, with cloak of crimson,” the voice on the phone said.

Those words told him this was the real thing. You only wore the crimson cloak during war, or during a triumph. Otherwise you wore the white one. Pain in the ass to keep clean, that one was. The only times you wore the colored cloaks were for parades, or for religious ceremonies. Nobody was having a parade at this ungodly hour; he started to put two and two together. This was the real thing.

The Citizen was a man of some means, though perhaps not wealthy. He was a construction foreman for a developer in the nearby city of Aquae Tridentum, commuting from his village of Deva where his family had lived for 300 years. It paid good money and was a respectable profession. Aged 30, he owned his home, was married, and had two young children. The very model Citizen.

He lived near the forum; he’d walk, he decided. Perhaps he’d meet some of his comrades along the way. It was night, and so he muttered the appropriate words of exaltation toward Luna.

The streets of Deva were narrow and made of cobblestone, and wound round and about, following the contours of its hilly terrain. The buildings, hunched atop one another, were old; ancient even, made of sturdy whitestone with roofs of red clay shingles, though the modern windows and protruding stacks of metal showed they’d been renovated over the years. The streets, though narrow and with many nooks and alleys, were well lit and empty. This was a respectable town, one free of proles and ruffians, for such wretches had been banished from respectable towns with the coming of the Divine Ultor’s New Social Order. It was unseasonably cool even this late at night, though this was a blessing; in these canyonesque roads of stone, the dry Antarterian summers could quite nearly bake a man alive.

“Salve, Citizen,” a voice calls nearly too close behind him, followed by a violent clasp on the shoulder.

The Citizen turns to greet his friend, Irenaeus, clasping him on the shoulder just as violently and pulling one another in for an embrace.

“That bastard Abdullus is dead and the Praetani are busy having Quib cock inserted in ass, you just know the consul isn’t going to let such an opportunity go to waste!” the man bellowed. He’d said the same words not four hours ago, by the Citizen’s reckoning. His breath still stank of alcohol from the night’s drinking. No matter; surprise musters of Citizens were one case where sobriety was not required by law, for good Dumani Citizens could not be expected to be sober eternally. Still, it was perhaps just a bit sacrilegious to be drunk in uniform.

“This is it, brother! The big one!”

The two of them were Deva natives and had enlisted together, both serving in the Eighth Cohort of the Seventh Legion; artillerymen both, by trade. In their retirement as Citizens of the Primus Pilus, they were assigned to the Fourth Cohort of the Fifty-Third Legion. It was a special unit, the sort you had to volunteer for. They’d had to go through an extra three months of special indoc after they’d received their military diplomas and discharges to learn how to operate the war machines of Coh. IV-LIII. Big, nasty self-propelled mortars, the sort one used for cracking open serious fortifications. In the event of war with the Quaestarii, their unit would be responsible for reducing the barbarians’ fortresses, of which they had many. In the event of war, they were guaranteed to see action, even if they were detached from the legion at large.

Both men now energized by the presence of a friend practically skip down the winding roads. Along the way they pick up more stragglers: Kaeso, the baker; Narcissus, the vigilus; Musa, the banker. All men clad in soft caps and camouflage fatigues, blood red cloaks draped over their right hand shoulders with their freshly-oiled ACOMs slung over them. They slow to a march, subconsciously falling into step, though not formation. Even at this hour, the men grin ear to ear and laugh, feelings of dread forgotten. They were with their brother Citizens, and could not show even a sliver of weakness or doubt. Seeing one’s brother Citizens in good spirit invigorated the animus, even if one drew the conclusion that he may be faking it as much as one’s self. A strange thing.

Finally they arrive at the forum; a group of soldiers already waiting, milling about in small groups and chatting as loudly as the newcomers. The Citizen knows every one of these men by name, having spoken to each one at one point or another. They were all members of Deva’s centuria, and met weekly to advise the duumviri and deal with the various issues that arose in such a small village. One hundred and one men in all, de facto rulers of a village of over two thousand. They all had socii friends, for it was a strange man who kept exclusively the company of Citizens. All the same, they were an order unto themselves. The youngest of them was twenty-two, a Tesserarius fresh out of the Fourth Legion, and the oldest was eighty, Centurion Tiberius Drusus Caelsus, late of the Prime Cohort of the Third Legion. He had taught civics class to damned near everyone in the town under the age of sixty, and had served as duumvir for a time. He’d also taken the ears of six Varnians on Paralentum. That was the confirmed number, by the legion record; the old man, not one to boast, had hinted at a one much higher.

The group of newcomers first made their way toward the statue of Divi Ultor, which cast a grim, judging gaze upon the lot of them. There was one such monument in every municipium of good repute in the Republic. The people of Deva held a special pride in theirs, for it was said the Imperator Aeternus had stayed a night in the palace of the duumviri during the Great War.

The Citizens stood in line, and one by one stepped in front of the statue to offer the customary salute: arm straight and outstretched, palm parallel to the ground with fingers spread, and immediately snapped back to the grip of one’s weapon. An especially devout man may shout the words, “Ave Imperator!” with his salute; this was the case for every man tonight.

Other gods had other protocols when approaching their respective statues; typically, one prostrated one’s self before a God while making the appropriate prayers and invocations, but Ultor had made his regulations quite clear on his very deathbed. The story, one told to every Dumani child, went thusly: a priest of Divi Osvinus had kissed and wept at the feet of the Imperator, thinking him dead. “Stop that,” he’d bellowed, his tone of command still intact in spite of the cancer and age, “from where do you hail, priest?”

“From Sidonia, Imperator.” The priest had replied.

“Sidonia,” the Imperator considered, “And, tell me truthfully, Sidonian Priest, do you call yourself Dumanus?”

“I do,” replied the priest.

“Then stand tall and cease thy mewling, for your present conduct is that of a Vekh catamite and not becoming of the Dumani.”

The Imperator died minutes later, after several more rants on various other topics, and thus those born of Dumani parentage or with Dumani citizenship did not kneel before the statue of Divi Ultor, lest they forfeit their birthright before the Gods. The Dumani saluted to render the proper respect. Kneeling was for foreigners.

The proper respects to the Eternal Emperor rendered, the newcomers mingled with the others; the disparate groups merged until it was one bunch of boisterous men gleefully shouting at one another in the dead of night. Really, not unlike any good and proper family gathering. In this case, however, the ranking officers and NCOs, though still they mingle about and socialize with their brother citizens, hover about the edges of the group and personally greeted each man assigned to his personal charge. One by one, they disappear.

A horn sounds; instinctively the men snap to attention, even in their disarray. The duumviri, Herius Fulvius Gala and Sextus Fulvius Tutor, stand beside Ultor’s statue. To their right, a respectful step behind, is Centurion Gnaeus Fulvius Faustus, late of the Third Cohort of the First Legion.

Not centurion; citizen, the Citizen reminded himself, for once discharged all were equal unless elected to a position of power by one’s fellow Citizens. A grim fellow, one with more obvious Arteran blood by his blue eyes and blonde hair, the later presently concealed by a crested helm. The crest, made of dyed horsehair, horizontal, shoulder to shoulder, in the manner of a centurion of the Dumani Republic, was as red as his cloak. At his side, an officer’s spatha, worn on his left in accordance with regulation.

The second senior man, an Optio of the Second by the name of Comes, stands at the right of Faustus a respectful pace back, a plume of a few blood-red feathers protruding from the top of his helm. He wore an infantry NCO’s gladius, on his right. To his right is the Signifer of Neva, a former Signifer of the Fourth (a rare thing, a municipal signifer having held that same rank in the army), with the Municipal Signum: a large square banner with a diagonal spear of white halving an image of the God Apollo on the upper right, with the Lion of Ultor snarling on the lower left, both upon a field of azure.


The men fall in swift as can be before the standard; it is a bit sloppy, the Citizen thinks, but no so bad as one would expect with so many elder Citizens amongst them. They dress and cover without being commanded. As is tradition, in civil centurial parade formations, they form in the old style: the youngest and most able men, those the Primus Pilus, or First Spear, fall into the first ranks, known to tradition as the Hastati. Behind them, the middle aged men, still able to maintain proper fighting shape with enough motivation but with a bit more life experience, form the second group of ranks as the Principes. The final rank consist of the old men, or Triarii. As an old saying went, if it ever came to the Triarii, someone had well and truly fucked things up.

Of the duumviri, Tutor was always the one with the voice of command. He speaks:

“Salve, Citizens! Be advised: the hour is now the third of the Calends of August, with thirty-nine minutes in addition. By order of the Senate, all Citizens are henceforth recalled and are subject to Military Law. I thus cede command of this centuria to Centurion Gneaus Fulvius Faustus.”

Centurion, then.

The centurion and duumviri exchange salutes just as smartly as those granted Divi Ultor, and the former turns toward his charges.

“Salve, Soldiers. I am honored this early morning to oversee the muster of the Soldiery of the Municipium of Deva under the Consulship of Marbo and Marcellus, in sight of all the Gods and our honored ancestors.

“I suspect that all of you with half a brain have already guessed that we are mobilized for war against the Quaestarii. This I am at liberty to confirm. I am further at liberty, by authorization of the Consuls, and Senate and People of Dumanum, to confirm that at present, the Aeronautica and Exploratory Forces of the Senate and People of Dumanum are annihilating the air and ground forces of the barbarian Quaestarii in preparation of our invasion of the Nampataland.”

Even the cold bastard as he is, Faustus dare not deny the men their regulation ten seconds’ cheering. And loudly do they cheer.

“Several of you, I suspect by your unit assignments, will soon engage the barbarian scum directly in battle. You know who you are. To you, brothers, I pledge a fine bull to be sacrificed upon the altar of Mavors this day at the twelfth hour, in sight of Sol Invictus, and a seat at my family’s table forevermore upon your victorious return!”

Twenty seconds’ cheering is permitted this time, in excess of the regulations.

“By my count, each man of the Second and Third Spears has been previously recalled and inducted into the Order of Evocati, and not a single man of the First Spear has. Correct me if I’m wrong?”


“Very well. Men of the First Spear, fall in on me. The rest, stand at ease and await further instruction.”

The first ranks, comprising the young me of the Primus Pilus, fall in behind the centurion, himself the senior man of that same spear. The centurion issues his commands directly: they face about and march toward the Temple of Mavors, where they halt and form a single file line.

It is perhaps not the most imposing structure on the forum- that distinction belongs to the Palace of the Duumviri, the symbol of the state’s control. It may even be the most humble of them all: a simple stone slab held aloft by a series of columns, simple brick walls shielding the innards from the element and a tall stone door sealing it shut. It does not seem a big building, but the Citizen knows this is deceptive, for his has previously sacrificed therein.

The men chat as they stand in line; the centurion has gone away, so who gives a fuck now? All will observe proper decorum when they enter Mavors’ home, but in the mean time…

“And they don’t even worship a God? Can you imagine such arrogance?!”

“They worship ‘providence’ or some-such nonsense, think themselves philosophers…pah.”

“Even the fucking Oswinites have the decency to honor at least ONE bloody god! Even if he is a mere divine…”

“Oi! You take that back and give appropriate respects to Divi Osvinus! I’ll not have your blasphemous tongue giving the lot of us cancer…or gonorrhea or what have you…”

“Apologies, brother…”

“…not that the Oswinites aren’t a ripe bunch of cunts! Worshipping a single God?! Pah!”

The Citizen is next in line. He hears clearly the ritual within the temple:

“Name yourself,” the priest growls.

“Titus…Fulvius…Aemelianus…Irenaeus!” responds Irenaeus, beyond the shut door.

“Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Irenaeus. We know you. You have previously pledged your life and soul to Mavors, and have fulfilled your previous oath, and these are thus yours to give freely once again. This pleases the God of War.

“Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Irenaeus: the Dumani Republic calls upon you for service once more, and the blessings of the War God are a necessity to the well-being of the State. Mavors will bless you, and thus the State, by proxy, should you grant him the offering of your mortal life and immortal soul, for the duration of this campaign- the later of which he may hold for eternity should he claim it in the course of such campaign- and those of this beast before us for eternity. Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Irenaeus, do you offer to Mavors, God of War, these sacrifices?”

“I do.”

“Very well.”

A scream, almost human, but not; the Citizen knows this scream well, for it is that of a sacrificial goat who has learned of his fate the hard way. Strange, how they sound nearly human when the killer fucks it up. Idiot acolyte was either drunk or merely inexperienced when he made the cut, Gods damn him. Poor animal has to bleed out slow, now.

A smarter, kinder priest silences the screaming with a more well-placed cut.

“Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Irenaeus. You are pledged to fight until the enemy is slain or enslaved, until his lands are conquered, until his women are your women, or, failing that, until you yourself are slain in the attempt. In Mavors’ name, you are pledged to fight ‘till death, and to spend all your strength slaying the enemies of the Dumani Republic. Mavors: I invoke thee, give this man, Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Irenaeus, scion of the noble and ancient House Fulvii of uncountable renown; of the Aemiliani Fulvii, adopted of that House, who served honorably the Princepes of Aquae Tridentum, Senators of the Dumani Republic, in the Wars against the savage Ulani; of the Aemiliani Fulvii Ienaeaei who fought and died smashing the barbarian Quaestarii invaders at Mons Argenta under the banner of the Eternal Emperor, the Divine Maximus Ultor!

“Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Irenaeus, grandson of Centurion Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Irenaeus, who served honorably in the Fourth Legion in their subjugation of the Motappae; son of Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Irenaeus, also of the Fourth, in their indomitable defense of the Republic. Greatnephew of Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Quintilius, who fought for the Republic in frozen Wolohannia; nephew of Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Quintilius, who also served the Fourth in their indomitable defense of the Republic. Mavors, give this man your shield, that he may be invincible. Give him your sword, that he may cleave his enemies in twain.

“Rise, now, Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Irenaeus, third of that name, and be named Evocatus.”

The Citizen sees his brother walk out those doors, a T of goat’s blood smeared upon his face, looking both grim and proud. They nod to one another; it is the Citizen’s turn, and he honors himself and his family before Mavors.

The men of the First Spear, Evocati all, return heads held high to the formation, and stand before their centurion.

“Evocati of the Second Cohort, Fiftieth Legion: you will board bus one. Evocati of the First Cohort, Fifty-Third Legion: you will board bus two…

“Evocati of the Fourth Cohort, Fifty-Third Legion, you will board bus six.”

“Evocati of the First Spear. It is my honor and privilege to have led you into the Evocati Order. All of us of this Spear shall soon march east toward the Nampataland, in relief of our younger brothers, to engage the barbarian horde in glorious battle. Underestimate them not, my brothers, for they are a fierce and intelligent foe; rather, give forth all of your Dumani strength and honor to the task, for against those no foe may stand. This is not a platitude, this is fact.

“Remember, the honor of your ancient families, having fought many countless foes and brought much glory to your names, remember that you now may bring even greater glories to your name! Remember, your wives, your children, remember that this war is on their behalf, for where next would the savages send their armies if not here?

“If you remember nothing else, remember this: Our Dumani Gods are watching! Be SURE! They are NOT! ASHAMED!”

Thirty seconds cheering, far in excess of regulation, and the centurion draws his blade, pointing it first toward the statue of Divi Ultor with a sutble bow of the head, and then toward the heavens.

It ends, blade glistening in Luna’s light, and he calls the ancient battlecry:







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Re: What If

Postby Praetonia » Sat Sep 29, 2018 10:09 am

Upheaval in the Realm


your armed forces number 21,378 officers and other ranks, and fight at your command for the honour and glory of the Commonwealth in Quiberon and on the Subcontinent.

This past month 2,302 officers and other ranks in your service fell or were reported missing in the course of their duties.

This past month the 1st Battalion of your Life Guard of Horse was commended by Marshal of the Rajamandala Smyth for its conduct in your service at the Battle of the Frontier.

This past month the standard of the 1st Battalion of the Life Guard of Horse was lost in action to the Enemy at the Battle of the Frontier.

The Arboreal Committee of the Committee for Parks' Maintenance has decided, at any necessary cost, to attempt to recover this standard, or else to avenge its loss by the capture of a standard of the Enemy. The Arboreal Committee had therefore requested the relocation of all your forces from the Questerian Subcontinent to the Subcontinent. This request was refused.

By unique and ancient privilege, therefore, the Arboreal Committee has given notice that the Committee for Parks' Maintenance will withdraw henceforth from the General Association of the Estates of the Realm, and, renouncing all historical and customary deference and allegiance, will now determine its own policy in all matters in peace and war.

The Committee for Parks' Maintenance is renamed the Committee for War and Parks' Maintenance.

The Arboreal Committee is renamed the War Committee.

General Sir Inigo Pellew is appointed Marshal of the Committee for War and Parks' Maintenance in supreme command of all its forces wherever they may be found in the universe.

The establishment strength of the Committee for War and Parks' Maintenance is increased to 50,000 officers and other ranks organised in two divisions.

The Committee has purchased the steamers BONCHANCE and CAROLINE, which constitute now the Navy of the Committee for War and Parks' Maintenance. They are renamed GOOD PROVIDENCE and SUCCESS.

Trusting that this report will meet with your approval, I remain,


your obedient servant,



"My name has been Thomas Marbury," the speech was broadcast in all his settlements and factories on the loudspeakers, but also on the radio and the television, as far as it could be broadcast, as far as his influence could have it be broadcast, as far as the arm of the Nampataland Expeditionary Company reached.

"and I came to this country in 2013. A few short years ago. I accompanied the armies of the Estates-General. I did so because when every man here was selling Questers, I was buying Questers. I came to this country because I believe in this country. And more than that, which any man can say, I put my heart and my soul, and my fortune, behind this country, when one man in a thousand - one man in a million - thought there was any future in this country at all. Today, this country is my home. My only home.

"In the past week, we have faced a dreadful attack, unexpected and unprovoked. But do not let us say that it is unwelcome! We have faced worse than this, and we will carry through. In a strong and prosperous land, every enemy is welcome - let him feel our welcome if he dares.

"From this day onwards, there is no more Nampataland Expeditionary Company. There is only the Maharajah Marbury, and those men and domains who have pledged to him - to me - their allegiance. The expedition is over; I am here to stay. And today, the purpose of my realm is no longer business: it is war.

"I have already faced a powerful enemy, with nothing but the strength of my mind, and my faith in Providence to protect and strengthen this country, and I have carried through. Follow me now, and together we will carry through."


The cameras flashed. The young Raja. The young Raja and his nobles. The young Raja and his troops. And in every shot, not quite drawing the attention away, was Smyth, off to one side but towering over them all. That was their message to the world: the Western Commonwealth had lost its paramount leader, but it still had great men, still had experienced generals, still had experienced troops, still commanded the loyalty of them all, and there would come another to fill the boots of Abdul. There is fight in us yet.

In the wings, just out of shot, Smyth's Tairendian bodyguard watched without emotion. In Tairendia, Smyth's Old Faithful from the Mutiny watched over the local officials. And the concessions, which had been practically his domain since he first set foot on them, looked after themselves, thank you very much. Now the Estates-General had begun fraying at the seams. In this man, the whole Commonwealth was joined.

The whole world was in chaos, but he looked out placidly, staunchly, beneath the visor of his peaked cap. The cap of a marshal he had put on just before Panchkula, and never taken off.
<leis2> Otoh i am also an antiquarian so im legitimately interested in how purple dye was made in sidon
<leis2> (using mollusks)

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Re: What If

Postby Questers » Mon Oct 08, 2018 11:25 pm

Day Nine – On one knee

Wilson, having arrived at the Kuala Pahang airport, thought back to the last time he was here.

It was twelve days before the war. He strolled outside and the most magnificent woman he had ever seen was standing by the taxi rank.

She turned upon him, a total stranger, and announced: “Aha – an officer of the Marshalcy. That shall do. I am late to my club, my cell has been stolen, and my escort is missing. You have no idea how long I have been waiting for a suitable person. You shall escort me to my club.” She was tall, Wilson remembered, or maybe they were just very tall heels. Grey dress – vogue, supposedly.

For some reason, he did not protest. His own escort car had arrived, and he opened the door for her.

She immediately set about her make-up bag. “So, Colonel – what are you doing in KP?”

“I’m seeing His Majesty,” he said.

The woman had a very charming laugh. She used it.

“There’s lots of military chaps around now. Everyone thinks there’s going to be a war. Well, there won’t be.”


“Ah, nope. Shelby said so in his book. Well, Shelby said many things. A lot of things about demography, popular culture, political economy… just fascinating. I don’t suppose you have time to read much, Colonel?”

Don’t say I mostly read train station penny novels. Don’t say it. Don’t say it.

“I’m not much of a reader,” Wilson chortled.

“No.” She began applying lipstick. “Shelby’s book is all the talk of the Pahang tea parlours. Though, I don’t expect you’ve much time for tea parlours, either.”

“No-oo,” Wilson said. “I like my chai under an open sky, madam.”

“How romantic. The Yeomanry can be so romantic. Colonel, are you a Hussar, or a Lancer? I say, if you’re a Hussar, I’d have been better off taking a lift with a chai wallah.” She exercised the laugh again. “They’re frightful people, so I have heard.”

“I’m a Staff Officer. But I was a Dragoon.”

Dragoon didn’t seem to interest her much. She changed topic. “Yes, Army uniforms are very romantic. In vogue now, don’t you know. Still – there won’t be a war. And if there is, I expect you boys will show them what for and send them packing.”

“That depends who they are, madam.”

“Well, Songia, obviously.”

“I rather think the war will be with Dumanum.”

“What tosh. We have been at peace for more than one hundred years. I am friends with the Plenipotentiate’s daughter and every other Dumani merchant and official in this city and I tell you, there is no chance of war, not one.”

They stopped outside the club. The woman had given him her card – it was just a name and a number in the Society Pages.

Now he was back, Wilson thought about looking her up again. She was beautiful, and more importantly, he was right, and she, and bloody Shelby, and every other person in the Society Pages were wrong.

Wilson got to the palace and went through a labyrinth of underground bunkers. And there he met the Boy. The Boy Who Would Be King.

The room was covered in maps, military units, advisors, all the instruments of strategy. The boy wore simple clothing, but they had already made him a King, in their minds, by giving him the over-sized epaulettes of his father and the dark green uniform. Abdul’s Chief of Household Troops, his Temenggung, was notably absent. Wilson saluted, and bowed.

“Field Marshal Your Highness…” – and the list of titles – “Defender of the Faiths. Providence brings me to you.”

An advisor whispered. “Colonel Wilson is from Marshal Smyth’s staff. He has come for you to sign the document confirming Smyth’s promotion to Marshal of the Armies."

“Lots of people have told me that Smyth’s plan is no good, Colonel. Lots of people have told me there are other options. I look at these maps, and … It’s a bit much for me, to be honest.” Silence. “What do you think Colonel?”

“Your Highness. You have two options. One, surrender now, while we are in a position of relative strength for negotiation. The enemy has hit us hard, but most of our army is still intact, and we can get away with minor concessions. Two, draw our forces into the interior, where the enemy’s airpower can’t touch them, let the enemy give chase, then hit the dushman back when he’s far from his supply chains. That is Marshal Smyth’s plan.”

“There are people in my Household who have told me the better thing to do is to fight it out on the west bank of the Nampata and trust in Providence to deliver a miracle.”

“Your Highness, those people are stupid. Not only are they stupid, they are liars. It is the opinion of the Frontier Force’s Headquarters that these people mean to inflict upon our country a great defeat in order to unseat you.”

“Nobody was making the accusation of sedition,” an advisor, a General in fact, spoke up. “Colonel.”

“I was making the accusation, Sir.” Rumbles in the staff. Wilson felt his heels dig into the concrete. The Young King was silent. “Your Highness, you may of course order the Force to stick it out and fight. It will do so, gallantly. And gallantly it will be encircled, cut to pieces from the air, and destroyed piecemeal.”

"Smyth is a photo-poser!" one General shouted. "Bloody man takes photos and never thinks. He shares no details with us, with nobody. He is rash, and a fake."

Wilson nearly rose to the challenge, but he was stayed.

“Colonel,” the King said. “Marshal Smyth is a favourite of mine. He is a famous figure. But we do not believe that he is the man for this situation. We will shortly draft an order for his replacement. You may inform him of such. Thank you, Colonel.”

Wilson left the Palace and stepped into his escort car. Hands trembling, upper lip still – and then wobbling – and then into a full snarl, he punched the seat of the car, once, twice, thrice.

“Are you okay, Sir?” the Gurkha in the drivers seat.

“I’m fine. The Commonwealth will not be so lucky,” the Colonel said.

“These things have a way of sorting themselves out, Sir. Trust in Providence.”

“Can we go?”

“I’m afraid not Sir. Some of my friends are outside the palace gates.”

Colonel Wilson looked outside. “What the hell?” A stream of Gurkhas, the ones with blue trousers and khaki shirts, came pouring into the palace gates. The guards simply stood and watched. The soldiers – a battalion at least, took up various positions around the courtyard. A procession of land rovers drove slowly into the ancient compound, around the big fountain, and came to a halt.

“You may step outside the car, Colonel,” the Gurkha said. So he did.

A woman and a man stepped out of the lead land rover. The man was tall. The Colonel recognised him; Abdul’s own Chief of Household. You don’t miss a uniform like that. The woman, smaller, even dainty looking with her shawl – but with a determined machine gait. She –

It was the Queen. The Boy’s Mother. Abdul’s Queen. Wilson dropped to a knee.

“Your Excellency.”

“Stand,” she said. Wilson stood and then saluted the Temenggung. He summoned as much elan as he had left for this simple task.

“We were waiting for this moment. One of our people on the inside told us what happened. With all due respect, Colonel, we knew this would happen.”

A Captain ran up to them. “Sir, the guards have turned over the entrance to the bunker complex. We’re going in now.”

“Make it quick,” the Temenggung said. “Now, Colonel Wilson. Give me that paper. We’ll have it signed for you in no time.” Wilson handed it over.

“Snakes began to surround my son at the moment of my husband’s death,” the Queen said. “They poison him with their ideas. It is clear that they intend to dethrone him. It is rather too late for that now, I think. When they return with my son, we shall sign that appointment, and put you on a plane back to the front. I should like you to give my regards to the Marshal. I have some gifts to send him. Chocolates, mostly. Do you care for chocolate, Colonel Wilson?”

“Your Excellency.”

The Queen ordered an aide to fetch a box of chocolates. On the far side of the courtyard, a stream of men emerged from a building, their hands in the air. Wilson took a chocolate. It was double wrapped. The plotters were thrown into a wagon. Wilson ate the dark chocolate. There was orange inside. It was bitter, but it was sweet.


Fort Walker was on the top of a good hill, with good sight for miles around. To the west, big clouds billowed, floating over the land, and from the observation towers, you could see their shadows flicker across the rice fields. Behind the fort was the river, the big green one, the Nampata, source of all life for hundreds of miles around. And there was the Walker Bridge.

The garrison commander watched the bridge explode. It had been built in 1922. Now it was gone, in a flash. The last men had finished crossing over just half an hour ago. The last, perhaps, of the Frontier Force on the west bank of the Nampata. Those who now remained were simple, doomed stragglers, or the occupants of the mighty half a hundred redoubts that straddle this land.

At first, in some parts, the redoubts could be ignored, but in others, their guns covered one another and covered any reasonable crossing of the river, so they would have to be reduced. Those who had been selected to stay in the forts had had no idea of what was coming when they had arrived, weeks or months ago. It was just pure bad luck, for them. In time, their names would be etched on sandstone in the towns and cities of Questers, for the wind and the rain to cut away at, until finally – their last memory, the last and final picture of their fleeting lives, were gone.

Sure, that would happen. But in the meantime, there was duty.
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Re: What If

Postby Praetonia » Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:19 am

"They cannot just leave."

"They can, sir. It is in the contract."

Fox sighed. Providence, it seemed, had never shined her light upon him. Why not? Had he not done his duty, as his father has told him, as his school had told him, as his brother officers had told him? The Committee for Parks' Maintenance. The truest of the true. They hadn't left the Estates-General. He had driven them out. He may have broken no law, he may have done nothing but his duty. But his name would live in infamy. It was damned beyond saving. The concrete walls quivered. There was no reason for his bad luck. No reason at all.

"Can we not prevent them. It is an emergency. It is a most extraordinary situation. By force, if need be," he already sounded crumpled, defeated.

"Not legally, sir," the young captain looked almost apologetic. "Actually it was tried, in a sense. A note was sent. A deniable note, you understand. The regiment concerned spiked its guns."

Fox took off his marshal's cap. "That will be all."

The captain snapped to attention. "Sir!"

He was alone now. He had, he supposed, always been alone. He had been sidelined by that braying ass in the Yehud, when who was he? No one. A man with no accomplishments. With no name. With nothing marking him out as special. Plucked by Providence from obscurity to outshine him. And that was enough, he supposed, to win him command in the Mutiny. What did he bring to the Cause? A mad plan, a bold plan, a plan with no chance of success. A plan that had succeeded. With mud on his boots and a loaded revolver on his belt he shook hands with kings on the front lines of famous battles while Fox - dutiful, loyal Fox - sat at home and looked on, training an army that was given over to the braying ass as soon as it was ready to fight. And the braying ass drove that army to Jesselton. Who couldn't drive half a million men across an ungarrisoned front? Only a hero could do it. Because if you did it, you were a hero. You were there. And Fox was not.

That would have been enough. He had implored Providence every day, that it would be enough. He had fixed his mind on what he knew was right: that the salvation of the Commonwealth lay in the East. Now, his army was engaged, men were dying by the thousands every day, he had been successful in every scheme of internal politics, but there was no great breakthrough. No glorious victory. Providence winked at him, and turned her back once again. The braying ass was right - that is all the newspapers would print: Smyth was right - about his Westward schemes. Dumanum was the true enemy. Prekovy was a distraction. And the braying ass, not satisfied as king of an occidental state, had pulled himself out of his modest retirement to rescue the Commonwealth once again. Fox was the villain. Even Parks' Maintenance says so. Fox and the Protector say, "to the East!", but Smyth is in the West. We are the truest of the true - we follow Smyth.

He bent back the felt lining of the inside of cap. A photograph of his wife. He lay it down on the table. Would even she forgive him? There was no choice now. He reached for his revolver.
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Re: What If

Postby satilisu » Tue Oct 09, 2018 5:12 am


On the morning of August Twentieth, MTUMBE NGOUBE, Coroporal of the 3/7 KAGNEW VOLUNTEERS, acquitted himself in a manner glorifying PROVIDENCE in the face of the enemy. His platoon having come under intense and accurate fire from multiple concealed enemy machine-guns at close range, Corporal NGOUBE exposed himself to accurate enemy gunfire, and moved the bodies of six dead to an evacuation area. Then seeing that the enemy had redoubled his attacks, Corporal NGOUBE personally conducted a counterattack upon multiple enemy firing positions. Moving without cover and under constant enemy machine-gun fire, Corproal NGOUBE advanced on the first position, destroying it with rifle fire. Immediately suffering a greivous wound in the abdomen from an enemy machine-gun twenty yards distant, Corporal NGOUBE advanced on the second position, where in preparation of a hand grenade his right forearm was severed by enemy fire. Despite suffering two mortal wounds, Corporal NGOUBE used his remaining arm to throw both his arm and the bomb into the enemy firing position, destroying it and its occupants. The enemy having been shaken, Corporal NGOUBE mustered the last of his strength to close unseen on an enemy armored vehicle, placing a bomb down an open hatch. Several seconds later, Corporal NGOUBE then suffered his most mortal wounds as his body was entirely destroyed in the explosion. His actions caused the enemy to cease their wicked attacks, allowing his platoon to evacuate without further loss of life.

Corporal MTUMBE NGOUBE has acted with righteousness and steel beyond the expectation of his regiment and of PROVIDENCE. Corporal MTUMBE NGOUBE is now and forever an HONORED KNIGHT OF AXUM and shall be accorded the appropriate privilege and all deference owed by ancient custom.



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Re: What If

Postby Questers » Wed Nov 07, 2018 3:51 pm

Day 15 - The Authority

Wilson learned the value of loyalty by becoming the youngest Major-General in the Commonwealth and the first person to jump three ranks in one day since the Mutiny.

Wilson learned also that the higher you rose, the less simple things became. Being a Colonel, you could get away with almost anything, but now he had a sense that it was no longer the thing to do to frequent the rum bars of Nampatabad, to rise late in the day and sleep even later, and generally be a chap about town.

Now he felt, quite strongly, and with nobody telling him, that he had to find a wife of some pedigree and create children who would be also of some pedigree. Major-General is a serious height, Smyth had told him, and with those five words given him five hundred.

His latest promotion also was probably a sign of the trust placed in him by the Powers That Be to carry out this mission.

And of course, when people peeked inside the flat green land rover he was driving, marked only with FRONTIER FORCE on the side, they saw a Major-General driving, and they thought – it must be some pretty big fellows inside to be driven about by a Major-General.

The Land Rover cut its way through the Nampataland, alone on the long pikes. These roads, once life lines, were now empty. Finally, through defeat upon defeat over two weeks, the country had been shocked into action. The roads, the railways, the airports, all closed, all directed to one purpose: the defence of the realm.

So it was for this purpose that Wilson drove three men through every road on the Nampataland. Trains and aeroplanes were too dangerous, Smyth had said. We can’t afford to lose these people.

Still, that explanation had not stayed them. No doubt more smoke and mirrors from the Marshal, they had simply said. They did not enjoy the views, the wide paddy fields, the great muddy rivers, the mountains formed ten hundred thousand years ago looming over the horizon, flat white clouds drifting down to the earthly plate. People generally did not enjoy the Nampataland. Wilson had spent the better part of his life there. He knew its beauty.

They asked again, many times. Why is the Marshal himself not here to see us? How is it that he has sent a Major-General?

He is too busy, Wilson said, directing the war that you say is a mere border conflict. Yes, he knew, he had been chosen for this job for more than his loyalty. His staying power, his tongue, his irresistible force of will – these would be useful tools.

On the eastern bank of the Nampata, they passed troops, lagered or in barracked, and some of them looked as if they had had the hell beaten out of them. One of the men did no more than shrug. I saw the same in ninety-seven, he said, and you know what happened there.

This is not ninety-seven, Wilson said.

He had spent hours explaining to them. The dushman is here in force. His puppets have razed Pashtostan to the ground. The Dushman’s advanced units poke at the western bank of the Nampata, like a woman dipping her toes into the pool. Where he reigns, the law does not. This is not a battle between two armies in a boxing ring. This is more than that.

They did not listen.

They drove further up, until the men began to worry for their safety. The militias on the roads had long been replaced by heavy gear, green tanks and batteries of white anti aircraft missiles. They could see helicopters, long lines of military trucks, and here and there the wreckage of battle, the destroyed planes and torn up ground. And as they got closer, they saw more of it.

The hill they drove up to had a long view. And there they departed, Wilson greeting the Sikh Fusiliers in their shallow trenches. Their officers passed over their binoculars, but they were not needed. The whole of the land ahead of them was covered in thick smoke. Here and there, the smoke receded, to see the life of the battle.

A string of hills, the perforated concrete of their bunkers and the twisted steel supports open to the sky, long lines of trenches and torn up grass and blockhouses and everything else. They could not see the gun emplacements built into the western faces of those hills, but — “this is…” one of them said.

“Yes,” Wilson said, “This is the Shahagar Redoubt. Was the Shahagar Redoubt.” In the distance, then, a blast, one more long-range gun firing off aimlessly. She did not find her mark. “Was, I mean, the Shahagar Redoubt.”

“The Dumani have carried it?”

“Yes, they have carried it.”

“There appears to be resistance.” Another gun. The small-bore gunfire began to rise up in crescendo, then descended again.

“There is of course still resistance. We spent nearly two squadrons of jets trying to support this place. This fort is the key to Nampatabad. The dushman knows we do not want to abandon the ancient city or its command headquarters. Our chaps in this fortress fought like lions.”

“Do the People know what has happened here?”

“Not yet. But it is only a matter of time until the enemy puts out a press release.”

“Providence Shakes Us,” one of them said – his stomach weak from two days of travel, he nearly fell, and with his portly shape would have rolled down the hill; in the event, three Sikh Fusiliers caught him and helped him up.

“You are the most famous and beloved Justices in this country,” Wilson said. “The King has already spoken of what has happened on the front. But it is you who can persuade the People. Those who listen also follow. Those who speak, well, they can lead. If the country’s Magistrates, who speak to our people about Justice, can not speak, then they can not lead…”

They were silent. “We are concerned, General, that what has happened here is not a military disaster, that the situation can be recovered, and that the Marshal desires us to declare a holy war in order to put in motion his own plans.”

“Look at the men around you,” Wilson said. “If Marshal Smyth ordered them down that hill with bayonets fixed, they would do it, with tears in their eyes and with the scream from their lips. But if you told them that it was Just and Right to put their own children to the sword, they would do it. And they would likely do it without tears in their eyes and without a scream on their lips, and you know that.”

“We will need time,” the tallest one said, his moustache shaking. “We need time to come to a reasoned conclusion. This matter concerns the whole order of the Commonwealth. Complex laws govern our country, General. To up-end them for this… Well, we have to consult. We have to decide. Not you.”

“Then you will stay here in Nampatabad to consult, and you will continue to stay there to consult while the dushman knocks on the door, or will you return to Kuala Pahang and consult there?”

“Nobody gave you the authority to shame us, General!”

Without thinking, Wilson grabbed one by the shoulder, then realized he had made a terrible mistake. In the split moment where had to choose to back off, to prostate himself and say a thousand sorries, or hold his ground and force the moment, he knew why Smyth had chosen him for this job. He held his grip.

“That!” he said, pointing towards Shahagar, more smoke now curling from her blockhouses, “That shames you.”

“Unhand me, General.”

“Lead me, and I shall unhand you.”

Silence. The portly one spoke up. “Great magistrates have made emergency decisions before…”
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Re: What If

Postby Praetonia » Fri Nov 16, 2018 3:52 am

Dear father,

I hope you are well and that life in peace pleases you. I am well enough.

Things are very strange here. I am not sure I would get used to it if I lived here for a hundred years. I am not talking about the division, which is familiar enough, but we have been billeted often and seen less of one another than we may have liked. The whole mode of life is very different. The locals have a very different outlook than we westerners. We may all be fighting for one Law but I wonder sometimes if we are truly one Nation.

Let me tell you a story that may illustrate the point. We were walking down the High Street when a nondescript man approached us and asked us why we were not wearing our hats. We replied that we did not care to. To which he responded that, in Whitehaven, every gentleman must wear a hat when out of doors, that it is an offence not to, a damage to the community, and that if a Whitehaven man did not do so the local Wrangler - jurist as they call it - could make him pay ten ounces toward the Town Fair Fund. I said that this was highly irregular but that we did not wish to give offence, and that we would go to our barracks and return with our hats, and that we hoped he would forgive our ignorance of his local customs.

He was most taken aback by this and tripped over himself apologising, saying that he himself did not intend to inform the Wrangler but that he was only worried that some other Whitehaven man might do so, and that we should be careful. He offered to make peace by buying us drinks in the local pub, an offer which we were only too happy to accept. He bought us a round of "Whitehavener Ale: Proudly Brewed in Whitehaven", indeed the only drink on tap other than Whitehavener Cider. Several more rounds were bought and I lost track of our "friend", but got talking to a elderly local gent who informed me that he was nothing of the sort. "The locals, you see," he eventually explained, apparently without bitterness, "may enter the
pub. This is merely the outer bar or guest bar." His family, he said, had arrived in Whitehaven from Taverstock in the 18th century.

I did not press the point but some time later, I feel that it was not long, our old friend reappeared and told us that, as we were soldiers for the Great Cause, we had been invited to join another party. We stumbled toward a very unpretentious door. The elderly man did not join us. On the other side was, well, I can scarcely describe it, for it was not the office of a Dounreay banker, in several places it indeed was grotty if not structurally unsound, but it was filled with a comfort I can scarcely describe, and ornamented with wonders that would credit many a well-known state. Mounted above the bar was a crown. Please do not misunderstand me: it was a true crown of precious metal. I inquired about it. I was told that it was part of the state regalia of the emperors. "It was won is battle by Whitehaven men."

The man who recounted this short sentence did not think it was worth much further explanation, and began talking to me about the local cricket team. I would like to say that they were all stuffy old crones but it was not the case at all. The average age was about 35, they had drunk rather more than we had, and it showed. They loved two things: Whitehaven and cricket. Oh, and the war, which they thought was ill-conceived but still utterly marvelous, and everyone had a story of a brother or a son or a father who was fighting in it, which he or she would dangle in front of a man more to judge the reaction than to achieve any particular result.

Perhaps I am just a homebody, and I have no idea what Cockaygne or, Providence protect me, Questers has in store. But Senland scares the hell out of me.

Your loving son,

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Re: What If

Postby Praetonia » Thu Nov 22, 2018 6:14 am

Marshal Smyth took up his binoculars. He could see Shahagar.

"Sir, you should withdraw," the cameras captured it. He did not seem to notice.

"No," he replied, "Providence will not suffer me to fall." He spoke with an otherworldly voice. He was not talking to a man. He was narrating to God.

"We will enter this place once again," he said. Land Rovers, horses and bayonets gathered around him. "It is our place. Even the Dumani worship Nemesis; she is an instantiation of Providence. She will punish them severely."

He put down his binoculars.

"All the Commonwealth is here," the cameras panned to his Tairendian troops, his Sikh troops, his Malay troops, his Praetannic troops. "All the Commonwealth will unite to expel this barbarian."

He replaced the binoculars in their leather case. That was that. There was nothing more to say.

Every day, regiment after regiment moved up. Most came from Questers. Some came from the Far West. A few came from his homeland, the old country. More and more.
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Re: What If

Postby Srf » Tue Dec 18, 2018 4:10 pm

Day 15 - a very Crataean Invasion

Jadambaa splashed another handful of opaque blue Nampata water onto his face and breathed out sharply. It was freezing cold, and full of silt to the extent that it was barely worth washing at all. He looked up at the sky, where the morning sun was just breaking over the mountain peaks to the east. Back home in the high Amayalis, his parents would probably washing with water that looked and smelled just like this... No. That was water from Om. It was holy. This was barbaric Dharmat water. If the Dharmans had real gods, they would poison the water to make him and his men ill.

Jadambaa rose from his squat by the water's edge and climbed back up the riverbank, easily navigating the sun-bleached boulders even in his flip-flops. His rifle banged against his thighs as he pulled himself up onto the flat, where more soldiers were clustered around trying to catch a chicken under one of the rocket launchers.

"Stop that!" Jadambaa shouted, pulling his field cap onto his head. "Firing positions!"

The men dispersed, muttering, to their assigned vehicles. Jadambaa walked past them and further up the hill, where a bivouac nestled into the rocks housed his spotting team and deputy. He sat beside them and motioned ahead. "Is that it?"

Before them the Pashtostan mountains opened out into the vast, empty Nampataland plain. The rich blue of the river cut through the middle, separating their Dumani allies to the west and the Questarian dollar-bandit armies to the east. In the distance a stain of black and grey buildings, sharply contrasted against the lush green terrain, was haphazardly spread along the eastern bank.

"Yes," replied the deputy, "That is Mardan city. We are ranged in and our airborne forces in Mansehra are prepared to cross the river on command. They have regular formations down in the valley to support them".

"Alright" Jadambaa replied, pulling a pair of headphones from the communal bowl on the floor and slipping them onto his head. In that case you may fire when ready".

Nobody thought twice as their Dumani-built multiple rocket launchers and tube artillery pounded Mardan from up high in the mountains, shattering buildings and spewing acrid black smoke into the sky. Most of the men had brothers, sisters, parents, uncles in Vorga - some had lost them in the cowardly Questarian aerial bombardment of the capital. People were wondering why their lost ones had not been avenged, the aggressor punished for his transgression. Was the government weak? Did their soldiers have it in them to fight this great and terrible war?

It would be the height of dishonour not only to their families and tribes, but to the nation, to show restraint, Jadambaa reminded himself as he peered through field binoculars at their target. Another five storey building collapsed into dust. Yes, it would be a great shame upon them all.

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