The Iolanta Crisis [OPEN]

Pikabo

Makopa/Zhen
Discord
pikabo8380
Last Chance
Chapter 1: Vive il Doge
13 ta' Ottubru, 2023
Casa Gazzella, Güney Antalya, State of Iolanta
7:02 PM

FOUR MONTHS AGO


"So which countries sanctioned us again?" Prime Minister Nunzio Farrugia asked Foreign Minister Valent Comitianus, who looked too sweaty for a man sitting in an air-conditioned room for more than thirty minutes.

"L-Let me check." Comitianus was breathing heavily. "It's somewhere... Here." He took out a document from his folder and pushed it across the table over to Farrugia.

Farrugia scanned the table to check on the rest of the cabinet. They were all supposed to be seated here in the Council of State Room.

It looks like everyone is here. Everyone but the Minister of Defense, the Minister of the Interior and Local Government, the Minister of Tourism, and the Minister of Communications are missing.

"Where the hell are those four?" Comitianus practically barked, looking like a madman.

"The latter two probably got cold feet." Executive Secretary Ohali Muneera explained. "They were first-time cabinet appointees. We had an unprecedented number of cabinet resignations." She sighed. "Our list of prospective ministers has shrunk. Many of our members rejected cabinet offers."

"But Chaim. Chaim has no excuse!" Comitianus wiped his oily face with his sleeve. "He refused to return our calls. Not a single reply to the emails or the chat messages." He banged the table with his fist. "He has not returned to his house!"

"Sur Comitianus." Farrugia called his attention.

"Two months, Prime Minister! He hasn't come home for two months!"

"Even then. Please, get a hold of yourself."

While Comitianus was the only one emotional here, Farrugia could sense the anxiety and apprehension in the air. He was one of them.

Farrugia looked at everyone and said, "Right now, wherever Sur Montefiore is, whatever he is doing, it is not our top priority. The country needs us now, preferably together with cool heads. If Sur Montefiore cannot understand that, he will have to be dismissed to make way for someone who can."

Farrugia read the document from Comitianus. "I didn't expect to see some of these countries." He commented. "For years, we maintained normal relations with most countries. Now they suddenly...do this?"

"Let's... Let's examine this. From the beginning." Comitianus started breathing more slowly, and comfortably. "It'll just be an overview. Since it is only a review of what we should already know."

Comitianus continued, "Because of Refugji Ħolmkom's little mishap back in February, the Sorovian government deployed their forces to reinforce the border. They did not want to take in any migrants. They clearly wanted to keep out the Sorovians that stupid NGO bussed to the border."

"Yes, yes, yes." Farrugia impatiently nodded. "We don't need an overview of this part. Go on to the next country after Sorovia that imposed sanctions."

Comitianus opened his folder. A leather folder bearing the nation coat of arms with the wording Minister of Foreign Affairs. He flipped through pages of departmental papers until he found what he was looking for. He read out, "Item...The Republic of Scalvia... The Baumanis Five Points."

Farrugia shook his head as he rubbed his neck. "In normal situations, I'd be committing political suicide if I read the 'Five Points to the Senat."

"The fools in Korvola voted against it," Muneera mentioned. "Even after we signaled our readiness to negotiate if we accepted the 'Five Points."

"The Rayvostokans declared support for Sorovia." Comitianus gritted his teeth. "Damned communists... I never understood what they want in their foreign policy objectives."

"We did expect them to support us." Farrugia reminded him. "We thought Sorovia is the perfect neo-liberal capitalist hellhole for them to shit in."

"They even promised the Sorovians weapons on top of financial aid," Comitianus added.

"They did?" Farrugia furrowed his brows. "That is absurd."

"It wouldn't surprise me if they help Sorovia in planning an invasion." Comitianus cleared his throat. "Targeted sanctions from Esthursia came next. They hoped the U.A.S. could play a central role in resolving the crisis. Their last-ditch attempt to save the Treaty of Kariste." He stared at a page in his folder. "Still, if sanctions from Sorovia hurt bad, sanctions from Esthursia, the largest market in the region, would bring our country to its knees."

"The targeted sanctions brought a lot of my friends to their knees." Muneera clicked her tongue. "I know a poor bastard who killed himself because of it."

"At first, Hexastalia was reasonable and delayed sanctions." Comitianus smiled. "Everyone was surprised Predice sent a fleet to us. The Esthursian and Hexastalian governments demanded their withdrawal."

"There is the Ethian Customs Union." Muneera pointed out. "The Volshan Autocracy has been one of the few reassuring things in the past four months."

"We will accept the invitation, of course," Farrugia said.

Comitianius frowned. "The ECU bill is held up in the Senat. They are taking too much time on it." He turned a page in his folder. "Also, the 'peacekeeping mission' by Esthursia might be a concern. Supposedly, they established 'safe refuge lines' for the ethnic Sorovian migrants."

"See! Those migrants are not dying." Farrugia chuckled.

Comitianus stared at Farrugia. "The safe refuge lines were established last week. Migrants have been heading west since February. However, I am disturbed by the Esthursian accusations of deportation. We cannot deport our own citizens—"

The doors of the room flung open, hitting the wall hard. Farrugia was about to reprimand the unnecessary force. But he froze at the sight of guns.

It was Chaim and Ashur May, the Vice Chief-of-Staff of the Iolanti Armed Forces.

Chaim shouted, "Vive il Doge!"

"Iolanta: Armored vehicles surround Parliament as internet shuts down"
-The Daihoku Financial; 14 October, 2023

“Saintonge behind coup”
-Rebel News Online; 15 October 2023

"Prime Minister Farrugia and other ministers arrested"
-RAP; 16 October, 2023

"Governor-General of Iolanta resigns in coup aftermath"
-Kariste Times; 18 October, 2023

"Chief Justice Trevisan appointed Administrator of Iolanta"
-RAP; 19 October, 2023

"Due to the ongoing crisis, Administrator Trevisan has declared martial law."
-Caius Avienus (TVINews+); 20 October, 2023

"Iolanta: Military takes control of country's largest TV network"
-The Daihoku Financial; 21 October, 2023

"Administrator Trevisan announced that the Senat will remain suspended until further notice. He called on the public to remain calm and cooperate with the authorities."
-Caius Avienus (TVINews+); 22 October, 2023

"Former Iolanti defense minister Chaim Montefiore appointed PM"
-RAP; 24 October, 2023

“Doge's Palace silent on the recent coup”
-Rebel News Online; 25 October 2023

“I’m aware there has been a major upheaval in Iolanta, and there’s been a major shift in power. At this point, we have a clear overview of the situation and we will carefully consider our next steps.”
-Alessandria da Montebello, Prime Minister of Predice; 26 October 2023

"Iolanti PM appeals to the international community to reconsider sanctions"
-The Daihoku Financial; 28 October, 2023
 
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3 Days to the River Riska
Prologue
29 November 2023
Defence Command, Korvola, Republic of Sorovia
1:34 PM

THREE MONTHS AGO


A group of military officers sat in a dimly lit planning room, each adorned in Sorovian military uniform, General Aki Okkonen stood before a group of high-ranking military officials. The atmosphere in the room was palpable. They had formally received the greenlight to plan out a direct military intervention in Iolanta.

Okkonen stood In front of a smart board, holding a clipboard with the meeting's agenda. "Operation Orcus is our answer to the current situation in Iolanta." General Okkonen declared, his voice cutting through the quiet room. "Our mission is clear; ensure the stability in the country, safeguard our interests, and establish a proper administrative buffer zone along occupied territories."

Eyes in the room fixated on maps, absorbed in the intricate details of the operation. Logistics, divisions, and other units were all mapped out along the Iolantan border. Each of which were to receive their own set of instructions when the operation was set to begin.

"Intelligence has already pointed out potential hotspots and resistance, we'll see to it that those spots are quickly neutralized by our forces." Okkonen stated, several spots highlighted on the map, mainly along the Iolantan coast.

"Well the coast isn't our priority," Major General Leho responded, "Having our forces attempt to invade the populated coast will only slow down our operations."

"Right." Okkonen responded, "Majority of our effort will be on the northern highlands of the country, there we should find the least resistance possible."

"How are we aware of lack of resistance in these regions? They're still armed and dangerous to our ground forces." Brigadier General Anderson spoke up.

Okkonen gave a look from the board back at the table, "VTO has already outlined several key targets and locations. They've been in touch with VTO agents on the ground and NRA operatives. As far as we can tell the combat effectiveness of Iolantan forces in these regions is very minimal. Logistics hubs, airbases, power stations, bridges, any other locations we've gotten mapped out."

Major General Nevalainen looked up at the board "I'm assuming this is taking influence from Operation Vulcan, though that operation was mapped out and planned to involve many more forces and a full scale military invasion of Iolanta back in the 40s."

"More or less," Okkonen responded, "Vulcan was much more.. prepared for a full on military conflict, not a swift operation like this."

"So are we prepared for a full on military engagement?" Anderson piped up.

Okkonen gave a look to Anderson, "We wouldn't be planning an intervention in Iolanta if we weren't prepared for a full on military conflict on our doorstep. We've already been greenlit by the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and already received positive notes from our friends at Esthursian High Command. Dr. Nevalainen with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is already busy writing a narrative. Possible press releases, interview plans, and a social media blitz. We've thought of literally everything."

Anderson raised a concern, "What of the civilian population? How do we go of minimizing any possible collateral damage?"

Okkonen acknowledged his concern, "Our primary focus is that of military and strategic targets. We want to disable Iolanta's military capabilities as swiftly as possible. We will ensure humanitarian aid to both our forces and civilians is enabled. I've liaised with the medical corps for this exact reason."

Orcus = Roman punisher of broken oaths
Operation Vulcan = A historical Sorovian Military operation to invade Iolanta during the Fascist Wars
VTO = The Directorate of State Security. Collects, evaluates, and disseminates vital information on economic, military, political, scientific, and other developments abroad to safeguard Sorovian interests.
NRA = National Republican Army. An Ethnic-Sorovian terrorist group which operations in hopes to unite Sorovian peoples into one state.
 
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Minutes from top-level Volshan government briefing on the Iolanta crisis

Locations: Palace of the Zilathe, Antyrium

Time: 0600 hours EST

Attendes:

Cel Sethlans- Zilathe of the Volshan Autocracy

General Thana Masu- Head of the Volshan Army

Velchur Atna- Director of the VSI

Aranthur Macula- CEO of Hoplon Dynamics and chief economic advisor to the Volshan government



(Recording begins)

Cel- Let's turn to the current mess on the border, the situation in Iolanta has escalated out of control, thoughts?

Thana- We need to consider a no-fly zone and close the border to traffic from both sides, we can’t afford to have a spillover into Aurorea, the situation there is at a critical juncture

Cel-What about economic sanctions? How can we turn the screws on both these regimes?

Aranthur- Targeted sanctions against both sides would be a good start, I agree with the general that a no-fly zone would also help to put pressure on both sides...you know Weskerby isn't going to like that though, right?

Cel- (scoffs audibly) Weskerby doesn't like anything that doesn't involve chest beating and self-congratulation, we are not beholden to Esthursia! make it happen! as far as Sorovia and Iolanta are concerned they can consider everything west of their border to be off-limits!

Velchur- Madame Zilathe if I may?

Cel- By all means Director

Velchur- Sanctions and expansion of a no-fly zone will prove effective, it would mean both sides would have to ship everything they trade or use longer air routes, the effects on both economies will be significant, additionally my counterparts in Sorovia have already declared their intention to do likewise, closing the Aurorean corridor will essentially split the continent in half

Thana- The strategic implications won’t be pretty

Aranthur- They weren't exactly a beauty pageant before this Mucai* heap began, the reality is the divisions in Ethia are already present economically, the A5 and V4 are already quickly becoming mutually exclusive blocs, if Weskerby wants to support warmongers they can wear the economic cost!

Cel- Spoken like a true capitalist Aranthur, but the general is correct, this situation is going to get worse before it gets better, we need to consider the possibility of further escalations

Thana- Our military is one of the largest and most well-trained in Auroria, we are prepared to defend the autocracy if needed

Cel- Let's hope it doesn't come to that, we’ve only just put one fascist regime in the ground, Velchur I want eyes and ears watching every major development in the archipelago, Thana I want the military raised to high alert for the duration of this crisis, Aranthur get those sanctions ready, I want both Iolanta and Sorovia to know they made a grievous mistake, from the moment those sanctions are triggered our market and the wider A5 common market is closed to them both.

Aranthur- Well guess that concludes it, another sunny day in Ethia

Cel- We will not allow the actions of incompetents and thugs to drag us into another unnecessary war, make it happen people! and Velchur

Velchur- Yes Madame Zilathe?

Cel- I want our embassies in both countries evacuated immediately

Velchur- I'll have our people on the first flights home, documents and sensitive information will be disposed of accordingly

Cel- Good, but keep our listening posts open, information is power after all...We have a lot to do fellows, let's get to work


(Recording Ends)



*Excrement
 
Býkonsviði, Prydania
Halls of the Harad
virki

Sören Högh walked with Kjell Svan as the Deputy Prime Minister and Prime Minister made their way from the Alþingi chambers through the halls of the Haradvirki. The walk to Högh's office was short, but the stress of the recently concluded day of business made it seem arduous.
Still, they talked as they walked through the marble floored halls, brisk enough to keep anyone who might be ease dropping from getting much of what they were saying unless they made a noticable effort to keep up.

"This whole thing is a mess, so long as Ísgeir's on his high horse..." Sören stopped himself. He should probably not be so forward in attacking a member of his own coalitoon. Kjell, though, seemed a bit more ragged. And if Sören was going to be polite then he wouldn't be.

"He's an idiot. The whole lot of 'em are."

Kjell had muttered it so only Sören could hear, but he chuckled.
"They're YOUR party after all."

"Já," Kjell replied.
"And they recruited me to be a babysitter. Only sometimes they don't want to take their veggies."

"Well they're young. They have... strong feelings on the matter."

"They need to realize," Kjell replied, "that they're elected representatives. It's time to grow up."

He stopped just long enough to push his glasses down his nose, run his eyes, and reposition his eyewear before continuing with his Deputy.
"That lot's stunts before have been manageable. They want to embargo a few communist fiskdós*and grandstand then that's all well and good but this is a bit more serious."

"So do you want me to shut Ísgeir out of the team we send to the AN?" Sören asked.
"Nothing's been agreed to except in general broad statements. We can keep the ungir* at home, and smooth this out over there."

"No," Kjell muttered.
"He's getting away with it because of how many PnB ÞMs* he has at his beck and call. If we box them out they'll raise bloody hell and we can't give Toft any opening on the front of coalition unity."

"So... what do you propose?"

"Send Ísgeir. But send him with someone else. Someone with a straight head on his shoulders, who'll be able to apply some Goddamn tact. Ísgeir goes over, he sees things aren't so black and white, and our position isn't dependent on him coming to terms with it either. His lot will soften their stance if he works to calm them down instead of us boxing them out."

"Did you have anyone in mind?"

Kjell nodded as they walked.
"Sonny Kofoed."

"You wan him recalled from Luscova?"

"He's what we need over there. And frankly? The embassy in Norsia can manage without Sonny there for a few days."

"That's fair enough," Sören said with a nod. Kjell sighed.

"Hopefully we can get some traction with the Andrennians, and get enough AN votes on our side to not entirely twiddle our thumbs."

"Well it MAY be more than just the Andrennians," Sören replied.
"The Scalvians are positioning themselves as some sort of regional policeofficer. Anyone that hopes to accomplish anything over there will have to talk to them."

Kjell sighed again, but chuckled a bit as they walked.
"The Scalvians don't join the AN but now they want a seat at that table?"

"It might be a way to entice them to join."

"Maybe," Kjell said gruffly. He knew it could happen, though he wasn't counting on it.

"They have their own proposal. One they're holding Sorovia to account for refusing as they invade Iolanta."

"The Scalvians," Kjell muttered.
"They think they can dictate the world."

"Well isn't it their position the one you want to nudge Ísgeir and the kiddies towards?"

"It's not a matter of positioning at this point, it's a matter of diplomacy. And whatever Ísgeir Aðaldal's faults are, I know the Scalvian mentality. I've dealt with them enough. Their bluntness isn't going to convince Ísgeir of anything. And like it or not how this goes with him blows back onto us as a government given who he's got whipped up into a frenzy around him."

"We can try to position Sonny as the lead with the Scalvians at the very least."

"Maybe," Kjell muttered before he cleared his throat as they entered Sören's office, the two of them taking a seat at the couch at the far end of the room.
"Have Ingrid call for a AN session, and reach out to the Andrennians that we're willing to discuss the Sorovia/Iolanta matter. And let the Scalvians know, if they wan to have a seat at that table, something can be arranged."

"Good. Ok," Sören nodded before Kjell's phone went off. The Prime Minister looked at it and stood.

"Max has something on the Ten Rings business. It's always something," he muttered.

"Well the job's a bitch. I'm glad I tricked you into taking it," Sören chuckled. Kjell returned the smirk, flashing his deputy a fingergun before taking off. Down another long walk down a hallway.



*fiskdós- a very rude word
*ungir- youngins
*ÞMs- MPs
 
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3 Days to the River Riska
Chapter One
4 February 2024
Sorovo-Iolanti Border Zone, South Borealia, Republic of Sorovia
2:54 AM


Corporal Isto Piekkanen took a deep breath, his uniform crisp, the insignia gleaming under the light of the preparation room. He could feel the tension in the air, a mixture of excitement, doubt, and apprehension that coursed throughout every soldier present. The minutes leading up to Operation Orcus were ticking away, and Piekkanen could sense the gravity of the situation. He stepped out of the building, the night air was thick and cold. The night was only illuminated by the two moons overhead and the lights around the military instillation. He could see his fellow soldiers, outlined by the moonlight or illuminated by the fixed lights around the base. The briefing he had received earlier had painted a picture of how the operation would play out, but he knew reality would very well play out differently than hoped.

A faint hum in the distance signaled the approaching Sorovian armored units. Piekkanen moved to join his unit for another mission briefing, "Remember the briefing, stay focused, you'll be fine," his commanding officer's voice cut through the quiet, formation of troops. "We're here to ensure the stability, safety, and the well being of Iolantan civilians. Precision in this operation is key."

Sorovian infantry would soon climb into the trucks and APCs which pulled up the facility, Piekkanen climbed into the back of a truck as the formation would begin there way to the Border crossing point. The armored vehicles rolled forward, navigating through the cover of darkness. Under the Sorovian eye, Operation Orcus was not just a military venture, but a commitment to peace and stability.

As they neared the Iolanti border, Piekkanen looked down at his boots on the ride, but as they neared the border he slipped on his balaclava and fastened his helmet snuggly. The truck soon parked at the side of the road, and he quickly picked up his rifle, quickly disembarking with several other soldiers and began to run towards the border crossing point.

After several moments of running the Sorovian infantry made their way into the forest next to the Iolanti checkpoint, through the window they could see several Iolanti border authorities. Piekkanen and a squad of infantry cut through the chain-link fence near the border, and prepared themselves at the door, waiting for the signal for the operation to commence. Piekkanen's heart pounded like never before, he had never expected in his whole life to end up doing something like this.

3...

2...

1...


A flare shot up in the sky from the Sorovian side of the border, the sound of a large crash echoed throughout the checkpoint as a Sorovian tank smashed its way through the main locked segment of the border zone, followed by several other armored vehicles which poured through the border crossing point. The night sky was illuminated by the lights and sounds of dozens of Sorovian rocket artillery and howitzer fire throughout the countryside directed at Iolanti military targets

"BREACH!" The infantry quickly broke their way through the door of the building, and soon quickly entered the building and were greeted by three Iolanti security officers who were panicking from the situation outside.

Piekkanen raised his rifle at the security officers, "HANDS, SHOW ME YOUR FUCKING HANDS NOW", the sounds of rocket fire still echoing through the building. His heart raced as the adrenaline surged. He had trained for this moment, but nothing could fully prepare him for something like this

Several other infantry also began screaming at the officers, "ON THE GROUND. GET ON THE FUCKING GROUND!". The Iolanti security officers, startled and overwhelmed by the sudden intrusion, quickly complied, either by sheer shock or compliance to the order, dropping to the ground with their hands spread on the floor. The choatic sounds of the military operation outside reverberated throughout the building.

Several Sorovian soldiers went to go make sure the captured Iolanti officers didn't have any weapons on them, meanwhile, Piekkanen radioed to command "We've secured the entrance to the border crossing point. Three security officers surrendered when we breached in. Clearing the rest of the building, now."

"Copy, proceed as you see fit", the voice at the other end of the radio replied back.

"Riipinen, Lakanen, Oramo, you're coming with me", the three infantry quickly followed behind Piekkanen, weapons raised as they made their way deeper into the building.

Soon, they made their way to the other end of the small building, as the group slowly walked through a doorway leading deeper into the building a man with a knife quickly turned the corner towards them and ran towards the group.

Riipinen proceeded to fire two shots into the man, blood splattering across the wall behind him. After several moments of looking at the body which fell limp on the floor, Oramo spoke up, "Fucking idiot. You don't bring a knife to a gun fight."

"Hey, maybe he wanted to be the next Iolanti action hero?", Lakanen responded back.

Lakanen looked up at the broken window at the other end of the room, "Looks like the rest of the idiots decided to run while they had the chance."

Piekkanen pulled out his radio once again, "Command, we have a broken window at the border crossing building south of Luoma. Seems like we have a few runners. One Iolanti security officer terminated."

"Affirmative, we'll look into it. Continue with your operation", the voice at the other end of the radio responded after several seconds.

The sounds of more boots rushed through the hallway alarmed by the gunfire, Rippinen looked down at the body and blood smeared across the wall, the shock of what he had done still clearly visible under the balaclava.

Lakanen but his hand on Rippinen's shoulder, "Relax, the military will deal with it now. It's not our problem what they do with the body or the story now. But hey, you might've gotten the first kill of this entire operation!"

That last part was a bad attempt to lighten the mood, Lakanen gave it a few more seconds of thought before giving a sigh and walked out of the room with the rest of the squad. Rippinen quickly followed them back to the main room.

The group made their way outside of the building, the three Iolanti officers who surrendered were sat up against the wall with other surrendered Iolanti border agents from the rest of the border crossing point.

Oramo walked up to one of the Iolanti border officers sat down, "You, do you speak Sorovian?"

"Yes", the officer responded in Sorovian, looking up at him.

"Name?" Oramo quickly said back to the officer.

"Rislakki", the man continued looking back up at him.

Oramo looked at the man and smiled a bit, the officer didn't know what to do so he just gave Oramo a look.

Oramo's smile faded, and then he spat on the man's boots, "Fucking traitor." Before he began walking back to the rest of the men in his squad.

The smoke from the artillery fire was still visible from this distance, what could appear to be flames illuminated the vast countryside. Several more explosions were heard from a distance from more rocket fire being fired towards strategic targets across Northern Iolanta.

"Surprising, only one killed here? I was kinda hoping for them to put up somewhat a better resistance to our forces", Lieutenant Vanhanen said, walking towards the body bag laid outside of the building.

Piekkanen responded, "Yeah, well it was split between pussies and a guy with a knife".

Vanhanen chuckled, "Well, we've secured our objectives here. We'll be in Kuusinimi before we know it."

>>c//comm_link/Juv862kb/0012/1/
>>Connection Established

>???: What’s the status on Nyx? Any survivors?

>???: Five. Destination is unknown but they made their way into a tunnel before NRA operatives could catch them, as far as we can tell they blew the entrance in and we can’t get into it. Ran off with the shit. The rest were killed in the opening artillery barrage.

>???: They’re on their own for this one. We aren’t here to aid in a manhunt at the moment.

>???: Understood. We’ll keep our ears on the ground though, just in case.

>???: Was that meant to be a joke?

>???: Just a saying. Happy coincidence. We also did get new report from across the Borealian border. More refugee talk.

>???: What? Is it of Site-12? did they find it?

>???: Not as far as I’m aware, no. I’ll tell your people that they can bring them into the site.

>???: Hardly a pressing concern, all things considered. Nevertheless, send it over.

>???: C:/ArV/9746722/hub/archive/event/0012-7-B

Operation Nyx - A classified joint VTO and ThND whose primary goal is to halt the dissemination of information regarding VTO-ThND operated blacksites.
Mr. Illustrated Reference hiding in plain sight here.
 
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Redery meeting (Full Avshrift*) | 08/02/79
Beckhamptonstow House, Ettwerp, Weskerby
Asterland, Osynstry, Esthursia
about 9h10 AST


"It happened?"
"It happened. The Sorovians have reached the Riska*."
Osborne took a brief look around the room. High Command had briefed the Redery* on the impending attack as early as December last year, explaining everyone's complete lack of surprise. If anything, some in the room had wondered why it had taken so long, and one or two were afraid the length of time it had taken would lead to a leak of Esthursian knowledge of the attack. Then again, leaks were rare nowadays, it wasn't 2010 anymore.
"That was bloody quick."

Sigrid Beck, the Redery's new International Co-operation minister taking the brunt of the work off of Osborne's predecessor, John Largan, had been in her role for just days - and yet she'd already had to handle the fallout of the Ultramontese earthquake and now the invasion of northern Iolanta.
"I have all the compiled responses from across the world-"
Reeve for Defence, Eldgyna Wells, waited for a suitable moment where Sigrid paused, then interrupted her. She appreciated her new counterpart's enthusiasm, but this was definitely not an issue where the world came before her role of defence, and if anything the gap in experience and age between the two added to that - Eldgyna was in politics before Sigrid had been born.
"Sorry, sorry, but we can leave the predictable global whining until after we've discussed the more important parts, Sigrid."

Afterthane Jeremy Wilson chimed in, "So how far have they got?"
Wells turned to the second-in-command, and began, pleased that young Wilson - of all people - had been the one to steer her back on course. "Thank you. High Command has informed us of the frontline, and of the recent victory in Kuusinimi... that is how you say it, isn't it?," with a small thumbs-up from Osborne ending her pause, "the Iolantans essentially aren't defending at the moment, though even 4UM* keyboard warriors can tell how little control Iolanta's government had over its north, at least as far as jurisdiction was concerned."
"Kuusinimi? They're in the north's capital now?"
"Aye. We hear that the Iolantans put up a barricade to stop the Sorovians entering in a chaotic last ditch effort, but that it lasted not any time at all."
Osborne rose his hand to stop his deputy asking a third closed question. "So, Edna, what's the status on our... involvement down there?"
"Well, there's minimal casualties - very minimal, we're talking single digits here - and High Command hasn't informed me of any casualties from our end, when it comes to Esthursian volunteers." The word volunteers made Wells smile briefly.
"Great. I shall send for our diplomats to reiterate Esthursia's backing to Sorovia on this one... and Sigrid, you can unveil the... opinion document, if you will."
A few strained audible groans, including a roll of the eyes from Sigrid, before she began. Whether they were at Osborne or at the world, it was hard to tell.
"Well, Harold, we'll start with the predictable ones. Scalvia, Andrenne, both spoke out against the invasion."
"... is that it? The local grumbler and only one Western intervention?"
"Hexastalia has spoke out in favour of it in much the same way we're preparing to, with caution but reiterated backing, while Prydania has... well... it's hard to tell for now, because there seems to be quite a lot bubbling under the surface, but I'd put money on them positioning either neutral or slightly in favour of the Sorovians, with a push for the AN to hold a referendum there."
"That's... far better than I was expecting."

"The Scalvians have-"
"-yes, yes, they've thrown everything and the kitchen sink at Sorovia, and yes, that included putting a wall between mainland Esthursia and Sorovia for trade and customs... they've been threatening this one for months. I wasn't expecting them to go this far, or to rope us into it, but it was absolutely on the list of options."
A bit of murmuring, but Osborne's next sentence put minds at ease.
"I had the Chancellor* draw up a contingency plan ages ago, businesses, wapentakes* and banks have been briefed on the "risk" and we'll take any losses out of the investment we're sending to them. We've also wound down a few parts of the unilateral trade concessions we gave following the downturn in the trade deal last year and the end of the UAS. We have also briefed the Chancellor on preventative measures if Scalvia chooses to close trade and then attempt to default on its debt with us following the frustration of bank contracts."
Osborne pushed on. "As for Andrenne, any concerns on the matter, fair enough. At the end of the day, they've just watched a democracy invade a neighbour without an ultimatum. I'm sure any concerns will be straightened out through AN mediation."
John Largan, now the AN's ambassador, turned around. "Don't you think this will aggravate the situation? I mean sure, Esthursia can quite easily recoup any losses Scalvia attempt to incur, but what about long-term prospects?"
"A country who are willing to literally throw themselves in front of a freight train to stop it running to Korvola probably aren't going to make the most lucrative trade, nor reliable diplomatic, partner, John." A few forced laughs, and John responded. "As it is, there are no long-term prospects without a serious juncture from the current path."

"Fair enough, Harold. What of the AN? I hope we're planning on involving them as much as possible, the only way the end of Iolantan apartheid will be brought about securely is if the democratic world is agreeing to its terms."
Alfred Frome, the Reeve for the Ellands*, fielded this one. "We'll push for the AN to be involved, welcome the Prydanians' suggestion of a referendum, and basically push for anything that legitimises what the people of north Iolanta want. If given the choice between a backwater apartheid oligarchy who actively hate your race and a wealthy secure democratic republic with a robust welfare state, which are you choosing?"
"Sorovia are on board with this, no?"
"Osborne there has spoken to Andersson recently over that one, and she seemed receptive to the idea, yes."

"Have we any preparations for any further blowback from Volshan? If Scalvia are going to shoot themselves in the foot, Volshan might join in."
"... I would hope not... but again, the Chancellor has his own provisions. I expect Volshan might take the position of eff-them-both, but whether that implicates us is a different matter entirely - frankly, any sign that Volshan shuns Iolanta would be warmly received by my office anymorrow*, following that disaster of an offer to allow Iolanta in their commuter zone-I mean, A5* market. Plus, trade to Sorovia would still go on from there, just through Tardine and straight through the Velvet Wall*, after all, should they hold the double-edged sword by the blade. After all, Volshan is still believed to be a reliable and important market, even withstanding its allergy to regulation and the Aurorean reconstruction cost, and more importantly, there is still good will to be found. Have our diplomats reiterate the point if it ever comes to pass."
Wilson turned to the Forethane, who seemed unusually... sit-back* on this one. "You're not going to retaliate if they do the same that Scalvia did?"
"Of course not. There are so many backdoors in the situation where Volshan embargoes Sorovia, and them blocking customs would not be any problem for Esthursian-Sorovian trade in the way that Tamm's... whatever that was, happened to be. Likewise, Volshan is eminently more heavy*."

Largan considered for a moment, but found himself agreeing begrudgingly, so pushed on. "... fair enough. Do we have any word from the Opposition as of yet?"
The party chair, David Holmfirth - a highly aged Norwaller*, white haired and slightly grizzled - spoke up to answer this specific question. "The Moderates have contacted me for a briefing, yes."
"Allow it. It's important that we work across party lines for an issue suchlike this."
"Well heard." Holmfirth left the meeting abruptly. He had a habit of doing that, and he was far too old to listen to anyone tell him to stop at this point.
Wilson returned to questioning. "Is this going to affect our Army 2035* plans?"
Osborne ignored the question.
"Now, to the STRIVE Act."
The Chancellor, Edelard Burnside, walked into the room, as the group began to divert onto the economic legislation planned for the month.

"Has Megnyere Swyeland* been approved by the [REDACTED] yet?"
"Aye, last week, [REDACTED] sent his word."
"Wonderful. Is the apparatus already-"
"That's been set up, yes, thanks to recent events allowing for such. The agencies are ready to investigate the necessary persons on suspicion. The [REDACTED] are on board with the plan too."
"This power is going to be used expressly for [REDACTED], is that understood, for our security?"
"Of course, that is of mutual understanding."
line hangs up

Avshrift - Transcript (lit. "of hearing", with shrift having historical religious connotations, similar journey to minister in Mercanti)
Riska - the river Riska, in mid-north Iolanta
Redery - the Cabinet of Esthursia, the top advisory body to (and of) the government
4UM - a Hexastalian social media company, stereotyped here as being unnecessarily "nerdy"
Chancellor - the economic minister of Esthursia, presently Edelard Burnside, who draws up the yearly budget
wapentake - council/district, local administration (e.g. the 39 Wapentakes of Brantley)
Reeve for the Ellands - Foreign Minister (lit. Advisor for the Elsewhere/Other lands)
anymorrow - any of these days (anyday)
A5 - the customs market between Ultramont, Tardine, Volshan, occupied Aurorea and Scalvia
Velvet Wall - the Esthursian term for the view that the trade war between the A5 and V4 is flimsy, partly reversing and weak with many easy routes around
sit-back - the Atlish word for a politician or person who is "easygoing" or willing to compromise/let something happen out of his control
heavy - Atlish word for "important", literally "carries greater weight". Esthurs often extend Atlish words beyond their original meaning
Norwaller - a person from Norwall, a constituent country north of Osynstry and east of Helmark of which Brantley is the capital
Army 2035 (Værd2080 in Atlish) - the decade's plan for the Esthursian military capacity and strategy, last released in March 2014, ending on New Year 2025
Megnyere Swyeland - Operation Swyeland
 
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Office of the Prime Minister of Hexastalia
February 8, 2024

Prime Minister Istvan pursed her lips and leaned forwards in her chair. Across her desk sat President Imre Pethes, Director of Defense Roland Vadas, and Director of Foreign Affairs Amanda Voss. “Alright. Sorovia’s fun time is over. How did the statement go over?”

“It went over well domestically, polling shows that a majority of Hexastalians support Sorovia’s operations in Iolanta.” Voss stated, “No comments on it from foreign governments so far.”

“Good. That’s what I hoped to hear. Roland, how is Sorovian progress?”

The director pulled out a tablet and placed it on the table. The eyepatch wearing former officer pulled up images from Iolantan social media. On screen were pictures of Sorovian soldiers and vehicles rolling through urban streets. “Kuusinimi, the regional capital. It seems they’ve captured it rather easily. Very little blood has been shed from the looks of it.”

“And Godfather?” Istvan dropped her voice down a bit in volume as if she were asking a secret from a friend, though everyone in the room knew of Godfather’s presence in Sorovia.

Vadas cleared his throat and adjusted his eyepatch. He scrolled to blurry images of the AEW&C* aircraft that was stationed in Sorovia. “It’s hard to hide a plane, especially a big one like the LR/12. But, we’re doing our best to do so and the Sorovians are too. No comments have been made from foreign governments on Godfather’s involvement in the conflict.” He looked up with a slight twinkle in his one good eye, “And… It's the best training that the command and control gents have ever had. Great test for the equipment too.”

“You get a bit too excited about armed conflict sometimes, Roland. You know that?” Istvan drummed her fingers across the table and looked back to Director Voss. “Give me a run down of the international reactions, if you’d please.”

“Of course.” Voss pulled a thick stack of papers from her briefcase onto the desk. “Might as well start with the good stuff. Tardine, Esthursia, and Prydania have all issued statements of support.”

“That's good. It’s on par with what I expected though, no surprises here. The Prydanians are good people, I knew they wouldn’t stand for the situation in Iolanta.”

President Pethes interjected for a moment, “I met their King, Toby, back in Fjarmagn. Good kid. I’m not surprised that he’s on our side in this one.”

Istvan nodded, “And now for the part we’ve all been looking forward to. Mrs. Voss, the rest of the reactions?”

Voss shuffled her papers and pulled out a paper displaying the emblem of the Scalvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. “The Scalvians have, as we expected, been highly critical of the invasion. They’ve leveled sanctions against Sorovia, including closing their borders to all overland commerce from Sorovia, closing their airspace to Sorovian airlines, and banning all defense exports to Sorovia. Esthursia plans to retaliate against Scalvia economically.”

Istvan groaned and leaned back in her chair. After staring at the ceiling for a long second she replied, “They refused to sanction Iolanta for all this time but the second Sorovia tried to actually do something about the situation there, boom, there’s the sanctions.” She sighed, “Are they trying to destroy their economy? They’ve soured the relations they have with every country they border. I get that they like their guns but they should try to not shoot themselves in the feet for once.”

“It’s not like this will have a severe impact on either Sorovia or Esthursia. Esthursia is blocked from its overland route to Sorovia, but they’re still able to transport goods there by sea or air.” Pethes explained “And it’s not like the other A5 members are taking a similar approach. Tardine tacitly supports Sorovia and Ultramont hasn’t even made a statement on the matter. As my friend in the Esthursian embassy called it, it’s a Velvet Wall.”

“It does slightly inconvenience our military research and development though.” Director Vadas pointed out. “Ethimissile products can’t be exported to Sorovia. We’re lucky they rejected the option of fitting their frigates with Ethimissile VLS**. So much for trying to standardize V4 missile systems.”

Voss nodded in agreement, “I’d recommend postponing some of the plans we had that might have involved Scalvian equipment for the time being.”

Vadas put his hands up, “No argument from me. We might want to look elsewhere for some of our future procurement plans.”

“Alright, what can we do about this?” Istvan said while reading the Scalvian statement.

“Frankly? Not much. Scalvia is a major trading partner for us. We don’t want to compromise our own economy too much here. For now, I say we just reiterate our position and make a public criticism of Scalvia’s.” Voss stated. She shrugged, “I’ll try to set up a meeting with the Scalvian ambassador to discuss the issue but no promises on that.”

Istvan nodded “Okay, get on that once we’re done, please, Amanda.”

“Will do. Let’s see who else we’ve got. Radio silence from Ultramont and Aubervijr, they might be waiting to make a statement. Volshan sanctioned both Sorovia and Iolanta.”

“Go figure, Volshan being contrarian.”

“And Andrenne raised a stink about Sorovia not following what Andrenne sees as proper military procedure.”

“Fair that they’d be worried about the lack of ultimatum beforehand but they should understand not every country follows the same rules that Andrenne does. Anyone else?”

“The military dictator of Anmativeda spoke out in support of Iolanta.”

The Prime Minister sighed “Doesn’t he have anything better to do? Like commit a genocide or lose a civil war? Eh, fine, whatever. He’s irrelevant to the situation anyways. Is that everything?”

“Yes.”

“Good”.”



*Airborne Early Warning & Control
**vertical launch system
 
Conference Room of the Royal Palace
Kardenccia, CD - Tardine
Shortly after the Scalvian Sanction of Sorovia


The room was filled with people, everyone who mattered was there. Ministers of Economy, Foreign Affairs, Defense and the Prime Minister himself. The Directors of the National Intelligence Force (NIF), Tardinneani Intelligence Agency (TIA) and the National Force (NF*) were also present. Lastly, but no less important, stood the Emperor, Jasemir Partei alf Kladerai, at the corner of the table. He was looking aggravated for the news were dire, so he was the one to break the chattering.

"Helat*, ladies and gentleman. Honorable leaders of our nation." He looked at the Prime Minister. "Honorable Prime Minister, Klaiden Sergonianni Risvie."

"Duhren Emperai Regnam*, Jasemir Partei alf Kladerai." Klaiden looked back at the Emperor and bowed respectfully. "Helat."

"All pleasantries done, everyone shall sit." The Emperor gave the command and everyone sat down, a two hundred year-old tradition still followed nowadays*, despite all protests of Jasemir himself. "I am sure the matter we shall discuss is already known by everyone in this room, more or less. So, now to the greatest question. What the hell is going on?"

A few hands raised and pressed the button in front of them, a pointless technology that just spares the Emperor of choosing someone to speak first. The name that appeared in the televisor behind Jasemir was Defense Department. Jasemir looked at his own private screen, then at the Defense Minister and said: "Minister of Defense, Anatijenka Kandur. You shall begin. The order of speech shall follow the one in the screen, as all of you already know."

"With all due respect, but this is a total mess." Anatijenka looked at everyone's faces. "Scalvia is attempting to divide our continent into two opposite halves. They are becoming a menace to our sovereignty as they want to impose a blockade against our allies, Esthursia and Sorovia."

"Duly noted, I think everyone agrees with that." Jasemir looked at all members as they nodded in approval. "The next, please."

"Sanctioning Scalvia might be a good course of action." The Economy Minister, Jukka Steiroos, said, while handing everyone a printed dossier. "Here's the sectors of their economy we might get a great deal of damage done. Everyone please read it."

The Emperor read the dossier and it almost made sense. "However", though him, "the political outcome might be too great". Scalvia being a member of the A5 makes this course of action a risk, if not complete idiocy. Not as silly as Scalvia's pointless sanction of Sorovia and, by extension, Esthursia, though. He hoped that everyone would agree with that. As they put aside the paper, Jasemir spoke:

"From the outside, it looks like a solid plan." He looked at the others, pausing or a bit, then continued. "Unfortunately, there's one major flaw: it doesn't consider the diplomatic as well as the political outcome. Therefore, it isn't viable. I am sure our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alfredo de Castillo, has some insight in this matter."

"Yes, I do, Your Greatness." The man, in his early 40s, was one of the youngest in the room, being as old as Klaiden Risvie. His energy and vitality was unmatched by anyone else in the room, though, which was annoying to some. "With all due respect to the Honorable Minister of Economy, but sanctioning Scalvia is like shooting our own feet. Plain dumb. And it's exactly what they did by sanctioning Sorovia. We should make a generic statement vaguely criticizing Sorovia's incursion while standing with its people and condemning both Jolanta, which we already sanctioned previously, and Scalvia."

"May I speak, Duhren Emperai Regnam?" said Jonnaus Akhor, whose surname and relevance to the Empire was as old as his almost mythical ancestor, Rikari Akhor*. His balding head with white hair didn't diminish his stature and his presence in the room was almost as strong as the Emperor's. Currently Director of the TIA, the ex-Special Forces Field Marshal was the eldest of them, being months away of his 85th anniversary. His respect for traditions and overall integrity was what made him stay at his job for more than 38 years.

"You shall, Honorable Director of the TIA, Field Marshal Jonnaus Brevenar alf Akhor." Jasemir knew better than to anger the third most powerful man of Tardine*, so he went along with the lengthy titles talk.

"We have got reports from our secure channels in the Volshani Confederation that they are planning do the same as Scalvia." The old man, whose constitution was as bulky as when he left the Army, looked directly at Alfredo. "Therefore, while I may personally disagree with the way our Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs usually conducts our external diplomacy, it means this time I have to agree that the best course of action is to follow his directives. We should not mention Volshan in the statement for they do not know what we know about them, though."

Everyone agreed with Jonnaus and Alfredo, so the Emperor dismissed the reunion. Everyone went away quickly, rushing to get their jobs done before the statement was out. Jasemir was left alone in the room, with the silent company of the screens. Dire days were coming, and Tardine would be, again, at the center of the storm. He only hoped that the outcome would be favorable.

*Helat: Hello in Tardineanni.

*Duhren Emperai Regnam: Your Imperial Ruler/Governor, the Emperor's demonym and most respectful way to address the Supreme Leader of Tardine.

*The addressing code during reunions was instated after the second crowning of Kardenccia II, in 1818.

*The Akhor family and its two most notable members, Rikari (conqueror of the Assuran Colony, nowadays Esthursia) and Reina/Duke Desmun (the one who made the Assurani economy be twice as profitable as it was before his rule). They gained the peerage after Rikari's death, lost it after the Aristocrats Coup of 1813 (which stablished the short lived Republic of Tardine), and gained it again now, as Jasemir reinstated the nobility titles as a way to honor those who fought in the civil war.

*There's a saying that goes like this: "Tardine is divided into three powers, but instead of legislative, executive and judicial it's actually, the Kladerais, the Prime Minister and the Director of the TIA", which summarizes how much power these figures have in the nation.
 
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>> S//{ACCESS-MAINFRAME-DATABASE};
>> S//{ESTABLISH-COMMUNICATION-DATABASE};
>> S//{ESTABLISH-CONNECTION-DATABASE);
>> DISPLAY_'PRIMARY CONNECTION ESTABLISHED'_MESSAGE;
>> [ACCESS-LOCKED], DISPLAY_'AUTHENTICATION REQUIRED'_MESSAGE;

>> S//{INPUT-AUTHENTICATION}, DISPLAY_'REQUIRED PASSCODE=[71490]'_MESSAGE;
>> S//{INPUT-AUTHENTICATION}, RECEIVED_[71490]_PASSCODE-INPUT;
>> S//{RUN_'VERIFY-BIOMETRIC-DATA'_PROGRAM};

>> MATCHING DATA <<
>> REMOTE AUTHENTICATION PROCESSING <<
>> STAND-BY <<
>> ACCESS GRANTED <<
>> WELCOME, NULL-AGENT 'TOVW', CODENAME: 'THE CHARIOT' <<


>>S//secure-comm_link/I74sv0_null/0042/
>>Secure channel ready to use<<

>???: Who requires the services of the Arcana this late at night? You must know that my services will be double charged because of the hour.

>???: Forgive me, by The High Priestess holds the unrevealed mysteries of the future, untold secrets and mysteries. I require its assistance.

>The High Priestess: Then you're talking to the right Arcane. What mysteries you seek to unfold?

>The Chariot: The Chariot is my Arcane, and my guide. I want to know if my business in Sorovia and Esthursia will prosper or not, I might lose it to Scalvian or Volshani enterprises.

>High Priestess: Very well, Chariot. I shall read your cards. Your partners are being targeted by the enemies, as the cards tell me. You fear that this might affect your own business, and you are not wrong. Like the Scalvian soldiers, the Volshani wild dogs will catch you if you meddle in their affairs. You should plan ahead so that your enemies do not catch you unprepared, then your business shall prosper.

>The Chariot: I plan on throwing a Masquerade Ball, at the end of the month but will hide it from the other business partners, the ones who I suspect that might betray me. Should I follow the Masquerade Ball plan and give my employees the directives?

>High Priestess: Yes, but be aware that in masquerade balls, everyone is disguised. That means you can hide from your enemies in the plain sight but that also means enemies will catch you easily if they do recognize you. The cards says that throwing a Masquerade Ball in your home and concealing the truth from your business partners might not mix well if you are caught. Be careful, Chariot.

>The Chariot: Thank you for your counsels, High Priestess. I shall be careful with my business partners from now on.

>High Priestess: Very well, Chariot. I shall await yours next consultation. I will be sending the bill now.
>The High Priestess sends <S:/DTA/null-ovrg/archive/bill-report.enc.cpk>

>The Chariot: Thank you again for your service. As a token of gratitude for receiving me this late, I want to invite you to my Masquerade Ball. Here's the invite.
>The Chariot sends <S:/DTA/null-tovw/archive/masquerade-ball.enc.cpk>

>High Priestess: Thanks for the invite. Have a nice night, Chariot.

>The Chariot: You too, High Priestess.

<END COMMUNICATION>​


SIDE NOTES:

[1]The Tardineanni Intelligence Agency is composed, officially, of 10 levels. The eleventh one is called Null Level or Zero Level, and is a top secret agency inside the TIA. Many are completely unaware and those who may have heard of it do not even know if it is real. Even after almost four decades of working there, the Director of the TIA, Jonnaus Akhor, knows vaguely of its existence but does not recognize it.

[2]The passcode is based on the Agent's fingerprints. The system has a preset of fingers/number and uses it to foolproof whether the agent is who they say they are or not. Each time they log in, it generates a random code that will both verify if the agent knows which finger corresponds to each number and the biometric data.

What does that mean? Let's say you, by a stroke of luck, get the right passcode (by pressing the right fingers in the correct order) but the biometric data doesn't match. Then the program will make the apparatus explode, killing you in the process. If your biometric data is matching but the passcode isn't, the program understands that you are in danger and disables itself to protect both the Agent and the sensible data.
After logging off the device, the Chariot exhaled deeply. "The Masquerade Ball plan is as good as any", though the Null Agent. The stakes were high, and so the probability of failing was. But then, conning the rest of the A5 members was the best option they have got in the moment. Both to secure peace and to secure that Tardine's economy would be unaffected by the Sorovian-Jolantan Crisis and its consequences. They just needed to proceed with caution and everything would go smoothly, according to the plan. Which surely the High Priestess was already passing along. The Chariot then started to read the report, after entering the right encryption key and de-compressing the files. It looked like another sleepless night was in the horizon, as the files were huge. The Agent muttered, "who would think that being an agent would be more stressful than being the actual emperor?", and went back to reading the files.​
 
Last Chance
Chapter 2: Signals
L-Erbgħa, 6 ta' Settembru, 2023
Casa Aquila, Güney Antalya, State of Iolanta
9:45 AM

FIVE MONTHS AGO

Chaim Montefiore is an old man. He can get stuck in his ways. In this situation, he has no choice. Especially when the Sorovian newspapers laid out on his desk have the following headlines:

REPUBLIC PARLIAMENTARIANS URGE STRONGER BORDER STANCE
August 3

GOVERNMENT RELEASE STATEMENT ON IOLANTI DEFENSE MINISTRY
August 9

PARLIAMENT APPROVES LEGISLATION ALLOWING FOR THE DEPLOYMENT OF SOROVIAN TROOPS ON FOREIGN SOIL
September 4


The latest was from two days ago. The foreign minister, Valent Comitianus, sent a draft statement to Montefiore. The copy is partially hidden under one of the newspapers.

It was a diplomatic protest to the Sorovian parliament's recent decision. Although it did not refer to Iolanta directly, there is no other place on Eras where the Sorovians need to deploy their forces. The implication of such a move strongly suggests an impending invasion.

The phone is ringing.

Montefiore picked up the phone.

"Bongu?"

A familiar voice answers, "Buongiorno, Signor Montefiore."

Il-Ġimgħa, 13 ta' Ottubru, 2023
Il-Palazz tas-Senat
9:33 PM

FOUR MONTHS AGO


"I spoke with Signora Gonfaloniere." Jasmine Caffari said. "She advised us to gather as many people as we can and stay in one secure place."

She is standing on the elevated platform of the Speaker's Chair. From there, she watches over the crowd of senators gathered in the chamber. She glanced at her aide-de-camp, Colonel Sayfan Yechezkel. His hand has been glued on the holster of his gun since they left the Palace.

"Is he supposed to be armed?" Speaker Amber Spiteri commented.

Caffari shook her head. "What's happening right now is not supposed to happen. He's trying to reciprocate."

"What's the meaning of this?!" A woman's shout pierced above the general noise.

It was Aysel Jafarova. She headed straight towards Caffari.

She asks, "Why did you invoke a special session for the Senate?"

Caffari tries to explain, "It's for our protection-"

"It's fucking nine o'clock in the evening!" Jafarova growled. "My family is scared. Especially with that bullshit on television."

"What did you hear from the television?" Spiteri asked.

Jafarova answered, "The tanks in the old Predicean base are moving out. TVINews-Plus insists something suspicious is going on."

Caffari sighed. She cannot keep it to herself any longer.

"Montefiore is planning a coup."

Spiteri and Jafarova widened their eyes at Caffari.

She quickly raised her hands to calm them. "I invited the Prediceans to come here. Everything is under control." She looked at Jafarova. "Yes. It's them on the tanks."

"Where's Nuncio?" Jafarova asked.

Caffari shook her head. "Montefiore got to him first. He and the rest of the cabinet."

Spiteri gasps. "Il-Madonna!"

"Il-Allab." Jafarova reacted.

The doors to the chamber shot open. It turned everyone's heads towards it.

Caffari smiled. It was Vice Admiral Vittorio Emanuele de Falco.

He salutes her. "At your service, Eccellenza!"

Il-Ħamis, 15 ta' Ottubru, 2023
Casa Gazzella
6:38 AM


Chaim Montefiore, as Acting Prime Minister in all but name, took the special chair behind Farrugia's old desk. All of his colleague's belongings are still here. Chief Justice Lar Trevisan and Vice Admiral de Falco sat in the two chairs in front of the desk. They waited quietly as Montefiore read a paper copy of the latest statement from the Sorovian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"As a result of the recent circumstances, Sorovia has seen it fit for a complete and total withdrawal of its diplomatic force from Iolanta. We urge the Iolanti government to halt its actions-" Montefiore crumpled the paper into a ball.

He sneered. "Fucking idiots. All of them."

"This isn't good," said Chief Justice Lar Trevisan. "So... Is it true that we have lost control over the I.A.F. forces in Northern Iolanta?"

"Yes!" Montefiore threw the paper across the room. "I don't know how. I don't know why. But they seem organized. They have chosen one Colonel Flavius Marsicus to be their spokesperson."

He looked down at the L-Orizzont newspaper laid out on the desk. The headline reads Sorovia announces military buildup on Iolanti border. He folded the newspaper and dropped it in the waste bin beside him.

"That is not what I heard." Vice Admiral de Falco informed. "The mutinying commanders are split along the lines of their friends and relatives ruling the Don Republics."

Trevisan raised an eyebrow. "Don Republics? You mean the landlords?"

"Si." Montefiore sighed. "Those sneaky bastards. Not all of them have the balls to represent their interests personally in the Senat. They usually send their son or wife to do their dirty work here."

"They are quite dangerous." The Vice Admiral took out a folder under his arm. "Mind you, these men, despite the corruption, are military-trained." He puts it on Montefiore's desk. "They have control of the bases and the arsenals in the north. Putting them down will be...costly."

Trevisan comments, "At least our control of the Royal Carabinieri remains mostly intact."

The Vice Admiral glances at Trevisan. "Mostly. I have reports confirming podestas and Carabinieri officers taking over entire towns and villages. Twelve civilians have been killed trying to resist them. Four of them were local officials." He pointed at a page in the folder as Montefiore read its continents. "So far, twenty police officers were arrested. Only three resisted and died in the process."

"Does this also include encounters with rogue I.A.F. soldiers?" Trevisan asked.

The Vice Admiral frowned. "I'm afraid not. The casualties in those encounters are more than fifty now."

Montefiore nods. "This will get worse if we don't restore order. It must be done sooner." He looked at the Vice Admiral. "Admiral, we are grateful for your efforts. But I must ask you to return to Palazzo del Governatore. The government needs to understand who is in charge now."

The Vice Admiral stood up and saluted Montefiore. They watched him leave.

Trevisan leans forward, looking back at the closed door to check if the Vice Admiral is still there.

He asks, "Are you sure we should rely on the Prediceans for keeping the government together?"

"Until you formally assume the office of Administrator. For now, the Prediceans and the I.A.F. will be the link between us and the rest of the bureaucracy."

Il-Ħamis, 8 ta' Frar, 2024
Pjazza Indipendenza, Kuusinimi
8:38 PM


"AVANTI MAVOIA!"

"AVANTI!"

"VIVA IOLANTA!"

"VIVA!"

Podesta Oskari Erkkilä watched nervously from the top of the steps to Municipal Hall as the crowd that filled the square shouted patriotic chants in support of Iolanta. The Sorovian Defense Forces were probably not expecting ethnic Sorovians and the evil ruling minorities to unite like this.

The crowd is likely middle and upper-class. It's always them who make such overdramatic scenes. That explains why half the square is empty. News and information spreading all over social media have accused many ethnic Sorovians of being spies and traitors. A few ethnic Sorovian residents, all of whom were working-class, had to surrender to the Royal Carabinieri for protection. They were easy targets.

"We did a good job protecting everyone," said Lieutenant Colonel Ano Mäkitalo, Carabinieri provincial commander.

"Si." Erkkilä pointed inside Municipal Hall, at the two SDF soldiers flanking a large portrait of Grand Doge Vittorio Emanuele. "I'm surprised they haven't pulled down that thing. Or the national flag."

"The S.D.F. commander said it's not a priority." Mäkitalo snorted. "He is currently occupied with the Consiglio Comunale."

Loud voices could be heard echoing inside the Municipal Hall.

Erkkilä shook his head. "Il-Allab! They must be shouting at him."

"They may have been spared a united I.A.F. response." Mäkitalo nodded. "But, in my opinion, the old people are the real enemy."

"Speaking of the I.A.F." Erkkilä looked around before he moved closer to Mäkitalo. "How will the Sorovians deal with the Don Republics?"

"I hope it will be quick." Mäkitalo crossed his arms. "But I doubt it will be. Those demonji have full stockpiles and arsenals."

Erkkilä nodded. "The S.D.F. can only see as far as the roads can take them. By now, the I.A.F. soldiers must have set a distance between them and the roads, spread out in the isolated stretches of landlord territory. All over the highlands and forests."

It-Tnejn, 12 ta' Frar, 2024
Mahmud X High School, Güney Antalya
10:38 AM


"Hurry up! Lunch break is gonna be over soon!"

Hayir did not bother to respond. He was looking for the note he tried to pass to Frederica.

Rekola, that weirdo, threw the note away. He then spoke in that weird language.

Whatever he said, Hayir just listened. It was better to stay quiet with him. Everyone tried to understand him. But he kept pushing everyone away.

Ever since the Sorovian invasion, Rekola has been very quiet. His eyes are glued to the phone.

Hayir spotted the note on the floor.

"Insha-aziz!" He cried out.

But as he reached down, he was distracted by another note. It is on Rekola's desk, written in surprisingly good Aurorian Mehrabic. But it wasn't Rekola's ability to write the language that surprised him:

Our forces have already begun attacking the heathen scum.
Our engineers have been cutting communication lines, our infantry destroying the enemy's military capability.
They think us weak, they think us beaten.
We will educate them on underestimating our devotion as the true followers of Karvonen.
Death to the Heretic,
Praise be to Karvonen.


The sound of gunfire and screams erupt from the hallway.
 
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