A briefing given to selected members of the Curia and senior Guildsmen, Officers of the State and Members and Cohorts of the Order of the Phoenix by Caelwyn in the War Room of the Old Terminal.
To the aforeaddressed Peers of Yathrib and Offworld;
To the aforeaddressed Officers of the Crusader State;
To the aforeaddressed knights of the Most Noble Order of the Phoenix;
To the aforeaddressed members of the Church Militant and of the Brother Battle;
To the aforeadressed affiliates of the Guilds of the Known Worlds;
I, Dame Linnea of House Torenson, on behalf of Caelwyn Ichiro Xiu-Feng Li Halan, Earl of the Twisted Spire, Lord of Sigil Rock, Baron-Warden of Sa'frya, Honourable Lord General of the Glorious Forces of the Kishian Quin-Long Li Halan, do hereby send greetings and felicitations.
You are invited to attend a briefing in the War Room of the Old Terminal upon the substantive elements of Operation Jericho, a coalition military ground and space campaign of great significance to the Crusader State now under way, whose ultimate goal is the relief of Revelation through the capture of the Kastrum orbital station.
Imperial, Li Halan and Church forces are operating in concert, and we hope that this briefing will help those battling on other fronts to adapt their plans as necessary or to allow them to consider lending aid as may be required.
The successful prosecution of this campaign will require individuals of skill and daring in addition to the clash of arms upon the battlefield, and thus we hope that as many of the Phoenix Order as can attend will do so, to learn how they might, if they so choose, aid the cause of Empire and Church. Should you be unable to attend, we hope you will be able to send a representative, or failing this, a transcript of the briefing can be made available to you under strict security and a more personal meeting arranged at a later time.
Sincerity in all things,
Dame Linnea Renhet Zelja Torenson
Seneschal of the Dragon Legion
The War Room of the Old Terminal is an impressive chamber build into the penultimate storey of the great structure's clock tower. No few dignitaries have been invited to the briefing, which appears to have been organised to communicate a matter of general interest to the senior of the officials of the Crusader State, the Seven, a selection of Yathribi nobles of a particularly crusader bent, members of the Church Militant, and particularly the Imperials and the Questing Knights. In order to accomodate this fact, the great tables have been moved slightly, to allow an auditorium-like set of curved benches to be arrayed in place for those attending, with a small stage and lectern in the center. The security is fairly high, although doubtless rumour will spread afterwards, for the moment, personalities are checked, invitations examined, and there is a glimpse for a moment of what might have been a young man in the marked robes of a Penitent Psychic within the security booth. Drinks and small plates of food, in the manner of a cocktail party, are arrayed on a buffet table, and petty officers in plum and grey uniforms ensure that each guest is welcomed and supplied as suits their preferences.
Caelwyn is stood by the lectern, reviewing some notes and speaking with a young woman in the uniform of the Supreme Order of Engineers, who appears, along with her crew of five, to be responsible for the shuddering, creaking Magic Lantern projector that is to be used for display.
Julien arrives with a squadron comprised of half Kossacks, half Crusaders. None of which appear to be overtly armed; though one can never know, not with the Decados specialty cavalry.
As is her nature, and befitting her position, Linnea circulates amongst the invitees, greeting everyone politely. She manages smiles and a few moments of pleasantries with most if not all, while keeping keen eyes on the liveried attendants that no one is left wanting for physical comforts.
Though she still enters in a whisper of silk, the Hydessos Emissary's colors are the muted maroon and dark purple of a council session. Samina's demeanor is solemn as well, though the al-Malik beauty keeps her expression pleasant and courtly. She offers a curtsy to each in turn that she meets, according to rank, and settles into the seat offered her. Attentive and quiet, she listens carefully.
Keeping abreast of military things is important for him! Even though he has like two different fronts to overtake right now. ;) Rose Madani slips in as unobtrusively as possible with a single Ukar guard and finds a seat in the back row.
One of the representatives of the Engineers, working with a protocol officer of Caelwyn's staff, a tall nobleman with a set of gold aguilettes running down his side, moves from delegation to delegation, offering the head of each group of people (or single individual) invited a short stubby metal cylinder about the size of a thumb, with an illuminated red button atop it. The protocol officer explains that if anyone has a question as the briefing goes on, they can simply press the button to alert the speakers of that fact, so that everyone does not have to shout over each other.
There might be more outside, but only two guards are within the room alongside the Decados Chamberlain. Fiamma appears idle in thought, dressed in her dark finery, boots audible on the floor as she steps confidently. Those she knows get a polite greeting, an incline of head or shallow curtsey depending on rank, before she settles into one of the seats.
Having seen to the last of the gathered representatives, Linnea shoots Cael a brief, pointed look, then moves to take her seat as well. From thin air, it seems the tiny Seneschal produces a folio, unsealed but quite thick with whatever paperwork she requires to hand for this meeting.
Once his guests have had the socially minimum amount of time to take the edge off their hunger and thirst and attend to the business of greeting each other, Caelwyn takes the nod of his small socially-adept seneschal to cue him for the next step of the proceedings. He moves up to the stage, and climbs up the short three-stair steps to walk across to the wooden lectern, motioning for people to take their seats that have not already done so, the last laggards coaxed by uniformed servants into place. The lectern's front plate is carved in the banner of the Li Halan, and as the General gives a significant nod to the Engineer, who starts the magic lantern machine into life. At first, there is a brief moment in which a fifteen-foot-high promotional hologram for "Stan and Stultzy," the popular Church approved cartoon show of the late 4000s appears and begins to rotate behind Caelwyn, but after an aghast look from the Engineer and a blow or two with a hydrospanner over the course of the next couple of seconds, the tracks on the crystal recorders are realigned and a spinning Li Halan cross of equal size takes its place. The first thing that Caelwyn attends to is to place his hands together, and to pray. "Lord Pancreator, most High, who Guides and Cherishes the Faith. We are gathered here to speak on matters of Your Crusade, and we pray that you bestow all here present with victory in war, and plenty in peace, with discernment for strategy, and with wisdom for the aftermath. We here are your Sword, wielded against the Heretic and Traitor. You are our Shield, and we shelter in the Light of your Power. Amen."
Fiamma leans back in her seat comfortably, steepling her fingers on the table in front of her. Her dark eyes are shadowed with low lashes as she peers, with deceptive disinterest, toward the Lord General and the lantern machine. The cartoon title causes a raised brow of surprise and amusement, though the emotion is fairly subdued. The prayer causes her to sit upright a touch, though she makes no gesture to join in the sentiment otherwise. Save for her eyes, they close for a brief moment.
Leading a stealth Hazat assault on the refreshments, there's Sofia. Actually, she does seem to move pretty quietly, despite her height and build. She is in her chair in time (really, no time travel involved!) and quietly joins in the prayer. She is polite about it, and paying due attention. But it surprisingly sneaky because suddenly, HAZAT!
Caelwyn's voice is sonorous, musical with the lilt of his Li Halan homeworld, the softening of consonants and the lingering vowels, seeming changes of pitch, the legacy of the tonal langauges of his alleged forebears. "Nobles and peers of Yathrib and Offworld, honoured members of the Church and Guilds, I offer you greetings and thanks for your attendance today. Time presses upon us all, but I am confident that you will not consider this time wasted. The operation I am about to discuss has to this point been kept a close secret, for reasons that will become evident as I continue. However, we are now aware that these preparations were not sufficient, and that the Kurga Caliphate became in part aware of our intentions. This speaks to the level at which we of the Known Worlds are losing the intelligence war on a global scale: many factions amongst us have access to intelligence agencies with few peers - and we should learn to make better use of them in concert." The deeply tanned Li Halan general reaches for a glass of water on the lectern, sips from it, and continues to speak. "Let me speak with you about Revelation." He motions to the engineer, and a rather glitchy but still legible holographic map of the city, marked in red and blue, appears behind him from ceiling to floor. "Until recently, our own troops under the Imperial Marshal Cassius," and here he nods to a staff officer of the Imperial legion, attending in Cassius' stead, "were making headway, as we outnumbered the Kurgans by about twenty-five percent. They have reinforced, however, to equal numbers, and that means we are being pushed back. Not because our troops are inferior, but because they have something we do not have - almost total air and artillery superiority, due to the geostationary battle platform known as the Kastrum, orbiting above the Holy City. If we were able to reverse this trend, and complete the relief of Revelation, then not only do we gain the prize of the Crusade, but we also free the troops that currently struggle to take it. Ten thousand imperial legionaries. Seven thousand offworld crusaders. Three thousand soldiers of the Crusader State. In all, about two hundred companies - nearly the sum of the entire military force of the Crusader State entire. With that force available, free for maneuver and offensive operations, we would truly be able to begin to sweep the Kurgans from the Gulf, and then begin the march on the Pearl Cities."
Pressing the button for the 'asked questions' device, Julien hangs back as he listens to the Li Halan general, quiet until acknowledged to speak. "
Caelwyn motions to the Engineer, and the map zooms out jerkily to show the entire shining gulf, and the approximate troop concentrations. "In effect, the city of Revelation has become a tar pit into which we cannot do otherwise than pour our troops. And, mark me, we have no choice. We cannot allow the heretic to tread the city if it is within our power to take back so much as one inch of that sacred place by the effusion of blood. We are prevented by the Kastrum. We must correct this." The hologram shifts, to display an orbiting space station, massive and unwieldy, powerful and bulky, surrounded by a flotilla of kurgan naval vessels. "The Kastrum was originally in the hands of the Known Worlds, the primary planetary transhipment point and orbital defense station. It's firepower is significant, and it is puissant beyond the ability of all currently held planet-to-space weapons to significantly affect it - apart from the two mighty meson cannon in the Fallingfire Citadel, and those weapons do not have line of sight to the station and cannot be moved. The Kurgan fleet use it as a space dock, and the Imperial and House naval forces currently on station in the Yathribi system would have to fight a pitched space battle to overcome it - which there is no guarantee, given its firepower and shielding, which is augmented massively by a ground-based transmitter station, that they would be able to do so without catastrophic losses. We cannot simply obliterate it, either: if it is destroyed, it cannot be rebuilt, and without it, we would struggle to take Revelation without crippling attritional casualties. We must recover it, and that is the purpose of Operation Jericho." Caelwyn pauses at this convenient break in his words, and acknowledges Julien with a bow of his upper body in the Baron's direction, having seen the light flash on his notification board.
"I assume you have a plan to deal with both the station and the transmitter at the same time. My issue is: do your plans fit within the framework we might be seeing in Abay in the coming months?" Namely, Julien mentions the Kurgan forces moving en masse to Revelation as the ultimate military couriers indicate.
Caelwyn nods to acknowledge Julien's question, and includes his response into the next section of his briefing. "The transmitter station's beamed power renders an assault on the Kastrum nearly impossible, particularly considering the fact that we must bring Galliot close enough to launch a boarding action. Accordingly, we must shut the shield generator down without destroying it, since we will need it operational in order to protect the Kastrum from Kurgan counter-attack once we hold it. However, the timescales involved in this operation are measured in up to three seasons. It is for this reason, as I shall mention later, that Jericho was launched as soon as practical." Caelwyn nods to the Engineer, and a satellite shot of a high mountain town becomes visible, the bulk of the transmitter station perhaps half a kilometer away, built into the side of the mountain. "This is Castle Peak, a town in Riebecksland, about a hundred kilomters from the coast. The transmitter station is located here. It was not operational due to lack of maintenance when the Kurgan first invaded Yathrib. However, in the intervening time since capturing this township, they have brought it online. It must be siezed. Our engineering teams from the Supreme Order must form an understanding of how to shut it down safely, and then it will be shut down in co-ordination with the later phases of the Operation to assault the Kastrum. However, first we must take the station. The intelligence from operatives we have introduced into the town and from the analysis by the Engineers shows that it will take between two to three months to be able to bring the plant into controlled shutdown. To risk uncontrolled shutdown would stress the geothermal plant - and they believe that the consequence of this would be a volcanic event of sufficient power as to cause a massive earthquake and eruption along the mountain chain and into Revelation. Thus, in timing, we must first take Castle Peak. Then we must hold it."
Fiamma glances toward the Hawkwood lord when it is apparent he will speak. The disinterest in her eyes is replaced by sharp focus, coming so swiftly that it is clear it'd been laying in ambush the entire while. Her back arches slightly, her legs crossing before she leans back again, comfortably. Soon after the question, her attention is back to Caelwyn, back to apparent idleness.
"With the forces of Rabaq currently engaged heavily in Teldam, the perfect opportunity to launch a swift ambibious assault into Riebecksland presented itself, as only light garrison troops and quick reaction forces are available to oppose it. This was the reason for the secrecy - secrecy which failed, as the air attack on the assault fleet showed. However, the ground force comprised of mechanised forces did beach successfully and is currently driving hard towards the town, bypassing resistance rather than confronting it." Caelwyn motions to the engineer, and a map of the area moves into focus on the hologram emitter, a red line dotting its way towards the township. "Once the town is taken, we will hold it until the Engineers have finished their researches and are ready to proceed. As soon as our intention is clear, we expect to face strong attempts to recapture the town. In part, this is a secondary objective of Operation Jericho. If we are ground to dust, it will have drawn enough troops away from other fronts - Abay, Teldam - to provide respite to other Known Worlder armies operating in those areas." "While preparations to disable the shield generator are ongoing, the third phase is to gather the necessary star naval might to assault the unshielded Kastrum. I have requested assistance from the Imperial Fleet, who have committed to the operation, and Lady Linnea of my household has recently returned from a trip to Urth in which we requested of the Hierocrachy a deployment of elements of the Patriarchal fleet, which have been accepted. Once the fleet is ready and the shield is under our control, we will need to draw away the Kurgan fleet with a decoy action in deep space, assault the station, and deploy special operations teams and boarders to secure the vital control locations and engineering spaces. The hololith flickers up schematics of the station, apparently obtained from data vaults in Reveleation by operatives unknown. "The timescales involved are broadly. This season, we must capture Castle Peak. Next season, we must hold it, for the engineers to work and to gather the fleet. And then the season after this, we launch the assault, and begin the recapture of Revelation. This requires us to hold Castle Peak against increasing attacks from the Kurgans for between six to eight months, within enemy territory. It will not be simple at all. But if one is not willing to risk, one cannot win." "Are there any questions at this stage?" he inquires, looking around the room. His own staff seem quite sober. They are, after all, likely to be bled slowly to death in the meatgrinder of siege.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Linnea has no questions to ask, giving the Lord General a faint shake of her head. Her expression too is almost solemn.
"At the end, therefore, I must tell you why I have brought you here to tell you these things. In the first instance, because this is a matter of importance to all individuals within the Shining Gulf. In the second, because those of you of Questing Orders, or that are here on Crusade and not tied to a land, and to the Brother Battle and Church Militant, to you I have a request, an entreaty, and a call to arms. We need your swords, your skills, and your heroism in Castle Peak. Taking it, and then holding back the Kurgans, will need those of skill and daring to support the special operations necessary. This is a campaign for Yathrib, for Revelation, and for the Faith." The hard-bitten Li Halan commander continues speaking, after taking another sip of water, his conviction thrumming through his words. "For those of Guild and of lands of wealth, for those who can offer material aid, it will be sorely needed. For those of baronies and lands whose territories are already under threat, we do not expect soldiers, you have few to spare. Yet we do request your goodwill, poltical assistance, and where practical assistance may be given to us, that you give it. From the State we need unity. From the Faith we need determination and support. And from you all, we need your prayers. For we will need the Pancreator with us." Caelwyn nods his head to the engineer, and the magic lantern sputters to a stop.
Rose has been paying close attention and her expression is one of sincerely fervent interest. She does not, however, seek to raise any questions nor offer any public comment.
Caelwyn lets the silence last a few more heartbeats "Two last matters remain. The first, is one of apology. The lands of Riebeck have in part been claimed by Johburg, and we have made no discussion with their Countess on the matter of Castle Peak. In order to preserve, we hoped, the element of surprise, it was necessary, and Castle Peak was not so sworn to Johburg. Nonetheless, it was uncivil, if not dishonourable. We hope that the respite they gain from the adjustment of Rabaqui forces will be recompense in part." He pauses. "The second, is one of warning, and of promise. My soldiers, myself, those sworn to me, and those allies of the Imperium and Church I have with me, bring with us the fury of the Emperor Wars. This matter, this Operation, may fail. But if it fails, it shall not fail for want of effort. We are used to taking ground, spending blood for it, and holding it. We shall not hold back. This war will be fought to the knife. I have sought and recieved indulgence for use of weapons proscribed by the Church for use upon mankind, providing that they are used against the Kurgan foe in furtherance of the Crusade. If necessary, they will be deployed." He steps aside from the lectern. "Thank you for your attention, my lords and ladies. If you have questions, then please, speak them now."
Still without particular questions on the briefing, Linnea turns her attention instead to the audience. The Torenson's emerald eyes weigh and measure, searching faces and body postures for dissent, question, approval... probably even boredom.
Sofia is thinking, listening. She hms softly. She tilts her head. She is perhaps working on a mental map, making sure she knows which is where.
Rose shows no response to the mention of church-proscribed weapons, either of approval or disapproval. It's a fact, she makes a mental note of it without giving it any more or any less weight than anything else she's heard.
"Might we inquire as to the nature of these proscribed weapons?" Fiamma asks, head tilted in vague curiosity. Her hands are folded in her lap, legs crossed and poise graceful. Other than the question, she remains silent, looking at Caelwyn for a response. Though her eyes glance idly about the room, scanning for reactions from others present.
Caelwyn inclines his head. "While I do not wish to elaborate to great detail in such an open forum," he replies, "we are speaking at this time, of items including and similar to heavy incendiaries, flammables, land mines and similar area denial explosives, and chemical weapons. Further escalation is not being dismissed. If by fury of technology we can hold this vital point, we will do so, within the grounds of our indulgence." Then he waits a short while to see if anyone else has a question, then nods his head. "If any of you wish to speak with me in private, to see how you might help, what missions are under way or required, or other matters, please make myself, my staff, or Lady Linnea aware. Thank you." He bows again, from his position by the lectern, and walks down the steps from the stage.
"I can spare one company of soldiers, but I would limit their scope of action; they would be seen in that front towards the second phase of your plan, not the first," Julien explains to Caelwyn, nodding once, a measured response, it seems. "As for what political assistance could be found, well, one of Auberry-Malefaux's campaigns turned bitter and now there may be a siege on our hands in the North. Even so, there is the matter of a Quarter-Castellanship of the North being used... for the South. Perhaps the Southern one could be secured to assist your campaign in Riebeck, given enough votes for the candidate I put forth in last Curia."
The Li Halan general steps across to join the crowd as they move down from the auditorium-style benches, to join Julien and the others in a more social forum, the briefing/lecture now over and even some quiet music beginning to play. "It will be difficult, Lord Julien, to move large numbers of reinforcements to Castle Peak once we have the town, nor do I have the resources or the goal in mind to conquer Riebecksland. I will not shun offered aid, but the process would need careful thought. It may be that Countess Amber elects to follow up Rabaq's invasion of her lands with one of her own, but I consider this unlikely, since the threat of Tyche is likely to dissuade her from such venturing. Only once the Kastrum is taken will we be free to airlift troops to continue the defense. Any other ground forces, from the Castellan of the South or otherwise, would have to fight their way to us. An invasion of Riebecksland would take pressure from our defence. But that is a matter for the State to arrange, truly."
Samina still listens quietly, and thoughtfully, studying Caelwyn intently. She remains in her seat for the moment, hands resting in her lap, though her eyes do drift towards the aforementioned staff. As others begin to rise from the benches, so does she, moving to drift amongst the crowd and not yet leaving.
When Caelwyn dismounts from the platform, Linnea rises from her seat with the intention of joining the Earl and guests. A flick gesture to Caelwyn has a drink and light snack speeding towards him by an eager porter.
The Li Halan general mingles for a short while, speaking with the Imperial representatives, and then departs the war-room.