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Varcosian Border, Spring 608 The Juniper war was raging on, far on the East. According to the latest news, the Empire of Light was winning: the troops of Corrington had been routed, and were retreating towards the chief town of the Juniper Province, but everyone knew that they couldn’t keep it for long. The war was almost over. There were little celebrations in the westernmost provinces, as people had more urgent issues. Varcosian brigands had plagued the area for centuries, in a deadly hide and seek game with the local lords and their soldiers. However, as the Juniper War called too many dragoon regiments back to the East, those rascals soon stopped being an annoyance and became a real problem: it was no longer matter of a few stolen cows, but of farms set on fire and border hamlets sacked. At the time, Tristan Rimbaud was a young lieutenant at his first command. He had received the task of repelling “Bogdan” (the Varcosian brigands) beyond the border, but he soon realised that the mission was completely pointless: Bogdan moved back and forth the border as he pleased, escaping capture every time. After the first skirmishes, therefore, Tristan gathered all the available men and attacked the brigands directly in their bases. The campaign was successful, and “Bogdan” remained out of the lands of Oleon for several years. Crossing the border, however, was not without consequences: after the protests of the Varcosian ambassador, Tristan was relieved of his duties and transferred to New Oleon… a punishment only on paper, since he received a medal an important command in the Marines. Apparently, bands of Salleeki pirates were creating troubles, but Oleander response was complicated by international borders… From left to right: -Front 1) Armoured guard: some rural areas of the Eranos province had remained behind in the military innovations. The guards of some noble lords, therefore, are equipped as they were 100 years before: swordsmen wearing morion and heavy armour are not an uncommon view. 2-4) Eranos chasseurs: regular line infantry is stationed in the large Western Forts along the Varcosian border. Most of the fights against brigands and overambitious Varcoast boyards, however, are fought in the woods by light infantry units. 3) Lieutenant Tristan Rimbaud: second son of an ancient but relatively irrelevant noble family of Western Oleon; he could either choose the clergy or the army, as his elder brother will inherit title and estates. He choose the latter and, after attending the military academy, he was assigned to the Varcosian Border, near to his native lands. 5) Arbalétrier: while antiquated and difficult to maintain, a crossbow can be as powerful as a musket. Almost disappeared from the regular army, this weapon is still used by militias in some rural areas. -Back 1) Chasseur à cheval: light cavalry, equipped with sabre and carabine. Chasseurs a cheval can fight both on horse or dismounted but, differently from dragoons, they are essentially cavalry soldiers. In the western provinces, where border skirmishes are more common than real battles, those soldiers are trained to fire from horseback, something quite unusual in the Madrician kingdoms. 2) Garde-chasse: the role of game wardens is usually non military, mainly patrolling public woods and noblemen’s hunting grounds against poachers and brigands. These men, however, are skilled horsemen and excellent marksmen, who know the Western Forests as their own pockets; therefore, during wartime, they are enlisted as scouts and explorers. From left to right: 1-2) Varcosian brigands: brigands wear traditional costumes, often including peculiar cloth hoods and long moustaches. While most of the loot consists of livestock, on lucky days they can steal a statuette or a golden goblet from a temple. 3) Brigand chief: each band gathers around a charismatic leader, sometimes a lesser nobleman, a village chief or even a priest. He usually wears more elegantly than his men, with colourful clothes, silver buckles and plumed hats. 4) Varcosian brigand: most bandits have antiquated firearms and little gunpowder to waste. Therefore, they always have a wide array of knives and axes. 5) Armed peasant: not all the bandits are full-time brigands. Many of them are simple peasant who join the brigands for a while, hoping to steal enough to repay a debt or to cope with a bad harvest season. 6) Bowman: a bow costs less than a musket, and can be built by any craftsman with minimal tools. Bows are therefore often seen along the Varcosian border, in the hands of both hunters, bandits and even irregular soldiers. ——————— As most of my bricks are still in the form of Breshaun port, I built a small figbarf and expanded a little bit the past of my main character. “Bogdan” for Varcoast brigands should be something like nickname “Charlie” for the Viet Cong or “Fritz” for German soldiers.
"As you guessed, Tristan, I'm in serious troubles" replied the Varcoastan consul. "I'll go straight to the point: somebody is organizing a conspiracy to seize power in Varcoast, murder our king and the ones loyal to him (among which me), strenghten his position with a great victory aganist Oleon and create his own empire, whatever the consequences for my country and for the peace in the New World." "Uhm, this could indeed be a problem! First of all, are you absolutely sure about that?" "Unfortunately, I am. What we know cost the life of the man we could infiltrate and of two of my best agents, found with their throat cut..." "...As you know, King Friedrich of Varcoast is becoming old and, since he doesn't have a direct heir, the crown will be inherited by his cousin Wilhelm. Nothing of too unusual, but several men of the Court don't approve his foreign policy ideas." Continued Alexander. "His wife is an Oleander noblewoman, and he is a personal friend of King Philip, isn't he?" "Exactly. Moreover, our current Prime Minister, head of the anti-Oleander fringe, and Wilhelm despise each other and, as soon as the latter will become king, the former woud be immediately fired." "Since the Prime Minister, Ludwig von Altenburg, is King's Friedrich most trusted man, and has always been completely loyal to the Crown, he is considered above any suspicion; his power and his ambition, however, have enormously grown, and he will never accept to lose his position." "Even if it entails a coup d'ètat?" "There's no doubt about that. We discovered that he has become the leader of a group of officers, noblemen and rich merchants, who will probably receive money and estates, but only crumbles of real power, assuming that rattlesnake will not execute them for treason after he takes the power. According to our infiltrate, their plan is to assassinate king Friedrich and accuse Wilhelm and the Oleander government of the murder." "Clever move, since we would obiouvsly intervene. Anyway, this would be a complete suicide: Varcoastan army is at most a third of Oleander one, not to mention better weapons, artillery and training: even if the Prime Minister had all the soldiers and officers on his side, and I doubt about that, in a couple of months we woud break your army and enter your capital city... sorry for my frankness!" "No problem. They would have a chance only dividing your army, with groups of Marderians deserters or something like that, absolutely not mercenaries paid by Varcoast attacking your colonies, and only later deploying Varcoastan regular troops, reinforced by volunteers, where and when they could win." "But even so they could at most win the first battle! And knowing their plans we could ignore their diversion, temporarily lose an island or two and directly invade Varcoast... sorry again for my frankness, but your army would be annihilated!" Father Costantinus, silent until that moment, replied: "Your analysis is correct, monsieur Rimbaud, but what would happen if Corrington supported our enemies? We could only defend ourselves, but surely not attack at ease." "Of course this would turn the table! But what would justify that course of action of the Corries? Our relations are normalising, and we would intervene to defend ourselves and to restore the legitimate government, surely not to conquer Varcoast! What would lead them to an act of aggression?" "For example, the explosion of a Corlander ship with most of its crew..." N.B. Before part 2 is published: no Corlander will be involved in treasons, plots or other unpleasant things; no Corlander will be hurt, except the ones disintegrated with the Wolf's Blood
The travel from Astrapi to Eltina was quite smooth, but strong headwinds delayed the arrival of a couple of days. Tristan Rimbaud was late, and knew that soon someone would have jokingly reproached his poor punctuality, unless the situation was even worse than expected... he drove away the thought: Eltina was a quite large city, but Alexander was an high-ranking Varcoastan officer, and anything too serious would have been noticed. Anyway, seeing his friend at the end of the driveaway of the luxurious house, Tristan breathed a sigh of relief. At least, he was still alive and out of jail. "You are late, my friend!" said Alexander Braun with a slight Varcoastan accent. "And you are a damned thankless Varcoastan... and by the way, nice house! You made a fast career in the King's guards... did you corrupt someone?" Replied Tristan relieved: there was surely a serious problem, but his friend was in good humour...at least the Great Raider wasn't going to retaliate aganist them. The friends exchanged a few words: Alexander was recently named Varcoastan Consul in Eltina and so, as he told with some measure of pride, the Government provided him a house "appropriate to his rank". The august Varcoastan consul (Tristan would have made fun of him for a long while) became serious again: "Thank you for coming without asking anything more: as you probably imagine I have a very thorny problem, and the last thing I wanted was a leak. Moreover since yesterday I had to accomodate one of your stake-organizing compatriots... somehow he discovered about our meeting" Tristan was a little shocked: "Wait, wait... the Order? I wish you don't have troubes with them!" "No, as you see I'm still alive! And I think that the help of Father Costantinus will be useful, since he is here as Oleander intelligence agent rather than as inquisitor. Please, follow me in my library: I'll finally tell you my problems." "Welcome, monsieur Rimbaud. Interesting library, Herr Braun. The books that a man reads tell a lot about his mind, at least to the ones able to understand." "Nice to meet you, Father. But, since you are here, I can guess that our country itself is endangered... What's happening?"