Battle of Chryse (1690)

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Battle of Chryse
Date 19.V.1690 AN –22.V.1690 AN
Location Chryse
Result
  • Occupation of aiport and dockyards
  • UDF Peacekeeping Mission in Chryse
  • Isor Isor removed from office
Belligerents
Eastern Banner Group

The Battle of Chryse (19–22.V.1690) arose from a marital dispute in the ruling family of the city of Chryse and ultimately resulted in the installation of a government more sympathetic to the Raspur Pact and the Honourable Company, albeit at a considerable cost to the city itself and its inhabitants.

Background

On 10.II.1689, having grown bored of his wife, Ayesha al-Osman, Isor Isor announced his intention to intention to contract a second marriage with Aliande Laegel, the granddaughter of Avranel, the Lady Laegel. This announcement prompted an immediate breakdown in marital relations and the Palace of the Exarch soon thronged with legal counsel, representing both parties. Far from just concerning marital disharmony, these proceedings soon began to impinge upon matters of state and high finance. On 5.V.1689 AN, with matters now in the hands of her representatives hired from the Honourable Company, Ayesha departed Chryse with her two sons, Isor Osman Isorion Isor and Ardashir Kalir Isorion Isor, for a four month yachting holiday around the islands of Sathrati aboard the Šahrazād, a rebuilt Montefeltro 134ft motor boat purchased from a Gotzborger businessman after the fall of Stormark in 1685, accompanied by her sister, Mariyam Guadalim-Truls, and her daughter Kari Noor Truls, along with eleven crew on secondment from the Women's Auxiliary Maritime Service of Elluenuueq.

On 5.XV.1689, Isor's medical records were leaked to Elwynnese press causing him acute personal embarrassment whilst his personal physician and clinical team had fled to Upper Elwynn raising the spectre of official collusion on the part of the Elwynnese regime. Isor, conceding defeat, announced that he would not marry Avranel should Ayesha return with the children before the end of the year. Instead, he promised the people a "union grander than ever imagined". In Ayesha however this capitulation succeeded only in exciting in her a renewed contempt for her husband.

The contemplation of revenge

Luxuriating in the warm waters of the Sathrati archipelago, anchored offshore from the islands once ruled by the indomitable Isabella Kalirion, Ayesha made great pains to invite aboard and charm the individual members of the Council of Sathrati, the senior representatives of the Imperial Government, the Raspur Pact, and the Honourable Company on the islands. Deftly she worked to win a majority to her cause. With Li Naomiai she struggled but, through persistence and recourse to the techniques taught and honed in Raspur, here too she prevailed and won to her cause another influential supporter, albeit at the cost of resurrecting a proposal concerning Chryse that was long ago dismissed as singularly absurd.

Ayesha's revenge on her husband was now planned for the turn of the year. On the advice of her sister, Mariyam, she made firm her resolve. The Magistra gathered the regiments of the Jaysh al-Sathrati, purchased using bonds raised by the Honourable Company against which the city of Chryse was pledged as a surety. For these bonds to be raised required the connivance of the Imperial & Emirati Bank of Alalehzamin and Constancia, by happy coincidence a subsidiary of the Honourable Company with a long established presence in Benacia. However the allocation of the significant sums required for the enterprise being proposed meant that such an undertaking could not be permitted to proceed without having first been thoroughly examined by the bank's infamous Court of Directors. However, even with that being so, there was no way that it would be considered fitting and proper for the Court to be implicated in the decisions of one of its regional branches – lest matters go awry in a manner that necessitated a thorough and far reaching enquiry. It was for this reason, leaving her precious children in the care of her sister, that Ayesha and Zurvanudin Miran al-Osman, the ESB director of security and overall commander of the Jaysh al-Sathrati, found themselves on a chartered private jet bound for Merensk for a scheduled investment meeting where a chance encounter in the lobby with Augustus Massey, global president for the bank, had been tacitly arranged through intermediaries careful not to leave any electronic or physical correspondence that could be traced back to senior levels.

An assignation in Merensk

During the long flight from Erudition to Merensk on 08.XV.1689, Zurvanudin was afforded ample opportunity to receive that consideration which was his due for making the necessary arrangements to allow Ayesha's plans to go forward. Upon arrival at the obsidian ziggurat which was the branch's tasteful corporate headquarters, they were immediately recognised by the Honoured Sons tasked with minding the security barriers in all company financial institutions. Greeted with deep salaams of respect and obsequies, the pair were swiftly directed towards the VIP screening lane and soon found themselves in the minimalist white marble hallway, lined on either side with columns of porphyry marble, which constituted the main lobby and waiting area for those privileged to enter the inner sanctum of the bank. A most fetching and winsome assistant was soon on hand to inform them that the investment panel awaited their arrival but momentarily. It was as they followed the white blouse and black pencil skirt clad form of the assistant that the whispered message was relayed to them from Massey, as they passed in the lobby, with scarcely a moments pause and only the briefest nods of acknowledgements. The message, succinctly put, was that a line of funding for the hire of the Jaysh would be made available via a shell company, Pentermacht Holdings, registered in the Warring Isles, and that their obligation would be towards the Society for Benevolent Investment rather than the Honourable Company itself. As for Ayesha and Zurvanudin themselves, as far as the world was to be concerned they had acted of their own initiative and, if matters went awry, they would be officially disavowed, burnt, both figuratively and literally irrespective of their exalted lineages and positions. On that cheery note both parties continued on their separate ways towards their formal meetings.

Details of the numbered account from which expenses for the enterprise were presented later that evening in the form of a sealed envelope, black with gilt edges, delivered in person by the maître d'hôtel of L'Hotel des Alexandriens, an employee of the utmost discretion and good standing with the Honourable Company – as all in such positions were required to be – who further vouchsafed his bona fide credentials by rolling up the sleeve of his right arm to reveal the tattoo of the Dark Orchid Society inked on the inside arm below the elbow.

The next morning the pair found themselves joined for breakfast in the hotel's upper tier restaurant by no lesser personage than Bruno Rambert Strohkirch, a man whose official duties encompassed a number of roles – particularly, where they were concerned, pertaining to the Internal Security Bureau, a counter-espionage and intelligence agency of the Raspur Pact operating in the Benacian Theatre. So it was that, sat in a secluded alcove a discrete distance away from the tables of any other guests, that the three found themselves discussing, over a breakfast of smoked kippers, toast, and fried eggs, certain matters pertaining to Ayesha's ambitions and the fate of Chryse.

It appeared that the word of the generous pledges made to Li Naomiai, whilst the latter had been reclined upon the yacht's divan back in the waters of Sathrati, had found their way to the Court of the Princess in Eliria, where Her Serenity herself had convened the Council of Eliria to discuss the import of what had been proposed. The majority of councillors, cowed by recent events in Normark, had meekly followed the lead of Kamilla and readily endorsed her plan of action. The original plan, Bruno informed his two companions at the table, would be permitted to go ahead, but there would now be significant follow-on stages of which it was now his duty to apprise them.

Having done so, Bruno, as a stickler for formal etiquette, rose from the table to excuse himself, gallantly kissed a bemused Ayesha by her hand, and made a sharp inclination of his head towards Zurvanudin in a nod of acknowledgement. As he departed he did however make one final, almost blasé, comment to the pair. That since their return flight had been rescheduled to the following morning, they might wish to avail themselves of an opportunity to make a visit to the Elwynnese embassy in the city. Purely as a social call in view of their connections to Alalehzamin. He had taken the liberty of arranging for their calling cards to be sent and that the Ambassador would be receiving them at 3pm that afternoon.

The Elwynnese embassy was a converted merchant's town-house located on Lycurgus Street in the Centrum District. Serving as the residency of the High Representative of the Riqi Elluenuuerssuarion, the embassy housed, in addition to the High Representative's family, eight permanent staff and thirty-two locally hired servants. Ayesha and Zurvanudin arrived at the embassy at about 2.45pm and were greeted by the retired UDF sergeant-major who double-hatted as the mission's head of security and the High Representative's personal butler, who led them along a blue-carpeted corridor to a study lined with packed bookshelves and carpeted with ornate Alalehzamini rugs, where they were invited to await the High Representative who would be with them as soon as opportunity permitted. As they waited they were attended by the parlourmaids on the embassy's local staff, chosen for their good manners and pleasant appearances, who brought in teacakes and thinly sliced sandwiches for afternoon tea. All of which caused Zurvanudin, somewhat sardonically, to remark that it was impossible to do business with the Elw without there being tea involved, to which Ayesha had enquired in mock meekness as to what was so objectionable about taking tea? To this Zurvanudin gruffly answered that there was no-way on the cursed world that the insipid milk tea the Elw sipped could be compared to proper Babkhichai. This exchange had left Ayesha quietly satisfied at having successfully needled her companion and put her in a good humour when the Elwynnese High Representative finally deigned to put in an appearance.

The High Representative it transpired was a short, balding and somewhat corpulent, gentlemen carrying a leather dispatches case who looked to have a mix of Elw and Babkhi ancestry. It was all that Zurvanudin could manage to force an instinctive sneer into something resembling a forced smile. In behind the High Representative wobbled an elderly, grey-muzzled, sablehound that sniffed the air of the room as if in a cursory greeting before making a line towards Ayesha, it's tail flickering optimistically as it ought out the traces of crumbs that had fallen from her skirts. The fat little man, dressed in an expensive grey suit that seemed to sit ill on him, apologised for the inadequacies of his greeting, remarking that it had all been sprung on him rather at the last moment. Ayesha could almost sympathise, and managed to smile in a manner that suggested as much, all whilst wondering how such a wretched and pitifully ill-prepared creature had survived in public service for this long. Perhaps it was true that the Elw had gone soft.

What the High Representative had to offer was more or less a repetition of what the Deputy-Director of Internal Security had told them over their breakfast this morning, albeit this time from and Elwynnese perspective. The little man went so far as to admit that this sort of thing wasn't his wheelhouse but that it seemed to him that the present Viceroy had succeeded in making himself so thoroughly unpopular that it would not take too much of an incident to convince people to accept an arrangement that constituted the new normal if that offered a strong and stable government. Ayesha suppressed a wince as he rattled through a set of notes that he had pulled out of the dispatches case. The interesting part was when the little man began talking about a consortium of local businessmen who had been out of sorts since the demise of the Iron Company as a reckonable concern and worried that Isor, as a Verion by inclination as well as heredity, might be a bad bet in the long term for attracting inward investment. It transpired that these individuals, the names of some of whom were familiar to Ayesha along with plenty who were not, were in search of another one of the grand corporations under whom to find shelter preferential business opportunities. What caught her interest was that the approaches had been made not to the Honourable Company as she might have expected, but to Anzarolexion – the Elwynnese financial services group. Perhaps Chryse had been on Elwynn's radar before Ayesha had laid the idea, along with her hand, on Li Naomiai.

Ayesha listened patiently to a briefing on the status of the Retinue of the Captain-General, her dear husband. Only correcting a few details, such as pointing out that four crates of Pfeil surface-to-air missiles along with the KFA launcher and targeting modules had been recovered from the customs warehouse down by the docks in Chryse. The tubby little man had looked rather crestfallen at that and dejectedly remarked that it had been rather hoped those had all been magicked away to the Arbor Isles along with their comatose “Emir”. 'No such luck', had been Zurvanudin's coldly succinct remark on the subject.

The discussion continued a little further, regarding a few salient points at which point the High Representative awkwardly began to stammer about how it had been a genuine pleasure to receive such distinguished guests and that it would be his utmost pleasure were they to ever call again if they found themselves in Merensk. As he said these words he reached a trembling hand into the dispatches case and fetched out a manilla envelope which he hesitantly passed across to Ayesha before thanking them both for taking the time to visit. As Ayesha rose to depart she gave the dejected hound a cursory pat on the head it had been resting upon her lap for the greater part of the briefing. She thanked the High Representative for the tea whilst Zurvanudin gave a curt nod of acknowledgement on the way out.

As they returned to the car that had been waiting for them on the embassy driveway Zurvanudin enquired whether there was anyway to shake the 'bloody Elw' off now that they were interested in the project. If there was, Ayesha had sadly answered, she couldn't yet think of it. They had been chosen to be the means of entry into Chryse for the Elw and it seemed now that the best they could hope for was to be left in place once the transition of power had taken place. Zurvanudin had then asked whether the enterprise was worth going through with in that case, if she was just going to be a puppet for someone else.

'Oh yes', had been her answer, 'I intend to make that slimy little bastard pay. No matter the cost.'

Destination Zy-Rodun

After returning to Erudition from Merensk on 10.XV.1689, Ayesha was forced to devote the greater part of the next day to conference calls to her legal team in Chryse. Her husband, fearing that she might in fact not return by the end of the year had made a series of extravagant additional promises in terms of payments, gifts, and the like, but a sticking point was that he continued to dance around Ayesha's demand concerning the exclusive use of Botha Island for her own household. Isor it seemed felt that Ayesha sequestering herself on an island devoted to her own purposes might call in to question the extent of their reconciliation. Ayesha was unequivocal – Isor would see the twins again once the deeds to Botha Island had been made out in her name. He could choke on that demand, and as he did so it would give her more time in Sathrati to prepare.

Consultations continued, and as matters became more advanced Ayesha appointed her sister as formal guardian of her two children, having them sent to the Huis Truls in Dravotih iker. She meanwhile left the yacht at anchor off Erudition, so that certain eyes might remain focused there, and moved by a chartered nocturnal flight to Zy-Rodun, making use of the providential funds to pay a generous rent to Lord Zulamith Megadaezj, Seneschal of the island, for a suite of apartments within the manorial palace. Former training grounds of the Imperial Forces on that island had, since the Kalirion Fracture been “leased” to Benacia Command, and it was here now that she spent the remainder of the last month of 1689 assembling the force that would fulfil her purpose in Chryse. With the generous consent of Madami Simrani the Transegale Trading Company of the Emirate of Sathrati, Inc. was selected as victualler for regiments mustering on the island.

Most vexing was the direction received from the 'Elw partners' was that, for political reasons that they had declined to divulge, the attack would not be permitted to commence prior to the fifth month of 1690. Whilst Ayesha was convinced that the moment to strike was in the present while her husband was clueless and holding out pathetically for some kind of reconciliation, she did at least concede that the extra time generated by the delay could be put to good use.

The Jaysh prepare

Zurvanudin meanwhile had gathered together the regiments of the 5th Division and embarked them onto transports crewed by contracted mariners and personnel from the Naval Division of the Jaysh. Having the majority of the nearly twenty-three thousand infantrymen redeployed from Yardistan to Zy-Rodun by the last day of 1689. Those men brought ashore were issued with an M1610 semi-automatic rifle, a shenchely-palatka rain-cape, a trenching tool, and a forage bag containing a five day iron-ration. They were set immediately to capturing an abandoned plantation, whose garrison, a militia of serfs and slaves armed with vintage rifles of the M1508 pattern, had been promised their freedom if they held out for forty-eight hours against the Jaysh. In the ensuing live-fire exercise that lasted over four of the allotted five days, ninety-seven Jaysh were to perish, whilst of the serfs only twelve, of an initial force of four thousand levies, were to gain their promised freedom[1].

The plantation massacre allowed Zurvanudin to identify which of the non-commissioned officers and other ranks of the Jaysh had the right stuff to be the shock troops of the initial assault. Based on recommendations received from the officers who had overseen the assaults conducted against slave militia fighting from ruined buildings and improvised concealed positions, of the twenty-three thousand Jaysh brought onto the island seven-thousand two-hundred of that number made the cut and were carried over onto an intensive training programme.

Those selected for retraining were organised into twelve demi-regiments termed as “commandos” numbered sequentially as:

  • No. 6 Commando
  • No. 12 Commando
  • No. 18 Commando
  • No. 24 Commando
  • No. 30 Commando
  • No. 36 Commando
  • No. 42 Commando
  • No. 48 Commando
  • No. 54 Commando
  • No. 60 Commando
  • No. 66 Commando
  • No. 72 Commando

Those selected for commando training, having been assigned to a formation, were first instructed to elect setvans (commanders of a troop of forty men) 'and 'sarvans (commanders of a squadron of one-hundred and twenty men). These officers were then to elect a Sarhang Dovom (deputy-commander) and Sarhang (commander) for each Commando. Zurvanudin wished for it to be that the men would be led by men chosen from the ranks and trusted by those who would be expected to follow them.

Certainly these new officers were to receive intensive training along with their men. Infantrymen received extra training in marksmanship and fighting in built up areas in a nameless village whose inhabitants had been forcibly expelled to allow buildings to be remodelled for the purposes of the Jaysh. Each troop and squadron of the various commando formations were dispatched on endless route marches around the island. Three months of intensive training on the island would see the Jaysh Commandos eventually marching as far as 60 kilometres a day. To build stamina, the loads carried by the commandos increased incrementally with each forced march, eventually culminating in the infamous death marches where each man was expected to march from the north of the island to the south and back again carrying a double-load of equipment in addition to their own kit, coming to a combined weight of 40 kilograms. The fittest men in each Commando, who completed the final death marches within a pre-set time period, were assigned to the two assault squadrons of their Commando. Conversely those who dragged themselves across the the line after the allotted time span for the march had passed, or else who had managed to contrive to injure themselves, sometimes quite severely, along the way were assigned to administrative and supply duties in the combat support squadron of their respective units.

Between combat training and the forced marches, time was filled with briefings on the political situation in Chryse, sand pit studies with scale models of assault targets being subject to examination and discussion by all-rank gatherings, the testing, cleaning, disassembly and reassembly of their assigned rifles to an extent that bordered on the obsessive, and above all else with physical training – a lot of physical training.

For exercise, the Jaysh engaged in bouts of boxing and wrestling. Wearing full kit, men were also required to run, jump and vault over wooden horses, and to clamber, with no assistance beyond a foothold afforded by a comrade's cupped hands, over a much cursed brick-wall, frequently with the instructors genially lobbing in flashbangs and smoke grenades – as much for their own amusement as to encourage laggards in the training party. Morning swims down by a secluded beach were a comparative release from the pressures of continual training, being forced to 'bog-snorkel' in full gear through irrigation ditches and rice paddies however being somewhat less well received.

In the midst of all these preparations the Sanaman intervention in Drak-Modan had commenced on 8.II.1690, a reaction to the Draconian Supremacy Movement that was joined by the Black Legions in their own Operation Sanctuary which commenced five days later. These operations, targeting the So-Saran Isles, did not directly effect the conspirators but did provide an advantageous boon in that Benacia Command declared Zy-Rodun and its territorial waters a prohibited zone, closing the airspace to overflights and the harbour to shipping. With operational security enhanced the preparations could redouble in their intensity.

Doctrinally the infantry squad, formed of two sections of four under the command of a goruhban supported by his sarjukhe, was the primary tactical unit, capable of individual actions at the initiative of the NCO in charge. Five of the fifteen squads that comprised a squadron would be light-machine gun teams, with the remainder formed of rifle squads and a mortar team.

A key portion of the preparations relied upon receipt of accurate intelligence regarding the situation on the ground in Chryse. While Ayesha had her own network of influence and informants, these had become persons of interest to the Watchmen and there was no guarantee that any of her supporters on the ground had not been turned by the Watchmen for their own purposes.

The coming operation would require an uncompromised set of eyes to make an objective evaluation of local conditions in the city.

Our man in Chryse

Unfortunately for the conspirators the ESB-Jagdverbände, the specialist assault formation of the Honourable Company that could be usually relied upon to conduct reconnaissance in hostile environments, was not available for hire – having already been reserved by another client.

The Society for Benevolent Investment, appraised of the situation, was able to put into motion alternative arrangements. It so happened, that, while the preparations for Chryse were ongoing in Zy-Rodun, agents of the society in Lyrica had identified a suitable candidate for conducting a reconnaissance of the key sites in the city.

Following the overthrow of the High King of Stormark in 1685, Lyrica had been swept by an uprising which had done much to uproot the legacy of Vanic Norse colonisation in the island. Whilst certain aspects of the unravelling of the Vanic Web might have been considered unpleasant, it could not but be regarded with a certain level of satisfaction when viewed from Benacia – where it was considered in certain select circles as being the culmination of the great project that had begun with the Auspicious Occasion of 1651.

As Lyrica slipped into four years of chaos and bloodletting the Hurmu of the northern Lake District were able to rediscover their national identity and pursue a path towards sovereignty via the establishment of a Hurmu Trust Authority while Alduria-Wechua, desiring to enhance the security of lines of communication between its holdings in Eura and Keltia launched the Pacification of Lyrica. Both the efforts of Alduria-Wechua and the Hurmu came to fruition in 1689 with the establishment of the Allied Mission in Lyrica and the Allied Reconstruction Mission in Hurmu under the auspices of Apollonia Command of the Raspur Pact. The allied mission was a multinational effort and part of the contribution by the Unified Governorates of Benacia was the deployment of a motorised infantry regiment supporting a Sanaman expeditionary force. It was one of the officers involved in that deployment, one Lors Bakker, who caught the attention of the Society for Benevolent Investment.

Following the deployment of the allied force to Hurmu, Bakker contracted the Lyrican Pox, which necessitated a course of penicillin and hospitalisation in Kaupang. Approached by agents of the Köping Tea Company whilst in hospital, Lors agreed, in return for a modest retainer fee, to serve as a commercial agent of the company whilst on convalescence leave which, at their suggestion, he would spend in the Benacian free port of Chryse.

After settling in the city-state under his new guise of a commercial agent, Bakker, having drawn upon his expenses account to fund the costs of a Masters of Business Administration at the Royal Chryse University under the guise of developing and furthering his ties to the local academic and business community, got to work. Over the course of four months, utilising the cover of undertaking business trips to Goldfield and Lune Villa in Ransenar, Bakker reported that the Retinue of the Captain-General had little fighting value and that Isor, increasingly distrustful of his wife's intentions as her return was subject to delay after repeated delay, had concentrated the national armoury, treasury and radio station within the Residency, once home of the Governor-Representative of the Royal Iron Company. Should the palace be stormed and Isor taken into custody, there will be no opposition to any new regime beyond that offered by the Corps of Watchmen. Having been subject to several close calls involving their vigilant officers whilst building up his own network of local agents, Bakker advised that a special effort be made to neutralise the Corps and its headquarters at Number 13, Great Elm Square. In the words of Bakker himself, the Corps was the only competent organisation in the Imperial City that remained insusceptible to bribery and which would, in all probability and for its own historic reasons, refuse to capitulate in the face of an assault carried out by either the Honourable Company or the Raspur Pact.

After discovering hidden microphones and cameras in his rented apartments, Bakker elected, at the end of his first hundred-days, to relocate to Lune Villa on an extended business trip intending to wait out events from the comfort of a loss-making tea shop where he was proprietor and investor. Given the opportunity to join the forthcoming Jaysh assault, Bakker declined – citing that as a serving officer of the Black Legions it would be inopportune were he to be shot engaged in activities that lacked the formal sanction of Benacia Command. Instead he would spend the remainder of the year learning to pretend to care about tea blends and working towards his MBA through a series of correspondence modules.

Preparations continue

Observations concerning the necessity of taking the Corps of Watchmen out of the picture swiftly and decisively were noted by the conspirators on Zy-Rodun, and concurred with in Eliria, with representatives of the Society for Benevolent Investment acting as go-betweens.

It was agreed then that the Watchmen would have to be dealt with on the first day and within the first hour of the operation as it unfolded. Fortuitously the Jaysh had recently come into the possession of eight FF-380 Buzzards, a conspicuously over-armed gunship based on the CF-380 Atlas turboprop transport aircraft.

Whilst possessed of a decent long-haul flight range, the Buzzard were it to be flown from airfields in the islands of Sathrati, would find their loitering time over Chryse severely restricted – something that would not be ideal if a strike on the headquarters of the Watchmen was to be matched by providing close air support and direct fire against targets identified by the Jaysh commandos once they were ashore in the city.

Of the Jaysh themselves it had been decided that 42 Commando would be responsible for the assault on the docks while 18 Commando and 66 Commando would be tasked with storming the Residency. The main attack would be conducted from troop transports that would be anchored off-shore, while the first assault squadron of 12 Commando found itself undergoing a crash course, in every sense, on airborne assaults, including a hair-raising example of learning by doing as they became familiarised with the unique terrors of trying to come ashore on a comparatively small island from a high-altitude parachute jump. While there were no fatalities, more than a couple of less than controlled descents did necessitate the transfer of replacements from other commando units. In all one thousand nine-hundred-and-twenty Jaysh commandos had been allocated to the assault, the majority by sea and one-hundred and twenty making a parachute landing at the Imperial Chrysean Airport. The objective of the latter group being to shutdown Chryse's air traffic control radar and force the closure of the runway.

The increasing air component of the attack, and the distances involved, now obliged the conspirators to make some arrangements for overflight, landing, and refuelling of aircraft of the Honourable Company engaged in politically questionable actions. So it was that three gentlemen of the Society for Benevolent Investment found themselves staying at the Bethlem Hotel in the fourth month of 1690, just as Troy Lyon, the Ransenari Minister of Defense and Security, found himself in the city on a free day in his official diary. In the undocumented meeting that ensued from a chance encounter in the hotel lobby, it was agreed that the long-standing aviation permit for ESB Logistical Services aircraft would be extended to Jaysh al-Sathrati aircraft undertaking long-range training flights over the Shire Sea. To this end landing, refuelling, and take-off rights would be granted for Jaysh registered aircraft at Lune Villa Aerodrome. On the day following that meeting it so-happened that a numbered account was opened with the branch of the Imperial & Emirati Bank of Alalehzamin and Constancia in Ardashirshahr, a city where Troy Lyon's brother-in-law happened to be gainfully employed as a chartered surveyor.

Meanwhile a fascinating titbit of information happened to come into the possession of the conspirators courtesy of Bakker's tea shop in Lune Villa. An administrator in the diplomatic arm of the Viceroy's service, newly disaffected after learning of his posting to the colony of Laegel and known to Bakker via an introduction from a mutual acquaintance inducted into Bakker's espionage circle, had found his way to Lune Villa on the pretext of attending to some family business before his scheduled departure for what was widely considered in Chryse to be the arse-end of Keltia. Avranel, the Lady Laegel, Commissioner of Foreign Affairs of Chryse and the object of the administrator's particular ire, had reputedly taken a close interest in the fortunes of the Hurmu Trust Territory following the widespread recognition of the resumption of sovereignty and so had been amongst the number of dignitaries invited to attend the signing ceremony in Vesüha for the accords that would Craitland relinquish possession of Lakkvia to a reunified Hurmu. In the administrator's possession happened to be documents relating to the date of the signing ceremony and Lady Laegel's travel itinerary. The unhappy administrator was appropriately rewarded but advised to continue with arrangements for departure for the colony lest suspicions be raised. To this the administrator had groaned and remarked that learning the barbarous language of the Tarr was punishment enough for any man.

There remained the question of getting three commandos worth of infantry aboard ships to Chryse without raising the alarm as far as an impending invasion was concerned. Although not a part of the Raspur Pact, Chryse's position as a free and later as an imperial city, combined with its advantageous position as an entrepôt for Ransenar, had made it a nature destination for Pact trade fleets approaching from southern Apollonia, Eura, and Tapfer. While Bassarid piracy had never fully manifested in the Shire Sea, the continuation of the wartime convoy system into the present policy of heavily escorted trade fleets had been favoured for a greater regularity of economic planning on the military-industrial side for the continental theatre commands, as well as benefiting a three party cabal of corporations, namely the Honourable Company, Kerularios & Company, and SATCo, by handing then a near monopoly on inter-continental shipping movements. A discrete word was put out by Zurvanudin and a clerk on the payroll of the Benacian Directorate of the Honourable Company was set the task of collating all trade fleet shipping movements into Chryse during the fifth month of 1690.

The dutiful ESB clerk reported back that Convoy PIC1690-30, departing Port Istvan on 2.V.1690 would be scheduled to arrive in Chryse Bay on 20.V.1690. Comprised of eight SATCo and six Kerularios registered container-ships, twenty-six merchantmen owned by smaller operators, and one heavy fuel oiler chartered by third parties through the Goldfield Financial Company. The convoy would be escorted the Natopian Navy for the short distance to the edge of Tapfer Command's area of operational responsibility whereupon convoy protection duties would be transferred to an escort group provided by Benacia Command. Normal procedure was for the Southern Banner Group to provide a force of corvettes and a helicopter carrying Logistic Support Vessel up to the edge of the area of responsibility for the Eastern Banner Group which would send a force of coastal patrol boats and maritime patrol aircraft to watch over the convoy on its last stage into harbour. However, with Drak-Modan in disarray and Sanama engaged in the So-Saran isles, a difficulty had arisen in finding available escort ships. Benacia Command's Operations Directorate had planned to bridge the gap by tasking corvettes from the Maritime Forces of the Black Legions. Now Zurvanudin saw an opportunity – not to send the invasion force's as disguised merchantmen but rather to ship them openly as the convoy's escorting group.

Merensk once more

On 12.IV.1690, with the clock ticking down towards the day upon which the force would have to be committed, Zurvanudin boarded a GAV-6a Zephir that had been especially dispatched to collect him from Zy-Rodun, and commenced another journey, this time unaccompanied, to Merensk, wherein this time he was conveyed directly to the Citadel itself. At his request a meeting had been proposed to which had been invited Benacia Command's Director of Operations, Rudolf Maisuradze, the Director of Planning, Zoltan Naranyan, and the Chief of the General Staff, Herlot bi Merensk. The Commander of the Southern Banner Group, Ira Rasputin, was listed as having sent his apologies albeit he was presently enjoying the hospitality of the Black Legions on Sabatini Island following his forcible extraction from Drak-Modan. Selardi Jen Daniyal, Commander of the Eastern Banner Group, was a political officer and thus had sent an aide-de-camp from her staff to represent her at the meeting. Khosrow Dātiya, although a commander of the Central Banner Fleet who would be uninvolved in the proposed operation, was present to provide an informed naval perspective.

Zurvanudin's presentation to the meeting, held in the grand central conference room of the Citadel (which, for brevity's sake, may be envisaged like so) was a relatively uncomplicated one – namely that the 6th (Naval) Division of the Jaysh al-Sathrati should be activated for convoy escort duties, commencing with Convoy PIC1690-30 as a demonstration of capability. The maritime arm of the Jaysh consisted of a minesweeper, six motor torpedo boats, nineteen armed trawlers, two tug-boats, nineteen requisitioned ferries of the "roll-on roll-off" type, and an antique tall-ship that did double service as ceremonial flagship and cadet training vessel. The suggestion that such a force might be suitable for convoy escort duty was met with polite scepticism from amongst those gathered around the conference table, none of whom had been directly inducted into knowledge of the true reason for wanting to sail Jaysh ships as close to Chryse as possible.

Objections were made by those around the conference table. As far as the Chief of the General Staff was concerned the Jaysh's vessels would be inadequate for the purposes of deterring a USSO commerce-raider and lacked any semblance of an anti-submarine warfare capability whatsoever. Zurvanudin had sought to assuage this by listing out the armaments of the trawlers attached to the Jaysh's naval division. Modelled on the Jolly Froyalaner, an infamous raiding and smuggling vessel, each converted trawler had been armed with four container-housed S-2 Standard Missiles, along with one heavy machine gun and two Wren light machine guns. Furthermore the electronic countermeasures carried onboard included four laser optics dazzlers and a suite of multi-mode electromagnetic jamming equipment. Finally captains were expected to keep onboard their boat a Waspsting MANPADS system. To this the Chief of the General Staff had answered dryly that it was all well and good but there was nothing proposed amongst those vessels that a Sheng-class cruiser could not brush aside with barely a shrug.

Support for the proposal was however received in the form of a tentative expression in favour made by Khosrow Dātiya. Although he harboured the same doubts as everyone else present in the room listening to the pitch being made to them, he nonetheless had at the back of his mind that it would be the squadrons under his command that would be required to make up the shortfall in available escort vessels. Prior to the meeting he'd taken the precaution of looking over the refit and maintenance schedules for the corvettes assigned to the Cosimo Sea Flotilla, the mainstay of the Central Banner Fleet, and had not been greatly heartened by what he had read. Klymdown and Šlomxala had what were in effect waiting lists for use of the available drydocks. The Sabatini Station, in the So-Saran Isles, was little more than an anchorage for surplus Florimell-class Troop Landing Ships, and accordingly had available berths, but diverting corvettes or Logistic Support Vessels there would merely bring them onto the nominal strength of the Southern Banner Group and lead some wallah in the Planning Directorate to conclude that they would be available for assignment on convoy duties. Once that happened he would be unlikely to get those vessels back until the next crisis, whenever it happened, forced an abrupt reshuffling of the decks. As such he wanted his ships out of sight and out of mind, bobbing happily in little harbours and coves dotted around the coast of Florencia, until such time as he could manage their refits with the resources available to him.

As such, if Sathrati were mad enough to volunteer to take on the onerous burden of peacetime convoy duties Khosrow Dātiya would be much obliged as they would be relieving him of a burden he could do without. He advanced the argument tentatively that, since there had been no sign of overt hostility from the USSO in a long time, the main duty of the vessels assigned to the escort group would be to scare off any Bassarid or Ralgonese privateers that might venture too close, but that he could not imagine any captain being so foolhardy as to take on an entire convoy. Otherwise the main challenge would be ensuring that the merchant vessels staid together in their allotted positions, and even then the SATCo convoy masters were old hands when it came to keeping the ships and crews under their charge in good order.

The Chief of the General Staff made a sceptical noise at that but when he asked around the room whether there were any strenuous objections found that there were none. 'Very well', he had grumbled, 'a training opportunity then. But I want two flying boats and an AEW aircraft available in the air at all times to keep tabs. I'm sure the Air Operations Officer will want to thank me for this, but that is my directive nonetheless. See that it is carried out.'

Zurvanudin had blinked momentarily when he realised that the meeting had concluded already, and in a manner favourable to himself. As he rose to his feet he began to launch into a rehearsed speech of fulsome praise and gratitude, only to be waved into silence by the Chief of the General Staff who confessed wearily that he had a half-dozen meetings like this already and would have to sit through a dozen more before the day was over. He'd hope to see Zurvanudin in the Mess later if there was time but if not he'll do his best to catch up the next time he was in town.

Instead Zurvanudin rendered his deepest salaams to those present and departed, arriving at the Verkehrsflughäfen Merensk, in time to charter a Jackalope from ESB Logistics to fly him directly back to Zy-Rodun on the same day.

The taskforce sets out

Having established the cover-story of being Escort Group (Sathrati) 1690-67 for Convoy PIC1690-30, a frenzy of preparations began on Zy-Rodun. Six of the ro-ro ferries were assigned to the task of carrying the commando units earmarked for the amphibious assault on the harbour and city. These remained offshore from Zy-Rodun as the troops were ferried out in small lighters and launches. The nineteen armed trawlers, accompanied by the tall-ship Anushiruwân, meanwhile made ready in the waters off Novi Nigrad. On 17.IV.1690 the two elements of EG(S) 1690-67 departed their anchorage areas and converged at a rendezvous point due east of the Celestial Peninsula on the island of Mirioth on 19.IV.1690. The combined force sailed due east and on 4.V.1690 relieved the Natopian 2nd Exploratory Group of escorting duties for the convoy as it passed into Benacia Command's area of operational responsibility. While the armed trawlers formed an escorting pattern of four diamond formations to the north, east, south, and west of the main convoy, with the tall-ship escorted by three more armoured trawlers taking position at the front of the convoy, the six ro-ro ferries, named the MV Creek, the MV Longshanks, the MV Estuary, the MV Doggerel, the MV Damask, and the MV Serenity, took station at the rear of the convoy and, after hoisting Nova English flags, began gradually to merge into the formation of container ships and merchant vessels.

While the convoy was at sea documents were processed to transfer ownership of the six ferries from the Jaysh al-Sathrati to the Pentermacht Holdings Corporation, a company registered in the Warring Isles, with their registry details updated to reflect the new names that had been painted onto the sides of their hulls. The harbour master in the port of Chryse also received notification that six additional vessels had joined the trade fleet inward bound. Although not common, rendezvous at sea was not unheard of, particularly when coastal shipping elected to join a convoy for enhanced protection.

Although the intention had been to stage the assault from international waters, it was felt, at the last, that the ferries would have to come in past Botha Island in order to safely disgorge the myriad of small rigid inflatable craft stowed on the vehicle decks of the ferry, and that this would entail entering the territorial waters of Chryse whilst the escorting vessels lingered off-shore.

Suspicions were raised

Perhaps it was the six ships being of a single type that had made the harbour master in Chryse suspicious, or perhaps it was their joining the convoy on the same day. Either way, it was when the harbour master found the time between breakfast and yelling at the director of container services to check the registry details on his BDN terminal, and noting the date of ownership change as being the date the new additions had joined the inward bound convoy that alarm bells had really begun to ring in his mind.

Without hesitation the harbour master had dialled up the Corps of Watchmen's port security desk, headed by an officer of long acquaintance and many a drunken solstice, to relay his suspicions. The officer wondered if it were another instance of the militia on the islands or the local nobility attempting to trade on their own account outside of the gilded circle formed by the ESB and SATCo. A company vessel might change its registry details and reset its transponder to allow a captain and his crew to dip into a restricted port, unload or take on board an illicit cargo and head straight back out again before reverting to their official identity. Such was the labyrinthine bureaucracy of the Honourable Company that the deception might never be uncovered, or a suitably motivated clerk in the Benacian Directorate might be prevailed upon to correct any offending ledgers. It had been a flagrant abuse that had been honed into a fine art during the Guttuli Conflict. Nonetheless, six vessels pulling this stunt all at the same time was tantamount to taking the piss, so the officer promised to look into the matter and have an inspection team go aboard the six ferries before they were cleared to dock.

It would ultimately be unfortunate that the officer who had received the tip-off concerning the suspicious late additions to the trade fleet arriving from Neridia did not flag his report as being of interest for the Special Branch of the Watchmen, modelled after their forebears in the Shirekeep City Guard, but there were reports of a riot in progress amongst those Tarr who had been indentured as dockworkers so the officer had neglected to add the requisite category metadata before uploading onto the central database.

As it happened, Special Branch had a long-standing policy, going back to the Verionian era of logging the entry and exit of all ESB employees and Raspur Pact personnel, originally for the benefit of the Iron Company but latterly out of institutional inertia. Nonetheless, the team that had received the assignment to track the activities of Lors Bakker, a junior officer spending his convalescence as a tea seller and MBA student in the city, became progressively more suspicious and then actually concerned as his sightseeing trips around the Residency and the harbour-side began to take on more and more the aspect of a reconnaissance. Although no-one had linked his presence in the city the prospect of the Raspur Pact seeking to return to the unfinished business left over from two preceding wars remained a very real concern, and some of conversations Lors had been having in the city made it apparent that he was at the very least attempting to build up an information network. By the time Lors had discovered the wire-taps in his apartment and fled the city, the Watchmen had formed an impression that the particular objects of his interest had been the airport, the Residency, the docks, and their own headquarters. The majority of his “network”, certainly the ones known to have received money from him, were picked up for interrogation and the majority consigned to cells beneath the main headquarters of the Corps. All in all it had been an amateurish affair, with no attempt at making use of dead-drops, or of particularly avoiding being seen in public with those whom he attempted to recruit. There were a few exceptions who had been passed over, including a lowly administrator in the Commission for Foreign Affairs who had been able to convince his interrogators that he'd barely even known Bakker, who was instead an acquaintance of his friend, who may or may not have introduced him, he couldn't recall. That friend was later executed in his cell by a member of Special Branch.

With the Residency already defended by the Retinue of the Captain-General, concentrated there by Isor's mounting paranoia, it was left for the Watchmen to bolster security at the airport and down by the docks. To the former was dispatched the Special Assignments Squad, a paramilitary gendarmerie force focused on tactical law enforcement, crowd control, riot control, domestic counter-terrorism, VIP protection, patrol and checkpoint duties. For the docks, the duty officer of Port Security Office was startled to receive reinforcements in the form of eighteen cudgellers armed with semi-automatic rifles. It would be these gentlemen-at-cudgels whom the officer in charge of port security would call upon to make the fateful inspection of the new additions to the arriving convoy.

Lady Laegel departs

At 2am on 19.V.1690, the morning before the trade fleet was scheduled to arrive in harbour, Avranel, Lady Laegel, the Commissioner for Foreign Affairs of Chryse, accompanied by her granddaughter, Aliande, formerly the subject of the Viceroy's inconvenient infatuation which had led to the present state of affairs, departed from the Imperial Chrysean Airport (formerly Kaiser Verion II International Airport) aboard a chartered Floret bound for Redquill International Airport in Neridia at the start of what would be a bone-shaking thirty-seven hour flight to Vesüha, with additional refuelling layovers at airports in Port Saint Andre and Fort Alkhiva (Alduria). She would later cast murderous glances in the direction of the Elwynnese delegation after learning that they had flown via the Boreal air bridge, utilising a single layover at Hellistelli International Airport in Jääland. If only she had known that, within forty-eight hours, that would soon be the very least of her reasons for feeling aggrieved towards the Elw.

The convoy arrives

At midnight on the morning of 20.V.1690, led by the tall-ship Anushiruwân, Convoy PIC1690-30 entered the Bay of Chryse, with the escorting armed trawlers peeling away to the west in order to drop anchor in Ransenari territorial waters. The six ferries, with commandos now hidden below decks, continued with the main portion of the trade fleet northwards, passing Botha Isle to their east, and dropped anchor in the Chryse Roads and awaited the morning, when the first of the container ships would receive their pilot from the port authority to bring them in to the cargo terminals for unloading. As late additions to the trade fleet, the six ferries would be the last to receive a berthing slot, which would potentially see them at anchor until the 22nd – a prospect that suited their purpose well enough.

Remembering his promise, the Port Security Officer called upon the Harbour Master and invited him to accompany his boarding party as it conducted the inspection of the six late additions to the trade fleet which had aroused the Harbour Master's suspicions. Gladdened by the pretext to get out of his portacabin office, and cheered by a proffered tot of rum, poured into his coffee mug from the Port Security Officer's hip-flask, the Harbour Master readily agreed. The pair, joined by the armed detachment of cudgellers, who welcomed the opportunity to finally seem like they were doing something useful during their posting to the port, boarded one of the harbour authority's tugboats and set out, escorted by a Norfae-class patrol boat. A message was signalled to the trade fleet's convoy master to instruct the vessels under his charge to prepare themselves for inspection.

The convoy master, unaware of the nature of the subterfuge being performed in his midst, was indignant at what he perceived to be a violation of the tacit understanding reached with the port authority's during Isor's reign as Viceroy – that no contraband was to be brought into Chryse and that in return ships would remain solely under the authority of the trade fleet to which they were attached. The proper moment for security and safety inspections was in the container yards as the goods were brought ashore. Being sore tired of the presumption of some tuppenny customs officer ordering about the master of a fleet sailing under the banner and warrant of the Saint Andre Trading Company, the convoy master quickly ordered a warning signal to be sent to the armed trawlers of the Jaysh lurking at anchor in the adjacent Ransenari cove. One of the trawlers was able to quickly clear for action and, going at full ahead, was able to intercept the sortieing Chrysean vessels and force them to turn about before they reached the line of ships amongst which rested the six ferries. The Jaysh aboard those ships, whose radio operators had been monitoring communications, already had a mixed party of rifles and light machine guns concealed above decks lest it come to repelling a boarding action.

It had not come to that but now the Chryseans were much angered at the presumption of the SATCo fleet in the bay, and the Watchmen further convinced that something important was being hidden from them.

The next day revealed the Norfae, supported by three Wendo-class fast patrol boats, and a myriad of small harbour craft and requisitioned private boats, drawn up in a wide semi-circle blocking the approaches to the port from the bay. Worse yet, a pleasure steamer was seen at anchor on a pier projecting from the north shore of Botha island, onto this boat was seen to be hauled by crane two 80 mm field guns of the antique Shirerithian pattern.

Still none the wiser about the six hundred commandos hidden beneath decks about ships amongst his fleet, the convoy master sent a message out to the captains of all the vessels under his care that they were to conduct anti-piracy drills and that his determination was that if Chryse was to be closed to his ships then Chryse itself would be closed by those same ships to all other shipping. The message was relayed to the commanders of the Jaysh trawlers, which had now brought themselves up to the van of the convoy, interposing themselves between the Anushiruwân and the ramshackle armada opposing them. For the commander of the Escort Group, with responsibility for protecting the landing parties as they went ashore when H-Hour came, an alerted and prepared enemy was the worst possible outcome. He summoned to the Anushiruwân the commanders of the trawlers and, discretely – in the borrowed garb of SATCo merchant marine officers – the Sarhangs of the three commando units, where they spent most of the morning deliberating on the new situation and developing an appropriate plan of action.

At 12:34 in the afternoon, an ArBa 42 piloted by Watchmen from the Corps air arm, did a long circuit of the bay and the trade fleet lying at anchor there. Radioing back to the operations desk at Great Elm Square, the pilots reported that they could see a number of deck guns on the merchant vessels, some of which appeared to be now trained upwards and towards the general trajectory of their onward flight path. Rather than tempt their luck further the pilots of the ArBa 42 broke off from their circuit and returned to the Imperial Chrysean Aiport via a route that took them well to the east of Botha Island.


The strike group is airborne

At four am on 21.V.1690, two CF-380 Atlas transport aircraft departed from a dirt-strip runway on Zy-Rodun. Two-hundred kilometres north-east of the island of Amity they were joined by four FF-380 Buzzard gunships. Aboard the two transport planes were one-hundred and twenty Jaysh commandos from the assault squadron of 12 Commando. Nine hours flying time would see the strike package landing at Lune Villa Aerodrome where the aircraft were parked on a cordoned-off section of taxiway as fuel tankers and canteen trucks were driven out to them.

Lined up along the second runway of the aerodrome, unremarked, were seventy TR-279 Dront, all painted in black and without markings.

During the course of the day the Jaysh were permitted to disembark from the aircraft to receive refreshments, relieve themselves, check their kit, and relax in so much as was possible. Those not engaged in the usual puerile humour, the trading of sarcastic barbs, or exaggerated displays of bravado, tried to indulge in a spot of reading or some shut eye. A few obsessive types were seen engaged in continuous push-ups, with pairs seemingly engaged in a competition to see who could outlast the other. People tended to worry about those sorts of individuals and gave them a wide birth whenever possible. Owing to the circumstances, no-one was permitted to write any last letters. If they left the world at this stage, whatever had been left unsaid to anyone they remotely cared for would remain unsaid. This was the cause of a little dissatisfaction amongst some of the more pensive individuals, but as a whole the culture of the Jaysh did not lend itself to the introspectively minded. The Jaysh meanwhile had been politely, but firmly, to remain within the cordoned zone, demarcated by razor-wire and a patrolling force of seemingly unconcerned Ransenari provosts. The commissariat personnel attending to their requirements were affable enough meanwhile but evidently had received firm instructions to keep conversations, beyond those required to ensure that the planes were fuelled and personnel fed, kept to an absolute minimum. Once that last bowser and soup wagon had been withdrawn from the cordoned area the Jaysh were left very much to their own devices, and their officers obliged to keep them in order. At least one squad was made to perform star-jumps for an hour after wearing down a Sarvan's patience to snapping point with their horseplay. The performance was accompanied by the amiable jeers of the rest of the force, who momentarily forgot their own boredom whilst witnessing the humiliation of those eight individuals.

The day dragged on towards dusk but at five pm another canteen wagon arrived and the Jaysh were ordered to assemble into their troop and squad formations for a final equipment check and inspection. Each man was obliged to surrender his pay documents and identity tags, along with removing any identifying rank insignias or unit badges, receiving in return a length of fluorescent tape wrapped around their left arm, and a dab of indelible purple dye on their right index finger. This puzzling ritual out of the way, and any deficiencies in equipment called out and remedied, the Jaysh were called forward to the canteen wagon, one troop at a time, with each individual, upon their arrival at the hatch, receiving one bar of Wechua chocolate and one enamelled tin mug filled with arrack.

At eight pm, with the approach of dusk, the Jaysh were ordered to re-embark. With the cordon lifted, the aircraft were permitted to taxi out to the main runway and then, with the Buzzards and then the Atlases taking off in turn and climbing to a height of four thousand metres and then banking away towards the east. The destination was Chryse and H-Hour was set for 10.30 pm on 21.V.1690.

H-Hour

At 10.15pm a AEW-1 Floret, with its flight transponder turned off but its IFF recognition approached the Bay of Chryse from the east. Approximately twenty-minutes before, air traffic control for Chryse had noted an airborne formation of six radar contacts, giving Imperial era transponder codes flying on a bearing and course that would take them on a flight path towards Golden Hamlet. BDN records associated with an authentication code given by the pilot of one of the aircraft had brought up submitted flight plans detailing a Jaysh training flight bound from Lune Villa to Goldfield to participate in Raspur Pact readiness drills organised by the Eastern Banner Group of Benacia Command. Chryse air traffic control had attempted to contact the Benacian Air Defence Network for authentication twice, only to find that their BDN node's connection to the wider continental network was dropping out. Instead an attempt was made to raise the adjoining Ransenari air traffic control area over the radio. Two attempts at this were made without acknowledgement or response being received.

It was then that the electronic interference began. The Watchmen's radar unit attached to the airport was the first to report suspected signal spoofing, then one by one the BDN terminals in the air traffic control centre began to crash, and the monitors which had been yoked to them froze, with no command responses being acknowledged, irrespective of input, and finally, from each computer in the room there blared the most horrific noise that any there present had ever had the misfortune to hear in their entire lives, played at eardrum shredding decibels, with no way to silence the infected machines until the power cables had been firmly yanked from their sockets.

The bay catches fire

As day gave way to night on the 21st the master of the convoy, having endured a day of electronic correspondence and direct phone calls between company headquarters and various chancelleries, with the tone of what he was being copied into becoming ever more shrill and invective laden the more that the powers that be took over the matter and began projecting their own issues and insecurities onto it. What he had envisaged had been more of a protest to shame Chryse into backing down, but now, from whom he could not be sure, the prospect of a full blockade of Chryse had been mooted; a complete shutdown, as complete as during the Verionian War. This had brought the Shirerithian ambassador in on a conference call, and had ended with her, he thought it was a her, but he could not be sure – the line was rather crackly – angrily threatening to send a fleet to drive off the “insane pirates” (which he took to mean himself), and when another woman, who he remembered had introduced herself as Selardi Jen Daniyal, the commander of the Eastern Banner Group, sarcastically retorted “whose fleet?” the reply of the Shirerithian ambassador had merely been “Szær Saszafran, ælt boþ usroszmos[2].”. Having never been cursed with an understanding of Praeta, the master of the convoy had no notion of what the words meant, but the tone sounded distinctly ominous. Nonetheless the company hierarchy had been supportive of his stance and the Jaysh positively enthusiastic with regards to the plan he had suggested in the event that matters might deteriorate further. The commander of the Escort Group, an affable fellow, had conferred with his captains and declared their full confidence in what he had proposed. With that being the case the order had been passed to every ship in the fleet. Any vessel with a deck gun of any type was to keep it fully manned and trained on one of two targets – the Norfae patrol boat in the midst of the tangled pack of small boats, and the wretched steamer that some damned fool was trying to turn into a gun boat.

So it was that the convoy master found himself on the bridge of his ship at 10:30 pm, sipping on a mug of hot chocolate fortified by a generous shot of rum from his own personal supply, his view of the opposing flotilla blocked by the black silhouettes of the lead ships of the convoy, framed by the illuminating light carelessly cast from the crowded foreshore of the city. He had just been thinking that perhaps this whole affair would prove to be a load of nonsense over nothing that would make everyone involved look rather foolish when suddenly the whole vista from the windows of the bridge was thrown into a stark, and horribly vivid crimson relief, as a deathly red glow. Muttering a curse as he slammed his mug down onto the charts board, he yanked on the release lever to open the door leading onto the adjoining external walkway. From there, surrounded by red waters, and red ships, he looked upwards, shielding his eyes, towards the furious glow of a descending parachute flare. Even as that flare, trailing acrid smoke, began to splutter and fade, another three immediately shot up from what he realised, to his horror, was the rear of the fleet he had brought into the bay. Bellowing with incredulous and mounting fury at no-one in particular to cut that “bloody nonsense out”, his heart sank as he heard the thunderous boom of a cannon being fired from somewhere in the direction of Botha Island. The twits who had spent all day lashing a cannon to the deck of a requisitioned steamer had panicked and fired off a warning shot in response to the flares.

For a moment, while he knew what must surely happen next, the convoy master dared to hope that the night might once more dissolve into darkness and silence.

To no avail. Somewhere on the extended right of the third line of vessels, one of the merchantmen, an independent trader most likely, had seen fit to fire their own deck gun into the darkness, in the general direction of the pier to which the steamer had been moored, and upon which and inordinate number of guns had been trained before the light faded. The convoy master winced as he heard the rhythmic staccato of machine-gun fire, and sure enough, the ships to the front were being lit up by round after round of tracer fire coming from ragtag flotilla and from concealed emplacements along the shore. Now the firing became general, as the armed trawlers, and each of the armed merchant vessels began laying into their pre-sighted targets. The convoy master gripped the railings of the walkway and cursed furiously under his breath before turning about to go inside to make a note of the time when the shooting had begun. The matter was out of his hands now, all that would be left to do, if he survived the night, was to keep a faithful record for the inevitable court of enquiry and to pray to Bous that he would be permitted to keep his pension.

As he went to do this, the first of the rigid inflatable motor craft, which had been disgorged into the darkness and which had been waiting for the release of the signal flares at H-Hour, zipped past his boat, weaving their way through the convoy where every ship that was able was merrily blasting away at everything and nothing, and darting towards their assigned assault points. Soon the bay was thick with the smoke of cordite, expended star shells (which every ship, and the fortification on Botha Island insisted on firing off by the dozen), and burning vessels, including one merchantman in the fleet but overwhelmingly amongst the motley doomed flotilla the Chyrseans had put on the water out of bravado rather than judgement.

Farrago at the airport

At 10:30pm, with the electronic interference attack on Chrysean infrastructure already underway, and with no receipt of the mission abort code (which would have been “Vidar” spoken in clear on a monitored frequency), the strike package turned southwards towards Chryse. The two Atlases beginning their approach for a landing run, shepherded by a single Buzzard, which had orders to shred with its main armament, any other aircraft that appeared to be either landing or about to take off. H-Hour had been timed to coincide in a lull in the arrival and departure of scheduled flights, and so it proved on this occasion, since the ramifications of downing a neutral or allied airliner had been dreadful to contemplate (various cover-stories had been prepared placing culpability upon local forces but none had been entirely watertight).

The Jaysh landed on the main runway at Imperial Chrysean Airport at 11:10pm with the cargo bays of the Atlases already open, ready for the Jaysh to disgorge onto the runway, albeit the second of the two landing aircraft managed to overshoot and came to a rest nose first in a ditch – to the great consternation and discomfort of all concerned. The pilot might have been lynched had not the co-pilot and fight engineer having been able to point to his being severely concussed by the crash landing. Nonetheless, half the force had been able to disembark at more or less the intended spot, a short dash from the air traffic control centre and the main terminal building, the former of which now received a salutatory greeting in the form of a well-placed shot from the 105 mm howitzer of the circling Buzzard. The impact of the shell neatly bisected the observation tower above the air traffic control centre sending masonry and debris tipping into the control room where terrified engineers who had been working on trying to repair the crashed systems now cowered, causing dozens of serious injuries.

After forming up into sections, the Jaysh proceeded to assault the terminal building, advancing in alternating bounds, with each squad leapfrogging the other whilst covering in turn with semi-automatic carbine fire and tossed stick grenades. After gunning down, and dispatching with their knives, two security guards who failed to immediately adopt the posture of submission, the assaulting force moved into the arrivals lounge, discovering a group of terrified civilians by passport control. The Jaysh left an eight-man squad here to subdue these captives and to round up whoever else might be hiding in the terminal building, whilst pressing on. Notions of pacification prevalent in the Jaysh was demonstrated by the summary execution of four captives (two Senyans, a Ralgonese, and a Shirerithian) that was done purely as an assertion of dominance. Another four captives would be raped and one mutilated as the night wore on and those left in the terminal became embittered by their evident predicament. Two squads of Jaysh moved into the damaged air traffic control sector, throwing grenades into each side-room and level of the main operations room. As the clearance operation progressed, any person discovered to still be alive was executed. Two of the assaulting party were felled as they blundered into a trio of Watchmen from the rapid response force previously deployed to the airport, these arrived ahead of the first responders who were rushing to the control centre following the confused reports of an explosion and numerous casualties. The party of eight who had encountered the watchmen dragged their fallen comrades under cover and sought to dissuade the responders from advancing any closer by throwing stick grenades into the darkness from whence the burst of sub-machine gun fire had come. These grenades upon detonation shredded the legs and lower torso of the foremost watchman, leaving him quivering and sobbing in shock as he bled out. His comrades, desperate to rescue him, threw into the operations room a couple of flashbangs and darted forward to grab their colleague, only to be each be shot in turn as they fleetingly came in to view. Again the Jaysh threw two more stick grenades in, and when no further gunfire was heard, a pair moved forward cautiously to investigate. Discovering the three dead watchmen, the Jaysh proceeded to mutilate the bodies with their knives, in a furious form of vengeance for their own dead comrades and were only stopped by the timely arrival of a lieutenant ordering them at pistol point to continue to their next objectives. The rapid response force, now thoroughly alerted to the enormity of what was happening, had begun to deploy from the collection of portacabins and caravans in the terminal building car park that were their temporary base of operations whilst assigned to the airport. As they approached the terminal building they encountered another double-squad of Jaysh exiting the building through the service area, where they were searching for the buses to commandeer to take them in to the city. An immediate and catastrophic gun-battle with multiple fatalities on both sides, that forced the Jaysh to retire back inside the terminal building, and which was only brought to a close as the circling Buzzard felled the haphazard skirmish-line of watchmen with a brutally laid down barrage of fire from the onboard 20 mm rotary cannon. Another party of Jaysh moving towards the radar dome encountered small arms fire, and rather than waste any time dealing with whoever was trying to defend the site, called in another fire-strike from the Buzzard, which duly obliged – the gunners taking great satisfaction from reducing the structure to an unrecognisable tangle of wreckage.

The city goes dark

The operations room at Number 13, Great Elm Square, was swiftly overwhelmed by the deluge of panicked and concerned reports flooding in. The Benacian Data Network had experienced a city-wide nodal failure, telephones were only operating intermittently, and radio communications were subject to what was now clearly some form of electronic jamming. Now reports of widespread gunfire and naval gunnery duels in the harbour were being interspersed with reports of a major terrorist incident at the airport. Ominously, by around 11:30pm, contact with the Special Assignments Squad had been lost, and the only information being received were terse and panicked calls and text messages about a massacre underway in the terminal building, with the connection usually being abruptly severed, and calls from residential neighbourhoods about a series of ongoing explosions and the sound of gunfire at the airport.

With what was evidently a full scale invasion underway the planners and command staff in the operations room were still arguing whether to deploy the response teams to the harbour-side, to the airport, or to reinforce the Residency in anticipation of the likely ultimate target when the first shells from an intruding Buzzard, circling high over the city, began to slam into the upper storeys of the grand building, sending masonry tumbling into the street and any watchmen who were able to, meanwhile, were sent scattering to find cover anywhere anywhere that they could.

The headquarters of the Corps of Watchmen was one of three targets hit – the other two being the Residency, struck by seven high-explosive shells in quick succession, and Oakburgh Power Station, and oil-fired thermal generation unit that provided the city's primary consistent source of electricity. A succession of well aimed shots struck one of the station's high-pressure turbine units, resulting in a fire that quickly spread into the control room along cable ducts and became a catastrophic conflagration as the flames reached the six-thousand tonnes worth of fuel held in adjacent storage cells. Later in the night, vehicles, including fire engines and ambulances, attempting to reach Oakburgh from the city were strafed by one of the circling Buzzards, resulting a road blocked by burning vehicles and strewn with mangled corpses.

The immediate consequences of the hit on the power station was, inevitably, an interruption of power supplies and rolling blackouts that added to the pandemonium taking root in Chryse.

The Watchmen were not however without the means of a response. The circling Buzzards, confidently raining death and destruction down onto the city below with impunity, were becoming complacent in their flight patterns. As one of the gunships turned in for another pass over the now burning Residency building it came under the sights of the Pfeil surface-to-air missile launcher, now hurriedly deployed to a rooftop overlooking the Grand Plaza. Unfortunately to possess a weapon was not to be proficient in its use. As the watchman operator struggled with the sighting system to illuminate the aircraft with the launcher's laser targeting beam the Simines multispectral sensor system onboard the Buzzard began it's shrill and insistent warning tone. The pilots, promptly terrified, began to bank sharply out of their attack run whilst the gunners, cursing as the plane jolted, tilted to an angle, and upended their perspective, began to scan the cityscape below with their infrared scopes to identify the threat. To no avail, as two beam-riding missiles powered at high supersonic speeds towards the sharply banking aircraft, each dispensing three submunitions that shredded the tail section and right wing of the lumbering gunship. The stricken aircraft tumbled ground-ward, ploughing into an apartment set in one of the western middle class residential districts as the operators of the launcher watched on in uncomprehending horror. The distinctive rumble of turboprop engines reverberated through the night sky amidst the sirens, the sounds of gunfire, and the intermittent screams. The two watchmen who had fired the Pfeil returned to their senses. To remain on that rooftop was to invite death. Abandoning the launcher they rushed back down into the stairwell of the building, down into the basement, where they joined the despairing huddle of civilians already cowering down there as the foundations of the building shook to the reverberations of artillery round after artillery round slamming into the building. The high-rise from which the missile had been launched was now, along with several adjacent buildings, on the receiving end of the undivided ire and full fire power of the gunship that had earlier been striking the Watchmen's headquarters.

The battle for the docks

What had seemed a tidy and simple plan to assault the docks from the water, had dissolved into a chaotic close quarter battle before the rigid inflatables had even reached the container terminals. The smashed and burning remnants of dozens of small boats, slipping beneath the waves under the onslaught of cannon shot and heavy machine-gun rounds from the trade fleet and its escort group and made navigating a perilous affair, made no easier by the continuous unwelcome illumination by star shells fired in salvo after salvo from ship and shore alike. The officers who had been issued with nightvision goggles so as to direct the Jaysh under their charge found that they had no need for the wretched contraptions. In addition to this, those small boats of the enemy which were still afloat, were manned by watchmen and civilian volunteers who all, distressingly appeared to be armed and disposed to merrily blaze away at the incoming assault craft, whose Jaysh, crammed onto inflatables that exceeded their specified carry capacity, were obliged to return fire in turn at rapidly diminishing distances. The result had been carnage.

The container terminal, and the rail yards behind, swarmed armed watchmen, aided by enraged civilians, themselves armed almost as well as the official defenders of the city. Amongst the Jaysh clambering from their inflatables up onto the quayside, and finding themselves forced to sprawl ignominiously on the ground in the face of this steady fusillade, dark thoughts about stay-behind Verionist militias haunted their imaginations.

This unexpectedly fierce resistance, along with the downing of one of the supporting gunships, had thrown the timeline for the assault into disarray. The Buzzard which had been tasked with knocking out the power station at Oakburgh was hurriedly redirected towards the port district and given carte blanche to engage the milling hostile crowds. The consequences were immediate and distressing. The Jaysh, now forming up into their assault parties and moving the container yard entered a hell-scape of twisted wreckage and tangled shredded bodies.

In spite of the immense boon of ongoing air support the advancing assault groups, particularly those attempting to push out of the harbour area and into the warren of streets leading towards the Residency and Great Elm Square, hampered by concealed gunmen firing down on them from all angles, and then increasingly, as the night wore on, by petrol bombs lobbed or dropped onto them civilians who were manifesting signs of spontaneous resistance.

Eventually, as the supporting gunships began to exhaust their reserves of ammunition and fuel, it had to be conceded that an advance towards the Residency was no-longer feasible. Casualties were beginning to mount up and stocks of ammunition were beginning to run low amongst the Jaysh themselves. While 42 Commando focused on securing the docks and establishing a defensible perimeter, 18 Commando and 66 Commando were each directed to assault and occupy neighbouring apartment blocs in which they could hunker down for the night whilst providing each other mutual support and creating interlocking fields of fire which might hamper any effort to retake the docks. By four am in the morning on the 22nd the two apartment blocs had been stormed and their inhabitants slaughtered, for the loss of six Jaysh. The upper three storeys of 66 Commando's residential high-rise had to be abandoned owing to a fire set through the overly free use of stick grenades in room clearances. But on the other building, marksmen were soon set on the roofs picking off any individual, man, woman, or child who ventured into the street. Something they were to do for the remainder of the night and well into the daylight hours until relieved.

The Pact intervenes

The expectation had been that the Jaysh, by their custom and practice, would have caused sufficient disorder whilst attaining their objectives as to warrant an allied intervention to restore order. With the coming of dawn the next day it was apparent that the city was in an uproar and the key objectives had not been secured.

It was therefore apparent that the contingency would have to be put into effect. At seven-thirty am on the morning of the 22nd, the skies above Chryse reverberated to the rumble of turbo-shaft engines as seventy TR-279 Dront tilt-rotor transport aircraft flew low overhead from the west.

Two thousand two-hundred-and-forty Alalehzamini infantrymen from the 10th “Zjandarian” Division of the Union Defence Force were being airlifted into the city. Sporadic small arms fire from the ground was met with bursts from the remotely operated 7.62 mm minigun under the belly of the nearest Dront to feel the need to respond. The airlifted force, which had been present at Lune Villa Aerodrome under the guise of conducting exercises with Lyonforce, along with a tactical airlift element provided by the Aerospace Forces of the Black Legions, had received the order from the Eastern Banner Group Command to deploy into the city at five am when it had been, fortuitously preparing for a snap drill.

The majority of the Dronts made directly for the burning ruins of the airport but two of the tilt-rotor transports followed a flightpath that took them to the shattered structure of the Residency.

Isor: objective attained

In spite of coming under heavy fire from those members of the Retinue of the Captain-General who had not been killed, deserted, or gone off to join in the fighting elsewhere during the night, the Dronts came to a hover over the shell-scarred roof of the Residency as the UDF troopers rappelled, covered by a machine-gunner stood on the cargo ramp, down onto the building. Proceeding methodically, and without the wanton savagery that the Jaysh would have indulged in under similar circumstances, the sixty-four man assault force conducted a room to room search and clearance action, sparing any defenders who threw down their arms but swiftly neutralising any who showed the least hesitation, roughly binding those who had prudently surrendered with zip ties lest they get any foolish notions. Whilst the defenders of the Residency had made a show of resisting at first, it was clear that a night of being pounded by what was basically a flying howitzer had significantly diminished the will to fight. Indeed once it was understood that those who offered no resistance would be spared, the majority were soon laying down their arms and surrendering. Eventually the officer leading the assault would tell the remnants of the Retinue to “just stack your rifles and bugger off. I can't be arsed with this.” One of the defenders, wearing an ornate variation on the blue uniform of the Palatini Corps that bore the rank insignia of a cohort tribune, was taken to one side and tactfully given the choice between a bayonet up the arse or with assisting the UDF in regards to a certain matter. Unsurprisingly perhaps, the tribune proved to be exceedingly cooperative.

Isor was found in the basement, sheltering-in-place under the table in a hardened structure that was apparently a crisis management operations room. The Viceroy's condition was deemed to be one of severe agitation and emotional distress. The assault group's medic, having given him a cursory examination, had concluded that Isor was manifesting symptoms of shell-shock. With time being of the essence, the medic promptly administered a heavy dose of morphine to Isor, which rendered him tractable albeit largely immobile. Exasperated, the commander of the assaulting force directed the medic and his designated orderly to assemble a stretcher and get the man carried out to the waiting Dronts, which had landed in the grounds of the Residency amidst the scenes of a general surrender. In addition to Isor, the UDF personnel recovered ten computer hard drives, documents, BDN data tapes, almost a hundred thumb drives, a dozen Hoennese-type datapads, and other miscellaneous "electronic equipment" for later analysis. As Isor was taken onboard, the UDF personnel withdrew from the building, maintaining a perimeter around the first Dront, until its complement of passengers was once again onboard and airborne, and then the last contingent of thirty-two retired into the second Dront which likewise was again airborne. The raid had lasted thirty-seven minutes, had entailed no casualties for the raiders, and left the Retinue of the Captain-General demoralised and abandoned amidst the scenes of their evident captivation, and alone to face the ugly mood of the mob of civilians who now arrived on the scene to vent their fury at the wholesale destruction being wrought in their city and the complete ineffectualness of its defenders. The remnant of the Retinue fled the scene, pelted by bricks and accompanied by the echoing jeers of the mob.

Ayesha dresses the part

The two Dronts now flew on to the Imperial Chrysean Airport, itself in a sorry state – with a wrecked control tower, bullet pocket terminal building, and a taxiway decorated by the gutted burn out aluminium and steel carcasses of passenger aircraft that had been caught in the crossfire of the nights intensive firefight. The Atlas aircraft were still where they had landed. One close by the terminal building, its airframe now pockmarked with bullet holes, the other remained ignominiously stranded nose first in the ditch where it had landed.

If the arriving force had been surprised by the sight of the surviving Jaysh from the airport capture lying face down on the tarmac, naked except for their underwear, and all showing the visible marks of a furious beating, this incredulity was quickly dispelled as word of their conduct got about amongst the newly arriving UDF personnel. The Jaysh, trapped in the terminal building by determined resistance on the part of the Chryseans, had indulged in looting, rape, torture and murder amongst the captives they had swept up in their initial attack. Irrespective of how the media departments chose to narrate the events of the past few days to the world, it was solemnly agreed that these disgraced members of the Jaysh would have to be quietly returned to Sathrati for a supervised execution in front of their regiments. Sixty-four Jaysh awaited this fate, twenty-nine of whom were already wounded, eight critically.

By 10:40 am the UDF had managed to make contact with the surviving leadership cadres of the Watchmen and had secured and agreement on a ceasefire to allow for the recovery of the dead and injured on both sides. The ceasefire would last for twenty-four hours but could be extended if the Corps of Watchmen agreed to negotiations on terms of surrender. The Watchmen merely, upon receiving assurances that Isor was alive and well, undertook to abide by the truce and to use the time to consult amongst themselves as to what was to happen next. News of the ceasefire, and firm instructions on the necessity of compliance, were relayed to the Jaysh contingents trapped down by the harbour and to the trade fleet out in the bay.

At a quarter past midday on the 22nd, an unmarked whirdlebirb arrived at the airport, where UDF personnel were now engaged to the best of their abilities in clearing the runway of debris to allow it to return to a limited operational capacity. From the ungainly rotorcraft emerged Ayesha al-Osman, dressed in a kaftan the colour of lapis lazuli, whose elegance was entirely at odds with the scenes of carnage that surrounded her, accompanied by a pair of aides whose suit lapel badges identified them as members of the Nationalist & Humanist Party and the Benacian Directorate of the Honourable Company respectively. Informed of the conduct of the Jaysh at the location where she now stood, her countenance turned severe and she remarked that she would dispense justice in person as soon as she was in more suitable attire and certain other matters had been attended to.

Upon entering the terminal building she was shown the prostrate and heavily sedated form of her husband and evidenced great satisfaction when told of the condition in which he was recovered. After all was said, it has been reported that she knelt down beside Isor and whispered into his insensate ear “Is this all that you wished for, dear one?”. What motivates humans can be exceedingly peculiar at times. She then surprised those present by standing up suddenly, clapping her hands once, and loudly declaring that it was time for things to be concluded.

It took some cajoling for the Watchmen to be convinced to allow a celebrant of the Cedrist faith to be sent through the lines to the UDF at the airport. The priest himself, expecting to be asked to read the rites of Mors for the dead and dying, was instead surprised to find himself participating in the inauguration of Ayesha as Viceroy of the Imperial City of Chryse. Her husband being incapacitated, and with his heirs being not of an age to take up the mantle of leadership, it fell to Ayesha as a dutiful wife, to assume the heavy burden of ruling Chryse in Isor's stead.

Rituals and solemnities being done, Ayesha changed into a set of grey overalls, donned a leather apron, and listened intently as the various accusations against the Jaysh who had assaulted the airport in her name were read out. At her behest, the Jaysh were lined up on the runway in three ranks, and made to kneel. Addressing them she remarked that it must be understood that it was in her nature to be forgiving and merciful, and that the quality of mercy would now be demonstrated. She proceeded then to walk between the ranks, pistol in hand, and execute one in every ten of the Jaysh who had failed her. To the remainder she announced that they now understood the quality of mercy. The survivors were told to find their clothes and await orders. Questioned as to why, she remarked that they might still need everyone available on the firing line.

Aftermath

The ceasefire was extended for another day, and for the day after that. The Watchmen, initially incredulous at the idea that Ayesha might so brazenly assume power, began to fracture – with pragmatists concerned that allowing the situation to deteriorate further would endanger the survival of the city, while the loyalists insisted that there could be no negotiation with the instigator of a coup that had become a brutal and transparent power grab by outside forces. The people meanwhile, though still incensed by the insane bloodshed and destruction that had been visited upon them, were now even more distressed by the absence of electricity, of clean water. Shops had been ransacked by looters from almost the moment that the shooting had abated. Shelves had been picked clean, and now a persistent nagging fear as to what would come next settled over people. If accepting Ayesha was the price for the restoration of normalcy surely the price ought to be paid and justice sought another time.

The ceasefire mostly held, the only real exception being in the neighbourhoods adjoining the Jaysh occupied port district. Jaysh marksmen atop of captured buildings were seemingly intent on making life difficult for civilians, picking off any who loitered in the streets for too long. One of the most notorious roads afflicted by this phenomenon became known – inevitably – as 'sniper alley'.

On 01.VI.1690, another four Dronts appeared over the city, this time disgorging onto the grounds of the Micras Treaty Organisation building a squadron of black-clad inspectorate troops from the Black Legions' support formation attached to the Eastern Banner Group. The remit of this force was to provide security for the MTO and for the various international legations, whose diplomats had been warned to remain inside their own respective compounds for the duration.

Beginning from 02.VI.1690, after a contingent of UDF and Black Legions engineers arrived to supervise runway repairs, and were reinforced the next day by an air traffic control team and mobile radar unit provided by Benacia Command, tentative air services were resumed between Chryse and Eliria. Soon flights were arriving containing humanitarian aid and contingents of cudgellers. The truce agreement was modified to permit civilian workers to return to the airport to unload the aid that was being delivered, and for trucks to be hired to the delivery of the aid to warehouses for distribution by the Red Orchid Society, whose representatives were now on the ground. The cudgellers, it was argued, were essential for ensuring the safety of aid workers and the relief mission, and thus the deployed force of cudgellers was able to extend further into the city. As the seventh month of 1690 gave way to the eighth, Elwynnese vehicle convoys and patrols were becoming a familiar and uncontested sight on the roads of the city.

The misfortunes of Chryse proved to be an opportunity for Zolt as, with the container terminals out of commission, owing to the fighting, the trade fleet which had been the cause of it all, along with the next dozen or so convoys after it, were diverted up the coast to Ransenari ports capable of offloading cargo.

In place of the trade fleets came another container ship, this time chartered by ESB Logistics, which delivered a consignment of diesel electric generators to ease the burden placed upon the city. Ayesha, mindful of the strain the city was under, and desiring to increase the perception of international recognition, sought to invite the Ransenari ambassador up to the airport to discuss the possibility of restoring Chryse's connection to the national electrical grid of Ransenar, and beyond that to hook up to the Unified Power System of Benacia.

The extent of her ambitions, now that her appetite for revenge had seemingly been in large measure sated, along with the ultimate fate of Chryse under its new leadership, were matters that awaited the future for their revelation.

Notes

  1. ^ And, as free men, those twelve valiant individuals perished before a firing squad the very next morning.
  2. ^ "Through spite, everything can be figured out" – also Shireroth's and Kaiseress Salome's personal motto