History of Kalgachia/The 180s
The 180s in Kalgachia were marked mainly by the failure of the Directorate of the Tumultuous Wastes to anticipate or properly adapt to the unchecked recapture of the Shirerithian state, and the majority of southern Benacian territory, by one Daniyal ibn Daniyal Simrani-Kalirion and his Nationalist-Humanist horde - a development which effectively ended the previous decade's Sxiro-Kalgachi détente overnight and rendered the loquacious Kalgachi diplomatic mission in Shirekeep sufficiently intolerable that its Chief Emissary was expelled. This loss of diplomatic face was unprecedented in Kalgachi history, as was the commitment of substantial resources to a railway construction project dependent upon a Sxiro-Batavian territorial settlement which failed to develop in the manner predicted by the DTW. At this stage, for the first time, the existence of a Kalgachi Deep State (arguably a redundant metaphor for a government located entirely underground) made itself known in public affairs. Centred upon the KDF Intelligence Staff, the DEO and somewhat inevitably the Troglodyti, this informally-networked faction had moved at the beginning of the decade to halt the career progression of Rubina Yastreb, the Lady Lieutenant of Oktavyan who had taken the alarming step of marrying into the Shirerithian nobility. In the latter half of the decade it moved on the DTW, pressuring Kalgachia's ruling Council of Perfecti to permit a wholesale purge of the Directorate and the usurpation of its diplomatic corps by KDF intelligence operatives, with the formulation of Kalgachi foreign policy given over to a new cadre of technocrats appointed and controlled by the DEO and the Troglodyti. These measures spelled an abrupt end to the DTW's autonomy within the Kalgachi government and the effective expiry of its famously-freewheeling bureaucratic character, replaced by an almost penitent sobriety throughout its ranks in an attempt to heal Kalgachia's lacerated diplomatic reputation.
The effect of these stabilising measures upon the dormant chthonic energies remnant in the region from the Minarborian era appeared to re-animate the personage of Lord Toastypops, the undead wintertide gift-bringer and paragon of jollity whose presence in the region had been perennially persistent since the demise of Ashkenatza. Rising from his hidden tomb in Kalgachia's central mountains, Lord Toastypops found that the folk memory of his deeds had been incorporated into current spiritual practices and his return to worldly activities was regarded with salvational awe by the Kalgachi church and population alike. This earned him the Lord Lieutenancy of his home territory and a voice in the national government, where he expressed his scepticism of Kalgachi pedagogical thought but threw his support behind KDF plans for a protective occupation of Northbloom, an enigmatically-adminstered territory on Kalgachia's northern frontier. The occupation fit into the gutted DTW's new creed of concrete action replacing vain rhetoric and was duly authorised at the end of the decade, resulting in the assertion of a Kalgachi protectorate over the area.
King Ryker's Visit: Disclosure and Dilemma (180 AL)
Among the implications of the Octavian Thaw of the 170s was a bolder expression of the covert contacts between the throne of Shirerithian Goldshire and the House of Yastreb, the pre-eminent family in the halls of Kalgachi power whose ancient legacy of rule in Goldshire had caused it to be well-regarded and oft consulted upon matters of a cultural and historical nature by Goldshire's perennial king, Ryker Everstone - a ruler of biological immortality and ancient standing whose first ascent to power had been sponsored and abetted by the outgoing Yastrebs. A period of illness on the part of King Ryker and the imperative of sparing his kingdom from the jealous, overly punitive excesses of Shireroth's Nationalist-Humanist regime had caused his contacts with the Yastrebs to lapse for a number of years - but as that regime's principal agitators had their grip progressively wrested from the Shirerithian security apparatus through the 170s, new oppurtunities arose for the reconnection of the Shirerithian nobility to the ruling elements of Kalgachia who had hitherto been branded a nest of exiled apostates, conferring that same treasonous status upon all who dared consort with them in a personal capacity.
For King Ryker, the imperative of reconnecting with Kalgachia's ruling class was driven by the status of his adopted son Roy Stone, whom he had exiled to Kalgachia for his own safety in 165 AL to escape the sinister attentions of the boy's nominal stepmother Liv Dravot, the genocidal figurehead of Shireroth's military-industrial class who administered that realm as Steward at the time. In his years of Kalgachi exile Roy had gained the companionship and eventual romance of one Rubina Yastreb, daughter of the man popularly rumoured to be Kalgachia's occluded head of state. She in turn had been appointed Lady Lieutenant of Oktavyan, Kalgachia's most senior publically-visible office, in 179 AL. It was thus decided that the time was right for King Ryker to visit Kalgachia, re-acquaint himself with Roy and meet the woman who was now openly agitating to claim Roy's hand in marriage.
This visit, conducted in 180 AL with all the ceremony appropriate for Kalgachia's most important foreign visitor to date, included an unprecedented audience with the Council of Perfecti which finally confirmed to the outside world that Xantus Yastreb - Rubina's father - was indeed the Kalgachi head of state, permitting an end to the now-laughable attempts of the Kalgachi government at keeping his identity secret. King Ryker's subsequent, long-awaited meeting with Roy Stone contained a relatively casual but explosive revelation - the king's intention to pass the throne of Goldshire to Roy, much hinted in the past, was stated explicitly for the first time. Roy excitedly informed Rubina who passed the news onward to Xantus. He then informed his fellow Perfecti, and the entire Kalgachi government was plunged into constitutional crisis.
The problem, outlined in almost hysterical tones by those Perfecti representing the Church of Kalgachia and the Prefects, was thus - the marriage of Kalgachia's pre-eminent family into an active Shirerithian noble house, as Rubina desired, would ultimately serve as a prime vector for a Shirerithian claim upon Kalgachia by litigious oppurtunists within the former realm, most likely outside King Ryker's house but nonetheless willing to utilise a Roy-Rubina marriage as a pretext for active measures to openly question and erode the sovereign legitimacy of an independent Kalgachi nation. After the Perfecti's representative for Health and Public Welfare stood up and railed against the continuation of the lovers' relationship, with a laboured metaphor about opening a pathogen pathway through the Danger Triangle of the Kalgachi state, the rest of the council united in revolt and demanded from Xantus that the relationship between Roy and Rubina be forcibly ended. Xantus countered with the observation that this would likely provoke Rubina's defection to Shireroth, such was her love for Roy, and the Kalgachi state would suffer a humiliation equal to any compromise of its sovereignty.
It was eventually agreed that King Ryker be summoned before the Council of Perfecti again, to give an account of his position on the matter and if possible agree to mediate an outcome agreeable to all parties. The king in turn requested the involvement of Rubina and Roy themselves. Several hours of negotiation by those clustered together in the Perfecti's chamber eventually resulted in a marriage contract between the houses of King Ryker and Chairman Xantus, recognising the union of Roy and Rubina but renouncing all implications of wider bloodline union whilst imposing strict conditions upon Rubina's travel and contacts within Shireroth, effectively making her a prisoner of King Ryker's trusted entourage whenever she stepped upon Shirerithian soil. Although bitterly resentful that the foot of a Yastreb would once again afford the territory of Shireroth's Kaiser the historically-forfeited and undeserved flattery of its presence, Xantus relented to Rubina's insistence that she occasonally travel to visit Roy in the event that he moved back to Goldshire. This uneasy consensus obtained, Roy and Rubina were married the following week in a relatively low-key ceremony - notwithstanding Rubina's arrival in a Whirdlebirb - upon a nearby mountain.
The Batavergesp Railway (183 AL)
By 183 AL the Directorate of Public Works was facing significant public criticism for neglecting the development of Kalgachia's surface infrastructure in favour of Lapivril, to the extent that the DEO was freely letting the issue onto national television broadcasts to preserve its journalistic credibility. Seeking to restore its visibility on the surface, the DPW submitted a proposal to the Council of Perfecti for the linkage of the Kasterburg Republic to its ethnic kindreds in Transbatavia by a railway through Kalgachi territory. Exploiting the power of the Kalgachi foreign policy establishment, officials of the DPW Rail Transport Office pitched the project - called the Batavergesp - as a reunification of Greater Batavia which effectively undid the efforts Shirerithian occupiers in Nackolom to keep those territories apart. The project was duly approved, with construction beginning at the Kasterburg border and proceeding north along the militarised containment zone which surrounded the Tee-al-infested Litovine Forest. These conditions alone required a substantial military deployment to protect the workforce, whose machinery noise attracted the forest's furry inhabitants from distances of several dozen kilometres and at times subjected them to full siege conditions. Most worryingly, some Tee-als discovered that tearing up sections of completed track would invariably summon a repair crew which they could then attack to satiate their hunger, or in some cases mere boredom. The KDF's Biome Containment Brigade found themselves obliged to identify and hunt down these more intelligent specimens, lest their cunning make its way into the wider Tee-al gene pool. The pursuing units' search-and-destroy missions invariably led them deep into the Litovine Forest whose thick canopy protected the fugitive Tee-als from the standard culling method of a Whirdlebirb with an anti-gravtank missile. Casualties were predictably high, especially among the KDF penal battalions who were routinely assigned to the Biome Containment Brigade with this type of work in mind. The precise number of troops who "redeemed their wayward souls before the Garden with the nourishment of blood and bone" is unknown, but is thought to have run into the respectable hundreds.
The Batavergesp Railway would ultimately be shortlived, rendered useless by the cession of Transbatavia to Shireroth in 189 AL in exchange for the latter's release of core Batavian territories at Benacia's western tip. The railway - unused except for the occasional transport of KDF troops - would eventually be transferred to the ownership of Associated Crucibles, a unitary smelting enterprise of the DLEP which tore up the railway's precious content of scrap metal with a diligence that rivalled its original construction. All that remained of the railway thenceforth was a series of overgrown groundworks and the salutary lesson in geopolitical hubris invoked by any mention of its name in the halls of Kalgachi government.
The Modanian Wobble and DTW Purge (184-186 AL)
The early 180s saw the collapse of the Shirerithian Imperial State of Malarboria in the face of a Nationalist-Humanist army, followed by political manoeuvrings which obtained for their conquered province - now named the State of Modan - an overnight territorial expansion rivalling that of Elwynn at the height of Froyalanish dominion, inclusive of the erstwhile Lywall Protectorate a mere 120 kilometres from Kalgachia's southern border. In late 184 AL, sensing that Modan's near-limitless resource base, population and martially-inclined leadership would eventually give it the military means to defy the Shirerithian imperial government and states at will - if not outright usurp them - the Kalgachi government declared no confidence in the Shirerithian Kaiser's ability to prevent a unilateral attack on Kalgachia by his subjects and renounced a previous commitment to suspend Kalgachi military development. The surface regiments of the KDF were duly upgraded to supported brigades, along with a resumption of planned expansions in its medium-range ballistic missile force and a comprehensive overhaul of tactical aviation.
The Shirerithian Minister of the Exterior, one Marchioness Li Naomiai of Sentratera (her name mockingly ascribed within the DTW to her father accidentally treading on a cat's tail while dictating the child's birth certificate) responded by setting aside the essential diplomatic effacement of self and taking the forthright language of Kalgachia's reasoning as a personal affront, ordering the expulsion of the Kalgachi Chief Emissary in Shirekeep. This was followed by Kalgachia's recall of its remaining diplomatic staff from Shireroth along with the expulsion of the entire Shirerithian mission in Kalgachia, with a commitment to block the repopulation of either diplomatic residency until Lady Naomiai departed from her ministerial office. As if to sabotage what little goodwill remained, the incumbent but long-sidelined Steward of Shireroth, Mira Octavius-Aryani, was subsequently assassinated by a bomb in her Shirekeep offices. Gone with her was the last flower of Kalgachophilia from the 'fulfilment layer' of the Shirerithian imperial executive - the subsequent appointment of the Prince of Modan to command Shireroth's armed forces, and his annulment of the slain Steward's purge of said forces from Nationalist-Humanist control, induced talk of a permanent Benacian Dark Age in the halls of Kalgachi government. The battle lines for the acceptance of Kalgachia's right to a sovereign existence had been pushed irreversibly off Shirerithian territory, it was said, and would soon be forced upon Kalgachia itself - shifted in the process from a political to a military dimension.
So was with some surprise that the Prince of Modan - with a possible eye on the Batavianisation of Jingdao's Benacian territories and re-ignited hostilities between the Bassarid Empire and the Raspur Pact - appeared to signal Kalgachia's demotion from the status of salivatory fixation in the minds of his martial caste, to the effect of ordering a Shirerithian troop withdrawal from the Kalgachi frontier and resuming productive dialogue through the sole remaining official Sxiro-Kalgachi communications channel, the deconflictory Military Coordination Council. Circumventing both the histrionic egotism of the Shirerithian diplomatic corps and the rank paranoia of their Kalgachi counterparts, this tentative meeting of military minds provided for an unexpected resurgence in professionalism and realpolitik between Shireroth and Kalgachia at the very moment when these things had been thought irredeemably lost. The principal cause for the Prince of Modan's uncharacteristic expression of goodwill remained a mystery to Kalgachi officials who hypothesised the onset of a degenerative neurological disease, or more likely the subtle but persuasive influence of the King of Goldshire who was the only pro-Kalgachi voice of any influence remaining in the Shirerithian bureaucracy.
It remained clear, however, that the balance of Benacian power had shifted so seismically and lopsidedly in so short a time that the resumption of Kalgachia's previous foreign policy attitudes were impractical, much less desirable. The speed and intensity with which the incumbent policy norms of the DTW had been rendered moribund required, in the eyes of the military cadres who had momentarily usurped much of the Directorate's remit, an urgent and remorseless purge of the Kalgachi diplomatic corps to break the power of its predominantly-Lywaller elite - those whose attitude to negotiation had long been dominated by a cult of defiant flippancy and vain social telegraphy, held upon a false pedestal of virtue by an institutional Dunning-Kruger effect without any appreciable diplomatic gain.
The signal for eventual change was allegedly a death from old age within the Council of Perfecti, of the member responsible for foreign relations (believed to be one Konstantin Rufin, Kalgachia's first Chief Emissary before his presumed appointment to the Council). Suitably emboldened, the command rhizomes of the Kalgachi Defence Force buzzed with discontented mutterings that the prevailing modes and methods of DTW policy organs and foreign residencies had become so counterproductive in the present continental circumstances as to present a national security risk if they continued. Most critically this sentiment was allegedly shared by the KDF's representative on the Council of Perfecti, who warned that the forces under his command would not permit the indefinite endangerment of Kalgachia's geopolitical security by self-indulgent DTW grandees, and reserved the right to act in defence of the Garden at times and places of its own choosing unless drastic measures were taken to realign Kalgachi foreign policy, and those who formulated it, more appropriately to the prevailing geopolitical circumstances. In its unprecedented assertivness, the KDF was reportedly joined by the learned elite of the Directorate of Education and Outreach and certain covens of the Troglodyti who took the argument further, advocating changes throughout the entire Kalgachi bureaucracy - and even society - in adaptation to the historical epoch in which the country found itself.
The proportion of the Council of Perfecti supporting such reforms was never revealed, but the nature of its subsequent decisions suggested a general assent in the interests of maintaining national integrity. By the time full Sxiro-Kalgachi diplomatic relations were restored in 186 AL, Kalgachia's Shirekeep residency - along with much of the wider DTW - had been re-populated with technocrats overwhelmingly sourced from the Kalgachi military-scientific complex, with only the Chief Emissary and a handful of other clean-nosed Lywallers allowed to retain their old posts. The fate of their purged colleagues was not always revealed - rumours circulated that the bound and gagged personage of Ephraim Lymiron, the Chief Resident who had been expelled from Shirekeep in 184, was last seen being loaded onto KDF Whirdlebirb which took off toward a Tee-al track in the Litovine Forest and returned empty. Similarly, stories abounded of at least one DEO 'Yoke Week' Urchagin camp being given over to the 'extended remedial education' of disgraced DTW officials. Curiously absent were rumours of any effort by the Prefects or the Church to prevent such extrajudicial indulgences.
Although the full effect of the new order on the occluded Kalgachi bureaucracy was opaque by definition, outward signs included a marked reduction in Kalgachi diplomatic activity worldwide and a substantial shift in the composition of the DEO's media output which leaned into trivial domestic matters, relegating most discussion of Benacian geopolitics to eructations of theological innuendo by its religious affairs organs. Highbrow programmes and publications were suddenly beset with re-examinations of ephemeral Harvestfall Revolution era ideologies previously considered distasteful tripe from the trash can of history, but now nudged back into public discourse with a scope and sympathy suggesting a wilful act of state-sanctioned rehabilitation.
The Return of Lord Toastypops (187 AL)
The events of the mid-late 180s, suggesting a transition from an idealistic and expositional mode of governance to something more isolationist and reliant on arcane nuance, were subsequently cited as enabling what followed by stimulating the dregs of the collapsed 'phylacteric field' which had once sustained the Minarborian undead. The result, to the surprise of the whole Kalgachi population, was the spontaneous re-animation of the ancient lich named Lord Toastypops - a totemic presence in the region who, despite being syncretised into both Minarborian and Kalgachi religious belief for his works of jollity and charity, predated both nations and was believed to have been resident in the Octavian mountains since the fall of Ashkenatza. His sudden re-emergence upon the streets of Jollity, the ancient Ashkenatzan mountain resort more latterly named for his own cheerful legacy, was initially mistaken for an out-of-season costume actor but soon drew the attention of Church authorities for the inexplicable animation of his skeletal form and his performances of verifiable miracles as he wandered among the local population.
Having been named in his absence as a Salvator of the Ketherist faith, Lord Toastypops' reappearance lent him the default scriptural status of the most divine worldly being in existence - such accrued prestige being evident in both the cheering crowds who swarmed around him and the abject panic which seized the Kalgachi government upon the verification of his identity. The Holy Synod of the Church of Kalgachia correctly surmised that the occasion would entail a certain reckoning, whereby those responsible for the more morally questionable practices of Kalgachi public life would be brought to account by a lich renowned for his sharp, nay flawless perception of who had been naughty and who had been nice. Lord Toastypops' judgements were invariably delivered among the ordinary population in the form of macabre gifts and dire whispered prophecies of the fates of the wayward, those whom he judged to obstruct the cause of jollity among the peoples of the world.
Within the chambers of Kalgachia's ruling Perfecti, which Lord Toastypops duly visited, his message was no less compromising. The Urchagin programme in particular met with his deathly disapproval, as did the cavalier attitude of certain military authorities and provincial parish tribunals toward the bodily integrity and life status of their subjects. There could be little jollity found in these places, warned Lord Toastypops, and unless measures were taken to remedy the situation he would reserve the right to take unilateral measures. Being in no position to contest the will of a divine being whose creed they nominally existed to uphold, the Perfecti instead sought to integrate Lord Toastypops within the Kalgachi bureaucracy by appointing him Lord Lieutenant of Jollity, a post which had been held in trust since the founding of the nation in hope of his return. Casting aside the advice of his schedulers and security detail, the administration of Lord Toastypops was permeated with frequent wanderings among the ordinary population to cultivate mirth and cheer - often in other parts of Kalgachia - quite independent of his other commitments and in the apparent service of a more sacred calling.
Intervention in Northbloom (189 AL)
The changes which quietly rocked the Kalgachi government throughout the 180s, combined with events beyond the country's borders, found their culmination at decade's end with a decisive shift in Kalgachi foreign policy away from continental ideological agitation toward a more practical course of regional consolidation. By this point initial Kalgachi initiative in courting a resurgent Batavia had been overtaken by that of Shireroth, which had more to offer in the way of territorial settlements and was unafflicted by Kalgachia's dependence on the inactive Kasterburgish government in facilitating its communications with the Benacian west - a vulnerability which proved fatal when the common Batavian/Kalgachi border was eliminated by the cession of Transbatavia-Rhijnlande to Shireroth in 189 AL. The progressive intensification of Sxiro-Batavian affinity, Kasterburgish languidity and the concurrent political destruction of the moderate nobility in Shireroth was eventually considered in Kalgachia to have decisively defeated the quest for a multipolar Benacia outside Kalgachia's borders, leaving the entire responsibility for maintaining what the DTW called "Alternative Civilisational Space" to Kalgachia itself.
These circumstances inevitably inspired a return to the question of Northbloom, the pocket of ungoverned ex-Minarborian territory on Kalgachia's northern border which had been jointly claimed by an expedition of Batavian voortrekkers and an eccentric necromechanical entity of Minarborian aristocratic descent named Mondo Etzeterra. After the withdrawal of Batavian protection from the Northbloom voortrekkers in 187 AL the claim of Mondo nominally prevailed, but by this time the enigmatic individual himself - described in DTW intelligence reports as "some sort of sentient zombot" - had ceased to communicate with his neighbours in Kalgachia and Shireroth, and his continued residence in the old Minarborian garrison at Fort Ermingander could no longer be ascertained. As the decade drew to a close, it was finally ventured by the General Staff of the Kalgachi Defence Force that the preservation of Northbloom's post-Minarborian heritage had become an existential strategic imperative which, in the absence of Mondo's assistance, warranted a full unilateral and physical intervention by Kalgachia. For some time KDF special forces had been equipping and materially incentivising friendly partisan groups in the area, initially to defend the followers of Mondo against the incursion of Batavian voortrekkers but more latterly to serve as an irregular reconnaissance force for the Kalgachi military intelligence staff - moreover the KDF's Central War College in Oktavyan had been working on plans for a decisive military intervention in favour of Mondo since his first communication with Kalgachia in 178 AL. Initial DTW suggestions for Shirerithian involvement in the operation were allegedly vetoed by Lord Toastypops, who had no security clearance to partake in the relevant discussions but somehow obtained enough information to offer his opinion in a letter asserting that "THE CAUSE OF JOLLITY KNOWS NO COMPROMISE." At the word of this revered Salvator, the Council of Perfecti assented to the KDF's intervention plan on a unilateral basis and ordered it to proceed.
The deployment, named Operation Caput Mortuum II (ostensibly an expansion of a pre-existing KDF electronic intelligence operation) was initiated at great speed, with the lead airmobile elements moving off the Kalgachi frontier at Abrek and Katarsis before the assembly of ground units was fully complete. As with the enclosure of Lepidopterum, the hard-worked Whirdlebirb helicopter bore nearly all of the operation's troop transport and logistical burden in the absence of mechanised ground forces or serviceable airfields in the operational area. The KDF's equine supply elements were divorced from their assigned units and left to catch up on the ground with modest armed escorts whilst the bulk of troops, equipment and supplies were airlifted forward. Although the advancing Skivniks of the KDF were relieved to find less impenetrable vegetation and Tee-als than in Lepidopterum, the rolling hills of Northbloom presented challenges of their own - Kalgachi troops were occasionally ambushed by bands of hardline voortrekkers who had rejected the calls of their Batavian government to return home. For the first time the KDF implemented the Fireforce doctrine obtained from NEATUK, a training cadre of the Nova English Army which had been based in Kalgachia for some years. At their advice, high-readiness airmobile assault teams were brought in to envelop and counter-ambush hostile voortrekkers as they withdrew from their hit-and-run attacks.
The bulk of the Kalgachi force moved from both flanks to secure the Shirerithian frontier whilst a combination of KDF units, Prefect border guards and DLEP "incentive parties" fanned out from a central axis of advance to assert "the Garden's protection" over the Northbloom population, assisted by locally-recruited partisans who broadly welcomed the KDF's decisive efforts to evict voortrekker squatters from their homeland. The point of focus for all three advances was Fort Ermingander itself, the last known residence of Mondo. Upon arrival the fort was found with signs of recent construction followed by more recent weathering and dereliction - KDF units, acting on orders from the Council of Perfecti, surrounded the fort and mounted a ceremonial guard at its gates but were strictly forbidden from any attempt to enter within. Instead the Northbloom Protectorate was proclaimed, establishing a Kalgachi caretaker administration to uphold such rudiments of Mondo's will as had been ascertained at that point. The unilateral nature of Kalgachia's action, falling squarely into the category of "unexpected friends" which Mondo had once cryptically warned against, was downplayed in both the Kalgachi media and the tenor of the Protectorate administration which was chiefly concerned with the extirpation of third-party foreign influences without any particular regard for the 'cultivation' of Northbloom society itself. Despite this hands-off policy the arrival of generator-powered, ruggedised television sets as rewards for the co-operation of specific Northbloomian elders and partisan leaders established something of a memetic spigot through which elements of Kalgachi culture were invariably vectored.