History of Kalgachia/The 200s
As the third century of Shrubdom turned, Kalgachia was still frenziedly importing raw materials in preparation for the expected collapse of Kasterburg, the only territory preventing Kalgachia's complete enclavement by the Raspur Pact. But a sudden cluster of ailments among the Shirerithian nobility, exacerbated by outbreaks of a new fungal disease among their subjects, conspired to mollify Kalgachia's traditional geopolitical adversary at around the same time as a glut of gold exports from Helderbourgh hit world markets, causing a steady decline in the purchasing power of the gold-backed Kalgarrand and slowing imports accordingly. When the severance of the Kasterburg trade route finally occurred, it was in the form of a voluntary withdrawal by Kasterburg itself in support of a new colonial venture in Los Liberados. While Shireroth duly moved to occupy the vacated land and consolidate its de facto annexation of the Republic of Inner Benacia, the cession of its Western Benacian holdings to a resurgent Batavia put a new sovereign neighbour on Kalgachia's western border. The new territorial settlement coincided with a loss of commercial confidence in the Port of Vines due the Bassarid Empire's erratic baheviour after the collapse of Caputia, compelling a steady realignment of Kalgachia's foreign investments toward the Batavian Confederation.
Within Kalgachia the decade also saw a gradual increase in the influence of the Lord Lieutenants' Council - previously a largely ceremonial organ of the Kalgachi government whose membership had nonetheless begun to feature persons and artifacts of immense theological significance, allowing the Council a voice rivalling that of their nominal seniors in Kalgachia's supreme Council of Perfecti.
A sharp increase in the Kalgachi living standard, combined with diplomatic and economic successes abroad, caused the 200s to be remembered as a Golden Decade unmatched since the 170s.
Repatriation of the Sword of Fire (201 AL)
In 201 AL came a surprise: the Prince of Modan, a southern Shirerithian noble of considerable standing, had announced his departure to Constancia on health grounds and disposed of his Benacian assets in the process. Among these assets was the enchanted Sword of Fire - one of the ancient Cedrist Great Swords whose scattered and shifting ownership had traditionally come to represent the balance of power in Micras' northwest quartersphere. Now - for the most inexplicable reasons given his Nationalist-Humanist affiliations - the Prince gifted the sword to the House of Yastreb, the ancient rulers of Goldshire who had long since joined the Minarborian migration and survived past the demise of that verdant empire to establish themselves at the deepest levels of the Kalgachi government. That the sword had previously been in Kalgachi possession was well-known, the artifact having been recovered from the imperial regalia of its previous owner, the Minarborian Empress Lyssansa. The coven of Kalgachi arcanists who obtained the sword had subsequently gifted it to a Shirerithian daemon queen by the name of Kizzy Drakland in order to strengthen her power in that country, only for her to be defeated by the armies of the Prince of Modan and surrender the sword to him in exchange for being allowed to flee to Goëtia. Now, out of the archonic blue, this national humiliation for the Kalgachi had been reversed by the Prince himself and the sword was safely back in Kalgachi territory.
Rubina Yastreb, the Lady Lieutenant of Oktavyan, asserted the prevailing claim to the sword by being the first of her family to arrive at the Kalgachi border post where it awaited collection. This coup went some way toward reversing the political downfall she had experienced in the early 180s after her marriage to a Shireithian noble, indeed her leadership of Kalgachia's Lord Lieutenants' Council - combined with the presence of Lord Toastypops within its membership - compelled Kalgachia's ruling Council of Perfecti to grant that organ increased powers in their legal reforms of 202 AL. This increased Lady Yastreb's already-strong influence within the Kalgachi Defence Force whose rotary aviation units, appealing as they did to her personal interests, had always enjoyed her patronage and served as her strongest political support base. Toward the end of the decade the power of this informal alliance within the Kalgachi military-industrial complex would translate to a series of military reforms whereby the KDF's network of fortresses, whose maintenance costs had begun to spiral out of control as they aged, was reduced by almost half to free up resources for a new air assault force, intriguingly named the 'Fire Division', to which Lady Yastreb was appointed as Commandant General.
Kasterburg's Retreat (202 AL)
By 202 AL the long-ailing Republic of Kasterburg had found itself unable to effectively administer the full extent of its territory, particularly the barren steppe and scrub furthest from the coast whose only appreciable economic value was from tithes and duties upon the passage of Kalgachi goods through the area - a benefit heavily offset by the military burden of fending off ceaseless attacks by Laqi brigands from the Republic of Inner Benacia. Over time the mercantile class of Kasterburg, arguably the most powerful within the country, had come to be dominated by agents of the Iron Company which began to seek government backing for its overseas ventures. The initiative floated by the company in 202 AL - a colonial venture operating from the Raynor Isles of faraway Apollonia - was a demonstrably more lucrative prospect for the Kasterburg state budget than trying to break even with tithed Kalgachi goods on world commodity markets, or taking its cut from one-off Kalgachi infrastructure contracts such as the expansion of Gravelbottom Airport in 193 AL. Such was the stagnation of the Kasterburg economy that its government could not afford to back the Iron Company's Apollonian venture and keep the Kalgachi trade route open simultaneously, and the decision was ultimately taken to sacrifice the latter.
Kasterburgish forces duly began an evacuation from the eastern half of their Benacian territory, leaving an ungoverned gap of some six hundred kilometres between them and the Kalgachi border. The organised nature of the evacuation was proven by a subsequent KDF special forces raid upon the deserted Atoomkracht reprocessing plant at Litkov (Operation Hot Rod) for the ostensible purpose of securing any residual nuclear material before it could fall into the hands of criminal elements. It was discovered, however, that the Kasterburgers had long since dismantled and de-fuelled the site's reactor appatatus and the Kalgachi operation was repurposed into a more general effort, assisted by regular KDF cossack formations, to sweep the vacated lands for precious scrap metal - arguably as valuable to Kalgachi industry as refined plutonium, as the severance of a trade route by land through Kasterburg meant that metals could no longer be imported to Kalgachia in any great amount without making intolerable concessions to the Kaiser in Shirekeep.
The Directorate of Labour and Economic Planning, having wargamed and contingency-planned such a scenario for twenty years, immediately restricted civilian use of hydrocarbon fuels to natively produced wood gas and tightened the penalties for failing to recycle waste metal. Much as the Directorate of Health and Public Welfare had long enjoyed the power to enlist the Prefects in combatting agricultural mismanagement, the DLEP now brought the full might of the Kalgachi security organs to bear upon the metallurgically wasteful; many who left old motor vehicles or kitchen appliances to rust in cottage gardens, or were seen to toss old saucepans into their parish landfill truck, were visited by Prefect clearance squads who stripped their homes of every metallic object, from water piping to cutlery, to compensate for the shortfall. Those who wasted metal in the course of state or commercial business were committed to church penitentiaries on multi-decade sentences - the most egregious offenders were simply hauled away in the middle of the night and never seen again. The Directorate of Education and Outreach, in a concurrent public information campaign, made no secret of the 'metal terror' and equated the neglect of refined metals to wilful sabotage and high treason. This was combined with a commitment by Associated Crucibles, the unitary enterprise responsible for Kalgachia's metal processing, to purchase scrap metal from citizens for a modest fee. Somewhat inevitably this revenue oppurtunity was seized upon by an emergent breed of 'entrepreneurs', generally equipped with a wood-gas van and a Laqi heritage, who relieved private citizens of scrap metal on the pretext of 'free collection' or else acquired it by more dubious means, then hauled it to the nearest Associated Crucibles plant which paid a higher fee for direct deliveries and tended not to ask questions.
The withdrawal of Kasterburg from the Kalgachi frontier had implications for that frontier's immediate hinterland, the Lieutenancy of Lepidopterum, which had been annexed by Kalgachia in 174 AL for the express purpose of reaching Kasterburg. Although considered somewhat un-Kalgachi due to its lowland geography, Lepidopterum was sacred to the Ketherist faith as the destination of Celestine the Broodmother, progenitor of the Deep Singers, who had led the last of that race out of Shireroth after the Underkeep Massacre. Kalgachia's ruling Council of Perfecti now settled the land's status by declaring it an autonomous protectorate in the manner of Northbloom, a dependency of the Council outside the usual structures of the Kalgachi state.
Batavia's Advance (204 AL)
Since the restoration of a sovereign Batavian government in 's Koningenwaarde in 189 AL, it had been engaged in periodic negotiations with Shireroth for the return of its historical territories which had been occupied by the latter power during a period of expansionist Froyalanish rule in the 110s AL. By the 200s AL, the cumulative effect of a political system based upon cyclical civil war and the resulting two centuries of depopulation and brain drain had brought Shireroth into a state of imperial overstretch whereby it could no longer effectively administer or exploit the full extent of its territorial holdings, requiring an abandonment of its more superfluous territories and the reductive abolition of autonomous government structures in those which remained. The Shirerithian-occupied portion of Batavia, falling into the former category, was ceded to the government in 's Koningenwaarde in stages and by 204 AL all of historical Batavia - except for the northern territory of Gascony which remained under Storish colonial rule - was united under a single sovereign government. Such was the jollity of the Kalgachi government at these developments that it sent Rubina Yastreb, its most senior public official, to attend the coronation of King Arkadius IV rather than the usual diplomatic representative.
The price of Batavia's freedom was its inclusion in a Shirerithian-administered customs union which, combined with a similar implementation in the Republic of Inner Benacia, completely surrounded Kalgachia. Nonetheless, the decent relationship of Kalgachia's Directorate of Labour and Economic Planning to the government of Kasterburg and the Iron Company, among others, ensured that Batavia's incentive to enforce anything more than the statutory minumum of Shirerithian-imposed customs regulations in opposition to Kalgachi trade was safely absent and, in the case of trade with other states of the Batavian Confederation, dubiously applicable. This oppurtunity for a pivot in Kalgachi trade to Batavia came at a convenient time as the actions of the Bassarid Empire against the Humanitarian Mission in former Caputia, in particular its blockade of much-smaller Hoenn, drew a level of international criticism so fierce that it called into question the commercial functionality of the Port of Vines on which Kalgachia relied for most of its imports. Haunted by the same concerns of economic dependence upon a rapacious archonic entity that had caused it to shut down most of its trade with Shireroth, the Kalgachi government's resolution to realign its trade routes toward Batavia and its satellites was most notably signalled by the relocation of the Octavian Import-Export Corporation's main headquarters from Nova England to Los Liberados.
Economic Boom (205 AL onwards)
Although settling upon smaller markets than the Bassarid behemoth, Kalgachia's economic realignment was in fact more lucrative due to vast efficiency savings from the contracture of its foreign trade logistics to the Iron Company, whose use of scheduled railfreight links with Batavia's Western Benacian ports and shipping around the world precipitated an explosion of trade volumes which had been impossible in the days of airfreight and chartered rail runs across Kasterburg. The resulting deluge of raw materials (mainly metals) into Kalgachia, with their purchase offset by exports from a steadily-maturing Kalgachi industrial base, was further assisted by a decline in the function of the Shirerithian government which effectively precluded the enforcement of the Sxiro-Batavian customs regime to Kalgachia's detriment. The financing behind this frenzy of activity had already been assured in 203 AL with the completion of a quantitative easing programme by the Reserve Bank of Kalgachia to improve the liquidity of the Kalgarrand, whose inflationary hazard was now soaked up by the flooding of the Kalgachi market with domestic and foreign goods.
By decade's end, Kalgachia's unemployment rate was almost hammered out of existence and wages climbed as Kalgachi industry went into overdrive. Although much of its produce was stockpiled in the DLEP's vast underground reserves, a flood of consumer goods on the open market steadily shoved the national living standard to heights that equalled, and in places surpassed, that of Minarboria's urban population; a comparison much cited by official media who indulged in a rare moment of hubris and declared that Kalgachia, by concentrating such economic might into such a small territory, now provided the best working-class living standard in Benacia.
Tumult in Inner Benacia (205-208 AL)
Since Shireroth's invasion of the Republic of Inner Benacia in Fall Raþ Bivarhin, the remnants of the latter nation's tribal government had been led by their occupiers into joining the Raspur Pact and accepting the installation of a Shirerithian official, one Karmen Joonai, as their foreign minister. The arrangement, concerning a nation with almost no profile in world affairs, was largely unnoticed by the international community until 205 AL, when minister Joonai submitted a formal application for Inner Benacian membership of the Micras Treaty Organisation. Kalgachi resistance to the application was immediate and uncharacteristically fierce; Mothbert D. Twiddle, Chief Emissary of the Directorate of the Tumultuous Wastes and Kalgachia's representative to the MTO, condemned the application as a cynical attempt to secure a second Shirerithian seat in the organisation's General Assembly and asserted that the RIB was structurally incapable of formulating a foreign policy indepedent of that dictated by Shirekeep.
In the face of further opposition from the Florian Republic and Constancia, the application stalled until 208 AL when a stand was taken against Joonai within Inner Benacia itself, in the form of her grisly beheading by disaffected native members of her entourage who apparently considered Kalgachia's exposition of their diplomatic impotence to be the final straw in their national humiliation by Shireroth. The RIB's recaptured government soon followed this with a renunciation of the Raspur Pact, their cause tolerated or actively assisted by elements of the Shirerithian occupation force who had lost much of their martial animus since the Modanese Emigration and a resurgence of Elianist pacifism in the Shirerithian political class.
In traditional fashion, Inner Benacia's constituent clans rushed to fill the power vacuum left by the pro-Shirerithian regime and violent skirmishes broke out around the country, with some inevitably butting against the frontiers of Kalgachia itself. The Kalgachi Defence Force duly called up thousands of military reservists to reinforce the Prefects' Border Guard Service and prevent the imminent bloody adjustment of the Inner Benacian power balance from spilling over the Kalgachi frontier - ironically the main occupation of this force was to deter cross-border sorties by renegade Laqi partisans from Kalgachia's own eastern province of Schlepogora, who sought to assist one or other of the warring Inner Benacian factions in the service of impenetrably complex and ancient clan politics dating back to the early Minarborian era. Inevitably a small number of these cossacks of fortune, exploiting an intimate knowledge of their homeland to find gaps in Kalgachia's government border screen, percolated through to Inner Benacia and an uncertain fate.