~ Chapter 65: War Meeting (Part 3) ~
Alkelios was looking at the map with big eyes, and my granddaughters were trying their best to abstain from ogling at it, but I could see their tails wagging. It was that beautifully made.
The only ones who were indifferent to it was the King, the Prime Minister, and Kataryna. I could understand the first two but not the icy dragoness.
“We are now beginning the official War Preparation Meeting.” his Majesty declared as he took an enchanted pointing stick and filled it with magic.
He used it then to draw in the air red X-es over several cities and towns on the map.
“War Preparation?” asked Alkelios confused.
“Boy, this place is never used unless his Majesty has sufficient reasons to believe that our Kingdom may come under attack by an opposing military force.” I whispered to him.
“What? Are you serious?” he looked at me with big eyes.
“Ssh!” Seryanna glared at us.
I showed her a wry smile and then we turned our gazes to the map. Almost all the border towns had been filled with X-es, including the capital, but there were none on the Eastern border.
“Prime Minister, show me what settlements are currently under siege by bandits.” his Majesty asked as he gave the pointing stick to Elovius.
“Certainly.” he nodded and then turned towards the map “First we have the villages: Pertiko, Myuer, Venya, Samaz, Somber, Essey, Ilvan, Nanera, and Rovie. I received news of this from the scouting unit before coming to see your Majesty. There aren't as many individuals as there are besieging the towns and cities, but enough to keep the merchants and soldiers from departing in case of a sortie call.” he declared.
“Hm...” I scratched my chin.
Not bad. I thought.
“Then we have the towns Melles, Naver, Unvar, Onias, Nezv, Ihe, Pustia, Andruka, and Azuvian. Afterwards, we have the cities Ugen, Nalta, Verona, Uhasah, and Nomora.” he said as he pointed them on the map.
“Hm, are there any settlements that haven't been hit yet? Oh, wait, Andromeda and Tomeron are still safe.” Alkelios scoffed.
“The boy is onto something.” I said as I pointed out.
“Please elaborate.” his Majesty asked and the Prime Minister offered me the pointing stick.
“Well, almost all the settlements past the Great Chasm have been hit by either an assassination or a siege. It is highly unlikely that the bandits wish to take over these settlements, but they are keeping our economy and military might at a standstill. They didn't even make an effort to stop the messages of their actions from reaching us, which gives to show that this may also be a bait.” I said and nodded.
“A bait?” Alkelios asked, but it was clear he didn't see the strategy at play here.
“Look, if we are to look at the map, we can see that some rather important locations from the border with Embryger haven't reported anything unusual. The city of Leone, the town of Luka, the city of Elden'bar, the town of Tes, they are all important economical and military locations, but neither of them sent a report or...” I said as I pointed them on the map.
“They couldn't.” Kataryna continued my words.
“But some of the coastline settlements and even those near the Seculiar Forest around Tomeron haven't been touched either.” Alkelios pointed out.
“There was no need to.” I said.
“If you look at the map, Alkelios, you will see that only the center settlements have come under attack, but a border town like Royar hasn't been met with either an assassination attempt or a siege from bandit forces. Actually, I find the latter to be rather suspicious. Bandits aren't that well organized. Keeping them out of a village or town they know they could conquer is like trying to keep a pack of starved sheep from jumping on the piece of juicy meat in front of them. It's simply not possible.” said Kataryna as she shook her head.
“They aren't bandits, they are soldiers claiming to be bandits.” Seryanna pointed out, but she was only half right.
“I think they are a combination of bandits, mercenaries, and soldiers. The soldiers act as the leaders, the commanders. The bandits are the muscles, and the mercenaries are the leash for the muscle.” I said with a smirk.
“In short, our troops can't move and the economy is halted.” said his Majesty with a nod.
“Hm, I may be wrong, but were those dragons and dragonesses who were killed important for the Kingdom?” Alkelios asked scratching his head.
“Yes, very. Be it a relationship with an important foreign commercial group, a renowned commander in the army, or a political figure spoken about at the parties for dragonesses, they all had an importance in the well being of this Kingdom. Even those who have survived today's attempts were important in one way or another, while at the same time being a piece capable of reinforcing our might. Take Viscountess Reyazes for example. Although she is a rank lower than a Countess or Marchioness, she is a renowned authority when it comes to cartography. If she were to have died, we would have lost someone very important from both a military and economical point of view.” the Prime Minister explained in a calm tone of voice.
“More than that, we would have lost her information network, which is equally valuable in a time of war.” said the King.
“So they are trying to cripple both the economy and the military of this Kingdom in an indirect way?” he asked.
“Rather than cripple it, I would say they are trying to stall it. Merchants are sly creatures. They will make a profit no matter with whom and where, but if you stop their caravans, the gold and goods doesn't flow anymore. This could lead to a late sortie of the army or... as it is in this case, a complete failure of assembly of our defensive military might. The 'bandits' are taking care of this as it seems.” I said with a smirk as I crossed my arms at my chest.
“Is it possible that Draejan is a part of this plot?” Alkelios asked as he looked back at me.
The boy's words surprised me, but it wasn't like I haven't thought about it already. The only thing I wanted to know was if there was something to gain for the dragon? If there wasn't, then his possible betrayal was just a wrongly placed accusation. At a time like this, such an accusation could easily lead to the downfall of the Doesya house or the death of that dragon.
“Reports show that Draejan Andrakaryus Doesya may have in fact betrayed our Kingdom for a faction in the Embryger, which is currently amassing its forces on this side.” the King answered as he pointed at the Eastern border of the Kingdom, the area we were talking about just a moment ago.
“Your Majesty, if I may.” the Prime Minister spoke. Feryumstark nodded and the dragon continued “Currently, our scout has confirmed the existence of a military force gathering and holding under its control the previously mentioned settlements. Those being: Tes Town, Luka Town, Leone City, Elden'bar City, and the villages as well as outposts between them.”
I gave him the pointy stick, and he used it to draw a line in front of these settlements.
“Is there an estimate troop number?” I asked curiously.
“Currently, we believe for the enemy to have gathered a force of at least 20000 soldiers if we are to include the bandit sieges and assassins as part of it.” the Prime Minister said.
His words had just turned the situation more dire. No, it was slowly turning into a check mate because while our first move was going to be liberation of all the besieged settlements so that we can gather our own forces, the enemy would have already amassed an army on our own territory.
20000... I doubt they gathered so few. I thought as I looked at the map.
“Does this mean Embryger wants to go to war with us?” Alkelios asked the one question we didn't want to get an affirmative answer from.
“No. We have reason to believe it isn't so.” the Prime Minister shut down this worry with his words.
“Why?” Alkelios asked.
“Prince Kryogan, who is currently an Ambassador of Albeyater in the Embryger Empire, sent a report within which it was written that one of the Empire's political factions was making a move outside of their authority. It would appear they are trying to win points in the favor of the Princess they are supporting to rise to the throne. At the same time, Princess Saluka Fer, who is married to the ducal family Bryghtanar of the Embryger Empire has sent a report with her husband's signature warning us of this possible movement and that we shouldn't be quick to judge it as being the Empress or Emperor's direct command.” he explained.
“Huh? They are some sneaky bastards.” I said with a smirk.
“Can we really trust those reports to be true?” Alkelios asked.
“What do you mean, boy?” I asked surprised.
“Isn't it normal that at a time of war one of your objectives is to fool the enemy's information network and lead them to think that your strategy and force are different from the actual ones?” he asked.
Indeed, he had a point. Considering how humans fought, it wasn't such an outrageous thing to believe that there was the possibility of betrayal. Draejan right now was becoming a lead suspect as the perpetrator of such a disgraceful action, while those two children of his Majesty were, after all, deep within Embryger. There was no telling what the nobles there were whispering to them, or how they were trying to gain them on their side. Still, when I thought about the Empire wanting to fight against us, somehow, I found it hard to believe. A faction or two, maybe, but the current Emperor and Empress had absolutely nothing to gain from such an action.
Albeyater Kingdom was also one of the largest countries on the Dragon Kingdom, so a battle against us, who also strived hard to keep the humans at bay would have resulted only in losses for the Empire, and it would have also given our common enemy a reason to begin a second invasion and even succeeding with it. If you were to add the existence of the heroes like Alkelios, then the odds fell more towards our enemy's side than ours.
No, if Embryger wanted to begin conquering anything, it would have went for smaller nations like Trusk, Shion, Otzir, Ozur, Novarak, Parand, and Olvia. Either one of them would have made an excellent target. Hm, maybe not Trusk, Olvia, and Ozur, I believe those two were vassal states.
“I understand your worry, Alkelios Yatagai.” his Majesty spoke up “Such things are common sense in the human kingdoms, but in the dragon kingdoms, they would be utter madness, especially when the said informants were my own children. Then again, the Crown Princess from the Embryger Empire seems to have fallen in love with my son, so she and her party would definitely oppose this movement. As for the faction acting independently, such things are far more common than what you have just implied.” he explained.
“What about Solustia Kingdom or Lorak Kingdom?” Alkelios asked.
“Neither are a threat and have nothing to gain.” his Majesty shook his head.
“This doesn't mean that they don't have a reason of which you aren't yet aware off.” the boy pointed out.
“True...” the King nodded and closed his eyes for a moment.
Given how the situation presented itself, a sign of vulnerability from us could lead to another all-out war. However, there was still a matter of Breakthrough-ers present within the country, something which the boy hasn't thought of yet. Albeyater had many more when compared to those two. This alone was a decisive factor which kept our nation strong.
Opening his eyes, his Majesty then said “If I wanted to conquer Albeyater, destroying its economy would be the first step I would take. If needed be, I would burn the fields as soon as the enemy's army tried to cross them. Thanks to magic, this wouldn't pose much of problem, but while the smoke was up high in the sky, it would became a cloak for an aerial assault. Looking at the map, I would aim for an attack either from the south or from the east. The sea doesn't make any sense, and the north is connected to a dessert. I would lose more troops crossing it than I would if I were to send them by boats from the West. Given the political and military circumstances of all the nations on this map, I would believe that sending all of my Breakthrough forces in one single battle or war would only lead to my own country's downfall. We already know that a faction within Embryger is moving independently, so at most, I would guess we will face around four or five Breakthrough-ers.”
Note from the author: Thank you for reading this chapter, I hope you enjoyed it! Oh, and be sure to check out my other stories too!
Seeing how things have been a bit hard for me lately, I will try and focus around posting only at the end of the week, during a Friday or Saturday(ish). I'm going to try the weekly chapter dump version of the schedule to see if this fits me better.
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