A note from InadvisablyCompelled


I installed a new chamber specifically for the Leyn, heavy on metal Affinity mana, and another one for the Xicoatli. The Chiuxatli had another three designs, based on other peoples on Nicehapoca and Hoarast. Which was a continent I really should look at some time, considering that it was actually closer to Orn than Nicehapoca was — the maps put it far to the south, on the other side of the equator, and described it as basically all frozen. Odd, but magic was probably involved.

Tlulipechua loved the idea of transferring the trade plaza to the Fortress, and had thrown his advisors into the problem with gusto. The issue was making a trade setup that didn’t just evolve into a city with all the attendant problems of one. Different races living together like that would just cause problems, not to mention be hard on the architecture, so setting something up that encouraged only merchants and only business was a bit of an exercise.

In the meantime I was sculpting out new chambers and watching the dragons fiddle with their own temporary housing. Some of what they did I not only couldn’t duplicate, I couldn’t even understand. It had to be intent stuff going on, because it seemed they could make the mana flows act like solids or liquids or gasses or magnetic monopoles or anything they liked at any time. They could wrap two Affinity streams around each other without them merging, or have several meet each other head on and completely cancel out or convert.

It was pretty fascinating and I wasn’t about to object to free landscaping, but at the same time I could tell the dragons of Nicehapoca were kind of ambivalent about properly settling in. I didn’t blame them; the Fortress was mine, not theirs, and their own dwellings were merely temporarily inconvenienced. They weren’t like the ones Ansae had taken under her wing, who had nothing at all.

While all this was going on, the trade plaza I’d set up was figuring out how it was going to work. Aside from that initial problem thanks to Orrelin, there hadn’t been much supervision needed. I was a little bothered that the Scalemind didn’t have anything to trade other than stuff they’d fished up from the underground sea, though, and it was the perfect route to get them trading mined metals with the Village, so I asked Shayma to see what she could do about it.

Unfortunately, I’d forgotten that the Scalemind were still basically in the stone age when it came to tools. Fortunately I’d also forgotten that they weren’t stupid and had a good grasp of the Underneath’s wildlife. Instead of breaking out picks and shovels, they got some rock Affinity slug things to bore out mining tunnels and start themselves on the path to metallurgy.

In the span of a couple weeks they had Brother-of-Burden-powered bellows to smelt out the ore, and I caught at least one Scythe-Sister trying to reinforce her scythe with metal. I didn’t know how many ideas were theirs and how many came courtesy of the Village, but they seemed to be doing well enough. If nothing else it was nice to see their civilization moving along.

Unfortunately, at the same time that was going on, Iniri and her council were figuring out how to deal with the Orrelin terrorists. I didn’t really pay close attention to it, but the bits that I did see showed me they were finding it to be a massive bugbear. One that they were going to have to ask for my help in solving.

I’d left all the political stuff to Iniri because it got very murky very quickly, and I wasn’t all that happy about being roped in to deal with the Orrelin crisis. It wasn’t like they could do it without me, though, since aside from making a death-wall to block them off, the only option was to go in and take over. Or for someone else to.

“Ir doesn’t want to?”

“I think Wright would love to, frankly,” Iniri told me. “But he just doesn’t have the troop capacity for it. Keep in mind that he’d have to subdue a country that’s got at least four factions fighting it out. It’s not like he can just force a surrender; he’d have to actually occupy all those walled cells up there.”

“Yeah, I can see how that could be a problem.” Countries didn’t have enormous standing armies in the first place, but trying to genuinely occupy as large a slice of real estate as Orrelin would be a problem no matter what. “Whereas I can just, what? Lock everyone in?”

“More likely, take down the walls,” Iniri told me. “Part of the reason there’s so much trouble is that the cells are all interdependent, and with the infighting they’re getting blocked off from each other, so shortages, rioting, that kind of thing.”

“Yeah, that sounds bad.” I was only mildly sympathetic. Generally it wasn’t a good idea to get involved in how other people ran their countries, even when they were doing it badly. Especially when they were doing it badly.

“Well, we can’t just go running in there and expect it to work. Before we do anything, we need some degree of legitimacy, so Cheya has a proposal for Shayma. Just, before we pitched it I wanted to make sure you didn’t have any objections to subjugating Orrelin.”

“You know, if it was just expansion I probably would, but it’s definitely a threat now in a way a real country isn’t.”

“A real country,” Iniri repeated, shaking her head with amusement.

“Yeah, it was weird to begin with and now it’s just a mess.”

“True enough.” Iniri chuckled. “Well, the thing is, Cheya knows at least in general where one of the royal family is. The Princep’s son. He’s still a child, eight years old, but the best actual claimant to the throne. Also in hiding from the Inquisition.”

“How does Cheya know that but didn’t know about the terrorists?” I wasn’t mad, just curious.

“I’m not fully certain how all her Skills work, but it’s a lot easier to track specific people than just look for trouble in general. She started keeping tabs on the Orrelin family after your visit.”

“Ahhh. So, the idea is rescue him. And then what?”

“Betroth him to a Tarnil noble and put a regent of my choice in place. Keep him safe, have him assert his rights as the princeps futurum, and work from there to bring everyone under control.” Iniri shrugged. “We’ll start out with making Orrelin a protectorate, rather than trying to make it part of Tarnil. With the Bargain in place and the way they’ve been told outsiders are bad, it’s better to remain remote for now.”

“Okay that’s a lot smarter than I was thinking.” I was anticipating needing to perform direct support of Tarnil’s forces, maybe throw up a country-wide [Lost Woods] or something, but it sounded like the plan was something rather less drastic. “I bet Shayma will have a blast.”

“I admit the thought did occur to me,” Iniri said with a smile. “Then you agree?”

“Oh, sure. I mean, obviously something had to be done and you know how to best do it. We can get Shayma in here and explain while I guess I’ll go see about eating Orrelin.” Iniri laughed at the last comment.

“I’m not sure how you do it, but if you could focus on the capital area first and then expand outward it would probably be for the best.”

“Yeah, I can probably dig up from the Underneath.” The issue with Orrelin was the same one as with Chiuxatlan: it was just a huge amount of area. I couldn’t just hollow the place out, either, which would have been faster. In both cases I had to use [Assimilation] instead, retaining all the geography and buildings as they were instead of digesting it and remaking it as I wanted.

Not only was [Assimilation] much, much slower, but it also it took mana. Lots of mana. Enough mana that, for me to use it on the country-eating scale, I had to make additional dynamos. That was something I hadn’t done for a while, but by referring to some of the work the dragons had done in the Caldera, the new ones were far more effective than the old. Which led to me going through and finding and replacing all my old legacy dynamos with the new versions.

Some of the old dynamos were actually the originals, with the manually placed chrystheniums. Compared to what I could do now, with a bunch of supporting Climates all linked into each other, it was actually pretty laughable. I kept one just as a memento, [Relocating] it inside my mountain, but the others got the overhaul. When that was done I definitely had more mana regeneration, as if it weren’t already monstrous, but I wasn’t quite sure how much. I really wished that my overlay told me, but alas, it did not.

While I was doing all this, Shayma was chatting with Iniri and Cheya about the rescue-kidnapping, getting all the details and figuring out approaches. My part was a lot simpler, since I didn’t have to deal with people, just with stone and dirt. Maybe it was cheating a little bit to use Shayma for Tarnil’s plans, but it wasn’t me who was asking her, and anyway she seemed to really like the idea.

A note from InadvisablyCompelled

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