“Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.”
— Herman Goering, Nazi Reichsmarshall and Luftwaffe-Chief speaking to American psychologist to Gustave Gilbert during the Nuremberg Trials
The Hin’Tye were less formal than I was used to, or perhaps I was just unfamiliar with the etiquette of my new empire. When Sut’s first wife greeted him, it was more of a leaping tackle-hug than anything else. He had the physical Stats to catch her easily, but Sut did that little spin with her in his arms that you see in movies where this kind of thing happens - because before this moment I had never thought that people actually did this. Of course, there was no way Sut could know that his movements were a cliche from a different world, and I was reasonably certain that his movements were practical.
With Sut’s Stats, he might as well be a brick wall. If he hadn’t done that little spin to reduce her momentum, the woman might have hurt herself with that move. Regardless, the whole scene was very strange to me and I wasn’t sure how to react.
I suppose, in the back of my head, I had always imagined a sort of… Distance? Between them. Not that I expected Sut to treat myself better than her. On the contrary, I imagined that I would be treated with the same distance when I was no longer “new and interesting,” so to speak.
To be honest, the potential for real closeness kind of spooked me. Sure, I had imagined that it would be possible for me to fall in love with [Prince] Sut, but love is quite a loose word in a lot of ways. What I had hoped for was essentially a professional relationship that evolved into mild affection and then over time into a kind of gentle intimacy. What I was looking at reminded me more of a “head over heels” love that you would see in a romance movie.
Or maybe I was looking at this all wrong, and Sut’s first marriage wasn’t political and I was intruding on a perfectly loving relationship. Would it even be seen as intruding? Polygamy was more common among the Hin’Tye than in Ra’Sharon, and as [First Prince] Sut would be expected to have multiple wives.
“[Princess] Hemere,” Sut began to introduce his first wife to me formally after he set her down. “Allow me to introduce my first wife, [Princess] Malnia of Amor.”
Seeming to discard formality immediately, Malnia then walks over and hugs me saying, “It is good to meet you Sister, I hope we can get along well!”
“It is certainly good to meet you too, and I very much hope the same,” I reply, but I am bewildered by her behavior. Even as I am replying, she is already half dragging me into the palace.
“She has been traveling for over a month!” Malnia was scolding Sut as she guided me towards what I presumed were the baths. “Of course she needs time to be ready to meet your father, no woman would dare offend the [Emperor] by coming in covered from the dust of the road!”
Well, she isn’t exactly wrong, I suppose. And a bath would feel absolutely wonderful right now, so I tell Aj and Sere to unload - at least enough for me to get dressed after the bath - and to meet me at the baths. Malnia left one of her [Servants] to guide them after us even as she pulled me onwards.
While she was doing this, I took the time to examine her. [Princess] Malnia was a short woman with slightly paler skin than my own and was maybe a few years older than me. She had long, slightly curly, hair that ended just below her shoulders and wore a colorful dress that was decorated in much the same way as Sut’s robes. Malnia was very pretty, but she also seemed rather agitated. As if her happy and energetic behavior was just a mask for what she was really feeling.
I turned out to be correct about that, because once we were out of sight her face morphed into a determined and aggressive glare. Malnia rounded on me, scowling and suspicious and speaking in a clipped tone.
“I am going to be [Prince Sut’s] [Queen],” she announced in a hiss. “Not you. So if you think-”
“I have no interest in becoming [Queen],” I interrupt her, deciding to skip the threats. “I also have no intention to put my children forward as a candidate for [Emperor].”
Taken aback by my sudden announcement, she scrutinized my face intently. Her eyes narrowed and her lips pursed as she searched my face for any hint that I was lying. All she would find is unsurprised exhaustion though. I was expecting a conversation like this eventually, although admittedly not so soon.
“The [Messengers] wouldn’t have carried much information about me, I suppose,” I start talking to fill the silence. “But I have no real interest in politics or status and I do not want to fight. I am fine acknowledging you as Sut’s first wife and future [Queen], even publicly if you want.”
“You… Aren’t lying.” Malnia’s reply was a statement, not a question. I wonder if she had a Skill that could detect lies, I imagine most royalty and nobles did have a Skill like that. “You truly have no desire to become [Queen]?”
“None, why should I?” To a certain extent, this discussion amuses me. While I could understand why my siblings back in Ra’Sharon might think I would want to become [Pharaoh], with the perspective I have it is difficult to understand why anyone would want to be [Queen] in my position. Malnia looks like she doesn’t quite understand the question, so I expand upon my thoughts.
“What would I gain from becoming [Queen]?” A rhetorical question, I already know the answer. “Wealth? As [Queen] or [Princess] my wealth is exactly the same: whatever Sut decides to give me. Power? All power is vested in the [Emperor], so when Sut takes the throne his [Queen] won’t actually gain power unless he gives that power to her.
“And the last thing I want is for any child of mine to get involved in the battle for political power. I don’t want to find a son dead from poisoned wine or a daughter bartered away for political favors. I’ve seen too much of that in my former home already.”
Anyway, the political wrangling would keep me away from other projects.
“I… See…” Malnia seemed somewhat lost, I guess she had been building herself up for some kind of fight since she had known I existed. She probably wasn’t even sure what to do now.
“So about that bath…?”
I met with the [Emperor], but honestly he didn’t seem to care much about me or even really be slightly interested in talking to me. Sut’s brothers - the other [Princes] - were, but their interest was exactly the wrong kind. I would have to watch my interactions with them and it would probably be better not to do so at all.
Anyway, as far as the [Emperor] was concerned, I was the receipt for the new peace treaty. Which, to be fair, I was. There were far more important issues for him to deal with, namely the attack on Ugareet. They had not been the only attack, reports from towns and cities up and down the coast told tales of unknown sails and raids. [Messengers] had come from the Myca Kingdoms warning of cities burning. Refugees had not reached the Hin’Tye borders yet, but it was only a matter of time. At the same time, the Chasms of Hell were unusually active and monsters were crawling out of them more and more every month.
Food from Ra’Sharon would mitigate some of the issues, but the Hin’Tye empire was essentially preparing to fight a war on two fronts. Maybe it would be better to call it two separate wars, or even a war and a natural disaster. In both cases it was an attritional battle, which the empire could least afford. Thankfully, the [Emperor] was able to redistribute [Soldiers] from the Ra’Sharon border to other locations, but that wouldn’t be enough.
Being at the [Emperor’s] court was a sobering experience, the Hin’Tye had none of the stability of Ra’Sharon.
“Thank you for meeting me,” I spoke to the two dozen or so men who had gathered to hear me speak. “I am sure you are all very busy, so I won’t take up much of your time. If you have any questions during this meeting, feel free to ask - don’t worry about social status.”
“Well if that is the way you want it,” one man spoke up to the incredulity of the people around him, who clearly were not about to speak up to someone of such higher status. “You should know none of us are busy, we can’t do anything without metal to work.”
Sut was humoring me by allowing me to do this - gathering bronze workers for my steel project - and I doubt he believed my claims about steel at all. However, it was just as true that there was a metal shortage, so what would be the harm in letting me borrow them?
“This meeting will address that,” I say holding up the iron trinket I had bought last week when I arrived here in Hasa last week. “I am sure you know what this is, and I am sure you are aware that with your current methods that it is weaker than bronze. However, much like copper can be made into bronze with tin, iron can be made into a far stronger substance by adding charcoal.”
“I am aware that many consider iron to be borderline unworkable because of its high melting point,” I said, although if I was honest I had only become aware of it a few days ago and had just managed to throw together a hodgepodge solution yesterday. “But that is a problem I believe we can surmount by using certain techniques from my homeland.”
Is that a lie? I guess it depends on if Ra’Sharon or Earth counts as my homeland.
“So what do you need us for,” the man from earlier asked. “If everything was going fine you would be commandeering everyone in the city; what is the catch?”
“I know iron and charcoal can be used to make steel,” I answered. “However, I have no clue what the ratio is.”
That got a groan from the whole room. The exact mix of tin and copper varied from bronze worker to bronze worker depending on what they knew and what they had on hand, but everyone was aware that the ratio was critically important. A small change in the amount of tin would make a massive difference in the quality of the bronze.
“I know, I know,” I use my Skills to placate them slightly. “However, if made correctly steel is several times stronger than bronze, and iron is a far sight easier to source than either copper or tin. I will need you to help me make steel for the first time.”
“Switch them,” I ordered with a hint of exasperation in my voice.
“But my family has-” the [Farmer] angrily tried to interrupt only to be struck across the face and sent to the ground by my new [Guards].
“I will explain this one more time, because I am a generally nice person.” I let my anger resonate in my voice and instill fear in the idiot arguing with me, “but I do not need your agreement for this. It is an order from a royal, and your place is to obey it.”
He alternated between cowering from my [Guard] and sneaking glares at me. Which very nearly earned him a kick in the head from my [Guard] before I signalled him to stop. Considering that I had decided to recruit my [Guards] from the refugees that were just starting to arrive, the men tended to be both very grateful and have very few compunctions about using violence. I was happy about the first bit, but the last was a work in progress. It was useful at times though.
“As you well know,” I said after gathering my thoughts. “I am from Ra’Sharon. I am sure you have heard the legends of the abundance along the banks of Sharon’An, which flows through the empire granting life to the entire land. What few know is that Sharon’An does more for us than simply irrigate our fields and provide water for our thirst.
“It floods regularly every year and when it does so it rejuvenates our soil and blesses it so that it may produce food for us again. Because when you grow your crops, you take from the ground, and while Sharon’An returns what the earth needs for life back to it, nothing does so here.
“You complain about my demand that you change where your family has farmed for generations, but that is exactly the problem. You have taken and taken from the soil without ever returning to it.”
All I wanted him to do was switch where his fucking goats grazed and his crops were grown for a year. Was that so hard to ask? Apparently it was a lot of work - I wouldn’t know, I have never farmed - but the leading edge of refugees from the Myca Kingdoms were reaching us now, with tales of more to come. The one thing we wouldn’t lack was hands to work the land unless we couldn’t feed them
The Myca refugees told a daunting and unpleasant tale. Raiders from the sea attacking the trade cities and palaces of the coast and invasion on land from the Dors that lived further north were exacerbating a drought. The same Sea Raiders were also interrupting trade by sea, so a famine was expected to occur in the region and become worse over the next few years.
Introducing the most basic form of crop rotation - the only one I could put together from memory - would help, although I was not sure it would be enough. If I could remember the more advanced forms of crop rotation I would be more confident, but I would have to work with what I had.
“Orphanages and homeless shelters are a must,” I argued with the [Priest]. “And the temples are the best choice to set them up.”
“But the cost…” The [Priest] whined, shrinking back as my Skills overwhelmed him. The [Priests] were well aware of how my Skills worked, but with my Charisma being so high only the [High Priest] could actually resist them. As a result, when I came to talk I usually ended up talking to whichever [Priest] was in disfavor that particular day.
“What cost?” I barely prevent myself from a very un-princess-like snort. “We have food right now, but the future isn’t known. What we can predict though, is that refugees and war orphans will be increasing. We might as well use the extra labor to create places for them to live, if for no other reason than to keep an eye on them.”
“Here is what we do,” I say, slightly starting to hate myself for this. “We provide the families a place to live and food to eat while we can, as poor a place to sleep as it might be and even though it is just enough food to avoid starvation. If these attacks intensify, we decry the situation and make them afraid of losing what little they have left. They were refugees previously, they will know how bad it is to be without shelter and to be hungry. So we whip them up into a frenzy, and promise the men that we will take care of the families of any man who volunteers for war. We reduce the resources for the ones that don’t volunteer and give them to the people who do and insinuate the ones who don’t volunteer are cowardly and might even be working with the enemy.”
“We acknowledge that we cannot arm them properly, but say that we refuse to send them into battle unarmed. Our ancestors used stone and so will we, arming them with stone axes and clubs. We have to make sure to arm some of them with metal to make them feel like we are trying, but at the end of the day we will have a fanatical force willing to die for us to use as shock troops.”
In other words, I am sending off the refugees to die horribly on the claws of monsters or to the weapons of the far better equipped and supplied Raiders all to give an advantage to the main Hin’Tye troops. We get more troops in the field, less mouths to feed at home, less malcontents in our cities, and at the end of the day they thank us for it because we assure that their loved ones are safe.
“And these ‘schools’ you want to create…?” the beleaguered [Priest] looks over my written proposal, “this is also an expensive-”
“Are you a [Priest] or a [Miser]? The cost will be worth it, believe me. We can’t just let the children run around without supervision and this will provide the perfect opportunity to have them take in our culture and philosophy. More importantly, we can teach them the Classes we want and have a supply of whatever kind of worker we need whenever we need them.”
As much as my ideas make sense, I can’t help but think that if my plan is taking inspiration from the Nazis, I must have done something wrong somewhere. Next time I died I was going to take a long look at the memory related abilities; if I could remember everything I was taught, I am sure I would be able to come up with better solutions than this.
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