Arc 5: The Siege of Garghent
The council room hosted twenty-five seats around a large, stone table in the shape of a triangle. The head seat was reserved for the Janiform and in descending order on both sides were the highest ranking or most senior government officials. Split into two factions, the military branch sat on the left hand side and the merchant faction on the right. The twelve Generals and the twelve richest Gentlemans. The arrangement around a triangular table was awkward, but then it was meant to be. Everyone sat angled toward the Janiform, the supreme leader of Garghent. The table was an ancient piece dating back hundreds of years and served as the consulate’s meeting place for the most serious of gatherings. It easily accommodated the twenty-five bodies with room to spare, perhaps a design feature implemented to compensate for such unnatural positioning, at least there was elbow room.
The fact that the Janiform Gemma sat behind a curtain only doubled the bizarreness of this council. All of the most powerful men and women of Garghent had to carry out the planning of Garghent’s defense staring at a piece of cloth.
“I suggest we begin this council with a review of the facts, establishing a common baseline if you will.” The second seat of the merchant faction spoke first, a balding Gentleman with stakes in the train industry and owner of a majority of the wall constructing and concrete industries.
General Draje, the first seat of the military faction nodded, “Gentleman Kint, it seems you have an idea as to what that baseline entails. Please start this off.”
Kint straightened a stack of papers in front of him but didn’t glance at them. “Thank you General. As you know, my businesses involve work on the perimeter of Garghent, which gives me a perspective on Garghent as a whole. Likely my assets will be one of the most affected by this siege, however, I wish to ensure you all that I am prepared to offer support in any way I can. Garghent can and will rebuild, please do not be squeamish when deciding battle strategies that include the infrastructure of Garghent’s outer properties as collateral for this war. My businesses are prepared for the damages so I offer my services to the full extent, for the good of Garghent.”
It is the nature of the elite to give monologues detailing how gracious they are when events outside of their control will impact them.
Gentleman Kint merely established his standing on the war, a subtle power play against the other merchants. He put himself on the side of the military, setting aside his economic interests for long term survivability and support, which really meant he was entirely and openly protecting his rank as insurance in case his wealth be significantly reduced to the point he can no longer afford his place on the council and as a Gentleman. In short, he was doing what merchants do best, investing.
Kint continued. “The metropolis of Garghent is ten thousand kilometers squared, a solid wall of concrete and reinforced steel seven meters thick surrounds the circumference. Around that wall on the outside is our railway system, bringing supplies in and out of the city as well as providing daily transportation from one corner to the next. We have a population of eighty million living within those walls. We boast one of the largest and most dense metropolises on the Sister continent. In a siege such as the one we are facing, food is going to be of primary concern. According to the most recent census, the city can survive one year on internal food storages. Since we will likely be cut off from our outside farming facilities, indeed I have heard dozens have already been raided, I suggest we begin rationing food as early as today. We should plan to last three years. Of course the ideal situation would be to break the siege long before that but food will be an issue for at least a decade after the war. This will mitigate some of the worst post-war starvation.”
To assume that businessmen have no place in strategy is downplaying a lifetime of accruing and manipulating wealth to achieve success in a world where every friendly smile is accompanied by a knife in the back. One does not, however, have to assume they have a soul. In Kint’s situation, he displayed a rare moment of altruism in looking out for the common citizen facing a post-war depression, though maybe it just comes down to the fact that he will be left destitute, no wealthier than the common man, unless he receives relief from a fellow Gentleman or the Janiform himself.
“I will not see my people starve to death. I approve of the Gentleman Kint’s rationing plan.” Janiform Gemma spoke from behind his blue curtain.
The twenty-four council members chorused their agreement, more for the Janiform than Kint.
“Excellent foresight, Gentleman Kint. We should also consider implementing curfew and zoning off districts where government and military work takes place completely. Perhaps setting up a deeper surveillance system is in order as the chances are always certain that traitors and spies will be rife during the siege.” General Vecar added, the second seat in the military faction’s side of the triangle.
“What you are suggesting is akin to a police state, that will be stepping on the trust of our people. And yes, before you respond, I understand this is a time of war, but surely there is no need for such extreme measures. General Lillian, as the head of the Espionage Division, surely your spy network is adequate in preventing such breaches in security?” This was coming from the third seat of the merchant faction, a fat and jowled man with an obnoxiously loud voice.
General Lillian forced a smile, the dig at her division’s competence apparent. “You should know, Gentleman Abermack, not to insult a spy. Or should I mention how your business rival is the owner of the camera industry? Perhaps you would like to restate your suggestion.”
It was best to not question General Lillian’s skills. Not unless one expected to wake up breathing in cyanide.
Abermack cleared his throat nervously. “Excuse me, I merely misspoke. What I meant to say was that the Espionage division is more than qualified to protect our city from traitors. Wiretapping the entire city would be a waste of resources, I believe. Resources better spent elsewhere.”
The rat is still trying to undercut his rival, thought Lillian. “Unfortunately my resources are elsewhere obtaining as much information on our immediate enemies outside. Perhaps you would be interested in making donations to expand the Espionage division?”
Abermack stayed silent for a good deal of time after that exchange.
The back and forth debates began, strategies were proposed and dismissed by the dozen, schemes were set in motion and Garghent’s ruling elite argued the fate of their metropolis. Despite the inter-political struggles they never lost sight of their singular end goal. Crush the enemy.
“The Coalition of the Sister has a military fifty-five million strong! Garghent has the equipment for a mere fifteen million, most of which are going to be recruits. They have us surrounded and can receive food and supplies from their cities for years. They are planning a siege that could last a decade!” One of the Gentleman said, voicing passionately his concerns.
“Ha! They don’t have the firepower to break these walls. They’ve gathered a rabble to storm the gates of the military superpower of the world. This war is going to degrade into a massacre!” General Garald of the Siege division said, his massive and muscular frame heaved as he laughed off the worries of the merchant faction.
“With respect,” raised the hand of the General of the Defense division, “They would not go to war without assurance that conquest was not only possible but plausible. General Garald, please do not treat this council as a waste of time. All they would need is a Specter like our own Master Klyle to turn the tides.”
“Speaking of which. Has there been any sign of him yet?” Asked Kint.
General Draje answered. “He has been on an assignment for the last year, his return should be forthcoming.”
“I can only hope it is in time for the siege.”
“He will miss the beginning, but rest assured he will not miss the whole war. We still possess more total Specters than the Coalition, do not underestimate us.”
“Of course not.” Kint said with a half smile.
“I would like to hear our battle strategies.” Janiform Gemma said, changing the subject.
General Vecar adjusted his glasses and went into it.
“The objective of this siege is an aggressive defense. We have several regiments setting up camp outside the city near the mountains. It is vital that the Garghent Mountains do not fall into enemy hands. Those regiments will also act as our lightning strike force. They have three hundred thousand horses, fifty thousand jeeps and five thousand tanks. The total force is about one and a half million, divided into multiple regiments. Defending the actual walls of Garghent will be the remaining armies, about thirteen million soldiers. We are going to be attacked from a three hundred sixty degree radius. Our armies are going to be stretched thin across the walls. The Coalition will try to swarm the city, and frankly they have the numbers.”
“What are our losing conditions?” Pressed Gemma.
“Losing the mountains will allow them access to supplies, materials and factories to produce the weaponry needed to destroy our city. Even so, losing the wall too early in the siege will result in the slaughter of our people. The Coalition has declared that the tyranny of Garhgent must be ended. I believe their aim is to hunt down all of us and the entire elite, including you Janiform.”
“So if the death of every citizen of Garghent ends our so called tyranny then that is what they seek, if only the death of myself or all of us suffices in ending the war, there will be little casualties?”
“I believe so. Whichever comes first. The head or the body.”
A Gentleman pitched in his concern. “What is stopping the Coalition from sending their entire force to capture the mountains? Surely that is the easiest solution for them. It would ensure them the supplies to win the war.”
“The mountains are a key factor in this war,” the fifth seat of the military faction started, General Prion the head of the Defense division and his twin the sixth seat. The twin stayed silent as they were not brothers through biology but twins through the Aspect. General Prion’s Aspect was Gemini and it gave him a twin, though he had no control over the twin, it existed to protect him and acted independently of Prion himself. The twin had reached the status of General of its own accord despite never speaking. It only communicates telepathically with Prion himself. Physically they looked the same, short hair, sharp nose, cut jaw, blue eyes, broad shoulders, what separated them was the feeling one got when the twin turned his eyes on you. The sense of something ghastly and inhuman that didn’t belong in this world.
General Prion continued, “No one knows the mountain range better than our scouts, factory workers, naturalists and climbers. They are working with the army to provide maps of short cuts, precarious locations, cave systems, everything. We are going to wage guerrilla warfare in the mountain range. Should they enter, and enter they will, we will inflict heavy casualties. In fact we want them to try the mountains as much as possible, it reduces the efforts on the walls. Besides, my twin is going to head the defense of the mountains while I stay with the walls. Put your fears to rest.”
The twin’s normal blank expression snapped alive to gaze at the merchant who doubted their plans. The merchant stumbled on his words and apologized frantically.
The rest ignored that exchange as they dove into the specifics of the logistics, supply chains, communication networks, and all the intricacies and behind the scenes that allow for a large scale, long term war to be carried out. Soldiers need socks, food, recreation, sleep, water, pay, ammunition, medicine, camaraderie but most of all they need to believe in the reason for fighting. Defending their home, the home of their kin and their ancestors… that would get the adrenaline flowing like a holy river of golden waters.
“Our armies do not lack motivation. We all understand what’s on the line. We faced a lot of backlash when we issued the draft a few months back. Now that the entire enemy force has arrived, and their bodies blemish the horizon, two million volunteers have joined the defense.” The first seat of the merchant faction said, he was a business owner of construction, postal service, automobile and a number of factories. His wealth came from every corner of the city and his level of information was greater than most of the Generals.
“That is interesting news, thank you Gentleman Nerrin, as ever, your involvement with the people is second to only the Janiform.” General Draje said diplomatically. The part about the Janiform was a blatant lie, he of course, rarely interacted with anyone, if the curtain wasn’t a clear indication.
“How is it that the military faction learns of military matters after the merchants?” General Vecar questioned, clearly annoyed. Two million people joining is big news, his specialty dealt with the numbers and the logistics, he should have heard that before anyone else.
Gentleman Nerrin clapped his hands once together in mock endearment. “It appears the administrative side of the military is being overwhelmed due to our extreme situation. No one is to blame, we have more than quadrupled our military in less than a year. I think it is prudent to include some of the merchant faction to aid in the military’s bureaucracies.” Nerrin was sly and cunning. He could have been a general or spy and enjoyed the same success. The merchant faction offered the most direct route to becoming the next Janiform, as it is a position that has to be bought.
General Vecar had no base to argue from, Nerrin won the exchange, wiggling his influence into the military. Janiform made it official.
“I approve of that idea, Gentleman Nerrin. The factions should be working together not just with their own contributions separately but with each other in their assignments. What then shall we do with the two million?”
The merchants, already with a huge victory on the political side, stayed silent in this part, not pushing their luck. Having a foothold in military dealings unlocked so much potential profits and in an argentocracy, profits equaled power.
The Generals gave their suggestions.
“Keep the soldiers as a reserve force to fill in where gaps in the defense appear.”
“Integrate them into every regiment, an untrained mob does little good in a war.”
“Train them to use the cannons and ballistic missile weapons.”
“Use them as medics, repairmen, runners, and any sort of role that there can never be enough of.”
The General’s argued for some time until General Vecar, needing to vent, chose to pick on their newest member, the twelfth seat. “General Uana, you have remained silent for much of this council so far, what is your suggestion for the two million?”
Uana Ellis, proud and tall and decorated with frost all over, lips blue from the cold and hair the color of glacial ice. A graduate from the Class of the Savant and so qualified to lead that the Janiform himself replaced the previous General with Uana. The Ellis family was rich and well known, they raised their kids to be aristocrats. Uana exhibited this arrogance, something equally earned and inherited in her every action and word. Most of the other Generals disliked her. She was too young and had climbed the ranks too fast.
Uana answered. “We have them patrol the streets in the city. They were not needed in the original planning of the defense and therefore would only get in the way.”
“Ah, but General Uana,” Vecar said triumphantly, his goal being to embarrass the new General. “We have an effective police already patrolling the streets. That would be redundant. Surely, a prodigy such as yourself can think of something better!” His wagged his finger in beratement to add to the insult.
Uana’s exhaled an icy breath. “You, General Vecar, are wrong.” Vecar raised a brow, suppressing a smile that she took the bait. “The two million would not patrol the streets for law and order, they would patrol for morale. A majority of Garghent’s citizens will not see in person the enemy, or even our own soldiers. Say we have two million soldiers walking the streets of Garghent in the innermost districts of the city, the average person will see those soldiers and think that they will be safer. Meanwhile, the soldiers in the frontlines will be comforted that soldiers, not police, will be patrolling the homes of their families and loved ones. Garghent’s overall morale will stabilize at a high place. Production and fighting spirit will be at its maximum efficiency.” Uana’s voice was even the whole time, trained by a vocal coach to sound in a clear, rhythmic pace. Somehow seeing the chilled breath when she spoke only made her words more impactful. Everything she said sounded as if she had rehearsed it as a speech beforehand, though of course it was all spur of the moment.
General Draje’s laughed boomed out, the noise far louder than his old and frail body seemed capable of. “You sure made a fool of yourself Vecar! The idea is solid.”
“That is a well thought-out strategy. Psychology plays such an integral part of any battle. We will go with that plan, General Uana.” Gemma complimented.
“Thank you.” Uana said.
Vecar, like Abermack before him, had faced humiliation and so stayed silent, brooding silently to himself.
Uana’s uncanny ability to find success in situations, a result from a lifetime of the highest education and the most competitive schools. She had passed the entrance exam for the Garghent Elite Military Cadet High School for the Savant with flying colors, she had faced Klyle’s trial of racing up the mountain at the Camp of Awakening by cutting through the obvious fake trails, traps that she forged through anyways, becoming the first student to finish. Training for the Aspect came easy to her, much of her life had gone like that camp. The Tournament had been a waste of time, killing was not allowed so true displays of power and strategy were out of the question, she had given up halfway through the finals. Captain school proved just as easy and natural to her. Leadership was a quality bred in her family for generations. Her first mission, the factory assignment that had gone so wrong was the first time she could truly go all out with her power. It was her idea to launch the asteroid that the galaxy girl created. A truly massive object that had left an impression on the soldiers and captains alike. But Uana had frozen the entire object solid and even helped propel it in the air, destroying most of the enemy’s tanks upon its detonation. After the return to Garghent, she had entered the Research and Development division, within an hour she had begun to make changes, spreading her influence and improving the division from the bottom up. Her work had been noticed by multiple Generals as well as the Janiform. A month later she was promoted to General, the proper costs being paid of course.
Her family was wealthy and their standing well regarded. But they were complacent in their wealth, as even among the rich there were hierarchies and they believed their standing was their rightful place and leaving it would disrupt social order. Small minds and weak wills. With Uana, she had the ambition to climb. General by the age of twenty, she would take the first seat and become a Master Specter. Her own Master, Klyle, had molded the rough that Uana had been, he helped her find a center, a launching point that she could fire the rocket of her ambition from.
The council went on for hours longer, deep into the night. The fighting could begin any day now, everything had to be prepared flawlessly.
Janiform Gemma retired to his quarters at its conclusion, exhausted and beat. He had to suppress many coughs as the sickness spread to his lungs. Sleep was almost impossible, medicine came with complications but the lack of sleep came with more. Even when he did sleep, the nightmares would begin.
So it was the stroke of luck that Gemma should meet one such Specter whose power involved sleep. Benhan, from the Class of the Savant with his Lethargy Aspect.
He was now a personal aide for the Janiform.
“Send in Benhan.” Gemma ordered another aide. The aide bowed and came back a minute later with a lean and grey-eyed man, short black hair and a complexion as bleak as the grave.
“I need six hours of sleep, at least four REM cycles and a dreamless night.”
“Yes lord.” Benhan bowed and activated his Aspect. Before long the Janiform was fading into sleep and Benhan couldn’t help but give his cruel grin as the most powerful man in Garghent was at his mercy. He began, as usual, his hypnosis, the power of subliminal suggestion through repeated nights of reinforcement slowly taking effect. It had to be slow, Benhan was a patient man. His growing army of mind-slaves soon including the leader of Garghent.
There was Uana who had obtained the rank of General, Benhan who was a personal aide to the Janiform and Hales who was heading into the thick of battle, operating one of the most essential missions for the siege of Garghent.
Master Klyle, perhaps, trained that class too well.