Broken Horizons – Vol 13, Interlude 7

Grenslaw and Ryschild

The fighting was over, and yet the war had just begun. Grenslaw was glad to be getting back onto familiar territory. Ryschild was delighted to have more reasonable constraints on troops could be moved and apportioned. Thanks to them both, the mood in the [Apocaypse Revocation Office] was one of relative harmony and good natured complaints, despite the fact that at least half the nations of the [Risen Kingdoms] seemed intent on treating the post-apocalypse landscape as open land rush.

“This is all your fault,” Grenslaw said, offering Ryschild the carafe of [Dwarven Deep Mountain Brew] coffee.

“Is it?” Ryschild asked, accepting the carafe. “I would love to think so, but it seems an immodest claim, and likely unsupportable. If anything, credit likely belongs to Her.”

He didn’t have to give a proper name to ‘Her’, only Azma could hold that distinction as far as either one of them were concerned.

“Insofar as she entrusted this work to us? Yes, I suppose,” Grenslaw said and took a small pull of [Dwarven Deep Mountain Brew] before it could get cold and solidify. “That would make you merely the one immediately responsible for all this, rather than ultimately so.”

“Even there, I cannot help but feel that some portion of the responsibility lies on your shoulders as well,” Ryschild said, swirling the coffee and seeing strange patterns emerge from the ripples. The [Deep Visions] the coffee sometimes induced hadn’t been a problem yet, but the longer one relied upon it for the wakefulness it provided the more profound they became.

 “In what sense?” Grenslaw asked. “I’d rather not claim credit for work that was not of my own doing.”

“Yes. The grades from other’s works are always inferior aren’t they?” Ryschild said, offering a smile to go with the old, familiar joke between them.

“With one notable exception,” Grenslaw said, a nod and a return smile completing the memory.

“In answer to your question though, while it’s certainly true that no one would be massing for war had my strategy deprioritized the survival of the non-adventuring forces, it was your logistic and deployment plans which translated that strategy into an actionable reality,” Ryschild said.

“That was little more than basic workmanship,” Grenslaw said. “Without a flawless foundation, the entire enterprise would have come to ruin.”

“Flawless? Certainly not. I am fairly certain that She will be able to point out more than a few cracks in said foundation. I see several myself with the benefit of hindsight.”

“Such as?” Grenslaw said, sounding fully offended at the notion that anyone, Ryschild included, would cast aspirations on the plan they had implemented. A plan which had, in point of fact, saved a world that was not at all their own.

Or, not at all their own yet.

“The obvious failing was, of course, not sufficiently accounting for the current state of the [Risen Kingdoms] that would be as the result of my strategy. With armies of the [Great Kingdoms] mostly intact and the [Lesser Kingdoms] having borne the brunt of our initial invasion, it was relatively simple to predict that the [Great Kingdoms] would take the opportunity to grow someone what ‘greater’ at the expense of their former neighbors.”

“I distinctly recall you mentioning that in our initial planning session,” Grenslaw said. “Also, I feel compelled to point out that given that other constraints we were placed under this turn of events is still trending towards the most optimal outcome possible.”

Kashiren, one of their [Senior Communication Staff] members, paused on hearing that. He’d brought them a [Secured Crystal] with updated battle summaries and was decrypting it into the [Grand Tactical Table] Grenslaw had assembled.

“You had constraints beyond ‘save the world’?” he asked. “Are you telling me each of you did this with one hand tied behind your backs?”

“A closer analogy might be with one hand severed and the wound unstaunched so it could bleed out freely,” Grenslaw said.

“But we were facing the end of the world. No, scratch that, we were facing many different ends of the world. How did you have slack to account for anything but ‘fix things no matter what it takes’?”

“Fairly simple,” Ryschild said. “The ‘fix things’ part of the mandate negates the ‘no matter what it takes’ rider all on its own. We were already operating under many different constraints in terms of how we could approach solving the situations which had arise.”

“The key,” Grenslaw added, “was that we were able to leverage the constraints placed upon us to become strengths we could use to augment the whole enterprise.”

“I’m afraid you’ve lost me there,” Kashiren said.

“Me too,” one of the other nearby staff members agreed.

“The constraint we were requested and required to labor under was to preserve as much of the Fallen Kingdoms population as possible,” Ryschild said.

“Had we been able to consider the value of the various factions and group based on their capacity to contribute towards the effort of ending the apocalypses, many other paths would have opened to us,” Grenslaw said.

“In all likelihood however utilizing those safe and more conservative strategies would have resulted in the loss of sixty five percent of the global population,” Ryschild said. “The remaining thirty fix percent would have been the ones most optimized for fighting apocalypses and would have been at their peak strength for doing so.”

“That has a rather significant drawback however,” Grenslaw said.

“Yeah, two thirds of the world winds up dead,” Kashiren said.

“There are many warfare doctrines that would consider that a reasonable and acceptable casualty count given the situations that needed to be resolved,” Ryschild said. “There would have been far deeper problems that simply the diminished population however.”

“For example,” Grenslaw said, “a world full of apocalypse fighters is rather lacking in other essential professions.”

“Even more critically than that, had we attempted to reinforce the power of the strongest by sacrificing the weakest, we would have changed the internal tenor of the armies. Fighting for one’s own survival can yield optimal results, but with the challenges we faced, optimal efforts would have fallen far short of what was needed.”

“We needed people to go beyond their limits, to rise above what they were in the moment and grasp onto something greater,” Grenslaw said.

“Saving each other was a far more inspiring endeavor than allowing tragedies to compound,” Ryshild said.

“Grim resolve played a role too, to be sure,” Grenslaw said. “Those who died were still tragedies. That was unavoidable.”

“What they were not however, was victims,” Ryschild said. “Those who chose to fight against impossible odds? Their futures weren’t stolen from them. They spent all their tomorrows to buy the hours, minutes, and seconds we needed to ensure tomorrow came for those they left behind.”

“I wonder what they would think of the world now?” Kashiren asked. “It seems a poor memorial to them for so many nations to be intent on spilling the blood they died to save.”

“Some would be disgusted, some would be in favor of it, some would be unconcerned so long as the conflict didn’t affect anyone these cared about, and some would probably rise from the graves to protest the aggressive actions in a spectacularly violent manner,” Grenslaw said. “While it is tempting to canonize them as saints, those who fell in defense of this world were still just people, with all the variety and foibles personhood breeds.”

“Also, there won’t be any bloodshed,” Ryschild said. “Thanks in large part to my colleague.”

“That is certainly not true,” Grenslaw said.

“Yeah,” Kashiren said. “Take a look at the latest intel on the troop positions. We have sixty seven armies posed to invade forty three territories as soon as local conditions allow for a full offensive advance. By this time tomorrow, the entire world will be plunged into open warfare.”

“Sixty seven? I’m impressed,” Ryschild said. “I’d only projected forty two would be in place by now.”

“Your projections were correct,” Grenslaw said. “You were counting [Grand Armies]. The armies in this report count the fissioned segments of the [Grand Armies] as their own forces.”

“An understandable mistake,” Ryschild said.

“It’s going to a bloodbath around the world whether its forty two or sixty seven,” Kashiren said. “And this time we don’t have most of the [Adventurers] around to mitigate it.”

“Oh, they won’t be needed,” Grenslaw said. “Or, not for this at any rate.”

“They could at least cut down on some of the dying though, couldn’t they?” Kashiren asked.

“There won’t be any dying,” Grenslaw said. “I wasn’t objecting to that part of Ryschild’s claim, only that I should be allowed to take credit for it.”

“But…how? That doesn’t make sense,” Kashiren said.

“Trust us that from an external perspective, this entire world has only a passing acquaintance with sensible behavior,” Ryschild said.

“Accepting that was, admittedly, harder than it should have been, but once we got past that particular mental hurdle, working with the world’s nature rather than against it became relatively straightforward,” Grenslaw said.

“Uh, I’m still lost. What did you do?” Kashiren asked.

“It’s not what we did, which is why I feel I don’t deserve the credit for what is about to occur,” Grenslaw said.

“To provide some clarity,” Ryschild said, taking pity on the increasingly confused Kashiren, “In about ten minutes the [Pax Deus] will begin. It’s a rather complicated effect, and one which I suspect will be refined significantly in the weeks to come, but the simple statement of its intent is that no combat or assault of any kind is possible between those sapients who choose to accept the favor of the [Reborn Gods].”

“To begin with all sapients are opted in to the [Favor of the Divine], though renouncing it is as easy as saying so with a true intent in your heart,” Grenslaw said.

“What does having [Divine Favor] mean?” Kashiren asked.

“Aside from being protected from violence by other sapients, it’s also a necessary token for beneficial divine spells to affect someone,” Ryschild said.

“And It enables access to the [Heart Fires], even for non-adventurers,” Grenslaw added. “Apart from violence, people will still die to environmental hazards after all. On this world however they will no longer stay dead from such misadventures.”

“There is a wide variety of non-sapient ‘monsters’ as well, especially in the world’s hidden places,” Ryschild said. “The [Pax Deus] is meant to remove the perils of a population which has just been subjected to a cataclysmically large traumatic event. There is no shortage of other perils in the world though.”

Kashiren blinked.

And blinked again.

And fell off the seat he’d been sitting on when he tried to rise.

“Are…are you telling me, the wars are over? War itself is over? Wait! Are you telling me you have the GODS THEMSELVES on your payroll now?” he stammered as he tried to regain his footing.

Ryschild and Grenslaw both stood and offered him their hands to help him rise.

“Payroll? No of course not,” Ryschild said.

“We expect our budget to be slashes quite thoroughly once word gets out of the new global effect.”

“Okay. Okay, that makes sense, but, uh, why are you still here then? Shouldn’t you be off celebrating or something?”

“This is how we celebrate,” Grenslaw said flatly. Ryschild nodded agreement with perfectly seriousness, before they both cracked a smile to show they were joking.

“We’re using these last few moments before our irrelevancy is discovered to facilitate some logistical issues that will be time consuming to work out later.”

“What sort of issues?”

“The [Lesser Kingdoms] need resources to aid in their recovery,” Grenslaw said. “Thanks to Ryschild, the armies of the [Great Kingdoms] will be delivering those resources in the supply trains for their armies.”

“Some of the supplies will make it to the armies of course,” Ryschild said. “Don’t want to starve them, not after the fine work they did for us, but the majority is being directed to the cities and towns that need it the most.”

“People are going to love you for this,” Kashiren said, awe writ plain on his face.

“Oh, I very much doubt that,” Grenslaw said. “We’re the horrible Consortium invaders who used our ill gotten influence in order to undermine the [Great Kingdoms] so that we could take them over as soon as the [Pax Deus] ends.”

“Okay, yeah, there’ll probably be some of that too,” Kashiren said. “Still. Wow. It’s going to be hard to top this. Or impossible maybe. So what are you going to do now?”

“I suppose this is the point where we turn and kill each other before the [Pax Deus] can make that impossible,” Ryschild said, drawing an ebony dagger from a sleeve that should not have been able to hide it. “It is the Consortium’s modus operandi and certainly inevitable between any two people of equal capability.”

“Indeed,” Grenslaw said, drawing a similar dagger from a similar sleeve. “If we don’t kill each other, we’d likely be stuck together forever.”

They stood at attention for a moment before raising the daggers in a formal dueling salute.

“It was always going to come to this wasn’t it?” Ryschild said.

“For the longest time, I wasn’t sure,” Grenslaw said.

“And now?” Ryschild said.

“I am quite certain of this now,” Grenslaw said.

“Good,” Ryschild said and relaxed out of the dueling stance.

Grenslaw relaxed at the same moment and both gave secret smiles whose meaning was known only by the other.

“To forever,” Grenslaw said and drew a rune on Rychild’s offered palm with the tip of the knife.

“To forever,” Ryschild said and drew the same rune on Grenslaw’s palm, sealing the [Eternal Pact] between them.

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