The cyclonette had dumped us on the outer fringes of a war. Murghal was a great general of Ghemel, the ruler of one of its three armies. He was triumphant and mighty and brave in many battles … as long as they were battles against his own people. He made quite a military career crushing rebellions and insurrections, of which there were many. “Uncle Holder”, the hoven (of course a hoven, there’s nobody here but hovens) who ruled Ghemelia for some long time, had many enemies.
Then, Trest came conquering Ghemelia. “They said it was a war of liberation, to free us from Uncle Holder. Free us! We, who elected Uncle Holder every year of our own free will — not a single Ghemelian voted against him these last ten years! So well was he loved!” exclaimed Murghal.
“If he was loved that well, why so many rebellions and insurrections?”
“Hah, those were fools and degenerates.”
“Didn’t they vote against him?”
He looked insulted. “Fools and degenerates may not vote. Who would honor a leader elected by fools and degenerates?”
I giggled. “I suppose that voting against Uncle Holder guaranteed that you were declared a fool and degenerate?”
He sputtered and fumed. “No such thing! It would start the proceedings, yes, but there were plenty of legal protections so that the sensible and honorable would never be branded.” And yes, he meant branded literally, with a hot iron burning the initial of “Fool” and/or “Degenerate”, as appropriate, on the hoven’s forehead.
“I don’t know much about elections. Or laws made by hovens, for that matter. So, what’s Trest, and what did they do?” I asked.
“Trest is a vast blood-sausage, full of fat and arrogance! Trest is the Realm of Lies and Wickedness! Trest is the Handmaiden of the Anti-God, the orifice from which the spiritual shits enter the world!” And on and on for quite some time.
“Let’s start with some basics. Is Trest a king? A country? A religion?” It’s a country, a vast and corpulent and corrupt country, Archconsul Shuvanne says they’re spreading their pestilant political system everywhere, but they invaded Ghemelia as a reprisal for Ghemelia joining the Alliance of Freedom, and out of their greed and arrogance, and on and on with the insults until my next question.
“What is the Alliance of Freedom?” A number of countries whose hearts are in the right place but whose legs are slow and whose hands are tied. The Alliance of Freedom is the anti-Trest. (So: The anti-handmaiden-of-the-anti-god? The orifice from which the spiritual shits depart the world? I am unclear on this point, and Murghal simply adds imprecations.) It is an alliance which intends to keep Trest under control, but does not.
“What was the war like?” Murghal had a great deal to say about that. Cutting out the obscenity, the war was, first of all, fast. Trest used a smallish army of cowards, and Ghemelia a huge one, every one a brave and mighty veteran. (Presumably, mostly against their own people.) Trest’s army had technology though. Airplanes and zeppelins, some of them automated. Yay, zeppelins! Also for the drakes’ sake, yay, we will get to fight great technological airships, if not actually giant robots, if we want! Huge boats armed with huge guns, and smaller trucks armed with smaller but still quite large guns. And, if their soldiers ever got into the least bit of trouble, they could call in the grand artillery. Far away, in the region of Muld, over there (about a third of the way up the curve of the world) there is a vast and mighty projector of a terrible purple twistor ray. All of Ghemelia is in its effective range — indeed, half of Hove is. And nearly all of Hove is in range of at least one of Trest’s projectors.
“So, how did the war go?” The quick answer was, terribly. The Peace Everywhere Array smashed all the important strongholds and airports of Ghemelia in the first two days. The rest of the Alliance of Freedom didn’t send much support — they simply didn’t have time. Ghemelia’s vast army of brave and mighty veterans resisted Trest’s smallish army of cowards less effectively than Murghal himself had resisted Ythac. Viz., they mostly didn’t even bother putting up an ineffective fight, they just ran away before the Tresteans came. Every bit of Ghemelia that Trest wanted to devastate was devastated, and their soldiers died by the grands. Trest lost nineteen soldiers. Twelve of those died when a truck drove over a bridge that fell down. I suppose those are actually Ghemelian kills, since the Ghemelian government built that bridge using the cheapest materials and worst construction they could find.
“Not very well, then?”