“The Älemsi Maritime Infantry have used the decades following the First Yeralik Crisis to establish a small but effective amphibious warfare capability. At present reporting, it operates six landing ships and two amphibious transport docks, and is altogether capable of deploying a battalion-sized light infantry force on short notice. Any hypothetical conflict will almost certainly see the Maritime Infantry used to seize Yeralik Island.
Given the uninhabited and demilitarized status of Yeralik under the Amrakh Agreement, such a landing will presently face opposition only from poor weather and the harsh environment. The Special Warfare Directorate proposes to alter these circumstances via the covert movement of Special Naval Infantry units to Yeralik. Such an action, even if detected, is unlikely to create any further provocation that would not otherwise be found. It is the General Staff’s current assessment that the Älemsi leadership desires a quick, quiet, and bloodless seizure of Yeralik that utilizes minimal force. The proposed SNI deployment will ensure that such an action does not go undetected as it initially did in 1957, and will allow for a swifter response from the Tynam Defense Area.
I must, however, note the limitations of this approach, in that it will not change the calculus of a wider conflict should Amrakh Gazarv choose to pursue one. In the event of a full-scale war, Älemsi planning is open to further occupying Juha and even Kalle should the opportunity arise. Given the present state of the Tynam Defense Area, there is a significant risk that the CDF will be incapable of adequately defending these outlying islands and their populations. Under the General Staff’s present analysis, attempts to threaten Baltu or the Tynam Peninsula will be a reach too far for the Maritime Infantry, particularly as RCRAF and RCRN assets reconsolidate to protect these core areas.
In this most extreme scenario, the ANM will instead seek to neutralize Cryrian air and naval assets in southern Tynam while an occupied Juha and Kalle would be used as bargaining chips to end the conflict on favorable terms. Älemsi submarines can be expected to venture west of Tynam should Cryrian forces in the area become sufficiently degraded. While the National Navy’s submarine arm consists only of four vessels, it has the capacity to create significant disruptions to vital sea lines of communication in the eastern Loopian Sea. Conversely, the vessels of Älemsi surface fleet, though numerous, are unlikely to survive engagements should they move beyond the range of shore-based support. It is likely then that the bulk of the Älemsi National Navy will be focused on supporting operations east of Tynam.
Given the current lack of intelligence indicating that such a dire course of action is likely, the General Staff cannot at this time recommend the wider redeployment of forces needed to alter this balance. Nonetheless, the General Staff is now reviewing plans to reinforce the Tynam Defense Area on short notice should circumstances change.”
- Sigurd Holgerssen, Chief of the General Staff, speaking before the National Security Committee
Kehsi Manor, Grimvik
“Who comes before Ademar’s Gates?”
“Mikael Maravel comes before Ademar’s Gates.”
“Who comes before Ademar’s Gates?”
The King’s voice cracked a little when his turn came.
“A friend,” he murmured, before turning away and returning to his place.
One by one they all stood before the deceased, defining his life with whispered words, every utterance scribbled down by the gloved hand of the 109th Cardinal Leidenstad. But it was not the Cardinal’s face which looked out over the gathering, but that of Ademar Himself, His likeness set into the reflective mask through which Leidenstad now gazed.
A Cardinal’s hand, guided by Ademar’s eyes. Such was how it had always been, and such was how it always would be.
But behind them all lay Leidenstad’s own mind.
Ademar’s eyes rested on the departing royal and found his sorrow to be genuine. The Cardinal’s hand recorded it as such. And Leidenstad’s mind mused that it would indeed be a valuable time to privately counsel the King on his grief.
The last man stepped forward and looked down at the sealed casket. There would be no stately repose for Mikael Maravel. The corpses that had been recovered from the Consulate in Charlottesborg had been charred beyond recognition, and that of the Consular-General had been no exception. Maravel had been lucky all the same - Tynam, Widfross, and half of the rest had not even a body to mourn, nor even a scrap of flesh to perform the last rites.
They too, perhaps, should be spoken to with due time and tact. Times of mourning and strife were important times indeed for the Church, as they like no others reminded the faithful of their desire for a righteous path.
Marlberg was placing a white flower atop all the others, though a wind blew through an open chapel window and scattered the roses. Cardinal Leidenstad could feel the cold even through his heavy white robes. Even for a Cryrian, Grimvik was far north, and indeed by all rights this ceremony should have been left to one of the local priests, or a closer Cardinal. But Mikael Maravel’s death had been of great import, and had drawn many important people too. It was only correct that the highest member of the Clergy should perform the last rites for one whose passing may well have shifted the course of history.
“A good man,” Marlberg said quietly. That one had proven to be a very good investment. Perhaps the best that Leidenstad had ever made. Was that a sign of guilt on his face? A sense of responsibility, for the deaths of so many? Or for the crises that wracked the Kingdom under his oversight? Well, Marlberg had always known where to seek advice.
The Prime Minister returned to a pew next to that of the King. The Queen’s face was stony, and she had not said a word today. Perhaps she still resented Mikael’s role in arranging her unhappy marriage? Erland Maravel had seemed more conflicted at their brother’s passing.
These ones will bear watching, the Cardinal mused. Ademar’s eyes came to rest on the red-haired child that sat beside the Queen. Ulrika was a spitting image of her father. Even amidst the solemnity of the moment she fidgeted with quiet impatience until a masked priestess placed a cautionary hand on the Crown Princess’ shoulder. The caretaker had been carefully selected, at Leidenstad’s advice. Soon, perhaps, he would advise again on the heir’s further education.
It was, after all, ever so important that a righteous hand be at the tiller.
No others came to speak, and Leidenstad’s hand set the final words to paper.
“Then,” the Cardinal intoned, “He was enough.”
That was the cue for a column of masked clergy to begin the silent procession to the crematorium. Outside, beneath the open skies, they would watch as Leidenstad rasped out the final prayers, and then placed his scribblings atop an open flame. Smoke and incense rose up to the heavens, soon joined by the black columns belched up from the incinerator.
In his eighty years of life, Leidenstad had witnessed Kings and Queens, ministers and governments. Death had ever been their tool - The swift death of a Securitate bullet, the slow death of a castle dungeon. The death of the mind upon the Tomorrow Ministry’s lobotomy pick, the living death of the Health Ministry’s neglect.
Of all the arms of state, it was the Church alone that drew power from eternal life. Not from finality, but the promise of forever after. And as he had so often done, Leidenstad watched as all the movers and shakers in Cryria silently awaited his word.
“Oh Ademar. Open thy gates.”