Chapter 208 – 82 Gaw:(Interlude Rathos): Alliance Meeting Part 1
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The scene opens on a cavalcade proceeding along a dirt road through the grassy plains of the south, to Sanavil. Their destination is just on the horizon, visible through the faint mirage hovering over the trodden path. Carriages and carts are decorated with flags and embellishments bearing the royal insignia of Skalag, marking their allegiance to the country. Wagons are filled with wealth, gifts for the southern kingdom of growing influence. Brought along are opulent gemstones from prosperous mines, baroque antiques from ancient vaults, resplendent [Slave Courtesans] of Skalag, all to be given for the sake of diplomacy.

Near the front, but not quite at the head of the caravan, lies the carriage of Ammeris, a [Noble] of Skalag leading this convoy. Cousin to the esteemed Avena, the [Royal Lady], Ammeris was one of the first considered for this esteemed undertaking. With her close ties to the capital and her growing reputation among her peers, she was easily the best choice for the assignment. It’s good for the more uppity [Nobles] to occasionally remember that all their influence and power is granted to them by the grace of [King] Henceforth.

Needless to say, Ammeris was quite displeased when she heard the news, despite the potential benefits of leading this diplomatic mission. If she could open diplomatic relations between Skalag and Sanavil, and broker a trade agreement with the city, Avena will be pleased… which means Ammeris will get to return to her typical life of politicking with only Avena’s words of appreciation to tide her over. If Ammeris is to make the most of her sojourn into the boonies, she needs to go above and beyond her role.

And it was then that she had an outstanding idea: become a [Concubine] to Sanavil’s [King]. With the blood of [Nobles] in her veins, few else in the south could fulfill the role. Doing so would give her influence and power within Sanavil, strengthen ties between Skalag and Sanavil, and potentially allow Skalag to exert influence over the new [King]. As a result, Ammeris would be removed from the politics and danger of Skalag, would be distant from her cousin Avena, and would hold power and authority over a small country.

It is this idea that changed Ammeris’s attitude towards this kingdom. Small though it may be, and without the wealth of Skalag, but if it was hers… Well, Ammeris is sure with her superior upbringing and the proper elegance of a lady from a real city, she’ll easily win the [King] over. Maybe, if she can truly capture his heart, he might even make her a [Queen]?

A knock on the window breaks Ammeris from her daydreams. She starts and looks up to where the [Carriage Driver] sits.

“Begging your pardon my lady, but,” the man hesitates as he speaks, “we can see Sanavil in the distance.”

“I see,” she closes the book she was “reading,” “carry on then. I shall prepare myself in the meantime.”

The driver hesitates again. “Yes, well…” he trails off before rallying, “maybe you would like to take a look?”

Ammeris’s lips twitch at the breach of etiquette but she holds her tongue. Something has the driver worried, and if it turns out to be nothing, she can have the man flogged and replaced.

She sighs. It’s important to remember mercy. “Very well,” she tells him and he nods in turn.

She leans forward in her seat and brushes aside the curtains. Daylight assaults her eyes and she must squint through the brightness, but there, off in the distance, her goal is visible.

Sanavil.

Though, no longer the Sanavil she knows. The poor southern kingdom spoken of by her [Tutors] is but a distant memory.

There she sees a mighty bulwark of stone and metal that casts a distant shadow over the horizon. At the precipice of the wall, at the highest peak, are numerous ballista. They surround every point of the wall, each glistening with metal and wood. Just from her quick glance, she counts over a hundred, already ten times more than Skalag.

Surrounding the mighty wall for miles around are [Farmer]’s fields ever flourishing. The speed at which the men and women harvesting their yields is astonishing, even for one as unknowledgeable in the area as Ammeris. One person jogs forward, rapidly swinging their scythe to and fro and tossing the grain up into the air. Meanwhile, two more jog behind and with sweeping gestures, they grab the falling grain and place it in the tall woven containers they carry on their backs.

With a gulp, she moves away from the window and takes a deep and trembling breath. After a few minutes of allowing herself to calm down, she grabs a nearby handkerchief, reaches out the window, and then waves it about. Not a moment later, the [Knight Commander] arrives next to her carriage on horseback.

“[Noble] Ammeris,” he removes his helmet, “is there something you need?”

Ammeris looks at the knight, a strong and good leveled man. An elite sent by [Royal Knight] Peris to protect her from any possible attack from bandits.

She smiles ingratiatingly to the man. “Sir Gavis, I’m sorry to bother you,” she says demurely, “but I was just reading a book on Sanavil’s history. Apparently, their walls are known for being relatively tall.”

What she fails to mention is that the old walls were only a few stories high, not built like the escarpment seen today. “With your military expertise, tell me,” she leans out the window and points to the wall, “how would you go about besieging Sanavil?”

Gavis frowns at the question. Looking up at the wall with trepidation, he considers his answer. Watching its slow growth on the horizon has left him distinctly uneasy.

“If I were to siege the city,” he answers slowly, “I would attempt to starve them out. If that option was unavailable, I would have the gate rammed, or build a large enough siege tow-er.” He mumbles the last word. A siege tower large enough to surmount Sanavil’s walls would have to be made out of metal, and easily taken down with the mounted ballistae.

“Speak honestly, Sir Gavis. I need to hear your true thoughts,” Ammeris pleads.

The knight nods, emboldened by the [Nobles] words. “The walls are a deathtrap. They are too tall to be scaled, covered with too many ballistae to feasibly use a siege engine, and the thousands of wall slits at the top allow the [Archers] too much safety to freely pick at incoming [Soldiers].” He shakes his head. “To siege this place would require resources of a magnitude that we cannot field.”

Ammeris can't help but feel a gnawing fear and curiosity growing within her. Sanavil shouldn't exist, not like this.

“How are they able to afford such things? Sanavil should be a poor city, not a rich one.”

Gavis purses his lips as he continues to stare at the wall. “My only guess is that it is related to those horse-humans.”

“The ones that slaughtered Jade’s cavalry?”

Gavis nods. “Yes. This new species shows up, destroys a contingent of our cavalry with a single charge, and now we find the city of Sanavil with a wall that is several times larger than Skalags. I’d bet my horse that this is all related.”

“And the [General]?”

He shrugs. “That Rathos fellow? I’m starting to think that he may not be the major player on the board. Something tells me the real secrets are going to be unearthed when we pass the walls,” Gavis says, but frowns as he looks ahead at the gates to see a large stream of carriages and carts, “though that may take a while. It looks like Sanavil is getting a lot of trade.”

Ammeris snorts. “So? I’m a [Noble] with a contingent of [Knights] and I have gifts for the [King]. They should invite us to the front of the line.”

Gavis nods slowly. It’s common for [Nobles] to get better treatment, but not always. Credentials matter as much as power, and right now they may not have either in the eyes of Sanavil.

With a shift of his right hand, the closest [Knight] rides up to him. “[Knight commander],” he salutes with a fist to his chest.

“Ride up to the city gates and request permission for an expedited entrance.”

“Yes, Sir Gavis.”

The [knight] rides off while Gavis’s eyes shift back to the [Noble]. The [Noble] looks curious, but stays silent at his decision. As a [Knight Commander], his rank over his [Knights] and [Soldiers] supersedes that of the [Noble]. He is here to serve and protect her as an equal and not as a subject. Only Peris, Jade, and the [King] have any true authority over him… and Avena. The [Royal Lady] can make or ruin anyone with just a few words. Never get on her bad side.

For example, he knows that Ammeris is a close cousin and a supporter of Avena, which is why she was chosen for the job and is allowed to be used as a political marriage tool. A [Noble] woman turning into a [King’s] [Concubine] is the equivalent of becoming a [Lady] with the protection of the crown. She would not have as much power as a [Lady], nor would she have as much work. She would only need to spread her legs whenever the [King] asks and to birth [Princes] and [Princesses] for political marriages.

An easy job, one he can see that Ammeris is planning to obtain. Though, there might be a problem.

“What if this [King] Quasi is one of those horse-men?” he asks the question which causes the woman's eyes to widen. In the deep south, every ruler of a city is almost always either a human [Lord] or human [King]. There are only a few exceptions, all of which are human [Lady’s]. No [Queens] rule kingdoms even though they might have the class.

He can't help but allow a smile to form on his lips as he watches the [Noble]’s facade crumble. Her eyes shift’s down, staring at his war horse with fear. If the [King] is indeed part horse, then having children may be… painful, if not impossible.

“Ammeris,” he interrupts her growing panic with a calm tone, “if there is nothing else to speak to me of, I will retake my defensive position and will contact you when we are near the walls.”

“Y-yes,” she replies, her thoughts partially still on the idea of a horse's… everything.

__________________________________________________________________

After another hour, Gavis’s [Knight] returns. His expression is apologetic as salutes.

“[Knight Commander],” he begins, “The [Guards] at the gates said that they do not expedite anyone except for Sanavil’s military. We are told to wait in line until it is our turn.”

Gavis grimaces. He dislikes the wait, but he also knows that they aren't in any position to request such a service. Not when it seems like Sanavil has quite a powerful military backing them up. If he remembers correctly, the city of Mundus and their [King] fell in a single day. A few days later, the city of Acerous, formerly under the rule of the late [King] Gravitus, surrendered bloodlessly. Sanavil’s domain now encompasses two cities and over a dozen villages and towns in less than a week.

“Understood. Return to your position and await further orders.”

The [Knight] salutes and trudges off, leaving Gavis alone with his thoughts. In another hour or two, they should arrive at the gates. Hopefully, he’ll get a better idea about the political situation when he arrives.

_____________________________________________________________________

Scarlet was startled when her class had upgraded from [City Defender] to [Grand City Defender] upon the completion of Sanavil’s absurdly massive wall. Seven of her skills had been upgraded to a higher rarity while many others grew stronger overall. Her most powerful skill, [Herald of the City], has grown so strong that when she’d tested it, she overpowered [Lady] Rose in combat.

But, such a class upgrade unfortunately comes with an increased workload. Sanavil now has a massive radius, but the infrastructure and population must work to match it. The first is not her problem and with Rathos help, she’ll make her contribution to the second, but Sanival’s need for an expanded guard to guard its expanded perimeter is now solely her problem. The issue is that she needs to prepare for such change by training up [Guard Captains], [Watch Captains], and various other classes to run a city of such size while also doing her own duties of checking in on the [Guards]. Including a new [Watch Captain] in charge of the entrance to Sanavil.

“You can't just tell a delegation from a major kingdom that they must get in line!” she shouts at the centaur [Watch Captain] who cowers away.

“The rules state that only military personnel are allowed to be expedited!” the centaur whines. “Also, why should we care about other kingdoms?”

Scarlet groans at the man's reply. Those are the rules. He’s right! But they’re still preliminary and need to be expanded upon and amended, and they’re much too harsh for this sort of situation, especially when Sanavil is in dire need of trade.

More things she’ll need to take care of. How hard is it to find some [Scribes] or [Secretaries]?

“Fine, you’re right,” she concedes, “but we should still look to improve our relations with other kingdoms. Has the caravan arrived yet?” she asks.

The centaur shakes his head. “Almost. They are maybe half an hour away.”

Scarlet nods and turns. “Alright. I’ll meet them and lead them into Sanavil without a check.”

The centaur frowns. “The rules-”

“-Can be amended by me,” she finishes his sentence with a glare that immediately shuts up the centaur.

She turns and walks out of the office and then rushes down the inner fort next to the entrance before mounting her horse and quickly riding out.

_______________________________________________________________

Now that Gavis is closer, his thoughts on Sanavil have changed again, something that seems to be occurring a lot today. For one, the wall shimmers with soft energy, similar to quality enchanted items filled to the brim with mana. The wall is enchanted, and enchanted well. An entire wall several times larger than Skalag’s is spewing so much mana that it’s visible up close.

It’s absurd that such a thing even exists. The sheer complexity and size of the wall should have required tens of years to create, but his memory says that it was made in the last year.

He shakes his head, still trying to put together a puzzle he hasn’t found all the pieces to yet. This whole mission has been a clusterfuck and he hasn't even reached the gates yet.

As he nears the back of the line he finds a woman with red hair riding up to him with an armored war horse similar to his own. He’d think he was seeing a [Knight] if not for the fact that the woman’s countenance and style lacks their bearing. With a flick of his hand, he orders the procession to stop while nudging his horse forward to meet the rider.

“Hail, rider!” he calls out. The woman, hearing him, slows down to a trot and then to a complete stop three meters away from him. “I am [Knight Commander] Gavis,” he introduces himself. “What is the reason for your arrival?”

The woman nods her head. “I am Scarlet, head of Sanavil’s guards. Apologies for my late arrival; I am here to escort you and the envoy’s of Skalag into the city and lead you to your proper lodging at the castle.”

Gavis can't help but allow a small smile to glaze his lips. Maybe, just maybe, it isn’t as nearly as big of a clusterfuck as things appeared to be.

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