Chapter 44B: Year 2, Day 57 – Iniri
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Almost any ruler on the planet would have been happy to gain half a million citizens in self-contained and self-organized cities. Or rather, they’d have been happy to get the tax and industry of such cities, but less happy to deal with the problems inherent in taking on a load of new citizens. In the long term it would be a positive, but Iniri was struggling with the burgeoning Tarnil Empire, so the enjoyment was more abstract than real.

Nobody was calling it that yet, but it had become an inevitable truth. Orrelin and the Archipelago were both too large to simply integrate into Tarnil, the peoples too different. At least they were both majority human-kin; trying to rule a very different sort of people like the Chiuxatli would have been more of a challenge than Iniri would have liked. She wished Taelah luck with her efforts along that line.

Considering the various logistical challenges involved, Blue had relocated each of the mage-king islands he’d taken, placing them off the coast of Tarnil. Whether or not they would stay there was uncertain, though she did, pragmatically, want to claim the territory of the Great Dungeon that Shayma and Blue had fixed. That would be an amazing addition, especially considering that it carried not only air but stellar Affinity after the pair were done with it. Well, trio, but Iniri found it hard to regard The Silver Woe as anything but her own agent.

Iniri flipped through the report on the next candidate for city governor. This one was to replace Rol Siw on the largest of the mage-kings’ former islands, so she needed someone with above average expertise. And loyalty. Cheya had been working hard to get background on every single person who was under consideration, to make sure there were no more incidents. Of course, Blue’s ubiquitous presence made it unlikely that anyone would plot anything against her specifically, but he probably wouldn’t even notice lesser sorts of peculation. It wasn’t his job.

The entire thing felt a little bit surreal, as she’d never thought herself the conquering type. The fact that the conquering was done without any armies involved just made it stranger. But she wouldn’t be Tarnil’s [Queen] if she turned down the chance to improve its fortunes, or failed to capitalize on an opportunity simply because of the work involved. That was how countries collapsed.

She was about to have one Baron Durmender sent in so she could interview him personally when one of Cheya’s minions was announced at the door. She’d picked up a few people with shadow and stellar Affinities, so she finally had someone to share the workload with, and they’d been Tarnil’s eyes and ears on the ground. At this point only the most sensitive of issues were brought to her attention, though there were still quite a lot of those.

“Your Highness,” the young man said, going to one knee. She waved him to his feet and he stood at attention. “We’ve had an incident at Okar-Tem.” Iniri wasn’t a fan of the naming conventions for the various islands but she knew better than to try and rechristen them before properly taking the temperature of the populace.

“Report, Agent Chivel.”

“We have taken five of the missing former mage-kings into custody, Your Highness.” Chivel paused for a moment. “On confession of murder.”

Murder?” Iniri raised her eyebrows at the man. Though the mage-kings probably deserved worse than they were getting, Iniri hadn’t put much effort into tracking them down. Without their cores and monsters they were partially-depleted second-tiers, or maybe even first, and the actual populations of the Archipelago were more important.

“Yes, they brought Rol Siw’s corpse.” Chivel possessed a commendable straight face, but she could tell he was struggling with incredulity. “Apparently they all had gone to ground together to figure out what to do. Regardless, they said it was to, quote, demonstrate their loyalty. They wanted their old jobs back, because they already knew how to do it.”

“I see.” Iniri sighed and sat back. “As horrible a people out of power as they were in power. Though I can’t say I’m sorry to see Rol Siw go. Well, I see no reason to treat them as anything other than common citizens who committed a murder in cold blood. Tarnil does not recognize their claims.”

Criminals of that sort were shipped to the north and exiled into the wastes, for the most part. It was, of course, a death sentence, but there were few people who wanted to serve as executioner. At least, few people that Iniri would trust to not be corrupted by it, herself included. It was easier to let the lifeless dustbowl of the wastes do the job.

“Yes, Your Highness.” Chivel bowed, and she dismissed him.

“Bah. I kind of wish I’d gotten all of them before,” Blue grumbled into her head. “I’m kind of surprised any of them were smart enough to listen to Ansae, but I guess when The Silver Woe makes an ultimatum, people listen.”

“That they do,” Iniri said with some amusement. Despite actually seeing The Great Lady in action himself, he still didn’t seem to really grasp how potent and terrifying she was. Or worse, he did but didn’t care. “But it’s good that you didn’t. Executing former leaders is in bad taste. Letting them condemn themselves, however, is justice working as intended.”

“So you’re not having trouble with the islands?”

“Well, I am, but no more than I would have expected. Less than Orrelin, actually, since Orrelin isn’t full of people stunted by dungeon food. No offense.”

“Yeah, none taken and it still creeps me out but hopefully we can wean them off that soon enough.”

“Possibly. These people are all two-thirds depleted still, which will make it difficult for them to transition to self-sufficiency.”

“Ugh, true. I kind of hate to put it on your plate.” Iniri sat back and laughed at Blue’s comment, shaking her head.

“Blue, Blue, Blue. It’s a lot of work, yes, but I couldn’t be happier. I inherited a kingdom, and it has been touch and go keeping it, that’s for sure. But now? Marin will inherit an empire.”