The Vernazza Expedition.
Petruzzo, Lord of Miana, has led a party to investgate an unknown device uncovered by one of our mining operations.
I had hoped to use this outing as a field trial for my latest clockwork man design. We were ambushed near the mine by Doge Alessadri of Vennuci.
My brother was lost, but General Carlini and most of our soldiers survived the attack. I swear this: the Doge will pay for Petruzzo's murder!
What terrible events to start a journal with.
Just the fact that they occurred demands that they be recorded, however.
I will record everything now from what has just happened today, on the 15th day of the 9th Month of Vinci year 1000, to whenever the next journey I have been forced to take on ends.
What I wrote down first can only make me laugh.
My brother was lost. Ha!
How underwhelming that choice of words is compared to the truth.
My brother is dead and it was because he was murdered. Only blood will pay for blood.
I will make the Doge pay while the only payment I will accept is his life.
The life my father should have taken when that Vennuci rats army had their first skirmishes with Mianas own forces, years ago.
Instead he passed the task down to me and my brother by default and because of his mistake, Petruzzo is gone now.
The Giamba family had no other immediate relatives beyond the two of us. Natural law and law of inheritance both dictate that this revenge will be had by me alone.
Although I'm sure some of my people will continue to use the title they've already grown fond of in secret I will never think of myself as "the Inventor of Miana" ever again.
I am the Lord of Miana now, not just in title but in my mind and I feel terribly responsible.
I never thought I would have to lead this state or its people. That's reason enough to write this.
So now I'll make this a chronicle of events instead of an outpouring of my grief.
The journey from Miana to Vernazza that our company and one Clockwork Man took was uneventful and is unimportant to me now.
I must start with the conversation that we were having right before my brother died.
My heart pounds from remembering the undeserved praise he gave me as he rebuked Carlini, who doubted whether the latest of my clockwork men designs would prove useful in transporting the mysterious device the Vernazzans had found.
I didn't blame him for his doubt then and I don't now.
Although the first of my designs have all been successful enough to the point where Miana has been able to sell them to the rest of the Vinci states, these "clockwork men" are just person sized machines that can do simple work like swinging an axe.
What really makes them useful is that they can perform these tasks faster and with more force then any living man.
Satisfactory when it comes to the work of the people, like clearing out a forest or in mining but not what the various Vinci states militaries needed.
So I'd designed the newest model. One that stands twice as high as any person, its tall frame allowing it to carry large objects and destroy other machines easily. It can kill humans if necessary, much as I thought I disapproved of such a thing.
One arm has a hand exactly like a humans which allows it to grasp objects, which can be balanced on the other arm, which ends in a tube filled with a series of coils. This gives it the ability to shoot blasts of lightning.
To animate these complicated devices, each one has been inscribed with runes that put it under the control of one of the types of spirits the Alin summon through their fire magic, the Afreet.
They're the first machines in Vinci history to be able to "think."
I thought that having a few come along with us would make this trip go smoother.
I can't believe what Carlini said in return, looking back on it now!
At the time I thought Carlinis opinion was typical of the military mindset.
What has happened because of that damnable device though? I understand his attitude now, even if I don't agree with it.
I wish I knew what the Doge was doing down there in that mine, in the moments before he ambushed us.
To think that what changed everything in my life in a moments notice was from what to the eye was just a beam of blue light, perhaps some kind of super-heated flame.
I won't just make the Doge pay for his murderous deeds with his own life.
I'll have to dismantle his latest toy as well. Like the man who wields it, the weapon demands to be taken apart just for what it has done.
Through living amongst both the Alin and the Vinci I learned that warfare is the one thing the people of our world don't need invention for.
We all mastered it enough a long time ago no matter how it is refined.
With the direction Doge Alessadri has taken the state of Vennuci in they out of all of the Vinci city states have taken to means of mass production, something I see as more then useful for us all.
It's just the fact that they're using these advances to produce nothing but weapons of war.
The explosion that resulted from the beam hitting the cliff was enough to cause a landslide.
All I could get out as I fell off my horse.
Looking over showed that Petruzzo had fallen as well, a small boulder keeping him pinned to the ground.
I will not lie, in that moment I panicked and turned to see if there was anything about to fall on me as well.
Which made me realize we were about to die, as a larger piece of the cliff was toppling over to crush us both.
On instinct alone, I put my hands up.
Then my Clockwork Man saved us.
The machine struggled to hold the stone up in its arms, gears and pistons whirring loudly as it worked.
Now free to move, I rushed over to pull my brother to safety.
To think, his last words were wasted on nothing more but my name and a warning!
All of the inventions I've brought to life will never compared to what life brings to me.
The failure of my Clockwork Man to stop what happened proves that.
It doesn't matter that Carlini pulled me away right before the stone fell.
If my invention had been up to the task of holding the damn thing up then he would never have had to do that in the first place.
The finesse of the best Vinci technology infused with the raw power of Alin fire magic and the machine still failed us!
The last words Petruzzo would ever hear.
All I could say as Carlini pulled me away.
I cannot carry a grudge. Carlini simply acted quickly enough where I had failed to.
Any thought on other ways this could have gone would be a waste.
After these events I'm sure anyone can forgive me if I simply want to deal with reality.
Once Carlini left my side I scrambled to pick up my pocket watch. It had fallen when he had taken me down.
I found that the time on my fathers heirloom was stuck.
Considering what had broken it, there is no doubt in my mind it was stuck on the time of Petruzzos death.
I've imagined that if my brother had a child before I did, I would pass the watch along to them. With the modifications I've made it would have proven useful.
Something that doesn't matter anymore.
I only think of these afterthoughts as I write all of this down, though.
At the time I simply cradled the watch because it was the closest connection between the two of us there at the moment.
I found myself hypnotized as I committed the numbers to memory.
Reality. Something that I've found to be both solid and very malleable, despite all of our efforts.
What I saw when I looked up reminded me of that.
A fleet of Pirata airships, spiriting whatever the Doge and his men uncovered away back to Vennuci. The Pirata have always interested me.
With the invention of functional airships decades ago they created the means to occupy what is now the Pirata Aerodome; the castle that was once the capital of the Condottieri Empire.
They were the first to cecede and make their state independant, forcing the Condottieri to move to the territory and the smaller castle they now inhabit.
This gave Pirata a headstart when it came to trading with all of the other Vinci states that ceceded in turn.
All of which ended up using balloons and dirigibles for easy travel themselves even as the Piratans inventors kept advances in other means of aviation a tight knit secret.
Having become a nation of merchants and mercenaries they've been eager to safeguard the unique position of being the only Vinci state that has always stayed neutral with all others.
Miana has always benefited from our neighbors success.
Until now, as their latest mission was to give the Doge a quick escape from our grasp!
Someone on one of their single person craft glancing back before they flew off managed to stop my vengeful line of thinking.
Whatever else, as soon as we dealt with the Vennuci forces here we would have to head right to the Pirata Aerodome and get some answers about their deal with the Doge.
However, he was the one who betrayed us. Not them.
I'll give the Pirata a better deal then whichever one the Doge struck with them, make sure Vennuci is cut off from their state.
Then we'll make sure Vennuci falls from grace with all of the Vinci states, no matter the cost.
The heavy thuds from the boots of the Imperial Musketeers took me away from what I had to do later and reminded me of I had to do now.
I looked down at the ground again to take a moment to say what I needed to.
The simple observation was lost under the sound of Carlinis rifle.
Is what I said to myself next. Something which ironically, I am far more comfortable with transcribing.
"There has to be something I can do." Is the last thing I muttered as I climbed up unto my horse. "Like what?" Is what I ended up thinking next.
I had skipped out on conscription at the age of 16. I had never lead the life of the Imperial Musketeers with me.
I knew how to handle the revolver which I was holding unto tightly, how to aim and shoot it. I'd made sure to learn that much.
I have no idea how to be a soldier or an officer, though. Of course, I had General Carlini with me for that.
Looking over at him, in one sentence I willingly ceded to how I think the days ahead might have to go until I've learned all that I need to.
"Carlini, I'll follow your lead. Tell me and our soldiers what we need to do to get out of this!"
"With pleasure, Giacamo." He said curtly.
"These Vennuci Conscripts are no match for Mianas finest! Musketeers, take cover and fire at will!" Is all he shouted at our soldiers, before turning to me again.
"Now we need to ride forward and break them up. Weaken them for the troops. You ready for that?"
He nodded at the soldiers marching upon us and firing, their rifles leaving large smoke trails in the air behind them.
"Yes. How exactly are we going to break them up, though?"
"We're both going to ride into their formation and I'll stay inside it breaking their skulls in. You should have your horse charge through and get some practice with that revolver of yours, fast."
"... Got it."
I had my horse bring me through the left of our formation while Carlini headed to the right.
Our steeds bashed through the Vennuci ranks, giving me a few seconds to see my enemies soldiers up close. What I saw startled me.
All of them, as a whole, had their entire frames covered in heavy plate armor no doubt weaker then it appeared. For all of the things the Vennuci are, concerned for the lives of their soldiers isn't one.
That wasn't what interested me.
What was really noticeable was that with their magnoptics, some kind of facemask over the mouth, the buckles and straps to its sides and cloth underneath it all, you couldn't see any of their skin.
The Alins Desert Walkers have helmets that cover the entirety of their faces as well but there is an elegance to their designs.
I noticed all of this and filed it all away in an instant as Carlini and I rushed through the enemy platoon.
Once I had my horse turned around I aimed and fired, overcoming my fear of shooting someone in a second.
The brief instant of horror at what I'd done vanished as some of the dead soldiers comrades turned to address me.
In a moment I had perfect clarity. They were about to return the favor. Having my horse back up, I leaned over to take one more shot.
That made up my mind and I shook at the reigns of my horse, urging him forward.
We crashed into the Vennuci conscripts and holding on tightly with my left hand, I did my best to bash at them with the pistol held in my right as I screamed like a madman the entire time.
Which ended up being a much shorter time then what I'd expected.
After only a minute or so the combined efforts of ''Mianas finest'' had taken out the entire group of Vennuci soldiers.
I noticed that our troops closed the gap between us as I rode up to Carlini.
"Well done." Is what Carlini said to me before looking to our Musketeers.
"We should head for the Granite Road Bridge. It's the only way to reach the mines without an airship." He said, glancing between me and the soldiers.
"You heard him, Musketeers. Let's move." I added, needing to assert my newfound authority.
The trek down from the mountains road to the old Granite Road was uneventful and I spent it rehearsing in my mind what I would say to the first Piratan we saw after this.
I'm sure I would've continued pulling at this thread until our next battle but as we started treading over stone again, Carlini speaking to his troops roused me from my thoughts.
"Head for the Bridge- it's the only way to reach the Mines, and those Vennuci scum!"
At the time, I wondered "Do they really need to hear that? We just told them to head to the Bridge and it's not like there's anywhere else the Granite Road goes to."
Maybe he was just trying to encourage them. That possibility made me look around for a moment.
Despite the fact our men had nowhere near as personal a stake in this as I did, they were all still highly motivated as we headed down the road. Obviously there was more to the military then what I'd thought when I'd skipped out on my conscription, years ago.
A dangerous thread to pull at.
One of the first journals I wrote was a chronicle of what happened after I left Miana to dodge my conscription at 16 and went through the Silean Pass, heading for the Alin Kingdom.
The entire thing had been addressed to my brother.
Grief returning from these thoughts would've been my next companion on the march down the road if not for what we saw ahead of us. Another group of Vennuci Conscripts, these ones supported by one of their peoples own clockwork inventions.
I'd heard of these but never seen one up close before.
A chassis carried around by eight legs supporting a large boiler as its power source, topped with steam vents and a cannon for a "head." The Vennuci "Clockwork Spider."
I suppose they're no more or less elegant or impressive then our own designs.
It must be just as much work to create a working design for a machine based off the animal kingdom as it is to create something based off of the human body.
Not to mention the fact that the Vennuci discovered some way to animate these "spiders" just as I'd used Alin techniques for my own Clockwork Men.
It just seemed like the second example of Vennuci aesthetics beating one over the head with how much they wanted to be feared. A spider, of all things.
Still, unlike their soldiers this machine seemed like something that would prove difficult to deal with.
Just from size alone this Clockwork Spider would automatically be harder to deal with, let alone with that cannon on its top.
Carlini or I could try to mow it over with our horses and if that didn't work, I suppose the Imperial Musketeers could just surround the machine and tear it apart.
As bullets ricocheted off of metal I found that musket fire alone wouldn't do the job.
Before I had to suggest anything though Carlini rode past me. I couldn't help but look to him as he raised his rifle and with one shot caused the machine to topple over into the ground.
I would've puzzled over how he'd done this if we didn't have a battle to fight- it's only after the last of the Vennuci were down that I was able to ask my question.
"How did you do that? Take out that Clockwork Spider with one shot."
"They've got a few weak spots on their undercarriage, Giacamo. Shoot one of them and the legs give out. I'm sure you could tell me the technical reasons for that."
"Yes, but unless we end up building and designing our own, I won't have the chance to find out."
"Right. Oh well."
I noticed that Carlini gave the downed machine a brief look before shaking the reigns of his horse, having it trot past mine. The Musketeers and I followed him down the Granite Road, everyone looking forward intently.
So we saw the next group of Vennuci soldiers guarding the bridge well before they'd seen us. Which was lucky because this time, they outnumbered us.
Carlini suggested our troops take up covering positions and thin them, out then trade fire from cover once we'd already shot some of them down.
It seemed as good a tactic as any and I agreed to it, the two of us heading for the sides of our platoon as they started firing.
As we traded volleys with the enemy it seemed like my journey would end before it'd started. We were already out manned and then another one of those spiders rushed forward to charge into our ranks.
My horse reared upward in response, kicking its legs out to try and crush the machine underfoot.
That's when my attention was brought to the cliff behind our enemies. I could see something or rather several somethings climbing down.
"Look! Some of my Clockwork Men survived the landslide."
Four of the machines were stepping up to attack every Vennuci soldier they could get close to.
With that, the Musketeers were now free to focus their fire on the front of the enemy formation.
The two pronged attack brought this latest battle to a quick end.
I rode ahead of the rest of our formation, glancing at my Clockwork Men for a moment before peering forward at the Granite Road bridges barred gate.
The only thing between us and the Doge and his army.
I would've given the Clockwork Men the order to destroy the gate right then, if not for the shapes I noticed rising up from the land on the other side of the bridge.
Putting on my magnoptics gave me a better look at the Pirata Dirigibles ascending to head off into the distance, the Doges signature four legged walker clamped underneath the undercarriage of one.
"The Doge is escaping, the coward!"
I am versed enough in Vinci politics to know that Vennuci would never leave an area completely. The Doge himself might be gone but there would be soldiers left behind in his wake.
I looked back to my own and spoke to them, as much as I was speaking to Carlini as well.
"The army he left behind. Show them the same mercy they showed Petruzzo."
Then I turned back. "Clockwork Men. Destroy this gate!"
Seeing the way to our first victory clear, I couldn't help myself.
"For Petruzzo! Across the bridge!"
Once we crossed we were on a path with woods on our sides. I knew this path lead to a clearing with this area of Vernazzas mines.
Our army came to a halt about halfway up the road.
A few hundred yards ahead where the forest ended and the clearing began, there was a large force of Vennuci Conscripts backed up by a Clockwork Spider on their left and one of Vennucis other inventions; a mansized suit of bipedal armor known as a "Doges Walker," standing at the ready with cannons facing forward, on the right.
I brought my horse over to Carlinis and leaned over to whisper to him.
"Carlini. We should have two of my Clockwork Men attack the spider while the other two deal with that Walker. That should leave our Musketeers clear to fire on the enemy from cover. Right?"
The older man looked over to give me an inscrutable expression as he listened to my quick plan then smiled at the question.
"You're taking to combat easily, Inventor of Miana. Alright."
Carlini looked to his left first, craning his head up so he could look the Clockwork Men following at the back of our formation in their "eyes," really just lanterns placed on the head to allow people to see through the dark, fog or shade.
"You two "Clockwork Men," go after that spider!"
Then he looked to his right.
"And you two, destroy that Walker."
After that, he looked to the platoon of Imperial Musketeers.
"That leaves all of you free to deal with their infantry. You all know what to do. Attack!"
So we did.
My Clockwork Men burst through the treeline to step up to the Vennuci platoon, ignoring all of the bashes, jabs and shots they recieved as they marched right through the enemy formation.
On the left side of our enemies, one Clockwork Man grabbed and held the Doges Walker in its arms as its twin started beating at the front of the suit of armor, metal crashing against metal with loud banging sounds.
On the right side, the two Clockwork Men that had moved there circled the clockwork spider, firing blasts of electricity down at it.
The Vennuci were just recovering from the metal giants that had stepped through their group and were now destroying the support at their flanks.
They were unprepared for the first volley of musket fire that came from the trees.
We managed to shoot off a second volley before they started firing back.
Our enemy were returning fire now for all the good that did them. This had been over before it started.
It was simple really; we were in cover while they were out in the open.
That left them more vulnureable then us, especially when the two Clockwork Men that had been dealing with the Clockwork Spider stomped over to begin mowing down as many soldiers as possible.
I actually thought to call for a surrender but my voice was lost in the sounds of the fight.
I'll have to be quicker, next time. Regardless, after the last of our opponents were felled our group entered the clearing.
Carlini had the Musketeers head forward and find anything of use in the Vennucis barracks. Once that was done, I ordered my Clockwork Men to dismantle the building for its parts.
We woudn't be returning to Miana empty handed, at least.
With the Vennuci barracks destroyed the structures it had been supporting toppled down, causing a chain reaction.
We have driven the Doge from Vernazza.