Chapter 1: The Vernazza Expedition
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.
Chapter 2: Padonia's Folly
While the Imperial Musketeers stayed behind to secure the Vernazza mines Carlini and I headed south to Pirata.
We only passed through the outskirts of the state though, needing to get back to Miana as quickly as possible.
My desire to go to the Pirata Aerodome would have to wait.
We arrived home after three days of travel. Official business took up the rest of the last day.
That night, Carlini walked up to me while I was standing on one of the Giamba palaces balconies.
I had not noticed him. I was preoccupied thinking of what the days ahead would be like.
"We will go to Padonia as soon as the sun rises then. Have your men ready by morning, Carlini. I recognized those airships too."
"Of course. Is there anything else?"
I could tell from the concern in his voice that the general wanted to talk about what had happened to my brother.
I would like to stay as far away from that topic as possible, with everyone else in Miana.
"No. That will be all."
There was a group of Imperial Musketeers waiting outside that morning.
Carlini walked over to meet me, placing his hand on my shoulder to stop my approach.
After he had done that, he stepped backwards with a grave look on his face.
I knew of only one new Walker being delivered from the Padonian factories.
One that I had designed myself for the Lord of Miana to use. The "Giamba" Walker.
"Alright. Like you said last night, the Padonian garrison is small but they can provide us with troops. So we will rally those troops and drive these raiders out of their territory before we head to Pirata."
"Sounds like a plan, Giacamo. My men and I will be ready to leave when you are then."
So the two of us mounted our horses, our platoon beginning our march to Padonia.
I write this as we stand on the border between our vassal state and home. The men needed rest before we continue.
I will record what I can considering the fact I'll be heading into battle once again.
We have just arrived at one of Padonias smaller cities.
This is the one where most of the raids have occured and was the last stop for Mianas new Walker before it was to be brought home.
Carlini is meeting with the garrison outside while I am making sense of what we've learned.
It is evening now and we have won the day with only minimal losses on our side.
Those soldiers did not die for nothing, though.
The raids on Padonia have been stopped, the walker was recovered and we met with someone from Pirata.
It was the infamous Captain Venza of all people.
It will be an advantage to have someone so popular with the Vinci states on our side.
This is what happened.
Carlini and I and the small group of Imperial Musketeers arrived at the city.
Factories and two mines here as well as a quarry to the north are the main industry in this area. It is not anything like the larger complexes that I have visited in Padonia.
Carlini went to summon the garrison while I set myself up inside the city to consider what we would be facing.
I have seen the Alin in battle and if these raiders were related to them in any way, we would have skilled opponents to fight.
As I came back outside though I discovered that we might have the numbers to make that fact irrelevant.
With the civilian presence smaller here than in Padonias other cities, half of its space had been dedicated to housing part of the states garrison.
As Carlini explained to me, even more troops were here then usual in response to the raids.
This encouraged me. I decided that I would ride up the road first and scout ahead for the company.
I wanted to be the first one to encounter these raiders.
The first group I saw were on a small hill on the left side of the road. I had only spotted them once I was a few feet away. They were creatures made of glass just like the reports had said and had appeared semi-transparent in the light of the sun until I was up close.
While most of their bodies were a clear and pale blue there were also patches of brown, green and purple. With a hunched back covered in spikes and lanky arms far longer then any mans these were not Alin.
They looked exactly like a mansized version of the Alins massive Glass Golems, though.
Having discovered these creatures in the state famous for its walker factories, I have decided to name them ''Glass Walkers.''
They had probably been created by a rogue Alin seeking to increase his or her power base. Whatever the origin of these Glass Walkers, they looked disgusting.
If they were anything like Glass Golems, they would attack by pulling spikes out of their backs and throwing them.
I did not give myself the chance to find out if that is how these Glass Walkers fought.
Instead I shook at the reigns of my horse. The animal charged right into the group and knocked the first one in their line down.
For a few moments my reality was nothing but the sounds of breaking glass, loud bellows and the sound of my horse neighing.
I took that as my cue to ride back to the rest of the company.
Once I had told the men what we were up against, Carlini suggested that we advance up the road en masse.
The Musketeers raised their rifles to fire whenever a group of Glass Walkers stepped out unto the road to attack.
Unlike their fellows who had been standing on a hill in direct sunlight, the next groups of these creatures were easy to spot as they emerged from their dark hiding places.
Despite that a few did manage to throw spikes at us.
Each one burst into shards of glass wherever it landed. This would be dangerous enough on its own yet each explosion also let out a cloud of blue smoke.
Through what must be Alin magic, each one floated over to the person closest to it.
I could see that whoever this happened to ended up naseous and tired, coughing violently and moving far slower then usual.
These clouds must be made of tiny glass particles which enter your blood through cuts, or enter your lungs through breathing.
Whoever created these creatures has a dangerous mind. We had too many men on our side for either type of attack to matter though.
Each Glass Walker broke apart into shards of glass and plumes of blue smoke as they were shot, shattering when they fell to the ground.
Eventually there were none left and the way seemed clear for us reach the edge of the quarry.
I ordered our company to stop until the last of the smoke had dissipated.
Then we marched forward to find the Giamba Walker in the middle of the area. The machine was in a kneeling position, imprisoned in plates of dark glass.
A now abandoned Alin sentry post was there as well.
Like the creatures, these glass prisons broke apart easily from gunfire.
As soon as the Walker had been freed I abandoned my horse and ran over to it.
I climbed inside as quickly as I could. I wanted this business in Padonia done with.
It is a shame that my brother will never have the chance to pilot the Giamba.
I had meant for it to be the ultimate tool to keep him and his troops safe if he was ever on a battlefield.
My clockwork men are twelve feet tall, towering over anyone.
This Walker is twice as tall as them, giving its rider a safe point from which to view the entire battlefield from twenty four feet up in the air.
The left arm ends in a hand that allows it to grab and release objects while the right arm has a cannon which can cycle between three types of ammunition.
The first are regular shells which can damage buildings and other vehicles, destroying them with enough shots. Explosive burst rounds allow it to knock entire groups of infantry down. Those are the Giambas offensive capabilities.
The third type of ammunition is canister shots that break apart to shower whoever it is fired at with a slurry made from alcohols and various herbs, medicines, salves and spices. The mixture has been tested and found to stimulate wounded soldiers.
I know that with this my brother could have won any battle he entered. I can only hope it will do the same for me.
Right after the Walker rose up to its full height, I looked around to survey my company of troops. That's when I noticed that there was something in the distant sky flying right towards us. Putting on my magnoptics, I could see that it was a Pirata aircraft.
After pulling the magnoptics off and pocketing them I stepped forward to grab unto the front of the Walkers cockpit, as the strangers craft arrived over our heads.
I was eager to hear what this Piratan had to say.
Despite the loud thwapping sounds from the propellors on the back of the craft, I could hear the pilot clearly as she leaned over to shout.
"Giacamo! ''The Inventor of Miana.'' Am I right?"
"Yes! Although, I am the Lord of Miana now. Who are you?"
"Captain Venza. Taking a wild guess, I can bet you have heard of me?"
Captain Venza is one of the most infamous of the Pirata, her exploits well documented all over the Vinci lands.
She has made it her habit to give to the poor as much as she takes from the rich.
"Yes. Why are you here in Padonia? What do you want?"
We were already going there and now it will be to aid the people, not just meet with them.
I am not surprised that the Doge crossed yet another state.
After finishing speaking with Venza I had our company turn to face the next road.
These Glass Walkers would have their main base at the dead end it lead to. Looking over to our new companion, I leaned upwards to shout at her.
"Do you think you could fly ahead and let us know what these creatures have at the end of the road?"
In response the woman gave me a weak salute before leaning over her crafts controls.
"Of course, Lord of Miana!"
Only a few minutes had passed before she returned.
"What did you see?"
"A group of those creatures have the area ringed with that dark glass. A number of Padonians were imprisoned inside. There was some sort of animal made from the same glass and what looked like an Alin genie."
Most of that was disturbing but the last part was good news.
A genie would be the one most likely responsible for creating these Glass Walkers or a subordinate of the one who had. Once we killed him this business would be over with.
"Alright. You should return to the city and wait for us. You have earned the rest. We will meet with you as soon as this is over."
Venza eyed me for a moment before nodding.
Before leaving the Piratan turned to look over our company, shouting to be heard over the sound of her craft.
"Good luck to all of you!"
Then she was gone.
"Not that we will need it, men. After me!" Is what I had to say before taking my walker down the road.
The fight with the next group of Glass Walkers was short.
There were too many of us now for their attacks to make a difference.
After their defeat we found another Alin building.
This one, along with the Padonians imprisoned at its sides were guarded by a spider-like creature made from the same glass as everything else we had faced.
The men opened fire, but this "Glass Spider" was made from tougher stuff then its smaller comrades.
Each shot that landed simply chipped off a few measly shards off of its body, the sound from the impacts ringing in my ears.
Bringing my Walkers cannon up, I aimed and fired at this newest threat.
I would be lying if I said I did not find great pleasure in watching it shatter from the explosion. It was direct proof of the Giambas destructive capabilities.
Once the Padonians were freed I had our company continue up the road.
It was time to end this.
Once the genie was killed, the remaining Glass Walkers simply froze in place.
Chapter 3: The Battle of Pirata
As soon as we returned to the Padonian city, Carlini and I went to meet with Captain Venza while our troops recovered.
The three of us stood around a table and Carlini ended up speaking first.
"What was the deal the Pirata made with the Doge, Captain Venza? We know your people were the ones who transported him from Vernazza."
The general considered that for a moment before giving a brief nod. "So it does."
Then he turned to me. "Giacamo?"
I had told him that I did not know whether Venza could be trusted. Her allegiance is to Pirata first and the people second and no one else. Certainly not to Miana.
It sounded like she was being sincere though and I couldn't think of a reason why she would be lying.
"It sounds like she's telling the truth." I said slowly.
"You two had doubt about that?" Was the sharp reply from the woman, who suddenly slammed her gloved hands down on the table.
"Vennuci forces are laying waste to Pirata just as those raiders were to Padonia. Right now. Why would I lie about that?"
"You could be bringing us into a trap." Carlini suggested.
"What good would that do for us? If the Doge were to kill both of you and then move to take Miana, Pirata would be next on his list. He would attack us as he already is!"
The stress lacing her words was clear. I could tell this was the truth.
"Alright. We believe you." I said, giving Carlini a pointed look before turning back to her.
"The battle of Pirata. How has it gone so far?"
From what Venza told us, Vennuci forces have already secured multiple areas of Pirata and are now waiting to finish the next part of their plan.
It would only be a matter of time before Miana would be next.
We have decided to travel immediately and should arrive by tomorrow morning.
Here I asked the question that had been on my mind all night.
I could see Carlini watching our conversation from the back of his horse with an intrigued expression.
"Who is in charge of the Pirata? I want to know who to speak to here."
"That would be the Chief of the Houses of Pirata. Her name is Lenora."
"Where would she be right now?"
"I'd think she would be at the Aerodome itself."
"Could you go there and find out for us? The sooner I can make official contact, the sooner my forces will move. Carlini will be waiting for you when you return."
I was inside the Piratan base when Carlini stepped up to me with the latest news.
"Lenora has crashed on the other side of this chasm. We should set out to rescue her."
"I saw an Aerodrome with two Dirigibles. We'll take those."
I could not believe it!
This "Lenora'' was the same Piratan that I saw back in Vernazza.
"You're Captain Lenora?"
"That's right." She paused for a moment, looking back and forth from me to the Clockwork Men and Imperial Musketeers.
"That would make you Giacamo. The new Lord of Miana."
She was the first one besides Carlini to say so. For once I couldn't think of anything to say.
"So what is it that you want?"
"For the Doge to pay for my brothers death. I wanted to kill him here but since he's escaped, I'll have to settle for forcing his troops out of Pirata."
"We'd be glad to take your help." She said, glancing down at her craft before looking back up to me.
"That traitor has killed many here as well."
"Then we'll get you airborne. Between the two of us and my Clockwork Men, we can get your craft back in the air."
With that in mind we began yet another march while Lenora raced back to the Pirata Aerodome.
Luckily, we only had two bridges to cross before we would reach the area where the Vennuci forces were stationed.
By the time we had crossed the second bridge and started our attack, Piratan aircraft had joined us.
It was a far more violent battle then the previous ones.
While we had large numbers of Musketeers and Clockwork Men after visiting Padonia, they were evenly matched by the Vennuci Conscripts and their Clockwork Spiders.
The Pirata Fliers were helping but they were just as occupied avoiding the fire from the Vennuci Sky Crusher. The pounding from its batteries sounded like thunder, which drowned out everything else.
The popping sounds from soldiers rifles, the fizzing from the Clockwork Mens coil guns and the staccato bursts from the Piratan craft.
All of it rising and falling under the din of those batteries.
I could see and hear it all far too clearly with the height of the Giamba. In Padonia, I had been leading an operation against inhuman beasts.
This was my first experience waging a real war against other people from the viewpoint of my Walker.
Just like the first battle in Vernazza, I could not help but be overwhelmed.
Suddenly the last of the Vennuci Conscripts had fallen and I watched as Mianan and Pirata alike moved in as one to surround the Sky Crusher.
I could see my Musketeers exchanging fire with soldiers inside while the Piratan Aircraft strafed the sides of the building.
Before I knew it we had captured the infernal place.
Turning in the Giamba Walkers cockpit I could see Lenora flying back to the Pirata Aerodome. I looked down to Carlini, shouting to be heard over the sound of our army.
"Take care of the troops here! I need to get to that Aerodome."
He gave me a salute before shouting back.
"Good luck, Giacamo!"
Then we parted ways.
I knew that going to Pirata would be good for us.
I just did not expect to like their leader as much as I do.
Her next words when I turned back to face her only cemented that.
The Pirata Aerodome is massive. I was not surprised they had an unused barracks for my soldiers to use.
While they went there Carlini and I were put up in guest bedrooms in the House of Lenora.
As the Chief of the current reigning House of Pirata the woman herself prefers to be called by her last name.
The view from the window was incredible.
Besides my time in the Silean Pass and the cities of the Alin I have never been so high up in the air before.
I spent almost an hour gazing out at the night sky and watched various aircraft arriving and taking off. Even at night the Aerodome is busy.
When I finally went to bed I had the soundest sleep I have had in days.
As soon as I woke up I knew it was time to get to work though. Having reached Pirata and also allying with them, now I need to figure out how our combined forces will reach Venucci from here.
I will skip over the events of my morning and cover the meeting I had arranged with Carlini, Lenora and Venza.
The four of us all exchanged pleasentries and took our seats. I started the conversation by pointing to a map that was placed on the table before us.
"What is this?"
Carlini turned to look at me.
"An updated map of the Vinci states. I made sure that someone drew it up for us last night."
One thing was instantly clear to me.
"Let me take a guess. Feligno and Piavasso are marked seperately because they have joined forces with Vennuci."
"Yes." Carlini said promptly, taking a breath before he continued.
That was interesting.
"The Wasteland?" I asked, looking at Piavassos spot on the map curiously.
"That's what the locals have been calling it for the last couple of weeks." Carlini said, before putting his finger to "The Wastelands" spot on the map.
I had heard reports of a new Lord taking control up there, but I did not know the situation was that desperate.
I couldn't help but look to the district right next to it.
"We have Tarona colored as if it is a neutral state."
"I was going to tell you about that." Was Carlinis answer, his voice lowered now. "As you know,"
That was a worrying development.
Tarona has been a vassal of Miana for years. Not only that but it would be the ideal location from which to stage an attack on ''The Wasteland.''
Lenora spoke up first.
"Maybe he's made a deal with Lord Rocco. Switched his allegiance over to someone who he feels threatened by or thinks he can get more from."
"That could be possible." I said, glancing between the two states for a moment before I shook my head.
"Whatever the Viscounts reasons, we'll find them out before we invade The Wasteland. What's the situation in Feligno, Carlini?"
Feligno is clean and prosperous and is filling up Vennucis coffers?
I turned to look at Lenora and Venza.
"What have the two of you heard from those who have traded in Feligno?"
Once again, Lenora was the first to speak.
"My reports match yours. Over the last few weeks Feligno itself has become a fortress while the land around it is teeming with activity. Officials there have been trading with us more then ever before."
"From the few flights me and my squadron have taken there I would describe it just like that. There is one other thing though."
"What's that?" I asked.
"Locals have told us that the new Felignan government is using one of the old buildings as a prison for anyone who didn't cede support to Sclario. If I had to guess, I would bet a large amount of the work done in Feligno is by the people held in that prison."
The situation there had sounded too good to be true.
Once again Lenora spoke.
"We need to figure out which state to go after first. I can't say which would be a better target though. They're equally important."
Carlini nodded. "And both are around the same distance from us. Which do you think is the better target, Venza?"
The other woman shrugged.
"I don't know but I will say one thing.
The people of Feligno may have pledged their support to Don Sclario at first, but that was weeks ago. Many of them aren't happy anymore and the same thing goes for those in The Wasteland. Once we take both states, it won't just be a loss of resources for the Doge. We'll bolster our army from defectors, as well."
"That will be useful once it's time to invade Vennuci." Was Carlinis statement, his voice thoughtful. He gave the map another look before turning to me.
"What do you think, Giacamo?"
The choice was obvious. As much as my heart bleeds for the people of Piavasso, I will not go through Vernazza again so soon.
"We should go to Feligno. Vennuci won't be able to do half as much with the Wastelands Timonium if we hit their pockets first."
I could see that the other three were considering that logic. I needed to make sure they were absolutely convinced.
"It's not just that. The Umberto Forest and Maldini will be easier to attack then Vernazza and Tarona, especially with what you've told me, Carlini. If we go west first, our army has more time to gain strength."
The general looked at me for a moment and then back to the map. "I can't argue with that."
"Good. Lenora, I need you to make sure the Pirata cut off trade with both Feligno and the Wastelands until they're under our control. You'll have to stay with the neutral states."
Now that that was addressed.
"What do you think we should do once we've conquered Feligno, Carlini?" I asked.
"Well. In the days it will take us to do that, Piavasso forces will have at least captured Monte Laguna and Vennuci will have most likely taken over both Dirsi and Ranconi. If I were the Doge, I would have my forces invade Silea next. We should have our own capture Corbanile and station part of our army there to ward off attacks while we unite the Condotteri before heading north- either by way of Monte Laguna or Vernazza."
That sounded like the most sensible plan to me. I turned to Lenora and Venza.
"Do you two agree with Carlinis plan?"
"It sounds good to me." Lenora said with a shrug.
"I've got no complaints." Venza said. "Does that mean this meeting is over?"
"No." I said promptly. "I want you and Carlini to figure out the details of this plan while Lenora and I speak to the leaders of all of the Pirata Houses."
With that being said, I looked to Lenora herself.
"I need to make sure your people are united in their support for an alliance with Miana. Neither of us can afford for any of this to go wrong."
She smiled before stepping over and pulling me out of my chair. Then to my surprise, she looped her arm around mine.
"I can agree with that. We'll call it a date, then." The Piratan leader said before glancing at Carlini and Venza.
"And leave you two military minds to your planning. Come on, my new "ally." She said to me, pulling me out of the room.
I could hear the General and Captain snickering behind us yet I found I didn't mind that at all.
Chapter 5: War In The Clouds
We have arrived at a Pirata base and received further reports on the situation here.
We must break through and get to where the Pirata are under seige by taking the road to the north.
The main swathe cuts through the center of the region and leads east though, to the city where the rogue Pirata are stationed.
We will have to deal with them first before we rescue our allies.
I had grabbed unto the front of the cockpit of my Walker and was leaning forward.
I watched the men idly while I thought about how we would take control of a road both fortified with bunkers and swarming with hostile aircraft.
That's when Carlini rode up from behind me, shouting my name to get my attention.
Looking down, I called back to him.
"What is it?"
"I've just received reports from our scouts. A nearby Condotteri Outpost has heard of our exploits and joined our cause. The nearby mining company has followed suit."
"That will be useful." I said, pausing before I continued.
"How do you think we will win here, Carlini?"
"I know there are many other outposts here. They'll be cut off this conflict but eager to join it if we pay them. We will need to rely heavily on the Condotteri. Their numbers will allow us to gather a powerful army."
"Alright. Send our scouts to every outpost you know of with orders to hire the men at each one. We'll prepare an army with all of the Condotteri camped in this part of Umberto and then march on that road. They won't deny us with the combined coffers of Miana and Pirata for payment. We'll need them to send messengers to outposts further out as well. I'm sure we'll need reinforcements as the battle continues."
''That's good thinking, Giacamo. I'll get it done." He said before riding off to the barracks.
Lenora spoke next, leaning over the side of her Flier to shout down at me.
"Most of the Pirata have remained loyal in the past. I should find out why these refuse to heed my authority."
I couldn't help but relax at the sound of her voice. I turned around, letting myself slump backwards.
"How will you do that?"
"I'm going to fly to the loyalist city and ask them if they know why our comrades have defected. Just give me a half hour to return. If that.''
With those words, the leader of the Pirata took off.
We were massing forces and about to find out why this fight had started in the first place.
With things in motion, I spent the next few minutes getting our company of Imperial Musketeers and Clockwork Men organized.
Bands of Condotteri soldiers started to arrive. Getting them to fall into formation with our army kept Carlini and I busy until Lenora returned.
There was a relish in her voice as she relayed her news.
"Those still loyal have told me that with the Doges attack on Pirata it gave several renegade captains the excuse they needed to declare themselves independent."
"Do the Houses of Pirata recognize the claim these captains have made to such independence?"
"You're more fun then I thought. No, Giacamo. They don't."
"Then I see no reason why your Mianan allies can't help you bring them in line. Did you hear anything else?"
"The loyalists have the resources to build Air Destroyers but with the rebels they're cut off from their supply of raw material."
A plan came to my mind in an instant.
"This base has a mine and one of the Condotteri mining companies has joined us as well. All we need to do is send caravans loaded with Timonium around that road. It will take a while for them to get there but once they have if your Pirata work fast, they should be able to get a few Air Destroyers flying for us."
She considered that for a moment, head falling over to the side.
"They could get it done but I'm sure the rogues will have patrols on both sides of the road. They would take those caravans down."
As I'm sure she would know.
"We'll have to split your forces, then. Half of your fliers will join the attack on the road itself. We'll split the other half to guard two groups of caravans, one going east and one going west. At least some of them will get through that way."
"That should work. Alright. I'll get it done.''
Lenora left to organize the caravans and their escorts and Carlini called out to me.
All of the nearby Condotteri had joined us, with forces further out in Umberto on the way as well.
I will write more once this is over.
As our army marched through the hills it began to break apart.
The Condotteri have their own formations and started to split apart from the musketeers.
I could see it clearly from my Walker but I made no move to stop it.
I'm still unexperienced with military matters but I thought it was obvious that with all of us heading uphill on a direct line towards the first of the bunkers, it would help for us to be spread out.
"Carlini! Make sure that no one maintains ranks. I think advancing that way will work better for us."
I was right.
As the first wave arrived within eye level of the bunker those inside didn't just fire on them.
They fired to the sides as well, hoping to catch the next wave.
With our enemies spreading out their first attack like this, most of our forces were able to move forward.
Then the entirety of our army was close enough to attack.
Imperial Musketeers took up firing positions in the chaos, providing covering fire for the Condotteri Soldiers and Clockwork Men marching forward.
I could see a number of Piratan soldiers moving up to the sides of the bunker to return fire.
They would tear our forces to shreds with their vantage point.
Already I could hear the sounds of bullets hitting the metal of armor plating and shields.
I could not allow that to happen.
One shot with my Walkers explosive rounds and dozens of enemy soldiers were tossed backwards.
My Clockwork Men and the Condotteri moved forward to take advantage of this, swarming over their fallen enemies. I could hear dozens of our enemies screaming in pain as they were killed.
It seemed at that point like we would win this first battle but I underestimated just how many rogue Pirata there were. A huge crowd of soldiers were arriving to replace their fallen comrades, no doubt sent from the next bunker.
Soon all of our Clockwork Men had been destroyed and the first wave of Condotteri had been slaughtered.
Pirata soldiers ran past the bunker and down to meet us, my Musketeers falling back to position themselves at the bottom of the hill.
"Carlini! What do we do?"
Looking down, I could see him firing off a round before answering.
"I estimate some Steam Cannons should be enough to level those bunkers. The Condotteri are bringing some, we just need to hold the hill until they arrive."
This was easier said then done.
I had no choice but to have my Walker march forward, taking up the attention of most of the enemy troops to give our own a chance to regroup. Once they had they started giving me covering fire.
The battle had become a toe to toe slugging match between our two armies.
Even as Condotteri Steam Cannons arrived and started to fire into the horde of enemy soldiers the rogue Pirata had brought some of their own.
Fliers from both sides flew overhead, firing on each other and at the forces below.
It was all I could do to move forward again and hope the sight of my Walker would give my army some hope until more of the Condotteri arrived.
After a few minutes, the last of the enemy troops had fallen.
The bunker was destroyed quickly once we were able to concentrate fire on it.
Now we could move forward to take the next part of this road.
With our army equipped with artillery now the second bunker we faced was taken out much quicker.
Unfortunately that gave the Pirata forces that had been massing behind it a clear line of fire on us.
Our two armies shot at each other from afar, artillery shells and the tracer fire from Fliers whizzing through the air.
Once again I almost found myself overwhelmed by the sheer chaos of war.
It was all I could do to have my Walker continue firing.
Eventually the rogue Pirata recieved reinforcements.
Motivated by this, a number of them started to cross the field to close the distance between us.
Moving my Walker forward, I fired another explosive round which knocked the enemy soldiers to the ground en masse.
"Come on, men! Focus your fire on them now!" Was what I shouted to the army behind me.
The brief stop I had put to the enemy allowed us to take their position.
Then the march continued. It was time to take out the third and last bunker.
We faced another long and hard fought battle before it had been destroyed.
I won't describe it here.
Our forces hung back in cover this time. The road east only lead to one place.
The enemy city, where we could see Air Destroyers patrolling in the skies above.
After a few minutes, Lenora flew up to the side of my Walker.
"Destroying those bunkers should have taken the pressure off of our friends. I'd expect them to lend a hand any time now."
"I hope they do." I said somberly, watching the skies with a worried expression on my face.
We would need the help for the next part of this.
"Look! My Pirata have come through." Was Lenoras sudden announcement, her voice full of pride.
Four Air Destroyers had appeared from the north and were firing all they had at their counterparts.
Once the skies were clear it was time to end this.
The remains of our army advanced, firing everything they had as our four Air Destroyers went to do the same.
For a few minutes there was nothing but the sounds of explosions and the firing of guns.
Once the rogue city was in flames I had Condotteri and Imperial Musketeers alike enter to mop up the survivors.
Lenora took the remaining Pirata and headed north. I'm told the battle to clear their skies was short.
Looking back on it now?
I must put it out of my mind. We'll find out who it was eventually.
For now our army will march into Maldini tomorrow.
I must record the conversation I had with Carlini and Lenora on the way to Maldini. It was something.
I didn't say anything. There was no way we would be in Vennuci after one week.
The very thought of it made me raise my pocket watch in my hand.
I have taken to holding it at quieter moments. It is a comfort if a small one.
With a replacement leg, I'm sure he would know.
"Or someone like you."
Chapter 6: The Cliffs of Feligno
I will write more soon.
While the area itself has been built up, Felignos Infantry and calvary are still equipped at the level of most of the Vinci states except for the fact there are aircraft at their disposal.
After a short battle our forces gained control of a city which stands at the southern corner of the mountain Feligno is on.
Another part of our army had taken the cities on the other side as well.
The seige had begun.
There was as much infrastructure here as what I'd expected to find at Feligno itself.
Don Schlario has been busy in the last few weeks.
He had only ended up building the tools of his own destruction though.
A battle in Feligno was always going to be a seige and a nearby base was cruical for that.
Once we had squared everything away, I found myself looking up at the mountain.
Much of the slope was covered in boards, sheet metal and various other equipment while parts of it had been flattened down.
A number of buildings including Defense Towers had been placed in those areas.
I found myself thankful that we have allied with the Pirata, again.
I'm not sure how many men would die if we marched up the flatter hills on the other side.
We do have a stronger army now.
Along with the combined forces of Miana and Pirata there are recruits who joined us in Padonia, Umberto and Maldini as well as Condotteri from all of those states.
That doesn't make me worry any less about potential losses.
If anything it makes me worry more.
Blocking Feligno off before a surprise aerial attack seemed a better plan.
"I never expected to end up here." Lenora said.
When I looked over I saw her eyeing the mountain just as I had been.
The buildings on the top were barely visible to us with their distance.
"What do you mean, Lenora?"
"Felignos air defenses are legendary. My people wouldn't dream of attacking this place."
I wanted to say something encouraging to that but she continued speaking before I got the chance.
"That Don Sclario is quite impressive. If you prefer the unstable, power mad type."
I enjoyed hearing the relish in her voice, but not what it was about.
We aren't together, yet the idea of Lenora finding another man impressive bothered me anyway.
I've grown attached to her in the last week.
I was glad to hear her second comment.
Her description brought me back to thinking of the Doge instead, though.
"I don't. The sooner we deal with him, the better." I said shortly.
"At the base of the cliff are three Aerodromes. We'll need them before we start the attack. I want you and Carlini to take half of our forces and capture the two on the left. I'll head to the one on the right with everyone else."
She smiled at that.
"Well, we'll get moving now then. Carlini! Let's go! Giacamo says that it's time to move on the Aerodromes."
As the two of them mustered their troops, I leaned out of the cockpit of my Walker and shouted at the rest to follow me.
I haven't enjoyed the combat which comes with leading from the front.
That's exactly why I will continue to do it until this war is over.
I'd rather it be me then someone else.
Standing back and taking a hold on my controls, I started our next march of the day.
With a number of Clockwork Men at our side, the forces guarding the Aerodrome were killed quickly.
Once I'd told the Musketeers and their mechanical support to stay put, I took my Walker down the path which lead to the other two Aerodromes.
I wanted to see how Carlini and Lenoras forces had fared.
The leader of Pirata met me on the way, the look on her face making it obvious she had news.
"What is it, Lenora?"
"Schlario! It looks like he got his hands on the plans for a War Zeppelin. He's got enough Aerodromes to build himself a fleet of the things. Too bad he didn't count on us showing up before they were built. I say we bring his new Zeppelins right to him. In person."
"Did you let Carlini know about this?"
"No. As soon as I was told about it I came over to tell you."
"Alright. Well I think you've got a perfect idea. We can finish the ones under construction and start building more. If the air defenses here are legendary then we'll have a response to match. Have your pilots land for now, we'll be here for a few days. You and I need to have a meeting with Carlini and Venza, too."
"I wouldn't have guessed. Alright. I'll see you back at the city, then."
Besides squads of Musketeers and a few Clockwork Men that had been left to guard our new Aerodromes, the entirety of our army was stationed at the city now.
A number of camps had sprung up around it. My soldiers weren't my concern at the moment, though.
Planning their victory was the main thing on my mind. I walked from my Walker to the command tent quickly. It was easy to spot, being the only one with the flag of Miana flying.
Carlini, Lenora and Venza were already sat around a wooden table. This one had a map of the southern half of Feligno placed on it.
There was the smaller city we had taken over, one more at the western side of the mountain and finally the capital itself on top.
"No one minds if I start this now, right?" I asked, waiting for everyones agreement before I turned to our general.
"What do we have to do to win this, Carlini?"
"There really isn't anything beyond taking Feligno itself now that we've encircled it. Since you ruled out having our forces advance up the other side of the mountain the main problem will be taking out the defenses here. I don't see how we'll do that though. Steam Cannons can't fire that far and if we use our Air Destroyers or Fliers, there's a chance there won't be many left when we've reached the top. I don't know if we can win the fight there without air support, with the amount of aircraft that Schlario has."
He stopped for a moment before continuing.
"We could continue the siege and see if they surrender but we'll have to deal with reinforcements from the Wasteland or Vennuci arriving if that goes past a week."
"Lenora and I might have a better solution then. The fleet of War Zeppelins that Don Schlario has planned on building. His cities and their Aerodromes have already started the work. We should take a few days to finish it. I think that if we used these Zeppelins along with our own aircraft we would deal with the defenses easily."
"That would get the job done faster. We'll have to worry about Felignos forces trying to recapture their ground until we attack, though."
"We can handle that. What if our Musketeers and Clockwork Men on both sides of the mountain are put on patrol until we're ready with Steam Cannons deployed as point defenses?"
"That's not a bad plan, Giacamo."
I looked over to Lenora and Venza, then.
"I say we keep most of the Fliers here grounded with one squadron on standby in case Feligno sends their own against us. Do all of you agree?"
Whatever they were going to say, I never found out. It was at that moment one of our Imperial Musketeers stepped into the tent.
"I'm sorry, my Lord. I'm sorry, General. I'm sorry, Chieftess. Captain."
I was the first to speak.
"It's alright, soldier. What is it?"
"A Condotteri Dragoon has come begging for an audience. He is imploring us to free the rest of his company. It seems they're being held in a nearby prison."
I knew that would be the one Venza had told us about.
Now that we knew it was still full we had a duty to free those inside as soon as possible.
If the current prisoners were a band of Condotteri they could prove useful as well.
"Go and tell him that he won't need an audience with us. We'll have him lead us right to this prison."
I waited for the Musketeer to exit before I turned to the others.
"Carlini, have one of your officers organize the patrols and Steam Cannon placements around the city. Then pick our best squads to come with us. I want you to join me for the attack on this prison."
"Is there anything else?"
"No. That's it." I said, glancing over to watch him leave before turning to Lenora and Venza.
"We'll need a messenger to go to Maldini to gather Pirata crew and pilots stationed there. As well as any of their people that have the same skills. Those Zeppelins won't pilot themselves."
"I can send someone right now. We'll keep our pilots on the ground for now, too." She added, glancing at Captain Venza.
"Good. I'll return as soon as I can."
Our company headed east from the city, passing a Mining Complex on the outskirts before we stepped unto a road which lead east into the forest.
Feligno forces had been waiting here to stage an ambush.
We outnumbered them though. It was only a short fight before we were able to continue.
Eventually we came out of the forest and arrived at a clearing.
Here a Defense Tower stood guard over the path into the hills which lead to the prison.
As our group of Muskteers fired as one, I did the same with my cannon.
This was the quickest I'd ever seen one of these buildings be destroyed.
We continued up the road as soon as the way was clear.
There were calvary and infantry here. The entire group charged forward to meet us in the close quarters.
As the men met the front of the enemy formation I fired off an explosive round from my cannon at the back of it.
Things ended quickly after that.
The rest of the march to the prison was peaceful even with everyone looking around for more enemies warily.
With the gate right in front of us I leaned forward.
"Men, fire at will!"
What I said next was as much of an example to our Musketeers as a statement to the Condotteri.
"People of Feligno! You are free, now."
For a few moments the group of Condotteri stood there, shocked that escape had come so easily to them.
Then they stepped out to meet us.
There was a heavy set, tall man at their front wearing a large brown coat and what looked like a massive backpack over his shoulders.
Carlini let out a gasp at the sight of him.
"Do you know him?"
"I know of him. That's General Battaglion. He's been leading Condotteri forces for years now. He's supposed to be unmatched when it comes to sieges as well." Is what Carlini told me, his last statement rather pointed.
I watched this Battaglion with both new respect and interest.
Stepping past his forces, he met my gaze.
"So, we are free. Who do we owe that to?" Is what he shouted, stepping past all of his compatriots to stare at us.
"My name is Giacamo Giamba. The Lord of Miana. This is General Carlini."
To my surprise the man chuckled.
"I'm General Battaglion. Mianians, eh? What are the Imperial Musketeers doing so far out in the west? Your state has always gotten along nicely with Feligno."
I didn't like how quick he was to belittle my people.
"Well, things have changed. Vennuci finally decided to declare open war on Miana and The Doge killed Petruzzo. His forces tried to conquer Pirata as well before we stopped them. Now they're on the move across the Vinci lands. Don Schlario is supporting the Doge in all of this so we've come to place his head on a stick and free Feligno."
In this first week of leadership over the army and state that was the most aggressively I've found myself speaking.
Watching a number of my Imperial Musketeers looking over at me with impressed looks did not interest me but it let me know I had said the right thing.
"Well. That is something." Is what this Condotteri General said, his head tilted to the side a bit now. He looked back and forth at his company before meeting my eyes again.
"What do you want from us then?"
"Your help with a plan to take the city back, if you'll give it. Carlini has told me you're an expert when it comes to explosives and siege warfare. We were hoping you could put that expertise to use against those who imprisoned you."
Seeing him smile broadly I looked over to Carlini. We had found ourselves another ally.
Chapter 7: The Cliffs of Feligno Part 2
The conversation with Battaglion was short.
Once I'd explained the situation here he threw his hands up before speaking.
"I don't think there's any advice I can give you. Feligno is already surrounded and you've got a good plan on how to capture it. The only thing I'd suggest is that after destroying the defenses you take the city on the western part of the mountain. That way you have somewhere closer to stage your troops at."
I had already thought of that but it was good to hear a second opinion from someone I didn't know.
"I'll make sure to consider that. Would you and your Condotteri be willing to join in the attack? We'll need all the help we can get. It will give you a chance for revenge as well."
"I'd be happy to. Me and my men owe you that."
"Thank you, General. I'll let you know when we're about to start."
I have decided that he'll be placed on one of the War Zeppelins if he's alright with that.
I feel that will be the smartest place for him.
The War Zeppelins were a sight to behold.
They're smaller then the far larger airships the Pirata use to transport troops and supplies but armed to the teeth.
With them at our disposal the attack went off perfectly.
Lenora told me that they ruined everything they fired upon.
I could see some of it from my spot at the bottom of the mountain.
Once the city to the west was captured, our newly assembled air fleet massed there to prepare for the final attack.
Feligno was in flames after that.
A number of Cargo Dirigibles flew up next, bringing troops to secure it.
I expect that we'll have a number of people who will join our cause here.
As soon as the area has been secured completely we will march on Silea next.
After a short session of convincing from Carlini and I, General Battaglion has agreed to join us until Vennuci is defeated.
They were just as culpable in his arrest as Feligno was after all.
With that out of the way we are setting out for Silea now.
Silea tried to remain neutral when the Doge set his plans in motion. He made sure his displeasure was well known here.
On their way back to Vennuci, his forces had ransacked as much of the state as they could.
Although it is still a pristine land of fields, forests and the communities placed throughout, those communities have now been looted with a number of their citizens killed.
With the threat of the Doge returning over their heads the people were more then willing to give control of their lands to us.
A number of men and women have also joined our army here, wanting revenge on those that attacked their home.
I cannot say I don't understand their motivation.
Corbanile is known for rugged terrain settled by stern folk, who take little interest in the affairs of others.
We sent for a number of War Zeppelins from Feligno for our mission here.
Those and a number of aircraft from Pirata filled the skies as Battaglion, Carlini, Lenora, Venza and I met with the states leaders.
After a long discussion we made it clear their community would be left untouched if they let us rule it for now and contributed metals and Timonium from their mines for our cause.
Having heard of what Vennuci forces had done to Silea and seeing how quickly Mianas own army has grown they were happy to allow us control for now.
We have taken both Silea and Corbanile in a day without any fighting.
After the last week, that was a relief.
Reports have come in and we've found out that Ranconi and Dirsi are now controlled by the Doge while the Viscount of Tarona has pledged his allegiance to Lord Rocco and the Wasteland.
News has also reached us of clockwork devices going haywire in Monte Laguna somehow and attacking their masters.
Monte Laguna has grown fat from the rich Timonium deposits there.
In the last few years their mining operations have been automated using imported Mianan technology, further increasing profits.
I feel responsible for the situation our trading partners are in and they have resources that we cannot allow our enemies to have.
As soon as the state of Condottieri is ours we must help Monte Laguna and then liberate the Wasteland.
Then we'll retake control of Tarona and secure Vernazza before heading west and finishing this.
I have decided to speak with Battaglion again.
He is the highest ranked member of the Condotteri we've met so far. I'm sure he'll know the best way to take Condottieri Castle.
"You want me to tell you how to take over the Condottieri Castle?" Battaglion asked.
"Shouldn't it be obvious?"
"No? I don't understand."
"Make a show of force like the one in Corbanile. With the armies you've gathered and the aircraft from Feligno and Pirata, the Forzi and Montuchio will give up their fight. Once you have the state under your control, most of the Condotteri will flock to Mianas banner."
"You really think it will be that easy?"
"Lord of Miana, I know it will be that easy."
He was right. Except for a few stragglers the Condotteri fighting over their state surrendered to us.
We have told the leaders of the Forzi and Montuchio to send messages to their people throughout the lands.
It's time to head to Monte Laguna.
Chapter 9: The Scavengers of Monte Laguna
We have traveled through most of the state, destroying any of the rogue machines that we've encountered.
Locals have told us that this started at a quarry in the center of the state.
I will write as much as I can once we get there.
It wasn't long after our arrival before the battle started.
The city here was being raided.
This would have been the latest in a series of attacks like this here.
With the equipment and troops at Mianas disposal though it was a far easier situation for us to deal with then it had been for the people of Monte Laguna.
Once they are I will write more.
It was a long battle.
Monte Laguna had been importing Clockwork Men from Miana and Clockwork Spiders from Vennuci for their mines and we met hordes of both types of machines.
They attacked us at each side of the quarry, our forces unable to get to the other side and to the Scrapyards.
It quickly became an extended fray.
The odds would have been tipped in our favor with our aircraft and Steam Cannons, but the sheer numbers of clockwork devices we had to deal with meant it was only a small advantage.
Then something else arrived.
Some kind of massive, crab-like vehicle entered the quarry.
I would have guessed that it was a machine designed for mining purposes but there was a cockpit on the front.
Whoever was piloting this giant vehicle, they were helping the clockwork devices here; possibly even controlling them.
With drills on the ends of its arms, it batted our own Clockwork Men aside or shredded them to pieces while a cannon on the back opened fire on our troops.
With most of my army already fighting, I had the strongest equipment to deal with what I have decided to call the "Land Leviathan."
I shot at the Leviathan and found myself unsurprised when my Walkers cannon didn't stop it.
It was still moving after I fired an explosive round, as well.
I found myself screaming to whoever would hear me.
"I need support over here! We won't be able to destroy those Scrapyards until we deal with this!"
As Clockwork Men and Imperial Musketeers rushed to try and attack the Leviathan an Air Destroyer angled overhead and fired a barrage of missiles at the massive vehicle.
I thought that would stop this newest threat but it continued to move forward.
The cannon on its back returned fire on the Air Destroyer, forcing our support to fly off or risk being destroyed.
Looking to my left I could see my forces were arriving in full now.
The closest Scrapyard was in flames from their efforts but they weren't able to get close enough to destroy it, with the hordes of rogue clockwork machines.
I needed to destroy this Leviathan so I could get over there and help.
"Clockwork Men! Surround and destroy that machine!" Is what I shouted.
With Clockwork Men surrounding the Leviathan, its crew were turning the vehicle around to deal with each one.
I was able to get my Walker close enough to punch a hole right into the cockpit.
As glass exploded, I tried not to think about what I was doing.
Then I fired a round into the inside of the Leviathan.
That got the job done.
Without anyone to pilot it the massive vehicle was quickly torn apart and then fell over into the dirt.
By the time I got back to the main battle my Imperial Musketeers had formed a firing line as Steam Cannons fired over their heads.
The first Scrapyard had been destroyed with this tactic in use.
The Clockwork Machines pouring out of the remaining two weren't getting anywhere close to our forces now that they were in formation.
After a few minutes?
More importantly, why would they?
Was this a power grab by someone taking advantage of the war sweeping through the Vinci lands?
Someone in Monte Laguna trying to take control of their state from the rest of its people?
Or something else?
We will have to find out later. There were no survivors from the crew of the Land Leviathan.
For now, I have decided we will head to Vernazza next.
It will give the troops a break before we march on Tarona and the Wasteland.
Not to mention after facing so many Clockwork Men I cannot help but think of the failure of the first field test of one.
Chapter 10: Mine, Again
Previously there was an agreement that the Condottieri could control Vernazza and a cut of its Timonium and ores as long as most of it was sent to Miana.
After we captured Condotteri Castle though, refugees from the battle joined their comrades here and taken over completely.
Everyone from our state has been driven out of the area.
I do not expect this to be difficult.
We have a large army to intimidate the Condotteri into surrendering, with myself and General Battaglion leading it.
Together, we will be able to convince his people that they should join our cause.
Not through a show of force but through the works of hearts and minds.
I was right.
Somehow, the sight of multiple vehicles, Clockwork Men and aircraft flying through the skies stopped the Condotteri in their tracks.
I don't expect any further difficulty.
Even now, General Battaglion is meeting with those who lead here. I'll see them afterwards.
After taking a brief tour of the area to make sure everything was going smoothly I knew I had to visit the spot where Petruzzo died.
After getting out of ''my'' Walker and stepping over to the boulders I kneeled down and spoke to him for what must have been an hour. I will not record any of what I said.
My words were for myself, my brother and our parents.
I have told the men to have him exhumed. The body must be delivered home and buried properly even if it's started to rot by now. Especially so, if anything. There needs to be a funeral.
I won't have the time to go back to Miana to attend it, though. Vennuci waits for me.
I made sure to give the Clockwork Man that failed him a kick before I left.
So now that Vernazza is ours, we will go to Tarona next.
Chapter 11: The Rogue Viscount
Whether or not it is, locals have told us the Viscounts reason for his secession.
In more peaceful times we would have the time to negotiate with him.
Especially if Tarona just wanted its independence.
As it stands the Viscount has thrown his lot in with the Wasteland and Vennuci and Miana needs everything it can get.
We have arrived at a city which has remained loyal. I will write more when I can.
It looks more like some kind of temple then any kind of aircraft.
I don't see how something made out of stone, that isn't aerodynamic at all, could fly the way it was reported to.
I would guess that it was through Alin magic but the design is too angular to match anything I've seen from their culture.
They don't look like anything the Alin would have either.
If we meet the Viscount we'll have to ask him if he knows anything about the origin of these mysterious weapons of his.
Either way we are about to go forward and destroy this temple to deny him any more of them.
I've chosen to call these machines "Death Snakes."
When we reached the crash site three of them killed a number of our Musketeers and tore apart several Clockwork Men before they were defeated.
I'm sure now that they aren't of Alin origin, even a rogue group.
Besides biting, their main form of attack was by shooting beams of energy out of their hands that looked identical to what the Doge used to kill Petruzzo.
They also had what I can only describe as a field around their bodies which shielded them from attacks.
Bullets and explosions hit what looked like some kind of transparent film.
At least at first.
Eventually the Death Snakes started to take damage, their stone-like bodies crumbling.
The temple had the same sort of force around it.
It was only after an extended barrage that we destroyed it.
As I gazed down at the wreckage from my Walker, Carlini and Lenora came to my side.
"This isn't Alin magic but these devices are beyond Vinci science." I said, the confusion in my voice obvious.
"Where could they have come from?" Is what I asked them.
Thankfully, Lenora had an answer for me.
"I've seen it before, Giacamo. The cargo from the mine and the Doges new weapon."
I'd been thinking the same as soon as I saw the way those Death Snakes attacked.
I haven't gotten a close look at the unknown weapon the Doge has attached to his walker but these designs did resemble the object I'd seen the Pirata deliver from Vernazza.
Which raised one question. Where is all of this strange technology coming from?
As far as I know the Alin, Kahan, Scald and Vinci are the only nations on this continent.
Unless there are other continents on our world we haven't discovered yet?
"There may be forces at work here we do not yet understand." Carlini suggested.
"All the more reason to destroy the Doge now." I told them.
The Doge has become a force to himself, murdering people throughout the lands.
If he's being supported by unknown benefactors we'll deal with them next.
I will not allow the Vinci to destroy themselves and I definitely won't let it happen by anyone elses hand.
Our people have too long of a history for either to happen.
We returned to the city after that to allow our forces time for a break.
Scouts returned to me with news that I went to tell Carlini and Lenora.
"These attempts are being fueled by a reactor to the north," I added.
"It would definitely be a longer battle if Taronas capital is guarded with that technology." Carlini said thoughtfully.
I could guess what he was thinking of.
How many more men and women would die if the battle lasted any longer then it needed to.
"I agree. We should go after the reactor first." He added.
Lenora called out to us from above. "Maybe an airstrike is what's in order to deal with it?"
I shook my head.
"The Viscount has bet on the wrong side here but he isn't stupid. That building will have air defenses placed around it. We'll have all of our forces march as one on the city to the east. From there we'll go to the reactor and destroy it before we attack the capital."
The battle for the eastern city was a short one.
Tarona is another state that has lagged behind when it comes to military technology.
It's cruel to note but a fact that cavalry and swordsmen don't stand a chance against aircraft, riflemen and machines.
There weren't many of them here either.
The area was ours within an hour.
We left the city with a small amount of Musketeers to guard it and headed west.
This took us to the canyon path that the mysterious aircraft had crashed on the left side of.
Here a far larger number of Taronas soldiers came to meet us.
I'm guessing the Viscount thought his forces could box us in here.
He must not have counted on how his old allies army had changed in the last two weeks.
Our forces cut through every wave of enemy soldiers that charged at them.
Slowly, we advanced on a bunker in the middle of the canyon.
The Juggernaut that had destroyed it rolled over what was left of the bunker, crushing it into the ground.
Musketeers followed close behind, using the tank as cover as they fired back at Tarona Dragoons.
Soon the rest of us had followed them and all of us were on our way to the reactor.
The Viscount must have sent most of his army to try and stop us in the canyon.
The only ones here were the crews of the Defense Towers in place.
Chapter 12: Arms of the Wasteland
No matter how much the Vinci people rely on mining, any of our states are too good to be reduced to nothing more then a massive pit for that industry alone.
We'll remove Lord Rocco from his newfound leadership position.
Take the Timonium and ores he's already uncovered so it isn't put to waste.
Then we'll restore Piavasso to how it was.
After the last few weeks?
This cannot be allowed to continue.
What these people work for belongs to themselves, not anyone else.
I expect that they'll have been repurposed for wartime production.
We'll be in for a tough fight here.
There is some good news though.
I'm curious to see how another Vinci inventor has repurposed himself to lead in a time of war.
I hope to not only help this man but that I'll be able to learn from him.
We have set up camp in a city that was left abandoned. For what reasons I don't know.
I suspect Lord Rocco has been centralizing here.
I'll write when I can.
Carlinis men had found out the location of Distruzios base and heading there was the first thing I did.
I brought along a number of Musketeers and Clockwork Men to show him what we could provide for his rebellion here.
The man was waiting for us, piloting a tank of a design I've never seen before.
Once I brought my Walker to a stop I gave the inventor a look to figure out who I'd be dealing with.
The most immediate thing I noticed was his mess of red hair. It was striking but irrelevant.
The gloves, apron and goggles forced on top of his head told me everything I needed to know.
Despite the fact he was leading an army here he was obviously ready to return to the workshop whenever he needed to.
"Are you Distruzio?" I asked, calling from my spot in my Walker.
"That's right. From the uniforms on those soldiers I can tell you're from Miana. Who are you?"
His voice was a lot more nasal then I'd expected. Not that it mattered.
"Giacamo Giamba." I answered simply.
"The famous Inventor of Miana. So you're the one whose designs I've been modifying." He said thoughtfully.
For once I didn't want to correct someone on the change in title.
I knew I would have to question him about "designs I've been modifying." as soon as this was over though.
"What brings you and your people to Piavasso?" Is what he asked next.
"The same thing that's taken you from your work, to leading an army. Lord Rocco. He's been sending everything harvested here off to Vennuci. To the Doge. We've been fighting his forces throughout the land for the last couple of weeks and now the campaign has brought us here. We want to return control of the state to you."
I paused for a moment.
"Plus, I was hoping once Piavasso is liberated that you could help us in turn."
It would be a great help to have someone else who works with machines on our side.
Carlini and Lenora have taught me many things about leadership and warfare but sometimes you need someone who works in the same field as yourself.
That's why I was glad to hear what he said next.
"I wouldn't pass up the chance to work with the Inventor of Miana. Of course I'll join you. This fight is bigger then anything I could accomplish here."
"You'll join us even beyond liberating your state? Why?"
"Well, it's like you said. If The Doge of Vennuci is the one who started this he needs to be stopped. I don't want anywhere else to be treated the way my home has been."
In that moment I thought of my brother, killed by the Doge himself.
Of Pirata, where the Doge had tried to build a machine to put the state under seige so he could take it for himself.
Of Feligno, an ancient city that had been turned into a fortress.
With one of the last leaders of our forefathers descendants locked away in a prison.
I thought of Silea, laying in ruins.
I thought of Corbanile, its people so terrified they'd suffer their neighbors fate they'd willingly surrendered to us when usually they would have rather fought us tooth and nail.
"I think I'm going to look forward to working with you, Distruzio. We need to talk more. Quickly, as well."
He's worked on versions of Vennucis Clockwork Spiders and our own Clockwork Men. They're weaker but far easier to produce.
Not only that but after many days pouring through Alin runes the inventor has managed to put together a script that forces his creations to gather materials to create more of themselves in Scrapyards throughout Piavasso.
He's admitted that in his desperation he sent a few of these creations along with the Land Leviathan to Monte Laguna to gather resources from there as well.
Along with a few soldiers and spies that have joined his cause Distruzio has a fully automated army that has been building itself from the very resources its enemies gather.
I am not, however.
My plan is simple but one that I think will work.
We will have his clockwork army withdraw completely for now and return to his base.
After weeks of constant fighting I'm sure Rocco will be lulled into a false sense of security by this sudden change in behavior.
In the next few hours we'll put Distruzios Clockwork army to work creating as many new additions as they can, assisted by our own Clockwork Men and technicians, mechanics and support staff.
Then we will unleash a mechanical army on the capital of Piavasso in a massive wave, followed by the entirety of Miana and Distruzios troops.
Ironically enough, I plan to steamroll over Lord Roccos forces.
I am going to suggest this plan to my command staff and it's newest addition and see what they say.
All of them agreed that it's the most feasible plan given the situation.
I will write once we've won.
A few yards ahead of us our machine army marched forward.
The sight of so many clockwork devices marching at once was awe-inspiring to me.
I was reminded of my childhood of all things.
Playing with beloved clockwork toys as an infant and young child is what lead me to work on building simple copies as I grew older.
Eventually I would design animal-like devices as a teenager, along with other things.
It's why I worked on the multiple generations of Clockwork Men once I returned from the lands of the Alin.
I knew that using the magic of summoning fire spirits, I could create machines that could do more then move in preset ways.
They could help in construction, mining and even warfare if it was necessary.
To see so many of my creations moving as one in that repetitive way of theirs I could not help but think of the difference between then and now.
They swarmed the road leading to the entrance of Piavassos main city like a horde of angry ants.
Piavasso has Juggernauts, Clockwork Men and Clockwork Spiders, Musketeers and Pirata aircraft at their disposal.
All of them fired upon our automated army with gusto, destroying dozens of the machines.
What they didn't expect were hundreds more following at the first waves heels.
By the time our own forces reached the city, the ground of the road had been ruined by the battle that had taken place here.
We arrived as the last of the cities defenses were being destroyed.
So we entered, finding a city where the ground had been trampled upon by hundreds of mechanical feet.
Our army almost seemed unnecessary at this point.
It's a testament to how hard the people of Piavasso have been forced to work lately that their army was still fighting back at this point but they were.
It was complete chaos.
There was no way for me to keep track of what was going on.
I had no choice but to just move my Walker forward and enter the battle.
It must have lasted for hours.
Eventually though, I was able to tell the people of Miana and Piavasso what they needed to hear, quite proudly.
"Lord Rocco is dead!"
Now, once everyone has rested, we must head to Dirsi.
Chapter 13: Dirsi Prison
To remain undetected I was only able to bring a small group of troops.
With what I have I must figure out a way to get in there. We're obligated to free the prisoners.
There's more to it then that though.
Those Magistrates will have information about what's been going on in Ranconi and Vennuci in the last few weeks and we need as much as we can get.
I'm looking at the map of Dirsi Prison as I write this.
One road leads right to a main entrance with a solid cast iron gate.
A second road leads into a valley with a few Timonium mines and to a garage with a barred side entrance.
Both are heavily guarded.
I have a company of Imperial Musketeers, a number of Clockwork Men, one Juggernaut Tank and a single Pirata Air Destroyer.
With their unique weapons I have brought General Batagglion and Distruzio along with me.
I must figure out how we're going to do this.
I'll write once the prison break is over.
Eventually I decided that a distraction would serve us the best.
I sent the Air Destroyer and Juggernaut to destroy the main entrance while the rest of us went down into the valley.
As we heard the distant booms from cannons and missiles I gathered the company in Dirsi Prisons small garage.
I needed to keep this short and drive the importance of our mission home.
"Have that Steam Cannon open fire! Now."
"So let's get this done."
With that we entered Dirsi Prison.
While the Juggernaut and Air Destroyer prowled along the first line of cells, our group went amongst the second.
With two attack vehicles, a Steam Cannon, a stolen Doge Walker, Clockwork Men and a number of Imperial Musketeers we were able to deal with everyone that got in our way.
Three of the Magistrates were released. I sent them off with one squad of the Musketeers.
By now we had freed a number of Condotteri who had taken up arms from the fallen Vennuci who had been holding them prisoner.
Of all things an Alin Glass Golem had also been rescued.
It had spoken of a Genie who was its master.
I decided before we looked for the last Magistrate, we would free this Genie.
This was not the fight of any Alin, even their spirits.
"Finally! Now my captors will pay for their mistake." Are the words that the floating being said to us.
"Thank you!" He added, before he joined his giant companion. The two of them marched away.
We looked amongst the bodies until we found a Vennuci Conscript for Battaglion to interrogate.
That was how I was able to tell my troops this.
"In a courtyard on the other end of the prison,"
"The success of our invasion of Vennuci could depend on this, men. Let's get it done."
I did not know what to expect once we passed through those gates.
Even so, what we encountered still surprised me.
Two Doge Walkers didn't seem out of the ordinary.
What got my attention were the large group of men wearing large conical hats and sleeveless robes and capes.
Each of them was holding a large golden staff.
With these staffs they were somehow able to fire bolts of energy at us.
While they weren't beams, all I could think of were the "Death Snakes" in Tarona and the weapon the Doge had used in Vernazza.
I could see Imperial Musketeers and Condotteri falling back from the force of these weapons, screaming in pain as they were burned.
With one shot of my Walkers explosive rounds, I was able to knock almost all of them to the ground.
"Focus your fire! Whoever they are, take them out!"
Yet the surprises didn't stop there.
While a few stayed down, a number of these strangely dressed men rose back up and continued to fire back at us.
"Fall back!" I shouted. "Take up positions at the entrance."
The Musketeers and Condotteri went back to the entrance, Battaglion and Distruzio moving forward to cover them. Our Steam Cannon and stolen Doge Walker did the same.
The last of these unknown enemies were killed then.
I regret that.
If all of this has been a ploy to take over the Vinci states by some unknown nation, the Doge has only been a puppet to a greater force.
If that's the truth we're not going to find out today.
The Prison Warden surrendered to us, then.
I was told it would be inevitable he would show himself if we broke into Dirsi Prison.
Yet he was nowhere to be seen.
I suppose I shouldn't be shocked that a man who would kill another without a single warning would be a coward.
Whether I meet him in Ranconi or Dirsi his time is running out now.
Chapter 14: Battle at the Ranconi Bridge
I'll write more when I can.
With the firepower that we brought it was a short battle.
We can't allow them to do that. We've gained a major advantage that will help us though.
A Musketeer ran up to my Walker to deliver some very important news.
"My Lord? There is an Imperial Observatory up on that hill."
With a telescope of that size we'll be able to spy on the other side of the gorge.
I've sent Clockwork Men to twist the structure into a position where it's pointed right at the opposite end of the bridge.
With a network of messengers running from the Observatory to our lines we'll be able to recieve intel on the enemies movements as we move to fight them.
Once that job is done we'll cross.
I'll write more once this is finished.
It wasn't long after we set up the telescope that we found out what the Vennuci forces were planning. Another Musketeer ran up to me, a grave look on his face.
"They plan to destroy the bridge using Demolition Trucks!"
I was told our men in the Observatory could see Vennuci Conscripts loading up a number of Supply Trucks with explosives.
At the time, my first reaction was to yell "Bastards!"
I cleared my throat before continuing. "Thank you, soldier."
I turned in my Walker, looking to the army assembled around me.
"Clockwork Men! Cross the bridge and destroy any truck that heads towards it! I want the Pirata to fly over there as well!"
As the machines started to march with a number of aircraft flying overhead, I spoke to the men next.
"The Vennuci army is going to try and stop us by blowing up the Great Bridge with Demolition Trucks! Once the Clockwork Men have crossed and made sure it's safe we'll follow after them."
Despite the swarm of machines now attacking the forces on the other side of the Great Bridge, one truck managed to get through.
It was stopped just as it reached the edge by the last of the Clockwork Men crossing.
With the way cleared, our army started to cross; a number of aircraft above making sure any Demolition Trucks were destroyed before they got anywhre close.
Unfortunately the Vennuci forces had aircraft as well.
While the bridge was now safe from destruction?
Our forces were now stuck on it.
More and more of our men ended up collecting at the edge of the bridge, firing at the Vennuci Conscripts from afar.
Another truck drove towards us but it was destroyed by one of our tanks.
I'm starting to believe the Vennuci army is obsessed, stupid, or both.
I was finally able to cross myself as several other vehicles did.
I could see a Steam Factory ahead of us and I knew that's where the Demolition Trucks had been coming from.
It was the only building large enough to house them.
"I want our tanks to focus fire on that Steam Factory!"
So they did.
The factory didn't explode so much as erupt, no doubt from the number of explosives stored inside.
With the Demolition Trucks no longer serving as a threat we were able to head to Ranconi.
The city fell in short order.
I can only think of one thing, now.
It must be done quickly as well.
Of course he's called it "The Doges" Hammer.
I'm writing this now from the first city in Vennuci that we've captured.
Besides those that are garrisoned throughout the city-states all of Mianas new army is here with me.
I will record what happened once this is finished.
Vennuci is yet another city-state where a bridge seperates its southern and northern territories.
We made our way to the city on the southern end of the bridge.
I was surprised to see the ruins of discarded war machines everywhere.
I do not know if they were abandoned here after serving their purposes throughout the Vinci lands, left anywhere in sight to be repaired later or whether they were destroyed by the Doges own people.
They made for good cover for our troops as they started to attack though.
Despite the size of our own army and the number of vehicles we had at our disposal the Vennuci Conscripts came to meet us from everywhere.
It seemed like they were running into the fray from every single road around the city.
Their own Fliers and ground vehicles stayed back, keeping their distance from the battle to fire from afar.
I was struck by how carelessly soldiers were being thrown into combat here.
It's not my duty to care about the lives of the enemy though.
Eventually we were ready to start crossing the bridge. Most of the Vennuci Conscripts were retreating across it en masse.
That's when the unimaginable happened.
The bridge exploded in a massive fireball, the sound of metal falling unto rocks sounding like thunderclaps and echoing throughout the canyon to rise up to our ears.
There must have been dozens of Vennuci soldiers on that bridge.
One of the Imperial Musketeers beside me came out of his shock faster then I could.
"Those monsters! They killed their own men to keep the bridge out of our hands."
"All the more reason to end this!" I shouted. Turning in the cockpit of my Walker, I looked to the others around me.
"We'll need to take the long way around to go north. All of you get yourselves sorted, we'll be moving within the hour."
Once we were ready to move again the situation quickly grew out of control for a while.
Both Battaglion and Carlini had suggested to me that we split our forces up and send them to several areas in the territory.
Some were sent west to secure a number of mining complexes there.
Some headed to the east to capture some of the other small cities.
I took a group to the north. We needed to find the Doge Hammer and capture it before it was fired on any of us.
We ended up following a set of train tracks.
I knew that something of that size would need to be resupplied.
Intuition paid off. We found a small building built unto the tracks with large cannon shells stacked alongside it.
"That Ammo Depot must supply the Doges Hammer. We should destroy it!" One of the soldiers shouted to me.
"I'll get it done." Was my reply before I looked down at the controls to my Walker.
The explosion took out all of the Vennuci forces around the Ammo Depot as well.
It was time to keep moving.
Unfortunately, it wasn't going to be that easy.
More and more enemy soldiers came to replace their fallen comrades and the site of the destroyed Ammo Depot quickly became another spot for a heated battle.
Eventually we were able to move again only to run into another problem.
One of the Musketeers saw it first.
The "Land Leviathan" was not a design of Distruzios, then.
The one we encountered in Monte Laguna must have been stolen from Piavasso forces, because now another one of the vehicles was in our sights.
It was moving alongside the train tracks on a direct course for us.
I could only watch as it tore through the Musketeers in front of it.
The firepower of my Walker would never take out one of these devices, I'd learned that.
Not only that but emboldened by the arrival of yet another one of their weapons, Vennuci forces were pressing forward again.
As our forces battled each other a number of my aircraft and vehicles started to open fire on the Leviathan to no effect.
It was taking damage but I knew it wouldn't be stopped anytime soon.
What could we do? Suddenly a plan came to me.
I had stopped the last Land Leviathan by smashing through the glass canopy of it's cockpit and firing inside. With the control center destroyed, it had fell into the dirt.
Perhaps this time we could take a more subtle approach.
If we killed the pilots instead of destroying the room they were in we might be able to steal the Leviathan and use it for ourselves.
"Musketeers! Focus all of your fire on that window on the front!"
After around a minute of continuous shots, the vehicle stopped moving.
"The Leviathan is disabled!" One of the soldiers shouted triumphantly.
"With a little work, I think I can get that thing running again. Even if only for a little while." Is what I said to myself.
"Everyone form a perimeter around the Land Leviathan! We're going to turn this vehicle on its creators."
After an hour of work by Distruzio and I, a number of Clockwork Men as well as technicians and mechanics, we had managed to repair the massive vehicle.
"The Leviathan is working again, if just barely." I said softly.
"You've all done a great job. Thank you." Is what I added to those around me.
With the Land Leviathan at our disposal the march along the train tracks went far easier.
The massive vehicle cut a swathe through everything in front of it and within a few minutes we had reached the Doges Hammer.
The crew of the massive artillery piece surrendered to us without a fight.
Soon I had been told that the rest of the state of Vennuci had been captured as well. All that was left was the city itself.
There was another report as well.
"The Doge is bringing in reinforcements!" A soldier told me. "Let them feel the blows from their own Hammer."
Not a bad idea at all.
"We'll have it done. I just need to know where the crew needs to aim it." I told him.
After a few minutes we were ready to fire.
I was told that the army to the west of the capital was incinerated.
With a weapon of this size I was convinced we would be able to take the city without anything but military casualties.
It was time to end this.
I had all of my forces go to Vennuci, knowing that with the Land Leviathan at their front and the Doges Hammer covering them that we'd already won.
For a few moments I felt some remorse for using such a destructive force on people.
As more and more Vennuci soldiers emerged from the city though that remorse vanished.
At this point there was nothing left to do but finish the battle.
It lasted for almost an hour. Eventually I was able to tell my army what I had wanted to for weeks.
I was faced with something else, then.
So where was he?
I would end up finding out.
Chapter 16: Into The Desert
It has been hours and we are still lost.
Our group is moving out now.
I will write when we arrive at a settlement.
A few minutes after we started following the Mystic I spotted a strange structure.
It was a perfect circle formed from a cloud of sand, surrounding Alin writing swirling on the ground. This was centered by a pillar of rock.
I did not recognize the design.
"Mystic, tell me. What are these swirling sands?"
"Hm. These Circles of Sand are used to summon ground units anywhere the enemy lays their eyes. You should destroy it before anything bad is created."
We have only reached the westernmost edge of the Alin Kingdom, where many of the Alin have control of the land without oversight by the kingdom itself.
I guessed that this "Circle of Sand" belonged to one of these groups.
As we destroyed it I noticed the Mystic falling to the back of our group.
He met my gaze and nodded at me before shouting to be heard.
"You're heading in the right direction! Continue on and I will follow you."
The sight of a bridge gave me some hope.
It was newer then the ruins we had passed so far and well maintained.
On the other end we found yet another Circle of Sand and quickly destroyed it.
That's when the trouble started.
As we continued a band of Desert Walkers charged out of the dunes ahead to meet us.
They were supported by the usual Alin calvary; swordsmen riding on Sand Scorpions and Heartseeker archers riding on Sand Rays.
As they approached I shouted at them to stop.
"Wait! We're travelers from the Vinci lands. We have no quarrel with you!"
Despite the warning they started to attack our formation. We had no choice but to defend ourselves.
I can only guess at their intentions.
Perhaps they were members of the Alin Kingdoms military who knew the real identity of the "Mystic" we were escorting.
Or maybe they were rogues who saw an opportunity to gain supplies?
Either way, it was a short fight.
The superb craftsmanship of Alin body armor meant that their infantry put up a fight for a long while but their calvary were killed easily enough with the amount of firepower we had.
A short distance ahead we came upon the camp that our attackers had been stationed at.
Heeding the Mystics previous warning, I had our group destroy every building there.
At the back of the camp we found an Alin relic. The Mystic shouted at me from the back of our formation.
"Well done, my friend! Well done. Stay there and I'll join you. Then we can move along to Azar Harif."
He said that the relic had once belonged to him and was thankful for its return.
"I will lead you to Azar Harif. Don't delay, though! Those raiders could return at any moment."
So our march continued. Until the Mystic came to a sudden stop.
"Wait! I sense something."
Another band of Desert Walkers emerged from under the ground, backed up by a Sand Horror.
As Alin and Vinci infantry battled one another, my two surviving Clockwork Men flanked the Sand Horror and grappled with the massive insect.
That was how we lost the last of our mechanical support.
The Mystic started to run ahead, calling back to us as he did.
"A narrow escape! Are you sure you're putting your effort into this? Even the noblest of people can be corrupted by power, Giacamo."
This strange observation is when I was reminded I hadn't trusted this man in the first place.
He was our only guide though and we had no choice but to continue following him for now.
"Look out!" Was his next warning as more Desert Walkers emerged from the ground.
Another Sand Horror was with them.
"Quickly! Defend the Mystic!" I shouted, aiming my cannon at this latest groups monstrous support.
I was able to kill it.
Meanwhile the Imperial Musketeers stayed back to fire at the raiders from kneeling positions.
Carlini stayed back as well as Lenora moved her Flier back and forth, letting its machine gun sweep through the enemy group.
We found yet another Circle of Sand and destroyed it. The Mystic looked back at us, a wide smile on his face.
"They are quite persistent, aren't they? Azar Harif is not far now."
As we entered an area with cliffs on both sides I couldn't help but voice my doubt.
"Carlini. Something seems wrong, here."
Whatever he said in reply was lost to me.
Right then, I noticed that the sand beneath our feet had been turned to blue glass. Looking forward, I spotted a towering structure made of the same material. The Mystic spoke again, relish in his voice.
"Ah, good! We've arrived."
"What are you talking about?! This isn't Azar Harif!"
That's when he revealed his true form. This was no Alin.
It had been a Marid the entire time.
The infernal spirit had lured us into a trap.
Turning to face us, he spoke with a voice suddenly filled with contempt.
"Fool! These relics grant me even greater power."
Glass erupted from the sand all around us.
Suddenly we were surrounded by Glass Walkers.
There was no time to give orders and no need to.
All of us were fighting for our lives.
Suddenly I heard a woman's voice that was familiar to me.
"Rally around them! Slay the Dark Alin."
Looking past the Glass building I could see another group of Desert Walkers heading towards us.
One of the Sand Scorpions in their formation stood out because of the off white coloring it had instead of the usual brown.
That caught my eye, which made me notice who was riding the creature.
Arri. She's the daughter of the Alins current King and Queen and someone who I've missed dearly.
When I had met her years ago she had been training to become the leader of the Alin Kingdoms military. So, here she was.
Her soldiers swarmed over the Glass Walkers, tearing apart every one of the creatures and then surrounding the Marid.
As he turned back and forth in his floating position to throw blasts of energy this way and that he called out angrily.
"You'll never stop me!"
Two Glass Spiders emerged from the ground to defend him.
The Imperial Musketeers had fallen back to fire from farther away.
"Carlini! Lenora! Fall back with me." I shouted.
"Make sure not to hit any of the Alin! Focus your fire on the Glass Spiders." Is what I added next.
The Marid didn't seem very concerned with the fact he was fighting two groups at once now.
"You cannot hope to win this fight." Was his next taunt. Despite everything going on, somehow this was starting to bore me.
More of the sand around him turned to glass, shattering apart to reveal more Glass Walkers.
I could see Carlini land a headshot on the Marid.
It didn't kill him but the clouds of energy the being had instead of a lower half suddenly rose up to cover his entire body as he lurched back.
Then the ball of energy floated away, the Marids voice echoing through the canyon as he floated off.
"I tire of this exercise! My Master, Sawu, will bring about your end."
"Blast that Marid! We'll deal with him later." I said.
For now the battle was over and I had only one thing to deal with now that we'd been discovered.
Now that everyone has a place to stay I'll write out what happened when I reunited with Arri.
At the sound of my voice my old friend looked over to me.
I could see her eyes roaming over my face as she made sure it matched the name.
Then she looked down to her scorpion. I could see her reaching over to gently slap at its side as she said something I couldn't hear.
The scorpion halted in its tracks, its rider taking hold of the reins draped over it.
The massive insect turned and moved over to us, coming to a halt in front of our group as Arri told it to stop, an obvious affection in her voice.
I'm glad that she still loves animals as much as she had in our youth. It had always been a trait I'd been fond of.
She leaned back in her seat and met my eyes.
"Giacamo?" The young woman said, the tone of her voice making her surprise clear.
"I never thought I’d see you again." Is what she added, sounding a bit more relaxed.
"I'd say the same to you. I'm glad that we are, though- even with my current circumstances?"
"Me too." She replied, smiling for a moment before her expression grew thoughtful.
"So why are you here, then?"
"It's a long story and I really do want to tell it but do you have a camp around here? We're all in dire need of resupply."
"We do. I want to hear what's happened on the way there, though."
She paused for a moment and then looked to Carlini, who had brought his horse over to my side.
Then she glanced at Lenoras flier, which was angling over our heads.
"I think some introductions would be in order as well."
"Oh! Of course." I said, hating the fact that I was only barely able to stop myself from blushing.
Despite the circumstances and the fact that we've both moved on from our youth I couldn't help but go right back to it with her here in front of me.
"Arri, this is General Carlini. He's the second in command of Mianas armed forces."
"Carlini, this is Princess Arri. She's the leader of the Alin Kingdoms army."
"It's an honor to meet you, Your Higness." Carlini said respectfully,
"And it's an honor to meet you, General." Was her answer.
"General Carlini.. So you're the one who took Giacamo back from us?" She went on to ask.
The general looked between her and me for a moment, an honest look of surprise on his face.
It had been a long time since then, after all.
"I was. I hope you don't blame me.. I was just doing my job."
That earned a smile from her.
"I don't. I was glad for our time together but I know he needed to go home as well."
Then she glanced at my Walker.
"It looks like that worked out, anyway. What about her?" She asked, pointing past us.
I turned, surprised to see that Lenora had already landed and was walking over.
"Arri, this is Lenora. She's Chief of the Houses of Pirata."
"Lenora. This is Princess Arri. She's the leader of the Alin Kingdoms army."
"Pleased to meet you, your Higness." Lenora said.
"It's an honor to meet you, Chieftess. So you rule the castle with all of the flying machines?"
That made Lenora light up, a proud smile suddenly on her face.
A great thing but I had to end this before it went somewhere I didn't want it to.
"Yes, I am. You've heard of me?"
"No but I have met some of your people."
She was taking a breath before she was about to continue.
Suddenly all I could think of was sitting down and taking the time to sketch out Pirata aircraft so she knew what they looked like.
Going on and on about how the Aerodome was one of the other places I'd always wanted to visit someday.
"It'd be good if we had some of them around right now, too. All of us are low on food and water." I said.
"... Of course. We can bring you to our camp as soon as all of you are ready to go."
Arri looked like she wanted to say more but settled for giving me a curious look before going back to her scorpion.
I don't care if Lenora knows about our days together. They're part of what brought me to where I am today.
I'm just not prepared to give her anything she can hold over my head yet, as childish as that is. The time for letting myself open up completely can come after the Doge is dead.
The woman in question looked up at me from her spot on the ground.
"What was that about? You really cut the conversation short."
"I'm just worried about all of us." I said, making a point to not cross my arms despite the urge to. I ended up stuffing my hands in my pockets, instead.
"We need to get moving as soon as possible, after all." Was what I added.
"Well. I can't argue with that." Lenora said, watching me for a few moments with a curious expression before stepping back over to her flier.
Carlini leaned over from his horse and slapped at the leg of my Walker.
"Nice save, son. That was good. They're going to learn about each other eventually, though. Probably sooner rather then later, too."
"Yes, they will. I can delay that as long as I want to, though." Was my short reply as I finally gave into the urge to cross my arms.
He grabbed at the reins of his horse and went over to the Imperial Musketeers, many of whom were looking over at us with curious expressions.
I looked over to Arri then. Trade a horse for a scorpion and Imperial Musketeers for Desert Walkers and they were the same, really.
Then I looked between her and Lenora- on her own and looking over her Flier intently.
I don't want to hurt her after all that both of us have been through so far.
Besides all of that, I still owed Arri an explanation as to why we were here.
There's not an easy way to hold a quiet conversation from the top of a twenty-four-foot-tall machine though.
I ended up asking Lenora if she would lead our march, explaining that we needed someone to keep an eye out for raiders.
With her leading us, Arri and I stayed at the very back of the groups.
"Now you're going to tell me why you're here." She told me, the sentence part question and part statement.
"Yes. None of it is good news at all, though." I said, looking over to my old friend and frowning.
She nodded at the company of Desert Walkers ahead of us.
"I'm fine with that. Go on, Giacamo."
"Okay." I turned back to the controls of my Walker, focusing on keeping the machine moving as I spoke.
"A few weeks ago, Petruzzo took Carlini and I with him to the state of Vernazza. Do you remember that one?”
“It’s one of your vassal states, isn’t it? The one with the mines.”
“Yes. We went to recover a device that was making the miners there sick. We were going to take it back home so I could study it and hopefully put it to good use.”
"Someone had arrived there before us. You remember the Doge?"
"He's the leader of... Vennuci, right? The state that Miana had clashed with. He was there?"
"Yes. He attacked us with some new weapon of his that blew up the cliff we were next to. There was an avalanche."
"Petruzzo was killed."
She let out a gasp.
"Giacamo. I'm so sorry. There aren't any words besides that."
"It's alright. Really."
"Don't say that. I know how much you loved him. How much you cared about him."
I didn’t like the vinegar in my reply but I couldn’t help myself- with someone I’ve known for so long, I couldn’t stop from saying what I’d really wanted to, to so many people so far.
"He's still dead despite that."
The gravity of my statement spoke for itself without me needing to say anything more.
There was silence between us for a few seconds before she spoke.
"So what did you do?"
"We killed every Vennuci soldier we found and got to the mines. It was too late, though. The Doge had escaped with the device.”
I looked up from my controls and stared at Lenoras flier, far ahead of us.
"The Pirata had delivered whatever he found out of there. We went to the Aerodome to try and get answers and by the time we arrived, Vennuci had betrayed them as well. They were invading the state and building a machine to control its skies. They wanted to starve the Pirata out and force them to surrender."
"Isn't it? We stopped them though. Lenora and I agreed that something needed to be done so we joined forces. After that it was nothing but battle after battle in every Vinci state. Eventually we arrived at Vennuci and destroyed their armies but we were too late, again."
"What do you mean?"
"The Doge wasn't there. He'd left right before we arrived, maybe even sooner. With half of his army and another new weapon of his. "The Doges Hammer." I told her, voice full of disgust as I spoke the name.
"He used both to destroy Miana completely. They didn't leave a single person there alive."
"Oh, my Spirits. Giacamo.”
For some reason, the way she said my name had me looking over to the woman. Her expression was open with its sympathy, eyes wide.
“Are you alright?"
It was time to look back to my walker’s controls.
"No. I don't think I'll ever be alright again. That monster crossed through the Silean Pass after and now he's somewhere in YOUR lands. The very thought of it makes my skin crawl."
I looked over to her again and found that my friend was looking back and forth at the desert with an inscrutable expression.
Then she turned back to me.
"What are you going to do about him?"
I returned to my controls.
"I'm going to find him and kill him. No matter what it takes. I left behind most of Mianas army to get here as fast as I could. They can take care of themselves. Start to rebuild without me until I'm able to return.”
"We will help you as much as we can."
"Thank you, Arri. We're going to need it out here."
"You have no idea how true that is."
"What do you mean?"
Suddenly, one of the Scorpion Riders joined us at our side.
"Your Highness, we're almost at the camp. The Vinci woman has told us that the way is clear as well."
"Thank you, soldier. Giacamo, I'll tell you later. Right now you and your people should settle in. We have plenty of food and water to spare and our magi can make more room for all of you."
"Alright. How far are we from Azar Harif, though? I need to speak to the King as soon as possible. He needs to know about all of this as well."
"It isn't far. We're right at the border between there and the Deserts Edge. You should be glad."
"Despite everything that's happened in your lands and how much ours have changed, you were still taking your soldiers in the right direction." She told me, the smile in her voice clear.
I didn't know what to say to that. I settled for giving her a smile before looking ahead, bringing my Walker to a stop.
There were Circles of Sand, a few Alin sentry posts, a number of tents and small structures and other buildings I didn't recognize here.
While the Desert Walkers hurried forward to take shelter my Imperial Musketeers hung back, looking at everything uneasily.
I needed to make them feel like they had found a place to rest here.
Putting my Walker into a kneeling position, I disembarked and started to walk over.
We've had a good night since then. I'm writing this while sat around a number of fires, while the Desert Walkers have introduced the Imperial Musketeers to the wonders of Alin food and drink.
It smells like adventure, far away from home. If only it was.
Chapter 18: Defense of Azar Harif
I have written this entry as quickly as I could.
I'll finish it when Azar Harif is safe.
It rankles me to think that I was hoping for the Kings help when I got here, now.
If there was a time to say anything it was now.
My words failed me though.
I could've said that the Alin would fashion any parts Lenora needed if they had the time to examine them.
After my last gaff though, I couldn't help but make the point I really wanted to.
Left unsaid: I need you.
What could I say to that, especially so pressed for time?
It has been a long time since I met the King and while Arri and I have very visibly aged, it didn't appear that he has at all.
One of many that Arri had told me years ago.
She had been wrong about its truth though.
The name meant nothing to me.
So like Carlini to voice a direct question when I didn't know what to say.
The King took the interruption in stride.
After weeks of these attacks from an almost forgotten and ancient mortal enemy, an army of well-armed Vinci arrives.
The pieces fell into place for me then.
The thought of these people enduring attacks while they waited on someone I knew for a fact wouldn't help them drove me to speak instantly.
He had a point. Yet I knew the Doge would do his best to avoid as many Dark Alin as he could while his army went through the desert.
To someone who has no love for the people here that would be an unnecessary fight.
It wouldn't be to me.
I've already seen one city I loved be destroyed because of his willful negligence.
What use would it be for Arri to keep their people safe up until the point they were surrounded and killed?
If we combined forces and went to Mezakesh we could stop these Dark Alin at their source.
Before I could figure out how to put that tactfully, Arri herself spoke.
She didn't get to finish her sentence though.
"Dark Alin in the city!"
"Now, Lord of Miana. We're done here. I must organize the defense of the city and with my age, Arri will be leading in my stead."
He turned and started to walk away.
Impulsively I reached out to place my hand on his shoulder.
"We'll help you." I said suddenly.
"It's the least we can do." I added.
The old man stopped in his tracks and faced me.
"I can see that you haven't changed, Giacamo. Do what you will. Don't think that this changes anything, though."
With that he made his exit. Arri watched him go and then stepped over to me.
"If Mezakesh is your goal, I'll go there with you after this."
I'm not the only one who hasn't changed. I was grateful but something bothered me.
"Isn't that the kind of thing you'd be exiled for?" I asked.
"I would rather be exiled for saving my people then stay in their good graces until they're dead." She said shortly.
"I haven't spent years defending this Kingdom only to watch it fall apart now." Is what the woman added.
"Thank you. We won't be able to get there without a guide. I wouldn't prefer any other, either."
"It's the least I can do." She said, the smile in her voice obvious again. "Now, we need to go!"
At first it didn't seem like the situation was that bad.
As soon as I had brought my Walker around from its place behind the city all I found in the way of enemies was a single Glass Spider.
One of the Alins Sand Horrors had already burst out of the ground to tear at the other creature, as Desert Walkers and my remaining Clockwork Men ran past to other fights.
When I looked to where they were going I saw the problem.
Each of the three bridges around the city had forces heading across them.
Carlini had stationed our remaining Imperial Musketeers at those bridges in the hopes they could stop our enemy from afar.
For once he had made the wrong choice.
Already, Sand, Fire and Glass magi are hard at work forming a functional city out of the sands here.
Once they're done they'll start work on Summoning Circles so we can start bringing forth beasts of burden, spirits and weapons.
Many Alin are ready to enter this city, while Arris legions of Desert Walkers back at Azar Harif have entered the desert around the capital in preparation for the next attack.
I will write more when I can.
I could only shout in surprise as I saw more eruptions of Glass appear in the sand.
"There are many of us, as well. Don't tell me you're afraid after what you've told me about the last few weeks?" Arri asked.
I looked over at her with a frown.
"Somehow, fighting other men and women isn't the same as an army made from living glass that have survived for ‘’over thirty generations."
"You're not the only one that's thought this, believe me. And unlike my Desert Walkers we don't have to fight them on foot, so get a hold of yourself."
I couldn't argue with that.
With the hordes of Glass Walkers, Spiders, Cannons and Golems as well as the Marid and Dark Genie that control them though, I couldn't help but feel hesitant.
The Alin were used to fighting these creatures, however. They rushed forward to meet them and that encouraged me to do the same.
I brought my Walker forward, heading for a group of Desert Walkers that were surrounding and trying to kill one of the Dark Genies.
One of their scorpions scuttled around as its rider looked for an opening to bring his steed close so they could attack.
Before he had a chance, I pushed the Genie into the ground and stomped on him, vanquishing the spirit in one blow.
Once the first group of Glass creatures had been killed our army headed for the first "Glass Lair." It was easily destroyed without anyone defending it.
By the time we reached the second Glass Lair the full force of reinforcements from Azar Harif had arrived.
We were joined by an entire tide of Desert Walkers that threw themselves against the Dark Alin with abandon.
Summoning Circles at Azar Harif and our base had given us plenty of support.
Sand Scorpions for swordsmen to ride and Sand Stingrays for Heartseeker archers.
Fire Salamanders followed along, spitting out huge bursts of flame from their distended mouths.
Glass Cannons steered themselves after all of this, firing bursts of sharpnel and glass at the enemy.
In the skies over us, Sand Dragons as well as Afreet Fire Spirits flew.
The Dark Alin were no match for us.
When we reached the third Glass Lair our army had grown even more.
Fire Elementals as well as Glass Golems and Puzzle Boxes had joined our ranks.
All who stood against us were destroyed, their shelter meeting the same fate.
The fourth Glass Lair fell just as easily.
As did the fifth and final one.
It sunk into the sand as any Dark Alin left were surrounded and killed.
I write this now from the base. All of the troops who wish to leave Azar Harif have joined us and we will be leaving tonight when the weather is cooler.
Arri has decided to slip away without telling the King.
She has entrusted the safety of Azar Harif to those who decided to stay within its walls. We won't be giving the Dark Alin a chance to reach the city anyway.
We'll be pushing east directly into their territory and bringing the fight to them.
All that remains is to plot out the course we'll take. I'll meet with her and Carlini to decide upon that before we leave.
For now, I want to see the forces we'll be leading myself. I went into battle with them today but it was a frenzy, with no chance to learn about the capabilities of each type of unit.