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#1
19 February 2028
Port Christopher, New Yustona
Punth


Martin de Daphan straightened his tie before his own mirror image in preparation for what lay ahead. Above his freshly pressed designer suit, which he had delivered from Urceopolis, thousands of miles away, sat something of a tribal shawl in the colorful, if coarse, fur of the Wildlander, a type of short-haired bear primarily in the area of Northern Punth. Displaying flashes of brown, a bright gray, white, and even some blonde, the shawl was the primary and traditional indicator of some type of foreign dignitary among the people of the Northern Confederation, a native tribal entity to the north of New Yustona.

de Daphan, a native of Canaery and a veteran Urcean diplomat whose shawl matched the gray streaks in his own auburn hair, looked out the window on the city of Port Christopher, considered "new" in Urcean parlance but, in truth, nearly 200 years old now. Here, untold fortunes had been made in questionable trade over the years, and here, the horrors of Great Wars, Imperial intrigue, and Interregna never had an effect on the peaceful, cultured, prosperous people of the relatively small Urcean colony of New Yustona. It was an unseasonably warm day in mid-Spring as the temperature in the city had reached 75 Fahrenheit. The diplomat knew this was something of a romantic appraisal, but it was a nice thought. Not as nice of a thought was the mission before him.

Officially operating on behalf of the Governor of New Yustona, de Daphan was actually sent by the King himself due to his tact and extensive sociological studies of other societies. The seasoned diplomat was to meet with various tribal warlords of the Northern Confederation. Intelligence had confirmed the increasing presence of Pauldustllahni interests in the western part of the Confederation since mid 2027, and additional reports had stated that the Confederation was on the brink of collapse and civil war. de Daphan would attempt to bring some of these locals into an alliance with New Yustona in an effort to dramatically increase the interests of Urcea in the area. The King had waxed on endlessly with long term plans that were poorly explained - as he was known to do in Government circles - eventually concluding that the Confederation could be partitioned with Pauldustllah including a series of nominally independent Bantustans shared between the two powers. de Daphan did not believe it was fully practicable based on his knowledge of Punthite customs, but he was not about to disobey a King.

How the Foreign Office would explain a supposedly "unsanctioned" visit of de Daphan to New Yustona on behest of the Governor combined with the arrival of three Light Infantry divisions (the 10th, 24th, and 77th Royal Fiann), two infantry divisions (the 1st Royal Grenadiers and 19th Royal Fusiliers) and a cavalry division (the 44th Royal Hussars) along with several wings of the Royal Air Force, the diplomat was quite unsure. Those would remain in New Yustona, however, as would the Priests who bothered him daily regarding the mission and the potential for missionary activity. de Daphan conceded the importance of this but had little time for their pestering - the Code of Canon Law might be the law of God, but to him, it had no place in the delicate intricacies of diplomacy, particularly with Punthites.

Looking out the window, his car - an Exelor 4x4, the latest off-road four wheel drive Urcean industry had to offer - pulled up. He would soon find himself departing into what the locals called the "wilderness" - woodland territory that separated New Yustona from the various population centers of the Confederacy. The first place he would visit would be Mixcala, a midsized tribal polity that directly bordered New Yustona that had, according to intelligence, recently been involved in a dispute with the Confederal council and several neighboring polities over a number of issues. Even de Daphan, though a scholar of these people, found the largest dispute of all to be quite quaint; neighbors would not share rumored new seeds and agricultural practices with the Chief of Mixcala over some personal slight within the context of poorly understood Northern social customs. de Daphan, he hoped, would be able to massage the issue into a full blown fissure between Mixcala and its neighbors that would bring them within the Urcean sphere.​
 
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#2
22 February 2028
Julian Palace, Urceopolis
Urcea


The King shook himself back to active consciousness as he had been staring off into space in the general direction of the gold-and-diamond crucifix that sat in the center of the office on the wall immediately opposite him. He knew he must be more attentive; nobody could say he didn't love his predecessor, his grandfather Aedanicus (whom he privately called "Aepaw"), but the man who wore the Saint's Crown before him was perhaps the least attentive Head of State in Levantia. King Aedanicus, like many of the Kings before him at least since the end of the 19th century, were content to let the Purpaidá run the country with only nominal consultation. Aedanicus was a man who fundamentally believed that greatness was only conditional on willpower; Riordan knew better. In his latter years, Aedanicus welcomed Riordan, who by then had risen to Procurator, into the office of the King. It came up that Aedanicus prayed daily before it to "give the Kingdom greatness". This struck Riordan funny and always stuck with him; the devil was in the details, with prayer and with governing, and he prayed instead daily that the Lord "give him the faculties to make the Kingdom great".

The Punth matter was one particular area in which nearly none of his predecessors gave the time or thought required to actually maintaining a global empire. Many expeditionary forces had been expelled before by the Northern Confederation to the shame of the Monarchy and to the embarrassment of the country; none had stopped to consider whether the pen were mightier than the sword, or rather, if the carrot were preferable to the stick. Expansion of New Yustona was not the only area in which the previous bearers of the Saint's Crown had fallen short in terms of detail; the project had always been a cash pit for the Kingdom, a thousands-away totem to the supposed greatness of Urcea yet one that reflected the very underlying shortfalls of the Kingdom. Only recently, as other nations had become involved in Punth, did Port Christopher and elsewhere finally begin to yield a net profit for the Kingdom through increased trade activity. Still, the colonial endeavor, after nearly two hundred years, was just now beginning to pay for itself, and only just barely.

The King had, as Procurator, resolved to bring the country out of a fairly large deficit, and for the 2028-2029 year, he believed he could bring the Kingdom to a record low deficit of just one trillion dollars. The devil, as he had thought, was in the details, and no stone would go unturned for the young King who knew that delegating a majority of his responsibilities would end in bureaucratic inefficacy. This was all big picture thinking, of course, but for King Riordan VIII, the Punth matter was the symbol of Royal inattention and government ineptitude going back generations. Perhaps none of his successors - if he left the Kingdom in good enough situation to endure, unlike the situation he inherited - would remember the small details of budget reform or the Kingdom's increased stature in Punth and globally, but Riordan would be damned if the complete failure of Urcean policy in Punth would survive him, and if that small victory were his lasting legacy, then so be it.

Martin de Daphan was, in the mind of the King, kind of a queer and quirky fellow, but he was completely unrivaled in the depth of sociological knowledge, particularly within the field of native studies and especially within the area of northern Punth. An adviser had told the King that de Daphan had spent something like two years off the grid, learning the different cultures and traditions of the people in Punth; whether or not that was true, the King couldn't say, and stories like this did give the King some initial concern de Daphan would simply go native if pushed hard enough. It didn't matter too much - there were other sociologists and other diplomats, after all. In this capacity, it mattered more who sat on the Throne in the Julian Palace rather than the actual man on the ground. The King would entice, by whatever means necessary, some of the increasingly fractal chieftains of the Northern Confederation to pledge their allegiance to him personally as pledged vassals of the King. Riordan knew little to nothing of the Northern peoples but he had assumed they would respond to the same stimuli as any other warlords might; through incentive of gain, or through fear of loss. The Apostolic Kingdom of Urcea could provide both.​
 
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#3
2 March 2028
Mixcala, Mixcala
Punth


de Daphan had heard wrong. What had started as the "quaint" matter pretty clearly showed itself to be as fierce and barbaric as these people could have mustered; as his car arrived, the smell of death hung over Mixcala like morning mist in an early spring Canaeish morning. Accordingly, the old buildings - some, nearly 700 year old stone step pyramids adorned with stones of onyx and jasmine - bore black cloth all over them in mourning. The well-learned ambassador had heard upon his arrival that the dispute over agriculture between two nominally allied members of the Confederation - Mixcala and Tepetelcali ("hill house" due to the situation of the city in the hills to the northwest of Mixcala) - had escalated into a full scale tribal blood feud that culminated in the Tepetelcali sack of Mixcala. de Daphan saw the would-be defenses as he drove in; poorly constructed machine gun emplacements, old detonated mine fields, and the like. Truly, these people had acquired the weapons of war of the Old World in part (some decades outdated, he remembered), but still held true to their old ways. As it was, the diplomat arrived at the Chief's Palace in Mixcala.

Unlike the rest of the city, the Palace had been cleaned with the notable exception of a wide trail of dried blood that came into the Throne from the bed chambers. Upon the seat in the front of the room - a colorful and definitively tribal creation - sat a man in traditional garb that had the look of implacable sorrow. Though de Daphan's understanding of the Northern languages was passable, both the Chief and the Diplomat had brought their own translators. In the end, the Diplomat used his to fully convey his meaning as he trusted his own man, another Caen, over the native.

de Daphan made his introductions on behalf of the King and himself, but the Chief, hearing the words of the interpreter - simply pointed to the trail of blood, and then began to speak in a low voice, as if he could not muster the strength to speak any louder. Through the translator, Martin learned that the blood belonged to the eldest and beloved daughter of the Chief, to whom the Tepetlcalians had done unspeakable things before eventually murdering her in the Palace itself. As he heard the words from his Caenish associate, de Daphan couldn't help but notice the bullet holes in the walls of the Palace, interrupting otherwise flawless and timeless mosaic of jade and lapus depicting the great events in the history of this ancient people. As his attention came back to focus, the translator indicated that the Great Council of the Confederacy offered no help or did not even agree to meet in light of this attack. de Daphan replied that he had heard the Confederacy was in disarray, to which point the Chief replied, simply, that aside from the formalities, there no longer was a Confederacy.

At this point, the Chief went into a lengthy diatribe, albeit still in hushed tones, how the Confederacy had once kept his people safe from the threat of white, Western aggression, and that victories over inept soldiers from New Yustona had always brought Mixcala close to its neighbors. The incursions had stopped in the early 20th century (by de Daphan's recollection), and the Confederacy's fractal nature had always found a resolution until now. The Chief stated that this was different, this was a scar on the memory of Mixcala that would never heal over, and that he would destroy his enemies regardless of whether or not they were bound together by a Great Council. de Daphan saw an opening and began to formulate how exactly he would make his offer while still listening respectfully.​
 
#4
2 March 2028
Mixcala, Mixcala
Punth


The Diplomat considered the new way in which Urcea sought to conquer Punth innovative to say the least, borrowing primarily from the Burgundian administration in Punth far to the south. Rather than the direct military-colonial rule of the current New Yustona colony, the new system the King envisioned would include direct governance in some places while having subsidiary native principalities elsewhere, some of which would be under de facto Urcean administration. Mixcala was large enough and powerful enough, de Daphan reasoned, that it would retain most of its autonomy. That was all in the future, though; the diplomat had to figure how to explain the concepts of "subsidiary alliance" and "personal union" to the chief sitting before him.

"The King has envisioned", speaking deliberately so that his translator knew exactly the right way to phrase things, "a new Confederation, a stronger Confederation, and specific to the cause of Mixcala, a more just Confederation, under his guidance and rulership", though de Daphan cringed immediately as the word "rulership" slipped from his tongue, causing the translator to pause for a moment and use instead a word that had no analogue in English but could best be described as a kind of benevolent but forceful familial connection, such as a father or older brother. The Chief looked intrigued but was skeptical, asking what would be expected of him and his people and what would be had to gained.

de Daphan pondered a moment and replied "His Majesty is more than happy to allow for the personal continued tribal governance and has little specific concern for the internal workings of the Tribes themselves; He, of course, will, as the Confederation had previously worked, regulate the relations between groups to ensure peace and justice, and will govern the external affairs of the Realm", pausing to allow the translation to catch up before continuing. "Surely", he continued, "your fears must be that this is another attempt by Urceans" (the word was a local corruption of the Corummese explorer language, "Diavloblanka", or "white devil") "to conquer your lands. His Majesty would be more than happy to allay those concerns by stating that the participation in said new Confederation would suit His Majesty fine, and that He will further be satisfied by dividing the lands of your enemies between yourself and His rule directly; he seeks partners as Royal subjects, not as those subjugated".

"Finally, of course", de Daphan said as he heard the translator run nearly out of breath to convey his meaning, "the Armies and Weapons of the King are unmatched in this world or the Old World; with the help of Mixcala and no doubt other lands that will join our cause, swift vengeance will rain on Tepetlcali and all others who might oppose the King's justice and the rational justice of the world."

True, de Daphan had left out the part about missionaries, but that would come later and only after Riordan's new Kingdom was secured. The bereaved Chief clearly looked intrigued, and de Daphan read him as a man who, due to the blood stains clearly in his sight, was willing to go to any length to gain satisfaction. Mixcala was a city-state of some eminence and influence even if it had fallen on hard times militarily; securing the support of an angry, bitter Chief of Mixcala would not only give Riordan his much needed foothold, but would also convince some other locals to join the Urcean cause. After all, bordering Mixcala had the most to lose; if this Chief would trust Riordan, why wouldn't some others?​
 
#5
5 March 2028
Off the coast of Tonawandis
Punth


Far from negotiations, most of the crew of HMS Royal Marque heard naval guns used in anger for the first time in their career. Ships like the Royal Marque would have no place in the Old World - mid-20th century cruisers with 8-inch guns joined by a later mid-sized missile compliment - but in Punth, they found perfect use for Urcea and other powers in piracy interdiction, though often times they were also used to scare the natives and prevent raids on established colonies. Royal Marque, however, was now firing for effect.

The large Tribal union of Tonawandis would receive no Royal emissaries; just Royal marines eventually following the barrage. Controlling the Punth Strait was paramount for the Punthite adventure Riordan was now fully committed to pursuing, and Tonawandis controlled access to some strategically relevant inland rivers to the heart of the Northern Confederacy as well. Direct governance and colonialism would be required; indirect rule would not be sound, Urceopolis reasoned. As such, the barrage began.

Tonawandis had no real naval defense capability to speak of. Some old world power had filtered through a mid-20th century frigate to the locals that had fallen into disrepair and was quickly dispatched with an anti-shipping missile from Royal Marque. Some other commercial ships the locals had bought - tugboats and fishing ships - remained in port. Some automatic tracer rounds could be seen coming from the shore but these posed no real threat to the flotilla of fifteen ships.

Since there was no credible threat and additionally redeploying a more modern fleet could be expensive, top brass ordered an artillery barrage. It would be cheaper, after all, than a missile barrage and certainly cheaper than aerial sorties. Older ships like Royal Marque were joined in the flotilla by three state of the art modern ships; two Federal Union-class Frigates and one Enterprise-class guided missile destroyer, whose 5-inch guns were also used but for little impact; these ships primarily kept watch in case of a surprise attack by some pro-Punthite party using submarines or other ships.

The old frigate sat half sunk with its bulkhead exposed in shallow water, though no oil spilled out - shipments of petroleum and other fuels had long since ceased with no pan-Punthite shipments reaching Tonawandis in years. For practice - and strategically, since it would create an obstacle for the upcoming amphibious assault - it would be hit repeatedly by shells offshore.

For the crews of the 7th and 10th Royal Punth Squadrons, life was mostly easy if intriguing due to their mission. The mostly round-the-clock bombardment with no true threat of attack was only slightly more strenuous than normal fleet exercises, and the views of Tonawandis and other northern parts of Punth were inspiring. They could see snow shake free from the tall redwoods that dominated the coast due to the artillery impact, much to their amusement. For the native residents, life was becoming hellish and, thanks to the Urceans, increasingly short. Sure, the Royal Navy tried their best to not hit innocents or civilian targets, but what could be done? It was war, and it was naval artillery. They didn't sleep any worse at night - perhaps, except, for the sounds of naval gunfire.​
 
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#6
6 March 2028
Mixcala, Mixcala
Punth


An agreement had been signed in the pungent red ink produced from the local fauna in both Aenglish and in Mixcalan language, and de Daphan sat at a feast as if he were the King himself. Once the festivities had completed, de Daphan announced the imminent arrival of Lieutenant General Martin St. Clair, who was the commanding officer of the six divisions present in New Yustona, which had been organized under the "Army of St. Thomas", which would now also feature the 241st Royal Air Grenadiers (an airborne division) and the 3rd Ionian Highlanders (a mountaineer division), both of which had just completed service in the Sudlanda conflict. It was not expected that the entire army would see action in Punth and both the Lt. Gen. and the King both expected significant contributions from rearmed native auxiliaries.

St. Clair, another Caen who stood at a towering 6'4 with salt-and-pepper hair and a potmarked face, did not have the diplomatic tact of de Daphan but nevertheless had once been a top graduate of the Imperial War Academy. The romantic idea of the Urcean General single-handedly pursuing gunboat diplomacy had gone with the 19th century, but still remained a popular conception. St. Clair, whose hoarse and husky voice filled a room by the nature of its volume, had no aspirations to fulfill that ideal. He would come to rely on de Daphan's translation team to organize the forces of Mixcala under him. Tepetelcali would fall first to ensure their loyalty; reorganizing them into a fighting force to be potentially used against other Westerners would come later.

The plan was somewhat simple owing to the lack of strategic or technological sophistication of the locals, and admittedly an operation with very little preparation time. No later than the 16th, elements of the 241st Royal Air Grenadiers would enter the city under the cover of night - no serious anti-air resistance was expected aside from shoulder-mounted devices and antiquated AA-guns - and sabotage key targets, such as their telegraphy network and power grid. Due to the notions of Punthite ownership and shared property, many of the more dangerous weapons were held in central caches and storehouses, which the Air Grenadiers would attempt to destroy. After causing chaos, these elements would assume strategic locations within the city and operate as forward operating posts and recon units, as the Royal Air Force was missing significant reconnaissance on targets to bomb. By the next morning, the Royal Mountaineers would be scaling the slopes below the city and would force entry. The Mountaineers and Air Grenadiers would additionally work in tandem to secure the flat mountain passes into the city to allow the cavalry to enter by mid-day of the 17th. Rather than follow the cavalry with infantry, the General opted to allow swarms of Mixcalan soldiers to sack the city following the entry of the cavalry. With any luck, surrender would occur before the entry of the cavalry, though secretly the General planned to allow the sack to occur regardless to spur loyalty of Mixcalans.​
 
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#7
6 March 2028
Coast of Tonawandis
Punth


Most of the locals fled as the towering superstructure backed by two large turbines approached the shore; few had ever seen anything like an amphibious hovercraft before. The tracer fire from the coast had long since ceased - decades old Western-constructed concrete bunkers lay bare and empty, victims of the aggressive display of naval firepower that had occurred in the days proceeding. The landing force, three regiments of Royal Fusiliers, would be landing on the eastern portion of the territory. The western half had long since been abandoned due to its proximity to New Yustona. Gunners on the craft easily brushed aside the locals who attempted to sail close in their canoes and toss grenades in an attempt to disrupt the landing.

There would be no glorious landing followed by battle; the Royal Army was much too advanced, and the 21st century technology allowed for precision strikes that entirely disrupted the type of beach defense the Tonawandites had been taught to employ some generations earlier. As the hovercraft hit the beach and slowed to adjust to the new sandy terrain, formations spread. Some of the more infantry-heavy ships went roughly one hundred and fifty meters inland to secure the beachhead, with which they found little resistance as the equipment was unloaded at the beach.

A few aerial reconnaissance drones - though not many - were lost to particularly sharpshooting locals who had mastered the use of their high-powered bolt action rifles. Even so, the Royal Army had a general idea of what was occurring. Unlike Mixcala, there was no central city but rather several tribal towns and villages. In the largest of these, a place called Cattaraugus not far from the shore, several thousand braves were gathering to try and storm the beach. Antiquated mobile 40mm anti-air guns were brought from sheds by teams of horses due to the lack of fuel. Some of these apparently would see use as anti-infantry and anti-armor weapons since some of these left Cattaraugus with the army of braves.

An initial attack run of Warthogs and other close air attack crafts leveled most of the emplaced 40mm guns though two craft were lost, hit with flak and spinning to the ground below, in each exploding in a fireball that began to consume the mostly-wooden structures of the local villages. Employing mostly unguided munitions for effect, these craft took strafing runs with their rotary cannons at the poorly organized masses of native soldiers charging towards the beach before dropping their "dumb bombs" and flying away. The effect was total. Aside from the actual casualties - considerable, given the close moving nature of the group - the sight of fireballs and attacks from above sent many of the braves fleeing for their lives. The front group - arguably the most violent and experienced - reached areas close to the beach and engaged in a firefight with the Fusiliers in a rock-strewn field not far from the coast. Fighting valiantly despite the odds, the braves were eventually dislodged and fled or were killed, themselves killing 77 Fusiliers to over 250 native losses. The 77 Fusiliers would be the first casualties of Urcea's reengagement in Punth.

After reaching Cattaraugus, the Fusiliers discovered a surprise. A dark man in splendid reds and blues in a holding cell quite unlike the locals. This man was clearly a mainland Punthite, and it was eventually determined by the officers that he was a captured Chief of a land to the north of Tonawandis and Mixcala, a place called Cheektowaga, which was known to be one of the leading cities of the Confederation. Apparently the Tonawandites had captured him as part of a fluke raiding party wandered too far to the east as the Chief found respite on vacation. Hours after the capture of Cattaraugus, diplomats from New Yustona arrived and ascertained that his capture in 2024 was among the proximate causes of the subsequent instability in the Northern Confederation. Acting quickly and without consult from Urceopolis, de Daphan, or Lt. Gen. St. Clair, the diplomats managed to prod the Chief, a man named Axigalantu, to agree to serve Riordan as his King if the Urceans restored him in Cheektowaga. Both Caens were delighted to hear of their ingenuity and believed that this would not only speed the conquest of Punth significantly, but would also provide for diplomatic means to wrangle other locals to the cause - Axigalantu, in his prime, was both respected and feared as a key member of the Confederal Council.

With Cattaraugus in Urcean hands, the King could now consider several miles inland of Tonawandis to be his domain. Pacifying the somewhat large interior would prove an entirely different challenge.​
 
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#8
11 March 2028
Confederate Coast opposite Cao
Punth


What was otherwise supposed to be a normal patrol of the area - coupled with a potential contact and negotiations with the natives by the patrol commander, in this case a Lieutenant - had evidently quickly turned to a slaughter. The area had been decolonized and abandoned by Corumm not long before, though their claim on the territory was always tenuous and didn't extend far beyond a few coastal settlements. Most critically, Urcean intelligence had suggested that holding facilities for militant natives existed in the territory. These "natives" were actually foreigners from the island of Cao rather than locals.

The message of a hatchet to the back of the head of what looks to have been an unsuspecting Urcean soldier not wearing his helmet was clear - the Corummese had simply released all their detainees wholesale into the wilderness rather than take them back to Cao or back west. Some of the inland villages and tribes who had been contacted welcomed the Urceans as near-liberators in relation to the Corummese. These "new tribes" - bands of detainees - evidently didn't get the message. Intelligence back west couldn't be sure - could be hundreds, could be thousands - but there were bands of radicalized locals who weren't interested in trade or in negotiations, and certainly not in tutelage.

They wanted white blood.​
 
#9
13 March 2028
Operational Restricted Zone
Punth


The former Corummese Coast had been formally annexed by Urcea on the 12th and the entire area organized as the "Operational Restricted Zone". While the territory had pledged its allegiance to the crown - particularly the friendly, allied inland villages that had not formed large polities unlike other parts of the Confederation - it was designated as such due to the supreme danger to potential settlers and commercial interests as a result of the former prisoner insurgency. As the Army of St. Thomas found its planning against Tepetlcali going smoothly and expected its execution ahead of schedule (potentially the 15th), it was flummoxed as to how to deal with the former prisoners, now given the operational designation "Bloodlusts".

St. Clair had no preference and was fully committed to the conquest of Tepetlcali; it was assumed that if Mixcala, Tonawandis, Tepetlcali, and Cheektowaga fell under the Urceans, many of the locals would follow. His subordinates - mostly Colonels - had different ideas. The first idea - most commonly held but not agreed to - was a simple napalm strike on the area followed by overwhelming military force - perhaps as many as three regiments - to destroy or capture the survivors. This was vetoed by both St. Clair and the King himself through intermediaries; there was an overriding concern of collateral damage to the local friendly natives and a concern about the optics of such a tactic, since it bore similarities to the "colonization of old" and not the "new way" in Punth. The second proposal, simply using the ground forces, was dismissed by the colonels themselves as too potentially costly to the Army. The third proposal was to attempt to infiltrate the Bloodlusts - primarily using the local villagers (who knew the Laosi language) but also some Mixcalans - and gain enough intelligence to either launch a decisive strike with Urcean forces or simply have the locals depose of the Bloodlusts. St. Clair preferred this plan, and recruiting began of potential pliable locals who would do the work. Loyalty was questionable due to the newness of their allegiance, so those whose families had a trade interest in Urcean cooperation and any local Christians (there were a few) were targeted for the operation, with it being phrased to them as a defense and duty to their Faith or their Family rather than to their new King. It was hoped infiltration in earnest could begin by the end of the month as some SpecOps operatives would be flown into Port Christopher to begin training of the locals as to the intricacies of their mission.

Cleaning up the mess the Corummese left was not on the King's initial agenda, but little that would actually unfold in the conquest of Punth was.​
 
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#10
15 March 2028
Tepetlcali, Tepetlcali
Punth


Even in the moonlight, the golden tops of the ancient palaces and temples of Tepetlcali shimmered in pale light, which was something of a sight to behold for the members of the 241st Air Grenadiers, who came upon the city in low-flying tilt-rotor aircraft just after midnight. Most of the forces came directly through tilt-rotor landings in the city, neither stealthy nor sophisticated but the locals had little recourse. A secondary brigade was deployed via parachute from higher altitudes and was expected to serve as a reserve role, arriving later than the initial wave of air-landings. All in all, in the initial brigade, eight tilt-rotors were destroyed in the initial insertion as two battalions were inserted directly in the city and the remaining two thousand or so soldiers were inserted within two miles of the city walls. All of the tilt-rotors downed came as a result of heat-seeking shoulder-mounted weaponry employed by local soldiers on the walls; the traditional AA cannons proved ineffective and were caught unprepared.

Somewhat fortuitously, though consisting of tragic losses, included the crash location of three of the tilt-rotors. Two were struck by glancing blows and crashed into the lapus-covered city wall, exploding on impact and causing commotion throughout the city as well as large breaches in the walls which would be exploited by the soldiers dropped outside the city. The third tilt-rotor exploded in-air after being struck with a missile and fell within the city itself, causing a large fire to break out through the wooden houses and huts that sat behind the wall. The Air Grenadiers outside the wall moved quickly to destroy power and telegraphy lines leaving the city, leaving further native checkpoints in key mountain passes unable to respond to signals for help or alarm. Even as in-city telegraphy was still functioning, the sound of explosions, a large fire, and eventually scattered gunfire led the city to chaos.

It was within this context that the 2nd and 4th company of the 3rd battalion set off to destroy the power networks within the city, which on its own would cripple the communication network - though other elements would separately try to destroy that. The ultimate goal was the destruction of the city's severely antiquated central steam-based power plant which sat relatively near the city center in a long-converted ancient pyramid temple, the only structure the natives had (aside from the Palace and Temple of the Earth) that could house the turbines. Tepetlcali was roughly four and a half miles wide from wall to wall (with a large urban footprint extending far beyond its walls) and these Urcean soldiers - some of whom had served but many of whom were fresh - would have to travel roughly a mile to the plant through some of the most heavily populated parts of the city.​
 
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#11
15 March 2028
Tepetlcali, Tepetlcali
Punth


Dense fighting in the narrow streets between stone houses - a sign that the Urcean forces were closing on the city center - broke out as the chaos and confusion of the initial strike had evidently passed and the Tepetlcalian forces had regrouped. Creating barricades to slow the advance, the superior training of the Air Grenadiers - who endured heavy casualties - defeated the braves and managed to reach the outskirts of the temple district. The large imposing structure before them - a step pyramid with the slowly rising sun glimmering off its polished jade sides - must have been the equivalent of five or six stories in height. Though traditional entrance to Punthite pyramid temples was through the top, this structure had - as a power plant - had several large entryways carved into its ancient side for the purposes of convenience. 2nd Company created a somewhat large perimeter around the "power temple" as elements of 4th Company began to breach the building.

No braves defended the interior; there were "late shift" power employees who fled on the sight of the Urcean soldiers. Before them lay massive steam power turbines of a clear Western provenance, though they appeared to be as many as ninety years old in the case of one of the turbines. No matter; charges were planted on the turbines themselves and on some of the walls surrounding them. Exiting the structure and detonating, the majestic ancient pyramid collapsed in on itself as the sound of explosions from the inside not only destroyed the turbines themselves but, as expected, either destroyed internal supports or shook the ancient stones and bricks of the building loose. The Urcean soldiers proceeded in an orderly retreat away from the collapsing temple as a cloud of dust and rubble soon filled much of the temple district, obscuring visibility and adding to an already difficult combat situation for both sides as the city lights went out and the Tepetlcali telegraphy network went down, resulting in chaos for their warriors throughout the city and countryside.

The Urceans heard an unexpected cocophony of horns in the distance; a massive divergence from the initial plan was to occur. Though the sun was barely up, the sign of the loss of power was enough to motivate the Mixcalan forces to action. Ignoring the initial strategy of being the last forces to enter the city (following the mid-day armored cavalry), the Mixcalans decided that the time was now. Thousands of relatively poorly armed braves came storming through the mountain passes screaming all sots of Punthite obscenities, war songs, and chants. The sack of Mixcala and the desecration thereof would be satisfied; they had no need to wait for the Urcean cavalry. The Air Grenadiers, who were supposed to have went on to destroy weapons caches, had to regroup and form a defensive fortification within the city. Though not ideal, the first brigade formed up and retook the Temple District, capturing and forming a large defensive perimeter around the Temple of the Earth and the plaza out before it. Atop the Temple, the flag of the Kingdom of Urcea was raised along with a makeshift cross. The second brigade would soon arrive as would the Mixcalans, but not before the Air Grenadiers present would have to hold out against swarms of confused and angered Tepetlcali braves.​
 
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#12
15 March 2028
Tepetlcali, Tepetlcali
Punth

The sounds of intense battle outside the walls raging, the Air Grenadiers tightened the perimeter in the Temple Plaza and fortified it with whatever could be moved in a matter of minutes. Defending what they tongue-in-cheek referred to as "Fort Technology", they awaited the arrival of the second brigade and the later arrival of the entire division of Ionian Highlanders. In the sprawling plaza impromptu triage stations were set up to heal the wounded and it served as a temporary point of projection in the city as tilt-rotors could come and go to provide supplies and remove the badly wounded. The enemy braves came in starts and stops until roughly 7:15 AM when a coordinated attack by different elements began and lasted for about two hours. Reduced to the strength of about fifteen hundred soldiers, the Air Grenadiers fended off several thousand Tepetlcalis until it was evident that the Mixcalans had arrived in the city, roughly around the same time as the reinforcements. The Tepetlcali attack on the plaza ceased as from the south of the city the reinforcements arrived. To the east, the destroyed walls could not hold back the Mixcalans.

Over a confused mess of sounds fire could be seen rising over the entire east of the city. With most of the defending units in the area routed, the Mixcalans began to burn, kill, and plunder anything they could get their hands on. Although isolated units of Tepetlcali - mainly militia forces and frightened, armed families - put up especially fierce urban resistance to the advancing enemy, ultimately they too were forced to flee. This soon created a difficult diplomatic situation for the new allies - several individuals, later revealed to be the High War Chiefs of Tepelicali - laid down their weapons at Fort Technology and surrendered to the Urcean forces. Unaware of who they were, the prisoners were then flown off to an impromptu prisoner of war camp that was being hastily constructed outside the city. The outraged Mixcalans couldn't find the leaders of the city and demanded that prisoners be handed over. St. Clair arrived outside the city by roughly 11:15 AM by the time the fighting had concluded and the sack was ongoing; all Urcean forces were pulled out of the city by that time to allow the sack to occur. Eventually St. Clair agreed to hand over the High Chiefs to a certain death at the hands of the Mixcalans - a gesture that they interpreted as sealing the alliance between the Urceans and Mixcalans in the blood of the chiefs.

By 3:00 PM it was mostly all over; the city was partially ablaze and the Mixcalans had established firm control. Because of the optics to the West of the slaughter, the press was informed Urcea provided material support to the Mixcalans who launched the attack on their own initiative and without guidance. Such as it was, the city and surrounding area now fell under the domain of Mixcala, while some of the rural and mountainous regions under its influence fell to direct Urcean control. Roughly about three quarters the "Eastern Pentapolis" (actually just four cities since the destruction of Schoharie in the 1910s) of the Northern Confederation - Mixcala, Tonawandis, Tepetlcali, and Cheektowaga - was under Urcean or allied control. Cheektowaga would be a challenge with or without the planned chiefly restoration, and pacifying inland Tonawandis would be a challenging campaign. Still, if those four cities could be brought under Urcean control, many of the local tribes and city states could be persuaded to join Riordan's "new confederation", his planned Kingdom of New Yustona, one of the would-be crown jewels of his reign.

The Urceans also made an important discovery during the defense of the makeshift Fort Technology. Inside the Temple of the Earth was the supposed "Holy of Holies", upon which several Air Grenadiers got sick after entering and largely destroying. Though the natives believed this to be a superstitious punishment, it was actually determined that the "Rock of the Earth", a large metallic-earthen relic contained within, was a forged deposit of uranium. Captured Tepetlcalis told the legend of its discovery in the mountains to the west of the city. A later expedition would show this indeed to be true - the Urcean Military had just stumbled on one of the largest uranium deposits in Punth.​
 
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