B3 — 1. Expansion

PoV :

1.  Empress Elinor (Let’s go to Volume 3!)

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Recap:  Our Thélméthra Queen flew express and zipped over to the Nalvean nation to collect Jumi’calro, our Nalvean boy rune scribe, to help Elinor’s city get up and running!  Oh, Tal’tamine, our Nalvean princess that was being mind controlled and that was viciously tormented by a few of her siblings has been saved!  Wooh!  Let’s see…

Ugh, poor Iris.  Her spieces is all about motherhood and teaching her daughters everything she knows so they can adapt—it’s her duty to protect her daughters, craft them in a way that they’ll be stronger than her, in time, and guide them their their delecate development stages … All of that was taken away from her by this Nalvean, salamander-woman that doesn’t even understand how confused and self-conscous she’s making Iris’s daughter in her baby stages.

Iris is NOT happy, and for the first time in her life, she feels hatred.  She will have her daughter!  And our Empress gave her the green light … It’s hunting season.

Now, let’s see what’s going on with the Empire as we speed some things up!

I want to thank my patrons for continuing to support me:

Thrusk, Alexander Getty, Nicholas Pankratz, Thomas, KazukiNero, Hernalius, Nolan Phalen, Dairyman, Brandon, and my other Patrons!


Elinor stood at the north end of her room, observing the thick cloud of snow roll across the mountains; all of the devices and wonders that had been revealed due to Sari’aél’s radial aura were now hidden behind the thickening veil of white.

Four days had passed since her first general conference, and the frost progressively worsened every day.  To Elinor, it seemed as if the devices producing the blizzard were expelling far more than they did before, which had her concerned it would soon reach further into the valley.

Her lips creased while turning her attention to the right canyon of the massive mountain, where Valdar and Quin trekked to get to the enormous valley plains beyond the towering sierra; the immense river in that area was noticeably lower than only a few days ago.

Considering it fed the lake that fell into the Maw, Elinor was concerned, yet her expected results were reversed.  Throughout the week, Violet monitored the chasm’s rising mist, but the lowering water level in the lake appeared to have had an effect on its progress.  She didn’t like the switch; one threatening area had been replaced by another.

The fog inside the Maw was receding, which might allow them to study what was inside, and Elinor had thought of a way to explore the place with minimal loss.  However, her priorities had been taken by expanding her city.

Her city gleamed with lights in the early morning mist that hung over it; if not for the luminosity of the crystals dotting the metropolis, it would be invisible to Elinor, despite her night vision.

Every night, after paying the price of her Empire and rebuilding her Death Pool, Elinor would make a trip to the mines.  Amra’Cora and her work continued to make gains, discovering tens of thousands of Quen’Talrat that had been sentenced to the workforce for crimes or simply not being productive enough to contribute to the rapidly advancing Quen’Talrat Empire The Ke had founded.

It was viciously effective, from what she’d seen.  The elderly Quen’Talrat that were only good for their somewhat failing brute strength could still contribute via material-gathering, while those that caused issues were separated into a group that couldn’t make trouble.

Ke’Thra’Ma operated on a meritocracy, and the unproductive or less talented of his people were forced to the lower rungs of society.  There was no room for laziness in the Quen’Talrat Empire, which had to be viciously efficient to bring the underdeveloped race into the most prominent advanced civilization on the continent.

Expansion and the development of new technologies were so far beyond anything she’d seen in the Nalvean Empire, and even if some might disagree with his methods, he achieved something not a single generation before him could, yet his hyper-ambitious personality of conquest by force had been his downfall.

The Quen’Talrat she discovered in the mines were very specialized and nowhere near the level needed to operate everything within the city; although, currently, she didn’t need all of its advanced systems operational.  She had power and basic functionality now, and that was enough for the moment.

Luisina Aristizabal was currently acting as her Maid with Theresa, the motherly woman taking the role of Head Maid, while Emelina finished her tasks to the south.

The two followed Elinor across the silent hall, their heels causing a clicking sound against the polished granite floor.  A few of the Maids spent an entire day making the place spotless, working without stop.

Elinor’s green-tinted full lips tightened upon seeing the flat rise that separated the west side of her valley.  A Clanless group that had banded together into a nameless tribe had once surrounded the large lake to its left, yet their lake had since dropped several feet from the loss of its water supply, forcing them to increase their move to the Nethermore.

The snow is increasing and not melting … Ke’Thra’Ma’s shown himself to be a lover of designing complicated environments.  This entire valley seems to thrive because of his inventions on the mountains.  The area probably wasn’t nearly as green before he constructed this watering system … It likely gathers moisture from high in the sky and forces it down, which would make the further east experience severe droughts.  Interesting…

Proceeding further to the south, Elinor studied the shimmering beauty of the Great Ruby Lakes, yet part of it was covered by Sha’Guala’s cloud cloaking system.  Sar’ollaz hadn’t contacted her since his last visit, and she’d put his teleportation rod in one of the few vaults that were available to them via Amra’Cora’s access to the Gray Blood’s private stores.

Iris returned with Jumi’calro after he’d succeeded in saving Tal’tamine before flying far south; the Queen wasn’t able to report what would happen next within the Nalvean Empire since she swiftly went on her quest.

Instead, Elinor expected a report today from Emelina since the Maid was returning.  If she hadn’t spent at least a day or two of personal time with the handsome Ambassador, she’d send her right back.

Elinor expected the Maid to give her a timeframe on Tal’tamine’s arrival since Nukulara had mentioned it.  She’d grown rather fond of the salamander race’s High Ruler; he was a reasonable man that had an open mind.

Jumbi and his crew had become her personal river guide, and they’d found more than enough means to pay the merchant at top-market.  Edmon discovered a king’s ransom worth of Nalvean currency within just one of the Quen’Talrat material vaults.  Given their expansive mining operation, it stood to reason that they’d have a healthy nest egg for trade with the other nations.

Stateswoman Lukuroha appeared to be on her way back to her City-State—Mirelitel—with Aluix and Castella based on their current positions to Klaus and Emelina.  Elinor’s mind centered on the issue.

Iris is far outside of my current scope of direction … She’ll be gone for some time, but the information she could gain on Demon’s pawns and provide clues to his next step is essential.  Retrieving her daughter before she has a chance to become a real threat is necessary, as well.

Lukuroha is a valuable ally, and her City-State is in a prime military position to the Drék’uléph if they decide to march against the Nalveans for the loss of their Senator … Wars have been started for less.

If Demon is focused on killing Aluix, and since a clean assassination attempt didn’t work, he may need to take on a more forceful method.  It would be good to keep units stationed nearby to convey information if required.

A small smile lifted her cheeks.  The Argent Dawn could be a perfect face for our forces in the Nalvean Empire.  Klaus is needed to set up our embassy and retrieve whatever the Prince wants to snag, but building trust with a City-State’s military will be necessary.

Her focus moved to the west side of the Nalvean territories.  Statesman Joru’kora could be a valuable ally, as well, since he represents the strongest ground forces of the Nalveans, and he desires a son to be raised from the dead.  The issue is the Ri’bot…

A rumble passed through her throat upon examining the flat cliffs separating her from various Ri’bot Clan territories surrounding her Empire’s east, south, and west.  A neutral Ri’bot kingdom to their west wasn’t of much concern at the moment, and the southern tribes needed to be slowly converted, but it was the eastern Ri’bot Clans that had Elinor’s attention.

The Komath and Roxim Clans abandoned their land to seek aid in that direction, gathering a war council to move against her.  After studying a map of the area and getting information from various Clan Chiefs, Edmon determined at least twenty-five distinct Ri’bot factions made up the land in that direction.

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Ri’bot are hardly a real threat at this point; there might be unique individuals that require a specific effort to bring down, but Edmon himself could bring them to kneel before me.  The issue isn’t the ability to force them to heel, but the optics.

I can’t make Ke’Thra’Ma’s mistake.  There’s an excuse I can bring up in the conquest of this valley, yet rapid expansion likely has a bitter taste in the other nations’ tongues.

Given everything I’ve heard about the Ques’ká, I certainly don’t want to get on their bad side since they seem to be the strongest race of the nations that went up against Ke’Thra’Ma.  The Yalmáth are supposed to be somewhat powerful, and pushing the territories near their borders isn’t an excellent welcoming message.  We have to wait until the Ri’bot attacks us.

Seeding dissension in their ranks via missionaries and using persecution if they act against them as an excuse for specific examples could be a possibility, as well … Although, that might bring negative points to my Religious System if I utilize my believers in that manner; they’ll need to move cautiously, and it’s not like I want them to die … I’d lose Death Energy, in any case.  Slow proselytizing efforts could be beneficial.

Elinor turned her head to look at Luisina Aristizabal, shifting her focus away from the annoyance to the east; the girl was somewhat unique to her other Maids.

Luisina had returned to life with long periwinkle locks that had initially been night-black; her kind eyes matched the shade of her hair, and Violet had crafted her an adorable outfit that complimented her soft complexion.

She was the only Undead Elinor had of the Clergy Class, and her features came from her Reiki Butterfly Sub-Class.

There were two issues with her ability that severely reduced her usability; she took on poison of a minor equivalence to the damage she was curing—the Death Energy inside her veins actually turned to blood, and her body’s constitution was terribly weak.

Even as an Undead, the woman would tire and require a full day to recover if performing similar work to the other Maids and healing only moderate wounds.

Creating vivid periwinkle butterflies, the girl would send her restorative energy to those in need, which would then return the poison of her patient into her veins.  It wasn’t able to be interacted with, similar to her own butterflies.

It was an incredible ability that allowed her to cure almost anything at the price of her own health; the woman’s personality had been very self-sacrificing to the point of being unhealthy.  Besides the drawback of harming herself, Luisina was exceptionally useful.

Tiffany was in the process of developing a magical flower through her rituals that could be used to counteract the poison, but it would take time to mass-produce.

Elinor forbade her from using it more than a tiny bit per day to slowly help those in need to keep her in a healthy condition, which she was mournful about.

“You were on one of the buses that were bringing us to the Venezuelan border?”

She nodded, voice as soft as her face.  “I was, Empress.  I hoped to bring simple medical supplies to those in need; I was a part of a non-profit in the U.S.  Might I ask a question?”

Knowing where she was going, Elinor allowed her to ask it anyway, moving back to the elevator to reach the control room.  “What is on your mind?”

“There is a boy that has broken his leg, and while it has been treated, I am concerned about infection and other possible threats that could put his life in danger.”

Elinor sighed, eyeing one of the strangely crafted artifacts on a pedestal that Ke’Thra’Ma had brought back with him from his conquest.  “You want to cure his leg is what I’m getting from that statement.”

Theresa gave the woman a neutral stare, but she could tell the motherly lady was sighing inside.  Luisina was a sucker for anyone in need, and the slightest look for help didn’t just pull on her heartstrings but practically tore the organ out of her chest.

Elinor thought putting her in with the toad people would curb her overly sacrificing mentality, but it didn’t.  It was for this reason she’d pulled her away from the groups of Ri’bot and humans.   “Where did you hear about this boy breaking his leg?”

The periwinkle-eyed woman’s gaze shifted to the left, hands tightening against her dress front as she bit her lower lip.  Elinor answered her own question before she could respond.

“You’ve been using Aileen to report back what’s happening around the city … again.”

Luisina nibbled on her lower lip.  “I know you’re concerned about my health, Empress, but I am Undead!  So many people could use my help, and I can do so much more than the one or two cuts you allow me to do a day.”

“Theresa?”  Elinor gestured, allowing her to take over the repeated explanation that the woman had such a hard time accepting.  Her response made Luisina’s shoulder sag.

Theresa completed the required motion on the crystal outside the colossal double doorway programmed to allow humans easy access.

“Harming yourself in excess will only cause further issues that could require your capabilities should they arise.  You may be undead, Luisina, yet that is the only reason you even live at all; you had a weak constitution while alive, as well, and disregarded your physician’s recommendation against taking the trip.”

Proceeding to the thin disk that would take them to the Control Room underneath the Tower, Elinor listened to her Maids; Elinor had only become aware of Luisina’s compulsive habits after she’d been knocked unconscious for a full three days after curing a rapid bacterial infection that dissolved Ri’bot tissue from an elderly female toad, not a year left from the average death of old age.

“I would not be within the Empire had I not,” Luisina whispered, refusing to make eye contact with Theresa.  “I may have been cursed with adrenal disease when I was alive, but the Empress gave me the means to overcome such problems.”

“In time,” Theresa pointedly stated.  “You were restored to the most healthy degree your body could possibly be, given your life, yet that did not entirely exempt you from your previous weaknesses, as you well know.  The Empress has ordered you to strengthen your Constitution Stat and work on improving your mitigation for your healing abilities.”

Luisina unwound her hands to activate the platform as they walked onto it, taking them to the basement levels, and brushed back her bangs as they began to descend.  “I know, which is why I must practice my ability to increase their proficiencies.”

Elinor shook her head with a low sigh.  “You must be patient with yourself, Luisina; working on your Constitution takes priority.  Tiffany has made it very clear that she can help with the poison you constantly pump through your veins, but the issue will ultimately come down to your physical condition.  I understand doing seemingly pointless tasks, such as following me around, is like a ball and chain to you, but you’re too easily swayed by people to say no.”

The woman’s sad eyes fell to the ground.  “I just … want to help, Empress.  Please, I love accompanying you … I do.”

Theresa directed a compassionate smile at the fidgeting woman.  “The Empress knows your heart, Luisina.  Your joy is tending to those in need, and you’re excited to use these new powers you’ve gained; I understand that but think about the long-term and not the short.  You know if things turn to the worst, Tiffany has the means to aid them.”

A long puff of air passed through Luisina’s lips as she solemnly nodded.  “I … understand.”

Elinor knew she was only temporarily satiated; Luisina was anything but intermittent, and tomorrow, she’d find another cause to throw her life toward, Elinor was sure.

Aileen Banks…

The girl jumped as Elinor connected to her; she’d been staying with Sari’aél, learning more about every individual in their Empire, which had brought hundreds to believe in her name.

“Y-Yes, Empress?”  she mumbled, knowing by her tone that she’d done something bad.  “What did I do?  I’m trying really hard to teach Sari’aél how to play jump rope, but her wings keep getting in the way—it’s so hard for her!  Oh, but she laughs and likes trying to learn, though!”

This early?  It’s 6 A.M.

“I know, but some of the kids got up, and all the adults were so slow!  They’re groaning and moaning like suuuper old people!  They’re trying to do morning stretches or something—I don’t know.”

Mhm … What did you talk to Luisina about?

“Oh, Luisina?  Umm … She likes to ask me about my day!  I just tell her lots of stuff Sari’aél and I do together.  She’s always so nice!”

That she is, Elinor groaned, giving the nervous Maid a side-long gaze as they made it to the Control Room.  Just remember to ‘only’ tell her about positive things.  Did you talk about a boy with a broken leg?

“Oh … Oh!  Oops!  I’m sorry!  Yeah, positive stuff!  She gets really worked up about hurt people, huh?”

Mhm.  We want her to focus on building herself up and not spreading herself too thin.

“Okay!  I’ll work on that … Oh, Sari’aél finally got to her first jump!  He-he-he, she’s having a hard time not flying!”

Smiling at the mental image and feelings she could detect through the Nexus, Elinor chuckled.  She’s enjoying the challenge, and people are having fun watching her play with the kids.  Keep up the good work, Aileen.

“Will do, Empress!”  she saluted.  “I haven’t let a single person give a gift to our angel!  Nope!  Not on my watch!”

Hmm?  Elinor questioned, proceeding into the illusionary space of open-air as the control team worked on controlling one of the floating drones Ke’Thra’Ma had created; they were currently maneuvering around buildings, trying to get used to the controls.  Last I heard, you were accepting the gifts instead.

“W-What?  Well, umm … umm, they’re just giving me free stuff!  I’m not letting it go to Sari’aél, though!  No, Ma’am!”

Where did you learn, Ma’am, from?  Elinor giggled, shaking her head.

“Oh, Esmeralda’s been teaching me words!”

A little surprised Tiffany’s personal Maid had taken a shine to the twelve-year-old, Elinor was a tad concerned; the young girl was only sixteen, but was shockingly similar to the Witch, given she had the same Class Tiffany was over her.  Elinor wondered if the Grand Ritualist had poisoned the girl’s mind or if she’d been this way from the start.

I see … take what she says with a grain of salt, Aileen.

“Okay!  She does say some strange stuff sometimes … Like, she was talking about how to tell male and female Ri’bot apart, and it was weird … Sometimes she uses super big words I don’t know, too.”

Yeah … listen to Theresa and Emelina.

“Oh, I heard Emelina’s coming back today!”

Elinor held her wrist behind her back, following the Control Team’s nervous, jerky movements with the device as she silently watched.  That’s right.  Make sure to welcome her home.

“What if … What if we threw her a party!  I’ll tell Sari’aél and Valerie—oh, she’s out with Violet … Umm, Camellia needs to be cheered up, so she should join us!  Oh, Adoncia’s free!  She can help me with her brother and his—he-he-he—his girlfriend!  She’s pretty; oh, I saw them kiss!  Have you seen her?  Shh!  I’m not supposed to tell their parents!  It’s a secret, Empress!”

Oh, they have some budding romance, huh?  I’m glad you’re making friends.  If you want to throw her a party, then talk to Antonietta to get some food together; she deserves a warm welcome home.

“Food!  Oh!  Can we have some of the sugar we brought back?”  she eagerly asked, practically salivating at just the thought.  “Oh, sweet food!”

We’re limited on it, Aileen; maybe when we get a bigger shipment next week.

“Aww … just a little?”

Thinking for a moment, she released a low hum while watching the three-dimensional visual the device gave them as the operators took the device into the labyrinth-like underground to observe various power tests they were conducting in the area.

I suppose … Antonietta was telling me about a unique pudding she was able to create.  See how much she can make, and if there’s enough for the gathering, I’m fine with it.

“Thank you, Empress!  I’m soooo excited!”  Aileen squealed.  “I’ve gotta go!  Sari’aél and I have so much to plan!”

Good luck, Elinor laughed.

Expression falling as she watched the dim crystal lights flicker around her and the water pump out of the public bathing areas, triggered by the Control Team.

She centered on Moris’Luar, her current Control Commander; he came from the Cerulean Blood Quen’Talrat Tribe, evident by his blue fur.  Something as complex as Ke’Thra’Ma’s Primary Control Center was far out of his specialized scope, yet he was capable of simple operations.

So?  What have you discovered so far?  Elinor asked; they were now moving to a new location down the long corridors that composed the living quarters of many Quen’Talrat a century ago.

The fact not a single Quen’Talrat body could be found in the metropolis and the little the Yaltha’ma were able to collect after showed how hated the giant apes were.

“Slowly, Empress, and … There is a problem I’ve identified,” Moris’Luar whispered, releasing command over the device to change locations throughout the inner city.

Elinor’s eyes narrowed.  Have you alerted Edmon?

“Not yet.  I wanted to make sure, but there are so many operational commands and branching paths that could spark any number of devices or traps the Ke utilized that I’m proceeding with caution.”

Edmon was currently going over the inventory with Pepe Fontanez, her Treasurer.  Eloy Sandoval, the Royal Chronicler, was present in the corner after Moris’Luar requested his attendance to document various applications of the Central Command Center.

She pulled the Doom Guard into the conversation as the Quen’Talrat explained.  “Starting from the Tower of God, we’ve been testing the integrity of the network the Ke developed; Eloy has been making detailed records of the paths we’ve been able to tap into, and among the most pressing is our power grid.”

“Our power grid?”  Edmon’s deep voice wasn’t pleased.  “We’ve been able to turn on systems all over the city.  Is there damage … Or did our actions cause damage?”

“No, High Lord Edmon; it wasn’t done by your actions.” Moris’Luar generated a set of three-dimensional crystals from the Throne Room; numbers were flashing across the device, translated by her Nexus, yet they were utter gibberish to Elinor.  “This should be unbelievably complicated … A display of every Power System functioning within the Ke’s network, yet … I only have access to the Central Power Crystals.”

Meaning?  Elinor asked.

A low hiss shot through Edmon’s teeth.  “It means we’re running on reserve battery power.  How long do we have until the Central Power Crystals are drained, and how do we restart the generators that primarily keep the city charged?”

Moris’Luar stretched out his single, thick neck, glazing at various perfect fields of data that spread out in front of him.  “There are dozens of methods that should be powering the city to provide redundancy, yet everything is out of sync, and what we should be able to access is being blocked.”

“Blocked?”  Edmon was silent for a moment before his voice displayed a hint of heat.  “Blocked, as in, someone is blocking our connection to them, they’re severed, they were turned off, or someone else is stealing it?  Be specific.”

Elinor’s fingers tightened around her wrist at the implications.

“I … cannot be so sure,” Moris’Luar muttered.  “We’ve been running tests on how far we can reach, conserving as much power as we’ve been able.  However, the Green District takes … quite a lot of energy, significantly since you’ve activated every floor.

“First, I suggest we deactivate the lower levels since the humans and Ri’bot are only working on the first.”

Do it, Elinor replied without hesitation.  If we are not using it, then it’s a waste of power.

“Very well, Empress,” Moris’Luar replied, and thirty miniature levels appeared before him, blazing light; one by one, they began to dim.  “We can divert much of the power the sun shines to those areas back into the Central Power Crystals to help mitigate the cost during the day instead of alleviating the Green District’s total cost.”

Removing the levels, he then did precisely what Elinor hoped he wouldn’t; the room swapped to a view from the Tower’s peak, aimed at the blizzarding sierra.

“Unfortunately, all I’ve been able to gather is that a vast amount of energy is reportedly being redirected from every source to … somewhere in that general area.”

“Where?”  Edmon sighed.  “I’m not there to see what you’re doing.”

The mountains, Elinor growled, catching her Maids passively scanning their ever-changing environment to keep up with their surroundings.  Sari’aél’s attack seems to have caused a massive shift in our resources.  Was it an automated system?

Her eyebrows came together as the monstrous ape, nose twisted in a manner that meant no in their language.  “I’m afraid not, Empress.  From what I can gather … With Eloy’s help, going through the history, he’s been able to compile—it was around the time the Avana appeared.  There is evidence of power loss fifteen years before that, which the System suggests is a Level-3 threat to productivity.”

The information didn’t sink in for a second before what she knew of the incident returned to memory.  Avana … A giant dragon appears, Ke’s warning signals go off, and all the power is diverted to the mountains, where it’s stayed this entire time?

“It seems so,” Edmon muttered.  “The question is, was it a trigger from the dragon’s appearance, or was it hijacked by those underground shadow creatures in the Maw?  Perhaps something completely unrelated that dwells inside the volcano.”

Considering the evidence of what they saw from the outside, Elinor decided to pull the trigger.  Edmon, put together a team to protect the researchers; they’ll be going to the mountains to fix whatever is wrong.

Her emerald irises shifted to the tense gorilla, knowing what would come next.  You will be going with them, Moris.  Gather a team of specialists you believe you will need, and if you need someone else, then we’ll take a trip to the mines to get them.  I want this solved.

Moris’Luar shivered as the room returned to normal, and he returned to the floor.  “E-Empress, I am not a … I was not a brave Quen’Talrat!  I enjoyed my time in the mines, helping to maintain its operations … they were simple, but what I’ve seen here … I don’t know if I can do anything…”

Then learn, Elinor dryly said.  You know how to read the data and what all this mess means, or at least can figure it out.  You won’t be alone; after all, you are my brightest Operator.  I will send appropriate protection.

Edmon hummed.  “We’re low on combat personnel, and I would rather leave Sari’aél here with Demon still within the city; we also need her at peak condition for her upcoming fight and any other threats that might appear.”

Speaking of Demon…  Elinor’s nose twitched just thinking about the creature.  Has Tiffany discovered a way to seal him out of our lands?  I don’t care if he’s thrown out of his armor or suit or whatever it is.  I don’t want him to be able to spy on us anymore.

“I completely agree, Elinor; she’s still working on the finer details, starting in the city itself, but she wants to avoid him finding any loopholes, so it might take a bit more time.  She also needs to figure out how to make the ward penetrate the ground to a significant degree, considering he is below our feet.”

As long as she’s looking into it … He won’t be able to plan so efficiently once we blind him.  Demon knows our entire hand … Anyway, continue.

“She will find a solution … Ahem, Violet is keeping a watchful eye on the Maw, and Camellia is still recovering, which leaves Azalea as the leader.”

His tone turned curious.  “What about the two new recruits?  Giliri and Fini—the Nalveans that Imiunarus wished to be raised?”

Elinor’s lips pulled in upon thinking about the pair; Jumi’calro had a much easier time with her device after doing Tal’tamine’s.  They were very young, but she’d been able to raise them into the Low-Rare Grade of combat units given the experimentation.  Giliri was a close-ranged water-combatant, while Fini was a long-ranged water-type sniper.

It couldn’t hurt … I’d rather them not die after Imiunarus dying wish for them to live a full life.  Give them the option; I know they’ve been feeling rather bottled up, and being gawked at by the humans hasn’t eased their discomfort.

“Very well … hmm, and what of Ramuk, the Wall Crusher Elite Warrior of Amra’Cora’s Elite Unit?  He might as well be an Elite Defender, seeing as he uses his armored body as a weapon.  That makes a Legendary-Class, a Heroic, and two Low Rares.”

We are stretched thin, I suppose, and have them bring at least forty Rare Unintelligent Undead … In fact, send a hundred.  We need this to work, and if numbers will help, even a little, then I won’t be picky.  Whatever they want.  Just run it by Amra’Cora and Sari’aél since they are in their Unit; they might have other plans they’re working on.

An afterthought brushed across her mind as she watched Moris’Luar hesitantly consult with his fellow specialists on who would be needed on the expedition.  Has Garu completed his transition into his old life?

The Ri’bot she raised with Quin had been a member of the Ethereal Clan’s warriors, and she hadn’t seen much of him.

“He’s been patrolling the jungle.  Did you want me to have him join?  He is a High-Uncommon Sharpshooter; Fini is better than him.”

No, not for that mission … I want him to go spy on the Ri’bot Clans in the east.  Send him to discover what the Komath and Roxim Clans are up to; it would help to know when they plan to march on us.

“I’ll see it done.  Anything else?”

Thinking about it, Elinor smiled.  Yes … send the Argent Dawn’s new members to provide extra protection for Stateswoman Lukuroha and Aluix; put them under Castella.  They’ll be there to give aid to her City-State and, in general, bring a good image to our new Empire.  Send them enough funds for at least a few months; they do need to eat since they’re alive, and we don’t want them to starve.

“Ah, and so they’ll work for free,” Edmon mused.  “They’ll have enough gems to not be a burden on the Stateswoman.  You want the full unit sent—all twelve?”

They need to start somewhere, and this will show that I have faith in their abilities; after all, their first task is to trek across the land and set an example amongst our new allies.

“I’m sure they’ll be thrilled,” he chuckled.  “Tiffany’s already being bombarded with requests to join the order, but she is being selective.”

She turned to Theresa as the woman sent a ping, asking to interrupt.

Go ahead.

She curtsied.  “Empress, Antonietta has finished your breakfast; is it an appropriate time?”

A smile brightened her expression.  Yes, I’m looking forward to what she’s crafted for me.  Have Luisina set everything up while we finish up here.

Luisina followed Theresa’s example, bowing before smoothly walking back to return to her room, and Elinor returned to the conversation with Edmon; he was already making the preparations.

I’m sure more will come up when Emelina returns, but for now, we must understand what is happening with our mountains and the devices on them.  We don’t need to turn the valley into a winter wonderland.  Now, Moris’Luar, what has your team decided?  Do you need anyone else?

He slowly shook his head.  “I believe … We will prepare who we can, but until we see the issue, we’re walking in blind.”

Edmon swiftly interjected.  “Good.  Take an analytical team to scope out the problem, and once it is identified, return, and we’ll work on a solution.  Everything is set to go; Azalea will be leading the party.  Follow her lead, and adapt as best you can; don’t leave her side.”

Elinor observed the apes argue for another minute about who would be necessary to go; they were all quite cowardly for their bestial appearance.  Of course, that was one of the reasons they had been sentenced to the mines.

Edmon had things handled, so she returned to her room to eat the delicious and mysterious meal her cook had crafted for her; the main dish seemed to have been baked inside of a strange-looking, brown egg and what seemed like mashed potatoes and a cheesy substance as side dishes.

The egg had some kind of square rice and vegetables cooked into it with pork-like meat, and overall, it was fairly tasty.  Wanting to share a bit of it, Elinor gestured for her maids to join her, which she’d decided two days ago to make somewhat of a tradition, and these two hadn’t indulged in it yet.

Bypassing their protests, she forced them to sit and partake in the more than large enough meal for the three of them.  Elinor was seeing more and more of her emotions coming out with her Religious System’s rapid advancement; she was learning how to tap into both sides for what she needed at any given moment.

Life is looking up for my tiny Empire.  We have options, even if things are stretched a bit tight … And all of our progress is thanks to the people around me.


Maps:

Post Conquest

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