"If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles."

1780 was destined to be a tumultuous year. Senbaud’s flotilla was attacked on the 3rd of the 4th on their way back from Jigda. Their attackers were a pirate fleet led by what was left of Chikdor’s ships. They attacked under the cover of night, sneaking up to the fleet and setting fire to as many ships as they could.

Only forty ships were left by sunrise. The remaining 50 were sunk or sinking. Most of the ships were now also under-manned. Senbaud slammed his head so hard against the nearest mast he nearly cracked his skull. He chased down the fleet and sunk every ship, then sailed up and down the coast of Chikdor’s domain and flattened every building, town, and city he could find, as well as every ship, fisher, merchant or driftwood, flying their flag.

His cannons were still bellowing fire over the ocean while Morant held the signing ceremony. They signed their declaration of independence, thus officially establishing the Free Union. The day was filled with pomp and circumstance, the government made a point of holding a lavish parade to show of their military and declared the day ‘Declaration Day’.

They claimed Morante, Falik Plains and all its cities and settlements, Callisto Hills and all its settlements, and Einiba as their territory. Their first act as an established country was to extend formal invitations to all foreign nations, the Trade Union excluded, to come trade freely in their territory, especially Morante. The government declared that they’d be a representative parliamentary democracy. The citizens could vote and choose representatives for a national parliament, called the Council, which would make the laws and appoint ministers and a premier who would govern the country.

Jindoz was the current premier. He used his inaugural speech to declare that the Free Union would stand firmly alongside Andinaq. Andinaq’s king had also guaranteed the Union’s independence. Morante’s merchants were free to travel to the kingdom and to trade. As long as they respected the regulations, they would be welcome.

The new trading guilds rejoiced at the news. Now they could expand northward. They knew the kingdom had been ravaged by war, but it was still a massive market and would only grow in the coming years.

Word of the Free Union’s founding soon spread to the Trade Union. Duke, and President of Twinhead Dragon, Cobleit made an angry statement about it, declaring the Free Union traitors, along a slur of other swears.
The Alliance refused to acknowledge the Free Union, and the Trade Union put out a bounty on everyone in the upper echelon’s of the Free Union’s government. Jindoz, as the head of government and the nation, had the highest bounty: 100 thousand gold Fordes. Lorist had no choice but to make Reidy his bodyguard.

The Free Union didn’t let the Trade Union’s accusations go unanswered. They scrutinized Duke Cobleit’s arguments in their new newspaper, the Daily Liberty. Their main argument was that their forefathers sacrificed themselves so they could live freely, as equals, not as subjects under nobles, even if said nobles were from the Trade Union.

The Trade Union, in their estimation, was not what its founders desired it to be. It had become a tyrannical, imperial force that had even become exactly what the founders had rebelled against: an aristocracy.  The Free Union, they argued, were not the traitors. They were the ones restoring the ideals, the government, the country the founders had dreamt of when they first founded the Union. The Trade Union, instead, were the traitors.

Lorist joined in the response and declared that he’d kill every one of the guild-presidents-now-nobles and their families if any of the Free Union’s officials were assassinated. This was the first time any swordsaint had proactively declared their support for a nation, their own or otherwise. It shocked the entire Alliance.

Cobleit shot back that the Union was not like Teribo. The traitors would be captured during the upcoming war, not their killing. They were to be tried and executed properly for their treason. He also hinted at Lorist that making such a bold, proactive, public declaration was unfitting of a swordsaint, individuals who were supposed to be aloof to worldly concerns and only acted to protect their own country, and suggested he should reconsider his shameful actions.

Lorist responded in the Daily Liberty’s next issue. He declared that he was above sophistry. He had made his declaration to protect the integrity of the Union’s dream, which was rightly inherited by the Free Union after the Trade Union betrayed its founders’ ideals, and that he would stand by his oath.

He soon after sent his three women home, each finally pregnant.

A few days after their departure, Tarkel reported the windstorm swordsaint had completed his recovery. Surprisingly, he’d refused to take the field for the Trade Union, however. One of Tarkel’s top informers had told him the swordsaint had turned down their offers and made demands they could not meet.  It took several more months for them to finally come to an agreement and the windstorm swordsaint issued a challenge to Lorist. He demanded they fight on the 10th of the 10th.

The date surprised Lorist. Was the Union not anxious to chase him and his people out of their ancestral homeland?  Why set the date so far in the future?

Charade believed it was to give the swordsaint more time to get back into shape. Lorist didn’t really buy it.

Everything became clear, however, when the Trade Union mobilized in the middle of the 8th month. The enemy marched on the plains and Bluwek. They had the advantage of numbers, 300 thousand stood against just 190 thousand, Free Union included.

“Their legions are 48 thousand strong each. Each of the seven guilds have sent their strongest forces, and the eighth is made up mostly of Invincible’s survivors,” Yuriy reported, “They’ve split their army in two. And are moving in two groups five kilometers apart. They’ve been countering our scouts quite effectively so I’m afraid I don’t have anymore details than that.”

“They’ve been moving very slowly and deliberately. We won’t be able to catch them off guard. They also have a large contingent of siege equipment.”

“We do not have the numbers to face them on the field, so it’d be best to hunker down in Bluwek.” Loze suggested, “We can use the new Union’s divisions to harass them as they move and whittle away their numbers. We can strike once they’re at their weakest and do what damage we can.”

It was a decent idea. But Lorist could not agree. He could not fight another protracted war. He needed a decisive victory that would completely incapacitate the old Union.

“No. We must face them on the field of battle. We must win a decisive victory and end this in one fell swoop. We must wipe their force off the map so we can return home and leave everything to the new Union.”

“But, Your Grace, we do not have the numbers to face them on the field. They outnumber us at every level save that of swordsaint,” Charade interjected.

“We cannot let the thought of defenses bog us down. We must focus solely on attack. The Ragebear Knights will arrive in a few days. They bring with them 500 bronze cannons. We will use them alongside our ballistae to end this swiftly. They will all die before they reach our lines. Then, when they break, we will run them down like the dogs they are!”

The knights cheered.

“Freiyar, Josk, Yuriy, Waxima, the four of you will move with Jaeger and harass the enemy. Intercept their scouts and informants, but don’t face the main force. Strike quickly and precisely only if you can be certain of a quick and safe retreat. Understood?”

“Yes, Your Grace.”

“Els, Ovidis, take the sentry legion to Bluwek. Charade, tell Jindoz to mobilize his forces to Bluwek as well, the cavalry division in Callisto too. We don’t need them for the main battle, but they should gain some experience fighting against the old Union, they’ll have to do it on their own in the future, after all.”

“Yes, Your Grace.”

“Tigersoar will stay with me for the time being. We’ll escort the Ragebear knights and the cannons to the front.”