The icicles dangling from the roof’s edge dripped continuously. Today was the 15th of the 2nd of 1781, the time of snowmelt. Somewhat rarely, the sun hung visible in the sky. Morantian housewives busily hung their washing outside to dry.

Sigh, I wish we had cotton... Lorist suddenly missed the smell of freshly-dried cotton. Most of Grindia’s textiles were linen or hemp based, or made from animal fur. Winter clothing, especially, was very animal based. The 400 thousand furs brought here a few months earlier had been sold in just a fortnight.

The buyers changed everything they bought to fit their tastes. They could afford to waste material on such aesthetic alterations because the furs came cheap -- very, very cheap.

Thanks to the new clothes, the city had its busiest winter in years. Protected from the cold, everyone was out and about and busy being industrious. In winters past most would have stayed indoors for the whole three months of the season, but this time the streets were only empty in the night’s darkest hours.

This… This is the Morante I remember, thought Lorist.

He’d gotten to know the city during its two-decade golden age. It had been a merry and prosperous place, the most so on the continent. This was the true Morante in his mind, not the husk he had found when he occupied it, granted, he’d been at least partially responsible for that sorry state of affairs.

Charade’s voice danced down the garden from main gate.

“Where’s His Grace?”

“Over there enjoying the scenery.”

Clear footsteps soon rung over the gravel pathway.

“What’s up?” Lorist asked, his eyes fixed on the scenery in the valley below.

“Tigersoar and Jaeger have returned. They a few men too many. Jindoz is furious. He’s filed a complaint.”

“How many?”

“Seven... seven hundred thousand, at least...”

This was not a few! This was an entire province worth’s people! Had they at least left the dead in their graves, or had they exhumed their corpses and brought them along as well? No wonder Jindoz was mad. How on earth was he going to settle so many? Especially with the rainy season just around the corner.

“Nonsense!” Even Lorist was speechless.

How irresponsible! Did they not think at all? They had just sent everyone they came across back to the Free Union, they hadn’t, not even for one moment, stop to think whether the Free Union could actually deal with them.

“You damn well better have a solution to this!”

“Maybe we can send them to other places? We can send half to Yungechandler, it still needs people. Shadekampf wrote about working on Egret Swamp for more farmland, so they can do some farming. These have only been part of the old Union for a few years, they’ve not been indoctrinated to value freedom and equality yet, so they can still be worth something. We can leave the rest here with the new Union, they should have enough resources to deal with them.”

“What about Jindoz?”

“He’s biggest complaint is with the trouble the resettlers are causing. No one in the government is prepared to handle so many people, every penny’s already been invested in building up Callisto Hills and Einiba. We’d initially thought there’d still be a few more years of war after our battle, so we’d dissuaded them from moving there first.

“That’ no longer the case, however. They can now start thinking about developing the plains. Jindoz wants us to give them resources and supplies to help with feeding the captives. Only crying babies get candy.”

Charade’s answer made Lorist chuckle. News of the Trade Union’s invasion had spread to Morante in the 9th month the previous year and caused quite a bit of chaos. The last couple of years of ill-governance had not errased two centuries of good rule. Many people still felt some loyalty towards the Trade Union and decried the foundation of the Free Union a betrayal of the founding ideals and everyone who supported the new government a traitor.

No one, however, regardless of which side they took, was happy to see Lorist’s forces leave. When they returned triumphant, though, they returned to two halves of the city ecstatic with cheer, and the remaining third mourning the death of the continent’s only moral country.

This turn of events was most surprising. They’d started out their time of tenure in the city as the devil himself. As demons and vile monsters from the underworld who drenched the city in blood and wanted nothing but to slaughter everything and everyone within its walls, but had now become its liberators, angels descended from heaven to protect, guard, and benevolently watch over the people like a big brother or doting uncle. A few young maidens had even begun husband hunting near the camps.

Before the war, Lorist and his commanders had played a major part in forming the new government. But the execution of its policies was sluggish. Though the city market had returned to the right path, the people were still hesitant to invest their savings for fear of something bringing it down again.

The government pushed many policies and prepared to invest in the Callisto’s development, but the city’s residents had responded with lackluster enthusiasm. With the battle now over, however, and their future bright and secure, people were beginning to move.

It was only natural for Jindoz to complain. The raids of the Norton forces that produced so many refugees only added to the Free Union’s list of troubles. The government had no leeway to deal with the captives, neither in manpower nor in finances.

“How much wealth did Freiyar and Loze plunder?” asked Lorist.

“The five border provinces have been cleaned out. Ten million gold in all, not including the portion given to Whitelion or perishables. Spiel was planning to auction those things off in the city...”

Lorist shook his head.

“Take charge of settling the people in once the rainy season ends. You can pick out a few promising and capable once and send them to Yungechandler, but the rest stay. Take the supplies necessary from our spoils. The Free Union doesn’t have the foundation we do, it cannot settle so many people on its own. Use Tigersoar and Jaeger as labor; they have to clean up their mess themselves. Leave Spiel in charge of the rest of the supplies.”

“Understood.”

“I will send Howard to help you.”

“Thank you, Your Grace,” said Charade, relieved.

If he had had to deal with all 700 thousand captives himself, he’d have collapsed from exhaustion. They were nothing like the people he’d dealt with back north. They had no respect for his lord’s forces.

The rest of the year passed peacefully. The Trade Union focused its efforts on licking its wounds and feeling sorry for itself. No big factions went to war either. Peace reigned on Grindia. Peace, however, did not mean quiet. Falik Plains was like a termite mound. It teamed chaotically. Loze finally regretted going overboard. His head was in constant pain these days, ever since he had received the order to move some of the captives to Yungechandler. He tried many excuses to get out of the responsibility, all of which failed. But he finally brought up wanting to break through to become a blademaster, at which Lorist allowed him to recuse himself, but demanded he break through before he show his face again. His punishment this passed to Messen and Dulles.

Sylvia wrote to Lorist in the 7th month to inform him of Fennazali successful birth of a girl.  Sylvia and Daisy were due in three more months as well. She even demanded Lorist go back and join her for the birth.

Auguslo wrote Lorist soon after. He congratulated Lorist on his victory about a year earlier and asked about the possibility of getting some cannons for his army. Lorist wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. Talk about a belated congratulations, but that was the limitations of this world’s technology. News traveled slowly here, even letters meant for a single destination took months to travel between two points with a significant portion of the continent between them.

Even travel by sea, currently the fastest was to go, took months to cover some of the longer routes. A trip from Morante to Northsea was two months long, for example.

Lorist would have none of the king’s fancy, however. He said in as few words as he could, that it was impossible. The guns were just hunks of iron on their own. They needed gunpowder to propel their projectiles, and this one battle alone had used up all the gunpowder Lorist had produced over several years. He made sure to hint that there was no point, either, since it was now only a matter of time until the Trade Union surrendered.

“Any news from Duke Peterson?” Lorist asked as he handed the letter to the king’s messenger.

Jinolio shook his head.

“No. We’ve had no contact since he was released. We should not have let him go.”

“Whatever. I’ll wait another month. If we don’t get an answer by then, we’ll head home. We can let things be as they are for now. No rush.”