Nox Navi, Chief of the Lamplighters of the GreensBridge Mages Guild, sat in the Room of Seeing, sometimes called the Viewing Room. He sat at the circular stone table, positioned in the centre of the room, with the other Chiefs of the Arcanium, the Commander of the Wardens, the Guild Secretary and the Magus of the GreensBridge Mages Guild. It was not his favourite place to be, or more to the point he was very uncomfortable being the most junior of the Arcanium mages present. As well, he was the least powerful of the mages in attendance, as had been the case for the past seven years, since he had taken on the role of Chief Lamplighter.
The fact that the Lamplighters were the most dismissed and underappreciated of the Arcanium affiliations was both an annoyance and a blessing. His peers did not expect much from him, partially because no one expected much more than willing service from the Lamplighters, but also because of his fairly junior standing within the guild generally. Junior in years of service, age and power. The downside of being in this room was that it was impossible to tell a lie or even dissemble without everyone else in the room knowing.
This was the eighth time he had attended one of these meetings, the first emergency meeting, since he had become head of the Lamplighters. In fact, this was the first emergency meeting that more than half the members had attended, except for the Secretary, the Chief Archivist and the Magus. All three had been in at the last emergency meeting, nearly three hundred years ago, for nearly the exact same reason as today’s meeting had been called: the threat of Tannican invasion. For the Magus though, this sort of thing was nothing new. According to the records this was the nine hundredth and seventy-eighth meeting the Magus had been present for, of which, five hundred and thirty-one of them had been as Magus. Previously he had been the Chief Enchanter.
As usual they started with old business, specifically; Magus Alibar of Maldorn and his apparent death. The existence of potions of magery that would allow even the non-gifted to cast as a natural mage and reputedly increased a mages natural ability to do so. Jander Probancruq the Third, renegade mage, using earth magic to build a city in the Kaffern Hills. The shortage of Warders, which, for the first time in all the meetings he had attended, everyone thought the matter was important enough to do something about. Lastly, the Arcanium Artifacts, an unresolved point of business for well over three hundred years now and further compounded by the recent acquisition of over one thousand artifacts seized from the various Fingures operations that had been taken down over the past winter.
Then they moved onto new business. Starting with the pending general strike about to be undertaken by the Lamplighters, though most people present were inclined to call for an injunction, Nox had been happy to remind them that the Charter of Guilds guaranteed the right to strike. The next order of business dealt with the possibility of infiltrators within the Arcanium, with loyalties to the Fingures family. Nox had little to say on that topic, but had suggested that the lack of personnel within the Warders was likely as important a factor as the possibility of infiltrators. This was followed by the soon to take place reclamation of the Tannican District; the main operation would be handled by the Count, but the Warders and the Lamplighter would be assisting in the operation. This lead directly to the last, most important, order of business and the reason why the emergency meeting had been called, the coming Tannican invasion.
To dispel any doubts that the members may have had about this topic, the Magus had brought up images on the three western walls of the octagonal room, showing three different Tannican armies that would soon threaten GreensBridge. From the southwest and west were images of armies on the move, both under five hundred yat away with no major cities, nor opposing armies, between them and GreensBridge. The scene on the northwest wall showed a Tannican army laying siege to a large town eighty yat west of Brisken. Brisken was the next major city north of GreensBridge on the western shore of the Easter Sister River, slightly over four hundred yat upriver.
Seeing those three armies so close to the city, coupled with the implications that if Brisken fell trade from the north would drop to a trickle and likely cut Swampdon off from the rest of the unoccupied freeholds, left the leadership of the Arcanium in a sober mood.
Commander Whigem Ferndoc only darkened the mood with his analysis. He estimated that there were between six thousand and eight thousand experienced soldiers that could be on GreensBridge’s doorstep by early summer, certainly by summers end. These soldiers, unlike the men and women in the GreensBridge forces, were veterans of multiple recent campaigns. In addition to what they were looking at, each of those forces typically would field scouting elements as well as slavers, adding upwards of another fifteen hundred troops to the count. As well, each army would have a cadre of priests from the Order of Illumination, though it was well known among those gathered that said priests were actually mages. Historically speaking there would be around fifty mages per army, those mages commanded their own forces, elite church soldiers with fanatical loyalty to the priests, the church and the Empress.
“Realistically, given the fact that the GreensBridge Mages Guild is a known factor to them, then we should expect additional mages beyond the anticipated numbers. As well, we are more than likely going to be facing some of Tannicas most formidable mages.” Chief Ferndoc concluded with a grim expression and a tug on the left side of his mustache.
“We faced similar numbers during the last imperial expansion and that became a non-event when the Emperor called a halt to the advance. Do we have any reason to believe that something similar won’t happen again?” the Chief Archivist asked.
Nox gave a derisive snort, “It does not matter if we had good evidence to back such a speculation. The issue is their proximity and the potential threat they represent. We have to be prepared to defend the city and ideally be able to defeat these armies before they gain a hold on the Marches.”
The Chief Enchanter asked, “Do we know what numbers are available for our defense?”
Chief Ferndoc answered, “As of last autumn, the city guard stood at just under five thousand, with another three thousand that could be called up from reserves, typically retired personnel. While that sounds impressive, keep in mind that the guard are generally peace keepers, not professional soldiers. Additionally, each of the Marches has near one thousand cavalry and a similar number of infantry, skirmishers and bowmen. So that would be around four thousand professionally trained soldiers and eight thousand city guard. The ongoing conscription should see upwards of ten thousand more people trained by mid to late summer.”
“Only ten thousand? I thought the conscription was for one in five able-bodied persons to be trained. When I do the math, that should be closer to two hundred thousand, not ten thousand.” The Chief Enchanter was clearly not militarily minded.
“Reserve and militia forces in the city and the two Marches should expand to upwards of one hundred thousand by summer’s end. Professional soldiers are harder to train and I consider ten thousand by this summer to be very optimistic of the Count, while an additional twenty thousand for the following summer is more reasonable.”
“Your math is still short some seventy thousand.”
Nox was growing tired of the enchanter’s ignorance, “That many and more will be needed just to support the soldiers; cooks, medics, engineers, scribes and labourers. Perhaps we can focus on what to do with what we have instead of dwelling on the forces we don’t yet have.”
The enchanter gave him a dark look from across the table, thankfully the Magus spoke up then, “Nox is correct. The primary concern being the integration of Warders with certain regular forces within the Marches. Chief Ferndoc?”
“Yes, Magus. I’ll be sending Argis Greenman to liaison with the Count on behalf of the Arcanium. Next eight-day’s actions to reclaim the Tannican District should give us a better idea of how best to go about that. It should also be noted, due to the shortage of Warders, we will be relying on Lamplighter to fill some of the gaps. Even after the new recruitment initiatives are in place, this will likely remain the case for the foreseeable future.”
The Magus gave a considering nod, looked around the table, holding eye contact with each member briefly, “It saddens me that I cannot bring my years of experience to any useful advice on this topic. During the last expansion period of the Tannican Empire, three hundred years ago, the city faced the threat of imminent invasion. We’ve not been threatened from anyone else since the later days of the Second Imperial Period, I was young when the decline of the Second Empire was nearly done. There should be records from two to three thousand years ago regarding the tactics and the strategies used at the time. As well we have more recent reports of what the Tannicans have done to places over the past few years, and again from three hundred years ago. Keep in mind though that advances in alchemy and metallurgy have greatly changed the way warfare has been conducted over the last century, especially so with the Maldorn. Therein we may find some advantage.”
The Chief Archivist looked around the room, adjusting his spectacles a bit as he did so, “For any member of the Arcanium willing to help, I have already gathered much of the materials the Magus has suggested. Both here in the Red Tower and in the library. Of course a substantial amount of the material is in Tannican, the more modern form as well as TIB, what most people call Ancient Tannican. Perhaps the Lamplighters could free up anyone they have who understands either dialect.” He held up a hand to Nox, asking a for a moment before response, and continued. “I also had another suggestion regarding the Arcanium’s Armoury. We have hundreds of lesser artifacts, enchanted arms and armour that could be distributed, as well, any of the items that would help our forces defend against mind-magic. I’d suggest a distribution of such to our best soldiers, while many of the defensive artifacts would work well in the hands of many of our less powerful mages. Again, I suggest using the Lamplighters, to be dispersed with the better soldiers, giving us a formidable force that we could deploy in short order to the Western March.”
Nox noted that both the Chief Enchanter and Commander of the Warders had objections to this suggestion, both held back and let Nox address the primary issue. Nox looked from the Chief Archivist to the Magus, then said, “I think they are good suggestions. The problem remains however that the Lamplighters, for the most part, are not soldiers. If I send fifty to a hundred to action with the suggested special unit and another fifty to a hundred to help read the Tannican materials, as well as the two hundred the Warders are already asking for, that’s nearly a third of the active Lamplighters. That leaves me between eight hundred to one thousand people to handle all the usual concerns. Of course there is the strike as well, which has already been ratified and will happen to some extent, regardless of what we do at this point.”
Nox sat back. Judging by the expressions on most of their faces, he expected that this emergency meeting of the Arcanium leadership was going to drag on for most of the day.