“It’s sad, isn’t it?” said Lloyd, looking out over the city of Arcadia from the portico of his hotel on the Citrine Hill. “Arcadia used to be the shining light of the continent, and war has all but snuffed it out.”

Sure enough, the wide boulevards were all but empty and lit only by moonlight thanks to blackout restrictions. The grand art noveau statuary and buildings that the government had erected during the last decades’ prosperity were braced with sandbags and wood against artillery strikes and bombs. The official position of Lloyd’s employer, the city of Naraka and its associated state, was that Arcadia was rotting from the inside out through decadence and immorality.

From Lloyd’s point of view, it had already happened.

Turning back to his informant, Lloyd placed a sack of Arcadian gold coins on the table. “What have you brought me?”

Callaghan, the informant, gestured at the paper. “A complete map of the city’s defenses as prepared for the Arcadian General Staff. As you can see, it consists of three concentric trench lines about five kilometers apart with fortresses located at strong points in each line.”

Lloyd looked it over. “How many troops?”

“About 100,000, including artillery, transport, and noncombatants.”


Callaghan laid down another sheet of paper. “That is their greatest advantage. There aren’t enough defenders to fully man the lines, but they are well-supplied. Each battalion has one heavy and two light machine gun companies, and there are thousands of light mortars, submachine guns, and the like being given to anyone who can bear arms. They have enough gas masks that gas shells will be used by artillery and by their landships. This line here might mean that the Arcadian Air Corps is preparing to use gas bombs as well, but I can’t be sure.”

Lloyd nodded. “Any idea how many landships, how many biplanes?”

“Most of them were lost with the collapse of the Heimstadt front. No more than a handful of each, mostly older types. The plan is to use the landships as mobile fortresses and the planes as interceptors and bombers–they are too old and slow for anything else.”

“You’ll be well-rewarded even beyond this when the time comes,” said Lloyd, spilling the coins onto the table. He cast his gaze back to the moonlit streets of Arcadia, soon to be re-lit with the explosions from artillery and bombs. “It’ll all be for the best, you’ll see. A stronger Arcadia will emerge from the fires like a phoenix.”

“If you say so.”

“It has to,” Lloyd murmured, nervously stroking his beard. “It has to.”

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