Mira elbowed him in the ribs sharply, ending his reverie.
"Trouble," she said and pointed just ahead on the road.
The coast road curved along the top of a cliff here, with a low slope to the left. Coming sliding down the slope - it was wrong to call it a hill anyone other than the flatness of the Brass Coast - were three figures. A man, a woman, and a boy. They looked like people with nothing more in the world than their shabby clothes. The boy's dirty face was streaked with tears.
Rego clucked, and shook the reins, urging the oxen to move faster. Not fast enough.
The man caught the harness of the lead ox, tugging sharply. The beast lowed angrily, but stopped moving. There was some shouting from behind, as Larena was forced to bring her own wagon to a halt on the narrow road.
"Please, sir. Help us. Please. The soldiers are right behind us. We need your help. Please."
The man tugged again on the harness, froth in the corner of his mouth. He was unwashed, stinking of sweat, and sour desperation, grasping a battered wooden poorly-dyed red medallion with his other hand. He tried to hold Rego's gaze but the Freeborn drover looked away.
"Renegade," said Mira. She pulled her bhuj from behind the seat and pointed it at the man. "Bandit."
"No," said the woman. She had one hand protectively on the shoulder of the boy - her boy? - and held a swaddled baby against her chest. "No we aren't bandits. My husband is not a bandit, my son is not a bandit, my ..."
Mira cut her off with a sharp gesture, spitting on the ground. She jumped down to the side of the wagon and approached the man still holding the ox harness. She raised her bhuj threateningly, and the man blanched and flicned but did not let go.
"You're heretics and blasphemers. Haters. Anarchists. You'll find no help here. Let go of the ox or so help me I'll spit you where you stand. Bandit."
The man looked to his wife, tightened his grip for a moment, opened his mouth to argue, saw the honesty in Mira's eyes and slowly dropped his arm. The ox made a low rumbling noise in its throat.
"Please," he said again. His voice was empty, the passion gone. He didn't look at Mira or Rego. "At least take the children. The templars will show them no mercy."
Rego heard it then. The shouts, the sound of steel. Horns. Distant but drawing closer. The black clouds of smoke to the west that he and the rest of the caravan had been resolutely ignoring all morning intruded suddenly on his perception.
"They're not our problem," said Mira but Rego knew her well enough to hear the first glimmer of uncertainty in her voice. He made a decision.
"No, Mira. No." he said quietly. He pulled the curtain leading into the back of the wagon aside, met the gaze of the woman. "Quickly" he said. The man made to move but Rego shook his head. "Only the children, I'm sorry. We can't help you."
Mira shot him a questioning glance but said nothing. There was a brief exchange between the two adults and the boy. Argument, tears. It was... Rego looked out across the sea trying to ignore it. Then there was a scrambling, the boy carrying the babe in arms up onto the wagonbed, crouching down behind the curtain.
"Don't forget us." The woman, talking to the boy.
Then the wagons were moving again. The man and the woman dwindling away on the side of the road as the sounds of fighting drew closer.
As soon as they were out of sight, Rego shifted the reins to one hand, twisting in his seat. He grabbed the boy by the shoulder, fumbled for a moment, tugged. The amulet came loose. The boy cried out but Rego ignore it. He looked at the little disc of wood in his hand, weighed it for a moment, and then hurled it with all his might, It arced in the air for a moment then disappeared over the cliff.
"My papa..." the boy started crying.
"Your papa is dead," said Rego. The words were cruel but there was no anger or hate in his voice just a deep sadness. "So is your mama. Now you are my nephew who has come to live with me because there are too many mouths to feed on the farm. What is your name?"
"Robert." the boy snuffled.
"Now you are Robert i Kalmar i Guerra. Remember that and you might just survive. Now shut up, there are miles to go before Bramar."
They rode in silence for a few minutes.
"I Kalmar i Guerra?" Mira began in a quiet, slightly angry voice.
Rego was having none of it.
"One drover adopting some children is the least crime that's going on in Feroz right now, Mira." he said, and she subsided. She wasn't happy but she did not argue.The wagon continued to wend its way north, ignoring the thickening clouds of smoke behind them.
I speak of the Iron Confederacy renegades who have recently crossed our borders, refused to integrate into our culture and instead taken up banditry in the Lasambrian hills. I have met similar individuals and wish to make it know that as they currently are they are barbarians and heretics twisted by the false Virtues of Hatred and Freedom. We should hold no reticence in raising arms against them to defend our own livelihoods.Constanza i Kalamar i Guerra, Winter 381YE, Freeborn assembly, upheld with a Greater Majority 58-0
After the Autumn Equinox 381YE, a sizeable band of Suranni rebels claiming to be escaped slaves crossed the border from Kalino into Feroz. After establishing some makeshift camps, they began a campaign of banditry against the Duke Kalino and the rest of the Iron Confederacy, using their base of operations within the Empire to avoid retaliation.
The Empire's response was swift. The Imperial Senate voiced their support for Zadkiel de Coeurdefer, the Ambassador to the Iron Confederacy, in inviting the Duke of Kalino to send his troops over the border to deal with the rebels. At the same time the Freeborn National assembly endorsed a clear denunciation of the rebel slaves raised as a statement of principle by Constanza i Kalamar i Guerra.
A fortnight after the Winter Solstice, five thousand of the Duke Kalino's soldiers crossed the border from the Iron Confederacy into Feroz and destroyed the rebel camps there.
End of the Revolution
I respectfully disagree with your conclusions. I do agree that a good argument can be made that we are making a hostile act against the Iron Confederacy rebels at the point we allow the Iron Confederacy to come onto imperial lands to crush them. But I don't think an explicit declaration of war would have been appropriate, as the rebels are not being treated as barbarians as far as imperial citizens are concerned (so it is not treason for individual citizens to have helped rebels who escaped the clutches of the Iron Confederacy, for example).
As it is within the power of the senate to declare the rebels as barbarians I see no problem with this motion facilitating what amounts to a specific and more limited form of warfare.Further, the senate have not authorised slavery as far as I can see. My reading is that they expect the Iron Confederacy to kill most of the rebels and take the rest back to their lands as prisoners, just as the Empire would. I do not accept the argument that the rebel survivors are enslaved in Imperial territory - at that point they are just prisoners of war. Once they are back in Iron Confederacy lands of course they may be enslaved, tortured, imprisoned or killed, but I do not believe that that is a constitutional issue.Excerpt from a letter, Chief Magistrate Stanislav Karkovich
Claiming authorization from the Imperial Ambassador to the Iron Confederacy, the Suranni troops waste no time in eradicating the slave revolutionaries. Any who try to fight back are killed, hung from trees along the border, their bodies left for the crows. The remainder are rounded up, chained, and transported back across the border to resume their former lives as slaves in the mines and fields of the Duke Kalino. Absolutely no mercy or quarter is offered, and the revolutionaries are categorically no match for the Suranni soldiers.
The ringleader, the woman calling herself Ahraz Reborn, is subjected to a particularly cruel punishment. With chains bound at her wrists and ankles she is literally torn apart by four squadrons of Suranni templars, the remains then burnt and the ground where she died salted. A few eyewitnesses, horrified by the treatment the woman receives, are cautioned that this is a traditional form of execution for treacherous slaves and advised to be on their way.
Not all of the rebels are captured or killed; a small number flee north into Feroz. They receive neither succour nor protection from the Freeborn citizens who believe them to be cultists, heretics, and blasphemers. Some few who attempt to take refuge among the Freeborn are handed over to the Iron Confederacy where they meet the same fates as the rest of the revolutionaries - summary execution, or marched in chains back to the Confederacy.
A small number of the revolutionaries have managed to avoid the Suranni soldiers and have neither been executed nor returned to slavery. Some of them were away from the camps when the attack began, while others were able to escape in the confusion and get far enough away that they were not later recaptured. It is believed that a small handful may have been granted sanctuary perhaps in response to the judgement of the Assembly of the Nine. The Suranni soldiers are actively searching for any such escapees, eager to finish the job.
The Assembly of Nine believe that the refugees in Feroz who can be brought to The Way, should so be; and should be offered succour within the Empire.Viviane de Couerdefer , Winter 381YE, Assembly of the Nine, upheld with a Greater Majority 6-0
The Duke's army is still in Feroz. The soldiers are camped in Fontargenta, waiting for new orders from the south. It is assumed that it will return to Kalino after the last few revolutionaries have been tracked down and captured.
Either way, the short lived slave rebellion is at an end. The Duke of Kalino is reportedly delighted, and has informed the Empire of his intention to send a small delegation to Anvil to formally thank the Ambassador for his swift action in approving military intervention. The delegation is expected to arrive on Friday evening at the Spring Equinox summit.