11-4: The Stuff of Ideals

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The Stuff of Ideals
Episode 11
Previous 11-3 (Story)

What is sought is but a peaceful land that allows survival.
Victorian Palace
Londinium Manor Indoor
Londinium Manor Garden
The Sarkaz and the dukes are on the verge of full-blown war. The Self-Salvation Corps and Rhodes Island make plans to gain intel on Sarkaz supply lines. Allerdale proposes obtaining the Realmblade of the Victorian Empire, together with Siege.
<Background 1>
The Year 1098
1:03 P.M. \ Overcast
Palace of Westhaleg, Londinium
Even before Londinium was a nomadic city, the Palace of Westhaleg stood here.
Its name was originally plain Westhaleg. The Draco royal family convened its ministers here in this palace, and used their beloved gold and ruby to decorate the outer walls.
Said decorations went up in flames during the Great Fire three hundred years ago. Still, the building's skeleton remained, and it bore witness to the first Aslan king's coronation.
Thereafter, Westhaleg formally became the Palace of Westhaleg, to commemorate the age of peace and prosperity founded by the Draco and Aslan kings in joint.
Twenty-six years ago, the last Aslan king was captured in the same place by Parliament's standing forces.
And now, this is no longer the building where the Victorian Parliament assembles.
Sat at the conference table is but one person, not Draco, nor Aslan, but Sarkaz.
[Theresis sits on the conference table...]
Theresis ......
[...as messages come in from the communication terminal.]
Voice on the Terminal ...still no sign of movement from the Duke of Gododdin... ever since the Viscount's life was attempted, our activity in the demesne has been greatly restricted...
...lavish salons held every night at the Duke of Normandy's residence, but the flow of raw steel is extremely suspect, and all intelligence personnel have turned up empty-handed...
...any sound from Dublinn is drowned out by the Duke of Wellington's high-speed battleships roaring. We've as of yet been unable to penetrate into the Iron Duke's duchy, but no other duke would be able to impede the veteran, without a doubt.
...the Marquess and co. have finally given up on the Duke of Stafford's inheritance... the Duke of Caster admitted envoys and gifts on New Year's Eve...
...activity from all dukes has been growing increasingly frequent since last winter. It may be a sign they're about to "reach a conclusion." Preparations for Londinium remain at the same pace as... hold for a moment, sorry.
What? You're sure... Leithanien? Three days ago? This is too slow! ...Yes, it looks like they've finally found results after their diplomatic peacemaking...
Er. New cipher's just been decoded. It's word from the frontline, General. Yes, I need to... notify you ASAP...
Three days ago, the Empresses' Voice grandiloquently left the Duke of Windermere's demesne... er...
(Gulps) We didn't discover contact between the two sides in time, but, just today...
A city... a fortress changed course, and is sailing straight for Londinium. The one that's been nearest us over the past two years... er...
It's pushing directly from Leithanien into the Victorian border, nearing the ravine. Er, yes, it's the Kurfürst's archenemy... Duke Windermere's army.
Duke Windermere announces internationally... this is to "avoid Catastrophe."
Silence once again hangs over the hall. But at this moment, with his eyes shut tight, Theresis sees the thick fog outside of Londinium.
Once it clears, the battle will come, right on schedule.
Footsteps break through Theresis's train of thought.
He is forced to open his eyes.
[Theresis sees Theresa beside him.]
??? Ther...
It's you.
Theresa Were you asleep?
Theresis ...Perhaps.
The Victorian dukes are a cunning lot. They meticulously sift through every word of intel that flows into Londinium, making the Sarkaz lose their heads.
The advantage isn't ours in this gamble. Yet neither have we been at a disadvantage.
Theresa The Military Commission's business is always endless. Such is our history's fragility... even a single comment on a piece of information awry would suffice to forever damn Kazdel.
But even now... now as we stand in Londinium, things have hardly changed much. You're still as weary as ever.
Theresis No, one thing has changed.
You're here.
Theresa ...Ah.
Yes, I am.
Theresis The breadth of possibilities has crossed my mind, if you were to take my head. Perhaps you would make a much cleaner job of it than I.
Theresa You would never think that way yourself. That was a hypothetical put forth by Manfred.
Theresis I am always in need of some differing voices.
Theresa What's on your mind now?
Theresis A dream.
Theresa Oh?
Theresis I saw us still in Londinium, yet unarmed.
Clouds enveloping this city, black stones growing everywhere, and the Sarkaz... the Sarkaz there in the way, between Catastrophe and the crowd.
Once the disaster lifted, Londinium's city gates were wide open to us, and the Victorians stood flanking the streets, cheering and welcoming us in.
We entered this palace, and the one sat on the throne no longer feared the black stones that grew from us, and took our hands.
He called the Sarkaz–
Theresa It sounds unfathomable.
Theresis There was more.
I saw Vampire, Nachzehrer and Wendigo set foot together into reaches more northern than even Ursus, casting fragments of strange monsters back unto the frigid sky.
And I saw Banshee and Damazti venture to parts more southern than even Iberia, walls against the ocean's dissent within the boundless water.
Countless Sarkaz giving their lives for this land–
And Aslan, Draco, Feline, Caprinae, Liberi... stood together with them.
Theresa Stood together?
Theresis Yes. The Sarkaz were no longer the nomads excluded. The land embraced us, and we had roots anew.
Theresa This dream...
Theresis This dream was not mine.
This scenario all originates from what you once described to me... a future the Sarkaz could have.
Theresa I remember.
But you told me, then, that my ideals were too distant, that it was not only our enemies who could never comprehend me, but neither could the Sarkaz.
A myriad years of grievances became our weapons one and all, and all imposed upon me.
You also told me that the flames of war within the Sarkaz would tear them apart before I led them to that future, that was more likely in all respects.
Theresis But you begrudge giving up any possibility, even if it may be but a nascent spark.
Theresa ......
Theresis You've also said...
That this world once was only the Sarkaz's. That the Ancients and Elders wrested our homeland from our forebears' hands.
Their souls in death still murmur the Sankta's betrayal, how the Royal Court withers like autumn leaves, how our bloodline is lost in howls of grief, how ridiculous the sinners are in forgetting history, and how Kazdel's ruins strew all across Terra.
And then, they–cry out–
–"The Sarkaz have invaded our homeland."
Theresa ......
Theresis So better that the Sarkaz believe in the fight. The fight can herd our destinies together as one. Better that than...
This isn't fair. To rule is a method of coexistence too.
Theresa Terra will perish by its own hand before it confronts those time-old questions.
Theresis But our homeland would be more magnificent than the many of the Seaborn. Our hexcrafters would hold the northern menace at bay. Our knowledge, all-encompassing, would dispel Originium, end the Catastrophes...
Before all that, the Sarkaz must reach an answer.
Theresa You're right... they must.
Theresis This is a conversation we've had countless times, but now, you can hear their voices clearly. You can make real contact with their ancient souls' tendrils. So tell me, Theresa–
–Did this myriad of years of all the Teekaz souls that lived and breathed, and passed from life to the other shore in death–did they ever receive a momentary respite?
Theresa ......
I've already failed, Theresis.
Theresis Because you're a move behind.
Theresa Because at this moment, it is we that stand here.
Theresis Here...
Tell me, Theresa.
When you stand atop The Shard and look at this city, what is it you see?
Theresa That Victoria is a nation lush with ingenuity.
Theresis Without a doubt. In a few short centuries, they've built nomadic cities, withstood Catastrophe, even attempted to control the storm–
Not to mention those knights of white steam. The valiance of those steel suits of armor that ventured into Kazdel, two hundred years ago, falls far short of that which I saw in the years to follow.
Theresa Ah... perhaps it's the fault of our unique blood, for granting so many of us lives far too long.
So long that in the intervals between one war and the next, we lift our heads, only to realize that, excepting the Sarkaz, everyone is progressing on.
Theresis No, it's nothing to do with the length of an individual's life.
They have the opportunity to progress, simply because in the past they monopolized the freedom to choose between peace and war.
Theresa, when I look at Londinium, I see the number of times this nation has gone wrong.
The Victorians scorn how primitive the Sarkaz are, yet in essence they simply use the rules of the culture they founded to gild the greed and violence that runs in their deepest marrow.
They tear at each other, incessantly. Ultimately, everything they've made will be ruined by their own hands.
That is why we could win this chance at freedom.
Theresa Even if hope is still as remote?
I won't give up on any possibility.
Theresa Yes... in that regard, we've always been so alike.
<Background 2>
The Year 1098
1:34 P.M. \ Overcast
Residence of the Duke of Cumberland, Auchterigg District of Londinium
[Clovisia reports to Amiya and the Doctor,]
Clovisia Amiya, Doctor, our Messenger has just sent back some key intel. The main Sarkaz forces are on their way back to the city right now. It's extremely likely this means they're about to wage war with the dukes' armies.
But given previous intel, even if they do return to Londinium, the Sarkaz military won't be enough to directly contend with all the dukes.
With the Sarkaz choosing to act now, they obviously believe they've grasped some key power that'll sway the situation for them.
Doctor The Shard.
Clovisia That skyscraper the Sarkaz occupied? We've learned there's weaponry concealed in the building, yes, but–will it sway things?
Amiya It will, Clovisia. Have your people ever taken note... of the storm above The Shard?
Clovisia Oh... those dark clouds seem highly unusual.
Amiya According to the intel we've obtained, that's no normal storm at all. That's a Catastrophe The Shard is causing. Even if it isn't entirely the same as a true Catastrophe...
Clovisia The Sarkaz want to cause a Catastrophe? They're still in Londinium themselves. What would they gain from destroying the city?
Doctor They plan to weaponize the storm. / What if they control where the Catastrophe lands?
Clovisia Hrmm.
Amiya We're not just conjecturing The Shard's purpose. This weapon... or this technology, rather, is exactly Rhodes Island's chief objective in entering Londinium.
Clovisia Rhodes Island came for the clouds shrouding Londinium.
Amiya Yes. It's not just a figure of speech.
In the eventuality Theresis does activate The Shard, he'll lead the flames of war and the storm together, upon those he sees as the Sarkaz's enemies.
No Catastrophe Messenger could predict a man-made Catastrophe's course. No nomadic city could escape such a Catastrophe's assault.
Countless Sarkaz and Victorians will die in that battle, and it'll likely be even more tragic for those who survive. Most of them will become Infected.
Not to mention... The Shard isn't on the border, it's in Londinium, a nation's very capital...
Clovisia Which means...
Doctor Once the technology's complete, it'll reach anywhere on Terra. / ...... / We can only pray the tech hits further bottlenecks.
Clovisia The Sarkaz... will use Victoria's power to destroy her.
If we reach that stage, then everything the Corps has done will be for naught.
Even if we could rescue people from a Catastrophe as Rhodes Island does... Londinium and our livelihood would be past any point of return.
Amiya Clovisia, Rhodes Island is greatly thankful to the Self-Salvation Corps. Without your help, we would've had no good way into Central Londinium.
But neither I nor the Doctor will lie to you. No matter how Rhodes Island plans to approach The Shard, the battles ahead will be brutal. Each more brutal than the last.
If we can't stop Theresis within the next few days, we'll be facing an all-out war, and the dukes will march with an eye to enter Londinium.
If the Corps chooses to wait for the dukes' armies...
Clovisia Amiya... we can't do that.
I'm the daughter of a textiles merchant. Most of the fighters, in fact, are just ordinary civilians.
We have workers, farmers, craftsmen, traders. Our backgrounds are a tapestry of millions, together under the one goal of driving the Sarkaz out of Londinium as soon as possible.
That's why the Corps won't place all its hopes in the dukes. Otherwise, we'd never have been able to take a stand ourselves.
Our greatest fear, if it came to it, wouldn't even be the Sarkaz controlling The Shard. It'd be... the dukes, dropping any shred of thought for the ramifications.
Amiya So... the Corps has no intent to suspend operations?
Clovisia ...Correct.
On the contrary, in fact. With war on the eve of breaking out, there are some things only the Self-Salvation Corps can do, here within Londinium.
Doctor Such as wrecking the Sarkaz defensive line from the rear. / Such as gaining as much possible intel on Sarkaz supply lines.
Clovisia We think alike, Doctor.
Should the dukes wage war, the Sarkaz will surely have preparations made to hold Londinium.
Being a steel fortress, Londinium is self-sufficient to an extent. However, the Sarkaz actions within the city have long since outstripped that load.
Still, unlike Londinium's previous masters, the Sarkaz don't get a drop of evident support from any of Victoria's other cities.
In comparison, while the dukes do all act on their own liberties, they'll each have their own steady flow of supplies.
Amiya A supply line... the Sarkaz do have some kind of hidden supply line, definitely.
Completing The Shard has been a multi-year undertaking. The idea they're relying solely on Londinium's own production is practically impossible.
It originates outside of the city, and its terminus... is in a Londinium munitions factory that builds weapons for the Sarkaz.
Clovisia Right. If we can locate this supply line...
Doctor Then the Corps could be decisive in the coming war. / We'll be able to delay the birth of a superweapon.
Commander Clovisia, cooperation is still our best choice.
Clovisia I'm afraid so, Doctor.
Doctor We need more intel on the munitions factory.
Clovisia The Corps has a fighter who knows Highbury in and out.
Doctor, you know him very well.
Doctor Feist? / The local friend who guided us.
Clovisia Right. He's the most suited candidate for this mission.
With some minor preparations, he'll lead everyone away from the Sarkaz's watch, and for the munitions factory.
Doctor We still need other, more concrete sources of info.
Clovisia ...The Defense Force's Command HQ.
It's a tower, located at the border between Auchterigg and Highbury Boroughs, and it controls the info network for the entirety of Londinium's defense systems.
Given the supply line can penetrate Londinium, there must be records of it lying somewhere in the system.
Doctor I heard the majority of the Defense Forces... / There's traitors in the Defense's top brass, right?
Clovisia Their commander, Lettou, threw himself to the Sarkaz a few years back.
It'd be pointless to try and win backing from a treasonist. If we plan to raid their command tower, we need some other way to seize system privileges.
Of course... method aside, there's the fact that our troops desperately need new armaments... The Sarkaz have placed their sights back on the city interior, and our supplies are stretched thin.
[Allerdale joins in.]
Allerdale I'll think of some way to address supply needs. When it comes to keeping Londinium going day-to-day, there's still scarcely a Victorian trader who's fallen in line with the Sarkaz.
Clovisia Allerdale?
Allerdale However, in turn, there's a different matter that I need you all to help me with.
Clovisia, Rhodes Island has brought Artorius's relic back to Londinium.
Clovisia Artorius? That's the surname the royal Draco's descendants took...
Allerdale Exactly. I've already checked with the Doctor and Amiya. It's the Artorius key, without a doubt.
And that key... opens the way to the door of the Mausoleum of Kings. Which means we can retrieve the empire's blade, the "Sighs of Kings."
Clovisia ......
Allerdale Its significance goes beyond what any ordinary citizen would ever imagine. Trust me, please.
It's not just some pretty piece of steel bestowed with symbolism. If we say The Shard is Londinium's great, incomplete ambition...
Then the truth of the Victorian Realmblade and the Mausoleum of Kings–that would be Londinium's real ace in the sleeve.
Clovisia The Victorian Realmblade... isn't just symbolic?
Allerdale Only a few nobles along with... Victoria's royal families knew about it. And I happen to be a Cumberland.
Clovisia I believe you. The Mausoleum of Kings is practically a thing of myth to us, but if a royal key can open the door to it...
Amiya, how exactly did Rhodes Island even get this key...? Er, should I not have asked?
Amiya We won't conceal the key's history.
But it isn't Rhodes Island's. It bears tales upon tales that I was never a part of, and could never tell you.
For Rhodes Island's time with it, though, I can tell you bit by bit if you're interested.
Clovisia Thank you, Amiya.
I'm just... floored, really. The legacy of Artorius... the truth of The Shard...
It's as if–Rhodes Island really has been preparing, for all these years now, to be here today in Londinium.
But I won't delve any further for now. I won't make anyone else, either. It might lose us an important ally.
Amiya ......
Clovisia Phew... Amiya, Doctor, do you have anything else you want to tell me?
[Siege joins in.]
Siege There is... one other thing, in fact.
Clovisia, about my background. I'd like to have a chat with you.
<Background 3>
[Amiya watches the flowers at the garden.]
Amiya ...The flowers. Doctor, look at these flowers.
They're growing.
It's amazing, a place like this, in the middle of Londinium, in a Sarkaz-occupied city...
Doctor For the Sarkaz, not letting nobles go is a net plus... / But it can't be the same for those around Miss Allerdale...
Allerdale You're both quite right, Doctor, Miss Amiya.
Despite it being slightly neglected these past years, the Duke of Cumberland's manor is still Londinium's most iconic building.
I've not much recollection of my home out in the duchy. My childhood memories mostly tie back to here.
Nobody would ever truly leave this place to rot, would they?
Amiya Miss Allerdale!
Allerdale The fact she went to lay everything bare to Miss Clovisia, while it turns out your crew were already wise to Her Highness's identity... I didn't expect that, I'll confess.
Doctor Siege is a vital operator of ours. / ...... / Vina and I do get along real well.
Allerdale Well, well... that reply of yours surprises me even more. Rhodes Island knew who Her Highness was... yet have been willing to treat her as Vina, leader of the Glasgow Gang.
Give Clovisia and Vina some more time. The Corps have their disagreements when it comes to nobles, you know, and Her Highness is... going to have a lot to say.
I'm sure you have questions for me, too, mysterious little bunny? I'd like to jibber-jabber a little with the enigmatic Rhodes Island myself, before it's time to mingle with the merchants.
Amiya Miss Allerdale... is this residence truly secure?
Allerdale Hm. Rational question.
The Sarkaz naturally have their motive for not flushing out the nobles in Central. Londinium's a massive city. There's much too much for them to mind.
But... we've paid a tremendous price to sit in the middle of a war unscathed, Miss Amiya. Dignity, or what have you, is the least valuable part of it.
Amiya ......
Allerdale Given the chance, I'll explain to Rhodes Island in detail. But the Sarkaz informants surveilling this manor are under our control, and for now, I ask you trust me.
They haven't realized we've infiltrated them. They're wrong to believe Londinium's city nobles lost their every weapon after being isolated. Their mistake.
Amiya You still have some way to counter Sarkaz surveillance?
Allerdale Provisionally...
Hm, no. If Her Highness has decided to be forthright with the Corps, then it's not my place to be covering up either.
For the sake of a smooth partnership, I can explicitly guarantee to you all that, even now, the Cumberland residence has people who can establish extracity contact.
Amiya But the Sarkaz aren't fools. They're well-versed in war.
Allerdale Indeed. But like I told you, Londinium's a massive city. They don't have enough people, they're all on their own, and that serves us opportunities.
Amiya ...Correct.
Allerdale Seems I haven't satisfied you much with my response?
Amiya No. Miss Allerdale. I just...
Worry your burden's too heavy.
Allerdale What?
Amiya If there really is some way for Victoria to keep control of Londinium, as it is now...
No... I believe they can.
But if they truly can, if they ultimately can, then what is it that they've been doing in practice all these years, that they've been having you do?
Allerdale's face clearly twists for an instant.
That flash of emotion is immeasurably magnified in Amiya's eyes. It's no simple resentment, nor wariness, nor panic.
It's grief.
A grief so familiar it hurts.
Amiya I apologize, Miss Allerdale... I know I've offended you.
Clovisia was right. We don't need to pry into each other. It could very well strain our progress instead, with this complex state of affairs.
But, if possible...
Please don't stifle yourself. We've seen the consequences of that time and again.
Allerdale ......
Amiya Miss Allerdale? I–I'm being too heavy-handed, aren't I...
Allerdale No. Rhodes Island just keeps on astonishing me... It seems I was judging you by your cover.
I never did imagine you'd be this sort of leader. You must be at least a decade younger than me, but the look in your eyes is a very real thing.
Not to mention... heh, well, you've seen right through me. Considering you even cracked the secret of The Shard ahead of Clovisia and I, and brought the Red Dragon's key with you...
Honestly, if Her Highness hadn't vouched for you, I might just've been even warier of Rhodes Island than the Sarkaz.
Amiya It's true, Londinium... no, the Sarkaz, to us, have more significance still.
That's why we're here.
Allerdale Well, then. You're here. What are you fighting for?
Her Highness gave me a simple synopsis of Rhodes Island. You seem to be all sorts of bound up with the Sarkaz.
But according to what I've heard, Rhodes Island has, and has always, worked for the sake of the "Infected."
Amiya We do.
Allerdale Then the two of you must have plenty more going on in your heads right now, leader and commander of Rhodes Island.
Amiya ........
Amiya As you say, there's a great deal of people and affairs in Londinium that we have inseparable ties to.
I'm only speaking personally... and for the Doctor too, when I say that the truth and the past may be enough impetus on their own at this point for us to act.
But we've already been through so much. It's long stopped us from frivolously viewing these struggles and calamities, or placing our individual feelings above the greater problem.
That's why we're here to curb a war that would devastate the land, and to dissipate the ground zero of Victoria's woes.
To prevent the extinction of a race. To find the lifeline that by all rights we have the methods to seek.
To help the Infected, the workers, and even the Sarkaz that have been desolated.
We're here to help "people," Miss Allerdale. Every single person with life. Every single person with the right to live.
Only in the end that the majority can accept... do the truths of the past have any significance.
Amiya finishes her speech with resolution.
In Allerdale's clear look of surprise, Amiya can't help but seek her heart.
<Background fades out>
She's spoken her most genuine, sincere mind. Of that, there is no doubt.
The operators that work alongside her must surely be filled with the same staunch conviction. Dr. Kal'tsit stands ever more alone, carrying the weight of ideals.
So this ideal's origin, this strong flame of conviction that drives Rhodes Island to move in such colossal risk, to rush headlong into this political maelstrom–who lit it?
And what if–
–this answer of hers remains incapable of solving these pressing issues?