+ inload: The Sun King's war +

The war, the war. It had not reached every quarter of the vast City; though the ever-present dull glow on the horizon reminded even the most well-ensconsed Wellborne that nobody was truly safe. The initial assault had broken the Cyng-in-exyle's meagre forces and driven them from the City in short order; though the Cyng-in-exile himself was still at large. While some loyal – or foolish – romantics clung, red-eyed, to the idea that the interloping Sun King would be driven out eventually, the result was clear from the start.

Despite this certainty, it was a messy war, being fought by sides that were obscure or unclear. A regiment might fight alongside another before facing it the following day. Groups that were soldiers in name alone marched where ordered, in rags, ribbons and flounces, clearing and burning buildings and habitations that they had trooped through to welcoming cheers not weeks before. Prisoners were executed, or clapped in chains and led off weeping, back to the Palace. Ranks of ragged and dirty soldiers glowered at each other over cobblestones, slick with blood and rubbish and nightsoil, as they clashed again and again; as though toys propelled by idiot children. 

It was a messy war, but not unusual. The folk of the City had seen the incomprehensible internecine wars of the Wellborne fought for generations. Older inhabitants leaned back and smugly told their descendants of older wars survived through guile and courage and cunning – qualities often suspiciously at odds with what those descendants knew of the teller's character. They told of hardships endured and Masterships changing hands; they recounted the different masters to whom they had sworn eternal fealty. Such a war was to be expected, they said. It will pass, they said. Few such folk believed the Cyng-in-exyle's defeat would bring the conflict to an end. The interminable strife and sniping between the Wellborne, and the gang warfare and street brutality this bred were as unchangeable facts of life as the rising and setting of the sun, or the glittering stars in the heavens. 

If the past was any teacher at all, the people knew that the war would be followed by a new and different leader; a new burgomaster or Seer-o'-the-Quarter, and perhaps the announcement of a new Welleborn familyhead to whom they must swear their undying loyalty. It was the way of things. The people knew a new Welleborn would demand taxes, hardship, suffering. To the Welleborn families themselves, the war had proven an ideal excuse to air generation-old grievances and battle openly in the streets; their usual rude thugs supplemented with queer archeotech, off-world trained soldiery, or smuggled high-tech firearms like plastek-clad chatterrifles and iron wands that projected flames. 

If the Sun King cared, he made no sign. 


Displaced populations of now-destroyed villages long-swallowed up by the City were likely to take up arms to find a new quarter to settle: driving out the current inhabitants with cudgel and club, in a domino sub-war beneath that fought by the uniformed swordsmen. As always, it attracted mercenaries - from outside and inside the city. At least bloodshed was honest, they said. At least killers didn't make you pay for the privilege. At least the war was exciting - albeit briefly, for most such new warriors. Towns and quarters rifled their pockets or stripped their stores to hire protection. Most mercenary regiments were the regular rabble; broken-toothed drunkards and brutes who made their living by the halberd. Those from inside the City were commonly newly-minted mobs of angry inhabitants, driven as much by homelessness as idealism. Some came from abroad; exotic and storied regiments arrived at the Docks or the many City Gates to seek payment and adventure. Some had names were as old and famous as folk-tale; others were strange in their speech and their war-art.

For the best part of six months, the gathering fora and market squares were as likely to ring to the clash of polearms and halberds – and the occasional snap of timewornlaslocks or frag-bomb – as they were to the everyday squabbles and fistfights of daily life. After a few months or the war settled into a grumbling, smouldering state. The rattled populace become dulled, resigned to their new war-torn life. As with any other war, the people muttered in beer-halls and gathering places; as likely to cheer the Sun King's actions as bringing some excitement and change as they were to complain of shortages or brutality.

In truth, it almost seemed as though the Sun King was prolonging the conflict, gradually scouring different areas of the City - haphazardly, seemingly at random. The Sun King's soldiers did not question orders. Cepeheans were nothing if not obedient. Warehouses were emptied and burned to the ground, or weaponless villages turned over by artillery. No-one seemed to know why. 


If this seemed strange, the seventh month saw the war become very unconventional indeed. The Sun King himself took to the streets. The people took notice – It was rare to see even a minor Welleborn touch the flagstones, and no-one could remember a Cyng fighting himself. It was something from myth, a fabulist's tale. 

His forces were equally wondrous. Some, of course, were the familiar pikemen and musket-troops, the same scabby dregs as the crowds but ruffed and feathered in imported silks and cottons. Others wore seemingly magical clothes; drab and pied, that made them seem to disappear in plain sight. Off-worlders, they bore strange guns that spat like laslocks, but over and again. Besides these were occasional stranger figures; oddly proportioned in swaddling robes.

His mercenaries were not spindle-limbed and ragged men forced to find new homes; nor even those same folk dressed in glittering brocade and gleaming new arms. His mercenaries did not come from the distant towns or other countries. They were not like other mercenaries. They bore strange weapons. They came from other worlds.

Some were stranger still. Some came from further than other worlds – some came from the very myths and legends of the Imperium at large.

Some were terrifying.

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