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100% Warhammer - The Wheels of Change / Chapter 11: Final Call

Chapter 11: Final Call

After his meeting at the Bokha Palace, Dawi Ambassador Kaijin Rocksplitter took his leave and retired to his home for the evening. After starting a fire in his fireplace, he sat down, opened up a bottle of vodka, poured one himself and drank it as his eyes focused on the light coming from his fire. It was most certainly not good old Dawi ale, but Kaijin got used to its bitter taste by then. It did help him to think about the situation and to recall everything that happened up to that point in time. After all, it wasn't an easy decision to make.

Since his ascension to the throne, High King Alrik Gunterson's sole goal was the same. To hunt down any danger that could possibly threaten Karaz Ankor. To such an extent his reputation rose up that the foreign leaders and nobles began calling him the Mad Crusader, comparing him and his wars to the Bretonnian crusades in Araby. For his part in the military campaigns, the High King has organised one of the best armies on the continent, known widely as Alrik's Steel Legion. Stout Dawi warriors, clad in the best armour and carrying the best weapons Engineers Guild would allow to the field. The sight of even the slightest glare from these steel-adorned warriors would send many enemies running.

However, there was one major drawback for these constant military campaigns. The financial cost of everything. For the first time in recent history, the wide treasury of Karaz-a-Karak actually showed signs of shrinking, reaching the levels recorded several generations ago. For any other race out there, that would have been seen as nothing, merely a drop in the bottomless bucket that was the seemingly endless treasury of the dwarves.

For the Dawi, however, it was a major slight against their High King. Prideful and with the long memory, they saw the spending as wasting away the hard work of generations that came before. Centuries of rewards from hard work being spent for a single army that couldn't be everywhere at once, let alone liberate lost Dawi homes. Complaints and demands were sent to the King to either cut back the spending or revoke financing all together.

However, rather than choosing to sacrifice his beloved Legion, High King Alrik chose another path. He, alongside other Hold Kings, made a major push for increased trade. Lowering down trade tariffs, establishing financial incentives for tradable goods, making large investments into caravans to distant lands etc. While many grumbled, this compromise was finally accepted as it seemed it was the right opportunity at the right time.

Foreign merchants jumped at this once in a lifetime opportunity with massive fervour, using the relative peace of their biggest allies to their advantage. Following the end of Vampire Wars, the Electoral College ruled the Empire in lieu of an Emperor. While it was clear that such a system wouldn't last forever, for the time being the so-called "Era of the Three Emperors" was halted in order to recover from the Vampire Wars. And so, after the year 2190 of the Imperial Calendar, many human merchants and even a few Ogre, Halfling and Gnome ones from across the entire continent appeared in the Holds for business. As such, several new embassies were opened up to ensure good relations.

In 2194, the embassy was opened up in the northern realm of Kislev. Due to distance and apparent xenophobia present among its people, there was little contact prior to establish the official embassy there. However, after several Kislevite merchants arrived in Karaz-a-Karak for weapons and gunpowder, it was decided to send Kaijin Rocksplitter of the clan Greyhill as official ambassador. Originally, the move was seen as somewhat of a punishment towards the clan, who kept pestering the Engineers' Guild, but an unforeseen consequence of the move changed everything.

In truth, there were several smaller groups of Dawi already present in Kislev. However, their origins were never investigated until the fateful spring of 2196. Following a major Norscan siege on the northern forts, several groups arrived at the capital to report the events. Among them, a Dawi group was present. Had Kaijin not decided to interact with them, he might have never found out the truth nor the shocking revelation that awaited him.

The initial conversation started off poorly because, while speaking the same language, it was as if the two couldn't understand each other. It was only after both sides explained their backgrounds that the truth finally came out. These Dawi didn't come from the homeland at all, but from the long-forgotten Holds in the North. Kaijin was unable to speak for 20 minutes after confirming it was true. Knowing this was a crucial moment, once he recovered, Kaijin immediately went to the serious matters, gathering every bit of information he could get from them. Then across the rest of 2196 he used the Norse Dawis to establish a contact with the Norse Holds before finally sending the report back home.

From what Kaijin gathered, the news shocked everyone about the news. A delegation under High King's son, Theodemir Alriksson, rushed to Kislev to meet their long lost cousins. Then, over the next three years, further contacts and agreements were made by both sides. Slowly the relations were being established and, as a proof of the newly minted bond between separated kinsmen, an important gift was prepared from Karaz-a-Karak in the form of famed Dawi weapons and their blueprints. Unfortunately, that was where the troubles now rose up.

Despite his best efforts, Kaijin failed to convince the expedition leader to stay in the capital until spring to avoid the infamous Kislev winter. The caravan only took on additional mercenaries in the capital and then marched on to their doom. Thankfully, their vital cargo was successfully recovered. The heavy equipment, such as cannons and organ guns were left untouched, while some muskets and ammo were either damaged or destroyed. However, that was an accepted loss and could be easily replaced. The big problem was the dilemma that Kaijin now faced.

His clan, Greyhill, was known or rather, it was infamous for their artillery and arguments with Engineers' Guild about them. As such, when Kaijin was only a Gnutrommi in the clan, he studied artillery design and was able to read through weapon blueprints. So it wasn't hard for him to recheck the blueprints that the caravan carried on their doomed journey. Afterwards, he was the one who verified that they arrived safe and sound to Kislev in the first place. And when he checked them again, Kaijin knew something was up.

While it was clear that no blueprint was missing nor was it replaced, evidence such as missing seals, small ink spots and a wax smell on several of them clearly indicated that the copies were made, something that Boyar refused to admit for unknown reason. The question was, what else she refused to reveal and even lied about. Kaijin knew he needed to know before he could send back the answer.

So, after finishing his reminiscing about prior events and the bottle alongside it, he stood up and left his home. His target was Merkantly District taverns. There, using his Dawi physique to outdrink several people, he was able to gain some info on Boyar Tomašević. He did the same thing the next morning, just sober and in a civilised way. Once he believed he had gathered enough information, he invited the Boyar to his home for another conversation in the afternoon.

But before Snježana even stepped through the door, Kaijin noticed something was wrong. "Good day to you, Boyar. Um, is something wrong?"

Compared to her appearance the day prior, she was clearly tired, her blonde hair was a mess and she was bundled up as if she was going through a snowstorm. Even her voice was slightly weak.

"I am fine, thank you very much. Just... had a very long day, that's all. Mind if I sit down near your fireplace?"

"Sure?" Kaijin was confused, but nevertheless he let her in. True to her words, Snježana went into his living room and sat down in the chair near the fireplace. Kaijin's curiosity got the better of him. "I must ask. What happened to you? No matter how I look at it, I can't figure it out."

Snježana made a deep sigh before answering. "Let's just say something unexpected and leave it at that. Unless you are one of those who glutton for punishments."

"Then won't you feel hot sitting there in your coat? We can reschedule this another day."

"I am fine. They just told me to keep myself warm for the day. Besides, I do not want to delay this meeting just because of my state. So, please."

Kaijin accepted her answer. "Very well then. In that case, you know full well why I summoned you here." Snježana tried to play coy, but Kaijin wouldn't let it. "Your little scheme would have been found out one way or another, so you might as well start speaking about your plans. Oh, and if you had anything to do with what happened."

"Alright. But I am telling you right now. Everything I said was true. The caravan got lost , the Beastmen ambush happened, only one survivor and we had to fight it out with remnants of that herd. I only failed to disclose two more things."

Kaijin nodded at her answer, happy that finally they were both on the same page. "Yes. So tell me, what are your plans with the copied designs?"

Snježana relaxed and outright said it. "Short-term, we can lay the foundations for improving Kislev's military technology. As for long-term, frankly I haven't reached that part yet."

"Really? You are willing to risk a diplomatic incident between nations because of the decision you made on a whim?"

"Yes. Tell me, have you gathered information about me around the city?"

Kaijin stroked his beard while answering: "Yes. You were apparently schooled in Engineering in the Empire. Your own realm is one of the few places across the entirety of Kislev where firearms are manufactured."

"Correct. As you can plainly tell, we aren't as well developed when it comes to technology, especially in terms of firearms. And since we are on the frontline to Norscan intrusions and whatever Troll Country will throw at us, that makes us take unnecessary risks that we could mitigate. We could bombard them from far away with cannons, we could use well trained firing lines to tear them apart on approach. Hell, organ guns alone can do the job of many. All we need is time, resources and proper access to the best technology around. Then imagine where we could be in several generations."

At that, Kaijin lowered his and looked Snježana straight in the eyes as he asked: "Tell me this, then. How do you plan to bargain for this? After all, like it or not, you DID access diplomatic contents which you had no right to. What exactly can you do to mitigate the consequences for yourself?"

Snježana smirked. "With a bargaining chip I have."

Kaijin noticed that smirk. "Right. You did also say you failed to disclose two things. So what's the other?"

"I wasn't telling the truth entirely when I said there were no survivors." With slight confusion on his face, Kaijin listened to Snježana's tale about the herd survivors rescued by Alex and her plans for them. By the end of it, confusion was replaced with clear signs of anger. "What were you thinking, saving the lives of those things?! Are you trying to force us to act?"

Snježana remained calm in front of the dwarf's anger. "Honestly? It was mostly scientific curiosity that led me to spare their lives. After all, how often do you get to see them outside their herds, let alone study them? Besides, it gives you the opportunity to settle things your way. After all, the grudge settled by your own hands makes it sound better than hearing about how humans took revenge for you, don't you think?"

As much as he hated to admit, Snježana called it correctly in Kaijin's mind. "I hate you are making us do the dirty deed, but fine. Tell me two things, though. How can you be sure that you weren't influenced by Chaos to do so? And what if you change your mind and actually let them live? How will you be able to explain that?"

"For the latter, I don't know. They have quite a steep goal ahead of them if they want to live. As for the former..." At that, she finally started removing her coat. "I am honestly shocked that it seems I chose this of my own will. It just means I suffered here for nothing." After taking it off, she rolled up her sleeves. "And I really hate that I will have to do this again."

Kaijin realised what Snježana meant, especially after seeing why exactly she was bundled up. Her arms and neck were covered in bruises, as someone grabbed her, or even worse, tried to crush her. He had an inkling of what happened based on rumours he heard about how Kislevites dealt with Chaos tainted. The fact that she was standing in front of him at that time meant that, at least for now, she could be counted on as lucid.

"I understand your resolve. In that case, I will try to make this appear in a better light. However, no complaints on my final call nor my methods."

Snježana rolled back her sleeves. "That's all I can ask for. Thank you." She extended her hand as a sign of the deal between them. Kaijin accepted it. Afterwards, she left, leaving both of them in a good mood.

Kaijin made his decision following the meeting. The next day he informed the Tzar of his final call. He decided to portray the Boyar in a positive light to both leaders. He did also inform him of the herd survivors, shocking the Tzar. After all, he couldn't ignore the potential danger that survivors represented so he decided that the crown should deal with it.

Other than the letter to the High King himself, there was one more letter he sent away, a secret one that might help Boyar in the long run. The question was if the recipient would react as Kaijin hoped he would. He could only leave it to fate.

As he finished the business for the day, he left his apartment right as the sun was coming down. To him, it appeared as if this entire affair was over for the time being so he felt cheerful and left for the tavern, unaware of what sundown would bring.

He couldn't have known, nor anyone else for that matter, of the events that would happen that night. Indeed, while in Kislev the month-long event was finally over with and the land could finally return to sleep until spring, in the distant Imperial lands a new event was just starting as two hooded figures observed the movements around a small Imperial port, readying themselves for a long night ahead of them.

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