Chapter 41

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Tano took care not to cause too much noise when he set the wine bottle down. Among the half dozen women seated around the round table, only Queen Victoria was not wearing an ornate, green military uniform. She was in a ceremonial purple and red robe denoting her capacity as reigning Queen. All of them were looking up at a map of the colonial Mainland, which was mostly covered in red with small pieces of land marked with green.

"Well General, I've let you oversee the Mainland front in my sister's stead for several weeks. And in those several weeks have you given me anything other than bad news and reports of lost ground?" Victoria said with a low growl.

The woman she was addressing, a grey haired officer with a belly that bulged through her military jacket, cleared her throat and turned her eyes down to the wooden table before her. "My apologies Your Majesty. I assure you-"

"I don't care about your useless assurances. While you all sit around playing at this war like an amusing chess game, thousands if not millions of Angleyan women and men perish because of your carelessness," Victoria snapped. "Does anyone here care to explain to me why we've been letting the Dans plow through several hundred square kilometers of Angleyan territory virtually uncontested? Are our forces spread so thin that they can't hold anything except the largest cities? Do we not have roads or even sovereignty over the open land beyond?"

"With all due respect Your Majesty, Dannic anti-aircraft tanks make it virtually impossible for our strongest forces to venture very far from the sea, especially given the sparse infrastructure farther inland. We just don't have the population density on that continent to withstand an invasion of that scale." As if to salvage herself from censure, the grey haired General straightened up and pointed to the sliver of the map not covered in red. "The good news is most of the largest population centers on the Mainland are close to the coast and the Dans have been unable to even touch those. Most coastal economic activity is virtually undisturbed."

"You mean they're not stupid enough to challenge our military where the Navy can actually support them. I am truly shocked General," Victoria deadpanned. "My sister was right. We've been too busy building bigger and shinier toys for our Navy without considering its practical value in a war."

A heavy silence fell over the room. Tano wasn't sure whether to stand still or refill the Queen's nearly empty wine glass. He tepidly took a step forward.

"Not wine. Water," Victoria said. That caused the already uneasy group of senior officers to murmur in alarm.

Tano walked back to the counter at the back to bring an ice cold pitcher of water.

"We'll be here for a while My Ladies. Even I know my limits."

"With all due respect Your Majesty," another, slightly thinner woman said. "Your sister was seen unmistakably assassinating two High Priestesses of the Church. Such a crime is tantamount to an assault against yourself, Your Majesty."

"I have every intention of bringing her before me to answer the charges before her, but whether she's guilty or not doesn't change the fact that she did a better job defending the Colonies than you pathetic lot." Victoria turned her attention to Tano right as he was about to pour water into her cup. "Boy, where are you from?"

Tano set the pitcher down on the table. "I don't know how you would call it. I just know I lived in an isolated village in the Western Mountains before an Angleyan army destroyed it. A Dannic army captured me when I fled."

"Hmm. And in your experience, what was the most fearsome weapon our armies had to bear on your helpless village?"

"Knights with swords. There were maybe a couple soldiers with firearms, but they weren't the important ones."

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