Train of Thought 09
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The Origins of the Rostock Massacre
Author’s note: You’re probably going to find this boring in the extreme, but it is presented as a (mostly) historical account of the events that led up to the Technocracy’s attack on Rostock on 30 November RY123.
Rupert Delatz, RFSS
Energy is Power. The Channelling of energy for good or ill is the ultimate power, as the men and women of the various Manhattan Projects in Shadow discovered. Of course, if only one side of a war has ultimate power then the side without is lost. I like asymmetric warfare, as long as I’m on the side with the power; I’m less fond of it when I’m on the receiving end. The receiving end can be decidedly painful.
As I studied the Lighthouse Data and came across vague references to the world of Keillour, which dragged in the flotsam and jetsam of the multiverse, and to one of its residents, Joscelin Kennard, I knew I needed to know more. From what I could determine, Kennard would be a perfect fit for the newly-established Reich Energy Research Institute at the Port of Rostock, if he could be recruited. I made a point of asking Rallissa for specific information on Keillour, as I felt she owed me (and Robert and the Inside at large) for making sure that my LFN built the Technocracy, despite Robert’s and my better efforts, and was pleasantly surprised when she was happy to oblige.
Keillour was an Outside world that was swept up into what became the Inside. The Shadow was inherently of late-Medieval tech, equivalent geographically to the Earth Shadows, and split into a number of rival Kingdoms. So far, so fairly straightforward, with a couple of exceptions. First, the native time-flow was faster than its surrounding Shadows, and second, at some point in the past, someone had set up a system of arcane Collectors there: machines that sought through Shadow and brought back items “of potential interest”, mainly maritime vessels of various kinds. More to the point, once they were there, they couldn’t leave.
While the technology usually wasn’t functional when it arrived, even non-functional technology has its uses, as do the crews of the vessels. One example of this was a group of shipwrecked Empire mages who set up a Mage School on the Wizard’s Isle (aka the Isle of Man) and were willing to teach the inhabitants of the world. Another was Joscelin Kennard: child of the Black Zone of unspecified lineage, Trump artist, privateer, and one of the most formidable energy Channellers in either the Inside or the Outside.
“Of potential interest to who” was one of those questions that never was answered. “Why did they build it and never come back for the spoils” was another. Personally, I believe it was a sufficiently bone-headed project that it was probably something devised by Merlin Corwinson, who promptly forgot about it in pursuit of his next “shiny”.
Kennard’s arrival would prove to be the beginning of the end. Whoever built the Collectors did not allow for the fact that their system might suck in even one person of Cornelian blood, with a full complement of Cornelian curiosity, skills, sheer bloody mindedness and a burning desire to leave, let alone two. Knowing this could occur, I realised that if I bided my time until the place was busted open, that should give me the opportunity to gain control of the asset that I was really interested in.
In the pre-Lighthouse timeline, I apparently mishandled the Kennard issue badly, and events were set into motion which ultimately led to the destruction of the Port of Danzig. My naïve belief this time through was that if I could handle things better, maybe the Reich would be able benefit from Kennard’s abilities, without the massive loss of life occasioned the first time around. As it turned out, time fought back once more, and I only achieved one of those aims.
An Introduction to Keillour
The Kingdom of Clyde was situated close to the ‘Graveyard’, the reception point for one of the Collectors. After Kennard found his C18-sailing ship swept onto the world, he cut a deal with King Stuart of Clyde and was given the island of Eilean Shonan (often known on similar worlds as Jura) as a base of operations, on condition that he act a Royal agent.
Kennard maintained a watch on the Graveyard, and was often the first on the scene when something new arrived. This was how he met Duncan Graeme, a Royal Naval officer of a slightly later time-period (early C19 Napoleonic). It was a meeting of minds, and they formed a business partnership. Later, they chose to study with the Eboracum mages on the Wizard’s Isle, and became an even-more-formidable pair. Between them, Kennard and Graeme brought anything or anyone interesting back to Clyde, thereby increasing their patron’s power on that Shadow, and their own skills and influence.
Aside from Clyde, one of the most significant powers on Keillour was the Viking Kingdom of the Norse, ruled by King Ragnar, a man blessed with daughters, but no sons. As he considered the lack of a male heir to be undesirable for the future of his realm, he made the decision to make suitable marriages for his children, such that the overall influence of his Kingdom would be extended, and ultimately an heir of the next generation might be born to rule after he died. First, he married the eldest, Annifrid, to King Dieter of Leipzig, a country non unlike the pre-cursors to the Reich elsewhere in Shadow. Katya, the youngest, saw this and decided she wasn’t interested in a political marriage and made herself scarce (although she eventually married the aforementioned Duncan Graeme), which left Freya, the middle daughter, who seemed willing to go along with her father’s plan.
As Clyde became more important, it also became the obvious choice for an alliance, and thus Freya was sent by her father to that land, with the intention of seeing if either King Stuart or his eldest son, another Robert, might be persuaded to take her to wife. They politely declined, Stuart being already married, and Robert still enjoying his youth too much, and instead introduced her to their trusted agent, Joscelin Kennard. And no, he wasn’t a prince; and no, he wasn’t a king; and no, it wasn’t what her father wanted; but with impressive perception, Freya decided that Kennard was the next power in that land and made herself a marriage.
Her father wasn’t pleased, and neither was his court. So much so, that the first time they went to visit the in-laws, Ragnar’s brother, Olaf, Prince of Denmark, tried to kill Kennard, as he believed that he should be Ragnar’s heir, rather than some unspecified offspring of a mere daughter: a view also shared by his family. With the revelation of treason, and the dispatching of the traitors, Ragnar realised that his new son-in-law might have uses after all and made the young man Prince of Denmark instead of Olaf’s line, so that his daughter would have a husband of suitable rank.
And Denmark, it would turn out, was either the perfect – or the worst, depending on your point of view – place for a tinkerer with an affinity for energy to cause havoc. Why? Because one of the features of that land was a mineral called ‘Godstone’, in which arcane energy could be stored for future use. An entire seam of it, stretching from Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, through Denmark, under the North Sea and the Kingdom of Clyde, and finally petering out on Colonsay, the Island just beyond Eilean Shonan.
Being aware by then of the oddities of Keillour, and because I knew where to bait the interest of the Collectors, in late-RY122, I arranged for them to pull in a rich prize: the Kaiserin Elsa. She was newly-launched from the Port of Rostock, and powered by the first fruits of the RERI: to wit, basic but functional magical batteries of a higher power level that we had ever previously developed. I also made sure that I had an agent aboard: a sorcerous protégé of mine, with a bent of her own towards mech-tech magic, Standartenführer Helena-Maria Latz.
Because Kennard’s agents near the Graveyard had instructions to inform their employer when anything interesting arrived, he was the first person to make contact with the new arrival (as I had guessed he would be). Thus he stepped aboard the Kaiserin Elsa, and met Helena-Maria (as I’d planned he would). The vessel itself was large enough not to have been severely damaged by the Collection process, but its batteries had been drained and none of its other motive methods were functional. From the knowledge I had divined, I had warned my protégé to expect this and him, so that she could assess his abilities for me and see if they matched his equivalent in the old timeline.
When he went aboard to make first contact, a polite request at gunpoint encouraged him to accompany her to the engine room. There, she persuaded him that she was preparing to recharge the batteries by using a ritual to channel the dying energy of a number of crewmen who hadn’t been doing their job properly into the power system. Knowing that, by now, he would have had contact with Empire mages, and their somewhat annoying attitudes to death magic, I was relying on the fact that he would suggest an alternative if he could. Sure enough, he showed her another way: Channelling life energy, in the form of a tantric, rather than a death, ritual. I’m still not entirely sure how it worked, but it was enough to give the Elsa enough motive power to get it to Clyde.
With two sets of hindsight, it appears that the Collectors were strained bringing in the Elsa, causing them to work on overdrive, and setting up a major instability within the system. Over the next few days, the amount of materiel being brought to Keillour increased dramatically. Theis and included a random mini-submarine, and a vessel from the Empire, carrying a Priestess of Sian, Mater Deorum of Aurellis.
The sub came first and would probably have been considered unimportant, were it not for the fact that it, too was powered by a form of magical battery. The main difference from the Elsa was that the battery was portable. Kennard took it back to his workshop in Denmark to study it, and realised quickly that the mineral at the heart of the device, where the magical energy was stored, was the same Godstone which shot through the land where he ruled. He literally had the biggest magical battery in Creation under his feet, if only he could work out how to use it.
A couple of days later came another new arrival, a small Empire ship that had been blown off course and caught in the Collection mechanism. Making first contact, as was his wont, Kennard was introduced to the Priestess of Sian, who was one of the dignitaries aboard the vessel. Being one of those living geneticists who just has to make contact with you to know who your antecedents are, as she shook his hand, she realised that he was a Child of the Gods: descended from the Pater and Mater Deorum. The identity of his second parent was unclear to her, thus she prayed to her Goddess for guidance to learn the missing information, which Kennard was very keen to learn.
I’m not sure if such a prayer would ever have reached beyond the boundaries of Keillour before the Elsa’s arrival, but as it transpired, Sian heard her call and decided to investigate. Initially, while she could find Keillour, she couldn’t access it. Thus, she enlisted the help of my LFN, the recent (and regrettable) Creator of the Technocracy. She reasoned that the Nexus edge-walking technology was sufficiently unknown that she might be able to use it to get onto Keillour without being prevented in the same way that the older powers such as Pattern and Logrus were. Unfortunately, my LFN agreed to act as her driver.
When they arrived, Sian went to her Priestess, and was introduced to Kennard. It took her approximately two handshakes to realise that he was a grandchild of Leyton the Smith (the Aurellian equivalent of Vulcan, if you will), which explained his natural ability to tinker; and a previously unknown daughter of Oberon, who later turned out to be King Random’s long-lost sister Mirelle. On the other side of his bloodline, Sian quickly identified brother Robert as his grandfather, although she didn’t know by which specific son, and there were inexplicable traces of Osric in the mix.
It was when Sian and my LFN tried to leave that they realised that they, too, were trapped there as well, the Nexus ultimately making no difference. In accordance with the rules of hospitality, Kennard offered quarters to Sian and her driver, and then he and my LFN set about trying to figure out a way to reprogram the Collectors to let them all get the Hell out of Dodge. Not to be outdone, Sian considered whether there was some way her position as Mater Deorum could be used to communicate her predicament to her family, and thus she, too, pursued ways to reach off Keillour.
It was getting on for a year, local time, before their efforts bore fruit. As a side note, during that year, Helena-Maria and King Stuart came to the realisation that they were from belief systems too far different from each other to compromise. After gaining guarantees that the Elsa would not be used against him and his Kingdom, Stuart contacted the Kingdom of Leipzig, which he believed might be a better fit, on her behalf, and both ship and protégé sail out of the picture until I come onto the scene, sometime later.
Where was I? Oh yes.
The combination of Sian trying to find her way off a locked Shadow, my LFN’s new job as Prime Technoprat, and Kennard’s blue-sky thinking finally led them to try to break down the barriers by setting the Collectors to self-destruct. They did this from Eilean Shonan, rather than Denmark, as its proximity to the Graveyard meant that they could use that connection to destroy the machinery. Unfortunately, in a balls-up typical of my LFN, they overreached, and Keillour started to rip itself apart as the Collectors crashed and burned.
From what I discovered from Kennard, later, when they realised how bad things were, my LFN brought to bear his own abilities as an inherent Jewel, albeit a lesser one, and stabilised the world. Kennard, Freya, Graeme and Katya assisted by offering him tantric ritual power, drawing on the Godstone under the island. As the Technocracy, itself, is a Godstone World, that link plus the energy Kennard and the others were providing and the ruins of whatever had powered the Collectors, led to the founding of a new Power on Eilean Shonan: a kind of child to the Nexus, with some, but not all, of its data links, and a spirit known as Ceann as its guiding intelligence.
It couldn’t take the Technoprat as its Creator, as he was already spoken for, and it rejected Kennard, who it believed had abandoned him for pastures new, which left Graeme and Katya as the ones it adopted as its “Creators”. They took over as the Laird and Lady of Eilean Shonan and Kennard and Freya moved permanently to Denmark. From that point on, the presence of the Power on Eilean Shonan contributed to the general tech level of Keillour starting to accelerate from late-Medieval towards early-Industrial Revolution over a rather shorter timeframe than might otherwise have elapsed.
Once the gates were down, Standartenführer Latz contacted me and informed me where the Elsa was. It was recovered and returned to the Reich shortly thereafter, none the worse for wear for its adventures. Helena-Maria remained in Leipzig as my agent, with a view to guiding it towards becoming a Reich Protectorate.
Probably the ultimate irony of the whole affair is that having regained his freedom, Kennard decided to stay in Denmark to build his power base. About the only exception was when he visited Roland’s capital of Eboracum, where he formally took his exams and passed out as a licensed mage in early-RY123, if I have my time-flow calculations correct.
For the next year or so, local time (perhaps six weeks Reich time), my LFN split his time between Denmark and Technocracy Prime, no doubt taking the opportunity to bad-mouth the Reich to Kennard while he was at it. Moreover, once Sian returned to the Empire and informed Leyton that he had a grandson who shared his interests and abilities, the Aurellian Smith visited as well. The three of them apparently got along like the proverbial house on fire until, for some reason, my LFN pulled away and headed back to his bastard Creation. I hoped that this would mark his exit from the story, but sadly, this would not end up being the case.
Thereafter, Helena-Maria saw a certain amount of Kennard and Freya, as they were the sister and brother-in-law of the Queen of Leipzig. She kept a close eye on the kinds of things that Kennard could do, both with and without Leyton, especially with Godstone as a raw material, and more to the point, kept me informed. The final proof that I needed to recruit Kennard for the Reich came when he managed to find a way to achieve operational F15s on a world with Medieval tech and no firearms. Therefore, I contacted my protégé and told her that I wanted to visit, and she arranged for it to happen.
I arrived in Leipzig for the first time in the middle of April RY123. When I was first introduced to the King and Queen, I found Dieter to be an odious little man, but Frida… I recognised her immediately, as the woman who would have been my wife under other circumstances. Once I got passed my initial urge to take her to bed there and then (odd things, vestigial memories – I didn’t do it, of course), I realised that that she was deeply unhappy. I also realised that the key to Reich influence in Leipzig was the Queen, not the King.
When I asked Helena-Maria about their marriage, later that evening, she told me that, as had been expected of her, Annifrid had duly provided Dieter with sons: Anselm, by then aged eight, and Kristof, four. Once her dynastic duties were done, however, he had turned against her and began to treat her cruelly. My protégé confided to me that she was sure Dieter was beating her and, having come to the same conclusion as I about the best way to approach an alliance between the Reich and Leipzig, i.e. via Annifrid, not Dieter, she had supported the other woman, and they had become friends.
At which point a plan began to form. I stayed for several days, and while I was speaking with Dieter about the benefits that Leipzig could gain from becoming a Protectorate of the Reich, as well as tempting him with forbidden knowledge, in the form of some of the rituals I knew how to undertake, Helena-Maria was working on Frida to contact Freya and Kennard and ask for help.
Much as Robert would have you believe otherwise, the war that broke out around then between the Kingdom of the Franks, and Leipzig was not entirely my fault. Yes, I might have shared the concept of Lebensraum with Dieter, but I’m sure the fact that he decided to act on it was nothing to do with me. He’d had a beef with Franks for far longer than I had been in the picture. I was, of course, happy to provide him with plain-clothes military advisors in his war, while Helena-Maria and I worked specifically to prop up and strengthen Annifrid’s position.
As dominos will fall, the Franks called in an alliance with Clyde, and Clyde contacted the Norse Kingdom. Ragnar was disinclined to become involved, despite the suggestion that Dieter was abusing his daughter, but he did contact the Prince of Denmark. Prompted by what Freya had told him previously of Dieter’s treatment of Annifrid, Kennard was happy to oblige, and launched into devising methods of helping the Franks with the single-minded dedication with which he did everything else. The main innovation that he brought to the party made every difference in the world. The English longbow.
Six months after Leipzig had breached the borders, the Franks had not only beat off their attack, but forced them back across the Rhine. Then, working quietly behind the scenes, I managed to engineer Dieter’s demise via a well-aimed arrow through the back of his neck, which severed his spine, followed by a neatly timed coup de grace. As far as I was concerned, this left Annifrid as the obvious candidate to stand as Regent for Anselm. Confident of a satisfactory outcome, and as my own duties in the Reich needed my attention, I left the matter in Helena-Maria’s hands and returned to home, hearth, wife and young son, and well-dressed private army.
Sadly, I underestimated the deep-seated misogyny that underlay Leipzig. In the immediate aftermath of Dieter’s death, Annifrid’s position was precarious. Unfortunately, the attitudes of the noblemen meant that the very most they were willing to condone was to force Annifrid into a marriage with one of them, with the lucky husband becoming Regent in her stead. Unsurprisingly, she was not willing to accept this, wanting the power for herself and refusing to be trapped again the way she was with Dieter.
With Helena-Maria’s help, she enlisted her brother-in-law to turn the tables on those who would have controlled her. They succeeded admirably. Those of her opponents who survived were thrown into confusion, and Annifrid established herself as de facto ruler of Leipzig, with Helena-Maria at her right hand, while Kennard returned to Denmark and his projects. I made a point of visiting every couple of months local time, and we soon guided her into a full alliance with the Reich. When Frida finally took me to her bed, it was as good as I imagined it would be when I first saw her.
I finally met Kennard in person about two years after Frida had established her position, local time. Helena-Maria had been working slowly but steadily towards bringing him into the Reich fold, and he had finally agreed to meet with me. The whispering in his ear by my LFN had apparently left him disinclined to make my direct acquaintance prior to that. I can’t imagine why that might have been. Helena-Maria had finally changed his mind (rather, I suspect, because she was in love with him, despite the presence of Freya in his life).
That meeting was when the last part of the puzzle that was Joscelin Kennard dropped into place. I realised that he was the son Conrad Berthelmes: the man who acted as a bridge between myself and the Kaiser. Therefore, not only would Kennard be a game-changing resource for the Reich, but in return I could tell him who his father was, and use Conrad’s importance in the land which I “served” as a further tempting morsel. Finally, his interest was piqued.
After three years of work, Dieter was gone; Frida was ruling Leipzig, which was developing strong ties to the Reich (both outside and inside the bedroom); and Kennard was moving inexorably into my orbit. I finally asked him to accompany me to the Reich shortly after Anselm’s ninth birthday, adding that he would have whatever resources he wanted for his research, and with the added bonus that he could meet his father, and he agreed. When he approached Freya, she decided to come with him, along with their four sons, and finally, he was ours. Once Kennard and I had come to an accommodation, he moved his family to Bremen, and came to work for me at the RERI in September 123. He made his first breakthrough within a week of arriving, and from then we were getting somewhere.
His only proviso had been that he wanted to keep title to Denmark, so we made an arrangement with King Ragnar to share discoveries and technologies with his realm. Thereafter, Kennard travelled between the Denmark and the RERI, and worked on both, and this ultimately added to the general increase in the tech level on Keillour that came about as the result of a Nexus instance being present on the world.
A late fly in the ointment came when I told Helena-Maria that Kennard was relocating, she said that she wanted to return home as well, which left the problem of who to appoint in her place. I talked with Frida and she made it clear that she was willing to surrender the counsel of Helena-Maria, as long as whoever replaced her understood that they were just an advisor, rather than a co-Regent. She never wanted to fall under the power of another Dieter. As I felt the same way, I assured her that I wouldn’t let that happen.
After careful consideration, I chose Matthias Kapler, a rising Waffen-SS officer who had recently married Isabell von Wolfsburg. The marriage of noblewoman and apparent commoner caused enough of a stir that the chances were they would both want to get out of the Reich for a while. This also had the benefit that he could develop the Leipzig forces into something closer to the Waffen-SS, which he did with alacrity. In the end, during their time there, first Isabell, and then Matthias, replaced Helena-Maria as Frida’s closest friends, while I remained her occasional lover. By the time Anselm inherited, Leipzig was the Reich’s strongest ally in the Southern Hemisphere of the Inside.
Which left the final problem. Despite being happily married to Silvie, and raising a young son, I found myself infatuated with Frida to the extent that I wanted her to join me in the Reich. And yet, to do so, would destroy all the work we’d done to secure her position on the throne of Leipzig. In the end, I let my long-term intentions beat my short-term passions, and decided to wait until Anselm was old enough to take the throne in his own right before revisiting that problem, in the vague hope that between now and then I could explain about Frida to Silvie (and vice versa) and see if any form of accommodation could be reached that wouldn’t involve pistols at dawn between the pair of them.
And that, I believe, ends the preamble leading up to the events that happened at Rostock.