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President Obama uses drones. Lord Blackseed uses dragons. Same difference.

Two nights after the Council of Royals came to an abrupt and ignoble end, High Lord Advocate Telan Blackseed personally led the Army of the Republic in many boats across the lower reaches of the River Sabik, taking the town of Sadl Ferry in Menkal by surprise. Rynet Wood, however, just a few miles inland, remained undigested. Saiph League troops completely encircled the forest and were beginning to fight their way in, but a fair fraction of Blackseed's forces camped on a wide prairie between the forest and the roads to Melak to prevent Queen Firegem from aiding the refugees hiding among the trees, as well as to prevent the refugees from fleeing to Alodra.

The balance of Blackseed's forces came to grips with King Stronghammer's infantry on the Horse Plains between Rynet and Suhair along a broad front. Both sides dug in and erected earthworks with elaborate trenches to protect themselves from bowshot, for soldiers on both sides realized that on the flat battleground there was absolutely no cover. Thus the unfolding war threatened grind to a standstill and become a contest of attrition. That it did not do so could be attributed solely to Demonstroke, commanded by Joy, who used the dragon to provide "air support". Menkalese troops who thought themselves cozy and safe in fortifications soon found the very lumber they used to build their bulwarks were the target of liquid fire from the dragon's mouth. So it was that Blackseed, using judicious air strikes, slowly pushed Stronghammer back and seized the town of Rynet itself.

King Brogan Stronghammer dispatched a horseback courier to Queen Firegem in Atria begging for aid in the name of their new Union of Kingdoms. Che said Blackseed's left flank was "in the air" along the Menkal-Alodra border, therefore if sha attacked from northeast from Melak and burned Blackseed's boats, sha could raise calamity in the Republic rear and starve the enemy, forcing Blackseed to call off the invasion.

The Queen sent the Menkalese messenger back to Akamar with the reply that sha had done precisely that very thing without waiting for a plea from King Stronghammer, but every Alodran company that set a toe over the border, without exception, was wiped out in detail from the air by Demonstroke. Yet the dragon did not attack into Alodra itself. So now if the Queen ordered the relief attempts to continue, sha faced a mutinous army.

Stronghammer replied that Blackseed had played his hand brilliantly, and it was now just a matter of time before he exported his revolution across the entirety of the Land We Know, one kingdom at a time. Again che begged the Queen for any relief sha could muster.

In har final message sha said sha would take it directly to Chokhmah in the Temple, and suggested that Stronghammer take hez petition to Binah. For it was the gods themselves who established the political order in the Land We Know, and assuredly they would not roll over for this contemptuous upstart. But by the time this message reached the King, Suhair had already fallen, and the way to the Temple of Binah was cut off.

And the forces of the Saiph League won through to the very threshold of the Temple of Binah, yet none dared to go in, not even Lord Blackseed himself, for concerning the shrine there was something very special planned.

Then Belial rode forth on a black steed, and the truth was in the open now, that Lord Blackseed was nothing more than a sockpuppet with Belial's hand rammed up his ass. And Belial, as he had done for these last eight hundred years, possessed the body of the current Gerash patriarch, Abaddon, and styled himself an Emperor.

With him came his brightest flag officer, Field Marshal Ithuriel, who (it was said, when out of earshot of Abaddon and his spies) rivaled Binah herself in his intellect. With the Saiph League troops arrayed around the Temple of Binah, only Emperor Abaddon, Ithuriel, and a small cadre of the most elite Eyes of Belial warriors entered therein.

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