The vice-knight-commander visibly trembled. “You… have captured humans?”
William shrugged, “I trust you can agree that is much preferable to killing them, would you not? We don’t need to go over all of their names at the moment, but we thought we might list a few. If you would?”
Lorelei’s voice came through the phone, “Jeffrey Bauer… Jiang Huan…” She continued to read off of a list some of those they knew were more important. They’d only been taking prisoners for the last few years, as that part of the plan hadn’t been developed before. It was difficult to keep prisoners of import since they were strong, but some of the lords more sympathetic to diplomacy had helped with the process.
The knight carefully licked his lips. “Is there a… Nicholas Leone?”
“Ah… let me look.”
While Lorelei did that, William asked some questions, “Do you know the last battle he was in?”
“It should have been to the west… a year and a half ago.”
After a few more moments, Lorelei’s voice came through. “The list doesn’t have anyone by that name.”
William quickly interjected, “I see. If we don’t have his name on the list, it’s not without hope. Many of the prisoners were reluctant to give their names. We can ask around to see if we can find him… and some others.” William didn’t mention the other possibilities, such as him being dead already.
The negotiations stretched over several days, but that was to be expected. William was actually surprised at how expedient everything was. It helped immensely that the representatives from Ustil seemed to go along with whatever he said. He tried to avoid pushing that too far, though. Meanwhile, the pair from Liaoyang were simultaneously intimidated and respectful. William understood that he’d come very close to completely ruining the peace talks with his display, but it had paid off.
Of course, nothing would have worked if people hadn’t been receptive to the idea of peace to begin with. Since it was the first real negotiation between humans and gevai in most of recorded history, William thought it had gone rather well. It helped significantly that the rest of the gevai lords weren’t physically present, as some of the things they said wouldn’t have gone over well… but weren’t in the languages humans spoke. The ones who did speak human languages were more reasonable for the most part.
The biggest sticking point was reparations. Of course the gevai lords wanted repayment for damages that had happened to their lands or armies, but it was already almost the limit just to have the humans withdraw. William shook his head. People were insane, because even though both sides wanted peace, they still wouldn’t agree easily.
The captives were very useful, because they not only brought about a sense of goodwill, they could also be exchanged for some of the reparations that the gevai lords sought. They were the ones who were more on the fence, so they did need some material goods to convince them… even though the humans could have just withdrawn and that would have been the end of it.
Once the negotiations were almost over, there were several more days of writing out the details in multiple languages. Each country got a copy in every language, and every version was combed over to make sure it read the same in each language, to the limits of what could be said anyway. William also made a version in the gevai language, though it wasn’t an official document since none of the humans spoke gevai.
After that, it was the tedious process of sending out messages on both sides. The fighting had already ceased some time prior. They also released the first wave of hostages, as a sign of good faith. The rest would be released in various groups, with the final group being released upon the total removal of human forces from gevai lands. The humans weren’t terribly happy about waiting for some of them, but upon seeing the (relatively) good condition of the prisoners, they didn’t complain much. The prisoners were fed enough to keep them relatively healthy, and they were unharmed, but some of them required significant restraints for the sake of security.
One interesting result of the negotiations surprised William, though it should have been seen as an inevitable consequence. The head envoy from Ustil chose to stay in gevai territory in a permanent fashion. The other nations promised to send envoys as well, but the current representatives weren’t available for a long term position. Of course, William offered to send a gevai to each human country as well, though he had no idea who it would be… or if that would even be possible in Eclea. They remained silent on the matter… which was reasonable enough for William.
William was glad that only the envoy from Ustil stayed right away. The whole plan he was involved with had just begun, and he didn’t want humans getting any ideas. Specifically, he didn’t want them to change their mind and decide to attack the gevai… while they were busy having a civil war.
Did William want a civil war? Absolutely not. Was it going to happen anyway? Almost certainly. If possible, William would just kill all of the old lords… but he doubted they would just fight him one-on-one until he killed them all, if that was even possible. If he was actually winning, they would find some excuse not to fight him individually. After all, their lives and personal power were their primary concerns… not the lives of others. Thus, they would use armies, and they would fight William and the other lords who didn’t see any point in trying to wipe out the humans. Then, it would be a civil war.
William had plans to reduce the numbers of deaths of regular soldiers, but they weren’t perfect. He couldn’t just convince them not to fight with the promise that no harm would come to them. It was true, and he just wanted to kill the lords, but they wouldn’t necessarily believe him. Some of them would be truly loyal to their lords, others would fear the lords they served more than him. Likewise, he couldn’t bet on the lords on his side going to all of the trouble of making sure the common gevai life was not thrown away. Thus, there would inevitably be casualties.