Wizard! Chapter 518
The various political reactions to the appearance of the Allied Subterranean Territories were more or less as William expected. Mostly surprise. The dwarves and elves who fled the continent hadn’t kept any records of others staying behind, hidden. Perhaps they had not known, or presumed that they died. Untold years of history could make such details fuzzy. Even so, they were very easy to meet their long-lost people- even if the people were turned into one somewhat stranger people.
Of course, they did have some issues arranging diplomacy. Everything would naturally have to occur by travelling through Cruonian territory. William didn’t mind that so much- having Cruonia be something like a neutral ground for communication was good for relations in general. Even if they just travelled through, it helped people get used to elves and dwarves. There had been plenty of time for that, but it was a slow process before people actually accepted changes.
William sat in a meeting with the trade representatives of the Allied Subterranean Territories. Trade also had to pass through Cruonia, because that was how space worked. It had taken a bit of time to work out the details, but for the most part there was a small tariff and goods were carried by Cruonian traders, at least near the beginning. After all, methods for getting around below and above the surface were quite different. They had expressed interest in trains, but they would still require many years to dig out new tunnels and lay track. Likewise, horses didn’t live long underground- but creatures that did like dire badgers weren’t optimal on the surface.
The dwarf across from William- he would be called a dwarf for his body type even though it was likely he had at least some elven ancestry by the current day- slapped his hand on the hard wooden table, “The League has gone too far! That was a shipment including top tier adamantine!” He cleared his throat, “Not to disparage the damaged they have already caused to your trade but…”
William nodded supportively, “This is just the latest in a series of uncalled for offenses. We have prepared a response to their actions already… but we don’t wish to step on too many toes. Transporting soldiers past Western Liaoyang might make them a bit uncomfortable… and we would prefer that the humans keep a positive opinion of us. There’s not much they can say about protecting our own trade but… it would be much easier if you could help us pop up some troops inside the League’s territory, for tactical reasons as well.”
“What, you want us to tunnel over a great gross miles just to get the drop on them? Do you have any idea how much that would cost?”
William shrugged, “No, but I’m sure you kept records of it when you built the tunnels.”
“We don’t have any tunnels under the human territories.”
“I’d be inclined to believe you but…” William pulled out and unrolled a large map, “This says otherwise.” He watched their reactions carefully- and to their credit they barely gave anything away. “Now, you don’t have to admit they exist. We both know they do. Just let me lay out both sides of a potential discussion. You don’t want anyone to know the tunnels exist. You may not be comfortable with a large group of our soldiers moving through your territory. On the other hand, you aren’t particularly fond of the League’s practices and they hate your just as much as us. They’ll also attack any other shipments of adamantine you send… or it will have to go overland through Ostana to reach Jeim.” William folded his hands, “Of course, you can’t make such a decision yourselves, but you can talk to your council. I can even send an official petition. If you have to continue to pretend the tunnels and cities listed on this map don’t exist… We can pretend they don’t, and it will take longer for sea trade to resume from Cruonia to Ustil. You can rest assured we intend to deal with the situation as quickly and efficiently as possible, since it impacts our own trade as well.” William moved to stand up, stopping halfway. “Were there any other matters we needed to discuss today?”
“No, we just wished to know what you intend to do about that situation.”
“Very well. You have my answer.” William finished standing up, “Oh, and we don’t necessarily need to send many troops through. We could probably do something useful with a dozen scouts. Just think about it.”
William reflected on the meeting. A large part of politics was pretending you knew what was going on. The important thing was having a high success rate on guesses. It was possible the map was a fake- but not likely. Even if the map itself had been fake, William thought they would have spread out significantly over the many, many years. It was plenty of time to settle a continent- even if one had to dig tunnels through bedrock everywhere.
Just like William didn’t know how they had stayed hidden, but he could guess. The diviners knew about them and kept them secret- and also possibly hidden. Could they predict where people would develop and thus where it was safe to hide tunnel entrances? Absolutely. Actually, tunnels to the surface could have been a later addition. Besides wherever they interacted with the diviners, surface tunnels would have been a liability… unless they needed anything from the surface specifically. Nothing they were trading seemed like necessities, but then again if they had been procuring something themselves there would be little reason to stop.
Next, William would be meeting with representatives from Ustil. They also weren’t particularly happy with what the League was doing to their trade, or the earlier aggression they had shown- even if they had backed out of their attack. Coordinating efforts with Ustil would be the best option overall, since they already shared a border with the League. William also considered moving troops through Ostana. The only problem with that was there would be too much notice of troop movements that way. If he had to- and Ostana was willing- he would, but if they could move in stealthily and take out key targets, that would be best. Some people frowned on assassinations… but by attacking their ships and killing Cruonian citizens, they had effectively declared war. Killing leaders was just a way to minimize civilian and soldier casualties.