On his way to work the day following the robbery, Gar was careful to follow his usually routine. As much as he wondered what was going down at the flagpole, he took his usual route to the bakery, which took him nowhere near the post office. Yet despite this wide berth, he couldn't help but notice that estate guards seemed to be rushing about in a most unusual manner. Often, they'd stop a person, ask if he or she had any bomb supplies hidden away anywhere, and then continue on their way. Still, guards tended to be strange, so it could have been just one of their new rituals. After all, the flagpole ropes had been cut, not exploded.

Upon arriving at his place of work--a couple minutes early today--Gar quickly took the much sought-after position of fish-scaler and began the day's work. The boss spotted Gar from the front of the kitchen, and gave a discrete nod. Gar nodded back and continued on with his scaling.

By mid-morning, Gar had heard enough rumours and speculation from the rest of the staff to put together a rough idea of what had gone down the night before. It seemed someone had exploded the royal yacht while his accomplish cut the rope of the flagpole on Whitebrook.

There was a lot more, but a lot of it was pretty far fetched and the various stories seemed to contradict each other. One chef's assistant who usually had a handle on the goings on did say the squid thieves from yesterday had almost been blown up with the ship, but a couple of the chefs claimed this was a load of codswallop. Gar new it probably did involve the squid thieves somehow, though, so he leaned towards the assistant's story. The connection between the flagpole and the explosion, however, had no good explanation. Some said the flagpole ropes were used as a wick on the bomb--apparently the ships in the harbour had no rope, a claim that sounded a tad bit fishy to Gar--and numerous people insisted it had to be the Pesce. Who else would want to desecrate the flag and destroy the royal yacht? These stories Gar knew were probably false, since he knew the guy who had cut the flagpole ropes, and there had been no desecration or disrespect of the Tanenbaumian flag whatsoever. Of course, he kept his mouth shut, throwing out only the occasional jibe in response to a few the most outlandish ideas.

When Gar took his lunch break, the boss signalled for him to come over to the storeroom where he held most of his conferences.

'You done good last night, kid. Real good. I want you to know we appreciate all you've been doing for the bakery. You're a smart kid. You understand there's more to the bakery business than buying fish and putting it in bread. Most people, they don't get that so much. There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes, and not everyone is gonna know about it. They don't need to. So what I want you to do is take this sack of money'--the boss produced a large sack from one of the crates--'and take it to the guard house at Tanenbaum Estate. Try to find a servant you can bribe to take you to the prisoners from the explosion, and I want you to tell them...tell them I don't appreciate them messing with my business. Tell them I can get them out if they give me the name of their associate.'

Gar was enthused. How often do you get to walk into the centre of the nation's law enforcement infrastructure the night after committing a heinous crime, make a few illegal bribes, and then leave with the name of some guy whose involvement in the whole ruckus is completely unknown to you, all the while hoping you don't get caught and thrown into prison for all of eternity? Life was full of excitement! Gar quickly agreed to take on this adventurous endeavour of thrill and excitement.

The heavy bag swung over his shoulder, Gar walked out of the bakery and into the guard-filled street. 'Hey, guard!' he shouted to one of the guards. 'I'm a criminal! Arrest me and take me to the castle already.' Sadly, the guards were all busy dealing with a lemon merchant who had been found to smuggling a lime in his cart, though he insisted he had no idea where it had come form. The police had no tolerance for such behaviour, though, especially when it turned out the merchant hadn't any money. Clearly, he was an assassin who had been too dim-witted to demand advance pay for the job.

So Gar shrugged, causing the bag the bounce painfully against his back, and started walking towards Tanenbaum Estate. Hopefully he could find someone to give him a lift, but if not, he'd just steal a cart from some hapless tourist.


Leath looked at the new recruits and sighed. They seemed the sort who would shoot the enemy without even a 'I dare say, I am sorry!' or a 'No hard feelings, eh, chap? It is war, after all.' Soldiers like that couldn't be taken onto the battlefield or you'd end up /really/ angering the people whom you were fighting. The myth that soldiers didn't have to be every bit as polite as the rest of society was one that seemed unshakable in the public's view, and it showed in recruitment turnout. Shouting matches were all very fine when the fish-eaters were in their city and you in yours, but if you were going to be in all-out combat, you needed to use the same courtesy you'd use against anyone else. It's only civilised.

'All right. You're a handsome lot, and a very fine bunch of gentlemen I'm quite certain', began Leath in a calming tone. 'In fact, any army in the world would be proud to have such a gracious turnout at their recruitment seminars. But as you are all aware, we are here under trying circumstances. The Tanenbaums think we blew up their ship, even though we didn't. Now, we tried to explain to them that we're kind, decent blokes who would never do such a thing, even to cruel fish-eaters such as /them/, but it was futile. As such, we'll be going to war against their massive army quite soon. Most of the fighting will of course be done on the water, but we need foot troops in order to guard the north-eastern border from invasion. So, now, repeat after me: "I'm very sorry for this, Mr. Tanenbaum, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to stop you from entering out fair land during this time of war. Please hold still a moment while I lop off your legs." Then swing like this'--he made a swinging motion as if holding a scythe--'and then step back so you don't get splattered with blood.

The new recruits repeated something that resembled Leath's line and then swung their arms, clumsily hitting eat other in their vigour.

'Very good', lied Leath after the recruits had finished apologising to each other for any inadvertent damage or inconvenience in being hit by their imaginary scythe. 'And always remember to leave them feeling appreciated. Repeat, please: "Thank you for attempting to visit the land of Pesce. Please feel free to come back another time when we are not at war and you're no longer complete a barbarian."'


Following the disestablishment of Dictator Halley's unified realm, various fiefdoms, serfdoms, communes, and other small state-like entities of varying degrees of pleasantness popped up throughout the region. up north, of course, the Tanenbaum family became the most powerful, eventually consolidating their power to form a large nation-state. To the south, however, so single family stood out as the clear dominant force in the region. While the principality of Marlinspike had the strongest military, they didn't use it to conquer others, but instead maintained a small estate and traded mercenary labour for resources. The Holystone family, on the other hand, were masters of construction, both in the areas of ship-building and building building. The Silven territories were a loose collective of farmers whom really stayed out of everybody's way living far from the crowded seaboard. The Balin family were similar, but more southerly and even less concerned with politics than the Silvens.

If there was one outstanding ruling group, though, it had to have been the Codds. The Codds were outstanding in that they lived right in the thick of things, surrounded by frequently feuding neighbours and no shortage of diplomatic traffic, yet they avoided conflict with an impressive degree of success. It was from this family of peace-loving nobles that there appeared a promising young lady known as Jaime, out of the small village of Canton. Jaime was a wise and benevolent noblelady who through a series of deaths that were not at all her doing presently became the ruler of the Codd family's territory. Shortly thereafter, she met and wed a young Marlinian noble-gone-mercenary named Jayne (leading, it must be confessed, to no small number of jokes on their similar names) who had actually been trying to mug her at the time of their first meeting.

This marriage, along with the incredible amicability of Jaime, led to a strong alliance between Marlinspike and the Codds. Then, six years later, the Holystones were saved from starvation by the Codds' generous sharing food stores following a huge storm that wiped out much of the Holystone's winter reserves. This led to yet another alliance. At this time, however, two weak families were at war with the Holysontes and they sent delegations to the Codd's to demand retribution for messing up their war. Instead of betraying the Holystones as was demanded of her, Jaime negotiated control over a large stretch of coastline in exchange for dropping all claims of cattle rustling that had been made against the Holystones.

By this time, the alliance had grown so large and powerful that people were beginning to wonder if war would soon become a thing of the past. The very wise Jaime Codd saw an opportunity to make this so, and convinced the others to join her in giving up ultimate power over their respective territories in exchange for seats on a new, unified ruling council called the Pesce, possibly because no one could remember how to spell 'peace' after so many years of fussing about, or possibly because it meant fish in one of the old dialects we've long since forgotten. Whatever the basis for the name, all parties agreed to this union, and Jaime and Jayne Codd/Marlinspike desided their work here was done. So they moved out east, bought huge tracts of land, and Jayne hunted wild boar while Jaime sat at home writing the annals of history so they could later be destroyed in the massive Jaynetown fire some decades after her death.