The first fleet was assembled in the waters northwest of Holston and would be moving up the coast toward Mundi a day hence. On the journey, they would be met by an uncertain number of incoming exploratory vessels returning from fish-seeking expeditions. Combat-ready ships would split off and travel around behind the Island of the Gods, and the rest of the fleet would arrive in Mundi with the same number of ships they had left with. Any Tanenbaumian spies would be forced to conclude that things were really just as they appeared, and the ships rounding the island would be able to surprise the enemy from behind their lines. It was extremely clever of the Pesce, except for that it involved sending a mini-fleet far into enemy territory, and that the mini-fleet contained very few infantry,so no foothold could really be established back there, making supplies a potential problem. Still, the military planners were very happy about their clever little stratagem, and ground assaults never really were their forte anyhow.

Meanwhile, the people of Silves were being asked to put down their pitchforks and pick up their swords, and then being told to pick their pitchforks back up after they'd explained that they didn't have any swords. These valiant and oppressed people would be taking the assault to Tanenbaum Region from the east, far from the ocean. This meant the Tanenbaums would find themselves fighting a war on multiple fronts, something few nations could ever withstand.

It somehow eluded the Pesce that since this was a war between just two nations, they would be fighting on the exact same number of fronts, but with their hopefully superior numbers, they could handle the situation better.

In Mundi, ships loaded with troops from the southern cities were sailing in to the ports every day, unloading their passengers, and then sailing down to Holston and its neighbouring towns for military retrofitting. Most of these passengers were to be trained to fight on the ground, while others would be supply sargents, field medics, or battlefield public relations specialists. All needed basic military training, which was handled chiefly by the border guards. Leath was still concerned with the quality of the new recruits, but he had to admit they were getting better. People weren't showing up just so they could shout insults at the northerners on the battlefield, but because they wanted to defend their nation, and because they had all been offered the sign-up incentive of lifetime passes to the five largest aquariums in the land.

This didn't mean they were the best soldiers ever, though.

'Greetings, my good Private. Let me first apologise, for I am sadly the bearer of unfortunate news. It has been brought to my attention that you were late for KP this morning. Due to these unfortunate circumstances, for which we do not blame you by any stretch but rules are rules, you are to do KP tomorrow morning as well.'

'I awful most humble apologies for my tardiness this morning, most benevolent of captains. It was entirely my fault and I most gladly accept your invitation to redeem myself on the morrow.'

Leath, who was a lieutenant, sighed. He needed to find /someone/ to promote to sargent to do this job for him. Yet none of the troops really seemed qualified. Those who didn't show up late for KP, couldn't complete the obstacle course, or always had a ruffled uniform, or--and Leath found this most disturbing of all--/couldn't remember their own lieutenant's rank/.

He moved through the barracks, greeting each solider, and informing about half of them what they'd done wrong that day that they were 'requested' to remedy the following day.

He knew this would go faster tomorrow. They'd be starting with real weapons, and he suspected most of major the screw-ups would be in the medical tents rather than the barracks by nightfall, thank Dag. Maybe he'd just reward the best fighter with a sargantship. He'd have to decide tomorrow. If he made such a commitment now, he just knew one of the screw-ups would do well, just to spite him.


Roughly the size of Great Britain, only smaller, the Island of the Gods was a mythical island that really existed just off the coast, near where Tanenbaum Region and the Pesce nation met, thought more towards the northern nation, actually reaching far enough north to shelter Tanenbaum Estate on the tip of what was once called 'Halley's Peninsula' (at her insistence) but was now just referred to as 'the peninsula'.

Though few had ever visited the island, there were numerous legends telling of its splendour, its magnificent foliage, and the various gods who resided there in temples made of stone and/or glass.

Few legends, however, told the exact nature of these gods. That is, they told exact natures, but none of them were accurate, though no one on the continent new it.

In general, the legends were not too far off. They told of fish-like gods, sometimes half-fish, half-men, sometimes merely gods human in appearance but with various fishy attributes, such as gills or fins. In truth, the gods of the island were much like this, only with one small difference: they were dead.

This morbid quality did not stop the gods from doing what would normally be deemed 'enjoying life', but it did mean they didn't die. Oh, sure, they might stop being undead, which was effectively the same thing, but they didn't /actually die/, so they could perhaps still be considered immortal beings. (Though one could argue that they were, in fact, HYPERmortal beings.)

This does, however, raise one question as to how they got to be dead in the first place. In actuality, they did begin as alive, but at that time they were merely non-godly fish. It was only upon their undeadification that they acquired their godly status. Prior to that, they were as any other fish in the river.

Oh, yes, these gods were all undead /river/ fish, a fact that would have gotten you strung up in either of the two great nations of the continent. It is perhaps a bit ironic that these gods were worshipped by people river fish were considered lower creatures. Yet no one knew the true nature of the gods, so it all worked out just fine, so long as no one ever visited the island and met these river fish gods.

The Island of the Gods was rife with rivers running all over the land. They ran through forests and plains and even the occasional temple. A couple temples were actually entirely below sea level, though this gods didn't need to breath and tended to be very skilled at flopping in the general direction they wished to go. In most temples, an irregular flip-flop sound permeated the halls as zombie trout bounced up and down the passageways, through doors, onto altars, into the pews, and then flipping pages in the hymnals.

And what hymns did these fish gods sing? Well, none, really. Fish can't find, obviously. But they liked to read the lyrics in silence and admire the occasional drawing. One of the gods, Ernie, particularly liked the one drawing of a trout being dressed up in a sailor costume by its servants for Halloween. The gods never celebrated Halloween, though they had long, long ago. Nowadays, the only holidays they celebrated were Fishmas and the Day of the Dead. The latter was similar to Halloween in some respects, but no one ever dressed as fishermen, so Ernie didn't really care for it.

Cheese was popular on the island. The trout didn't much care for it, but their leader, who was actually mostly human, thought it was a delightful product. She ate all sorts of cheeses. Whenever a dead cow would float by the island, the gods would manipulate the weather to bring it to land, where they would cut it open and drain it of milk.

Sadly, most dead cows that floated by had no milk at all. In the past three hundred years, they'd only gotten milk from six different cows, and those were all in the same week, shortly following the sinking of a cow-carrying ship nearby. That milk had been used up almost immediately, and the leader longed for more. Yet cow-related naval disasters were disappointingly rare occurrences, so she mostly went without. This annoyed her. Cheese was thoroughly delicious. All kinds of cheese. Even cheddar, though it was relatively boring. Gouda was great. Provolone was delicious. Mozzarella was excellent. Cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese. Nothing finer.


Private Morris Dallywonk woke with a start. What a bizarre dream he'd been having. And heretical, too. Imagine, the gods as dead river fish. How absurdly whimsical, and at the same time, horrifyingly absurd. Hopefully no mind-readers were around to detect his sick impious thoughts. They'd probably string him up and burnt him at the stake.

Mmm...cheese. Why couldn't he dream about that delectable cuisine /without/ it being all sacrilegious?


Hilfa looked back at Snook and Gar. Snook was re-enacting one of his many swordfights for Gar and Gar was almost smiling. Up to this point, Gar had seemed most decidedly stoic, never grinning at any of Snook's stupid jokes--not that Hilfa did most of the time either--and barely speaking a sentence more than two words long. Mostly he just grunted or ignored their chatter, and they made a lot of it. Hilfa had told him of their plans to live with the polar bears and Snook had explained how it had been his idea entirely. Hilfa was quite willing to give Snook full credit, as she thought it a stupid idea. Secretly, she had wanted to go south towards civilisation, but had hoped to trick Snook into walking the wrong direction when they awoke the next morning. With Gar there, however, it seemed unlikely that would work. She couldn't just say 'Okay , let's continue north' and walk south and expect this guy to follow. He clearly wanted to go north. Hopefully, he had a better plan than Snook did, and with luck, they could join him.