ok it`s done now.
Name: Anatoli Pushkin
Affiliation: Ms. Pavenlova`s Rebellion
Place of Birth: Unknown, Rossiyskaya Imperiya
Place of Death: Province R9, Rossiyskiy Soyuz
Dear reader, you may have noticed that every entry in this compendium of accounts from the war has been from the viewpoint of the Crown Colonies. This is not due solely to mere patriotism, nor idealism, but out of a disturbing lack of alternatives. The reader should know that my associates and I have searched libraries and manifestoes in every belligerent nation, to little avail. We believe soldiers of the Crown Colonies, though possessing traditional British pride and knowledge, were not simply better in creating and preserving letters and diaries. After all, every nation involved in the conflict fielded thousands of men; surely sheer probability would dictate at least a few hundred documents would have survived all these years from them? The reason for this discrepancy in numbers proved remarkably simple, and proves to be a microcosm for the varying societies, cultures, and values which clashed together one and a quarter centuries ago.
Section 3a, of the Republican Army Officer Training Manual (3ème édition), the official manual used by the French armies in their colonies during the time of the war states: "On the subject of morale... letters to home have been proven to exponentially increase the morale of soldiers, and ample supplies of ink and paper should be carried alongside other necessary materiel... this practice should be discarded, however, whenever the army embarks on an operation in which speed and surprise is of upmost importance. In the case that this happens to be true no stationery shall be used nor carried, in order to minimize the risk of risk of information being captured... there is also a risk that letters from war-weary soldiers- or other defeatist elements- may hinder the efforts of the Ministry of Public Health... suspected violations must be ceased immediately upon discovery, though the officer may decide his own method in determining and securing the loyalty of the offender(s) towards the Grand Republic and the Revolution.
There are no known letters from Republican soldiers.
The Russian Soyuz (Union), whose contribution to the war at this point has been immortalized in the children`s rhyme "A defeat at R4 and little more", had no such limitations. This was not due to a love of free knowledge and kinship, but because they had practically no government at all. Its people lived in farmsteads and the occasional commune dotted around the vast tundras and taigas, their border marked only by the first patches of green. Power was fiercely contested by their official leader, Niroc, and an association of bureaucrats tasked with the distribution of land: the Land League of the Union (LLU). Suffice to say, neither entity possessed the logistical capabilities nor the opportunity to extend their influence over such a large swath of land (as well as over the Russian populace, universally known for their insolence). As a result, it was not government interference but astronomically high illiteracy rates among their subjects which stymied our efforts to collect knowledge on the region.
So, our surprise knew no limits when we found an intact series of journal entries from a Russian soldier- one from the peasantry, no less. In fact, this Anatoli Pushkin was a member of a short-lived Rebellion which threatened to seize control away from its Francophillic overlord, and establish a society run entirely by such peasants. Such an important discovery could never in good faith be left out of a collection such as this, even if it diverges from the established topic of British soldiers. However, if you wish to skip this chapter, the page-number of the next entry shall be posted below...
"It takes a certain type of man to join a rebellion. One has to believe- and believe wholeheartedly- in one`s cause to excuse a betrayal of the highest severity. It is one thing to fight a foreign army, with your brothers at your side and your families at your rear. You can find glory in that, revel in the knowledge that honor and respect will be bestowed upon you no matter if you live or die. Your crimes: erased, your sins: absolved, you become nothing but a stone pedestal for all beneath you to look up towards and wonder what it could be like.
It takes a certain type of man to throw that all away."
Anatoli thought he heard steps coming from outside the tent; it must`ve been them coming back from dinner. He looked for a place to store the still-dripping quill and paper, but found none. Already feeling the string of regret, he shoved the inky paper between his chest and his coat, wincing at the distinctive crumple of two hours labor melting away. Five or so sets of lets appeared in the thin gap between the tent flaps, stumbling around and followed by continuous bursts of meaningless laughter, then fading away. This provided no comfort for Anatoli, as this meant that his "tent mates" were still out there near the fire and could return at any time. Dismayed, he looked down at his coat to see that small black patches had seeped through the outermost layer and were now distinctly visible to the non-inebriated eye. Come morning, once the haze of this night had faded away, there would be no end to their childish games. But nothing had truly been lost, merely disconnected and unsupported words on a sheet of paper. He stood up wiped his ink-splotched hands on his tunic, disappointed that none came off. If caught, he would not be able to explain the mess this time. He stood up, stretched out his back, and placed his mug of ink in his usual spot under his cot. Only a thin stack of paper was there to greet him, not including the ones which had stained or crumpled beyond all salvation, not all due to accident. But that didn`t trouble him; tomorrow would be a new day,
They never made it back to the tent that night. Anatoli enjoyed the privacy. It was a shame that, when morning came, he was apprehended by a gong of burly men and hastily escorted past row after row of dilapidated tents. Anatoli expected for his captors to stop and shove him into one of those rows and thrusted into the arms of a waiting mugger, but that didn`t happen. Suddenly, a new type of dread weeded its way into his mind. He snuck a glance into one of the men`s eyes, and had his fears confirmed when he saw they were firmly planted onto one tent in particular.
"There was no force on earth which could have stopped them from delivering me there. No matter how hard I could have kicked or yelled, they were loyal to a higher power- two higher powers- and I was to be subject to both of their unmitigated judgements. The rows faded and the noises of no less than five hundred men were overshadowed by even the slightest gusts billowing around that tent; even it dared not disturb its hallowed canvas and ropes. I could swear it was the boatman Charon himself that opened the threshold to the tent, grumbling how he had not been payed for the troubles. An roaring furnace took up much of the center of the room, its opaque product rising slowly and methodically until piling into a cloud at the very top of the structure, trapped forever inside by a mere layer of ceiling. There was but one figure in that room, silently admiring the whole display. I instinctively raised my arm into a salute, but remembered it was still entrapped by the men, who stood in reverent awe at the embodiment of His power on this earth.
I once wrote that it took a certain type of man to join a rebellion. It takes more than a man to lead one...
...It takes Ms. Pavenlova."
She rose from a meditative slumber, her structure protected from the ground by a silk carpet- and protected from the vices of humanity by a golden pendent of Him wrapped around her neck. As she emerged into the light, her features became clear for the first time; she was no longer the speaker on the stage, nor the solder on the battlefield, but a feather on the scale of Anubis, of which all men feared to be weighted against. Even in the shadow of the growing flame she remained pale as nacre, her hair a rich cream tint. In truth, not even the most seductive bachelor in the world would dare to act- or even think- in a lustful manner towards her; it would be blasphemy towards all of the beauty in the world. And now, unarmed, unarmored, and with no-one left to impress- what should should been her most vulnerable moment- I stayed on the ground, and was compelled to kneel.
"Stand, Private Pushkin."
Private Pushkin stood. He restrained his eyes from wondering around the room towards the small shrine built to Him, just behind the fire-pit. She traced his eyes to the small golden statuette, tilted her head as if an idea had just popped in, but then shook it out.
"Do you know why you are here, Private Pushkin?"
He shook his head.
"Do you know where the other three people assigned to your tent are?"
He shook his head. Ms. Pavenlova sighed, then motioned towards a figure standing at the entrance. He was truly a child, definitely tall and strong enough to hold a rifle, but if he wiped the dirt from his face and gained a few more pounds, he would not look out of place in university. He stood by Anatoli`s side, himself struggling to look straight ahead. Ms. Pavenlova continued.
"The man beside you was stationed on the fringes of our camp last night.", she said, showing clear signs of admiration, "Around midnight, I believe..."
Anatoli expected the boy to nod in recognition, but he stood still. He noticed that his eyes were a light red, and that he was breathing erratically.
"...he found your tent-mates trying to hide in a ditch. When confronted, they broke into a run."
"He shot one of them on the spot for desertion. The other two were caught and were given the same punishment."
The boy bit his lower lip and took a series of deep breaths. He tilted his head towards Anatoli, then snapped it back to its original position.
"Did they ever tell you of their plans?"
Anatoli shook his head.
"I want you to say it! You have to say it!"
"No, Ms. Pavenlova. We were not on good terms.", replied Anatoli, pondering over every word he had just said for fear of a mistake.
Ms. Pavenlova cupped her chin with her hand. With her spare hand she sent the child away, who was keen to follow his order. The guards followed suit. The fire-pit crackled, lighting up the shrine. Slowly, Anatoli`s eyes drifted once more to the gilded statuette, the formless eyes seeming to stare both at and through the mere mortal before it. A light seemed to rise behind those eyes, rising uninhibited until it seemed like it wished to burst forth from its metallic chains and sally into the world. It was then that Ms. Pavenlova holstered her hand.
"Why did you join this revolution, Private?", asked Ms. Pavenlova, bathing in tranquility.
"I believe Lidor Niroc betrayed us, and this army represents the true spirit of the people."
"Tell me, do you believe in the power of... Blee, Anatoli?"
Anatoli paused. It had been years since he had heard that name spoken out loud, and the first time in a positive context. Father Nikolai had warned against the growing dangers of heresy, how it would capture unweary souls and send them to the gates of hell and beyond, where God had no influence. Anatoli believed him, continued to believe him, even when the cries of the man in distant Rossiya were twisted and morphed as time went on, Anatoli was a believer. But, then again, this was the same Father Nikolai who preached divine right- that the Tsars were products of God and not an ever-repeating example of vice and ignorance.
That was why Anatoli remained silent. And that is why Ms. Pavenlova`s spirits dropped, and he was escorted out of the tent and given the terse warning: "We will be watching.", before he was ordered to attend the next drilling session.
"We were farmers, ranchers, and frontiersmen. Now, we are led to believe that we are soldiers; soldiers not only of superior quantity and quality than the government forces, but worthy of the favor of Blee (His name has been used quite liberally since my arrival, and with no shortage of vigor). This arrangement, that of open rebellion, I find myself in has resulted in one resounding epiphany: my life in the Soyuz has been an anomaly. First off, it seems that a large percentage of my comrades are native-born, despite the fact that knowledge of this island was only made clear mere years ago. The information I have managed to muster so far dictates that many of them are direct descendant of enemies of long-dead Tsars, forever banished to the Great Barren Frost. Some took their exile to the extremes and, upon reaching the easternmost portions of the tundra, constructed a few ships, assumedly trying to escape to North America. To their dismay, they landed not on the temperate climes of the western coast, but to one similar to their native land, on the southern portions of this island. Inevitably, the population grew apart, both in search of arable lands, and over minor disputes which bordered on the cusp of conflict. Clans arose, and common blood triumphed common ordeals in matters of importance. Raids wiped out families and the land they owned, forcing people to venture deeper into the continent to escape the violence. These refugees, especially those who populated what is now known as the Cliff Coast, disillusioned by their struggles, turned away their old teachings. All across the crags of the eastern coasts, crosses and incense-sticks were thrown into the sea as they embraced a new god, the prophet of which captured farmstead after farmstead not with muskets but with words.
But everything changed when a starving Republican soldier wandered into the tundra, five years ago.
Of course he was executed, their existence was not to be compromised. But this solitary action proved to accomplish more than any war or warlord ever could. If the people wished to retain their lifestyle, they had to band together, lest they end up like the countless peopled across the world, subjugated by the Crown and the Republic. A Russian Union, united under one ruler- at least, until the imperialists had been dealt with.
In origins, we share a similar history. My father was never friends with the Tsar, and that meant he was never friends with the Bureau of Information. That in itself wasn`t particularly special, as sentiments between the public and the government ranged from a live and let live doctrine to a few muskets away from rebellion. However, one critical factor directed a substantial amount of ire towards him: he was a Printer- and an influential one, at that. As long as people brought text, he would print it; minimal questions asked. They tried to shut him down, tried to threaten him, but he stood firm. Then I was born, and they threatened him again. Thus, we were not forced into the great wastes but meandered around whatever countries of Europe would take us in. But there was always a risk of capture, one which proved too much for the family`s mettle. Father came back one day with a letter from an unmarked address, with nothing but a set of co-ordinates. Our next voyage was not to a sunny vista, but seemingly to the center of the ocean."
Anatoli laid down the quill, allowing for a small ink pool to form just along the edges of the paper. One day he would run out; then he would be in trouble. There was a very real chance that he possessed the largest collection of stationery outside of the possession of Niroc or the LLU. His own library, small enough to be effectively hidden under a cot, filled from page-end to page-end with nothing but accounts about him. He sighed, it was a shame they couldn`t take the printing machine with them. That thing took up half a building, and could only manage a few pages an hour, but if they began printing when they arrived, they could have created a few things worth reading. At the very least, they could have made a dent in the illiteracy rates...
He glanced through the small opening between the flapping canvas threshold of the tent. He was fortunate to be next to where the muskets were stacked, each tent stacking them together like caltrops over a fire-pit. It was a shame then that his laid alone, as he still had not been assigned new people to be bunked with. He had real use for the extra space, as he had nothing to carry- nothing physical, at least. He had grown quite good with musketry over the days, however, just as decent as any of the real frontiersmen. They had pushed men to the brink and beyond, and at times they suffered the consequences. Desertion, though never discussed, was at an all time high, as some determined the weight of freedom was heavier than that of corporeal pain. As the lines at morning drill grew shorter and shorter, more and more men were dragged from their cots to the tent at the end of the rows.
Anatoli was awoken one night not by musket fire or a visit from the watching men, but by an incessant cacophony rising from the other end of the camp. As he edged to the threshold, dodging three empty beds to the outside, he dared only stick his head out. Rows of lanterns, some fastened to poles and others clamped by freezing hands illuminated the whole display. A distinct rattling accompanied the almost rhythmic clanging, which now enveloped the whole encampment. More heads emerged from the bunks, with a noble few emerging from them entirely to gaze on the spectacle unfolding before them. One man closer to the action let out a single gasp, before ducking back inside and fastening the canvas flaps shut. A lantern-wielding man turned around on the spot, and the other spectators quickly hid amongst their shelters, all but Anatoli. The man, certain that he had heard something in the darkness, massaged his chin with his free hand and furrowed his brow. Unsatisfied, he raised his lantern up and over his head, revealing to Anatoli the whole source of the disturbance. A band of men, stripped of their coats down to a mere tunic were roped and chained together around their ankles, and were unnaturally bent over forwards carrying hammers and all other manner of tools. Each successive swing on the raised platform on which they labored was delivered with less and less vitality, until they could not work any longer. However, it seemed their labor had been at last completed, as a wooden scaffold that stood twice as high as those hunched figures was erected and hammered into place. At the end of the overhanging arch a rope was fastened, and gingerly tied by a fatigued aide. Even in the middle of the night, with the scene lit only by the orange flames of the lanterns, the image stayed with Anatoli, even- and especially- when he shut his eyelids in disbelief. He retreated to the interior of the tent, and collapsed on the closest cot. Though conscious, he dared not move to his own sleeping quarters, and, like most other men that long night, the only rest they received came intermittently.
A lone rider came in during morning drill, bearing no crest or badge. The wind had carried the excess residue from firing practice over to the entrance, and his full figure was not made fully clear to the guards until he was almost upon them. He was wise enough to stop far enough away from them to give them breathing space before he hailed them. They spoke, and one of the guards looked at the other over his shoulder, before stepping aside. The rider meandered down the open path, and packed his spurs into his pockets. He wheeled his head around, not necessarily avoiding eye contact but making none anyways. He knew his destination after all, and it would be for the best if he didn`t cause any distractions- one notable exception was when his eyes found the gallows- then, he . It seemed the guards at the tent were better informed than their colleagues; they were quick to step aside and part the canvas even before he dismounted, and were equally eager to let the flaps swallow him whole once he had entered.
Anatoli was soon approached by two guards. This time, they did not feel the need to restrain him.
It seemed like the meeting between the rider and Ms. Pavenlova went over quite well, as the former had clearly forgotten the standard posture and procedure, but suffered none of the expected consequences. Indeed, the eyes of two figures resting upon him had no more impact than any others. Still, he was courteous enough to postpone his report long enough for all of Anatoli`s escort to deliver their package and abscond. Whether he wished to show an example to the common soldier deposited before him or not, he reluctantly shuffled into an attentive stance, and planted his eyes firmly against the opposing wall. Ms. Pavenlova seamlessly shifted her attention towards Anatoli, and yielded yet another silent command towards an aide. The aide returned carrying a few sheets of paper. It was here that the rider asked to leave, but was refused. Three backless chairs were placed behind each occupant, and they were beckoned to sit. She curtly looked over the papers, before extending them outwards , in Anatoli`s direction.
"I ask you again... do you believe in the power of Blee?"
Anatoli scanned over the papers, eyes fluttering over every single letter. Questions arose and memories were scrutinized for even a hint of information.
"We were watching. And fortunately for you, Anatoli..."
She leaned forwards in the seat, bridging the divide. Her face at last unobscured and unaltered by smoke and flames. Every series of freckles seemed to form an archipelago in a foamy sea, navigable only by two bright stars to their north. As Helen once launched a thousand ships, we would fight equally hard for but one moment similar to this; as the sea was parted momentarily to reveal a soft grin.
"... we are impressed. It is rare to find a literate in this part of the world, much less a scholar. I believe we have a proposition for you."
Ms. Pavenlova stood, and made her way to the opposite side of the tent, where there was a dark brown desk. As she sorted through its contents, Anatoli allowed himself to think over the events which just occurred. The leader of the rebellion, the only refuge of free russians- and it could be argued, free people- in the world (not to mention, champion of Him and His will), had taken the time to speak to him. He replayed every precious word she spoke, and weighed it against the pitiful display of ignorance that he had met it with. With such ignorance, perhaps this was yet another proof of her semi-divinity, that she would even tolerate the presence of-
"She`s human too, you know."
Anatoli sprung up in his seat, plucked out of his mind and deposited once more inside the tent. With another curt motion, he turned to his right, where the rider sat, his hand lifted to one side of his mouth to shield his words from any other ears.
"Besides, you`re in her good books now. It`s safe to relax your posture."
Anatoli did no such thing. This rake- one as thin as its former and villainous as its latter definition- may be on good terms with incivility and vice, but the other two thirds of the room was immune to those sort of things. But no, perhaps Anatoli was being too harsh; he decided to mull over the rider`s words in case he had misconstrued them. Come to think of it, Ms. Pavenlova habitually paused whenever she pronounced multi-syllable words: pro-po-sition, fortun-atly, liter-ate. Such a dialect was common around the Cliff-Coast region, which was ridiculed even amongst the other provinces for being "one more step away from Russian". Even she, likely after years of training, could not hide the occasional overbearing accent, which made all other words in a sentence seem neglected in comparison. Although, if this was the closest trait to a fault, she was still more than worthy of commanding respect.
"Sorry, where are my manners? My name is-"
"Sergei!", exclaimed Ms. Pavenlova, already halfway done with jour journey back to the seats and encumbered with a stack of papers, "Fill these out at your discretion."
"At once, Ms. Pavenlova!", said Sergei, jumping out of his seat and heading for the exit, "You shall receive my report momentarily."
She seemed satisfied with the newfound privacy. So much so that she adjusted the canvas entrance so that it was slightly ajar, revealing that the mysterious Sergei had all but vanished. She muttered under her breath, turning on an axis to face the unblinking eyes of the statuette once again.
"I am making you an advisor. You may have to work with him in the future."
The words "Yes, Ms. Pavenlova" escaped from Anatoli`s lips. They had no time to ferment the air before she pivoted once again and directed herself towards him.
"Now, now, I`ve have enough of that! I can`t have an absent-minded loyalist in my staff, least of all at this critical juncture! What we need is innovativeness: something that goes against the grain. Something the governmental forces won`t expect- they`ve got plenty loyalists in their camp! I want you to speak, Anatoli, say something to prove to me that you have a working brain in a working head!"
Anatoli had no time to ponder what he had said wrong. Even less time to think of the potential consequences of what he was going to say next.
"What of the gallows?"
Ms. Pavenlova stopped dead in her tracks. Perhaps she never noticed that, through the small opening in the doorway, one could see the entire lane that ran throguh the center of the camp, ending abruptly at the infernal scaffold. Only a single noose, swinging from side-to-side, as if it wished to imitate the great brass pendulum of a grandfather clock. She clutched her chest, then worked her hand up to the neck. She produced a idol-bound necklace from under her outerwear and held it to her lips. The space around her was soon consumed by hushed sentences, as if the world itself had ceased its machinations to allow a moment for a prayer. She deposited a single kiss on the idol and, even afterwards, held it close to her heart. She tucked the necklace away after much deliberation, and opened her eyes once more.
"Freedom is not something which can be abandoned. That is neither right, nor righteous. But the enemies of man and of Him lead men away from what is right; it makes them break oaths made not only to their countrymen but to themselves. I have seen it, and so have you. There are no greater men on Earth than the ones behind you, who would abandon all safety and embrace all consequences of this rebellion- no matter the outcome. It is even braver when the odds stacked against our people as high as they are now. But this bravado can also be their undoing- our undoing. They can`t stand any more time in camp. They grow restless, and that makes them make mistakes, only this time, their mistakes hurt all of the Rebellion. Thus, it is an insult to all of the Soyuz, and to Blee Himself. The gallows, though a hideous contraption, are a reminder for everyone that liberating the Soyuz is the most noble task that anyone can undertake, and the labors- not all of them physical- required to do so are minor in comparison."
The gallows remained. Anatoli became a follower of Blee that night.
Sergei, like all other people heading towards the tent, was flanked by a guard. What separated this from any other case however, was that the former had been wise enough to task the latter with carrying his reports. The stack was seen well before the poor man. It soon became clear that Sergei`s residence should be moved much closer to Ms. Pavenlova`s, to prevent any other morale-sapping incidents such as that. By the time they did make it to the tent, with only one of them capable of genuflecting to an acceptable degree, the early praying service was over and the specks of burnt incense had all been blown away. Sergei wiped his brow with a hitherto concealed handkerchief, and marked the area of the paper delivery with a half-extended arm movement. No one knew quite why they sat in silence as the poor man heaved the last few steps to the desk, and the papers were deposited on the desk with a satisfying thump (echoed by the evacuation of a full liter of air from the guard`s lungs). When he turned and saw three of the most important members of the revolution staring back at him with varying degrees of pity and schadenfreude, all he could respond with was a bow, a rush to the exit, and another bow. It was a shame then that he evacuated so quickly, as his back was already turned before Sergei gave a satisfactory nod.
"Ms. Pavenlova", said Sergei, his head still turned away, "I do have an abridged version of my report."
He reached into his coat and produced a single fresh page. He began to extend his arm out towards the idling leader, but then halted and retracted, like a fisherman casting out a reel. Anatoli focused his attention once more on Ms. Pavenlova, noticing that her full attention was directed towards the page and that she herself had recoiled from it. Each pupil expanded, to the point where they nearly overshadowed the retinas. She went through that entire phase for no longer than a half-second, and it soon seemed that no force on earth could ever compel her to repeat it ever again. Her focus was now directed fully onto Sergei, who tilted his head towards the ground and inadvertently whispered a singular word: `Sorry`.
"It says- or rather, it says in summary- that", he cleared his throat and tried to prepare himself for a great endeavor, "that the governmental army have finished their process of mobilization, and our sympathizers in Province R8 have seen then moving eastward along the river sud`ba."
Ms. Pavenlova rested a hand on her chin, then dismissed whatever ideas were in her head.
"That river is too treacherous for a full army to navigate across. They will be caught in the marshes long before they reach our position."
"It seems that`s what has happened, though on a smaller scale than we have hoped for. They`ve split their army into two sections to cross the marshland faster."
"Two sections? Crossing a marshland? Why would they take such risks; for all they know, we could be waiting in ambush?"
Sergei shrugged. The few men in his employ were experienced; if the enemy army split in two, they split in two. But it seemed like Sergei and Ms. Pavenlova were missing the bigger idea. While they were focused on the validity of the reports, Anatoli was pondering the rationale of the commanders. The governmental command was by no means the most experienced on the continent. Anatoli was perplexed on how they were able to consolidate their hold on their army. Furthermore, the majority of their estates were in the western portions of the Soyuz, and the rebellion had not yet made forays into those regions. From the viewpoint of a rancher-general, there was no reason to leave their estates vulnerable to attack, and even less to make a maneuver as risky as a swampland crossing. After all, the naturally autonomous nature of the Soyuz made every region self sufficient, and the majority regions ignored the requests Lidor Niroc`s taxmen since he took office. There was no reason at all for the government to lead such an expensive campaign, when their resources could be used much better quelling the increasing number of revolts arising from the new Republican-esque centralization procedures.
It was then that Anatoli, hand firmly pressed against one temple let his eyes wander across the canvas walls of Ms. Pavenlova`s tent. Each thread stitched to each other which could only be noticed by a scrutinizer such as himself. The thought that, even in the wild reaches of His earth, one could live and sustain such luxury was a testament to one`s power. Ms. Pavenlova lead armies- no, an entire revolution- all for a cause much bigger than them. But it was this single display of decadence which proved to be the most enviable accomplishment, triumph over the most filth-ridden qualities of nature. Even a tent was a victory.
It was then Anatoli had an idea.
It was then Anatoli proved his worth.
"How many tents did your men report see in the camp?"
The back-and-forth between Sergei and Ms. Pavenlova halted, as if they had seen a mirage of Niroc appear before them. Sergei, the last to regain his composure, scanned the sheet with oscillating eyes. At last, a moment of victory; he found the relative passage and was spared the ordeal of searching through the ominous stack of papers on the desk.
"Their best estimate was approximately two hundred- thats about as many as we have here. Although we don`t know how many men they pack into their camps so-"
"This isn`t about their numbers. How many big tents- anything they think a general would reside in- did they have?"
Again, Sergei was caught off guard. Amidst the interrogation (and quite a long time before that), he had forgotten about the third man in the room. That was a mistake he vowed not to make again.
"They noted around... four tents of similar size as this one. I can assure you that they won`t cram multiple people in those, huh!?"
No one laughed.
"Precisely, Sergei, and I believe that is the solution to our conundrum!"
"I don`t follow."
Anatoli could barely stay in his seat. His left leg battered the ground beneath it, creating a distinctive, repeating, patting sound. He remembered just in time to swallow a half mouth full of saliva before speaking. He turned away from the perplexed rake to Ms. Pavenlova.
"How many generals do the government assign to their armies, Ms. Pavenlova?"
"I assume you know the answer. For an army that size, it`s general practice to appoint one general to lead and another to provide a second opinion on tactics."
"Right, that would account for two of the big tents. Like Sergei said, I doubt they would share."
Now Anatoli could see their eyes were narrowing. Whether it was from thought or confusion no longer mattered to him.
"Furthermore, we can deduce that the extra tents are not being occupied by officers, as there are not enough tents to accommodate all of them, and again, I doubt men of such high standing would be willing to share."
"Anatoli, where are-"
"-There can only be one conclusion which satisfies the questions of the two extra tents and the unprecedented tactics employed by the governmental army..."
The room seemed to be on the precipice of a full riot. Even the raging flamed seemed to point ominously towards Anatoli, directing smoke in his direction. The eyes of Blee watched in curiosity, wondering what impulses had led the man to think himself so highly.
"...It isn`t the governmental army. Or rather, the governmental army isn`t in control."
This proved to be too much for Sergei, "Not in control!?! Don`t tell me that anarchists have seized control of the army!"
"Not anarchists, no. The French."
The French. No fouler words had ever been uttered in a place so close to God. The men of the rebellion could throw thousands of rehearsed insults at the government at will or on command but, in truth, very few could be blamed entirely on them alone. Ever since Lidor Niroc sat face to face with Governor-General The Tax Collector, the nation was no longer under his control. True power rested in the clenched fists of the various magistrates sent over the border to "reorganize" the various farmstead kingdoms and their inhabitants to fit with the Republican model. And it had worked; the nascent hamlets scattered across the Soyuz were showing inklings of profitability. The problems were that the various families of the Soyuz had been at each others throats since colonization, and their newfound proximity to their ancestral rivals made conflict a certainty. The situation was made worse by the appointed mayors of the settlements: they were either French (and thus, godless foreigners) or sympathetic Russians (inexperienced traitors, who brought grudges of their own into the mix). But whenever there was trouble, a column of Republican infantry parked in the town square quickly silenced it.
Word travelled faster than the magistrates, however, and by the time they crossed the sud`ba marshes, all of the East had been rallied under a single banner. Their failure to impose their perverted interpretation of freedom onto the East angered The Tax Collector beyond all insults. After all, an embarrassment on the Velikaya Russkaya Respublika was an embarrassment on all territories under the authority of The Grande République. The sooner removed, the better.
"If they crossed the marshes as one large group, they would be much slower- especially their artillery. For those magistrates, every hour they spent away from their posts is a crime against- and in the eyes of- their Emperor. My guess is that the army was split on his orders."
Ms. Pavenlova stood. Sergei and Anatoli watched as she strode past the desk and its papers and behind the column of smoke. When she emerged, the majestic curved head of a silver bardiche peaked over her right shoulder. With a single glance, she sent them off to our tents, acknowledging their bows with a simple nod. The canvas closed behind us as soon as they left. The boatman Charon ferried them back to the land of the living.
It was no surprise that the men were eager to get into line. It was the pack-mules which took the longest; the poor creatures never acquainted themselves with military life. They would likely prefer towing a plow across an endless field over bags of ammunition, rations, and yes, tents. But when they were muzzled and led, they complained no more than anyone else. One of the perks of being an aide to Ms. Pavenlova was the most prized animal of all: the horse. While the rebellion had a cavalry force which could, theoretically, hold its ground, the most brawny equines were allocated to the command. This whole system was technically under Anatoli`s control, one of the many jobs lopped under the admittedly ambiguous term of "advisor". Fortunately for him, the cavalry was more than happy to donate their finest steeds to their liberators. (Which were originally donated to them by farmsteads all over the East). Otherwise, Anatoli would be in no position to bargain with them.
There were no drums or trumpets to sound them off. When Ms. Pavenlova moved, they followed. If one stood upon the platform of the gallows, and gazed upon the men below them, it would seem like no force could stop them. Even as the column faded into the tree-line, the observer would still feel the presence of those men with him on that scaffold, and would most likely shudder.
It did not take long for the land to turn to mush. No matter how much the column complained, all knew that the governmental forces had it worse. That was a key factor in the plan; attack them while they were still shaking the mud from their boots. Sergei barely had time to draw up the plans, using the broad head of his steed as a platform to place running ink on a confiscated map of the region, all the while cursing his agents for being so tardy in their report-making. The first, which was ultimately last, draft chose a field interspersed with grassy knolls to be the point of interception. The whole endeavor seemed to be no more complicated than anything else, and that allowed Anatoli`s mind to wander. He grazed his spurs on the scar-ridded flanks of his horse, reaching Ms. Pavenlova at the front, looking no less steadfast than at any other time. Was their stoicism the result of so many weeks of struggle, or was it a struggle of its own?
She heard his horse approaching, and turned her head to one side. Anatoli`s horse reared up, but was subdued by another spurring. At last, when the two steeds were parallel, Anatoli spoke.
"It should be just beyond the horizon now, yes?"
She let out an affirmative mutter.
Anatoli checked the hairs on the back of his horse`s head. Still the same as the last time.
"You know, there`s an old story that I`m reminded of now..."
He just noticed that his heart was in sync with the trotting horses, and the men behind them.
"...A myth really- bu-but it`s inspired by reality. It`s about a woman... she was called Joan of Arc. Have you heard of Joan of Arc?"
"Well it`s a French tale, and-"
She sprung up, and furrowed her brow.
"Where did you hear that?", she exclaimed, wielding a typed of hushed rage mastered only by angered mothers and teachers.
"No! It`s... it`s an old myth; an old myth! Nothing more, nothing more!"
She focused her attention back on the path in front of her.
"Well, I`ll ask you not to tell any more of those French tales to me or my men, now. Remember that."
"Yes, Ms. Pavenlova."
And he did.
On arrival, the men were ordered to crouch in the tall grass while Sergei was sent out alone with a spyglass. Sure enough, as he was more than happy to report, the governmental flag was seen swaying behind a few rows of trees- with a rather miserable looking bearer lifting it just above the mire. Though dirtied and mauled by moths, he held on to it with no less passion than a dearly departed lover. He brandished an expression seen on the faces of crusaders and partisans the world over; the face of a man who has no space left for uncertainty in his heart. You cannot negotiate with a man like that. Though he shuddered at the fact he hoped that none of them would survive the upcoming battle, so no more would have to be fought, and the Soyuz could once more be reunified. How twisted had the world become, when such thoughts could flow freely through one`s mind? When nausea was the last sign of sanity?
But there was no time to think of sanity. The first few columns were at the banks of ground, congregating around the flag bearer. Anatoli rushed to where Sergei and Ms. Pavenlova stood and found, to his dismay, that both were carrying muskets. Sergei even boasted about having a few pistols lodged in his coat, though he would never reveal how many. He was willing, however, to order a nearby ranker to requisition his musket and hand over a mere pistol in exchange. It had been a few weeks since Anatoli had held one of them, but a few stern looks brought back similar memories from countless hours of drill. If there ever was a time to be ready, it was now.
"At that moment I was no longer an advisor, or a literate; no one in the enemy ranks knew, and fewer cared. They just wanted to break through to the East, just like their ancestors did so many years ago. To them, all that stood in their way was a meager hill- no less unassuming than the rest. The whimpering winds halted; at least, I no longer remembered them. All eyes were transfixed on the golden scythes, the symbol of the enemies of free man and the true God, bobbing and rising ever closer to the top of the hill.
No order was given, but none were needed. As the first rank of the governmental troops exposed their torsos over the crest, the line opened fire in a most incredible display of firepower. At first, only a few distant muskets were discharged, assumedly belonging to the more zealous members of the rebellion. When the others noticed that the courageous few were not reprimanded, they created an indescribable chorus- one which I took part in. Dozens upon dozens of cracking sounds on either side of me; I believe it took a full five seconds for all of them to fire. The enemy seemed as stunned as we were. I remember there was a mutual silence before the inevitable: they sank to their knees and, eventually, the ground. The smoke drifted gently over their bodies, lingering over the flag bearer, who still clutched onto the flag with lifeless arms, before collapsing and taking it down with him.
The order was given to reload, and shaking hands struggled to fit the ramrod inside of the barrel. A frail man to my left let out a quiet curse as he missed it once again, and dropped the rod into the grass. I leaned over to search for it, when I heard the most frightful sound in my right ear. Not a moment later, men clutched at their stomachs and necks, before falling to the ground and writhing in pain. I shielded my face with the palm of my hand, only to find it spattered with drops of thick red blood. though I could feel no pain. It was the frail man-only moments ago shaking in fear- he was now convulsing on the ground, his wound hidden under the creases of his coat.
Some of the horses, stationed behind our position at the foot of the knoll, were startled by the sudden outbreak of gunfire. They reared up, and started kicking the air, almost throwing their riders off. The cavalry officer, which was more of a self-appointed position than anything else, considered the element of surprise to be lost due to the excess noise, and decided to spring his trap early. Using the enemy`s smoke to his advantage, he rode over the crest of the hill. The governmental soldiers had only a few seconds to attach their bayonets, which many never did. Forced to use them as knives, they stood no chance against the assortment of lances, sabers, and pistols in use by the bloodthirsty horsemen. All was not lost for them, however, as a group of mounted scouts had noticed the ambush and saddled up once again. The terrain however, proved to be against them, as any momentum gained from their charge was blunted when they went up the hill. Even worse, they reached the top just as the line finished reloading, and was presenting at the survivors from the first volley. I do believe I struck one of those scouts in the lower-mid quadrant of his breastplate, making him drop his short sword and slouch over the mane of his steed before falling off. The other scouts faired poorly as well, as a detachment of lancers happened to strike a few stragglers as they attempted to ride up the hill. The scouts routed, and trampled over a number of the infantry in the progress.
If there ever was a chance of a governmental victory, it ended at that moment. I can only imagine the terror of those men, surrounded by cavalry behind and at the sides, and infantry at the front. You cannot think in times like that, only react. And as his men fell all around him with all manner of wounds, cradling limbs and fallen brethren, he made one last decision.
Some of the men in our lines were veterans from R4. When they heard the piercing cry of the whistle, they could no longer focus on reloading. They were no longer tethered to our reality. I saw it in their twitching eyes, they could notice nothing in front of them. Not the officer, clad in a hole-ridden overcoat carrying a broadsword over his head. Not the handful of men who accompanied him rising over the top of the crest, many without bayonets or knives. It was but a small patch of open ground, mostly untouched by the mass of corpses and the wounded. Just a few paces past the halfway point, the line fired once more. The officer`s companions all few to the ground, but I doubt he ever noticed. He was limping now, but even if his wound proved fatal, he would not retire to a slow death. He let out a hoarse shout, and raised the sword even higher above his head. A ranker in front of him desperately fumbled for his knife, but found nothing. Sergei stood up and, in one motion, unholstered his pistol and cocked it. A single shot to the chest was all that was needed to bring the man down, who crumpled onto his side. Blackpowder stains covered the front of his coat, masking any blood- if there was any.
Then, nothing. All we were left with was the sounds of the volley echoing through the valleys, until even that faded away. I felt an acidic pain rising in my chest, scorching my insides unlike any fire ever set alight. Through the stomach right to the base of the throat, growing with increasing ferocity, like a tiger clawing at its cage. I closed my eyes, then clenched them shut, until no light shone past my eyelids. I felt it... subsiding, yes, finally subsiding. When I swallowed, it was gone. My eyes opened to see shadows circling around the field, dancing up and over the deceased, like it was a mere schoolyard for them- like it belonged to them. It belongs to no-one! Government or Rebellion, true God or false God, chains or gallows, let all men hope to learn this inherent fact: the dead belong to the dead! Let the living choose their creed, but let the dead have their freedom!
It was then the shadows descended upon them, and we were ordered to leave.
I was not sick that day, and have not been sick since. I was damn close to it, and I was still not a hundred yards from the new camp and the battlefield. It is not guilt I feel, of that I am certain; I had done what was expected of me, what some would call righteous. If I ever decided to return to camp I would not be beaten or hanged, quite the opposite, I would be sat down once again with Ms. Pavenlova and Sergei and we would strategize and the whole display would continue once more until... until something. The war would end, like all do, and the land would recover. The people would remain, whether in presence or in memory.
I was dragged out of my mind once more by the feeling that I was no longer alone. There was only one person in all the Soyuz that could have scaled a knoll without making so much of a sound. In fact, the only noise that he did make was unintentional: the grass rustled as he sat down besides me. He was breathing deeper than I expected from him, not in a sickly way like an old dog with riddled lungs, but like he had entered a sauna after a long day`s work. I suppose for him, this is a long day`s work.
"You`ve picked quite the spot. We should have set up here."
He was not disappointed by my lack of a response; he himself was already scanning the horizon.
"Yep...", he said, focused in the distance, "...It`s nice spot indeed. No better in all the Soyuz."
"Do you believe in Blee, Sergei?"
I could hear him shift in the grass. What I didn`t hear was an answer, and I wouldn`t for some time. In truth, I wasn`t looking for one in particular. But, he had to respond in time, whether it be now or at the end of another battle.
"I believe in a lot of things, Anatoli. Blee can be one of them. He has certainly shown His favor towards Tanya. She`s the most powerful woman on the island, and it`s not a stretch she thinks that it`s because of Him. Not so bad for a Cliff-Coast illiterate. I suppose her piety had rubbed off on me a bit- it certainly has on the rankers. Saying this, however... it`s all based off of faith. Any army can win an ambush, no matter their God. If we win a few more battle here and there, well, I`ll be the first at the altar praying for forgiveness. If we win this war, I might just become a monk!"
I hadn`t looked at him properly since the moment he joined me on that hill. There was a slight glow to him, as if his coats were not there due to the weather, but to obscure him from us, so we may not go blind. It was a shame that a man so familiar with shadows would be so bright, and even more so that he would direct it upon solely myself and Ms. Pavenlova- it almost seemed like a waste.
"But enough of theology. I don`t think we even properly met, did we? You never told me why you joined this operation."
I turned towards him and smiled, "You never told me your name."
"Well, it`s the same as everyone else, really. I wasn`t fond of the government, and less fond of the revolutionaries taking things over."
Sergei sighed, "Yeah, I`ve heard that one before. Let me guess... are you a veteran?"
"No. Just my father."
He shuffled closer to me, and laid a calloused hand on my back.
"I was at R4, too. The fact that we met them at Province R4 at all was, I believe, the last good thing the government ever did for us. When they crossed, we were there- and waiting for them. The paths were absolutely clogged full of marching men, and it didn`t help that all the women of the Soyuz were at the sidelines wishing their beloveds goodbye. Waving handkerchiefs and everything. And every time they passed a village, all the men and boys would run out of their houses and to their sheds and grab their guns and swords and the like, then melt into the column, still wearing their civilian clothes. Yes, they were freezing, but this was worth it. I knew it had to be worth it."
Anatoli turned towards him now. This could put him at ease. If nothing else, this could provide insight on whatever happened over there.
"Hell, if we drove them across the tundra line that day... we would`ve driven then back to their Citadel and beyond- and there would be no stopping us. Niroc would have led us, and he would never have even dreamt of selling us out to the ravenous ministers. Defeat on a battlefield is one thing, but to have the people assigned to protect you turn on you in such a way... it`s a damn shame."
"Was it any different? From this battle, I mean."
Sergei laughed through a closed mouth, "Different? Well, we won this one, didn`t we?"
"That`s not what I meant."
"Well... yes. Yes, open combat is different from an ambush. When the enemy knows you`re coming, they become less restless. They make less mistakes; that goes for both the officers and the men. Which reminds me..."
Sergei pulled a pistol out of his coat, causing Anatoli to recoil. He stretched out an open palm, and calmed the poor man down. Out came a powder vial and a spherical bullet; both were inserted inside the chamber and hammered in with a ramrod.
"You keep a loaded pistol inside your coat?"
"A few actually- that`s a necessary precaution in this line of work. It certainly didn`t do me any harm back there. But you asked for a story about R4, not about my weapons."
Anatoli was not sure if he wanted to be around someone with multiple loaded pistols on his body, but his curiosity got the better of him.
"Alright, go on."
"We formed up on this snowy hill about an hour before they arrived. We`d been running the last few miles, but of course that couldn`t stop us. I remember, quite fondly, that the moment we saw them form up we fired out a volley- which most certainly did nothing to them. The officer was very keen on getting the fist shot off in the war."
Anatoli wondered he same could be said about the revolution.
"But when they got into range, that`s when they showed us how to fight a battle. We`d been mocking the Crown Colonies the night before for their performance, but no more. They shot faster, shot better, and most importantly, they shot back. They routed us almost to the edge of the province before we rallied again. But we were still a cohesive unit, one which could still hold off the enemy if we were in a proper defensive position."
Sergei looked at the ground below him. He grabbed a fistful of grass in his palm, them pressed it back into the ground.
"What we shouldn`t have done is attacked. Anything but attack. When we found them, they were there- and they were waiting."
Sergei pulled the collar of his coat down with his spare hand. A single red line was revealed just below the neck and ventured down his chest.
"That`s only the half of it. I was on that field for two days, waiting for them to move out so I could make my escape. I saw them bury men all around me, and they would have found me out if they weren`t so lazy. I found a break and I ran and hid... by the time I found out about this rebellion, running and hiding had become my speciality. That`s all."
"I.. thank you Sergei."
Sergei nodded, and covered his wound. "Oh, and we will be marching out in a few moments. A survivor made it back to the army, and they`re none too happy."
Anatoli sprung to his feet, "Alright, well where are we marching?"
"No better spot in all the Soyuz."
And with that he stood up and marched down the hill, silent as ever.
The army seemed less motivated to climb this hill than the one they had climbed before. This was due to one key fact: artillery. Two cannons had been captured in the earlier battle. Just as well, a handful of troops had worked in the bronze-making industry, which had- in the immediate months before the war- started construction of cannons (all of which were now being used against them by the government forces). Although not trained in the art of firing the cannons, they knew how to safely operate them, including the appropriate amounts of gunpowder to be used for each cannonball. Besides, there was a very real chance that the artillery crew from the governmental army were among the dead, so they were more than happy to gain some actual practice for a later date.
The site of battle was once the domain of a particularly rich farmer-baron, who most likely fled the continent the moment trouble was afoot with no small amount of riches to tide him over until no one was there to threaten his business. Perhaps he shouldn`t have fled though; a mere pledge of loyalty would have been all that was needed to secure a role in the new Franco-Russian elite. While he was still in the Soyuz, however, he constructed two parapets- assumedly the remains of hunting lodges- on the two hills which shielded his estate from the inevitable floods of the river sud`ba. A few axe swings leveled the whole shack, which happened to provide overwatch over the entire valley. Though a few men wished to bombard the manor, but it was spared by order of Ms. Pavenlova herself. `A waste of ammunition` was the given explanation.
The enemy found itself positioned on the opposing hill, and immediately disproved the prevailing theory about their artillery by setting up two cannons of their own. Ms. Pavenlova stepped in front of the men, blocking the cannons from view, and took out her bardiche. The wind stopped, the animals hid, and the world ceased its daily motions to concentrate on this singular moment.
"Know this men; on this most important hour, we will have no advantage in surprise or numbers. Blee has given us this opportunity to compare ourselves and our souls to those of the heretics. I cannot guarantee He will show mercy. I can only guarantee that our enemy will not. But if we retain confidence in Him, no matter the trials before us, there will be no force in the world which can stop us. Not hunger, not fatigue... and certainly not man! This battle is but a prelude for the destiny of all that serve Blee, and it relies solely on the ground on which we tread! So tread upon them! The Soyuz will be a testament to His will, the Island will be a testament to His power, the world will be a testament to His divinity!"
The line burst out in a sign of revelation louder than any scene of battle. Anatoli soon found himself cheering along to. This path, no matter the turmoil, was be the only one that could suit a man so dedicated to freedom like him. This revolution would surely-
The cannons fired their payload across the valley. In the other hill, men dived for whatever cover they could fund- though little was offered. Sergei spotted the enemy officers giving out orders, and was able to direct the line behind the lodge just as the ground behind them erupted in two large craters. A great cheer rang out from the rebel lines, one which many believed could stop the next volley altogether. It was, however, soon silenced by the next barrage, which missed its target and kicked up a big pile of mud. When the mud settled, four columns of governmental troops had begun of march towards the manor. Without hesitation, Sergei rallied as many men to him and raced to intercept them. Anatoli was on his way to join him, but was ordered to lead the garrison with Ms. Pavenlova. The last time he saw Sergei, before the distance became too far to discern detail, he was doing what he did best: running.
He struggled to get a good sight of the events occurring at the manor. There was too much smoke, and too far away. What became clear, however, was that the rebellion was at a disadvantage. The governmental troops occupied the manor moments before, and used their position to fire down on the troops. Their artillery focused fire on the thin bridge which had to be crossed in order for the manor to be contested. The fighting proved to be the first major source of casualties for the rebellion, as the courtyard proved to be too small to create a formation, and all entrances were heavily guarded. With no where to go, the troops hid against the mighty brick walls of the manor, where the governmental troops struggled to hit them.
A great trumpet call rang through the valley. It did not belong to Ms. Pavenlova`s men. In a matter of moments, the troops in the manner sallied from their fortifications, bayonets out. A great melee ensued, as the front lines went back and forth. Men got a few stabs in, before being horribly overwhelmed and hacked to pieced by bayonets and swords. The rebels, no matter their skill at arms, were at a distinct disadvantage.
However, this was not the immediate concern for Anatoli. While the manor was under siege, the rest of the governmental army was advancing towards the main rebel positions. Using the forest as cover, they remained out of sight of both the men and artillery for long enough to gain the element of surprise. They did make one grave mistake, however, in that they revealed their trap too early, and had to make an assault over lightly forested ground in order to make it to the main positions. This time, the men had ample space to form a line, and let loose a devastating volley. Rank after rank of government troops fell before an all out assault was ordered.
The rest of the battle was no more than a blur. Ms. Pavenlova rushed out to the front, bardiche in hand, ready to meet them head-on. But, the enemy would not oblige her, and instead formed up to fire at the last possible moment. They all knew where to train their guns. She fell like any other.
But she was not simply "any other". She was the champion of Blee. The champion of the Soyuz. The champion of the men, who dared not disrespect her, even in death. They broke formation, not in a retreat, but towards the enemy. Her body was left undisturbed, even as men fought and died around her. But this is what they wanted, and soon a herd of cavalry wheeled around the center mass and behind the men. Anatoli, unable to do anything more than watch as the cavalry slew the surviving zealots, wondered what kind of man he was, that would fell almost... calm, in a situation like this. Yes, the traitors still lived- and would continue to- but his death was not simply irrelevant. If he had served Him, than it was an honor. If he had served the people, which he was in full confidence that he had, then that was a prize worthy of death. If there was a time for the people to suffer oppression, it was now. But they would remember when a few hundred rebels thought that freedom was worth more than damnation. They would hear of us, learn from us, and one day when the governmental troops let their guard down and the people see their chance...
Thus ends the story of Ms. Pavenlova`s Rebellion against the Grand Russian Republic. The battle of sud`ba, though over in hours, proved to be a defining moment throughout the lands of the former Soyuz. Of all puppet nations in the iron grasp of the Grand Republic of France, the Russian Republic has consistently proven to be the most difficult to subjugate. The wild nature of their people- combined with the sheer inhabitability of their lands and shoddy infrastructure- has and continues to be the death of many French commanders, which warrants a nod of approval from this curator. Still, one wonders what would happen if the rebels had overthrown the weak government while they still had the chance. The French still had a sizable presence in the area due to the rapid nature of the capitulation, which would prove to be a major burden on the new theocracy. One that may have been proved to be insurmountable. If nothing else, the Russians would have at least brought more time for the Crown Colonies to continue its valiant fight against the French menace. Perhaps an extra flotilla of transport ships could have landed, which would have turned the tide of the war and driven the enemy back to their land and beyond.
But no, one must make sure not to ask too much of the Russians. They are a wild people, after all.