With regards to ITTL-"Standard Chinese", if authentic based on a Han Chinese regime from the South. A "Mandarin" or guanhua based heavily on Cantonese would've been the norm, Mandarin in the antique, even in the heavily Xianbei-ified Tang, and it's successors of Song and Ming sounded a lot more similar to modern Cantonese. Modern Mandarin was quite honestly a Manchu-product. In fact an often quoted historical myth was that when the new Beiyang government after the Xinhai rebellion was trying to established an universal Mandarin pronunciation, the "barbaric" Beijing tongue won by one point over the Southern lingual system.
While it certainly isn't true, it does show how powerful the traditional Southern tongue was even under a Northern dominated government.
And I'm telling you this as a Mandarin speaker so you know this ain't some Cantonese activist spinning some random bullshit.

But regardless, for the sake of readability, don't use Cantonese, or Wades-Gilles, or Google translate haha
 

Thande

Donor
Part #232: Arrangements

The country’s official name is: CONFEDERATION OF THE DANUBE, short form DANUBIA (in English and Martial Latin), DONAUBUND, DONAUREICH or DONAULAND (in Austrogerman), DUNAI SZÖVETSÉG (in Hungarian), UNIUNEA DUNAREANA (in Austrovlach), SAVEZ DUNAVA (in Austroslav, with local variations) and several more official versions. The country is also frequently (but inaccurately) simply called ‘Austria’ or ‘the Hapsburg monarchy’ by outsiders.
The people are known as: DANUBIANS.
Capital and largest city: Vienna (Wien/Bécs/Viena/Beč etc.) (1.8 million)
Flag: Four alternating squares of black and gold with four smaller alternating squares where the four come together, reflecting the old Hapsburg colours but also suggesting a diversity of possibilities.
Population: 50,000,000
Land area: ca. 43,400 lcf.
Economic ranking: Currently ranked 8th in the world.
Form of government: Danubia’s form of government following the Rudolfine Reforms (under Rudolf III) is almost unique in the world, with the only vaguely similar comparison being the Ottoman Empire (a comparison which both states would vehemently deny). Danubia is a confederation of four primary recognised ‘nations’ plus some protected minorities, but the four nations (Austrogermans, Hungarians, Austrovlachs and Austroslavs) are not geographically defined: they mix freely throughout the whole territory of the Confederation, with their own separate schools, court system, representative low-level government, etc. Each nation also has its own King (or Queen Regnant) who is a member of the Hapsburg family and generally passes their office on through hereditary succession, although there are constitutional provisions for them being removed and replaced by higher authority. That higher authority is the Archking (Erzkönig/Főkirály/Arhirege/Nadkral), the office established by Rudolf as the replacement for the defunct office of the Holy Roman Emperor. Formally, due to that continuity, a new succeeding Archking is elected by the four kings of the nations, though in practice this is a formality merely to recognise the hereditary succession. The Archking is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, which due to their mixed nature use a revived form of Latin (“Martial Latin”) as their lingua franca. Martial Latin is also increasingly used in the small Combined Civil Service which adjudicates over the national institutions, and the High Court which deals with cases of criminal actions by members of one nation against another; however its origins are betrayed by an unusually large number of aphorisms which refer to weapons or tactics and an overly technical approach to items which impinge on military life. This constitutional structure is intended to produce a setup where the nations feel semi-independent enough not to rebel, but in practice cannot function without the unifying overlordship of the Archking and the mixed army he controls. It has largely worked surprisingly well with some exceptions; for example the notion of ‘Austroslavism’ (replacing the older term ‘Slavonian’), particularly pushed by Rudolf’s son and successor Ferdinand V after his succession in 1883, has caused some controversy due to the fact that the South Slavs, the Serbs and Croats, have generally been better at playing politics and tilting the nation towards their interests than those of the Moravians and other Slavs within Danubia.
Foreign relations: Following the brutal defeat of the Popular Wars and the loss of Bohemia, Danubia has pursued a general policy of armed neutrality, not interfering in Saxony’s policy in the Unification War for example. However at this time Danubia did intervene in Poland to preserve Casimir V’s rule, which served to tie Poland into the Hapsburg sphere of influence. The Confederation’s strategic location (taking in almost the entire Danube, hence its name) blocks the Russians and Turks from direct confrontation west of the Black Sea. The Euxine War of the 1860s saw Danubia preserve its neutrality, driving both Russian and Ottoman forces from its waters in the Black Sea and cheerily selling weapons to both sides. However, since that time Danubia has gradually been drawn further into Germany’s orbit (partly for economic reasons) and both Danubia and Poland are now locked into a military alliance with Germany. Italy and Greece, which both have Hapsburg or partly-Hapsburg kings, have lost most of their historic connections with Danubia and would not automatically become involved in any Danubian war.
Military: As noted above, Danubia reorganised its army to both modernise its weaponry and tactics (after the Sutcliffism of Francis II’s reign) and create a truly joint force. When first tested in the intervention in Poland during the Euxine War, this exposed flaws in the new structure, which have largely been corrected as a result. Though not ranked among the first powers of Europe, Danubia’s army is considered very professional and capable, with a focus on defensive warfare. Danubia also retains a small navy in the Mediterranean (based out of the ports of Trieste, Fiume and Polei) and a larger but more specialised one in the Black Sea (based out of Konstanza/Constanța). It has not invested in oceanic [blue-water] capabilities, with the Archkings generally seeing this as an expensive and unnecessary distraction (Danubia is the only major power in Europe not to participate in colonialism even in a token flag-waving way; however, Danubian companies do operate trade and security in the International Guntoor Region).
Current head of state: Archking Ferdinand V (since 1883)
Current head of government: Chancellor Széchényi András (there is a tendency to rotate the office of Chancellor, leading the joint overarching Confederate Government, between candidates from the four nations every two or three years; it is currently Hungary’s turn).

– Taken from APPENDIX: GUIDE TO THE WORLD’S NATIONS AT THE EVE OF THE PANDORIC WAR, OCTOBER 1896, from
The World At War: From The Pages of The Discerner VOLUME I: THE GATHERING STORM (1981)
*

From: The World At War: From The Pages of The Discerner VOLUME II: RETURN ENGAGEMENT (1983):

Mamaia (north-east of Konstanza/Constanța, Confederation of Danubia
March 2nd 1897


Major Ion Petrescu sat behind the table surveying the bottle he had placed upon it some moments ago, inwardly debating with himself. If this had been a normal year, he reflected, he would be drinking that bottle, jovially arguing with his fellow Vlach officers about the inhumanity of their upcoming Easter leave being synchronised with the Western calendar, meaning they often missed the actual Easter festivities in their hometowns which were due to take place a week later. They would go on to discuss how this showed the inadequacies of the Danubian System, before sobering up enough to check that there were no political officers present.[1] If it had been a normal year, they would have put the world to rights by 3 a.m., be up again a couple of hours later and then wince if called upon to yell at a private for a far less outrageous contravention of rules and discipline.

This was not a normal year.

Ion shook his head slowly, gazing at the bottle. It would have to do.

As if responding to his mental summons, there was a sharp rap on the door. “Come in, Captain,” he said.

The gentleman behind the door was not one of his own subordinate captains. His uniform was a slightly tanner shade of the same grey that Ion wore, but designed after a rather more ostentatious and less practical pattern, with all sorts of ribbons and decorative bits and pieces. That did not necessarily reflect a less martial or experienced attitude on the part of his high command, as Ion knew this was simply the ceremonial dress version of his country’s Army uniform. Paradoxically, it was a decision that rendered him far safer here than adopting the discrete, camouflaged frontline version would do. For in the event of an enemy attack, nothing would be more dangerous for Captain Antonio Mascagni than to blend in with the Danubian soldiers.

“How are the men treating you?” Ion asked, offering Antonio a seat. “I fear we cannot offer you the same comforts you are used to in the consulate in Bucharest, much less the embassy in Vienna.”

Antonio smiled, showing very white teeth. “We get along, Major, do not worry,” he said carelessly. “And it is not good for a soldier to get too used to the comforts of civilian life, no? I may be a mere plain, simple military attaché—” (Ion was proud of himself for not snorting derisively at that barefaced lie) “—but a taste of the front line is good for us all.”

“So you think it will be the front line soon, then,” Ion said. It was barely a question.

Antonio nodded vigorously “Si, I scarcely think it is a violation of neutrality to tell you what any man may read in the papers of a newspaper!” Theatrically demonstrating his point, he withdrew a rolled-up, much-battered copy of Il Giornale di Roma from his pocket. Ion glanced briefly at the date as Antonio lay the front page flat. He resisted the urge to whistle. That paper had come off the presses only three days ago. For Antonio to have had it delivered here, over two mountain ranges and in wartime, suggested he had either paid an exorbitant price—or his protestations about being a simple military attaché were even more flimsy.

The Italian mumbled constantly under his breath in his own dialect (frustratingly similar enough to Ion’s Romanian to almost be intelligible, but hovering on the edge of comprehension) as he sought to find the article in question. While he did so, Ion looked over his shoulder and instead haltingly made sense of an article on events halfway around the world. He put out his hand to forestall Antonio when he tried to turn the page. “Wait. This is the battle in Cuba I heard rumours of?”

Si,” Antonio said distractedly. “We do not have a dog in this fight, if you will pardon the expression, so you may trust what Il Giornale has to say—to cast no aspersions on your own fine newspapers,” he said, with a tone that could be taken as sarcastic.

Ion shrugged. “We are allies with the heroic Empire of North America, apparently,” he said, letting a sardonic edge touch his own words, “and fearlessly oppose the extremist politics and world domination plans of the United Provinces of South America.” He poked a finger at the headline about the ‘Battle of Guantánamo Bay’ as Il Giornale had somewhat grandly dubbed it. “The reality is that we shouldn’t have a dog in this fight, either, but the Tsar decided to get involved because of California or something—which also shouldn’t affect us.” He sighed. “I’ll fight to defend my Archking and his Confederation, but I don’t see why one colonial mercenary shooting another in China should set all of this off.”

“Alliances can be constrictive,” Antonio said. He sounded almost surprised that Ion had come out with such a dangerous opinion without prompting. Ion himself wondered at it. It was as though they were all so frustrated with the waiting game, the sense of a sultry summer day under a grey sky, just waiting for the thunderstorm. It was putting everyone on edge, making them careless. Just last week they had had to scrape what remained of Private Brumaru off the red-hot remains of his cannon when it had burst during a test firing. The fault of Brumaru himself for getting sloppy on maintenance, a flaw at the foundry, something else? Who knew. There was a sense of unreality to the whole thing, like one of those Scandinavian Sensualist paintings with its colours rippling like the air over a hot road surface. Something had to happen.

“Constrictive, yes,” Ion said. “Too often nations find themselves being forced to take sides. Look at this,” he said, poking the article again, finding a safer subject. “Poor old Cuba,” he said, speaking of an island he had rarely had any cause to think about before. “Right at the crossroads, having to pick a side after being set up in the first place because both of them wanted it.” He looked at the spotty asimcons included in the article and smiled. “And they don’t even have any pictures of it. Look, those are just stock pictures of American and Meridian ships in dock, I’d bet the life of Sergeant Sorescu’s grandmother on it. Probably five years old. Look at those old funnels.”

“I don’t think the good sergeant is in danger of needing time off for a funeral,” Antonio agreed. “They have tried to imply they are more recent with a nice Cuban flag picture, of course.” Indeed, there was a small image of the flag in question snapping dramatically in the wind.

“And they’ve helpfully said what the colours are,” Ion said, reading the caption underneath. “Roll on the day when some bright spark in Belgium or somewhere invents asimcons with colours. Anyway, ‘a red X, or saltire, with triangles of yellow left and right and dark blue top and bottom’.” He shook his head. “That sounds like they took bits from American and Meridian flags and tried to come up with an exact compromise to try to avoid offending both sides.”

Antonio smiled and clapped his hands in the over-dramatic way he had. Ion couldn’t work out if he was genuinely like that or was playing up a stereotypical Italian image to make others underestimate him. “Indeed! You joke, but you are quite right! Poor Cuba, indeed,” he turned sorrowful, “pity the small nations caught between the giants.”

“Us medium-sized nations have quite enough trouble as it is,” Ion grunted. “So the Americans have won, if we can trust your press as much as you think. Good, I suppose, as though it impacts on us in any way. Maybe if it makes the Tsar worry more about Alyeska…”

“Even then, even with the Trans-Siberian Railway, Russia is in two parts these days,” Antonio said seriously. “I doubt the Tsar’s war here in Europe will connect much with Prince Mikhail’s war in North America.”

Ion shook his head. “And there was me thinking that these silly global alliances might actually help us for once…”

Ignoring him, Antonio turned a page and clapped his hands again in triumph. “Ah! I have found it! Two items, small items, but look!”

Ion looked. There were no asimcons with these little obscure stories, tucked into the blocks of international news interspersed with adverts for various Roman businesses. “‘Russian fleet buildup in Akhtiar[2] rumoured’…and ‘two calzones for the price of one at Papa Giuseppe’s’?”

With the patience of a saint, Antonio nudged Ion’s finger one story down. “Oh, right. ‘Constantinople: the Grand Vizier still noncommittal on the war’.” Ion rolled his eyes. “Noncommittal. He’s good at that.”

“The point,” Antonio said, “is that the Ottomans have not indicated they will become involved in any naval conflict in the Black Sea between the Tsar and yourselves, not even by subtle coded means. And that is…”

“Bad,” Ion said starkly. “The Russians have got the Pyotr Veliky, that’s only barely a sub-lionheart. Rhetoric aside, we don’t have anything that can reply to that unless the Turks get involved.”

Antonio nodded. “You could have blustered, Major, but everyone knows you are correct.” His eye was drawn to the bottle. “And so, it is, how do you say, time to eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die?”

Or at least that’s what Ion thought he was quoting, it was hard to tell. Talking to Antonio was a frustrating experience. Antonio spoke two dialects of Italian plus a smattering of German and some classical Latin he had learned in school, while Ion spoke Romanian, German and Martial Latin. They generally conversed in a disorganised pidging mishmash of languages, which worked most of the time but forced both of them to keep their brains constantly engaged.

When he had worked it out, Ion smiled and nodded. “Quite. I trust the wine’s provenance does not offend you?”

Antonio laughed when he looked at the label with its prominent map of Sicily defaced with a triskelion. “Like you, my friend, I shall not bluster about political realities. The grape of Sicily is fine, and if sadly it must grow beneath the sun of a Republic, at least it means that we may enjoy it here and now, in the heart of a coastal fort on the Black Sea Coast hundreds of miles away.”

“Indeed,” Ion said, “the Turks’ partial closure of the Bosporus has jacked up prices of our, ahem, legitimate wine purchases from your Kingdom, Captain, but those enterprising gentlemen of the Tyrrhenian republics…”

“Do not let rules and laws slow them down,” Antonio grumbled. “Let us taste the fruits of their ill-gotten labour, then.”

The glasses were mismatched and hardly appropriate to the fine red, but that didn’t matter. Antonio smacked his lips appreciatively and muttered expressive words with lots of doubled consonants as though critiquing a painting. “Grazie, Major Petrescu. This has livened up my mission here, no offence…”

“Konstanza/Constanța is a beautiful city in times of peace,” Ion retorted, “and I hope you may see her again when we know peace again.”

Antonio grinned, a little crookedly. “‘Konstanza/Constanța’. This really is Schrägstrichland, isn’t it?”

Ion rolled his eyes. “Oh, you’ve seen that German opera making fun of us, have you? Slash Land, that’s what they call us. Ask the Bundeskaiser which has worked out better, that or him trying to wipe out all the alternative languages and dialects in Germany. Did that work? That Jutish painter’s bank balance says otherwise.”

Antonio raised his hands. “I meant no offence.” He shook his head. “I am Tuscan, my form of Italian is becoming the one used by the government, I have done well out of policies like the Bundeskaiser’s.”

“I am grateful then that here in Danubia we have not only dialects but different languages,” Ion said tartly. “No-one can force a single tongue on us.”

“Speaking of tongues,” Antonio said, diplomatically changing the subject, “you may care to wrap yours around these.” He pulled out a box, which was made of colourful pasteboard and reminded Ion of a cheaper, more disposable version of the type used to hold jewellery. “My sister sent it from home.”

Ion focused his eyes on the box. “‘Signor Giovane’s, uh, palline di cioccolato nocciola’ – wait, is that chocolate?” His hands tensed almost reflexively around the box like those of a predator. “You can get chocolate right now?”

Antonio grinned. “I would say it is the perks of neutrality, but that would be dishonest.” He ran a hand through his dark hair. “Even we neutrals must suffer as the Americans sink the Meridian convoys from New Granada and the Meridians sink the American convoys from Guinea. But Signor Giovane, who owns a number of hazelnut plantations, has hit upon a way to make a little chocolate go a long way. Try it.”

Ion opened the box and withdrew a small, irregular brown sphere flecked with white, which he looked at suspiciously. “Are you sure Signor Giovane’s pet rabbit has not escaped into his manufactory?” he joked.

Antonio laughed loudly. “Trust me!”

Ion shrugged and bit down on the sphere, which crunched nuttily in his mouth to reveal a paste inside. After a moment his eyebrows went up. “Why, Mr Military Attaché, you are spoiling me!” he murmured.

“They are rather nice, aren’t they?” Antonio said. “Hopefully they can last us until this accursed war is over—”

He had barely got the words out before the warning bells clanged. Instantly both men snapped into action, though admittedly Ion did manage to shove another nutty chocolate ball into his cheek before leaving the room. Moments later he found himself on the gun emplacements at the top of the fort, largely open to the sky save for the pseudo-turret armour plates which had been installed around them. The waters of the Black Sea, so often pleasant, dully reflected that iron-grey sky right now. “Report, Lieutenant!”

Lieutenant Daicoviciu snapped off a smart salute. “The steerable has flashed us, sir. Russian ships approaching. Lots of them.”

“The steerable,” Ion muttered to himself, making it sound like a curse. The vehicle in question was just visible to the south, floating over one of the bigger coastal defence batteries closer to Constanța itself – tethered in place. It was an old repurposed observation balloon that had been made up to steerable specs by some engineer who had clearly pocketed most of the upgrade budget after doing the minimum needed to technically fulfil the tests. If anyone ever tried using the engine on it, Ion was convinced, all it would achieve was sending one really big final signal as the coronium in the gasbag detonated.

Nonetheless, the alleged steerable had done its job. Heliographs, working well enough despite the murky weather, were flickering signals back and forth. They were supplemented by Lectel lines and even a few old Optel shutterboxes: relatively rare in Danubia, which had mostly gone straight from nothing to Lectel due to old Francis II’s Sutcliffism. What with the papers full of stories about the evil Russians sending barbarian Yapontsi nindzhya murderers to cut Lectel lines as the Tsar tried to push into Poland, nobody was willing to trust the newer telegraphy method alone.

Antonio had a pair of binoculars out: Vogel lenses, fine High Saxon work, rather better than anything Ion had ever seen the Danubian military issued with (he noted to his chagrin). “There,” the Italian muttered, pointing. “And if anyone asks, I’m just a neutral observer not getting involved.”

Ion nodded tightly. It was clear that whatever the King of the Italies thought, Antonio wished his country was on Danubia’s side. Or perhaps he just wanted Ion to think that. Intrigue gave Ion a headache.

Regardless, Antonio’s tip turned out to be correct. The other forts began flashing information back and forth as the Russians became visible: angles, estimated distances, allowing for triangulation. Rattles and pings sounded from below as Ion’s more bespectacled and high-foreheaded subordinates poured those numbers into the fort’s solution engine.The thinking machine was bigger, heavier, cruder than the ones reserved for ships, as weight was no major concern to a stationary fort. Nonetheless, it worked.

Moments later, as solutions emerged, Ion ordered the big guns to open fire. They were eight-inch guns, bigger than anything the Russians could field except on their sub-lionheart. With Antonio’s tacit consent, Ion used his binoculars to follow the shells’ paths. Not bad shots to say visibility was so poor. Explosions wreathed the lead ships of the Russian flotillas, mostly dentists which had nothing much to reply with. The men cheered raggedly as a shell which had probably come from the Mamaia fort’s guns struck one such Russian dentist amidships and sank her. Another survived a near miss, the waves from the detonation merely causing her to yaw sharply to port—where she promptly hit a torpedo mine and blew up anyway. “They’ve found the minefields,” Ion commented. Some naval officers he knew had complained about the missions they had been ordered to embark on a month ago, updating and refreshing the minefields protecting the approaches to Constanța. They probably weren’t complaining now.

Speaking of the Danubian Navy, he saw several dentists and two armourclad lineships, led by the Kaunitz, were now moving to intercept. Surprisingly, the Russians split their forces, devoting mostly frigates and dentists of their own to the intercept. The Danubians also had small boats following them, and when the larger dentists and frigates started blowing up for no apparent reason beyond small white streaks in the water, Ion realised what they were. “Those boats are firing steelteeth!”

Antonio nodded. “Toothboats, some people call them. We’ve been experimenting with them for a while but we’d heard you were starting to look at them too.” He gave Ion a sidelong look. “That’s one of the reasons I was sent here.”

“Well, your Navy people will be happy,” Ion murmured as another Russian dentist blew up, “they’re passing with flying colours.”

“No war-winning super-weapon works for ever, though,” Antonio warned, and even as he spoke, the Russian dentists realised the threat of the boats and began chewing them up with their rapid-fire cannon. The boats were small and almost defenceless under that onslaught.

“Poor brave men,” Ion grunted, “but they bought us time. This attack’s failed, surely. What can the Russians do now…?”

He trailed off as he trained his binoculars on the rest of the Russian fleet. He did not see what he had feared to see, the sub-lionheart Pyotr Veliky. Instead, there were three small powerful-looking ships, looking like militarised tugs, and each was towing… “What in the world are those?!

Antonio snatched the binoculars back and swore. “They built them. They actually built them! The Ministry was convinced those must be fake plans they did to fool us! What idiot would actually…”

The new Russian craft did not look like any ship Ion had ever dreamed of, except perhaps after eating far too much Telemea cheese the night before. They were so broad as to be almost – no, they were! – circular! They were like artificial islands with smoking funnels instead of trees!

“Those aren’t ships, that’s pure insanity, floating,” he breathed.

“They’re a type of ironpike,[3] according to the reports I saw,” Antonio muttered. “To be out here on the open sea…no wonder they need tugs…”

Ion shook his head. “Why would anyone build a ship like that?[4] Did the Tsar draw something and everyone was too scared to correct him?”

“There is a reason for it,” Antonio said. “I think…that platform lets them use much higher calibre guns than a conventional ship…”

Barely had he said it when Ion noticed the huge turrets on the impossible ships swivelling his way. The shells from his battery and the other Danubian defences fell around the circular craft like pencil streaks, letting him put a rough gauge on scale, as did the small figures moving around on the Russian deck. He had done this before, yet now was convinced that he must have miscalculated. But that would mean that those main guns were…twelve inches?!

One of the Russian turrets blew up as a shell from a Danubian fort found it. The others, however, managed to fire in unison. Ion just had time to realise that the streak from one of the turrets didn’t seem foreshortened at all, before he found out exactly why that was.

Because the shell in question was aimed right at his head.


*

Motuwera Pa, Buen Viaje Islands [OTL Gilbert Islands/Kiribati]
March 6th 1897


Wehihimana steepled his fingers in thought as he prepared his mind for the challenge ahead. His men did not always understand. His trusted lieutenant Kauri had once explained to them that just as a warrior would be a fool to enter battle without limbering up to prepare his muscles, so a leader would be just as foolish to enter a negotiation without doing the same to his mind. Wehihimana’s preparation was typical of the man, who in his career had always sought to learn from new ideas and bring the best of them together, being scornful of those who judged an idea based on where it came from or who had produced it. All notions, he believed, ultimately came from God or the gods or the universe, and were worthy or unworthy in their own right regardless of the mortal lips that framed it.

Many Mauré were Christian now, a range of interpretations of Christianity from the hardcore Roman Catholics who had received their faith straight from French missionaries, to those syncretists who had acquired it in a more rough-and-ready way at second hand, to those who picked and chose parts of the Protestant, Jansenist Catholic and Orthodox versions of Christianity based on their contact with Anglo-Americans, Meridians, Batavian Dutch and Russians. Many mixed it with their own traditional beliefs which went back centuries. Others rejected any new religious learning and stuck determinedly to those beliefs, while paradoxically seeking to preserve them from contamination by writing them down in a definitive book—itself not an idea that those ancestors they idolised would consider to be properly Mauré.

Wehihimana’s father, the great hero Tamahimana, had remained largely silent on the topic of religion. Perhaps that was understandable for a man who had seen his own father Apehimana’s achievements crushed in his youth as the United Mauré had taken back Apehimana’s little realm of Tonga, a man who too often had displayed a sense of bitter cynicism as a result. However, Tamahimana had also spent much of his life fighting for the Emperor of China and had brought back both ideas and a few actual Chinese adventurers, those who left knowing that they would likely never be permitted to return. From those Chinese, Wehihimana had learned of Chinese religious learning, itself partly developed in China itself and partly imported from India. To his knowledge of Christianity and traditional Mauré beliefs, Wehihimana had added Confucian ideas of harmonious government, Taoist notions of bodily humours, and most importantly Buddhist meditation. What he did now could be considered a mix of a Christian prayer and one of those meditations, in which he asked for support from both the Christian God and any others who might happen to be hanging around. Some men, like his Catholic cousin Rawiri, said that a man would not be indecisive about which general he served in battle, and nor should he in the battle for his soul. Perhaps he was right. Perhaps one day Wehihimana would have to choose. For now, though, he hedged his bets.

There was a tentative knock on the door of the whare. Wehihimana slowly opened his eyes, blinked them once, narrowed them as he focused on his steepled fingers. A moment later, he nodded. “Enter,” he said in accented English.

The door opened, briefly showing a glimpse of the paradisical beaches and trees of the island. Wehihimana paid it no mind. He was used to it. While he had led many expeditions in his Kokowaka wind-canoe, what Europeans and Novamundines called a sailing ship, he had always come back here to these islands. This was where he had helped conquer in the name of Kawana Kaikuro, the man who had unseated his father in the office of Kawana. The fact that Tamehimana had told his sons to serve his rival rather than seek revenge against him (at least, beyond political intrigue) showed how much the Mauré had changed. They had truly become a united people. They had become strong.

And yet, Wehihimana reflected as the scene of paradise was blotted out by a silhouette, that came with dangers as well as glories. By being strong, by putting themselves on the map with their empire-building, the Mauré were attracting more and more attention from their neighbours, great powers which thought nothing of planting their mana-kari, their flag, on a land and claiming it in the name of their Kawana. It mattered not whether that Kawana was named King-Emperor George IV or President-General Monterroso. Wehihimana was proud of his people and did not quake in fear at the thought of war with such a power. But he did assess the likelihood of victory soberly.

The silhouette bowed its head and closed the door behind it, resolving it into the shape of a man in white robes. “Honoured Rangatira Wehihimana,” the man said in English with a strange, musical accent. That slightly confused Wehihimana, as he knew Europeans well and the man certainly looked English enough, or American.

Wehihimana did not immediately answer. He allowed the man’s eyes to sweep up and down questioningly. The Rangatira sat behind a desk that was of Mauré manufacture but clearly after a European design. The thick muscles of his arms were hidden beneath the light fabric of a European (or rather Novamundine) style business suit, complete with frilly cuffs about the wrists of his gnarled, strong hands. His face, dark-skinned and extensively tattooed, rose above a flared collar and vivid purple cravat that had been in style in Fredericksburg high society four or five years ago. It was an incongruous picture, and yet far from a comic one. Wehihimana was simply sending the message that he should be treated on the same level as a negotiator from a European or Novamundine power.

The pale-skinned kéroi in the white robes regarded him silently for a moment. Then, wordlessly, he pushed the robe from his shoulders and let it fall to the floor. Despite the discipline he prided himself on, Wehihimana raised his eyebrows in surprise. The man wore ragged trousers of some dull-coloured chequer pattern, while his white chest was bare to the elements save for a couple of animal furs—rather superfluous in this heat—some leather straps upon which were pinned badges of a distinctively intricate latticework pattern, and a huge interrupted ring of heavy gold about his neck. Wehihimana blinked and saw that not all of the chest was white: large parts of it had been daubed with what was either blue dye or perhaps a permanent tattoo.

The man met Wehihimana’s eyes with his own cold blue ones. Wehihimana noticed he had a bright red moustache. He found his voice. “I greet you…sir,” Wehihimana said. “May I ask whom I have the honour of speaking to?”

The moustache almost hid the smile. “I am Admiral Owain ap Hughes, Rangatira. As my envoy said.”

Wehihimana resisted the urge to react. This man was an Anglo-American Admiral? He had pictured a stuffy old kéroi sweating away in his constrictive uniform designed for far cooler climates, who would be mortified at the idea of merely removing his jacket. This man was both young and, clearly, had some radical ideas for his kind. Wehihimana quickly recovered: “Of course. Take a seat. We have much to discuss.”

“I see you have chosen to wear a symbol of modernity,” Hughes said as he pulled up his chair, also of Mauré manufacture but after a European pattern.

Wehihimana bristled. “‘Modernity’ is not the same as ‘what you people wear’.”

Hughes chuckled. “But I’m not wearing that.”

“Really?” Wehihimana said, straight-faced. “I hadn’t noticed.”

This time Hughes burst out into full-throated belly laughter, to the point that the door to the whare briefly opened a crack and Wehihimana had to make a negative gesture at the concerned bodyguard who looked in. “I like that! I’d heard you were good at deception.” Hughes turned more serious. “You’ll need to be.”

So he wants me to do something for him. Well, that was obvious from the start. “And what might you mean by that?” Wehihimana asked, still polite.

Hughes was silent for a moment. Then he spoke, in tones more serious than before. “Back home in Britain, in Wales, there is a movement at present called the Celtic Revival. Archaeologists and historians read old records and dig up worn old bits of art and architecture, and they try to put together a vision of what our ancestors were doing hundreds, thousands of years ago.”

Wehihimana shrugged. “It is important to remember that, certainly.”

“Yes, and that’s why I admire you Mauré,” Hughes said. “Despite all the disadvantages you had, you’ve kept strong memories alive of your ancestors and what they did in coming to Autiaraux. We have to use guesswork and push further back. But we celebrate ours as well.” He gestured to his clothing. “This is what my ancestors wore when they fought the Roman invaders under the leadership of Queen Boudicca.”

“Successfully?” Wehihimana asked, interested despite himself. He had heard of the Romans in passing, from many Europeans, but had never thought to inquire further.

Hughes shook his head reluctantly. “No. We Britons fought hard and well, but through betrayal and superior numbers we were overwhelmed. The Romans ruled for centuries and then they left. Then my ancestors fought the Saesneg, the English, when they arrived under their great war chiefs Hengist and Horsa. They fought for the great hero of the Britons, King Arthur, and for a time the English were turned back, but it could not last. Now we Britons are pushed back into a corner of the island we once ruled, to the land the English name Wales, which means simply ‘foreigners’.” He shook his head bitterly. “Our name for England is Lloegr—” for a moment, Wehihimana thought the man was going to have a coughing fit, “—which means the Lost Lands.”

“Your history sounds…depressing,” Wehihimana said with one raised eyebrow.

Hughes managed a sardonic laugh. “Tell me about it. Our music, our culture revolved around that sense of sadness. But it could be worse. We could have been wiped out together, as many indigenous peoples have been over the years. As it is, it’s not so bad. Our language is protected now in law. A Welshman – a Briton – ruled over all of Great Britain, including the English, when my father was young. One day another will again. And now the English know what it’s like, now the Americans have turned them into just another cog in the machine of their empire.”

“What is your point?” Wehihimana asked.

Hughes ran a hand through his red hair. “That when I propose this plan to you, I am not the sort of man to casually throw away countless Mauré lives if it further the goals of me and my King-Emperor. I want to see the Mauré succeed, to show that indigenous folk can push back against invaders, that not everyone will end up like the Yapontsi.”

“Very well,” Wehihimana said. “Speak your proposal.”

The admiral smiled. “For the past few months I have been ammassing the Pacific Squadron of the Royal and Imperial Navy at Norfolk in Cygnia. Now we finally sail the seven seas to strike at the UPSA when they least expect it. But there is a problem.” He scowled.

“The Russians,” Wehihimana supplied.

Hughes nodded. “The Russians have jumped into the war for their own selfish reasons, wanting to push the Americans back in the Oregon Country. They will be dealt with, but they have a powerful navy operating out of Gavaji and it could catch us. We can’t afford to be weakened, not with this long voyage without resupply or repair.”

“Then you want me to attack them,” Wehihimana said. It wasn’t a question. “Do you think our Kokowakas can stand against Russian armourclads?”

“No, brave though your men are,” Hughes said baldly. “But we will help you. We will draw the Russian fleet out of Gavaji with a feint. Then you will move in and strike at their naval base at Jemchudgenia Haven.[5] Wreck their facilities so they cannot resupply and are forced to turn tail and return to Yapon.” The Welshman leaned forward earnestly. “And win back your ancestral homeland of Hawaiki.”

Wehihimana laughed. “So you believe that theory, then? Just a similarity of name? What if we Kiwa people[6] merely renamed those islands after the old homeland? What if it is somewhere else?”

Hughes shrugged. “If I have learned one thing since the Celtic Revival began, Rangatira, it’s that it doesn’t matter if I believe something or not.” He tugged absently on the golden torc around his neck. “Only that enough other people do.”

Wehihimana paused, and thought about his men, and about all the warriors back in Autiaraux or on the other islands that the Mauré had conquered this century. It was a nice, simple theory, and many of them were brave but simple men. They might well join this venture, this…

Yes, use a term from the outsiders’ religions he had learned of. This holy war, this crusade.

No man would have thought that Apehimana the great could be surpassed by any of his sons. But Tamahimana had done it. Now, no man believed that Tamahimana in turn could be surpassed. But what if Wehihimana was the man to do it?

Some alarm bells rang in his head. But, after a moment’s thought, he dismissed them.

Wehihimana leaned forward over the desk. “What weapons and intelligence can you supply my armies with?” he asked.






[1] Probably an anachronism on the part of the author; while there would have been people willing to rat out such talk in the Danubian armed forces, the term ‘political officer’ is likely a later coinage.

[2] Part of OTL Sevastopol.

[3] ‘Monitor’ in OTL.

[4] These are in fact a parallel evolution (rather more refined) of OTL’s Novgorod-class monitor.

[5] Hughes’ imperfect pronunciation of ‘Zhemchuzhnaya Gavan’.

[6] A broader Mauré/Maori term for all Polynesians.
 

Thande

Donor
Thanks to everyone for commenting on the last update and in particular those giving their own views on the Feng Chinese language issue - the discussion is much appreciated! I also very much enjoyed that video @Simeon did - having only recently edited Volume II for publication, the events it references were more recent to me than you might think!

Anyway, I wanted to wait till I had an update finished to upload, but now I can tell you that LTTW Volume I "Diverge and Conquer" is now available from Sea Lion Press via Amazon as a physical paperback (both it and Volume II are also available as eBooks). With thanks to @Meadow for his sterling work in pursuing this project, @Ed Costello for proofreading, @Lord Roem for his cover design and @Alex Richards for doing the maps.

And if you need asimconic - I mean, photographic - proof, then see the ones I ordered (along with books from my fellow SLP authors). Very cool to finally be able to hold LTTW in my hands as a book - and there's lots more to come!

 
Antonio spoke two dialects of Italian plus a smattering of German and some classical Latin he had learned in school, while Ion spoke Romanian, German and Martial Latin. They generally conversed in a disorganised pidging mishmash of languages, which worked most of the time but forced both of them to keep their brains constantly engaged.
Huh. Might we see a vernacular spring up in the army?

What with the papers full of stories about the evil Russians sending barbarian Yapontsi nindzhya murderers to cut Lectel lines as the Tsar tried to push into Poland
Sounds like ninjas are TTL's equivalent of Gurkhas.

And that Celtic Revival sounds interesting.
 
The Celtic Revival has gone rather more extreme than OTL I see, and the delightful situation of a Welshman conspiring with a Maori to drive the Russians from Hawaii- it's stuff like this that AH is made for.

I also love how we keep on running into bits where the ITTL writers have started running around shouting 'IRONY'
 
Interesting.

I was a little surprised at Hughes not bringing up that the English even stole Wales's own hero (since I don't think the "re-Dark Age King Arthur" craze had occurred yet OTL or TTL).
 
Hughes ran a hand through his red hair. “That when I propose this plan to you, I am not the sort of man to casually throw away countless Mauré lives if it further the goals of me and my King-Emperor. I want to see the Mauré succeed, to show that indigenous folk can push back against invaders, that not everyone will end up like the Yapontsi.”
Why do I have this strange feeling that Hughes is not being entirely honest here?
 
Why do I have this strange feeling that Hughes is not being entirely honest here?
How dare you suggest that he could have ulterior motives!

He only wants the Russians out of the way to dominate the Pacific lanes. If it happens to end up weakening the Mauré in the process, well that's just most unfortunate... :p
 
If Japanese and Maori are classified as an indigenous peoples, what are the Chinese and the Ottomans classed as? (One would think the Japanese would be rather pissed at being included in the former and not the latter. :) )

"Bright sparks"? Girl Genius reference? :)

The status of Russian Greater Moldavia is going to be an issue for Danubians planning for hopeful victory: Vlach Danubians no doubt very much want it out from under Russian rule, but the central government on the one hand doesn't want an independent Moldavia threatening to break off Danubia's Vlach regions: on the other hand if they were to absorb Russian Moldavia, the Vlachs would become the most numerous people in Danubia by a sizable margin. Really, the government might just prefer the status quo ante with respect to the Russian border, as unhappy as that might make the Vlachs.
 
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