With the mercenaries expelled and local leadership supplanted, Lethian’s Crossing was firmly under our control. Pushing the front farther, I was given the option of lending my talents and wisdom to our forces as they pressed into Azure, the Vellum Citadel, and the kingdom of Stalwart. The choice was not an easy one.

Azure, a tranquil farming countryside, was the most-populated of the Tiers, meaning a victory there would bring many new troops into the Scarlet Chorus, and also cripple our enemies’ food stores for years to come. The large Azure valley was responsible for growing almost half of the peninsula’s grain, and if under our control, the other provinces and kingdoms would come to heel quickly. Undoubtedly I would have to negotiate a careful balance between our two armies to ensure a total victory.

There existed no greater accumulation of knowledge and literature in all the Tiers than that which had been collected at the Vellum Citadel. A combination of library and fortress, its scholars proclaimed a public support for Kyros but spies told a very different story; forbidden knowledge was still studied and copied, spread to outlying areas in order to sow discontent against our invasion. A victory there would help prevent further problems in the future, quieting a large source of the region’s discontent. Liars were to be punished most severely as well, an example well-worth my direct attention.

Stalwart was named from their proud tradition of repelling invaders. The lands were well-developed, and well-defended. They were a hardy and obnoxious people, well-trained and long-schooled in battle. The most formidable of all the Tiers, suppressing them would all but assure victory in the rest of the region; having crushed their most defensible fortresses, what hope would other inhabitants have?

Ultimately I chose to travel with the armies marching on the Vellum Citadel. My experience may be of great use to the campaigns of Azure and Stalwart, but I simply cannot abide false-face. The fact that these monks pretend at support for our cause all while working to undermine it makes me seethe, and their gross betrayal of our laws would not stand.

I rode East and approached the center of all knowledge in the region. As I saw it, also the center of its corruption.