So I had a sudden stroke of inspiration and wrote a prologue. Tentatively titled The Fog of War, it will be a steampunk adventure/fantasy story inspired by the decades surrounding and including the Napoleonic Wars. I’d love to hear critique!
Summer 1891, Newfordshire, Albion
The Alicite Wars have left the fertile fields of Maldaria an expanse of burning, pillaged no-man’s-land as local warlords and roving bands of brigands rule where once nations held sway. The nobility hole up in their estates with what they can salvage of their wealth and populace, desperately praying that the war-weary monarchs of the continent will find the strength and will to restore order.
Meanwhile, far to the east, the Stonefields increasingly prove the only defense against the depredations of the steppe tribes. That desolate wasteland and its rocky terrain are inhospitable to horses, allowing the disparate Stonefielder clans to repel the raids again and again. The fighting is brutal, but it is nothing compared to the desperate, bloody conflict the Celedorans find themselves locked in merely to prevent the tribesman from breaking their lines and encircling their beleaguered kingdom. Celedor, one of the few to escape the Alicite Wars relatively unscathed, is embattled, and of little help to its neighbors.
The Albionese watch the continent’s chaos hungrily, a vulture whose eyes are fixed on a dying lion. However, they have not yet descended on their prey – for Albion has problems of its own. Having financed now one and now another faction during the Wars, depending on who was winning, the Queen of Albion is uniquely placed to become a global superpower… or would be, if the taxes she had levied to pay for their financing of whoever would ensure the war continued to be fought had not plunged her people into an economic crisis. With the continent furious at Albionese opportunism, trade has all but evaporated – A grim prospect for that aerotime nation. Where once Albionese airships called in ports the world over, now they must travel months afield to find a nation that their meddling has not incensed.
Despite the reigning House of Kelsey’s policies of social welfare, the people are not satisfied that the royal coffers ensure they eat. Where once Albion was wealthy, now its citizens are ever-teetering on the brink of starvation. They refuse to settle with subsistence – they demand the return of prosperity, and blame the Kelseys for failing to restore it. The highland clans – riled by the loud cries of the old and respected chieftain of Clan Mac Lain – become ever more unruly, and talk has turned to forcing the young Duke of Bencaster, Arthur Tyrellian, lord of a household of mixed blood, highlander and heartlander both – to declare the independence of the mountain clans and any who would take refuge with them from the “tyranny of the Game of Houses.” The young duke has responded by affirming his loyalty to the Albionese Throne, sending his younger sister to court as an attendant to the Queen. His newborn son, however, remains at home – depending on who you ask, a sign of a cautious father following the death of his beloved wife in childbirth or a cunning nobleman dispelling suspicion until he is ready to move. Though he protests that he is working to restore stability, many royalists especially are dubious of his feasting the thanes and clan chiefs, and echo the rallying cry of the highlanders as damning evidence: The House of Kelsey rose during a civil war, displacing its contenders… which infamously included the wholesale slaughter of the major branch of Clan Mac Eir, whose survivors split between those who joined the Kelsey cause, who became House Tyrellian, and those who did not, who retained their name and fled to the higher, rockier parts of the mountains. Though the Duke of Bencaster has historically been an essential go-between for the Royal House of Kelsey and the unruly mountainfolk, the very existence of the castle and its family is remembered bitterly by some that the female line of Mac Eir sold itself to the Kelseys.
Amidst all this political unrest, the working class has become impatient with the arguing of the nobility and started to threaten more expeditious action. Though riots have thus far been averted, the young firebrand of the college educated middle-class that rose during the prosperity and rapidly collapsed after the war are anything but placated by any royal action. Finding inspiration in the revolutions of the continent, whispers flood the streets that soon, the barricades will arise in Albion – though memories of the bloody and terrifying aftermath of the democratic revolutions that followed the Alicite Wars are conspicuously omitted, as are reminders that all attempted government by the people had, to this point, ended in brutal civil wars that only plunged their ruined countries into deeper suffering.
This is a record of the momentous events of those days, written in the shadow of the Queen’s royal retreat, where she has gone to seek solace and quiet to plan for the days ahead. I plead with you, gentle reader: Do not judge us too harshly, for all is clear through the lens of history. Wrapped in the fog of war, even the very wise may find themselves deceived.