Harry & Ginny
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Marquis Black - The Dark Wars: Empire's Rebirth
Chapter 5 - Chapter V: The Conclave
AN: Thanks for the positive reviews, ladies and gents. It's always a pleasure to hear such positive feedback from my readers.
Arizona Uprising Squashed by United States Army!
Major Setback for American Resistance!
C.I.R. Claims Victory in Skirmish!
3 Assault Ships Taken Down by CIR!
Annual Meeting of Imperial Warlords Set to Begin!
No Known Topics to be Discussed-Rumors Abound!
Confederate Victory in the South!
Brazilian Forces forced to retreat!
Three Days Later…
Harry watched atop the Retaliation's observation deck as the island they were headed for neared more and more.
Flanking him stood his two designated aides for the meeting—Allison and the now-Major Neville. Both seemed somewhat anxious as Harry watched serenely at the approaching isle.
Central Island had been a relatively new discovery on his faction's part. Uncharted, the island had risen due to volcanic creation years ago, with the volcano now extinct. It wasn't large, by any means, but it was large enough that a secret meeting hall could be constructed within the stone interior of the extinct volcano.
"Everything is ready?" Harry asked softly.
Allison nodded, despite the fact that Harry could not see her. "Necessary supplies were finished bringing in yesterday."
Harry nodded. "Good," he said, before leaning forward and grabbing the railing. "Any other news I should know about before I go into the conference?"
"South Quadrant is heating up," inserted Neville. "Death Eater and American ships tried to flank Nova Scotia, but Commodore Ames managed to beat them back."
Harry nodded. "Anything else?"
"Fort Halifax was attacked by dragons this morning," added Allison as she read off her notes. "Shield Squadron managed to beat them back, though"
Harry nodded. "Very well," he said, as the ship moved into the quickly-built docks. "Showtime."
"Under the auspices of our beloved Empire's memory, I, Harry James Potter, Chairman of this session's Conclave of Imperial Brethren, do declare this meeting in session!"
With that announcement pronounced, the five Imperial warlords sat down on the cushioned stone thrones. As per the Conclave's custom, a single, elevated throne remained empty in the middle of the circular meeting room. The five warlords' seats around it represented their tenure as custodians of the throne, empty though it was.
Harry looked to his left, nodding in greeting to General Sulu, who nodded back in greeting.
"The first matter before us today," announced Harry as he returned his gaze on his fellow warlords, "is that of the Americans' involvement in the war."
"Bah!" sneered Staples, easily the largest of the group, measuring over 2 meters in height and all muscle, making the redheaded, bearded man look terrifying. "We should just attack their homeland! That should have the rats running!"
"The Americans have been armed by the Death Eaters," calmly reminded O'Connor. "An attack on their coastline, however large though it may be, would still result in much of our forces either being tied down, or killed."
"What do you suggest we do, then?" demanded McDonald. "Allow them to keep supplying the Death Eaters with better, improved weapons? Need I remind you that the Death Eaters' entire Airfleet was built on American soil?"
"An attack would be unwise, but doing nothing, even less," Sulu summed up wisely. "The question is, which benefits the Empire the most?"
"That is indeed the question," agreed Harry as he steepled his hands. "The problem we have, however, is that the only forces in a position to attack America are mine, Admiral O'Connor's, and Admiral Staples'. Hardly enough to succeed," he estimated.
Staples slammed down a fist on his armrest. "I say we try anyway! The Americans have begun to get creative! Just the other day, they sunk two of my Retaliation-Class Assault Ships!"
"How did they manage to do that?" asked a surprised Sulu. "The Americans should not have any weapon sufficiently powerful to penetrate the armour!"
"Well then, they do now!" spat Staples. "The blasted Yanks put four holes in the Adventurer and Buccaneer and both sunk minutes after!"
Harry heard O'Connor give an appreciative whistle. "Any chance you captured a specimen of this new weapon?" he asked.
Staples angrily shook his head. "Blasted ships retreated soon after."
"How come the Confederacy hasn't broadcasted that, though?" asked McDonald. "Surely, the media there would have gotten hold of the news. They're bound to transmit everything, as their constitution dictates!"
"Probably trying to save the news for such a time when we deliver a hard blow to the Death Eaters and/or the Americans," guessed Harry. "They're obligated to report everything, but not immediately. It's a convenient loophole"
"What about the Americans, though?" repeated Staples, bringing them back to the original topic. "If we don't stop them now, the Death Eaters will have a better equipped Airfleet at their disposal. One we currently cannot match!"
Until my new capital ship is done, the room thought in conjunction.
Harry saw out of the corner of his eye as Sulu steepled his hands pensively.
"Perhaps," the dark-skinned warlord suggested, "we could put off a mass offensive in favour of several, surgical strikes against their infrastructure?"
O'Connor nodded at length. "It sounds reasonable."
McDonald seemed a bit reluctant to agree, but eventually nodded as well. "Agreed."
Harry now watched Staples struggle with his temper as the bearded mountain of a man fought to swallow his pride as he said, "Fine."
"Excellent," declared Harry as he nodded as well. "We are in accord, then. Several strikes will be performed against the American homeland, in order to disrupt their military infrastructure. Details of said strikes are to be negotiated independently."
The four other warlords nodded at that, prompting Harry to continue.
"Now, the next order of business is the Arms Equality Treaty that General McDonald is proposing…"
Four hours later, Harry was finally leaving the conference room and heading towards his quarters, ready to call it a day. Unfortunately, he had no suck luck, as he quickly heard someone calling him.
The 23-year old turned to see Staples striding towards him, an unhappy look on his face.
"Potter!" he called once more. "Got time for a word?" asked the huge man.
Harry gave Staples a critical once-over before turning slightly and nodding to his aides, who bowed low to him and Staples before walking away. Now alone with the most dangerous of the Five Lords, Harry asked his question.
"What's the matter, Admiral?" he asked.
"Look, Potter," started the general gruffly, "I know you and I have had our squabbles in the past, but—"
"Squabbles?" interrupted Harry disbelievingly. "Staples, you shot me! In the leg! Twice! Remember?"
Staples shrugged. "Like I said, squabbles. After all, we were young, and in the Academy…"
Harry goggled at the man. "Staples, a school squabble usually involves fisticuffs! Not actively trying to off the other!"
Staples shrugged dismissively once more. "Whatever. Anyway, for all our bad past, I think it's best if we bury the hatchet. What do you say?"
Harry, though initially surprised and outraged at Staples' lack of care at their earlier fights, was now feeling suspicious.
"What brought this on?" asked Harry, looking around to make sure no one was eavesdropping.
Staples glared at Harry. "Always with the questions, eh, Potter?" he almost sneered, but managed to keep his cool. "Look, I don't like you. In fact, I find you to be far too much of a peace-lover to ever be a Field Marshall."
"Feeling's mutual," muttered Harry.
Staples ignored the comment. "But if I'm honest with me self, you're the best we've got in the field."
Harry was now very much surprised towards his far more brutal counterpart. Despite the reluctant tone with which Staples had delivered it, Harry knew that admitting this was killing the larger man.
Confusing Harry's silence for refusal, Staples pushed on. "Look, out of the five of us, you're the youngest by nearly a whole decade, and still, you've reached this high on the ranking system!" explained Staples. "Also, out of the five of us, you have the largest fleet. McDonald doesn't have the funds, I don't have the bases, Sulu's practically landlocked, and O'Connor's a wimp."
Harry had to agree with much of Staples' assessment, which surprised the young Potter heir. He'd always seen Staples give out dumb, simple answers, not eloquent analyses like this one.
"What's the catch?" he asked, suddenly suspicious. "If I agree to bury the hatchet, what's the catch?"
Staples glared at him briefly. "In return, all I want is your help in attacking the American mainland," bit out Staples, somewhat angry that he'd needed to reveal himself this way.
Harry scowled. "You know we can't do that!" hissed out the Marshall. "The Conclave's in agreement to provide surgical strikes! Not mass attacks!"
Staples flushed. "And what good would that do?" demanded the larger man. "Everything we destroy, they'll rebuild! If we take territory, though, we can halt their production permanently!"
"We'd both be branded traitors to the Oath!" shot back Harry. The Oath in question was the one the Five Lords had taken at the first Conclave, on Ascension Island (which McDonald had chaired), which bound the five to obey and respect the decisions made by the meeting. "We'd be stripped of honour and our armies!"
Staples snorted. "Or we could be seen as heroes!" he riposted. "Besides, doing this would take care of the American pressure you're feeling up North," baited Staples. "If the Americans are too busy licking their wounds from one, well-planned strike, you could go ahead and finish off the Death Eaters in New Brunswick, securing Nova Scotia in the process!"
Harry weighed the idea in his mind. Staples was providing him with a tantalizing prize: more territory and victory in Canada. Both would definitely secure his position in the Conclave, as victory in both would make exiling him a suicidal move.
On the other hand, everything could go badly, and Harry could lose everything. Eventually, after struggling with the idea for a while, Harry looked up at Staples.
"I'll think about it."
And think on it, Harry did.
For the next four days of the conference, during which all manner of topics were brought up under Harry's supervision, Staples' offer had plagued his conscious nearly 99 of the time, causing his friend Sulu to often have to clear his throat to catch Harry's attention.
Even now, in the morning of the sixth day of the conference, Harry was indecisive. The black haired young man glanced down to his right and saw Allison sleeping soundly on his bed, while he sat up against the wooden frame, pondering Staples' offer. He'd taken Allison to his bed last night as a way to let go of his frustration, and ended up driving Allison to ecstasy, while he remained unsure of his course.
Harry gazed at the mirror across the room and saw his reflection looking right back. For some reason, the image got him thinking along lines he'd long abandoned.
'Perhaps I've been too cautious,' he thought. 'Perhaps I've let my ambition drive me to neglect my higher duty to the Empire'
The thought disturbed him greatly. Had he truly wandered so far down the path of decadence?
Deep down, he realized, he already knew the answer.
After the fall of Britain, he'd given up—abandoned the Imperial cause, using it only as an excuse to wage his personal war of revenge and profit against the Death Eaters. He'd become corrupted by the enormous powers his people had bestowed upon him.
The worse part was that he'd forgotten why he'd become so ferocious an opponent to the Death Eaters.
He now knew why he'd stopped having the normal headaches and flashbacks of his horrible encounter with the creatures of darkness.
'I've allowed myself to become the one thing I've fought my whole life…' he realized in horror. 'A pirate…traitorous scum…'
Harry allowed himself to bury his face in his hands. What had he been doing all this time? How could he have allowed himself to fall into these depths of depravity? Whatever had happened to Honour and Empire?
Harry's fury, shame, and disappointment quickly caused a small tornado of magical energy to form up around him, causing his hair to billow every which way, while at the same time, waking Allison up.
"What's going on?" yelled the older girl as she grabbed the covers and kept herself wrapped up, watching the tornado fling objects everywhere.
Gradually, however, the tornado died down, and Harry was left breathing deeply. For the first time in five years, he felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders. His head was now clear, and his path lay obvious in his mind.
Harry lifted his head from his hands and, not paying attention to the slightly distressed Allison, calmly put on his uniform.
"Your Grace, what is going on?" asked Allison frantically, just as Harry finished tying his hair back.
The youngest Field Marshall in history turned around and Allison was struck by the fresh determination in Harry's eyes.
"Mrs. McIntyre," he announced formally, "I thank you for your previous personal services. However, it is time we ended this," he told her.
Allison oddly felt relieved at the announcement. After some personal digging, she later concluded that it was because she knew her master had finally healed. Her attention was drawn back to Harry, however, as the younger man swept out his arm.
"Call up the Retaliation," he ordered. "I will be ending the meeting today. Then, full sail towards New Britannia. Also, call up the North, South, and Western Fleets—tell them to meet halfway to New Britannia. Furthermore, tell the Imperial Shipyards that anyResolution Class ships ready to sail are to be put to see to meet us off the coast of Harrisburg, understood?"
Allison nodded almost unconsciously, entranced by the revived spark in Harry's eyes.
"Sir," she managed to say, "what reason should I give for the convocation?"
Harry merely gave Allison a feral grin.
"Why, war, of course."
Two hours later, Harry did exactly what he said he'd do. The raven-haired Marshall caught the other warlords by surprise by ending the Conclave a day early, citing pressing affairs. Only Staples, who had given him the offer, and Sulu, with whom Harry got along best, had any idea of any sort about why he'd cancelled the meeting.
Which was why, upon the meeting's conclusion, the two ambushed Harry in the hallway that led to the NBLF docks.
"What was that all about, Potter?" demanded Staples.
"I am curious of the same thing, Marshall," added Sulu.
Harry glanced at the two briefly. "I have affairs to deal with in the west."
Sulu had a look of revelation on his face, while Staples continued to look confused, and not mildly irritated.
"You cannot do this," warned Sulu. "The Conclave has spoken! There must be no war!"
Harry now glared at his friend. "Why not, Sulu?" he demanded. "Why can there be no war? Do we not owe it to the Empire to stop acting on the defensive and go back onto the offensive?"
"You agreed!" reiterated Sulu. "You agreed there could be no war!"
"My commitment to the Empire overrides that!"
"Do not speak to me of the Empire!" spat Sulu. "You, just like the rest of us, delved into the spoils of it! You, like the rest of us, carved your own territory for your own gain, from Imperial lands!"
"And I repent for it now," shot back Harry, in a convincing display of regret. "Do you know what I saw when I woke up today and looked into the mirror, John? Do you?"
"I saw a pirate!" he told his friend. "A filthy, flesh-picking pirate who's turned his back on everything he once believed and upheld!"
"It is the times, Harry," Sulu spoke softly. "Honour, duty, and Empire no longer go with the times."
"That's bullshit, and you know it!" spat Harry. "It's no longer with the times if we refuse to make it be with the times! Republics, democracies, tyrannies—these have always existed, so why can't the Empire?"
Sulu stayed silent at that, but held a contemplative look on his face. Meanwhile, Harry turned to Staples, who was toothily grinning down at him.
"You've decided, then," was all the human mountain said. Harry nodded.
"I've allowed myself to wither away for too long," said Harry. "I'm mobilizing everything I have."
Staples nodded his shaggy head. "And my men will back you up. Just name the time and place."
"I will be launching my offensive on the central coastline," Harry told him. "The North, South, and West Fleets will be in on this. We commence the attack as soon as I'm there."
Staples nodded. "Then me and my men will help. We'll take the West coast. That ought to distract them."
"I cannot join you," stated Sulu regretfully. "I do not have the manpower or fleet to be of any use. However, I can make sure O'Connor and McDonald don't banish you from the Conclave."
Harry nodded gratefully at his friend, while Staples gave him a grudging look of respect.
"Always knew you had some sort of backbone, Sulu," grumbled the huge Irishman. "Good to see it's back."
"Your compliments are endearing, Admiral."
Harry laughed at that. He then grabbed his hat from underneath his arm and set the black tricorne on his head firmly before giving his two comrades a firm nod, which they returned.
"Very well," announced Harry, "to war, then, gentlemen."
AN: Yes, as many of you can imagine, the Conclave meetings are pointless. However, they were designed to merely give the façade of unity amongst the warlords. As most of you can imagine, ambition is the new coin of the Empire, and so loyalty to a dead throne is merely a public relations ploy for more men and money.