01.09.3014: Hit Me With It
Summary: Nikomachos goes to Volkan to talk to Anabethe.
Date: 05 November, 3013
Related: A Crusade Begins, Arise Khournas, and The Crux.
Anabethe Nikomachos 

Gym, Volkan, The Crescent
There are plenty of advanced weight lifting machines in Haven. This gym doesn't have a single one. Instead there are racks and racks of dumbells and barbells, punching bags hanging from the ceiling, and two roped-in sparring rings. Small racks near the sparring rings hold protective gear so that sparring doesn't result in broken bones or concussions. One wall is formed entirely of a floor-to-ceiling mirror, one has the entrance from the commercial district, the third has entrances to changing rooms for men and women, and the fourth is a window overlooking the gray and red expanse of Volkan.
09 January, 3014.

It's late evening in the gym, one of the few times when it isn't particularly crowded here. Most of the usual denizens are either early to bed to prepare for their morning jobs or out at the clubs, working off the stress of the day a little more enjoyably. That doesn't count Anabethe, though, who's put down the numbers and books in favor of something a little more simple. Dressed plainly in tank top and shorts, with her hair in a ponytail, she's working a heavy bag at the moment, jabbing in a steady, building rhythm.

Nikomachos wasn't planning on going to a gym. He was planning on stopping by to invite the Young Lady Khournas out to a late dinner to talk. But the whims of visitors are but dust in the wind before the moods of an Heir. And so he requested that the Assistant Castellan he spoke to send word ahead, inquiring as to whether she had time to speak with him. Unfortunately, it appears that said luminary got distracted by some other task — or decided that it would be amusing to feed the poor Valen-turned-Sauveur to the Young Lady. Either way, Nikomachos arrives without warning or fanfare, looking about to spot the tall woman, and then heading over in that direction. His spur-jangling steps slow as he approaches, moving up to stand perpendicular to her angle of attack where she can easily see him, "Good evening, Sir Bethe." It's a mere greeting, not a demand for attention, and he clasps his hands behind his back, evidently well-willing to wait out her routine.

Anabethe looks up from the bag without pausing, grin flashing briefly before she's back to breathing steadily. It takes a moment, as though she needs to fit the words into the rhythm of the work. Maybe she really can't walk and talk at the same time. Or maybe she's just enjoying the awkward moment. "Niko," she finally greets, cheerful enough. "Long time no see. Ellinor keeping you on a short leash, or have you just been busy being anywhere but here?"

Nikomachos waits with all indication of patience — after all, he's here to request action. The teasing draws a good-natured grin to his lips, "The doctors, actually, until recently. I've discovered that I really don't care for fighting on a ramship. Sadly, this discovery was rather violently thrust upon me by a wave of Hostiles. Although I suppose I do owe the Crescent a touch of blood. I've spilled it on Primus, The Vale, The Isles, Inculta, and now a ramship. It's either the Spine, the Crescent, or another of the Lashes next."

"Well now I just feel left out," Anabethe chuckles, finishing a count and stepping back. "I just got out myself, actually," she admits, stepping away to pick up a towel and wipe her brow. "More broken ribs, punctured lung. The usual. Still making sure I haven't lost anything, you know?" She slings the towel over her shoulders, considering the other knight. "Don't suppose you came here to spar, dressed like that."

Nikomachos nods his head, "It's always the ribs, isn't it? That or the shoulder. It's almost as if they know how to hurt us." A crooked grin twists his lips up at one corner along with the words, and then he tilts his head to one side and looks down at his attire, "Quite honestly, no. I had hoped to speak with you about the letter I sent, perhaps over a late supper." One eyebrow arches upwards, "I suppose that means that Mister…" he hesitates a moment, twisting his left wrist slightly as if checking a wristwatch, and a low glow appears above his bracelet, providing the name, "Einos did not pass along my request for a few moments of your time?"

"Ah…not that I got, at least." Anabethe reaches for a water bottle, taking a long drink before checking the wristband set to the side and rolling her eyes slightly at it. "That'd be the message. Sorry about that. Spent so much time on paperwork lately that my work outs are catch as catch can. I got your letter, though." She takes another drink, then shrugs, smirking slightly. "Honestly? I can't necessarily speak for anyone else, but I'm not fighting any Valen at the moment. So I'm all for…continuing not to?"

Nikomachos shrugs helplessly at the apology, waving it off without hesitation, "I quite understand how that goes." The comment that follows, the response, causes him to chuckle quietly, bowing his head slightly, "And we Valen appreciate it. The arguments that I myself have been known to… well… 'indulge in' seems quite tame, perhaps 'wallow in' is more suitable? The arguments between Valen and Khourni are a dangerous thing. As dangerous as the political power building here in Volkan — or being built in Volkan by someone looking to cause strife between the Houses, and as dangerous as the Hostile forces that have been allowed to linger on our lands." He hesitates there at the end of his impassioned beginning, then offers up a smile, "However, I would be loathe to interrupt your workout with mere talk, especially if you have so few opportunities. If you would prefer to continue the discussion in one of the rings, I can endeavor to provide at least some challenge."

Anabethe arches a brow, a slow smile growing at that. "You're so willing to talk it out that you're willing to stand there and let me hit you while we do it? Fascinating," she laughs, wiping at her face with the towel. "But no, the doctors are on my case enough about working the bags. Last thing I need is my mother on my case about working the nice, polite Knights, too. Let's talk." She takes another drink, heading toward bare metal bench to settle down for a moment while she cools down. "For what it's worth, no one here's looking to build anything against anyone other than the Hostiles. We've got a good few decades worth of fighting them ahead of us. Not going to waste time fighting our own people."

Nikomachos reaches up to the seals at the top of his vest at the first question, then drops his hands away as the Young Lady demurs, nodding his head once more, "Thank you. I would rather talk without endangering the healing of my ribs, but… when in Volkan." There's probably another version of that saying here in the Crescent. Then again, maybe not. He walks easily over to stand near the bench, his hands curling around the doubled belts wrapped about his waist, "It might be something to look into then. With two Khourni on the Crown Council, His Majesty's own close ties with Volkan, and Her Highness' impending marriage to the Master of Coin…" He shrugs slightly, "I don't see any problem with a single one of those, but all three taken together, it begins to look like a power grab — or someone framing the Khourni for one." Shaking that off, he makes a dismissive little waving gesture with one hand before it settles back over his sword-belt, "But that's not what I came here hoping to speak with you about, Sir Bethe."

"You know, the thing that gets me about people worrying about a power grab?" Anabethe looks up with a rueful smile, shrugging. "If you want to work with other people, why worry about who's got the power? As long as we're all working toward the same goal, right?" She waves off any answer to that question, shaking her head. "Neither me nor my father have it in us to make a power grab. You can all joke about how we're simple, but you're not all wrong. We are simple. We like simple things. We have simple goals. We want Haven to be safe."

Nikomachos nods acknowledgement at the points put forth by Anabethe, "I think I might perhaps go with 'direct,' rather than 'simple,' Sir Bethe. I wouldn't want anyone to think I was insulting you or High Lord Khournas." And then his smile flashes back into place, "You on the other hand, can use whatever words for yourself and your father as you want — and you think you can get away with." A light laugh accompanies the words, "I am concerned about what people believe to be happening behind the scenes, but honestly, all of those concerns — my own included — are symptoms of the thinking I'm hoping to drive out of influence. So long as the military and political command is the most active, most capable, and best-suited we have available, we should not care what House they hail from. It's those points that I've been trying to emphasize however — I feel strongly that in order to put aside our old way of thinking, we have to rally to active, capable, and well-suited commanders and leaders, trying to get the best Knight Lieutenants raised to Knight Captain, and good, active knights raised in their wake to Knight Lieutenant."

"So…who's disagreeing?" Anabethe drinks again, then settles forward, her elbows on her knees as she watches the other knight. "I'll be honest, right now I'm more concerned about making sure that our soldiers will follow orders from a Knight Lieutenant or a Knight Captain rather than running around looking for their own glory than I am about the officers themselves."

Nikomachos turns his hands palm-up in a slightly helpless gesture, "I don't know. Someone obviously is, however, as politics seem to have more to do with who is promoted than command ability. The removal of Father as Knight Commander is another clear example. He coordinated and commanded the clearing of the first wave before the second arrived, and now he is commanding only the defense of the Vale, and kept from doing that as effectively as he would like." A hint of a smile tugs at one corner of his lips, but it is a dry expression, "Don't you see, Young Lady? Truly competent, respected, and trusted Knight Lieutenants and Knight Captains, ones who are active, and will always drive home attacks against the Hostiles… the soldiery, and even vainglorious knights, will follow them more readily than they will Knight Lieutenants and Knight Captains promoted due to peacetime activities."

"That's the sort of thing that gets taken care of with training, not with inspiring leadership," Anabethe says dryly, shaking her head. "Not that I'm disagreeing. Leadership should be effective. Whether or not your father is the most effective is…up for debate," she adds with a flicker of a smile. "But as I said, we tend to go for what's effective anyhow. You're not going to find a lot of puffed up captains and lieutenants here. I'm not even one, and I've got experience and skill on half of the lieutenants I know."

Nikomachos spreads his arms to his sides at the suggestion that Sir Alexandros Cindravale may not have been the most effective Knight Commander, "Can you argue with the results?" The commentary back toward lower ranks draws a nod, "Why not press for the rank then?" There's a moment's pause, and then he shrugs slightly, "Or perhaps more importantly, what would you do with the rank? Would you use it to eliminate the Hostile infestations in the Crescent? Because that's what needs to happen, in my opinion. We need to emulate the strategy Father put into place, draw forces from all across Haven and wipe these Hostile landing sites out one after another with overwhelming force. Pin them down with Khourni shield walls, pierce their flanks with Valen charges, pepper them with Arborenin arrows, and cover the whole thing with Orelles in ramships to hold off their own reinforcements."

"I don't press for the rank because I believe it has to be earned," Anabethe answers, unusually somber. "And because I am who I am, it has to be eminently clear that I earned the rank, that it wasn't just given to me because of who I am. Otherwise it damages the authority of every Lieutenant, every captain. And that is something that cannot be allowed. As for a mass assault? The question now is do we have enough men to hold the other fronts while we dedicate others to this mass extermination?"

Nikomachos nods his understanding at the first response, "And that's as it should be. But do the Knight Captains of House Khournas even know that you're interested? Most Heirs don't also take on rank within the Knighthood, they may have assumed that you don't want it." The second point, however, draws a shrug, "Do we have enough soldiers not to wipe out these investments? If they can be reinforced, can we continue to hold lines all around forces twice the size of those currently landed? Three times? Four? At what point can they simply break out at will? Loathe though I am to suggest it, perhaps Valen cavalry can be used to constrain Hostile forces while Khourni-led infantry smashes one concentration at a time? Personally I would find that something of a waste of cavalry, but we can certainly cover more ground to hem in an enemy force with smaller numbers."

"It seems to me that if they can keep landing at will, we're going to have issues no matter what we do," Anabethe grimaces. "As for the role of cavalry and infantry, cavalry goes in first to break the enemy lines, infantry comes in after to clean them up. Archers at the back hit them from a distance as a group, then pick them off from behind the lines." She rubs a hand at the back of her neck, letting out a slow breath. "They're not stupid, Niko. The Hostiles. We can't move that many men without them knowing about it, and they seem to be…much more practical than we are. They'll sacrifice an encampment to steal a march on something that will take the heart right out of us."

Nikomachos nods at the first point again, "And there-in lies the importance of the Royal Navy, and why I took my turn on a boarding party despite my rather intense dislike for fighting a-foot." The crooked, dry grin curls his lips, self-deprecating amusement twinkling in his grey eyes. The sigh from the Young Lady washes that away in a little grimace, however, "The Hostiles are not supermen. I understand the danger of underestimating an enemy, but overestimating them can be just as dangerous." Pressing his hand to his chest, he emphasizes, "I believe that action is needed, to keep lancing the boils of Hostiles as they appear, to keep them from festering. That's what I'm trying to accomplish. United action. We have a great advantage over the Hostiles through the use of Waygates, and I believe that we need to take advantage of it to clear one locale after another. If you don't agree, I'll take my message elsewhere and won't bother you any further."

"Oh, I agree we should clear them out," Anabethe shakes her head. "It's the how I don't agree with. You want to go in strong, wipe them out where they're heaviest. But with their stealth technology? They're insidious. We wipe out the major bases, we're going to lose track off all the little groups, and the last thing I want is to spend my life fighting a guerrilla war against enclaves of Hostiles with nothing to hold them together. You ask me, we ought to be wiping out the smaller groups first, herding them toward whichever main landing site we think we have the best shot at beating them in. Then we take them out."

Nikomachos frowns at the response, "I see the danger you present. But their Scouts — from admittedly what little I have seen of them — seem few in number. And it's the masses of Hostiles which tie down our own forces in turn. Chasing Scouts over the river and through the woods could take months or years… but the question is, do we want to do that when there are thousands of Hostiles gathered, waiting for a moment of weakness to strike like they did at Cape Amran, or do we want to do it after the main forces have been wiped out — or even shattered into a few smaller bands, as you worry about — and we can concentrate the weight of our forces on them? It's a question of seeking a decisive battle versus waiting until one side makes a mistake. One thing even those who overestimate the Hostiles are quite correct on — they do not seem to make many mistakes on a strategic scale. Certainly fewer than we do when we're distracted by conflicts within our ranks."

"So what makes you think they're just sitting around waiting for us to take them out?" Anabethe arches a brow. "I'm not super keen on taking them on in their stronghold. It's not a question of overestimating them. It's a question of simple utility. They've got less to lose than we do. And that means they're more willing to sacrifice themselves. Because what's it going to cost them?" She shrugs, pushing up from the bench. "Bottom line, if you're talking about a coalition attack on the Hostiles, you're going to need to take on some smaller groups first anyhow to get the different forces used to working with each other. And then you're going to need to adjust your strategy so the larger forces don't see you coming."

Nikomachos shakes his head slightly, "That's what they've been doing so far. Granted, they've undoubtedly been providing whatever defenses they can around their ships, but at least the few reports that I've seen haven't shown any indications of massive emplacements. But you do bring up a good point. I think that Father's attacks on the first wave succeeded so well as much out of the sheer excitement and fervor of the forces involved as they did out of careful integration of military forces and strict adherence to his plans. But perhaps a first strike on one of the concentrations on the plains of The Spine? I would suggest the Hostiles on the northern Plains of Ares or in the Southern Wilds," and here his lips twist upward ruefully, half a smile and half a grimace, "But I fear that those outside the Vale might see such a suggestion as an attempt to get assistance for the land of my birth before all others."

"Back it up with tactics," Anabethe suggests, slinging the towel around her neck once more. "Figure out the tactical advantages of hitting each of the major emplacements and decide based on that. If you can't back it up, then maybe you're thinking with your heart despite yourself. If you can, then other people won't have anything to stand on. I can see the advantage of the plains, in terms of not making novice forces fight the landscape as well as the Hostiles. But you ought to have more to back it up if you're going to convince a collation force."

Nikomachos nods his head, smiling faintly as he starts to tick off points, "The terrain, as you point out, is easier to deal with. There are farming communities with Waygates scattered around the Plains which will allow us to move troops close without long marches. There are equal numbers or fewer Hostiles there than most other locations on Imperius — estimates range from 600 to 1,250, although I would guess it closer to the latter number. If the cavalry is going to be the decisive branch — which I believe it should — it should be operating in familiar territory." At least that's four points on his fingers. "The Isles of Terran might be a more political choice, but there the numbers are much, much smaller, perhaps not enough for a large-scale test, and there is less room to maneuver. To say nothing of the fact that forces would have to deploy by boats, which I can assure you, neither horses nor cavalrymen enjoy."

"And there's your argument. So, for your next trick, you should take it to someone who makes these decisions," Anabethe advises with a wry smile, collecting her things. "As for me, I should get back to the tower, get cleaned up, and get to sleep. I've got more factory patrols in the morning, and I need to be alert." She offers out a hand, smile crooked. "Good talking to you, Niko. Let me know how it works out."

Nikomachos shrugs helplessly at the description of his 'next trick,' "I don't think the Crown Council or the Citadel really wants one of the former Knight Commander's sons sticking his nose in its business. That's why I've been going with this more… grass-roots approach." Still, he nods at the excuse offered by the Young Lady, "Of course, thank you for the time." He clasps the woman's hand, shaking it once and then releasing, "Hopefully you'll be hearing orders for the northwest Spine or the northern Vale sometime soon. In the meantime, good hunting."

"I'd offer to talk to Emund, but I don't want you to think it's a power grab." Anabethe's grin flashes again, a little sharper. "We'll figure it out. Be well, Niko." And with that, and a light-hearted salute, she heads out of the gym.

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