July 2014 Challenge: The Hurnic Horde
Alexei cradled the porcelain cup of tea, blowing on it to cool it slightly before sipping. The samovar sitting on the low table beside the fireplace gurgled and hissed as Professor Fenton poured himself a cup. Outside, the first of the winter storms was pounding the city of Arkhovy, and Alexei watched the rain streak down the window pane, the steam from his tea creating damp patterns against the cold glass. He peered north, past the churches with their bronzed onion domes, past the great market square with its stalls shuttered for the night, past the mighty Salovan River with its many lacework bridges.
"Thinking about your uncle, young prince?" asked Fenton, as he hobbled over to sit in the high-backed chair next to Alexei. He sighed gratefully as he sank into the cushions, holding his cup in one gnarled hand and pushing his spectacles up his long nose with the other.
Alexei blinked owlishly out at the rainy night and sipped his tea. "Do you think the Hurn will ever get this far south, Professor?"
Fenton tried to maintain an expression of studied neutrality. "I think it... is a possibility, but not a likely one." Left unspoken was the selfish thought: And if it does happen, I can always take ship across the sea back to Anglova... He leaned over and patted Alexei on the knee. "Your uncle General Orlov is a great man, young prince, and your father the Emperor was wise to send him north. The general and his army will crush the Hurn before they reach Kormansk. And even should the impossible happen and Kormansk is taken, why, the river forts along the Saraly will stop the Hurn as cold as a farmer snapping a chicken's neck."
"That's what they said eighty years ago about the fortresses at Winter's Gate," Alexei said morosely. "When the Hurn first invaded, those castles didn't even last a month. My great-grandfather and his court were idiots not to take the threat more seriously."
Fenton tut-tutted disapprovingly, though secretly he agreed with Alexei's assessment. "Now, now, young prince. Your great-grandfather was most certainly not a fool. The Empire was a different place in those days, and information moved more slowly. Bramova is a vast land, and no one could have defended it against a threat like the Hurn any more successfully." Except, oh, almost any ruler who didn't have his head so far up his ass he could inspect his own plumbing, thought Fenton. Prince Alexei seemed mollified, though. He was only ten, but vastly intelligent for his age, certainly wiser in proportion than his father or the last two emperors before him. Perhaps there is hope yet for this nation, if only the prince lives long enough, and the country holds on long enough for him to take the throne...
My entry is going to be a tiered map showing three distinct phases of the Hurnic invasion of Northern Bramova, a nation analogous to Russia. First bit of coastline work is done, showing the northern slice of Bramova that the map(s) will be focused on, and a chunk of the neighboring nation of Anglova (an England analog) to the west.
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