El Libertador Rides Again
Founded in the German capital of Aachen by the great prophet Simon Peter, Catholicism is the world’s largest religion. Known for its choral music and great cathedrals, the Catholic faith is also adhered to by Spain, France, Gran Colombia, Brazil, Hungary, Poland, Scotland, and much of Canada. However, the faith is also infamous for its crusades, with Catholic nations warring against each other with as much righteous fervor as with heretics and non-believers.
Historians are still unsure if the continent was named for its people, or the people named for the continent. What is certain is that while the republic of Gran Colombia was considered a small nation and built upon the smallest continent, it boasted a military and economy to match the other major superpowers. It was well-known that Colombian horses ran faster than any other, and Colombian coffee was prized across the world.
Simón Bolívar, President of Gran Colombia, drank a cup of such coffee, sweetened by Colombian sugar, as he poured over maps and schematics in his office. Colombia’s greatest minds had been hard at work drawing up plans for a fantastic project: to build a system of canals connecting the Gulf of Panamá to Laguna de la Cocha through the city of Panamá itself. The designs were based on canals seen in the Chinese empire, whose impeccable stonework was exemplified in their great walls. The technology required to complete such a task was the only thing in the way.
There was a sudden and loud knock on the door, “Presidente!”
Simón turned. Red faced from running, one of his ambassadors had only knocked out of habit and courtesy before throwing open the door and stumbling inside, grasping the back of a chair to steady himself.
“Joaquín? What has you in such disarray?” Simón asked, raising an eyebrow, “Please sit, recover yourself. Josefina, would you please fetch the ambassador a cup of coffee?”
The servant bowed and left the room as Joaquín sat down in the chair he’d clutched. As the ambassador composed himself, Bolívar neatly put the papers strewn across his desk in order, filing them in their intended places. When Josefina returned, she came with a tray. A pot of coffee, a small sugar bowl, a small pitcher of milk. On each side of the tray rest a bar of chocolate, locally sourced from near the aptly named Chocolate Hills.
“Gracias, Señor Presidente,” Joaquín bowed his head as he poured coffee into his cup with a splash of milk.
“I take it something great and terrible has occurred for you to come to me in such a manner… in person, no less.” Simón intoned, taking the final sips of his first cup, “Tell me, what tragedy befalls the world?”
“The Cree have been conquered.”
Simón nearly choked on his coffee. The Cree boasted the world’s second greatest economy, second only to the immeasurably rich Mali empire. Pîhtokahanapiwiyin, better known as Poundmaker, was a well-liked, highly respected, and honorable man. Bolívar had the great pleasure of meeting with him personally on a handful of occasions.
“How could such a thing happen?” He asked, composing himself quickly.
“Primer Ministro Laurier formally denounced Chief Poundmaker some months ago on charges of espionage. Presidente Roosevelt followed soon after for reasons undeclared. The two formally declared joint war a month following. I only arrived just this morning to tell you.”
Simón set down his cup, putting a hand to his chin in thought. The Cree were one of the great producers of fur, and even some honey and tobacco. Gran Colombia had previously sourced tobacco from the Cree when the trade negotiations with Qin Shi Huang had soured to the point of mutual denunciation.
“I cannot imagine King Robert is pleased.” Simón said plainly.
Joaquín scoffed, “You know he is not.”
That was all Bolívar needed to hear.
“Josefina, send for Seniors Santander and MacGregor and Embajadora María; I have need of a ship to Scotland. Assemble the Comandante Generales… This tyranny cannot remain unchecked.”
Situated on the northern peninsula of Colombia, the city-state of Buenos Aires was the only land on the continent not under Gran Colombian control. It was from here that Bolívar and his small envoy of diplomats and military escort sailed across the Rheic Ocean to Scot. There was a brief stop in Australia, where Simón met with Prime Minister John Curtin regarding the recent events. Finally, after what felt like an eternity on the sea, the ship made port in Edinburgh.
Their arrival and procession to Stirling turned into a parade, with hundreds- no, thousands- lining the streets to get a glimpse at the Gran Colombian delegation and their glorious leader. The crowd spilled out into the Scottish countryside, farmers in the massive wheat fields pausing their work to wave at the passing caravan. Simón waved back, basking in the adulation from a friendly foreign people.
When the crowds had dispersed or been left behind, the caravan’s pace quickened. Time was of the essence if they were to arrive in Stirling on schedule. While Gregor MacGregor- a native of the land and one of Gran Colombia’s great generals- loudly lectured the carriage’s occupants in all things Scot, Simón couldn’t help but wonder how Santander was fairing as acting president of Gran Colombia. It was not the first time that he would be in the position and Santander was a trustworthy man, but Bolívar could not help but wonder how Gran Colombia fared without him to guide her.
As they approached Stirling, another parade procession formed as the delegation made their way to the royal palace. Soon they pulled up to the palace, tall and fantastic, a blend between castle and mansion. Twin gardens with fountains sat on either side of the path to the palace steps, though they were hard to see past the throngs of Scots from all classes clamouring to catch a glimpse of their king’s meeting with a foreign leader.
Robert the Bruce was a righteous man, standing taller than the kilt-clad ceremonial guards that flanked him. His hand lazily rested on the hilt of his sword, something most had accepted to simply be a subconscious habit on the Scot’s part, and not a lingering threat on the life of a visiting dignitary. His great beard did nothing to hide a smile; he was more often than not in good spirits. After Simón had taken a few steps away from the carriage, Robert moved with his small entourage to meet him halfway.
“Presidente Simón,” the King greeted him with a firm handshake, “It is good to meet with you again in person.”
Robert’s thick accent slightly maimed his name and title, but he was used to it thanks to General MacGregor. “And you as well, King Robert.”
“Come in, come in, I’ll have m’servants direct you an’ your delegates to yer quarters for a spot of rest. Tonight we feast, on the morrow we shall attend mass t’gether, and then we shall meet for matters of diplomacy.”
Piety and partying… Simón’s favourite qualities in Robert. Part of him itched to attend to business first, but this was simply Robert’s way of showing appreciation, sussing out deception, and building camaraderie and trust. So instead he smiled, “Excellent. I have brought gifts that may aid us in attending mass with bright eyes.”
“Coffee?” Robert perked up slightly, “Aye, y’know me so well, lad.”
Despite sharing faith, the church service in Scotland was far different than mass in Gran Colombia. Colombian mass was a somewhat formal affair, a moment to reflect on matters of the soul. Scottish mass was… energetic, with the hymns sung loudly and joyously and the priest gripped by such holy fervor that he nearly shouted the cathedral deaf.
As soon as the service ended, Simón and Robert were ushered back to the palace. While part of him wished to mingle further with the common folk, there was pressing business at hand, and he did not wish to be a distraction to the people on a holy day. The two leaders retired to their respective chambers briefly, then reconvened in Robert’s war room.
“Fantastic, this is!” Robert exclaimed after taking a bite of one of the chocolate bars he’d been gifted by the delegation the night before, “Aye, Colombian chocolate is right sweet.”
“We are working on refining our methods of production,” Simón replied as a maid brought a tray with coffee, sugar, and milk, “Of course, our canal project is the main focus at the moment.”
“Aye, heard about that… the Panamá Canal,” Robert nodded sagely. There was a pregnant pause, a brief moment of silence wherein Simón prepared his cup of coffee to his liking and Robert’s fingers drummed against his desk, “I’ll be honest wit’ ye, Simón, I’m itchin’ t’play a round ‘r two of golf wit’cha. So let’s get t’business underway, shall we?”
Bolívar gave a slight nod from behind his cup. Not sweet enough. He spoke as he worked to remedy that, “What has occurred to the Cree is an absolute travesty, and it cannot stand. On my journey, I held a brief meeting with Primer Ministro Curtin during our rest stop in Australia. He and I are of like mind: the Cree must be liberated.”
Simón presented a few papers to the Scottish king. As Robert read carefully, Simón first took a sip of coffee- much better- then elaborated.
“These are written declarations of denunciation, signed by myself, Curtin, and- God willing- you as well. Copies shall be sent to the American and Canadian capitals, as well as world congress. Furthermore, as the Cree were on friendly terms with our nations, we have Casus Belli to declare a war of liberation on your order. Australia may not be able to provide substantial military assistance, but are willing to make up for the deficit in the final phase. After Cree lands have been liberated, gifts of gold and an influx of trade will help them recover from the tyranny of American-Canadian occupation.”
Robert the Bruce stroked his beard as Simón spoke. In this moment, Simón realized- not for the first time- that the Scottish king was harder to read than many thought. His expression was schooled into stoicism, and if he didn’t know the man as well as he did, he would be unsure if even his passionate words would sway the monarch.
But finally, Robert set the papers down on the table and grabbed a quill and inkwell, “War lingers in our hearts, Simón. Why carry on with a false peace?”
Within days, news of the trifecta of denunciations had reached every corner of the world. Simón remained in Stirling for a week to plan with Robert. Each nation would start from different corners of Cree territory, fighting their way to the capital of Mikisiw-Wacîhk. The Cree people lived in a land called Siberia on the supercontinent Pangea Ultima, where tectonic plates had crashed together to form great mountain ranges. While these mountain ranges often protected the Cree, the American and Canadian forces had fortified themselves at strategic choke points. Bolívar’s plan was to use the same strategy, only this time it was just as much about keeping the American and Canadian forces in as keeping their reinforcements out .
After the plans were finalized, Simón sent a missive back home. War would soon be upon Pangea Ultima. He and his military escort would make landfall and prepare a staging area. Then they would be forced to wait until the rest of the army arrived. The first setback came in the form of a barbarian encampment situated where the armies were to convene. The barbarian spearmen and swordsmen, left unchecked for too long, had grown formidable in number.
Simón personally led his cavalry in a series of raids against the barbarian swordsmen while General Gregor MacGregor led the infantry in a charge towards their camp. Within the week, the barbarians were routed. Rather than scatter to the winds, the roving bands threw themselves mindlessly at the Gran Colombian forces, seeking to avenge the loss of their camp and comrades or die trying. Gran Colombian losses were few, but the time it would take for the wounded to rest and recover would set back their attempts to make camp.
A week later, the rest of the army arrived on the shores, a force too large to be ignored. Canadian troops began to amass, attempting to seal the pass with anti-cavalry and crossbowmen. Three days after the army had landed, the day that Bolívar and Robert had agreed upon came. A war of liberation was formally declared, and his army marched.
The Canadians had the benefit of being dug in to their fortifications, and Simón had been insistent that no siege weapons be brought. The intention was to damage as little as possible, to preserve as much of the Cree territory as they could. This would make for a difficult campaign, even with siege towers to bypass the city walls. But Simón had one thing the Canadians didn’t have in ready supply: experienced and brilliant military strategists.
Gregor MacGregor was no longer his only Comandante General on the field. His cavalry was now led by the ‘Centaur of the Plains’ José Antonio Páez, Santiago Mariño and MacGregor each took command of half the infantry and anti-cavalry divisions, and Mariano Montilla dedicated himself to planning their upcoming sieges.
And so the first battle commenced. The cavalry charged to draw out the Canadian pikemen, then pulled back behind the advancing infantry. Behind them, Colombian crossbowmen fired upon the Canadian anti-cavalry, softening them up for the swordsmen and musketmen that followed. Páez led the cavalry around the battle and to the Canadian archers, cutting off the Canadian retreat. In hours, they had secured a foothold into Siberia; they had succeeded in the first step in liberating the Cree lands.
However, the Canadian forces held one advantage, even compared to their American allies. They were used to fighting in the cold. Colombia had a tropical climate through and through due to its proximity to the equator. Furthermore, the Gran Colombian forces were forced to divide their forces; half were to go south-east and prevent Canadian reinforcements from piercing the choke point between the Coast Mountains and the Cascade Range.
The Scottish had it far worse. Their path led them through a narrow strip of unclaimed land between the Canadian and American borders. Though the sight of Canada’s great natural wonder Piopiotahi was inspiring and invigorating, there was a long way between the landing site and the army’s destination: the choke point between the Cascade Range and the Vermillion Range. This was the largest hole to seal, broken by a single mountain between the two ranges. North and slightly east was the last choke point, between the Vermillion Range and the Rocky Mountains, which shielded the north side of this corner of the continent the only land beyond the Rocky Mountains was barely-hospitable tundra and snow.
Simón hoped that Robert would have no need for reinforcements. He could not provide any without risking the Coast-Cascade choke.
The Gran Colombian army clashed against Canadian and American troops as they pushed west and north-west. Simón led the bulk of his forces directly for the Cree capital, occupied by America, but further fortified by Canadian forces. Canadian infantry routinely rushed to block the path of their siege towers, but Bolívar was confident; this tactic would merely delay the inevitable. After all, his troops had been trained for endurance and distance, even in this colder climate.
Suddenly, there was a rush of American cavalry: Roosevelt’s Rough Riders! Their unexpected arrival shook the Gran Colombian resolve, and forced a temporary retreat. Bolívar ordered the troops to cluster together and fortify with the anti-calvary on the outside. With his Comandante Generales providing support and instruction, the pike-wielders of the Colombians began to adapt to the advances of both cavalry and infantry. Their patience would be rewarded. It had to be.
Finally the Rough Riders began to pull back. General Páez ordered the cavalry to chase after the wounded Americans and finish them. It could be a trap, but the risk was worth the removal of the American special forces. Sure enough the Colombian Cavalry caught up and defeated the Rough Riders, but they were ambushed by a hail of crossbow bolts… indeed, a trap! The cavalry retreated, but not without losing a third of their number.
Fortunately, word came with reinforcements: Wapi-maskwa, the northernmost Cree city, had been successfully liberated and the Canadian forces pushed back. With morale and numbers bolstered, the Gran Colombian forces led another attempt to dislodge the American and Canadian fortifications around Mikisiw-Wacîhk. Perhaps they could have been successful if not for the blizzard that swept in from the north-east.
Meanwhile, the southern Scottish line was threatening to break. Attempts to unseat the Canadian occupation of Mistahi-Sipihk were going slower than planned, and the enemy attempts to pierce the blockade were furious and frequent. Suddenly, new colors appeared on the horizon, approaching fast from where Scots had landed and blazing their way across no-man’s land to the Cascade-Vermillion pass. Australian reinforcements! With their support, the Scots could reinforce the barricade and liberate Mistahi-Sipihk.
“How bad’s it been, Simón?” Robert asked as soon as he’d entered the president’s tent. The look on Bolívar’s face was all the answer the Scottish king would need.
“Between frostbite and death, my army has been reduced by two-fifths our number.”
Robert gave a solemn nod, “War is hell, laddie. No man wants t’see his own flesh an’ blood spilt. What’s the situation an’ ‘ow can I help?”
“The American fortifications have been crippled by the blizzard, but the Canadian position remains strong,” Simón pointed at maps of the surrounding area, “Now that you are here, I believe I have a plan.”
“You believe you ‘ave a plan?”
“I’m seeing a potential path to victory, so yes, I believe so.”
“I’m all ears, my friend.”
“The Canadian forces are entrenched here, between our encampment and the Cree capital. American soldiers are present in the surrounding countryside, but weakened by the storm. With your numbers to bolster us, to distract the larger army, I can take a force around Lake Aðapaskāw to flank the city and attack from Ubsunur Hollow.”
“They shan't see you coming until it’s too late.” Robert stroked his beard, “You’ll ‘ave your distraction, Simón.”
Bolívar took some of his best soldiers and quietly broke away from camp in the night. It would be hard to see through the dark and the snow, and the terrain was rough- too rough to bring siege towers. Scottish crossbows and muskets fired upon the enemy position and made several feinting charges to distract the enemy, just in case.
During a break in the snow, Simón couldn’t help but pause and marvel at the beauty of Siberia. Mikisiw-Wacîhk lay across the water, cradled by Ubsunur Hollow and cast in the pale light of the autumn moon. Such beautiful land was no doubt the envy of Pangea Ultima. Soon the snow began to fall again, and the troops moved on. They had to reach Ubsunur Hollow by sunrise.
When the first rays of morning light began to illuminate the distant mountains, Robert ordered the charge. Three nations followed the King of Scots into the fray, headlong into musket fire and arrows. Simón waited for his moment. He waited for hours with his men hidden amongst the trees and the sacred stone monuments.
Finally, his patience paid off.
An elite corp of Canadian musketmen known as the Great White Sword had retreated from the battle with Robert the Bruce, coming around to the back of the city for entry rather than risk letting any of the more daring enemy troops a chance to rush the front gates. With the back gates open, Simón ordered a charge. The garrison was so shocked that they failed to close the gates and were gunned down by Bolívar and his musketmen. The Great White Sword fell, wounded and weak from the fight. The ambush was a resounding success.
Simón’s strike force rushed through the city, cutting down any Canadian troops in their way as they stormed the front gates. The confusion allowed the rest of the army to push forward, and position the siege towers. Scottish, Gran Colombian, and Australian soldiers spilled over the walls and through the gates of Mikisiw-Wacîhk. Within two hours of Bolívar’s daring ambush, the Canadian and American forces in the city surrendered.
In a tent under that sole mountain between the Cascade and Vermillion mountain ranges, Simón Bolívar and Robert the Bruce sat and waited. Colebee, the Australian ambassador to the Cree, stood off to the side as he tried to light a match for his pipe. With the liberation of the Cree complete, there was no purpose in continuing the war. This meant that a peace treaty had to be formed. President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Laurier would have to come- in person- to negotiate.
Finally, as Colebee’s match was struck, the tent flap opened. A gust of wind threatened the papers on the desk and snuffed the fire before the Australian ambassador could make use of it. Two men walked inside. The first was a bulky man, wearing a uniform similar to those of the Rough Riders. He removed his hat upon entry, revealing short greying hair. His face was framed by small golden-framed spectacles and a thick mustache. The second man looked older, was thinner, dressed in much finer clothes. His hair was snow-white and he was balding significantly. He wore a blue suit jacket with a brown checkered vest. Pinned to the vest was a small golden maple leaf. Like the first man, he too possessed small golden spectacles, but this man had a habit of holding them, rather than wearing them.
“Roosevelt. Laurier.” Robert greeted the pair coldly as they entered.
While Theodore looked indignant and was about to retort, the Prime Minister cut in before he could speak, “Gentlemen, let us remain civil. Negotiations will not run smoothly with tempers flaring.”
The two took their seats across from Robert and Simón. Roosevelt and Robert glared at each other furiously, while Simón and Wilfrid regarded each other with begrudging respect. Finally, Colebee had lit his pipe and set papers down on the table.
“As Australia’s representative, it is my duty to represent Prime Minister Curtin in these affairs. The good Prime Minister, in exchange for the cessation of hostilities between Australia and the American and Canadian empires, asks only that reparations be paid to the formerly annexed Cree people.”
“Lump sum or…?” Theodore asked, picking up the sheet with the Australian seal upon it and examining the wording and scanning the document for any fine print.
“While Prime Minister Curtin has left such a thing to your discretion, he insists that he will accept no less than one thousand gold pieces as a lump sum, or a payment of fifty gold per month for twenty months. And that is not cumulative between each of your nations.”
“Canada accepts the Australian terms.” Wilfrid took his pen and dipped from the inkwell in the center of the table, signing his name on the document as soon as Theodore set it back on the table. Theodore hesitated, but did the same.
As Colebee took the signed papers, Robert pushed a document forward for the two men to see, “Wilfrid, Teddy, ye ‘ave no idea ‘ow much it hurt t’hear of what’cha did t’ the Cree. I thought y’stood fer freedom, fer liberty. If y’want to be a friend of Scotland ere again, you’ll not only ‘ave t’pay reparation, y’ll hav’ t’well and truly prove y’ve taken this loss ‘n lesson t’heart.
“The both’a you mus’ make public declarations of apology in world congress to Poundmaker, an’ more importantly, assist the good man in rebuildin’. In fact… there’s a track ‘a land south o’ the mountains, by the coast? I think that’ll make a damn fine spot fer a Cree port town. ‘Course, tis more’an issue fer Canada, since t’land’s closer t’your territory, but y’started it in the first place. Least y’can do fer the man is give ‘im s’m land.
“In exchange fer the Scottish blood spilt by yer men, you’ll also pay to her one an’ a half thousand gold. Furthermore, Wilfrid, Canada’ll present t’Scotland shipm’nts o’ silver an’ jade. Teddy, you’ll pay in cotton an’ citrus.”
Once again, Theodore looked about ready to explode in anger. Before he could speak, Wilfrid turned to Simón, “Before I sign, Président Bolívar, do you intend to ask for similar concessions for the both of us?”
Wilfrid sighed, “Canada cannot offer both silver and jade to two nations. Robert, which do you want more, the silver or the jade?”
Robert thought for a moment, “Jade.”
“Ah, but that’s what I was going to say,” Simón shook his head, “Robert, you are on better terms with China than I. If you’ll allow me the jade in this deal, Gran Colombia shall repay your generosity with shipments of coffee and gold to reimburse you for what Qin Shi Huang may demand.”
“That’ll do, laddie.” Robert nodded to Simón, “But jus’ silver ain’t enough, Wilfrid.”
“Je comprends,” Wilfrid replied, “But I may offer you furs or salt instead.”
“Gran Colombia would appreciate gifts of salt, Primer Ministro Laurier.”
After a moment, Robert decided, “Scotland’ll take yer furs.”
“Canada shall accept the Scottish terms.”
“An’ you, Teddy?” Robert turned to Roosevelt, his voice dripping with contempt.
The President responded through grit teeth, “America will regretfully part with the cotton and citrus if it means an end to this conflict.”
The Scottish documents were signed. All that was left was Gran Colombia’s terms. Simón slid a page across the table, tapping it twice.
“For the cessation of hostilities between the republic of Gran Colombia and the empires of America and Canada, we demand the payment of ten thousand gold pieces.”
Wilfrid’s jaw dropped. Theodore launched out of his seat, slamming his hands on the table, “ Ten thousand gold? You’d damn near bankrupt the American empire!”
“Ten thousand gold is too much. Canada cannot agree to this.”
“Then present me with an alternative.” Simón replied coolly, leaning back slightly in his chair, “Else Gran Colombian soldiers will continue to march against your nations.”
Wilfrid glanced over towards Robert, seeing the subtle hints of worry in the Scotsman’s eyes. This had to be a bluff. A war of liberation was meant only to free an allied city from occupation, to outright attack the occupier’s homes and cities in retaliation… Bolívar had to know such a thing would do him no favors and earn him no good will in world congress. But his demeanor, the coldness in the man’s eyes… there may be something dark inside the man they called ‘El Libertador.’ Something hungry for power.
Wilfrid spoke carefully, “Président Bolívar, Canada is already offering gifts of jade and salt. Perhaps may we also offer diamonds and gypsum.”
“That is an acceptable substitution… if you pay two thousand gold pieces as well.”
Laurier sighed, “Je suppose que je dois. Canada will sign this treaty.”
“And you, Presidente Roosevelt? What will you offer Gran Colombia?”
Theodore grumbled his response.
“I can’t hear you, Theodore.”
“Dyes and tobacco. We can also offer dyes and tobacco alongside cotton and citrus.” Roosevelt growled.
“In that case, two thousand gold pieces will settle the matter.”
Wordlessly, Theodore grabbed his pen and signed the document, storming out of the tent as soon as his name was on the page. Laurier signed as well, rising from his seat and offering his hand to the men to shake.
“This whole business has been… unfortunate. But, Canada has learned a valuable lesson from these events. War is not a path we shall tread lightly ever again.”
“See that ya remember that fer awhile, Willy.” Robert said as he shook the man’s hand. Colebee also shook the Canadian’s hand, but Simón made no motion to do- at least not until Wilfrid was about to rescind his hand.
Without another word, Wilfrid Laurier left the tent. Colebee followed a moment after with the Australian treaty. Simón neatly gathered the Gran Colombian treaty and a few other relevant papers, then departed. As Robert stood alone in the tent, he couldn’t help but think about the way Bolívar had bullied Theodore and Laurier. He hadn’t even asked that anything be given to the Cree! It was all for himself. It made him feel sick, hurt, a touch betrayed… but Robert tried to give Bolívar the benefit of the doubt.