「弔鐘遥かなり」 (Choushou haruka nari)
“Distant Funeral Bells”
Well cannot say I didn’t see that coming. Altair hasn’t been one for tragic developments of late (unless you’re a city state staring down a 500 pound Germanic gorilla of course), but Halil Pasha’s death was both well forecast and falls at an opportune time. Whereas before the war against Balt-Rhein was a seemingly romantic affair, with Mahmut largely immune from its effects, now the true cost of this fight has been revealed for all to see. To defeat this goliath our little pasha must be prepared to lose it all.
As far as battles go this week wasn’t particularly impressive, but as with politics Altair’s strength lies in the details. The big one was the differences in mentality and intelligence between general Pineau and Halil Pasha, which provide a fantastic example of how battles are won. Most people believe that courage, discipline, and maybe a little luck are all it takes to overcome an enemy, but in almost every instance, the fight is won before the two sides even meet. You could have the strongest fighting force in the world, but if your opponent chooses the ground, controls the engagement, and correctly predicts your every move, well, no amount of temerity will turn the battle in your favour. Pineau took this lesson to heart, learning Halil’s mindset inside and out and setting up his order of battle to best account for it. He took advantage of the terrain, ingeniously applied technology to the situation (just wait for the cannons next), and let Halil walk into the trap of his own making. The entire battle was textbook Sun Tzu, and while Balt-Rhein’s success was due in part to Lily Kokoschuka (and Louis’ ever helping hand), Pineau himself led the army to a devastating victory. As Halil tragically learned and Zaganos correctly identified, some men are simply not meant for the battlefield.
From here on out, however, is where things get interesting. With Balt-Rhein’s flank now secure and its stores replenished, it’s simply a matter of time before they starve Chielo into submission. No matter how smart Mahmut may be, when facing down a besieging army there’s often little you can do besides hope they rashly storm the walls or break the siege. While there’s always the potential of outside intervention (particularly after parading around Halil’s head on a spike and executing captives in front of everyone), I doubt any will be arriving after Zaganos shot down the idea. This predicament, for better or worse, is entirely up to Mahmut, and no matter the determination Halil’s death has given him, it will not be an easy one to overcome. I imagine the end will come down to a poorly thought out and executed Balt-Rhein scheme giving everyone time to escape—Lily seems overly eager to see Mahmut’s head joining that of his mentor after all—but there’s always the potential for other factors to sway the decision making. If Zaganos makes a play and strikes directly into Balt-Rhein for example, it’s not infeasible that Louis might halt the southern advance to bolster the northern lines and make a move for the heartland of the Stratocracy. Considering how crafty Altair has been with its geopolitics thus far, such a development would be right up its alley. The only question left is how much we will discover in the final four episodes.
Kind of makes it sad knowing this war just getting started, doesn’t it?