1732-1735: The POW years

A dirty POW camp in Lower Barro was just one of the loose ends unresolved in the truce, and it was there that the remaining members of the former 10th Tok Guards and the 111th Engineers were detained. Although it was high in the mountains, it was as far from the comfortable life Alykinder had come from as one can go.

The camp was a dull place. Escape was almost impossible, given the remote location of the camp and the open terrain around it. Food was a never-changing diet of thin gruel, tubers, and the occasional loaf of hard black bread. It was the kind of place where it is easy to fall into lassitude and lose hope, but the bookish is-Caerten of the 111th was not going to let the wind-swept camp destroy him. He kept himself busy with a two new projects.

The first of these was keeping the morale of his fellow prisoners up. Alykinder decided to open a newspaper for the POWs. In a tiny camp isolated from much of the rest of civilization, it might seem an unlikely enterprise, but Alykinder knew that keeping busy was more important than the end product. He began by recruiting his fellow prisoners into various projects. One group was put to work making paper out of old packaging and tuber starch. Another group (mostly engineers from the 111th) went about building a press. Alykinder coordinated, cajoled, and traded with the guards for necessary items until at last the press was ready and the first issue of the Camp Ledger rolled off the press, printed with ink made from bootblack and cinder, on paper made from old laundry.

POW Camp Knos-Ryk, 1733. One of the few photos of the Knos-Ryk camp. This is believed to be the western most extent. The facility was comprised of several hundred buildings and at its peak housed close to 9000 prisoners.(Courtesy 111th Engineers Historical Office)

More and more prisoners sought to work on the newspaper in some capacity, with Alykinder flitting from committee to committee to coordinate their actions. Through persistent badgering, he even managed to score an interview with the camp commandant, who saw it as the only way to get the persistent is-Caerten out of his office.

None of this was lost on Syrnol Chot, who was the ranking prisoner. His soldiers had gone from despair to activity, to even the glimmerings of hope. He would meet regularly with Alykinder, and the two would come to have a strong friendship as a result.

Alykinder’s second project was secret and ambitious: Documenting what had gone wrong with the entire campaign and siege of Holn.

In the minutes before lights-out, or when he was able to spare five minutes, Alykinder had begun carefully dissecting the loss at Holn. Examinations of failures by is-Caertens were not encouraged by military high commands, and compounding his heresies, Alykinder presented a radical political thesis as well. The failure of the siege of Holn, he argued, was nothing less than a result of centuries of Quar society and warfare.

Up to this point, war had largely been waged on the basis of sieges and campaigns of limited territorial gain. Wars were accompanied by simultaneous political negotiations, and stringent efforts were made to keep lands and cities intact at the cost of soldiers’ lives. Alykinder argued that this was because of the heavily inter-related First Families and their interests. A limited war would preserve the value of property and land. Soldiers were an expendable resource in this context, but a city was not. The traditional siege style of warfare (indeterminate, protracted, usually accompanied by political considerations—a process designed to leave the target largely intact and promote the profile of the upper class) was, he declared, a system both morally wrong and militarily futile. There could be no end to the Long War so long as the First Families and their policies controlled the politics of the nations. Alykinder’s thesis was that the way to end a war, and to end the Long War itself, was to concentrate not on siege and limited territorial gain, but to take as much territory as quickly as possible to shock the other side into a political resolution. Enemy forces should be engaged only to pin them in position, so as to allow other troops to take weakly held areas of strategic importance.

Alykinder calculated that the logistical support needed to move the massive siege equipment could easily be used to bypass strongpoints in favor of lightning strikes on more sensitive targets, and it is his cogent logistical analysis and suggestion for changes, focusing on delivery of soldiers and supplies by airship, that form the second half of the book.

One night in 1734, after the newspaper press had finished for the day, Alykinder shooed his workers out of the print room, and set down to print a slim book called “Principles of Applied Air Power.” This book would come to be known simply as “Principles” as Alykinder ascended to power.

The next morning, a somewhat nervous Alykinder presented the book to Syrnol Chot. Chot is reported to have spent two days reading and re-reading the little book, and a full day contemplating it. Then he and Alykinder took a long, slow walk around the compound, talking in low and serious voices. Neither has ever discussed their conversation in detail, but when it was done, Chot embraced Alykinder.

In 1735, a political resolution on the POWs was reached, and the prisoners were returned to Tok. Alykinder was promoted to Caerten and assigned to the Tok’s North Border military district. This region included his home town of Skar, and on clear days, it was possible to see the closest city-states of Lower Barro.

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