Elsewhere, the world turns. The UAP remains in active negotiation with many states, and many states still seek to join.
One of those states is the the Principality of Arden. Arden is a medium sized state with a stable government and a tradition of survival in Sytol's complex and lethal politics. The ruling house of Arden has reigned unbroken for centuries, and in it’s latest leader, Prince Freklim Arden, has arguably, one of the families greatest strategic thinkers in generations. Arden had begun it’s conversations with the UAP nearly thirty years ago. House Arden always takes the long view, and has built up a network of support and cooperation between other states and long maintained a highly tolerant religious view that has given it stability and plenty of buffer room against potential enemies. Arden was an agricultural economy which slowly developed into a manufacturing and research base which provides wealth and harmony within its borders. For years, the house has sought membership into the UAP at a time of it’s choosing. House Arden has long considered it’s future as a power within Sytol, and has come to terms with the loss of it’s royal status in the future. It has concluded that Sytol's best future is part of the Union. Indeed, members of the royal family have travelled extensively amongst many planets of the Union which has aided its decision making process.
But Arden feels it needs to be at the centre of the UAP in the short term (the next two hundred years or so) in order to be able to influence the Sytol government sufficiently well in order to guide the planet to the best outcome. That aim is Union membership but if that fails - it feels it is vital to be sufficiently close to decision making to protect House Arden interests in the future. It cant carry out this mission militarily, it knows that its professional and well equipped force is simply too small for that purpose. But its military command is well trained and highly focused on the survival of House Arden, and it thinks it has found a lever that will elevate Arden into the heart of the UAP decision making process.
Fully three hundred years ago, Prince Hardlin Gorgot Arden IV allowed a small religious group calling itself The Claive, safe haven in a small, inconsequential holding of the principality. The land was called the Sarl Valley, a narrow strip of fertile land fed by rivers nestled between mountain ranges. To the west lay desert, to the east, the patchwork of city states known collectively as Veldyn. To the North were the wastelands haunted by the clans - the organic sentient alien species known as the Kresh.
The Sarl Valley was a fertile land, but was a thin strip of civilisation caught between the combined vices of lawless lands. Kresh raids caused constant damage and carnage. The dessert held bandits who regularly raided farms and settlements, and the chaotic Veldyn states often sent warring forces over the passes into the green and pleasant farming lands of Sarl, forcing Arden to maintain large and costly armed forces in the valley out of all proportion to it’s value.
The Claive settled in the North, in lands mostly depopulated from raids and massacre. It cost Arden nothing to let it settle, but nonetheless the political intelligence of the royal household ensured it retained leverage with the Claive by granting it refuge on a lease basis.
The Claive was just one of thousands of religious groups - perhaps tens of thousands around the Sytolian world. It is one of the oldest - formed during the great civil war that saw Sytol break apart and fall away from the old Union during the first A’Krian war. They are not an especially unique or unusual sect, seeking enlightenment, but over time they have grown in sophistication and in numbers. As is typical with many similar groups, people joining them sign over all worldly possessions - giving the Claive a regular income and funds. On top of that, the Claive farm and mine in the Sarl, and this provides it with a steady and not inconsiderable income which it re-invests solely into the growth of it’s communities. So unlike very many religious groups, it’s aims are genuinely for the good of its community.
Over time, the Claive grew. it expanded its settlements, repopulating the Sarl, improved the road network and became a small but successful state of its own - but one only interested in itself. It traded with the outside world, it marketed extensively to attract new members, but otherwise attracted no attention to itself.
The lease it negotiated with Arden ran out more than forty years ago. Arden would have happily extended the lease but for one little point of geography. The Sarl valley butted alongside lands that gave access to the desserts and the wastelands. Insignificant data. Unless in time of war, access to those wastes in flanking positions became highly valuable...
Arden decided on a policy that tried to dance along a knife edge of political intrigue, gambling for high stakes and influence. If it made too much noise, or acted too rashly, the opportunity for influence would be lost and Arden would have to look for other - as yet unknown opportunities - to gain influence in the UAP.
Five years ago Arden gave notice to the Claive to quit its legal lands in the Sarl valley. The political council of Arden opined that the Claive would not go, and would endeavor to resist displacement. They were correct. Arden then agreed that the Claive could stay but that the principality would re take full control in the valley, including military and police forces, and the introduction of new colonists from Arden. The Claive refused to countenance such a presence in their sacred valley.
Arden took their case to the Supreme Court of the UAP, and despite strong and costly legal representation by the Claive, won the right to retake their lands and evict the Claive from the land they had toiled so hard to tame.
When security elements of Arden arrived at the small hamlet of Jrinn, the southernmost Claive settlement to enforce the eviction, they were fired on. Withdrawing with one trooper wounded, Arden announced it’s outrage, and applied to the Supreme Court for the right to forcibly evict the Claive in line with mandate ZT4709-B. This has been granted, allowing House Arden to enforce its claim militarily.
Arden’s aim is to take full control of the Sarl Valley. In order to do this, it must clear the Claive of the valley, and it has offered alternative lands for the Calive to settle in. The Claive are of no interest to Arden. They would have happily allowed them to stay in the Sarl forever - they have acted as a highly effective buffer against incursions from the Kresh and other human and non human bandits and raiders - Arden lands have not been invaded for more than a century. But the valley is now of highly significant political leverage for Arden. As it is, the Sarl falls under the mandate - a neutral zone which allows for no UAP forces to enter, no fly over, no military forces. With the Claive gone, the Sarl is legally recognised as part of the Principality of Arden.
If the UAP were to accept Arden into their family, military forces would be able to use the Sarl to launch potentially war winning flank attacks against the FFA forces in the Black Hills. The chief resistance to the unification process could be overcome in less than five years. This would be worth a great deal to the UAP, and would provide Arden with a priceless bargaining chip for entry into the UAP at level of political influence they could dictate.
Arden’s chief concern is that their military strategic planning council spotted this potential a decade ago. The fear in the royal inner circle is that sooner or later, military computers on both sides of the front lines will also decipher the Sarl Valley as a rather obvious soft target for either side to exploit. That they have not so far, the planners at Arden command put down to strategic thinking based on UAP military policy and the mandate.
Arden must therefore tread wearily and keep publicity of the eviction to a minimum. The greater the news coverage of the events as they unfold, the more chance that a bored intelligence officer in Gaop or the Black Hills will turn their attention to the little known Sarl Valley, look at the maps of the road net available and say “hang on a minute...”
To minimise the chances of publicity, the principality has decided to do what the vast majority of states do in such circumstances. Hire an army to do the dirty work. In this case, one of the best; the Rapid Offensive Force.