After dealing with Relias, Karavox sent a message to the administrators on the East continent, asking how they were holding against Pariden and Magnar, and whether he needed to send Naressa back. The messengers could not find Gaylyn who was out North, building roads and preventing Juggernaut raid parties from disrupting the project.
It was Janusk who wrote back. "Please, keep the Death Mage in the West. No need to antagonize Procipinee and Irane. I believe that I can handle things here just fine, especially now that the crystal from the Fissure is getting to the Stables fortress unmolested by raiders. PS Please tell Naressa how much I regret that I won't be seeing her again."
Karavox chuckled as he read the letter. He knew Naressa terrified the diminutive merchant, and found his bookishness irritating. It was regrettable, but the two of them would have to live with it. Karavox dreamed of unifying the known lands under one banner that both men and fallen would be proud to call their own. He would not allow public displays of intolerance. His inner circle would present an united front to any outsiders... or the inner circle would have to shrink.
But an unified, peaceful world was still far in the future. For now, there was bloody work to be done, and all who had attacked the Kraxis empire had to be presented with a butcher's bill. Thus, with the former Altar lands under new management, the Kraxis champions in the West marched against Yithril and Gilden. They appeared unstoppable. Karavox, Nochd and Neressa were taking city after city. Drakmir rode behind them, seeking out stragglers and raiders, and running them down with his wargs.
News of victories in the West kept arriving into Stables, together with a wealth of resources. Janusk enjoyed running the fortress. He did not quite understand how command had devolved from Karavox, to Nartessa, to Gynlyn, and finally to him, but he had started taking sword lessons, and felt that he could be a good general.
He still had a lot to learn, though. In the Fall of '92, his camp was attacked by an army led by Procipinee herself. The Queen had used magic to make her army move quickly and tirelessly and led the charge herself. For a moment, it seemed that the Kraxis may break, but Janusk manged to rally his lancers. The Pariden were brave, and kept fighting to the bitter end, but soon only Procipinee was left standing.
She started casting a spell that would spirit her out of danger, but realized the lancers had taken defensive positions. A single rider approached her. He looked familiar.
"I know you! You... you were with that upstart Relias! A traitor amongst traitors."
"My name is Janusk, Madam, and I suggest you do not throw this word around lightly."
"You will address me properly, peasant!"
"I serve Emperor Karavox, and the only times I address him as Your Imperial Majesty is during official functions. I do not recognize your authority, I am a loyal subject of an Empire you attempted to destroy and I have defeated your forces in battle. You can probably escape, so I will make no empty threats. Still, I will address you however I wish."
"When I stand over the Betrayer's corpse, I will have your tongue torn out, and have you paraded across my Kingdom as an example to all traitors!"
"You know nothing about loyalty, and despite being over a hundred, you act the spoiled liitle girl. Karavox did what he had to do to preserve the lives of his men. His cities are prosperous, his taxes low, and there isn't a slave pit or sacrificial altar to be found in the Empire. His closest champions are an Ironeer enginer, a Quendar mage, two Wraith warriors, and myself, an Altarian trader. Speaking of Altar, all its former cities are integrating in the Empire, together with another dozen inhabited by Quendar, Ironeer and Trog. And may I remind you who started the hostilities that are ravaging both continents as we speak?"
The Queen stood silent, struck by the vehemence of the tiny man's outburst. But after a second she recovered and addressed the lancers.
"What about you?! You are serving a traitor to our race! How do you stand that base-born who cavorts with the twisted, with the fallen? Rise against your overlords, join my forces and together we will bring those abominations to justice!"
The lancers looked at her for a few moments of silence. Then one of them spoke.
"I've fought Fallen for years. I've had Trogs ride on my side, smelling worse than their wargs. I've even served under a Quendar Death mage. I've disliked many of them. But I have not hated even one of them half as much as I hate your kind, Queeny!"
He reversed his grip on the winged spear, and threw it at Procipinee. She winked out of existence as it tumbled towards her. "These aren't balanced for shit!" he swore.
Junusk gave him a long look. "Sergent, please, remind me to put you on report for misusing wargear. As soon as we have won this war."
The lancers erupted in laughter. Janusk knew the joke had not been particularly funny, but he could see the tension dissipate. It seemed like the right time to introduce his army to one of the innovations he had been working on.
With the crystals and wargs from the West, he recruited and trained two new regiments, the 4th and 5th Warg Archers. They were armed with powerfully enchanted Ignys longbows, wore robes and cloaks that blurred enemies' vision, and were able to quickly dash across the battlefield, softening the enemy without coming into harm's way.
As soon as the new regiments left Stables, they joined Janusk's army, and rode South into the Quendar lands. Janusk was known for his attention to detail. His lancers carried lightning pikes. His warg riders had already marked a trail across the swamplands between Imperium and Curgen's hold. He himself had been at work extending the Kraxis sphere of influence between the two cities. There was no one to delay the army, and no one to carry word to Magnar. In the Summer of '94, Janusk assaulted Curgen's Hold.
Magnar did not know what hit him.
His troops were heavily armored, but that did little against the lancers' lightning pikes. He had archers, but those were slaughtered by an unit of Trogs who rode their wargs around the melee. He had Gazdah and Thannata on his side, but they were not Quendar, and fell to the warg archers' fiery arrows. In a few moments, the might of the Magnar Empire crumbled before Janusk's carefully planned attack.
Magnar barely managed to teleport away. He had not even caught his breath when he was informed that a Kraxis messenger was waiting for him. Janusk had left nothing to chance. He had sent Gaylyn to wait for Magnar under the walls of the last Quendar city.
Magnar was off balance, so when Gaylyn entered his improvised audience chamber, he blurted.
"You bear surrender terms?"
"Actually, no. Emperor Karavox does not want to get a reputation as a conqueror, and furthermore believes that he will benefit more from trade and technology exchange than he will from occupying this city. We offer a ceasefire, and trade treaties. But be warned. Your trade caravans are welcome to cross Kraxis lands. Your troops are not. We will guarantee your safety from Gilden and Yithril. You will leave Resoln and Tarth alone. As for Pariden... we will let you know. Do not delude yourself. You rule only a small portion on the Quendar, and that by the grace of Emperor Karavox. Disturb the Pax Krax, and you will be crushed."
Magnar was beaten, and agreed to every single term of the treaty. Karavox was harsh, but nowhere as harsh as he could have been. He could afford it. By the Summer of '94 Kraxis ruled most of the known world. Some believed that the military forces of Pariden were a match for Karavox's champions, but they were deluded.
And Karavox's patience for fools had ran out.