And Rumours of War: More Deadly Than The Male, part I

June 23rd, 1742
Ohio valley, near OTL Cincinnati
Evening

Midsummer night, and the valley of the Ohio blazed with bonfires. Otherwise the night was utterly dark, and – at least out here on the river – still. Closer to the banks one might have heard singing, or gasps and moans – August would be the wedding season – but here all was peaceful. Ingrid did a quick count of the fires, multiplied by a few dozen men for each, and nodded in satisfaction. This was a rich land, and though the population was sparse it was large enough in absolute terms. You could build an army here.

In spite of her brave words to Bjarte, she had not been certain of that before crossing the sea; she had never visited Norway’s American possessions in the uptime, and had not understood how vast the land here was. Vast, and fertile; and in this timeline it had not been split into enormous stril-worked estates for the Yngling upper class, it supported instead a large number of freehold farms worked by single families. That was the ideal way to organise land to produce an army. There would be many younger sons with no prospects of inheriting a farm, and no desire to break one out of the wilderness. There was strength here, even if the summer nights were too dark to please one raised to the long twilights of the high north.

Darkness had its uses, of course. She turned her attention from the fires; she had not rowed out here alone to be distracted, but to think. Tomorrow she would face the Ting, and extend them an offer of aid from Dovre; from the uptime. The fate of nations depended on how they received her speech. A hundred men to convince, perhaps ten minutes to carry them or lose them, and all of history on her shoulders. Butterflies coiled in her stomach. Ingrid knew herself a brave woman. She had fought in the border skirmishes with Russia, helped to put down the German risings, won three duels for her place in the downtime. But she would rather be back on the Finnish border against the whole Third Border Army with nothing but a knife than face the Ting tomorrow. And so she fought temptation.

She had not come unarmed to America. In the bag between her feet were bottles coloured grey and cyan: Pheromone cocktails. If she wished, she could go before the Ting tomorrow as the most devastatingly attractive woman since Helen of Troy; or as the finest speaker since Cicero. Her words almost wouldn’t matter, if she used the cyan; the Ting’s hindbrains would be telling them that she was the most high-status, dominant, alpha primate they had ever seen, or rather smelled. Agreeing with such people was hard-wired into the human psyche; for a million years, those who entered conflicts with the dominants had not survived to breed. The grey would have the same effect through a different pathway – perhaps a more reliable one, for a woman; the pheromones weren’t magic, after all, and primate brains were unfairly wired to see dominance mainly as a male trait. But sexual receptiveness would work for a woman, and the Tingsmenn would fall over themselves to agree with the vision of loveliness. Or so the theory went. There were no teenagers in the Ting, after all; and not every politician thought with his balls. She snorted at the thought. Anja would have laughed, and called her an optimist. Anja would have bathed in the grey, and made the Ting gasp with every sway of her hips. She always had been the slutty one; Ingrid had disliked her for that, in the uptime, but now she missed her cheerful amorality, just as she missed Bjarte’s intense focus, Geir’s quiet force… all her comrades, launched into the sea of time.

Still, she didn’t need to sway every Tingsmann into becoming a fanatical supporter; she just needed an edge to convince some reasonable bloc, the ones who hadn’t already made up their minds. The bottles could do that much for her. But would such a victory stick in the long run? If they gave her resources to build an army based, not on genuine agreement, but on temporary chemical trickery, would they not reconsider? But against this long-term worry was the fact that first she had to get to the long term; if they turned her down tomorrow…

…well, actually, would it be such a disaster? After all they weren’t going to throw her to the strils if she didn’t convince them. They just wouldn’t vote her any money. She could try again, build up a strong faction, perhaps form a private army as cadre and to show what could be done with uptime methods. Her stomach calmed, and she straightened her shoulders. She was a woman of the Ynglinga Hird, and she would build her army by honest means, so it would last. “With law we shall build the army”, she whispered to herself. Then she rowed back to the banks. She had a speech to write.

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