The absorption of what was left of China after its disastrous intervention in Europe provided the formal casus belli for the final war of this timeline.
November 19th, 1945
An office in the Hall of the Storting
“Gentlemen, ladies.” The Speaker nodded at her cabinet. “The reports from earlier this week are confirmed. This is no border skirmish; Rump China is being absorbed into Japan and Malaysia. Their armoured corps are across the border and driving for Hefei. Finland and Georgia have given out ultimata, and are mobilising; there is already fighting on the Persian border. Our agenda today has exactly one item: What are we going to do about it?”
Halvdan Ottoson raised both eyebrows; his look of sleepy surprise didn’t fool anyone here, although those who didn’t know him often underestimated him because of it. “Why should we do anything at all? What’s China to us, or Georgia for that matter? Let the yellow wogs and the brown wogs fight it out.” The foreign minister led the Peace Party, isolationist to the core.
Anja glared at him. The armaments ministry had been created as a sop to the National Labour Alliance, a way to get them into the unity government without giving them actual power, but that hadn’t worked; Anja’s demonic energy and talent for organisation had built a hundred factories and a personal fiefdom of bureaucrats to control them. The contrast with the stately processes of the older ministries was occasionally painful, and gave the NLA prestige in both Storting and street. Now she snarled, “And when the East Asians are on our Finnish border, then will you fight?”
Halvdan shrugged, not intimidated by Anja’s reputation as a brawler, nor impressed by her argument. “It’s a long way from Persia to the Baltic. It’ll end in a compromise, like last year.”
Anja drew breath for a sharp reply, then went quiet. She had made her opinion clear; the Speaker was well known for her ruthless efficiency in squashing mere repetition during meetings. “Anja for intervention; Halvdan for staying out”, the Speaker summarised. “Norvald?”
And what is China to them, that they should bleed for it?
The Norse have recovered their ancient lands in Scandinavia in a campaign of pellucidly pure maneuver, with hardly a shot fired or a man killed. The peace of the Americas holds as it has for three centuries; France is humbled; Brittany shows no sign of its old ambitions in England-south-of-Thames; even Skåne and Copenhagen, lost to Germany long before the First Diaspora, are restored to Norwegian rule. All the old foreign-policy objectives of the Ynglings are satisfied; by any rational measure they should surely sit back, run their economy, and grow rich selling weapons to states with grievances to repair. This war will surely kill millions, and tens of millions; and what is it for? For China! To the uptimers it is the hereditary foe, the ancient enemy; for the downtimers, the cause of most of the unrest of the nineteenth century, a country that within living memory has broken treaties and forced Norse armies to bleed for its subdual. And for this country’s independence the Ynglings should fight a war, should send their sons to die? Ridiculous!
And yet… there is a thought in the country, unspoken, but running through every election; shared alike by the street agitators of the National Labour Alliance and the isolationist magnates of the Peace Party. It has nothing to do with China; what is China to them? But – the thought runs – here is Eurasia torn by war, the Asian powers contending with Georgia and Finland. Would they not be poor excuses for Ynglings that could find no advantage in that?
That is an officer-class thought, a thought for the ruling caste; it carries little power among the workers who would swell the ranks of the Hird, if war were joined. The proletariat is happy enough when Norse armies win victories in faraway lands; they are glad to cheer a parade or even flirt with a handsome soldier in a sharp uniform; they fought hard when American soil was invaded. But as for joining up, as for sending their sons out to die… no, they will need a better reason than the mere advantage of the ruling class.
And now, for the first time, the circumstances are right to provide such a reason. Here is Eurasia torn by war, the Great Powers ranked against each other and exchanging heavy blows; here are industries capable of arming men by the millions, feeding them and clothing them and organising them for conquest. And here is the American alliance, the last Power of the first rank still uncommitted, able to choose its front and strike with overwhelming force. Might it not be possible – the state-fed whisper runs – to enter the war, and win it decisively, and settle the affairs of nations once and for all?
Peace! Now, there’s a cause a worker can rejoice in. To send a son out to fight is hard, yes; but if he could win peace for his children, and their children, and all the generations until the end of time – it would be a poor excuse for a working class that saw no advantage in that. To strike one blow, and end all blows forever; to kill millions, and tens of millions, and then go on to the bright uplands of peace, of a secular Millennium… is it not a worthy dream?
Yet they are not dreamers, the Norse; they are a hard-headed, practical folk, not to be fooled by mere propaganda. The thing is possible, that’s what makes it so seductive. The ancient goal of the Ynglings – the thing, in a sense, for which this new time was created – is reborn now, not as a fantasy of rulers, but as a clear and present possibility for common men. The speedy victory of the Hird in Scandinavia makes it all the easier to consider: Perhaps, men think, it might not only be done, but even be done cheaply. But even if it were not so, if it took a long, bloody slog through the Eurasian mountains – with such a goal in mind, who would begrudge the cost?
As has become usual, there is irony: The Ynglings, spawn of the ultimate warriors, are become prophets of peace. And yet, is it not the natural outcome of fighting for the highest possible stakes? If there is only one state, how can there be war? It has taken a millennium, but the Ynglings have been cleansed by the fires of this new history; the evil of their oppression is taken from them, and the good remains. The warrior is also a leader, a sheepdog has much in common with a wolf. A Christian might call it God’s work, subtly redeeming the sins of men through even their evil deeds; a pagan would say that blood and fire are both cleansing forces. At Dovre, the atheist New Ynglings have a simpler explanation: Anyone can take a hint, they say, if you clout them over the head hard enough. Yngling heads are hard, but a thousand years of time turned in its flow can penetrate even the thickest of skulls.
Once the slogan of the kings was, “There will be war”. Now the tide turns. In this, the nation of warriors, the whisper runs, slow and tentative, but hopeful: “There may be peace”.
One last time, the dragon ships are made ready. This time they will bring home no tawdry loot of slaves and gold. When they return, it will be on the winds of peace.