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by Lewis Roberts

Kestral was contacted by Montero in 1158. It was the first target world of a Crusade by Montero. At the time Kestral UPP was E7586A-5. It was ruled by Prince Eneli who was backed by the Knights of the Thorn. The Knights were a group of several dozen individuals equipped with Imperial era battle dress and TL-15 FGMPs. Together they were able to keep the populace in line. After several months of negotiation, Prince Eneli agreed to convert to the Word of God and make it the official state religion. In exchange Montero would supply technical aid to him. Montero quickly sent over thousands of priests who went about converting the populace. Prince Eneli also made sure that any heretics were uncovered and put to death. The Knights of the Thorn were the chief instrument of the inquisistion.

In 1174 Prince Eneli died and passed the thrown to his daughter Princess Mileen, who was also the Canon of Kestral. She united the office of Prince and Canon and decreed that the titles would be passed down to the first born of the family. The Kestral UPP was now up to its current. It was not able to produce full battle riders due to its low technoglical level, but it was able to provide maintenance and support to the ships built on Montero.

In 181 researchers under a grant from Princess Mileen uncovered evidence that the universe had been created in seven days, rather than the six days which was preached by the original prophets of the Word of God. Princess Mileen studied the texts herself and after several days of study and prayer, agreed with her researchers. She sent several of the researchers to Montero to present their work to the Archcanon. She also instituted the new teaching on Kestral.

The researchers proudly presented their work to the Archcanon on Montero. The Archcanon was furious at their work and declared the researchers heretics for their affrontery in claiming the orignal prophets could be wrong. The researchers were immediately executed. The Archcanon sent a battle fleet of two battle riders to Kestral to determine how much support these heretics had, and to wipe out any other traces of heresy. The battle fleet demanded that the Princess renounce this heresy and atone for her sins. The Princess firmly believed in the new discoveries and refused. The canon in charge of the battle fleet, retaliated by excommunicating the Princess and her followers. The Princess then realized that the Archcanon and the people of Montero had fallen victim to a deep seeded heresy and she declared herself the true Archcanon of Quinoid and declared for a crusade against the heretics.

The Monteran battle fleet tried to land troops on Kestral's capital, but they were repulsed by battle riders under the control of Kestral. The battle fleet then retreated to Montero.

Today the situation is a stalemate. Montero has constructed hundreds of battleriders and can deliver them to the Kestral system in several waves. Kestral has only a few dozen battle riders that were built on Montero and can not construct more. It has built tens of thousands of planetary defense missiles. Montero's troops are better equipped, but Kestral has numerical supremacy. This military buildup has not helped either economy.

The theological difference that ignited this conflict may seem trivial and even silly to outside observers, but it is of th utmost importance to believers. The Word of God places a great deal of importance on theological correctness and heretics are regarded as the most serious threat. True believers are granted paradise, while heretics are condemned to eternal punishment. If the heretical side was to win this conflict, it would spread its heresy. The converted followers of this heresy would be condemned to eternal punishment, without even being able to hear the truth. Each side sees itself as on a crusade to save the souls of the rest of the galaxy. Neither side will compromise and will only cease hostility when the other side has recanted.

Of course this was not the only cause of the conflict, Princess Mileen and the Knights of the Thorn were feeling increasingly threatened by decrees from the Archcanon, and felt that their power was being erroded. The Archcanon realized that Kestral would soon overtake Montero in terms of economic output and would come to dominate the Word of God and the subsector.

Kestral has no jump capable ships. It has several dozen 500ton battle riders. While it has a good starport, most Free Traders have been scared away from coming here because of threats from Montero. Montero also occasionally drops battle riders in the system, which will attack any ships they find. This has isolated Kestral from the benefits of interstellar trade. Montero sees it as halting the spread of the Kestral heresy.

The Knights of the Thorn are a knightly order open to all citzens of Kestral. There are 99 Knights at any time. When a Knight goes to paradise, the next canidate is knighted. The canidates are choosen purely based on their physical and religious qualifications. There is very little if any nepotism. The Knights are sworn to uphold the crown and the Word of God. They have a strong sense of honor and will never break a vow. If a Knight is torn between two conflicting vows, he will choose to commit suicide. `Death before dishonor' is a very real concept to the Knights. While their are only 99 knights, and hence only 99 suits of battle dress, there are quite alot spare parts. A shipment of supplies for an Imperial marine division was stranded on Kestral and the spare parts enable the Knights to keep their suits going. It also has plenty of ammunition for their fusion guns. Canidates knights form an elite unit which backs up the Knights on their missions. This gives the Knights the chance to see the canidates in action before they are picked for knighthood.

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