Castling December 28 6:00AM Mornings over Potenza tend to be quiet in nature - unless you're in a major city, of course, in which case you'll hear the honking of cars and the screeches of tires. Otherwise, you will hear little but birds, the rustle of grass, and, if you're near the sea or a river, the roll of the water against the ground. If any sounds came, it was from the ground, not from the sky. During the winter there tended to be rain, and at times there were indeed thunderstorms, but those were few and far between. On this morning, however, the skies were clear, with only a few clouds. Those in the vineyards were going out to light the fires that would melt the ice and frost off the crops, those at the Potenzan were going out to check the nets on their boats, and those in the rural villages were getting their shops ready for the day. That's when it was heard. A low rumble in the distance, like the sound of many engines. It grew louder and louder, increasing in pitch. Many in the rural areas believed at first that these were automotive engines, though none recognized what make and model it could have been. It was then, as the clouds cleared a bit more, that many saw what it was. The sky was dotted with planes, perhaps several dozen. Most of these were cargo planes, belonging to the Royal Air Force, and marked accordingly. They had been launched from their various sites across the Grand Duchy, and were now meeting to continue southward. They flew over the rural areas of the Duchies of Turin and Venosa, and were seen by thousands of Potenzans. They were seen over the capitol of San Salvo, flying southward still. They were seen by Prime Minister Gaetano Merlino, who stood at the window of his bedroom in the prime minister's quarters, twirling a wine glass and grinning to himself as he looked up. "To think I have always wanted such power," he whispered to himself, sipping the wine and then finishing it in a few gulps. They likewise flew over the palace where Grand Duke Guido III controlled the Grand Duchy. The young Grand Duke stood on the balcony, leaning against his cane and watching the planes as they flew over. "Today, I have such power," he whispered to himself. The planes continued southward, and as they reached the smaller seas that split the Grand Duchy from Solaren, they split into several groups, breaking apart and going in various directions southward. Finally, they entered the territory of the Potenzan occupying forces, and began to head towards specific landing zones which had been designated to them. The number of planes in each group was in accordance with the nearby population - a sparsely populated area may have only a single plane, while a much more populated area would have several planes. The Potenzan pilots, most of them young and having never seen combat (given the peace the Grand Duchy had enjoyed for most of that century), had spent most of their service training for a day like this. In their planes were crates and packages of various sizes, filled with donations given by the Tiburan Catholic Church and other sources, and which were intended for the Solaris populace to use during these tough winter days. The crates had canned food, blankets, winter clothes for various ages, and small amounts of medicine. This was Operation Holy Innocents, named after the feast day it took place on, and intending to maintain positive relations with the Solaris population in light of the possible hostility from Carentanian forces. "We're coming close," said the navigator. The doors of the cargo plane were opened. The signal was given. The crates were released. All at once, the planes were no longer by themselves in the air. Parachutes opened, and crates were seen dropping down from the sky to the ground below. They landed, for the most part, right in the zones they were required to land in. The planes unloaded everything they had, then, once their cargo hold was empty, the pilots turned the planes around and returned to their bases. The operation went off smoother than most military operations, but as with all well laid plans, nothing ever goes perfectly. Some Solaris in the more rural areas believed that the Carentanians were attacking and hid in their homes, preparing for a defense. Eventually their local leaders - who had been informed of the operation - talked them slowly out of the houses, assuring them no attack was taking place. In some areas, Solaris civilians actually started to fight over the crates, and more than a few people were stabbed, and if the Potenzan soldiers nearby had not intervened, a mini-war between two villages might have erupted. One crate landed right on top of a barn that had miraculously survived the war, creating a large hole as it tore right through the roof and landed in the midst of the cows. None were hurt, but it had ruined their breakfast. The farmer complained angrily to the local Potenzan NCO, who nervously explained that he would tell his inferiors, and promised (perhaps foolishly) that the Potenzan government would pay for the damages. Potenzan soldiers couldn't help but notice and chuckle that the ducal seal - painted on all the crates - was now covered in dung. By and large, however, the operation went as planned. Soon some Solaris homes had food to last them a few meals, and a blanket or two for their beds. To say the entire northern populace was saved would be an exaggeration (though no doubt Potenzan media would portray it as such), however, in many areas the "appreciation" from His Royal Majesty was most enjoyed.