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So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Good Night (Closed-ish)

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Soveriegn States
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So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Good Night (Closed-ish)

Postby Soveriegn States » Tue Jun 08, 2021 10:13 am

This is OPEN to members of the Western Atlantic. Others, if they wish to take part, should send me a telegram. The first few posts will be catch-up posts updating developments since 2018, then I hope RP in earnest will begin.

Sean Collins was almost literally a man without a country. The former Saxmeran trade unionist had been elected President of the Confederation of Sovereign States in 2016 - two years before his homeland declared independence from the country he governed. Standing loyal to his oath and his office, Collins had quietly moved his residence from Saxmere to the Confederal state of Southland. 

Then came the disastrous election of 2020. Collins had been soundly defeated in his bid for a second term - but that had been the least of the problems. The other three candidates had split the electoral vote, throwing the election into the House of Representatives. A closely divided house descended into bickering and open fisticuffs and had to adjourn without electing a president. 

The bonds of union, already frayed by geographic and political division and once severed by Saxmere's secession, were no longer strong enough to hold the country together. A grand convention was called in Jefferson and despite passionate arguments from the unlikely pair of the soon-to-be-former President Collins and his predecessor and ideological opposite Tom Caine, the convention voted to dissolve the Confederation as it was.

For the second time in two year, Collins lost his home, as Southland seceded and pledged fealty to the Excalbian Sword. It was eventually followed by the now-former State of Deandra after a long flirtation with the growingly leftist Dominion of Upper Virginia. In the end neither Deandra nor Upper Virginia were willing to make a union work when they shared no common border and were likely to be separated by two or three separate nations.

By virtue of little more than inertia and aversion to left-leaning politics, Alud and Trondgaard, and the former Northern Territories stayed in the rump Confederation, but given their size and populations, they were little more than appendages to the State of New Virginia, which all but controlled what was left of the Confederation.

So, former President Collins, unwilling to return to either Southland or Saxmere and unwanted in what was left of the Confederation, began a life of exile, eventually settling unhappily in Courtland, the capital of the Dominion of Upper Virginia. He lived a quiet life, trying to stay out of the public eye, with little company apart from his very tolerant wife and a bottle of whiskey.
Last edited by Soveriegn States on Tue Jun 08, 2021 10:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Excalbia » Tue Jun 08, 2021 10:44 am

The Summer Palace, The Imperial Preserve Island
Excalbia


As was his custom on the warm days before the annual Mid-Summer holiday, Emperor David IV took a book and walked to a remote part of the gardens to enjoy a morning of reading and iced tea.

A few hours later, a young steward in the blue livery of the Imperial Household approached the Emperor to ask what he wanted for lunch. At first, the young man thought the Emperor had drifted to sleep. He cautiously cleared his throat, but the Emperor did not move. He looked closer, and realized in horror that the Emperor was dead.

Stifling a scream, the steward dropped his tray and ran back towards the Summer Palace. 

* * *

Sir Robert Crishock, a middle-aged gentleman of pleasantly round proportions, knocked on the door of the Empress's private study and with barely a moment's pause entered. The Chief Imperial Steward bowed deeply. His voice cracked as he spoke. "Your Imperial Majesty..."

Something about his voice and trembling stance made Empress Elizabeth rise from her desk.

"I'm afraid..." Crishock gulped air. "I'm afraid that His Imperial Majesty... is dead."

"What? No. Impossible..." The Empress began to tremble.

"A steward found him in the gardens with his book unresponsive. The doctor has already checked..."

The Empress did not wait for Crishock to finish, but rather ran out the door, down the steps and into the gardens. She arrived to find a doctor and several stewards and guards surrounding her husband, who now lay on the ground. She screamed and fell to her knees.

* * *

Across the Empire, radio and TV stations interrupted their broadcasts. Schools, in the last days of the semester, stopped as announcements were read over the public address. Even the movie theaters halted their matinees. On the streets the buzz quickly spread.

On television, screens cut abruptly to blue backfrounds with the crest of the Imperial House of Alsgood. Then, the forlorn face of Lady Jenolyn Tremane, the Imperial Chamberlain and head of the Imperial Household Agency, appeared. "My fellow citizens," she began somberly, "it is with great sorrow that His Imperial Highness, Crown Prince Joseph, announces the death of His Imperial Majesty, our Emperor, David IV..."

Within minutes, it seemed that a darkness had fallen over the bright spring day as business and schools shuttered early and the nation plunged into an official state of mourning.
Last edited by Excalbia on Tue Jun 08, 2021 3:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Pantocratoria » Tue Jun 08, 2021 11:03 am

St Columba's College for Young Ladies
Saxmere


15 year-old Marie-Jeanne d'André, or Mary-Jane Andrione as she was enrolled, first received news of the Excalbian Emperor's demise on her PeacockPhone, from half a dozen messages written in four different languages (one even in Cavenemi). Her first thought was of her cousin Elizabeth and so, skipping out of whatever assigned activity period the highly-regimented boarding school had prescribed for her at that time, Marie-Jeanne ran to Elizabeth's room in the dorm. Finding the door closed, she suddenly stopped herself. Would she want to see anyone? Would she be in tears? Would she be on the phone with her father, the new Emperor? Was she now the Crown Princess of Excalbia? Was she allowed to barge in on the Crown Princess of Excalbia? At this moment something her mother had told her about the Imperial Court of Christ Pantocrator came to mind unbidden, and she reached out her little finger towards the door and scratched at it.

"What are you doing, MJ?" she asked herself after a moment. What kind of a greeting was scratching at a door? Her country was stupid. So instead, she knocked, lightly. "Elizabeth? It's me, MJ, may I come in?"

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Postby Excalbia » Tue Jun 08, 2021 11:30 am

"Come in," a voice that was not Elizabeth's answered from the room.

Inside, Elizabeth sat on her bed, her legs curled up under her. Her eyes were red and her hair was a mess. She instantly held out her arms for MJ.

"Oh, God, MJ. My grandfather..." she burst into tears again.

The other person in the room, one of the nuns at the school, patted MJ on the shoulder. "I'll give you two a few moments together. The Excalbian Ambassador is one his way from Umbra with a police escort to take Elizabeth home..." With that the Sister Marguerite smiled weakly at Elizabeth, then stepped out of the room, waiting beside the open door.

"Oh, MJ," Elizabeth sniffed as the sobbing stopped, "I wish you could come with me... I don't know what I'll do. There's going to be so much... stuff. All the ceremonies... and...," the young princess paused as a new thought occurred to her. "I don't know that they'll let me come back... I mean... I'm the..." she meant to say Crown Princess, but she could not bring herself to say it out loud.

"And my grandmother... she'll be distraught... And father...  my God, MJ, he's the Emperor now..." And the tears began again.

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Postby Pantocratoria » Tue Jun 08, 2021 12:44 pm

St Columba's College for Young Ladies
Saxmere


Marie-Jeanne rushed to Elizabeth's arms and embraced her. She cradled the back of her head and cooed, as her mother did to her when she was upset. She wondered whether this was the last time she would hug her cousin, the last time they'd be together as nearly equals. Would she have to curtsey the next time she saw Elizabeth?

"You will be great, Elizabeth, you will be amazing." Marie-Jeanne told her. "You're perfect, nobody could want a better Crown Princess, you will learn everything you need to learn, I know you will."

Elizabeth's father was the Emperor, and she was the Crown Princess. One day, Marie-Jeanne's father would be the Emperor too, but she would never be any sort of princess. Just an imperial inconvenience. To her embarrassment, Marie-Jeanne's thoughts lingered on her own position for a moment even while she blinked back sympathetic tears for her cousin and best friend.

"I'm sorry!" Marie-Jeanne burst out, squeezing Elizabeth tightly. Now she sobbed. "I wish I could go with you and help you and be there for you. But you won't need me, you'll be brilliant, you will be... I know you will be, you're born to do it..."

***


Imperial Court of Christ Pantocrator
New Rome, Pantocratoria


The Emperor's Mystikos was one of those Greek titles for palace officials which had, for whatever reason, survived the Frankification policies of Manuel V and his successors. Its position in the hierarchy had been reshuffled countless times, but its essential function had remained more or less the same since the establishment of Cabinet-government - the Mystikos was the Emperor's private secretary. The present occupant was Sir Renaud Magnaure des Chibaux, a silver-haired aristocrat from a cadet branch with a lifetime of well-remunerated civil service under his belt. It would be the last job he would ever hold. He strode as quickly as he could through the back halls of the Imperial Court of Christ Pantocrator, approaching a secret-but-not-really-secret entrance into the series of salons which would lead to his master. As he approached, a Varangian snapped to attention, and opened a door. Sir Renaud moved from the tiled floors of the back halls onto the red carpet of the suite of Rococo salons. The door behind him closed, and from this side, the door resembled the rest of the wall, with no door handle. Age and common use meant the door was nevertheless obvious after even a short inspection, though, since a five milimetre gap in the gold ornamental gilded and pastel walls gave visual evidence of the rectangular shape of a door in the wall. Imperfection was part of life even here.

Sir Renaud moved through salon after salon, ignoring the courtiers who loitered waiting for their audiences and played cards and gossipped, and finally reached the closed door to the final salon in the suite, guarded by a Varangian, again at attention. Sir Renaud nodded to the soldier, who nodded back at him, and then scratched at the door in a well-worn place near its handle. Moments later, the door was opened by the Varangian on the other side, and Sir Renaud was admitted into the Sun King room, which the present Emperor of Pantocratoria kept as his private office. The Emperor himself was seated at the silver-gilt table more or less in the centre of the room, attending to papers from a purple box bearing his monogram.

"Sire," Sir Renaud began, stepping forward, bowing, and then stepping forward again, and bowing again.

The Emperor glanced up at him as Sir Renaud caught his breath. Sir Renaud now approached to the other side of the desk, and bowed a third and final time.

"Yes, Renaud?" said the Emperor.

"I regret to inform Your Imperial Majesty of the death of His Imperial Majesty, your brother, Emperor David IV of Excalbia." Sir Renaud said. "He passed peacefully but unexpectedly, Sire, earlier today."

The Emperor was shocked. He put the page down he had been reading.

"I beg your pardon?" he asked.

"Sire, I regretfully inform Your Majesty of the death of His Majesty Emperor David IV of Excalbia." Sir Renaud repeated.

The Emperor was silent for several long seconds, then crossed himself. Sir Renaud bowed his head and did the same. After another long silence, the Emperor looked up at the Mystikos.

"My daughter, Princess Anna..." the Emperor began. He paused again. "Her Imperial Majesty, the Empress of Excalbia. I should like to speak to her on the telephone."

"Sire, of course, sire." Sir Renaud bowed. He almost took a step back, but sort of hung there for a moment as something occurred to him. "Sire, and it please Your Majesty, Her Imperial Highness remains Crown Princess, formally speaking, until the Crown Prince's accession is ratified by the Excalbian Senate, and by the Excalbian Church."

The Emperor instinctively frowned at Sir Renaud, unaccustomed as he was to being corrected. He recognised, however, that the reminder was to save him embarrassment which would be particularly unwelcome at such a sad time, and tried to soften his expression as much as possible.

"Thank you, Renaud, of course." the Emperor nodded. "Please, let me speak to my daughter."

"Sire." Sir Renaud bowed deeply once more, and then took three steps back, one at a time, bowed again, and then returned the way he came, back through the succession of salons, back through the not-so-secret door (once again opened from the other side), back into the back halls of the palace, to arrange the telephone call for his master.

Several minutes later, the ornate and antique-looking telephone on the Emperor's desk rang, and the Emperor picked up the receiver. Given the circumstances, this was one of the only times the Emperor of Pantocratoria would wait on the line for the other side of the conversation to take the call.

***


Motorcade en route from Chateau Langeais to Citadel Excalbia

This was the worst car ride of Princess Anna's life. The limousine was perfectly comfortable, physically, everything was fine, but the atmosphere was thick with emotion, and she found herself with nothing to say which could ease her husband's grief. She sat there, in black, alongside Crown Prince Joseph. It wasn't just grief, she supposed. How would she describe the feeling which she felt herself in the pit of her stomach, the pressure on her chest, the tension in her own jaw? Grief? No, dread, or something more. And how much more intensely must he be feeling those things than she? But everything she said to him sounded to her own ears like meaningless platitudes, empty words which brought no comfort, and as the car rolled on, she ran out of even these sugary phrases. She felt like she was already failing in the most important part of her role as Imperial Consort, and worse, like she was failing the man she loved.

Folding and refolding her black-gloved hands in her lap uselessly, memories of her mother's death came back to her. It was twenty years ago. Joseph had never met her. Anna had been 15 then, about as old as Elizabeth was now. Cancer had taken her. It was a cruel, drawn out death, and Anna remembered those visitations to the sickbed in which her mother had wasted away before the eyes of her children, remembered the pain. In the final months she knew she was dying, that there would be no recovery. Anna remembered weeping through her goodbyes, never being able to get it all out. And then one day, she was gone, and her ravaged body lay looking strangely peaceful. She had suffered so much.

"At least he didn't suffer." Anna offered, and immediately regretted it. She actually held a black-gloved hand to her mouth, flinched and looked away. What a stupid thing to say! Her mother had suffered, but at least Anna had a chance to say goodbye, a chance denied to Joseph and his father. "I'm so sorry, please forgive me..."

Before Joseph had a chance to respond, Anna committed another offence - this one a sin of omission. She had not muted the mobile telephone which now rang in her black handbag. Her eyes went wide, and she turned to her bag and quickly fumbled for the phone. Her finger moved straight for the red "hang up" button but when she saw the caller ID, she hesitated. She looked back to Joseph.

"It's my father... sorry... I should... I should take it." Anna said, and then answered the phone. In a soft voice she said. "Your Majesty."

She was silent for sometime. On the other end of the call, her father the Emperor of Pantocratoria offered her some words of comfort. They were brief but, as ever, somehow impersonal. Very properly conveying his grief and sympathy, of course. Something about never knowing when these things might happen. He concluded with "To everything, there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven."

They were words Anna remembered from her mother's funeral, read from the Bible by a scarlet robed Cardinal from the lectern. The prelate had looked into the then-teenager's eyes as he read from the Book of Ecclesiastes. Anna remembered being desperate not to cry behind her black veil back then, feeling like the eyes of the whole world were on her family in the Imperial Box in the Cathedral. Theodora had blubbered, of course. Anna hadn't known what to say to her at the time any more than she knew what to say to Joseph now.

"A time to be born, and a time to die." Anna almost whispered back.

"That's right." the Emperor answered her. "I can remember feeling what your husband must be feeling right now, Anna. Even now I cannot describe it fully. It is more than grief he bears, you understand. He now bears a terrible burden, an all-consuming duty. You now must do everything you can, everything, to support him. The Sword of Alsgood is now his cross to bear, and he is now your cross to bear. You must give all that you can to him, and more, so that he can give what he must. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Father." Anna said. Her own sense of dread deepened, but her resolve firmed.

"You must not fail." the Emperor said. "Please, convey my profound condolences to your husband. I am sure you are with him now?"

"Yes, Father, I am." Anna answered.

"May I speak with him?"

Anna turned to Joseph again. "My father would like to give you his condolences, would you like to speak to him?"
Last edited by Pantocratoria on Tue Jun 08, 2021 12:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Excalbia » Tue Jun 08, 2021 2:42 pm

Motorcade en route from Chateau Langeais to Citadel Excalbia

Joseph, Crown Prince and for all practical purposes Sovereign of Excalbia, sat quietly in the back of the car. He heard his wife Anna speaking and felt vaguely comforted by her presence, but it would be... inaccurate to say that he really heard what she was saying. He felt numb. His mind was constantly distracted by strange, small details. The hem of his jacket sleeve. The order of the funeral procession for his father. The way her black gloves captured the taper of Anna's fingers. The exact number of days for official mourning. A passing tree...

The phone ringing seemed to snap him back to reality. He turned towards Anna when she said her father - the Pantocratorian Emperor - wanted to speak with him. He nodded, then swallowed. "Yes," he muttered. Then, a little more strongly, "Of course."

Joseph reached out for the phone and placed it to his ear. "Your Imperial Majesty," he said.

* * *

Aboard Imperial Air Force Flight Excalbia Two en route to Citadel Excalbia

With the Imperial Senate in its summer recess, Baron Dainis Murniece, the Imperial Chancellor, had taken his family to the Chancellor's official retreat at the Seaside Estate outside Landing. The boys, Karl and Peter - 14 and nine respectively, had been happily swimming in the ocean while the Baron's daughter Kristine, now 18, and his wife Baiba relaxed on the beach. Dainis had just taken off his shirt to join the boys for a swim when a security man in khakis and a polo had come running.

As the man approached the Chancellor he said, "Sir! Snow Falls in Valmiera! Snow Falls in Valmiera!"

The Chancellor had stood slack jawed for a moment and Baiba looked up at him. "What in the world," she had started to ask but her husband cut her off.

"Get the kids cleaned up and dressed. We have to go." He started running with the security man back towards the house.

"What is it, Dainis?" Baiba asked, rising to her feet.

"The Emperor's dead!"

* * *

Now, less than two hours later the Murniece family sat in silence on an Imperial Air Force executive jet headed back to the capital.

On one bulkhead a TV monitor played on-going coverage of the Emperor's death as people began to gather in front of Sweyn Castle, leaving flowers and cards, hugging each other and crying.

"So, what happens now, Daddy?" Kristine asked as she turned towards her father.

The Chancellor drew in a breath and spoke, even as he continued to stare blankly at the screen. "Well, first the Emperor...'s body will lie in state in the Great Hall of the Citadel for four days. We'll go on the first day to pay our respects. Then, there'll be a state funeral at the cathedral. A big procession through the city. Then another back up the mount to the Imperial Chapel where he'll be... buried in the Imperial Crypt next to his predecessors. Then, the day after the funeral, the Senate and the Synod of Bishops will convene separately and confirm the Crown Prince as our new Emperor." He paused. "Emperor Joseph."

He turned to his daughter. "There's a lot more that'll go on... almost everything will be expected to close during the 12 days the Emperor lies in state. I imagine there'll be heads of state flying in. After the Crown Prince becomes Emperor, the Empress becomes the Empress Dowager..."

"What's that mean," Peter asked.

"It's like being a widow. And there'll be a ceremony where she takes her leave from the new Emperor and goes to Valmiera castle."

"Why?"

"Because she won't live at Sweyn Castle any more, Pete. The new Emperor and his family will live there now." The Chancellor turned back to the screen. "But the formal investiture of the new Emperor won't take place for six months, during which we'll be in an official state or mourning... There's a lot to be done, actually."

Baiba leaned against her husband and squeezed his arm. "It'll all be ok, Dainis."

"Dear God, I hope it will be."
Last edited by Excalbia on Thu Jun 10, 2021 6:52 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Postby Excalbia » Tue Jun 08, 2021 5:11 pm

Pantocratoria wrote:St Columba's College for Young Ladies
Saxmere


Marie-Jeanne rushed to Elizabeth's arms and embraced her. She cradled the back of her head and cooed, as her mother did to her when she was upset. She wondered whether this was the last time she would hug her cousin, the last time they'd be together as nearly equals. Would she have to curtsey the next time she saw Elizabeth?

"You will be great, Elizabeth, you will be amazing." Marie-Jeanne told her. "You're perfect, nobody could want a better Crown Princess, you will learn everything you need to learn, I know you will."

Elizabeth's father was the Emperor, and she was the Crown Princess. One day, Marie-Jeanne's father would be the Emperor too, but she would never be any sort of princess. Just an imperial inconvenience. To her embarrassment, Marie-Jeanne's thoughts lingered on her own position for a moment even while she blinked back sympathetic tears for her cousin and best friend.

"I'm sorry!" Marie-Jeanne burst out, squeezing Elizabeth tightly. Now she sobbed. "I wish I could go with you and help you and be there for you. But you won't need me, you'll be brilliant, you will be... I know you will be, you're born to do it..."


St Columba's College for Young Ladies
Saxmere


“Thank you, thank you,” Elizabeth muttered between sobs, adding, “Please come! At least to the funeral. Please!”

And the girls held each other and cried, there was the sound of footsteps in the hall. A tall, distinguished gentleman in a dark suit, accompanied by a uniformed Imperial Marine approached Sister Marguerite. He bowed slightly. “Sister,” he said, “I’m Gunters Zigulis, the Excalbian Ambassador to Saxmere.” He looked to his right. “And this is Corporal Douglass.” The Marine nodded.

“Welcome, Ambassador. I’m sorry that such tragic circumstances bring you to Saint Columba’s. The Princess is in the room with her friend, Marie-Jeanne.”

The Ambassador nodded and stepped into the room. He bowed deeply. “Your Imperial Highness. I’m so very sorry for your loss. I am Ambassador Zigulis. I’m here to escort you home. There is a plane standing by not far from here; you’ll be home in a few hours.”

Elizabeth sniffed and nodded. She let go of Marie-Jeanne as if she were a drowning person reluctantly letting go of a life preserver. “Th...thank you, Ambassador.” She stood and tried to straighten her uniform skirt.

“Do you have a bag, Your Highness?”

Sister Marguerite stepped into the room and picked up a suitcase. “I packed a few things for her, Excellency. We can send the rest…”

The Ambassador nodded and the Marine entered. He gave a crisp salute. “Your Imperial Highness!” He said before taking the bag from the nun and returning to the hallway.

Elizabeth turned back to her friend and hugged her fiercely. “Please, please come as soon as you can!”

Then, she turned to Sister Marguerite and hugged the nun. “Thank you, Sister. Thank you.”

"God bless you, child," the Sister said.

With a final look behind her, Elizabeth, soon to be Crown Princess of Excalbia, turned and followed the Ambassador down the hall and out of the dormitory.

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Postby Upper Virginia » Tue Jun 08, 2021 5:41 pm

Presidential Palace
Courtland, Upper Virginia


“Well, this complicates things,” President Alex Holmes, reelected to a second term less than a year ago, leaned back in his chair.

To his left, General Mildred Peterson, the Minister of Defence nodded. “Excalbia’s been the rock of stability for the last decade; with the Confederation crumbling and… our troubles, we don’t need any more instability…”

“Our troubles?” Entering her third year as Prime Minister, Gwen Ubrecht was already the nation’s longest serving prime minister. Of course, the office itself was only six years old. Then, again, she was already the 7th prime minister under the new constitution. “That’s a mild way of putting it. We had right wing rioters storming the regional capital in Petersburg and trying to seize the governor!”

“It was not unexpected,” Peterson said. “Your government drifts ever leftward. And we’ve done a… very good job of purging the Altmanists from the military and security services…”

“And?” Ubrecht leaned forward slightly.

“Well, that means there are a lot of ex-soldiers and Justice Department troopers running around with combat training… and a grudge. They’ll need… careful handling.” The General’s eyes narrowed. “I’m sure you’re aware, Prime Minister, that too heavy a hand repressing them will just further radicalize them and drive them towards… insurgency.”

Ubrecht leaned back. She knew that Peterson was clearly making a dig at her for being a former revolutionary herself, but she took the point.

“Now, let’s remember,” Holmes said, “we’re all on the same side here. The Altmanists don’t like any of us. I marched the army into Courtland against him.” He looked at Peterson. “And Mildred bombed his HQ.”

“I know, I know,” Ubrecht said. “And honestly, I’m just as worried about the radicals to my left… The demonstration that pulled down the statue of Peter Courtland spooked a lot of us. Myself included. I can’t afford to be flanked on the left, but I also can’t afford to feed the radicals.”

“All the more reason for us to make sure that everyone knows we’re sticking together and not plotting against each other. Both to calm the public… and to deter any… foreign interests who might want to take advantage of the situation.”

The two women both nodded.

“Are you going to the funeral?” Ubrecht asked.

Holmes nodded. “Of course. And while I’m away, you and Mildred need to appear together as much as possible. People need to think of you as inseparable buddies. And you, Gwen, need to lead the denunciations of those pulling down statues of Courtland and police stations. And you, Mildred, need to be in front saying loud and clear that the full might of the Dominion will fall on those who stormed the Petersburg capital.”

“Understood,” the General said.

“We’ll make it work,” Ubrecht said.

“I know you will.” Holmes smiled. “You’ve already outlasted almost all your predecessors. You’re tougher… and even smarter than people think. No one should underestimate you.”

“I’m flattered. I think.”

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Postby Pantocratoria » Wed Jun 09, 2021 6:57 am

St Columba's College for Young Ladies
Saxmere


"I will... goodbye..." Marie-Jeanne bade Elizabeth farewell.

In a few moments, she was left alone in the room with Sister Marguerite, sniffling and wiping her tears away. Feeling self-conscious she tried to explain herself.

"Maybe they won't let me." she speculated to the nun. "Maybe she won't come back. Probably she won't. They'll want her to stay there now. But I promised I would come."

Marie-Jeanne took some deep breaths to calm herself and dried her tears, and formulated a plan. She looked to Sister Marguerite again. "Sister, may I call my father, please?"

Once permission had been given, she produced her phone from her pocket, and hit call on her father's contact - which she had entered when she had been in a humorous mood some months ago as "Daddy Despot <3". She held the phone to her ear as it rang. And it rang. And rang. And she knew he wouldn't answer, he never answered, really, but sometimes he called her back. Still she hung on until it rang out. She half-grunted, half-sighed as she took the phone from her ear. Another deep breath. Now she messaged him. Her thumbs flying, she typed:

"Monsieur mon père," the message began. "Elizabeth is gone. They have taken her home for the funeral. She is my best friend and she wants me to go to the funeral. Please, make them let me go, she is my best friend, please make them let me go!"

Just as quickly she hit send, and then looked to Sister Marguerite and smiled weakly. She looked back down at the phone, seeing the combination of check marks with the word "Seen". She grinned and looked back to the nun.

"He saw it! He read my message." Marie-Jeanne told her. She looked back down at the phone, excited for a reply.

After a few minutes, there was still no reply, and Sister Marguerite had bade her go back to her assigned tasks. All through the evening's study period she hid her phone on her desk out of the view of the teacher while she did her homework, waiting for the response. "Please" she messaged again. Again, "Seen" accompanied some checkmarks. At dinner, she snuck her phone into the hall although there were meant to be no phones at the dining table. She tried hiding it underneath the edge of her plate but was caught, and the teacher was evidently not convinced by the explanation "I'm waiting for my father to message me back", which meant Marie-Jeanne was obliged to help clean the dishes afterwards. Her morale was at a low point as she and the other misbehaving girls finished their chores, and lower still when she was reunited with her phone again.

"Seen." it still said. No response.

She didn't try to sneak the phone to the bathroom with her when she showered and brushed her teeth for bed, but checked it as soon as she got back into her room, and again once she was in her pyjamas. She climbed into bed, clutching her phone. It was nearly lights out time, and she was crying now. This was what she was afraid of, they wouldn't want her there, she was an embarrassment, the world would be watching the Excalbian Emperor's funeral, she would let down Elizabeth, and never see her again. And her father didn't care.

"Of course, you only care about that blonde Braslander bitch..." Marie-Jeanne cried to nobody in particular, and was interrupted by the ding of a message.

She looked down at the phone's display, and opened the messenger notification.

"Done. Details to come." was the response from her father.

Marie-Jeanne blinked away the tears to make sure she read the message correctly, then found herself grinning, and crying in happy relief.

"Thx Daddy! <3 <3 <3" she messaged back. "I hope ur well, love you!"

Within a few minutes, it was lights out, her phone was back on charge, and Marie-Jeanne was asleep.

In the morning, when it was unlocked, the phone would read "Seen".

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Postby Pantocratoria » Wed Jun 09, 2021 7:28 am

Excalbia wrote:Motorcade en route from Chateau Langeais to Citadel Excalbia

Joseph, Crown Prince and for all practical purposes Sovereign of Excalbia, sat quietly in the back of the car. He heard his wife Anna speaking and felt vaguely comforted by her presence, but it would be... inaccurate to say that he really heard what she was saying. He felt numb. His mind was constantly distracted by strange, small details. The hem of his jacket sleeve. The order of the funeral procession for his father. The way her black gloves captured the taper of Anna's fingers. The exact number of days for official mourning. A passing tree...

The phone ringing seemed to snap him back to reality. He turned towards Anna when she said her father - the Pantocratorian Emperor - wanted to speak with him. He nodded, then swallowed. "Yes," he muttered. Then, a little more strongly, "Of course."

Joseph reached out for the phone and placed it to his ear. "Your Imperial Majesty," he said.


"Your Imperial Highness, permit me to express my sincere condolences on your unexpected loss. His Majesty was a most extraordinary man, a beloved and respected Sovereign. Pantocratoria and the whole world join with Excalbia in your mourning." the Emperor said. "If you will indulge me, I can remember being in your position. Only a few men ever find themselves in such circumstances, with so weighty a duty. Your father bore it through his life, and now it falls to you. Lesser men may flatter themselves into thinking they would know what best to do, how best to do it, from the safety of their newspaper columns, television broadcasts, and arm chairs, removed ever from any such responsibility as now befalls you. They know nothing. You must trust God and trust yourself. Place your faith in Him and in only those worthy of your trust. Lean on Anna, in private, when you need to. You are her duty, just as Excalbia is yours. You are your father's son, if ever you feel unequal to the burden remember that, and know that the Lord has chosen you. I will pray for you."

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Excalbia
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Postby Excalbia » Wed Jun 09, 2021 12:30 pm

"Thank you, Your Majesty," Joseph said. "Those words mean a lot to me. My father held you in great esteem. As do I. Thank you for your prayers. I will need them." He glanced at Anna. "And Anna's support. Though I know I already have it. She is my rock at the moment." He touched her leg with his free hand. "I hope we will see you at the funeral, Sir."

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Cyretopolitania
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Postby Cyretopolitania » Wed Jun 09, 2021 1:04 pm

"It is a great loss," King Aksel IX said solemnly. "Not just for Excalbia - or our family - we were cousins," the man sitting beside the king nodded gravely. "No, it is a loss to the whole world. David was a righteous man. And a true leader."

"Yes, Sire," Count Anthony Massi said. The Foreign Minister - and de facto prime minister - was still relatively new in his role and shifted somewhat uncomfortably. "You will, of course, travel to the funeral?"

"Yes, yes. All of us will." The King leaned back. "However, this must not slow down our efforts."

"No, Sire, of course not."

The King nodded. "Has that despicable dwarf broken?"

Massi swallowed hard. His unexpected elevation from Minister of Treasury in what the press had called - when it had still been allowed to do so - the Great Purge had not prepared him for what had been going on behind the scenes. 

He had learned that the threat of Islamic terrorism in Cyretopolitania had largely been a fiction created by former the Intelligence Director, Count Izza Azenfar - the King's "despicable dwarf" - and his allies in the Army to create the conditions for a state of emergency and a crackdown on the Kingdom's Muslim subjects.

The King had finally learned of Azenfar's treachery and in a single night had ordered the arrest of Azenfar, Field Marshal Mehenni and Colonel General Chetrit, among others. He had used the very State of Emergency that Azenfar had urged him to sign to keep the arrests secret and impose a press gag on the purge of the cabinet, which had also swept away Massi's predecessor and the Minister of Justice.
"No, Sire, not yet." Massi looked down at his hands.

"The... enhanced interrogation... has not worked?"

"Not yet. Not on... Azenfar. But some of his lieutenants are giving up their agents and sources."

"Good." The King nodded.  

"Unfortunately, Sire, it seems that Azenfar succeeded in pushing some of... Your Majesty's subjects into genuine rebellion. And it appears Qubti is supporting them..."

"Surely not Islamists, then," the King said.

"Qubti seems... oddly indifferent to the ideology of those it supports. As long as they oppose Your Majesty."

The King sniffed and stood. Massi followed suit. "Minister," the King said, "I expect much more information from Azenfar - and much more information of the actions of Qubti - when I return from the funeral. And you can have... our people tell the dwarf that if he does not... satisfy my reasonable demands upon my return, I shall kill him myself. And it will be a slow, painful death."

"So has it been said, so shall it be done," Massi said with a deep bow.

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Postby Pantocratoria » Wed Jun 09, 2021 1:45 pm

Excalbia wrote:"Thank you, Your Majesty," Joseph said. "Those words mean a lot to me. My father held you in great esteem. As do I. Thank you for your prayers. I will need them." He glanced at Anna. "And Anna's support. Though I know I already have it. She is my rock at the moment." He touched her leg with his free hand. "I hope we will see you at the funeral, Sir."


At his words, and after he touched her leg, Anna placed her gloved hand on Joseph's arm. She would do better, give everything, she decided, everything she could, and more, if necessary. She would be his rock.

"Of course, I shall arrange to attend to pay my respects." the Emperor responded. "And if you ever have need of me, I stand ready. God bless."

With that, the phone call ended. In silence, Anna whisked the phone away and placed it back in her bag, muting its ringing as she did so, and then embraced her husband as fully as she could manage sitting next to him in the car.

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Postby Excalbia » Wed Jun 09, 2021 7:42 pm

Pantocratoria wrote:At his words, and after he touched her leg, Anna placed her gloved hand on Joseph's arm. She would do better, give everything, she decided, everything she could, and more, if necessary. She would be his rock.

"Of course, I shall arrange to attend to pay my respects." the Emperor responded. "And if you ever have need of me, I stand ready. God bless."

With that, the phone call ended. In silence, Anna whisked the phone away and placed it back in her bag, muting its ringing as she did so, and then embraced her husband as fully as she could manage sitting next to him in the car.


Motorcade en route from Chateau Langeais to Citadel Excalbia

Joseph held his wife and leaned against her. “I love you,” he said softly.

Penthouse Apartment of Lord Tariq
Landing, Excalbia


Although his official residence was now Parnu Castle, Prince James often stayed at his cousin Tariq’s spacious, multi-storied penthouse. Whether in town for business - James’ charity efforts drew considerable praise while his service on various boards had grown his personal fortune to the point where he no longer needed his stipend from the Imperial Household’s treasury - or pleasure, the Prince was a familiar presence at Tariq’s residence - and his cousin’s infamous parties. In fact, Tariq had had two of his guest suites renovated into a second master suite with its own private balcony that conveniently overlooked the pool on the main level balcony below.

As was common even in the middle of the work day, several young women were lounging in and around the pool as James stood on his balcony. Today, however, he was not admiring the young ladies; rather, he seemed to be staring blankly at the skyline beyond.

Tariq burst onto the balcony and rushed towards his cousin and friend, wrapping his arms around him. “I came as soon as I heard, Brother. I’m so very, very sorry!”

James stood motionless as his cousin hugged him. His face wore the same emotionless mask that had become his default expression since his breakup with Suniefreda. When the first sob escaped from Tariq, however, James’ hard visage broke. Soft sobs and tears soon gave way to terrible wails as he slumped against Tariq and gradually collapsed to the floor of the balcony.

“I…,” James’ voice cracked, “I’ve done so many things that would've disappointed him, TQ. I… I haven’t even had the nerve to talk to him in weeks... Why? Why? I… I’ll never get a chance to tell him… tell him how sorry I am… how… how much I love him. He… he can’t be gone...”

Tariq held his friend and gently patted his back as the girls below stood and craned their necks trying to see what the commotion was about.

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The Resurgent Dream
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Postby The Resurgent Dream » Thu Jun 10, 2021 6:28 am

The Queen’s Study, St. Andrew’s Palace
Tarana, Calda Union


The Queen’s Study was a round, spacious room neighbouring her husband’s. It was warmly lit through a window looking out into the rose garden. The desk was to one side, placing the window to the queen’s left when she was working. It directly faced a long coffee table surrounded by luxurious chairs and sofas, none with its back to the desk. It was in one of those chairs that she received her prime ministers. Now, however, she was working and did not expect to be disturbed. The Calvert Government, only freshly elected, was pushing forward with the ambitious infrastructure plan that had been the centrepiece of the National Party’s electoral manifesto. She was just rereading a paragraph about wildlife crossings when she was interrupted.

Sir James Truman, a heavyset man in his fifties, had been the Private Secretary to the Sovereign for only a few years but he had been Deputy Private Secretary and Assistant Private Secretary for years before that. She knew him well. She was surprised when he came in and instantly concerned. “What’s happened?” she asked, before even greeting the man.

“Your Majesty, the Emperor of Excalbia has died. He passed peacefully but unexpectedly,” Sir James answered her.

The queen was silent for a moment. Somber. Then she nodded slowly. “It is a tremendous loss to Excalbia, to the Western Atlantic, and to all who knew him. Order the Household to observe eight days of mourning, including all troops assigned to ceremonial duties. I will need to speak with the Prime Minister as soon as possible. I would also like to call my sister this evening. I’ll have to send my condolences to His…” She paused. She had forgotten the Excalbian transition was not automatic. “...to Prince Joseph and issue a statement.”

“Would you like me to arrange a call, ma’am?” Sir James asked.

The Queen did not answer directly. “I need to speak to my husband.”

“Of course, ma’am,” Sir James said, bowing and withdrawing from the room.

The Queen sighed. No way to do it but to do it. She walked over to the door connecting her study to Peter’s and opened it. “Peter…”

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Postby Excalbia » Thu Jun 10, 2021 7:14 am

Peter, Prince of Kuldiga and Prince Consort of the Caldan Union, sat in a leather chair in the corner of his study with legs crossed and a file folder balanced on his knees. He had developed the custom of attending to his own, admittedly much lighter, paperwork during the Queen's "office hours". This usually entailed reviewing documents related to the several charities he promoted or from his own holdings in Excalbia. 

Unlike many of his Excalbian contemporaries, Peter had never been overly fond of electronic devices, so he still had his secretary print everything out so he could review it in hardcopy. Nor was he a big fan of desks, so he did most of his work from the chair by the window, rather than the desk in the center of the room. Frankly, Peter would rather not be in the office at all, but he did like being close to his wife.

This particular day found the Prince reviewing a proposal from the Lord Bailiff of Kuldiga to expand the hours available for public tours of Kuldiga Castle ahead of Midsummer and to add more child-friendly and inclusive activities for the annual public Midsummer celebration on the grounds. 

As Gwendolyn entered the room, Peter immediately closed the folder and stood.  Something about the tone of her voice alarmed him. "Gwen?"

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Postby Excalbia » Thu Jun 10, 2021 4:26 pm

Tradewinds Resort
Isla de la Madre
United Kingdom of Providencia y San Andres


Princess Christiana and her wife, Janet Latsone, had gone to the posh Providencian Tradewinds resort for a quick tropical vacation ahead of the annual Midsummer celebration. Their accommodations consisted of a luxury bungalow built over a shallow private lagoon.

Christiana was lounging in the warm waters of the lagoon sipping a tropical drink and flipping through a catalog of works in an upcoming auction of fine art. When she finished the catalog, she tossed it on the nearby deck. She turned to look into the bungalow. Janet had gone inside for more sunscreen, but she should have returned already.

“Janet?” Christiana called out. “Janet?”

A moment later, Janet walked out onto the deck. Her face was pale and her eyes were wide.

Christiana stood and waded over to the deck. “What is it, Janet?”

“Www... one,” she said, “one… of the Imperial Guards came down from the main lodge… Oh, God, Christiana…”

“What?” Christiana climbed out of the lagoon onto the deck.

“It’s your brother… David…” Janet wrapped her arms around the taller woman. “Oh, God, he’s dead, Christiana. David’s dead…”

“No,” the princess protested, “no! He can’t be dead! No! No!” She began to wail.

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Laneria
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Postby Laneria » Thu Jun 10, 2021 4:27 pm

President’s Office, Osgood House
Williamsburg, Laneria


President George Arthur sat behind his desk, looking up at Christopher Washington. Arthur was in the middle of his first term. He had served as Vice President under the previous President, George van Cortlandt, and had then won the 2018 Democratic primaries over a wide range of competitors, including several uncomfortably popular candidates from the far right. Still, Arthur believed, the crowded field had made it harder for anyone other than the obvious successor to stand out. A narrower victory over Progressive nominee Jerome Primack had won him Osgood House. He had made history as the first Mormon to hold the office and he had governed with the same restrained, business-friendly conservatism on which he had campaigned.

Washington was a bright young man bearing the title of Deputy Assistant to the President. He was a speechwriter and policy adviser who had been a lawyer before joining the campaign. Arthur was sure he’d run for Congress one day. He was the type. He had come in today for a discussion of emergency funding. It was fairly routine stuff but the administration was being attacked for their response to winter storms several months previous. Congresswoman Neilia Simpson claimed her grandmother’s home was still in poor repair.

“I think it’s really just a matter of flexibility,” Arthur was saying. “I’ll need a briefing from the Director and then... “ He paused and looked to the door. “Is everything all right, Mrs. Danton?”

The older woman paused in the doorway. She shook her head. “Mr. President, the Emperor of Excalbia has died.”

Arthur simply nodded. “The flag will be flown at half staff from now until sunset the day of his interment. Draft me an order to sign, please, Chris, and then I’ll need a statement.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. President,” Washington said as he left the room.

Arthur sighed and looked to Danton. “What’s next?”

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Soveriegn States
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Postby Soveriegn States » Fri Jun 11, 2021 8:17 am

Penthouse Residence of Former President Tom Caine
Jefferson, Confederation of Sovereign States


Tom Caine looked down at his watch. He was going to be late. He hated being late. Even if it was only another boring dinner with Liberty Party donors. Just as we about to take out his phone, the butler opened the door.

“Mr. Krauklis, sir,” the middle-aged man said with a slight bow.

“About damn time, Rihards,” Caine said with a frown. Then, with a nod he added, “Thank you, Stephen.”

The butler straightened, returned the nod and left, closing the doors behind him.

Rihards Krauklis, Caine’s former Chief of Staff and, more recently, failed Liberty Party candidate for President, walked towards his old boss with his arms extended to the sides. “Sorry, Tom. Traffic’s terrible. Can I have a drink before we go?”

Cain nodded towards the wet bar. “Help yourself, but make it quick.”

Krauklis walked over and began making his drink. “Have you heard the news?”

“David IV’s death? Of course. It’s all over the news. But, you sound almost happy about it…”

“Why shouldn’t I be happy?” Krauklis sipped his drink and walked towards Caine. “That crusty old bastard did his best to ruin everything we were trying to do here. If I believed in hell, I’d wish him there.”

Caine shrugged. “He was certainly… old fashioned. And set in his ways. But, I respected that… ‘crusty old bastard’.”

Krauklis laughed. “Respected? Why? He almost provoked two wars! He hated you.”

“I don’t think he hated me, Rihards. He didn’t like me. Didn’t like what we were doing…” Caine turned and looked out the floor to ceiling window to the bustling city below. “Yes, he almost came to blows with Knootoss, with us in the middle, but I tell you what: he had the courage to call it off and choose peace over war. Not many leaders have the courage to back down. And remember that he took the initiative to ask to come here, into the lions’ den as it were, to address Congress and offer rapprochement.” Caine sighed. “I, for one, will miss him.”

“Miss him?” Krauklis almost spat out his drink.

Caine chuckled. “You may feel differently when poor Janice has to stare down Emperor Joseph… with his Imperial Army sitting across the river rather than on the other side of the Borodea Mountains…”

Krauklis drained his glass and made a non-committal sound.

Caine tugged at the sleeves of his jacket. “We can’t keep President Rudeles waiting…”

President Rudeles,” Krauklis repeated, clenching his teeth.

“Don’t be bitter, Rihards. You may have lost the election,” Caine gave a wry smile, “and spectacularly so. But at least one of us ended up with the presidency…”

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Postby Pantocratoria » Fri Jun 11, 2021 12:52 pm

Chateau de Chimos
Central Pantocratoria


The Chateau de Chimos was a modest 18th century chateau located on an excellent hunting estate in central Pantocratoria, acquired in marriage by the great grandfather of the present owner, Sir Isaac Comnenus, the man whom the newspapers once called the accidental Chancellor. But Sir Isaac's rise to the top job in Pantocratorian politics had been anything but accidental - it was the culmination of a four decade political career through which the only constant principle had been ambition. Of course, he had beliefs - he was a creature of the United Christian Front's hard right - but he wanted for scruples. Very few members of Action-Nationale realised how indispensible his behind the scenes support, political and financial, had been in their movement's rise. Fewer still realised that the movement's Party for National Action owed its Parliamentary delegation to vast quantities of insider information about the United Christian Front's campaign strategy in many of its own safe seats - predominantly those once held by moderate MPs and Sir Isaac's enemies in his own party room. One by one they had fallen, then the straw man leader for whom Sir Isaac had been the "loyal deputy" for so long fell. His long-time nemesis, Prince Constantine, had been driven from the party at last, and although Sir Isaac hadn't counted on several dozen MPs following him to form his new Christian Democrats, Sir Isaac didn't miss any of them.

Sir Isaac did, however, have a sense that he would miss David IV when the news of the Excalbian Emperor's demise had reached him. The late Emperor had been a firm ally, a stable and reliable hand. Sir Isaac thought him very proper. He didn't know what to make of the Crown Prince, by contrast. Ironically, what gave him pause was the very marriage which cemented the Pantocratorian-Excalbian alliance. In court circles, Princess Anna was known to have shared the political idealism of Prince Constantine in her youth, and had even been instrumental in convincing the Emperor to restore a sort of constitutional normalcy nearly two decades ago.

"There have only been two women with political ideas I have respected in my career." Sir Isaac declared to his son, Michel, a successful New Rome investment banker in his mid-40s who now sat across from him in the smaller of the chateau's two Smoking Rooms. Both men had glasses of cognac in one hand and cigars in the other. "Princess Irene, and her." Sir Isaac pointed with his cigar hand at the portrait of Bridgette Iesus which hung on his smoking room wall.

"Papa, we bought that for you as a joke!" Michel laughed between sucks on his cigar. Like his father, Michel was also bald, although not as bald as his father was, and his remaining hair was much browner.

"The joke is I must hang it here and not in the dining room." Sir Isaac snorted back. He held his cognac glass up towards the portrait. "Madame, to your health." He took a long sip.

"What brought up women with political opinions, anyway?" Michel pried. "Surely not that little lamb the Socialists have brought you for slaughter?"

Michel referred to the new leader of the Pantocratorian Socialist Alliance, and thus the new Opposition Leader, Agnes Pagonis. The press had already nick-named her "the lamb" in contrast to Sir Isaac and his deputy, Party for National Action leader Colonel Nogent, presumably "the wolves", both because of her first name and her comparative youth - she was 37. Sir Isaac laughed into his cigar.

"No, poor little lamb." Sir Isaac told his son. "I was reflecting on the soon to be Empress of Excalbia."

"Princess Anna?" Michel asked, frowning. "It'll be good to have a Pantocratorian princess as Empress of Excalbia, surely?"

"She's said to have similar opinions to Constantine." Sir Isaac explained. "I have to deal with that princess in Parliament, I don't want to have to deal with another princess in the bed of our firmest ally."

"If she has similar opinions to Constantine she must be an airhead." Michel laughed, and finished off his cognac.

"Let us hope Prince Joseph is sensible enough to put the right value on her pillow talk, in any case." Sir Isaac said. "How's business for you in Excalbia anyway?"

"Marvellous." Michel answered. "Almost good enough to make up for everything we've lost in the CSS..."

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The Resurgent Dream
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Postby The Resurgent Dream » Fri Jun 11, 2021 6:32 pm

Consort's Study, St. James Palace
Tarana, Caldan Union


Gwendolyn closed the door behind her and walked to where her husband stood. She slid her hand into his and squeezed before she looked up into his eyes. "It's your uncle, it's David. He's passed away. I'm so sorry, my love. I know you were close." There would be a great deal the Queen of the Caldan Union had to do to mourn the Emperor of Excalbia, a close ally, longtime force for regional stability. Now, however, for a few moments, it got to be a family matter.

Peter blinked and tilted his head to one side. “Uncle David…” He paused and looked away. “I… I should call Aunt Elizabeth… and Aunt Christiana. I wonder if she knows?” He shook his head. “I don’t even know where she is right now…” He turned back to look at Gwendolyn. “How… how do you lose track of your family?” His eyes began to fill with tears and he blinked several times. “Damn. Damn. Damn.” He wrapped his arms around his wife.

“I’m sure she knows,” Gwendolyn offered gently. “We can have someone find out, if you want. We can call whomever you need to.” She simply pressed herself into her husband. Gentle. Reassuring. There. She rested her head against his shoulder.

Peter squeezed Gwendolyn tighter. “I should call Aunt Elizabeth…” He paused. “I need to be there. I know there’ll be the state funeral and official duties, but I need to go… I need to be there with the family before… before all the ceremonies start.”

“We can,” she said. “I’m not looking forward to explaining it to the children.”

Peter pulled away slightly from Gwnedolyn while still keeping his arms around her. “I… I hadn’t even thought of that yet… How? How do we explain it? We have to… They need to understand. At least as best they can.”

“I think we just tell them and then answer any questions they might have,” she said. “My mother told us that my father had gone to be with Jesus and I kept asking her if we could go visit him as Jesus’s house. Owain had to explain it to me. I think they’ll either be confused or just more upset if we avoid the word…” She paused. She really didn’t want to say it. She realized she hadn’t, even speaking privately to her husband as an adult. “The word we really don’t want to say.”

Peter nodded. “I was a teenager when my parents… died. It was still hard. And people still tiptoed around it.” He pulled away and looked out the window. “I finally got really angry at people using euphemisms… I finally snapped and yelled at Aunt Christiana. I still remember what I said: ‘They aren’t gone… they’re dead. They’re not coming back.’” Tears rolled down his cheeks. “She ran out of the room, balling her eyes out. I’d forgotten that… my father was her brother, too. And she was still just in her early 30s… younger than we are now.” He hung his head. “I think we just have to say it. Uncle David died. We trust that he is with God, but he isn’t coming back and we won’t… see him… again… in this world.” Peter swallowed and wiped the tears from his eyes.

Gwendolyn gently wipGwendolyn closed the door behind her and walked to where her husband stood. She slid her hand into his and squeezed before she looked up into his eyes. "It's your uncle, it's David. He's passed away. I'm so sorry, my love. I know you were close." There would be a great deal the Queen of the Caldan Union had to do to mourn the Emperor of Excalbia, a close ally, longtime force for regional stability. Now, however, for a few moments, it got to be a family matter.

Peter blinked and tilted his head to one side. “Uncle David…” He paused and looked away. “I… I should call Aunt Elizabeth… and Aunt Christiana. I wonder if she knows?” He shook his head. “I don’t even know where she is right now…” He turned back to look at Gwendolyn. “How… how do you lose track of your family?” His eyes began to fill with tears and he blinked several times. “Damn. Damn. Damn.” He wrapped his arms around his wife.

Gwendolyn wiped her husband’s tears from his eyes and then placed both her hands in his. “I think you’re right.” She started to turn and then she paused. “Peter, what you said about your aunt...We have to remind ourselves that they won’t really understand and that sometimes children can be insensitive without understanding the significance of what they’re saying. Whether they fall down sobbing or say something angry or awkward, we have to remain calm.”

“You’re right, of course,” Peter said. He touched Gwendolyn’s cheek and managed a small, tentative smile. “Thank you.”

“Thank you,” she said. “I love you.” She kissed him gently. A soft, comforting kiss.
Last edited by The Resurgent Dream on Fri Jun 11, 2021 8:14 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Excalbia
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Postby Excalbia » Sat Jun 12, 2021 9:48 am

Game Room, St. Andrew’s Palace
Tarana, Caldan Union


“You can’t eat me! I hit you with my spiky tail! You’ve been hit!” Her Royal Highness Princess Helena Estera Cordelia was yelling at His Royal Highness Charles David Andrew, The Grand Duke of Tarana, as she swung the toy stegosaurus at her brother’s toy tyrannosaurus again.

“It didn’t kill me, Ellie! I got your side!” he yelled as he poked her toy with the mouth of his. They might have been any children.

Gwendolyn couldn’t help but smile slightly as she approached. She hated she was going to ruin their day. She was also slightly distracted. “Ellie, we can have more little girls over if you don’t want to play dinosaurs with your brother.”

“I like it!” Helena said as she rose and curtsied to her parents properly. Her brother bowed.

Gwendolyn nodded. “Did they have feathers like that? Your uncle’s didn’t have feathers.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Charles said.

Gwendolyn realized she wasn’t distracted. She was delaying. She sighed and took a seat. “Come here a moment, children. Your father and I have to talk to you.”

Peter followed Gwendolyn into the nursery, being careful to try to maintain a neutral expression. As the children approached, he swooped Helena up in his arms and kissed her head before putting her back on the ground. He then bent over and kissed Charles on the top of the head.

Once the children were settled, Peter glanced quickly at Gwendolyn, then knelt down so he could be at eye level with his son and daughter. “Charles, Helena, we just learned something very sad. You remember my Uncle David, who came to visit with my Aunt Elizabeth?” He paused. “Well, Uncle David died today.”

“What happens now, Daddy?” Charles asked. “Do you have to go be Emperor of Excalbia?”

“Is he with my uncle?” Helena asked.

“No, Charlie,” Peter said, “no, I don’t have to go be the Emperor. My cousin Joseph, Uncle David’s son will be the Emperor. But we will go to Excalbia… to say good-bye to Uncle David and to see the family.”

He turned to Helena and gently touched her cheek. “Yes, he was your uncle,too, Helena. Your great-uncle… that just means your father’s uncle.”

“But are they together?” Helena pressed.

“Yes, Ellie, with God,” Gwendolyn said gently.

“Will we still get to eat hot dogs in Excalbia?” Charles asked, sounding more excited about the trip than grieving.

Gwendolyn closed her eyes for a second, reminding herself of her own words to her husband just minutes before. “I don’t know, Charlie, but it’s not polite to focus on details like that.”

Helena pulled herself into her father’s lap. “I don’t want you to be sad, Daddy. You make me smile when I’m sad.”

Peter smiled at Helena and kissed her on the top of her head. “You make me happy, Helena. Always.”

“I love you, Daddy,” Helena said.

Joint post with The Resurgent Dream.
Last edited by Excalbia on Sat Jun 12, 2021 3:02 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Pantocratoria
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Postby Pantocratoria » Sat Jun 12, 2021 2:51 pm

Altain-en-la-Frênaie,
Central Pantocratoria


The estates of the Baron of Altain were not wealthy, and never really had been. The Chateau d'Altain was a ruin, destroyed by a fire in the 1930s, leaving only a stonework facade behind. A three storey home had been built about half-a-mile away from the original chateau, and served as the family residence. It was large by the standards of the farmhouses of the estate, but was barely adequate to meet the needs of the Baron and his family in the early 20th Century. Like all noble houses it was expensive to maintain, and like far too many estates, the income of the estate proved insufficient to maintain proper standards with the rising wages of the 1970s and 80s, and by the mid-80s, the family had to make do with only a single maid and with one wing of the residence effectively closed-up except for special occasions. The previous Baron had two daughters and one son. The dowry of his eldest daughter had largely been gathered from the remnants of the dowry of his wife. The couple had, at one point, fancied the idea of suggesting their second daughter go into a convent, but unfortunately she was never particularly religious. She had begged to be allowed to go to court, instead. The Baron didn't have the money for the traditional New Rome court dresses required for the Imperial Court of Christ Pantocratoria, however, and so sent her to the Despotic Court of New Constantinople instead. The Baroness had cautioned her husband that without a dowry, the girl's virtue at court might be cheap, but what father could believe such a warning about his daughter? If he had known the reputation the Despotic Court was to acquire under its new Despot, he might have reconsidered.

It had not taken the raven-haired Henriette d'Altain long to transform from apparently innocent country girl to worldly seductress. She was as beautiful as she was ambitious, and she had evidently learned a thing or two in sleepy Altain because soon she was able to attract and maintain the attentions of none other than the Despot of New Constantinople himself. In the process, she also secured herself the very best of marriages, socially speaking, wedding the fabulously wealthy Duke of Montmanuel. The old Baron had been able to renovate and reopen the residence, employ a second maid, and even make some investments to supplement the estate's income for the future. It was not until the news that his precious Henriette was pregnant with the bastard of the Despot of New Constantinople that he realised from whence had sprung his recent good fortune. The family maintained that the shock of the news was responsible for his stroke and swift deterioration.

The new Baron of Altain, Pierre, had blamed his sister for the death of their father for quite some time. His mother, the Dowager Baroness, declared her second daughter to be of poor character, and confessed to having caught Henriette with her cousin at a tender age, and of having suspected her of other indiscretions long before she ever went to court, all of which she had dutifully concealed from her husband. They had not cut off contact with Henriette de Montmanuel, but they had not been overly warm to her either, and for her part, Henriette decided that her brother and her mother were ungrateful, and for some time at least she had all the love and affection she could desire from the Despot and their daughter, an unconventional family, but hardly an unprecedented one. And what interest did she have in sleepy Altain while she was the de facto lady of the Despotic Court.

That was not to last, however. First, when the Despot married Princess Sophia of Brasland, Henriette de Montmanuel was banished to Kogchuliates Palace, draughty and cold as it was, and then, when Marie-Jeanne was sent to boarding school in Saxmere, there was even talk of her being sent back to her husband. That had been genuinely scary - Henriette knew the old Duke had at one stage been besotted with her, and had taken being publicly cuckolded very badly. Incredulous that such a thing would even be contemplated, she had pleaded with her estranged former partner through palace intermediaries and the few friends at the Despotic Court who still returned her calls, but while she would not be forced to go to Montmanuel, it was clear that she must leave the Despotate, and that no funds could be made available to support her elsewhere. There was therefore only one place she could turn - Altain.

Pierre d'Altain had agreed that of course she could come home, but had told his sister that it wouldn't be proper for her to live in the family residence. She might set a bad example for her young nieces, her brother had explained, leading to the first of several vicious and personal arguments. Unfortunately, Henriette's position was such that she was obliged after each argument to be the one to apologise first. Her brother had "generously" allowed her the use of one of the terraced houses in the village, free of rent, and agreed to pay her an allowance. The sum was negligible compared to the allowance once allocated to her upkeep at Kogchuliates, but it was generous enough considering the income of the overall estate. Over the past three years, Henriette's relationship with her brother had improved, and she was often invited to the residence for dinner or tea and coffee.

The real humiliations had come at the hands of the Dowager Baroness, who had, in Henriette's judgement, an irritating hold over the Baron, and leveraged it to ensure that Henriette would not be a "bad influence" on her granddaughters. Her adult daughter was to have no male visitors in her modest terraced house, the Dowager Baroness decreed. No boyfriends, and no sleeping anywhere else but in her own home. There was a list of men from the local region thought to be past liaisons (some, Henriette had to admit to herself, accurately) with whom she was to have no contact at all. She was to submit an account of all of her expenditures on a monthly basis and answer in detail any questions asked about any item. She was not to have more than two bottles of wine in her home at any given time, and not to buy more than two a week. She was not allowed to have a car, not that Henriette could drive. Her wardrobe was not to include any dresses or skirts her mother judged too short, or necklines cut too low. Most of the rules were just pointless vindictiveness, her mother being controlling for the sake of being controlling, or for the sake of Henriette feeling herself controlled. Henriette wasn't interested in causing any fresh scandals in her life.

Henriette de Montmanuel was now 41 years old. She was still naturally beautiful, but she was no longer a glamorous figure. She had no designer clothes, no lady's maid to style her hair every morning. She dressed modestly in loose fitting clothes. She wore little make-up, and her hair, no longer as dark as it once had been, was generally drawn up in a simple ponytail held together by a store-bought scrunchie. If she had been found behind the wheel of a Peacock Motors SUV, she would have looked more like an attractive "soccer mum" than the mistress of a Prince - unfortunately she couldn't drive so that particular look couldn't be completed. She didn't have anyone to dress up for. Other than the times she was invited to her family's home, and when she talked with her daughter away at boarding school, she felt very much alone in Altain. None of her former friends at the Despotic Court stayed in touch with her, other than a few text messages at birthdays or Christmas, which picked up a little towards school holidays when Henriette would generally be allowed to return to Kogchuliates to stay with her daughter while she was back from school. It was as if she had a highly infectious disease and everyone had to keep away.

The residence was just under two miles walk from the village, via the footpath through the ash forest. Henriette often came along this track on her morning runs, although she generally turned and looped around rather than continue past the forest towards the residence. It was a pleasant early Summer afternoon, and as Henriette saw the eerie ruined facade of her family's former ancestral home through the trees as the forest thinned, she reflected that soon she would be back in New Constantinople, with Marie-Jeanne. She missed her daughter so much. She was thankful to her brother that she had been able to spend more time with her nieces recently, the eldest of whom, Charlotte, was nearly Marie-Jeanne's age.

Henriette de Montmanuel arrived at her family's residence just after four o'clock, was admitted by the maid, hung her jacket on the hook near the door, and then went to the drawing room where either Charlotte or her younger sister Marie-Ève were playing piano. The smile she had on her face when she entered the room was frozen there when she found her mother standing over the 11 year-old Marie-Ève at the piano. The 13 year-old Charlotte lay on her belly on the floor near the fireplace (which was not lit), doing her homework, and she glanced up to catch the looks on the faces of her grandmother and her aunt both.

"Hello Mother, hello girls." Henriette said after a second or two.

"Hi!" Charlotte answered with a knowing grin, and then got back down to her homework.

"Hi Aunt Henriette!" Marie-Ève said, turning away from the piano to do so.

"Don't let her distract you, focus, focus." the Dowager Baroness told the girl.

Henriette decided to go over to where Charlotte was doing her homework and kneel by her on the rug.

"What are you studying?" she asked her niece.

"Mathematics." Charlotte answered, and then showed her a quadratic equation she had been struggling with. "Do you know how to do this?"

The Dowager Baroness didn't trouble to suppress a laugh at the thought. Henriette frowned in her direction, and then looked closely at the problem, before being forced to admit that she did not.

"I'm sorry, petite, I'm not very good with numbers." Henriette confessed.

"Your aunt was not academically inclined at your age, dear, as I recall." the Dowager Baroness said over her shoulder while keeping her eyes on the music and on Marie-Ève's fingers. "Good girl."

"Do you know how to do quadratic equations, Grandma?" Charlotte called out.

"My dear, I don't even know what quadratic equations means." the Dowager Baroness replied. "When I was a girl, the Ursulines didn't bother teaching mathematics to girls."

"Why did they start?" Charlotte groaned.

"Keep working at it." Henriette encouraged her niece. "The world's different now."

"It certainly is." the Dowager Baroness agreed. It was not entirely clear whether she felt the world was different for better or for worse, but that it was worthwhile for the girls to do their maths homework was one thing on which she and her daughter agreed.

Henriette stood up from the rug when her phone made a beeping sound, indicating she had received a message. She reached into her handbag to retrieve it.

"Who is that?" the Dowager Baroness asked, striding over from the piano and holding out her hand expectantly. "Let me see."

Henriette barely had time to glance at the screen before her mother was upon her, demanding to see her phone like an overbearing parent. Which, Henriette supposed, was an accurate characterisation, although Henriette was no longer a girl in her early teens. She would have refused her mother, but in the presence of her nieces, she did not want to set a bad example or to argue, and so she handed her the PeacockPhone.

"It's your other granddaughter." Henriette answered.

The Dowager Baroness looked at the screen and flicked through Henriette's recent calls and messages.

"What does she say?" she asked.

"I don't know, I didn't have a chance to read it yet. May I?" Henriette asked, through nearly gritted teeth. She held her hand open. At length, the Dowager Baroness put the phone in her palm. Henriette quickly checked the message. "She says that the Emperor of Excalbia has died..."

"Oh yes, I heard that." the Dowager Baroness interrupted.

"...and that she will be attending the funeral." Henriette continued. She read the rest of the message and frowned.

"I'm sure she knows you can't go with her, doesn't she?" the Dowager Baroness asked.

"I'm sure she does." Henriette answered, her tone world weary.

"I'm sorry." the Dowager Baroness said, and it was genuine enough.

"They have told her she will be going with the Ambassador and his family." Henriette told her mother in a low voice.

"Not with the Imperial Family?" the Dowager Baroness replied, in an equally low voice.

Both nieces heard everything, of course, and the piano had stopped playing as Marie-Ève was taking rather a long time to refind her place in her sheet music.

"No." Henriette answered.

"I'm sorry, my dear," the Dowager Baroness replied, and was genuine enough, until the inevitable "but this was bound to be the case, and it will always be like that."

"I should call her back. Will you excuse me?" Henriette more announced rather than asked. Her mother nevertheless nodded her assent as Henriette left the room with her phone in hand.

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Postby Excalbia » Sat Jun 12, 2021 4:47 pm

Sweyn Castle
Citadel Excalbia, Excalbia


It was a bright clear day with a gentle breeze blowing across the top of Citadel Mount. In front of the 17th century castle rows of Imperial Guards, their golden helmets gleaming in the sun, stood at attention joined by detachments from the Imperial Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. A color guard bearing the Excalbian flag, tied with a black streamer, the Imperial standard and the flags of each service stood to the side of the castle's entrance. At the top the stairs, the Imperial Family, all dressed in black, stood waiting.

Slowly a phalanx of police cars, blue and red lights flashing, pulled into the driveway and continued past the entrance of the castle. They were followed by a black hearse with the Excalbian flag and the Imperial standard on the front fenders. After the hearse came to a stop, the color guard marched forward, joined by an honor guard of six men composed of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen.

The color guard came to a stop to one side of the hearse and snapped to attention. The honor opened the wide tailgate of the hearse and began to guide the flag-draped casket out of the vehicle. As the casket began to emerge, the Imperial Naval Band played ruffles and flourishes followed by a slow, mournful rendition of the Imperial March. All the military personnel present came to attention and saluted. Across the driveway on the wide, green front lawn Imperial Army artillery began firing a 21-gun salute.

The honor guard lifted the casket and, pausing to wait for the color guard to take their place in front, began marching towards the entrance to the castle. At the steps, they paused again to allow the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Excalbia to bless the casket as the thurifer walked around it with the censer. Then, a crucifer and two acolytes with candles took their place behind the color guard and Bishop Sleser, joined by the thurifer and two more candle-bearers took his place behind the casket.

After climbing the stairs, the honor guard paused briefly as the widowed Empress Elizabeth reached out and ran her hand over the flag covering the casket. Then, with the Imperial Family falling in behind the bishop, the procession continued through the entry hall of the castle and down the main corridor and into the back garden. They continued on until they reached the 12th century Citadel.

Inside the Great Hall of the Citadel a catafalque draped in black stood where the wooden throne normally stood. The honor guard placed the casket on the catafalque, then stepped back and saluted. The two closest to the front of the casket then slid the flag down, revealing the top of the casket. A dark suited man walked up and opened the casket. Inside, the body of Emperor David IV lay, dressed in a white naval uniform with his arms crossed over his chest.

The color guard placed their flags in stands at the head of the casket and the crucifer followed suit. The four acolytes places their candles on stands at the four corners of the catafalque and four of the honor guard took their positions beside the candles, at attention with their backs to the casket.

As the rest of the honor guard and acolytes departed, Bishop Slesers placed a gentle hand on the Empress’ shoulder. “I’ll stay as long as you need me, Majesty.”

“Thank you, Donald. Thank you.” The Empress smiled weakly and walked over to the casket. She touched her husband’s face and stroked his hair.

Princess Christiana walked up and stood beside the Empress.

“He was always so handsome in his uniform,” Elizabeth said.

Christiana put her arm around her sister-in-law. “He was smitten with you from the moment he met you, you know.”

Elizabeth nodded.

“I still remember the first time I saw him after you met. He couldn’t stop talking about you.”

Elizabeth reached up and touched Christiana’s hand.

“God, I’m going to miss him,” the princess said.

“I know.” Elizabeth sighed. “He really loved his little sister, you have to know that, Christiana.”

“I do. I don’t know that I’ve always felt I deserved it. But I always knew it.”

Christiana’s wife, Lady Janet Latsone walked over and took Christiana’s other hand and squeezed it. Christiana turned and smiled.

“We’ll need to start letting everyone else in soon,” Elizabeth said. “They say the lines are quite long.”

“Everyone loved the Emperor,” Janet volunteered. “He was truly a great man.”
Last edited by Excalbia on Sat Jun 12, 2021 4:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Excalbia » Sun Jun 13, 2021 11:04 am

Lady Jennifer walked up to her cousin, Lord Tariq, and took him by the arm. She nodded towards their cousin, Prince James, who was standing alone in a corner of the Great Hall. Jennifer and Tariq walked towards James, then Jennifer let go of Tariq’s arm, pulled ahead and embraced James.

“I’m so sorry, James,” she said softly. “I know it’s hard…”

James did not so much return the hug as tolerate it.

“Thank you,” he muttered.

Tariq put a hand on James’ shoulder. “How are you, Brother?”

“I’m ok,” James said flatly.

Tariq raised an eyebrow and cocked his head to one side.

“And not ok,” James said. “Both at the same time. Does that make sense?”

“It does,” Jennifer said, as she and Tariq both nodded.

“It’s hard to lose someone you love,” she said.

“But we’re here for you, Jay.” Tariq said with a nod.

James nodded. “Thank you.” He gave Jennifer a quick hug and patted Tariq on the back. “Excuse me for a minute,” he said, as we walked off in the direction of the catafalque, where his mother and aunt stood chatting.

Jennifer frowned. “Is he like this all the time?”

Tariq nodded. “Ever since he and Sunnie broke up.”

Jennifer shook her head.

“He puts on a good act when he needs to… or wants to,” Tariq said. “But he’s….,” he paused. “It’s like he’s completely closed himself off. He spends about half his time in my apartment…”

“I know,” Jennifer said with a note of disapproval. She had been to enough of Tariq’s parties to know what went on in his so-called Pleasure Palace.

Tariq looked at Jennifer out of the corner of his eyes. “As I was saying, even when he’s there… he’s not. I don’t know where he is…”

“This is going to make it worse,” Jennifer said.

Tariq nodded. “But we can’t let that happen.”

“We’ll do our best, Tariq,” she said, putting her arm around her cousin. “We’ll do our best.”

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