Cornellian VIP Intrigue (Cornellia Only)

Where nations come together and discuss matters of varying degrees of importance. [In character]


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New Edom
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Founded: Mar 14, 2011

Postby New Edom » Tue Jul 07, 2015 1:30 pm

Betharan Palace, Fineberg

Elijah said, "We thought a parade and medal award ceremony would be appropriate for the Ghantish Brigade's departure. The Queen and I will be present, we will hand out decorations. If you would like yourself or any other senior leadership in Ghant would like to be present or involved, we would welcome that. We don't want to speech the troops to death, so remarks will be brief but appropriate. General Unwerth and General Romain plan to visit the troops where they are stationed and give their thanks to them personally."

Count Lalery drew on his cigar and blew out smoke. "There is no other nation in this Region more capable than ours when it comes to oil extraction in difficult areas. We have the training, we have the tools, we have the talent. I see this as a very lucrative partnership, Lord Malibar. People have seen your Empire as a sleepy backwater of no real importance, to be blunt, and our country as a fractious mess. We can prove them wrong, and make a shit ton of money. Not just for the people wearing the big hats, but enough that people in your North will say 'fuck this dog and pony show, I want decent roads and literacy for my kids." They'll be part of the solution."

"Right now the Deadorans are intriguing the hell out of the Region with SAEC," agreed Prince Enoch. He had been quite amused by Jocasta finally losing her cool, but hid it as best he could.

"Is the gist of this agreeable to you, Lord Malibar? If so we can proceed to discussion about the details, the areas of operation and the general approach of an economic agreement," said Lalery.

Jocasta meanwhile whispered to her mother, "How does Arietta know so much about Michael's...intimacies? Was that just one of her stupid jokes?"

"Of course my honey, take no notice of her," said Rebecca softly, stroking her arm. "Be at peace, we have what we wanted..."

Mara observed all this quietly, and sipped her tea.
Last edited by New Edom on Tue Jul 07, 2015 1:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"The three articles of Civil Service faith: it takes longer to do things quickly, it's far more expensive to do things cheaply, and it's more democratic to do things in secret." - Jim Hacker "Yes Minister"

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Postby Ghant » Tue Jul 07, 2015 7:54 pm

“King Consort’s Gambit” (VI)
Betharan Palace
Fineberg, New Edom

Elijah explained what the plan was regarding the Ghantish forces currently in New Edom, although Michael could hardly focus on that, for reasons that would have been obvious to those present in the room at the time. "We thought a parade and medal award ceremony would be appropriate for the Ghantish Brigade's departure. The Queen and I will be present, we will hand out decorations. If you would like yourself or any other senior leadership in Ghant would like to be present or involved, we would welcome that. We don't want to speech the troops to death, so remarks will be brief but appropriate. General Unwerth and General Romain plan to visit the troops where they are stationed and give their thanks to them personally."

“…I don’t think it would be out of order for the Prime Minister and the Empress to be present for such an event,” Malibar said after some degree of contemplation. “This seems quite agreeable.”

Count Lalery drew on his cigar and blew out smoke. "There is no other nation in this Region more capable than ours when it comes to oil extraction in difficult areas. We have the training, we have the tools, we have the talent. I see this as a very lucrative partnership, Lord Malibar. People have seen your Empire as a sleepy backwater of no real importance, to be blunt, and our country as a fractious mess. We can prove them wrong, and make a shit ton of money. Not just for the people wearing the big hats, but enough that people in your North will say 'fuck this dog and pony show, I want decent roads and literacy for my kids.’ They'll be part of the solution."

"Right now the Deadorans are intriguing the hell out of the Region with SAEC," agreed Prince Enoch.

"Is the gist of this agreeable to you, Lord Malibar? If so we can proceed to discussion about the details, the areas of operation and the general approach of an economic agreement," said Lalery.

“…Quite agreeable, yes. In fact, Count Lalery, I would go as far as to say that we are thinking on the same page. I believe that the time is ripe for such cooperation to take place, and both our nations are in a prime position to reap the benefits. Perhaps New Edom might even recover more quickly from the…war, and could grow even more prosperous.” Malibar spoke firmly yet gently.

“So…uh…is there going to be a ball for either of the weddings?” Arietta asked, changing the subject. “Like, would there be none at all, one for each, or one for both?”

“Now dear, this isn’t the time to be asking about balls,” Caroline corrected her daughter.

“…But mother, don’t you enjoy talking about balls?” Arietta asked sarcastically. This question made the Gentrys snigger, while Malibar closed his eyes and Michael gently shook his head, while shooting playful glances at Jocasta in his excitement.

“I think,” Cassandra began, steering the conversation back on course, “that there is much potential here to grow in strength. With our untapped resources and Edomite ingenuity needed to harvest them, we can have a partnership that could very easily provide for a long-term arrangement that will do a great deal for both of our nations. The foundation for a relationship exists at present, and now, we have the impetus to take that relationship to the next level,” she explained, with a cursory glance towards Lalery.
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New Edom
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Postby New Edom » Tue Jul 07, 2015 9:48 pm

Betharan Palace

“…Quite agreeable, yes. In fact, Count Lalery, I would go as far as to say that we are thinking on the same page. I believe that the time is ripe for such cooperation to take place, and both our nations are in a prime position to reap the benefits. Perhaps New Edom might even recover more quickly from the…war, and could grow even more prosperous.” Malibar spoke firmly yet gently.

"The Oil and Resources Directorate," said Count Lalery "Would establish an agreement to extract the oil and we would need to establish shipment routes--pipelines and travel routes--to provide it to refineries."

“So…uh…is there going to be a ball for either of the weddings?” Arietta asked, changing the subject. “Like, would there be none at all, one for each, or one for both?”

“Now dear, this isn’t the time to be asking about balls,” Caroline corrected her daughter.

“…But mother, don’t you enjoy talking about balls?” Arietta asked sarcastically. This question made the Gentrys snigger, while Malibar closed his eyes and Michael gently shook his head, while shooting playful glances at Jocasta in his excitement.

Mara and Enoch both laughed, but Jocasta simply flashed a smile. "The idea of having a ball, weddings...oh my gosh, so exciting!"

Lalery looked at his cigar and was about to speak when

“I think,” Cassandra began, steering the conversation back on course, “that there is much potential here to grow in strength. With our untapped resources and Edomite ingenuity needed to harvest them, we can have a partnership that could very easily provide for a long-term arrangement that will do a great deal for both of our nations. The foundation for a relationship exists at present, and now, we have the impetus to take that relationship to the next level,” she explained, with a cursory glance towards Lalery.

"yes," Lalery said. "We would also be partnering with people locally, passing on training as mechanics, toolpushers, engineers, drivers, you name it. It will be profitable all round. I think we'd need a full review of the road, rail, air transport and coastal transport conditions, the general environment in those areas. But the initial explorations that our geologists had permission to look into, the assessment of our scientists is that we all have a good shot at this."
"The three articles of Civil Service faith: it takes longer to do things quickly, it's far more expensive to do things cheaply, and it's more democratic to do things in secret." - Jim Hacker "Yes Minister"

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Postby Ghant » Mon Jul 13, 2015 8:40 pm

“King Consort’s Gambit” (VII)
Betharan Palace
Fineberg, New Edom

The reactions around the room to the subject matter being discussed was interesting, to say the least. Cassandra, Christopher and Alexander sat perched like condors examining a field for carrion. Caroline had difficulty focusing, and glanced between Rebecca and Malibar, Michael and Jocasta, as if studying them. Malibar was focused on Lalery, and Michael…well, he couldn’t think about anything that wasn’t Jocasta.

"The Oil and Resources Directorate," said Count Lalery "Would establish an agreement to extract the oil and we would need to establish shipment routes--pipelines and travel routes--to provide it to refineries."

“Of course,” Malibar seconded. “Naturally, I had one in mind that would go from Eskura into Dakmoor to the sea, by way of Daga and its ports which could accommodate the sustained traffic…”

Arietta yawned lazily, and checked her phone for new snapchats, or so Michael suspected. Knowing her, she is doing that or texting her friends about a boring meeting she doesn’t know why she is at.

Mara and Enoch both laughed, but Jocasta simply flashed a smile. "The idea of having a ball, weddings...oh my gosh, so exciting!"

“It is exciting,” Michael said in response. “I can’t wait to see your dress.” Poor Michael of Dakmoor, wasn’t even concerned about what was underneath, or about her maidenhead. Only the image of walking down the aisle and swearing his vows in the sight of God and men. And being there every step of the way, until death do them part…

"Yes," Lalery said in response to Cassandra. "We would also be partnering with people locally, passing on training as mechanics, toolpushers, engineers, drivers, you name it. It will be profitable all round. I think we'd need a full review of the road, rail, air transport and coastal transport conditions, the general environment in those areas. But the initial explorations that our geologists had permission to look into, the assessment of our scientists is that we all have a good shot at this."

“Oh, I think we do as well,” Cassandra responded firmly. “A full review of those conditions and an environmental analysis would be quite easy to produce. I certainly think people would be chomping at the bit to get in on the action, considering how they would benefit.”

“…What about the Jendebasa?” Alexander asked. “I doubt they would take kindly to this sort of endeavor.”

“…Don’t worry about the Jendebasa,” Cassandra said to her cousin with one eye narrowed and the opposing eyebrow raised. “I can deal with them.”

Despite the irony in seeing Cassandra work towards this proposal that seemed to have originated with his father, Michael realized a truth about Cassandra that Sophia always told him in years past. Cassandra does what’s best for Cassandra. It’s just that most of the time it is also what is good for the Imperial House. In this particular case, getting in on that money was very good for Cassandra…Let her have what she wants, I got what I wanted.
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Capitalist Paradise

Postby Jedoria » Fri Jul 17, 2015 5:05 am

This is not a serious post, nor is it canon nor did it really happen, but I thought I'd make a little fun post here and poke some fun at recent events.

The Duke of Jedoria slammed his hands down on the conference table that seated the most prominent members of the Jedorian Government. Every ministry the Confederation employed had it's representative here, and currently they all shrunk into their chairs in fear. Bellowing full of anger, the Duke yelled out, "Well? What now?! The damn Edomites are still in existence! I thought they'd be cowering in fear by now!"

The Foreign Minister, Andrei Paler, meekly raised his head. "Sir, can you really expect-"

"You're damn right I can expect it! Are we really going to let these damn nudists one up us?"

The Field Marshall, Jedoria's highest ranked senior officer, rose from his chair. "My Duke, the Edomites aren't getting any weaker, nor are their Imperium allies. I suggest we take decisive action."

"Really? Like what?" The Duke asked, intrigued.

"Sir, I suggest we launch a full aerial assault on the island of Peregrino."

The other members of the cabinet looked up in awe at the Field Marshall, amazed by his outstanding plan.

"Why, that's genius!" The Duke declared, chest puffed out and eyes not filled with glee. "We attack the Edomites with a ton of aircraft, probably get the Noviterans to help too, even though why on earth they would isn't addressed. Why, there's no foreseeable way this can go wrong, or in any way anger or shock the international community, including those we call friends!"

The members of the cabinet began nodding and agreeing, suddenly enticed with the possibility of finally defeating their long time enemies.

"And then we can invade New Edom proper, and raze Fineburger to the ground!" Ambassador to New Edom, Norman Mastakaneu added.

"Yes, yes, Yes!" The Cabinet screamed.

"It's clear what we must do," The Duke said, hands on his hips, chest puffed out, jaw solid, erection stiffer than a flagpole. "We will attack the Edomites, tomorrow, as soon as they climb into bed and think that they're off to a good night's sleep, we'll swoop in and destroy them! There's no way this can go wrong!"

"Here here!" Hollered the Cabinet.

"Now quickly, let us address the troops we somehow assembled for this invasion despite only starting discussion of it within the past five minutes!" The Duke said, springing out the room to a balcony that somehow appeared and overlooked a large random courtyard that somehow held thousands of Jedorian soldiers.

[OOC: Sung to the tune of this song. }

Duke: Gaia has smiled on you, this day

The fate of Jedoria, in your hands

And blessed by the soldiers, who fight with all their bravery, till only the Confederates stand

You see the distant cities, they bellow in the night

You fight in all our names, for what we know is right,

and when you all get killed, and cannot carry on, though you die, Jedoria lives on!

Entire Cabinet: You may get shot in the head, or crushed and left for dead

You may may be stripped of your clothes, or sprayed down with a hose

But when they torture you, you have nothing to fear or run for, though you die, Jedoria lives on!

Jedorian Media: Blame New Edom! Blame New Edom!

Because those Christians are insane, tomorrow night they will be maimed!

Jedorian Army: Tomorrow night!

Our lives will change!

Tomorrow night!

Will be insane!

An Edom Invasion!

What a sight!

Tomorrow night!

Field Marshall: Down there there's so much land, where the musics bland and people go nude, but tomorrow night is their doom and so we will be going soon!

Foreign Minister: Shut your fucking face King Elijah!

Ambassador to New Edom: You're a boner biting bastard King Elijah!

Foreign Minister: Looks like you're finally out of luck!

Ambassador to New Edom: Tomorrow night, you're pretty fucked!

Jedorian people: Why did our Duke start this war, what the fuck are we fighting for, when did this post become a marathon?

Field Marshall (Jedorian Media): I want to be (When New Edom is finally free) down (there'll be no more) there (naked Queens)![i]

Cabinet: [i]They may cut your head right off!

Jedorian Army: Tomorrow night!

Cabinet: And serve it to a pig!

Jedorian Army: Our lives will change!

Cabinet: And though it hurts you'll laugh,

Jedorian Army: Tomorrow night!

Cabinet: And dance a headless jig!

Jedorian Army: Will be insane!

Cabinet: But that's the way it goes,

Jedorian Army: An Edom Invasion!

Cabinet: And though you're shot down,

Jedorian Army: What a sight!

Cabient (Field Marshall and Jedorian Media): Though you die, (I want to be!) Jedoria, lives oooooooon! (Blame New Edom, Blame New Edom, Blame New Edom!)
“We were all of us cogs in a great machine which sometimes rolled forward, nobody knew where, sometimes backwards, nobody knew why.”
― Ernst Toller

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Founded: Jun 14, 2012

Postby Deadora » Fri Jul 17, 2015 11:31 pm

Bryn Tegna

The Imperial Office of Acquisition was a plain, harsh cut building of black stone built five stories high, nearly identical to the other Offices lining the quiet street. The magnificent black and gold dome of Calla-Gold Palace loomed beyond. On the other side of the palace was the international district, where foreign embassies were established. Only certain roads in the Old City district of Bryn Tegna had been reconstructed to accommodate automobiles. A drive from the embassy would go down wide, carefully cobbled streets lined with dark trees. Aristocrats and bureaucrats walked along shaded paths, occasionally tended by one of the capitals caste of eunuch slaves, the Gelded. Most of the buildings were mansions or even small castles, larger and grander the closer they were to the palace.

Walking in Bryn Tegna was an intimidating experience. The architecture struck the Jedorian Ambassador to Deadora, Valentina Minovici, as brutal, imposing, and powerful. It matched the culture of the nation that had more or less been her home since appointment to this office. The buildings, trees, even some of the people had begun finding a place in her memory, nestling into the back of her mind. So as she walked, she no longer gawked at the structures around her, instead she noticed any differences or changes in the environment. After getting to know her place around her, Minovici’s walk had gone from almost hesitant to a brisk, slightly confident walk, one that showed while she wasn’t afraid of what surrounded her, she recognized the rightful rulers of this land.

Recent events both within the Feminist Empire and South Acheron in general forced actions to be taken. Jedoria needed friends down there, someone to act as a counterbalance against New Edom. Deadora, for all their cultural differences, was a surprising answer, though there remained some questions left unanswered, and candidly, some people didn’t want to know said answers.What they did want known was that Jedoria wanted trade; trade with Deadora, United Valik, and Lazodiria. But such thoughts had been pushed out of Minovici’s head as she entered into the building, showing any necessary identification, and proceed to her appointment with the Matriarch of Commerce.

Sara Standyr was a pretty, middle aged Kehrahnii woman dressed in light business wear and gold-and-silver hair done up in a professional bun. She greeted the Jedorian Ambassador in her corner office on the fifth floor, complete with an unobstructed view of Calla-Gold palace. A portrait of Jennifer hung on the wall. “Hile Ambassador, and be welcome.” She smiled with glittering eyes enjoying the smooth stretch of neck the foreigner bared to her. This would be her second meeting with a foreign ambassador in two weeks. Her success with the Adiran representative had earned her favour with the Empress. Given what she had seen over the last few days, she hoped to replicate that success here. “A drink?” She inquired as she gestured at her small bar with a decanter of Deadora’s finest brandy on it.

“Most appreciated,” Was the reply, as Minovici returned her neck to it’s usual position. When offered a drink, she gave a polite smile. “If you can spare any. No preference.” She said, truthfully. Minovici spent most of her time in the embassy, filing paperwork and meeting with people, which left her with annoyingly little free time, but when the opportunity presented itself, she did like to sample the local culture. That of course meant spirits, and as the back of her throat burned with a familiar taste, she tried to recall what specific brand it was. It had been too long since this job offered her alcohol, and she thanked the women for her kindness.

“You are too kind, ma’am. I’m sure work has kept you busy in recent weeks?”

“Certainly,” Standyr said as she sipped from her own drink and went to one of the chairs, bidding the ambassador follow. “An Imperial Matriarch’s work is never done, for I am a conduit of will of Her Ascendancy, the Matriarch Empress. We must take our pleasures where we can.” She inclined her head. “I was pleased to learn that your work converged with mine. How can I help you, Mistress Ambassador?”

Minovici took her seat and nodded in agreement to Standyr’s statements. Different cultures, political landscapes, and people, but some things about Government always stayed the same, no matter where you went. Minovici took a sip of her drink before swallowing and preparing her opening statement. “It must be a pleasure in itself to do such important work for the state, of course.”

“Matriach, the formation of the South Acheron Economic Community is an achievement to be applauded. A multinational organization like the one that’s been established here can only improve the quality of life for the millions who call these surrounding lands home. Jedoria happily considers many of the nations in this area friends, and we like to see our friends successful.”

“The Jedorian Government fully understands the purposes behind the tariffs, however we feel as though their reduction could greatly benefit the economies of the member states, in particular Lazodiria and United Valik, still recovering from the horrors of war. In fact this is another endeavor Jedoria wishes to pursue, rectifying the New Othmani Government. It is the belief of my Government that with the proper guiding hand of the Confederation, New Othman can be steered away from it’s savage past and into the future as a helpful regional member.”

“We are aware that the Adiran Republic has also approached your government concerning trade, and we hope for nothing more than was offered to the Republic. Like Adiron, we hope for nothing more than increased mutually beneficial cooperation between the Confederation and the states that constitute the Economic Community. Would that be acceptable to Her Ascendancy?”

“Jedorian trade would be welcome in wartorn Lazodiria certainly,” Standyr ceded with a polite nod. “And your government’s vocal opposition against resurgent Islamic terrorism in New Othman is to be lauded as well, and has been a recurring threat to Deadoran security from the north for decades. Her Ascendancy recognizes the value in working with Jedoria to contain New Othman. However, not all members of the Community feel the same. Concerns have been brought to this government by the High Queendom of Kurungarra that opening the SES to Jedoria would result in an attempt to flood their markets to the detriment of local industries due to the poor trade relationship your government has with the Shrailleeni. The SAEC was created to protect these developing economies from that sort of exploitation. Could you address these concerns?”

Minovici knew better than to expect an easy ride, and when the Shraileeni were brought up, she was ready with one of her prepared lines. “The High Queendom’s concerns are not surprising however we believe no longer applicable. Much hesitation did exist on the side of the Confederation regarding the Shraileeni and their position in the region, however the conclusion of their internal unrest, as well as recent democratic initiatives in the Home islands have left Jedoria more than satisfied. We would be more than happy to discuss improving trade relations with the Shraileeni, and in fact were hoping to hear from them regarding such a task.:

“And rest assured Matriarch, exploiting the developing economies of south Acheron is no where near our intentions. Mutually beneficial trade has always been the building block of peace and prosperity.”

Standyr had another sip, mulled it along with the ambassador’s words. “That is encouraging to hear. As I’m sure you are aware, the Shrailleeni are Deadora’s oldest ally, truly our Enlightened Sisters. It would please Her Ascendancy greatly were the Confederation to reconcile with the Mother Empress. I will of course advise Her Ascendancy to encourage our gentle sisters to pursue reconciliation themselves.” She smiled disarmingly at the Jedorian ambassador and had another sip before setting her drink down and recrossing her legs.

“The High Queendom’s misgivings are, unfortunately, only one of the hurdles ahead of us. Of greater concern to this government than the Confederacy’s intentions are the intentions of Novitera’s largest and wealthiest multinational firms. The Federation does not temper economics with scruples as do our nations, and with Jedoria’s admittance into the Cornellian Trade Organization there is worry that Noviteran corporations will simply use Jedorian subsidiaries to bypass SAEC regulations, if not buy controlling stakes in Jedorian business outright. Our position is that that cannot be allowed to take place. Would your government be willing to enforce measures to prevent this?”

“An understandable concern, given the tendencies of our northern neighbors. The Confederation would certainly be open to a stipulation that only corporations listed underneath the Confederate Domestic Enterprise Registry would be allowed to conduct business with SAEC nations. Apologies if that sounds like government jargon, it’s just a fancy way of saying companies that are ‘naturalized corporations.’ My government would be more than happy to prevent such proxy based actions.”

“Excellent! It is encouraging to know that not all in the West have exchanged sense for greed. Was there anything else, ambassador? I can have my Office prepare a first draft of the agreement for your government’s review, though we will still need to convince the High Queendom of its benefits. I am confident that the concessions we’ve agreed to here will go a long way to assuaging their concerns.”

“Thank you so much for your time, Matriach. At this point we can only hope for the best. And thank you kindly, but I’m sure you’re a busy woman and I don’t wish to keep you away from work. I’ll see myself out, and please relay my regards to your compatriots both in the Community and your government.”

“Of course, ambassador. It is always a pleasure when our respective government can find cause for cooperation, and may there be many such occasions in the future.”
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Ghant » Sun Mar 06, 2016 12:18 am

“A Secret Wedding”
Roman Legation
Ghish, Ghant

(Co-written with Late Roman Empire)

Valeria, full name Marcia Valeriana Majora (with the young princess her niece being Minora), elder sister of the Roman Emperor Valerian himself, was now quite desperate to conceive, and so she had devised a plan….one that would allow her, in good conscience, to become the bride of Prince Matthias in fact as well as in law. She wanted to marry him….quietly and secretly, prior to their formal wedding. She needed to lose her virginity at last and conceive a son or daughter that would give their union dynastic significance…..another bond of Rome and Ghant…..of Aelii, Ahenobarbi, Gentries, and other worthy families. She didn’t have the luxury of waiting like Aelia Quadrata…..she had to do this and soon.

So, nervously, in the Roman Legation, with the Roman Legate Claudius Proculus as a witness, she waited for the groom, hoping that he agreed to her plan. If he did, the license awaited only his signature to be official and valid. The witnesses were already there….the officiator, Father Lucianus, the Legation’s chaplain, as well. If he wanted a Church of Ghant priest there, too, one could be sent for in a hurry.

Alas, Mathias of Ghant was in no such hurry. He grew tired of the bureaucracy and celebration planning that went into such a high-profile fact, the last time someone this high in the Imperial Family got married was the Emperor to Princess Sophia of Dakmoor, and that was a grand affair indeed. Besides, Mathias was forty-seven, and was already previously married one time...the luster was off, and this time around he took a more business like approach to the whole affair. Hence, he came dressed in his finest clothes and bearing the family cloak, and was escorted by his two nephews, Prince Lucas and Prince Cameron.

They were joined by a contingent of guards, imperial bureaucrats and heralds, for this was still to be witnessed properly as a wedding if Mathias had anything to say about it. They arrived at the Legation right on time, and the guards pushed the doors open, letting the Princes inside. Mathias was neither nervous nor was he anxious...he had been anticipating this event for some time, and all the blessings of the Imperial House were given unto him. Nathan especially seemed pleased, and encouraged his uncle to seal the deal legally posthaste, for Valeria’s biological clock was ticking, and the festivities could always wait until a later ceremony.

“May I present, Prince Mathias of Ghant, joined by Prince Lucas of Ghant, and Prince Cameron of Ghant,” the herald bellowed as he slammed the butt of his staff into the floor three times. With that, Mathias assumed the Romans were aware that they had arrived, and were ready to see to the matters of state that lay before them. Lucas of course kept an eye out for Proculus’s daughters, for he had heard of their beauty, and the boy, like his father and cousin the Emperor, had an...appetite for carnal pleasures, though he himself was unwed.

“Welcome, Your Highness. May I present, Marcia Valeriana Majora, the sister of the Divine Augustus. And this is Father Lucianus Argento, the Legation’s chaplain, who has agreed to perform the wedding mass….a low mass, of course,” Proculus declared.

Mathias bowed courteously to the Romans, before smiling at Valeria. “It would appear as though Divinity isn’t exclusive to your brother,” he told Valeria before taking hand and kissing the back of it. “And a pleasure, Proculus, as always. These are my nephews, Lucas son of my brother Stephen, and Cameron son of my brother Richard.”

Valeria blushed at this...she had been a nun until recently….wasn’t used to being courted like that, but she certainly enjoyed the flattery…..May God and the Blessed Virgin forgive me for that, as I am a woman with a woman’s vices.

“Thank you, domine. You honor me greatly by such kind words. I can tell that you will be a wonderful husband already, as I shall be the best wife that I can be,” Valeria curtsied now and took her place next to Matthias in front of the priest.

“I’d certainly like to be,” he smiled as he stood at the altar, facing the the priest in front of them.

“Let us pray. In nomine Patris, Fili, et Spiritus Sanctus. Dearly beloved, we are blessed, humbled, and honored in the sight of God to witness the nuptials and union of this man and this woman in the lawful and honorable state of holy matrimony, which is an ancient estate, ordained and established by Almighty God in the state of man’s innocence, and therefore not to be entered into inadvisedly, for amusement or diversion, but soberly, reverently, discreetly, advisedly, and in the fear of God. Therefore, if any man or woman shall show just cause why this man and this woman should not be joined together in holy wedlock, let them speak now, or forever hold their peace,” the priest intoned, crossing himself.

“Corpus Christus,” he then offered the Host to the bride and groom, for this was still a mass, if only a low wedding mass.

Valeria naturally knelt to receive the Host and partake of it.

“Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison,” the priest continued, switching from Latin to Greek in this one instance...he now offered the Host to Matthias.

Mathias knelt subsequently, falling to both knees beside Valeria. Then he held out his hands to receive and partake of the Host, as Valeria did previously.

“Sanguinus Christus,” the priest now offered the Cup to the couple, letting them receive of the sacrament, Valeria receiving it with even more delight than usual.

After Valeria received it, Mathias drank from the same cup, receiving it eagerly. Ah, nothing quite as good as communion wine, he thought to himself as he drank.

“Do you, Marcia Valeriana Majora, in the sight of God, of Christ, and of His Saints, take this man, Prince Mathias Licinius Severus Arcadius Gentry, to be your lawfully wedded husband, to live together in the sacrament and estate of matrimony, to have and to hold from this day forward, to love, honor, and obey, for better or for worse, to rich or for poor, in sickness and health, as long as you both shall live?” the priest asked the bride.

“I do take this man to be my lord and husband, in the sight of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church, with all of the love and devotion in my heart, and I swear to be utterly and totally faithful and committed to him for the rest of my days,” Valeria beamed as she answered the chaplain.

“Do you, Prince Mathias Licinius Severus Arcadius Gentry, in the sight of God, of Christ, and of His Saints, take this woman, Marcia Valeriana Majora, to be your lawfully wedded wife, to live together in the sacrament and estate of matrimony, to have and to hold from this day forward, to love, cherish, and protect, for better or for worse, to rich or for poor, in sickness and health, as long as you both shall live?” Father Lucianus now asked Prince Mathias.

Mathias mimicked his soon to be wife. “I do take this woman to be my lady and wife, in the sight of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church, with all of the love and devotion in my heart, and I swear to be utterly and totally faithful and committed to her for the rest of my days.”

Then the priest took the ceremonial cloth and wrapped their wrists together, proclaiming that, “For this cause, a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and the twain shall be one flesh. What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. Let all who witness their union, that of this man and woman, rejoice. By the power vested in me by God, the Divine Augustus, and the Imperial Roman Church, I now pronounce these two man and wife. I present to you His Imperial Highness, Prince Mathias of Ghant, and Her Imperial Highness, Princess Valeria of Ghant. Let the groom now kiss his bride.”

With that, Mathias smiled and leaned forward into his wife, and planted a tender, yet chaste kiss upon her lips. Valeria smiled devilishly for a pious woman and slipped him just a hint of tongue. She had always wanted to do that and now she had the chance. It was the first French kiss that she had ever done in her life.

“Tonight, my mea vita, I shall unleash a caged tigress on you, I warn you,” Valeria warned in a whisper, “I have forty-four years of unsatisfied lust to vent and I hope that you are ready for it.”

“...Just try not to hurt yourself,” Mathias teased her with a wink and a smile as he took satisfaction in his newfound Roman bride.

“Or you, for that matter, my lord,” Valeria said as she waited for him to sign the marriage license.
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Free Garza
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

The King's Dilemmas

Postby Free Garza » Thu Mar 31, 2016 12:33 pm

“It is the recommendation of this committee that the Constitution be amended to abolish Regere Coniugum, on the grounds that it grants unmerited exercise of royal powers and also creates the risk of personal union with other states, in contravention of Article Seven’s ban on personal unions with other nations. It is believed that there is too much of a danger to the free and representative institutions of the Kingdom, particularly in the form of loss of sovereignty and the installation of a monarch who might not share the liberal and democratic values of this constitutional Kingdom. Accordingly, we propose that a plebiscite be held to determine this matter with the consent of three-fourths of the population. This plebiscite should be held within the month, no later than the fifth day of April of this year. This might well be the only hope for saving the Kingdom from possible insurrection and permanent abolition in favor of a republic.”

Diego read this report from the Constitutional Revision Joint-Committee of the Cortes with more than a little displeasure, but he had to admit that there was a conflict between these clauses of the Constitution, due to the unexpected accession of Albert of Ziri as Emperor of Vorindeum….the same Albert who was married to Diego’s aunt, Princess Isabel….the rightful heir until she renounced it for me, Diego recalled. Now that she was married to Albert, however, Diego was torn between still feeling that Isabel would have made a great Queen and fearing that Albert would wrongly influence her in such an awful way that he would wreak havoc on Garza and lead to the downfall of the monarchy. That was a risk that Diego refused to take with his beloved country.

For counsel on this, he turned now to his cousin and guest…..

“...You need to make a betrothal offer to Albert, although I suspect he won’t accept it right away,” Princess Maraja of Ghant cautioned Diego. “He has big plans for the girl you know...she’s a centerpiece of his master plan!”

“I agree. Here, take a look at this and tell me what you think,” Diego presented such a contract to his cousin and asked her to review it with an eye toward convincing Albert. He was more than a little nervous about the whole affair.

Maraja looked it over only after brushing her long black hair out of her face, her blue eyes the color of the sea pouring over the words presented to her. Compared to her Ghantish kin, she dressed far more liberally, in a blue sweater dress that cut off halfway between her knees and feet, with black stockings and boots. “...the problem with this is that if Adela renounces Vorindeum for Garza...she could insist on royal powers and the rightful Queen of Garza.”

“Hence why do I not propose that she renounce those, but rather agree, reluctantly, with what the Committee thinks….with one caveat, that she marry Fernando and thus become Queen Consort at least. It is her due, after all, cousin. This assumes that she marries him, of course, so as to preserve something of her patrimony for herself. I want some part of my aunt’s progeny to remain on the throne somehow, you see, but not at the cost of putting Uncle Albert in control of our nation,” Diego cursed even that idea.

“I suppose what you have to ask is what the will the electorate think,” she said, pursing her lips. “Will they see Adela as Isabel’s daughter or as Albert’s? I suspect that each perception shall carry its own...political implications.”

“That is a distinct problem indeed. I want her for a daughter-in-law and I really want her to have her rightful throne in some way, but how to do this without endangering the realm thanks to her father?” Diego mused aloud.

“...Can I get one of those reubens?” Maraja asked, a bit on the ADHD side. “And I don’t think you long as Albert lives, he will use whatever tools are at his disposal to gain power and influence.”

“Yes, you may, and I was afraid of that, cousin. Poor Adela, a pawn in her father’s games. I love her mother dearly, but her father worries me greatly at times. I wonder if the country would have been better off she had become Queen after all….maybe she wouldn’t have insisted on marrying Albert….but then we wouldn’t have little Adela, and she really is a very sweet child, I believe,” Diego had a staff member bring Maraja a classic Reuben….Nekulturnyan dressing, corned beef, sauerkraut, marble rye bread, and Swiss cheese….pure meaty goodness.

“Do try the Chacoan chips with the artichoke dip….delicious!” The King invited her as well as he lit up a cigarette and sipped some more brandy...having stuffed himself already on his own Reuben.

“Oh, I’m sorry, but my asthma makes smoking hazardous for me to be around,” she fretted. “But yes, Chacoan chips and artichoke dip...consider me tickled!”

“Apologies, dear cousin,” Diego put out the cigarette and reminded himself to increase the nicotine setting on his vape….he really was trying to quit, after all…

Maraja looked around while she scratched her nose. “By the way...Maria’s not very popular in Ghant, especially not in Dakmoor. You might want to give her some tips, for I fear her time as Queen could be a rough one.”

“What is the issue with her, precisely?” Diego inquired, not sure as to what that might be.

“Well, I’ve heard she’s mean, and that the noble girls of Dakmoor are afraid of her,” Maraja answered. “Jealousy, I suppose...but such a vice is a dangerous thing to have in her position.”

“Jealousy, yes….an unfortunate trait that many of the Valdez women tend to have of late. Not Blanca, mind you. Nor Isabel, from what I’ve been told. But Maria and Rosa….that’s a different story. Any specific advice?” Diego asked for counsel.

“Between you and me, I just think she needs to be less possessive of Martin and trust that he won’t betray her,” Maraja explained. “And that other women are not out to steal him. Oh and some tea please, if you have it.”

“Certainly. No brandy, I take it? Or Garzan red wine?” Diego offered, calling for some hot tea, “It would be wiser of her for sure, and I will suggest it, but perhaps she needs therapy, too. My sisters have...issues, but that one more than most. She was the victim of her late grandfather’s….revolting attentions, if you catch my drift….Thankfully, Martin intervened, just in time. She’s been mad for him ever since.”

Thinking about that for a minute, Maraja shook her head. “I don’t think it’s that bad...I just think she needs to learn and adapt. Develop some...finesse, if you catch my drift,” she smiled. “Wouldn’t that do the trick? Anyway, there’s a lot of other stuff going on in the region of great concern, Gloria Regis notwithstanding.”

“Yes, some therapy would help. And I will mention it to her. Remind her that a man of Martin’s quality is too noble to betray his word. That’s the man’s character. I’m not overly fond of Dakmarans in general, but Martin is a stand-up guy. He’s never failed to impress me as being his own man. That’s something that my Uncle Albert will never grasp. Despite talk of blood, I judge every man, in the end, for that man’s own merits. Perhaps that’s what my life has taught me, not sure what you make of it.”

“Oh, I’d agree,” Maraja nodded in agreement. “Though it is said that once Malibar dies, the house will be weakened substantially since Martin is neither ambitious or reaching. He’s a very content sort of man from what I’ve gathered, concerned about keeping his own affairs in order before worrying about what anyone else is doing. You don’t hear much about him, but what you do hear is usually pretty good. That’s a good lord.”

“Well, I shall pass on your counsel, but what of Blanca? I badly need to sort out her situation, too. I know that she still has a crush on the Emperor, but that’s not appropriate for a woman of her rank, not when she could find a husband. He would make a great man for her, if he didn’t already have a wife, and as a Roman Catholic, you know fully well that I cannot condone divorce. Sophia will always be Nathan’s wife in the eyes of God. In fact, I pray that their marriage will thrive, as a marriage is a holy sacrament,” Diego remarked with obvious anxiety over his baby sister’s future.

“There’s a few cousins of ours that are eligible, though I must admit that a widow with a babe greatly diminishes her prospects.” Tapping her chin, she raised an eyebrow and said, “you could always offer her to the Antzigas of Thule. It is said that they like their women a bit...broken in.”

“I would think that her proven fertility and ties to the great Perrin would help, but to each his own. She’s not an old widow, only 21 years of age. Very young as widows go, if you think of it. But no to the Antzigas, no offense. They’re not Christian. Her husband must be at least Christian, though not necessarily Catholic. It would be a major family rift if I let one of my sisters wed a pagan. I’m sure that they’re nice pagans, mind you, but paganism is a dealbreaker, you understand, I hope. I am a Christian king and I have a duty to keep my household Christian,” Diego frowned a bit, because this was a grave matter to him.

“So a cousin then,” Maraja suggested. “A distant one, so it’s not too close. Maybe Prince Gaelen...he could work, eh? Sure he’s a bit flatulent, but he’s nice...”

“Which cousin is this? Why does he fart so much? Why haven’t I heard of him before?” Diego was a bit leery.

“He’s a third cousin,” Maraja pointed out. ‘Or something like that. You’d like him...he collects antique ship models.”

“He would need to be Christian. And do something about the flatulence. My sister shouldn’t have to deal with that. She’s the daughter of Princess Catalina, granddaughter of King Alfonso VI and Queen Bessandra of Garza. She’s proper royalty, in the line of succession and all that jazz. You can’t go farting on a woman like that. Smoking, sure. But farting is unacceptable,” Diego noted with a grimace.

Maraja closed her eyes as she tried to recall Gaelen. “He’s a Christian of course, and for all I know it’s not so bad anymore...the gassy business. Besides, other options are sorely lacking...unless…” Maraja thought some more, and then she had a brainblast. “Why not send her to Dakmoor instead? There’s plenty of rich, ancient and powerful lords there that would be chomping at the bit to marry the sister of the future Queen of Dakmoor. She’d be close to Maria too. Maybe that doesn’t sound like such a bad idea?”

“Well, I prefer that her husband be royal, but I will consider it, of course. Perrin wasn’t technically royal, even if he was related to the Obeds. Rosa, sadly, married beneath her rank, though Raymond is a nice enough fellow and has royal blood in him, or imperial, really. I might entertain some additional options. In Ghant, however, my choices for her are limited by the desire to avoid consanguinity. Bear in mind that I do want her feelings considered, but as head of the family, I must act in her best interests, too,” Diego reacted to the extraordinary proposition of a mere lord with his sister.

Looking around a bit, Maraja leaned in closer to Diego and spoke softly. “There is of course, another option. Let her travel to Ghish, and if she so desires, let her take up with the Emperor. This...could be good for the family. I know you don’t like the rotten influences that these other women bring to court. Imagine the good that could come from Blanca there. Should she bear additional children by him, he would grant them the highest ranks. House Valdez could do worse,” she shrugged as she pulled away. “Playing devil’s advocate of grandmother told me once that those who would presume to rule must consider all options, pleasant or otherwise.”

“I am not keen on the idea of my sister being a common mistress. I think that you can understand why. She’s of royal blood. Royal women her age are still young enough to have legitimate children. Anyway, I will look into those ideas and I thank you for your time. We should talk again in the future. Was there anything else?” Diego frowned suddenly at the repetition of the idea of Blanca as a mistress.

Sure, he had a mistress, but she was lowborn, so it was a boon to Sandra Velasco to be his mistress. As always, it came down to class and rank. No matter how modern Diego might be in some ways, he still believed in the social order, at least in some ways. He just tried to find the best way to preserve what he could of it.

“No, not a mistress,” Maraja clarified. “An Ohaide...a lesser wife. Legitimate children, could even become Emperor, you see. That’s the difference.” Getting up, Maraja straightened out her dress and answered his question. “There was nothing else, no. Thank you for seeing me Diego, and thanks for lunch. I agree too, that we should speak again in the future.”
Viva La Garza!

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Founded: Feb 11, 2013
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Ghant » Mon May 16, 2016 6:21 pm

Northern Cousins, Southward Bound
(Co-written with Demphor)

”Th' bastards! Th' insolent bastards! Tae hell wi' tham, a' o’ th’ Gentrys!”
~ Eric I, King of Demphor, Élbannin and Duís (1993-2010)

Thérordøn Palace,
Ormania, Demphor

“House Gentry comes frae Ghish, at th' mouth o' th' river Gish in th' lands o' Gahen, which th' family possessed frae at least 750 BCE tae th' 9th Century, 'n' fae 912 onwards. Rabbie Gentry 'n' his pals united Gahen, Gotorleku, Langael, Nathia 'n' Onia inta a single state known as th' Kingdom o' Ghant, wi' Rabbie as tis foremaist King. Nathan I o' Ghant was crowned as "Emperor o' Ghant," 'n' became th' sovereign o' th' entire continent. Annabelle, tis like th' Gentrys looked around at whit thay got, felt good 'n' gave themselves a pat on th' back 'n' crowned themselves emperors. How funny is that?”

Queen Annabelle rolled her eyes, “‘Rabbie,’ if you’re really planning on having your cousin Nathan hating you, putting on that stupid stereotypical Demphorian accent is really going to do it.”

Robert smiled and shrugged, “Well, tis not entirely fake.”

Annabelle left the room briefly while Robert put his uniform on. A dark navy blue uniform adorned with medals of the several prominent and prestigious Demphorian orders. He placed the sash of his great-grandfather, John VI, over the uniform.

Annabelle returned, “I must say, you do look great in uniform.”

Robert walked over and embraced her. She returned the gesture, and he kissed her on the forehead, “I hate that ye had tae leave t’day. It'd be easier to do this wi' you 'ere.“

Annabelle smiled, “Well, it won’t be so bad, you’ll have Prince William and Prince John there.”

Robert chuckled as he said jokingly, “It worries me that you’d assume that's a good thing.”

Annabelle laughed, “As long as you’re not wearing those kilts for Nathan, I’ll be okay.”

Robert grinned, “I’m nae sportin’ one, I can’t speak for William or John though.”

“Oh, good,” said Annabelle, “just go ahead and fulfill all the stereotypes.”

Robert smiled again, “Go back tae Deweden ‘n’ run your country, Queen Annabelle.”

In the Air

“...You know, I never understood why exactly they have such problems with us,” the Emperor of Ghant told his cousin Cassandra on the private jet flying from Ghish to Ormania. Compared to other flights, this one was relatively short, which was rather pleasant. He had a hard time relaxing on flights like that, but fortunately, Cassandra knew all the right buttons to press. She always does, dear sweet Cassie.

Nathan laid naked face-down on the bed in his cabin, which was a rather comfortable accommodation fit for a traveling head of state. Sitting on top of his ass was Cassandra, with her long brown hair wild and loose, and wearing a white one-piece bedgown...and that was it. In her hands she had massage oil, and leaned forward as she worked her deft fingers into the muscles of his neck, shoulders and back. It certainly was a worthy substitute for alcohol and painkillers, which were his usual go to for relieving the anxiety of flying.

“Family dynamics,” Cassandra explained in a soft tone as she massaged him. “Between great-grandmother and Black Betty, the pooch really got screwed.”

“Great-grandmother was a good woman,” the Emperor countered, referring to Empress Sarah of Ghant, nee Princess of Demphor and formerly the Princess of Cumberland. “She didn’t personally do anything to cause damage to Ghanto-Demphoran relations.”

“Aye, that’s true...but what she did do was add a degree of closeness to the two families that resulted in things becoming personal that decisions made on politics and business were seen as insults,” she responded as she dug her hands into his neck. “Once things become too personal, than anything that can be construed as a slight, will be seen as one.”

Nathan sighed, though he was far from troubled, with his head laying sideways on a pillow with his eyes closed. “Although it’s nice to see Demphor back in the fold of monarchy, I never stopped to ask myself what it would be like once it was restored. I had assumed things would be good, but alas they are not. There’s much work to be done in order to bridge the gap...although it isn’t like I haven’t tried. You know I tried to set you up with Robert, but he just wouldn’t take.”

“For the better I say,” Cassandra responded with something between a snort and a chuckle. “Although being Queen would have been nice, I can’t say I’ve lost any sleep at night. Besides, you never know...something better just might come along, eh?” A smack on his back, and Cassandra exclaimed, “stop squirming!”

That made the Emperor’s eyes shoot open and he raised his eyebrows. “Aren’t you being especially thorough?” he asked teasingly as he flipped onto his back. “Just as long as we are ready by the time we begin our descent.”

“...You could say that,” she teased him back as she began to rub more massage oil on his back, while shifting her weight to get herself more comfortable. “...Oh and don’t worry, there’s plenty of time.” Might as well be all the time in the world…

Thérordøn Palace,
Ormania, Demphor

“Your Majesty & Royal Highness Robert I, King of the Demphorians, of the Élbanese and the Duís. King consort of the Dewedish and Lord Protector of the Realm by the Grace of God, this court is presented His Majesty Nathan IV, Emperor of Ghant and Her Highness Cassandra, Princess of Ghant.”

The Ghantish herald did his own traditional introduction, slamming the butt of his staff into the floor, and shouting, “May I present His Majesty Nathan IV, Emperor of Ghant, High King of the Ghantar, King of Gholghant, King of Low Ghant, Lord of Ghish, Lord of Gholgoth and Protector of the Realm, joined by Her Highness Cassandra, Princess of Ghant.”

The court rose, as both of the Ghantish royals and their entourage entered the Great Hall of the Palace. The hall, also known as the Long Hall, had twelve tapestries, six on each side, depicting twelve Kings of Demphor from Théoden to Benjamin. The ceiling above was white, with the coat of arms of the House of Thérordøn located in the center of the hall.

Robert stood from his throne and walked down the steps of the Long Hall, down to the center. He was flanked by William, Prince of the Dûm, his assumed successor, and John, Prince of the Cumberland. The six of them stopped in the center, above them the coat of arms. Robert, William and John gave a slight bow in gesture of respect to the Ghantish.

“Greetings, Your Majesty. Welcome my cousins,” said King Robert.

The Emperor was dressed in his finest court regalia, an outfit somewhere between a court uniform and a robe, of black, white and gold, while Cassandra wore a flowing golden gown with an elaborate frilly gold and white skirt. “Thank you,” Nathan said with a bow, while Cassandra echoed that as she curtsied deeply. Their men stood sentinel beside and behind them. Neither Nathan nor Cassandra could speak Demphorian, so rather they spoke in Latin, hoping that Robert knew that at least.

“...I like what you’ve done with the place,” Nathan addressed Robert in Latin. It has quite a homey feeling to it. Here I was thinking that the monarchy would never be restored...I am glad it was, eventually.” Looking around, he observed the tapestries hanging from the walls.

Cassandra observed them too. “...I notice there are only twelve kings of Demphor depicted on the walls...where are the rest?”

“...Perhaps these were the only kings worth a damn,” Nathan joked. “Which is saying a lot, given that there have been thirty-nine kings.”

John grew annoyed by the comment and glanced at Robert to see what he would do.

“A, thâsin”, muttered Prince William. The translator that they had hired for the evening walked forward to interpret what was said in Demphorian.

“No, no. Don’t translate that,” said King Robert, holding his hand out to the translator. “Please, you must be famished fae th' journey, we invite you tae dine wi' us.”

“Quite so, Robert, thank you for the invitation. We would be honored to join you for dinner this evening,” Nathan grinned, eager to check out the local wares.

“Right this way then,” said Robert, gesturing towards the Second Hall where there would be a feast and dancing. The Ghantish Royals were led to the Second Hall with the King and the Princes behind them. Prince John leaned next to Robert and whispered in his ear.

“Why the hell are they speaking Latin?”

Robert nudged him and whispered back sarcastically, “It's sae insulting tae us isn’t it, th' fact they speak their ain language no?”

The Prince grinned and conceded to the point. The group entered the Second Hall where there were located several small round tables for nobles, guests of honor and of course, the royals. It was the biggest display of aristocratic ways long abandoned since the 90’s, since, well, King Benjamin.

The Royals sat down together, with food and wine beginning to arrive.

“I assume that Empress Sophia is wi’ your children, Emperor? I hope she is faring well.”

“Precisely, especially given that the new one is less than two months old,” Nathan spoke of the Empress. “And Annabelle? I take it she’s in Deweden?”

“Excellent, good to hear. The Queen had to return to Deweden this morning, but she sends you all her best and wishes you all well.”

Nathan nodded, finding that to be of little surprise. “Understandable. You will have to pass along my thanks, regards and well wishes to her the next time you speak to her.”

[cue scene with dancing and music, cut to returning to table, we’ll type a transition later]

“Princess Cassandra,” said King Robert, “I present to you this document.”

He reached for a scroll and unfurled it. Cassandra seemed confused, although she was mostly surprised and caught off guard at the notion of being presented a the form of a scroll. With a raised eyebrow, she looked to Nathan to see what was happening. Yet Nathan was unaware as well as to Robert’s plans, and merely shrugged.

“In reference to the Royal Laws of this nation, which authorizes the formation of titles and the granting of lands and estates to those worthy, the task of which is is bestowed to His Majesty, Robert I, King of Demphor.”

“The King hereby seeks to make known that proper recommendations have been made to the Royal Court and have been approved to bestow the honor of Princess of Cumberland to Cassandra, Princess of Ghant.”

Robert handed the scroll to Cassandra. She opened her mouth to say something, before Robert cut her off.

“My sister once held this title. It is only fitting and proper for her legacy and for yours as well that you accept this, Princess Cassandra.”

Prince John muttered to Prince William, “Well, it’s not like you can refuse the title anyways.”

Cassandra narrowed her eyes, as she turned her head to look at Robert with a blank stare. “Our great-grandmother Sarah was the Princess of Cumberland. Much has been written about the position and what it entails.” Then she turned to Nathan and spoke very softly into his ear, in Ghantish. “...Robert would name me Princess of Cumberland than any of Annabelle’s female kin, just so there’s more warm bodies between you and the throne of Demphor.”

“...I’d never get it anyway,” Nathan replied in an equally quiet voice. “Even if somehow Robert, Annabelle, her sisters and immediate kin failed, they’d find a way to avoid a personal union. You should accept it...the title is prestigious and it’s not like you’d ever be Queen anyway. I want relations between these nations restored, and this is one thing we can do to restore them. So take it, and be happy for it...think of it as a consolation prize from Robert for not marrying you.”

“Fine.” Cassandra looked back to Robert as she stiffened her back and pursed her lips. “I accept, your is an honor to carry on the legacy of my great-grandmother, and your sister.”

Nathan proposed a toast, raising his glass of wine into the air. “To the Princess of Cumberland,” he said gingerly. Others joined in, and all the while Cassandra feigned feeling honored. She raised her glass too, and put on her best socially appropriate smile. I suppose that I will just have to find a way to make due, Cassandra pondered quietly as she played along. After all, another title certainly couldn’t hurt my position…or my influence...
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Founded: Aug 31, 2012

Postby Hostillia » Thu Jul 07, 2016 10:18 pm

"The Empress and the Eunuch"

Don't Cry Over Spilled Soup

The Forbidden Palace
Shengjing, the Divine Empire

The Phoenix Residency was a massive complex of over five hundred separate buildings sitting comfortably in the northwest corner of the Forbidden Palace. All of the many buildings were all connected by what seemed to be an unending network of courtyards and covered pathways. Each courtyard was different and yet also painfully familiar- they all held maybe a fountain, or perhaps a garden (though some of these gardens actually produced food and not only fragrant flowers), a small pond or pool, a stone garden, and so on and so forth. They were all beautiful, they were all scenic, and they were all more or less the same. There could be no doubt, the Phoenix Residency was the nicest, most beautiful prison in all the world. The green of the gardens contrasted sharply against the bold red paint of the buildings, massive pillars of the proud color seemed to dominate the network of structures, curved roofs made of black tiles interlaced with red so that if one climbed to the top of the mountain and overlooked the Palace, they could see a phoenix depicted from the rooftops. The Residency was surrounded by a tall wall which separated it from the rest of the Palace and was patrolled at all hours of the day and night either by the Dragon Guard or the Eunuch Guard. But the population of the prison was shockingly tiny- despite having so many buildings there were only a few score guards, about a dozen servants, and one prisoner- Tai Zhen, the Empress herself.

These days the Empress rarely left her sleeping quarters except when ordered to attend the Son of Heaven. For weeks none in the Forbidden Palace would catch even a glimpse of their illusive Princess turned Empress. Not that anyone questioned her frequent disappearances- after all, she was pregnant with the child of the Emperor, perhaps by avoiding public she could also slip the memories of the demons who would love nothing more than to strike the child of the Imperial Deity while it was yet in the womb. Especially as the Emperor had already divined that the child was to be a son.

The interior of the Empress’s private chambers shared a common theme- the color red. It seemed everything was red, the furniture, the curtains, even the tiles on the ground (which were heated a complicated ancient plumbing system of underground hot springs) were all red in color. The bedroom was especially large- able to accommodate a hundred guests if it was required, in the center was a massive bed frame with, naturally, red curtains draped from it allowing the Empress more or less privacy as she required. There was also several exits, some leading to beautiful gardens where the Empress could sit and enjoy the sun and fresh air, another leading to a private bath where warmed water flowed constantly in an open air area concealed from the rest of the room, another exit led to a small temple where the Empress could pray. All these entrances, along with the many windows which were high up towards the ceiling provided plenty of natural light during the day or even during particularly bright nights. However, despite having access to these various places so nearby, Zhen had hardly moved from her large bed in nearly a week, and on the few times she had risen, she’d done so only to pace the room, or sit somewhere else.

She cast a glance over to the corner of the room, bouquet after bouquet sat there patiently waiting for her attention. Even from here she could tell they were mostly jasmine flowers, one of her favorites. In the deepest reaches of her memory, she could remember playing in the gardens as a little girl- picking the sweet smelling flowers when the eunuchs weren’t watching and hiding them in her bed at night to clench tight to her chest and smell. She had given a bouquet to each of her sweet sisters when they left the Palace to live with her brothers, a parting gift from her. In fact, some of the eunuchs had taken to calling her Moli, jasmine, due to her antics. When Kou had learned this, he had presented her an entire vase full of the flowers, the vase still sat over in the corner with all the other gifts. Kou. Despite all the good memories revolving around the plant, she didn’t have the energy to go over to them. It seemed that no matter how much she slept, and she had slept enormous amounts in the past few months, it was never enough to give her any energy. It seemed today, as had become common, she had not even the energy necessary to smile at the fond memories. But, on the other hand, she didn’t have the energy to weep either.

No, instead she had just lay there. Hours turned into days turned into weeks. It didn’t matter. She couldn’t even recall how long ago it had been that the Emperor divined she carried a son in her. Her fingers traced around the large bulge of her stomach, feeling the tightness. Sometimes the baby would kick, reminding her that she was alive. The flowers had begun to decay and rot some time ago but she hadn’t permitted them be taken away. She was supposed to read the cards and blessings. It was an obligation to be carried out before you tossed the gift. One of these days she’d have the energy to do it.

At least she rarely had to do anything that required her to move very far from the bed. Even the Emperor had returned to visiting some of his favorite concubines on a more frequent basis, proving that his words shortly after their wedding- her alone and no others, had been a lie. Or maybe just a promise that was too hard to keep. Zhen didn’t care. Couldn’t care. She probably should have pitied the women the Emperor molested so often, everyone said that they were honored to be a concubine but Zhen knew the truth- similar words had left her own lips not that very long ago. She was altogether thrilled to be Empress. A life’s ambition finally fulfilled. Everything was alright, better, everything was good! All the other lies tradition demanded of her. There was no such thing as a happy prisoner.

The heavy door which acted as the main entrance into her chambers was pulled open, the door was such that it required the effort of two men to pull the large doors open from the outside, a protective measure for the unlikely event that an enemy ever actually reached the Forbidden Palace. In the event of a fire there were numerous concealed entrances and exits to the Residency, however, all of those had been sealed some time ago. Zhen didn’t bother to see who had come to visit with her, satisfied to continue laying in the bed, her eyes gazing unseeingly at the wall- so far away it was. Why did anyone need such a grand space? It didn’t matter. Despite caring little for the approaching individual, she heard the soft pitter patter of feet rather than the hard thuds of boots, the lack of an announcement suggested that it wasn’t a messenger either. A serving girl then.

Certainly enough, no sooner had Zhen deduced the identity of the intruder that the girl appeared within her vision, a small obstacle blocking the abyss she stared into. Zhen said nothing to her, nor did she change her gaze, the deep brown of her eyes seemed to bore right through the child servant before her. Looking on into infinity. Her face blank, her mind empty. The servant girl seemed intimidated, practically collapsing into what Zhen presumed was a low bow or perhaps a kowtow, though she didn’t move her eyes to follow the figure as the girl fell out of her sight. She had hardly even processed the girl’s presence at all.

“Empress,” the voice pierced the room’s thick silence which had rested comfortably undisturbed for what seemed like an eternity to Zhen. She didn’t make any effort to answer the girl, she wasn’t even entirely sure that she had heard her. It was a delicate line for the servants to walk; ensuring they were heard while avoiding the fury of their monarchs. “Empress,” the girl’s voice came again. It was sweet and soft and innocent. Zhen wondered for a moment if the girl was taken from a noble family or a peasant one, ironically, both classes mixed and mingled more in the Forbidden Palace than they ever could outside of it. “Empress, I am sorry to disturb you…” she waited to see if she could entice a response. Zhen was silent. “It has been nearly three days since you last requested anything but water… surely…” she realized that it was wrong to presume something of a monarch and apologized- ah, a peasant. “This servant fears that even an Empress would hunger after such a fast.” With the sentence spoken, the Empress permitted the silence to return, sweeping back over the room and challenging the girl to break it a second time. But the servant was bold. “If you have no requests, Most Divine Majesty, I have been instructed to bring you water and baozi.” With that the girl began to rise and retreat from the room, she was nearly gone when Zhen lost the battle.

“Soup.” She could hear the girl falling to the ground in a bow, it was surprising she had even heard the word croaked out by the Empress, her voice was rough and scratchy from disuse.

“Of course Empress,” the girl responded swiftly, it was clear from her voice that she was happy she had gotten anything out of the melancholy monarch, “do you have a preference as to the kind?” She waited for an answer that would never come, and when she realized the Empress had said her last she hurried out of the room, the doors being closed and latched behind her, to have the soup prepared.

Kou Lin had adjusted well to his new position, even if it was an odd career change to make at his age. Although he wasn’t yet an old man, he had spent his entire adult life working as a glorified paper pusher for Bao Song’s private army. A native to the area around Shengjing, it had only made sense to continue his family’s long history of serving in the local military where their name carried some weight. But while his brother, Kou Fang, had been excellent in every way, Lin had always lagged behind. Fang was the very epitome of handsome, and while Lin was not homely and even in spite of sharing his brother’s sharp angular features, he carried them poorly and it made for an average look in the face. This wasn’t helped by the fact that while Fang had always been built like a statue- idealistic and hard as stone, Lin had put on a few pounds here and there as a result of his desk work. Both boys went far in the armed forces, just in opposite directions. Fang had advanced up the ranks rapidly due to field promotions and incredible bravery, he’d eventually been assigned to Bao Song’s personal protection squad and from there it was only a matter of time before he was elevated to the Dragon Guard, the most prestigious group of soldiers in all the country. Lin, meanwhile, had also advanced though more for his brain than his brawn. An efficient organizer, he eventually found himself more or less in charge of the entire logistical operations of Bao’s army, and after unification had been transferred to the Imperial Army. The position came with a nice uniform and a respectable salary, plenty good enough for Lin even if not as glamorous as Fang’s job.

But then Fang had died. It sent a terrible shock through the whole family, but the pain was deepest for Lin. He had loved his brother, more than life itself- they’d been together for so long, relying on one another, fighting with one another. An older brother should never have to bury his junior. It had been his job to protect Fang, no matter that Fang had been an adult, and regardless of the fact that Fang had been a far better fighter than Lin could ever hope to be. Fang was the little brother. Despite being less famous than his brother, Lin’s life had practically been a chain of unbroken successes, except the one time it mattered. He kept a shrine to Fang in his home, and prayed at it every morning, hopefully his brother was smiling on him from the afterlife.

It was strange, hurtful even, when Fang’s death had precipitated Lin’s raise in status. After his brother died, Lin was transferred from the logistics department to the Dragon Guard, and what’s more, he’d been assigned the rank of his late brother. He was now a Junior Commander. It came with a much nicer uniform, a much larger salary, and the pain of being constantly reminded of his brother. The men had thought the transfer strange, but out of respect for the Kou Family they accepted it, and while Lin was not an exact match for the culture of the Guard, he had earned their respect in his own right as well as being the inheritor of his brother’s legacy. Lin would never match Fang’s popularity with the Guard, but he had already nearly met him in terms of their respect.

Lin could still recall the awkward meeting he had with Bao Song, the Heavenly Commander, preceding the transfer. It made no sense, he had argued, the last thing Lin wanted was to be seen exploiting his brother’s untimely, and mysterious, death. But Bao had insisted, it was an order not an offer. The Heavenly Commander explained that it wasn’t his desire, but rather that of the newly enthroned Empress and, after all, who were they to question an Empress. Tai Zhen. Lin wasn’t very far from the Phoenix Residency, he realized, adjusting his course to visit the Empress. To Lin, she was a great enigma- Fang had always spoken so brightly of her “the most brilliant girl in the world” or “the morning star who resides in Shengjing” or even “there exists no flower in all the world that is more beautiful, fragrant, or lovely than Tai Zhen”. She was nothing like that in Lin’s experience. She was dark and brooding, quiet or aloof. But he found himself caring for the girl deeply- she had been his brother’s special charge and apparently good friend, they shared the connection and the loss. The fact that she reminded him a great deal of his daughter, Shan, only served to further endear her to him. He just wished she would smile once in a while.

“Good afternoon,” Lin said politely to the two Dragon Guard stationed at the entry to the Phoenix Residency Complex, they stiffened and dropped to a bow as he passed, returning no words as was their custom. They’d always been less formal and more social in logistics, the ranks mixing and mingling with some degree of freedom which was entirely absent in the Dragon Guard. Though he had earned the respect and admiration of the younger, lower ranking members for remembering their names and generally treating them as people rather than soldiers merely. He made his way through the various courtyards and hallways and covered pathways that connected the large complex together, it had taken him this long just to be able to do that- he still got lost in the Dragon Residency Complex. How any of these people kept everything straight he was certain he’d never understand. He arrived at the heavy door which currently acted as the only entrance or exit to the Empress’s private chambers, the two Dragon Guard there bowed low and the serving girl fell to her knees and lowered her head. “At ease soldiers,” he glanced down at the girl, “and you too.” She was surprised but still lifted her head up just a touch, not nearly enough to make eye contact. “How is the Empress feeling today?”

“Commander,” the girl offered politely, despite being the lowest ranking person in the room, she was also the only one who had actually seen the Empress today and thus the soldiers had silently consented to her speaking in response to the Junior Commander- even in silence seniority was powerful. “This servant believes the Most Divine Empress is feeling quite well. She even requested a meal just a few moments ago.”

“Really?” He was unsuccessful at masking the surprise in his voice, despite the fact that being taken off guard by anything was considered unseemly for an officer, especially of the Dragon Guard. Still, the Empress eating again? That was a major change of recent events. Maybe that girl his brother so often mentioned to him would manifest after all. He nodded approvingly, “that is very much welcomed news,” he said as he began to turn and walk away, he only made it a few steps before turning back, “out of curiosity, what was it that the Empress finally found an appetite for?”

“Soup, Commander.”

“Soup,” he supposed it was true, soup cured all aliments, even those surrounding pregnancy- but after a moment, realization dawned on him, “soup isn’t on the list of approv…” he whispered it more to himself than to anyone, “open the doors. Now!” The guards struggled to pull the heavy doors open and the Junior Commander offered a glare to the serving girl- she had been told not to bring the Empress anything that wasn’t on the list of foodstuffs he had personally approved of. “Damn it, hurry up men,” he said briskly, sucking in his gut and forcing himself through the small crack made by the only partially opened door. He placed his hand on his sword to keep it from thwacking against him as he sprinted into the room, his armor clanking and clacking as he moved.

In the center of the room, leaning just a little way over the bed was the Empress, Tai Zhen. Her hair was matted and tangled, a result of it not having been brushed in some time, her white silk sleeping gown was terribly wrinkled from her refusing to change it or bathe. All she did was sit in her room and, when the opportunity arose, harm herself. Unfortunately, the Empress was far more creative in coming up with ways to do herself harm than the Commander was at banning things to prevent her from success. Before him she lay, he could hear her small gasps, see how she clenched the covers of the bed with her right hand, and then he saw. Her left hand was completely submerged in the still near boiling bowel of soup. Without thinking he dove onto the bed and pulled her backwards away from the bowel, as she fell backwards into him she flailed and struck him, her hand flinging the hot liquid in his face, but he ignored it and held her until she stopped struggling which didn’t take especially long.

“I’m sorry Empress,” he said after she had calmed down, just now realizing that he had not only gotten into bed with the Empress but pulled her on top of himself, but his intentions were clearly noble enough and there were witnesses to testify to that fact. “Get that thing out of here,” he bellowed at the serving girl who had frozen in shock at the commotion, “now!” She grabbed the soup and ran off out of the room, spilling some across the tiles as she went. With the object of her self-inflicted torment taken away, Zhen fell limp, feeling like a rag doll in his strong arms.

He was panting, tired from the run, his heart still thumping in his chest from the excitement. He could smell her now, and Ancestors how she stank. He didn’t have it in him to force the girl to bathe, and truth be told he was always a little worried about what she might do if her forced her into the water. Especially if this was an indication of her state of mind. He moved her off of himself and stood, looking down into her unseeing eyes. She was beautiful. Just like Fang had described. Her face was mostly round though it slanted towards an ever so slight point at her chin. Her lips were larger than most Han women, but her mouth was still small and the small space between them made them very inviting as she breathed steadily. No, mustn’t think that way, no good can come from it. He pushed the thoughts back down. She had ever so slightly prominent cheekbones which served to amplify her eyes, large and dark brown. Fang had always said that there was an unbreakable innocence and a passion for life in those eyes. It was the only description he’d given that Lin couldn’t agree with. There was nothing in those eyes. It was like staring into the eyes of a corpse. No feeling, no consciousness, and maybe even no soul.

“Let me see your hand Empress,” she made no motion to move and so he grabbed the injured arm to exam her hand, wincing as he looked at it. Zhen’s skin was generally pale, like virginal snow, but this her left hand was too light, she had destroyed the skin on the hand, what wasn’t deathly pale white was either painted in long pink stripes or small red dots. He rotated it to for a closer examination- he couldn’t understand how anyone could do this to themselves. The skin that was left was shiny, reflecting the sunlight coming in from the high windows. He sighed deeply, “get a doctor in here immediately,” he ordered roughly to the guard posted at the door- the sound of boots slamming into the tiles was evidence that his order was being carried out. How do you protect someone whose only threat is themselves? He sighed deeply, looking into those dead, brown, eyes of hers. “I don’t understand it Majesty, why do this to yourself.”

“I don’t know,” she mumbled, he was shocked she had responded at all. There was a heaviness in her voice, as if she was carrying all the burdens in the world all by herself. A sadness as great as creation itself. Those three words shook him, even though they were practically whispered. There was great meaning behind simple things.

“Majesty,” he said softly, trying to coax her out of her shell a little more, maybe this incident could be a catalyst for some improvement, “what’s wrong. What causes you to do this to yourself?” His questions were gentle, she sounded just like she did every time he caught her coming up with a new way to hurt herself- so incredibly forlorn, hopeless. It was the only time she seemed to have any feeling in her at all. “What makes you do this?” It was a stupid question, one that he couldn’t honestly even expect her to answer, but he had always been good with numbers, not with words. And so he just kept repeating the same question, like an idiot. But she turned to him, looking directly into his eyes. She was beautiful. In the same way a tree is beautiful before it losses its last leaf to the winter chill.

“I’m so sorry.”

She turned away from him and said no more. Even as she spoke, he could see in her eyes that she didn’t mean the words she had offered him, there was no remorse in her, there was no nothing in her. No. There was something there, he realized. A nuance that was hard to notice, but he had worked with her long enough that he had grown accustomed to the peculiarities of the Empress. She didn’t mean the words she had said, but Ancestors, she wished she did.
"A book is never a masterpiece: it becomes one. Genius is the talent of a dead man." - Carl Sandburg

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Founded: Aug 31, 2012

Postby Hostillia » Thu Jul 14, 2016 7:10 am

"The Empress and the Eunuch"

You're Never Too Young

Sheng Xia City,
Tiandi, Hostillia

What had gone wrong? When Fei woke up everything had been decent enough. The Eunuch Underground was not exactly the most cheerful place in the capital of the Middle Kingdom but it was certainly comfortable. He had spent the evening sleeping easily on a large mattress stuffed with peacock feathers and the warmth of the fire’s glow not very far away. He had slept uninterrupted through the night, which was itself a good indication of a pleasant day ahead as normally he would be woken up to take on the fire shift and ensure the room maintained its comfortable temperature for everyone else asleep in the communal dormitory he had been assigned to. After waking up, he’d gone to have breakfast with his dear friends Ling An and Shun Lim, the great Observer himself. Breakfast had gone pleasantly enough aside from a few times when they discussed matters of business at the table, generally it was rude but the days were growing busier and busier as they prepared to celebrate the Princess’s second cycle- or Empress now. Sometimes that little detail slipped his mind.

After breakfast he’d gone and woke the Son of Heaven, the Deity in the flesh. That was simple enough. Even the Emperor had been in high spirits of late, counting down the days until the child he had divined to be a son was scheduled to be born. Fei wasn’t certain if the Son of Heaven was looking more forward to having a new son or having the ability to fornicate with His sister more. Having been assigned to the Emperor for some time now, he had been present on those nights when the Emperor elected to summon His new, though certainly not uncontroversial, Empress to His chambers. He was a wild thing. Certainly more vigorous with the new Empress than He had ever been with the old, He even seemed to prefer the Empress over younger, in Fei’s opinion, prettier alternatives and concubines. Though this morning it was clear the Lord of Ten Thousand Years had spent the night re-instilling the virginity of His new favorite stand in.

Fei couldn’t remember her name, honestly, concubines were generally all a blur to him. There was no point in obsessing over things you couldn’t have after all. But this one struck him. Not only because of how much the Emperor summoned her, but also because of those terrible, striking blue eyes of hers. The high voice. The way she seemed to take everything so calmly. It was altogether abnormal. Some of the eunuchs had taken to calling her the Hujing- the Fox Spirit for her unusual hold over the Emperor and her spellbinding blue eyes. Fortunately, all of her energy seemed to be on convincing the Emperor to spend more time with her, not maliciously undermining the designs of the grand Observer, and so she was left unmolested. Besides, it was clear even to casual observers that the love His Majesty bore for Her Majesty far outweighed any other love He could ever possess. Since the Empress was no threat to anyone in her current state, there was no danger here. For once.

Fei had artfully found a way to mention that before he had become a eunuch, he was raised in a village that was devoted for caring for noble women during their pregnancies. It was a lie of course, but it was a convincing one. Not that it had needed to be. No sooner had he mentioned the little falsehood than the Emperor immediately ordered that he leave His service at once and begin carrying for the Empress who was with child. Fei had kowtowed and agreed that he would begin serving the woman the very next day. Truthfully, it was all a masterstroke of genius orchestrated by Shun Lim. Despite the fact that Fei found the not-man frightening at least as often as he found him friendly, one could not but admire Lim’s ability to plot. Who said all the world was a stage? Not for Lim. For the Observer, all the world was a chessboard, and Lim was a master of the game.

With everything taken care of, Fei had made the short trip down the mountain into the city at the base of the capital, Sheng Xia. He had found his way without incident to Dr. Mu’s residence, Mu was an old friend of Lim’s and, to a lesser extent, of Fei’s also. They had discussed the weather, Dr. Mu’s new granddaughter who was sure to be arriving any day now, how unfortunate it was for both of them that the Viceroy had started refusing Mu’s elixir out of some new found religion. Fei had inquired asking if Mu had thought to change some ingredients around and tell Tu he had created an entirely new recipe. Mu hadn’t and Fei made it a point to remember to tell the Observer about the incident. Maybe he could be promoted if he had a hand in causing the Viceroy to return to his ironically fatal elixir of longevity. And after a few hours of conversation and a single large payment, the Dr. had given Fei a simple bag of herbs that had been specifically, and secretly, prepared just for his arrival. The two had agreed they simply must get together more often and then Fei had gone about his business. Another task for the day accomplished.

Where then, had his day taken such a terrible turn? Oh yes, that was when! His recollection was still rather foggy, but he could remember now. He had been passing down a curious street. Curious not because it was particularly noteworthy in design or artistry, but because all the businesses were closed. There was not a soul out on the street that afternoon for whatever reason. It had struck him as odd, normally this street was quite busy, in fact, it had been whey he selected that particular street to journey down in the first place. There were ignorant peasants in Sheng Xia that would attempt to ‘verify’ that eunuchs really did not, in fact, have male sex organs. No matter how much the eunuch in question insisted they did not. Filthy peasant rabble. But yes, it had been this street he was walking down when he found himself abruptly seized from behind, he was not a particularly strong individual, but he had felt his elbow connect to what felt like a chest, and then a strange hand had come over his mouth and nose and he felt suddenly and curiously tired.

If he had fought the urge to fall nap a bit more strongly, perhaps he would not have found himself in this current predicament- a predicament he did not fully understand the nature of. He realized, still groggy, that he was suspended upside down, he also realized that the room was terribly cold. He also realized, though more slowly, that he was entirely nude. Which did very little to help the cold. He also realized that he was blind, the entire world was black due to some dark fabric that had been stretched over his eyes and after a few moment of effort he concluded he also could not move his arms freely, as they were bound at the wrists and to his upper legs, nor could he speak for he was very effectively gagged. His first suspicion was that this was all some elaborate plan to check on the absence of his gentiles, but this was too sophisticated for mere peasants. Perhaps they were Christians, he had heard they worshiped mutilated men hung naked in odd positions. Suddenly his blindfold was removed and he found himself staring at an upside down man. The man was young enough, his hair was done in a simple but respectable style, all of it up in a double stacked bun. A classic look for a youth. He was dressed in a modest but comfortable looking robe, the majority of the fabric being a soft lavender but the edges being a darker, more plumb, purple. His brown eyes stared with an intensity at him, but a seriousness countered by a sparkle of general good humor which was also, paradoxically, present.

“Hello,” the man spoke as calmly and as plainly as if there was absolutely nothing especially odd about the situation in which the two men found themselves. Behind him there was another man, taller, dressed more like a peasant- his hair was rough and tangled, but his eyes were almost lethal in their sharp and pointed stare. The expression on the first man’s face was polite, he even bowed his head as he spoke to indicate respect, but the man further back bore a very serious, not at all amused, look. As if he was only, with a great deal of effort, restraining himself. As Fei glanced around, he saw despite the dimness of light here, that his ankles had been bound tightly with thick rope which was suspended from a hook hanging from the ceiling. Both in front of him and behind him and beside him there were rows upon rows of dead pigs, all suspended in very similar manners to himself. His eyes widened at this realization- what was the meaning of this? Noting his wide eyes, the first man spoke again. “I know, I know,” he said waving his arms in defeat, “you’re probably thinking to yourself- a slaughterhouse? Really?” He shook his head, “it’s a bit touché I admit, but you can’t argue with the atmosphere!” He spoke as if he was announcing to a grand audience, standing to his feet and spreading his arms wide to gesture to all that was around them. “I mean really, where else can you find this stuff? Threatening hooks hanging from the ceiling,” he said pushing one of the empty hooks so it swung back and forth, casting a small swinging shadow across Fei’s nude form. “Dead pigs just hanging here,” he said patting one of them on the side, “and it’s dark. It’s cold. It’s scary.” He put extra stress on the last word as he looked from Fei to his partner and then back again. “Oh come on,” he complained, “you’ve got to admit this is pretty cool.” Oh wonderful, Fei thought, I’ve been kidnapped by a lunatic.

“Can we just get on with it?” His partner’s voice was heavy, gruff, and not in the least amused.

“Fine,” the first man sighed, he added in a mumble under his breath just loud enough to be heard, “I swear neither of you has any appreciation for art whatsoever.” He walked back over to where Fei was hanging and snapped a few times in front of his face, “are you listening?” As Fei nodded his head, an odd feat when suspended upside down, “alright. Here’s the deal, I’m going to take that gag out of your mouth, and you’re not going to scream. Do we have a deal?” Fei glared at him in a moment that he permitted to stretch on for some time, the man did not appear to be phased, instead he waited patiently for a while, a condescending smirk present on his face. Then with suddenness and unexpected ferocity he punched Fei once hard in the face, sending him rocking far back on his hook and causing blood to spring to his nose which had nowhere to go due to his precariously hung position. “Do we have a deal?” He asked again, waving out his knuckles, this time Fei agreed quickly and spat blood and coughed after the man gruffly tore the gag from his mouth. “Glad we could reach an…”

“That hurt you fucking peasant,” Fei spat at the man, he shook his head, this man was obviously some sort of idiot who had no idea who he had captured, though the complete lack of a penis, one would think, should have given it away quite immediately. “I am of the Shengjing Order of Eunuchs, which means I am under the protection of Shun Lim, the Observer. Now either you’ll release me at once or I’ll personally see to it that someone rips your tongue out through your tee-“ the hook holding him suddenly gave and he found himself engulfed in a bucket of water he had not previously realized was there- he had been too distracted by the talkative man to look down, or rather, up earlier. At first the water was a shock to his system, he had been in the middle of speaking and so open landing he had taken a major gulp of the cold water, and was struggling against his bindings unsuccessfully. Gradually the cold began to seep out of the water as he began to lose all feeling that wasn’t the terrible burning of his lungs. He could feel his vison becoming spotty, the veins in his head felt as though they throbbed trying to get some kind of oxygen to his brain as he saw spots of colors and began to lose consciousness, only to be fished from the water at the last moment and immediately began a coughing fit, vomiting out water as he coughed and gagged.

“Sorry for the waterworks,” the man’s voice almost sounded genuinely apologetic, but his smirk suggested otherwise, “you see, it’s just that you’re the left hand of the Observer Mr. Fei. I’m certain you don’t generally use such foul language when speaking with new acquaintances such as ourselves. Thus,” he said making small circles with his hands, almost as if he wanted Fei to guess his thoughts, “thus, I had to conclude you were still groggy and so the water was my effort to wake you. Do you feel awake now, Mr. Fei?”

“Very much so.” Fei responded through clenched teeth. The chill against his now wet upper body was quite unpleasant, but he willed himself not to shiver before this newly acquired nemesis. “What do you want?”

“To be civil, honestly.” The man answered quickly, as if he had been expecting the question, “how about we start over? My name is Lo Lan Li. And yours would be….”

“You already know my name.” The captive answered brusquely.

“Of course I do,” the man, apparently named Lo, replied with a sigh, “but that’s not the point. We’re being civil, or perhaps you’re too groggy…” his voice drifted off as the hook began to fall again.

“Okay, okay,” Fei shouted as soon as he felt the tension release, Lo’s coworker stopped him just before he hit the black water that had nearly killed him moments earlier. “Okay, fine. Fei. My name is Fei.” He could still feel the deep ache in his lungs as they pleaded with him not to arouse the man’s anger again so soon.

“Excellent,” the man exclaimed, a little too proud of the minor achievement, he clapped his hands a few times as he beamed his smile. “Now that we’ve gotten introductions out of the way,” he said as he pulled a seat and sat across from the suspended man, “perhaps you would like to tell me about your morning? Normally I would offer you tea but… I think you might have trouble drinking it given your unusual position.”

“How considerate,” the eunuch replied reluctantly. What could this man want to know about his morning? Was he working for the Emperor? For the Viceroy? Perhaps he could even be working for Bao Song. Then again, it’s possible this could just as easily be some insane loyalty test designed by Shun Lim. No, that couldn’t be it- it was nearly poetic enough to be a Lim design. “What about my morning?”

“Specifically, you met with a Doctor Mu.” Fei tensed at the mention of the name. These men had been following him. And they had picked, probably intentionally, one of the worst days to do so. He thought back to the small bag of herbs Mu had given him, his entire stomach tightening as he thought about the implications of it. This is not my morning. “We know that your master,” he paused for a moment, “and when I say master I mean the one without the dick not the yellow one you proclaim loyalty to in public- just for clarification.” Fei wanted to spit at the man, serving Lim and serving the Emperor were one in the same. “We know that you eunuchs are plotting against the Viceroy. Is Dr. Mu assisting you in those plots?”

“Not at all,” Fei lied quickly, “he’s just an old friend.”

“Eeeh,” Lo responded imitating a buzzer, “wrong answer. I don’t appreciate lies Mr. Fei.” He shook his head and sighed deeply, “alright then, if that’s how you want to play it. Mr. Lo,” he said politely to the man behind him who began to approach slowly, despite the knowing fear in his gut there was also confusion- were both these men named Lo? “Our friend here seems to be groggy. Assist him would you?”

“Wait,” Fei said, “no, I apologize for the deception I…” he fell into the water. He kicked and thrashed as best he could given his restraints. He had tried to take a breath before falling, but he managed to hold it for only a minute before a sharp, searing pain in his knee made him cry out, water rushing into the cavity to fill his mouth and, by extension, his lungs. Just as he was on the verge of blacking out, he felt himself violently hoisted out of the water, had he any air left in his lungs he would have screamed given the terrible pain in his knee. As they hoisted him higher it felt as if it might slip out of place altogether. He bent his stomach as he pulled himself up to look at it, red and angry. It was already starting to bruise, but he hadn’t the care to focus on it as he coughed and gagged, greedily taking in as much air as he lungs would let him.

“Let me try to make this clear Mr. Fei,” the man said quietly, suddenly more threatening as he leaned in and his eyes suddenly lost the glint of humor they had carried in them only moments before, “You are hanging upside down in a slaughterhouse far away from where anyone can hear you scream. Not even your clever Observer can see you here. My partner there, Lo, would like to kill you when this is done and, to be frank, you’re not giving me a strong reason to refuse him.” He sighed and leaned back in his seat, the threatening glare gone as quickly as it had come. “Look Mr. Fei, I know that I may not be the most orthodox man you’ve ever met. But I am fairly good at my job. And the reason for that is twofold; I enjoy a good talk, and I believe in a system that works. The system called, reciprocity.” He smiled and held his hands up, “it’s unfortunate that we had to meet this way Mr. Fei, but we have met. Your fate, from here out, is in your own hands. When you’re good to papa, papa is good to you know? There’s a lot of favors I’m prepared to do, you do one for papa, he’ll do one for you.”

“The monkey who scratches another’s back will have his own itch satisfied,” Fei said after he had regained some breath, at this Lo’s face lit up and he jumped out of his chair, clapping his hands.

“Yes, yes! That precisely!” He gave that smile of his again, “now we both have something we want to get out of this conversation. You don’t want this to be the last conversation you ever have. You probably also want to return to Shengjing, and I would bet making it there with your skin still on your bones also has its own, special appeal. All of these things can be achieved.” He smiled. “But, you’ve got to be good to me for me to be good to you. Now would you like to know what I want?”

“Well,” Fei replied in a measured tone- perhaps this man could be reasoned with, besides, the murky water beneath him encouraged his cooperation. “I suppose I cannot help you if I do not know your aims here, nor can you help I. So please. Enlighten me.”

“I am thrilled to hear you’re being so reasonable,” Lo responded happily, “what I want is to have an honest, genuine conversation. One where I’m not lied to.” He sat back down. “Can you do that for me?” After a moment, Fei nodded. As long as he could return alive to Shun Lim, they could amend any plots and, more importantly to Fei in this moment, begin to hunt down these two Los. He would enjoy watching them slow-sliced. “Now, let’s try again,” he said, “is Doctor Mu assisting you in your plots?”


“Excellent. And you were visiting him to discuss a plot, correct?”

“… Yes.”

“Your goal this morning was to modify the Viceroy’s elixir’s make up in an effort to expedite his death, was it not?” The man asked the question and looked at Fei expectantly. Fei’s mind raced though he tried to demonstrate only openness, the man had fooled him once into tricking him into a lie. If he was caught in another, he imagined Lo was likely to cancel their deal. And Fei very much wanted to survive.

“No, it was not. The Viceroy has stopped taking the elixir.” The words pained him as they left, but not as much as another dunking would have. He owed so much to Lim, but he wasn't willing to sacrifice his life for the Observer.

“I know Fei, that was a test.” Lo responded. “Very good. You passed.” He thought for a moment, “so what then was you goal in going to visit the esteemed doctor?”

“I was picking up a package.”

“Of course you were,” he responded nodding, “Lo,” his partner produced the small bag of herbs. “This would be the package you were picking up, correct?”


“And what, precisely, is this?” He looked at the small pack.

“To be honest,” Fei said, “I don’t know.” He sighed, “you may not like that answer but it’s the only one I can give you. I would imagine it’s a poison.”

“And what were you to do with this poison?”

“Wait three weeks and slip it into the Empress’s drink.” Lo nodded as if receiving information, he already knew.

“When will you be picking up the next dose?”

“Lim was very clear about that,” Fei replied, he was feeling strange, hot as all the blood pulled in his head, turning his cheeks a deep red. “I was only to buy that specific quantity, not to pay a talon more. And I was ordered to instruct Mu to… handle the contact that acquired it for him as soon as possible.”

“He’s lying.” Both Fei and Lo looked back to the other man, apparently also named Lo.

“No,” Fei yelled, “I swear I’m not!”

“There isn’t enough poison here to do anything,” the other Lo replied, looking at the package in his hand, he brought it to his associate still sitting facing Fei who took the package to examine it. It was true, there was a pathetically small amount of material in the package. Hard to imagine it killing anyone. “Lim is too clever to use an overly potent poison, the Dragon Guard would realize it immediately and launch an investigation. We can assume that this must be a preliminary dose which will be followed with others.” The humorless man sighed as he returned to dunk Fei in the water. “It was a good lie,” he said plainly as he reached for the lowering mechanism.

“It wasn’t a lie!” Fei shouted desperately, struggling to get free and bracing himself for the water.

“Give it up,” the man responded dryly, his more energetic partner just shrugged at Fei’s pleading eyes, a deal was a deal. And reciprocity works both ways. “That would barely be enough to kill an infant.” The man added as he began to apply pressure to the lever and froze. His eyes drifted slowly over to meet his partners.

“Ancestors,” the other Lo cursed, for the first time his humor completely void. He put his hand to his forehead, brushing his hair back, Fei was completely dumbfounded as to what was going on, but thankful they hadn’t dropped him. “That snake…” Lo said slowly, “he’s going to strike down the Emperor’s son before he’s even had the chance to crawl out his mother’s womb.” This revelation was shocking, even to Fei. It was one thing to poison the Viceroy, he was a peasant and a charlatan. But the Emperor’s own child? The child the Emperor had, weeks ago, declared would assume the status of heir as soon as he was born. Not even Shun Lim was so bold. So vicious. Surely…

“We need to report back.”

“Indeed we do,” the first man replied, walking over and pushing the level, sending Fei plunging into the water, though this time there would be no last minute rescue. His mind was still on the child. Even in his line of work, this was highly unusual. He had never encountered it personally.

“By the way,” his partner asked, watching Fei kick and struggle, though the not-man’s efforts were slowly becoming less vigorous as his lungs continued to search in vain for any usable oxygen. “What was all that ‘reciprocity’ nonsense you were spouting? Is that from one of your barbarian movies?”

“I don’t know what it’s from,” Lo responded, as Fei’s feet finally began to give up. They’d wait a few more minutes just to be sure. “It was something that that one instructor,” he couldn’t summon the name, his mind was still distracted by today’s events.

“You mean the desert guy?”

“That one. He talked about ‘reciprocity’ all the time.” Fei had finally surrendered, off to be judged in by the Celestial Magistrates. Lo approached slowly while Lo raised the corpse of Fei out of the water, with the body out of the way, Lo was able to kick the bucket over so it spilled out its water across the cement floor. He then picked it back up, placed it under Fei and sliced the corpse’s neck. Pink water came out first followed shortly by blood, it hadn’t had time to solidify as the body was still fresh. “Collect that and take it back to Committee, I’m going to go have a chat with our friend Doctor Mu.”
"A book is never a masterpiece: it becomes one. Genius is the talent of a dead man." - Carl Sandburg

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Founded: Aug 31, 2012

Postby Hostillia » Mon Jul 25, 2016 5:57 am

"The Empress and the Eunuch"

A Monkey's Uncle

Tiandi Province,
The Middle Kingdom

In the mind of anyone Enlightened, there could be no doubt that the Middle Kingdom contained the greatest beauty of any nation under Heaven. From here, a solitary grand mountain dominated the backdrop, still purple in the early morning rays. The rising sun cast the world in light blues and gentle purples as it began its ascent from obscurity to cast out the darkness that had clung to the Empire for these past few hours. Beyond the mountain, on top of which was nestled the gem of the world Shengjing, were vast plains which swept about, rich green grass turning the entire scene into a wonderful artist’s canvass. As one went further from the capital, the plains began to slowly give way and become rolling hills which grew taller and taller the deeper into them one travelled. The taller hills were especially beautiful, the sides of them had been turned into rice patties and thus were reflective of the beautifully colored sky fluffy white clouds already present. Atop these hills turned farmlands sat quaint little villages where life continued as it had since time began. Already there was activity in the fields, attending to the crops from sunrise to sunset. Further out still, the hills gave way to even taller mounds of earth which were somewhere between hills and mountains. Here the forests began to blossom and spread until soon the entire world was nothing more than a path through the bamboo which dominated the hills, travelers moved through these areas with caution, the great white and black beasts considered this their native lands and were quick to stalk and strike those perceived as intruders.

Fortunately, the convoy was large enough that there was little risk of panda for them, instead, their greatest annoyance was the constant presence of dragon flies which lived by the nearby creeks and stream of the area. It seemed the small insects had been planted on the earth with a mandate from the Jade Emperor Himself to pester travelers, and they were faithful to this divine task. The convoy was led by four mounted warriors in front of a square carriage, the occupant shrouded by a thick veil of silk which covered the windows of the proud vehicle which drawn by two horses followed by another six mounted warriors. The villagers saw the large number but paid it little heed, it was not especially unusual to see important men with extensive escorts on these roads, they did lead to Shengjing after all. However, the astute would notice that this particular convoy carried the banner of the Forbidden Palace, suggesting that they were directly associated with the residence of the Emperor, and confirming such suspicions were their second banners- those of the Eunuch Guard, the militant wing of the Order of Shengjing Eunuchs. That meant that this was more than a mere convoy, it was one riding under the orders and under the protection of Shun Lim, the Spider of Shengjing.

What the average on looker would not have known, nor likely even suspected, was that the Spider himself, the infamous Observer of the Realm Shun Lim himself was being carried by this particular convoy. He resided inside the intricate carriage which was trimmed in gold carved so that the likeness of a snake seemed to crawl up the side of the vehicle. The windows were covered by a soft blue silk which would have plunged the interior of the carriage into darkness were it not for the fact that a small hatch on the roof had been opened, allowing sunlight to stream in and illuminate the space. It also allowed a nice breeze which was merciful in the already impressive warmth of the morning. The Observer himself sat there in the carriage, resting atop a number of little pillows which protected him from having to sit on the hard wooden floor. Despite the bumps that came naturally to any vehicle powered by a horse, Lim expertly held his cup of tea steady and sipped from it occasionally all the while reading from an old scroll. Though his ability to read was somewhat impaired by the child seated across from him, Qiang, a young eunuch that Lim had taken a particular fondness for. The not-boy bounced in his seat eager to arrive and would dart back and forth from the windows to peer out at the passing countryside.

“It is bamboo, Qiang.” Lim spoke with a small sigh but not with a tone of annoyance, nor even his famed sing-songy, high pitched voice. Rather, in such intimate company, he spoke plainly, his voice deeper than what most in Shengjing would have imagined. His eyes did not leave the scroll as he spoke, “for the last many miles it has been bamboo, and for the next many miles it shall be bamboo.”

“I’ve never really seen it before Master Shun,” the boy responded, completely oblivious to the eunuch’s point. He continued to go back and forth between windows on either side, even going so far as to stand on the tips of his toes in an effort to look out of the roof’s skylight. “Do you leave the Palace often? Could I come with you from now on when you do?”

“I try to avoid leaving the safety of Shengjing,” the not-man replied quietly, trying to continue his reading in spite of the distraction, Lim enjoyed making a great show out of being annoyed, specifically by trivialities, and though he sighed and mumbled against the boy’s hyperactivity, he was not truly annoyed. It seemed his complaints were based more on habit than on any actual animosity. “Qiang,” the boy looked down at his tutor, he had jumped and gotten a grip on the edge of the skylight and was hanging there, attempting to pull himself up high enough to see out. Lim suppressed a laugh. “Well if you are so devoted…” he sighed and pulled back the curtain, extending his hand out of the window, almost at once there was a shout from one of the mounted guard to bring the caravan to a halt. The horsemen formed a circle around the carriage, ready to defend from every angle. “Let us get out and have a look, shall we?” The boy’s eyes lit up and he almost immediately bolted from the carriage, Lim couldn’t help but chuckle at his enthusiasm.

“Observer,” the Eunuch Guard were a serious bunch, their brows had been distorted by constant responsibility into a permanent frown. They were taller than most eunuchs, stronger than most eunuchs. They were late comers to the brotherhood, their masculinity taken from them later in life, after puberty, after it had aided them in gaining the strength and appearance of a man. They were capable warriors, proof that the ability to fight did not rest in the testes. “How can we serve you?”

“There is no conflict cousin,” Lim replied, watching as Qiang slipped past the circle of guards for the sake of playing in the forest and climbing on the bamboo. “The child was growing restless, I thought some I would offer him the opportunity to stretch his legs. He is but a young thing after all,” Lim could see that the guard was not very impressed with his rational.

“The Empress is expecting us to be punctual Observer.”

“Former Empress, cousin.” Lim corrected softly. “She is no longer bound to the Son of Heaven, no longer has the obligations of state to attend to. I am certain she has cultivated patience in her retirement.” The guard bowed his head, he tried to hide it, but Lim’s eyes were too keen. He was still unsatisfied. “Not my distinction cousin, the Emperor’s. You would find yourself in much discomfort should He hear you refer to any other than his beloved sister as Empress.”

“Master Shun, Master Shun,” the eunuch’s eyes drifted towards the boy who was attempting to climb one of the taller pieces of bamboo, it bent slightly from his weight. “In the old stories, it was said that the greatest warriors had battles jumping from spout to spout in bamboo forests. Do you think it can really be done?” He was halfway up the tree by this point.

“What? Of course not, Qiang, come down from there,” he realized that the boy wasn’t paying him any attention and sighed. “What is it that they say cousin,” he asked to the guard beside him, “the snake charmer should not be angry when he is bit, and the father should not be angry when his boy plays? Something like that, only more poetic. I can’t recall.” He moved to get back into the carriage, maybe if they acted as if they were leaving him the child would come running.

“He is not a boy,” the guard responded. Lim closed his eyes as he rolled them at the comment. Guards could be incredibly stupid sometimes.

“Of course he isn’t. Nor am I his father.” Lim withheld the sigh as he sat in the carriage. Qiang was still climbing about, trying to jump from one stock of bamboo to another, falling more often than not. “Honestly,” Lim said as he chuckled quietly, he could allow himself that much, “he’s more like a monkey than a child.”

“Does that make you the monkey’s uncle?” For the first time in a while, Lim genuinely laughed. This is why he kept the child around. Children had a unique way to bring joy into even the most miserable, serious, or bleak lives. It was a little spark that made all his unsung efforts a little more bearable.

“Shun Lim, the Monkey’s Uncle,” the eunuch responded, “I suppose it is more flattering than ‘the Spider’ or ‘the Snake’ or any countless even ruder monikers.” He rested for a moment as he smiled, but the guard had spoken truthfully. “We should resume the journey. Call the monkey.”

The ancestral residency of the Bao Family was a mighty, imposing fortress which dominated the landscape. The mountains sat off to the side, and here in the foothills before them, it seemed all the hills were terraced, standing water and rice paddies abounded. At the bottom of the hills, separating them as if some great border, was a mighty river which moved at rapid pace due to the recent rains further in the mountains. The water slushed over the side of the banks and threatened to spill over, though the villagers had prepared long ago for such a possibility and erected a levee to keep the water form invading their homes. The river was also fed by countless little streams that ran down the practically terraformed hills, a complex but ancient drainage system that allowed the water of the rice fields to be emptied quickly and flow into the river below. Even today there were still some trees in the area, though it had doubtlessly once been a mighty forest, though the bamboo had given away some many miles ago, to be replaced by large coniferous trees. It was a beautiful sight, and it was also the natal domain of the now powerful and influential Bao Family.

As one of the Great Families, the Bao had been powerful since antiquity. They had traditionally supported their cousins the Tai Family, for whom the current reigning Dynasty traced its lineage which had ensured that the current Emperor was, as a result of various marriages between the two Great Families, almost as much Bao as he was Tai. The Bao had once been Emperors during the Yon’an Dynasty though they were not so great as to withhold the Mandate following the arrival of the horsemen who ushered in the following Guan. Still, their great power and great wealth had transcended time and been passed down countless generations until it finally was all concentrated into the hands of Bao Song, the Heavenly Commander.

Ironically, their ancestral home was proof that the Bao had not been a Great Family as long as the Cao, or Han, or especially the Most Ancient Yu Family. Their family palace, known as the Palace of Summer’s Serenity, was strikingly foreign in its construction to the Han. While the Han favored large symmetrical structures based on rectangles and boxes and squares, most famously displayed at the Forbidden Palace in Shengjing, the Palace of Summer’s Serenity seemed to actively subvert the Han’s idea of beauty. The Palace features a single massive square in the center of its structure which was easily five stories in height, thick red walls and a huge central courtyard which acted as the heart of the complex. Then surrounding the main square there were four circular structures of varying size, though two of which nearly rivaled the main building. They were each three stories tall, though because of differing positions on the hills, some were in fact taller than the main home. These likewise featured large courtyards in the center of them, allowing the sun and the rains to come in easily where the waters could be collected in one of the pits waiting thirstily below. All of these structures were connected to each other by a series of hallways which were as stocky and strong as the rest of the structure.

All of it was painted a bright and vibrant red, an effort to bring good fortune to the household, though the roofs were not curved and so the demons would have no trouble entering and leaving the home at will. The design also spoke to different philosophies of warfare, whereas the Forbidden Palace was built with the idea of stopping the enemy through countless inner walls, here the idea was clearly to ensure the walls were never penetrated in the first place. This was not a Han building, that much was clear. It had actually been created long, long ago by a people whose name and culture survived only in those few grand structures, such as this one, which had been maintained after their death. They had resisted the Han. And they had fallen. The Bao, however, had been too fond of the strange structure to demolish it and begin again, and so they were the only Great Family to reside in so strange a palace, but, who was Lim to complain about their choice of residency? It was certainly far nicer than the tunnels beneath Shengjing where he had made his own home.

“The honored Observer of the Realm, the Confidant of the Son of Heaven, First Among Eunuchs, the Grand Servant of the Emperor, the honorable Shun Lim,” the words rang out throughout the great courtyard of the central structure. Lim hadn’t realized that the Baos had added a retractable awning which was capable of covering the courtyard from the heat of the sun’s rays or the fury of the heavy rains, a clever addition. Shun, along with his entire convoy, and Qiang beside him bowed so lowly that they were nearly parallel with the ground. Before them stood none than Bao Mei, the former Empress of the Middle Kingdom.

The woman had always been beautiful, ugly women did not become Empress. Her face was round though slender, her neck long and graceful, her hair was done up in an impressive bun which swept the hair off the nape of her neck. Hey eyes were a light brown, almost golden color that seemed almost to sparkle with an immense intensity. Lim had long ago sacrificed his organs, but he had always admired the woman, not only her beauty physically, but also her kind heart. The world would be better if more woman such as her populated it.

“What great deed have I accomplished to necessitate a visit from the Observer of the Realm,” her voice was stern, unwavering. She was unlike her brother, Song. Whereas Song had to live in constant apprehension, fear that Lim might ruin this plot of his or undermine him here, Mei had grown accustomed to the eunuch’s meddling, but never had they been direct against her properly. “Or perhaps this is merely a social visit?” At that the various ladies in attendance couldn’t help but giggle at this, mostly women whose fathers or husbands had sworn loyalty to the Bao Family. Peasants. “You may rise Lim,” she said finally, he nodded gratefully, ignoring the acute aching in his back as he straightened it.

“Empress, you are as radiant as the sun and as beautiful as the moon, surely you are the brightest star in all the Heavens. I take comfort in the knowledge that your beauty, and your wisdom, will burn on for a thousand generations after this worm has passed on. You will be a beacon in the darkness of this world forever, of that I am certain.” His voice was thick with the honey as sweet as the scent of perfume that clung to him, he had spoken in High Han, a language so complex and intricate that only those of highest nobility could understand it. A dead language, but preserved by the elite for its beauty and lofty place in the halls of tradition.

“Sweet flattery,” the woman responded in Low Han, “you have not lost your silver tongue.” Lim sighed internally, he wished this woman didn’t hate him with such a passion. “Now, unless you have something more significant than praises to offer, I should like to dismiss you. I am afraid I already have enough poets here in the Palace.” Lim began to reply when a noise startled him, someone speaking other than himself or the Empress. Who was so bold? Slowly though, realization dawned on the not-man as he saw a small child move through a parted crowd.

“Mama,” the young boy called, his voice was still high and he was uncertain on his feet. “Mama, I want to go home!” Everyone was shocked to see him, a boy of just a few years old, his robe was vibrant yellow, a dragon present on his chest, spewing bright red flame. Atop his head was a classical hat, a veil falling from the front which featured hundreds of small diamonds, each one catching the light and throwing it across the room. On his fingers, specially sized, were rings of solid gold which bore the Seal of the Dynasty, and around his neck hung a jade dragon. It seemed only Lim, owing to decades spent within the Palace, had enough wits about him to respond quickly.

Despite having just stood, he immediately fell without any regard for personal safety to his knees, and practically threw himself to the ground in a kowtow. He tapped his forehead against the ground three times, and as he did so he could hear other knees crashing to the floor, as if someone had just leveled a great forest with a single swing. Shun waited until the final fall was complete, something that could be easily heard in the vast hall, this was a routine all nobles practiced fervently just in the off chance that they may ever encounter the essence of the divine. Shun just so happened to do so on a daily basis.

“Ten Thousand Years to the Most Divine Prince! Ten Thousand Years!” The hall spoke with one voice, proud and booming, “Let the Earth Come Undone, Let the Sun Go Dark, in the Most Divine Prince We Have Eternity! All Hail the Successor of Heaven, Ten Thousand Years to Most Divine Prince, Ten Thousand Years to the Great Tai Dynasty! Ten Thousand Years!”

“Mama,” the boy’s voice silenced the room, all of whom were now kowtowed towards the little child, the Empress had rushed to him and grabbed her up in her arms. Hushing the poor child. “Why is the funny man here,” his mother made some effort to explain that Lim was just visiting and wouldn’t be bothering them for much longer. The Prince wasn’t paying attention, as little boys are want do, and squirmed out of his mother’s arms. He walked slowly until he was standing in front of Lim, “you there!” Lim looked up slightly, looking at the boy’s feet rather than the tiled ground. “You don’t have a penis.”

“That is correct your Majesty,” Lim responded without a moment’s hesitation, “the Most Divine Prince is wise beyond measure and his observations accurate beyond question. Ten Thousand Years to your Majesty.”

“Why are you here?”

“Fearsome Dragon, this servant would not dare come before one so mighty as yourself intentionally,” if Lim had learned anything, it was that it was wise to say as much as possible, when dealing with royalty, while saying as little as possible all at the same time. “I was hoping to speak briefly with your mother, if I could secure your lordship’s blessing, of course.”

“Are you here to take me back to Shengjing?” The boy’s voice shook as he spoke, Lim had never really considered what it must be like for the boy. To spend his entire life in the Forbidden Palace, only to be plucked out and thrown far off into the countryside of Tiandi without a moment’s notice and zero explanation. Of course he was aware it would happen… but it was all a web to him. One move here caused the whole thing to shake and move, what did it matter to the Spider the thoughts of the flies? Still, the boy’s voice was so… pleading. “I don’t like it here. I want to go home.”

“Most Divine Prince,” Lim said quietly, “I was actually hoping to speak to your mother on precisely that issue.”
Those were the words that opened many gateways for Shun Lim. The Prince was thrilled and demanded, ordered, that his mother entertain the eunuch. The court was cleared and the Empress encouraged her son to go and busy himself with his tutors, advice he reluctantly heeded after some effort. With the crowds gone, the Empress was much more approachable. Her stern face relaxed somewhat into a face of casual distrust as she invited Lim to sit and have tea with her- Lim wasn’t a fool, he could see in those strong eyes that she was intrigued by his statement as much as her son was pleased. They made the appropriate small talk which lasted until their second cup of tea was cooled- tea was a universal social clock. After a few sips of the second cup, the Empress finally spoke.

“By whose will have you come here Shun Lim,” her words were direct, strong, offensive even. Fortunately, Lim was not so easily put off, he even smiled at the question. No one liked the spider. The spider ate the bugs that would pester them otherwise. The spider was slow to bite even, but no one saw the value in having a spider around. But without them, the entire kingdom would be overrun in a matter of days by all nature of bug and vermin. “Do you come seeking your own interests… or by command of the Emperor?” Lim could hear the faintest glimmer of hope in the question.

“Empress,” he responded slowly, taking a sip of his tea for good measure as he thought carefully about his words. “Have you heard the story of the gardener and his yellow flowers? I am told that there once lived a grand gardener, so grand in fact that all the village lived only to serve him. Now this gardener could have any flower he desired, and indeed he had countless flowers of every hue and kind. The most beautiful of all the flowers, however, was none other than his precious red rose. This rose was more than a flower to the gardener, it was his compass in life. He relied on it, he needed it to guide him through the chaotic life that comes, I imagine, with being a mighty gardener famed and renowned.” The Empress looked away from him, and Lim withheld a smile, “however, there was one flower that not even this gardener could cultivate. A small yellow flower that was as delicate as it was precious. But the gardener could not accept this and, in a fit, he plucked out the priceless rose and planted in its place the yellow flower. But the yellow flower could never guide him like the rose was able to, nor did the people of the village think him wise for this decision. Soon, even the yellow flower began to wilt, and the gardener, without it, was truly lost.”

“The Emperor banished me.” The woman’s voice was softer now, still she did not meet his eye.

“Banishments can be undone my Empress.”

“What if they are? Can a porcelain bowel, once shattered, ever be made perfect again? And what of the Most Divine Princess? I cannot imagine she would welcome me in the Holy City.” The woman sighed deeply, sighed sadly. “There is nothing that can be done. I will accept my place here.”

“Empress,” Lim leaned forward just a little, close enough that his perfume began to find its way forward to the woman’s nose, the scent of jasmine. The Empress turned to meet his gaze, his cheeks were powdered, his eyebrows were covered in makeup which served to accentuate his features, a portion of his lips were a pale purple giving the illusion of a perpetual pucker. The Empress wore little makeup, and in the brief moment where their eyes met, before Lim diverted his own, there was nothing to conceal from him her heart. “Empress, Tai Zhen is part of the reason I come here to you.”

“What of the new Empress?”

“True Phoenix,” Lim’s voice was soft, almost as vulnerable as the woman sitting across from him, “Tai Zhen suffers terribly. She may have your crown but she is not your enemy, I swear this to you. She is a frightened, broken girl.” Lim spoke truthfully, it was frighteningly how quickly she had devolved, not even he could understand it. “What she needs in this world, more than anything else, I believe, is a friend. Those are, truly, in short supply in Shengjing.” He reached out, almost brave enough to touch the sister of the Heavenly Commander, “I fear if the Emperor pushes her much further, and push her he will, she will snap. Not bend.”

“The Son of Heaven cares for her unspeakably,” Mei responded, “if something were to happen, the Emperor would be…”

“Devastated.” Lim finished the sentence for her. “No one, not myself, not the Viceroy, nor even your brother can control the Emperor as you yourself can.” His own heart was heavy from the conversation; the Emperor was all he had devoted his life to. “With you returned to Shengjing, we can, in one move, put the concerns of the other Great Families at ease. We can contain the Emperor’s emotions. And you can befriend the pitiful girl we call Zhen and perhaps pull her slowly back to the world of the living. Indeed, if you cannot do these things then there is no hope for any other.”

“I remember,” her voice was quiet, she wasn’t speaking to Lim anymore, her mind was in the past, lost. “I remember how much Xiao Wang loved it there,” Lim nodded in agreement, a Prince belonged in his Palace. “He would run through the gardens, swim in the moat, torment the servant girls,” she flashed a small, sad smile. “An Xu was very busy, but occasionally, very occasionally, he would even see his father.”

“It can be like that again my Empress.”

“Why would you be the one to facilitate this Shun Lim? You are not a kind man. You are not a good man.” Lim stiffened himself. Some words could cut through steal.

“I am a not a man at all my Empress,” he responded, “but I do not lack a heart. And I use that heart Empress, I do. I love the Middle Kingdom; I love the Divine Emperor. I have sacrificed so much to reach this position for one reason; because I love this Dynasty too much to permit any tragedy to befall it. Is there anything we would not do for love, Majesty?” He swallowed, “I have known the Emperor since he was but a child, a babe. He stayed in the Palace all his life. I will never know the joys of fatherhood, but in caring for him all these years, I have seen a poor reflection of that love. Heard the faintest echo. That is why I am here.”

“For love,” she whispered, turning it over in her mind, she was beautiful, her eyes weakened by the exchange, her resolve so present and yet so fragile. A goddess and woman all at the same time. “For love, we would do anything. Very good Lim,” she nodded, “I will return to the Palace. Make the arrangements and I will put my affairs in order.”

In that moment Lim knew he had won, and this knowledge made him profoundly, unspeakably, sad.
"A book is never a masterpiece: it becomes one. Genius is the talent of a dead man." - Carl Sandburg

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Founded: Aug 31, 2012

Postby Hostillia » Sat Jul 30, 2016 10:03 pm

"The Empress and the Eunuch"

Ten Thousand Years!

The Pheonix Residency,
The Forbidden Palace, Shengjing

“Please,” the voice was softer than a whispering wind and more fragile than peddles of the jasmine. Kou almost physically recoiled from the profound pleading he could hear in the small sound. “Please,” she reiterated weakly, “do not force me. I don’t want to go.” Zhen looked up at him, her eyes were wide, begging him to depart and leave her in peace. He refused to meet her eyes with his own, not because she was the Empress and it was improper to do so, but because he feared he would waver in his duty if he saw those dark brown, imploring eyes. It was so rare to see anything in those eyes. Zhen was normally like a marble carving, beautiful, elegant, refined, and lifeless. It seemed all it took was the mention of her husband’s name to change the marble woman into a frightened girl. Kou couldn’t understand how a name could
have such power. “Please.”

“Empress,” the Commander did the best to soften his words, but there was only so much that could be done with such a gruff voice, “it is not my will that the Empress go anywhere she does not will. But the celebration is being hosted in your honour.” He had already been over the facts of the matter with her, but perhaps if he repeated them, slowly, she’d understand better. “You are the guest of honour Empress; your absence would be noted.” He had sent the other guards out of the room, he did not want them to see the Eternal Phoenix in such a state. Besides, they did nothing to calm the young woman. He at least had experience in coaxing her into compliance- when he was first assigned to her protection detail he had inherited the uncomfortable responsibility of escorting her to her husband’s chambers on a frequent basis. Some nights had been easier than others, she had two moods in those days, the corpse and the wild thing. Either she would have to be carried limply to the Emperor’s residence and on other nights she went to Him restrained. Kou had offered countless sacrifices to the Ancestors when the Empress conceived so incredibly quickly and the Emperor ceased His summons. It had lifted a great weight from his conscious, one he could feel returning to crush him even now.

“Please don’t make me,” she repeated, she was shaking her head and looking down. The Empress’s swollen figure crouched, pushed back into a corner before the Commander. Her knees had been drawn up defensively, keeping some distance between her and the Commander, simultaneously her confidant and tormentor. The Commander knelt in front of her, concern creased his face, heavy bags sat beneath eyes that beseeched the Empress to calm herself.

“Empress,” he said softly, he extended one hand slowly, reaching out to the girl in the same manner one might reach out to a wounded animal, attempting to say with motion what he could not say with words. I don’t want to hurt you. She flinched long before he could reach her and he retracted his arm with the same steady speed. “Empress…” the girl refused to look up. Her unsteady breathing, the way she flinched when he moved even in the slightest, the way she trembled- it was reminiscent of how his daughter, Shan, had been when she was younger. Shan had been plagued by the most vicious nightmares in her youth, so often that he had grown accustomed to sprinting towards her room to the sound of her shrieks as a terror tore her from her sleep. But unlike Shan, he could not grab and hold Zhen, promising that it would all be okay, that everything was fine, and that all her horrors were only imaginary. “Please,” his voice was a quiet rumble, like thunder in the distance, “we must go.”

“Don’t make me. Please don’t make me,” she responded on the verge of tears, she wasn’t looking at him, instead she clinched her eyes shut and continued shaking her head; back and forth, back and forth.
Kou was careful, he had seen the Empress in such states before, normally only after she returned from the Emperor’s chambers though. If she had an episode, right here and now, he was uncertain it would even be feasible to attend the celebrations. The Emperor probably wouldn’t have him killed over such a failure, but he would lose face and, more importantly, he feared for the repercussions towards Zhen if she failed to come when summoned.

“The soup,” Zhen said suddenly and more loudly than she had said anything, her eyes were large now in discovery as she stared for a moment, her entire left hand had been tightly bandaged after the wound had been cleaned. The doctor visited thrice a day to clean the injury and change the bandages. In the Forbidden Palace the entire world was a mirage and appearance was paramount. The bandage wrapped tightly around her hand had been carefully painted to take on a colour as similar to her skin as was possible, and the outfits laid out for her all featured long, flowing sleeves to further mask the injury. “The soup,” she said again, sounding more confident this time as she pulled back the long sleeve to reveal the bandage more fully. “That’s why you’re doing this? I promise, I promise,” her voice was high and frantic, “I’ll behave. I promise. I’ll be good. No more soup. No more trouble, please, please, just please don’t make me go.”

Before Kou had the chance to respond the Empress, the Phoenix of Shengjing, the Celestial Consort of the Son of Heaven, the Queen of Creation, fell to the ground before him in a bow, begging and pleading, compromising and promising. It took the man a moment to regain his wits, suddenly even more thankful he had sent the other guards out of the room. Every cell in his body screamed, this was perverse, wrong. As he made effort to plead with her to rise up, not to bow to him, his voice stumbled and he couldn’t find the words, finally he just reached out and grabbed her by the arms forcing her upright.

“Empress,” he said, his voice loud enough to raise over her own ravings which had descended into incoherence. “Empress,” he repeated, he could feel his heart pounding against his chest threatening to escape, his blood coursing at incredible speeds through his veins, he was beginning to quote anxious himself. Finally, out of desperation and panic he exclaimed loudly, “Zhen!” Immediately the Empress became silent shocked, he was shocked as well. To refer to the Empress so informally was a severe crime, a capital crime even. But what he saw in her eyes wasn’t anger, it wasn’t even panic, rather, for the briefest, most fleeting of moments, the was a spark of recognition in her eyes. The little spark faded as quickly as it had ignited, but she was quiet, save for the residual tremors. She waited silently, holding his eye, for what seemed like a century. “Empress,” he said slowly, the entire incident had already rendered him exhausted, “it is not my will that you go, but even if I do not escort you, they will send another in my place to do so.” He stared into her eyes, she seemed almost lost in a sea of emotion, but what emotions he couldn’t identify, as if she reminisced and yet was forlorn. “I apologize for my outburst. It was unbecoming. By your command, I will resign this post at once that you might not suffer under such an unlearned brute like myself.”

“No,” she said with something almost resembling strength in her voice, they held each other’s gaze for a moment longer before Kou managed to pull himself away from those mysterious, sombre orbs, “please Kou, don’t leave me.” She fell forward into his arms and embraced him, weeping into his uniform. The Commander listened to her sobs for a moment before wrapping her in his arms and attempting to sooth this mysterious woman called Tai Zhen.

The Hall of Radiant Conclave,
The Forbidden Palace, Shengjing

The Hall of Radiant Conclave was one of the grandest areas in the Palace, its magnificence surpassed by none despite being rivalled by several. The Hall had been originally constructed some centuries ago by the Emperor’s predecessor, The Ruozong Emperor, Tai Lu. Lu had been a pitiful ruler recorded spitefully in the Secret Histories of the Tia Dynasty as the ‘Madame Emperor’ due to his inability to avoid being manipulated and dominated by his aunt, Bao Piaofeng. Bao had controlled the Court, side-lined her nephew into irrelevancy, and governed the country with her family for the vast majority of his reign. Lu had been a disgrace to the Tai Dynasty. Ineffective in rule, incompetent in war, and inept in foreign affairs. That was An Xu’s secret fear, it ate at his heart from the inside, desperately trying to escape. He wanted nothing more than to matter. To be relevant. But what could be done? The Emperor’s eyes drifted lazily towards the back of the room where Tu Bei lurked, his weight resting on a cane while he spoke quietly with several well-dressed men the Emperor only vaguely recognized. Not too far away, never too far away, was Bao Song. The Heavenly Commander. He was a descendant of Piaofeng, perhaps when they recorded his life in the Secret Histories they would call Song the Emperor’s new puppet master.

The damned Bao Family was devious. Always attempting to advance their standings by manipulating, otherwise, fearsome Emperors. Bao Song was the worst. The Emperor remembered how Song’s father, Bao Zhan had prowled about Shengjing, acting as his grandfather’s regent. The Emperor had no doubt that Zhan would have dominated his father’s reign also if his father hadn’t been such a mighty ruler. Father… His father could do no wrong, he was fierce and powerful and respected. Tu Bei had served the Emperor back then. An Xu could only imagine how his father would have handled Tu Bei, probably would have had him beheaded on principal, and then he would have marched on the Bao estate and torched it. But alas, An Xu knew he wasn’t half the man his father had been. Not only had he been pushed out of governing his own nation by Tu and Bao, they had further forced him to marry Bao Mei, Song’s sister. A plot to get another half-Bao on the Throne.

That was the one thing An Xu had ever done that he was proud of. He had frustrated their plans. He acted like a man. Like the Son of Heaven. Now he was rid of the infuriating consort, it was unfortunate that he had already produced heir with her. An Xu did have some feeling for the boy, he was a good boy. But he was also half-Bao, Song would dominate him in the Celestial Court. That was a given. The only way to save the Dynasty was to keep it in Tai hands. And that was what An Xu had done. He could feel a small spring of pride within himself, the Tai Dynasty would be secure in the hands of his soon to be born son. He and Zhen had come together and produced a child purely of Tai blood. This was An Xu’s contribution to the Dynasty. He wasn’t able to be a great Emperor, but when they wrote the Secret Histories maybe this small action, marrying the only woman he had ever truly loved and giving her a son, maybe this would be the act that rescued the ailing Dynasty.

“Where is my Empress,” the Son of Heaven spoke softly, his voice low as not to be overheard by any of the gentry surrounding him. His eyes swept over the room, nowhere was the light of his life and her swelled stomach which contained his legacy. The Dragon Guard beside him simply bowed low and remained silent- it was unthinkable to speak to the Son of Heaven when posed an unanswerable question. Obviously he had no idea where the Empress was, the Emperor silently fumed at her tardiness. He loved her but, Ancestors, was she maddening. “Send a detachment and bring her here. Now.”

“At once Your Majesty,” the man stayed low as he backed away before turning and leaving the room to compel the woman to attend. An Xu sighed heavily, it seemed Zhen was insistent on undermining him at every turn. And for what? He had given her everything she could have ever wanted. He had elevated her from, the admittedly already high, position of Most Divine Princess all the way to Most Divine Empress, a post which was transcendent among women. As if that wasn’t sufficient, he had out of his own benevolence blessed her beyond measure with a child. A Prince. And even now, here at this very celebration, he announced that that child would follow him to the Dragon Throne. She had been nothing more than a silly little girl with a silly little romance before her had intervened. Now she was first among women and in her womb rested a god. He hadn’t realized as children how selfish Zhen was. How ungrateful. But she would learn, sooner or later, that she had to respect her Emperor. She had to love her husband.

“Your Most Divine Majesty,” the herald spoke softly as he bowed low, the Emperor didn’t turn to face him, the man had been announcing various gentry to him all evening. They would come, kowtow, swear fealty, and pledge to support the child, as soon as he was born, as the one true heir to the Dynasty. It was a horridly repetitive process he’d lost interest in some time ago. The Emperor sighed a second time, this was the part where the herald would ‘present’ him to the gentry, as if the gentry was unaware of who he was. An Xu was literally the only man in the country able to wear the colour yellow, which he did this evening in abundant quantity. An Xu simply resigned himself to listen as the herald ticked down his list of titles. “Presenting His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of the Great Han Dynasty, Son of Heaven, Lord of Ten Thousand Years, Mortal Eyes and Hands of the Most Perfect Jade Emperor, the Likeness of the Immortal Emperor, the Presence of the Divine Will, Most Holy Incarnation of the Divine, the One Descended from Heaven, Light of the Earth, First Born of All Creation, Guardian of the Light of Civilization, the Epitome of Perfection, the Ruler for Time Immemorial, Observer of the Dynastic Cycle, Holder of the Mandate of Heaven, Celestial Sovereign of All Creation, Ruler of All Under Heaven, the Monarch of All Civilization, Radiant Majesty to All People, Transcendent Sovereign of the Earth, Defender of the Dynasty, the Sentimental of the Great Seal, Protector of the Han, Possessor of All Wisdom, Lord of Order and Stability, Realization of Heavenly Peace, Lord of All Between the Heavenly and Earthly Realms, Annihilator of the Barbarians, Marshall of the Earth, Admiral of the Seas, the Inheritor of the Guan, Embodiment of the East, Subjugator of the West, Pacifier of the North, Conqueror of the South, Khagan of the Earth, Grand Chieftain of the Clans, Lord of the Mountains, Grand Sage Above All Sects, Vanquisher of the Romans, the Yellow Dragon, the Imperial Deity Tai An Xu, Son of the Most Revered Emperor of the Great Path Tai Hong.” An Xu would never understand how the people around him managed to remember all of those titles, nor how they managed to list them without immediately passing out afterwards. “Your Imperial Majesty, I present to you your cousin the Madame Yu, Daughter of the Jade Emperor.”

“Yu,” the Emperor said quietly, surprised she had come. He turned to face her and found her sharp, brown eyes staring back at him. Yu was an older woman, as the years had advanced the wrinkles had as well. Her hair, rumored to have once been as black as obsidian, had since lost his intensity. Much of it had even faded to grey, though there were still streaks of the pale back present. Many would say that Yu had long since passed her prime, but the intelligent spark present in the slight gleam of her eyes was evidence that she was very much present intellectually. A coy smiled played at her lips as the Emperor spoke her name. It served only to frustrate the Son of Heaven. “It has been too long cousin,” his tone made clear that ‘cousin’ was merely a formality, “I trust you are here in the stead of your son? Was the celebration of the Son of Heaven too insignificant a matter to justify the attendance of the actual head of your Family?”

“Your Radiance,” her voice suggested she was amused with the god’s poor mood, “I can only imagine that Yu Ming wished nothing more than to attend, alas the notice of this celebration reached us with such little notice that it was infeasible for him to return from his meditations” Her answer was sufficiently polite, but he hated how she met his eyes, he hated how she stood tall before him, unintimidated, unconcerned, “I can only pray that you will accept me as a poor substitute for my beloved son.”

“Swear your oaths and leave me in peace,” An Xu replied brusquely, a young woman from the Imperial Conservatory for the Arts had begun to dance, a pretty young thing. He pondered taking her for his harem. She was exquisitely flexible which intrigued him.

“A less devout servant may be taken aback by your tone Your Radiance,” there was the almost ever present hint of mirth in her voice as she spoke, “the Yu Family has always been supremely loyal to the Great Tai Dynasty. We will continue to serve our Dynasty to the best of our abilities and with the fullest measure of devotion of which we are capable. Just as we have always done. Does this satisfy Your Majesty?”

“Your oath?” An Xu chuckled cynically, “what good are words with you Yu?” He turned his focus back on the older woman, “you claim to support my reign as Son of Heaven, and then you retreat to your lands to advance your own interests. You are loyal when it suits you and disloyal when it serves your interests. You have no respect for imperial authority. You even humbly submit to the Viceroy, a man of peasant birth who pretends to be my servant and confident, even as he invites the barbarians into our gates to overturn our civilization.” He shook his head, “if you are our most devout supporters, then I shudder for our Dynasty.”

“I seem to have offended Your Majesty, for which I apologize, sincerely.” She was unfazed. “If you have something specific you would like us to do to demonstrate our loyalties we are, as always, your most obedient servants. As for the Viceroy and his government, rest assured Emperor, we follow the lead Shengjing has demonstrated.” She smiled while the Emperor fumed at the statement, “if we submit when you wish us to resist, perhaps we have misunderstood your own actions Radiance.”

“Bow to me.” The words seemed to take the woman genuinely by surprise, her eyes widened slightly at the request and her smile grew a bit larger, a bit more curious.

“I am afraid I have misunderstood your command Majesty,” she answered wryly, challenging him to repeat himself. The Emperor met her eyes, his lacked any of the humor that was so clearly reflected in her own.

“Get on your knees and kowtow to your Emperor.”

“There are so many Families present, Emperor,” she countered, “it is an understandable error for you to forget that the Yu Family bows to none, not even an Emperor. The blood of the Jade Emperor runs in Yu veins, to bow would be to arouse the fury of Heaven mightily. I would not wish to be the cause of a feud between the Heavens and their Son.”

“That may be true of the Yu Family, but you are no Yu,” he countered. “You are a peasant who whored her way into the court someone actually significant in the Middle Kingdom. I’ve heard it said that after a single night with you a prominent landlord killed himself claiming there was nothing more this life could offer him.” The woman laughed softly as the old myth, angering the Emperor further, “this is no joke ‘cousin’. As my subject I compel you to bow.”

“You ask me to bow,” she answered, “you compel me to do nothing. Let me tell you a story Your Majesty,” the Emperor attempted to interrupt her but she spoke over him, “during the Second Warring States Period there was a grand Warlord who had conquered much of the Middle Kingdom. Many believed that he would soon ascend to the Dragon Throne and All Under Heaven paid him great respect and homage. One of his generals was from an old and proud family, now this man was easily the most ferocious officer in the army of the Warlord, however, the man also had several strange customs associated with his ancient standing. One notable oddity was that this general’s family only drank green tea, no other variety. However, this annoyed the Warlord immensely. One day the Warlord demanded that the general drink jasmine tea instead, and when he refused the Warlord dismissed him. The general was forlorn but accepted this decision and left with his troops. In dismissing his general, however, the Warlord had sealed his own fate. He was destroyed in battle shortly thereafter.” Madame Yu turned her hands over in defeat, “a mysterious story indeed. Perhaps one wiser than I could find in it meaning.”

“Perhaps this Orphaned One is precisely such an example,” the Emperor answered, her insolence was incredibly, “perhaps the meaning of your metaphor is to suggest that I am like the Warlord and that you are like the General. Do you think this is a proper interpretation? I would certainly hope this is a mistake on my part, as such an interpretation could be viewed as treason.”

“Your servant is fraught to say that you have misinterpreted the parable,” she replied, her smile was gone now, her eyes devoid of their mirth, as she leaned forward and spoke in a low, threatening whisper, careful not to be overheard. “You are nothing like the Warlord and I nothing like the General. For you see, if you were to attempt to harm me, or for that matter, any member of my family, it would be precisely the justification my family requires to rise up against your incestuous reign. The general merely left the warlord to destroy himself, whereas we would not. Armies marching beneath the Yu Banner would approach this pathetic hilltop city, Yu Ming my son would tear down this mountain stone by stone if necessary. He would lead our armies into Shengjing and pillage this city, he would force you to watch as he plucked the unborn child from your sister’s womb and impale it that all might know the fury of the Son of Jade. When our forces were finished here there would be heard throughout the world a great wailing throughout all your lands for the misery you brought upon them, a wailing so horrible that none like it has ever been heard. And as you saw your Dynasty crumble into dust beneath our boots, and saw all that you treasure extinguished, then, and only then, would you have our blessing to take sword in hand and end your pitiful existence.” She moved back and smiled at him, her arrogant confidence returned as An Xu stood there, practically shaking with rage. “Now, shall I bow to my Emperor?”

“Get out,” the Emperor practically spat, “leave me in peace.”

“By your command Son of Heaven,” she answered turning her back on him and departing to mix and mingle with the other most prominent nobility attending the celebration. An Xu stood there for a few moments, Yu arrogance, they called it. They believed that just because they had some ancestral claim, which the Emperor thought dubious anyways, of descent from the Jade Emperor thousands of years ago that they were superior, better than their fellow Great Families. Who other than a Yu would be so arrogant as to refuse to bow before a god? What was the world coming to when not even a gentry family respected the Son of Heaven? The entire interaction had drained the Emperor, he could feel the gnawing emptiness in the pit of his stomach, that awful feeling of being self-aware of one’s own irrelevance. How powerless he was. How disrespected he was. It almost made him shake.

“Your Most Divine Majesty,” the voice distracted him from the despair he had found himself falling into, like a vast dark pit with the bottom uncertain. He could feel the hands of demons upon his flesh, yanking him further down into this blackness that threatened to envelop him. And yet, even though he feared with immense potency the idea of surrendering himself to that darkness, he inexplicably hated being rescued just as fiercely. He turned sharply to find a member of the Dragon Guard, the same one he had dispatched knelling before him, head bowed low. With an apathetic wave An Xu permitted the man to speak. “The Most Divine Empress is present Your Majesty.”

“Finally,” the Emperor retorted, Zhen was so frustrating, always keeping him waiting. He suspected that she may have been spreading rumors as well, ‘incestuous reign’ that sounded like a phrase Zhen would use. Even before their wedding Zhen had always pestered him with silly cultural norms that could hardly be applied to an Emperor. ‘It isn’t right’ she would say or ‘I’m your sister’ what did any of that matter? She wasn’t the important part of the relationship, it didn’t matter who or what she was to him, all that mattered was what he was, and he was the Son of Heaven. What could he desire that was beyond his reach? He looked about the room, so many people surrounded him, but nowhere did he see the beautiful woman who was his wife and who had secured his Dynasty. “Where is she? Bring her to me.”

“Your Majesty….” The main trailed off, and An Xu stared at him contemptuously for a moment before indicating he may continue, “His Majesty’s servant will of course do as ordered, but the servant is fearful that the Empress… would bring undue attention to the Imperial Deity.”

“What,” the Emperor cursed quietly, typical. “Take me to her then. Now.” The Guard let him back away from the main heart of affairs, back to a smaller chamber which had been set aside for more private discussions. However, it was not completely private separated from the main hall only by a simple sliding door that had been carved to allow beautiful scenes to be presented on the ground of the small room as light streamed in through the artful holes in the door’s wood. The door was opened for the Emperor and he found, to his surprise, not only the Empress but also yet another member of the Dragon Guard standing beside her, it appeared they’d been speaking before his arrival. “Get out, leave me with my wife.” The man bowed low, something about him seemed familiar, but the Emperor wasn’t concerned with it. Rather, he was focusing on Zhen.

She was clothed in beautiful regalia, unlike the many other monarchies that dominated the world, the Tai Dynasty did not have a single crown for its Emperor or Empress, rather, there were a plethora of crowns for them to choose from on any given occasion. Today, Zhen wore the widely famed Phoenix Crown, it was huge atop her head and made mostly of red with a small yellow dragon resting atop, carved from gold flanked on either side by identical golden beasts, indicating her especially close relationship to the Emperor. The bottom of the crown was made up of ten more golden dragons, each biting the tail of the one before it to form an interlocking circle. Between the upper and lower dragons was a magnificent red phoenix made from rubies which hoisted both wings as if preparing to take flight from the jeweled crown, the wings acting as the perch for two of the upper dragons. Her hair was unseen, it had been done up and covered by the mask, in its place was a veil made up of over six thousand crimson pearls that had been strung together which fell down from the crown and covered the back of her neck all the way to her shoulders. It was one of the most beautiful, and expensive, artifacts in the regalia and surely any woman in the world would be honored to have it in their wardrobe. Well, the Emperor reflected in his sour mood, any woman but Tai Zhen. As the door was closed, leaving them alone, the Empress had not even acknowledged him, staring into space with some unreadable expression on her face. He had known Zhen all his life, he could tell when she was upset even though her expression gave little away, he just couldn’t understand what was upsetting her. He could see the still wet trail of tears that had fallen recently down her cheeks, and even now, an occasional tear would slip loose and make the all too familiar journey down her face before dripping into her lap.

“Empress,” he said as he sat next to her, his tone was short and frustrated, she didn’t move away from him as he spoke, but as he had sat she visibly tensed. Zhen was an abnormally flighty creature, he reflected before continuing. “Why are you crying?”

“I don’t know Your Majesty,” she replied weakly, it was as if speaking at all some grand struggle, he could hear the pain in her voice, it seemed she was on the verge of a completely breakdown. Typical.

“Why do you do this Zhen,” he asked harshly, this had been intended to be a happy day but then first Yu and now Zhen, it was like the city conspired to ruin his evening. “I want an answer Zhen,” he said again, turning to face her, she still gazed at nothing, peering out into the room beyond the small designs in the door. “You haven’t been in a decent mood in so long, all you ever do is sit around and moan and weep. It’s pathetic,” he spat his words with vile, but she gave him no response. “You’ve no respect for authority, just today you arrived late- by the Ancestors, I even had to send someone to fetch you. You wouldn’t have come at all if I left you to your own devices, I know that well enough. You have no respect. And what’s more, you’re terribly ungrateful. Don’t you see that everything is for you Zhen. You and our son.” He sighed, raising his voice a little further, “I’ve given you everything; power, respect, a child, and even love. And you can’t even come to a party.”

“Your Consort is deeply remorseful if she has offended the Son of Heaven,” Zhen replied quietly, the Emperor frowned, her mind was a thousand miles away. “Your Consort thanks Your Majesty ten thousand times over for elevating her to this illustrious position. Your Consort is blessed above all other women. I couldn’t be more blessed. I couldn’t be happier.” A single tear escaped and fell.

“What do you think would happen to you if I wasn’t here to protect and defend you? Have you ever thought about that Zhen?” It was something he’d considered many times over in his mind, “don’t you dare think I’ve forgotten about your love affair with that Guard. You spoiled yourself with that man, who would marry a non-virgin? Have you ever considered that Zhen? If I didn’t intervene, restore your virginity, and make you my wife, I not for me, you’d be living in a whorehouse today instead of a Palace.” She wasn’t even listening to him. “Damn it, why can’t you appreciate the things I’ve given you? I saved you!” She wouldn’t even look at him. “If you didn’t have my son inside you I would let every guard have a turn with you. Every last one of them. You seem to like the Guard well enough. Maybe afterwards you’d appreciate how kind I am. How merciful. You don’t fear the life of a whore because you’ve never experienced it. One day is all it would take, what do you think of that Zhen?” She didn’t offer an answer. “I said, what do you think of that?” His voice was elevated now, he could hear the guard shuffle outside, ascertaining whether or not their presence was needed. They decided it wasn’t.

“Your Consort submits to the Will of the Emperor.”

“Shut up,” he said through a sharp exhale, her words were a dagger plunged into his heart. Why couldn’t she see that he loved her? He was so terribly, miserably alone. She was the only thing in all the world that could rescue him and still she refused. Why did she hate him? He’d given her everything, hadn’t he? “You’ve never appreciated anything Zhen. You’re a hateful creature. That’s why you hate me. That’s why you hated father.” She shuddered at the mention of their father. Turning to meet him for the first time, her eyes as frightful as they were pleading.

“Please, let us not speak of father.”

“Oh yes, I forgot that you don’t enjoy discussing our great Ancestor,” she pushed herself further away from him, as if trying to melt into the wall behind her. “You’re so arrogant. You whore for the guard, but you refuse me? I am an Emperor, just as father was before me. What he can do I can do also. If you whore for him, you will whore for me. And by the Ancestors you will do it with a smile on your face because I command it.” He reached out and grabbed her arm, eliciting a shriek, “shut up! You don’t have any power here; I am the Emperor! I am a god! I have the authority here; I have the power. What I wish will be done.” She was trembling now; she was always trembling it seemed. “What’s the matter Zhen? Do you cower out of fear or out of shame? For how you scorned father and how you hate his memory? For how you scorn me? Are you ashamed Zhen?”

“Yes,” her voice was as weak and small as a frightened child as she tried to pull herself out of his grip, unsuccessfully, her efforts caused the large crown to tumble from her head, crashing to the ground. “Please brother, please, please, let me go.”

“I will never let you go,” he hissed back, pulling her towards himself, she shoved him with more force than he had been expecting, forcing him to release her as he put out his arms to prevent himself from falling to the ground. By the time he managed to get back up, a process slowed by his flowing yellow robes, she was already pulling the sliding door open. It seemed the crowd had been too busy in personal conversation to notice what had been transpiring in the private chamber, for they did not stare or even seem to notice as the uncrowned Zhen made her way through the crowd towards the exit. He was enraged, he moved quickly towards the door, hoping to catch her before it become too much of a scene. She had slipped into the crowd and he searched it rapidly, she was harder to spot without the crown, he didn’t see her but he did lock eyes for a moment with Madame Yu across the room. Her eyes regarded him coldly as he stood there, it was clear she had been aware of what was going on, there was a mocking cruelty in her eyes and a smile at her lips. He would address her later, he began to move towards the crowd, prepared to shove his way through if necessary. Yu raised her hands and locked eye contact with the Emperor, he realized what she intended only a moment before he she cried out in a loud voice.

“Ten Thousand Years to the Emperor!” He stopped in his tracks, the entire room turned their eyes to see him and fell down to bow, as Yu repeated herself, “Ten Thousand Years!” He couldn’t ignore it, there were customary responses that the chant necessitated, and so he was forced to stand there, seething in rage as the praises washed over him again and again.

“Ten Thousand Years!”

“Ten Thousand Years!”

“Ten Thousand Years!”
"A book is never a masterpiece: it becomes one. Genius is the talent of a dead man." - Carl Sandburg

User avatar
Allamunnic States
Posts: 553
Founded: Jun 28, 2011
Scandinavian Liberal Paradise

Postby Allamunnic States » Tue Aug 16, 2016 1:33 pm

Content Warning: This post contains content which may not be appropriate for all readers.

General's Quarters
Near Federal District of Roan
December 25th, 2015

Stevan had decided to take Christmas off. Considering how often he took actual breaks from his work, nobody in the government had expressed any sort of misgiving. If a crisis brewed one of the rare days he took off, either it would keep for one more day, or they knew where to find him. So the Generalissimo had given himself the day to be lazy. He had settled in on his favorite chair, a stack of books at his side, in front of a steadily crackling fire, started on logs he had chopped himself.

A chair-side table held a bottle of hot cider, and the dark wood of the log-cabin walls formed a stark contrast with the white snow sprinkling continuously outside the window. He had settled in, cracking open the fresh cover of Blazing Ardour, sipping from his mug, when there was a ring of the doorbell. Cocking an eyebrow, the Allamunnic head of state stood up, setting his book aside in a spot where its just scandalous cover would be concealed from the doorway. He strode evenly to the door, his slippers flopping on the floor, before he pulled open the door.

Standing on the doorstep was one of the small unit of soldiers that served him as guards. Dressed in a heavy coat, SARL-54 slung over his shoulder, holding a standard-sized envelope. Nonplussed, Stevan looked at him, then looked at the folded paper and its appropriate postage, and then back at it's holder.

"I'm going to hazard a guess that that's for me?" he asked the soldier, whose name he knew was Kaarl.

"Nossir, just standing on your doorstep with an envelope for my health, sir," Kaarl replied cheerfully, relaxing a little bit. Although there were public proprieties to maintain, the company that served Grimmeburger as guards quickly built up a much less formal rapport with their charge. The joking and general looseness fit the personalities of all involved much better. Cracking a grin, Kaarl handed the envelope to Stevan, even as snowflakes began to plant themselves in Kaarl’s brown beard and Stevan’s grizzled one.

“Well, I’d suggest getting back inside,” Stevan said, accepting the envelope. “All jokes aside, I don’t want you catching a cold on Christmas on my account,” he said. Kaarl laughed.

“Don’t much give a shit if it’s Christmas, sir. I had my holiday last week,” he chuckled, before popping off a loose salute, which Grimmeburger promptly waved down. “Have a Merry one, sir.” He turned and began walking and Stevan swung the door shut, staring down at the paper in his hand, perplexed. It was not often he got mail, and he usually was expecting it if he got something. But this was wholly unexpected. What was more, the handwriting on the envelope was not one he recognized.

He walked over into his small, reasonably rustic kitchen and grabbed a knife out of a holder, slicing the top of the envelope open in a smooth, practiced motion. Sliding the knife back into the handle, he pulled a folded paper from the envelope and opened it.

Dear Mr. Grimmeburger,

Firstly, let me wish you a Merry Christmas! I hope this letter finds you well. I realize that this communication is probably unexpected, but it seemed the proper thing to do.

It was a pleasure to get to finally meet you last week. I appreciate the concern and support you showed me prior to your departure. And, actually, it was your offer of mentorship or advice that you made that is the reason I am writing to you today.

Over the last week or so, I have been uncertain as to my direction both with this current posting, and with the future. I am planning a visit home to visit my family around the first week of January, and I wanted to ask if it would be possible to meet with you during that time, to get your advice on a few of those matters. Naturally, if that is not possible, I fully understand.

In either case, I wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and may God bless you. :)

Best wishes,
Ellie Hendrsunn

“Huh, I didn’t think she’d take me up on it that quickly,” Stevan mused, recalling the offer he had made to the energetic young ambassador to New Edom. He paused, wondering what Hendrsunn might want his advice on. The list of topics was long precisely because he could not think of one that seemed terribly plausible. Nothing, at least, that he could imagine her going to him over someone else for advice.

He set the letter down on the chair-side table and sat back down, fishing his book out from between the cushions. He glanced at it for a moment, thought better of it, set it on the table, and picked up the letter a second time. Stevan liked to be prepared. Relatively few things caught him completely by surprise.

But that letter certainly had.

General’s Quarters
Near Federal District of Roan
January 7th, 2016

Thankfully, the snow had stopped the previous evening, and the snow plows had had ample opportunity to clear the roads in and around the Federation’s capital. Thus, driving, for anyone at all used to the Federation’s weather, in any given part of the country, would be fairly easy on the good-quality roads leading to the General’s Quarters.

That was a very good thing. Stevan was not sure whether or not Ellie would drive herself, or if they would have a driver (one could never be sure with old-money types), but in either case, the easier the trip, the better. He had felt bad enough about letting her come to him, but security concerns were something that had to be taken into consideration, and in any case, she had insisted.

He glanced back at the fireplace, which currently had a steady flame inhabiting its brick and iron frame. It was not a particularly large fire, since Stevan knew he needed to pace his wood usage (he would need to go out and split some more either that evening or the following morning), and he did not want the room to be too hot. He wandered back from the window towards his kitchen, with its plain wooden table, and checked to make sure the coffee was brewing. To his relief, the inky liquid was percolating nicely, and he grunted with satisfaction. Properly-strengthed coffee (which could be expensive in the Federation due to the price of coffee beans) was one of the few luxuries Grimmeburger tended to afford himself.

He strolled over to a cabinet, swung the wooden panel open, and pulled down two white mugs for the coffee, setting them next to the coffee-maker. He made sure there was a tin of cocoa nearby as well, just in case. He was straightening the table when he heard a squawk on the radio.

“Visitor incoming,” the guardhouse’s occupant informed the Generalissimo. He nodded, and then, realizing the guard could not see him, voiced his affirmation. He strolled toward the door, peeking through the curtain. He watched a town car pull up outside the house, and he knew it had already been searched by the main gate. A moment later, a driver, who he recognized as part of his staff (one of the staff had to drive any outside vehicles to the house, for security reasons), got out of the front seat and opened the rear passenger door.

In another universe (and at a different time of year), Ellie Hendrsunn might have got out of the car like a classic femme fatale, all legs and “come-hither” appeal. In this one, however, she pulled herself up from her seat with a gloved hand on the top of the car door, practically hopping out with a crunch of snow under her stylish, but practical boots, pulling her coat close around her to brace against the chill of mid-winter. Stevan swung the door open, stepping out onto the front step.

He had shoveled off the flagstone walk earlier that morning, so after getting off of the packed snow of the driveway itself, Ellie’s boots clomped evenly on the pavers. Stevan quietly watched the young ambassador approach. He reflected that she had definitely inherited her family’s signature good-looks, with high cheekbones and refined features complementing large, brown eyes and shoulder-length brown hair that curled slightly. She looked younger than she actually was, with an appearance suggesting that the thirty-five year-old woman was in her late twenties or early thirties instead. In a word, she was adorable, and--

The fuck are you thinking? The thought rose rather sharply, as he realized that somewhere along the line he had gone from appraisal to admiration. You’re old enough to be her father. That’s disgusting, his moral compass reminded him.

“Good morning, sir,” she said cheerfully as she approached him. She extended her hand as she reached Stevan, offering to shake. “Thank you so much for agreeing to meet with me.” Grimmeburger shook her hand firmly, the grip of her slender fingers solid enough to answer his sturdier hand and corresponding grasp.

“No trouble at all, Ms. Hendrsunn,” he replied, in visibly good spirits himself. “Thank you for coming out here. I realize it was a bit of a hike.” After a moment, he realized she had called him ‘sir.’ “Also, ‘Stevan’ is fine.” The last statement came out in a little bit of a rush, he realized.

“Thank you… Stevan,” she said, smiling with just a smidge of embarassment. “And please, Ellie.” Grimmeburger stepped to the side, offering for Hendrsunn to step inside. She obliged, knocking the little snow from her boots on the step before going inside.

She heard Grimmeburger close the door behind them as he followed her in. Looking around, she was struck by just how simple the residence of the Allamunnic head of state was.

From the outside, the building looked like a single-story log cabin, a rustic structure huddled in the wooded foothills of the Bluwaalds that defined the northern parts of Ainslynd. But that, she thought, would just be a facade. Inside, the building was…

Still a relatively rustic cabin sort of building. The earthy wood tones of the walls were exactly what one would expect from the outside of the home, and the furniture was plain, but clearly well-made. A few pieces, including the kitchen chairs, looked a little rougher, and the couch in the adjoining den was unstylishly upholstered in light brown fabric, but it looked soft, squishy, and absurdly comfortable. The loveseat adjacent to it looked to be similar, in that regard, and the coffee table between them, resting on a shaggy blue rug, looked similar to the kitchen table in its plain nature, although its workmanship was a little rougher, it was clearly solidly-built.

Her analysis was interrupted by Grimmeburger behind her. “Can I take your coat?” he asked her, offering a hand. Hendrsunn nodded, shuffling out of her long black felt coat. She handed it to him, feeling much lighter in her dark blue dress and black tights, free of the thick outer layer. As she stepped deeper into the house, she heard Stevan’s voice behind her. “Feel free to have a seat wherever,” he grunted. She settled down on one end of the couch, watching as Grimmeburger settled down on the loveseat, facing toward her. He sat back, his posture easy and comfortable, which, if she could read minds, she would know was unexpectedly at-odds with his emotional state. “So, what can I do for you?”

“I need career advice, Stevan,” she said, her voice smooth and resonant, more confident than she felt. Part of that was a result of the circumstance. Part of it was the awkwardness of using the first name of the Allamunnic head of state. Part of it was a line of thoughts that had risen, unbidden, minutes earlier. “I’m unsure about what course to take moving forward, and I thought maybe, considering your experience, you could maybe help me see a path.” She smoothed her dress nervously. “I’d appreciate it if this conversation didn’t leave…”

Stevan laughed. “Don’t worry about that. I’m not about to go blurbing the contents of a private conversation,” he said. “Just give me a little context.”

“Umm, so, I don’t know if it’s made news here or not, but my Mum’s sick,” she said, “She’s going to be starting chemo next week.” Some of the pep went out of her voice, and Stevan felt a pang of sorrow for her. He shook his head.

“It wasn’t released on the news,” he said. “Shit, Ellie, I’m so sorry. If you don’t mind me asking, how’s the outlook?” For her part, Hendrsunn managed to keep a smile on her face, although it was more subdued than one she might have worn back in December.

“Well, what she has is treatable, so there’s that. But anyway, my question was about what I should do regarding my ambassadorship,” she explained. “I… I want to be home, near my Mum, so I can help out with her if she needs it, and, you know, just in case…” Stevan was already nodding in response. “But at the same time, I don’t know. That feels like abandoning my post. Abandoning my duties to this country. And I’m worried it might doom whatever other adventures in public service I set out on.” She rubbed her temples. “That wasn’t really a good way to put it. My career. I’m worried it might ruin my career, give me a reputation as a flake,” she explained.

Stevan sat back, eyes out of focus, clearly thinking. “Well, this is just an old orphan speaking, but if I were in your position, I’d put family first. Personally.” He looked at her, then, and shrugged. “The only people who will try and call you a flake for putting family before country are going to just find something else to attack you on. Hate to say it, but the political enemies and bullshit artists will always find something. It may or may not be true, but they’ll find some way to attack you. But no reasonable person will hold your putting your family first against you.” Briefly, he considered vocalizing how much he sometimes wished he had problems like that (at least as far as having a family to put first), but thought better of it. And then reconsidered again, somewhat. “All I can tell you is what I’d do in the same situation, and if it were me, I’d want to put my family first. Your perspective may well vary, of course.”

A smile crossed Hendrsunn’s face. “No, no, that’s actually what I was… well, what I was hoping you’d say. Sets my mind a little more at ease with the decision I’m leaning towards.” She glanced around. “Thank you, again. I appreciate the advice and everything,” she said. She looked for a moment like she was getting ready to get up, and then as if she had thought better of it.

“Something the matter, there?” Grimmeburger asked. He glanced over into the kitchen, suddenly feeling more than a little awkward. “Would you care for some coffee or cocoa? Something stronger?” He started, in turn to get up, which seemed to indicate to Hendrsunn that she should also get up.

She smirked in response. “Actually… If you have anything to put in the coffee…” she replied with a chuckle. Stevan looked back at her, faux-alarm written on his face.

“Christ, girl, it’s not even noon!” he laughed a moment later. “I’d be an irresponsible host if I let you drink alone.” He started to look for a cream liqueur, before Eleonur stopped him.

“Actually, cocoa will do fine. Don’t need to be jittery right now.”

Stevan glanced back and cocked an eyebrow. “So no cream with that, either?” He was answered by a snort and a shake of the head from Eleonur, whose smirk had turned into a full smile, as she stood in the kitchen, arms crossed. “Alright, Bluwaald Cream in the cocoa it is.” A long moment later, he turned around to face Eleonur, presenting her with a white mug, filled with steaming brown liquid lighter than its natural color due to the inclusion of the liqueur. “There ya go.”

“Thank you kindly,” she said, taking the mug in slim-fingered hands. She almost immediately set the mug down on a placemat. At a questioning glance from Stevan, she explained. “Hotter than I expected.” She got a snort in response.

“It’s hot cocoa. I’m not really sure what you expected.” He poured himself a cup of coffee, black as tar, and then “lightened” it by dropping a somewhat liberal amount of whiskey into the mug. After he stirred it, he turned back to his guest. “Is it alright?”

“Dunno. I’m still waiting for it to cool,” she said, watching tendrils of steam curl from her cup. “I’ll just give it another moment.” Shortly thereafter, leaning against a counter, she ventured a small sip of the still-hot beverage. “Mmmm.” She sighed, closing her eyes. “Yessir, that’ll about do it. Thank you!”

“Excellent.” Grimmeburger held up his mug. “Toast?”

Hendrsunn looked somewhat puzzled, as she sipped a little bit more, now that the drink’s temperature was definitely reaching a drinkable level. “Uhh, to what?”

Pausing, Stevan was actually at a loss for a moment. For one of the relatively few times in his life, he had not stopped to think ahead on this. What was wrong with him? He managed to, thankfully, avoid verbally stumbling. “To… loved ones.”

Well, at least he had avoided stumbling too much.

Equally perplexing was the expression that crossed Eleonur’s face. She seemed inclined to just run with the suggestion, but perhaps she had detected some of his unease and awkwardness. Or maybe it was something else. She seemed briefly distracted by something before composing herself and nodding. “To our loved ones.” They gently bumped their mugs together and took deeper drinks.

Neither of them cared all that much that the fire had died down, long-since inured to whatever chill might have crept into the room, braced by the warmth of the not-inconsiderable amounts of alcohol both had consumed over the last three hours while they had sat and talked, the conversation veering from family, to music, to pastimes and travel, and then back around to more personal topics.

That turn had happened courtesy of a failure to tidy up adequately. Stevan had not sufficiently hidden one of his less-socially-acceptable reading choices, and Eleonur, now sufficiently uninhibited, just had to ask about it. After some brief embarrassment, there was a realization by both of them that lines had already been crossed. So, when she asked him why he was reading Blazing Ardour, he sighed and answered.

“Well, when you’re running a country, you don’t really have time to go on dates or anything. You know. There’s… security clearances and shit.” He said, with the typical candor of the drunk. “So… sometimes you need some variety. Political thrillers just feel too much like work. Sci-fi and fantasy do the job sometimes, but sometimes you just need…”

“Romance? Titillation? A masturbatory aid?” she said with a smile. Stevan sighed and shook his head.

“Oh, like I need any real help with that. It’s a lot more of an… intellectual? --yeah, that’s the right word -- void. I mean, not that there’s not that other one, but, you know, it’s a lot easier to take care of by yourself…” he explained, not even considering that this might be oversharing (which, in all fairness, in the context of the previous few hours, it did not especially qualify as). Thankfully, Eleonur was nodding back.

“I know what you mean. I haven’t even been doing this nearly as long, and it’s impossible to keep a relationship going. And once you’re going abstinent, it’s hard to stop. Not just anyone’s suitable. You have, you know, responsibilities.” Her next words were practically a mutter. “Not that I tend to work like that, anyway.” Then: “I mean seriously, it’s been like three years for me.”

Grimmeburger cocked an eyebrow. “Since your last relationship?”

“Nonono. Thaaat was waaaaay longer ago,” she said. “No, since I last… you know. Got some.” She looked a little embarrassed at the revelation. “Much to Mum’s frustration, I’m sure.

There was a laugh from Stevan. “That’s not that bad. Try…” he paused, concentrating. “Hold on, gotta do the math. Two-thousand-three to now is…” He frowned, his alcohol-addled mind hampering his arithmetic. “Huh. So I guess it’s been about thirteen years now.” Eleonur whistled.

“That’s one hell of a dry spell,” she said, more than a little amazed. “I mean… I didn’t think anyone could willingly go that long unless they were asexual or something.” She poured herself another glass of the bottle of cider they had been working on for the last thirty minutes or so, and then took a long drink. “Err, so, it occurs to me…” She trailed off as a look of somewhat dazed skepticism crossed Stevan’s face, but she rallied and continued. “We’ve both got rather, uhh, long dry spells.” More skepticism, maybe even confusion, answered her. “Umm, what I’m saying is…uh, well, we can both expect confidentiality from each other, and it would kill two birds with one stone, and… uh…”

It took a moment for the suggestion to click in the Generalissimo’s head. “Ambassador Hendrsunn… are you propositioning me?” he asked, bewildered. His eyes had widened as comprehension had dawned, and even now seemed unsure what to make of the situation.

She took a deep breath. Drunk or not, the situation was still more than a little awkward. Still, it was inadvisable to change tactics mid-battle. “Yes, that is actually exactly what I am doing.” She was not sure if she had crossed an irreparable line, or if he was actually on-board with what she had, in a fit of audacity, suggested. Turning on her charm as best she could, she smiled wickedly. “Why, is it working?”

Grimmeburger glanced down for a moment. “Yes, Miss Hendrsunn. It absolutely is.” By this point, she had practically climbed into his lap, and, before he could think of anything further to say, she had pressed her lips against his. His brain briefly short-circuited, before he held her closer to him, eagerly kissing her back.

The first thing that greeted Ellie was blinding light, and the feeling of her skull splitting. As soon as her eyes had fluttered open, she slammed them back shut, groaning in a mix of discomfort, anger, and general discontent.

After some indeterminate amount of time, a memory or two came back to her. She had been having the best dream. She remembered it had involved having a cozy evening with someone she genuinely liked and she had even gotten laid! It was a shame it was a dream and not--

Her eyes snapped open as she realized she could hear breathing other than her own. And then she realized she could feel skin under her arm and torso. Her bare torso. And then that she could feel the person next to her inhaling and exhaling, her back against their chest, their arm around her. She wiggled a little bit, and realized how close together they were. And that they were both entirely in the nude. Headache aside, what little sleepiness she still had was blasted away by the sound of a loud snore from behind her. She glanced back, gasped, and turned back ahead, thinking about what she’d seen.

Alright, don’t panic, Ellie. Focus on the basics. You spent the night with a man you don’t know all that well. If the hazy memories are any indication, you had some really good sex together after a generally-enjoyable day. There’s nothing wrong with that. Even if it is the head of state that you had that profoundly-satisfying encounter with. She took a few deep breaths. Then, hoping for the best, she cleared her throat. In response, she got a groan out of Stevan behind her.

“Aright, aright, ‘m ‘wake,” he mumbled. “Sht, frk.” If Eleonur had to hazard a guess, that had been his reaction to opening his eyes. After a moment, he groaned for a moment, cleared his throat, and “G’mornin’. You feel’n aright?” After a moment, he groaned again, and, moving his arm from over Eleonur, sat up. “Sorry, are you feeling alright?” he asked again, now actually enunciating.

“I feel like some prospector’s been having a go at my head with his pickaxe,” she responded, grumpy but not angry. “But I’m not nauseous, at least. Little victories. I’ll take it.” She raised her fist in mock-triumph. After a moment, Ellie sat up, as well, pulling the covers up with her to keep her chest covered. She could feel how mussed her hair was, and she was pretty sure she had at least one pillow mark on her cheek. She looked over to Stevan, and was put at least mildly at-ease.

Grimmeburger gave her an amused smirk. “Yeah, I know, in the cold light of the morning, without the beer-goggles at work, I’m not exactly easy on the eyes.” While Hendrsunn could not outright disagree, it seemed like it was purely a result of the same things that made her self-conscious. His hair was disheveled, and his beard was sticking out slightly in improbable places. He was actually less hairy than she had expected, and despite his age, she noticed that he was in quite good shape. Not the shape of a body-builder, but of a person who was active in functional activities. Still, seeing him made her feel better about herself, although the fact that he had stopped to pull on his boxers solidified her desire to find at least some of her clothes.

She was looking around the bedroom when she heard a pop and another groan. “Ah, jeez, I’m going to be achey all day,” Stevan said, his voice muffled from the kitchen. “I didn’t realize you had that much energy in you.” Eleonur giggled.

“Yeessir, I’m just a fountain of vitality!” she reported. “Although that vitality might resume a little sooner if there were some painkillers handy,” she called back.

“Yes ma’am, I got ‘em for you. Hold up just a moment.” A long moment later, he walked back in, bearing a pill bottle and a glass of water. “Will ibuprofen do?” Eleonur nodded. “Excellent. Now,” he said, handing her the glass and the bottle. “How do you like your eggs?”

“Usually I scramble them. Why?”

“Because I’m cookin’ this morning, that’s why,” he said, voice gruff. “Toast?” She nodded back. “Alright. And you’re not a vegetarian, right? Bacon okay with you?” Another nod, although he paused for a moment, watching Eleonur look for her clothes. “Uhh, do you want to borrow a shirt and some sweatpants while you find your stuff?”

“That would actually be wonderful, if it’s not too much trouble,” she said. A moment later, he dropped a folded over pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt onto the end of the bed. “Much appreciated.”

Grimmeburger walked back into the kitchen, leaving Ellie in the bedroom alone again, although the door was ajar. She got out from under the covers, picking up the clothes while she looked around.

The room did not look all that different from the rest of the house. The sunlight streaming in from the windows and a skylight were giving a warmer tone to the unpainted wood of the walls (although it was clearly finished). The bed they had used the previous night was very solidly-constructed, also of unpainted wood, and she suspected based on the craftsmanship that it had been made by a Bluwaald carpenter. There were two bedside tables. On her near side, there was an alarm clock and a lamp, while the other table had a lamp and another book.

There was also a dresser, in the same style as the other furnishings, with a number of pictures on top. Once she had slipped into the sweatpants (and, with some work, cinched them properly, although, given their size difference, they still slid down her bottom slightly) and tossed on the shirt, she walked over, looking at the pictures.

The first one she saw was, to her mild confusion, a picture of Labor Party leader Stannis Lynnun. She knew well enough that Lynnun and Grimmeburger had been in the army together, but she had not realized they were close enough to merit this sort of display. There was also an older picture, somewhat faded, that had a man and woman she did not initially recognize, in what appeared to be a family portrait. Both of them were smiling, dark-eyed and dark-haired. After a moment, it clicked that they both, in different ways, bore a strong resemblance to Stevan. Must be his parents, she thought. She briefly wondered how he had gotten a picture of them, although she reasoned that if he had not already had one, finding one would not have been out of his power for the last fifteen years or so.

And then there was--

“Umm, I don’t mean to sound confrontational,” she called, as she walked over to the kitchen, “but why on earth do you have a picture of my grandmother on your dresser?” As Grimmeburger turned around, in the middle of cooking, he saw her approach, not looking angry so much as confused.

“Well, she’s kind of an idol of mine,” he said. “When I was in the orphanage, there weren’t loads of opportunities for kids like me. But she put through a lot of policies to help orphans, and children living in poverty, to help break that cycle. So the Sisters who operated the orphanage kept a picture of Lady Eleonur in a prominent place. So I keep one around to help remind me where I came from, and who to model work after.” He shrugged. “So now you know my deep dark secret. I’m actually a closet Labor sympathizer,” he added with a laugh. “You can blame that and my old friend Stan for that.”

Ellie was glad he did not get mad at her for snooping. She supposed he got his revenge when he dropped a fork onto the floor. In an instinctive reaction, Ellie bent over to pick it up, and felt just the slightest bit of cold air on her rear where the pants had slid down. She looked up to see Stevan smiling and blushing slightly with embarrassment. It was… well, kind of adorable, actually.

“Like what you’re seeing?”

“Take a wild guess.” He turned around, picking up two plates. “Breakfast is served, by the way.” With that, he set the empty plates down on the table, then walked back to the counter, bringing two more, one loaded with scrambled eggs, the other with several crispy bacon strips on it. Another moment, and he added a plate with a few slices of toast on it, and a fourth with what looked to be either two very large, or three smaller sliced apples.

They both served themselves. While Stevan made himself what was essentially an open-faced sandwich with eggs and bacon on toast, Ellie simply took a bite of the scrambled eggs. She sighed happily. She should have known that he would cook them in the bacon grease, giving them an absolutely delightful flavor.

“All good? Anything missing?” he asked her. She shook her head in reply, mussed brown hair haloed around her.

“This is wonderful. Thank you so much for breakfast,” she said, before taking a bite out of a length of bacon. She took a breath, then, and opened her mouth, saying what she needed to say. Only, as it happened, they spoke simultaneously.

“We should--”

“We need to--”

“--talk about last night,” they finished together. Grimmeburger held up his hand, indicating that Hendrsunn should speak first. She looked a little nervous, although she could see that Grimmeburger’s expression mirrored her. Which was… more candid than she had expected. Her general impression of him had been of being even-keeled. Strange.

“Well, I realize your position probably doesn’t really allow for anything long-term,” she said. “So if you need this to be just a one-time thing that I keep quiet about, that’s… fine, I guess.” Her tone betrayed her words, though. “I mean, I’m not really built that way, but it takes two, so…”

Stevan raised an eyebrow. “It’s not that I don’t want to…” He paused, collecting his thoughts. “Look, Miss Hendrsunn-- Eleonur, I really like you. If yesterday’s any indication, you’re a bright, good-hearted person. And, well, rather attractive to boot. And last night was fantastic. But I’m not sure it would be fair for us to continue. You’d end up in the spotlight, probably more than you want, right now, and if you’re worried about being smeared for resigning, what would come out of this would be even worse. People will talk. Not to mention the fact that…” he sighed, the fact he had been trying to ignore coming forward, “I’m old enough to be your father. Not only will people talk, where’s the end goal in that? Do you want children? Because if that’s the case, you’ve got limited time, and I’m hardly an ideal father at this age. Do you want companionship? I’m about as married to the job as it gets, even if there might be an end to that in sight. And--”

“And what I’ve realized most of that, and don’t really care all that much?” she asked. “Age gap? I know it’s weird for us, but it’s not like it doesn’t happen in other countries all the time. I’m an adult, I can decide what is or is not too old for me. And goddammit, I’m a Hendrsunn. Being married to the job is nothing new for our family. Besides, at minimum, I’m one of the few people you could wind up with who can’t be accused of being a gold-digger.” She sat back. “I know what I want. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable, or to feel like you need to go along with something you want no part of. But if we both want this to not just be a one-night stand, why shouldn’t we give it a chance?” As she finished, she looked almost a little alarmed at her own forcefulness, as did Grimmeburger, who clearly was not used to being interrupted. “Sorry, it just all came out at once,” she apologized quickly. “I didn’t mean to cut you off.”

He said nothing for a long moment. Oh, Christ, I pissed him off. Good job, Ellie. There were long moments of worried silence, before Stevan finally spoke.

“I realize this may not be fully appropriate to our conversation,” he said, “But I am incredibly turned on right now. It is so nice to have someone who’s not worried about speaking freely.” Before resuming eating, he said, “Well, if you’re aware of the risks, so to speak, I would be quite happy for this to not be a one-time thing,” he said.

Well, not quite what I was expecting. Still, when you’ve won, don’t complain... “Excellent. In that case, when would you like our next… date? Encounter? Rendezvous? Whatever we call it.” After a few minutes of pensive eating, she hit on an idea. “So… one of my relatives is holding a fundraiser for an association of orphanages in Tyrrslynd. Think you could make it out to that?”

“Oh, somehow I’ll find an excuse,” Grimmeburger said with a laugh. “I don’t know how anyone will believe me attending something like that. Especially if it involves getting dressed to the nines.” There was only half-truth there. In all reality, Stevan really did hate getting really dressed up, and avoided it as a matter of course. But, for the right causes, that could change.

“Sounds good to me,” she said before resuming her meal. Soon enough, they were both done with their breakfast, stomachs settled and feeling much more lively, despite the ghosts of hangovers lingering. Eleonur joined Stevan in washing off the dishes, and soon enough those had been put away, and a new topic had to be broached. “Err, would it be okay if I showered before I go?”

“Don’t see why not,” Grimmeburger said with a shrug. When the suggestion she had been hoping for did not materialize, she repeated the question, prompting the same response, this time with a look of confusion. Finally, she tried for a third time.

“Would it be okay if we showered before I go?” she asked, putting emphasis on the change of wording. Finally, her meaning reached her hungover lover.

“Ohhhh. Yes, definitely. Do you know where it is?” She nodded. “Good. Go get the water running, and I will be there to help you out in just a moment.” After Ellie had wandered back towards the bedroom, he smiled ruefully. “Christ, Stevan. What have you gotten yourself into?” Then, a moment later, he answered his own question. “Somehow, an affair with a much younger, much prettier woman. You lucky bastard.” And, with that, he turned around to follow her.

“Thanks for the assist. I feel positively human again,” Eleonur said, giving Stevan a quick smooch as she stopped at the door. It had been more than an hour since they’d finished breakfast, and they had kept busy for much of that time, although the last ten minutes or so had been spent retrieving Hendrsunn’s clothes and getting ready to go, calling for her driver.

“Oh, I’m just glad I could help,” Grimmeburger replied cheerfully. “I hope you have a safe trip back home. And best of luck with the resignation. I’ll try to be there at the inevitable hearing. In an official capacity, of course. But you have my support.”

“Way to go back to talking shop,” Hendrsunn said with a laugh. “I’ll be careful. And I’ll be looking forward to seeing you soon, alright?”

“I’ll do my best not to disappoint.”

“Good. Who knows, maybe it will even feel like an actual date. Instead of, you know, just sleeping with a coworker in the weirdest possible way.” They both laughed. A moment later, there was the sound of a knock at the door, and the door opened to see one of Grimmeburger’s security detail, who would drive Hendrsunn to the perimeter. As they both expected, he was wearing a mask of diplomatic neutrality, suggesting he knew perfectly well what had happened and was wisely keeping quiet about it.

“I’ll be taking you back to your driver, Ambassador,” the man, who appeared to be ranked a Lieutenant, said somewhat stiffly. He saluted Grimmeburger, who waved him down.

“Don’t bother with that, Lukas.” He walked with them out to the car, down the now-dry walkway, opening the door for Eleonur, letting her climb in, and then closing it gently. “Be careful in the snow.”

“It’s mostly melted on the roads, sir. It’s been warm and sunny. Maybe spring’s coming early, eh?”

First making eye-contact with Ellie, then looking at the unusually-cloudless sky, he grinned.

“Yeah, maybe.”
Last edited by Allamunnic States on Tue Aug 16, 2016 1:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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The Demphorian Kingdoms
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Postby The Demphorian Kingdoms » Wed Oct 12, 2016 2:56 pm

August 13, 1898
Child, upon these maps do heed
This black stain to be effaced
Omitting it, you would proceed
Yet better it in red to trace
Later, whatever may come to pass
Promise there to go you must
To fetch the children of Élbiøs
Reaching out their arms to us
May in our fondest nation
Hope’s green saplings to branch
And in you, dear child, flower
Grow, grow, Demphor awaits its hour.

Traditional Demphorian poem, 19th century

Hywine, Élbannin
The soldier quietly adjusted his cap as he walked through the dust and rubble of Hywine. His Lee-Enfield resting upon his shoulder as he and 5 other men wandered through the streets. The rumble of guns in the distant sounded as the last of the Lazinatoese were being driven out of the city or surrendering.

He proceeded up a road towards the top of the town, where the old Protestant Church was. The Church was still standing, although wounded were being brought in from all sides of the conflict. The six men reached the top of the road in front of the church and looked at the top of the old, wooden structure. The soldier thought in impressive, for sure.
“Jesus, man, look at that.”

One of the men was facing the harbor, and brought the attention of the naval battle occurring in front of them. The Grand Fleet had stormed the harbor, with thousands of men crowded into giant metal ships, hurling shells at their counterparts. Ships were exploding and flames were seen on the waterline as hundreds of men swam desperately to the shore, while many other hundred just lay there dead or dying. The blackness of the water made their uniforms indistinguishable as they swam frantically towards the shore. The bow of a great white ship pointed upward towards the sky, as if it was reaching for it as it slowly waited its final moments before it would soon slip beneath the waves.

They came from the south
Wi' murder in mind
The Lazins had orders
Their Emp’ror had signed
Put all to the sword
These words were underlined
And leave none alive called the Rhûris

~ Élbannian folk song, 19th century

“Come on, let’s move towards the harbor,” muttered the soldier.

The was an ominous silence, an eerie sound of silence. No Demphorian soldiers were in front of the squad. All they had heard for several days was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight and distant Lazinatoese voices. But there was a dead silence right there on that day.

They proceeded around a corner. As they did so, they made eye contact with a group of Lazinatoese before them. They stopped, almost horrified at the sight of them. The Lazinatoese soldiers were sitting in the road, unarmed, with their tattered uniforms. They all suddenly stood, looking at the armed Demphorians brandishing their bolt-action rifles and their polished, dark green uniforms.

The soldiers gazed at each other, only a few feet away. The two masses of soldiers stood there in silence, unsure as what to do. The Lazinatoese were unarmed.

One of the Demphorians walked over to the closest Lazin, making eye contact with the man. The soldier looked slowly back to the Demphorian. After a few seconds, the Demphorian reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box, taking a cigarette out of it, and offering it to the Lazin. The Lazin accepted, and laughed. The Demphorian smiled and laughed as well.

The other Demphorians, shocked at what they were seeing, walked over to interact to the other Lazinatoese as well. Unable to understand each other, they started showing each other trinkets.

The soldier reached into his wallet and showed a Lazinatoese picture a of his wife, kissing it and handing it to the Lazinatoese soldier. The Lazinatoese looked at the photo, examined it and then kissed it himself, bringing much laughter to the group of men. The 12 men sat in a circle, exchanging gifts and attempting to communicate. Water was passed around, and some rations as well. The men sat in the center of the street, with rifles set aside.

One of the Demphorians stood up and looked around, disappearing into one of the abandoned shops. He reemerged with two bottles of wine, much to the enjoyment of the soldiers. Cups were dug out and passed around as the wine was poured. The soldiers started to laugh and enjoy themselves. One of the Demphor's dug out a harmonica, and began to sing in a rendition of Wild Rover.

The Lazinatoese looked on in awe to the song, and laughed at the Demphorians in their passion to the song. Once the Demphorians finished, there was clapping and cheering all around.

"Don't you bastards have a song?" asked a cheery Demphorian.

The Lazinatoese looked around and spoke, and began to sing a song of their own. It was now the Demphorian's turn to laugh and be at awe at the Lazinatoese's talent. The two peoples laughed and enjoyed themselves long into the night.

One enemy is ours, and one alone,
yet he chisels Demphor’s gravestone.
Full of hatred his breast, full of envy to the bone.
One enemy is our’s, and one alone.
Now the malefactor lifts his murderous hand,
his name, you know him, is Laztørné.

Traditional Demphorian poem, 19th century
Last edited by The Demphorian Kingdoms on Wed Oct 12, 2016 3:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Leasath » Sat Oct 29, 2016 10:14 pm

The Imperial Palace, Saint-Nazaire, the Vannoisian Empire
12:32 AM Vannoisian Standard

If I just tell them that I only need a small amount...

Perhaps if I go straight to Cath, or simply grandmother Alice -

No, no. I can only talk with him. There's nobody else.

Maybe if I -

"What are you doing out here, Princess?" The clear, low voice that rang out across the cool courtyard made the young woman, who realized simultaneously that she had been speaking those words aloud as opposed to just thinking them, jump high into the air. She whirled around to face the speaker, who looked more than a little embarrassed and, in an attempt to patch things, offered a glass of dark red wine as he sipped his own.

"W-what in the name of the Lord..." The young woman clapped a hand to her forehead, sighing deeply, before quickly tearing her hand away from said forehead once again, realizing that this man was no member of her family; she must be on best behavior, even now past midnight at one of the many less formal Imperial parties thrown by her cousins. "Thank you. Did- did you need something?" She bit her tongue savagely, frustrated as always at her slight stutter; it was worse, more noticeable, especially considering the lateness and her alcohol intake up to this point. Taking the wine, she cocked her head, refusing to speak again.

"I would apologize, my lady. I simply was wondering at the chance to speak with you - I did not mean to interrupt anything." The young man, a lordling by the looks of him - expensive suit, proper disposition, but a youthful innocence about him that screamed richness. "I am Joseph de Theiurry-Perignon, son of the Duke of -"

"The Duke of Carmaux, of course. Ah - I, ah, I apologize. I did not mean to interrupt." Begging his forgiveness gave her a moment to think - why would this man seek her out? What did he have to gain from a royal cousin, that he could not get from one of the royal aunts and uncles, or even the Dauphin's mother? "I am sure you know, then, just who I am?"

"Princess Corinne de Niort-Parthenay, your Highness, daughter of Prince Gérome and the Lady Marie-Vivienne, God rest her soul." At the short nod from the dark Corinne, he smiled slightly. "I have been looking for you for some time, Princess. Your cousin, Catherine, said I might find you here." The Princess blushed slightly, a brilliantly beautiful red upon her porcelain skin. Corinne was undoubtedly the lightest skinned of all her cousins, so many as there were; most attributed the look to her lady mother, who was from the mountainous regions of Vannois and quite light herself. This light complexion was deeply contrasted by her lengthy jet black hair, done up in the western fashion in an intricate pile atop her head today but often let down past her shoulders. In fact, it looked rather uncomfortable to have such a volume of hair atop her head; it could only be quite heavy...

"So she did, I am sure. Cath never really did know when to leave me to myself." Corinne's slightly harsh wording was tempered by a small smile upon her fair face, and her blue-green eyes flashed. "I do wonder, still, why you would ask after me, my lord? This celebration ostensibly being for the Princess Marie-Joseé, that is."

"I had hoped to seek you out, your Highness, in an effort to - well, my lady, in efforts to convince you to marry. Me, that is. Marry me." Joseph went beet red as he misspoke, and Corinne's blush became somehow brighter as she let out a nervous giggle, damning herself for not halting it. The young lordling resisted the urge to take a long swig from his glass, though he could not stop himself gazing down at his feet for a moment.

"If you would excuse us, guardsman." Carmaux let his head shoot up, confused, before his eyes widened upon catching the retreating form of an Imperial Guard leaving their presence. Had he been there the whole time?... Of course he had, you dolt, Joseph berated himself, realizing that no royal family member was ever without a protector; even a cousin, even within the confines of the Imperial Palace. He was distracted by his thoughts when Corinne spoke again, her voice smaller than before, without the authority she had had for just a moment when speaking to the guard.

"Why in the world would you wish to marry me, if I may ask - and I shall - Joseph?" Corinne seemed on the verge of tears, shocking Joseph out of his own head and causing him to take an involuntary step forward, intending to comfort her before realizing his place. "You have chosen the poorest of all the Princesses, lordling, I tell you now." Suddenly she was laughing, though it was not a glad or joyous laugh, and though Joseph barely knew the Princess it hurt him to hear.

"The poorest Princess, my lady? You are daughter of Gérome, son of the Emperor Charles XII; forgive me for saying, but you are quite rich by all standards..." Joseph was confused, though still worried at Corinne's state; why in God's name was she crying? What had he done wrong?

"Y-you don't realize.." Corinne shook her head, smiling sadly down at her feet, before looking back at the young man. Her eyes were piercing, cold. "No little lordlings such as yourself have pursued me, not in many years. Does that not confuse you? Does that not seem queer? I do not consider myself a great beauty -" Joseph choked back a laugh at this, still admiring her, "- but I remain a Princess of Vannois. Why, then have none pursued me?" She seemed to be asking him the question seriously, and he felt put upon for a moment before recalling that he had decided to seek her out. Perhaps this was why Catherine had such a cheeky glint in her eye when she sent him towards her cousin...

"I apologize, my lady, but I can think of no reason to quit pursuit of you, or to refuse pursuit at all. I consider you the greatest of all beauties in this realm - bar none, not even the sisters of the Dauphin or the disgraced Black Princess." Joseph was sincere, now, biting his lip for a moment before revealing his true intent. "I have spoken at length with the Dauphin about this, Princess; I apologize that I did not come to you before but I felt I had to consult with him. He gave his blessing upon this courtship, this betrothal, should you agree. I would have no other, you understand. Each of your cousins has spoken so highly of you..." He trailed off, looking at a point on the ground before turning his gaze back to that of Corinne. "I would ask why you find yourself so undesirable.. Please? I cannot see it."

Touched, Corinne's shoulders slumped slightly, and she let out a pitiful sigh, as if she had been fighting this since the beginning of their queer conversation. "As you must well know, I am the only child of my father by my mother; she died not long after my birth, and my father remarried not long after that to his current wife, my stepmother. They have had all sons, four of them, as you also surely know..." Swallowing hard, she resisted the urge to look from the young lord, at anything but his sudden understanding. "They are valued over daughters. It is not this way in all of my family, but it is in my father's eyes. My stepmother - I- she-..." Corinne swore lightly at herself, walking away from Joseph for a moment, who stayed stock still in surprise. This is not how he anticipated this conversation going.

"This conversation, it goes to nobody. Do you understand?" Corinne was looking at him now, from the side of her face, head turned slightly. Her silhouette was beautiful as the rest of her, he thought absently, nodding. "She has no love for me, and worries eternally that I remind my father too much of my late mother. Not that it matters anyway." She turned to him, fiercer than before, eyes regaining a fire she had not had before. "I do not recommend this suit, Lord Joseph. I only have what I do at the generosity of my cousins and especially Audric. My father and stepmother, they take all my allowance from the Trust, I have no-!" Catching herself, Corinne let out a deep breath, shutting her eyes for a few moments before they opened again. She was trying to cool off, now, though she had no idea if she could in so short a time. "You do not want me, Lord Joseph. We both know it. I-"

"Lies." The shell-shocked young man finally broke his reverie, setting aside his now well empty wine glass, stepping towards the conflicted Princess. "Not- not what you said before, I believe you, every word. Your father and stepmother, they are despicable. But I do - I would have you regardless. I did not engage in this suit for your Trust access, Princess Corinne, I assure you I have only the wish to pursue you. Not your name, or all that entails." Eyes searching her face, he became slightly sheepish, almost apologetic for his words. "I- I do not presume that you would have me, as you are a Princess and I am but the son of a Duke, but-" Suddenly she pounced, hugging him tightly, though she did nothing more. Despite appearances, the two had not known each-other before this day in anything other than passing as nobles met from time to time.

As surprised as he was at her sudden embrace, Joseph reacted quickly, gathering the damaged young woman to his chest gently and cradling her. They were like this for but a moment, before Corinne sniffed rather loudly and stepped back, though their hands were now interlocked.

"I do not claim to know you well, Joseph of Carmaux, but I will take my cousin's judgement of you to heart. If Audric deems you worth of my hand - and God knows he has denied many a suitor of his sisters - then I shall do the same." Smiling slightly, though uncertain as she was, she cocked her head. "Duchess Corinne of Carmaux, Princess of Vannois. An interesting thought. I don't believe a Niort-Parthenay has married into your family for some time, hmm?"

And like that, Corinne was well off from the past minutes, now delving into the history of her to-be-betrothed's noble house, asking questions every so often as they made their way back into the Palace and towards her cousin's personal study, where he would no doubt be entertaining his closest associates as well as awaiting her. Audric did know her best, though she would admit that she knew precious little of him, but for one thing. If Audric of Vannois was anything, he was a family man, though with exceptions; Corinne thanked God every day that she was no such exception.
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Postby Leasath » Tue Nov 22, 2016 3:35 pm

Mont Saint-Lô, Off the Coast of Saint-Lô, Vannoisian Empire
1:22 PM Vannoisian Standard

A name. It was a simple thing, and yet perhaps the most complex part of a person; it could be as little as a few short letters, but those few letters could signify that person's entire life, all the achievements they may or may not make in their lives. After all, there were no Emperor Freds, at least not in Vannois.

That having been said - or thought, rather, Audric rolled his eyes at the intruding thought - there were many 'traditional' and well beloved names that simply would not, could not do. Charles? His grandfather, a kindly but utterly incompetent and perhaps incapable man of considerable age. He did not want such a legacy hanging over his head. Though the virtue of kindness was one to pursue, there was little else of his grandfather he could even consider emulating other than his surprising ability in the marriage bed.

"Dear Lord, why did I even think that?" The Dauphin murmured to himself, frowning, before downing the rest of his glass of amber liquid. He never drank anything this early, not usually; the habit had grown from a hatred of his father, and viewing his mother turn herself to the bottle as well to deal with her own problems. He had sworn never to do the same, and in his mind this was no different - he would only be on the cusp of becoming Emperor once in his life (God Willing) and he may as well do whatever he could to deal with that fact.

So Charles was certainly out. An even weaker name preceded that, Thibault - a name too closely tied to the Ghantish for him to ever want to tie himself to it. The first Thibault had been a joke, a 4 year old boy, the two day Monarch; why his great grandfather had chosen to follow in the footsteps of a child who was imprisoned and killed by age 5 by his own uncle, Audric would never know. It did fit the narrative of a weak man, however; perhaps his great grandmother had a hand in keeping the old man from a more suitably strong name.

Moving forward - he had learned from close listening and short, cool conversations with his great aunts and uncles that Francis III was much in the mold of his own father, though perhaps even crueler; stories of his great-great-grandfathers promiscuity - and forcing himself upon the nearest servant maid - as well as his great penchant to the drink were likely slightly exaggerated, but if they were allowed to be bandied about even in the Imperial Palace then they were obviously even more well known to the public. No, Francis IV he was not, and for that he was glad.

Xavier was a strong name; Xavier I was a strong man, of course, and was chosen to lead the nation despite being from a lesser branch of the Niort-Parthenay house for good reason. The only question brought about by that name was whether Audric wished to be the Second of a line of rulers; would his rule become overshadowed by the original Xavier's in time? The opposite was unlikely as any possibility, considering Xavier I was the 'First Vannoisian' according to many and the first to lead the nation independent of any foreign rulership. He would have to further consider the idea.

Refilling his glass from the nearby bottle of cognac, he pondered the name of Louis - Louis XIX, precisely, as Louis XVIII died long before even his grandfather was born. There were connotations attached to that name, some good and some bad; some great men had been Louis, including the first leader of Vannois under Cornellian rule. In that same vein, Louis XVIII himself had held his own nephew imprisoned for the boy's - and then man's - entire life, though surely he could not mind so impaired as he was. Once Charles X's death was 'confirmed', Louis had seized the throne for himself, overlooking the other son of Charles IX and perhaps even murdering the boy himself. It was not fully known, at least to historians; the family itself knew well that Louis XVIII had ordered the quiet slaughter of Charles IX's household, children included, and held Charles X only to have leverage over the family of his mother.

He could commiserate with Louis, at least the latest of them; and yet the same worry over his legacy remained. Perhaps.

Arnoul and Philippe were out, perhaps for even his successors in many years; one could not get over the betrayal of the first, nor the nickname of 'the Queer' for the latter, and not even Audric himself was interested in trying to rehabilitate either name on such short notice considering his grandfather's condition. That left Robert.

Robert VIII was an unimportant man, despite ruling for 11 years, and his many predecessors were similarly unnoticeable; they were an unlucky bunch, who died young and who's parents also seemed to die as young. Though Audric would admit to the latter - Alexandre had barely been 40, after all - he would refuse to tie himself to such a name and worry the public over his premature demise. It would simply not do to put himself in such a shaky situation so early into his lengthy (God Willing) reign.

He considered Guillaume for a moment, but considering the last Guillaume came in 1679 and died at 38 he decided that that was out as well. Xavier, Louis, or another.


Audric smiled. Perhaps that would be the best route. No overhanging list of predecessors, no need to worry over his own legacy being overshadowed; perhaps he could even spawn a line of consecutive rulers named for him alone. Traditionalists would be angered, no doubt, but his plans for the future of Vannois would put them at ease. Yes. A new name.

Now to choose one.
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Postby Ghant » Tue Jan 31, 2017 11:32 pm

“The Sisters Procula”
Inperiala Palace Grand Ballroom
Ghish, Ghant
February 2, 2016

(Co-written with Late Roman Empire)

Julia Procula was indeed worried about her marital prospects, having devoted so much time and energy to helping her father, as had her sisters, Desideria and Claudia. 18 was the traditional age of marriage, not 20 or 23. What would her chances be now, but she had her duty, and she had done it. Now, she hoped for her reward, a husband at last. Her father had proposed that they join him in Ghant, as “Ghantish men aren’t as picky about age, and more than a few of their lords and noblemen are interested in Roman ladies.”

She just hoped that they were right, as did Desideria and Claudia.

The Reception for the wedding was a well attended event by prominent Ghanto-Roman guests, though a far more modest affair compared to the Midsummer Ball the year prior. The Ballroom was opened up as a result of fewer patrons than that event, with plenty of room for people to mingle that wasn’t the case previously. The actual wedding ceremony had already taken place, while the festivities happened some days afterward. Most of the Gentries were in attendance, as were the prominent Romans in Ghant, or so the Emperor assumed. The King and Queen of Gaemar, the Zurias and Ahenobarbans, so on and so forth.

“So, Valeria wed at last. A great relief, I must say. Wouldn’t you? She wasn’t cut out for the nunnery, as much as she thought that she was. There’s too much alive to her, and yes, Mathias is a great match for the old girl,” the Roman Legate, Claudius Proculus observed to his daughters.

“Tata, I’m just happy to see people getting married. I’ll definitely be relieved to marry someone myself,” Julia smiled tolerantly…..her father wasn’t normally that gossipy, so clearly, he was nervous about something.

Teresa Zuria observed the Proculas from afar as she hovered around the ballroom. The second daughter of Raymond Zuria and Flavia Ahenobarba was a proper, austere woman dressed in a fine flowing green and blue silk gown, with her red hair pinned up in a bun. She was an attractive woman for her age, though it was often said she was overshadowed in that area by her older sister Caroline. With the eyes of a hawk and the feet of a hare, she sought out her mother Flavia, even as she grinded her teeth upon her schemes.

“Hello, daughter. How are you today?” Flavia asked Teresa with a polite nod.

“I’m still irritated that my eldest son wishes to wed that whore Seia,” Teresa snorted as best she could in a ladylike manner. “Now what he should do, if God gave him any sense, would be to keep her as a, ahem, mistress, and then marry Julia Procula for the sense of austerity. That would be the right and proper thing to do, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Well, it’s not the bride that I would have chosen for him, but what can you do? A man of his class needs a woman who wasn’t sold by her master for favors, though I don’t blame her entirely for that. Slaves do what their masters say. Still, I don’t like the idea of that in our official family tree, as it were. Even so, he’s a romantic, like so many other men of his sort. Believes that love trumps social propriety and such. I was lucky in that I love your father, but it didn’t come as easily as it sounds. It’s a love born of so much shared time and memories, you know.

“That being as it may, let’s hope for the best and that Seia surprises us. One can hope and pray. Honestly, as it happens, what do you really think of the whole mess with Caroline, Malibar, and Charles? She should not have wed him when John died. Poor choice. I knew that would come to a bad end, and there were no miracles that time. They should divorce and spare everyone the continued misery, don’t you think?” Flavia frowned now, pleased that at least one daughter shared her sense of respectability, “And Malibar is pure evil, if you ask me.”

Teresa laughed at what she assumed was her mother’s rhetorical question. “What can I do? Persuade him of my preferred course. He just needs to be made to see reason. I know what he wants, he wants to bed her. He can still do that even if he’s married to someone else. For the love of God mother, he will be a Lord Paramount, among the Seven Lords of Ghant! They are a vicious lot as you know, and will mock him for his choice. I cannot allow my son to suffer such a fate as that! So no, I don’t want to see how Seia surprises us, because I’m not interested in surprises. I’m interested in sound investments. So please mother, if you bear me and my children any affection at all, talk to Flavius and make him see reason.”

“As for the rest, you know my thoughts on all that,” Teresa shook her head in dismay with a heavy sigh. “Caroline has always been attracted to the wrong sort of men. She gravitates towards ambition, but with ambition comes machination. Is it not true that ambitious men use women to achieve their own ends? She always insisted on playing with fire, so why should anyone in this family act surprised when she keeps getting burned. You know how much I dislike divorce, but she never should have married Charles in the first place. She was a ruin in those days, and he took advantage of that.” Looking at her mother thoughtfully, she pointed out that “Father always told me that you lusted after him when you first met, just that you tried to act like you didn’t because you thought it would be improper to make it obvious.”

Ignoring the comment about her own marriage for the moment, Flavia answered her daughter, “Ambition is not always a vice. It depends on how it is exercised. If the ambition leads to an illustrious career as a diplomat or soldier, for instance, all well and good. Even a rise in the church. Eunuchs, of course, are a different matter. But, yes, fortune-hunters like Charles Kindaro are a real nuisance. Marrying their way to the top of society instead of earning it the hard way. That’s the real problem. I don’t mind someone with merit, though. Just not fortune-hunters.

“Which brings me to Seia. There are a couple of obvious solutions, but you’re going directly for the one that has the least chance of success. Appealing to a young man in love has about as much chance of achieving its goal as trying to destroy Dakmoor in open warfare. Which is nil, given how many friends Malibar has. No, this requires a conversation between women. Appealing to Seia herself, that is. Making her see reason. She’ll bring him along afterward, as long as he knows that he can still have her and that he won’t hurt her. He’s far too chivalrous for his own good. That’s the trouble with chivalry. It makes men too soft-hearted and soft-headed to do the right thing at times and that forces the hard choices on the women,” Flavia explained.

“I’ll talk to Seia. She’s a Roman, too. She’ll get the good sense in what we’re offering her. We Romans are a practical lot, whatever else you may say about us,” she continued, “and as your father and I, well, lust at first sight is common enough, but shouldn’t be mistaken for love at first sight. The lust was always there. The love had to grow.”

Teresa listened carefully, and then she waved a hand. “True enough mother, well spoken as always. Then by all means, go and speak to her yourself. I will speak to Claudius Proculus myself and see what he thinks of my idea.”

Claudius Proculus, for his part, was weighing his possible options for remarriage as it happened, given that he had received offers of late himself, not to mention for his daughters’ hands in matrimony, too. He wouldn’t be overly surprised to be approached by Teresa Zuria, a charming, if perhaps sometimes too snobby, woman of elegance and grace, not to mention ravishing beauty in her own right. Had she been the sort to hang horns on her husband, he would be far more tempted by her, or any of the other Zuria women, than he would be by most of the ladies of the court, of course. Their Ahenobarban heritage was just diluted enough to make them more tolerable, but strong enough to make them interesting for discourse and company.

“Legate,” Teresa said to Claudius upon arriving near him, and giving a gracious curtsy. “I had hoped to find you here amongst the crowds. Do you have a minute?” she asked him austerely.

“My lady. A pleasure, of course. To what do I owe this honor?” Claudius coughed, eyeing his daughters over the side, “Is this pertaining to something personal or political?”

“A bit of both perhaps.” Looking around the Legate, Teresa stiffened her back and explained, “I don’t want to waste your time, so I will get straight to the point. I know you have eligible daughters of marriageable age, and my son Flavius is of that age as well. As you probably know he is my firstborn son and the heir to Gotorleku. As a Lord Paramount, his choice of bride must be made carefully, and thus far he has exercised poor judgment in that regard. I want to know if you’d consider him as a match for your daughter Julia,” she finished with an intense, eye-searching gaze.

“Ah, yes, I’ve been diligently looking into this matter, as I am concerned that, by Roman standards, Julia has become a bit of an old maid, I fear. As you know, Roman ladies are typically wed at about 18, preferably to men about seven years their senior or thereabouts, the idea being to have men more established in their vocation and means to provide for them. This is considered of higher importance than a commonality of age and experience between the couple. That being said, Julia has been aiding me in my work greatly, to the detriment of her marital prospects. To have a great lord of Ghant, as you would say, even a Lord Paramount, as a husband would not only strengthen ties between our lands and thus serve the greater good and the State, but it would also allow her to settle down into a happy domestic existence as a wife and mother, I trust,” he smiled as he lit a cigar.

“I’d also like to point out that a Roman has never ruled as consort over the Seven Lords of Ghant,” Teresa was quick to point out, before she noted his cigar. “Please, no smoking inside. There are children present.”

“Oh, excuse me. I forgot. Ever since I broke with the Mormon Church, I’ve gotten a little wilder in some things,” Claudius noted as he put out the cigar in a hurry and put the stub away for later use, “In any case, that is a signal honor indeed. Worthy of some effort. But I take it that there is a match that already exists as an obstacle to this delightful arrangement, judging from what you have said about young Flavius and his personal preferences.”

Teresa clucked her tongue before replying with a gentle sigh. “He’s infatuated with a young woman by the name of Seia Venustinia, a former...slave that was in the service of Legate Numerius Helvetius Auila as a secretary. Rather than try to convince him to be rid of her, I’d find it more prudent to convince him to...keep her as a mistress while a more suitable bride that would tolerate her could be found.”

“Yes, I could see where that would be a rather unsuitable match for one of the Seven Lords of Ghant. I love upward mobility for the freedman class as much as any abolitionist Roman, but I don’t see any sense in matching them to lords when a Roman noblewoman is available instead. After all, my Julia has the blood of an Emperor in her veins. That’s infinitely better blood for one with Ahenobarban forefathers, especially. The key here would seem to be to convince either the boy or the girl to back off and let our preferred match take place. One would have to reason with the person in question and show them how the needs of our countries and families are worthier than any romantic, sentimental appeal to a mesalliance like that. After all, my Julia would treat your Flavius very well, trust me on that,” Claudius grinned at that idea.

“Oh, that I do not doubt,” she laughed in response to his assurances. “Should I go speak to my son, then? Try to convince him to at least introduce himself to Julia?”

“I do not see any harm in this. If he gave Julia a chance, I think that he would find what a delightful young woman she really is. How old is Flavius, as it happens?” Claudius raised an eyebrow.

“He is twenty-five,” she informed him politely. “Old enough for you?”

“Certainly. He won’t mind a bride of twenty, then. That is more the Ghantish way, as I recall, much closer in age and all that,” Claudius noted.

“Very good,” Teresa said gratefully with a bow. “Allow me to go find him.” Having said that, she was off in search of her son.

She didn’t have to look for long. Flavius Gadea was a powerfully built young man, like his grandfather Raymond Zuria was in his youth. He was tall and broad shouldered, with dark red hair and green eyes. His court dress was white with the patterned colors of his house, and on his arm was the one and only Seia herself. Flavius had a bad habit of dragging his fingertips across her mouth, in an effort to get her to suck on them, and at that particular moment that’s what he was doing.

“Pardon me, young lady, would you care to accompany me?” Flavia chose that moment to pry Seia away from the young and noble suitor, and Seia was not foolish enough to refuse the demands of a Ahenobarba.

“Of course. With apologies, Lord Gadea,” Seia fought back tears, sensing what might be afoot….the dashing of her romantic hopes and dreams.

“She’s busy, grandmother,” Flavius countered angrily.

“Dear, please don’t be angry at your avia. She just needs a moment of my time. I understand and will not cause trouble for us,” Seia placated him, even kissing his lips softly as if for the last time ever before joining Flavia.

Flavius looked with narrowed eyes at his grandmother, before waving a hand. ‘Then go, if you must, but I will be right here waiting for you to return,” he told Seia with a playful pat on the behind.

“Thank you, domine, for your kindness,” Seia blew him a kiss and braced herself for what she knew was coming, a determined suit to get her to drop her consent to marriage to Flavius.

“My child, I know what love is, and I can tell that you two have a very distinct form of it. Nor should it have to die. But what I must ask of you is harder than letting love die. It is giving up part of your youthful ambition for the sake of the man that you love. You are, no doubt, a fine young woman, but there are plenty in Ghant who do not view things this way. And Ghant is his country. This is not Rome, my dear. The Ghantar believe strongly in blood and your blood is not acceptable to his family, nor to his peers. It will lessen him in their eyes, cheapen his dignitas, constantly harm his pride. If you love Flavius, as I do not doubt that you do, give him what he needs most: freedom to choose a bride more suitable to his station.

“I do not ask that you give him up entirely. Only that you show reason and good sense, in accepting a lesser status, not that you are unworthy, but that your lover is worthy of being respected for his choice of a bride. The legate’s daughter, my dear. Surely, as a Roman, you can also see how this benefits the State? This is what your country, your family, and his family ask of you. I urge you, my dear girl, to consider what is best for all of us and consent to be his mistress instead of his wife. Do you love Flavius enough to do that for him?” Flavia even comforted Seia like a grandmother might, wiping her tears as she nodded.

“Yes, of course, my lady. For Flavius, and for Rome, I will do this. I do not want him hating me years from now for holding him back. I will be good to him, as a mistress instead of a wife. Thank you for understanding our love and giving me the chance to keep his love, even if not his name. I will be good and do my part for all of us. I release him from his promise and will let him wed the legate’s daughter. She’s a nobilissimus, after all,” Seia agreed, though shaking with the sorrow of her broken heart and dashed dreams of love conquering all…..she was Roman enough to know reality and do what needed done.

Meanwhile, Teresa approached her son who was standing alone, brooding as it were as he waited for his beloved Seia to return. “Dear son,” she told him, causing him to snap his face towards her.

“What foul trickery are you up to this time, mother?” Flavius asked angrily. “Isn’t it enough that you’ve managed to delay my wedding to Seia? Now you have grandmother pulling her away for a lecture!”

“...You know what I think, Flavius…” she tried to explain but was cut off.

“You’ve made it all too clear. Am I not to be Lord Paramount? I don’t care what the Seven Lords of Ghant think, because it doesn’t matter. They will respect me as their liege lord or they will suffer my fury. I will not let them dictate to me who I choose to marry, and they will stay their tongues if they wish to cast shade.”

“I’m not asking you to discard Seia right here and now,” she pleaded with her son. “Go speak to Julia Procula yourself…”

Flavius laughed. “Julia Procula, you say? You think some little Roman girl with a good name and a nice pedigree is going to please me? Fine, I’ll go speak to her, and you can see for yourself. That’s exactly what I will do once Seia returns to me.”

Seia walked much slower now, a bit hurt and heartbroken, but also with some dignity, knowing that she was about to sacrifice her hopes and dreams on the altar of her lover’s future and happiness. She would still have him, just not in the way that she had hoped and dreamed. She felt her pulse and her heart moving rapidly as she reached for Flavius, kissed him on the lips again, and told him, “What’s done is done. I love you too much to hold you back.”

Flavius held her close, but had a blank expression on his now crimson face. “What are you talking about, my love?”

“I mean that I am going to sacrifice my desires and my dreams for your happiness and future, dear. I love you too much to make you choose between me and this other woman, the one that they need you to wed for your own destiny and position. It is not the best of news, but I will make do with it. I love you and will be what you need me to be, even if it is not what we want me to be.”

“...What about my desires, and my dreams?” the young lordling spoke firmly as he took her hands. “My happiness, and my future? There was never a choice, God damnit!” Flavius shook his head and stared down his mother, before letting Seia’s hands go and stomping off. “Watch...see for yourself.”

Julia Procula was talking to her sisters, Claudia and Desideria for a bit, as this exchange between Flavius and his mother continued. She was actually commenting on how lovely a couple Flavius and Seia were, oddly enough, so she was as shocked as anyone at the latest incident, with Seia weeping and Flavius walking off in a huff.

Elsewhere at the great social gathering, two young lordlings walked casually through the throngs of people. One was Raymond Zuria, son of Raymond Zuria who was the son of Lord Raymond Zuria. Raydog, as he was called, was a tall and lanky young man with a large, goofy smile and rich curly red hair and brown eyes. He was wearing a simple court outfit bearing the colors of House Zuria, of which he was heir.

His younger cousin was the famed honorary knight Desmond Gadea, second son of Lord Hodei Gadea and Teresa Zuria. He was also a tall and skinny young man with reddish-brown hair and green eyes, wearing an outfit emblematic of House Gadea. The two were quite different with specific interests, yet they were still friends and often joined each other on small social excursions such as the one at present.

“...This is boring,” Raymond observed to his cousin with a yawn. “We should sneak out and go play GBOX or something.”

“You know mother would yell at me for doing that,” Desmond shook his head. “I doubt your mother would be especially thrilled either.”

“Oh, look, that’s one of the Zurias. Want to speak to them? That’s his cousin or whatever, the knight. I still find it oddly fascinating that the Ghantar still do tournaments with ancient weapons like that, but then, we have circuses ourselves, with full chariot races, so who’s to judge?” Claudia remarked, licking her lips as she stared at Raymond the youngest…..

As for Desideria, she downed a sherry, walked over and directly approached Desmond, “You know, our names are very similar. I’m Desideria Procula, daughter to the Legate Claudius Proculus. You must be Desmond Hodei, am I right?”

Desmond laughed when the girls greeted them. “No, Hodei is my father’s name. I’m Desmond Gadea, if it please you…”

“...Who’s that over there?” Raymond commented to Desideria and Claudia. “That Roman girl over there?”

“That is our sister, Julia Procula. The middle, most responsible one of us. Lovely, isn’t she? Yet she thinks of herself as an old maid because she’s already twenty and single. Tata has promised to work on a match for her, which is good, because I’m rather impatient to have a husband myself and so is Claudia here,” Desideria explained.

“She helped tata out a lot in the past, which is why her marriage has been delayed these past two years, but perhaps it will pay off if she lands a husband here, since rumor has it that Ghantish men don’t mind older brides,” Claudia added.

Raymond nodded slowly, before taking gradual steps in that direction. “Desmond, if you would be so kind as to entertain the Ladies Procula, I would be much obliged.”

“Yes cousin of course,” Desmond watched his cousin leave, while he was then alone with Desideria and Claudia. “’s it going?”

Coming upon Julia, Raymond bowed and introduced himself. “You must be Lady Julia Procula. My name is Raymond Zuria, eldest son of Raymond Zuria who is heir to Lord Raymond Zuria.” Raymond took Julia’s hand with his own shaking digits and planted a bashful kiss upon the back. “Such a pleasure...I’ve heard of your exploits at your father’s legation.”

“Thank you, sir. I am flattered that such things are deemed worthy of your attention. Call me Julia,” Julia replied with a little blush.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that wasn’t the first thing that caught my attention,” the young lordling chuckled lightly. “Naturally I was drawn to your...refined beauty.”

“I am twenty years old. A bit old for an unmarried woman, so that is very flattering indeed,” Julia reacted with pleasure.

Raymond looked at Julia with wide eyes, though he was rather shy. “On the contrary, I’d say that’s about the right age,” he smiled. “Truly in the prime of your youth. I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself. I’m only twenty-one.”

“I am glad to see that you feel that way. Perhaps I might stand a chance of getting married after all,” Julia beamed at the way that he treated her, pleased at so much attention of late….perhaps tata had been right.

“I’ll have you know, Julia, that my grandmother is Flavia Ahenobarba,” Raymond spoke more firmly as he offered her his hand. “As such I have a fond appreciation for Roman ladies, and as the eventual heir of House Zuria, I’ve spent my whole life in her noble household. Do you know my grandmother, perchance?”

“I have seen her here or there, but not really gotten to know her. Do you know my father, the Legate?” Julia asked him in return.

The young Zuria lordling nodded gingerly. “I know of him, but I do not know him personally. I understand that he is an accomplished diplomat and a trusted friend of Emperor Valerian. Truly a man worthy of honor and respect here in Ghant.”

“I am glad to know that he is respected as he should be. He has done much to try to improve relations with the Obsidian Throne. So, are you married, young Raymond Zuria?” Julia asked him curiously.

Raymond chuckled as he rubbed the buttons on his coat. “Oh no, as it happens I am not,” he said even as he showed Julia his hand. “See, no rings. Though to be fair, I am rather young and unlucky in love, for I have neither the charm of my cousin the Emperor nor the raw prowess of my cousin Flavius Gadea.”

“Jealous of your cousin, I take it, or perhaps of the Emperor? I think that you’re rather charming yourself. Though I admit that I got the impression from the latest scene that Flavius might already be spoken for with one of us three ladies, at least from his mother’s perspective and his grandmother’s,” Julia observed, putting two and two together.

His face a bit more sour now, Raymond said, “I wouldn’t know anything about that. My cousins and myself are somewhat close, and I have heard nothing of the sort. Flavius is taken with that former slave girl named Seia, who was the former secretary of the Legate to Gadea. My aunt Teresa doesn’t like that, but Flavius doesn’t especially care, nor has he expressed any interest in yourself or your sisters. Lucky me, right?” he asked rhetorically with a laugh.

“Any particular ladies come to mind?” Julia laughed, but also blushed.

“...Well, since you’re asking there is this one I can think of,” Raymond began to explain shyly. “I just met her though, and surely she’s more interested in a more highborn lad than myself…”

“That’s probably true, Raymond.” Raymond turned his head to see his cousin Flavius standing there, with a hand suddenly on Raymond’s shoulder, before turning to Julia. “I happen to be Flavius Gadea, eldest son and heir of Hodei Gadea, Lord Paramount of Gotorleku. May I have a minute of your time, my lady?”

Raymond looked at his cousin with narrow eyes and pursed lips. “Flavius…”

“Go,” Flavius commanded as he squeezed his shoulder. “I take precedence here as I outrank you. Now get.”

“...Until later, my lady.” Raymond bowed courteously and slinked away, leaving Flavius with Julia, who proceeded to grab Julia gently by the arm. “So...we have some things to talk about, you and I.”

“Oh, do we now? What about, my lord? To what do I owe this honor?” Julia blushed at such sudden competition for her affections.

“About your hand,” Flavius said dryly. “My mother Teresa Zuria and my grandmother, Flavia Ahenobarba, insist that I attempt to take you as my bride, which would make you the eventual Lady Paramount of Gotorleku, to rule over the Seven Lords of Ghant, an ancient and truculent lot that have in the past scoffed at the Romans. I’m tired of the politicking, so I’m bringing this to you directly.”

“If you are suing for my hand, you must also ask it of my father. Still, I will not rule it out. I am quite open to it. But why me instead of my sisters? We are all equally eligible,” Julia pursed her lips nervously and reached for some Garzan red wine to steady her nerves.

Flavia blinked as he stared blankly at Julia. “...Because you’re older sister is a widow with a babe and your younger sister is too young. You’re just right, as they say, but make no mistake. I am not suing for your hand. I would only marry you because politics demand it. You would find your bed cold, for my heart belongs to another. But you’re a Roman woman, you’d understand the nature of duty.”

“My lord, if my duty demands a cold bed, I would share it with you and warm it faster than you expect. I would make it my life’s work to win your affections and I think that I like my chances. Because I would have little else to do but be the best and most loyal wife possible and the best mother that I could be, too,” Julia showed a bit more spirit than perhaps she normally would, taking Flavius’s words as a challenge, “As for the other woman, she is no concern of mine. My duty and my task are not affected by this. I am a Roman noblewoman and I was brought up better than to let jealousy rule me.”

To that, Flavius yawned with a hand over his mouth. “I’ve only spoken to your for a few minutes, and already you bore me. You think I want a woman that would spend her life trying to amuse me? That’s like the thousands of other young highborn girls that have tried to get my attention. Seia on the other hand, I’ve had to work to get her affections, even after I already thought I had them. Did you know, that her master the Legate to Gadea tried to use her to seduce my cousin the Emperor? She was trying to take his pants off with her teeth when I arrived, and you know what I did? I sucker punched my cousin in the side of the head and grabbed him by the neck. You know why I did that? Because the thought of her being with another man but I drove with me into a rage. I knew in that moment that she was meant to be mine. You say she is no concern of yours, than I say you’re a fool, a blind little arrogant Roman girl that tries to latch on to a fancy name with fancy titles. I might as well be fraternizing with a tick,” he said coldly.

“I must interject, then, and forbid this union. With apologies to the Gadea family, I cannot allow any marriage so full of scorn for my daughter from the prospective husband. It would have no chance of success. I harbor no ill will toward most of you, though I am a bit offended at the young man’s words for my Julia. She did not deserve that. Be that as it may, it will not be brought up again. I will find her another husband instead, someone that is more inclined. Excuse me, will you? Come with me, Julia,” Claudius scowled most undiplomatically now, a bit worried about his daughter’s injured feelings and dignity, as she took his hand, her head low to hide her saddened face at the harsh rejection.

Flavius spoke directly to Claudius Proculus then, this time a bit more politely. “With all due respect, Legate, my grandmother Flavia often told me that when speaking to Romans, one must be both firm and direct, and that is what I have done,” he attempted to plead his case. “I harbor no ill will towards your daughter, I merely am disheartened own personal situation as it pertains to my wishes. Do you think you can do better than I, a future Lord Paramount of Ghant? He who would rule over the Seven Lords of Ghant themselves? Such as man as I must speak hard truths and share my convictions up front, lest I appear deceptive. That is something I cannot have said, for it would reflect poorly upon my house, and upon my grandmother whom I wish to honor.”

“Even so, a marriage cannot survive contempt. Many things, yes. But not contempt. I cannot permit this union. It would be miserable to the point of hopelessness and we all know that. I do not know whom else they will find you, but it cannot be my Julia. It would crush both of you and only lead to disaster,” Claudius responded more calmly, but still firmly.

“Perhaps it is you that harbors contempt, Legate,” Flavius frowned. “For you have wounded the honor of my house openly and impinged upon my pride. I, the blood of the Ahenobarbi, am not good enough? So be it, I will not trouble you nor your lofty expectations. But know this, Claudius. I will not soon forget your ill spoken words…”

“Ill spoken words,” Raymond interjected with a pointed finger, his own face flushed red. “You dare insulted Julia Procula, noble and fair is she!”

Flavius practically laughed in his cousin’s face. “You speak boldly to me, Raymond. Have you gone mad?”

“Perhaps I have, but truth be told, Julia deserves a better man than thee,” Raymond said pointedly.

“Oh, like you, Raymond? You who would one day rule Zuria and its great fortress, but be subservient to me?” Flavius laughed. “You think the high and mighty Julia Procula would care about you? Clearly her goals are lofty and she wants things to be easy for her as they have been her whole life. Perhaps she’d rather brush up against Nathan, that’s what all the ambitious Roman girls want to do…”

Raymond stiffened his back, and brought his hand to his breast. “Oh, you mean like your beloved Seia? How quick she tried to please our cousin, even after you’d expressed your love for her. Nathan told me he’s never seen a girl so quick to get on her knees for a stranger!”

Upon this, Flavius, already red as a beet, slammed a clenched fist into Raymond’s face, causing him to fly back in disorientation as blood splattered upon his face. Other people at the event took notice of this, turning to see and gasping in horror at the scene. As Flavius tried to set himself upon his cousin Raymond, Imperial guards sought to intervene. At that moment, all eyes were on the unfolding scene.
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Founded: Feb 11, 2013
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Ghant » Tue Jan 31, 2017 11:33 pm

“The Sisters Procula” (II)
Inperiala Palace Grand Ballroom
Ghish, Ghant
February 2, 2016

(Co-written with Late Roman Empire)

Claudius Proculus was having none of the nonsense taking place before him. “First of all, for a man who has little of an opinion of my daughter, you’re rather quick to jump to claim her when another man starts to assert his own desires. But my words were never meant to insult you, sir. They were only intended to protect my daughter from the obvious coldness that you showed her. It was not to impinge your honor, but to safeguard her happiness, as a cold husband of any pedigree, at least cold to her, would be a source of misery that would destroy her slowly from within. I could not do that to her, with apologies to your family and its honor and its blood. I have too much of a father’s love for that. Were it not for your distaste for her, you would be ideal. But this changes too much. I will overlook your harsh words for me and toward her in light of your recent pain and heartache, but I must ask you never to say such things to me again. It would be an insult not only to me but to Rome herself. As Legatus, I cannot permit that to stand, in the Emperor’s name,” Claudius reminded them of his rank.

“And you two boys, both of you, behave! Quarreling, like two little urchins, over a girl that one of you doesn’t even like, just for your pride! Get over it! Now, both of you, apologize to each other and find new companions for the dancing. That’s an order!” Flavia drew herself up angrily and scolded both of them.

“Legatus, I strongly urge you to reconsider!” Teresa arrived in time to hear what Claudius had to say and appealed to him. “My son is angry that his beloved Seia rebuffed him, and I insist as a good friend of Rome that you bear my son no such ill will as a result of his state of distress. Please, give him another chance to prove himself, and I swear to you that you will not be disappointed! This is crucial for my family, and for Gotorleku!”

“Not for my Julia. He has made his opinion of her quite clear. If he is willing to change his mind and show that he can contain his rage and viciousness a bit, show more restraint than when he punched his own Emperor, as I heard, than perhaps there is hope for another daughter, if she is willing to endure his apparent coldness toward our family,” Claudius calmed down a bit, but still held Julia closely as she fought back her tears, “I understand that he is hurt, but he also hurt my daughter. That is hard to overlook. He injured her deeply with his harsh words.”

“And I did not rebuff him! I only conceded his grandmother’s points. I still love my Flavius, though I wish that he would not take out his pain on the lady Julia, who didn’t deserve it. Clearly, though, you can see why he needs me, at least as an Ohaide, if not as a wife. I can help soothe his pain and his anger,” Seia spoke up at last to clear her name, “If I had known just how much he feels for me, I wouldn’t have treated him so lightly in the past, and certainly would have not made any advances on the Emperor, which incidentally I regret, as they hurt Flavius deeply, too, not that I intended it. I thought that he just wanted me as a fling, not more passionately and ardently than that.”

Now separated by guards, Flavius looked at Seia and said, “now do you see, my dear Seia? The lengths that I would go to show my love for you. I would rather spend one lifetime with you as my wife, than a thousand lifetimes with a thousand highborn brides! So please Seia, I must insist, because it is you that I want to rule by my side, to put all the arrogant lords and ladies to shame!” It was at that point that Flavius dropped to one knee, and from his pocket pulled forth a ring. “It wouldn’t be a proper wedding reception without at least one proposal. Seia Venustiana, will you marry me and be my lady, and rule all the Seven Lords of Ghant by my side and beget a line that shall rule for a thousand years or more?”

“Apologies to your grandmother, but I must accept. Surely, you can understand. Any man willing to risk civil war with half of Ghant for me is not a man to take lightly. I was willing to sacrifice for his sake, but he doesn’t want sacrifice. He wants my hand in marriage, and that I must give to him!” Seia said, pulling him back up, “Now, off your knees, please, my lord. I’m a Roman woman and we don’t stomach men bowing and scraping to us.”

“Oh, just let him have his slave bride! It’s more trouble than it’s worth, Teresa! He’s as stubborn as his cousin the Emperor!” Flavia threw up her hands, “perhaps his younger brother will uphold the honor of the family instead.”

“What is the meaning of this?” Hodei Gadea said angrily as he entered the scene. “What’s going on here? Flavius, speak, now.”

Flavius quickly got to his feet and pulled Seia close to him. “I’ve decided to make Seia my bride, regardless of what anyone has to say about it. But before I did so, I approached Julia Procula to speak to her candidly about my situation, and my options. She seemed eager to please and practically groveled to me, to which I challenged her. Her father Claudius interjected and said I wasn’t good enough for her hand and that I needed to impress him in order to reconsider.”

Hodei turned to observe Claudius carefully. The man was tall, with brown hair and green eyes, with broad shoulders over which hung a long cape over an elegant uniform that signified that he was a Lord Paramount. “Is that right? Legate, what say you?”

“What is true is that I took offense to the way that he spoke to my daughter and reacted, not to say that his blood was not good enough, but to say that clearly, his disdain for her would ruin any marriage before it started. That is a far cry from insulting anyone’s lineage, though one could argue that he insulted mine by choosing a freedwoman over my daughter. In any case, I am willing to consider his mother’s request that I not dismiss your family outright in the case of my other daughters, provided that no such coldness and contempt is displayed again. That, sir, is the truth of it, though perhaps Flavius did not listen when I answered him before. Youth is prone not to take heed of elders, as we can see,” Claudius still cradled Julia in his bosom, “She is still very distraught. Would any woman be kind enough to lead her to the necessary so she can get a napkin and maybe wipe away her tears?”

“I will,” Teresa answered as she offered Julia her arm. “Come, sweetling, I will escort you to the ladies room.”

“Disdain?” Lord Gadea balked at the word. “My son has never even met your daughter, so how can he have disdain? I think you show a heavy hand, Legate.”

“He was very rude to Julia, which was the gist of it, sadly. Very disappointing behavior,” Flavia noted with disapproval, “That is probably what the Legate took for disdain, especially in light of him preferring Seia to her.”

“Precisely what I meant. Rude words that treated her as less than worthy of his affections,” Claudius concurred, “he injured her dignitas and thus my own.”

Hodei rubbed his forehead, and nodded with a sigh. “As you say, Legate. I apologize for my son’s mistreatment of your daughter, though I feel as though you’ve overreacted.”

“So be it. I will take my leave of you, sir. I have other daughters with whom to converse as well,” Claudius said as he withdrew to check up on Desideria and Claudia, who had been suspiciously quiet of late…..the tone of his voice retained some offense, especially at the “overrated” comment.

In the ladies room, Teresa offered to dab Julia’s cheeks with a damp warm cloth. “I’m so sorry, my lady.”

“Thank you, my lady. It is not your fault. Hopefully, my father and your husband don’t kill each other over this. I didn’t mean for this to get out of hand and I know that you didn’t, either. I just misjudged the man. He loves the chase. Someone who loves the chase would never be happy with me,” Julia thanked Teresa in response.

“So what sort of man do you like?” Teresa asked gently as she rubbed Julia’s shoulders. “Indeed, my son is no easy to please, and doesn’t like for things to come easily.”

“Someone at least willing to treat me with kindness and consideration at first and at least give me a chance of winning his heart. What did I do to so upset Flavius?” Julia wondered aloud.

Teresa sighed once more and explained that “you are not Seia. That was all...he loves the slave girl so much that he would burn his other bridges just to be with her. A stubborn fool, I know.”

“I just hope that she loves him back as fiercely. Women who like to be chased seldom do. Anyway, thank you for being kind to me. It seems that I must continue my search for a husband. I pray that tata doesn't rule out your younger son. You are a very wonderful person and I would love to be related to your family by marriage. Your nephew seems very pleasant, too,” Julia commented.

“Yes, I am fond of my nephew Raymond, he’s a very sweet, thoughtful young man,” Teresa smiled as she finished tidying up the young Julia Procula. “Are you ready to go back out?”

“Yes, thank you. I needed to get out of there for a bit and wipe away the tears. They’re not proper for a Roman noblewoman, but it was one occasion that I couldn’t be stoic anymore,” Julia agreed, following Teresa, “I am glad that we can be friends, regardless of the recent mix-up, and if you still desire a marriage to the Proculas, I am very open to it with either of those fine young men.”

“Of course.” Teresa showed Julia the way out, where Flavius and Seia had departed, though Raymond remained, with his mother the Lady Lucilla Lorazaina came out with a hot rag to put over her son Raymond’s nose, who didn’t resist his mother’s care. “Good grief Teresa, I think your son broke my little Raymond’s nose!” Raymond for his part felt especially embarrassed at the scene, and whenever he wiggled, his mother would say “be still!”

“Oh, for God’s sake, boys and girls, I do wish the lot of you would get along! But it’s partly my fault. All that red-hot Ahenobarban blood coursing through your veins. Anyway, since my other grandson has left the gala with his chosen consort, I would like to propose that, since sweet Julia was deprived of one of my grandsons, if they are agreeable to this, and I know that this is not very conventional in Roman or Ghantish practice, that as the injured party, Julia get to pick which of my grandsons she can offer her hand in marriage. If the Legate is also agreeable to it,” Flavia proposed, making Julia and even Claudius smile slyly.

Off to the side, Desmond Gadea had been conversing with Desideria and Claudia, though his attentions were far more focused on Claudia. “You know what I think,” he said gently and with deft fingers caressing Claudia’s arms, “I think you and I should go take a walk through the gardens in the courtyard. I can show you all the sweet spots,” he teased. “Take you to the fountain...just try not to get too wet.”

“Seems that at least some of our children get along, my friends. Perhaps there is hope for what we Romans call ‘amicita,’ fellowship between families, after all. So, Julia, did you have any thoughts on the matter of your future husband?” Claudius remarked.

“Raymond, if he’s fine with it. But only if he wants me. I would never force myself on anyone who doesn’t. If he’s amenable to it, well, he and I got along pretty well for the short space of time that we spoke, and while chivalry is not a Roman thing per se, I do appreciate him taking up firmly in my defense. If he wishes to marry me, I would be quite pleased to offer him my hand, should Father permit it,” Julia blushed a bit as she confessed her interest in young Raymond, “Besides, I think that Desmond is already more interested in my sister Claudia.”

Desmond, observing this, gave Claudia a playful pat on the behind. “We better hurry, just in case Raymond screws up and your sister or father notice me. That would be a shame, because I’d rather spend my time with you. Sure I’m a second son, but I’m a knight of Ghant, awarded for my valor in the north,” he said proudly. “I’d love to show you my medal, but it’s in my room…”

“Go take a walk, my dear daughter, with this young man. It’s for the best,” Claudius said, adding, “I trust my daughters to retain their virtue, and even if they do not, not all of the chaperones on Earth could keep them chaste if they intended otherwise. They’re nobilissimi, after all.”

“I will be chaste, tata. On my honor as a Proculan,” Claudia assured her father, though her eyes hinted that she would play the usual Roman game of lawyering with that issue.

As Desmond showed Claudia the way out into the starry night, Raymond continued to chafe under his mother’s care. Lady Lucilla was a tall, thin and elegant woman with long brown hair and forest green eyes. “Is now the best time for this conversation, Legate? My son’s been assaulted and has a broken nose, with blood all over his clothes! The horror!”

“Ow, mother, not so hard,” Raymond groaned with pinched shut eyes, though he tried to force a smile in Julia’s direction. “I’m sorry, my should not see me in such a condition...I feel woefully embarrassed…”

“I am honored that he endured such for my sake, and so,” Julia planted a light, but definitely loving kiss on his nose, “To the part that suffered in my defense,” she also gave him a fancy handkerchief to help sop up any remaining blood, “Thank you, mea vita.”

Lucilla observed Julia thoughtfully, before smiling and saying, “well if you’d like, you can handle him,” she offered as she took a step back for Julia to take her place.

“...Your touch is like fire upon my skin,” Raymond tried to be suave, though he still winced in pain as people began to go back to their previous affairs.

“Well, then, I will gladly attend to you, my lord,” Julia told him as she took Lucilla’s place and started treating the broken nose, wiping away whatever blood she had to in the process…...this young man had defended her and she would not forget it, “my hero,” she declared.

“I’m glad you think so,” he tried to chuckle. “I’d like to spend more time with you, if you’d like. You’re quite lovely.”

“I’d like to spend more time with you, too. A lifetime. If that’s not too forward. You’re quite handsome, my lord, but also quite brave. Thank you again,” Julia said as she wiped his face clean of any last traces of blood.

Just outside the ballroom in the courtyard, Desmond observed his cousin and said “Damn, I wonder if your father will oppose me because my older brother is a dickhead and your sister and my cousin are hitting it off,” he commented to Claudia.

“Not likely, Desmond. He’s already given his word to at least consider you. That’s a start. Tata is a man of honor and of his word, trust me,” Claudia reassured him, “So, you want me….I mean, as a bride?”

“Maybe,” Desmond teased her with some gentle touches to her thigh. “I am an ordained knight, a man of honor. And yet...don’t you want to try before you buy?” he teased her with a gentle kiss upon her lips.

“I will only give my maidenhead to my husband, after he becomes my husband. Still, I’m a Roman and we are skilled at finding loopholes in such agreements and promises. What precisely did you wish to try?” Claudia invited him more frankly than perhaps expected.

Desmond pulled her along by the hand and said, “you drive a hard bargain my lady, but I can respect that. Dare I say that if you were my bride, you wouldn’t be moving around very much,” he teased her. “I just wish to spend some time with you, and convey my affections for thee,” he told her with a kiss on her neck.

“Your affections for me, eh? Just how strong and hard are these…..’affections’ of yours?” Claudia brushed her wavy brown hair away from her face as she exposed her neck to his lips.

Kissing her neck, he said “very hard...feel free to see for yourself,” he teased her as he pulled her behind some shrubbery.

“Well, I wouldn’t mind tasting you,” Claudia told him as she winked at him.

Desmond looked at her with wide eyes and a grin. “You wouldn’t mind, eh? And would you let me do the same?” he asked as he kissed her decolletage, leading her to one of many hidden spots.

Bon appetit,” Claudia smiled, “Just leave me intact, dear.” Desmond took that as her permission, and then he set himself upon her in the fashion he previous indicated. “Oh, that does feel very nice!”

Back inside the ballroom, everything had gone back to normal, though Desideria Procula was alone...though not for long. The Emperor of Ghant had brushed by her and said, “Lady Procula, you look like you could use some company. Would you care to dance with me?” he asked her politely with a smile.

“Oh, certainly, Your Majesty. You do me great honor,” Desideria told him, smiling shyly at him.

The Emperor took her hands and joined into the dance while the orchestra performed their music. “I was beside myself when I saw you alone, a lady of your beauty and great name. It’s like gold being left on the floor!” the Emperor exclaimed.

“Thank you, Your Majesty. Though as a widow, and at a bit older age, I’m a little used to it of late, especially as some men have trouble dealing with a woman who is already a mother of children,” Desideria blushed, her chestnut hair in a bun as she followed his lead.

Nathan laughed, and exclaimed, “older age? You’re younger than me, and look how young I am! You are right though, a widow with a child is often hard-pressed to find a good match. Tell me about your child though, I’m interested in learning more,” he danced with her tenderly.

“Little Lucius was born just six months after his father was killed. Dreadful business. Back in 2014. His father was part of the Roman force assigned to aid the Edomites against the Communist regime in Damoclea. Those raping, reaving bastards had to be put down, but it cost Lucius his life and young Lucius his father,” Desideria explained with sadness, “He’s a bright, brave boy, though, constantly running and playing and very active. Doesn’t say much, but loves to hug, though he also loves to get into fights, sad to say.”

“Maybe your son Lucius wouldn’t mind spending time at the Imperial Palace with my children,” Nathan suggested amicably. “Do you think he’d like that?”

“I think that he would. He’d probably have to fight the urge to rough house, though,” Desideria admitted with a mixture of amusement and embarrassment.

Nathan laughed and shook his head. “It’s no worry, that’s what boys that age do. I was the same way with my cousins, you know. There’s no shame in letting children have their fun.”

“True. I’m such a mother in the sense of wanting to protect my boy, but at the same time, I know that he does need some room to grow and learn, and yes, get a little rough at times. It’s just my protective nature, I guess. I must accept that he will take risks, just like his father, whom I dearly miss. What about your children, Imperial Majesty?” Desideria smiled at Nathan and was surprised at just how different he was from what the rumor and innuendo of late had made him.

“I have a few,” laughed the Emperor again. “There’s the Crown Prince, who bears my name, and Prince John, Princesses Sara and Valerie. Then there’s Victor. A lively bunch, I can assure you. My wife’s cousin Benjamin’s step-daughter Sophia is at court as well much of the time.”

“Another Sophia, eh? What must that be like for your wife?” Desideria teased him now.

The Emperor pursed his lips as he thought, and replied “She thinks it’s cute, and calls her her ‘mini-me’.”

“Didn’t that prince marry a Gavinian woman, a princess?” Desidera recalled.

“Yes he did, Princess Natalie,” replied Nathan. “She’s the ambassador to Ghish, and a buddhist at that. She’s nice enough, and quite attractive as far as Gavinians are concerned.”

“A vegetarian, as I recall. Anyway, I also hear that you are quite the gallant, defending the honor of a woman against Lalery. I have heard a lot of stories. Defending Princess Kristen of the Vorindun in trial by combat. Granted, chivalry isn’t a major thing in Rome, or really even a thing at all, but heroism is always respected. You are known as a very brave man and a protector of women, Your Majesty,” Desideria remembered.

“Because that’s the right thing to do,” Nathan insisted politely. “All good men should do the same, though few actually do.”

“Well, on that we can agree, at least. So, despite those who speak ill of you, I think highly of you myself. Especially since you chose me out of all those single ladies as a dancing companion, Your Majesty. And, yes, I know about Gaudentia and I don’t have an issue with that, or with Dominique of Vannois. One cannot be entirely sinless, not even the saints were like that. Wouldn’t you agree?” Desideria smiled at him, “Though admittedly, I am lonely and enjoying your company, so I do have an ulterior motive to be sweet to you.”

Nathan acted surprised. “Oh? What ulterior motive is this? Trying to take advantage of what the Imperial Palace has to offer?” he asked playfully.

“No, just the loneliness of a widow, Your Majesty. I very much appreciate your kindness in keeping me company on the ballroom floor,” Desideria smiled shyly now.

“You know my lady, between you and I, I never feel more lonely than I do around so many people as are here tonight,” he explained. “All these people having a good time, wrapped up in their own little worlds, and then here I am, a witness to the spectacle.”

“Very sad, isn’t it. I know the feeling. I have never been a people person, deep down. I love certain people and am fiercely loyal to them, but the life of the party I have never been,” Desideria admitted to the Emperor.

“I think I’m the same way,” the Emperor confessed cooly. “I try to cultivate relationships with people that I think are worth it, and try not to waste my time with people that aren’t. You seem worth it,” he smiled.

“Who, me? Thank you, Imperial Majesty, but I think that we both know where this is leading. You like me. I like you. You’re married and have concubines and mistresses, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the companionship of a young widow in a moment of private intimacy. I’m lonely and it wouldn’t be such an un-Christian thing, would it?” Desideria alluded to her intentions.

Nathan pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Well that depends, honestly. I wouldn’t want to bring you or your son or father any dishonor. Besides, I’ve always been curious to know what the Roman position is on polygamy,” he laughed.

“Polygamy is a breach of both civil and canon law, but not so with concubinage. Convenient in some ways, I suppose. Mind you, Your Majesty already has concubines. But I should note that once a girl has been married, she is often sui iuris, basically free of her father’s hand. And that there is not the level of scandal from a widow or a divorcee committing fornication as there is with a young virgin. After all, there is no longer a virginity to forfeit and so whomever marries expects us to have been with other men in the past… long as it remains in the past,” Desideria clarified with a wink.

“...And I assume that women of noble rank consider concubinage to be beneath their station?” Nathan inquired, though as a student of Roman history, he was pretty sure he already knew the answer.

“Generally, yes, and I am looking for a husband, but it wouldn’t hurt if you matched us and collected, shall we say, a fee prior to the match. Before you matched us, that is. As long as it is before I was promised to the other man, it wouldn’t be so scandalous,” Desideria explained.

Nathan looked at Desideria thoughtfully and inquired, “so what would happen if you don’t remarry?”

“I remain a widow and sui iuris. Not ideal for my family’s dreams, but not entirely implausible for a widow. As long as my sisters are matched, the family still comes out ahead. Are you implying that you would want to keep me as a mistress longer term?” Desideria was curious now.

“...I see.” With a gentle spin, the Emperor whirled her around for the dance when appropriate, and when he brought her back, pressed her body against his. “I don’t like to put the wagon before the horse, my lady, but...I would be remiss if I didn’t indulge a beautiful, elegant and highborn woman such as yourself, and if you enjoy my company and the fruits of Palace living...then I don’t see why you couldn’t make yourself comfortable for a longer period of time than you might have initially anticipated,” he grinned sheepishly. “It certainly wouldn’t disadvantage your son to grow up with the Crown Prince of Ghant and his brothers and sisters and to receive an education similar to theirs...”

“I wouldn’t be opposed. So, perhaps you shall show me what rumor has it you’ve shown some other Roman women of rank,” Desideria winked at him as she prepared to follow him.

“Depends on how soon you want to see it,” Nathan teased. “I wouldn’t want you to feel rushed, especially since many Roman women aren’t adequately prepared…”

“That’s not a worry with me. Let me show you…..,” Desideria licked her lips as she took his hand, “I’ve been married. I know what the act is like and how to prepare for it.”

The Emperor sniggered as he looked around and discreetly led Desideria off. “Oh, looks like someone’s more eager than they let on…”

Elsewhere, Raymond took up a seat on a couch in an alcove where he kept a warm damp rag on his face. “Oh man, I really hope this doesn’t make my nose look all weird for the rest of my life,” he exhaled with exasperation.

“I doubt it, but even if it I did, I would be proud to walk alongside you as your wife, and to bear you sons and daughters. I meant that. What do you say? I know that it isn’t customary for the woman to propose, but that’s what I’m asking of you. Marry me, my lord. What do you say?” Julia got to the point, “I don’t see any point in courtship when we both know what we want.”

Raymond was distracted by the pain, but tried to answer. “Maybe you should speak to my grandmother first. Everything has been happening so fast that I'm having a hard time just keeping up.”

“Speak to me about what?” Flavia asked suddenly, coming up on them.

“Grandma, would you mind speaking to Lady Julia about a prospective marriage, please?” Raymond pleaded. “I'm in pain and feeling overwhelmed.”

“Are you wanting to marry my grandson, and if so, why?” Flavia smiled at them.

“Yes, and because he is the sort of man that I can respect and admire, plus……,” Julia blushed.

“Because he is handsome and sweet and you are flattered by his sticking up for you…..and you’ve got a crush on him. Is that right? It’s okay. You feel a strong urge to marry and you are young. He is young. You’re a lovely young woman that by rights should already have a husband and child. Well, if my young grandson here isn’t opposed to you, that’s more than acceptable to me. On one condition. No Mormonism. Agreed?” Flavia insisted, quite serious.

“Of course, my lady. I left the church when tata did. He was seduced by their offer of baptism of the dead, but after a while, it was plain what liars they were. He was also lured in by the Mormon branch of the family, such as his cousin, an LDS bishop. I’m not a Mormon, either, though I haven’t chosen a new religion yet,” Julia reassured her.

“Why not just be what grandma is?” Raymond asked Julia kindly. “Then the two of you can attend church together?”

“That’s what I was before, so I would just have to get absolved by a priest and do penance, I suppose. Given how young I was, there shouldn’t be too much involved. They probably blame him and not me, anyway,” Julia agreed, “Thankfully, the Imperial Roman Church doesn’t require re-baptisms.”

“Well, yes, unless you were excommunicated, which they wouldn’t do to a young woman like you. The last Roman woman of note to be excommunicated was Clodia Velina, sister of Sarmaticus, for embezzling church funds during her tenure as chief abbess of the convent that her brother assigned her, and even that didn’t happen until after Sarmaticus died,” Flavia smiled.

“Grandma how soon do you think I should marry her?” Wondered Raymond aloud. “Not that I'm uninterested, but isn't this happening too fast? I mean, we just met!”

“Normally too fast, yes, but you don’t want to take a chance that one of the young men of your class will snatch her up, do you? And she’s eager to marry. Already two years past her marrying age, after all. Flavius took very little time to propose to Seia, and she’s not even of his class! The sooner we can secure the interests of our family, the better, and a Proculus marriage is a very good match indeed,” Flavia observed, “We can arrange a discreet ceremony soon after the reception, to get it done, and then a nicer wedding later, if you prefer.”

Raymond considered this carefully. “Whatabout a formal engagement period and then the ceremony?”

“Just how long of a formal engagement are we talking? Your aunt and I are eager to put the disgrace of your cousin’s bad conduct behind us as it is,” Flavia noted, “I am very disappointed in how he treated poor Julia. Are you having second thoughts?”

“I doubt that he is. He is just trying to be appropriate, right?” Julia smiled at Raymond, though her pulse was racing. She didn’t want another suitor who was loathe to marry her happening again……

“Of course, appropriate and considerate. No second thoughts whatsoever. Like a month...or two,” Raymond suggested. “My mother has always warned against hasty marriages…”

“Ah, I see. Shall we go for a six-week engagement, perhaps?” Julia proposed, “That should give us time to work out the issues and me to formally rejoin the Church.”

Leaning in closer, she added, “Don’t worry. I’m not as wild as Claudia, but I think that we can find ways to make the wait enjoyable.”

Looking up at Julia, Raymond squinted and wiggled his lips. “Oh?”

“You’ll see,” Julia hinted, while Flavia added, “Well, just remember, it’s better to marry than to burn.”

“...Burn?” Raymond asked, confused. “Burn for what?”

“She means to burn with lust,” Julia clarified, winking at him.

“Precisely,” Flavia smiled at her grandson and his intended.

“Who says you can't have both?” he laughed. “Besides it isn't up to me, it's up to grandfather…”

“Oh, don’t worry about him. I’ll talk to him about it,” Flavia smiled yet again, knowing that she could present a solid case for such a marriage.

“Well in the meantime, I would just like to enjoy her ladyship’s company,” he smiled as he squeezed Julia's hand.

“Same here, of course,” Julia winked at him. At least for the time being, things seemed to be going alright.
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New Othman
Posts: 626
Founded: Jan 11, 2005

The Moon In The Snow

Postby New Othman » Sun Feb 05, 2017 12:40 am

Othmani Embassy, Ghish, Ghant, 9 January, 2017

His Excellency, Prince Suleiman Bulent Fazil Nur Mehmet (Suleiman Bulent Fazil “The Light of Mohammed”), Ambassador of the Republic of New Othman to the Empire of Ghant, finished reading the latest reports, most of which indicated that the insurgency was winding down, but that the country was exhausted and many feared more upheaval, both internal and external, in the wake of the waning terrorist peril. Sure, the martial-law had been effective, highly so, especially as the Othmanis had worked closely with Adiron and other foreign powers in the DMZ to raid and extirpate the religious fanatics and their terrorist cells.

The Prince was himself rather drained, so he concluded his day’s business and retired to the residential section of the Embassy, giving his secretary, Fatma Toker, a warm hug before he did so. An elderly woman who was more of an aunt than just a secretary to the Prince, Fatma still wore a hijab, but the Prince never held that against her at all, especially as it was practical in the frigid Ghantish winters. Prince Suleiman, unique among his many brothers and cousins, had never strayed from the marriage bed, but then none of his brothers had married at all. It just wasn’t done among Othmani princes, all of whom dreamt of a harem of their own someday.

It was also part of why the Prince had been loathe to seek the Sultanate in the past. Not only had he lived in exile his entire life, but he knew that as Sultan, he would have royal duties, and among these would be to keep concubines for the procreation of heirs…...and could he really do that to his Alysanne, who to his knowledge, had never betrayed his love with adultery? Yet, that was expected of the Sultan, and his in-laws seemed to disregard this reality as they pushed him to seek power in New Othman as a claimant to a throne that no longer existed.

Thus were Suleiman’s thoughts as he entered the personal apartments of the Ambassador and his family, expecting to see his beloved wife at last. He also had with him cannabis and a bottle of wine, vices that he did possess, as they didn’t involve a betrayal of his wife and his vows (taken in a civil ceremony, as no imams wanted any part of their nuptials).

Princess Alysanne sat in the middle of the floor with her two children, Prince Bashir and Prince Amir, aged two and six months, respectively. The Princess was a husky woman though she filled out nicely it was said, with long brown hair and similarly colored eyes. The Princes both had light brown skin and brown eyes, though Bashir had black hair and Amir brown, like his mother. The younger prince rolled around on a mat on the floor while Bashir tugged at his mother’s white silk gown as he observed his father enter the room.

“Benim küçük ayım (my little moon),” Suleiman called to his wife, while presenting her with the bottle of Shiraz, “How are things with the boys?”

“They are well,” she said to her husband with a smile. “They’ve just been playing, see?” she then turned her gaze towards the bottle. “For me? Thank you Suleiman, that is most generous of you.” Bashir sprung forward to embrace his father.

“Yes, I figured that you could use it,” Suleiman said as he held Bashir for a bit and then set him down, lighting a joint, “This is my vice, at least for now. I love cannabis.”

“I thought I was your vice,” Alysanne teased. “Though I suppose I can make room for marijuana. Just try not to let too much smoke fill the room please, on account of the children.”

“True, but as vices go, you’re too sweet to be that sinful. And I agree. Mostly, I use it to wean myself off tobacco,” Suleiman said as he kissed her hand and then up her arms to her shoulders and neck.

Alysanne giggled at this, for she was rather ticklish. “Oh, ever the charmer you are. You should stop that before I get all hot and bothered,” she teased.

“Well, at least until we put the boys down for the night, or have the nanny do that,” Suleiman winked at her, “Are you hungry? If so, what can the staff make for our supper tonight, benim tatlı kar prensesim (my little snow princess)?”

“That would be nice, thank you,” she smiled as she leaned over and kissed his arm. “Howabout some steak shish kabobs?”

“Steak sounds good. Luckily for you, I won’t insist on halal meat. I’m not that devout,” Suleiman chuckled a bit, “Good thing, too, or last Ramadan would have been rough out here, with all that meat around.”

With another laugh, Alysanne said “how generous of you, once again. So tell me, what’s going on? Anything in the news recently? Besides Maria giving birth that is. Another girl, can you imagine that? I swear, girls run high in that family.”

“I wouldn’t mind a girl, though boys are nice. Maybe we can try for number three someday. Not yet, though. You’ve had too little time to recover from Amir, I believe. The trouble with monogamy, that it puts all of the pressure on the one woman to birth the babies. Still, I have no desire to change that personally. The whole harem life, from what I heard, was savage and cruel. Eunuchs, concubines at each other’s throats, and children being killed by their paranoid fathers and stepmothers. Vicious,” Suleiman shuddered, “But at any rate, there are reports that do make me wonder if perhaps I should make a move toward the ancient throne of my forefathers. But how to do that and not be obligated to emulate them in all of their cruel, barbarous ways?”

Alysanne considered this carefully before responding. “How well off is your country now than it was before, Suleiman? Your country is plagued with rebellion and insurrection while it is oppressed by foreign mandates. Your people live in abject poverty and without stable leadership. Is that a fate befitting of your children, Suleiman?”

“Admittedly, it has a very rough time, as you noted. Of course, I am sworn to uphold the Republic, the Constitution, and the laws and all that. On the other hand, the country hasn’t seen monarchy in most Othmanis’ lifetimes. Here’s the issue, though. Historically, being Sultan had a very real and different meaning than most monarchies. It was a religious as well as a royal office. Being Sultan also meant being Caliph, the successor of the Prophet Mohammed, and following his example. One wonders if and how those two positions could be separated from each other, not legally, but in the minds of my possible subjects.

“Also, consider that my uncle, Prince Selim, is just the first of several princes who could claim the throne themselves, and they would rule in the ancient ways, as Caliph rather than just Sultan. I do not wish to be obligated to keep slaves, eunuchs, and a large harem of concubines, which would be what I would have done had I become Sultan in the past without any intervening revolutions. I sometimes wish that I were a Christian prince rather than a Muslim one, and the temptation to convert has been there, but if I ever did, bye-bye to any chances of the throne. A Christian prince would be branded an apostate and could never rule New Othman. Besides, in some ways, I still believe in Islam, just not as wholeheartedly as I once did,” Suleiman agonized.

Alysanne considered her husband’s words for a moment, as she observed her younger son. “You fear the demands of being a Sultan,” she pointed out. “I understand. Though as I am inclined to believe, having a harem doesn’t necessarily mean having concubines. It’s merely a secluded part of the palace where your wife, young children and female relatives are kept, and the women that serve them in turn. If you didn’t have concubines...who would know? The harem is forbidden to outsiders, so none would.”

“Fair enough, but there has to be a legal path to the Sultanate if I do this, and the precedent set in Free Garza is the way. Set up a new version of monarchist organization and try to create monarchist sentiment where none existed before. It won’t be easy, but perhaps it’s doable in a country of people starving for hope. The key would be a more moderate brand of Sultanist, if such existed. Also, making it clear that we will work with any parties except Fascists, fundamentalists, and Communists. The Democratic Unionists, for example. They won’t be in opposition forever, you know, and the more corrupt the civil service is exposed as being under the SRP, the weaker the ruling coalition grows, as both the DUP and the SDP gain at its expense,” Suleiman mused.

“Appeal to order and Islam will have to be considered,” Alysanne suggested, though she herself wasn’t especially well versed in such matters. “The Sultan is a symbol of order and peace, and a representative of God as a successor of Muhammed. Who would dispute such a position amongst the Othmani people? How could such a position be assailed? Elected heads of state are politicians beholden to political concerns and special interests. The Sultan, and Caliph by extension, is beholden only to the will of God, to serve and lead his people.”

“Well, it would be easier for you in that arrangement than it was for the concubines in the old days. You wouldn’t have to constantly fight to preserve Bashir’s right to succeed me. Mind you, there would still be some folks on the inside who would favor the old ways. And again, the issue would come up. I would have to convince some conservative elements that a mix of the old and new is practical. One selling point would be greater stability, though, in a system with a clearer succession. Not that I would abolish or outlaw polygamy, but more that I would dismantle the old harem apparatus, the eunuchs, slaves, concubines, and also practice monogamy myself, leading by example. I would also have to be sure not to revive the harsher religious laws, such as the jizya, the religious tax,” Suleiman observed, not wanting to mention the darker ideas, such as a possible coup if the government continued to fail the people.

“The trouble is that under Borek, things are getting somewhat better and the insurgency seems to be winding down. On the other hand, that paves the way for new elections, which means that we need to organize a new party soon, if we are to contest for the Grand National Assembly and pick up some seats. We sell it as being a ‘reformed monarchy’ under a ‘more enlightened teaching of Islamic law and tradition.’ We include benign proposals to negotiate tougher for sooner ending of the Treaty’s h~arder clauses, while not denouncing the Treaty itself. And we push for a new constitution, one with reforms to strengthen the national government,” Suleiman continued the exchange of ideas, wanting to see what she thought, as she was clearly as bright as any of his colleagues, judging from what she said and what he knew of her.

Alysanne pursed her lips, thinking about what her husband said before she responded. “That’s not going to be enough. You will need to take a firm stance against not only terrorism, but against Islamic extremism. The Adirans will not take kindly to the resurrection of the Sultanate, so their fears of a radicalized regime must be assuaged, otherwise they are like to oppose any such plans. The same can be said of the Lazodirians. It isn’t enough that my cousin reigns as Prince there. He and his ministers must be convinced that it won’t be a threat to their country.”

“Hence the ‘more enlightened’ part. That’s a signal that I stand for a more moderate brand of Islam, though between us, if I could choose a religion freely, I’d a Roman Catholic, I think, like my cousin Prince Sayed. He essentially lost his claim to the succession over that, but I can understand the impulse. I hear that he might become the second man in my family to formally wed rather than taking concubines. At any rate, yes, a clear ‘law and order’ stance will be required, of course. Mostly for Lazodiria, as the Adirans will be uncomfortable with anything monarchical regardless of what kind. Only time will lull their anxieties and fears,” Suleiman noted, “I would also probably have to name Christians and other religious minorities to key cabinet posts as a signal of my moderation.”

“That would be a start,” she agreed with a gentle smile. “It would help to secure Edomite support as well. They certainly have a great deal of pull on the continent. My brother Alexander is married to Princess Ava as well. Perhaps we can use that to our advantage?”

“Certainly in terms of international connections. However, internally, I will need to somehow line up the support of minor Othmani princes and various conservatives who are open to monarchy rather than republicanism, in order to establish a political base and connections at home. Otherwise, I would have a hard time convincing the Right to support me over Prince Selim or Princes Mustafa, Ismail, etc.

“Maybe if the princesses were able to speak out openly, now that Prince Bulent is gone, and perhaps to take husbands, it would further indicate that the old ways are done in terms of some domestic traditions. The old days of princesses dying as old maids need to be done. That was a complete waste of Othmani potential diplomatic influence, the refusal to give out the hands of the Sultan’s sisters and daughters, all in the name of avoid intermarriage with Christians,” Suleiman observed, having found that practice utterly stupid.

“You will need allies amongst the conservative political parties,” added Alysanne thoughtfully. “Provide their base with something to rally around. Do you know anyone that can help?”

“Possibly. I’ll have to start with the Democratic Union Party. They’re in opposition and they have no reason to love the status quo, do they? Udan Varcar, in particular. They are a center-right party and they are also fairly moderate in general, not a lot of ultra-nationalists. I think that they could be a good place to begin,” Suleiman thought aloud.

Alysanne’s ability to participate in the conversation as much as she would have wanted was cut short when Amir peed his diaper, prompting her to start changing it on the spot, while his older brother Bashir looked on as he chewed on a teddy bear. “You have to want this, Suleiman. For the longest time you’ve not, and I’ve respected that. I will not push you the way my father has, and I only ask that you consider it because the future of your people, and your children, is worth exploring any such opportunities.”

“Yes, but I don’t want it for me. I want it for New Othman. I dread the nature of this next step, as it is not only dangerous for me, but also full of troubles for you and our children. Even so, my sense of duty will not abide simply letting my country fall apart. Borek is great at handling insurgents, but he’s clueless about economic policy, and the corruption of the present regime has only made some things worse. He’s a general and doesn’t belong to a political party. What can you expect from him, anyway?” Suleiman admitted aloud the truth of Alysanne’s observation.

“Loyalty to someone worth giving it to,” she mused, though admittedly she didn’t know Borek as well as she probably should.

“I don’t know if he would give me his support, but I wouldn’t rule it out. While he’s been in the army under Fascism and democracy both, he’s clearly seen the pitfalls of each and he is no politician, merely a soldier and patriot. He also knows that his government has only excelled in one area, that of state security, and that has been made worse by the rampant corruption of the SRP, despite multiple sweeps and house cleanings by Borek and those before him. He has no great love of any party or ideology and such graft disgusts an honorable man like him. He just wants a stronger, abler, and more effective government, so I think that he might be more open than many others in the government to such ideas as this,” Suleiman added, evaluating Borek now, “he might be happier as my defense minister, anyway.”

Finishing changing her son’s diaper, Alysanne turned to see her husband and smiled. “Well, I’m just glad that we are and not there right now. At least here, our children are safe. That’s the most important thing...though I doubt we can stay here forever.”

“And I want my country to be safer for our sons, and any others that we have. So, shall we shower, my dear, and then table this discussion for some hot, steamy coupling, you and I?” Suleiman winked at Alysanne at last, “You still have plenty of the leaf, I presume, to keep it from making a baby brother or sister too soon.”

“...Perhaps once they’ve been put to bed,” she said with another smile. “I don’t want the staff to get more time with them than I do. Once that is done though...consider your challenge accepted. After all, I cannot let it be said that Maria of Garza is the most...robust princess in Ghant,” she added teasingly.

“She’s lovely, but she’s not you. You’re always my favorite princess. Martin can have Maria. She’s a little too bossy for me, anyway. Nice, but I’m not interested in being henpecked,” Suleiman assured her with a grin, “Well, to the gym for me, to work up a sweat, and we can shower together later…..after supper. Deal? What is supper, anyway? The cooks have made something, I presume.”

Kissing him gently on the lips, Alysanne said “Deal.” Then she shrugged and said, “haven’t figured out dinner yet. That will be sorted out soon enough. Be well my husband, enjoy yourself, and I shall see you later this evening. Try to dress warm when you go’s a bit nippy out.”

“Wow, you really are a wife, my dear, and I mean that in the best way! I shall follow your counsel and trust to a nice overcoat and long johns to keep me warm on my way to the gym,” he kissed her back, before leaving her side.

With Suleiman gone, Alysanne was left with her two young sons, content with the feeling that however things might transpire in New Othman in the coming days, at least for now, things were good. For Alysanne, that was enough.
"It is high time for ballots, and not bullets. For bread and butter, not tanks treading on foreign streets. For reform, for schools, for more police on the beat, instead of building up a massive war machine used only to bully our neighbors. The only armed forces that the new New Othman needs are those which defend the nation itself from aggression. We don't need the trillions that we used to spend for that." - Udan Varcar

"Radical feminism in the west is less about womens liberation (and that's fair - women in the west have been largely liberated after all), and more about authoritarian thought policing." - Hirota

"The function of our social services is to discourage sedition." - Premier Bayazid Izmirek, 2005

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New Edom
Postmaster of the Fleet
Posts: 23241
Founded: Mar 14, 2011

Postby New Edom » Sun Feb 05, 2017 2:39 am

Down to the Wire:
Fineberg, New Edom

Peter Zebedee was General Nicanor's lawyer and Political Advisor, and this wrinkly gnome of a man in his baggy pale suit was pushing another crumpled cigarette end into an overflowing ashtray as he took another meeting. This one was from Samuel Tannach, the Governor of Bara Province, who had arrived to meet with Nicanor.

"Your Excellency," said Zebedee, bowing to the tall, moon faced stout man. "Please, our House is honoured by your arrival. Will you take refreshments?"

"I will, thank you, Mr. Zebedee. And how is the Hero of the Nation today?" said Tannach, beaming as the chair creaked beneath his weight.

"He is in good spirits following his fourteenth grandchild's first steps, let me tell you," said Zebedee, ringing for a servant. A naked, comfortable bodied woman with a slightly plump deliciousness to her came in, painted traditional Free Congress blue and white, and took their refreshment requests of mint tea and lemon cakes before walking out.

“Grandchildren, such a blessing. But you have none, eh Zebedee? Most unfortunate,” said Tanach, fanning himself with a newspaper. “Fan on?”

“Oh I do beg your pardon,” said Zebedee, who had left it off at first on purpose, pushing a switch. “Amazing, eh? All controlled from the desk. Got it from Adiron. Yes, I am afraid I am married to the law, and of course I was in Holy Orders before…”

“Of course, say no more,” said Tannach, raising a plump pink palmed hand. “Well, you know, I have come of course to pledge to the General’s support with the votes that I command for the Chamber.”

“The General will be pleased,” said Zebedee.

“There is a small matter though,” said Tannach. He paused in thought, and the woman returned with the cakes and tea. Both men smiled and thanked her and she left demurely. “I hate to trouble you with it though, you are so busy looking after the General’s concerns.”

“I am sorry to hear that you are reluctant to tell me,” said Zebedee patiently. “I urge you to do so, to lift your conscience of your concerns, Excellency.”

“No no..” This went on for some minutes until Tannach, as though embarrassed to bring it up, mentioned, “"Have you heard that Dr. Jeremiah Lavor plans to resign as Crown Accuser in order to propose himself for Magistrate?”

This was immediately interesting, for Lavor was the Crown Accuser for Padan-Aran--the most lukewarm of Governor Tannach’s supporters when it came to the judiciary and provincial legislature—staunchly Monarchist, conservative and anti-Edenist.

"Well, we are relatively sure it's a done deal and I would like to make the local parties position clear regarding who we feel should be the logical choice for an interim appointment." Tannach continued idly, licking his fingers free of lemon crumbs lovingly. .

"I'm always happy to receive the recommendations of those as we say who represent 'the boots on the ground'. You are after all in a better position to assess local needs then we are,” replied Zebedee. “Of course you could always talk to the Minister of the Interior.”

Tannach looked up sharply. "Well, naturally I will be talking with Count Sharra at the earliest opportunity, but of course I think the choice should go to the best candidate and one familiar with that greater needs of the Province as opposed to just one district.”

"The General would not have it any other way,” replied Zebedee politely, eying him like a weathered turtle eyeing a choice fat worm.

"We're recommending Simon Rumen. He is a bright young man and an excellent lawyer. A graduate of Fienberg but he also studied at Avantine University. It would be a wonderful appointment that would please the National Wisdom Party and Intellectual Party alike but not compromise our general values. A demonstration of merit.”

“What an interesting idea,” said Zebedee. “What is he doing now?” he stirred his tea, his eyes never leaving the Governor.

Tannach folded his fingers over his belly contentedly. "Well he is chief trial adviser there right now and while it has been made clear that the legislature would resist appointing an ETC candidate they would welcome a NWP candidate. They feel…not I of course…that this is very important.”

“I think that I will recommend that the General make it a priority to examine this case, and I will assure you that I will make sure that I remember that,” promised Zebedee. “Oh look…I think the General can see you now.”

Tannach beamed. “Wonderful! Well I won’t trouble him with this little matter, I wanted to bring him a present for his granddaughter’s birthday and thank him for his kind words at our church the other day…”

As Tannach rose like a dirigible from the groaning chair and went to the now opening office door, the last sight of him Zebedee saw was of him extending his great arms to bow and then embrace the General, who was in his barracks dress uniform, a cigar smoldering in one hand, the old comrades pounding one another’s backs.

Zebebee picked up his phone when the door closed. “I want to find out about Simon Rumen,” he told the recipient on the other end. “Everything.”

“Let’s be clear,” said a striking, dark haired man with bold features, as he spoke on television before a group of journalists, “Julian Silva stands for change in this country, and that’s what you are going to get. A modernized nation that is not bound by medieval rules of financial transaction. Let’s not be fooled—Nicanor is not the man for the hour. It’s Lalery. I don’t mind telling any of you. And the people of Calafia are sold on that!”

“Well done, sir,” said his political adviser as the balding scrawny fellow who was nicknamed “The Scarecrow” switched off the television.

“It was a bit too bold eh? The hearings are not done yet,” said Silva, relishing the sound of his own voice.

“You were great as usual sir,” said Scarecrow.

“Excuse me Mr. Deputy,” said one of his interns, a scared boy they called Ghost for fun. “It’s Mr. Daniels the line for you.”

“Daniels? Which one?” said Silva. “For the Lord’s sake, come in boy and stand up straight like a man, don’t crouch at the door like a scared rat.”

“The one with all the oil, the director-general, that Daniels Mr. Deputy sir…”

Silva raised his eyebrows and looked at Scarecrow. “Hallelujah, here’s a nice prize,” he mused. He picked up his phone, beckoning for quiet. “Mr Director-General, what can do for you?”

“Congratulations on your speech, Silva, and you really went after General Nicanor in the hearings earlier today, I think you’ve got him on the run. I hear your party are calling you ‘the bulldog’. You like nicknames, right?” said Daniels.

Silva laughed. “Not much escapes you, Mr. Daniels. Well I was actually called the bulldog from when I was at Fineberg U and was the right midfield…”

“School days, school days…” said Daniels a bit sentimentally. “Well I realize you must be busy, but I was hoping you could possibly visit me for supper tonight, just really the two of us. I was hoping to talk to you about something to your advantage.”

Silva felt the hairs of his neck stand on end. While the National Petroleum Company was a national entity, nevertheless Daniels was very rich, influential and could really enable him to rise swiftly in politics. “I would be…let me see…yes I would be honoured,” he said as casually as he dared. “What time?”

So other than his driver/bodyguard, Silva drove alone to the palatial villa in Quality Bay, and when he knocked at the door he was surprised when the oil tycoon answered the door himself and admitted it after shaking hands.

"I sent the help home," Daniels explained as he ushered Silva into a room with a bar and an elaborate home theater system, and after making them a drink had the Deputy sit down on a comfortable chair in a beautifully decorated room in the Roman manner.

"When I got your call - frankly I was stunned," Silva admitted. "And as for your proposal - or whatever it was - obviously I'm all ears Mr. Daniels."

"You're a very confidant fellow, and after those latest poll numbers came in today you have every right to be," Daniels said as he dimmed the lights and the giant television screen lit up the room. "So I called you here to give you the chance of a lifetime. A chance to repent of your wicked ways and stop persecuting a hero of the nation."

"Stop going after Nicanor?” Silva blurted out as he started to lift himself out of the chair. "I was expecting you to admitting having read the writing on the wall and were preparing to throw your support behind me."

"Support you? Pretty much the answer I expected. No, Deputy Silva, I intend to keep our resources protected from the CTO’s rapacious greed, which I see as my duty, so my fortune lies with General Nicanor and not with that sellout coward, Lalery." Daniels said as he pushed a button on the remote and a picture that graced much of his political profile literature filled the screen in front of them. "I'll ask the question again when we're done here. Charming family. Devoted wife and lovely little girl. How old is she?"

"18. Almost 19."

"Obvious to see where she got her beauty from, not to mention that raven hair," Silva continued. "Cynthia's her name, isn't it?'

“What of it?” said Silva coldly. He was about to get a bit threatening—assuming the two were alone, though Daniels was in good shape, so was Silva.

"You know, Deputy, while I don't want to brag I masturbated twice today and no, I don't use Viagra."

“I…wait, what?” said Silva, baffled.

"It's what I was watching as I gratified myself," Daniels chuckled. "It's a campaign ad of sorts. One that will sink the Silvaship I'm afraid, and I wanted to give you the opportunity to watch it first before it gets released."

"I'm sure if it got you all hot and bothered that it must be good. Chock full of lies," Silva sneered but the man disagreed.

"Quite the contrary," the oil tycoon told him, and before he continued he threw in, "You ready for this?"
What followed was…his beautiful Cynthia, innocently kept away from any nastiness at the Whitehaven Academy for Young Ladies…stealing an iphone, driving a car with no license, drinking with friends and doing drugs. He was staring at these clips.

“This is a whole series really, rather shocking actually,” observed Daniels. “But the best is to come…”

“You blaspheming dog!” stormed Silva. He rose menacingly, but Daniels casually raised an automatic pistol he had concealed by his chair.

“Don’t panic and do anything foolish, Silva,” said Daniels coldly. “Sit down and watch the show.”

Daniels studied the politician who stared open mouthed as the butch woman came behind Cynthia and was helping his daughter take her bra off, and after she eased the straps of the padded foundation off the girl's bony freckled shoulders her beefy hands replaced the cups of the bra and squeezed the tiny cones that sprouted from her scrawny chest.

“Enough, enough…” groaned Silva.

"Nothing wrong with small breasts you know, and your daughter certainly does have perky ones, even if they are really tiny," Daniels noted as the lesbian knelt in front of the waif-ish teen and grabbed the top of her rather matronly panties, but just before they came down the Director-General stopped the show.

"Last chance Silva," Daniels announced. "Dropping out?"

"Fuck you."

"Thought you'd say that," Daniels replied as he started the recording once again, and as Cynthia's panties came down her pale legs he declared, "Look at how hairy she is, it’s like midnight down there!”

"Something tells me you've seen all this before though," the wealthy industrialist mused. "In person. I bet you knew already how hairy Cynthia was and how little up top she is.”

"Bastard," Silva mumbled, unable to look away, his fists clenched. He looked at Daniels but Daniels casually reminded him about the gun by lifting it a moment in his direction and shaking his head. “Wait is this live?”

“No. However I know where she is, and she’s so hopped up on what Andrea there has been feeding her that she might stay there forever…or rather until a nice tip to the Ministry of Justice officials yields them a nice sting of a homosexually driven meet and greet hotel,” said Daniels cheerfully. “Do you want to see the rest? Andrea said she almost wishes she hadn’t been paid, your daughter was so good with her—“

“Enough!” roared Silva. Tears in his eyes, he said, “I’ll quit. I’ll stop altogether.”

“No!” shouted Daniels.

“No?” Silva blinked.

“You will not stop altogether. You will reveal that Count Lalery is literally in bed with a Ghantish princess of checkered past, nearly twice his age, in contravention of what the Royal Family has decreed for him. You will reveal that you have considered the General’s moral positions and are ashamed of your attacks on him and will say that you are in doubt not because of policy but because of moral position.” Daniels said. “I will send you the information.”

“I want…I want this information to stay off the web,” said Silva, recovering quickly.

Daniels had to admire that. Maybe this fellow would be worth something in future. “It will, you have my word of honour.”


Daniels stared at him. “Are you impugning my honour, sir? Your daughter is a whore, but I have saved your honour.”

Silva at last fell back, drenched with sweat and defeated. “I…very well. You win, Daniels.”

“Good. You have done the right thing, for your country and for your family.” He nodded to him. “I will give you the directions for your political actions and to where your daughter may be found. There is of course a very discreet facility for persons of rank suffering from certain…ailments.”

Silva got up and said, “The video…I want it.” He knew it was useless though, even if Daniels gave it to him how many copies did he have secreted? It was worth a shot though.

“Of course. You may have your copy,” said Daniels knowingly. Silva went to the door, and Daniels said, “Mr. Silva?”

“What?” Silva said in a rasping voice, turning at the door.

“You forgot to say thank you,” said Daniels.

Woodenly, Silva said, “Thank you.”
"The three articles of Civil Service faith: it takes longer to do things quickly, it's far more expensive to do things cheaply, and it's more democratic to do things in secret." - Jim Hacker "Yes Minister"

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Posts: 904
Founded: Jul 14, 2014

Postby Novitera » Sun Feb 05, 2017 10:33 pm

Price of a Vote

Avantine, Novitera
Directorate Building

The best office in the Directorate Building belonged to the Chairman, Lucas North. Although they were all quite suitable for men and women of rank. Shelves were stuffed with law books and he had hung pictures of himself with close business associates. His pictures of family were on the desk where he could see them more often. A board had been brought in. Long rectangular plastic labels with magnets were placed on it each having the full name of one of the 22 other national directors. They were color coded by party affiliation. It went red for Patriots, blue for Commoners and white for Nationals. Right now all the labels were on the left of the board.

Parker Gladwin sat on a sofa while North paced around reviewing his notes. On the table for discussion right now was the budget. As usual the Patriots would do what they could to increase the military budget. For one, national security was a high priority on their party platform. It also was a boon to certain defense companies that were their corporate constituents. Specifically, a line item that North wanted was for the construction of more tanks. The Army wanted more of the Myrmidon MBTs that were jointly designed with the Jedorians. Although it was not completely a pork barrel project. UFASC had made it clear that this was where the military was lacking.

Gladwin rose from his sofa to go to the board. "We can expect all the Patriots to tow the line." He said moving over a few labels to the other side then thought about it for a moment. "Clarence can be difficult I know but he owes the party a favor too since we gave Katashi a contract for that software and it was a big one." Gladwin moved over another name.

"What does the software do?" Asked North.

"I don't know. Classified. Sold to the National Security Directorate." Gladwin answered.

North examined the board. "8 votes. We need 12. So tell me Parker, how do we get them?" He asked. This was Gladwin's specialty after all.

"I can get you 16 if the Party is willing to cancel on the construction of one submarine." Gladwin proposed.

North shook his head. "No, that's finalized. Liberus United will be wroth with us if we cancel those contracts."

Gladwin nodded. "Understood. What if we cancel the tax audit on BofN's foreign investment division? Henry is Officer of the Taxation Committee. He can get that done for us. That should get us a vote from Director Bryson."

"We can do that. They probably could use some straightening out but we can always get them next year." North said while leaning on his desk.

Gladwin moved over Miles's label to the right side. "That's 9 votes. What about Director Lorena's green energy research grants? Do you think you can get 4 Patriots to vote yes?"

"How much does he want?" Asked North.

"60 million." Gladwin answered.

North moved his head from side to side like he was weighing it. "Yeah I can swing that. It looks good too. We're making an effort to be less dependent on foreign oil and let it not be said that the Patriots care nothing for the environment." Another name was moved over.

"Tanks use quite a bit of gas Mister North." Gladwin remarked to which he received a chuckle in reply. "Well you certainly may take issue with my next proposal then if you care so much for the environment. There's the matter of the proposed Enedore Mine. Locals are protesting against the environmental impact. The Commoners want the Environmental Conservation Agency to reevaluate the situation before Carthum is given rights to mine. Director Zheng is very displeased as are his friends at Carthum Resources. Perhaps they are just being dramatic and Carthum should get the rights without any obstructions."

"I agree. Sometimes the Commoners can be hysterical. Plus, think of all the business it will bring to the locals. Tell Director Zheng we'll support Carthum's contractual rights." Said North.

Another name moved over. "One more." Said Gladwin as he tapped a finger to his chin. "What about Health and Wellness? Kyonakiota has several drugs in the pipeline to be approved by the Consumer Products Administration. I'm sure the process could be expedited with a bit of urging. Director Yakumo could see to that."

"Now that is an excellent idea. What a civic minded man you are Parker! Think of all the sick people out there that could use those drugs. Get on the phone with Kyonakiota. See which of their drugs really need to get out there." North responded gleefully.

"Yes, I think I'll do that. Director Caballero and Director Scarberry will be most pleased by this." Gladwin said with a nod while moving two labels over. "That should get us approval to discharge funds for the tanks."

"Thank you Parker. You've done the nation a service today. More tanks to defend Novitera!" North exclaimed giving Gladwin a light punch to the shoulder. He looked annoyed by it.
Last edited by Novitera on Sun Feb 05, 2017 10:49 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Free Garza
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

A Royal Audience

Postby Free Garza » Sun Feb 05, 2017 10:48 pm

Royal Valdez Palace, Ciudad de Garza, Free Garza
1746 hours (local time), Sunday, February 5, 2017

The doors to the King’s private office were opened by his private secretary, Pedro Rosales, who admitted the guests into His Catholic Majesty’s presence. The people in question included Premier Jacinta Castillo, leader of her party, the Socialists; Oscar Suarez, President of the Senate, Hernan Pacino, President of the People’s Assembly, Ricardo Aleman, Chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party, and Luis Cordoba, the Chairman of the Christian Democratic Party. Castillo was more than a little embarrassed and disappointed, but she had been warned of an imminent royal veto, simply calling the King’s bluff. The Communists were so hostile to the Crown and the Roman Catholic Church that their absence was a given, but everyone else needed to attend.

The King cleared his throat and turned to Castillo, “You requested this meeting, Senora. Bear in mind that I advised you before, as was my constitutional duty, that I would not give my assent to this bill becoming law. Clearly, you did not take me at my word, and that was your mistake.”

“Indeed, that was an error on my part. I had hopes that you would change your view on this, and that since the Edomites voiced no public opposition, that their views would not be an obstacle this second time around. Evidently, I was wrong on both counts, Your Majesty. So, at this point, I must propose a few possible options. The first, which would require my resignation, would be to simply drop the proposed measure altogether. My reputation is too closely bound up in this. I cannot back down so utterly, not without stepping down.

“The second idea is the introduction of a compromise that would not prohibit the practice of conversion therapy, but would require it to be entirely voluntary, and an affidavit signed to that effect prior to enrollment in such programs. The third one, if Your Majesty no longer has any confidence in me, is for me to tender my resignation after the introduction of such a compromise. Which, Your Majesty, would appeal to you? What would be your counsel in this? I have been arrogant enough to disregard your advice recently, but I am listening now,” Castillo sighed as she took out a cigarette, not worried because the King was a smoker, too.

“Here, allow me,” the King offered to light Castillo’s cigarette, which she accepted as a goodwill gesture on his part, “Very well, then. I do not want you to resign, Premier. Not yet. It’s too soon, given all of the instability in this region. In a month or so, perhaps, but give it that long and get at least one or two final victories under your belt so that you can exit the stage as a hero. Regardless of our recent differences, I have nothing but respect for you. You’re still needed right now, as a moral influence and voice that shows the world that Garzan democracy is alive and well. Let me suggest that the compromise measure is acceptable to me, at least, and I have here a communique from the Primate himself, indicating that a requirement of voluntary enrollment is permissible to him.”

“Very well, Your Majesty. I am pleased to retain a measure of your confidence in me and this government of yours, especially in view of our recent discord. I know that, as a Socialist, my political philosophy is distinct from, and contrary to, your own. That being said, you have always showed me nothing but respect and consideration, whether we agreed or not. I am increasingly becoming tired of late, so I will probably resign this spring, but I will attempt, as Your Majesty wishes, to remain in office for at least a month, if not more. I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I have a lump in my right breast that I will have examined next week, hoping that it proves to be benign. This will probably have an impact on whether I will stay one month or two.

“In any case, I will introduce the aforementioned compromise proposal, one which merely requires all such facilities and programs to be purely voluntary, including the said affidavit to each enrollment, and presumably, Your Majesty would not be opposed to licensing and occasional inspections of the locations in question. Your Majesty’s apparent guarantee of royal assent prior to passage is most reassuring. However, I called for the other gentlemen to attend in order to clarify whether they would attempt to whip their caucuses into line in the case of the party chairmen, and to help with the parliamentary protocols and processes, in the case of the two presiding officers, namely of the Senate and the People’s Assembly of the Cortes.

“The sooner that this issue is resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, the sooner that we can move on to other concerns, such as improved building codes, local government reform, and the minimum wage increase. Gentlemen, what are your thoughts?” Castillo answered the King, and then turned to her colleagues in the Cortes.

“I am in favor of the improved building codes, the proposed reform of local government, and of the compromise therapy regulations. However, I serve notice that I remain oppose to raising the minimum wage to 6 garzans per hour, as you suggest. That is a bit steep of a burden on small business and large alike,” Ricardo Aleman insisted, as head of the pro-business, center-right Liberal Democrats.

“I’m all for those, but I tend to agree a bit with Senor Aleman. Let me propose 5 garzans per hour. Deal? And I will help to whip the votes needed,” Cordoba offered instead.

“Acceptable at this time. Certainly more affordable. That one garzan less will make things easier for the small entrepreneurs most of all, many of whom determine success and failure in a matter of months, not quarters, centavos, not garzans,” Aleman nodded now.

“For my part, consider it done,” Suarez spoke his mind then…..a Christian Democrat himself, “the only real worry is the Communists, but I will have the sergeant-at-arms on alert for any unruly Bolsheviks in our midst.”

“Be assured, my deputies will do their part, too,” Pacino, a Socialist like Castillo, concurred, “Any wild-eyed Reds had better be prepared to be ejected from the chamber. I don’t tolerate a disorderly house.”

“And we undertake a measure that helps small business. Small shopkeepers will be able to gain limited liability and mercantile incorporation status for a lower rate if we reduce the fee. Will that help?” the King now advised the Premier.

“Very good idea. Make it two centavos instead of six for the first fee, four instead of eight for the second. As Senor Aleman notes, success or failure for some of these smaller merchants is a matter of centavos, of narrow margins at times. But no one publicizes this meeting or speaks of it to the press. Agreed?” Castillo offers.

“Very much so, and let me say that I will pray for you and your health. All of us will, si, that the lump turns out benign? To me, you’ve been like an aunt at times. Tia Jacinta, whatever our differences. You’ve helped make the transition toward a constitutional monarchy much easier,” Diego shook Castillo’s hand and accepted her curtsy.

“Si, we will pray,” Aleman added, though a lukewarm Catholic at times, he was still capable of piety in a good cause.

“Thank you, Your Majesty. You’ve also made it easier on old leftists like me, some of who legitimately feared the restoration, but have come to learn that you really are a man of honor and decency. We didn’t know you well back then, but we do these days. Your Majesty has shown yourself a great man in your own right,” Castillo thanked the King.

“With that, I shall adjourn this session and grant you all leave to depart. Alternatively, you could all join me for supper. No doubt, Queen Helga, Crown Prince Fernando, and my nurse, Sandra Velasco, will welcome your company,” Diego invited them in a tone that strongly encouraged them to stick around… didn’t refuse an offer from the King, after all.

One also didn't mention that the nurse to whom he referred was also the King's heavily pregnant mistress, who got along so well with his wife that they were already talking of using the same tutors for the children and having play dates for their offspring. After all, the King wasn't going to dismiss Sandra any more than he would divorce Helga, which since he was Roman Catholic was not at all.
Last edited by Free Garza on Sun Feb 05, 2017 10:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Viva La Garza!

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New Edom
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Founded: Mar 14, 2011

Postby New Edom » Fri Feb 10, 2017 6:44 pm

Fineberg, New Edom

The Committee had slowed down as it vetted the issue of the fitness for office of the two candidates remaining for President of the Council of Ministers. The issue of recognition of Michael of Latium as Emperor was being examined and had been brought up by the tenacious Peace and Harmony Party's Dr. Ebenezer Gibeah. Why, Dr. Gibeah asked, had Michael been recognized so quickly, and why had he been promised aid? Whose idea was this? Had his legitimacy been questioned at all? What was the present situation going to cost the Edomite people and the general security of the Region?

Once said, it could not be unsaid. So the now weary committee had taken a two day recess to examine whether this interruption of the procedure was appropriate. The senior magistrate attached to the committee, Bishop Remegius, agreed after deliberating with his staff that "That is indeed so."

"The logical first persons to call in such a case," said Dr. Gibeah, "Are the King and Queen or their immediate senior advisory staff."

The committee's vice-chair, Inga Matthews was appalled. "This cannot be done. It is without precdent." Dr. Marius Campion agreed, but Sarah Carmel (Free Congress) and Claudius Glaber (Intellectual Party) both supported the idea. And that was what hung up the vetting: a historic vote being called as to whether or not it was agreed under the constitution that the Monarchs could be called as witnesses.

The Chief Justice, Bishop Zecharias, immediately spoke against this. "The interpretation of our constitution does not fall under the authority of the Chamber of Deputies exclusively. I must warn the Chamber: it may vote all it likes but the law may not be mocked any more than the name of the LORD."

In the Chamber, a near riot broke out on the day of the vote. Deputies and their staffs were not all in agreement on the necessity of such a vote, and indeed some members of the Peace and Harmony Party flocked to the nearby Cathedral of Saint Michael to pray as a gesture of protest. Members of the Free Congress were the only ones unanimous in their approval of such a vote, and showed up painted from heel to forehead in their white and blue paint, surrounded by a great mob armed with agricultural tools and hunting weaons and firearms. In defiance of this, sixteen hundred supporters of the National Wisdom Party did the exact same thing except they were dressed either in hunting gear, former military uniforms or in a few cases in formal wear, such as Dr. Campion himself who arrived wearing a three piece suit. The Intellectual Party's members varied in their responses, and the party was threatened with splitting over the issues that had for a long time strained them from within. This was all so unexpected that the Municipal Militia in the area was not entirely reinforced.

Without barricades or reserved, they were brushed aside and many of them were confused and afraid to get involved, so they stepped aside. The Deputy Minister of Justice immediately ordered more to the area surrounding the Chamber of Deputies and requested that the Military District of Fineberg send troops.

Meanwhile, the still exhausted King Elijah ordered his staff to dress him, seat him at his des in his office in Betharan Palace and to address the nation. However Prince Enoch advised that they also needed, before they did anything else, to consider the legal precedent this established. "The Peace and Harmony and Intellectuals have radicals that are Free Congress sympathizers or ex-Congress in them. I knew they'd pull something like this at some point. The democracy genie is out of the bottle, sir. What do you want to do about it?"

"Ingrates," said Captain Hadoram Peleg, the King's Private Secretary with frustration. "The King gave them a real working legislature and now they want to use it to dominate the country. We should turn out the Guards."

"I have a suggestion," said Count Sharra, the Minister of the Interior. "Why don't we compromise? Rather than have the king submit or refuse, why don't we have them rephrase the whole matter? After all it is merely an issue of them wanting to know what the King and Queen felt and thought on the matter. They ought to know. But they can come here, to the Palace, receive an audience and have a conversation about it. They can send appropriate representaives to do so."

The King glanced at the other men in the room and said, "What do the rest of you think?"

General Nicanor, Count Lalery, Prince Enoch, Justice Balaam, Captain Peleg, and General Ashdod all considered, each in their own way.

"It's an elegant solution, Sharra," said Lalery. "We ought to do it."

"Agreed," said Nicanor. The two men gave one another a grudging nod of respect; this was beyond their usual concerns.

General Ashdod, the Minister of Police, said, "What if they refuse? I hate to urinate in anyone's millet here, but they might, either out of suspicion or because it is after all not what the hotheads want. They want either to point out how tyrannical the House of Obed is or to humble the King and Queen. They may refuse."

"Then they will be in the wrong," Sharra suggested. "Then it will be they who are acting in bad faith and we will enable Dr. Campion to point that out. We will drown them in bad press, and then at the same time have the King speak to the public."

Elijah was exhausted, his weakened body sore, but only the beading of sweat at his temples and his breathing starting to get shallower indicated this. "Make it so," he rasped. "Peleg, you have the con."

The men in the room glanced at one another.

Prince Enoch cleared his throat. "Sir," he said gently, "Shall we issue the invitation? For tomorrow afternoon perhaps?"

The King said nothing, but made a sort of buzzing noise in his throat. Prince Enoch rose swiftly but elegantly still, and said, "Gentlemen, the King must have his rest. Thank you all."

The men of the Council rose and bowed deeply to the King of the Allied States before backing out of the room. Once they had done so they all stampeded for their vehicles.
"The three articles of Civil Service faith: it takes longer to do things quickly, it's far more expensive to do things cheaply, and it's more democratic to do things in secret." - Jim Hacker "Yes Minister"

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Founded: Aug 06, 2006

Postby Leasath » Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:24 pm

Vannoisian Central Camp, Undisclosed Location, Latium
6:06 PM Vannoisian Standard

Louis XIX bulled through the entrance to his current headquarters, a small home in the Latin countryside that had been vacated by its previous residents and now comprised the center of the ever moving Vannoisian war camp. The Emperor stripped off his jacket, revealing a bulletproof vest underneath which also was torn away with a grunt. Running a hand through his hair, Louis also loosened the belt he was wearing, taking the sidearm and holster attached to it and setting both on the desk that sat in the center of what must have been the living room of the home. It was then that he noticed the older man standing in the corner of the room, and unholstered his pistol. Pointing the silver-clad weapon towards the intruder, his eyes narrowed for a moment before he dropped the weapon once again, safety securely fastened.

"Mon Dieu," Louis muttered, moving to sit behind the desk and already open laptop upon it. He sighed, taking a moment for himself, then looking to the silent man who had now moved to sit before him. "Jean-Benoît, I was unaware of your presence in my quarters."

"My apologies, Your Majesty, I had to come with utmost urgency," the Count of Auriroux murmured silkily, as he always did, his face grim as ever. The Emperor's former tutor, now a close adviser and, for now, friend, the Count sat in the rather large stuffed chair that sat before his former charge's desk. "There is news from Saint-Nazaire, and someone that I must implore you meet with."

"I see..." Leaning back, Louis laid his hands on his lap in a triangular formation, a tactic he had learned to avoid fidgeting with them. "Out with it, if you please, then. If you did not notice, Count, we are in a warzone and I have precious little time without being badgered by commanders, nobles, or my thrice blasted great-grandmother." The Emperor shut his eyes at the last individual mentioned, as if making a prayer for his own sanity, before reopening them and pinning the Count with his grey-blue eyes.

"As you wish, Your Majesty. The Prime Minister has apparently leaked his support for the bill proposed by that daft man Wittier. He did not contact the Imperial Palace before taking this action; in fact, he personally called Le Cit to approve an article already in the works about the entire issue, not that he even has the power." Auriroux growled slightly now, his tones still low but laced with irritation at the overeager Prime Minister. "Vaillancourt and Prévost-Desprez are already talking of a coalition vote against the measure, and as you well know the UMP can barely stand against its own moderates, let alone the entirety of the opposition." His eyes tracked the Emperor, who had stood at the revelation of the Prime Minister's illegal approval for the Le Citoyen article, and was now pacing the room behind the chair. His hands were clenched behind his back, knuckles slightly whitened at the force with which he used.

"Damn that man. Damn him!" Louis, too, kept his voice low; while he trusted his Imperial Guardsmen with his life, he would not trust them to keep from relaying anything they overheard to his great-grandmother, and he was loathe to provide the woman with anything that could be used as ammunition. "I knew Nicollier ought to have been the candidate for Prime Minister; Dammartin was more electable but we could have done something about this idiocy with a strong figure at the head!" Turning his accusatory eyes upon Auriroux, who bowed his head, the Emperor continued. "It was you that promoted Dammartin as your friend and ally, Jean-Benoît. It will be you that saves his government." Louis had returned to his chair, leaning forward slightly and eyeing his old mentor.

"I... I admit, perhaps his choice was a mistake, but I have an opportunity that may assist us in the endeavor to keep this from splintering the UMP. Vaillancourt wishes to push for greater reforms, far further reaching than Astier dared under your grandfather, but only when she has the mandate of the people. She requested an audience with you through the usual channels, which ensured that she would never receive one; however..." Leaning forward to crane his neck and look at the screen of the laptop on the desk before them both, the Count clicked a few icons and links before reaching what the Emperor knew to be a secure video feed to a room in the Palais du Étrimont, home to the Imperial Parliament. A preview of the room showed the aforementioned leader of Vannois Première to be sitting before another computer, seemingly awaiting something. "If you would consent, Your Majesty, a meeting with the honorable MP could be arranged immediately."

"Hmm..." Louis contemplated. He wasn't so interested in involving himself, especially not to save Périnesse-Toucourt; the man barely cobbled together the government that he had, even with the collapse of the Socialists and Vaillancourt's insurgency. That being said, allowing the UMP to lapse into a minority government would bring strain upon his young reign. As they only had the majority by as many seats as he could count on one hand, he knew what he must do. Rubbing his forehead, he waved a hand, nodding towards Auriroux. Not spotting the Count's broad grin, he shook out his shoulders and straightened his posture, looking as regal and prominent as one could in front of a laptop in the middle of a warzone. He took a second to straighten his uniform, and tapped a button on the computer's keyboard.

"Bonjour, Madame Vaillancourt. Je m'appelle Louis de Niort-Parthenay. Comment ça va?" Louis spoke in quick, clipped tones, almost caustic in his delivery. He was in no mood for niceties with this woman, that was assured, and saw no need for them anyway.

"Bonjour, mon Empereur. I am well, and hope you are the same." Vaillancourt's eyes widened when she saw and heard the name of the rather elusive Emperor of Vannois, her tone betraying her shock at being addressed by His Imperial Majesty himself. "I apologize, I had expected to meet with monsieur Auriroux."

"Well, madame, it seems that I am to be your liaison myself. I am told that you requested a direct audience with me and, though we are in a rather difficult situation at the moment, I am willing to engage with you." Louis did not bother with a fake smile or any such other expression, instead moving forward with a businesslike tone. "Please, do say what you will."

"Thank you, Your Majesty." Vaillancourt seemed almost cowed, as if she was scared of what she was about to say, but steeled herself. Louis almost raised an eyebrow as he noticed the signs of her internal battle. This is who the people would have as Prime Minister, he wondered, questioning if the woman had even heard of the game that was Vannoisian politics or if she was just an idealistic fool, as Jean-Benoît had termed most of her so-called party. "I... I wish to come to you with a proposition, now, before I present it in public and in the Assembly. Before you ask, sir, it does directly relate to the comments and posturing by the Prime Minister." She seemed to have spat the last two words out, her face contorting slightly, and Louis could only marvel at her blatant emotions. He would revel in it if he were not so unimpressed by the woman before him.

"I had assumed as much. Please, do get to the point quickly, madame. This is not court, and you may speak frankly," the Emperor said, curious.

"In this special situation, with the nation so close to the previous general election and so far from the next scheduled, I aim to take full advantage for my party." The steel that she had been looking for earlier, Louis noticed, had finally arrived. He supposed that her previous kinder and rather 'relatable' tone could have helped in her initial election, but he still marveled at her personality as opposed to what he had been told of her previously. "Within the month subsequent to the end of our involvement in the conflict in Latium, I will personally propose a full Constitution of the Empire."

Whatever Louis had expected to hear, this was not it.

Whatever he had wanted to hear, this was certainly not it.

Whatever he would tolerate from this woman, this was a step too far.

"As opposed to Périnesse-Toucourt's proposed parliamentary revisions, it would enshrine the Senate and Assembly as fully elect-"

"How dare you," Louis interjected. He despised interruptions himself, and often refrained from engaging with them when encountered, but at this point - despite outer appearances - he seethed. He did not care a whit for what this woman thought of his interruption, either, wide as her eyes were with surprise. "Your obliviousness astounds me as much as it irritates me, madame Vaillancourt," said Louis, ignoring Auriroux's raised eyebrows. "To craft a supposed Constitutional document without the input of the Imperial Office is a dangerous act."

"I- ," Vaillancourt began, and stopped herself, taking a breath. She seemed well-shaken, but determined as well. Louis could respect as much, though even now she seemed an easy prey. "I mean no insult, Your Majesty. I simply speak for the people that have so resoundingly endorsed myself. My Party. My mandate." The parliamentarian's eyes narrowed, and Louis almost laughed at the continuously easy to spot emotions that crossed her face. There was a reason that the greatest Vannoisian politicians were great, and surely emotional outbursts and unprofessionalism were not that reason. Louis refrained from speaking, however, annoyed as he was at his own prior interruption, and allowed her to continue. "This war scares all Vannoisians without the means to escape as the wealthiest Latins have. Were such an event to occur in the Empire, the refugee flow may well simply turn the other direction."

"I can assure that that shall never happen so long as I live, Vaillancourt. I would ask how you suppose a constitution supported by perhaps half the nation would mitigate such a hypothetical crisis, but I will take a guess at the reasoning you have engaged, if you shall allow?" At the woman's brisk nod, Louis smiled slightly. "A fully elected legislature, in which the Prime Minister stands as head of government and chief adviser to the reigning monarch. An exclusion of those holding hereditary titles from public office, for their motives cannot be assured to be in the public interest," Louis kept an eye on Vaillancourt's expressions, watching as she clenched her teeth or a hand when he was spot on. Thus far, being two for two, he was forced to refrain from coloring his tone with mirth as he continued. "Likely some restriction on my own powers, in the guise of laying out the Emperor's position in the manner of my late grandfather's reign. Additionally, I would assume that there could additionally be set constitutional limits on things such as granted peerages, royal allowances, and perhaps even the Trust that keeps my family in economically secure territory and allows for the mass lending of land owned by the Crown." Halting, he smiled more fully, showing teeth. "Am I on the right track, madame?"

The parliamentarian stewed for a moment, caught out. She had heard that the new Emperor was a formidable opponent in spite of his age, and ignored the warning signs. As for Louis, he was both entranced and thoroughly disappointed with Vaillancourt; for the supposed savior of the Empire's left, she was rather... Lame. Taking a glance towards Auriroux, his eyes widened perceptibly. An adviser, perhaps? One of her shadow ministers? Périnesse-Toucourt had Nicollier, someone less informed than he would take his relationship with his one time tutor to be similar. Did Vaillancourt have a more formidable politician behind the curtain, using the charismatic woman as a front?

It would be worth investigating, surely. His train of thought was interrupted when the woman finally spoke again.

"You have quite the knowledge of our plan, your Majesty, and yes. Some of what you have said is correct. The people demand civilian oversight over our nobility. You and your people benefit far more than the common man from our set of laws, the way our nation operates." She was angry, now, he could tell both by her tone and the slight red tint of her face. This time, he could not help quirking a small smile, insane as it was. "I see that you do not take what I say seriously, your Majesty, and I can only say this. Your people's time will not end in my lifetime, nor perhaps in my childs, but it will end. The monarchy has done great things for Vannois, but it becomes a burden as time flows ever onwards. Even you must see this, so intelligent as I have been led to believe you are."

Louis paused for a moment, contemplating her words, and nodded thoughtfully.

"For speaking such treason, madame, you are a confident woman." He noticed her eyes widen again, and waved a hand. "You knew what you were doing, which interests me more than it should. You know nothing of the culture of Vannois, of the importance of a competent Emperor and of the influence - positive and negative - he can have. You judge from your position solely because you are ignorant." Louis savored the pause, assuring his tone was properly acidic as he continued. "You reject our ways of life, and yet acknowledge our importance to the nation you claim to love so. You say my family has worked for this nation's benefit, and yet that we burden it. I posit a single question to you, Vaillancourt, and I ask that you listen closely before you carry on with your plan. Are you ready?" Louis glared imperiously at the woman, some hundreds of miles away sitting in a room at parliament in Saint-Nazaire.

"I-... Yes, I am ready." She seemed to want to swallow the words as soon as she said them, grimacing, and Louis reveled in the expression, almost chuckling aloud.

"When you present your proposed constitution, and send the Prime Minister into hysterics, and oh so likely merge with your scorned Socialists," he had caught her there, he could tell, her eyes for the nth time in this conversation widening as she wondered who had leaked her oh so intelligent and shocking plan, "I ask you this. Who will control the nation until an election is called. Who will rule the country unopposed and unadvised until a government can be formed, for the defections from the UMP leadership are already in pocket, are they not?" The Emperor grinned, now, allowing himself that. "What do you think I shall do with such a lengthy time as sole head of Government and State, madame Vaillancourt, with you the cause?" Louis awaited the MP, head cocked slightly, as if he expected an answer. When none was forthcoming, he simply smiled.

"Think hard on what you will do, madame. I wish you the best, and hope to see you at my coronation. As per your request, the contents of this conversation are confidential..." He let that linger. "As you well know, leaking our words today carries hefty consequences, on both our ends. I pray you see reason in this and in all your endeavors. God go with you." He spoke in measured tones, the acid gone from his tone, but an underlying threat obviously there. Nodding his head respectfully, he ended the stream, turning to look at Auriroux.


"As much as I despise interrupting you, Jean-Benoît, I must now." Louis rose, towering slightly over the older man, looking down his nose at him. His face, however, betrayed no irritation or anger. "I want concrete information on that proposal of hers, immediately. So much as I was able to gather, my assertions were correct, and I want the full document before tomorrow. Inform Nicollier, and keep him posted on events as they unfold. When the UMP government nears collapse, contact Frédéric and arrange meetings between him, Charles, and the Centrist leadership; oh, and one last thing." The Emperor's jaw tightened, and he looked out a window for a moment before returning his gaze to that of Auriroux. "Find out who the hell is behind Vaillancourt. A minister, a backbencher, someone. It is not her idea, this, and she seems a figurehead just as my grandfather seemed catatonic in his last days." Walking out from behind his desk, Louis moved towards the cot nearby, aiming to rest a while before dinner with whomever was visiting that day; he turned his head slightly towards the Count and addressed him. "Dismissed, my friend. Come to me only when my requests are taken care of. You have my thanks." He did not look to see Auriroux bow, nor to see his slight smile at his protégé's handling of the Vannois Première leader, nor even to see him leave.

Louis had two things on his mind; one being sleep, of course. The other being his beloved, so far away as she was. Already Vaillancourt was out of his mind.

She was better off for it, anyway. Had she lingered there, she might be on a list that any good Vannoisian would want to avoid with all their might.
Known as Malay or Eldandil
Member of Artemis



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