A Return to the Excalbian Isles (Semi-Open, See First Post)

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


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Postby Excalbia » Fri Oct 05, 2018 11:58 am

Knights Park, Citadel Excalbia

The first game of the annual Exalbian Isles Series between the winner of the All-Excalbian Baseball League pennant - the Citadel Knights - and the winner of the International Baseball League pennant - the Cambera Celtics - was fraught with unintended political symbolism. First, was the question of under which flag the Celtics would compete. For the moment, Cambera was the largest city of the Autonomous Grand Duchy of Saxmere - a constituent part of the Confederation of Sovereign States. Normally, there would be no question that it would be the Confederation flag that would be saluted at the beginning of the game. However, Saxmere had just voted to secede from the Confederation and in less than a month, it would be an independent county. The next question was whether or not the Grand Duke would attend the game and, if he did, whether he would be a guest of the Excalbian Emperor. The political implications of the Emperor hosting the soon-to-be-but-not-yet Head of State were difficult to calculate but certain to be misread by all sides.

As the pre-game festivities began, the questions quickly resolved themselves. When the Imperial Army Honour Guard presented the colours, they carried both the flags of the Confederation and the Autonomous Grand Duchy alongside the flag of the Holy Empire. However, when it came time to play the visitors’ national anthem, it was For Freedom, the Confederation anthem, that was played as the Celtic players doffed their caps and placed them over their hearts.

Before playing the Excalbian Imperial March, the stadium announcer said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Citadel Knights are pleased to welcome Their Imperial Majesties, Emperor David IV and Empress Elizabeth, Their Imperial Highnesses, Crown Prince Joseph and Princess Anna, and Her Imperial Highness, Princess Elizabeth, to tonight’s game.” The crowd cheered and applauded as the Imperial Family stepped to the open front of the Imperial Box just behind the first base dugout and waved to the crowd. The Emperor and Empress both wore blue and gold Knights jackets, while the Crown Prince and Princess were dressed in “smart casual”. The young Princess Elizabeth wore a pair of expensive jeans and lightweight sweater under a blue and gold Knights jacket - a new gift from her grandfather.

After the cheering died down, the Excalbian national anthem played and reporters made note that there was no sign of Saxmerean Grand Duke.

Following the anthem, the teams and the umpires were introduced, and the Knights took their positions on the field, leaving only one formality. A hush fell over the crowd as a microphone was positioned at the front of the Imperial Box. Princess Elizabeth, whose complexion, hair and eyes matched her mother’s and whose height - quite tall for a 13-year old - gave every sign of matching her father’s, stepped forward. She swallowed nervously and stole a glance at her grandfather. The Emperor smiled and nodded. The young girl smiled and turned back to the microphone. “Let’s play ball,” she shouted. The crowd erupted into cheers and the first Celtic batter stepped up to the plate.
Last edited by Excalbia on Thu Oct 11, 2018 10:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Excalbia » Fri Oct 05, 2018 6:02 pm

Knights Park, Citadel Excalbia

By the end of the third inning, the Knights led 3 - 0 on a three-run homerun by all-star first baseman Ricards Zimmermann with pitcher Max Strasburg keeping the Celtics hitless. Princess Anna used the inning break to excuse herself and wander into the Imperial Club to sample the buffet. She was followed by her husband, Crown Prince Joseph, leaving their daughter alone with her grandparents.

Emperor David IV stood up and moved over to sit beside his granddaughter. “Are you enjoying the game, Elizabeth?”

Princess Elizabeth nodded.

“Don’t you want to go get something to eat with your parents?”

The newly minted teenager shook her head. “Mother isn’t really hungry, Grandpapa. She’s bored. She doesn’t really like baseball.”

David raised an eyebrow. “Really? But she’s here…”

“‘Every invitation from your sovereign, whether family or not, is a command performance,’ she says.” Elizabeth turned and put on an anxious expression for her grandfather. “But don’t tell her I told you; she’d be horrified…”

David smiled. “Don’t worry; I won’t.”

“Thank you.”

“But you enjoy the game?”

“Oh, yes! Bryce in left field is sooo cute!” The young princess blushed slightly. “And I enjoy the game. Playing is one of the few times I get to get out of dresses and fancy shoes…” She looked over at her sympathetic grandfather. “Mother wanted me to wear a dress tonight. It was only when Papa said one doesn’t wear a dress to ballgame that Mother relented.”

“Well,” David said, casting a glance towards his wife, who merely smiled and shook her head. “So,” he continued turning back to Elizabeth, “how are you liking school this year?”

“It’s ok,” Elizabeth began, “but I still miss my friends in the Citadel. Chateau Langeais still doesn’t quite feel like home.” The Emperor nodded. “At least they’re not sending me to some awful girls’ boarding school like Uncle Andreus’ daughter, Marie-Jeanne…”

“Really? They’re sending her away?”

Elizabeth nodded. “So, I know that I am fortunate. Still, school is enough without the extra lessons Mother requires…”

“Extra lessons?” David asked as he stole a glance at the field, where the Celtics were back up to bat.

“French, which is ok, politics, which is ok, too, I guess, etiquette, court comportment, fashion… all the stuff a Pantocratorian princess would learn…”

“Some of that will serve you quite well, Elizabeth.” David gave her a smile and a wink. “After all, someday you will be the Empress of Excalbia…”

“When I’m a hundred!” She turned and looked slightly embarrassed. “I certainly hope. I mean, I don’t want you or Papa to ever die…”

David put his arm around his granddaughter. “Don’t worry, neither of us plan to leave you anytime soon.” He smiled, then turned back to the game. “Look at that slider. Nasty pitch!”

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Taking Umbrage with Umbra

Postby Pantocratoria » Sat Oct 06, 2018 12:47 pm

Kogchuliates Palace, New Constantinople

“Thirteen really is unlucky…” Marie-Jeanne d'André lamented as she flicked through the glossy brochure for St Columba’s College for Young Ladies, cringing as she saw photographs of girls her age in the school’s uniform.

“What was that, petite?” asked her mother, Madame de Montmanuel, who had determined that she was going to put a brave face on all of this for her daughter.

Located 20 km west of the Saxmerean captial of Umbra, the college sits on a large estate along the cliffs overlooking the Saxmerean coast.” Marie-Jeanne began to read aloud from the brochure. “Why Saxmere? Why not Caldas? Hmph… The rocky coast and high cliffs provide a picturesque contrast with the dense woods and fields surrounding the college. The college is operated by the Sisters of St. Anne and maintains the highest standards for both decorum and academics. Why would they mention decorum before academics? What’s more important, exactly?”

“Just cadence. Sounds better that way.” Madame de Montmanuel suggested.

The dark-haired beauty was wrapped in what would have been an uncharacteristically comfortable cardigan for her just a few years earlier. But Kogchuliates Palace was cold and draughty, and Marie-Jeanne’s father never came to visit anyway, so why shouldn’t she dress for warmth and comfort?

Class sizes are limited to 12 pupils per teacher, all of whom are sisters or lay women of good character.” Marie-Jeanne read aloud from the brochure again and paused once more. “There aren’t even any male teachers? Why don’t I just go to school in Pantocratoria?”

“I suppose men don’t like being teachers much anyway.” Madame de Montmanuel offered.

“Hmph… Students may avail themselves of elective classes in horseback riding, art, etc. Mandatory courses include mathematics, English, French, Cavenemi, Cavenemi? When will I ever need Cavenemi? literature, history, theology, and deportment. All students are required to be in residence, except for the Christmas, Easter and Summer breaks. Maman!” Marie-Jeanne’s eyes welled with tears as she read how long she was to be away. “Saxmerean winters are quite cold and wet and begin in late October and last until mid-April. Students should bring appropriate clothing...

The newly-turned 13 year-old could not read anymore, and set aside the brochure so she could dry her tears with the sleeve of her cashmere sweater. Her mother quickly moved from her own seat to the place next to Marie-Jeanne on the couch and placed her arm around the girl’s shoulders. She hugged, cooed and kissed the child.

“Oh ma petite…” Madame de Montmanuel cooed. “It’s a lovely school, really. We’ve discussed this before, besides, that when you turned thirteen you would go to boarding school abroad. I know it isn’t the Caldan school we were planning on…” Henriette deliberately decided not to call the school by name because she didn’t want to dwell on it. “...but St Columba’s really is just as good, if not better!”

“I’ve never even been to Saxmere!” Marie-Jeanne protested, her tears starting to turn angry. “I didn’t even want to go to Caldas, not really, but at least it seemed nice when we went there for vacation, but now I have to go to a place I’ve never been… All the better to forget me. Out of sight, out of mind!”

“Marie-Jeanne, don’t say that!” the Duchess objected. “Nobody wants to forget you. And nobody will forget you, not in Saxmere, not in Caldas, not in Pantocratoria, not anywhere!”

“Stupid country gets its independence at last, hurrah hooray, now I have to go to school there?” Marie-Jeanne complained. “It doesn’t make sense.”

“They want to send a message of support.” Henriette de Montmanuel explained. “So you see, nobody is forgetting about you, rather the opposite in fact, you are now an important part of foreign policy!”

Marie-Jeanne stopped her tears. She sat up straight and turned to her mother, with a look somewhere between wounded and contemptuous.

“And I am supposed to be gratified, to be deemed good enough to be a pawn of foreign policy?” Marie-Jeanne demanded.

“Well…” Madame de Montmanuel stopped and tried to work out why what she thought was a positive point suddenly sounded so bad. “That’s what your aunts are, after all?”

“My aunts.” Marie-Jeanne repeated.

“Well, yes…”

“Don’t compare me to my aunts.” Marie-Jeanne snapped.

“Listen, MJ, I know this is tough on you, but you shouldn’t talk to me like that.” Madame de Montmanuel said. “I love you, and I’m on your side. Always. Don’t forget that.”

There was a long moment of silence, and Marie-Jeanne settled back into her mother’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry. I know you love me.” Marie-Jeanne apologised. “I try to believe that father still loves me too.”

“He does, ma petite.” said Madame de Montmanuel, and kissed her daughter’s forehead.

“So what shall be my name?” Marie-Jeanne asked, trying to force a sense of resolve on herself. “At the school, I mean.”

“Oh… Well, traditionally you would be known by my maiden name, so Marie-Jeanne Melissene.” Madame de Montmanuel said. “Although maybe you’d like to go by Mary-Jane, like you were thinking for Caldas…”

“Yes, but if I am really going to Saxmere for foreign policy, surely people have to know who I really am?” asked Marie-Jeanne.

“Oh, they always do dear, nobody is fooled by that mother’s maiden name nonsense, especially in the age of the Internet…” Madame de Montmanuel laughed.

“So let’s put Mary-Jane Andrione on the admission form, then.” Marie-Jeanne declared.

With her left arm, the arm not embracing her daughter, Madame de Montmanuel reached to the coffee table and retrieved the admissions form as she thought about it.

“Yes, let’s.”

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Postby Excalbia » Mon Oct 08, 2018 6:19 am

Chateau Langeais, Excalbia

Princess Elizabeth, second in line to the Sword of Alsgood, walked into her parents’ sitting room dressed in flannel pyjamas and fuzzy slippers. It was late and nearly time for bed, which the young woman hoped would excuse both her attire and her intrusion. “Papa, Mother,” she said as she came to a stop just inside the doorway and folded her arms behind her back, one hand holding the opposite wrist.

“What is it, Elizabeth,” Joseph asked, looking up from the book he was reading. The Crown Prince was still dressed in the slacks he had worn earlier in the evening for dinner, but the dress shirt had been replaced by something looser and far more comfortable.

“MJ is going to school in Saxmere and I thought we should invite her to stop for a visit on her way,” Elizabeth said giving a slight smile.

“MJ?” Joseph asked, setting his book down on the round table beside his wingback chair.

“Marie-Jeanne,” the teen answered. “Uncle Andreus’ daughter.”

Joseph raised an eyebrow and turned to look at his wife, Princess Anna.

“That sounds a wonderful idea.” Princess Anna replied. “She has never been to Langeais before, and we only really see her at family events in Pantocratoria.”

Elizabeth smiled. “Thank you, Mother,” she exclaimed, while still wearing a slightly nervous expression. “She wrote that she'll be traveling with her mother…”

Anna’s lips pressed together tightly and the smile faded from her face.

“Well… I suppose that is to be expected.” Anna said. “But it makes things difficult.”

Elizabeth’s face fell. “Difficult? Why?” Her defiant posture signaled that the young princess understood the dynamics more than she wanted to admit, but wanted to force her mother to address it aloud.

Joseph looked from his wife to his daughter and coughed. “Well, Elizabeth, we’ll make sure that Marie… MJ… comes for a visit. But leave it your mother and I to work out the details. Alright? Now, go ahead and get ready for bed.”

“Very well,” Elizabeth said with a note of resignation. She bounded over to her father and hugged his neck and gave him a kiss. “Good night, Papa.” Then, she walked slowly over to her mother, gave her a somewhat stiffer hug and kiss. “Good night, Mother.”

After Elizabeth had left and closed the door, Joseph turned back to his wife. “How do you want to handle this?”

Anna hated to start her explanations for what she thought the most appropriate course of action in a situation the way she was about to do so.

“Well, in Pantocratoria,” she began, knowing she began that way too often. “We couldn’t receive that woman. She’s scandalous and by inviting her here we would be inviting her scandal upon ourselves. Yes, darling, I know this is not Pantocratoria, but there have to be standards! And Elizabeth is of that age, too, when the hint of scandal will sell magazines. Or get Friendface likes and whatever those things are called now.”

Joseph nodded. “Yes, I understand. And the last thing I want is to get Elizabeth in those awful scandal sheets.” He sat for a moment rubbing his chin. “However, I don’t see how we can invite the girl to visit Elizabeth and tell her mother, who is traveling with her, not to come.”

The Crown Prince stood and stretched, then began to pace. “What if we invited MJ to visit us at one of our more out of the way retreats? Like the chalet up in the Borodea Mountains? Fewer eyes… separate lodges; we can put her and her mother in one to themselves and the two girls can visit while our interactions with the mother are minimized…”

“I don’t mind interacting with her, truth be told.” Anna said. “She’s even a good mother, I dare say, not that we’ve had much interaction with her outside of the occasional Christmas. It isn’t personal. Not for me, anyway. I suppose we wouldn’t have to make the invitation very public. We could just go to the mountains like you say, and they could happen to join us.”

Joseph nodded as Anna spoke. “Exactly.” He smiled slightly. “And I know it isn’t personal. But I also know that court politics, especially in Pantocratoria, make certain demands. I can arrange for the IHA to meet MJ and her mother at the airport and conduct them to the chalet completely outside the public eye.” His smile grew a bit lopsided. “As you well know, they can very zealous in their duties. If we tell them to keep their arrival, it will be private.”

“Good. Of course, the Despotess and Monsieur de Montmanuel are both likely to find out anyway, and are both likely to be offended.” Anna said. “Frankly, I think that the Duke is over-indulged in his petulance anyway, war hero or not, but I shouldn’t like to upset Princess Sophia. Her position is not easy. She cannot appear to be spiteful towards Marie-Jeanne, and I am sure she is not, but the child cannot come without her mother, and her mother… well it’s easy to see why Princess Sophia could be offended by her presence.”

Joseph sat down next to his wife. “I agree with you about Monsieur de Montmanuel.” He made a slight face. He had never had much tolerance for those he considered arrogant. “And I’m certainly sympathetic with Sophia.” He paused for a moment. “We’ll do our best to keep the visit lowkey. Do you think it would be better for Sophia to hear about the visit from us, rather than learning about it second hand?”

“Yes, I think so.” Anna replied. “It is better than finding out by gossips who might add details of their own invention. I’ll call her in the morning.”

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Postby Pantocratoria » Mon Oct 29, 2018 1:47 pm

Zilais Kalns Estate, Excalbia

The Zilais Kalns Estate was a large Imperial compound high in the Borodea Mountains east of Turaida. The estate consisted of one large chalet and several smaller chalets surrounding a large central patio. Paths led east from the patio and the chalets to the surrounding woods and the private lift that rose to several private ski slopes above the chalets. To the west stood several lodges that housed staff and workshops.

Although the estate was not quite high enough to have snow yet, although snow was visible on the highest peaks above, there was a chill in the air and fires burned in the fireplaces of the main chalet, where Crown Prince Joseph, Princess Anna and Princess Elizabeth were staying for a brief visit.

Princess Elizabeth, dressed in dark leggings, a knee-length dress, a light blue sweater and a purple outdoor vest, stood on the front porch of the main chalet looking towards the gates of the estate. After several minutes, the gates opened and a large black SUV drove entered and began making its way up the long driveway. Elizabeth smiled and rushed into the chalet. Entering the large main hall, she said excitedly to her parents, “MJ is here!”

Joseph rose and straightened his bulky beige sweater. “Well,” he began, holding his hand out for his wife, “shall we greet our guest?”

Anna wrapped her beige trenchcoat tightly around her midsection as she rose, and took Joseph’s offered hand. The outerwear hugged her figure closely enough that it was questionable whether the coat had any lining, but Joseph knew from experience by now that Anna would prefer to be cold than to appear what she described as “too comfortable” especially when receiving visitors from her homeland.

“Let’s go out to meet them both.” Anna told her husband. She looked to Elizabeth as they went outside. “Now remember, you mustn’t entertain any unkind remarks about your aunt, the Despotess. She was very gracious when I called her about this visit. Simply politely move…” Anna paused as the family stepped outside and the cold wind from the peaks above cut through her jacket. “...the conversation along to another topic.”

Princess Anna’s chilly discomfort was rewarded by the appearance of the Duchess of Montmanuel, who had obscured her slenderness with a sweater and a windbreaker layered on top, conceding to the climate. Henriette de Montmanuel wore a slightly nervous smile upon her face as she looked up at the family on the porch, before looking back to the SUV’s open rear door, from which Marie-Jeanne emerged. The teenager shared her mother’s long dark hair, but had a marked resemblance to Anna and her sisters in her facial features. Totally indifferent to Pantocratorian fashion sensibilities, Marie-Jeanne wore jeans rather than a skirt, and a light grey sweater beneath a jacket like her mother’s. She smiled broadly at Elizabeth as the pair approached the Crown Prince and family.

“Your Imperial Highnesses, thank you so much for your hospitality.” Henriette de Montmanuel said, curtseying with well-practised grace despite her cold weather garb. Next to her, Marie-Jeanne curtseyed too, although less well, all the more so for doing it in jeans. As she rose she wore a beaming smile again.
Joseph bowed slightly. “Welcome, madame,” he turned slightly and repeated his slight bow to young Marie-Jeanne, “and welcome to you, mademoiselle.”

Elizabeth curtseyed and smiled at Marie-Jeanne. Anna noted the curtsey and suppressed a wince, but knew that her daughter was trying to be polite. She blamed herself for not being able to explain delicately why her daughter shouldn’t curtsey to her bastard niece nor her mother.

Joseph smiled and gestured with his right hand. “We are pleased that you could join us here at Zilais Kalns.” A steward in a blue jacket seemed to appear from nowhere at the Crown Prince’s elbow. “We’ve prepared a guest chalet for your use.” The steward stepped forward and bowed deeply. “Mr. Ozols will show you to your accommodations and give you the opportunity to refresh yourselves.” He turned and nodded towards his daughter. “Then, I’m sure the two young ladies will be anxious to spend some time together before dinner.”

Anna bent down (just a little - Marie-Jeanne had certainly grown since last she had seen her!) and kissed Marie-Jeanne on each cheek, embracing her as she did so.

“My you have grown!” Anna commented. “You are going to be taller than me.”

“Thank you, Your Highness.” Marie-Jeanne blushed. Impatiently, she returned her aunt’s kisses and waited to be let go. She grinned again at Elizabeth.

“Thank you, Sir.” the Duchess said in response to Joseph. “You’re too kind.” she placed a hand on Marie-Jeanne’s shoulder. “Come, let’s freshen up, then you two can play.”

“Play?” Marie-Jeanne said incredulously.

“Sorry, hang-out!” the Duchess corrected herself.

“Once you’re settled in,” Elizabeth began, touching Marie-Jeanne lightly on the shoulder, “come over; I’ll be waiting for you. I’ll show you my room and take you around the grounds.”

* * *

After Madame de Montmanuel and Marie-Jeanne had left for their chalet, Joseph put his hand on Elizabeth’s shoulder. “MJ will be a while,” he said. “I don’t want you sitting out here the whole time. Go inside; you can come out when you see her coming.”

“Yes, Papa,” Elizabeth said. The young woman hugged her father, then hugged her mother and walked into the chalet.

Joseph held out his hand for his wife. “Well, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it could be. Now, we just have to get through the next couple of days…”

“I’m sure she’ll be well-behaved.” Anna said, taking Joseph’s hand as she followed Elizabeth back into the warmth of the chalet. “I just hope there are no photographers hiding in the bushes.”

“I’m certain the IHA has checked,” Joseph smiled, “but I can always have them let the hounds loose.”

“Excellent.” Anna replied. “Release the hounds!”


After fifteen minutes or so, Marie-Jeanne emerged from the chalet she was sharing with her mother, tentatively looked around, and started to make her way towards Joseph, Anna, and Elizabeth’s chalet.

Elizabeth, who had been hovering around the front windows, spotted Marie-Jeanne approaching and excitedly bounded towards the door. Remembering her mother’s many lessons, she paused and composed herself before opening the door. She stepped out to the front porch serenely - or at least as serenely as an excited 13-year old could manage.

“MJ,” Elizabeth said with a smile, “it’s good to see you. It’s been so terribly long.” She glanced around the grounds and gestured to her left. “Would you like to take a look around?”

“Sure, that would be great!” Marie-Jeanne answered, mirroring Elizabeth’s smile. “How have you been?”

Elizabeth offered her cousin her hand to lead her around the grounds. “I’ve been alright. I miss living in the Citadel; most of my friends are there. Chateau Langeais is… ok, but there is definitely… quieter there than in the Citadel. I also miss my grandparents.”

As the two girls started to turn the corner of the chalet and enter the large central patio, Elizabeth turned to Marie-Jeanne. “How have you been? And what’s the deal with this school in Saxmere?”

“I’ve been OK, I guess.” Marie-Jeanne answered. “I had to move too. Not as far as you, I still have my friends. I miss my father, though. As for St Columba’s… I don’t know, really. I was supposed to go to Riverton School of the Sacred Heart in Caldas, but now I have to go to St Columba’s School of Blessed Decorum and Good Character near Umbra. Have you ever been to Saxmere?”

Elizabeth laughed at the name MJ had given St. Columba’s. “Once,” she began, after she finished laughing. “About five years ago. Grandpapa made a state visit to the Confederation and we went with him. He addressed the Confederation Congress, then went to Umbra to address the Saxmerean Parliament.” Elizabeth paused next to the large fire pit that formed the centerpiece of the patio. “Saxmere was ok. It was early spring, but it was still pretty chilly. However, there were blooming trees everywhere, it was quite pretty. It’s a much greener city than Jefferson; it reminded me more of home - of the Citadel - than it did the rest of the Confederation.”

Elizabeth pointed to the largest chalet. “When we all come here, usually after Christmas, Grandpapa and Grandmama stay here with Papa, Mother and I.” She pointed to the chalet where MJ and her mother were staying. “Great Aunt Christiana, her…,” the girl shrugged, “wife, I guess, Miss Janet, and Uncle Tariq stay where you’re staying.” She pointed to the opposite side. “Aunt Rebecca and Uncle Andriik stay over there.” She looked at MJ and smiled. “She just had twins. They’re so adorable!”

Elizabeth led MJ towards one of the paths leading into the woods. “Over here is the path to the ski lifts, but it’s not quite the season yet.” She gave MJ and uncertain look. “How long do you have to stay in Saxmere? Will you get to go home for visits?”

“I get to go back for holidays.” MJ replied. “The longest break is for Summer, but there are holidays for Christmas and Easter too. I guess it would have been the same if I was in Caldas but it just seems different, since I’ve never been to Saxmere before. It’s weird, I was kind of excited about going to boarding school when I turned 13, and now… not so much.”

Marie-Jeanne looked around at the chalets as she followed Elizabeth towards the paths, and thoughtfully reflected.

“Our Grandfather usually spends Christmas at Chantouillet Palace.” MJ said. “So do I, most of the time, I guess. Hey, where are we going? Into the woods?”

“I’m glad you get to go home for the holidays,” Elizabeth said. “If you have any free weekends and get lonely, let me know and I’ll see if I can come visit you. Or maybe bring you to Excalbia for the weekend.” She looked briefly down at her feet and she navigated the path into the woods. “I remember Chantouillet,” she said after a moment. “Remember? We came for Christmas… was it two or three years ago?”

“I think four.” Marie-Jeanne replied. “And I’m not allowed out for weekends, sorry.”

Elizabeth frowned. “That’s awful.” She bit her lower lip. “Perhaps we can come see you; Papa will make them let us in”

After a solemn moment, the young princess looked around the woods and smiled. “Yes,” she said happily. “This is the path towards the lifts, but it also leads to My Spot - a rock ledge that I love. You have the view of the valley below and high peaks above. Grandpapa says it is good to have a place of your own, where you can go and think and be at peace. I thought I’d show it to you.”

“Cool, let’s go!” MJ declared. “There aren’t really any woods near New Constantinople, which is a shame because I’d like to do proper cross-country. I’ve started running, like, you know, properly, the last couple of years. Running through woods and things seems more interesting than tracks. Oh, we don’t have to run right now, I was just saying. Let’s go see your spot.”

As the path became rocky, Elizabeth carefully picked her way through the woods, looking back periodically to make sure MJ was alright. Finally, they came to an open spot and the young princess spread her arms. “Here we are!”

The girls were standing on a large rocky ledge that hung over a fairly steep slope that led down to another clearing that, in turn, tumbled down a cliff and into the valley below. A river ran through the valley, and here and there farmhouses, barns and fields dotted the grasslands on either side of the river. To the right, the ledge ended at a towering rock wall that climbed up to the towering snow-capped peaks of the Borodea Mountains.

“This is My Spot.” Elizabeth smiled. “Do you like it?”

“It’s a beautiful view.” Marie-Jeanne replied. She gestured to the farmhouses. “What do you think they farm down there? Do you think they can see us up here?”

Elizabeth peered at the farm below. “I doubt they can see us. If they had binoculars, maybe they could see someone up here, but I doubt they could tell who was here.”

“And they couldn’t hear us?” Marie-Jeanne asked, thoughtfully, as she approached the edge. She wasn’t scared of heights but also didn’t have great experience hiking so she was tentative with her steps.

“No,” Elizabeth said lightly, “they can’t hear us.” She turned and gestured to a jumble of boulders on one side of the ledge. “Come and sit over here.” She sat down on one of the boulders and patted the a flat topped boulder next to her. “Wouldn’t it be lovely to live out here?”

“Just a second…” said Marie-Jeanne, and turned back towards the valley below. She took a deep breath, and then shouted, as if to the farm houses below: “I don’t want to go to boarding school! I’m scared!”

She took another deep breath, then MJ turned back to Elizabeth. She looked somehow relieved, but not exactly happy. She came and sat down next to her cousin as beckoned.

Elizabeth gave a slight smile. “It does help to get it out, doesn’t it?” She leaned towards her cousin and took her hand in her own. “Why are you scared? Maybe I can help somehow…”

“I’ve never been there…” Marie-Jeanne said but that wasn’t the main thing. “I’ve never lived away from my mother, I mean, other than when I’ve visited my father the last few years. I don’t want to lose my mother.” she took a few deep breaths because she didn’t want to cry or become too visibly upset. “Sorry. Maybe it’s because we’re the same age, but you’re the only person in the family who… I don’t know, gets me?”

Elizabeth held MJ’s hand and nodded. “I know how you feel. Most of my family is older… or a lot younger now that Aunt Rebecca has had her babies.” The young princess sat in silence for a moment, her brows knotted. “Would it be better if I went with you?”

Elizabeth twisted her mouth to one side. She held the expression for a moment, then spoke. “I know it’s a bit spur of the moment, but most of my friends are in Citadel, so I’m pretty lonely in Langeais. If I went to Saint Prudette’s of the Cliffs or whatever it’s called, at least we would have each other.”

Marie-Jeanne looked with surprise at her cousin, and then frowned a little as if Elizabeth was speaking nonsense.

“Well, of course that would be great,” MJ began. “But you can’t just decide to come with me. Don’t try to tell me you get to pick what school you go to.”

“Well,” Elizabeth began, frowning slightly, “of course I can’t tell my parents where I want to go to school, but I can certainly ask.” She smiled slightly. “And if I ask Papa the right way, I’m sure he’ll agree. And I’m sure that Mother will be happy that I want to go to a Catholic school. She doesn’t make too big of a deal out of it, but it’s pretty clear that she’d prefer me to think of myself as Catholic… even though I’ll need to be a member of the Church of Excalbia to become Empress someday…”

“Won’t Protestants be upset if you go to a Catholic school?” Marie-Jeanne asked.

“I don’t think people will mind so much,” Elizabeth shrugged. “The Church of Excalbia is pretty relaxed about it. People accept Mother being Catholic without any problem.”

“And you can just ask your father.” Marie-Jeanne repeated, still seeming dubious, or maybe jealous, of the idea. “And he might listen to you?”

“Papa always listens... but he doesn’t always say yes,” Elizabeth said with a laugh. “Mother is the… more difficult one. But, if she can be persuaded that it’s for the best or is the right thing to do or what they would do in Pantocratoria, then she’ll say yes.”

“In Pantocratoria they would definitely not listen to you.” Marie-Jeanne declared. “Maybe if I was a boy. Or if… I was, you know, if my parents were married. But I don’t think so, even then. You’re lucky to be Excalbian.” she smiled. “But, Elizabeth, it’s a big thing to do, you know. A big decision, I mean. I mean, I wouldn’t want you to ruin your life just because you don’t want me to be sad or lonely.”

Elizabeth scrunched her eyebrows together and nodded. “I know. It is a big decision. But going to boarding school isn’t going to ruin your life. Is it? I know you’ll miss you mother… and father. And I know it’s already been hard on you not having them together. But it is just a school, right? It’s not a prison or a punishment. Right?”

She leaned forward a bit. “And I don’t have any real friends in Langeais. If I went to Saxmere with you, we’d each have at least one friend.” She sighed. “But you are right and it is a big decision. I’ll talk about it with my parents. I don’t really know what they’ll say.”

“You’re right.” MJ agreed. “It’s just a school. But it’s far away. Think about it. I’d love to go to school with you, but I wouldn’t want you to be unhappy just to make me happy.”

The young princess sat in silence for a moment. Then she turned again to look at her cousin. “Is it really… difficult living in Pantocratoria? I’ve only visited and Mother quite enjoyed her childhood there. But, I’ve read things. Like you said about it being better to be a boy there than a girl.”

“I guess I live in a palace so I shouldn’t complain.” Marie-Jeanne replied. “Even if it isn’t as nice as the palace I used to live in. I used to think I was a real princess there, bossing people about. I guess I don’t know much about real life in Pantocratoria, really. But I know there are definitely more dumb rules for girls than boys, both in palaces and out of them.”

“That’s unfair,” Elizabeth said frowning. “I guess I am lucky that the rules are mostly the same.” She gave a wry grin. “Although Mother does make me to wear dresses and heels more than I’d like. It is kind of unfair that boys don’t have to worry about such things.” She sat thoughtfully for a moment. “So, do you get to spend much time with your father? You don’t write much about him anymore.”

“No, not much, really.” Marie-Jeanne admitted. “I’m always welcome, apparently, but not my mother. It would upset her, the Despotess, that is. I do go to his palace to play tennis, and he usually watches me, and I have dinner there at least once a month, plus birthdays, holidays and things. It’s not the same though.”

“No,” Elizabeth said, “I don’t suppose it is. I’m sorry.” Elizabeth sat silently for a moment looking up at the peaks above.

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Postby Excalbia » Sun Nov 11, 2018 3:28 pm

(OOC: This takes place following the conclusion of Zamimbia Conference in New Excalbia)

The Private Residence of the Murniece Family, Citadel Excalbia

Baron Dainis Murniece stared absentmindedly at the vase in the middle of the kitchen table as he continued to hold a piece of crispy bacon in his hand. After a minute and few stage coughs, his wife leaned over and poked him in the arm.

“Dainis, where are you?” Baiba Murniece asked with a feigned look of concern.

“What?” Dainis blinked and looked at his wife. “Oh, sorry,” he added as he dropped the bacon back to his plate.

“I know it’s a big day, but nothing you can’t handle,” Baiba replied as she stood up and started gathering plates.

“Yes,” the newly elected leader of the New National Union said as picked up his bacon again and took a bite, “you’re right. It’s just…”

“A little overwhelming?”

“Quite.” Dainis sighed and put the last bit of the bacon back on the plate. “I... “ He looked at his wife. “I’m just glad you’ll be there with me.”

Baiba smiled and looked over at their three children. The oldest, Kristine, was nearly 17. The two boys, Karl and Peter, were 12 and eight. “Ok, kids,” the woman a nod, “go upstairs and get dressed.”

“Why do we have to get dressed up?” Peter protested as he rose from his seat.

“Because we’re going to meet the Emperor,” Kristine answered with teenaged indigence before her mother had a chance to respond. “One must wear their best to meet the Emperor!”

Peter frowned and looked to his mother, who nodded and pointed to the stairs. “Go on,” she said. “Get dressed.” She looked over at her husband. “You, too, Dainis.” She chuckled as she gathered up the rest of the plates and set them in the sink. “I’ll be up as soon as I clean the kitchen, and I want you out of the bathroom by the time I get up there.” She winked. “As Kristine said, one must look her best for the Emperor.”

* * *

Forty minutes later, the Murniece family sat on a cushioned bench near the front door of their home. Baiba and Kristine both wore formal gowns; the mother’s in deep blue and the daughter’s in pale pink. The boys wore dark suits, while their father wore formal morning dress under his blue senatorial robes. The baron stood and began to pace.

“Don’t worry,” Baiba said with a light laugh, “I’m sure they haven’t changed their mind.”

“Easy for you to joke,” Dainis replied, his somber face dissolving into a smile.

“When do we move into Miller House?” Karl, the middle child, asked as he fiddled with his smart watch.

“Tomorrow.” His mother replied with a sigh. Her smile slipped slightly as she looked around their cozy, yet tasteful home.

“Will we sell this one?” Peter asked, taking sudden interest.

“No.” Baiba shook her head. “We’ll still need a home after your father is finished…”

Her sentence was interrupted by the doorbell. Dainis traded a nervous look with his wife, then opened the door. A tall man in the dark blue morning suit of an Imperial Steward stood on the porch beside two uniformed Imperial Guards, the morning sun making their plumed golden helmets fairly glow.

“Good morning,” Dainis said a little too quickly.

“Good morning, Your Excellency.” The steward bowed. When he returned to his upright position, he continued. “By command of His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor, you are requested to come with us to the Castle.”

“Of course,” Dainis turned and motioned for the kids to stand. He opened the door for his wife and held as the three kids followed her out. Then, he walked out his door. The two Imperial Guards turned to face Dainis and saluted as the steward led the family down the steps to a limousine.

As the Murniece family reached the car, another Imperial Guard opened the door and saluted. “Wow!” Peter exclaimed as he looked down the street to see the police cars and motorcycles with flashing red and blue lights waiting to escort their car. Once everyone was in the car, the Guard closed the door and motorcade began making its way out of their quiet neighborhood. At the sound of police sirens, their neighbors poured out onto their porches to wave goodbye.

Sweyn Castle, Citadel Excalbia

After a twenty minute drive, the Murnieces’ motorcade arrived at the formal entrance to the 17th century Sweyn Castle. An honour guard of Imperial Guards in glistening golden helmets with blue capes blowing in the breeze waited at attention. To one side, Dainis could see Baroness Vivian Bodniece, the leader of the Christian Union, and the other leaders of the New National Union-Christian Union coalition.

As they exited the car, Dainis took his wife’s hand and led her to Baroness Vivian. “Baroness, good morning,” he said. “I believe you know my wife, Baiba?”

The Baroness smiled and bowed slightly. “Indeed I do. Nice to see you again, Baiba.” The Christian Union leader was a slightly stout woman, just a little older than Murnieces, with a pleasant smile and bright, green eyes. She turned to the man beside her. “And I believe you remember my husband, Erik.” The slightly older gentleman smiled and bowed. “And,” Vivian turned back to Dainis, “please call me Vivian. Or else I shall have to call you Your Excellency or My Lord all the time and it’ll add several minutes to every meeting.”

Dainis smiled. “Very well. Vivian.” He bowed slightly and introduced his wife to the rest of the coalition leadership and their spouses.

Just as the introductions wrapped up, as if on cue, the heavy wooden doors of the castle opened. Lord Alfred Landis, the Imperial Chamberlain, stepped out and bowed. “My lords and ladies,” he said, “His Imperial Majesty is expecting you.” He turned and walked back into the castle as Murniece and the rest of the senators and their families followed.

The Chamberlain led the group through the Grand Entry Hall and into the gardens where they took a short walk to the ancient Citadel and into the Great Hall. The large, two story room was chilly, despite roaring fires in all four of its fireplaces. Stone floors were covered with fine carpets and an array of banners, swords and shields hung from the wood paneled walls. Benches filled with the officers of the Imperial Household Agency, what other countries would call the Court, and the bishops of the Church of Excalbia lined either side of the room. A wooden throne sat on dais at one end. Lord Alfred led the group to the foot of the dais and stood patiently.

After a few moments, a heavy wooden door behind the dais opened and a steward entered. “His Imperial Majesty, David IV, Lord of Valmiera, Grand Duke of Saulcrasti, King in the Citadel, Defender of the Faith and Temporal Head of the Church of Excalbia, Guardian of the Upper and Lower Lands, Heir of the Sword of Alsgood, by the Grace of God Emperor of Excalbia!”

At the steward’s announcement the officers of the IHA and bishops stood and everyone turned to the door and bowed deeply. The Emperor, wearing a white naval uniform with a blue sash adorned with medals and a blue cape strode into the Great Hall. An Imperial Guard walked just behind him carrying the Sword of Alsgood. The Emperor mounted the dais and took his seat on the throne. Everyone looked up and the Emperor gestured for those on the sides to take their seats.

“Baron Dainis, Baroness Vivian and the leaders of the Senate coalition, as you commanded, Your Imperial Majesty,” the Chamberlain said with a bow.

“Thank you,” the Emperor said. He looked up at Dainis. “Baron Dainis, I understand that you and Baroness Vivian have formed a coalition.”

“We have, Your Imperial Majesty.” Dainis said with a bow.

The Emperor extended his hand. “May I see your convention?”

Murniece reached into his robes and retrieved a folded document. He approached handed it to Lord Alfred, who, in turn, handed it to the Emperor. The Emperor took and it opened it. His examination of the document was purely for show, of course. The coalition’s governing convention - its priorities and its division of ministerial posts - had already been discussed in depth with the Emperor and the Imperial Household.

The Emperor nodded and held his hand out again. This time the steward who had announced him approached and handed him a long document with ribbons and seals.

“I am pleased to consent to your convention, Baron Dainis,” the Emperor said. He held the document with the ribbons towards Murniece. Dainis hesitate for a moment, until Lord Alfred gave him a subtle nod. Then, he approached the Emperor bowing and accepted the document, which he then rolled up like a scroll. “This,” the Emperor continued, “is my warrant and commission to you to serve as my Chancellor and to form my Government in the Imperial Senate. Do you accept it?”

“I do, Your Imperial Majesty.” Dainis said, bowing again.

“Then,” the Emperor rose and everyone stood with him, “Baron Dainis, I charge you to faithfully serve the Sword, the people and the Lord our God as Imperial Chancellor. Do justice. Serve the people. And bring peace and prosperity to my lands.”

“With God’s help, I shall do my best, Your Imperial Majesty.”

“Very well, Lord Chancellor. Now, go present yourself to the Senate for their confirmation of my appointment.”

“As you command, Your Imperial Majesty.”

The Emperor nodded with satisfaction. He turned to the gathered families of the new Cabinet and smiled. “But first,” he said looking back at Dainis, “My Lord Chancellor, I understand that the stewards have laid out some refreshments.” He removed his cape and handed it to the stewards beside him. “Come, let’s have some coffee and donuts. And introduce me to your Cabinet and your families.”

The Imperial Senate, Citadel Excalbia

The domed chamber of the Imperial Senate was unlike most legislative assemblies. First, while the high dome was filled with windows, the height of the dome and orientation of the building meant that their light only sparsely filled the chamber. With no overhead lights, each of the 100 upholstered armchairs was illuminated by a floor lamp, lasting each chair in an isolated pool of light. Second, there was a noticeable lack of desks. Only the officers of the Senate, the Clerk and her assistants, and the Marshal and his assistant, had desks, located just below the dias, which held the chair of the Lord Speaker. Like every other Senators’ chairs, the Lord Speaker’s was accompanied by a lamp and a small side table to the immediate right. Like most assemblies, a gallery overlooked the floor.

As the Senators, each clad in an open blue robe worn over their regular clothes and held in place by a golden chain and clasps, begin to enter the chamber and mill about, a noisy buzz began to build. The cacophony of voices reached a crescendo just before the Marshal entered from the door to the right of the Speaker’s seat and raised the large silver and bronze Mace of the Imperial Senate. A hush fell over the assembly and the Marshal walked to the front of the chamber and positioned himself in front of the dias. Once he was satisfied with the silence, he lowered the mace.

“My Lords and Ladies of the Imperial Senate,” the Marshal began in a loud voice unaided by artificial amplification, “the Seat of the Lord Speaker is vacant. Have you a candidate for the Seat?”

By tradition, the longest-serving and oldest member of the Imperial Senate served as Speaker. With the retirement of Sir Harrison Grasis, the oldest and longest serving Senator was Frank Vilks, the Conservative Coalition Senator from Kuldiga. However, he had made it clear that he would not serve as Speaker. The role, therefore, seemed destined to pass to the second longest serving Senator. Vilks cleared his throat, “My Lords and Ladies,” he began, “I nominate Lady Gwyneth Hapsgaard, the Honourable Senator from Ventspils, as Lord Speaker.”

“I second the nomination,” Frank Moring of the Christian Union, the third longest-serving Senator, said as he raised his hand.

“All those in favour?” The Marshal asked.

“Aye,” all the Senators cheered.

“Without objection, Lady Gwyneth is elected Lord Speaker of the Imperial Senate.”

Lady Gwyneth stepped out from the crowd and walked down the steps to stand in front of the Marshal. The Marshal bowed deeply, then turned and, again holding the Mace aloft, led the new Speaker up the steps of the dias to her seat. With another bow he turned and descended only to be replaced by the Clerk of the Senate. The Clerk bowed, then lifted a large, heavy chain and medallion that symbolised the Speaker’s office. Lady Gwyneth bowed slightly and the Clerk placed the chain around her neck. The Clerk then bowed deeply and returned to her desk below the dias.

Lady Gwyneth took her seat and lifted the gavel on the table to her right and banged it once. “The Senate will come to order. Please take your seats.”

The Senators all moved to the nearest seat, except for a small number who walked down the stairs to take the seats on the floor. Once everyone had been seated, Baron Dainis Murniece stood. “The Chair recognises Baron Dainis, the Honourable Senator from Georgetown and Leader of the New National Union.”

“My Lord Speaker,” Murniece began, his voice trembling slightly, “I have in my possession a warrant and commission from His Imperial Majesty, David IV, our Emperor, to form a new government for His Imperial Majesty.”

“Please present your commission, Baron Dainis,” Lady Gwyneth said. Murniece nodded and pulled the sealed document, rolled up like a scroll, from the pocket inside his blue robes and held it out for the assistant clerk, who took it from his hand and carried it to the Lord Speaker. Lady Gwyneth unsealed the document and unrolled the scroll. She gave it cursory review, then handed it back to the assistant clerk.

“My Lords and Ladies of the Senate, His Imperial Majesty has commissioned Baron Dainis to lead a government of the New National Union in coalition with the Christian Union.” Lady Gwyneth paused and looked around the chamber. “Let the Senate be divided.”

The Senators stood and shifted their places until the supporters of the government had arrayed themselves standing behind Baron Dainis and Christian Union leader Baroness Vivian Bodniece and the opposition had taken their places sitting on the opposite side of the semi-circular chamber. The Clerk and the assistant clerks stood and counted those standing and sitting. After their counts, they conferred briefly, then the Clerk jotted some numbers on a piece of paper and handed it to the Speaker.

“His Imperial Majesty’s appointment is confirmed with 69 Senators supporting the new government and 31 opposed.” Lady Gwyneth smiled. “Congratulations, My Lord Chancellor.”

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Postby Excalbia » Sun Apr 21, 2019 6:40 pm

Excalbia Cathedral, Citadel Excalbia

It was just before 6 in the morning on Easter Sunday, and Excalbia Cathedral was dark and silent despite the presence of thousands of worshipers. A few candles dimly lit the central and side aisles allowing people to find their seats. Once everyone had been seated, the large wooden doors of the west transept opened and the Imperial Family entered, led by the Emperor and Empress. There was none of the usual fanfare that usually accompanied the Emperor's arrival – no ruffles and flourishes; no trumpets; no Imperial March. Instead, David IV, dressed in a dark blue suit, simply walked down the transept aisle holding his wife’s hand.

Behind the Emperor and Empress Elizabeth, Crown Prince Joseph walked flanked by his wife, Princess Anna, and daughter, Princess Elizabeth. They were followed by Princess Rebecca and Duke Andrik, each carrying one of their infant twins. Finally, Prince James and Suniefreda Hoogaboom entered the Cathedral following his older siblings. The family made its way to the front pew where they silently greeted other family members, including Princess Christiana and her wife, Janet Latsone, and the Emperor’s aunt, Princess Michele and her granddaughter, Lady Jennifer, who were already seated.

As the rays of the sunrise began to tease the stained-glass windows on the eastern side of nave, the bells began to toll the arrival of the sixth hour. Once the sound of the bells had faded trumpets began to blast the first notes of Christ the Lord Is Risen Today. With the Cathedral’s massive organ joining the anthem, voices began to sing from back of the church.

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Preceded by a crucifer carrying a large processional cross and two acolytes carrying candles, the choir began proceeding down the nave towards the altar. As they passed each row, lights sprang to life and candles were lit, creating a wave of bright light moving towards the front of the Cathedral.

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

The choir was followed by more acolytes carrying banners and colorful streamers. A second crucifer accompanied by a thurifer carrying a censer and acolytes with candles preceded the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Excalbia, Bishop Donald Slesers, and Bishop Graham Spelve, the Chief Bishop of Citadel Excalbia, as they made their way to the front of Cathedral.

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

By the time the procession reached the altar, the Cathedral was bathed in light. The choir continued to sing as they took their places behind the altar. The bishops bowed deeply as they reached the altar and turned to face the congregation.

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Presiding Bishop Slesers spread his arms and smiled. “Christ is risen!”

“He is risen indeed!” The congregation answered in unison.

Sweyn Castle, Citadel Excalbia
Later That Afternoon

As was their custom on Easter, most of the Imperial Family returned to Sweyn Castle after services at Excalbia Cathedral. Crown Prince Joseph, Princess Anna and Princess Elizabeth continued on to St. Mary’s Cathedral, the capital’s Catholic Cathedral, where they attended Easter Mass.

Later, just after midday, the family gathered in the Castle’s formal dining room for dinner. Between the immediate family – the Emperor and Empress, their three children, their spouses – and one significant other – and three grandchildren – and the extended family over 20 people were gathered around the table for dishes of ham, roasted lamb, spring vegetables, roasted potatoes, green salad and, for dessert, a variety of pies.

After dinner, Princess Rebecca sat in a quiet corner of one of the Castle’s sunrooms holding her infant son, Prince Andrew. Beside her, her niece Princess Elizabeth – second in line for the Sword – sat holding Rebecca’s infant daughter, Princess Rachel.

“You have a way with her, Elizabeth,” Rebecca said with a smile. “She usually doesn’t take so well to other people holding her.”

Elizabeth smiled at her aunt and gently bounced the baby. “She’s adorable.”

“Thank you.”

The two sat in silence for a moment. “How’s school?”

Elizabeth shrugged. “OK. I miss my friends here in the Citadel. My cousin MJ is going to boarding school in Saxmere. Saint Stricture of the Perpetual Virtue.” She giggled and Rebecca chuckled. “I’ve been talking to Papa and Mama about going there myself next year.”

“Really? What on earth for?”

“Well, at least MJ and I could keep each other company…”

“You have a good heart, Elizabeth, but I’m not sure that’s the wisest course of action.”

“That’s what Papa says.” Elizabeth shifted her infant cousin as she began to grow fidgety. Soon, she was quiet and happy again.

“So, Aunt Rebecca,” Elizabeth began, changing the subject, “what do you think of Uncle James’ girlfriend?”

“Sunnie? She seems quite nice.”

“It would be a scandal in Pantocratoria. A prince seeing a commoner. And the granddaughter of a communist dictator no less…”

“It’s a scandal here, too, for some people. Including the tabloids. Fortunately, your grandfather and grandmother don’t care as much about scandal as they do their family’s happiness.”

Elizabeth looked thoughtful. “I suppose. It is a good thing. Ms. Sunnie does seem nice. She’s funny sometimes. Uncle James seems quite happy when she’s around. And, at least she is a Christian.”

Rebecca nodded. “That is a good thing. Especially for your grandfather!” She gently rocked young Andrew. “I think Sunnie has been good for James. He’s… much more mature than he was before he started seeing her.”

Elizabeth nodded. “He reminds me more now of Papa. And less of Uncle Tariq." She paused. "Uncle Tariq seems rather sad now.”

“Yes, I think he is.” Rebecca frowned slightly. “I do think Tariq misses having James as a… partner is his escapades.”

“What kind of escapades?”

“You’re too young to talk about that, Elizabeth.”

“Oh, you mean the girls he chases. His ‘conquests…’”


The young princess blushed. “I’m sorry, Aunt Rebecca. But Uncles Tariq is… rather obsessed with girls. You can see it by how he looks at them. Even the women stewards. The younger ones anyway. I’ve seen him slip his number to several young women. Even at grandfather’s birthday party, he was flirting terribly with the granddaughter of one of the Supreme Court Justices!”

Rebecca sighed. “I didn’t realize you were noticing such things.”

Elizabeth blushed a deeper shade of red even as her brows furrowed. “I am a teenager!”

“Yes,” Rebecca smiled, “I suppose you are.” She laughed. “We shall all have to be much more careful around you now, so we don’t corrupt you.” She winked and laughed.
Last edited by Excalbia on Mon Apr 22, 2019 4:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Pantocratoria » Mon Apr 22, 2019 1:29 pm

Cathedral of Christ Pantocrator
New Rome

The Easter Holiday was Marie-Jeanne’s first time away from St Columba’s to see her family since she had started school in Saxmere since Christmas, yet she sat in the Cathedral alone. She was seated in the third row in the choir, behind the princes of the blood and the dukes, close enough for people to be able to tell her it was a place of honour with a straight face, far enough away that she wouldn’t be in the same photographs as any member of the Imperial Family in the box in front of her, at the edge of the sanctuary. Her mother, of course, wasn’t even to be in the Cathedral. From where she sat, she should have been able to see her father in the Imperial Box, but just moments before the Mass she had been told that the Despot was not attending Easter Mass with the Imperial Family in the capital because the Despotess had entered labour in New Constantinople earlier in the morning.

While Marie-Jeanne knew she wasn’t going to be with him during the Easter Mass itself, she had at least been looking forward to being reunited in private with her father back at the palace afterwards. It was quite a blow, and she was struggling not to let it show, not in public. She looked up in the box, through the screen, at the chair where her father was supposed to be sitting. Her uncle Prince Constantine had been promoted into the chair instead, his extremely pregnant wife Princess Morgan next to him, having struggled up the stairs into the Imperial Box because protocol demanded she be seated with her husband and both princes couldn’t possibly be absent on a high holy day. As the Archbishop lead the congregation in prayer and worship, Marie-Jeanne fidgeted with her hands, wishing her phone hadn’t been left in the cloak room. The elderly gentleman next to her scowled at her fidgeting from time to time. She supposed he was a distant relative, since he was a prince du sang, but she couldn’t remember his name because she hadn’t really been interested in it anyway after his look of distaste and uttered “Oh” when he realised who she was. This isn’t what she had in mind when she left school to spend the holiday with her family. At least she’d be back with her mother tomorrow.

When Mass was ended (and it was excruciatingly long even though Marie-Jeanne had been to Mass a lot at St Columba’s), the guests in the choir retreated to the Imperial Court of Christ Pantocrator. Marie-Jeanne found herself in the salons with many of the same stuffy, disapproving faces she had been seated with in the Cathedral, while the Imperial Family reposed in the Emperor’s apartments. She ignored their scowls as, reunited with her phone at last, she spent most of the time messaging her mother and those of her school friends who responded (given the intrusion of timezones and their own family gatherings for the holiday). The blue-glow of the screen, combined with a brief episode where the elderly gentleman who had been sitting next to her in the Cathedral obviously offended the young, glamorous, and very rich Duchess of Votosoros, who cut him down to size by affecting not to know who he was with mock demurity and asking him whether he might have been lost, returned some semblance of good cheer to Marie-Jeanne’s face. She tapped a new message into her phone.

“Happy Easter Daddy! Do I have a brother or sister yet? <3 <3 <3”

She looked over it again and then tapped send, and then watched and waited for the message to be marked read. While she waited, an angelic girl about the same age as Marie-Jeanne dressed in a simple white uniform approached her.

“Mademoiselle,” the Emperor’s Maiden addressed her. “His Imperial Majesty the Emperor sends his compliments and invites you to attend upon His Majesty in his private apartments. If you would be so kind as to follow me, mademoiselle, I can show you the way.”

There was a hush in Marie-Jeanne’s part of the salon as the invitation/summons was extended. Marie-Jeanne locked her phone’s screen and regarded the special servant uncertainly. She could hear some of the other guests whisper “Most irregular.” “But isn’t she?” “The Despot’s bastard.” “Surely the honour should come to others first.” “That’s why Montmanuel isn’t here.” and other such remarks. It was amazing how unkind whispers echoed so loudly. Marie-Jeanne rose from her stool, and found she was a few inches taller than the Emperor’s Maiden when she did so.

“Please do.” Marie-Jeanne nodded.

“With pleasure.” the other teen smiled, and led her from the stuffy salon filled with stuff people.

The two girls emerged from the salon into a long hallway which glittered with gold picture frames and chandeliers, a fortune just in fittings, and then to a surprisingly modest-sized doorway inlaid with the Emperor’s monogram in gold-leaf and flanked by two enormous Varangians. Marie-Jeanne looked up at the giant Scandinavian man on the left, whose powerful physique she noted instantly, and smiled. If the giant’s blue eyes perceived her they gave no indication, nor did his tightly pressed lips and strong jaw give any sign of returning the smile. The Emperor’s Maiden opened the door and led Marie-Jeanne inside, the two girls passing between the soldiers into one of the outer chambers of the private apartments, the opposite end of which had two more soldiers guarding another door.

“The Varangians are so handsome.” Marie-Jeanne whispered to the other girl, as much as to make conversation as anything else, although after spending the last 4 months at an all female school in Saxmere, Marie-Jeanne’s appreciation for the soldiers was genuine.

“The Imperial Court of Christ Pantocrator is filled with many handsome objects, mademoiselle.” the Emperor’s Maiden agreed with her at an audible volume, while ostensibly gesturing to a glittering, ornate clock, wrought of gold and silver just to the left of the next pair of Varangians.

They entered the next apartment, dominated by a huge portrait of the Emperor Manuel V, called Manuel the Frank, which hung over quite an extraordinary looking desk of french-polished oak with silver trim, and a chair of stuffed purple leather behind it. The Emperor’s desk. The Emperor’s Maiden quickly moved to the next door, and, hearing voices behind it, stopped. She turned back to Marie-Jeanne as the latter tentatively explored the room.

“You will have to go the rest of the way alone, mademoiselle.” the Emperor’s Maiden smiled at her. “Emperor’s Maidens are not permitted to be in the same room as any of the Emperor’s daughters.”

“What? Why not?” Marie-Jeanne asked, confused.

“I don’t know why, mademoiselle, just that it’s against the rules.” the other girl answered truthfully.

“So many stupid rules. What’s your name?” Marie-Jeanne asked the girl, who was the only person her age she had spoken to in the flesh since returning to Pantocratoria.

“Véronique, mademoiselle.” the Emperor’s Maiden smiled back. The usual residents of the palace didn’t ask servants their names, even special ones like the Emperor’s Maidens.

“I’m Marie-Jeanne Andrione.” Marie-Jeanne told her.

“I know, mademoiselle.” Véronique grinned back. She indicated the door. “His Imperial Majesty and his family, your family, mademoiselle, are waiting for you.”

“I know, but… I’m a little nervous.” Marie-Jeanne said. She unlocked her phone to check whether her father had replied. “It’s silly, right?”

“Oh no, mademoiselle,” Véronique assured her. “They can be quite terrifying, if you will allow me.”

Marie-Jeanne grinned at the other girl and both started to giggle.

“That was funny.” Marie-Jeanne sighed.

“Yes, but, on the topic, may I take your phone, mademoiselle?” Véronique said, the giggle giving way to a tone of urgency. “It’s against the rules to use phones in the Imperial Presence. I’ll wait for you to give it back to you afterwards.”

“Stupid rules.” Marie-Jeanne complained as she handed her phone over to the Emperor’s Maiden.

“I have this model too.” Véronique smiled as she took the device. “I hope you won’t be offended if I wish you good luck.”

“Thanks.” Marie-Jeanne answered. “I’ll see you afterwards, for my phone, I guess.”

“Mademoiselle.” the Emperor’s Maiden nodded, and retreated from the room with Marie-Jeanne’s phone in hand.

Marie-Jeanne took a deep breath, opened the door, and stepped inside. The first look which acknowledged her presence was the steely, cold gaze of her great aunt, Princess Irene, who regarded her like a combination of something the cat dragged in and a new and curious toy. The older woman turned to her right, towards Marie-Jeanne’s grandfather, the Emperor. The Emperor sat in an armchair, nursing a glass of brandy in his right hand, as Monsieur, who was also holding a glass of brandy, told a story. A little further away, Princess Jacqueline chatted babies and delivery to the heavily pregnant Princess Morgan, periodically making sideways remarks to her own daughter, Princess Marie, who wore a barely restrained expression of social agony on her face between and had already begun to over indulge on Easter eggs (she would make herself throw up later, of course, but Marie-Jeanne wasn’t to know that). Princess Zoë was on the other side of the room, talking with her brother Prince Constantine about sports cars.

“Sire…” Princess Irene said to get her brother’s attention.

The Emperor turned towards Marie-Jeanne. His gaze was steely and penetrating, and Marie-Jeanne felt immediately uncomfortable when it set upon her. She took a step forward, and then curtseyed deeply.

“Marie-Jeanne!” Prince Constantine exclaimed. “You must be a foot taller than when last we met.”

“Welcome, grand-daughter.” the Emperor said by way of greeting.

“Thank you, Your Imperial Majesty, sire.” Marie-Jeanne responded. She knew from her father that she wasn’t to call the Emperor grandfather. He had stressed that this wasn’t because she was illegitimate, but rather because even her father still called the Emperor “sire” or similar rather than “father”.

“How is school?” the Emperor asked.

“It’s good, sire, it…” Marie-Jeanne began, but the Emperor cut her off.

“Excellent.” the Emperor declared. “And are you well?”

“Yes, sire, thank you for asking.” Marie-Jeanne answered.

“His Imperial Highness your father is attending Her Highness the Despotess in labour.” the Emperor told her.

“Yes, sire, they told me.” Marie-Jeanne nodded.

“Good.” the Emperor nodded. He looked her up and down, noting to himself how she was becoming quite a young woman. “Happy Easter, child.”

“Thank you, sire, Happy Easter!” Marie-Jeanne smiled back at him, a little hopefully.

The Emperor turned back to his conversation with Monsieur, Princess Jacqueline resumed giving Princess Morgan advice, Prince Constantine and Princess Zoë resumed their car conversation while gradually moving towards Marie-Jeanne. Marie-Jeanne stood there, alone and not sure where she should go or what she should do. Princess Irene smiled broadly, a terrifying expression if ever there was one. She strode over to the girl’s side.

“Do you enjoy St Columba’s, little one?” Irene asked her. The question was warm but the delivery cold.

“Sometimes, mademoiselle.” Marie-Jeanne began. “It is very strict though.”

“Good.” Irene told her. “That builds character. We could all benefit from more strictness. How do they punish you when you misbehave?”

“Detention, mostly, mademoiselle.” Marie-Jeanne replied.

“I used to teach your aunts. Etiquette.” Irene told Marie-Jeanne. “My punishments built skills and character far more directly than mere detention.” Then she spoke a little louder. “Your aunt Zoë became very good at holding coins to the wall with her nose...”

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Postby Excalbia » Mon Apr 22, 2019 6:02 pm

Sweyn Castle, Citadel Excalbia
The Day After Easter

Hundreds of children crowded the side garden of Sweyn Castle chasing colored eggs about with spoons, doing crafts, listening to stories and taking pictures with a large bipedal bunny. Their proud parents beamed as they escorted their young ones through the various stations of traditional Easter Monday Fair and Egg Roll.

Emperor David IV, dressed in a pale blue sports coat and yellow shirt, wandered the grounds greeting the families who had won the lottery to obtain a ticket for the event. Nearby Empress Elizabeth, wearing a pale pink spring dress, was reading to a small group of children. Other members of the Imperial Family drifted in and out of the garden. Princess Rebecca, with Prince Andrew and Princess Rachel in a stroller, attracted considerable attention as she watched the younger children search for – barely – hidden eggs in a corner of the garden.

Just before Noon, Crown Prince Joseph walked into the garden wearing a gray jacket over a pale pink polo shirt. He smiled and greeted a few families as he made his way to his father. “Father,” he said with a slight bow of the head.

“Ah, Joseph,” the Emperor smiled and turned to his son. “How’re you doing? It’s a great day, isn’t it?”

“Indeed,” the Crown Prince agreed, “everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.” He looked around the garden. “Have you seen Elizabeth and Anna?”

“I believe Anna went back inside a little while ago. Elizabeth is in the nursery area.” David smiled. “Rebecca said she has a really gift for dealing with the little ones.”

Joseph showed a flash of pride. “She’s becoming quite a young lady. Very sensitive and compassionate.” His expression changed. “Perhaps too much…”


“She’s still talking about wanting to go to St. Columba’s in Saxmere to be with her cousin, MJ.” Joseph crossed his arms behind his back.

“I see.” David folded his arms behind his back, mirroring his son’s posture. “It might not be a bad idea to let her.”


The Emperor smiled. “Rebecca briefly attended a school in the Caldan Union…”

“Very briefly, as I recall.”

“True. Still it was a useful experience. One that I tried to encourage James to emulate. But he was… resistant. Until I sent him and Tariq on a few brief trips together.” David looked over the garden. “It is… useful for a prince… or princess to have a broader view of the world. Spending a semester or two in Saxmere, experiencing a Catholic education, an all-girls environment… it might help Elizabeth develop broader horizons. Temper her compassion with experience and judgement. It might even help her appreciate more what she has here.”

Joseph nodded. “Perhaps.”

“And she won’t be alone. She will have this cousin of hers.”

Joseph frowned. “That might have consequences, too. MJ is… at the center of a bit of controversy in Pantocratoria.”

David expelled a sharp breath. “I have great affection for Emperor Andreus and tremendous respect for Pantocratoria, but it is hardly MJ’s fault that Andreus’ son, her father, is… or was… a man of loose morals and her mother was an adulteress. Nor is her fault that Andreus… that his court is one overly concerned with convention, rather than compassion...”


“Now, now, Joseph…”

Joseph brought his hands to his waist. “I’ll reconsider allowing Elizabeth to go to St. Columba’s.”

The Emperor nodded. “Good.” He looked at his watch. “Why don’t you find Elizabeth and Anna and we’ll have lunch together. I think it’d be a lovely day to eat on the second floor balcony…”

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Postby Excalbia » Wed Apr 24, 2019 2:11 pm

Knights’ Park, Citadel Excalbia

It was not uncommon, especially as the Emperor grew older – and some might say more comfortable in his role, for David IV to attend daytime ball games at Knights’ Park. It had become a common enough occurrence that people had started to look to the Imperial Box as they filed into their seats to see if the Emperor was there. It had also become something of a hobby among journalists and pundits to see who was attending the game with the Emperor and using that to speculate about who was in or out of Imperial favor.

Empress Elizabeth frequently attended games with her husband, so no one read much into her presence – or occasional absence. Similarly, whenever the Crown Prince and his family were in the capital, it was not unusual to see Joseph and Princess Elizabeth with the Emperor. Princess Anna was a somewhat less common guest.

Much had been written when former Chancellor Sir Albert Cummings attended game with the Emperor at the beginning of the season. Several pundits speculated that it was a public rehabilitation of the former Chancellor, who resigned under a cloud during the Iesian War and who had rarely been seen in public since. The truth was, as is sometimes the case, much more prosaic. Sir Albert had in been in poor health for years, keeping him home-bound, but had traveled to the Citadel to see his doctors, and the Emperor, who had always enjoyed his company, simply invited him to the ballgame.

Today, however, was a different story. In the Imperial Box, David IV was hosting an unlikely threesome. Deborah Coombs, a petite woman who managed to looked elegant in a Jefferson Pioneers baseball jersey, was the Confederation’s ambassador to the Citadel. To her right sat one of the newest ambassadors in the Citadel. That by itself was not surprising. The fact that this new ambassador was Sir John Rooney from the newly independent Grand Duchy of Saxmere, however, was noteworthy. On the opposite side of the Emperor sat perhaps the oddest of the diplomatic trio – Samuel Denton, another new ambassador. The older gentleman with unruly salt-and-pepper hair was the new ambassador from the Dominion of Upper Virginia. Recommended for his appointment by the new Socialist Prime Minister, Denton was an old-line trade unionist, who had spend time in prison during the Altman regime and who was the first open supporter of the Socialist Democratic Union to be given an ambassadorial appointment.

The pundits spilled much ink, or rather electrons, explaining the significance of the Emperor’s guests, which also included his new Minister of State, Baroness Vivian Bodniece. Even David IV’s decision to enjoy a hard cider and a sausage was probed for significance. The occasionally nervous expressions of Baroness Vivian and the two new ambassadors hinted at the importance of the event. However, for his part, David IV gave every indication that we was simply enjoying an afternoon in the ballpark with acquaintances.

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Postby Excalbia » Thu Apr 25, 2019 4:04 pm

Imperial Summer Palace, Imperial Preserve Island, Citadel Excalbia

With the arrival of Spring the official Imperial Residence had relocated from Sweyn Castle
to the Summer Palace. Although the Summer Palace was not far from the cliffs upon which
the Castle perched, it was a world away. Accessible only by boat and helicopter, the
Imperial Preserve Island invited a slower pace and more casual attitude despite the regular
comings and goings of ministers, senior bureaucrats and the great officers of the Imperial
Household Agency.

In that relaxed spirit this day found Princess Rebecca, the Baroness of Lielvarde, sitting on a
cushioned bench on the wide veranda of the Palace overlooking its lush, colourful gardens.
Dressed in a flowery spring dress, the princess had one barefoot tucked under a leg as she
gently bounced her infant daughter in her lap. Nearby, a nurse rocked the princess’ infant

Across from the princess, her younger brother, Prince James, the Baron of Parnu, sat
dressed in khakis and pale red dress shirt – a concession to his new job; he was awaiting the
arrival of helicopter to take him to the airport so he could fly down to Landing for the work

“I can’t believe Tariq is voluntarily going back to school,” Rebecca said to her brother,
although her eyes were locked on the round, chubby face of her daughter.

James shrugged. “He’s bored. Said he might as well go back to the campus environment…”

“Where he can find lots of starstruck young women,” Rebecca interrupted.

With another shrug, James continued, “He said the MBA would help him when he takes
over Aunt Christiana’s business holdings.”

Rebecca made a face, then smiled at daughter. “I think he just really misses you, James.
That’s why he’s going to the University of Landing…”

“I suppose,” James said turning away from his sister. “To be honest, I miss hanging out
with TQ, too. Sometimes….”

“But things have changed.”

“Things have changed,” he agreed with his sister. “I’ve got a job. A career. Something
creative. Not world-changing, but it might make a few people happy…. And Sunnie.”

Rebecca nodded silently.

“Don’t get me wrong,” James insisted, “TQ likes Sunnie. It’s just… even when she’s not
around, he says it feels like she is.”

“That’s because you’ve changed,” Rebecca smiled, first at Rachel, then at James. “Sunnie’s
been good for you. I think you’re good for each other.”

James smiled. “I don’t know about me being good for her…. And I don’t know that I’ve
changed. It’s more like… More like I’m free to be who I am with her. I don’t have to try to
be Joseph. Or…”

“Or Tariq.”

“Or Tariq,” James agreed.

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Postby Excalbia » Fri Apr 26, 2019 6:54 am

Imperial Summer Palace, Imperial Preserve Island, Citadel Excalbia

Janet Latsone bent over and gave her wife a kiss on the cheek.

“Are you sure you have to go?” Princess Christiana asked, turning to look up at Janet from her seat in one of the Palace’s many garden gazebos.

“I’m sorry, love,” Janet said as she tugged at her jacket, “but someone has to tend to business.” She smiled. “I promise I won’t be long. Just a couple of meetings. I’ll be back in time for afternoon coffee.”

Christiana nodded. “Be careful, my dear,” she stole a glance at the helicopter waiting on the helipad in the distance.

“I will,” Janet said with a smile. Then, she turned to her wife’s sister-in-law, who was seated opposite Christiana in the gazebo. She bowed deeply. “Your Imperial Majesty,” she said to the Empress.

“You’re one of us now, Janet,” Empress Elizabeth said with a pleasant smile. “Please, for the hundredth time, call me Elizabeth.”

Janet laughed. “Sorry, Your… Elizabeth. It is difficult to think of your Emperor and Empress as your in-laws… I’ll try to do better.”

Elizabeth nodded and Janet made her way towards the helicopter.

“I do hope Janet is getting comfortable around us,” Elizabeth said, turning to Christiana.

“She is. Mostly, I think,” Christiana said with a slight frown. “I think it’s been difficult for her to make the transition from being my chief of staff to being my wife. Sometimes, I think she still feels more like staff than family when we’re all together…”

“I wish there was something we could do to put her more at ease.”

Christiana’s shoulders slumped. “I know you’re doing what you can. And David is, too. It’s just… well, he tends to be intimidating even when he thinks he isn’t.”

Elizabeth laughed. “That’s so true. He’s so convinced he’s just being an ‘ordinary fellow’ when he goes to ballgames that he doesn’t even notice how people scurry around trying to make sure they’re not being too informal or too formal, since he’s clearly trying to be informal..."

“I also think,” Christiana continued, “that Janet is… aware that she’s the only member of the family without a title…”

The Empress frowned slightly. “David was worried about that. He’s thought about granting her a title, but the IHA is… full of reasons why that can’t be done. And now, with the Christian Union in the government, there’s…”

“There are political concerns.”

Elizabeth nodded sadly.

“David has talked with me about giving Janet a life peerage – there’s nothing the IHA or the government could say about that – but he’s worried that she’d take it as a slight…”

“I think she’d understand,” Christiana said. She let out a long breath. “I… I don’t want to sound ungrateful to David, Elizabeth. He’s… he’s changed so much. Just as Excalbian society has changed. When I was Tariq’s age, I knew I was at least as attracted to other girls as I was to boys, but I also knew that there was no way I could tell anyone. Society wanted to pretend that people like me didn’t exist. And David… well, back then, he was, let me say, much more traditionalist in his Biblical views.

“But now, now David accepts me. And Janet. It meant so much to her to be introduced with the rest of the family at his big birthday celebration last year. We both cried. And our marriage, even though we couldn’t be married here, is accepted as a fact. That’s a lot of change in one lifetime. And I really do appreciate it.”

“But?” Elizabeth asked.

“It still isn’t full equality, is it? We couldn’t marry here. No one can marry a same sex partner here. And, if Janet were a man, she’d have a title and no one would think twice about it.”

Elizabeth lowered her head. “I can’t say I understand, but I do empathize, Christiana.”

“Oh, Elizabeth,” Christiana stood and crossed the gazebo to sit beside her sister-in-law, “I’m not complaining. Not really. And I am grateful. I’m just…”

“Just telling me what I need to hear.”
Last edited by Excalbia on Mon Aug 26, 2019 1:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Excalbia » Mon May 06, 2019 1:02 pm

War Memorial Park, Across from the Ministry of Defence, Citadel Excalbia

As Veterans Memorial Day approached, it was not uncommon to see an uptick in visitors coming to pay their respects at various war memorials scattered across the governmental center of the city. Once, many of the visitors had been veterans themselves coming to leave flowers and mementos to honour their fallen comrades; however, as the generations that fought in the world wars died out, there were fewer and fewer veterans. That is except for veterans of Iesian Civil War.

The Iesian War Memorial was a ribbon of white marble that climbed elegantly into the sky before ending in a cascade of rough, unworked stone tumbling back to the ground. Critics said that it represented the abrupt separate peace that the Iesian rebels had made with the fascist tyrant Brigette Iesus – a peace that had undercut the Allied Coalition that was nominally waging war in support of the rebels’ efforts to overthrow Iesus and free their nation.

For veterans of the conflict, it was not the design or its symbolism that attracted them, but rather the names etched into the marble wall.

James Holland, an otherwise nondescript thirty-something middle manager in an office selling a variety of consumer goods, paused in front of the wall. He ran his hand over several of the names – Erik Ransom, Jason Aizupe, Hank McClellan, Jeff Riggens, Mike Yulanis – listed under the inscription “2nd Company, 107th Mechanized Cavalry Division”.

Holland’s shoulders sagged as he traced the names. He took off his glasses with his free hand and rubbed his eyes. His lined face looked somehow older than it had when he had first walked up to the monument. He sobbed briefly and silently, then ran a hand through his thinning brown hair, trying to restore his composure.

After several minutes, the man became aware that someone had stopped behind him. Holland straightened up and turned, prepared to face the usual questions – “Are you alright?”, “Did you serve in the War?”, “Did you lose someone in the War?” – only to jump in surprise. Instinctively he raised his right hand in salute. “General!” He said, louder than he intended.

General Rachel Getrude, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, occasionally wandered through the park across from the Ministry of Defence when her schedule allowed. The fresh air helped clear her head, and the presence of the war memorials helped remind her of the importance of her duties.

The General smiled slightly and returned the salute. “At ease, Soldier.” She paused for a moment, studying the man’s face. “Do I know you, Mr….”

“Holland. James Holland,” he said, recovering from his initial surprise. He held out his hand and the General gave it a firm shake. “Private. Third Troop, Second Company,” his voice caught. “I was at Scholastica.”

“Good God,” the General said. Losing her aloof, military bearing, she wrapped her arms around Holland and hugged him. “So few of the Jugheads survived…” Her voice cracked. “I… all for that damned bridge...”

“I know, Ma’am,” Holland said, returning the hug. “I know.”

After a moment, the two separated and mirrored each other’s posture, with arms folded behind their backs.

The General spoke first. “What brings you to town, Mr. Holland?”

“Business trip.” He shrugged. “An industry convention… Boring stuff. But I had to come by and see the memorial… It’s my first time.”

The General nodded. “It’s… quite emotional, isn’t it?”

“It is.” Holland hesitated, then reached into his pocket. “I certainly wasn’t expecting to run into you, Ma’am, and I know your schedule must be packed, but 2nd Company is having something of a reunion next month… It would be an honour if you could come, General.” He pulled a business card out of his pocket and offered it to the Chief of the Imperial Army Staff. “I’m the secretary of our veterans’ association. My email’s on the card… if you can come.”

Gertrude took the card, looked at it briefly and tucked it into one of the pockets of her uniform. “I’ll make sure to be there, Mr. Holland. And it’ll be my privilege.”

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Postby Excalbia » Fri Jun 21, 2019 7:32 pm

Midsummer’s Eve, Citadel Excalbia

The celebration of Midsummer predated the arrival of Balto-Nordic tribes in the Excalbian Isles; it was something carried with them from their ancient ancestral homelands. Even after the arrival of Christianity and the establishment of the Holy Empire, it had remained the nation’s most important secular holiday.

As was their custom, the Imperial Family gathered on the Imperial Preserve Island to celebrate Midsummer’s Eve. Years ago, the Imperial Family’s celebration had been open to dignitaries from around the region and beyond. Princess Rebecca had even met her future husband, Duke Andrik, when he had come as part of foreign delegation attending the festivities. In recent years, however, the celebration had been smaller and more intimate, with just family, and a few close friends and officials. This year, the Emperor and Empress sought to strike a balance between the two approaches.

In the days leading up to Midsummer’s Eve, the Summer Palace had been filled with the Imperial Family and their extended kin. Crown Prince Joseph, Princess Anna and Princess Elizabeth practically had their own wing. Princess Rebecca, Duke Andrik and their twins - Princess Rachel and Prince Andrew - were similarly accommodated. Prince James had his usual accommodations, with Suniefreda Hoogaboom provided her own suite at a respectable distance. Lord Tariq had his usual suite near James and Suniefreda. Princess Christiana and her wife Janet were given a suite near the Emperor and Empress, which was conveniently on the opposite side of the Palace from Joseph and Anna. A large suite, suitable for visiting royalty, had been reserved for Queen Gwendolyn, Prince Peter and their children, Grand Duke Charles and Princess Helena, if they were able to attend. More distant relatives, such as Princess Michele, Princess Heather, Lady Jennifer, Baron Jonathan, Princess Hope and Lord Thomas, and Lord Benjamin, were provided private cottages adjacent to the Palace.

The day of the event, preparations began early with table and chairs set up in the gardens and bonfires prepared, ready to be lit. Beer had been freshly brewed on the Island and traditional homemade cheese prepared. Meats were being roasted and a wide variety of dishes made ready. The Empress was joined by the other ladies of the Imperial Family on the portico overlooking the gardens to weave the traditional wreaths of flowers - for the ladies - and oak leaves - for the men.

As the clock turned to seven in the evening, the sun was still high in the sky. Nonetheless, bonfires were lit and guests began to arrive. In addition to some close friends and old allies, such as former Chancellors Sir Sterling Wentworth, Lady Christina Freedman and Lady Ashley Gordon-Robb and their families, the current government, officers of the Imperial Household Agency, and the upper nobility were invited. Ambassadors from the Caldan Union, Pantocratoria, Knootoss, Anahuac, Brasland and Snefaldia were invited, as were senior military staff and various religious leaders.

Despite the high-profile guest list, Midsummer’s Eve was always a casual affair,. The Emperor dressed in an open collar, short-sleeve shirt and jeans with a wreath of oak leaves atop his head, and the Empress sported a cotton summer dress with a wreath of flowers in her hair. The rest of the Imperial Family were similarly attired.

As the evening wore one, eating and drinking gave way to the men - and a few of the younger women - challenging each other to leap over the dying bonfires. Finally, well after midnight, as the sun sank below the horizon, couples paired off to go into the woods to hunt the elusive - and mythical - blooming fern. A couple of hours later, as the sun began to peak again over the horizon, everyone returned to the gardens for a light breakfast before heading - at last - to bed. Even the non-resident guests were offered rooms in one of the many guest cottages on the Island.

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Postby The Resurgent Dream » Tue Jul 02, 2019 5:10 pm

Queen Gwendolyn was enjoying the more intimate Midsummer with her immediate family. She had joined the Empress in her weaving, flowers for the ladies and oak leaves for the gentlemen. Then she joined the others out by the bonfires when they were first lit, taking her husband's hand and watching her children marvel at them. Charles, unsurprisingly, wanted to attempt to leap one. It took something of an effort to persuade him he was too young.

'Next year?' he asked hopefully.

'Soon enough,' she evaded.

'Ok. Next year,' he said again, apparently thinking it settled. Gwendolyn shot her husband an amused look at Helena stirred in her father's arms.

'I'm glad the Emperor decided on a quieter celebration this year,' she commented. Despite her words, however, she looked wistfully up at the sky. Then she glances back to some of the dancers. 'Were we really that young so recently?'

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Postby Excalbia » Sat Jul 13, 2019 5:33 pm

The Resurgent Dream wrote:Queen Gwendolyn was enjoying the more intimate Midsummer with her immediate family. She had joined the Empress in her weaving, flowers for the ladies and oak leaves for the gentlemen. Then she joined the others out by the bonfires when they were first lit, taking her husband's hand and watching her children marvel at them. Charles, unsurprisingly, wanted to attempt to leap one. It took something of an effort to persuade him he was too young.

'Next year?' he asked hopefully.

'Soon enough,' she evaded.

'Ok. Next year,' he said again, apparently thinking it settled. Gwendolyn shot her husband an amused look at Helena stirred in her father's arms.

'I'm glad the Emperor decided on a quieter celebration this year,' she commented. Despite her words, however, she looked wistfully up at the sky. Then she glances back to some of the dancers. 'Were we really that young so recently?'

Prince Peter looked down and whispered softly to Helena, then he looked up at Charles and chuckled.

“Yes, me, too,” he said as he turned his attention to his wife. “I’ve always preferred a more intimate Midsummer.” He nodded towards the large table where his uncle, the Emperor, stood filling steins of beer from wooden kegs, his head wreathed in oak leaves. “The smaller the numbers, the more Uncle David allows his casual side to show. If we were entertaining unfamiliar visitors, he would be acting the Emperor, rather than being Uncle David.”

Following Gwendolyn’s gaze, Peter looked at the dancers. “Oh, we were younger.” He turned and smiled at his wife. “I’m sure we could find someone to watch Charles and Helena for a little while if you’d like to go with me to search for some blooming ferns. For old times' sake…”

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Postby Excalbia » Thu Aug 06, 2020 12:22 pm

Imperial Chancery
Citadel Excalbia, Excalbia

Baron Dainis Murniece has come to realize that being Imperial Chancellor mostly seemed to consist of attending meetings. Some were necessary and some were useful. A few were both. However, others were, frankly, painful. The worst were the ones that were necessary but painful. One of those was the monthly meeting with the Imperial Household Agency.

Due to the IHA’s unique history and independent means - it was entirely funded from the Imperial Family’s own coffers, rather than the state budget - it was virtually a sovereign entity of its own with little interaction with the state, apart from the details of coordinating the Emperor’s movements and supplying troops from the Imperial Army to staff the Imperial Guard. Nevertheless, it was required that the Chancellor and the Ministers of State, Defence and Treasury meet monthly with the Imperial Chamberlain, the Imperial Exchequer and the Captain of the Imperial Guard.

The Chancellor found Lady Jenolyn Tremane a nice enough person, but she did take her job and the IHA far more seriously than the Chancellor or the Cabinet, and, if he were honest, many of the details involved in the care and feeding of Excalbia’s large Imperial Family were boring.

So, it was with a hint of excitement that Baron Dainis looked up and saw that it was nearly time for the monthly meeting with the IHA to draw to a conclusion. “Thank you, Lady Jenolyn,” he said with a smile. “That was very… complete. And useful.”

As everyone began to push back their chairs, the Chamberlain cleared her throat. “There is one more thing, Baron Dainis,” she said firmly.


“Prince James and his continuing courtship of the Hoogaboom girl…”

The Chancellor sighed heavily. “Yes, My Lady… and what about it?”

“It has gone on far too long, Your Excellency,” she said, reverting back to formality. “It needs to end before we have the… awkward prospect of a communist dictator’s granddaughter marrying into one of the leading Royal Houses of the Western Atlantic…”

Dainis shrugged. “The Prince’s… affairs are not the purview of His Imperial Majesty’s Government. I suggest addressing it directly with His Imperial Majesty…”

“I have tried,” the Chamberlain said, switching to a plaintive tone. “His Imperial Majesty has… grown indulgent of his children of late. He is… unwilling to tell the Prince to break it off. In fact, he seems rather oddly receptive to Ms. Hoogaboom himself. The Crown Prince, however, does share my concerns…”

“Well, again, Lady Jenolyn, I do not see what the government can or should do…”

“Certainly, Your Excellency, you see the risk of having the Imperial Family literally wedded to the regime of a communist state that despite its… utility in countering Snefaldian influence is prone to side with its sister socialist state of Daytanistan in the event of renewed conflict in the Marks…”

Baronnes Vivian Bodniece, the Minister of State sniffed and nodded. “Dainis,” she said in a sweet grandmotherly tone, “I must reluctantly agree with Lady Jenolyn. Young Ms. Hoogaboom is a very nice young lady - I’ve met her myself, and I would welcome her with open arms as an immigrant to the Holy Empire or a temporary resident or the future Anahuacan Ambassador. However, no matter how nice she is or how well her grandfather got along with the Emperor during his visit, a marital union would be… politically awkward at best, if not an outright threat to national security…”

The Chancellor frowned and stood. “No one ever told me part of this job would be trying to spoil the love life of two consenting young adults.” He bit his lip. “I don’t fully agree with you, but I will think about it and discuss it further with members of the Cabinet. Thank you.”

And with his clear dismissal, everyone stood and walked out of the meeting room in a heavy silence.
Last edited by Excalbia on Thu Aug 06, 2020 12:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Excalbia » Tue Sep 29, 2020 10:26 am

Lidia’s Kitchen Grill and Cafe
Town of Seda, Barony of Parnu
Shortly After Tariq’s Party in Landing

“Hey,” Ernie Gusaitis said as he walked up to the counter. The middle-aged man with thinning hair and trim beard sat heavily on one of the red upholstered stools, resting his worn work boots on the metal railing that rose from the floor.

“How’re you doing, Ernie?” Lidia Vanaga, the owner, walked over to where Ernie sat down. She straightened her pale blue dress and rested a hand on the counter. “What can I get you?”

“What’s your soup today?

“Cream of spinach and carrot.”

“Sounds good. With a coffee and a grilled cheese.”

“Gotcha,” Lidia said as we wandered off towards the kitchen.

“Hey, Ernie,” a slender man a few seats over said, turning on his stool to face the broader man, “what’s new. Been a while.”

“Hey, Tom,” Ernie said shrugging, “been busy up at the castle.”

“Oh?” Tom Ozols slid over to the stool next to Ernie, sliding his plate and glass along the counter with him. “I hear there’s a lot going on up at the castle.”

“Yep. Lots of renovations. Looks like Prince James really is going to be taking up residence at the castle.”

“Well, what do you know,” Tom said, stroking his chin. “Ray told me the other day that lots of people in suits have been flying into the air field and going up to the castle.”

“Yep. Designers and engineers and what not.”

“Here you go, Ernie,” Lidia said, placing a bowl and small plate in front of Ernie.

“Thanks, Lidia.” Ernie picked up a spoon. “Some of the stuff they’re doing is kind of crazy, you know.”

“Really?” Tom leaned forward.

“Yep. They’re turning the old Great Hall into something that looks like it’s going to be a disco or something. A stage. Big dance floor. Split level. Small rooms off the second level…”

“Well, the prince is a young fellow. And single.” Tom grinned.

“Yep. And then there’s his suite.”


“It’s like two master suites - big bedrooms, big bathrooms, joined by another room that’s being wired up like a data center. Each bedroom has its own private entrance. One goes outside and the other goes down to what looks like it’s going to be the prince’s private garage.”

“That’s a bit odd…”

“I know.”

Lidia laughed. “I don’t care. Whatever it is, I know having James here will be good for business.”

“How do you figure that, Lidia?” Tom turned to the cafe's owner.

“You know no prince - or any of his fancy guests - are going to come in here,” Ernie said, after slurping a spoonful of soup.

“I know that, Ernie. I’m not stupid,” Lidia said. “But where the fancy people go, hangers-on, gawkers, reporters and tourists follow. And it’s a sure bet His Mighty Imperial Highness won’t be feeding them up in Parnu Castle. No, they’ll come into town looking for food. And entertainment. And,” Lidia smiled, “I’ll make it a point to be ready for them!”

Tom laughed. “I’m glad one of us will be getting something out of this!”

Ernie snorted. “Yep.”

* * *

Sweyn Castle
Citadel Excalbia, Excalbia
A Few Weeks After Tariq’s Party in Landing

Autumn had hit the Citadel in force. The first frost had fallen and a fire roared in the fireplace of the Emperor’s private study as he sat reading a book.

“Father?” Prince James peered around the door.

“Ah, James,” Emperor David IV smiled as he closed the book on his lap. “Come in. Come in.”

James walked into the study, closing the door behind him and stood in front of his father.

“I… I’m sorry, Father. I treated you and Mother… rudely.” James looked down at his feet as he spoke.

“You did,” David said, his smile fading. “But I understand why. A broken heart may not excuse your behavior… but it does explain it. I’m sorry about you and Sunie…”

James nodded. “Thank you, Father.”

“Have a seat, James,” David said, gesturing to the chair on the other side of the fireplace.

“I… I’d rather stand…”

“Alright,” David said. “I know this is hard for you, son. I know you loved Sunie. She’s a… fine woman. You know that your mother and I were rather fond of her…”

“I know, Father,” James said. “But she felt she had a decision to make. A choice between her duty to her country and… me.”

David nodded.

“She chose duty. Over me.”

“I’m sorry, son.”

“But,” James looked up at this father, his eyes cold and expressionless, “she was right, Father. Duty has to come first, isn’t that right?”


“I’ve decided, Father,” James said, “that it’s time for me to grow up. I’d like to take on a greater share of our family responsibilities…”

“OK, James,” David said, frowning slightly, “we can arrange that…”

“And I think I need greater self-discipline. I’d like a military commission…”

David laid his book on the table beside him. “You’ve never been interested in that, James…”

“I know, but Joseph has one. So does Rebecca. I think it’s time I have one.”

“Alright,” David looked at his son, “are we talking about a ceremonial commission?”

“No,” James said, swallowing hard, “I’d like a real one.”

“Well,” David said, “you’d have to go to basic training and officer candidate school…”

“I know.”

“That’ll be several months…”

“I know.”

“What about your career? Your job in Landing?”

James frowned. “Three-D animation? Computer games?” He shook his head. “Childish dreams…”

“Your dreams…”

“Childish,” James said. “And time to put them away and grow up.”

“What will you do afterwards, then?” David’s eyes narrowed. “Are you thinking of a military career?”

“No, not a career,” James softened a little. “I’m thinking of getting into investments, like Tariq. Charity work. Representing the family. Maybe speaking out on politics…”


James gave a slight smile. “In any case, the military experience will help me.”

“Alright,” David said, “what branch?”

“The Navy.”

David nodded. “I’ll have the Admiralty prepare a space for you in OCS. After you finish… I think a commission as a… lieutenant in the reserves. That would suit your station, I think.”

“That would be fine, Father. Thank you.”

David looked at his son. “Are you sure you won’t sit?”

“I don’t want to keep you, Father.”

“No, you’re not…”

“I need to go, Father. Please?”

David nodded. “Alright. Good night, James.”

“Good night, Father.”



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