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What's good for the goose is good for the gander [closed]

Where nations come together and discuss matters of varying degrees of importance. [In character]
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Ernestria
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Founded: Oct 19, 2019
Moralistic Democracy

What's good for the goose is good for the gander [closed]

Postby Ernestria » Fri Jul 31, 2020 2:28 am

Winter 1813
Warazdyn, The Oskaran Empire


A flurry of snow blew across the makeshift parade ground as the troop of soldiers, their hands numb with cold against their muskets, finished the drill and slouched to attention in the bitter wind. Attention turned to the figure on horseback who watched from the side. Eventually he spoke.

“Do they grumble, Lieutenant?” asked the figure in slightly-accented Polish. The officer in charge moved awkwardly in his place, aware of the scowls from beneath the brims of the shakos of the men upon the parade ground. “A little, your grace,” he answered finally, “On account of the inclement weather.”

The figure was silent, though his horse shifted in the cold air. “Wheel them again, then.” The lieutenant deflated slightly as the men glowered angrily. “Well you heard the marshal,” the young officer said to the drill sergeant, “Look lively.”

Ernst Jæger, Duke of Kruja and Marshal of the Empire, turned his horse away from the men upon the square and trotted back to his campaign tent. As he did so another mounted figure, who had been watching him from a distance, came up beside him.

“It is good to see,” said the new figure, “That you maintain a cavalryman’s disdain for infantry.”

“Pah,” replied Jæger, “My background has nothing to do with it. The common soldier is little more than a uniformed brigand. If he is not on the parade ground then he will be in the whore house.”

Marshal Jezewski laughed. “I would be careful if I were you. In my experience the accuracy of the troops improves considerably if they think they can hit you in the heat of battle.”

Jæger grimaced. “Don’t talk to me of heat,” he said, pulling his coat around him. They rode in silence for a moment. Eventually he spoke again, “Is there any news on when we sail?” As he spoke he looked down at the bay beyond and the empty ships that clustered. Jezewski shrugged. “Not until the winter storms pass,” he replied, “The flat-hulled barges they are building will not survive a swell of any size and the Emperor knows there are no second chances. We don’t yet know his target.”

“The target doesn’t matter,” harrumphed Jæger with a dismissive gesture, “Brasland, Knootoss, Excalbia, even Pantocratoria. We have assembled here the greatest army in the world, it is more than a match for anything we will find on that continent.”

Jezewski smiled. “It won’t be if you drive your men into shallow graves before we even set sail.” At this the other man finally laughed. They talked as they rode, partly they talked about the battles to come but mainly it was gossip; gossip about the other marshals and who was currently in favour. Neither man noticed the lone horseman who tore across the frozen fields and twisted through the rows of tents towards them.

“...Gladkowski’s goose is cooked,” continued Marshal Jezewski with a conspiratorial wink, “He promised the Emperor that the Uturgur rebellion would be put down in three weeks. It has been two months, and fresh reinforcements have had to be sent from Brahiłów.”

“He has always mistaken ego for talent,” agreed Jæger, “I was only saying last week…” The point was lost as the lone horseman, in actual fact a young officer of the Hussars, practically rode his horse into them.

“The devil!” exclaimed Jæger, “Damn your eyes, sir, did you not see us here?”

“Please sirs,” gasped the Hussar who seemed as exhausted as his horse, “I have been sent to urgently fetch you. The Emperor lies stricken!”

The two Marshals looked aghast for a moment. A group of sappers who had been chopping wood nearby stopped and looked across anxiously.

“Stricken?” said Jæger after a moment, “God be damned, by whose hand?” He instantly reached for the saber at his side.

The young Hussar shook his head. “None sir but fickle fate. The Emperor rode out this morning to inspect the munition stores at Cieplice when his horse stumbled upon the frozen earth and he was thrown off. The cold earth did not break his fall and he lies now at General Headquarters.” He motioned towards the confiscated manor house that served as the Imperial centre of operations.

Jezewski crossed himself. “God preserve us,” he muttered to himself and Jæger, “If anything should happen to him.” With that the three men rode furiously away

Uhnów, three months later

It had been a good send-off, all things considered. If ever you feel that your end approaches then with the last of your strength demand to be buried like Jan August, Emperor of the Oskarans. ‘All of Adamów wept,’ said the newspapers the next day, ‘And Oskara with it.’ Estimates of the funeral procession ranged from 4 to 16 miles in length while many hundreds of thousands lined the street to watch it pass. St Wenefryda Cathedral, where a decade earlier he had crowned himself Emperor, was now full to the brim with those attending his requiem mass. Presiding over the funeral, just as he had represented the Pope at the coronation, was the Papal Legate Cardinal Spadoni. Afterwards the Emperor, the greatest General of his age, was laid to rest in a saprophagous of porphyry in what had once been the neo-classical church of St Helen, then a ‘Temple to the Glory of the Great Army’, before finally becoming an Imperial Mausoleum. All in all, commented the Illustrated News, the funeral “...surpassed in significant grandeur any similar tribute to greatness ever offered in the world.”

Amongst the tears and tribute a question was asked to which no satisfactory answer could yet be found. What next?

A solution was sought at the Imperial Convocation of 1814. Already by this point the capital of Adamów was no longer considered neutral territory and so the Marshals and Grand Dignitaries of the Empire met in the gothic splendor of Uhnów town hall. Who, if anyone, would or could succeed Jan August? That was what they attempted to discern, since it seemed both ironic and tragic that a man who so carefully planned his order of battle, had been so lax in planning his own succession. Whether he thought himself too busy to do so or whether he did not really think that death would ever visit him, the great and the good who assembled would never know.

What had been made clear during his lifetime was who Jan August did not want to follow him. His elder brother Josef, with whom he had frequently quarrelled, together with his sons had been permanently removed from the line of succession. Although Josef attended at Uhnów to plead his case, none present felt able, with the Emperor not yet completely cold within the tomb , to overturn so explicit a set of instructions. Who else then? There was Sobiesław the younger brother, but doubts persisted over his ability to command any sort of authority over so fractious a polity. Still others argue for Jan August Szewczyk Butwilowicz, step-grandson of the Emperor and namesake, whom Jan August had formally adopted on the death of his stepson Agenor. Agenor himself had been adopted but had been explicitly ruled out of the succession at the time. Jan August Butwilowicz had not. Did this mean that the Emperor was preparing the boy to rule one day? Possibly, though the open secret of his plans to divorce the Empress and marry a younger princess from an established dynasty somewhat ruled this out. Deliberations ran for weeks, with the Marshal Kohutek writing to his wife that it was ‘the bitterest conclave in Christendom’, all the while the threads of the Empire began to loosen.

The eventual compromise was awkward and unwieldy, perhaps deliberately so thought the Prince Kocobędz in later life. It was decided that Sobiesław would act as Regent. For whom? It was decided that the safest choice was for Jan August Szewczyk Butwilowicz to marry the daughter of Prince Sobiesław, an ingenious solution save that Prince Sobiesław had no children at the time of the convocation.

No matter; his young Eastfalian wife the Princess Mathilde would no doubt soon be with child. Whilst they waited the Empire was divided into roughly equal provinces and granted to the marshals to govern until the time would come for the full imperial restoration.

The parties left Uhnów promising to meet again when a daughter was born. They never did. For although Princess Mathilde was soon, as predicted, with child she gave birth in the Fall of 1814 to a son, Tomasz. By this point the tide had turned. Old enemies beyond the Empire looked to extract revenge whilst opponents within waited for their moment. A poor harvest, made worse by the Regent’s ineffective rule, led to hungry mobs in the streets. Easing the opportunity, conservatives in Adamów seized the government and invited back the son of the last king, Sigismund V Legerski, with promises that he would be elected king. The surviving Marshals, who had become accustomed to undisputed rule within their territories, decided to break with what remained of the Empire. Jezewski was first; after a hasty conversion he was crowned in the Cathedral of the Ascension in Stavrotrov. His former friend and now bitter enemy Jæger followed soon after in the Lutheran church of St Bavo in Pavija.

The Princess Mathilde would have five boys in total, leading the Archbishop of Liniec to comment “Never has a blessing of boys also have been such a curse.” It would be another generation before the Compromise of Uhnów would finally be fulfilled in the marriage of Princess Delfina and Prince Władysław in 1880. Of the original Marshals only Jæger’s remained upon the throne, but that is a different story for another day.

Pałac Wesołe,
Lewocza, The Kingdom of Ernestria
The Present Day


Ewelina scrolled through social media and, before she even realised what she was doing, tapped to like a picture of her friends eating in a restaurant.

“Are you even listening to me?” asked Bronisław Szewczyk-Butwilowicz, the Prince Imperial as he looked across at his younger sister.

“Yeah yeah,” replied Ewelina, deliberately not looking up from her phone, “Nikodem wants to see me. No problem, I’ll be there in a minute.” No attempt to move was made.

Bronisław looked at his watch. “They open the doors in twenty minutes,” he chided. The response this time was simply a thumbs-up whilst attention still remained on the picture on the PeacockPhone.

The Prince Imperial shovelled another spoonful of cereal into his mouth. “I don’t know why you’re sulking.”

“I’m not sulking,” came the reply, eye contact having finally been established.

“You’re doing a good impression of it if not.”

“No, I’m not sulking, it’s just…” she trailed off.

“Just what?”

“I saw him last night at dinner. Why didn’t he say something then?”

Bronisław gave a little shrug. “Look,” he placated, “He took father’s death hard. Just, you know, just ne nice to him.” Ewelina petulantly pouted. The Prince Imperial stood up. “I’ll be late for work at this rate,” he said, straightening his tie, “Just promise me you’ll speak to him now?”

Like many deposed dynasties the Imperial House of Szewczyk needed money as well as prestige, and so the Prince Imperial worked in finance in the nearby city of Lewocza. Ewelina had been told many times what he did but still had not been able to work it out. It was something to do with derivatives.

“Alright, alright,” she conceded at last, “I’ll go.” She stood up herself. “What do you think it is about?”

“Oh I don’t know,” lied Bronisław, “But you can probably guess.” His sister pouted again before turning and leaving the small dining room where they sat. She made her way down a homely if slightly dated corridor until she came upon an open door that otherwise would have been hidden in the wall. Making her way down what was once (when they existed) the servants’ staircase she came to another door. She opened it and looked about gingerly. Beyond the door was the renaissance splendor of the Gallery of Mircea IV. Thankfully it was deserted. Stepping past the velvet rope she shut the door behind her which was marked “No Entry.Staff Only”.

Pałac Wesołe had one been the fortified manor house of a Tarján patrician family before the surrounding lands came under the control of the Princes of Volohia. They in turn transformed it into a Royal hunting lodge and, over the centuries, extended and decorated the place until Jan August claimed it for his own. The Emperor stayed there those few occasions when he was not on campaign, and modified the palace accordingly.

Ewelina weaved her way past multilingual information boards and up a grand flight of stairs. Like many families rich on history but not on money the Szewczyks had been forced to allow tourists into their last remaining palace. She came at last to a gilded set of doors to which she gave a half-hearted knock. A reedy voice called from within and she pushed the heavy doors open.

Her brother, Prince Nikodem, the Prince Jan August, sat beneath a gilded canopy decorated with JA and a host of Imperial Elephants. The throne room was impressive certainly; postcards of it were one of the best-sellers in the gift shop. Nikodem less so; people were smaller two hundred years ago and so was their furniture. He shifted uncomfortably on a chair designed perfectly for a smaller man.

“Ah,” said Nikodem with an imperious wave of the hand, “Our dearest sister. Pray enter that you may appropriate homage.”

“What?” asked Ewelina. Her brother did not notice.

“It has come to Our attention,” he continued, “That the King of Brasland is desirous of a bride...”

“Why are you talking like that?”

“..And a union betwixt our two houses would bring us both a great profit. It may even lead to the restoration of Our Throne.”

There were, thought Ewelina, two ways in which deposed royalty could act. They could, like her and Bronisław, consider their illustrious ancestry to be something to take pride in (and occasionally get into parties with) whilst avoiding politics and generally doing what they could to protect and maintain Jan August’s legacy. The other, less useful response, was to plan for a day that would never come. That was Nikodem’s response.

“So……,” Ewelina’s response trailed off, “What? Am I to go to Markund? And then what? Follow him around until he notices me?”

Nikodem looked as imperious as a man on a too-small seat could. “A Princess of your stature is sure to catch his attention…”

“Are you calling me fat?”

“..You can make the necessary arrangements when you are there. As a gift from our Imperial House you will take this cavalry saber, touched by our ancestor’s own hand, together with..” The Prince Jan August was interrupted by another door to the throne room opening.

“Are you nearly finished?” asked the manager, “Because the first Tour Group will be here in a minute.”

The Princess stamped her foot. “What about the Foundation?” she asked, “There is supposed to be a video conference next week that I was speaking at.” The Fundacja Jan August, which was the closest thing that Ewelina had to an actual job, encouraged and supported study and interest in the history of the Empire, and supported the preservation of Jan Augustan heritage.

“Our future sister-in-law...Miss Velikova,” Nikodem shuddered at so ordinary a name but had proven powerless to stop his brother from proposing to his girlfriend from university, “Has agreed to speak on your behalf. Your flight leaves tomorrow morning.”

“WHAT!? Did you not think to ask me? I can't, I won't. You can't make me” From the doorway the manager tapped his watch.

Markund International Airport , The Kingdom of Brasland
The next day


Ewelina, a suitcase in one hand and her Ernestrian passport in the other, made her way through the doors and into Arrivals. She was of average height, with light brown hair that would fall to her shoulders if not tied into a ponytail. She looked across the Arrivals lounge, families reuniting, bored taxi drivers holding name cards, people in suits shaking hands. She spied a tall man near the exit with a greying short beard and deep brown eyes. She made her way over and, when he finally noticed her emerging from the crowd, bowed deeply.

"Your Imperial Highness."

"Hello Torsten," she replied brightly, or as brightly as anyone can from a long international flight, "I didn't expect the Ambassador himself to meet me."

Torsten Freiherr von Kreutzberg, Ernestrian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Brasland, smiled sadly. "Your father was a good man," he replied by way of an explanation, "And a good man. It's the least I can do."

He looked down at the single solitary suitcase. A look of puzzlement crept onto his face. "Is that all?" She shook her head. Even princesses of deposed Houses did not travel light. “The rest is being couriered.”

Kreutzberg took her suitcase and guided her out into a Braslander night. They chatted pleasantly about the flight and about the delights of long-haul. Eventually they reached a silver Peacock Motors car with diplomatic number plates.

“It’s the driver’s night off,” explained the Ambassador opening the car, “And I like to prove to myself every so often that I can remember how to drive.” They exited the car park and drove towards the centre of Markund. A silence settled between them as Ewelina watched the passing street lamps. After a while she spoke again.

“You know,” she began coyly, “This isn’t just a social trip, though it is very nice to see you.”

The Ambassador smiled though he kept his eyes on the road ahead. “Oh I know, credit me with something, I have been doing this job long enough.” He glanced towards her. “He’s probably the most eligible bachelor in the region. Or at least a strong second.”

Ewelina looked confused. “Second?,” she asked, “Who’s the first?”

“Prince Joseph of Excalbia,” Kreutzberg replied, “Oh I know he’s walking out with that Valdrician girl but that’s just a bit of fun. It’ll never last.”

Another moment of silence passed between them. It was broken this time by the Ambassador.

“You’ll forgive me for saying,” he said, “But I was a little surprised when your brother told me.”

“Why?”

“Well,” he said, changing gear, “I didn’t think you’d be in for all this. The Royal Marriage. The Uniting of Houses etc etc. I would have thought you would have wanted to do your own thing.”

Ewelina turned and looked at the twinkling lights of Markund at night. There was a pause before she replied. “It has crossed my mind,” she said thoughtfully, “But there’s not many perks to being a royal without a throne, just a fancy surname and a heap of bills. If a fairytale wedding is something I can get then…” She left that thought hanging in the air between them.

She turned towards him. “Do I have much of a chance? You know, with the King?” Kreutzberg grimaced. “I won’t lie to you,” he replied, “The odds are stacked. Every available princess in the region has been sniffing about. And although it shouldn’t really matter, in this day and age, but there will be those who will sweeten the deal by offering an alliance or a trade deal like this is the 13th century.” He scowled. “But I’ve done what I can, I have circulated your name with those who manage the King’s diary, I’ve made it known that you are a guest of the embassy and available should they wish to invite you to something.” He turned and smiled weakly at her. “We’ll do our best.”

Ewelina looked out the window. Suddenly she turned. “They don’t think I’m an Ernestine do they?” she said with a note of panic in her voice. Kreutzberg laughed.
“No no,” he replied with a chuckle, “I’ve made clear that you hold an Ernestrian passport only because Oskara has still not felt obliged to repeal her Law of Exile against former ruling houses.” He winked at her. “They know you’re not a Jæger wet blanket.”

Eweline did not share the Ambassador’s even-modest confidence. She turned and sighed. “We will just have to see,” she said to herself.

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Brasland
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Founded: May 16, 2006
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Brasland » Sat Aug 01, 2020 2:13 pm

Hetzendorf Palace
Markund


Although Hetzendorf had been built in the late XVIIIth century, its gardens were new, for its current owner had completely redesigned the old ones to recreate those of her childhood home, the Imperial Palace, in the very distant Valerian Empire. Queen Charlotte was Valerian by birth, and although she had not been on her homeland for over five decades, she vividly remembered that her father’s gardens were the joy of Isangrad, the old imperial capital. It was a source of comfort to walk through them, especially that day, when she had received such worrying news about her grandson from her confidante, the Duchess of Pottin, a well-placed courtier and a cousin of the royal family.

“Can you believe Georg?”, she wondered, grumpily. “We’ve been pushing him to meet the Ernestrian princess, and he decides to receive the Szewczyk girl.”

“Well, in her defense, she’s a princess too”, suggested the Duchess.

“From a dynasty of usurpers!”, the Queen exclaimed.

“So are the Jaegers, darling.”

“It’s different”, said Charlotte. “They’ve been on the throne for two centuries.”

“Politics is a hazardous game. The Jaegers played it better than Jan August’s successors.”

“Still, what will King Ernest think if Georg meets this girl, whose family lives in Ernestria only out of his family’s kindness?”

“I understand she is the King’s cousin. Something to do with her great aunt marrying one of the Ernests…”

“I don’t care”, insisted Queen Charlotte, pressing her lips. “The Szewczyks are not a ruling dynasty.”

“I think the girl’s grandmother was a Mayaguan princess, so she has some connections.”

“As if Mayagua counted for anything! You’re not convincing me, Aliénor. We, Balkronn consorts, have always come from reigning families. Georg’s wife cannot be the exception.”

*


Residenzschloss Friedrichsburg
Markund


Later that same day...

The King had arrived to the Residenz after a day full of engagements. He was quite tired, but not enough to miss his polo practice, which would take place after the evening meeting with his Private Secretary, Ena de Mahlberg. He made his way quickly along the palace’s corridors, ignoring the bowing and curtseying around him. After eleven years on the throne, he had grown used to that part of his life and considered it background noise, except when a beauty like Princess von Lorensberg, with her very revealing cleavage, gave him a deep curtsey. He stopped to acknowledge her.

“Will I see you tonight, Madame?”, he whispered as he kissed the air above her hand.

“Yes, Sire. What would you like me to wear?”, she replied, as discreetly as she could.

He repressed a naughty smile, but his eyes shone. “The diamonds I gave you… and nothing else.”

She winked at him, and he left. The Princess looked as he walked away. At the age of thirty, the King was a tall and athletic man, with broad shoulders and a well-defined torso. He carried himself in an appealing manner that earned him the attention of women and the admiration of men. His blue eyes were of a deep, steely gaze that could charm or intimidate, depending on the mood, and his hair was blond, almost golden. The face was handsome, with symmetrical features and the classic Balkronn jaw that was common among members of the royal family. He cared about his appearance, and thus consistently trained different sports to keep in perfect shape. He had seen how his brother-in-law, the Despot of New Constantinople, was almost obsessive about his looks, and thought it important to follow his example, especially as he entered the feared thirties, when it would be harder to keep a good physique and continue indulging his ferocious appetite.

Ena de Mahlberg stood as the King entered his study and curtseyed.

“Anything new?”, he asked, feeling cheerful, as he always relished on the prospect of an evening doing sports.

“No, Your Majesty”, she said.

“Good, I hope today’s meeting is shorter than usual. I have polo practice with the boys.”

Miss de Mahlberg looked at him, confused.

“Polo, Sire? I thought you were meeting Princess Ewelina…”

Georg’s mood suddenly changed.

“Bloody hell, you’re right”, he exclaimed, and immediately regretted it. “I’m sorry, Ena.”

“It’s alright, Sire. The Princess will be here at eight.”

“So, no polo?”, he asked.

“No polo”, she confirmed, impassive.

Ena watched as the King’s expression changed from disappointment to neutral. He was used to sacrificing pleasure for duty, after all.

“Is she pretty?”

“You could Google her”, suggested Ena.

“What’s the family name again?”

Ena smiled. “Szewczyk-Butwilowicz, let me spell it for you: S – Z – E …”

Georg found several pictures, mainly about engagements related to a family foundation.

“She’s good looking”, said Ena, as he showed her the images.

“Ewelina, what an odd name”, the King muttered. “You said she’s Oskaran, right?”

“Yes, Sire”, said Ena de Mahlberg. “Although the family has been living in exile for generations.”

“I see”.

He looked distracted, but that was because his mind, as usual, was thinking about the political implications of his actions. Miss de Mahlberg, used to this, waited.

“The meeting must be confidential”, he finally said. “I don’t want to antagonize the Ernestrians, especially if they find out their own ambassador has encouraged this.”

“Officially, the princess is the ambassador’s personal guest and she wanted a tour of the palace. You accidentally bumped into her and showed her around.”

Georg smiled and nodded.

“Perfect, what time it is?”

“Almost seven.”

“Anything else you want to discuss?”

Ena looked at the list she had prepared, but decided to give him a break.

“We can do it tomorrow morning, Sire.”

“Great, I’ll leave you then”, he said, standing.

She curtseyed as he left the room, but he turned back.

“Ena, there's someone I was supposed to meet after polo. Could you...?”

“I’ll find something convincing to tell Princess von Lorensberg, Sire”, she said, repressing a laugh.

He looked at her, always amazed at how well she knew him.
Last edited by Brasland on Sat Aug 01, 2020 3:15 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
Ernestria
Civil Servant
 
Posts: 7
Founded: Oct 19, 2019
Moralistic Democracy

Postby Ernestria » Fri Aug 07, 2020 2:18 am

Embassy of the Kingdom of Ernestria, Markund

Ewelina sighed. During the course of the preceding afternoon she had straightened, then curled, then straightened her hair before finally compromising on a soft crimp at the front. Behind was what appeared, at first glance, to be the contents of a clothing shop unceremoniously dumped onto a bed.

The evening’s attire had proven more complicated than she had initially realised. ‘What do you wear for a “tour” followed by a meeting with a crowned head?’ she thought. Anything too revealing would make her look like a hussy, anything too covered-up and she’d look like a prude. Too casual and people would think that she wouldn’t know how to dress in such settings, too formal and she would look desperate. In the end she had settled on cream dress with embroidered flowers that came to her knees; formal enough to wear to an expensive restaurant but not something you’d wear to a formal banquet.

She looked down at the floor. The Embassy’s suite of rooms, usually reserved for visiting ministers or royals, had been provided to her. Across the floor were Braslander magazines of varying quality which she had hastily purchased earlier in an attempt to see what the “Braslander Style” was and how closely she could, or would, align with it. “I mean,” she said to herself, “If I look like all the women around him then he’ll never think me different.”

There was a knock at the door. She had left the door open; in the absence of any other guests or a large retinue the guest wing of the embassy seemed very quiet and so she had left the door open so that she would not feel lonely. Torsten stood in the doorway; he was wearing a business suit but it had become creased over the course of the day. His eyes looked tired.

“Hello,” he said, “I’m not intruding am I?”

“No no,” replied Ewelina, “I was hoping you’d said hello before you went.”

A sad look came upon the Ambassador’s face. “I’m sorry I can’t escort you,” he said, “But there is a drinks reception for the Biogas and Agricultural Machinery Board that I’m told I need to go and keep the Ernestrian end up.”

Ewelina laughed. “You look thrilled.”

A weak smile spread across Torsten’s face. “Oh I am,” he said in a deadpan voice, “There’s no other way I’d spend the evening then discussing the various applications of fermented sludge.”

She smiled and turned back to the mirror. She regarded herself for a moment, a look of worry on her face. “Torsten,” she said after a moment, “What’s he like?”

There was no need to ask who the ‘he’ was. The Ambassador leaned back on his heels and thought for a moment. “He’s…” he began, “...He’s, well he’s a king.”

“I knew that already.”

“No, what I mean is that he acts like you’d imagine a king to act. It’s that combination of being friendly and reserved. He thinks before he speaks. He...well he acts like a king.” He stroked his beard for a moment. “You know I don’t like to sound unkind but sometimes, when you meet a large group of Excalbians, it’s difficult to know whether you’re talking to an Imperial Prince or the man who grooms his horses. You can’t make that mistake in Brasland. Even if you never saw his picture in your life you’d know he was the king.”

Ewelina pondered for a moment. “I see,” she said with a laugh, “Thank you. So are you saying that our King doesn’t act in a very kingly fashion?”

“Oh no no, I’m not saying that at all. Far from it. It’s just…it’s just...well he wasn;t expected to be king.” The Ambassador debated what to say next. “He tries his best.”

From the doorway the Ambassador shifted uncomfortably. “Eweline,” he said, “I would not presume to step into the shoes of the late Prince Jan August, but would you mind if I inflicted some ersatz-fatherly advice on you?”

She laughed again. “You were a dear friend of father Torsten,” she said with a kindly tone of voice, “I am sure that anything you would say is something that he would have.”

Torsten smiled, briefly, but then his face and tone became more serious. “All I would say,” he began, “Is that I have lived amongst them for many years now. Braslanders, as a group, are loyal and straightforward. If you do right by them then they will do right by you.

But...but they believe very strongly in order and precedent. They may be your best friends, they may be your kindred spirits, they may even take a bullet for you….but if you are not the same rank as them then you will not eat at their table and you will not travel in the same car.”

Ewelina looked puzzled. “What are you saying Torsten?”

“What I’m saying is that,” he considered his words for a moment, “Ewelina, you are an Imperial Princess. The Emperor’s coronation at the time may have been controversial but after the passage of two centuries his position has now become an immovable fact. Don’t let them talk down to you, and don’t let them dismiss you because your illustrious ancestors decided to squabble rather than preserve the Emperor’s Throne. That does nothing to affect your position and your dignity, and if anyone tries to allocate you a place which is lower than your position demands then I would politely remind them that if Brasland became a republic tomorrow then they would still demand the same level of courtesy that you are asking for now.”

She shifted uncomfortably on the dressing table stool. “Will...will he be rude then?”

Torsten shook his head. “Not at all. He will be impeccably polite, he cannot afford not to be. But all monarchies have, what my Rascian mother would call, siva odela, or grey suits. The ‘unnamed palace official’ that is always on hand to provide disparaging comments to the newspapers about the faux pas of those who are not in favour.” He smiled weakly again. “I’m probably completely wrong and you’ll have a wonderful evening. Just…..be careful. And stand up for yourself.” He looked at his watch. “I’d best be going, I have to go home and change. Now you know the itinerary?”

“Yes yes, I’m going only for a tour but I’m to dress as though I may meet the king. This seems very clandestine Torsten, you’re not getting into trouble are you?”

The ambassador laughed. “Not at all. I think your hosts are being careful in case they offend the Royal Family. But no, I’m not in trouble. You are not so unknown a figure that you’re leaving the country will not have gone unnoticed, and this isn’t the XVIIIth century where messages home would take weeks. They must know what I’m doing, so until someone from the Ministry telephones and tells me to stop then I’ll carry on. Now come one, otherwise you’ll be late as well.”

Ewelina stood. “You look lovely,” said the Ambassador in a quiet voice. She smiled. “Thank you. Let’s hope I am as lucky in this battle as Jan August was in his.”

Residenzschloss Friedrichsburg

The black embassy car, unmarked and indistinguishable from any other car of that make and model, pulled up outside the palace. ‘I don’t know why I am so nervous,’ thought Ewelina as the door was opened and she stepped out, ‘You’d think I was back doing exams again.’ She was directed inside and on to the tour.

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Brasland
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Posts: 787
Founded: May 16, 2006
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Brasland » Wed Aug 12, 2020 2:09 pm

Residenzschloss Friedrichsburg
Markund


As the Princess came out of the car, a footman received her.

“Your Imperial Highness”, he said, bowing. “Welcome to the Residenz.”

Image

He indicated her to follow him inside the palace. They entered into the Steinerner Saal, the Grand Hall, which was the palace’s central pavilion. The hall was three floors high and the ceiling frescoes depicted images of the Olympian heaven, the center picturing Helios driving his chariot, which symbolized the duty of Balkronn rulers to bring enlightenment and peace to their people. In the middle of the hall, looking terribly small in such surroundings, stood a young woman. She was wearing a long, dark blue gown. As Princess Ewelina followed the footman towards her, the woman approached. She moved gracefully, as if she was floating. When she was a few steps from the princess, the footman introduced her.

“This is Countess Amanda von Lütken”, he said to Ewelina. “She is a Kammerfrau, a lady of the chamber.”

The countess gave the princess a deep curtsey.

“Your Imperial Highness”, said Amanda. “It’s an honor to meet you. I am here to show you the palace.”

The countess spoke softly, but her intense gaze scanned the princess with little shyness. She was of medium height, dark brown hair and penetrating violet eyes. If she looked formal, that’s because she was wearing the court dress, with a small red ribbon on her left chest which indicated that, although she served at court, she was not assigned to any particular royal lady. With a slight gesture, she dismissed the footman and smiled to Ewelina.

“Please follow me, Ma’am”, she said. “I think we’ll begin by showing you the southern pavilions. In the old times, the Inner Southern Pavilion housed the Queen’s apartments, but I think that ended with Queen Maria Anna. Now those rooms are used mostly for audiences and small gatherings. Not very interesting, just a lot of mahogany furniture and old tapestries. Except for the gallery, of course. Oh yes! Let’s start with the gallery.”

Amanda looked excited by her idea, and gave a quick glance to Ewelina, as if expecting a particular reaction. She guided the princess to the right of the hall and another footman opened the door for them. They walked through several rooms until they reached two tall doors, which were closed. The countess searched her pocket and a golden key appeared. She unlocked one of the doors and opened it for the Ewelina.

“Come in, Ma’am”, she said.

It was a long, wide corridor, soberly decorated in white, green and gold. Portraits of noble women covered the walls of both sides. They were dressed sumptuously, some of them wearing gorgeous jewels. The expert eye would have noticed that the corners of each frame had the edelweiss flower – the symbol of the royal house – carved on them. An even more expert eye would have also noticed that, in most portraits, women wore a black sash with small diamonds on each border, which indicated they were Grand Mistresses of the Order of Amalia.

Image

As Ewelina looked on, Amanda observed her.

“This is the Gallery of Queens, Ma’am”, she said, her tone slightly, and mischievously, excited.

She pointed her right hand in the direction of the first portrait. There was a large amethyst ring on her index finger.

Image

“This was Caroline of Henslen, the wife of our first king, Friedrich Balkronn. He was her father’s rival, so he married her to avoid a civil war… Then there’s Elistanza, wife of the second Friedrich; she was the real ruler of Brasland during her husband’s reign, but she was pushed away by her son when she plotted to poison his minister… Oh, that’s Sophie of Kerlich, poor woman; she had the bad luck of marrying Old Fritz, the king who built this palace. He exiled her out of Markund, uninterested in her. The rumor is that he didn’t like women at all, but don’t say that out loud around here…”

The countess paced around the gallery, talking as if she was giving a lecture, sometimes raising her arm to point out a certain detail of a certain painting, or to reinforce an idea.

“Now there’s Marianne of Namen, she’s so unknown that I have little to say about her, save for the fact that she was universally laughed at for her looks and slow mind… The next portrait is the mighty Amalia of Austria, who founded the Order that carries her name, talk about a big ego! ... Then there’s the good Queen Juliette, she was Caldan and known not only for her kindness but for the grand marriages she arranged for her daughters… Oh! Look at that portrait, it’s my favorite one. The woman is Theodora, the Pantocratorian wife of Friedrich IV. I think everyone at the time was a little intimidated by her; she had quite a strong character… Now you see the saintly Maria Anna, whose husband was the fifth and last of the Friedrichs, and probably the most unfaithful of them all… Who’s next? Well, that’s Queen Constantina, a Valerian princess by birth… she died very young and her husband remarried to her sister Charlotte, the grandmother of our King. That’s Queen Charlotte's portrait... as you can see, she’s very regal, just what you’d expect a queen should be… Oh, and that’s the last one… the King’s mother, Ardelia of New Chalcedon. One of our most beautiful queens, for sure, but sadly not very popular. She lives abroad.”

*


True to his military training, the King was ready just on time to meet the princess. Having been informed that she had opted for somewhat casual attire, he did the same, wearing beige pants, a light blue shirt and a navy blue jacket. A chamberlain told him that the two women would be at the Gallery of Queens, which he thought a very odd place to show Ewelina.

“Who’s escorting Her Imperial Highness?”, he asked.

“Countess von Lütken, Your Majesty”, said the chamberlain.

“I see”, he muttered, raising an eyebrow.

He did not like the implications of that. He walked fast and firmly and, as he approached the gallery, he heard Amanda’s voice mentioning his mother’s unpopularity. An eyebrow was raised again.

“Do you have any questions, Ma’am?”, asked the countess to Princess Ewelina, after she finished talking.

The King calmly entered into the corridor. As none of the women heard him come, he cleared his throat. Countess von Lütken’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped when she saw him.

“Your Majesty”, she said, with a tense tone, curtseying.

“Countess”, he replied, coldly. “You may leave.”

Amanda curtseyed again, retreated on her steps and then turned to one of the side doors. She gave one last glance to Ewelina as she held the door with her right hand. For an instant, the amethyst ring shone, but then it disappeared with its bearer. The King, relieved with this departure, looked at Ewelina and smiled warmly at her, more so with his eyes than with his mouth.

“Your Imperial Highness”, he said, kissing her hand if it was offered. “It’s a pleasure to meet you at last.”

He looked in the direction of the door where Amanda had disappeared, as if he wouldn’t be surprised that she was hiding behind and listening to them. His eyes then returned to Ewelina.

“Enough of the queens of old”, he said, thinking of one in particular he would have a word with later. “I will show you the Hall of Mirrors, the real gem of the Residenz.”

Image

Georg smiled and offered his arm to the princess. The short walk to the hall would help relieve her nerves, he thought. As they walked, he made a few short comments about the palace’s history, but he was more interested in her than in the building.

“So tell me, Ma’am”, he said while they cut across one of the Residenz’ rococo rooms. “What brings you to Brasland?”
Last edited by Brasland on Wed Aug 12, 2020 4:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Ernestria
Civil Servant
 
Posts: 7
Founded: Oct 19, 2019
Moralistic Democracy

Postby Ernestria » Wed Aug 19, 2020 4:11 am

“Your Imperial Highness”, he said, bowing. “Welcome to the Residenz.”


Ewelina gave a small nod and smiled. "Thank you," she said and left it at that. She was still sufficiently a princess to know that servants desire politeness not pleasantries. There is nothing more embarrassing for all concerned than those who didn't know better and who tried to strike up a conversation with the staff.

She was wearing a long, dark blue gown. As Princess Ewelina followed the footman towards her, the woman approached


'Oh no,' thought Ewelina as she entered Steinerner Saal and saw the person she presumed would be her guide. Although her smile remained fixed to her face, inside waves of despair broke over her. 'Court dress!?' In the great gamble over what to wear the Princess thought at that moment that she had failed. She felt woefully under-dressed.

Torsten's words came back to her. Remember your position. She straightened her back and stood a little taller. 'Well,' she thought as she walked to meet the Countess, 'If they still insist on Court Dress in this day and age then, well, that would change when she was queen.'

“Your Imperial Highness”, said Amanda. “It’s an honor to meet you. I am here to show you the palace.”


"Thank you," replied Ewelina, stiffening under the gaze, "I have heard so much about the palace. I have been very much looking forward to it."

and gave a quick glance to Ewelina, as if expecting a particular reaction


The Princess looked at her blankly. Truth be told she had extensively googled the palace earlier in the day; partly out of curiosity and partly so as to know what to expect.

As Ewelina looked on, Amanda observed her.


"Interesting," said Ewelina. She had noticed the flower, of course, how could it be missed?

“This was Caroline of Henslen, the wife of our first king, Friedrich Balkronn. He was her father’s rival, so he married her to avoid a civil war… Then there’s Elistanza, wife of the second Friedrich; she was the real ruler of Brasland during her husband’s reign, but she was pushed away by her son when she plotted to poison his minister… Oh, that’s Sophie of Kerlich, poor woman; she had the bad luck of marrying Old Fritz, the king who built this palace. He exiled her out of Markund, uninterested in her. The rumor is that he didn’t like women at all, but don’t say that out loud around here…”

The countess paced around the gallery, talking as if she was giving a lecture, sometimes raising her arm to point out a certain detail of a certain painting, or to reinforce an idea.

“Now there’s Marianne of Namen, she’s so unknown that I have little to say about her, save for the fact that she was universally laughed at for her looks and slow mind… The next portrait is the mighty Amalia of Austria, who founded the Order that carries her name, talk about a big ego! ... Then there’s the good Queen Juliette, she was Caldan and known not only for her kindness but for the grand marriages she arranged for her daughters… Oh! Look at that portrait, it’s my favorite one. The woman is Theodora, the Pantocratorian wife of Friedrich IV. I think everyone at the time was a little intimidated by her; she had quite a strong character… Now you see the saintly Maria Anna, whose husband was the fifth and last of the Friedrichs, and probably the most unfaithful of them all… Who’s next? Well, that’s Queen Constantina, a Valerian princess by birth… she died very young and her husband remarried to her sister Charlotte, the grandmother of our King. That’s Queen Charlotte's portrait... as you can see, she’s very regal, just what you’d expect a queen should be… Oh, and that’s the last one… the King’s mother, Ardelia of New Chalcedon. One of our most beautiful queens, for sure, but sadly not very popular. She lives abroad.”


Ewelina could do nothing for this monologue other than to interject with 'I see' and 'Right' every so often. It was not lost on her, considering her mission, that so extensive a commentary was being provided on the Queens of Brasland. 'I wonder,' she thought, half-listening, 'How many times she has had to do this for other aspiring Queens?'

The King calmly entered into the corridor. As none of the women heard him come, he cleared his throat. Countess von Lütken’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped when she saw him.


'Oh thank God,' thought Ewelina with a smile, 'If I have to listen to anymore tales of Queen Stupid-Head and her rat-faced husband then the Countess would have an edelweiss inserted into her.' "Your Majesty," she said with a bow, "What an unexpected surprise."

“I will show you the Hall of Mirrors, the real gem of the Residenz.”

Georg smiled and offered his arm to the princess. The short walk to the hall would help relieve her nerves, he thought. As they walked, he made a few short comments about the palace’s history, but he was more interested in her than in the building.

“So tell me, Ma’am”, he said while they cut across one of the Residenz’ rococo rooms. “What brings you to Brasland?”


She accepted his arm without hesitation. Google Images did not do him justice, he looked even better in person. "Thank you," she said as the Hall of Mirrors was suggested, "That would be very kind of you."

She smiled at the question of the purpose of her visit. "Well," she said, inclining her head to speak to him, "It's more business than pleasure I am afraid sir.”

‘In more ways than one,’ she thought to herself.

“There is, or was until the pandemic, a conference later this year in Providencia for historians of my predecessor Jan August. As part of that there is a renewed interest in his possible second wife. The Emperor, as you may know, had no children of his own but it was widely rumoured at the time of his death that he was to remarry, with some saying that he sought a Braslander bride. I’m here to see if there is any truth to this.”

This sounded plausible enough but Ewelina counted on Georg knowing enough of his family’s history to realise that this was a ruse. It had been a truth universally acknowledged that the Emperor had sought the hand of the same Princess Marie who would later marry the first King Ernest. There wasn’t anything else to uncover which was entirely the point.

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Ernestria
Civil Servant
 
Posts: 7
Founded: Oct 19, 2019
Moralistic Democracy

Postby Ernestria » Sun Aug 30, 2020 7:06 pm

Joint post with Brasland

Georg knew that this was not the exact truth, but lying to a sovereign with a straight face showed strength of character, a quality he admired, and which his consort would certainly need. It also suggested potential sociopathic tendencies, but he decided to give Ewelina the benefit of the doubt.

“I see”, he said.

So far she had exceeded his expectations. She was not the boring, scared mouse he expected. Also, the choice of dress was quite refreshing, especially amidst the formal setting of the palace, which was a point in her favor. Nevertheless, the King had resisted eleven years of political and family pressures to marry him to some of the many princesses of Western Atlantic, and he had stood his ground with patience and diplomatic skill. Not to mention that his private life was quite… fulfilling… at the moment. What could Ewelina offer that could tempt him to give up his freedom?

“I was wondering...”, he said suddenly. “... How is it to be a princess in exile? I myself was exiled for fifteen years, and it was very weird. What has been your experience?”

Ewelina gave a sad shrug. “I don’t know,” she said, “I’ve never experienced anything else. It’s a bit like asking what it is like to have two hands; I’ve only ever had two so I wouldn’t know what it would be like to have three or four or one.”

She thought for a moment whilst she walked. “It’s easier in Ernestria,” she said, more to herself than Georg, “For reasons of history they tend to take us more seriously. But everyone has their own history, sir, and it’s difficult to know the history of your own country let alone nations in the next continent.”

There was another moment of pause. “Jan August looms large in our history but there is no reason why someone in Transmontana would have heard of him. We tend to get treated as a novelty at best or charlatans at worst.”

"I understand", he said.

He suspected there was more that Ewelina would not say, but he decided not to press her on the matter. She shook her head slightly as though to dispel the unpleasant thoughts. “You’ll forgive me but I hadn’t realised you were exiled sir. What happened? Though I understand,” she flustered, “If you’d rather not say.”

“Not at all, my father’s abdication is a well-known fact”, he assured her. “I spent my childhood at the court of my aunt, the Empress of New Chalcedon. When I was fourteen I was sent abroad for military school, and I did that for five years until the monarchy was restored. Since my father had renounced his claim to the throne, I was next in line. So here I am.”

He smiled at her and looked up as they arrived at their destination. “Your Highness, this is the Hall of Mirrors, the Spiegelsaal.”

The two emerged into a long hallway which glittered with gold chandeliers and guéridons. Seventeen arches were opened in the direction of the palace garden front. On the opposite side, seventeen equally large mirrors caught the moonlight that entered through wide window niches.

Although she had googled it, the images online did nothing to convey the splendor of the room. Ewelina stared with open-mouthed astonishment before she realised what she was doing.

“This hall was the dream of Friedrich III, whom we call Old Fritz”, explained the King. “He wanted to convey the Crown’s splendour to his rivals, especially some factions among the upper nobility. It cost a fortune, but it has served its purpose well. We always give a reception for the Diplomatic Corps here in January. It’s a gorgeous setting to receive the world’s ambassadors.”

“I can imagine,” said Ewelina with astonishment.

He lifted his arm to show the nine larger paintings in the ceiling, which showed the earlier Kings of Brasland. He only mentioned the names of the three monarchs, but omitted further explanations, aware that Ewelina had already received a traumatic history lesson by Countess von Lütken. If she Googled the Spiegelsaal before the tour, the princess would probably know that there were three paintings for each king. Three for Friedrich I, the founder of the kingdom, showing him as he freed his people from the Westbund’s oppression and unified the old territories into one realm. Another three for Friedrich II, the great builder of monuments and the sovereign who had strengthened the Navy to protect the country against attacks from its enemies. Finally, three paintings of the great Friedrich III, the enlightened monarch who had come to crown his predecessors’ achievements and to cement the power of the House of Balkronn for the good of the kingdom and his successors. These nine depictions were surrounded by smaller ceiling paintings of crusaders and saints, chief among them Nikolaus of Markund, patron saint of Brasland.

The hall’s lights were not lit yet, but there was enough natural light to appreciate its beauty as the old tenants had done centuries ago. Standing in front of one of the arches were two footmen, one holding a silver tray and the other a candle. As they stood a few steps from the couple, they bowed.

“Would you like a glass of wine, Ma’am?”, the King asked.

She smiled. “Thank you sir, that would be lovely.”

The footman filled a glass and gave it to her. Then, Georg had another for himself. The servants retreated silently.

“The Residenz is a very formal place”, he said, gesturing around him. Then he smiled, as if amused by his own thought: “And yet... it’s a home.”

He took a sip of his wine.

“I’m curious about you, Ma’am”, he said. “Tell me about your life in Ernestria… were you raised at court?”

She laughed softly. “Partly sir,” she replied, “Our relationship to the Ernestrian court is not straightforward.” She paused for a moment to sip her wine and collect her thoughts. “Ernestria is a..Nachfolgekönigreich sir, a successor kingdom. Because of that there is a balancing act between paying homage to the Emperor and the Imperial past...but not too much. We tend to get wheeled out for special occasions but the Royal Family are weary of my family taking too much of the limelight.”

She looked about the room. “That makes it sound like we’re kept in the understairs cupboard,” she laughed, “That’s not true. I did spend many happy summers with the Royal Family at Birthälm Castle. But, as I say, it’s complicated.”

“It sounds quite tricky”, the King said, interested. “But then that’s normal among families like ours. My own life has been a permanent balancing act.”

He guided her outside, to the gardens. The air was warm and there was no breeze.

“You’re familiar with court life, then”, he suddenly said. She blinked. “And yet you’re not subjected to the constraints that a princess from a reigning family has to endure. It’s quite an extraordinary position to be in, and one which many of our kind would envy. The way I see it, and pardon me for speaking so freely about something you have not asked me, you have two alternatives. To work and pursue a career, as many nobles have begun to do in these modern times. Or… to live the life of duty and representation that you’re entitled to by birth. Have you decided which path you will choose?”

She breathed deeply for a moment, taking in the warm air and the scent of the garden. After a moment she smiled. “You make it sound sire,” a hint of gentle teasing in her voice, “As though one has to choose. To live in exile is often about having to strike a messy compromise between the two. There is a need to work because the laurels of the past won’t pay for today’s expenses, but if you don’t at least try and fulfil some of the duty, some of the representation, then your position is liable to sink further into obscurity.”

She sighed a little. “And then you are little more than a footnote. So you have to pay the bills but you have to do something to keep the family name alive, if not for yourself than for the generations that come after. Because every fallen dynasty dreams of a restoration, and mine sir is no exception, unlikely though that may be. So if I have to do my duty, to be a princess, then I will do it.”

She sipped at her wine and stared out across the gardens. “If my life has taught me anything, sir, it’s that my family has no right to exist.” She looked at him. “Jan August was a historical figure. His life and his exploits belong to the past. Most people have no idea he had heirs, no clue he had successors, and I daresay most people probably don’t care. If my family stopped tomorrow then we would just become part of that history, and the life of the world would move forward. I have to be confident in my position whilst simultaneously constantly fighting for it. But if I stopped, if I walked away, then my family is one step closer to becoming Plantagenets or Valois or the Rurikids.”

She looked down at her glass. “I’m sorry,” she said with an air of embarrassment, “You didn’t invite here to listen to me moan." She looked about the gardens." Especially on an evening as lovely as this."

“You don’t seem to think very highly of your own family”, said Georg, puzzled. “Most people in Transmontana may not know who Jan August was, but I do. He was one of the greatest military leaders in modern history, a visionary, a reformer, a man who would have changed the Western Atlantic had he lived longer. You shouldn’t underplay yourself, or your House. I doubt the King of Mayagua would have accepted your grandfather as son-in-law if he didn’t think highly of your family. Or the King of Ernestria, for that matter, would he have married one of your kin if he didn’t think she was of equal rank?”

He did not mention that he, the King of Brasland, was not in the habit of giving palace tours to commoners, but he knew Ewelina would know that. Hoping that his words would make her feel better, he finished his drink and then looked at his wristwatch. It was getting late.

“Well, Ma’am, I hope you enjoyed your visit to the palace. I certainly did.” He smiled, and as he finished these words the two footmen who had previously served them wine magically appeared out of nowhere. Georg put his glass on the silver tray. “It has been my pleasure”, he added. “And as for the reason for your visit, I can grant you access to the Royal Archives. You’ll be able to read the letters of King Paul I, who ruled at the same time as Jan August. Maybe there you will find something useful for your conference.”

He kissed the air above her hand, and one of the footmen escorted the princess back to the embassy’s car. The King did not look back. Instead, he noticed a figure moving behind some bushes. He thought he recognized the high hairdo. Yes, it could only be hers. He whistled to Princess von Lorensberg, who was hiding behind some of the bushes. She stood up, covered in a heavy fur coat completely unsuited for that time of the year.

“What the…?”, mumbled Georg.

Her cheeks were red, out of anger more than embarrassment. The diamonds in her neck shone under a lamppost.

“That woman!” she muttered, furiously. “Your private secretary, she sent me away, but I sneaked out and have been hiding here for hours. I thought we had agreed to meet…”

Georg repressed a laugh, and grabbed her arm.

“Darling, I’ve had a bad day and a disappointing evening. I have no patience for your bad temper, but if you lighten up we can go somewhere quiet and comfortable and play hide and seek in a more satisfying manner. What do you say?”

Still angry, she looked unsure of how to react. Slowly, a naughty smile appeared on her face.

“Who can say no to the King?”


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