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Ajax Character Intrigue [Closed; Ajax Only]

Where nations come together and discuss matters of varying degrees of importance. [In character]
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Leasath
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Ajax Character Intrigue [Closed; Ajax Only]

Postby Leasath » Tue Jul 11, 2017 1:44 pm

Ajax Character Intrigue



This thread is for members of Ajax to describe the lives of people within one's nation. This includes ongoing storylines, one-shot posts, and basically anything else you can think of as appropriate for such a thread. The idea of this is to demonstrate the intrigues and goings on of individuals in your respective nations outside the realm of a larger RP.

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The following thread may contain scenes of implied adult situations.
Reader discretion is advised.
Last edited by Leasath on Tue Jul 18, 2017 1:52 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Votyalia | Yavorstrana
Known as Malay
Member of Artemis & Kylaris

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Leasath
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Postby Leasath » Mon Oct 09, 2017 11:02 pm

Miritsk Ice Palace, Volagrad, Rabinovska
2017 Rabinovskan-Vannoisian Ice Skating Competition
11:46 AM Local Time


"I really oughtn't even be here, frankly," Princess Catherine de Niort-Parthenay of Vannois sighed, allowing herself to slouch into the reasonably comfortable plush chair she currently occupied. She looked to her right, slumping her head over onto her shoulder and finding the sardonic grin of her friend, Lady Nicoline d'Amboise‎-Taillefer of Naudé, daughter of the Duke of Naudé. At the grimacing smile, Catherine shut her eyes, looking away.

"If it makes you feel any better, we're not to spend more than another day here," Nicoline murmured, sitting up to peer out of their private box at the ice skating before them. Below, for the suites at this rink were high, high into the deep recesses of the building, a young Rabinovskan skater was gracefully flowing through her routine to a loud classical piece that the young Vannoisian was having great trouble pegging down. "Say, what is this piece, anyway?"

"Ehm..." Catherine sat up, looking down as well at the skater, and rolled her eyes. "Of course," she said, sitting back again. "It's that Tsvetnova girl -- she has Vannoisian composers, or at least she did until recently. Corinne Arceneaux and, ah, something Vaganay. I think he was fired, though..."

"Right! Right, yes," Nicoline said, nodding her head. "Vaganay was sent back to Saint-Nazaire a few months ago, but I think this could be one of his pieces with the other woman. I certainly recognize it from some court function..."

"Yes, well." Catherine turned to her left, now, looking for a servant that was supposed to be nearby -- and finding empty space. She turned further around, finding the grim-faced guard assigned to her by him, and frowned. "Say, Nicoline, where did the girl go -- euh, what was her name -- Marie?"

"Mélodie, I think, and I want to say she went to take a break. I think she's even less interested in the figure skating than you are now, to be honest," the noble smiled, standing up to Catherine's surprise. "I'll get you something. A coffee maybe? I could certainly go for something warm. This whole country seems like an ice-box, and we just had to get stuck in an actual ice-box for the next hour."

"... Sure, sure. You have a point. Thank you, Nicoline," Catherine responded quietly. "Something to warm up on this fool’s venture would be agreeable." At that, the other girl bowed, and wandered off away from the box, tailed by one of the unarmed guards assigned to the Princess. Almost as soon as they had left, another set of guards had arrived, this time dressed in the yellow-and-black livery of their gracious hosts -- the House of Rostov. Catherine quickly stood even before the guest was announced, smoothing down her clothing; she wore a dark blue jacket with black trimming and a pair of jeans, with black boots and white gloves finishing off the look. She had done her hair up initially but, fearing the already impressive cold snaps across the north of the Rabinovskan Empire, she had let it down to cover more area. She had also snuck on a pair of thermals underneath her jeans to keep warm; this, after all, was no Saint-Nazaire October.

"Announcing, if it please you, the Tsesarevich, Nicholas Mikhailovich Rostov, Crown Prince of the Rabinovskan Empire and Heir to the Imperial Throne," one of the yellow-and-black wearing guards said robustly, standing at attention, before stepping aside to reveal the young Heir to the Rabinovskan throne. He wore a black suit, clearly more accustomed to the cold temperatures than the southerly Princess; his tie was also black, and he had a yellow handkerchief in his jacket's chest pocket. His shoes, Catherine noticed, were polished almost to a reflective sheen, and as she looked up at his face she saw that it was a bit of a theme with the eastern Prince. His black hair was slicked slightly back, revealing a well-taken-care-of face of some attractiveness and light slate-blue eyes that currently were gauging her own just as she was gauging them. She was stuck for a moment, and almost jumped when her own guardsman spoke up; she used to never be like that. She used to be able to jump into a conversation with an almost perfect stranger, especially an attractive one, at the shot of a gun.

It wasn't like that, however. Not anymore. Not after him.

And so, as the Vannoisian Princess flinched, and the brow of the Rabinovskan Tsesarevich furrowed for a half second in concern, the guardsman acted as a herald.

"Presenting the Princess Catherine de Niort-Parthenay of Vannois, Princess of the Vannoisian Empire and Sister to the Emperor," he said, his accent pronounced as he spoke in slightly school boyish Ravinok; however, the message got through. Both guardsmen stepped back to the doorway, and Nicholas stepped forward to bow to Catherine.

"Welcome, Princess, to the Miritsk Ice Palace. I apologize for not being able to greet you upon your arrival, or before now; I was held up by an old friend, and unable to reach your box before now," Nicholas said in smooth Lyonnois, smiling as he spoke.

"That is quite all right, Your Highness. I..." Catherine was at a loss, for a moment, feeling frustrated with herself before continuing with a clear of the throat. "I am glad to be here, regardless of greetings and other such things. Volagrad is a lovely city, and the spectacle on show down below is beautiful."

"Ah, yes, I am sure," Nicholas said, still smiling and gesturing to the edge of the box, to which the two moved. "My dear friend Natasha Innokentievna, she is quite the skater. The youngest ever to win the Rabinovskan National Championship, you know, little Natalya."

"Of course, of course; her success was well publicized in Vannois," Catherine lied slightly, smiling as she observed the tiny skater finishing her routine to applause from the full ice rink. She can't be more than 5 feet tall, Catherine thought to herself, impressed despite herself by the foreign girl. "Younger by two years than any Vannoisian national champion. Exceedingly impressive, to be sure."

"I sense that you are a fan of figure skating, Princess," Nicholas incorrectly presumed, though perhaps he was poking fun at Catherine; after all, it surely wasn't just her family that was briefed on trivia regarding their event appearances when visiting foreign states. "I hope you will be glad to hear that I have invited Natasha to meet you and your companion, although..." He looked around for Nicoline for a moment before Catherine spoke up.

"Ah, Lady d'Amboise‎-Taillefer is off finding a refreshment for the both of us; I am sure she will return quickly," Catherine said, unconvinced of the Rabinovskan's innocent nod. After all, he had only entered the box after Nicoline had rushed away on what may well be a fool's errand. If the rumors were true about him... Well, in any case, Catherine knew how to handle herself now. There would be none of what she used to term 'friendly engagement' with important foreign officials, loosely known as flirting. That part of her had died, brutally murdered alongside a number of other things by him.

"Certainly, certainly," Nicholas said, nodding and, noticing that the rink had cleared for the moment, turning fully to the Vannoisian. "I must admit, Princess, if you will allow; I was quite surprised to learn that you were to visit this particular event, or in fact Volagrad at all. Usually it is left to the half-Rostov's of both our families to visit the capitol once or twice a year, no?" Nicholas was truly questioning her, and for that Catherine couldn't blame him; after all, their mutual cousins -- the last Niort-Parthenay's born of a Rostov Princess in a hundred years -- had already made their annual pilgrimage to Tsarskoye Selo to pay their respects to the Tsar. In fact, it was to be cousin Nicholas and his lady wife Princess Violetta Ignatyeva that were to visit Volagrad for this event; Catherine had changed her own schedule on a whim and, considering the state of relations between her and the incumbent Head of House Niort-Parthenay, was allowed free reign to visit Rabinovska.

"I simply wished for a change of scenery, really," Catherine replied after a long deliberation. "I love my home, and I love Vannois, but at times it can be rather stifling to be under the eye of our own paparazzi all the time," she said, and smiled wryly. "Rabinovskan photographers are tame by comparison, if you don't mind me saying."

"Tame!" Nicholas mock-cried, his face a picture of incredulity before it dissolved into a smile. "Why, you would almost think that you preferred them, no? That would be quite the scandal, I think, a Vannoisian Princess preferring a Rabinovskan industry over her own nations!"

"Yes, because the Vannoisian paparazzi "industry" truly deserves my love and affection," Catherine scoffed, though there was an undertone of humorlessness there that she didn't think the foreign Prince caught.

"Yes, well -- oh, Natalya!" Nicholas cut himself off as he noticed the short, timid form of the star figure skater appear in the doorway of the suite. "Come in, come in my dear friend, please," Nicholas was grinning widely, and Catherine caught herself as she stared between the two before her. Their eyes seemed to tell a story that she could not decipher, but all she could think of was a song of star crossed lovers she had loved as a young girl and the fact that Nicholas was in an official relationship with another woman already. Scandal, it was, though she knew Vannois's customs on such things were rather more... Archaic than most nations.

As she contemplated, the tiny skater moved forward and curtseyed lowly before Catherine. "Your Imperial Highness, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I hope you will excuse my Lyonnois; it is a touch rusty from disuse," she said in a sweet, high voice, and Catherine couldn't help but smile at the girl as she looked up at her.

"If you are uncomfortable with your Lynnois, madame Tsvetnova, then we ought to speak Ravinok," Catherine said smoothly, switching to the harsher tones of the cyrillic language with some ease. Of course, she had practiced for some days before becoming comfortable with the language her great-aunt Alisa had helped to teach her and her siblings as they learned their native tongue. It was a matter of recollection rather than relearning, thankfully, and for that Catherine would have once prayed to her beloved great-aunt before he happened.

"Thank you, Your Highness, you are too kind," a blushing Natasha murmured, lowering her face for a second before snapping it back up with an embarrassed smile. Catherine noticed that she was sweating slightly and, recalling what she had just seen the girl doing down on the ice, gestured to the chairs nearby.

"Please, madame, sit; I don't want to keep you on your feet after your magnificent performance. I am sure you are quite exhausted if the routines I saw you pulling off are anything to go by!" Catherine said with a smile, moving to sit herself as Nicholas -- temporarily sidelined, if voluntarily, as he watched the two women interact; Catherine noticed his gaze linger on the lowborn dancer -- also sat down. "Is that a routine you commonly use, or something you developed for this event?"

"A, ah, mixture, I suppose you could say," Natasha said, and launched into a succinct explanation on the routine she had executed and where and how she hoped to improve or alter the style moving forward. Partway through the conversation Nicoline returned, and was introduced to all present before they returned to the conversation at hand. Catherine slowly grew fonder of the young Rabinovskan despite her suspicions about the girl and her Tsesarevich, and though they were further confirming her idea as she conversed with them, she tried to dismiss her concerns; it was conditioning that he would be proud of, and for that she would disregard it entirely.

"And so of course I think I may have done quite well score wise, but it will have to be seen just how well the Vannoisian performers make themselves known before we can really gauge the competition..." Natasha finished with an easy smile, obviously enamored with her chosen sport just as the Prince to her left seemed enamored with her. She looked to her left, eyeing the clock, and jumped slightly. "Oh, dear, I've almost missed Sasha's performance," she exclaimed, bouncing from her chair as the others present rose. She bowed lowly, this time, snapping back up with a grin on her face as she eyed Catherine. "It was an absolute pleasure, Your Highness. I hope that we might meet again soon."

"It was all mine own pleasure, my dear. Please, next time we do meet, call me by my given name; I would that we become familiar if we are to strike up such a friendship," Catherine spoke with a real, genuine smile, and was both glad and slightly disgusted with herself for it. Falling back on her training as a "Lady," she did her best to keep the smile looking as genuine as it had been a moment before.

"O-of course, your- ah... Catherine. Please, call me Natasha, or Natalya; whichever you prefer. I am honored," the skater said, looking slightly emotional before she stepped forward to stretch up and kiss both Catherine's cheeks in a common manner of saying hello and farewell in the Rabinovskan state. "I will try to improve my Lyonnois before we next meet, hmm?" She grinned impishly before turning to Nicholas, who himself looked up to Catherine.

"I ought to take my leave as well, Your Highness. It has been a pleasure. I hope that you will accept my invitation to the Imperial Palace in Tsarskoye to dinner tonight, along with Lady Nicoline. My mother and father would be glad to host you," Nicholas said distractedly, grinning a trademark smile at the two Vannoisians but obviously distracted by his fellow countryman nearby.

"Of course, Your Highness, we would be glad to attend," Catherine responded graciously, and as soon as that it was all done and over with. Natasha had bounced gleefully from the room, her excitable personality revealed to the Vannoisian girls as she had warmed up to them both, and she was closely followed by Nicholas. With the two foreigners, it seemed to Catherine, all the light was sucked from the room. Perhaps she would call Paul tonight. Perhaps she wouldn't cry when she thought of things other than the present.

Or, she would, and things would remain as they were.

Turning, she heard Nicoline snort, and glanced at her questioningly as she retook her seat to watch the Vannoisian skaters prepare for their respective routines.

"I know that Vannoisian Court is rather renowned for intrigues and the like, but if there's nobody in the Rabinovskan Imperial Court that can see what is going on there, I'll move to Voropol and take a dual citizenship," the noble snorted, and Catherine smiled lightly herself. It was a PR disaster in the making, and would already have been used as dangerous blackmail in the country of their birth, but for all that she had once agreed and abhorred such infidelity and immoral behavior as taught by her brother and his tutors, she couldn't seem to bring herself to really care about what the two foreigners she had grown a tough fond of got up to in the night. As such, she simply shrugged, allowing Nicoline to take such an answer as she wished. She had gotten used to doing that, lately.
Votyalia | Yavorstrana
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Mutul
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Postby Mutul » Wed Oct 18, 2017 8:32 am

Spring Equinox, 18 Zotz 5220



The public gathered around the gigantic stadium. Cyclopean stones made to welcome ten of thousands of spectators, in an explosion of colors and of forms Red, green, blue, yellow… frescos of peoples marching in line, presenting their offering to monstrous yet sublime creatures. The gods. This what not just a mere stadium, this was a cathedral. It was their house and a portal to their worlds.

The Pitz was not just a game. It was a religious ritual. There was many ballgames in the Mutul, played with rackets, sticks, gauntlets and many other instruments and rules. But they were all minors, games made for the entertainment of the mortals, a distraction at best from what really mattered. The most noble game of them all : the Pitz.

In the East Locker Room, the players were getting ready. They represented the city of Soconusco, the legendary birthplace of the Pitz and their team was the most famous and acclaimed of them all, having always fielded some of the best players of their times. So many great names, with now their own idols and statues in the halls of Soskonesko’s stadium, temples and public places. The little gods became the greater guardians.

Kun Kan was the present captain of this legendary team. Once upon a time, he had been just a child among many who dreamt to just play in the giant stone stadiums, to just feel the field under their feet, to clamor of the spectators gathered to see him, to become jut for one moment an idol… he fought hard, he trained forever, until the miracle happened. Until the priests noticed him and gave him a role in one of the many junior teams. They watched him, they tested him, and they judged him worthy.

It will be Kun Kan’s first Holy Match. Soskonesko against Petexbat, twelve versus twelve, At the Sping Equinox that mark both the end of the bad season and the start of the Pitz Season. Kun Kan hoped for the Tlatilico team to be selected for this match, as Soskonesko had a profound rivalry with this city, as the second possible birthplace of the Piltz. Unfortunately, it was Petexbat who came on top last season in a surprisingly quick ascension for the relatively minor -compared to Soskonesko or Petexbat- teams. It was a good thing really, New bloods always adds excitement to the game, but still, it was not what he had dreamt.

Outside, the crowd fell silent. The priests appeared on the elevated platform at the extremity of the arena. Kun Kan and his team watched it on the TV screen. It was time.

They entered the field in a perfect line. The timing was perfect and helped by the aides and helpers that always follow the Pitz players. The players were mostly naked if not for their protections at the hips, legs and arms, and the ritual painting that transformed them into surreal beasts. The supporters cheered the apparition of the two teams, while their priest-coach and their teams checked the last details before the battle.

The head-priest raised his hand and silence immediately fell on the stadium. A bull was brought on the platform. Two of the priests started to sing, and the whole arena sang with them. A grave song, telling of the sacrifices made by the gods eons ago and of their links with mankind. Once the song ended, the Head Priest took the obsidian sword, positioned himself so the animal couldn’t see him and in one swing, managed to cut the head of the bull. The body spasmed for a second and then fell, It’s blood slowly covering the cold stones.

“The Eyes of the Gods are upon us ! Their Spirits are among us ! Behold ! The Divine Moment !”

With this the crowd stood up and started to sing and scream its joy and its excitement. The players, after briefly saluting one another, joined their side of the field and their position. Another priest entered the field with a rubber ball. Once he joined the middle of the stadium, he threw it in the air, and the match started.

The rubber ball weighed 2 kilos and couldn’t be hit with the hands, arms, shoulders, head, torso or feet. Only the knees and hips were considered valid. The match ended only when the ball hit the ground seven times or when it successfully got through one of the circles on the walls. A team was allowed three pass before it had to send the ball to the other team.

It was the role of the captain to coordinate his team so there would always be someone to catch the ball and to organise the other players so to perform the most complex throws to catch. But at this level, plays were incredibly complex and despite the severe limitations of the games and the weight of the ball, the rubber sphere flied through the airs in many beautiful curves. The Petexbatians truly were excellent. Kun Kan had the occasion to see them play, but not to fight them on the field.They were painted in blue and white, the color of their city’s god, while Kun Kan and his team had their body paints done in green and silver to represent their own divinity.

Time was going on and the pressure was building. Both teams tried more and more techniques and attacks to break their opponent's defense. But none could take the advantage.

Finally an occasion presented itself. Kun Kan jumped as high as he could and turned on himself, while keeping the ball in his sight. It was one of the hardest jump to pull out, but the captain of Soskonesko was ready to do it. He hit the ball, who flied back to one of the stone circle. If it was to go through, the match would end there. But alas, the angle was wrong and the ball bounced back to Kun Kan’s team, who managed to stop it and send it back.

But then he saw him. All in white and yellow, his body painted so to look like a skeleton or a decomposed corpse made of ivory and gold, with only his protections painted in the colors of his team. It was the captain of Petexbat, disguised as Kisin Vucub Came. Kisin of the Seven Death. Ruler of Xibalba, the Underworld. An aspect of Death.

The Petexbat captain managed to stop the ball on his abdomen and, with a perfectly executed half-turn, he hit it and sent it back straight to Kun Kan, with a powerful “low straight”. He knew how to counter such an attack. He kneeled and raised his hips, ready to catch and send back the heavy mass of rubber. But he did a mistake. A supposed it was a low straight.

It was a long low curved.
The ball bounced back on Kun Kan hips but the unlucky captain executed to wrong throw. The ball refused to move as planned and hit the ground instead.

A gong ringed and the match ended after close to one hour of play. The priests deliberated but the situation was clear : Petexbat won.

The two teams saluted each other. But Kun Kan didn’t move. The world around him seemed to disappear slowly as the sound of his heartbeat was taking more and more place in his hears. His team came to form an half circle around him, starting a low, grave song. Soon, the other team started to sing as well, and then the spectators who stood up for the end of the match.

“Petik.” was all the Head Priest said. But it was all there was to say.

Kun Kan didn’t knew what he was doing. He was scared but also excited. He was sad he had lost the match, enraged against himself to have made such a stupid, fatal mistake… he couldn’t really think really. And his feet moved on their own toward the end of the stadium. Toward the platform.

“Are you scared ?” Asked him the Head Priest once he was close. Kun Kan did not find the strength to move his tongue. He just nodded. The priest had a gentle smile.

“You do not fear death. You fear what awaits you beyond. But do not worry. You have played on their fields for years and they’ve blessed you. Their love will not end once you’ve shed your mortal cocoon. They will greet you, for you are one of them.”

Once again, Kun Kan could only nod. He didn’t knew if the words of the priests were part of the ritual or not. The captain just faced the vast stadium, and fell to his knee. He could hear the rumbling of the song becoming more and more lourd as the final moment came near. Behind his back, he could feel the Head Priest preparing the obsidian sword, positioning himself…

“Do not tremble. If you let fear overtake you now, then They won’t allow your death to be without pain.”

Kun Kan forced himself to stop moving, even if it was hard. He couldn’t think straight anymore, it was like his brain was on fire, the rumbling of the spectators became louder and louder…

Like every man dying, his last coherent thought was for his mother. It brought him the peace he needed. He stopped trembling and stood still.

Soon after, Kun Kan became a god.

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Postby Leasath » Fri Nov 10, 2017 8:26 pm

‘Kindness’
Princess Catherine of Vannois
Headquarters of Centrepoint Housing for the Needy
Coutouvre, Vannois
Mid-February, 2017


“Just through here, Your Highness, just through here.”

“Thank you, Michael,” the young, beautiful, and as of recently detached Princess Catherine smiled lightly at her guide, paying little mind to the guards and officials about them. “You needn’t be nervous, you know. You’re doing a fine job.”

“T-thank you, Your Highness,” the sweating and red-faced youth replied, smiling uncertainly as his eyes met Catherine’s warm brown orbs. “I- ah, well, it’s just through this door, Your Highness. Mr. Laurent and His Lordship Count Losse-Sarbazan are just inside, and the others will be joining you all in a few minutes.”

“Thank you again, Michael,” Catherine said sweetly, stepping forward to lay a hand on the boy’s shoulder. Really they were nearly the same age; Cath wouldn’t be surprised, even, if Michael was a few years older than she was. All the same, it was her comforting him in his embarrassment. “You were quite refreshing. I’m surrounded by these old guards and officials all day long,” she muttered quietly, a laugh seeming on the edge of her tongue, “and you were quite charming, in your way.” Stepping back with that trademark smile, her tongue pressed up to her front teeth, she nodded. “Goodbye, my friend.”

“G-...” Michael seemed at a loss for words, his hand touching the spot that Catherine had rested her own hand on him for a moment. “Goodbye, Princess, it was a- a pleasure.”

At that, Catherine nodded, stepping forward as the doors before her opened into a large, open room of tiled floors and beautiful wooden pillars supporting a frescoed ceiling. She took a moment to look up and around her, taking in the surroundings, before those behind her moved forward and surrounded the Princess once again. Their presence reminded her of her place, and she stepped away as the doors closed behind them all, taking a few more steps until she was greeted with the sight of two elderly men standing before her.

“Mr. Laurent, Count Losse-Sarbazan, a pleasure,” she said politely, nodding her head at the men. Laurent, fully named Fabien Laurent, was the founder and President of Centrepoint Housing for the Needy, commonly called by its acronym CHN or simply Centrepoint. He was a former civil servant, a colleague of Pascal Robichaud and her great-grandmother Teresa in their marches on Saint-Nazaire in the 1970’s, and seemed to her a goodly man in every sense. Should God exist, she mused internally, he is a man with a place in heaven reserved for him.

To his right was the Count Losse-Sarbazan, whose first name was Barthélemy though he went by one of his numerous middle names, Denis, almost exclusively. The Count was the largest financial supporter of Centrepoint, a reasonably rich noble who had never married nor had children. His nieces and nephews would inherit his considerable estate, and his intention was to ensure that ‘regardless of who gets the estate and manor and all that, the people who need it most will have whatever else I can give.’

The Count and Laurent both were well into their 70’s, prepared to pass on the torch of the fight for the Vannoisian poor and for poor people around the world to the next generation. Catherine hoped that after today, she would be part of that effort.

“Your Highness,” both men murmured, and the Count bowed lowly while Laurent inclined his head. The latter apologized for his perceived lack of respect, though Catherine brushed it away with a smile.

“I am to undergo a hip surgery in a week’s time, and can’t make all those movements a much younger man could,” Laurent had excused himself. He gestured to what looked to be some extremely plumped leather chairs set in a relative circle around a low coffee table, moving to take seats.

“You needn’t worry, Mr. Laurent, I am not in the habit of scolding anyone on their decorum. I know I have been on the other side of such tirades,” Catherine said, smiling as that elicited a laugh from both of the older men; she followed them to the chairs, and was the first to sit on a small loveseat while they both took comfortable armchairs. Her entourage, meanwhile, had dispersed around the room; guardsmen to the exits, her publicist to standing at the side of the loveseat she had taken, and a few other members of the Imperial Household invested in ensuring that this meeting and its aftermath proceeded smoothly wandering the large room.

“Thank you, Princess,” Laurent replied, turning to his colleague who nodded amiably and began to speak.

“We are glad that you were able to come today, Your Highness,” the Count spoke in low, rumbling tones. Catherine was convinced by his voice alone that the Count had once been a powerfully physical being; it had the airs of a strong soul, and in a moment she was able to recall that he was a veteran of the Eesti conflicts of the 1990s. “Your presence will certainly help publicize the problems faced by the Coutouvrian lower classes, to be sure.”

“Please, my lord, Mr. Laurent, call me Catherine. And, it is my pleasure to be at your service. The plight of the needy in our homeland and abroad has always been one of my greatest concerns looking to the future,” the Princess replied, having crossed her legs and laced her fingers in her lap. Her back was straight, posture ideal for the cameras set around the room and their little circle; soon enough, the men manning those cameras would enter the room, and she’d rather be prepared from the off than otherwise.

“I must admit, Pr- ah, Catherine. Our team was quite shocked to get a call from you directly regarding a meeting,” Laurent said, and turned to get a nod of confirmation from the Count. “Had we known you were so interested in the topic at hand, we certainly would have contacted you before. Your help will be paramount in continuing this fight, especially considering the likes of us are not getting any younger,” he finished with a laugh.

“Of course, of course. I wanted to make sure that my first appearance of the year would have some meaning; when I thought about it, what I wanted was to ensure that whatever that was, it was something that I could take forward and not just have it as some one and done deal,” Catherine spoke honestly, eliciting smiles from the men before her. It seemed they knew sincerity as well. “I want to be involved in Centrepoint. Not just a- a royal figurehead, but someone who is able to reach out to the people we want to help, and help them in any way that I- that we, can. I… have spent too long, enjoying the privileged life I am lucky enough to have without helping those not so lucky. I want to make amends.”

The two men exchanged a glance, and looked at her closely. The venerable Count smiled broadly.

“We have waited a long time for a member of the Niort-Parthenay household to say such a thing, Your Highness,” he said, clasping his hands together. “Your dear great-grandmother is the last to truly engage in the betterment of the lowest classes, if you’ll excuse the insinuation that makes. I am truly happy to hear that you wish to help Centrepoint’s mission.”

“As am I, Count Denis,” Cath smiled brightly again at the man, glad he had taken her story as it was. Of course, most of it was true; she had lived a privileged life, and now that she understood just how privileged it had been she wanted to help those unfortunate souls who struggled from day to day, week to week. She had not divulged that, as of late, she had struggled in just that same manner; nor that her struggles were why she had not made any public appearances since last Christmas. Finally, of course, she would never say that her most privileged life had ended in a bloody marriage bed in a foreign country, during a series of murders ordered by her brother, the Emperor.

“Shall we allow them in, then?” Laurent cleared his throat and spoke, looking between the two sitting before him. At nods of assent from both, he smiled. “Prepare yourself, Princess Catherine. These people will be awestruck, I am sure.” The elderly man stood slowly and waved to a Centrepoint employee standing by a set of tall wooden double-doors, who quickly moved and opened them. In poured a group of camera techs and photographers, who took up position in an instant around the room. The formerly abandoned video cameras were now alive and moving about, ready to capture the feel-good meeting. Laurent moved to wave at another Centrepoint employee, before Catherine stopped him.

“Wait, wait,” she murmured, standing quickly, hands still clasped at her waist. “I’d like to greet them myself, if it is all the same to you.”

“O-of course, Princess,” Laurent smiled broadly and, to Catherine, quite gladly. “Please, feel free.”

At that endorsement, the Princess walked regally to the double doors that were currently holding a few Centrepoint counselors as well as a number of homeless families, each chosen due to the young children they supported. She stood before the door, taking a breath, and looked down at her still clasped hands; she noted that they were still gloved, in long, warm white leather things lined inside with fur. Biting her lip, she made the split second decision to doff them, handing them off to a Palace staff member who rushed away after taking his prize. Catherine then fixed a sincere smile onto her face, and opened the double doors to reveal herself.

She had not been informed that the families would not be told of her presence, but for that she was actually quite happy.

The door opened to great gasps and exclamations, some of them less appropriate than others, but in moments the entire room had bowed or curtsied lowly to their Flower of Vannois, the Princess Catherine.The adult women present, mothers of small children now rushing towards the Niort-Parthenay Princess, broke into tears; one or two men did the same. In all, there were two families present; one of 4, a mother and father and their two small children who could not be more than 6 years old, and another of 6, a mother and father as well as another man who looked to be their adult son as well as three children under the age of 14.

“Hello, hello,” Catherine cooed to the small children that had rushed to her as she bent low to greet them, three slightly dirty little ones; one boy and two girls. She noted that the boy and one of the girls were siblings, of the family of four, whilst the other girl was the youngest member of the family of 6. “It is lovely to meet you, sweetheart,” she said to one of the girls, who giggled lightly and hugged her around the waist.

“Oh, dear, Joséphine, Paul,” one of the crying mothers had moved quickly forward after her children, causing the other to move forward too in order to retrieve her giggling child that had latched to Cath’s waist.

“Oh, no, no,” Catherine laughed, waving their worried forms off, “it’s quite alright. They are so lovely. Joséphine and Paul, you said? And what is your name, little one?” The Princess greeted two children that had by now also latched to her, and craned her neck to look at the unnamed child.

Théline,” the girl lisped cutely, and Catherine chuckled. Her laughter quickly elicited a raised, happy feeling in the rest of the room, and soon enough the teary-eyed mothers and fathers were laughing as well.

“It is lovely to meet you, lady Céline,” Catherine said seriously, smiling at the child. “Perhaps we should head in, so that you can meet my friends? They would certainly like to meet you, children.” The little heads looked up at her, and she spied some of the older children also staring at her interestedly. “I think there are even sweets on offer, if you’re --”

She hadn’t needed to say any more, as all three children that had just been enraptured with her rushed off into the larger room to find the treats she described. That left Catherine with the parents of little Joséphine and Paul, as well as the five other family members of the lisped child.

“It is a pleasure to meet you all. I am Catherine, and it would make me very happy if you’d address me as that,” the Princess said to the still recovering adults, gliding forward to the group. “May I know your names as well?”

“Ah…” One of the fathers spoke, the man of the family of four. He smiled sheepishly, swallowing noticeably. “I am Claude Marchal; this is my wife, Nicolette. You’ve just met Josie and Paul, of course,” he said with a nervous laugh. “Truly a- a pleasure to meet you, Your H- ah.. Catherine. A pleasure.” The man’s wife repeated his words, smiling brightly through her tears of what she took to be joy, and Cath moved forward to shake the man’s hand. At his wife’s proffered hand, she pulled the women into a hug, patting her back as it broke her into tears again. After a moment, they parted, and Catherine smiled at both, blinking away her own emotions.

All present ignored the constant clicking and the sound of rolling video cameras that ensured every moment of these encounters was recorded.

“And you must be Céline’s parents and siblings,” Catherine said, stepping towards the others present in the room. The father had kept himself together a bit better, and nodded strongly.

“I’m Edouard Lajoie; this’s my wife, Cora, our daughter Marie-Michelle, and our sons Henri and Audric. Named for His Imperial Majesty, your Highness,” the scruffy man spoke proudly, and was oblivious to Cath’s smile becoming rather fixed as she focused on the young boy who shared her brother’s name -- he couldn’t have been more than 11, really -- and nodded automatically.

“A pleasure, Mr. Lajoie,” Catherine said, moving forward to shake hands and give a quick hug to Cora Lajoie and her shy daughter. She shook Henri’s hand as well, the eldest child of the Lajoie’s meeting her eyes as they made contact. She nodded, still smiling slightly fixedly, and moved on to the younger son. His hand, too, she shook, though he was obviously embarrassed for one reason or the other. Taking a breath, and glad that the introductions had finished, she gestured back behind her.

“Please, follow me, and we can sit down; I hate to have kept you all waiting just for my arrival,” Catherine spoke honestly, and with that led the group into the larger room. Within, the younger children had found their prize, and were munching on small chocolates and hard candies taken from a bowl proffered by the old Count himself. Absorbed in their treats, they barely noticed the return of the beautiful Princess and their families; when they did, however, they flung themselves from the comfortable chairs and seats they had taken. As Cath sat down again on the small loveseat she had claimed earlier, and the families took their own seats, the small children -- Paul, Joséphine, and Céline -- jumped up alongside her, throwing themselves across her lap or into her arms as they settled close by her with giggles.

“This is rather cozy, I think,” Catherine said to the collective laughter of the room. Eventually, she was left with the two Marchal siblings to either side of her, with little Céline sat in her lap playing interestedly with the rings on both her hands. “Shall we begin? I would love to learn more about all of you, Mr. and Mrs. Lajoie, Mr. and Mrs. Marchal.”

With that, the families launched into their life stories as Catherine sat back with the children, every once in a while distracted from the adults to entertain one of the little ones before returning to actively listening to the problems their parents faced. All the while, cameras and photographers, silent but for the clack of photos being taken, moved around them fluidly.

Eventually, at the end of the meeting, Catherine promised assistance from Centrepoint for both families; spur of the moment, she also pledged that the Niort-Parthenay Imperial Trust would pay for the education of each of the children and any of the adults, if they wished, through college. It wasn’t something she had planned, but the gift seemed to mean everything to the once-again shattered parents and elder children. It was with a smile that she gave them the gift, and it was also with a pledge to herself, as well.

This would be her life. Not those empty publicity stunts with models and footballers, nor the useless appearances at church and around the Palace; she wouldn’t fall into such a trap again. Her place was with her people, now, especially those as broken or more than she was. They might never know how much they helped her, but she would ensure that they were well rewarded for making her smile again.
Last edited by Leasath on Fri Nov 10, 2017 8:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Lyncanestria » Sat Nov 18, 2017 10:57 pm

Grand Opera House
Beaupré, Lyncanestria
18 November 2017

(Co-written with Lacus Magni)

God willing, nothing will go wrong this time, she told herself taking a breath and walking out into the second floor balcony above the foyer. The setting sun’s reddish-orange light attested to the hour: almost seven, just before sundown. The light made its way through the tall, paned windows of the hall and reflected off the silver trays of the servant staff, temporarily her as she looked below to the crowd. Caroline could make out some faces in the sea of suits and fancy dresses: some of her Villeneuve kin, the Baudelaires, the Antenfoys, the Valmeuses, nobles and businessmen of every sort. And the Prince of Latium, drink in hand. Well, the Prince of Ghant and Latium, if we’re being technical.

So you came after all, she thought to herself. Not that Caroline had doubted his word when he wrote back affirming his attendance, but rather because she knew his aversion to this sort of fête. She could make him out from up here, his trademark locks unmistakable; he had gotten a haircut since she had last seen him—well, it more of a trim.

Before the event’s unfortunate postponement, the attendee was meant to be the Latin ambassador, Lord Chryselios of Tenedo, who could not make it to the rescheduled date. Given the short notice, she was glad Leo had come in his stead. He had come a long way since the Allamunnic Wedding; the brooding boy was no longer, and the hero of the Brothers’ War—a confident man committed to honour and duty—stood in his place. Since he had extended her an invitation to the Ludi Hippodromus, and with every rendezvous since, he had managed to grow on her as well, in both respect and affection. They just don’t make men like this anymore, she thought to herself, recalling her former suitors…

Philibert de Beaujeu? Kind, generous and endearing, yes, but without a spine. Needing validation for everything, constantly living in the shadow of his father and the bosom of his mother; this was not a man of confidence, or perhaps not a man at all! Oh how I pitied him. Fabien Royer? For a man so learned as he, I wonder how why he didn’t understand something as simple as commitment. Professing his love one day, yet chasing after a different woman the next—his own students, no less—a less-than-gentleman not worth the energy to pursue. Raphaël Marchand? Now was his vanity a sign of egotism or insecurity? Perhaps it was both, for he who exceeds respect, honour and praise without first manifesting it upon others is neither worthy nor deserving of any.. There had been several more, most of which never got past the first date, but none had convinced her yet—none until now, perhaps?

Standing on the ledge she smiled down, for Leo or for the crowd she’s not sure; clearing her throat as she prepared to announce the event’s commencement, but waited for the crowd’s murmur to die down before proceeding. It didn’t take them much more than a few seconds, her gemmed sapphire dress was hard to miss when contrasted against the white and gold of the foyer wall veneer. Once the hall had shushed itself to silence, she began her introduction. “Mesdames and messieurs, welcome to the second annual Charity Gala for the Arts. It is a great honour to host you all here at the Palais de Beaupré on behalf of my cousin, the Emperor. He expresses his most sincere gratitude at your generosity, both in your time and resources. In just a few minutes the doors will open to the Grand Hall, and we will get started with tonight’s events,” she said gesturing to the golden doorway to her left. Done with her introduction, she smiled at the audience, gave a gentle half-bow and walked off the gallery, down the steps to the Grand Hall.

Caroline looked out into the hall pensively, as if going over everything one last time. Plates and silver at every seat? Check. Waiters standing by at every table? Check.

“Everything is in order, Your Highness.” Caroline was cut off mid-thought by her Chief Organiser, Isabelle de Courcy. Unlike last year, she had taken a more professional approach to the organisation of this gala and set up a committee; needless to say it had assuaged the stress and made the event much mroe manageable.

“Thank you, Isabelle. Go tell them to open the doors, then.”

With a nod, her planning organiser headed to let in the attendees. The sound of chatter began to fill the hall as the doors opened and released the crowd into the grand open hall. The patter of shuffling feet were followed by the sounds of chairs dragged across the elegant stone floor. Soon came the clinking of glasses and the scraping of cutlery against China, as the hors d’oeuvres were served by the waitstaff. Everything sounded in order, and looked even more so.

Seems like tonight is going to be a good night. After the guests had gotten settled, Caroline moved to the stage, took out her reading glasses and tapped the mic, making sure it was ready for her introduction. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great privilege and honour to introduce you to the National Youth Chamber Orchestra. Founded in 1999, its mission is to find and cultivate young musical talent from across the nation and Belisaria. We at the Endowment for the Arts are proud to partner with them and welcome them tonight on stage.Tonight, they will be performing Brammes’ Violin Concerto in E minor, showcasing how your generosity is being well invested in the musicians of the future.”

Once she had finished her speech, eyes turned to the conductor who raised his arm directing to the side of the room. Out from the corner walked a young lady, no older than eighteen, dressed in an elegant black satin gown. Caroline knew her personally; her name was Adrienne Laplace, a virtuosic violinist and alumna of the programme. She stood before the audience, in front of the orchestra, taking a bow to the crowd’s applause. After a few seconds, the chamber fell silent, a cough echoed through the hall as the musicians raised their instruments and the conductor prepared his baton. With a flick and swish of the conductor’s wrists began the piece; the timpani pulsed the beat while the strings and woodwinds sustained the opening chord. Laplace’s solo started seconds after, playing as she always did, her heartfelt interpretation immediately drawing the crowd. Caroline had walked offstage and was talking up the table with her family when the music began, drawing her momentarily from the conversation with the Emperor’s brother and sister. “She really has a talent, Caroline,” said Prince Philippe. “A true testament to the good works you do here,” commented Princess Florence.

“Every time I hear them, it makes all the stresses of this sort of event be completely worth it. It makes them smile, it makes me smile.”

She excused herself from her relatives and made her way to the next table, the table of the close family friends of the Baudelaire corporation. Again, she would greet, thank, bid bon appétit and move on to the next table. Only two tables in and it had become a bit mundane… she looked to the next table on her rounds: the party from the Latin Empire. She knew Leo’s aversion to this kind of… stale affair, and yet there sat Leo, joined by two of his three sisters, Princesses Diana and Theodora, each dressed in splendid, yet unique black evening gowns. Leo was at the centre, for a moment looking towards the orchestra as his sisters spoke to each other in Ghantish, as they often did during public events of this sort, so as to throw off most would-be eavesdroppers.

“Good evening, Your Highnesses,” she opened up with her rehearsed greeting, “I trust your dinner has been satisfying? Duckling is a personal favourite of mine, I don’t know how popular it is in Latium?”

“Good evening,” Leo smiled and rose from his seat to greet Caroline with a kiss on the cheek. “It’s very good. I’ve been waiting to tell the hostess, but she’s been so busy thus far.”

“I’ll be sure to pass the compliments, Leo, I’m sure she’ll appreciate them.” Was she right in using his name or should she have kept it professional with Highness? What does it matter anyways? “Alas it has been a busy night; thankfully for us we’ve managed to raise well more than what we had hoped, so that’s always good for our cause. Now, you must be Leo’s sisters… ?”

“Yes, sorry,” Leo snapped out of his dovey eyed look. “These are my sisters, Diana and Theodora. This is Caroline.”

“An honor to meet you, Caroline,” Diana, the eldest of the two sisters, spoke first in a reserved manner and a smile on her face.

Theodora, after taking another sip of wine, chimed in next, “God, I love your dress.” Soon she felt the glare of her sister and Thea added, “What? I do. It looks great on you, Caroline.”

“Thank you very much,” Caroline replied to Theodora, along with her trademark smile. “It’s a pleasure to make both your acquaintances. Leo’s holds his family on a pedestal, so you won’t be surprised he has often mentioned you both. Anyways, in addition to your dinner, I hope you all are enjoying the performances tonight. The first piece was my favourite of all time, I don’t know if you had been familiar with it before tonight?”

Remaining at Caroline’s side, Leo opened his mouth to reply, yet before he could utter a word, Theodora beat him to the mark. “Not overly familiar, but it was pretty good,” she followed with a sip from her wine.

“I thought it was an excellent rendition,” Leo added, his hand finding the small of Caroline’s back.

“So does this count as one of your dates?” Thea smiled, and even Diana joined with a giggle but did her best to temper it. “Actually wait, that isn’t what I wanted to ask. Here it is, why do you think we should let you date our brother?”

“Thea…” Leo sighed with half-a-laugh before telling Caroline, “It’s best not to indulge her. She’ll never let up if you do.”

“Well first off, I’ll pass off your kind compliments to the kids, I’m sure they’ll be thrilled the Prince and Princesses of Ghant thought their talents of good, high calibre.” She looked beside her to the Prince, “As far as this evening is concerned, no I don’t think it counts as a date; he’ll have to make up for it one of these days while he’s in town, now won’t he?” Directing herself now to Theodora, she continued, “but I can’t answer your second question; I’ve always been bad at interviews, flowering praise upon yourself and lying to seem perfect just isn’t my thing. Leo seems to think we should date, perhaps you should ask him instead?”

“Oh, she’s throwing you to the wolves with that one, brother,” Theodora teased the two of them.

“Well, thankfully,” Leo looked to Caroline with a smile, “We can manage a few wolves here and there. Besides, I think she makes a good point.” Then he turned to his sister and added, “Are you through hazing her yet?”

“She knows I’m just teasing,” Theodora smiled to each of them.

“Laughs all around,” replied Caroline, indicating she hadn’t taken offence at the tease. Keep ‘em coming, I’ll gladly be the butt of any joke if it livens the atmosphere. “I did notice that there are a number of spots on your table missing, do we have MIA’s or are you impressing me with your generosity?”

“I tried to find some others to attend, but the reschedule made things difficult,” Leo ran his free hand through his hair momentarily, and looked to her as he spoke. “But I did make sure to buy out the rest of the table anyway.”

“Well thank you, Leo,” she said, finding it hard to stop smiling at the gesture, “I would say I’m impressed but you’ve made me grow accustomed to you always being the gentleman. It was a shame that we had to reschedule, but in the end we got to see each other, I got to meet your lovely sisters… God works in mysterious ways, doesn’t he?”

“It was nothing really,” Leo said to her with a weak smile before kissing her lightly on the forehead. “There’s nothing wrong with a little change in schedule if it means you’re safe. And I suppose you’re right, everything did work out a bit more favorably this time around. But I know you’re busy, so we should probably let you get to everyone else that’s waiting to see you. See you before the end of the night?”

“Oh yes,” she looked around at the hall, as if suddenly remembering she was in charge of this whole ordeal and actually not on a date, “I do have more patrons to greet tonight; unfortunately for you, Leo. But yes, I’ll be seeing everyone off at the main exit, so unless you run off somewhere else, I’ll be seeing you later on for proper ‘goodnights’.”

Caroline went to kiss Leo goodbye; left, right, left, in the customary Lyncanestrian tradition. She then turned to his two sisters, still sitting at the table, “Ladies,” she nodded to them in acknowledgment, “it’s been an honour, I’ll see you all later. I do see the dessert is on its way, and the orchestra will soon begin the next movement, I trust you’ll enjoy both.”

“Unfortunate, indeed,” Leo said with a light chuckle, adding, “Enjoy yourself out there,” before Caroline departed.

“A pleasure,” Diana nodded to Caroline with a smile. Theodora joined and added, “Likewise.”




It had been a long night. Making small talk in such a redundant manner had becoming quite taxing after the first row of tables. She had kept herself going with knowledge that it was for the cause; for the children and the pursuit of their dreams and talents. At the end of the day, she knew it was worth it. Goodbye, Créquys. Farewell, Beaujeux. See you later, Champlains. Just a couple more handshakes. As she finished thanking the generous patrons from the Baudelaire Corporation, she could see in the corner of her eye the Latin table getting up from their seats.

Instead of walking directly for the exits, as most other patrons had done, Leo maneuvered his way through the tables towards Caroline. His sisters remained back near the doorway, gossiping to one another, or more likely simply making jokes at Leo’s expense.

“Already leaving are we? But it’s only half-past nine,” she said as he walked up, faking a frown at him.

“Surprisingly, Theodora’s feeling a bit tired. So I think it’s about that time to call it a night,” Leo said to Caroline with a polite smile.

Sisters,” she said, playfully rolling her eyes, “always ruining plans, aren’t they?”

“They excell at it I think,” Leo snickered, “But you know, speaking of sisters, I wouldn’t mind meeting yours one day.”

“Well Madelaine has often said she’d like to meet you too—it’s well overdue, especially now that I’ve met your sisters. I’m sure she’ll like you; ‘A prince of two countries and decorated war hero; you’ve quite the catch Caroline’ she often says. Whenever your cousin allows you another free weekend you should definitely visit.”

“I’d hardly call it a war. But, yes, I’d like that,” Leo reached for one of her hands and smiled. “You know though, Constantine has his wedding and coronation coming up, so it could be awhile. He did make sure to give me an extra invitation though…if you’re interested that is.”

Caroline had heard that the Latin Emperor’s wedding was approaching in the coming weeks, and it didn’t surprise her to hear Leo would be in attendance. But his invitation did catch her by surprise; to be quite honest, she didn’t know why. We have been official for a month now, attending events as a pair isn’t out of the ordinary. Flashing back from her split second of distraction, she cracked a grin back at Leo. “I’m flattered, truly. Of course I accept. What day is it again? I’ll have to clear my schedule for that day.”

“Good, I’m glad. It’s on December eighth,” Leo smirked before his eyes looked up as if he was thinking. “That’s a friday I think, so if it’s doable, maybe we could make a weekend out of it. Fair warning though, I am his best man, so I may be pulled away on occasion.”

“Well that just gives me more time to spend getting to meet your other lovely sister. Arietta, right? The one recently married just last year was it? I’m sorry I’m not as savvy as I probably should be with your family.”

Leo nodded with light laughter. “That would be the one, and don’t worry…I have a rather complicated family.”

“At least for you, mine is simple enough: just me and Madeleine; unless you’re counting my cousin Sammy, then my family becomes as complicated as your own.”

“True, it might be quite the contest,” he laughed once more, though glanced over his shoulder to make sure his sisters weren’t acting up. “Do you have many other people to see off tonight?”

Caroline looked around the room, scanning the nigh-empty chamber for any other close or familiar individuals she had to see off. Thankfully for her, she could see Isabelle seeing off the last of the nobles, and the businessmen in attendance had gone. It was just she and Leo, standing in the room below the chandelier, metres away from the exit doorway.

“It turns out you’re in luck: I am officially off for the night. Isabelle can oversee the Hall is cleared and un-repurposed for opera performances to resume tomorrow night. Was there anything else you needed to say, Leo or is this goodbye for the night?”

“I think it’s goodbye for the night, as much as I wouldn’t like to call it,” he smiled.

Switching from her previously playful tone she adopted a more serious demeanor, looking Leo in the eye, “You don’t know how much it meant to me to see you here. Thank you for this evening, Leo,” she paused to plant a gentle kiss on his cheek, “and thank you for your invitation. Call me when you’ve landed.”

“I know how hard you worked at this, so I’m glad I could make it,” he nodded. “And of course. You have a good night, Caroline.”
Pop: 64,854,527 | At arms: 227,895 (314,712 reserve)
GDP: NSD $3.099 trillion (2.869 ƒ) trillion | GDP/c: $44,371
Emperor: Philippe VIII | PM: Luc Mariard
: Vehicular accident kills 3, including Fleury CF striker :: Burgoyard seperatist demonstrations turn violent in Jugny :: After a term out of office, Mariard regains Premiership :: Emperor undertakes official visit to Vannois :: Baudelaire Systems unveil newest phone, the Astro 4 :: Moulins declares Caeseti regime "illegitimate" :

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Postby Leasath » Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:28 pm

‘On Family’
Princess Roseline of Vrines
The Imperial Palace
Saint-Nazaire, Vannois
20 January 2018


The grand, ostentatious bedroom currently home to the Princess Roseline was quite bright considering the hour. There were a number of surfaces off which light could shine, and the overly large chandelier that served as a centerpiece shone brilliantly in what would normally be a gloomy atmosphere at 6:00 AM. Near a large bow window that took up much of the outer wall of the room, a young woman stood. The drapes were drawn, but they fluttered slightly as a chilly breeze blew through slightly opened windows.

The young woman, Princess Roseline of Vrines, had pulled the drapes slightly apart, looking through the clear glass into the gardens before her. Between two fingers of her right hand she held a cigarette, which she raised to her mouth every so often to take a drag. She made sure to blow the smoke out the cracked window, although it probably wouldn’t make a difference; Niort-Parthenays had been smoking without care in the Imperial Palace for many years before she was even born. Roseline was always one to avoid risks, however; at least ones that didn’t seem worth their trouble.

After she finished the cigarette and stubbed it out into a nearby crystal ashtray, the Princess moved gracefully toward the magnificent closet. Though she was not an athlete any longer (her mother would blame the minor smoking habit for that, of course) she still carried herself with the quiet calculation of one. Her light nightgown, perhaps inappropriate in the cold winter weather of Saint-Nazaire, fluttered about her. She was a step from the closet entrance when there was a rapping at her door, and she turned towards it with a cocked head. When no announcement was forthcoming, she sighed.

“Who is it, then? Maman?” Roseline called confusedly, wondering who else in the Palace but for the servants would be away before 7 in the morning. Well, there is one person, but I doubt he’s coming to see me of all people, she thought, walking to the door. “Hello?”

“Apologies, your Highness. A message for you,” a feminine voice answered her, finally, sounding rather nervous of all things. A servant after all, then. But who sent the message? With a creased brow, Roseline took the gilded handle and pulled open the dark wooden door. Before her stood a woman, not much older than her if she was at all. She seemed nervous, and was stepping from one foot to the other before she caught sight of the Princess in her bedclothes. The girl bowed her head.

“Apologies, milady, apologies if I’ve woken you. I was asked to deliver this as soon as I was in,” the girl made her excuses with a reedy voice.

“The message?” Roseline inquired, raising a delicate eyebrow, and directing her eyes down to a crisp envelope thrust before her. “Thank you,” she said, taking the paper and stepping back to close the door. The girl was still standing there when she did. “Must be especially bloody new,” Roseline muttered, walking over to her bedside table to fetch a letter opener.

She hadn’t checked the seal of the envelope, and when she did she was slightly surprised to find the monogram of the Emperor upon it. She set down the envelope and letter opener and took up her pack of cigarettes, making sure to open a drape and push the window out a tad further; then, lighting the cigarette, she sat back down with the envelope. Letting the lit smoke hang in her mouth, she cut open the letter, folding out thick parchment paper with that same intricate ‘L’ underneath the Imperial Crown embossed upon the top.

Cousin Roseline,

It is my honor to cordially invite you to break your fast with myself and our dearest cousin, the Count of Seyssel. I hope this missive finds you well, and that you will oblige us in attending.

We would meet at 7:30, in my personal dining room. My thanks.

Signed,
Louis XIX


Roseline re-read the signature on the page, taking a long drag of her cigarette and staying almost perfectly still for a few moments. Then, glancing at the clock, she noted that the supposed meeting time was in less than forty minutes.

She levered herself off of the bed, walking briskly to a mirror to check on her hair -- not an utter rats nest, thankfully -- and jumped when a secondary door opened to allow four women into the room. The door, an access route to less-used corridors in the Palace and servants quarters, squaked slightly on its hinge; one of the women muttered something about maintenance.

“Ah, Princess, already up. Lovely. We’ve been sent to help you prepare for the day,” the oldest and ostensibly most senior of the women said, pulling back the chair at her vanity quickly and moving to let the other women set up a variety of beauty products and extra mirrors they had brought with them. “If you would?” she gestured to the chair.

With a silent nod, Roseline put out yet another cigarette and walked over to subject herself to the women. While she didn’t recognize any of them, she was more than used to being ‘put together’ by her own servants at home; these ones probably worked with Princess Catherine and Marie-Josée every day, instead of her.

They worked remarkably quickly -- only the best for Vannois’s truest love, Roseline thought of the eldest sister of the Emperor -- and within a few minutes she was stripped of her nightgown and almost thrown into a pair of black jeans, a shirt she barely noticed before it was covered by a black sweater, and a white jacket to complete the ensemble. She had time to ask whether she would even be going outside that morning, to which she was told that she most certainly would not, milady, at least not with His Imperial Majesty; and then she was off. The Chief of Staff to the Emperor, the Duke of Alès if Roseline could remember rightly, escorted her hastily to the private dining area that Louis had prescribed for their sudden breakfast.

She was stopped suddenly before the door to the room; a guard -- no, a herald -- stood to the side. She touched cool fingers to her slightly blushed cheeks, trying to remember all that had happened in the whirlwind of time since she had gotten the invitation to breakfast and this moment, and failing. To think she had been minding her own business for another quite Saint-Nazaire morning less than an hour ago.

“Just a moment, your Highness,” the herald bowed and turned to open the door. Inside, Roseline spotted her two male cousins and a third figure for just a moment until the man stepped into her line of sight. “The Princess Roseline of Vrines, daughter of the Duke Artois.” Roseline resisted the urge to roll her eyes; really, she had gone to school with Audric for years, not to mention they were only second cousins. His insistence on formality still baffled her, although she was not often exposed to it in such close quarters.

“Enter, please,” a strong voice called out, and she identified it immediately as that of the Emperor. The herald stepped aside and bowed again, allowing Roseline entrance. She hadn’t noticed, but at some point the Duke of Alès had made his exit, and she was alone.

“Your Imperial Majesty, cousin Charles,” Roseline said primly, flicking her brown orbs between both of her cousins before curtseying respectfully.

“Please, Rose, none of that,” Charles spoke first, smiling broadly at her. She wasn’t especially close with him, nor with Audric or any of his sisters. Though they were each of an age with each other, Roseline was of an entirely different generation, and often could identify more with these two’s uncles -- her first cousins -- than those her actual age. Thibault and Teresa’s inclination toward child-making even late into life had certainly made some elements of the extended Imperial Family awkward, to say the least.

“Of course. Please, sit, eat. We have much to discuss,” Audric -- Louis, don’t risk calling him anything but, she thought -- gestured to a chair directly across from his own. Charles sat to her right, the Emperor’s left; at least it didn’t feel like an interview of some kind right off the bat.

“Thank you,” Roseline said, and she moved further into the room to take her seat. Idly, she noted that both the men were well-ready for the day; Audric sported a dark blue suit, his hair was slicked back and his short beard was trimmed. Charles also wore a suit, this one simply black, and she noticed what looked to be a large watch on his left wrist. Thanking God for her cousin’s presence of mind to send beauticians to her rooms, she sat before them both.

“Food, first, then talk. Yes?” Charles asked. “I think yes,” and, answering his own question, he snatched a fluffy biscuit and some jam and went to work on his meal. The Emperor followed suit and, slower, Roseline also took up a croissant and poured herself a cup of steaming tea. She preferred coffee, usually, but Audric’s preferences were all his own. He took the kettle from her as soon as she had finished, smiling his thanks, but she noticed his eyes were cool -- at that was being generous.

After a short while of quiet munching and sipping, Charles tapped the table as if he had just recalled something, and reached into his suit-pocket to pull out a pack of cigarettes and lighter. Offering the packet to Roseline, he pulled a smoke from it for himself and lit it.

“I didn’t know you smoked, cousin,” Roseline said, still quiet in the cool atmosphere of the room. “I didn’t know you knew that I smoked, in fact.” Though as she said this, she took a cigarette from the pack herself.

“Ah, we are all full of surprises, aren’t we?” Charles murmured, taking a drag and mock-offering the pack to Audric, who just raised a dark eyebrow. “Well, maybe not all of us,” he conceded, and put the pack on the table between himself and Roseline.

“I value my teeth, Charles, that’s all,” the Emperor said with a half-smile, and Roseline could see the slightest sparkle in his eyes that time at least. “Amongst other things.”

Charles leaned in toward Roseline mock-conspiratorially, stage-whispering, “Methinks he means his wife, don’t you?” with a wink.

“Methinks he just means the lung cancer you’re doomed to, cousin,” Audric shot back, taking a measured sip of his tea before turning his still-icy gaze to Roseline. “In any case, I think we’ve spent enough time on the merits or lack-thereof of smoking, don’t you?”

“Ah…” Roseline shifted uncomfortably, resisting the urge to smoke. “As you wish, of course, Your Majesty.”

“Mm. You can call me Louis, cousin. We are family, even if a touch distant. You were here for Christmas, after all,” Audric said, smiling again. “I understand that you are to return home on Monday, no? Back to Saint-Lô and uncle Artois?”

“You are correct, Louis. My mother and I will both be headed back that afternoon -- that is, unless you have need of us?” Roseline nodded her head, smiling charmingly as she finished the sentence. “We do so love Saint-Nazaire, no matter the time of year.”

“Yes, it is quite cold, isn’t it?” Charles interjected, laughing at her implication.

“Yes, yes,” Audric murmured. “It does so happen that we may have need of you, cousin Rose. If you’re willing, of course?”

“I serve my family however they wish, Louis, especially your most august self. How can I assist you?” Roseline asked, and wracked her brain as to just how she really could help the Emperor of Vannois with… anything. She wasn’t a useless person; at least, she didn’t think so. A few quarters of honor roll grades at university had proved that much. But what could she do for the ruler of Vannois, at such random notice?

Roseline had a sinking feeling that whatever it was, it was going to rock the boat quite a bit, and she lit another cigarette at the thought. I’ll be at a pack today in no time, she mock-despaired in a voice that sounded markedly like her mother’s.

“Thank you for your show of loyalty, cousin,” Louis smiled at her again, and while it wasn’t entirely unnerving she still squirmed slightly in her seat. “I don’t wish to ask too much of you, so if you are not interested in doing what I ask then you need only say the word.”

“O-of course,” Roseline replied, taking another long drag on her cigarette and jostling her cup of tea on its saucer.

“As I think you very well know -- at least, if your father has told you anything, you know -- there is a rift at this very moment, within our family.” Louis spoke softly, and his voice was tinged with something sad that she wouldn’t have expected. His eyes kept contact with her own, and when she glanced at Charles he simply nodded.

“I- yes, father has told me of a few… things, about grandmother Teresa and yourself. Things about court that we might not otherwise hear of in Saint-Lô,” Roseline spoke honestly. Her father did not keep secrets from his children, feeling there was little point when most of their family lived their lives in the spotlight. As such, though she did not know the full reason besides generally differing ideologies between the factions of Audric and Teresa, she did know that there was a fault-line between the two sides.

“Good. That makes things rather simpler, then,” Louis muttered, taking a sip of tea before looking back to Roseline. “This rift cannot be allowed to fester any longer. It has been more than a year of quiet conversations and worries that have not been brought before the Crown, and I tire dearly of the deceptions. The whispers of court are almost deafening from where I sit, you know; I’ll not subject Selene to it any longer.”

“That… I cannot blame you, cousin. What would you have me do?” Roseline asked, still confused.

“You, your father, your mother; your entire branch of our family has maintained a distance from Saint-Nazaire for longer than I can recall. I can’t entirely blame you; the city is beautiful, but when you know what we do, fleeing sometimes seems the only option.” Audric paused. “Your neutrality, your distance from both sides -- it’s valuable. It’s valuable to me, and I think it’s valuable to the Dowager Empress. Great-Grandmother, that is.”

“You see, we can’t send me, or anyone from our… side,” Charles broke in, leaning forward slightly as he tapped his cigarette on an ashtray upon the table. “Too much bias, really. Even if I do love the old woman.”

“Send you? To do what… negotiate?” Roseline cocked her head for the second time that morning, though to a lesser degree than before. “I am certainly not knowledgeable enough of the issues between you all to… negotiate, on behalf of either side, cousin.”

“Which is not what we’re asking of you, Roseline,” Audric spoke, shaking his head. “No, no. Because you have stayed even in this issue, we wish for you to approach grandmother Teresa on your own -- or with your siblings, or your father, whomever you trust to help you do this -- and invite her to negotiations with us.” The Emperor leaned back, interlacing his fingers in his lap and crossing his legs. “I hate to admit any sort of defeat, but a dialogue is necessary to resolve any issues we have with one another, or our respective friends have with each other. This cat and mouse game is childish, and it’s gone on for far too long.”

Charles hummed slightly along with this, and the room fell quiet for a few moments, allowing Roseline to draw a breath.

“So-” she shook her head, and started again. “What you’re saying is, you want me to approach grandmother Teresa with, what, an olive branch? And invite her to speak with you on level terms regarding your… differences?”

“Well, that’s exactly what we’re asking, dearest cousin!” Charles laughed, leaning back in his seat and waving a hand.

“But I know nothing of your differences myself. I know only what the rest of court knows, and that is so obviously lacking that I can’t even decide who is in the wrong here -- lest it be both of you, of course,” Roseline sputtered, her voice emotional. “I cannot promise anything about something I know nothing about.”

At this, Audric and Charles exchanged a cryptic glance, one which lasted a long second before the Emperor shook his head and Charles shrugged.

“All we wish,” Audric said, slowly, “is for you to engage with the Dowager Empress and inquire as to her interest in talking with me, or with Charles, or with both of us, about the issues that separate us. We don’t ask that you know anything; I am sure Teresa will tell you anything you wish to ask of, and once we know her answer either way I would be willing to tell you whatever you wish to know.” Audric paused again; he seemed to do that, in regular speech and in public speaking. Roseline couldn’t decide if she liked it as a speaking strategy or not. “You are our family, however distant -- and, really, we are not all that distant after all. I ask only this one thing of you, and we would be willing to allow you and your siblings some… leniency, in return.”

“Leniency, hmm?” Roseline shot up, one eyebrow cocked, challenging. “If you’re going to mention that word, then I want something real, cousin Louis.”

“And so you shall. If you will help us, then rest assured that there will be no Imperial Order for Marriage for you or any of uncle Artois’s children. I’ll also assent to any marriage you should propose, within reason of course. And… if you so wish, I can assure Saint-Lô to you and your family for so long as you wish to inhabit the castle,” Audric spoke as if this was a business transaction, and it took Roseline another moment to realize that was exactly what this was. “Do not say I do not treat my family with dignity, by God,” he closed with a half-smile.

“That would be…” extraordinary, she thought, and it would be. Roseline had assumed that she would have to endure her parents or grandmother playing matchmaker for her as soon as she graduated college, but this… They still may make their attempt, but the Emperor himself would lean on her side of any negotiations. All for a simple question to grandmother Teresa.

Roseline couldn’t say no, could she?

“That would be excellent terms, Louis. I will… I will do as you ask, and perhaps have a few questions, should these ‘negotiations’ go well, if you’ll permit,” the Princess assented, to an actual genuine-looking grin from the Emperor and a loud clap from Charles. Both men were standing, and Roseline hastened to follow.

“Wonderful, quite fantastic, really. I knew you would help your family when they are in need, Rose,” Audric said, his grin still in full force; it reminded her of his media appearances, although his eyes were also smiling now. He walked around the small table, patting Charles on the back and taking his second cousin’s hand. He bowed for a kiss, before straightening. “I am sure that you will do us all proud. Charles will see you back to your room, and answer any more questions; I really must be off, Selene will probably be looking for me.” At that, the Emperor and his family parted ways; Audric toward the magnificent Imperial Suite, and his cousins back to Roseline’s slightly lesser bedroom.

There was little conversation between Charles and Roseline, until they reached her door; the Emperor’s closest friend and adviser stopped her there, and went inside first, making sure to shut the heavy thing behind them after Roseline stepped within.

“Just a few things, and we’ll be all out of your hair,” Charles said with a smile. “If you could make your move with grandmother Teresa as soon as is possible, and then inform us directly after, that would be most convenient. Additionally, if you have any need from us -- an excuse to visit in order to speak with great-grandmother, for example -- you need only ask, and you can be assigned to a ball or charity dinner of some sort.” The Prince took a breath. “Lastly… It would be best if you kept this work to yourself, until it is resolved. I know that Louis offered to allow you to bring your father or a sibling in on this plan, but it ought to be rather straightforward. The less bodies -- er, minds, rather, involved -- well, the better.”

Roseline thought for a moment, and then nodded. “I suppose that makes good sense… I’ll talk to grandmother as soon as I can. I know we seem very far away, my family and I, but we have felt the reverberations from this division at court just as keenly as all you here. I hope this will take care of it.”

“As do I, cousin,” Charles sighed, and bent to kiss both of Roseline’s rosy cheeks in farewell. “Until next time, Roseline, and hopefully with good news in tow.” He opened the door.

“Until next time,” she replied, watching him leave and noting that she really would be rocking the boat, this time.
Votyalia | Yavorstrana
Known as Malay
Member of Artemis & Kylaris

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Lihnidos
Lobbyist
 
Posts: 18
Founded: Jul 09, 2017
New York Times Democracy

Postby Lihnidos » Thu Feb 01, 2018 6:11 pm

Residence of Matriarch Tatiana Hallas
Xanthi, Boeotia
Lihnidos


“This moussaka really is lovely, Tatiana. You’re chef has outdone himself. If we weren’t such good friends I may have ended up trying to snatch him away from you.”

“Indeed. One of the best chefs in the country. In all of Belisaria, possibly. There’s nothing he makes that I don’t find to be exquisite.”

Yanna Argyris let out a soft chuckle before swallowing another fork-full of her main dish. “I really must speak to him before I go. Every time we get together I laud over him, yet I have never gotten a chance to compliment him myself.”

Yanna Argyris and Tatiana Hallas had sat down for lunch almost half an hour prior. Both had begun with a small plate of salad. A nice mixture of spinach and green romaine lettuce topped with diced tomatoes, green peppers, carrots, croutons, and dressing. Following their salads, their plates were quickly removed and replaced with their main dish of moussaka, a layered dish that contained sliced eggplant, ground lamb, and sauce.

“I will make sure to have him come up here before you go. He’ll be delighted to know that it’s not just me who finds his cooking delightful.” Tatiana sipped her iced tea as she looked out to the Xanthi skyline.

The two sat atop the Imperial Olympic Hotel, one of the nicest - and most expensive - hotels in the city. While the bottom thirty-nine floors were available to guests who were looking for a nice place to stay while visiting Lihnidos’s third largest city, the top three were owned by Tatiana Hallas. The penthouse’s three floors offered some of the best views of the city, and as the two women sat on a large outdoor patio, the bright and clear day offered a view that extended miles. The sound of the bustling city was mostly inaudible at their height, and they were able to eat lunch in relative peace.

“I’m jealous, you know,” Yanna expressed, noticing Tatiana’s glances at the skyline. “Not only do you have a wonderful chef, but the view from up here is remarkable.”

“It comes with the title,” Tatiana smirked. As a Matriarch of Lihnidos and the head of one of the sixteen noble families, she held the title Duchess of Sestini. While the other fourteen duchesses each held their own titles, and none truly outranked the other, the title that she held was one that many wished they had. The duchy was one of two that covered what was presently the province of Boeotia. The other duchy, the Duchy of Rhithasa, was held by the Crown Princess. Her family had held the title for centuries, and with that came prime real estate across the province that had been purchased throughout the years.

“Don’t act like you don’t have equally lovely views yourself, Yanna. I know for a fact that you have a place almost exactly like this in Ikaria. Yours may even be nicer, if I’m being completely honest.”

Yanna likewise held a highly coveted title. As the Duchess of Ikaria, she was the sole noble that oversaw the province of Serres.

“Ikaria is very nice, yes, but it’s the largest city in the empire. The view from the top of my tower is nothing like this. Too many buildings around. I’m lucky I can see what I can. Not to mention I’m barely ever allowed out onto the roof. Too dangerous, they say. There could be a sniper anywhere, I’m told. I’m an old woman, I’ve lived long enough that I think I should be able to go outside and enjoy the little time I have left without worrying that my head will be shot off.”

“You know they are just doing their duty,” Tatiana pointed out. She glanced towards the doorway that led inside. Either side was flanked by Imperial Guardsmen dressed in their traditional white and gold uniforms. “If it weren’t for them we may not be sitting here now. Who knows?”

Yanna ignored the largely rhetorical questions posed by her companion. Instead, she took another bite of her meal. “I’m fully aware, Tatiana. I thank God every day that I am afforded the protection that they provide. With that being said, I still find the precautions they take to be overboard at times.”

While the Imperial Guard was primarily a military arm of the Empress that could be used at her sole discretion, it was also used to provide protection to the Matriarchs and their families. Each was provided with an adequate number of guards to secure their residences and protect the members of their family. The Empress could remove this protection at any time, but it had been standard operating procedure for decades to provide the Matriarchs with such protection.

“Anyway, enough of that gloomy talk. It is too nice a day to be talking about such things.” Yanna, who had opted for wine instead of the iced tea that Tatiana had chosen, emptied the glass that had been sitting in front of her. Motioning to a waiter that was standing a few yards away, she pointed to her glass to signal for a refill. “I saw your son the other day. Tuesday, I believe.”

“Yes, he was with Petrina in Arcadia. I think he might be thinking about running for the National Assembly in this years election. I thought I had raised him to be smarter, but I guess we all make mistakes now and again. Was he at the palace?”

“Yes, I believe they had stopped in to allow Petrina to drop off something for Efthymia.” Yanna paused for a moment before continuing with humor in her voice. “He’s a handsome man. It’s a shame you don’t have a younger son. Efthymia will need to be getting married soon. She’s reaching the age where she should be getting ready for marriage, but as far as I know she doesn’t even have a boy in mind. Though, I doubt she tells me everything.”

“You’re her grandmother. She definitely doesn’t tell you everything. Anyway, haven’t you heard the rumor about her and High Matriarch Stavros’s grandson?” Tatiana took the final bite of her moussaka after asking the question. The waiter that attended to the two appeared quickly, removing her plate and set down Yanna’s new glass of wine.

“Just rumors, that is all. I asked her myself when I first heard of it. She said she merely had lunch with him one time. Someone got a picture of them and it grew from there. From what I understand they didn’t exactly click.” Yanna nodded in thanks to the waiter before picking up her now full glass and taking a long sip. She truly enjoyed wine, probably more than a small elderly woman should.

“Not that it would be such a bad thing if they did end up getting together. The grandson of the Grand Duchess of Ithaca and High Matriarch. He would be a worthy suitor.”

“It would silence any dissent from those on the council who hope to see her marry a foreign prince,” Tatiana offered.

“You believe that?” Yanna questioned. “The few on the council who hope to see her marry a foreigner are not going to be happy unless that is what she does. Just because he is Fotini’s grandson doesn’t mean they would immediately be appeased. She would set them straight quickly though, that’s for sure.”

“They surely must know that the chances she marries a foreign prince are small. No Lihnidosi Empress has married a foreigner since Maria II. Honestly, I’m not sure what they even think such an arrangement would achieve.”

“They want notariety. Exposure. For some reason they think Efthymia marrying a prince from Vannois or Latium will increase their prominence. That marrying into one of those inbred Belisarian families will heighten Lihnidos’s regard amongst the other nations of the world.”

“Now, now,” Tatiana cautioned, “They aren’t all like that.”

“Yes, I know. Your sister’s husband and his family are not included in that. But, you cannot argue with me that most of the Belisarian imperial families are constantly marrying cousins. They’re all cousins. It’s almost impossible for them not to.”

“They could marry into Lihnidosi families,” Tatiana suggested with a smirk. She knew full well Yanna’s feelings on the matter.

“Don’t even get me started,” Yanna sighed. Her unamused look only caused the smirk on Tatiana’s face to grow and she let out a laugh. “The last thing we need in this country is a bunch of self important foreigners running around contaminating our bloodlines.”

“And if she did marry a foreign prince,” Tatiana asked with an eyebrow raised.

“I would hope that she doesn’t. I would be advising her mother against it at every turn. It would only bring trouble. Though, if she truly loved this hypothetical boy, then I may have to reconsider… Him and I would have to sit down and have a lengthy talk.”

“Such a protective grandmother. You’d probably scare him away for good,” Tatiana joked.

“Maybe that’s my plan.” Yanna laughed. “In all seriousness, though, I have to be protective of her. Teresa is gone. I’m the only grandmother she has. Yes, her mother does a good enough job, but there are some things that she won’t say or do, which means I have to.”

The late-Empress Teresa had passed away ten years ago. Teresa’s husband had passed away three years before that. Both had died far too young in Yanna’s opinion. She had been older than both of them by twenty years at the time, and their deaths had hit close to home. Now her and her husband were the only grandparents that Efthymia and he siblings had. She was the only mother figure that the current Empress had left. While she knew that she could never fill the hole that Teresa’s death left, she also knew that she could try her best to pick up the slack left behind.

“Why? Have you heard something that I haven’t?”

“No. I just… noticed how she acted at the wedding reception in Adrianople. She had her eyes on many of the boys her age there. I noticed her talking to a few of them. I doubt anything will come of it.” Lowering her eyes from Yanna’s, Tatiana grabbed her glass and took a sip of her iced tea, instantly regretting having brought it up.

“Did she, now?” Yanna inquired curiously. She wiped her mouth with a cloth napkin and pushed her plate away from her towards the center of the table. A quarter of her moussaka, which she had praised just moments ago, sat untouched. “Which ones?”

Yanna and Tatiana had both been in attendance at the wedding and reception of the Latin Emperor and Empress a few months ago. She had specifically told Efthymia not to go seeking out foreign princes and, if she did, to make sure she didn’t give them reason to think she was interested. The way Tatiana was speaking now seemed to imply that her warnings had not been heeded. I guess I didn’t make myself clear enough.

“Well, um, there was…” Tatiana fumbled over her words, hoping to find a way to satisfy Yanna without giving too much away. Efthymia hadn’t confided anything in her, but she doubted that the Crown Princess would be happy that she was relaying her movements to her grandmother. “I think there was one from Latium. There was also one from Sydalon if I remember correctly. I’m not exactly sure who…”

“Sydalon, hm?” Yanna cut off Tatiana, who was quite happy to stop talking. She looked off to her left towards the open sky. A helicopter moved slowly across the skyline near the edge of the city. “I suppose that wouldn’t be the worst. Far better than any of the other choices. Of course, with the way things are going in the country now, there won’t exactly be any Sydalene princes running around. With their monarchy having been abolished they will likely have to start living a normal life. At least once all of the chaos in the country has settled down. I hear they’re in the Latin Empire now, probably searching for a way to reinstate themselves.”

“I’ve heard the same. I’m fairly certain that Melisandre still holds a few non-Sydalene titles, but nothing substantial.” Tatiana confirmed.

“At least there wouldn’t be any concern over one child inheriting titles from both countries.”

“You’re talking like I told you I caught them in bed together,” Tatiana complained. “I merely said that I saw her talking to one of them. I don’t even know who it was. Maybe it wasn’t a prince. He might not have even been from Sydalon.”

“No matter. I appreciate you telling me.” Yanna reached over and patted Tatiana’s folded hands on the table. “Perhaps we can go and speak to your chef now. It’s getting to the time that I really must be going. I have to be back in Arcadia this evening to meet with Stella.”

“Nothing too pressing, I hope?”

“No, it’s nothing really,” Yanna dismissed. “You needn’t worry yourself with it. A personal matter.”

“I see. In that case, I think Cletus would be more than happy to speak to you now.” Tatiana rose from her seat and Yanna followed. “He should still be in the kitchen.”

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Allamunnic States
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Founded: Jun 28, 2011
Scandinavian Liberal Paradise

Erik's Day - Part One: Up in the morning and off to school

Postby Allamunnic States » Thu Mar 01, 2018 12:03 am

City of Braandurburg
Kingdom of Tyrrslynd, Allamunnic States
February 12th, 2013


It was the rattling that woke Erik up. It had roused him on Wednesday, and Tuesday, and Monday, and according to Bruni the weather girl, it was quite likely that it would do so on Friday, as well. He hauled his head off of the nearly-flattened pillow that he kept between his arm and his head at night. A glance at the old alarm clock sitting on his nightstand told him that he had actually slightly overslept. Odd. Perhaps he had forgotten to set the alarm last night? The gloomy clouds blotting out what would have already been faint early morning sun certainly had not helped.

He levered himself out of the little twin bed that took up maybe a third of the room and staggered over to the lone window out of this corner of the apartment. As the rattling had already told him, it was raining steadily, rustling onto the street, plopping against asphalt muffling all other noise over the not-quite-awakened city. Groaning, Erik turned and ambled over to the door to his room. Still groggy, he fumbled with the dented and pitted knob before he managed to twist it, simultaneously leaning into the door shoulder-first. The door swung open and he stumbled as his weight went out from under him, having to basically run to get his feet back under him. The fall-run took him the roughly fifteen feet between his door and the kitchen that formed the center of the apartment.

He was not the first to arrive; his parents, both already dressed for work, were sitting at a plain wooden table barely large enough to fit four people without them tripping over each other. His sister Haley, three years his junior, was still standing, and was clearly finishing a short trip to a worn wooden cabinet to grab salt and pepper shakers. Haley was only a few inches shorter than Erik, despite the age gap, and her hair, the same shade of brown as his, was only a few inches longer. Before they’d hit puberty, the only way to tell them apart had been their relative age; they looked surprisingly alike for non-twins, even for siblings.

He drew some small relief from the fact that she was also still in her pajamas, a pair of loose, plaid sweatpants and a tee-shirt. So at least he was not that late rising. Still, it was enough that his father, already dressed for his shift as a bus driver, gave him a small smile and said “Glad you’ve decided to join us.” Erik sighed lightly.

“Sorry, Dad,” he said. “I’ll make sure my alarm is actually set next time.” His father nodded, giving his son a reassuring smile that showed off less-than-perfect, if more-or-less straight teeth. “Also, good morning.”

“I know you will. After all, it’s your turn to cook breakfast tomorrow,” he added, teasing.

“Fred, don’t be a jerk. Come on, sit down. There’s enough scramble left,” his mother shot back, prompting Erik to walk over to the table, taking the last remaining spot, at the long side of the table opposite from his sister. His father and mother occupied the two heads of the table, such as they were, and there was enough room, if everyone squished, to put two more people at the table, one on each long side. Erik looked at the plates and bowls on the table, making note of the morning’s menu.

“Hey, honey, are you going to be able to go to the post office before you head home today?” Jenna asked Fred. Fred nodded back. “Would you be able to deposit those checks on the counter when you do?” Another nod. “Thanks.”

Sure enough, the centerpiece was a scramble, common enough across Allamunnika. This particular one had the requisite scrambled eggs (Erik would estimate three or four, at most), mixed up with slices of corned beef and sliced potatoes. They had been combined with pieces of onion and tomato, along with a sprinkle of cheese, making for a pretty good mixed dish that stretched out several ingredients for a fairly large portion. A few apples had been cored and sliced, as well, to help add a little more sweetness to the morning spread. Erik knew that, according to the rotation they had used to split chores since he, and then his sister, had hit secondary school, that it had been his parent’s turn to make breakfast, and, as usual, the results were delicious, even given the limitations they were under.

Erik took the serving spoon and loaded two spoonful’s, one entirely full, the other only halfway full, onto his plate. He picked up his fork and knife and tucked in, pulling a forkful up to his mouth. The scramble had the right combination of salt and umami flavors, cut by the acid and cleaner flavors of the vegetables, all given some satisfying weight by the potatoes.

Erik looked over to his mother, who was also already dressed for work. She had recently taken a secretarial job at one of the logistics companies in town. The intent was to give the family more disposable income, and, ultimately, to give the Baeryng parents some extra money to pad their retirement allotment. Although Fred, their father, had been able to support the family during Erik and Haley’s childhoods based on his pay from the city, combined with child stipends, there had been times when funds had gotten a little tight; the family had never faced eviction or real hunger, but there were a few times where the margin for error had gotten rather thin. Things were definitely better now that neither parent had to supervise their now-teenage children.

The two parents could not have looked more typically-Allamunnic if they had tried. Both had moderately-hued brown hair (Fred’s was darker, although dabbled with salt, whereas Jenna’s was more of a proper chestnut), and they were both within their sexes’ respective average heights, with Fred standing around 173 centimeters and Jenna at about 164. Fred was fairly slender, but had developed a bit of a gut over the last decade or so, and Jenna had once had a medium build that had plumped with age. Fred was just over 40, and Jenna was a year younger, but the strains of parenthood had aged them somewhat prematurely; neither had the burned out look sometimes seen among the hardest living, but neither would they be confused with their wedding photos, either, each looking close to half a decade older than they really were.

Still, Erik had always noticed they smiled easily enough, and today was no exception. Sipping her coffee (instant powder scooped into hot milk, most likely), eyes fixed on the newspaper they still got delivered to their door every morning. She looked up when Erik started eating, giving a small smile at their eldest child’s voracious chomping.

The two had grown up in a smaller town on the Tyrrslynd plains, and some of their practices and expectations had clearly not changed. Erik was reminded of that when his mother spoke, humor in her voice. “You know, I talked to Maddie Kaarlsunn’s mother yesterday…” Haley tried very hard not to start laughing, and Erik rolled his eyes and sighed. He strongly suspected that his mother kept trying to play matchmaker for her kids at least partially in an elaborate attempt to embarrass them, a conclusion only strengthened by the amused smile she gave as she looked at Erik.

Still, there was some seriousness to the attempts; it was how Fred and Jenna had met, after all, introduced by their parents trying to get them hitched. “You know she wouldn’t mind in the slightest if you called on her.”

“Mum, do we seriously have to talk about this? Now, at the least?” She laughed in response, shaking her head. Erik resumed eating, respite earned. With some amusement, he watched as his mother turned her attention to Haley.

“As for you,” she said, her smile losing some of its whimsical nature, “make sure you actually sign up for extracurriculars.” Haley looked alarmed, freezing mid-bite, while Erik smiled. “I’m serious. Evaluation boards look at those when determining placements. You don’t want to end up like your brother, right? All set up for conscription?” Erik’s smile vanished almost at once.

In fairness to Haley, Erik thought, a lack of extracurricular or club activities would not necessarily consign someone to conscription. With some guilt, he considered that his prospective placement had more to do with his lackluster academic performance over his secondary school career. Try as he might over the years, Erik just had not been able to muster up enough care to really apply himself to his studies, and he could not honestly say that the prospect of getting conscripted into national service bothered him.

“Not to worry, Mum, I’ve been talking to the recruitment chair for the Future Engineers Society,” she answered hurriedly, trying to quell their mother. “And the student organization fair is next week. I’ve got a list and everything.” Assuaged, Jenna nodded, standing up and taking her clean plate to the sink. She was joined moments later by Fred, who added his own plate to the sink.

“Make sure to do the dishes before you two head to school, okay?” Fred told them as he and Jenna walked back to their room to finish their preparations for work. “Do you two want anything specific for dinner tonight?” Both Haley and Erik shook their heads, and with that, their parents left the room.

“Thanks for nothing,” Haley said almost immediately to Erik, more than a little grumpy. “Way to throw me under the bus.”

“Oh come on,” Erik shot back between mouthfuls. “Mum has more than enough disappointment to go around. It’s not as if that got her off my back anyway.” As he scraped the last morsels off his plate, he turned his attention to the next order of business. “So are you okay with doing the dishes while I make our lunches?”

Haley shrugged. “Yeah, that’s fine. What are you going to make?” She grabbed both Erik’s plate and her own, along with their forks and took them over to the single-bay sink, while her brother walked over to the fridge, grabbing a cutting board out of a drawer on the way.

Erik pulled a loaf of bread from out of the pantry, and from the fridge, a plastic container of chicken salad that had been made the previous day, a bag holding the slices of a tomato, and another holding some separated leaves of lettuce, along with a jar of mayonnaise. The dark whole-wheat bread formed the foundation of the four chicken-salad sandwiches that Erik assembled while Haley scrubbed at the four plates with a sponge, scraping away the remains of their food with the rough side of the sponge before rinsing them in hot water.

The sandwiches done, Erik filled five mugs, four with water, one with milk, and placed them one after another into the family’s microwave. The thing was a few years old, so it took a little longer to warm up, but Erik was able to allocate the cook time appropriately to heat the water. When the microwave beeped, he fetched all of the mugs out, adding the appropriate measure of instant coffee to them. Stirring them one after another, he watched as all three mugs’ contents turned a nutty brown color, and, that done, he poured the water-based brews into small thermoses. Erik took a breather, sipping the one he had made with hot milk, getting his caffeine kick for the day. When Haley stepped away from the sink, he took the opportunity to juggle his coffee with washing up four apples, setting them with the growing lunches.

Finally, he grabbed a package of potato crisps for each of them, relatively small “snack”-sized packages, as well as grabbing the necessary reusable coldpacks for each box. Haley had since finished the dishes and had run off to the bathroom that the siblings shared to begin washing up. As Erik finished packing their modest lunches into rigid plastic lunchboxes, he heard the water in the shower start running. Seeing as he would need to wait for Haley to finish before he could wash up, Erik also grabbed four refillable water bottles, filling each one at the sink tap before capping them and placing each one next to a lunch box. His work done, Erik walked to the hallway, calling to his parents.

“Going to get dressed. Lunches are on the table. Have a good day!” With that, he walked over to the shared bathroom, popping the door slightly open, reaching in towards the countertop near the door, grabbing a tube of toothpaste, along with his toothbrush, off of the counter. He withdrew without ever having looked into the room, shutting the door behind him, and then returning to the kitchen. He wet his toothbrush, spread a small measure of toothpaste onto it, and began to brush his teeth, taking time to reach every part of his mouth; he had had a few cavities filled before, and he had no desire to repeat the experience. During the process, he heard the bathroom door open. His sister was fairly quick in the shower, thankfully, so he would be able to wash once he finished brushing.

After he spat out the remnants of the toothpaste into the sink, rinsing the sink and his mouth with a cupped hand of water, he walked over to the bathroom, leaving his toothbrush and toothpaste, before ducking into his room. He quickly pulled off his pajamas, wrapping a towel around his waist, grabbing a washcloth, and returning to the now-vacant bathroom. He closed the door behind him, noticing as he did that his sister had done the same thing he had, taking her toothbrush and the toothpaste to the kitchen. He hung his towel on a towel rack bolted to the wall, tossed his washcloth into the shower. Before stepping into the shower, he made a point of utilizing the toilet ahead of the shower. He closed his eyes, braced, and, when he had finished, pushed the button that used a cold shot of water to help clean up the results of that detour.

With that, he stepped into the tub which had had the shower head built onto it, pulling the curtain closed behind him and turning the nozzle, eyes closed, braced for a shock of cold water; the water coming out the shower tap invariably would start off cold, and Erik never used it long enough for it to get hot. He spun around under the cold torrent, wetting himself and the washcloth, before shutting off the faucet. He grabbed a bar of soap, rubbing it inside the washcloth to lather it up before replacing the bar in a plastic tray attached to the wall. Using the cloth, Erik scrubbed and cleaned his body, making sure to hit every area he could readily reach before dropping the washcloth on the floor of the tub. He squirted a small dab of shampoo into his hand, rubbing it through his wet hair, making a point of keeping the lather out of his eyes. When he had cleaned to his satisfaction, he braced himself again and turned the tap nob again, dousing himself with water once more. He rinsed himself as quickly as he reasonable could while still removing the soap from his body, then quickly shut the water off, stepping out of the shower and grabbing his towel. He hung the now rinsed washcloth on a drying rack, and toweled off, before wrapping his lower half in the towel and quickly returning to his room, damp feet sliding slightly on the tile floor in the hallway.

Like most high school students in Allamunnika, Erik had to wear a uniform to classes. It was a simple enough uniform, essentially business wear, consisting of a pair of charcoal-gray slacks, a gray shirt, a dark green jacket or (as Erik had opted for) sweater-vest, and a dark green-and-gray diagonally-striped tie. As he did his tie in a half-windsor knot, Erik realized he had neglected to scrape the scraggly stubble that passed for a high schooler’s beard that morning and sighed. There was nothing for it now, he did not have time to go shave it now, but he was sure he would get called out for his unkemptness. With a sigh, he pulled on his shoes and tied up his laces, grabbing his messenger bag and stepping out of his room.

He walked down the hall, shoes thudding on the tile, and walked to the kitchen. Two of the lunchboxes he had prepared were gone, indicating that their parents had gone to work, and Haley was waiting for him. During the colder months, the women’s uniform for their school was similar to the male uniform; a jacket, shirt, and tie or neck bow in similar color scheme, with either pants or a longer skirt. Haley had opted for the pants, making her outfit virtually the same as Erik’s. She had a shoulder-hung totebag sitting on the ground next to where she stood, waiting, which she used in place of a backpack. As he entered, she was placing the third of the lunchboxes into her bag.

“All ready to head out?” she asked as he placed the last lunchbox in his bag. Erik nodded in reply. “Great.” Almost instantly, Haley was at the door to the family’s flat, clearly ready to get a move on. She pushed open the door (a fairly heavy, steel utilitarian thing, about as old as the rest of the building), holding it open for Erik. Once he had crossed the threshold, they allowed it to fall shut, and Erik, pulling a spare housekey out of his pocket, locked the deadbolt on the door.

The hallway they walked out into was spare, floored with plain tile, and with plain, off-white-painted cinderblock walls, combined with fluorescent, plastic-covered light fixtures on the fairly-low ceiling. The hallway looked like it could reasonably be hosed out if it needed cleaning, with light only coming in from windows at each end of the hall. Erik and Haley walked over to a central stairwell and began the five-story trek down to street level. The stairwell had the same off-white painted cinderblock walls, and plain metal stairs had been covered with rubber covers to help traction when wet. Their footfalls echoed through the stairwell as the brother and sister walked down at a steady pace.

They reached the street-level door out of the stairwell, another heavy steel door with a small window reinforced with what appeared to be a steel lattice. Erik hauled the door open, holding it for Haley before following her out into the apartment building lobby. The lobby had a front desk, behind which were the postal boxes for the various tenants. An elderly receptionist sat at the desk, who looked like he had been born somewhere in Scipia, nodded in acknowledgement at Erik and Haley as they walked toward the door. They returned the gesture, and then pushed open the building’s front door, beginning their commute in earnest.

Sure enough, it was raining, and it had been for some time. The street had settled into a soaked, rather than simply rain-slicked state, and the gloom was cut only by the still-lit street lights. As soon as they stepped out, they both pulled out personal umbrellas, deploying them almost immediately. They began walking south from the apartment building, along streets that were already reasonably crowded, making their way towards the train station.

As they walked, they started to be joined in their procession by a handful of other teenagers wearing similar uniforms. As they traveled the six blocks between the apartment building and the station, the knot of students passed by a number of similar apartments, most of which were refurbished buildings that had first been built in the large wave of post-war construction in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. There were businesses situated in the bottom floors of several of the buildings and in other street-front slots, mostly stores of various kinds; a budget grocer here, a convenience store there, here a walk-in clinic, and there a family-owned drugstore. Many of them were just starting their own days; in the windows, people were clearly moving around, even if it would be another 30 or 40 minutes for most of them before they officially opened for the morning.

Other storefronts were already humming with their early morning rushes. There were two hole-in-the-wall diners that had been open, as far as Erik knew, all night long, catering to the night shifters, the drunks, and the heartbroken, plying them with greasy food that calmed the soul and filled the stomach. There was also the neighborhood’s post office, a florist, and a bookstore, all preparing for their days on that rain-soaked morning. The rain conferred a certain silence over what might have normally been a louder morning commute, but nobody seemed inclined to stop and talk. The area only rarely had panhandlers, and sure enough they were nowhere to be found that morning as they approached the station.

The station itself was an unimpressive bit of utilitarian architecture, practically a concrete bunker with ramps leading down into the bowels of the station. On the top of the station was the platform, connected by rails set on an elevated track platform. A black sign with white letters announced that this was the Edelstun station of the Unified Rail System of Andersburg & Braandurburg. Erik and Haley walked into the station, folding up their umbrellas once they were under the safe haven of the station’s roof.

They walked along the burnt orange of the hexagonal floor-tiles found throughout the URSAB system, slick with tracked-in water, past the boxy fare-card terminals, several of which had lines forming at them. Mercifully, both Erik and Haley were on the special student fare plan, in which they were able to pay for an entire month’s worth of two fares per day in advance, so they were able to pull their Regular Trip Cards (RTCs) out to scan at the turnstiles, allowing them through smoothly, with only a minor snarl prompted by some out-of-towner who had never used the system before. Probably some Ghantish businessman, Erik thought sourly.

Once they were through the bare stainless-steel turnstiles, they were presented with options for getting topside to the train platform proper. Off to one side, there was an elevator, but it was encouraged that passengers refrain from using it so that it would be more readily available for the mobility-impaired riders. Otherwise, there was a pair of escalators, one moving up, one moving down, along with a pair of central staircases, ostensibly in the same configuration. In practice, the staircases wound up a bit messier with people moving upward and downward on both, but for the most part things moved smoothly even there.

The siblings opted for the escalator, staying to the left side and walking up in the continuous string of people doing the same. They made sure to keep moving; people tended to become vocally annoyed when the flow of traffic on the left side of an escalator was obstructed. In less than a minute (probably closer to thirty seconds), the two were up on the platform, waiting for an eastbound train. A light-up signboard informed them that the next train was about three minutes away, and Erik felt that that was likely accurate; you couldn’t quite set your watch by Allamunnic trains, but they were certainly more reliable than Rezese trains (or at least more reliable than Allamunnae thought Rezese trains were).

While the two siblings stood on the platform, listening to the rain thump onto the roof erected over the platform, that platform steadily filled with people. It was not long before the low hum of conversation between friends and acquaintances began to fill the sodden morning air.

It only took a minute before familiar faces found them. At first, Erik did not notice the close approach, as packed as the platform was; the feeling of having people near at hand was fairly routine, even outside of rush hour train stations. But then there was a hand on his shoulder, and a presence at his left, almost shoulder-to-shoulder.

“Erik!” exclaimed a taller, blond-haired boy. He was wearing the same uniform as Erik, but was about a head taller, and definitely more muscular. There was a bright cheer in his blue-green eyes that seemed quite at odds with the weather, enhanced further by the cheerful smile plastered across his face. “Another fine morning, wouldn’t you say? Oh, hey, Haley.” Just as evident as his good humor was the sarcasm in his voice; clearly even he was not thrilled with Tyrrslynd’s nigh-ubiquitous rain.

“Morning, Wen,” Erik replied, his mood picking up slightly. “You’re sure cheerful. Is the weather any better up there?” Wen snorted a half-laugh.

“Screw you, shrimp,” Wen fired back, still laughing. “You forget that work-outs start today? Gotta get ready for the season!” Erik’s eyes widened. He had forgotten that workouts for the school’s gridiron club started that day. Wen noticed and laughed again. “You did forget, didn’t you?” Erik nodded back. He didn’t quite have his friend’s enthusiasm for the thing, although the news did make him somewhat happy; Erik liked gridiron, but Wendell Foster was considered a pretty high-ranked prospect, and there was a good chance he would get a developmental league contract once they graduated. Erik, far scrawnier, had little hope of continuing to play beyond secondary school.

Out of the corner of his eye, Erik noticed that Haley had found some of her own friends, and they had formed their own small knot of people, slowly drifting away from where Erik and Wen were standing. The gap where Haley had been was quickly occupied by other familiar faces. All of them were in the same uniform as Erik, Wen, and Haley, all clearly headed to the same place. The nearest announced her presence with a gentle prod to Erik’s arm. He looked over and did everything in his power to avoid turning red at the sight of the brown-eyed, slender, and rather pretty brunette looking up at him. “Heya,” she said, making eye contact.

Madeline Kaarlsunn (usually going by “Maddie”) had lived in the neighborhood for as long as Erik had, living in the next building over. They had been friends for as long as they could remember, and, truthfully, Erik rather liked her, platonically and otherwise. His resistance to their parents’ attempts to play matchmaker had more to do with resistance to parental interference than any issues with possibly dating Maddie. Of course, it was not going to go anywhere; Erik was likely to get conscripted at the end of the year, whereas Maddie was almost definitely university-bound. She had good things ahead of her, while Erik strongly-suspected he was destined to be nothing more than a drone.

Mercifully, she was getting the same pressure from the other side, and, while he was not able to conceal his embarrassment, it just caused her to chuckle. “Your parents give you a hard time this morning, too?” she asked. Erik nodded back weakly, and she laughed harder at that. “Same here.” They had bonded somewhat over the never-ending matchmaking attempts, which had been going on for the last two years, often trading horror stories of their awfully-embarrassing parents. It eased his embarrassment a little bit that she seemed to have some flushing in her face, as well, while discussing it.

Out past Maddie were two others. The nearer of the two was another boy, a few inches taller than Erik but even skinnier, with longer dark brown hair. He looked like he saw less sun than Erik and Wen, but he had a small smile on his face, talking to a girl just slightly shorter than he was, but with very similar facial features. The five of them would likely sit together on the train; while Joerg and Junna Groening were twins who usually stuck together (and the platform was not conducive to a five-person conversation), they had stuck close with their neighbors Erik, Wen, and Maddie.

A minute later, the train, a string of eight steel-gray cars, whooshed into the station. The process began when an overhead announcer informed the platform occupants that the 7:50 Eastbound I-line train was arriving, reminding them to step back and stay clear of the rails. There was a whine as the train decelerated coming into the station, before the first cars whipped past the would-be passengers, pushing a large mass of air down the line, blowing at clothes and hair.

After several long moments, the train came to a complete halt. A beep and a pleasant automated voice asked passengers to “step back, doors opening,” before directing new passengers to move towards the center of the train cars. Those on the platform waited a moment to allow the relative few people disembarking to get off the train before the filing onto the train began. Somehow, the students had managed to pick a spot right near one of the doors, so they were among the first ones on, staking out a position out of the way where all five of them could stand together. Erik saw Haley and her friends get into a different door to the same car as they piled in.

“Hey, Maddie, did you have trouble with the dub-en-el homework last night?” Wen asked, leaning against a wall and bracing rather than holding onto one of the vertical handrails. Erik experienced a minor pang of jealousy; Wendell usually asked him for help with writing (or Writing & Literature, or W&L); it was one of the few academic areas Erik was naturally good with and, consequently, one of the few he cared about. As such, he suspected his friend’s question was less about the homework assignment in question.

“Yeah, actually, I did,” she said. “Actually, when we get to school, Erik, would you mind giving me a hand with it?” she asked, turning to him. “I want to make sure I’m understanding everything right.”

“Uhh, yeah, sure,” Erik said, suddenly feeling a little self-conscious. He noticed Wen giving him a look as Maddie looked away from Wen. He was somewhat surprised that that gesture was a wink and a thumbs up. Weird. What’s he playing at? Erik turned his attention back to the conversation at large. “Was it just the comprehension check? Cranking out a whole essay before class might be a little beyond my capabilities,” he asked with a chuckle. “How about you, Wen?”

Maddie laughed. “Yeah, yeah, just the comp check.” Wendell nodded, as well. “Relax, I wouldn’t ask you to help me write a whole essay.”

“Oh, well, that’s good. So glad I’m off that hook,” Erik shot back. Maddie grinned in response and gave him a pat on the shoulder. Overhead, the automated announcer informed them that the next stop was coming up. On an emptier train, the PA would have echoed off the hard floors and sturdy plastic seats, but as it was, the number of people softened the noise. Everyone collectively leaned forward as the train decelerated, heading into the station, with a lurch back as it settled into a complete stop. The friendly chime was heard again as the automated PA directed the boarding procedures at this station, and the train grew more crowded as additional commuters piled in.

The students traded glances and began working their way closer to the door; they would need to disembark at the next station. Wendell, the biggest, led the way, slowly pushing towards a spot near the door. Maddie followed, with the silent Groening twins behind her, and Erik bringing up the rear. Once the train doors had closed, similar transitions were noticeable throughout the train, with most of the other commuters moving to accommodate; the disembarking students at the North Redden Street Station were part of the morning routine. About three minutes after the train lurched forward once more, it was grinding to a stop again. The students waited, primed for that same chime and, almost as soon as the doors slid open, poured off the train, taking almost a quarter of its occupants at the single station.

The North Redden station was bigger and busier than the Edelstun stop, being as it was closer in to Braandurburg’s denser core areas. Still, the five students, along with most of their classmates, were well-practiced in the fine art of navigating commuter crowds. Noticeably, at the larger station, with more potential hazards, and situated near a large school, there was a more salient security presence. There were of course the usual transit police, but this one also tended to have a modest Federal Guard presence. The crisply-uniformed Guardsmen stood out as islands of relative stillness in the swarm of humanity, blue armbands on their right sides indicating that, despite the crisp black coats and pants, that they were Federal Guardsmen rather than run-of-the-millCivil Guards. These ones notably carried handguns in secured holsters in addition to collapsible batons, where most transit police had to make do with simply a wooden or collapsible baton.

The students noticed those armbands and took a wider path to avoid them. All five had been raised with the principle that while the average Civil Guard was just a kid in a uniform, the Federal Guards were ‘professional’ goons and bullies. Though it had been nearly two decades since the Reformers had come to power, the idea that the Blue Arms were the long arm of Lord Jaal’s paranoia had proven pervasive and seemed to have permanently tarnished the Federal Guard’s reputation.

They made their way to the stairs off the platform, making sure to follow the signs to the Rigel Street exit to the station. The foot traffic flowed easily to the exits, and it was not hard to see that most of the outbound flow of people were wearing the same school uniforms, clearly headed to the same place. As they reached the exit to the station, they could see where the roof’s protection against the rain ceased. Reaching that threshold, Erik, Wen, and Junna all pulled out umbrellas, deploying their canopies as they stepped into the rain. Wen and Junna walked with Joerg between them, benefiting from the coverage of their umbrellas, with Erik to Wendell’s left. Maddie had wound up on the outside, huddling closer to Erik to stay under the canopy. After a moment’s attempt to walk like that, Erik indicated that she should walk between him and Wendell, where the umbrellas overlapped, allowing her to stay drier for the rest of the walk.

It took them about five minutes of walking from the station to reach the high school. It was mostly uphill (the school was inland from the coast and city center), but the slope was gentle enough that it did not present any real difficulty to students in decent physical condition. The walk was passed in amiable silence between the friends, focusing mostly on staying dry and getting out of the rain as quickly as reasonably possible. Here, there were more shopfronts and a few more office buildings, and the buildings were taller, giving the area a denser, more hemmed-in feel. A familiar sign hawked the services of the Bank of Tyrrslynd, while a painted advertisement on a brick wall encouraged the drowning of one’s cares in Welker’s brand beer.

Within about three minutes of the walk, Redden High School came into view. It was a somewhat blocky structure, about six stories high, dotted with windows at regular intervals all up and down its body. The building was a somewhat light gray, although it looked darker due to the prodigious cloud cover and rain darkening its exterior. It was not the most inviting structure anyone was likely to see, but its flowerbeds and the plants growing in boxes on the roof helped give it some small redeeming charm.

The doors, recessed under a canopy, were held open this morning to help students enter the school at a steady pace without pauses caused by doors opening or closing. The welcome mats were already waterlogged, but Erik, Wendell, Maddie, Joerg, and Junna all made at least some token efforts to dry the soles of their shoes off before moving further into the building. They mixed into the large flow of other students doing the same, entering the building, and then walking down the school’s main hallway.

They passed the administrative offices on their right and security offices on their left, taking a left at a split in the hallway and following a major hallway to a corner. The hallway split into upper and lower levels using staircases, going up to the classroom levels or down to the auditorium and gym levels. There were several rooms that branched off the hallway before the students reached a corner where the hallway turned sharply again. Following that new direction further, they came to a large indoor courtyard, where the building’s three floors were visible as railed-in walkways leading to other classrooms, all overlooking a central rectangular area, illuminated by a central skylight. The floor was the same white-with-black-speckle vinyl tile as was used in the hallway prior, but it was amazing the difference made, having it reflect natural light rather than the fluorescent light that had lit the hallway.

First thing for the morning would be a short homeroom period, which mostly existed for administrative and announcement purposes. Here, the Groening twins split from Erik, Wen, and Maddie. The home rooms were based on the home classroom assignments from lower secondary and primary school, part of an effort to keep children together once they had gone to school together most of their school careers.

The three of them walked towards a staircase, scaling it at a steady, slower pace, stopping at the second floor to wave and chat with some of their other classmates who were sitting against the railing, shooting the breeze while they waited for the day to begin. Throughout the indoor “courtyard” were small knots of students, either sitting on the floor or standing in small circles, talking to each other and catching up on all the happenings since the last time they had seen each other. Even those walking, like Erik, Wen, and Maddie, did so at a leisurely pace. The three of them turned and scaled the next staircase up to the third floor, the last one before the roof. They walked out of the courtyard, down the hall about thirty or forty meters, stopping by a trio of lockers.

Though there were ostensibly lockers for those who wanted them, lockers frequently went unused except for when there was a special need for one; on the average day, Erik and Wen only visited their lockers to grab their change of clothes before gridiron practice. As far as Erik knew, Maddie never used hers at all. This was not a normal day, though. All three pulled their lockers open, setting their backpacks down and hanging their damp coats inside the lockers, eager to dry off. Their umbrellas joined the coats inside the tall, thin, rectangular lockers, along with a few other odds and ends from their bags in a bid to make them lighter. Closing the lockers, the three turned and walked only a few meters back up the hall, pulling open the door to a classroom.

Even though they had about ten minutes before the homeroom period was set to start, the room was already probably about two thirds of the way full. Seating was not assigned, but students had long since staked their claims to specific seats, and it was generally considered rude to take someone else’s usual spot. As a result, an L-shaped set of seats in roughly the middle of the classroom were open, since nobody had any reason to take Wendell, Erik, and Maddie’s usual spots. They wove through the desks and students, setting their packs on the ground next to their desks, as had most of the other students. Wen sat in front of Maddie, who sat side-by-side with Erik, allowing them a triangular alley of conversation.

Maddie leaned over and began rummaging through her bag, while Wen started doing the same. Erik, still a little groggy despite the commute, wondered why they were getting their stuff out; usually all that happened in home room was the anthem and morning announcements. While he zoned out, he idly watched them rummaging, noticing the way that Maddie’s hair, pulled into a longish ponytail, fell on her shoulder as she bent over, and the slender lines of her calves under her tights, visible where her dark green skirt ended around her knees. He pointedly looked away as he realized what he was doing, just as Maddie pulled a binder out of her bag and set it on her desk, flipping the three-ring binder open and leafing through a series of notebook pages that had been placed inside. “Alright, so about that W&L homework…”

“Oh, right,” Erik suddenly comprehended, and moved to fish his binder out of his own bag, avoiding eye-contact with Maddie and deliberately ignoring the satisfied smirk that Wendell had started giving him when he had noticed what was going on. He flipped open the binder, finding the sheet of paper inside a designated Writing & Lit section that he had set aside. He confirmed the date on the paper where he had copied the reading comprehension questions and recorded his responses to them. “So, where were you having trouble?” The three of them scooted their desks together.

“Well, you know how Ms. Kaaldur wanted us to interpret that dream that Mjor has in chapter eight?” Erik nodded at the prompt. “Well, I read those pages like eight times last night, and I did not get it. Just, could not tell what was going on,” Maddie explained. “You’re good with this stuff – what the heck is going on there?”

“Okay, well obviously, it’s supposed to be allegorical…”

“Well, okay, I figured that part out, otherwise the whole passage doesn’t make any sense,” Maddie shot back.

Anyway,” Erik continued over her retort, “so what the author is trying to show is…” It took Erik almost a full minute to explain the scene in question to Maddie and Wen, and almost another to unwrap the layers of metaphor involved in the thing. Still, he was heartened to see the comprehension dawn on their faces as things clicked into place. As he wrapped up the explanation, Wendell started writing, and Maddie started moments later.

“Dude, has anyone ever told you that you should be a teacher?” Wendell asked. “I don’t know how you manage to figure this stuff out well enough to explain to dummies like me, but that shit’s a gift.”

“Actually, yes,” Erik replied. “Sadly, grades and eval boards say otherwise, though, and those are what matter. Not rich enough for private school, don’t have the placement for public.” He shrugged. “It’s okay, though. Service Corps’ not too bad.”

Maddie looked up from her writing. “So that’s it? You’re enlisting after graduation?”

“Probably, I guess. I’m not sure what else I could do. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to find a job before I get conscripted anyway. Might as well go in on my own terms, choose my service, that kind of thing.” He shrugged. “You know what Unis you’re getting as options?” Maddie shook her head.

“Not yet. That’s probably going to come some time during summer term, Mum says. Then the list gets narrowed after that one, based on grades. They have to wait; people have slacked off before and screwed up their placements because they thought they had everything locked up. So I can’t let up yet,” she explained. “Fingers crossed, Leifspurt and Innusburg will be on there, I hope. Their psych programs are some of the best. I’ve already accepted that I’m not going to get into Federal.”

“You all aren’t even going to ask?” Wendell said with a chuckle, more a statement than a question.

“Oh, like we don’t all know you’re going to get a developmental contract,” Erik said with a laugh. “It’s just a question of where. I mean, it’s not like you’re not half the reason the club gets AGA funding. Speaking of, have you been hearing from any dev teams?”

Here, Wen beamed. “Yeeup. Already heard from Blumingtun and the Triple City teams. No solid offers yet, but they’re feeling me out. Asking for game tape. The last AGA evaluator that came by estimated me as being either a high Tier 3 or a low Tier 2 grade, so that’s usually a good sign. The final grades should be out by April, right before the season starts.”

“Shit, nice!” Erik said. “Did they say what any of the rest of our grades were?” he asked. Wen looked a little embarrassed.

“Don’t get mad, but… I think what the evaluator said when I asked about yours was ‘Oh, the scrawny slot-out? A 5, if he’s lucky.’” Erik just laughed at that.

“That’s pretty much what I expected, no worries.” Erik was not bad by high school club standards, but he knew he was nowhere near the standards needed to land a developmental contract with any hope of making a career out of things.

It was around this point that their homeroom teacher entered the room. Mikel Ordon was a younger math teacher, well-liked by his students for an enthusiastic demeanor, even if it also prompted its share of (mostly good-natured) jokes. It did not hurt that he was a youthful, clean-cut young man who clearly took care of himself, which meant that several of the female students (and about as many male students as one might expect) were fond of him for reasons beyond his teaching style. His blue eyes seemed far brighter than the morning called for, especially because the rain had turned his usually-golden hair a sodden light brown. He had a light blue shirt, a dark pair of slacks, and a green tie on, standing in a pair of black blucher-style shoes.

“Good morning, everyone,” he said. “I hope we’re all ready to start another big week. I especially hope the rain doesn’t have you all feeling wishy-washy,” he continued with a grin. There were a few groans from the students. He sat down at a table in the front of the room, looking out over the 40ish students that he administered during the brief period. “So, how was everybody’s weekends?” There were some mutterings among the students, but it was mostly unintelligible. “Come on, anyone do anything fun?” One hand went up. “Yes, Eddie?”

Eddie, a heavyset boy with dark hair and dark eyes, spoke up. “I went to a concert on Saturday.”

“That sounds pretty fun,” Mr. Ordon replied. “Who did you see play?”

“My friend’s band. They’re called Old Shoe. They played in a park for a community festival.” Eddie had broken the spell. Several other hands went up once he finished. A few other students shared their weekend activities (Stasia had gone for a hike out in the countryside, Vik had been fishing down by the sea with his father, Ana had gone to a bridal shower for her sister, and so on) before a series of beeps announced the official beginning of the school day. There were the sounds of chairs scraping the floor and the rustle of movement as everyone stood simultaneously. Those still not fully roused from sleep were jolted by the soaring opening bars of “Onward, Allamunnika!” A few students put their fists over their left pectoral and faced the Federal flag hanging from the wall, while most simply stood quietly. After about a minute, the song ended, and the class sat down.

Mr. Ordon walked over to the wall and switched on a television mounted to a wall bracket. After a brief fiddle with the channels, the image of two students, one male and one female, sitting at a desk in a style reminiscent of news anchors. “Good morning, Redden,” the boy said. “I’m Rik Joral.” The girl then spoke up, adding “and I’m Sara Riktur, and these are your morning announcements!” The two did not quite have the pep of paid professionals, but they were giving it a respectable effort for unpaid high schoolers as they ran down the list of things that Redden Senior High School’s students and faculty needed to know for their day.

For the most part, it was a matter of extracurricular events and activities (“All are reminded that the Student Organization Fair is next Monday, so all organizations and prospective members should mark their calendars!” Sara reminded everyone; “Remember that the Spring Talent Show will be taking place on February 18th. Come out and support your classmates!” Rik said), the odd administrative announcement (“Library staff is asking that any students wishing to make use of the inter-library loan program make any requests at least one full week in advance of the date the item is needed,” Rik informed the students). Finally, there were recreational events addressed ("The Spring Social will be held at 7:00pm on March 20th, so make sure you make arrangements with any special people in advance," Sara said with a wink). The announcements ran for about eight minutes before they finally started wrapping things up.

“And as always, Redden, make it a great day, or not, the choice is yours!” Rik said cheerfully to the camera, supplementing it with some impromptu finger guns, prompting some chuckles, before the broadcast cut out.

With that, the students in the room started gathering up their belongs. Those who had pulled out their binders stashed them back in their bags, in anticipation of the bell that would announce the end of the class period. “Alright, everyone, have a great rest of the day,” Mr. Ordon told the class. Moments later, the bell rang, and the students rose almost in unison, moving towards the door, and the school day had truly begun.
Last edited by Allamunnic States on Thu Apr 12, 2018 6:02 pm, edited 6 times in total.
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Ord Caprica
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Founded: Oct 23, 2015
Left-Leaning College State

Postby Ord Caprica » Thu Mar 08, 2018 11:19 pm

Caprica City, United States
Atlas Headquarters, Elysium
2017 March 7
0900 Hours


Image

Elysium. It stood alone, the 8th wonder of the world, overlooking the Bay of Caprica City, a marvel to all who gazed upon it's beauty. Elysium, or more officially, Atlas Headquarter, Elysium was the one hundred and fifty acre corporate HQ of Atlas International, one of the largest if not largest defense and technology firms in the United Republic. Four stories, multiple enclosed parks and nature walks all serving as decoration for the marvel lay within it's walls. From Elysium, Atlas coordinated more than sixty international missions ranging from simple peace keeping to complex humanitarian aide work which it taunted as it's main activities. Floor to ceiling windows, insanely comfortable furnishings, an almost obsessive focus on renewable energy and recycling consoled reassured those that worked within that they were on the front lines of building a new, better world.

In fact, if you never left the building then one could almost trick themselves into believing that the world was a safe, environmentally conscience place where, what you liked like, what god you worshiped or where you lived didn't matter. Atlas was keen to portray itself as the defender of liberty, the champion of human rights, savior to all mankind and that was all the while maintaining a stranglehold over it's position as Caprica's largest defense contractor.

It was here that Daniel Irons, CEO and Founder of Atlas, had gathered every news agencies, celebrities and throngs of supporters to for his big announcement. Irons was the quintessential ''self-made'' man. He'd gotten his start like so many Capricans, in the military, serving in the elite, clandestine Special Operations Detachment before founding Atlas in 2005 and had fought tooth and nail to build it into the defense powerhouse that it was today.

For a billionaire arms dealer with the largest private military force in the country, he was an incredibly photogenic person. Standing in front of a makeshift podium, dressed in his trademark grey suit and white tuxedo shirt minus the bowtie, he looked every bit of the powerful businessman that he was. He smiled brightly at the camera crews and waved energetically at the crowd of enthusiastic fans that stretched out endlessly in front of him. And by his side was his wife, Sara Irons who unlike many other billionaire's spouses, was no trophy wife. She had an incredibly successful foreign service career before leaving to start her own Diplomatic Consultancy firm. By all accounts she was no stay at home wife and was an integral part of Atlas's early success. Even with her own set of credentials, Sara wasn't just all brains and no beauty; with strawberry blonde hair that reached down her back and the physique of a woman who took physical fitness very very personally, she was on any scale, an incredibly beautiful woman. Her white knee-length dress was no doubt carefully chosen to compliment her husbands own attire.

Standing somewhat behind his parents was their only son, Christian who was every bit as dashing as his father and then some on top of that. Sporting a distinctly more casual tailored navy sports coat, khaki chinos and a cream colored shirt without the tie, he looked slightly out of place but comfortable. Christian, unlike his parents shunned the spotlight and until now was mostly unknown to adoring populace though his presence was noted by those circles that had cause to note such things.

While obviously enjoying the admiration of his supporters, the elder Irons made his way to the podium and patiently waited for the crowd to settle down, smiling like a triumphant conqueror in front of the ranks of his troops.

''Let me start by thanking each and everyone of you, who without exception have had to brave grave and dangerous odds to be here today.
Trust me when I say that the Atlas security team is taking no prisoners when it comes to doing their jobs.

So the question that must be on everyone's minds is why are we here? Why are we here, right now, gathered here today, daring the cold Caprican winter to do it's worst, outside one of the greatest technological and architectural marvels of the modern age?

It's because we all believe. It's because we believe that this building behind me stands for something. It stands for what we can be and what we have done. We believe that in spite of all the obstacles, all the hurdles and setbacks that we've had that Caprica stands for something greater than ourselves, for something bigger than one man or woman. We are here because despite our belief in ourselves and in our country, the ideal, the promise, the dream that is our beautiful republic is not being upheld and we are here to do something about it.

Today, we are here to deliver a message to those in power in Ulysses, in Majevica, in Zīme, in Kalak'Muul and everywhere else where the self-serving and cowardly congregate. We are going to spread this message from the high seas to the tallest peaks. We are going to watch as it grows from the subtlest whisper to the loudest roar. And rest assured, no matter how hard they try, how much they deny it; we will be heard!

And now the question on everyone's mind is what is this message? What is it that the cowards, warmongers, terrorists from Belka to Kamalbia, oppressors from Nova Deseret and fascists the world over don't want to hear?

Your way doesn't work!

Your way doesn't work and we, the Caprican people are fed up with it and we are here to say that it is time for change.We are done sending our Soldiers, Sailors and Marines to fight and die in far off lands, we are done kowtowing to the powers that be, we are done letting the wicked go free and seeing the righteous punished, we are dying sacrificing the wealth and prosperity of our United Republic for a cabal of liars, rapists, thieves and murderers.

The system isn't working for us, so we are here to break the system. For decades we've been hampsters on a wheel, chasing the dream that was promised to us and for what? So our allies could sit back and watch good, honest Capricans fight their battles? So our enemies could laugh behind our backs as we wasted hundreds of millions of talents in wars without end? So terrorists could feel free to come here and terrorize our cities while our government sat on the sidelines and did nothing?

Today marks the beginning of a new world order. No more complacency at home and no more subservience abroad.

Today, we are breaking the wheel and in it's place we will forge a new way forward, together.

Today, I am announcing my candidacy for the highest office in the land, President of the United Republic of Caprica.

I am no politician. I am a simple man with very simple values and a set of principles that I try to live my life by that I am sure most of you can agree with. I want to live my life honorable, I want to provide for my family and I want to leave this world in better shape than I found it. But I confess I need your help.

Every tool in our toolbox will be turned towards the cause of peace, prosperity and justice, not just for the Caprican people but for the world.
I will bring peace, I will bring prosperity and I will bring justice, this much I swear, before gods and all mankind.

The road ahead will not be easy, it will not be quick and it will not be achieved without sacrifice. But if you believe, if you believe like I believe that the world as it is, is not the way it should be, that what we have is not all there is, that Caprica has a duty to it's people and to the world to be the light to guide the way forward then take this moment and hold onto it, savor this feeling and join me, fight with me, struggle with me, as we forge a new path to a better world.

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Sydalon
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Posts: 36
Founded: Aug 05, 2017
Capitalist Paradise

Postby Sydalon » Fri Mar 30, 2018 11:22 am

“Six, Seven, Eight…”
Adi Philosir
Dido IV Adificiuu
Sydalon


“There is no way in hell that Caeseti forces the Chamber to vote on the bill,” Wistin Drorit, a member of In Avante and a Senator on the Popular Assembly said. Drorit was meeting with Adi Philosir, the firebrand Senator and leader of Il Radicali, before the evenings Committee on Popular Unity and Safety meeting. “It’s dead, Adi. Accept that and hope you come out of this unscathed.”

Knowing that Senator Adi Philosir was a member of the opposition, Drorit was right. “I advised you on this before you rammed it through the Assembly, and yet you still went through with it.”

“And I told you that it would pass, which it did,” Philosir sat behind his desk, looking at Drorit with a smirk before pushing his glasses up to his eyes. “Each day that passes is another day where my support among the people grows.”

“It passed, but at what cost? You’ve alienated Belandra’s Knights; the Brotherhood is threatening to raise arms against the Senate if it’s passed. Hell, we’ve been blessed with good luck that our greatest trouble so far is the mess the Queen is causing out east,” Drorit rallied his thoughts, lecturing the younger Philosir on his errors. “And this law is hellbent on destroying that.”

“Someday we will have to burn away the rot, or destroy the past, so that this country can become what it is meant to be, Wistin.”

“But it won’t come to that, Wistin,” Philosir glanced at his watch, only a few minutes to wrap this up. “Recall my promise to you when I asked for your support initially.”

“Your promises don’t mean a thing to me, Adi. Never have.”

Philosir turned his his chair, biting his lower lip before saying, “How long have you been waiting to become leader? Tribune?”

“What?” Drorit narrowed his eyes at Philosir.

“Humor me. How long have you been a deputy in the leadership?”

“I didn't get to where I am in my career by airing grievances to junior senators,” Drorit snorted indignantly and slowly stood from his seat. “Hopefully you’ll stop this crusade and let things stabilize, or else you’ll likely find yourself off the committee.”

“I am merely a member of the humble minority, Wisitn. The question is, why have so many from your own party voted for my bill? They demand a real change, maybe that doesn’t involve starting a fight with the church, maybe it involves another plan of action. I don’t know. But I do know that people are demanding action,” Philosir faced Drorit once more, and leaned forward, resting his arms on the desk. “This ‘new’ government has refused to take serious action on all fronts since the revolution,” if you could call it that, “We will be unsuccessful in our endeavors unless we are willing to take serious action. I had to make the first move in the Senate to remove the Queen. I had to cry out to remove the nobility and seize their titles and lands. I had to demand we enforce the people’s will on the church and those benefiting from our Land.”

“People need time to adjust. Things are changing, give it time,” the more aged statesman leaned on the chair he only recently reclined in comfortably.

“There is no time,” Philosir slammed his fist against the desk causing a loud thud. “Do you think our enemies will wait? Every second we hold out, the nobility is making plans to restore the monarchy. Every second we wait, the Belisarian monarchies are making their plans to turn the world against us or worse yet, invade.”

“It’s too bad, Adi,” Drorit said as he began to walk away, stopping with his hand on the doorknob. “You had such potential.”

“The bill was a threat, Wistin,” Philosir declared, causing Drorit to look back over his shoulder. “Only meant to pass the Assembly, nothing more.”

“A threat for what purpose?”

“Caeseti isn’t the man to lead us through this,” Philosir slowly rounded his desk. “He is weak, was put into office by his puppet master lord-brother. The Queen may be gone, but the nobility still reigns supreme.”

“And?”

Philosir now stood face-to-face with Drorit, giving his glasses yet another push up the bridge of his nose. “And I’ve put Caeseti in situation a situation where he can't win. If he signs the measure, he will face the onslaught of the church and the Orders. He loses his support. But if he refuses to sign it, the Committee can and will compel him. And then he has only one option left…resign.”

“You don’t know that. You have maybe what, five votes at most?” Drorit brushed off the scenario.

“Oh, but I do. Myself and Asael, that makes two. Add in Venier, Germelqart, Sakarbal and Pallaviki, and we have six. Plus Melca is seven.”

“ …You need at least nine to compel Caeseti,” Drorit turned to open the door, only to have to closed by Philosir. “What are you doing?”

“You and Kanmi are eight and nine,” Philosir held his hand against the door. “Giving me the supermajority override.”

“We would be literally crucified if we passed this law. I won’t have any part in this.”

“No, no, no, you don’t understand me,” Philosir removed his hand from the door. “The bill won’t pass. I don’t care about that. We only need threaten.” Drorit stared blankly at Philosir. He wants to hear my say the words, doesn’t he? “I mean to replace Caeseti…with myself,” Philosir let the words sink into Drorit before continuing. “I need your vote to make that happen, or at the very least the appearance of your vote. You have my word that the bill won’t become law.”

“I’m through talking about this for now, Adi,” Drorit gave Philosir a light shove and finally stepped into the doorway. Drorit slammed the door in Philosir’s face upon exiting, leaving Philosir only with his thoughts and the hope that he got through to Drorit.

Nearly two hours and a meal with his fellow party and committee member, Elah Asael, Philosir was read to enter the Committee meeting room at the Dido IV Adificiuu government building near the ecclesiastical district of the city of Sydalon. He and Asael walked together through the halls of the Adificiuu, as they often did on the way to meetings – though this time did so with a number of their party’s more brutish looking supporters. The few reporters that were given access, often followed the members and hoped for any scraps the members would give. Today they asked about the ‘Anti-Catholic’ Act.

“Will you compel Caeseti to sign the FAA?” one shouted. He could hear another say, “Is this really worth the battle with the church? Are you prepared to be excommunicated?”

Philosir and Asael each kept their eyes forward, only occasionally whispering plans or concerns to the other. Once they reached the doors of the meeting room, they stopped and Asael spoke briefly to the media gathered. “It is the hope of the loyal opposition that we can come to a meaningful solution, and one that ensures the sovereignty and prosperity of the Sydalene people,” she told the press with a friendly smile. Afterwards, they entered the room and found their seats.

Not long after, Caeseti entered the chambers, speaking with a young female aid of his, as he was like to do often based on Philosir’s observations. Following in after were his elder brother, Ardo II, Lord of Caeseti and People’s Tribune Filipe Abani, whom also spoke to one another.

“Are we set to go with Drorit?” Asael leaned in towards Philosir with a low whisper.

Philosir pushed his glasses up as he gave his face a quick rush over with his hand, “We’ll find out soon.”

He looked towards Caeseti at the center of the meeting chamber who finished talking with his aid, and once all non-members – excluding a handful of guards – were expelled from the room, Caeseti brought the meeting to a start. “This meeting is in session. First matter is regarding the Popular Assembly’s passage of SR-AP 98121, Freedom of Association Act,” he looked down and read from his notes below as he trailed off. “The Chamber of Peers has not yet held a vote.”

Committee member Redent Melqartpilles, and a senator on the Chamber of Peers was the first to speak up. “Peers were unable to reach a quorum required for voting, so the measure was postponed, my Lord. Leader de Bunawita refused an order proposed by the Assembly to compel the attendance of all Peers, but hopes to have the issue resolved soon.”

“Very well, I will not have to issue a veto on the measure as it has not yet passed both houses of Senate,” Caeseti announced, flipping a page in front of him.

“Dictator, if I may,” Philosir spoke up, coughing into his hand before continuing. “The measure did, in fact, pass the Popular Assembly.”

“Yes, I just said that, Senator,” Caeseti said with a hint of laughter.

“Exactly, and this committee is authorized to compel the Dictator to sign any act passed by the Popular Assembly into law, by a supermajority of its members,” Philosir said confidently from his seat at the far end from Caeseti. “That power coming from the Act of the Senate that empowers the Dictator and this very Committee.”

Caeseti gave a sigh and shook his head, dropping his pen down to the papers below. Though instead of speaking himself, his elder brother, Ardo II, spoke up, “If you would like to make a fool of yourself, then by all means, let’s have the vote and see where this august Committee stands on the matter once and for all.”

Tribune Abani, as the ranking senator on the committee initiated the vote by saying, “In the matter of compelling the Dictator to enact SR-AP 98121, Freedom of Association Act, Senators how do you vote. Will the ayes raise their hands.”

Philosir and Asael were the first to vote in favor of compulsion, then followed by Minority Leader Abbi Venier‎ and the other two members of Movimentu Demokrati. Five. Eyes then shifted towards the In Avante senators when Senator Enricus Pallaviki rose his hand, causing quite the panic for the younger Caeseti – even more so when Gesalec Melca and Elissa Kanmi, also of In Avante, joined in support. Six, seven, eight...

“I believe the measure has fail…” Abani began to say before noticing that Senator Drorit now held his hand up.

“…the measure has passed,” Asael finished the sentence with a grin.

A moment of silence fell on the meeting room until it was broken by Caeseti shouting, “I would sooner resign than sign that death warrant and sorry excuse of what you call legislation.”

“Then resign,” Senator Asael stated plainly, though borderline commanding. “I think we’ll put our necks on the line in your stead, Dictator.”

Caeseti’s eyes shifted to his older brother, though the elder Caeseti gave no indication of action. Then the Dictator appeared nervous, his eyes shifting all throughout the meeting room. One is in shock, and the other frightened, Philosir smiled.

“I will resign, knowing that you won’t find a replacement who will enact this poor excuse of a law,” Caeseti said after what seemed like minutes of silence in the room. “But before I do so, I will recommend that the Tribune succeed me as Dictator. He has the ability to see this country through.”

“Of course. Though we should call it to a vote now. The republic cannot remain leaderless in perilous times such as these,” Drorit declared to the Committee.

The younger Caeseti took one more deep breath and said, “Those in favor of the appointment of Filipe Abani as Dictator say ‘aye.’”

Yet there were only four or five that spoke up before Drorit started again by saying, “I nominate Adi Philosir, Senator at-large on the People’s Assembly to serve the remainder of Dictator Caeseti’s six-month term. He has shown he has not only the vision, but the tenacity and desire to see our people through this transition.”

“No,” a handful of peers shouted, following in the chamber erupting into shouting and screaming over one another. The shouting began to fade out as Drorit slammed his hand on the table in front of him.

“I second the nomination of Adi Philosir,” Asael said once it was quite enough for her to be heard.

One by one, those who supported the bid to compel Caeseti spoke in support of Philosir becoming Dictator. And just after Philosir cast the ninth and final vote in favor, Caeseti announced in a defeatist voice, “The ayes have it. Adi Philosir will serve as Dictator of the Sydalene State for the remainder of the first six-month term, which ends in June.”
Last edited by Sydalon on Fri Mar 30, 2018 11:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Sydalon
Secretary
 
Posts: 36
Founded: Aug 05, 2017
Capitalist Paradise

Postby Sydalon » Wed Apr 25, 2018 4:13 pm

“Accept or Refuse”
Melisende
Castillo Gallagán
Ascalzar


Queen Melisende III found herself in yet another long, drawn out meeting where little was being accomplished – at least so far. Joining the young Queen was her council of advisors, generals and trust allies. Her uncle, Prince Renartus, had quickly became someone Melisende relied on the most. A man of his mid-forties, with graying hair and a scruffy beard to match it, he was originally appointed her personal representative in Ascalzar as one of the two Captains-General, more recently she had appointed him her new First Secretary in-exile, for now at least. He often spoke of the need to continue courting the Belisarian monarchies for their support. Though we’ve seen how well that has worked so far.

“Your Majesty,” Melisende heard her Secretary of Defense, and quite distant cousin Alaric III, Count of Toron say. Yet she ignored him, and continued writing on the paper in front of her. While a distant cousin, he was some fifty years her senior, with white hair and almost unusually pale skin due to his more Belisarian ancestry. As the Queen’s stomach grumbled, Count Alaric spoke again, “Your Majesty.”

“Apologies, Your Grace,” Mel looked up at him with a smile after completing what she was writing on the sheets below. She gazed at him with her hands clasped above the paper and her full attention. “Please, continue.”

“Continuing what Strategus Cutzar was saying, we’ve gained a number of defectors since Caeseti’s resignation. In fact, since the resignation, we have regained control of Kerkouane, though a number of small scale skirmishes are taking place along the outskirts,” Count Alaric explained.

Some good news for once, I would have liked to be to one to remove Caeseti myself, but he’ll have his day still, Mel thought, though grew somewhat distracted at the mention of Caeseti, as she briefly looked down to her lap and her coral colored dress where she rushed her hand over the lace patterns. “That is good news, Your Grace. What sort of trust do you place on their loyalties? I can’t say that I am inclined to trust they won’t turn cloak so soon again if something better comes along.”

“I think that we can… Ahem, ahem,” Strategus Cutzar coughed repeatedly into his hand. He was with Melisende and her family the day they were forced out of Ostracine, but since then has appeared to be in declining health. Even still he did his duty adequately enough to where no one could tell the difference. After taking a sip of water he continued, “I apologize, Your Majesty. While their loyalties might be suspect, Philosir’s charade with the ‘Anti-Catholic’ Act, along with Caeseti’s resignation and subsequent arrest have allowed for these men to return to the command of Chancellor-General Kanmi.”

“I have also seen it fit to, ehm, distribute some bonuses to commanders on the ground, Your Majesty. Just to be safe,” her uncle, Renartus, chimed in. “I think it is safe to say that Kerkouane is under your control, and things near the Melfi-Sydalon county border are improving, Strategus?” No doubt that was the funds our 'friends' from Mutul offered.

“Quite well in fact, while we were plagued with many commanders unwilling to leave the border out of fears of the Yisraelis being emboldened, the same is true for Philosir and his new hardline regime. In fact –”

As Cutzar continued to explain the Sydalon county border situation, the Queen’s private secretary Spiru Tawmi appeared from the other side of the room and whispered into her ear, “Your Majesty, the Latin emissaries have arrived on the grounds. They will be ready shortly.”

The Queen nodded in approval, quickly placing a hand on her then grumbling stomach, before returning her attention to Cutzar’s final remarks. “In essence, Philosir lacks any significant support from the military. But let me be clear, that is not the same as the SDE taking action against him. However he does have…”

“Yes, I understand, thank you so much, Strategus,” Melisende nodded appreciatively. “What I don’t understand is the nobility, can someone help me understand this?”

“Your Majesty, the nobility is steadfast in its loyalty to the Crown and the county,” Henry II, Lord of Hayan – a border region with Yisrael – spoke pointedly before being cut off by Melisende. Sitting just behind the Lord of Hayan was his eldest son and heir Raimund. Melisende knew little of Raimund, only having spoken to him handful of times, but she was quick to concede that he was handsome at least, the military uniform helps at least.

“So I’ve heard and while I am very appreciative of these remarks, words do little to help our current predicament, Lord Henry. What we need is action. Just the other day, I heard that The Count of Philipopolis lost his wife when she was attacked by a gang of Caeseti’s and Philosir’s plebeian rabble. Yet that, nor the threat of having your property forcibly taken from you, seem to push the nobility over the edge”

“Your Majesty, if I may,” Lord Henry spoke up once more, “We are in uncertain times, yes we are loyal to the Crown, but we are also loyal to our families. What good comes from The Count of Philipopolis announcing that he will end Philosir’s reign of terror when he is seemingly surrounded by –”

“I am aware of the incratacies and gravity of the situation quite well, Your Grace,” Mel interrupted again, this time with a quick snap of mounting frustration. “No one, no one is more aware of the stakes than I. When I heard of Princess Sidonnie’s death, I mourned for her, for her husband – a relative of mine, for their four young children. It was my responsibility, as their Sovereign and liege-lord, to ensure their wellbeing. And I failed. So please, Lord Henry, do not lecture me on where we all stand in this situation.”

Melisende saw a hint of eye rolling from Lord Henry while he whispered something to his son, and was about to lash out at him again before her stomach appeared to roar yet again, at least it seemed to her. Breaking the silence, thankfully, was Count Alaric, “Your Majesty, the nobility has not abandoned you. Not in the least. Many are simply…waiting for the right moment.”

And that moment is now, she wanted to scream and shout at them, yet she fought the urge and kept the thought to herself. Count Alaric continued to talk of how the nobility were simply biding their time, and gathering whatever resources they could in anticipation of a counter revolution. She picked up her pen once more and wrote the occasional note, every now and then looking up to show whomever was talking that she was still listening.

Just as she was jotting a note about her brother, William, her private secretary whispered into her ear once more, “Your Majesty, the Latins are ready if you are.”

“Send them in,” Melisende set her pen down and looked past all of her advisors to the door behind them.

When a Royal Guard swung the door open from the otherside, in walked the Latin party. First was Latin Ambassador to Ascalzar, Konstantinos Palaiologi-Oriundi, 17th Doux Palaiologi, and followed, surprisingly, by Melisende’s own first cousin, Prince Leo of Ghant and Latium – why uncle saw it fit to make him a prince of Latium I’ll never know. Following the two was a man whose face Melisende didn’t recognize, though she did recognize his Praetorian uniform from the black cloak he wore, with its gold and purple trim.

The Doux Palaiologi, for his part, was becoming a regular visitor to Castillo Gallagán, often to keep Melisende apprised of the quickly changing detail of the crisis that had befallen her homeland, at least as far as they related to Latium. While it was welcome, she had also hoped for the Ambassador to Sydalon to be reappointed to her temporary court in Ascalzar, though her cousin, Latin Emperor Constantine XX, refused that request, electing to keep the embassy open in Ostracine with a skeleton staff.

Her cousin, Leo, on the other hand, she hasn’t seen since their mutual cousin’s wedding back in December, and even then their interaction was scarce. She found him to be a handsome man as well, from an objective standpoint at least, and despite his barbaric looks such as his long black, curly hair and beard that was usually only borderline looking kempt – though now it appeared more so than from what she could remember.

“Your Grace,” Melisende smiled to the Ambassador before looking to Leo, whom had just taken a bow of respect along with the Ambassador. “And dear, cousin. I was unaware you would be joining us today. If I had known, I would have had better wine brought out in your honor. It is good to see you. Both of you, I mean, welcome.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty. Caesar sends his best wishes and hopes for a swift resolution to your current predicament,” Leo allowed the Ambassador to speak first, probably to keep up the charade that the poor man actually has some sort of power here.

Melisende nodded in approval, then slowly turned her eyes to Leo, who said, “Your Majesty, it is an honor to see you again.”

“Please,” Melisende smiled, extended her arm towards empty seats at her table of advisors. The three Latins, unnamed Praetorian included, took seats at the far end of the table, with Leo seated next to Raimund of Hayan. Once they were situated, the Queen said, “To what do I owe the honor, because I must say that you’re presence, though of course welcome, is greatly unexpected, cousin.”

“Your Majesty, as you are aware, Caesar has made it a priority to see you back on the throne –” the Ambassador began before Melisende interrupted.

“The actions of the rebels in Ostracine were illegal, no?”

“Er yes, ma’am. I misspoke,” he said after some hesitation with a dip of his head. Melisende nodded with a smile, prompting the Doux Konstantinos to continue. “As I was saying, the need for cross-strait stability is paramount, as is the end of this rebellion and a full and total return to Royal control of the whole country. At that end, Caesar will be sending the a team of Equites Singulares Augusti. Prince Leo,” he motioned for Leo to explain further

“One moment,” Melisende prevented her cousin from speaking. “How many men is that?”

“Roughly two, three hundred or so, ma’am,” the Praetorian finally spoke, prompting Melisende to tap a finger against her chin.

“And you are, sir?” the Queen’s hand came down to tap the table.

“This is Evocatus Avienus Didius,” Ambassador Palaiologi explained. “He will be overseeing the operations in Sydalon.”

“Ah,” Melisende said with a sliver of sarcasm covered with a gratefulness for the explanation. “Continue.”

“Your Majesty, it isn’t so much about the number of men, but the quality and expertise of those being sent,” Evocatus Didius added, much to the Queen’s annoyance.

“The key will be getting these special forces into the city. Once they are in the city, they will be supplemented by additional forces already present,” Leo added.

“I was under the impression the Scholarian Legion was based closer to Ostracine,” Melisende stated with curiosity, almost bordering on a question. She looked to Count Alaric, who gave her a nod of approval.

“That’s correct, however they will be activated to engage in Ostracine around the same time. The forces in the Holy City will be be part of a larger group headed by the Order of Saint Joseph. Members of the high command in Castellum, including the Emperor, have been in discussion with Grand Master de Scaligar for the better part of a month to work out these plans,” that explains Hayan and his son being present, Melisende thought while her cousin Leo explained. “Our special forces will be engaged in a more precise role of securing the city. Once the city is under the control of the coalition forces, BC peacekeepers will ensure its role as your capital once more.”

“Lord Henry, your uncle is Grand Master, are you aware of his role?” the Queen turned towards the Lord she only recently sparred words with before the Latin arrival.

“Aye, Your Majesty, but –”

Melisende closed her eyes at the dreaded word “but,” opening them as she said, “My grandfather used to say that nothing someone says before the word ‘but’ really counts.”

Leo quietly chuckled to himself, appearing to stifle a greater laugh, prompting Melisende to smile for the briefest of moments.

“Our loyalty to the Crown is true, Your Majesty. I pray that my family has given you no reason to doubt that,” Lord Henry reaffirmed his stance, though Melisende’s rose a brow in skepticism. “But, my uncle wishes he could be here in person; however, due to the present circumstances he is unable and asked me to deliver this message to you.”

From below, Lord Henry lifted a wax-sealed envelope out of his bag and held it up for all to see. Melisende gave a nod to her Private Secretary, who promptly brought it to her. The envelope was plain, even by Order of Saint Joseph standards in the Pope Julius IV era. It was white, and featured a blue wax seal bearing quartered coat of arms of the Order in the upper left and lower right, and the de Scaligar arms of the Grand Master’s family, featuring a griffins head, in the upper right and lower left. The Queen looked to Lord Henry, eyebrow still raised, while her left hand tapped the seal. Without a word, she broke the seal and silently read its contents.

Image

From the Desk of His Most Eminent Highness The Grand Master of the Supreme Order of the Holy Sepulchre and Brotherhood of Saint Joseph


To Her Royal Majesty, The Queen,

Blessings upon you in these most demanding of days – for blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, as you presently find yourself. We are all children of the lord, and I but a humble servant, as are you, his chosen servant and Sovereign of the Sydalene people. My fear is that this would-be regime of apostates, rapists, rouges, and traitors led by Adi Philosir would cause tremendous harm to the Sydalene people – our people. It is on their behalf that I write to you on this most virtuous of days to show my support, and that of the entire Supreme Order of the Holy Sepulchre and Brotherhood of Saint Joseph.

At present, our Brotherhood has nearly seven thousand men-at-arms, many of which are garrisoned in the Holy City. I am sure you are well aware that the apostate-led government claims the Holy City as its capital, a city that only God may command and his Brotherhood Knights are more than capable to police should the Lord demand. To you I offer myself, and these most honorable and Godly knights to aid you in your battle for the Sydalene people; for their fate and their right to worship our Lord shall never be safe while apostates and nonbelievers seek to govern.

I often spoke with your late father, and your late grandfather of the Brotherhood and the many benefits it provides to not only the Sydalene people but all of Christ’s followers. As the Lord’s chosen Sovereign of these lands, care of the realm falls to you, and as I vowed to work with your grandfather, I too vow to work with you as well. In return, I ask you grant me one request: that as a man of ever-advancing age, I wish to see my family’s well being secured for generations. At that end, I pray you consider accepting the hand of my great-nephew, Raimund, as your spouse and consort. He is a brave, honorable, kind, and a true knight and servant of the Lord. It is my hope that with him at your side, you and your progeny will rule this realm for many, many years to come.

I pray for your speedy reply.

Yours in Christ,
Jean de Scaligar
Grand Master of the Supreme Order of the Holy Sepulchre and Brotherhood of Saint Joseph

Melisdende read over the letter carefully, her eyes widening once she reached the end, making sure read it over no fewer than two more times. Marry…him?, she thought, she shifted her eyes towards Raimund, trying her best not to convey her reaction, impossible as that may be. She brought her eyes back to the paper, carefully folding it back up once she was through with it.

“Your Majesty?” Count Alaric said surprisingly soft, as the entire room kept silent while the Queen focused on the letter.

“The Grand Master is far too kind, Lord Henry,” Melisende ignored Alaric, flashing a quick smile at the Lord of Hayan instead, though ensuring not to look at his son. “So kind in fact that I think I shall have to write him back immediately,” she stood, prompting all others in the room to stand. “I thank you all so much for coming and especially for all your continued hard work to see this government restored.”

Count Alaric became the first of those in attendance to begin making his way out, prompting others to take the Queen’s hint. Melisende remained standing, her hands clasped near her waist as she watched her councillors and guests funnel out, speaking up at one point to say, “Cousin Leo, would you mind,” and motion to a seat near hers.

Leo stood by his seat, the Praetorian traveling with the Latins whispering something to him as he passed by. It was only when most had left the room that Leo started approaching Melisende. “How long has it been, the wedding?” Melisende did her best to look cheerful while she corralled her long, wavy dark brown hair with her hands, releasing it to fall in front of her left shoulder.

Leo nodded in affirmation, adding, “That sounds right.”

“I understand you have a child now, a bastard, no?” Melisende continued once they were alone.

“A boy. Felix,” Leo stood above the chair next to Melisende, gripping the top of it, appearing somewhat tense at the mention of the boy.

“Felix, that’s a fine name for a bastard. I hope to meet him one day,” Melisende sat back down in her own seat, adding, “And his mother?”

“Did you ask me to stay because you wanted to ask about my personal life, or did you have something relevant to the meeting you wanted to ask?” Leo pursed his lips, his hand appearing to grip the chair tightly before suddenly releasing it.

“I only ask because we rarely see one another, and when we do we hardly speak,” Melisende said with some sincerity in her voice, somewhat to the surprise of her cousin who let go of the chair and sat next to her. She unfolded the Grand Master’s letter, sliding it across the short span of the table towards Leo. “He’ll give me support –”

“I know,” Leo said, nodding slowly in affirmation. “Melisen–”

“– if I marry his nephew,” she finished her previous thought.

“I know. Look, this…”

“How do you know? I only just found out of his absurd requests,” Melisende’s eyes grew wide, her speech becoming more rapid.

“I thought you knew?” Leo gave his cousin a look of confusion. “The Count of Toron has been working on this for weeks now with Constantine’s people and the Grand Master. I thought they would have told you.”

“He told me what he was trying to accomplish, not the cost,” Melisende reached for the letter, crumbling it up into her hand. “Perhaps I can counter by offering my sister’s hand instead.”

“Is that something you could live with?” Leo suggested calmly. “It isn’t easy, I know, I’ve had to…”

“How would you know, you haven’t been forced into a marriage. I have…twice now, if I give this man what he wants,” Melisende shook her head and began to stammer some as she shook. “I won’t do it, not again. Never again.”

“That has nothing to do with it,” Leo’s voice became strained.

“That’s easy for you to say,” Melisende snapped, nervously rubbing her hands. She looked away from him now, towards the far wall and mumbled, “Now I remember why we rarely talk.”

“It’s not easy!” Leo rose his voice, nearing a shout. “You’re far from the only one that has to make difficult decisions. We all have to make them; I’ve had to make them. Jesus, I mean, what if I didn’t take in the boy? It isn’t the same, I know that, but I had a duty to accept my responsibility, no matter how much I may have wanted to run from it. You literally throwing your sister at this doesn’t make things any better. You can accept the request, or outright refuse it. But to do otherwise is cowardly.”

Melisende turned her head away from him, nibbling on her lower lip throughout his lecture. After a moment of silence between the two cousins, she said, “Is this the only option I have?”

“It’s the quickest, and hopefully the least bloody option. But I can’t say for certain if its the only way. And things won't be the same as they were before either,” Leo reasoned, continuing, “Whatever you decide to do, Constantine will support you; I will support you. No matter what, we are family.”

“I will have to give this some thought,” Melisende nodded after composing herself, her nervousness beginning to fade away.

“I understand,” Leo smiled weakly, slowly rising from his seat as he felt Melisende’s hand on top of his as he pushed off from the table.

He looked at her and she said, “Thank you for your counsel, Leo. I will have an answer shortly, and then you can relay that to Constantine.”

“You know where to find me,” Leo titled his head down in a slight bow, turning heel to see himself out of the room.

User avatar
Mutul
Bureaucrat
 
Posts: 60
Founded: Oct 08, 2017
Iron Fist Consumerists

Postby Mutul » Sun Apr 29, 2018 1:49 am

Sydalon City
Mutulese Embassy
2:30 pm





The Divine Throne’s Embassy in the Kingdom -now state of Sydalon-, was an old private hotel that was built somewhere during the 19th century, in this style typical of the country during this era. It was relatively small compared to other embassies in the city, like the Latium’s which was closer to the city center, as it needed less offices and agents to deal with the requests of the Mutuleses migrants.

Nonetheless, this little, apparently calm, building, has known quite a surge in action in the past months. Now, most of the rooms in the second and third floors had been turned into offices, where agents of the K’uhul Kan worked all days, and sometime night, on their computers, writing down in glyphs various reports on ongoing situations, phoning to agents on the ground, with coded conversations if it was normal for the phone call to happen, or with special phones doubling as encoder-decoder if it wasn’t, or with headphones on their heads, noting everything interesting or useful for later in the conversations they were themselves listening. Most of the paperwork created that way would be either burned by the end of the day, or classified and archived, typographed in Glyphs as to insure a first layer of protection. The second layer was that these glyphs were themselves coded.

Leading all of this spy work, the Mutulese Ambassador, Aj Pahai -Mr.Fox-, was sitting at his desk, reading the last batch of reports made by “his” agents. It has been rough months for him. Meeting with de Caeseti, participating or hosting a few parties with the “VIP” of the city, trying to gather himself a few allies and informers, to add to those recruited by the Secret Division. Plus keeping himself informed and informing his superiors with everything going on, making effort to keep track of what was important and to get rid of what was just noise. Which the report he was reading was just that. The agent who wrote it did a good job, but in the greater scheme of thing it wasn’t worth doing anything with it. He carefully ranged the file at the top of the “unimportant” pile of documents to his right, and took another file on his left.

It was at this moment that the door opened. A young tall lady entered the room and the ambassador expected her to depose a new batch of files on the table. But her arms were strangely free of paper of any kind.

“What’s going on, Ix Kachaka ?” He asked.

“Sir, Aj Ba’jal is asking for a meeting.”

“Ah… let him in, then.”

The secretary excused herself and left the room. Aj Pahai closed the file before him and returned it into its pile. It would be for later. He sat back, and waited for the unmistakable figure of Nakan Ba’jal to appear.


After a few minutes, the door opened a second time and a strange figure emerged. The man had the red skin, the dark hair, and the dark eyes with shades of yellow that betrayed his Mutli origins. However, he was short. Very short, with this characteristic figure of a man with Achondroplasia. Like the ambassador, he was wearing clothes “at the latin mode” : a fitting business attire with dress shoes.

“Mister the Ambassador.” saluted the dwarf.
“Aj Ba’jal.” responded Pahai, with a little bow, before inviting him to seat. Ba’jal gladly accepted.

“So, you wanted to see me ?” asked the Ambassador. “Why ?”

The dwarf smiled revealing his sharpened teeth. “Oh nothing. To have a little chat between friends, a little talk, about the weather, the family… maybe women. You still like women don’t you ?”

The Ambassador laughed a little. “And you still haven’t changed. Why are you here ?”

“I’m not here, of course.”

“Cut it out. What does His Holiness wish to say that requires you, K’uhchi ?”

The last words managed to get a little snicker out of Ba’jal. K’uhchi. “God Mouth”. It was one way to describe his job..

“Please I am but a mere courtier, trying to entertain His Holiness for a few benefices… Alas, it seems I am not good enough, and His Holiness is more interested in the adventures of a brave, foolish, La’kini, than by my tricks.”

Pahai nodded. La’kini,Easterling, Latins… different words the Mutuleses uses to describe the same thing : A Belisarian or associated ethnies. And there was a short list of La’kinob that have the K’uhul Ajaw. And in Sydalon, there was only three. And of those three, only one could be described as “foolish” :

Adi Philosir.

“I see. So you don’t have the attention of His Holiness… and you come to me to lament about it ?” Pahai raised an eyebrow, to keep the game going.

“Ah~ but I don’t lament. You see, I’m a graceful loser : I know when I’m beaten. Of course, I just can’t come up to the man and tell him “good job”, you see ? It wouldn’t be good for my Image. So I was wondering, could you maybe transmit my congratulations to him ?”

“If I see him, sure.... that’s all ?”

Ba’jal’s smile couldn’t be larger. “Of course not. You see, I’m a sore loser and I don’t like competition. So I don’t know what you could do, but if you can find a way to make him not as fun, it would be perfect.”

Pahai nodded. “Anything for a friend.”

“~ Good, good.... also unrelated, did you have some news about the exiled queen ?” continued the dwarf.

Aj Pahai smiled. “Actually yes I do. Nothing concerning her directly but her loyalists have finishing securing Kerkouane. And I think you will appreciate this little trivia nonetheless.”

“Will I ?”

“Certainly : The Latin and the Order have make contact.”

The dwarf raised an eyebrow, curious. “So they’re finally making a move ?”

“Seven thousands men, give or take a dozen. All already inside the Holy City.” Pahai explained. “And now we’ve seen some latins agents coming and leaving their headquarters. Of course, not officials agents of the Latins, but we know better. We also have good reasons to believe that Jean de Scaligar, Grand Master of the Order, is involved in these discussions.

Ba’jal looked up, thinking. “Interesting indeed. For the Order to still be neutral after all of this, they’re surely negotiating their support. And in their position…”

Pahai nodded. “It will be expensive.”

“What could the Latium offer them ? Let’s see…” Ba’jal closed his eyes and frowned, focusing his mind on the question like he has been taught back when he was still an Acolyte. “They don’t answer to anyone but the Pope, they have good relations with the Sydalene population since they are a zealous people, they have troops, they have honors, they have money… I think I can guess what they want.”

“And what could it be ?” Pahai asked.

“Institutional power of course.” the dwarf sighted. “Whatever the Sydalene Monarchy will look like after all of this mess, it would be favoring the Order even more so than now.”

“It seems to trouble you. I can tell you the interests of the orders are completely compatible with ours.”

“For now.” Interrupted the K’uhchi. “But will it be true in ten years ? fifteen ? A royal family is a royal family, with its obligations, duties, and consistency through the years. The same cannot be said about a religious order.”

“A religious order with a clear purpose and code that we can base ourselves on.” counter-argued Pahai.

“Yes. Maybe. And then what ? At their core, they’re a religious order of soldiers dedicated to preserve their religion against all. To their eyes, we’re not better than barbarians. If one generation is pragmatic enough to let us do our business, the next one will not. They just don’t have the pragmatism modern head of states need to have and them having more influences over Sydalon would not do us good.”

Pahai sighed. “Maybe. What are you thinking of ?”

Ba’jal looked around, visibly not happy. “Nothing, for now we do nothing. Keep watching over them and the Latins. And keep me on touch. I want to know how things are going minute by minute. Oh and keep Philosir distracted for a while if you can. Who knows.”

“Sure.” The ambassador then sighted. “So I guess you’re leaving then, should I ask for where ?”

“Well I think I’ll continue to not be there for a moment. Then I’ll go on a vacation through the Periclean Sea. I heard Ascalzar and Yisrael are lovely this time of the year.”

Pahai laughed a little. “What could I know ? It’s not a good idea to be seen in these here parts if you want to be popular in Sydalon these days.”

“Maybe. Maybe soon you’ll be able to take some vacation too. May Chac rain his blessing on you.”

“And may the snakes bring it to your house, goodbye friend.”

The two men stood up, shaked hands, and the dwarf left. Pahai took a deep breath and sat back. Most of the conversation had been crypted, and even the obvious codes had been there only to hide some more subtle orders. But it was the job of a good diplomat : crypt and decrypt all sort of codes and messages. And this was not Aj Pahai’s first rodeo.

“Ix Kachaka ? Could you please call the secretary of the new Dictator ? Tell them i’d like to meet him officially. Yes, I know the implications.”

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Sydalon
Secretary
 
Posts: 36
Founded: Aug 05, 2017
Capitalist Paradise

Postby Sydalon » Sat May 12, 2018 8:50 pm

“The Grand Master”
Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre
Sydalon


The Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre was one of the most grand, important churches in all of Sydalon, built upon the hill where the Savior was entombed before his resurrection. In modernity, the Holy Sepulchre had undergone numerous face lifts since its original, much more simple construction. It sat elevated above the surrounding area, encompassing the original hill, with white stairs featuring red marble down the center to lead to a main platform where the church sat. Inside the great church were white floors, featuring what seemed like over fifty rows of pews leading to an ornate altar, and a series of columns and archways along the far side of each pew.

At either the left or right of either row of pews, there were chapels and antichambers, one to the right of the pews which led to the supposed tomb of the Savior. In the chapel leading to the tomb was Jean de Scaligar, Grand Master of the Order of Saint Joseph, kneeling before a small, yet no less ornate altar in the dark room, only lit by candlelight. With his hands clasped for prayer, the Grand Master wore his usual attire, a plain black suit with no tie and a black cloak featuring the cross and lily of the Order, and a chain mirroring the orderly chivarlic chain of the Grand Master of the Order.

Jean was silent in his prayer, the small, windowless room echoing every sound and the footsteps that grew louder and louder. “You know my rule, Anard,” the Grand Master spoke authoritatively though softly, almost as a grandfather would. “I am not to be disturbed whilst I’m in prayer.”

“Yes, my deepest apologies, Your Most Eminent Highness,” the one named Anard said nervously. “Catapan Appuleius directed me to inform –”

Still kneeling before the altar, the Grand Master unclasped his hands and motioned for Anard to step closer with one hand. “Ah, the Queen then?” he held his hand out, knowing that Anard be holding a letter or written correspondence for him. He casually pulled it in close when he felt it brush against his hand, setting his reading glasses in place almost simultaneously. “Very good, Anard, very good,” Jean said, followed with a groan as started to stand, adding, “And please help an old man to his feet.”

Jean, now close to his eighties, was in his fifteenth year as Grand Master after his 2003 election to the post from among the highest placed members of the Order. “Where is the Catapan, my boy?”

“With the Latin praetoria–” Anard began before drawing the ire of Jean, wanting to keep all notions of the Latin presence in the Holiest of Cities a secret from nearly all but a few. “I mean, he is at headquarters across...the street.”

“Much better,” Jean didn’t even so much as smile in reply, only taking his first steps from the chapel to the headquarters across the street. Once outside of the church, Jean looked onward towards the headquarters, or Phoinike Palis, as it was named. I’ve always hated that name, Jean thought to himself as he walked past groups of men-at-arms from his order drilling just across the way from where he stood. They were dressed in military fatigues, not their usual ceremonial garb like the tourists would see, though times are different, for now, with the last tourist being escorted from the surrounding area just days before.

It was a walk the Grand Master made daily after his morning prayers, often by himself, where he would inspect his knights, or speak to pilgrims, much unlike previous holders of his office. For that, Jean was a favorite among residents of the city and pilgrims alike. As he walked on by, his holy knights stopped what they were doing to stand at attention with a salute until he let their vision. We must put forth our best effort to see apostates removed from this city.

After the short walk, Jean and Arnad separated with Jean’s journey ending in his office and Arnad off to bring Catapan Appuleius to him. The Grand Master slowly removed his cloak, letting out a labored grunt as he slowly placed it along the back of a chair. “Your Most Eminent Highness,” Jean heard after a knock at his door. Before answering, the Grand Master slowly strode over to a pitcher of ice water, pouring himself a glass and taking a gulp.

“Yes,” Jean finally said, causing the door to swing open. Entering was Catapan Michael Appuleius with Latin Praetorian Evocatus, Avienus Didius. Each man bowed upon entering, with Jean offering them seats by the extension of his hand. “I understand you met with the Queen just days ago, Evocatus. Tell me, how did she seem?”

“I can’t speak to whether she understood just what our military plans were,” the Praetorian said plainly, finding a seat near where the Grand Master stood.”But, she seemed in high spirits. All things considered, ‘Highness.”

“The benefit of her station, Evocatus, is that she doesn’t need a full understanding of the military plans. While of course it helps if she does,” the Grand Master gave shrug, slowly walking towards the two visitor, “Her advisors are informed enough to make sure she makes the right decision.”

“Of course, ‘Highness,” Didius nodded. “And of course, I offer my gratitude for your assistance in helping Caesar’s men into the city. I know that it –”

The Grand Master brushed the mild praise aside with his hand, “Pah, think nothing of it.” Then he turned to Appuleius, “Saint Avienus’s Brigade?”

“Final preparations are being made, sir. Our intel shows that Philosir will be having meetings at the Adificiuu until at least eleven o’clock tonight. Security will be tight, but nothing our men-at-arms and our Latin counterparts can’t handle,” Appuleius explained casually.

“Our boys will be handling Philosir directly, along with the his co-committee members. No concerns there,” Didius added. “The rest of the government district, we leave to you.”

“Law enforcement?” Jean turned to Appuleius afterwards.

“I’d say sixty-forty right now,” the Catapan gave a glimpse of slight concern, but added, “However, I’m confident the rest see the light, and remember how the people of this city view the Order.”

“Good, very good,” Jean nodded. “Do your Caesar’s men require anything more from our Order?”

“As long as you secure the district and local police, or citizenry don’t get in the way, I think we’re all set, ‘Highness.”

The Grand Master nodded, “We’re settled then. Tonight we make our move and this…experiment will finally put to an end.”

Both Didius and Appuleius stood, giving bow to the Grand Master. “Good luck tonight, Evocatus,” Jean added before the Praetorian made for the door. The man nodded and left.

“So the Queen accepted ceding the city over to the Order?” Appuleius eyed Jean almost just as the Evocatus left the room. “She must be terribly desperate to accept those terms.”

“No,” Jean simply said, slowly lurking over to his desk.

“No? What do you mean no?” Appuleius followed Jean before taking a step in front of him to block the Grand Master’s path. “The Council decided –”

Advised, Michael. There is a stark difference between those two words,” he stepped aside and continued towards his chair with a smirk. “You would be wise to learn the difference if you want to be Grand Master one day.”

“Did you even bring it up with her?” Appuleius countered, turning once again, this time to face the Grand Master.

“One problem at a time, Michael,” Jean stopped in his tracks, turning to put a hand on Appuleius’s shoulder. “Have faith.”

“One problem at a time? This solves all problems, Jean,” Appuleius rose his voice, feeling the Grand Master’s grip on his shoulder tightening.

“Our first and foremost problem, by my observations, seems to be insubordination. Tell me, Michael, do you recall how the Order responds to insubordination,” the Catapan nodded silently, looking down at the floor. But then the Grand Master lifted the man’s by placing his hand under the chin. “These revolutionaries, these apostates, these are our problems. They plague Christendom’s Holiest of Cities, and if they are not stopped will spread like the plague they are. We have a duty, not to this realm, not even to the Church, but to the Savior, to protect his faithful from such plagues.” Jean stared at the man, attempting to force Appuleius to stare back. “Do you understand me?”

“Yes, Grand Master,” Jean let the man’s head drop once he heard the answer.

“And will you continue to be a faithful, loyal servant of the Lord through this Order?”

“Yes, Grand Master.”

“Good,” Jean smirked before walking back to the glass of water he poured just a short time ago. Taking his cue, Appuleius started to make his way to the door, but the Grand Master added, “And Michael, alert me before Philosir is taken. I must be present.”



Dido IV Adificiuu
Sydalon


Since the declaration of the Sydalene State, the infant republican government took up residence at the Dido IV Adificiuu, in the holy city of Sydalon, for its main affairs, seemingly abandoning Ostracine for greener pastures. Though while new Dictator Adi Philosir wished to change the name of the government building as soon as he took office, larger concerns became apparent, preventing even the most important of matters related to the continuance of the revolution from taking place, such as the abolition and extinguishment of the nobility. That too had to be pushed aside when Philosir first learned that the monarchies of the north were finally making their first moves, or rather that the veil has been lifted.

A little under an hour ago, Philosir met with his closest confidant, Elah Asael, and even now they were no closer from making any decisions regarding their dire situation – if anything they were further and further away. “But we need to do something about this, Adi,” Elah’s voice was strained and weak, fluttering even. “The Order is a major danger to our government.”

“We have allies,” Philosir quickly brushed the concern aside.

“We have a few financial backers, but that does not make an ally. Enemies on all sides, and now in the fucking city. It’s only a matter of time. You had to go and push the Catholic law, didn’t you?” she shouted some, finishing with a snort of disgust.

“Don’t fool yourself, Elah,” Philosir broke into laughter. “That was as much your idea as mine. Don’t act all high and mighty when you were just as complicit.”

“Fine, whatever,” the young woman replied with a disapproving shake of her head. “But what are we going to do now? Our backs are against the wall and you always have a way to fix these things.”

“We still don’t know much, even though the…was it a Mutulese?” he asked himself, “Even though they said that the Latins and Order are working with the Queen. We’ve always known that though, of Latium at least. The Order was always going to be a hard sell, but this is far too bold of them.” Asael gave Philosir a confused look and he added, “The Order has never interfered into state affairs, something is amiss. Scaligar is too traditional a man to break that precedent without some bold motive.”

“What if we announce this news, plead for allies, and claim the Order seeks to install some theocratic rule, or something worse yet….” Asael began thinking out loud.

“That won’t work. The only people likely to care about the Order putting itself into Sydalene affairs are us and the Ms. Aultavilla, and by the looks of it she cares very little,” Philosir loosened his tie and began pacing the room, pushing his glasses up to massage to bridge of his nose. “Who did your contact say was at this conference in Ascalzar?”

“They didn’t exactly give substantive evidence…”

“I know that, but who do we think?” Philosir interrupted.

“Toron, the Ghanto-Latin bastard prince, Hayan,” Asael wracked her mind for whoever she recalled being told might have been at the meeting, or at the very least, if someone was not where they were supposed to be. “And his son I think.”

“Hayan is the Grand Master’s nephew, and the boy…I don’t know a thing about him,” Philosir let out a sigh, falling back into a chair.

“Why don’t we release a story that the Order has been embezzling funds then?” Philosir’s defeated sigh prompting Asael to suggest whatever she could think of. “They hold themselves so pious and people adore them because of their charity. That should help deflate them enough to buy us time before they make a move.

“That might be the best we can do for now,” Philosir rubbed his hands over his eyes, pushing his glasses into his hair. He looked relaxed in the chair, maybe for the first time in days, that was until fast, loud whistling jolted him alert, and a loud bang brought him up from his seat. He rushed to the nearest window, though saw nothing from the east before hearing another loud bang and rushing to a window at the otherside of the room.

Below he saw soldiers in arms, at first jumping out of transport vehicles being led by the odd APC or two. They moved quickly, running as soon as their feet touched the ground, rushing barricading to block the streets and setting up machine gun bunkers near the major intersection just west of the government building as officers pointed their orders, and what few citizens were walking the streets rushed in the opposite direction.

Asael rushed to the window soon after, the pair looking to the local police that were patrolling the area. Only the patrol was no longer patrolling, with Philosir watching a group of police officers simply walk away from the building as APCs and jeeps marked with an emblem of the Order of Saint Joseph neared. The shouts from below became more apparent as Philosir gripped the wall and closed his eyes. “We need to get out of here…now,” Asael shouted before flinching at the sound of the room’s door being broken down.

But Philosir didn’t react to the door, he simply opened his eyes and watched as soldiers poured into the building just to the left of his, almost unmolested. “Sir,” an exhausted guard attempted to gain Philosir’s attention. “Sir! The Order is rebelling.” Somehow hearing the words made it more real than seeing the act itself for the Dictator. “What should we do?”

Philosir felt a lump in his throat, reaching up for his glasses as his hands shook. He licked his lips and said, “Well don’t just stand there. Engage them. Fight for your republic!” The guard, most likely barely older than twenty started back nervously, eyeing Asael briefly before rushing out of the room.

Just as the guard left, Philosir rushed towards his belongings, a leather bag and a light jacket. Without a word to Asael, he ran towards a different exit of the room. From behind he could hear Asael shouting to him, “Where are you going?” but he said nothing, and after briefly poking his head out into the hallway, drifted away into it, hoping to make an escape.

Philosir rushed to the nearest flight of stairs, heading for an exit on the east side of the building. Along the way his jacket slipped and fell to the wayside, sliding onto the floor, but it wasn’t important enough for the Dictator to stop and retrieve. He went down the first flight of stairs quickly, reaching the third level. That was where he heard footsteps, many footsteps almost coming from below. Instead of continuing, he rushed towards the nearest room, falling to the floor when he heard a single, quick gunshot.

In the typical looking room, Philosir made for the telephone, picking it up and dialing a series of numbers, only when he held it to his ear, there was simply the sound of a dead phone line. He winced momentarily, biting his lower lip before tossing the phone into the wall causing it to break and leave a dent in the wall, its picture frames crashing down to the floor, with sound of breaking glass filling the room.

It was then that he heard the footsteps yet again, closer this time. Philosir closed his eyes, breathing so heavily he feared it would draw the footsteps closer. It was only the sound of a nearby door crashing open that caused him to open them and make a move towards a window. Though closed, he carefully opened it as far as he could, which was at best only halfway to the right. He took a quick look over his shoulder, before swallowing the lump in his throat and pushing the window further open, causing it to break and a loud cracking sound to follow.

The sound of the light footsteps nearby came to an abrupt stop, and it was simply because of the general silence of the surroundings that Philosir could hear the faintest sound of “Ecce” from the other side of the door. They're here, he thought, knowing he only had precious seconds – if even – prompting him to lift himself up along the window frame. Of all the ways, he thought to himself, letting go of his hold on the window as he heard the door kick open and the sound of shouting Latin. He closed his eyes and for the briefest of moments felt as if he was falling until there was a tug at his back and he was thrust back into the room, surrounded by men pointed rifles in his face.

One man pushed a knee into Philosir’s back, while another tied his hands. But Philosir, he couldn’t bring himself to open his eyes to watch the scene unfold. As he laid on the floor, he could hear more enter the room, along with the sound of a cane taking feeble steps closer and closer. Though nothing was said, Philsor was thrust upward to his feet, only to be knocked back down to his knees, when a voice said, “Very good. Very good.”

When Philosir opened his eyes, he was met by the jolly smile of the Grand Master, and a team of soldiers surrounding him with guns pointed at his face. “Bag this one, lads,” one of the soldiers said in Latin before Philosir was covered with a bag and felt a hard strike to his head and he hit the floor.

User avatar
Lihnidos
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Posts: 18
Founded: Jul 09, 2017
New York Times Democracy

Postby Lihnidos » Sun Jun 10, 2018 7:15 am

Efthymia
The Royal Palace of Ithaca
Lissidon, Ithaca
25 May 2018


The Royal Palace of Ithaca was one of the largest and oldest palaces that still remained standing in Ithaca. Once used by the old Kings and Queens of Ithaca, the initial palace had been built in the early 1300s. Since then it had undergone numerous renovations, improvements, and additions as subsequent monarchs desired to improve the palace to keep up with the building of larger and more regal palaces across Belisaria. The title Queen of Ithaca had been held by the Empress of Lihnidos since the bloody dynasty change that occurred in 1753, and as such the Royal Palace of Ithaca became one of the residences of the empress and the imperial family.

Despite Ithaca being the kingdom in which the current imperial house originated, it was rarely used by the empress or many members of her family. Located near the Vannosian and Lyncanestrian borders, the palace was far enough from the capital that it was often overlooked in favor of palaces closer to Arcadia. However, in recent summers, when the empress’s children had left their schools for their break and her workload seemed to be the smallest, the small group of royals had begun to appear at the palace more and more often.

This week was one such week. The empress had announced the week prior to her immediate family that they would be traveling to Ithaca for a vacation of sorts. She had given them no return date, leading her children and husband to believe that they would be taking an extended break from the capital.

Efthymia had been indifferent to the decision to take the family to Ithaca. She had been there several times prior, although rarely was it with her parents and three siblings. She used the palace as a retreat. A retreat from her family. She loved her parents dearly, but her sisters were often insufferable and her brother more a pain in the ass than anything else. She hated the idea of them ruining the one place she went to get away from them, but she was not one to often argue with her mother.

Her siblings had taken some convincing. The night that her mother had announced the trip, Maria, her eldest sister, immediately began to grumble about being away from her friends in the capital. Athanasia, her youngest sister, groaned at the idea, but remained quiet otherwise. Spyridion, her twin brother, had not been present at the time, but when he had returned and their mother told him of the trip he responded with a dismissive, “sure,” as if it were a request. Efthymia took no part in trying to reassure her sisters, hoping that their vocal complaints and despondent body language would be enough to persuade their mother otherwise. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

They had arrived the previous Sunday afternoon, having attended morning mass before taking a plane to Cephalonia and then an hour long car ride to Lissidon and the palace. The week progressed much like Efthymia had imagined, with Spyridion often in his room and out of sight, Maria constantly nagging anyone she could get to talk to her, and Athanasia keeping to herself while she laid by the pool and tanned for much of the day. Her mother had been in meetings or attending events in Lissidon and Cephalonia for much of the week with Efthymia’s father at her side.

Things were different on Friday night. Efthymia’s mother had summoned the family to dinner in the private dining room in the residential wing of the palace. It was far different from the grand dining hall on the other end of the palace which facilitated a dining table that could easily seat close to fifty people and was decorated with gold almost everywhere you could look. Instead, the private dining room was a simple room with a wooden floor covered mostly by a floral carpet and wooden paneling halfway up the walls before meeting the off-white painted walls that went to the ceiling. In the center of the room was a mahogany table with rounded corners and clawed feet on the bottom of the legs.

Efthymia and the rest of her immediate family sat in six of the eight chairs that were arranged around the table. Efthymia’s mother sat at the head of the table, with Efhymia’s father sitting to her left and Efthymia to her right. Beside Efthymia’s father was her brother, Spyridion, and beside Efthymia sat Maria and beside Maria, Athanasia.

Efthymia had expected her mother to make an announcement during the dinner, as it was the first time that week that they had all been together in the same place. The sudden decision to take the family to Ithaca for an unspecified period of time was in itself odd, but her mother had acted no differently while she had been in Ithaca, so Efthymia decided that it was just a spur-of-the-moment decision on her part.

“That was great, mother, but I’ve finished so may I please be excused?” Maria had been trying her best throughout dinner to secretly check her phone, but she wasn’t one who was good at being sneaky, and it was obvious to everyone else at the table that she didn’t want to be there.

“Of course, dear. Thank you for joining us,” their mother said. The group had been enjoying a dessert of chocolate brownie cheesecake which had followed a main course of an assortment of meats and side dishes. Maria had been the first to finish each course, and her seeming desire to end the family dinner as quickly as possible wasn’t missed by anyone.

Maria immediately rose from her seat at the table and exited the room, her phone in her hand the entire time. It was a miracle that she did not run straight into the wall in her attempt to leave the room, as she didn’t look up the entire time. Once she had left, the empress sighed. “There’s no point in keeping her here if she doesn’t want to be.”

At hearing this, Athanasia turned to her mother with her typical unsatisfied look. “In that case, may I be excused as well?”

The empress frowned, looking more disappointed at her youngest daughter's attitude than angry. “Very well,” she said and watched as Athanasia followed Maria’s path out of the room.

Efthymia’s father leaned over to her mother and whispered something in her ear before himself rising from the table and also leaving the room, no doubt to find and chastise both of Efthymia’s sisters for their disrespect. The abrupt departure of half of the dining party left the remaining three sitting in awkward silence. Empty plates sat in front of all three, but neither of the empress’s children dared to be the next one to ask her if they could be excused.

Efthymia met her brother’s eyes from across the table. He looked as anxious as she felt, and she knew that he wanted her to be the next one to speak rather than him. He likely wanted to leave as well, but did not want to seem like he was being disrespectful. Luckily for him, he did not have to wait long.

“You can go as well, Spyridion. Thank you for being here.” Their mother smiled a sad smile to which Spyridion nodded and slowly got up from his seat. He went to the head of the table where his mother sat and kissed her lightly on the cheek before leaving the room.

Efthymia, who had not been dismissed, remained silent. She looked at her empty plate, bare except for a few brown crumbs. She could feel her mother’s gaze on her, and turned her head to meet it. She must have had a questioning look on her face, because her mother’s next words surprised her. Rather than saying that she, too, could leave, instead she said, “You must be wondering why you’re still here.”

Stella reached below the table and a few seconds later her hands reappeared, this time with an envelope in them. She slid the envelope across the table towards Efthymia. She had been expecting her mother to dismiss her, not give her something. Picking the envelope up, she flipped it around in her hands to observe the front and back. It was blank except for a seal on the envelope flap. The wax seal had stamped into it the seal of the Matriarch Council.

“What’s this?” she asked, feeling a mix of emotions flow through her quickly. The envelope could have a number of things in it, several of which were not good.

“As you know,” her mother began, “There was a meeting of the Matriarch Council this morning.”

Efthymia had known of the meeting. It had been held around noon and lunch had been served. She had not attended, as there had been no reason to, but she was still curious as to why the meeting had taken place. As far as she knew, her mother had not called it, which meant that one of the other matriarchs had requested the meeting.

Her mother continued. “The meeting had been requested by Matriarch Katsaros, and I decided to grant her request. Now, before you open it, I need you to know that I didn’t know they were going to give me that…”

Normally not one to interrupt her mother, Efthymia cut her off. “What is it?” she asked again. Her mother’s attempt at explaining herself before Efthymia even opened the envelope only made Efthymia worry more about its contents.

Her mother sighed and looked away. She looked guilty. Whatever was in the envelope wasn’t something that she was eager to present to her daughter. “It’s a list. A list of recommended suitors.”

“A list of recommended suitors… from the council?” Efthymia questioned. She released some of the tension that had built up and let herself relax slightly. The tension slowly returned, though, as the gravity of the situation came crashing down on her. “You didn’t tell them?” she asked accusingly.

“I didn’t. I didn’t think it was the right time…”

Efthymia cut her mother off once more. She did her best to keep the anger she was feeling out of her voice, but she failed. “We talked about this. You said you would support my decision when I made it. I made it, and I told you as much. Yet, you allow yourself to be their messenger after not telling them that I’ve already begun a relationship. A relationship you said you would support.”

“I know what I said,” her mother’s voice still calm, although with a slight tinge of sadness. “But I think it might be a good idea for you to look at it and consider the names on the list. Many of them are very well respected members of their families.”

“So you’ve seen it, then? They gave you another copy?”

“They did, and I think that it may be in your best interest to look at the names and meet with some of the people on it.”

I’ve lost her support. The thought caused the anger to leave her, disappointment and sorrow rising up in its place. “You said you would support my decision,” Efthymia whispered, holding back tears.

“Dear,” Efthymia’s mother reached for her daughter’s hand, only for Efthymia to quickly pull it back. “I’m not saying that I don’t agree with what you think you’ve decided. I only ask that you consider this.” She patted the envelope that laid on the table between the two.

“Why do you always do this?” Efthymia asked. “You did this with Nikilos, and now you’re doing this again,” she said, referencing the name of her high school boyfriend.

“Now, you know that you could never have had any sort of public relationship with that boy, he was…” she trailed off, not willing to finish her thought.

“He was what? Too common? Not good enough? I shouldn’t need to remind you that there have been empresses in the past who have married outside of the nobility. But that isn’t even the worst part, not only did you forbid me from seeing him again, you made him move.”

“I didn’t make him move,” Stella objected. “He moved because you two were careless enough to be seen together and the resulting media attention was too much for his family. You can’t blame all of your relationship problems on me, Efthymia. Things are far too complicated for these things to solely be my fault.”

“Whatever,” Efthymia slammed her hands down on the table and stood up. The chair she had been sitting on got stuck on the carpet and flipped backward. “I’m not going to sit here and argue about this with you. You know how I feel, I think I’ve made it clear.

She left the room, leaving her mother and the sealed envelope at the table.


Efthymia
The Imperial Palace
Arcadia, Pieria
28 May 2018


It had been three days since Efthymia’s encounter with her mother after dinner Friday night. She had returned to her room where she collapsed onto her bed and let her emotions flow through her without having to worry about anyone seeing her. At one point she had fallen asleep, because the time on the clock in her room had gone from nine at night to after one in the morning in what felt like the blink of an eye. She wasted no time after waking up, quickly picking up her cell phone and summoning the captain of her imperial guard detail. He had obviously been asleep when he had been told she wished to see him, as his uniform looked like it had been put on quickly and his hair was slightly messed up when he appeared at her door. She had ordered him to prepare a car and flight for later in the morning to return her to the capital.

On Saturday after returning to the Imperial Palace she spent most of the day locked in her rooms or secluded in her office in the east wing of the palace. Somehow the envelope had made its way to her office, because when she had entered it on Saturday morning it was placed in the center of her desk. Much of her time was spent looking at it, mulling its contents without actually opening it and reading the list of suggestions. By the end of the day, she had still not opened it, and was no closer to doing so than she was when she had first seen it.

On Sunday she had woken early to ready herself for mass, which she attended alone. Her absence in Ithaca had either not been noticed or was irrelevant to the rest of her family, as she received no questions from her siblings regarding her abrupt departure. Later in the day she spent more time looking at the envelope, contemplating whether she should contact the person it would affect the most. It became more obvious to her as Sunday went on that she wouldn’t be able to ignore its contents, and that either meant taking it seriously or telling the matriarchs how she truly felt and where they could stick the envelope. By Sunday night she had resigned herself to the fact that she would have to at least open it and read over what the papers inside said.

On Monday morning she called her private secretary into her office, who arrived almost immediately.

“What can I do for you, Your Highness?” Her upbeat attitude and willingness to assist Efthymia on anything were only a few of her charms.

“I need you to open this and read me what it says,” Efthymia told her, extending her arm with the envelope in her hand. She had not opened it yet. Realistically she didn’t need Rhoda to read the contents to her, but she wanted someone she could talk to about what was in it. Someone who wouldn’t tell anyone else if Efthymia didn’t want them to.

Rhoda took the envelope from Efthymia and looked at the seal. If she was curious at the contents she didn’t show it as she broke the seal and pulled out what looked to be two pieces of folded paper. “I don’t know what to make of this, Your Highness,” she said.

“They’re supposed to be suggestions. Suggestions on who I should marry.”

“I see. I guess it makes sense, then.” She shuffled through the papers quickly, glancing over what was written on them. “All it has are names of each matriarch and another name beside theirs. Seems pretty simple, like it was thrown together quickly.”

“Start at the top, if you would, please.” Efthymia, while not expecting to be happy with any of the suggestions, had become interested over the past two days as to who the suggestions would be.

Rhoda began reading down the list. “Matriarch Iordanou, Dorian Iordanou. Matriarch Arvanitis, Iason Arvanitis. Matriarch Simonides, Loukas Simonides. Matriarch Antoniou, Jayson Antoniou. Matriarch Halkias, Pietr Halkias. Matriarch Vasilakis, Tyrone Vasilakis…” She continued down the list, reading nine more sets of names.

“Typical,” Efthymia laughed when Rhoda had finished. “All of them suggesting theirs sons, grandsons, brothers. The arrogance of all of them. Who did you say my grandmother suggested?” Efthymia’s grandmother was arguably the person whose opinion mattered the most in regards to her marriage following her mother’s. If she could convince her grandmother, she wouldn’t need to worry what anyone else said.

“She put down the same as Matriarch Megalos. Leonidas.”

Interesting, she thought. She knew that her grandmother wouldn’t put down anyone from her family, as they were all her cousins through her father. “What should I do, Rhoda?”

“What do you want to do, Your Highness?” Rhoda took a seat in one of the chairs on the other side of Efthymia’s desk.

“I want to throw their suggestions in the fire,” she said bluntly. Rhoda was one of the few people who knew of her current relationship, and her input would mean a lot.

“Then that’s what you should do. It is your life, after all. You also don’t need any of their approval when it comes to a marriage. Just your mother’s.” Efthymia realized her face must have shown something, as after Rhoda said that, she continued. “Unless.. Your mother is telling you to pick someone from that list. In which case you know what your options are.”

“Right. Follow the direction of my dear mother or tell them all to shove it and lose my place as the crown princess.” Efthymia briefly thought about what such a moment would be like. Telling her mother that she didn’t care about what happened, that she was going to go against her wishes anyway. She dismissed it almost immediately. “She hasn’t told me definitively to pick from that list, but she said that I should look over it and consider the suggestions.”

“In which case, Your Highness, perhaps it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to meet with a few of these men. At the very least it would placate your mother and some of the matriarchs. It wouldn’t matter that you have no intention of truly considering them.

“Perhaps,” Efthymia responded. She leaned her head back against the cushioned backrest of her chair and looked at the ceiling. “That will be all, Rhoda. Thank you.”

“Of course, Your Highness. I’m glad I could be of assistance.” She rose and went to the door of the office, cracking the door before turning back to Efthymia. “If you ever need more in depth advice on something like this, it might be worth talking to the Countess of Meteze. I’ve heard whisperings that she has been retained by the Sydalene Queen to tutor Roletus on the ways of the court here.” She slipped out the door before Efthymia could ask any questions.


Efthymia
Deze Manor
Phaside, Pieria
30 May 2018

(Co-written with Lacus Magni)


The residence of the Countess of Meteze sat back a long, winding paved road on the outskirts of the small Pierian town of Phaside. The secluded location was no mistake. Eulalia Rosi, the current countess, valued her privacy over much else. She had purchased the property after inheriting her title from her mother and had began the construction of the manor shortly after. Nestled in a forest clearing, the manor was surrounded on every side by tall trees thick enough to keep unwelcome visitors from showing up.

Efthymia had contacted the countess shortly after her conversation with her private secretary on Monday. Prior to their conversation Efthymia was unaware of any arrangement between the Sydalene monarch and the countess, but when confronted the elderly woman did not attempt to deny the arrangement, instead explaining how much headway she had made preparing Roletus for a potential life in Lihnidosi court.

It was because of their conversation over the phone that Efthymia found herself sitting in a leather lounge chair sipping a cup of tea in one of the countess’s sitting rooms. According to Eulalia, Roletus was expected to attend a session with her today, and as he had apparently been doing so for quite some time, nothing would seem out of place if Efthymia decided to visit the countess as a cover for seeing him.

Efthymia had been surprised when learning about Roletus’s apparent interest in learning about the inner workings of the Lihnidosi court and the functioning of the nobility in the country. Things were much different in Lihnidos than in most places when it came to how the nobility operated, and his willingness to sit down with someone who was able to teach him how to act and who to know endeared him to Efthymia even more.

He would undoubtedly know that something was off when he arrived for his session today, as there was a line of armored cars lining the manor’s drive and an imperial guard presence both inside and outside the manor. Efthymia was half hoping that he would think her mother had found out about his secretive meetings with the countess. It might scare him a little bit, she had thought.

As the time came for Roletus to attend his session for the day, he made his way to the usual sitting room where he met with Countess Eulalia. Dressed as he often was, in a slim cut suit, he entered to find Efthymia sitting casually with a cup of tea. Roletus did his best not to let his jaw hit the floor, but nonetheless still appeared shocked when he said, “Efthymia….” he said with a surprised stutter, “...what are you doing here?”

“Darling, don’t act so surprised,” Efthymia laughed. “You didn’t honestly think you could sneak around my country and I not find out about it, did you?” She sat her cup of tea down on a small table beside her chair and rose to greet him. She met him a few feet away, placing one of her hands on his chest and meeting her lips with his.

Roletus wrapped his arms around her and after smirked when he said, “I thought I could for a while apparently.” After taking a deep breath he added, “I knew I’d be seeing you soon, but I didn’t think it would be here. It must be something important if the Crown Princess comes to see of all people, unless this is a conjugal visit,” he finished with a laugh.

Efthymia let out one brief chuckle before leaving the embrace of Roletus. “You aren’t that lucky, sorry. I don’t think the countess would appreciate us using her house for anything other than having a conversation.” She returned to her chair and picked up her cup of tea again. “Better take a seat. Unfortunately I’m not here just to see your handsome face.”

“Oh, well uh, sure,” Roletus said quickly at the direction to find a seat, finding one near where Efthymia was previously seated. He poured himself a cup of tea and said, “So what’s going on?”

Efthymia had laid the envelope she had been obsessing over on the table that had moments before also had her tea sitting on it. She picked it up with her free hand, but hesitated before handing it to Roletus. She knew that telling him what her mother and the matriarchs wanted her to do wouldn’t change the way that they felt about each other, but if she was going to follow Rhoda’s advice to appease her mother and a few matriarchs she would need him to know about it. She had spoken with Countess Eulalia when she had arrived, but she had given Efthymia completely different advice. “Just tell them,” she had said. “The longer you worry about what they are going to say the more you give them opportunities to present you with things like this.” She had also insisted that she was almost done with Roletus, and would be willing to walk him through who he needed to appease the most on the council.

“Here,” she said, finally handing the envelope to him. “I received that from my mother on Friday. Apparently the Matriarch Council thinks they should be assisting me in finding a suitor, and my mother has indicated that she may agree with them.

Roletus looked curiously at the envelope before opening it, grabbing it as he listened to her explain its contents, eventually causing him to crush it in his hand instinctively. “And I’m guessing that she agreed with their unsolicited offer of gracious help? Or maybe it was solicited…why is she doing this, doing this now?”

“I asked her the same thing. She said something about it being in my best interest. Things got a bit… heated.” She stood up and grabbed the papers from Roletus. Going to the room’s fireplace, she threw the papers in on top of a few small piles of ash that were present and, grabbing a lighter close by, lit one of the corners of the papers. She watched as the fire spread across the paper and eventually added to the ash.

“But this doesn’t change anything between us, understand?” she asked. Roletus had sat down on one of the room’s couches, so Efthymia sat down beside him and leaned in, resting her head on his shoulder. “I told her I wasn’t interested. That she knew how I felt. If she didn’t get the message from our previous discussions she definitely knows after the one on Friday. But that still only leaves me with two real options. I either disregard her and the council’s suggestions and tell the council why I won’t be taking any of their help, or I meet with a few of their candidates to placate my mother. Which would you prefer?” She knew which option she hoped he’d pick, but it was something she had to hear for herself.

He placed an arm around her, nodding along silently at first. When she finished, and when he was ready he kissed her on the head and said, “They can’t make you do anything, the Matriarchs. I…I don’t want you to do it. Don’t meet with them.”

“That means I’m going to have to tell them about you. If the countess has done any sort of job then you’ll know what kind of reaction that has the potential to bring. I’ll do it anyway, but I need to know you’re serious.” She took her head off of his shoulder and turned to look at him. “I need to know that this isn’t just some distraction for you or some fun you’re having.” It didn’t feel like that to her. It felt real. But she had been told stories by one of her friends who had spent a few months in Sydalon. Stories about Roletus that she didn’t want to be true. She had never asked him about any of it, because she didn’t want him to think that she didn’t trust him, but it was always in the back of her mind. “Once this gets to them they’re going to make it difficult for the both of us. I need to know that you’re going to be there for me like I’ll be there for you.”

“I wouldn’t be here, doing all of this, if I wasn’t serious. And I don’t care if you have to tell them about me, about us, or how difficult things will be. I mean fuck, my mother doesn’t even want me to go to university at Arcadia,” he looked into her eyes. “But I want to because I’ll be closer to you.”

She felt much better after his assurances. He was right, of course. Why would he be spending his time learning about Lihnidos and attending university in Arcadia if he didn’t feel for her the way she felt for him? She leaned in and kissed him for a few seconds before pulling back again. “Great,” she said. “I’ll have to tell my mother to arrange a meeting of the council. I’ll tell her I want to thank them for their kind and generous suggestions, and that I’ll start meeting with each of them. When everyone is present I’ll tell them the truth.”

She would be laying a lot on the line in doing so. Without telling her mother what she would be saying prior her mother would be put on the spot. The immediate question would be whether or not the empress supports such a relationship, and she’d have to answer. Efthymia hoped that she would do as she had said so many times and accept her decision, but there would be no way of knowing until they were all in the council chambers together and her mother was forced to answer. One way or another, she'd know soon.

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Lihnidos
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Postby Lihnidos » Mon Jun 11, 2018 9:23 pm


Efthymia
The Royal Palace of Ithaca
Lissidon, Ithaca
4 June 2018


It had been five days since Efthymia had decided, with the assistance of Roletus, how she would approach her current predicament. After meeting with him at Deze Manor she had bid both him and Countess Eulalia farewell and returned to the Imperial Palace. From there she repacked the things she had unpacked merely days before and had her staff arrange a flight back to Cephalonia. She slept much of the flight. Having not left until close to sunset, by the time she had boarded her plane and made it into the air forty thousand feet above the ground it was dark outside and the lights of towns and cities could be seen out the windows. She had woken shortly before the pilot announced their impending descent.

After enduring yet another hour long drive to the palace in Lissidon Efthymia was ready to go to her suite of rooms and fall asleep, but she had come for a purpose and needed to speak to her mother. Despite it being near midnight by the time she had made it to the palace she was informed that her mother was not only awake, but waiting for her. Their conversation went much like Efthymia had imagined it would. She apologized for her outbursts and disrespect the past Friday and informed her mother that she would be willing to meet with some of the candidates on the list. If her mother knew it was all a lie she did not show it, instead accepting the apology and telling Efthymia that they could talk more in the morning.

The following morning the two had breakfast together. Efthymia, moving on to the next part of her little plan requested that a session of the Matriarch Council be called so that she could personally thank all of the matriarchs for their suggestions and inform them that she would, over the following weeks, be meeting with those on the list. Her mother, sceptical at first, eventually agreed after some convincing.

That was how Efthymia found herself where she was now; walking down a long hallway towards the council chamber.

“Are you ready?” Rhoda asked her while doing her best to keep in step with Efthymia who, whether out of her nervousness or desire to finally get an answer, was walking much quicker than normal.

“I am,” she responded. She and her private secretary were almost to the end of the hall. Efthymia could see the door to the council chamber, the large, thick wooden door fully ajar. She hadn’t told Rhoda of what she was going to say to the matriarchs during the council session. While she liked to believe that she could trust Rhoda, and often confided in her when she wasn’t sure who else she could rely on to keep a secret, the fact still remained that Rhoda had been appointed by her mother.

The two had finally reached the end of the hall. On both sides of the door stood two female members of the imperial guard. Before her mother had taken the throne there had not been member of the imperial guard outside the council chambers during meetings, but when Efthymia’s maternal grandmother, Empress Teresa, had died from a heart attack during a council session, her mother had blamed the lack of medically trained individuals in the vicinity. Efthymia knew it was doubtful that a member of the guard would have been able to prevent the Empress from dying while lying on the cold floor of the council chamber in the Imperial Palace, but her mother thought different. Into the lion’s den.

She prepared herself mentally as she stepped through the doorway. Looking around the large rectangular room it became quickly apparent that she was one of the last to arrive despite being twenty minutes early. All around were members of the council and their staff, all female in accordance with the tradition of the council. Men were forbidden to enter the council chambers. In the Ithacan palace, that constituted only one room. In some, like the Imperial Palace in the capital or their larger palace in Messenia, there was an entire wing of the palace that was dedicated to the council and therefore off limits to men. There was no law against it, and if a man were to enter the restricted area nothing would be done legally, but any male employee who violated the tradition would surely be dismissed.

Efthymia spotted her mother on the far side of the room speaking to two elderly women. While the two had their backs to Efthymia, she was able to recognize them simply by the shape of their body and the clothing they wore.

“Your Majesty,” Efthymia said, doing a small curtsy when she approached. It was unusual for her to show such formality when greeting her mother, but in a setting such as this one it was required. “Grandmother, High Matriarch Stavros.” She greeted the other two women without the same formality.

“Your Highness,” they greeted in turn, bowing their heads while her mother remained quiet.

“It is good to see you,” the older woman said after the greetings. “Her Majesty tells me that you wish to speak to the council this morning?” The woman, eighty-seven if Efthymia remembered correctly, was the head of the Matriarch Council, the High Matriarch. Her mother may be the Empress, and the council her advisors, but she was not the official head of it.

“If you would permit me to do so, I would.” Efthymia knew that such a request would not be turned down, but it was important to show the woman the respect she deserved. Efthymia would need all of the support she could get in the coming weeks, and flattering these women in order to get them on her good side was not something that was beneath her.

“Of course, dear. You know you are always welcome. As your mother’s auxiliary you have every right to attend these sessions and speak if she allows.” The current High Matriarch was also the Grand Duchess of Ithaca, and as such was one of only three Grand Duchesses, and only one of two that were on the council.

Efthymia nodded her thanks to the woman before turning to the other woman who had been speaking with her mother. She looked to be just as old if not older than the High Matriarch despite being three years younger.

“Grandmother,” Efthymia said again, reaching out and hugging the woman, her paternal grandmother, the only grandparent she had left.

“Efthymia,” she returned, this greeting much more intimate than the one that had occurred mere moments ago. “You look lovely today,” she complemented, looking down at Efthymia’s white floral dress that was complemented by several pieces of gold jewelry.

“Thank you.” Efthymia smiled and met her grandmother’s eyes. While the rest of her face was bright and welcoming, she had a different look in her eyes. A curious look. A look that immediately made Efthymia fear that her grandmother knew something she was not sharing. It would not surprise Efthymia in the slightest if she had managed the unearth the true reason that they were meeting today.

For the next fifteen minutes Efthymia spent her time going around to each of the remaining thirteen matriarchs. She spoke to both those she considered friends and those she did not. The fifteen women, not counting her mother, who made up the council were far too diverse in thought and experience for them all to be considered friends to her. There were several in the crowd that would love to see misfortune and suffering come upon her family. She ignored all of that, though, in the hopes that even the smallest amount of friendly chit-chat could make them look favorably on her. She had worked tirelessly, thanks to her mother’s direction, to get on good terms with each of the heads of the major noble houses in Lihnidos. It was something that each crown princess had to do, and something that each equally hated.

The fifteen minutes passed much slower than Efthymia would have liked and she was growing more nervous by the minute. The knowledge that she would be, essentially, telling the most powerful women in the country that none of them were able to produce a worthy suitor was not something she was looking forward to. The good will she had built with many of them over years of friendly conversation could be wiped away in the matter of seconds. She could only hope that the relationships she had developed with many of them were strong enough that they would support her.

Once it was time for the council session to get underway most of the staff in the room exited, leaving only the fifteen matriarchs, the empress, Efthymia, and a handful of support staff that took the minutes and made sure water glasses always remained full. Efthymia’s mother sat at the head of the table on one side while the High Matriarch sat at the head of the table on the other side. Seven matriarchs sat along each side of the table, with Efthymia taking a seat beside her mother at her end of the table.

The session began much like the rest that Efthymia had attended. There was a formal announcement at the beginning given be the High Matriarch laying out a rough schedule of what would be discussed and who was in attendance. As the High Matriarch read out the agenda for the meeting, Efthymia listened for mention of when she would be permitted to speak.

“And then we will finish with discussion on whether or not to approve Her Majesty’s request for a change of her designated heir.” Efthymia could make out the large grin on the High Matriarch’s face as she concluded reading from the agenda. Her obvious joke earned her a few laughs from the gathered women. “I’m only joking, of course,” she said quickly. “But I have been informed that Her Highness would like to speak to us today briefly, so if there are no objections I think that we shall begin with her.”

Efthymia’s heart skipped a beat. She had expected to be given a slot at the end of the meeting, not at the very beginning. When no one objected, the High Matriarch acknowledged Efthymia from the other end of the table. “Whenever you’re ready, Your Highness.”

Here goes nothing, she thought. “Thank you, High Matriarch Stavros. I am here this morning to thank you for the list of candidates from your houses that you so generously put together.” A murmur if approval went through the gathered women. “I have carefully looked over the suggestions, and I must say that I believe that all of them would be worthy suitors.” All of the eyes in the room were on her by this point, each Matriarch undoubtedly hoping that she picked the man from their house that moment.

Efthymia took a glance at her grandmother who sat only feet from her. Her face was unreadable. She had neither a smile or a frown and her eyes revealed nothing. Her lack of expression kept Efthymia’s attention for a few seconds before she snapped back to what she had been saying. “However I will be unable to meet with any of them, as I have already begun courting Prince Roletus of Sydalon.”

Efthymia braced herself for a barrage of objections, however none came. She felt her mother grow tense beside her, yet she and the rest of the gathered women remained silent, processing what she had just told them. Another glance at her grandmother showed that she still remained expressionless.

Matriarch Arvanitis was the first to break the silence. “Are you sure that is a wise idea? Sydalon has shown itself to be a rather unstable country. I would be concerned that any involvement with a Sydalene noble, especially the Queen’s brother, may cloud your judgement if you ever had to make decisions regarding that part of the world.”

Efthymia listened to the matriarch’s concern. She had prepared for questions like this one, knowing full well that there would be a handful of women who would attempt to make it look like she wasn’t thinking of the wider implications. “I like to believe that Sydalon is already one of our allies and that we would consider any request that they may make to us. With that said, I know where my loyalties lie. They are not with Sydalon, but with Lihnidos. I would not allow myself to be swayed into an unwise action solely because of familial connections.”

“Yet,” The matriarch continued, “Not acting if requested could put undue stress on your relationship or marriage which is not something you can afford.”

“With all due respect, Matriarch Arvanitis, I know what I can and can not afford in a relationship or marriage. I also have no reason to believe that I would be pressured into granting a request I otherwise would not grant. In fact, the opposite is true.”

“I’m glad you are so sure of yourself, Your Highness.” Efthymia could tell that the woman was going to be one of her larger problems. “Yet we have all done things that we believed we wouldn’t at one point.” The matriarch looked to those around her for support, earning a few nods of agreement. “The instability also raises issues with your security if you were to travel there. I am not confident that you would be safe in such a place. We cannot have you putting yourself in danger by traveling back and forth.”

“I have full confidence in the security forces in Sydalon. I don’t expect that to be an issue, however. Roletus has already been accepted to attend the University of Arcadia in the fall and is currently assigned to the Sydalene embassy. I will not need to travel to Sydalon to see him, as he will be in Lihnidos for the foreseeable future.” Efthymia took a sip of water from the glass sitting on the table in front of her. The woman did not raise further questions, instead choosing to remain silent and glare from her position at the table.

For a second, as no other matriarchs around the table raised any questions or objections, Efthymia thought she may be in the clear. She realized how foolish she was when Matriarch Megalos began speaking. “Correct me if I am mistaking, Your Highness, but he is second-in-line for the Sydalene throne, is he not? It would not be out of the realm of possibility that he may some day inherit the throne. Have you spoken to him about what that would require with regards to succession?”

No, she thought. “While we are not yet at that step in our relationship, I have taken into consideration the implications. I fully expect that any child I have will take my name, and…” she thought about what she should say next. “I have no reason to believe he would object to that. In any event, our method of selecting an heir in Lihnidos would make the chances of any overlapping heir almost zero.”

“Speaking of how things are done in Lihnidos as opposed to other countries, how accepting will he be of our culture and traditions?” This time the question came from Matriarch Katsaros, the same woman who Efthymia suspected arranged the list of suitors. “The way we do things here is not found in any other part of the world. Some men have issues… Adapting. He may have issues coming to terms with his position in the nobility. It is likely he will feel like he has been downgraded in importance from where he was in Sydalon.”

“I think you would find that he is well aware of how our system operates and what his position in court would be,” stated. He has been being advised by a Lihnidosi noblewoman for weeks after all.

“I hope you’re correct. It would be unfortunate if things didn’t work out because he had an inflated sense of self-importance.” The matriarch did little to keep the disdain out of her voice. “It would not be the first time a man has been unable to switch roles and serve in the subordinate role that women are usually subjected to in other monarchies.”

“Have you spoken to his parents? His sister?” Matriarch Vasilakis cut in before Efthymia could think of a retort to Matriarch Katsaros. “What have they had to say about this arrangement?”

“Unfortunately his father passed away a few years ago from cancer.” Efthymia recalled the first time Roletus had told her about his father’s death. It was obvious that he hadn’t been as close to his father as Efthymia was to hers. “As for his mother, I have not spoken to her. Although, from what he has told me, she is supportive. I have not spoken to his sister either, but as I understand it she is also supportive.”

“You say his father died of cancer? Is there a history of health problems in his family? I do recall that his grandfather died around a year ago as well.”

“I can’t answer that, I apologize. As far as I know there is not, but I would be remiss if I gave a definitive answer when I do not know. I do know that…” Efthymia was cut off before she was able to finish her thought.

“I think we are all overlooking the most important question.” It was the first time that Efthymia’s grandmother had spoken since the beginning of the council session. She was looking at Efthymia’s mother, a frown now present on her face. “None of this matters if Her Highness does not have the consent of Her Majesty. We are assuming that it is the case, but perhaps it is not.”

All eyes were now on Efthymia’s mother. Efthymia could tell that her mother was still tense. She had moved very little since Efthymia had made her announcement, something completely different than what was expected.

The empress remained silent for what felt like minutes to Efthymia, but in reality it was only a few seconds. She eventually took a deep breath. The moment of truth.

“Having met Prince Roletus and several members of his family it is clear to me that he and his siblings were raised well. He has shown nothing but respect for us and out traditions, and I have no reason currently to doubt his ability to adapt. I trust my daughter to make the right decision. Because of that, I have given my consent for her to begin courting. However, if or when Prince Roletus decides to request my daughter’s hand in marriage, I fully expect him to follow the custom in asking permission first. At that point we can have further discussions.”

Efthymia couldn’t help but to smile and release the air she had been holding in. Her mother had come through, the best possible outcome that she could have expected.

“Now, if we may, I would like to get on to the other subjects we have allocated time for. I’m sure Efthymia will be more than willing to sit down with those of you who have concerns and address them individually.” There was a slight pause before the empress cast a glance in Efthymia’s direction. “Efthymia you may go. I think you’ve said all that you wanted to.”


Stella II
The Royal Palace of Ithaca
Lissidon, Ithaca
4 June 2018


Outraged was the best word that could describe how the empress felt after leaving the council session. Despite her dismissal of Efthymia, another thirty minutes of time had been wasted debating whether or not such a relationship should be allowed. She herself was subject to a number of snarky comments, which she grudgingly accepted without objecting. When the High Matriarch finally announced the conclusion of the session almost two hours later she had wasted no time in leaving the room. At least two matriarchs attempted to speak to her as she was leaving, both of which she ignored.

“Your Majesty.” Althea Contou, her general secretary, appeared at her side immediately. “The Countess of Meteze has requested that you call her at your soonest convenience.”

Eulalia? The empress laughed to herself. Was she part of this stunt as well? “She will have to wait.” Stella brushed off her secretary and turned to the captain of her imperial guard detail who was also walking with her. “I want Efthymia in my office in five minutes. I don’t care how you get her there. If you have to order her guard detachment to pick her up and carry her kicking and screaming, do it.”

The man looked questioningly at the empress, but nodded and fell back to contact the highest ranking member of the crown princess’s detail on duty. It only took a minute before he fell into step beside Stella again. “She is already in your office, Your Majesty.”

So she knows what’s good for her, then. The walk to the imperial offices in the south side of the palace took another five minutes, Stella seething with anger the entire way. There were a number of close calls on the way through the palace, almost running over a number of staff who were unable to get out of her way quick enough.

She slammed the door shut when she entered her office. Efthymia was sitting in one of the two chairs arranged in front of the desk for guests. The sudden noise caused her to jump slightly.

“What do you have to say for yourself?” Some of the empress’s anger had subsided during the walk through the palace, but not all. “Do you know how foolish you made me look? I had already told several of the matriarchs that you would be thanking them and considering their suggestions. Instead you did the opposite, making me look like a liar or a fool.” Stella moved to the other side of her desk and sat down in her chair. “When your grandmother asked if I had consented to your relationship with Roletus I had half the mind to say no. What would you have done then?” Efthymia lowered her eyes to the floor. Stella didn’t avert her gaze, though. She kept her eyes locked on her daughter. “Would you have accepted my word as final or objected and refused? You know what such an action would mean, so I doubt you would. You may be the crown princess right now, but do not think for a moment that you hold all of the cards. I could have you replaced with your sister before the sun goes down tonight.” She sighed and finally looked away, as Efthymia had not met her eyes again. “If you ever disrespect me in this manner again do not think that there will not be consequences.”

“Thank you,” Efthymia said, still looking at the floor.

“What?” Stella snapped.

“You asked what I had to say for myself. Thank you.” Efthymia looked back up at her. “You kept your word as to accept my decision, and for that I’m grateful.”

Stella signed again and leaned back in her chair. “He has one chance, Efthymia. One. I am willing to allow you to go off on this tangent if it makes you happy, and because I said I would, but if he does anything wrong…” She let the threat hang in the air for a moment. “One violation of tradition or one dispay of disrespect to anyone and the matriarchs will never accept him. They do not make the final decision, but it is my duty to listen to their counsel, and if the majority of them do not believe that he would be well suited to serve as the consort then I may be inclined to agree.”

“You’re underestimating him. He has been learning about LIhnidos recently and about how the nobility system here works." Efthymia’s attempt at assuring her mother of Roletus’s potential did little to calm her. “If.. When.. He asks your permission to marry me, you’ll be proud to say yes.”

“I hope you aren’t wrong about him. For your sake,” Stella said. I would hate for you to be hurt. As mad as she was, her daughter’s happiness was still something that she wished to preserve. It was the main reason she had decided to consent to the relationship hours before. “Now go. I don’t want to see you again at least until tomorrow.”

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Mutul
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Postby Mutul » Mon Jun 25, 2018 12:31 pm

The Chak Yaxnah Ho’kan, “Great Green Palace of the Five Throne” in Mutli, was the main royal acropolis of the Mutul. It’s colorful northern facade occupied the entirety of the southern side of the Old Market Plaza.To the north of the plaza and facing directly the Royal Acropolis was the Royal Necropolis, the final resting place of all the K’uhul Ajawob of the Ilok’tab Dynasty, and an important locations for the royal cults of the ancestors. But the Necropolis was far more than just a graveyard : it was also a museum, and a renowned research laboratory in history and archeology. And when the Divine Queen was pregnant, all the western wing of the vast complex served as her residence until she gave birth.

This was true for many public buildings in the Mutul : it rarely served only one purpose. And the sprawling complex that was the Chak Yaxnah Ho’kan was no exception. To the contrary : it was almost a model. The Royal Palace was the residence of the royal family of course, but also the siege of the government, the royal archives, a court of justice, and some part of its gardens were freely accessible to the public. It also possessed ballcourts, sport halls, many places of cults, sweat bathes, vast kitchens, its own garages, and even its own observatory, with varying degree of public access of privacy, with the “Sanctuary”, the proper residence of the royal family, serving as a sort of palace inside the palace, with only a chosen few being able to visit it, let alone work there.

But the Sanctuary was nothing more than a resting place. When the Divine King wanted to discuss the matters of the day with his ministers and advisors, he met them in a wing of the palace nicknamed the “Hypostyle” in reference to the titles of the ministers : the Bacabs. The Four Pillars that support creation in Mutulese cosmology.

And yet today, out of the four Bacabob, three were absent. Was only present at the table the Chan Tziknal -the name given to the Foreign Minister- Ahin Chan Toktan.

The K’uhul Ajaw sat on one side of the room, above a short flight of stair, and was sitting cross-legged on a small throne, sculpted in the likeness of a B’alamb, with red fur and jade for eyes. Under and facing him, not cross-legged but kneeling with their back straight and both of their knees resting on cushions, with no chair to be seen, were the summoned Bacab and his secretaries, his “Bolon Tz’akab”. Alongside them, were also three other characters that were immediately summoned. B’ajal the dwarf ; Satam Batz’chuaj, director of MutEktaha -the public oil company of the Mutul- and Sakal Chel, head scribe of the Royal Treasury.

Everyone waited in silence, while the last helpers and servants still in the room were dismissed and the jammers activated.

Very well. Lords of the Kingdom, salutation. Today is the 9 Zotz 11 Kib ; 13.0.5.9.16 ; and on this day I have summoned you to discuss matters important to us.

The men gathered left their kneeling position for a more seiza-like position, their knees never leaving the cushions. A brief hand sign from the Divine King and B’ajal the dwarf bowed respectfully before reading from the papers laid before him.

By word of His Holiness the Divine Lord, today’s meeting is unofficial. As it is, no document or decision taken by this Assembly can be binding or taken as law. Its role is purely advisory for His Holiness the Divine Lord. On these precision, we continue and move forward to the first matter at hand : the situation in Sydalon.

Tohil Chan Toktan nodded. “It seems the situation has been brought back to normal, even if tensions are still present. Aj Pahai, our ambassador there, has brought to us detailed reports concerning the aftermath of Adi Philosir capture. The Order has secured Sydalon City, and royalists forces generally are victorious everywhere. As it is, while no official declarations have been made, the Sydalene civil war is de facto over.

The K’uhul Ajaw nodded and rested his elbow on the “head” of his throne. “And about our investments there ?

Tohil nodded. “Aj Pahai and the re-established government are already handling the last details. Her Majesty Melisende upheld her word.

Some of the Bolon Tz’akab glanced at each others. Upheld her words ? Only Tohil Chan Toktan, Aj B’ajal, and Xichel Ox Etznab -the directress of the External Intelligence Agency-, were completely unsurprised. The uninformed however, were left to their imagination, as no more details were given.

The economic sanctions should be ended in the upcoming months, even if their political protests and criticism would continue.” Continued the Chan Tziknal. “We also have the greenlight for investments in a certain numbers of sport clubs. We already have our eyes on some that have shown to be quite lucratives, but have lost important parts of their revenues during the civil war.

The K’uhul Ajaw only nodded, keeping a straight and expressionless face thorough. Even if everyone in the room knew it was an excellent new. “Belisarians nations”, in the sense the Mutuleses gave to the expression, had pushed for economic sanctions on the Mutul for 30 years now, even longer for some of them. A first dent in the “continental blocus”, no matter how inefficient it is, was a good step in the right direction.

We are satisfied.” declared Jasaw Chan K’awiil before waving his hand toward Aj B’ajal, who cleared his throat and moved on to the next subject.

Very well, then today’s next point is the Salamanid State.

What about them ?” Asked the Commissioner to the Four Rising Nations. “We’ve been on good terms with them since before the Summit was established.”

Indeed.” Continued B’ajal. “But what interest us today is the active role they’re now playing in the Third Path of the Hun Caquix. In 2015, they’ve been a founding member of the Association for Islamic Cooperation and since then they’ve only grown closer and closer to other islamic states, and especially Marad. We’re talking about 16 billions Tala of investments in Maradic industry, plus a 10 billions, interest free, loan. And let’s not talk of them training Marad’s army and police forces. This would be alright if not for some interesting positions by the Grand Vizir :

Talakh, Yisrael, and Sydalon – all products of Belisarian imperialism – seek to impede themselves on [Scipia] and disrupt our peace. Talakh by testing Marad’s border defences with their Tuareg mercenaries, Sydalon by suppressing the true word of Allah and inviting the [Belisarian Community] to Scipia, and the Jews for siding with the godless masses in [Tarsas]. It is up to Muslims to lead by example and safeguard our continent.

I think we can’t be clearer.


I like the mention of the “godless masses”. Snarked Directress Xichel Oxetznab. “Trully the kind of mentality that won’t usher problems for us one day.

We know how the Hun Caquix and his disciples are.” Intervened one of the Tz’akab. “May they be of the first, second, or third paths, when comes the End of the Cycles we will be facing each other.

Some nodded at the remark, but not all of them. And both Jasaw Chan K’awiil and B’ajal took great care to mentally note who did what. It was the kind of informations that could prove important one day.

But the Cycles’ End isn’t here yet. In fact, if they continue on this road we won’t have to face them at all : the declarations of the Vizir only came after Marad’s own interesting words about the terrorists attacks in Ashkalon. For example, the Ayatollah Ressam al-Abadi : “rejoice for the Yisraeli agents of evil die in their streets, at the hand of a crusader no less.”

Nothing but words.” Cutted Ahin Chan Toktan. “We have yet to see anything coming out of these.

Beyond the strengthening of the Salamanid-Marad relationship ? Nothing really. Except maybe the Marad-Talakh border becoming more and more militarized by the day ? Granted it’s not strictly because of these words, but it’s a whole package.

Oh and I almost forgot the whole back and forth on islamic education. The insult seems to have been powerful enough to trigger interesting reactions from the islamists scholars… and a few fatwa, even if they are not supported by any government.

What a mess.” Words that came out of the heart of one of the secretaries. It was such a wildy shared opinion nobody bothered to shun him for speaking out of lign.

Your Holiness, any word for your servants ?” Asked B’ajal directly to the Divine King, without an ounce of irony in his voice. Jasaw Chan K’awiil closed his eyes for a moment, thinking, then when he re-opened them, said :

“In the end none of this matter. If the Noble Republic had said anything, we would have acted. But for now, we shall stay silent.” He then turned his head toward the Commissioner to the 4RN and to his Chan Tziknal. “Both of you, we will meet on a later date. We want the Sasanids to know we will continue to support them with investments and loans if necessary. And of course, continuing our politics toward the Summit.”


The two men bowed deeply before the K’uhul Ajaw. “We hear the words of Thunder.

Aj B’ajal, continue.

Very well Your Holiness.Next may be the most important point of all three we’re discussing today : the rise in oil prices following the war in Deweden. Satam Batz’chuaj, a word ?

The Director of Mut-Ektaha nodded before starting his explanation. “Following the attack of Rietumimark, notably targeting the oil industry and production capacity of Deweden, the markets are currently becoming mad. All the investors in Deweden that didn’t fled before are selling everything, but to no avail for there’s no buyers. And all of those that do manage to sell, they’re currently investing in other regions. Or at least trying to. Such as Sydalon, Tarsas, or even us. The values of Mut-Ektaha is sky rocketing.

Some Tz’akab seemed happy to learn the new. But Jasaw, B’ajal, and even Satam, seemed concerned by the bilan of the situation.

We will not meet the demand, will we ?” Asked the K’uhul Ajaw.

At this rythm, no.” Answered bluntly Satam. “The markets are over-heating. Between Deweden and, to a lesser extant, Ghant in war, and Sydalon barely returning to normal… the investors are starting to panick. And the situation in Deweden is too foggy for them to calm down in the forseenable future.

And what is this forseenable future ?” Asked someone.

Three days, maximum.

Isn’t it a good thing ? Aren’t we turning a profit ?

It’s more complicated than that.” Started to explain the Director. “Right now the value of Mut Ektaha and of the whole Mutulese industry is rising quickly. Too quickly. Which mean we’ll meet a peak soon. Massive sell out. We’re relatively protected by His Holiness owning the majority of our shares, but it could still be an enormous blow to our industry. We’re already having trouble maintaining the quotas we had in the past years, and we had to negotiate during the last meeting a reduction of the quotas for the whole AOPN to avoid losing too much value, using the Sydalene crisis as an excuse. But the difference between now and then, is that we had threaten to demand the total repayment of the Sydalene debt, and negociated with the Sydalene State that the petro-chemical industry was to not be targeted. We don’t have this kind of leverage on Rietumimark.

Another situation we want to avoid” continued the director “is the apparition of oil that just don’t exist on the markets. Just like the chocolate industry, except we are keeping it stable in that the cacao being exchanged on the Markets is there just for that : to be exchanged. The same isn’t true for the oil market. Especially when the risk of a global failure to meet the demand is at risk. It can and will crash then.

Don’t make it sound more terryfing than it is, Salam. We have tools to limit the consequences.” Corrected B’ajal.

Limit, but not stop.

What do you mean you two ?” Asked Ahin, which was not as much in-the-known of the petro-chemical industry as the dwarf and the director. The two of them glanced at each other, and then Salam answered.

Sante Reze.

What do you mean ?

We have a deal with the Noble Republic.” Interjected the K’uhul Ajaw to the surprise of the Assembly. “They buy us a fixed amount of barrels every years, at a fixed price. No matter the state of the market.

The Assembly looked at each others, some of them starting to see a solution to the problem.

In case of a failure of the market, our oil would still be worth something. Investors would still buy and keep Mut-Ektaha shares because of it.

It’s a standard practice for the industry” commented Salam. “We make bets on the upcoming prices of the barrel, and we try to secure exports or imports for a few months or so, sometime a year. The speciality here is that this “pipeline” with Sante Reze has been going on for decades. For them, it’s a security against peak oil and market bubbles. For us, it’s a tool we can use to rebounce during a fall. But it’s not all-mighty. At the end of the day, it’s still a last case scenario.

Speaking of Sante Reze, the Noble Houses must be really pleased with the recent development.

Very.” Said Ahin Chan Toktan. “High oil prices make the alternative competitive. And for all intent and purpose, they control the alternative.

More or less.” Said B’ajal.
As I said before, we must stabilize the markets. Even our traditional policy of using the oil prices to finance our transition to more alternatives sources of energy cannot work here. The time-frame is too short.

I propose we demand for a new meeting of the AOPN. With Ghant and ourselves pushing our oil production to meet 100% of the AOPN quotas. A clear show of will to our investors and buyers.


Everyone returned to silence, thinking. Finally, Jasaw Chan K’awiil nodded, and turned his eyes toward his Foreign Relations Minister.

Ahin, prepare an announcement. Tell our friends in the AOPN we desire a new meeting, as we don’t have the luxury to wait for the next regular assembly.

Ahin Chan Toktan bowed deeply. “We hear the words of thunder, your Holiness.

Very well. This Assembly has met its purpose. We have been pleased with your advices, lords of this land, and may the Chaacs rain on your Households.

And may ther K’awiils protect your Household.” Answered in one voice all the ministers, directors, and secretaries gathered, while bowing deeply. They then stood up and left the room, without turning their back to the K’uhul Ajaw.

All except B’ajal the dwarf, who climbed the thirteen steps between him and the throne, to discuss and do a bilan with his master, the Divine King.

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Benaajab
Civil Servant
 
Posts: 6
Founded: Jun 03, 2018
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Benaajab » Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:02 pm

The Valley of Three Peaks

The Gentle City was aptly named for its muted colors and soft, rounded architecture. The haphazard construction of domed homes and circular plazas had a pleasant, if irregular, aura of having been smoothed over by the passage of time. The light brown corbelled buildings rose gradually onto the eastern face of Mount Mata, growing in size until they reached the citadel. The citadel itself, a large dais of mudbrick, was in turn dominated by the white-washed walls of the Palace of the Resting Bell. The swell of the buildings gave the impression of a white-topped mountain, reflecting the very real Mount Mata, swelling in even greater scale beyond the palace.

At the distant edge of the knobby city was the Questing Gate. Though it accessed no wall, the gate was where all of the pilgrims, ascetics, and--as on this day--politicians began their long journey to the palace. Down below the archaic Gentle City was a small town with modern brick installments and asphalt streets that ended abruptly at the Questing Gate as if progress had been forbidden access to even the foothills of the palatial mountain. After pausing for an appropriately brief time, Vishal Silkhan, the recently elected Prime Minister, began the meandering walk up the slope.

Behind Vishal was a cadre of television cameras and other mass media paraphernalia who watched with only the slight disturbance of camera shutters clicking. Alongside him were his chief cabinet members and their corresponding officers in the opposition government. Ahead was the completely silent city.

They began the trudge. It took an hour to cross the one kilometre of the Gentle City thanks to the long, rounded switchbacks that spiraled through the domes. A calm quiet enveloped the party as they sweated and sighed, not only to maintain the atmosphere of the city, but to represent the general glumness of the government. Unlike the Palace of Susurrance in Surya, which was both very close to Rangpur and easily accessible by car, an invitation to the Palace of the Resting Bell was considered something of an insult. Doubtless the Supreme Susurrant, or simply the Susurrant as he was more often called, had stayed up into the wee hours of the morning on election night and, once his preferred party had lost the general election, had packed his bags and fled to the mountains. Now, burdened by the weight of tradition, the cabinet and shadow cabinet were forced to fly to the miniscule airport in the “new” city and then hike up the mountain for the pleasure of debasing themselves with false humility at the feet of the Susurrant. It would doubtless waste the entire day.

As Vishnal led the group up, he saw the signs of life that he could not hear. Women put out clothes to dry, men patched cracks in the mud-plaster that coated everything, and children watched in curiosity as the strangers passed by. Vishnal’s party, the People’s Reformers, was probably none too popular in this conservative and religious village, but he doubted very much if the Monarch and all his painfully ancient traditions would garner much more than he received; a slight inclination of the head as he passed. These were a proud people, too high on their mountain pedestal to take an interest in the petty machinations of state. False modesty, Vishnal thought, would only make these straight-backed people seem even more arrogant since they would only bow or kneel as a fanciful gesture to someone less enlightened or perhaps less evolved than themselves.

“Prime Minister, sir,” someone whispered, drawing his attention to the trail of ministers behind him.

Though it had only been twenty minutes walking, the most rotund members had already started to wheeze, mopping blotchy faces with silk suits sleeves or brightly colored bandanas. The man who had roused Vishnal from thought, himself short of breath, was the Minister for Urban Development. Vishnal had picked him for his dogged loyalty, but even a few days after the election regretted that he had not considered the man’s incalculable clinginess once he had been admitted to Vishnal’s inner circle.

“I’m going ahead, Kavi, could you lead up anyone who needs to rest, see that they get some water?” Vishnal ordered.

With a ripple of whispers, many of the ministers happily sagged onto benches, leaned against nearby huts, or squatted on the ground. The potent combination of too much time spent in the sedentary life of politics combined with the thin alpine air had taken their toll. Vishal himself, a child of riverland valleys, was out of breath, but he refused to bend to the Susurrant’s taunt. Though his lungs burned, he forced himself to take slow, full breaths instead of gasping like his inferiors. Kavi nodded happily, taking pleasure in his ad hoc authority over the cabinet. Vishnal repeated his decision to the group, loudly joking that he would probably have to sit and wait for the sun to go down before the Susurrant deigned to see him anyways.

He turned back up the slope and march on. A few of his more faithful (and more fit) friends refused the allure of a break in the trudge and followed him up. As the hike continued, however, they too fell away until Padma Varlanang, the Minister of Labor, was the only one in sight. She was something of an athlete he knew, epitomizing the noble laborers that she represented. Padma was not one his appointments, rather, like all Ministers of Labor, she was elevated by the Guild Conclave. She served at his pleasure, but history had shown that the Conclave took a very dim view of their chosen representative being ousted by an upstart PM.

“Ku. Padma, please walk with me,” he said, inviting her up from her respectful five pace distance.

“Prime minister,” she said and covered the gap more quickly than Vishnal thought he could have in his current state.

“You seem accustomed to the air here, tell me where you are from” Vishnal said, holding his breath as he spoke to prevent himself from gasping.

“I am from Grabarekha, Prime Minister, it has a much lower elevation than Suchkosong, but exercise makes up the difference.”

Vishnal nodded sagely and motioned for her to continue, saving his air.

“Ireng Segara, specifically, a village called Johkan.”

She kept her voice clipped and formal until she saw the effort on her leader’s face. Relaxing at once, her posture sloped slightly as she realized that this was not a test of strength, but rather an appeal for help. He needed to appear strong and determined, but could hardly do so if the Minister of Labor went leaping ahead of him and was first to the palace. Slowing her pace, she continued.

“My parents were both herders, I suppose everyone in Johkan was. Unlike everyone else in Johkan, however, they wanted something bigger for their only daughter, so they insisted I study for University. So, like all children I rebelled and spent my time chasing goats, while all of the other children were forced to watch goats and drooled over my little library.”

Vishnal chuckled softly, coughing slightly for air and she continued to tell him about Jokhan. They were mostly true stories, the kind of thing she might tell when campaigning, but they had enough genuinity to give an honest laugh for. She talked about her friends--both humans and goats--her parents, and neighbors. They ended quite happily before the bronze gates of the palace where servants liveried in white and amber awaited with paper cups of water.

The servants, perhaps unlike the Susurrant, had made sure to have adequate amenities available for their guests. Vishnal caught sight of some oxygen tanks kept slightly out of sight and he was offered the use of an old rotary phone on a silver platter, the cord running away across the large flagstones towards a hidden radio tower. After briefly refusing the phone and offers of food, he was shown across the wide courtyard to a second bronze door, this one leading into the chilly interior of the palace proper.

The interior, not just quiet but completely deadened by enormous wallhangings, was dark aside from the admirable effort of clusters of candles set almost randomly around the floor. A tiny chip in the high ceiling illuminated a small depression in the stone floor with several couches. This was doubtless the waiting room where Vishnal expected to spend most of the day waiting for the Susurrant to summon him. As soon as he and Padma had been seated, however, a servant in the same white and amber that everyone else wore appeared and announced that the Susurrant would see him immediately.

Vishnal, giving his regrets to Padma, went off behind the servant. There were only a handful of rooms in the palace, he knew, each one cavernous and grave-silent. The palace itself was only used for ceremony. Everyone, including the Susurrant, actually slept and dined in a basement dormitory that was built into the citadel foundation. The servant seemed to take him on an unnarrated tour through the most impressive rooms, giving him time to contemplate the awesome grandeur of the Susurrant and the authority he represented. After the dark foyer, there was a brilliant room open on one side to the fresh morning light with red-painted pillars. Then a kind of library in which little scraps of paper had been pinned to the walls and connected with a web of golden thread; the papers went too high to be read from the floor, wooden platforms and ladders rose in four levels giving access to the rest of the documents. After the paper was a pitch black room with unknowable dimensions. The light seeping in through the door only revealed a blank floor of rosey stone. Another room was entirely filled with deep water--too deep for comfortable bathing--with tall pillars acting like stepping stones.

Finally, he was ushered into the room of legend, the bell hall. It had been depicted by many artists and was one the few rooms allowed to be photographed, but it still struck a chord of wonder in Vishnal. The octagonal room was three times as high as it was wide with round, red pilasters rising at each vertex towards the vaulted roof. There was a trickle of natural light, but the room was primarily lit by candles placed on the edge of the walls, giving a golden hue to the gigantic bronze engravings that entirely covered each wall. Directly opposite of the door was a square alcove that took up an entire wall and was in turn filled with an immense bronze orb with the top third cut off and suspended by a single cable from the ceiling. Directly in front of the bell was a raised wooden platform with a red canopy and some embroidered cushions of the same color.

On the pillows sat the Susurrant.

The kritarch was hidden by a delicate paneled lattice, but Vishnal could see the obvious form of a seated shadow behind. A gong sounded behind him and the doors behind him swung shut, enveloping them in silence. Vishnal slowly lowered himself to his knees, hands resting on his legs and head politely down. The silence continued and grew until they could hear each other breathing and the sound of the wind brushing the distant oculus. Vishnal studied the carpet, an incredibly detailed weave that depicted armies of tiny men marching back and forth, to and from battle. The columns and armies built up to an organic flowering shape that spiraled out from a yellow square, occupied by the Susurrant’s little seat.

“Thank you for coming to see me, Prime Minister, I know that Resting Bell is no easy trip for you,” the Susurrant said, surrendering to Vishnal’s stoniness.

“It is an honor, Ajahn.”

“It is tepid custom, your excellency.”

Vishnal did not answer, even if the veiled man was friendly, it would not do to belittle him even in jest. The Susurrant’s voice had the rich, resonant quality of someone who had been taught to project. It was not an overbearing tone, however, probably something that had been ingrained into him by the Red Hat monks and their elaborate training. Vishnal, disappointedly discovered that his practice politician’s voice was not very strong at all compared to the soothing, rolling speech of the priest.

“Is this your first time to the mountains?”

“I visited the Temple of Consequence when I was a student and I was in Surya during my campaign, of course.”

“What did you think of the Temple?”

“It was old.”

“As are many things…” the Susurrant said thoughtfully and, after a lengthy pause continued “as you know, I am entitled to monthly meetings, Prime Minister.”

“I am at the Susurrant’s service.”

“But there is no need for me to selfishly claim so much of your time.”

“Likewise, I am certain.”

“I am, after all, merely a ‘perfunctory remnant of ancient practice’ and ‘could easily be replaced by a committee.’”

The Susurrant dryly recited Vishnal’s platform, a little cited paragraph that dismissed the practice of susurrance wholesale. The Prime Minister visibly tensed, hands involuntarily creasing his trousers. It was true of course, Vishnal was the epitome of a reformer, but he had not counted on the Susurrant reading his platform or even following the election on more than a casual basis. The Susurrant was completely secure in his office, no matter how wildly Vishnal proclaimed change, it was impossible to imagine in this case.

“Do you disagree?” Vishnal said, surprising himself with his own forwardness.

“Not at all, in fact, a committee of Inferior Susurrants is performing quite admirably in my absence.”

“You admit your own obsolescence?”

“Not at all, merely that I am a figurehead, not unlike yourself, Prime Minister. Or do you think that your cabinet could not operate without your oversight?”

Vishnal worked his jaw. His cabinet in fact could not work without his oversight because he had constructed it to depend on him. Rivals and idiots and experts all jumbled in together so that he alone could hold the reigns of power. But to admit to such a thing, that would be tantamount to treason, would it not? To have purposefully constructed a broken government so that he could hold it together.

“I see by your hesitance that you are a far more intelligent man than you appear in your television broadcasts,” he said, almost amused. “I too doubt if the entire kritarchy would endure long without me and that is not without design.”

“The people do not look for intelligence in their leaders, so I do not show them.”

“What do the people look for?”

“Hope, mostly, others progress.”

“You have indeed proclaimed yourself their champion then,” the Susurrant sighed, letting the silence return.

The pause lengthened, Vishnal’s eyes drifted back to the little men marching around his knees.

“So where will you get all of your hope and progress, then?”

“The same place Benaajbi has always found it, large-scale capital investment,” Vishnal as the shadow bobbed its head approvingly.

“It is indeed easier to get a corporation from Vannois to build a factory that get the Magnates to loosen their grip on their gold,” The Susurrant said. “Monetarists are your most formidable enemy then, bringing despair and stagnation?”

“They are merely a blockage of means, Ajahn, they do not contend my vision.”

“You are a man of vision then?” the Susurrant said, his voice changing to a note of what Vishnal thought was respect. “Tell me then, of your vision.”

“Haven’t you scrutinized my book like you have my platform statements?”

“Ah yes, The Canyon of Wealth, a very popular little treatise. I did start to read it, but I could not finish it unfortunately. It was too much of… how would you put it?”

“What the people wanted to hear? Placatory? Pandering?”

“I was going to say intensely polar, but I suppose the people to you are only those that share your vision.”

“There are those will have hope for the future and those who will only believe the wisdom of progress when the future arrives.”

“What a delightful turn of phrase, did you put that in your book?”

“No, but it is in the first chapter of my memoir, I think The Bridge is rather poetic.”

“An ambitious title.”

“I am an ambitious man.”

“So that, at least, from your campaign persona is real? Not just putting on airs because the people like to see them?”

“I hope you do not mistake my candor for insincerity.”

“And I hope you do not make the mistake of believing you can get away with falsehoods here,” the Susurrant proclaimed imperiously. “At least… not for very long.”

“I would never presume.”

“In your letter to the Monarch yesterday, you outlined eighteen billion in discretionary development funds, most of which was marked for urban centers. Where will this money come from? I have heard of no magnate backing your proposal.”

“I have my sources,” Vishnal choked, suppressing his shock.

The Prime Minister’s letter to the Monarch was normally leaked to the press by a member of cabinet, Vishnal had planned on having Kavi do it, but until then it was a tightly controlled document. Only twelve people outside of his cabinet could have read it and, worse still, only a few of them could have correctly surmised as the Susurrant had that there was no revenue source or Gilt backing for the spending plan.

“Do not presume to keep secrets,” the shadow’s arm rose aggressively, though Vishnal could not tell exactly what the gesture was.

“We will seek the support of the cāra nadī.”

“Interesting, I was under the impression that your predecessors had exhausted the ten billion capital allocation on their pet projects.”

“We intend to absorb some of the capital of other members.”

“Is that so?” the question was purely humorous and the Susurrant’s light chuckle forbade answer. “How do you plan on achieving that? Do you think the Bahktar will surrender their funds?”

“I plan to split the cost between the Mutul and Bahktar.”

“How generous of you to spread out the burden, but how?”

“Simple, we must merely conceive the support of the Sekharians and the abstinence the Mutul and the Bahktar. Of course, it would be quite impossible to convince the Bahktar to vote against their own interests, but it is a relatively easy to make them forget the Mutulese and vice versa. We will, of course, boldly lead the way on this venture by dedicating our capital funds to the project before any vote is taken.”

“Bold.”

“A special development project with funds allocated to a special committee of neutral bureaucrats and academics. It is then simply a matter of long-term profitability, which Benaajab has. The projects we are preparing will simply have higher returns and we shall receive the necessary funding.”

“And once you have stolen your billions? What projects exactly do you plan on funding?”

“A very diverse, very attractive portfolio. Insurance pools for monasteries in the north, coal mining in Gedthalay, other markets too of course.”

“You are perhaps too ambitious, Prime Minister. The interest rates alone would risk bankrupting the state unless you can assure the profitability of these enterprises.”

“There are risks in progress.”

“True enough,” the Susurrant paused, as if reviewing the immense plan. “I am tempted to support this remarkable effort, but I require something in exchange.”

“And what could you possibly offer me? Wise words?”

“I may not be a Zensunni myself, Prime Minister, but I am very much Zen,” the Susurrant scolded. “While not a jurist, I do have many friends amongst the Salafists.”

Vishnal absorbed this information, it was not an expected turn of events. The old man might just be bluffing, the Supreme Susurrant of Benaajab was decidedly not an international figure. Then again, the ties between the Zensunnis and the Pathists were old. Very old, perhaps even as old as the Susurrance tradition.

“I would need… assurances, Ajahn,” though Vishnal could not see, he was certain that the shadow’s eyebrows rose.

“Assurance is not my expertise, only Susurrance,” the Susurrant quipped. “And besides, I do not even know if you can afford my price.”

“Very well then, what is the ransom for my government’s success.”

“It is not cheap, I am afraid,” the words sounded sincere in their regret. “It is twofold. First, I would like you to continue our meetings as tradition dictates, though I know you are loathe to bow to precedent. Second, I want you to invoke Ākasmika Paribartana, the law of cycles.”

The so casually mentioned Ākasmika Paribartana was an old tradition, part of the unwritten fabric of society which had been put in place by the Guatama Emperors. It was, as the old philosophers had put it, a sword in the throat of the Great Houses. The long-standing Dharmic tradition in Benaajab was one of continuous, cyclical change and the law of cycles applied to the high nobles of the land. When invoked, the Ākasmika Paribartana stripped every dynasty of its status and forced the nobles to compete with their inferiors for their own posts. Sometimes the same families re-emerged, stronger than ever under a new name, but more often it was ruin for the great houses whose accomplishments were swept away by alliances made by their erstwhile servants. When invoked, the political spectrum was turned on its head, leaving the Susurrant as the one constant through the chaos.

“There is no need to do it immediately, of course. You can wait until the last hour of the last day of your term, but it is time” the Susurrant continued through Vishnal’s stunned silence.

“It would doom my party forever, no one in my cabinet would ever serve in government again” Vishnal said, stating the obvious consequence of betraying the political and economic elites.

“A small price to pay for vision,” replied the Susurrant, drawing out the last word into a serpentine hiss. “You can have your great leap forward, your billions of capital, but you will need to devote yourself to those ends entirely. There would be no second chance.”

Vishnal’s mind raced. The Susurrant could indeed deliver or hinder his vital ingredient, the all-important vote at the Four Nations Summit, or so he claimed. His plan, the details of which he had decided long ago as a mere MP were slated to take year, maybe even decades of maneuvering the Four Nations. The distance of success was one the reasons he had been so quick to reveal so much--he had imagined the Susurrant dead long before his plan came into maturity.

“Yes!” he exclaimed, perhaps too loudly.

The shadow nodded and he struck a tiny gong, summoning a servant from some distant cubby to escort the guest away. After the ringing faded away, Vishnal guessed that the gong was connected to an electronic buzzer as was popular in many great houses, the shadow slowly began to get to his feet. The man was old, probably in his seventies or eighties, but Vishnal could see his straight-backed posture and careful, regulated movements. Vishnal jumped to his feet as well, watching with trepidation as the shadow moved to the edge of the lattice, and a red robed figure slipped out. Vishnal’s eyes darted to the floor, then to his face, then to the floor again.

The Susurrant, of course, wore his ceremonial veil, hiding his features well.

“Now then, would you sign my copy of The Canyon of Wealth?

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Leasath
Chargé d'Affaires
 
Posts: 386
Founded: Aug 06, 2006
Anarchy

Postby Leasath » Fri Sep 28, 2018 8:13 pm

Hôtel Avoinet, Saint-Nazaire
9:45 AM Local Time

Tap...

Tap...

Tap...

A slight humming, changing in tone with enough regularity to make out a tune, broke the monotony of the rhythmic tapping. Light-hearted and quick, the tune was a direct contrast to the room around its source. Darkened, with heavy curtains drawn across the few windows and every light source doused, it was in fact rather dingy. Nobody would likely recognize the room, despite the many important snapshots of Vannoisian history that had taken place in it. After all, not one of those snapshots had actually been recorded, anyway.

Really, the room was like this more often than not; sure, there were often people milling about, talking about this or that. For certain parts of the day, it was the most important room in the Empire, bar whatever solar or garden the Emperor happened to be wandering at that particular moment. So many important men -- and a few women -- had crossed the threshold of its main entryway that to even consider it anything less than a historical artifact would seem almost sacrilegious.

Then again, considering who sat in its most important seat just now, it would not be entirely surprising to find that many Vannoisians found the entire building, let alone the room, tainted with some wisp of sacrilege.

"Alright," the humming turned to a voice, and the voice enunciated clearly. "Alright." The source stood, smoothing down the sleeves of their jacket, and briskly stepped to a side door, the only other exit besides the grandiose main entry. The clicking of their shoes -- heels, it turned out -- echoed in the silent room. Standing still for a moment, the quiet individual heard the raucous being thrown about by a group of men, and a few women, just outside that main entry. Shaking their head, the person threw open the side-door, stepping quickly aside as a group of butlers, servants, and maids rushed into the suddenly busy room.

"You really mustn't make us wait so long, ma'am -- if it please you," one of the butlers, an older man who looked to be the most senior of them, stood at attention before the original occupant after setting a maid to task dusting the spotless conference tabletop.

"I won't be making a habit of it, you needn't worry," the individual replied. "I'm sure you can appreciate the gravity I am feeling, considering how long you have been here." At that, the severe butler's face softened fractionally, and he nodded sharply.

"If it makes you feel better, ma'am -- I believe monsieur de Renauer sat at that table for at least three hours before his first time," he said, eyes far-away for an instant as he obviously remembered a day that must have taken place some decade and a half before.

"Indeed it does, in fact," the occupant replied, turning from the butler back to the seat she had recently stood from. "Shall I-?"

"We will open the doors, ma'am. Feel free," the butler replied, and moved smoothly to the main entry where the gale of noise had somehow become louder.

"Whenever you are ready, then," she replied, settling herself in the comfortably worn leather cushion. "I certainly am."

As the individual spoke, the room seemed suddenly to clear of the many servants that had been only moments ago cleaning and checking for any last missed offenses. Only two, both young men dressed impeccably finely in butler's attire, were moving gracefully around the shining conference table, filling crystal-clear glasses with water flavored with fresh lemon slices. With a final nod from their chief, the two finished with the glasses directly to the seated woman's sides, and quit the room as well, leaving their half-full pitchers of the lemon water at equal lengths of the table.

As soon as the other entryway had been sealed, the elder servant opened the main double-doors, allowing the excited, loud group of politicians entry.

Not a single one had even been inside the room before; a sign of changing times, assuredly, the original occupant thought, standing again.

"Welcome, my friends," she said, smiling broadly at the assortment of men and women of ages ranging through late-20s to mid-70s, "to the first Vaillancourt Cabinet."

Their cheers, which would naturally go undocumented just as everything in this room officially did, could be heard in the furthest corner of the residence and seat of Prime Minister Élaine Vaillancourt.
Votyalia | Yavorstrana
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-AlEmAnNiA-
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Left-Leaning College State

Postby -AlEmAnNiA- » Sun Oct 21, 2018 11:47 pm

‘Tradition’
Azula
The Rheasilvia
Divaresahr, Qaira, Kadaria
16 October, 2018



The Divaresahr was an ancient complex; built, burned, and rebuilt in a cyclical pattern for the last 500 years. The aptly named “Great Walled City” was a city within a city, covering some 180 acres and contained within its walls over 900 buildings. Local legend says the complex was built upon the ruins of the palaces of ancient pharaohs. When the Muslims conquered what was then the Gedrosian Late Kingdom, the Caliph Ibrahim ibn Al-Walid demolished the so-called “monument to demon worship,” and had the central palace, the Jadidarvaze, constructed on its ruins. With each new caliph, a new building was constructed, and little by little, the Divaresahr slowly took shape. By the time of Aurangzeb I’s conquest of Qaira, the Divaresahr had evolved into a sprawling sandstone metropolis.

Nestled within the southeastern corner of the inner courtyard was the house of the Eastern Court. A marvelous building, the house exhibited the characteristics stereotypical of classical Kadarian architecture; showing off domes arranged in a pyramid shape and two minarets. In the structure’s outer courtyard stood a stone statue, from which the Rheasilvia obtained its name, depicted the Latin mythological figure Rhea Silvia. Popular belief held that the statue was a prize of conquest from the Muslims’ invasion of Latium, stolen from some noble’s estate as they marched towards Castellum.

From inside the main structure itself, the faint sounds of human habitation could be heard spilling out. Voices, all of which belong to women, emanated and reverberated through the courtyard, increasing in volume the closer one got to the doorway of the Rheasilvia; a clear indication that court was being held.

The doorway gave way to the interior of the Rheasilvia, a grand, if ostentatious, meeting room. The floor was lined with fine porcelain tiles and decorative mosaics while the walls were decorated with marble, gold, and exquisite murals. The windows had stained glass, casting a brilliant palette of blues, greens, and reds on the floor. A lone throne stood at the head of a red carpet that stretched from the entrance to the front of the room where the throne was located. Flanking on both sides of the carpet were several rows of large, voluminous tan pillows instead of chairs.

“She should not be here,” an elderly women pointed out, motioning at another, far younger woman sitting close to the throne.

With such a simple phrase, the chattering within the hall came to a crashing halt as the elephant in the room was finally being discussed. The woman being pointed at was, of course, Princess Setareh, the third daughter of the late-Aurangzeb XXXII and the eldest with his third wife, Queen Arya. In act of childish rebellion, and perhaps a desire for adventure, the Princess had ran off with the Liothidian pretender, Louis Ferdinand. Their marriage, ultimately, was a failure like all of the Prince’s prior marriages, and the lovely couple had their marriage annulled a short three years later. The price for such adventure, aside from some immeasurable loss of dignity, was the conversion from Islam to Christianity. While no qualms are had with Christians within Kadaria, the conversion from Islam to any other religion was a capital offence and so the late-Western Emperor had her summarily exiled. For alas, he could not bear to sign a document ordering the execution of his beloved and favourite daughter.

“Dear Aunt Setareh is an invited guest, grandmother,” the figure seated in the throne responded dryly. “Her exile is lifted, she is welcome here,” she continued, leaning back in the throne.

“Without His Imperial Majesty’s knowledge, I presume?” the widow asked rhetorically. “You know, I did not see his signature on the documents, Azu-... Your Imperial Majesty.”

People actually look at those damn things? “The travel conditions of an unmarried woman of the dynasty is of no concern to my husband,” Azula shot back. “She is a member of the harem and the harem is my domain, Lady Nazli.” Out of the corner of her eye she noticed Setareh fidget on her cushion, clearly becoming uncomfortable with the situation despite her best attempts to hide it. “But we’re done discussing this now, Grandmother.”

The young empress adjusted the right sleeve of the black dress she was wearing, which had bunched from Azula stoically resting her head with her left arm. She paused momentarily and shifted her gaze across the room, briefly studying its occupants, the shimmering of the sunlight on the floors.

“I think that’ll be it for today,” Azula finally said, rising from the throne. Court had just started some thirty minutes ago by that point, but if she was being honest, her grandmother’s comments had soured her mood considerably, especially so that the crone brought it up in front of the entire court rather than discuss the matter privately. “All of you may go,” she paused, “...except for the leadership of the coronation committee.”

Six women remained seated as the rest of the room rose and started to file themselves out of the room. Some low whispers — no doubt complaining about the waste of time everybody had just endured — could be heard atop the tapping of shoes on tiles. Azula cared not. If they were upset about it, they could blame her grandmother.

Once the room had emptied out, Azula got up herself and situated herself on a pillow opposite of the six women that headed the committee. A nonchalant wave of the hand summoned several servants. In seemingly choreographed movements, they laid a rug down between the women, and placed on it several plates of assorted pastries and two small porcelain coffee pots. An older servant, ostensibly the leader of the cadre, poured the coffee into white handleless tea cups and placed one in front of each of the seated women. Nodding thanks as one was placed in front her, Azula took the cup and placed it to her lips, pausing at the last second to gently blow on the steaming coffee before finally taking a sip.

“How could we assist you, Your Majesty?” a younger woman, dressed in a similar style to Azula, inquired.

“No need for the formality, Faiza,” Azula answered with a half-smile. “We’re sisters after all still, no?”

All of the women leading committee were related in some capacity to the young empress, and in a family as large as the Imperial household, it would have been a challenge to get six unrelated women. There was, of course, Faiza, Azula’s sister two years her junior, Adalet, her maternal aunt, and her three cousins: Hadriye, Zaina, Pari, and her Great Aunt Yasemin.

“Well then?” Faiza repeated when it became clear Azula had no real intention of answering the initial question.

“The coronation ceremony is planned for what...?” Azula paused as she tried to remember the date. “...the 16th of November?” She finally answered.

“Yes, your majesty,” came the raspy voice of Yasemin.

“Yes, hmm…” Azula murmured, mostly to herself. “And my husband’s is on the same day then?”

“Aye–” Hadriye didn’t bother hiding the puzzled look on her face. Still puzzled, she took a sip of coffee before turning back to Azula. “You two will be coronated in the same ceremony.”

“Ah,” She clasped her hands and placed them in her lap, leaning slightly back as she did so.

“Spit it out, child,” Adalet said, pulling out and lighting a cigarette. “No use in beating around the bush.” She paused to take a drag on her cigarette. “Or, at the very least, a little less mystery would be appreciated, darling.”

A smile formed in the corners of Azula’s mouth and permitted herself to let out a brief chuckle at her aunt’s abruptness. Still wielding a smile, she leaned a bit forward as if she was about to profess some dark secret. Perhaps she was in a way.

“That doesn’t really work,” she said plainly. The smile quickly vanished and she leaned back. “I want my coronation sooner…” she paused and shifted her gaze back to her aunt. “... and without my husband.”

The silence following Azula’s words was palpable. A few stifled gasps and a cough or two, as some of the occupants were mid-sip when the empress obliged her aunt’s wish, muddled the eery quiet that had befallen the room.

“I-No empress has been coronated before the emperor,” Yasemin proclaimed with a newfound air of seriousness. She took out another cigarette and lit it, taking a long drag on it.

“Then I shall be the first,” Azula responded matter of factly. She wasn’t smiling, but the way her azure eyes shimmered, she may as well been.

“But tradition–” Yasemin was about to say before Azula cut her off.

“The thing about tradition is that it’s only tradition until you stop doing it.” Azula’s response was cool, and brought with it a sense of gravity to the situation. There was nothing written down about what exactly the relationship between the twin rulers of Kadaria was, nor was there anything about which one was in charge. All there was was tradition and precedence; two things that, in Azula’s mind, were easily malleable, and, if she was being frank, ultimately meaningless. “If we were living according to tradition we’d be herding goats, not running a country.”

“What day?” Faiza inquired, setting her now empty tea cup onto its saucer. “The coronation, I mean.”

“The sooner, the better,” Azula said charmingly. “I know this is a… serious – let’s say – issue for some.” She paused and looked at her great aunt. “...But if any of you feel uncomfortable doing this, then please know there are no ill feelings if you wish to resign yourself from overseeing this.” She paused again to see if any would take her up on her offer. “No? Splendid.” She clapped her hands and smiled before she got up from the pillow. “We will be in touch,” She said after a brief pause to smooth out her black dress.

“Until we meet again, dears,” Azula gave a small nod of the head and turned to leave.



‘Black sheep’
Setareh
Gardens of Esra
Divaresahr, Qaira, Kadaria
16 October, 2018



The early morning court, if it could even have been considered court, was an interesting experience for Setareh. Most of her days in Latium were spent attending various functions and gatherings, and hanging out with the friends she had made while living in Adrianople. For better or for worse, her leaving the country as soon as she turned 18 saved her from being a member of her stepmother's, the former Sirzanna VI now Lady Nazli, court. The rigidity of life in her homeland wasn’t something she had missed, but there was something calming in the routine; some sort of nascent peace in not having to worry about life outside the walls of palace, even if it was only for the next few days.

The table where the pair were seated at was placed under a plain white gazebo, itself situated on an island in the middle of a koi pond. The Gardens of Esra was the work of Avalayun II, who had constructed it to mirror the zen gardens of Eastern Ochran. The late empress was an avid Zensunnist – a follower of a syncretism of Buddhism and Islam. To some extent both Esra, for this was her true name, and Aurangzeb VII were zensunnist, even if Esra was more open about it. As a child, Setareh loved the gardens, easily able to spend hours here between watching the fish and birds to helping her grandmother tend to some of the flowers.

“Did you miss it?” Azula’s voice was calm, almost soothing to the ears. “You’ve been gone, what, five years now?”

“Well…” Setareh had to think for a moment before she could answer. Did she miss her home? In a way, perhaps. Something between an actual yearn to return and homesickness. “Yes, I did, Your Majesty. It was difficult not seeing father and mother, having to make new friends.”

“Please, Star, none of that formality stuff. You are my aunt after all” Azula gave a slight, if a touch forced, laugh. “Did you talk to her yet? Grandmother Arya? I’m sure she’d be delighted to know you’re here, especially with grandfather’s passing.”

“Ah…” Setareh brushed a few loose strands out of face and shifted a bit in her seat. “No, I wasn’t actually planning on seeing her.” She paused before quickly adding “or my sister for that matter.”

“I see, well, I shan’t force you,” Azula spoke with a tinge of disappointment in her voice. “But if you change your mind, do let me know and I can arrange something for you.” She smiled.

“Thank you, Azula. I’ll keep it in mind,” Setareh answered, reciprocating the smile.

The pair returned to their quiet observance of the pond. The dark blue surface gleaming in the light of the afternoon sun, likening it to glass. Every now and then ripples would radiate across its surface as one of the large orange and white koi swam up and ingested a bug that had flown too close to the surface.

“Do you think she’d want to see me?” Setareh turned to face her niece, tilting her head inquisitively.

“I think she’d be more open to the idea now that grandfather’s gone,” Azula replied honestly. “There are some wounds to mend, sure. She wasn’t exactly happy when her oldest daughter ran off with some…” She paused to try to find the right words. “Self-important Belisarian jackass, if I’m speaking plainly here.” Azula finished with a half-smile. It quickly faded when she noticed Setareh was really asking for her opinion on it. “You should see her if you wanted my view of things.”

“Mhm, I’ll do it before I leave then,” Setareh spoke with a sense of satisfaction.

“Not right before you leave, I hope,” Azula joked, genuinely laughing this time, causing Setareh squirmed a bit in her seat. “Low blow, I know. Mea culpa as they say in your new home country.”

She motioned her hand and one of the attendants stationed at the gazebo’s main entrance approached the two women. Azula whispered something that Setareh couldn’t make out, and the attendant left to fetch something. A short time later, the attendant returned with an envelope.

“For you, dear aunt,” Azula spoke as the attendant presented the envelope to Setareh. “Perhaps a bit overdue but better late than never.” Azula said smiling.

Setareh took the envelope and cut open the wax seal, an red cartouche bearing Azula’s name with a Kadarian eagle perched above it. Folding open the crisp parchment, her brown eyes scanned the document, absorbing its content.
Image



AZULA THE FIRST by the Grace of Almighty God of the Great Teispid Realm and of Our other Realms and Territories Empress Defender of the Faith To all Men Spiritual and Temporal and all other Our Subjects whatsoever to whom these Presents shall come, Greeting!

Know Ye that We of Our especial grace certain knowledge and mere motion do by these Presents advance create and prefer Our: right trusty and right entirely beloved aunt to the state degree style dignity title and honour of IMPERIAL PRINCESS OF KADARIA. And for Us Our heirs and successors do appoint give and grant unto her the said name state degree style dignity title and honour of Imperial Princess of KADARIA and by these Presents do dignify invest and really ennoble her with such name state degree title and honour of Imperial Princess of Kadaria to have and to hold the said name state degree style dignity title and honour of Imperial Princess unto her for her life. Willing and by these Presents granting for Us Our heirs and successors that she may enjoy and use all the rights privileges, pre-eminences immunities and advantages to the degree of an Imperial Princess.

In Witness whereof We have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent.

Image


“Are you serious with this?” Setareh spoke, setting the letter down on her black jeans.

“Of course, dear aunt,” Azula spoke with a sense of genuinity. “As I said, this was long overdue. And frankly–” She looked to make sure the attendant was far enough away to not hear her. “I think grandfather was too stubborn to do it when you divorced–”

“Annulled,” Setareh broke in. “Not divorced, annulled.”

“...annulled that Belisarian,” Azula finished.

“The marriage was annulled, not the person,” Setareh smiled at Azula’s ignorance of the workings of Christian marriages.

“Whatever,” Azula replied candidly, matching her aunt’s smile.

“T–I’m not sure how I could repay you, Azula,” Setareh sputtered, her voice becoming emotional.

“Oh, I’m sure I’ll figure out something,” Azula said with a half-smile. Setareh was too emotional to note the slight ominous tinge in her voice when she spoke. “Come, we should be heading back to the zenana. It should be close to dinner time, and frankly, I’m starved.”
Let's clear something up here for the children. I am an adult, with an adult life. I have a job, which aside from being time consuming while I am actually -at- work, requires me to be on call when I am not. I do not have the time to sit and read through the thousands of pages of shit that some people post in the chat. I simply do not have the time. When I am not on call or at work I am also a Scout Leader, a volunteer youth worker, a community association secretary, and chair of a local role play association.

So you should feel really fucking lucky that I am prepared to slice out even minutes of my day to offer to deal with your problems. If you don't like the fact that I am sacrificing my free time for you then I think the problem here is with you and not the region.

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Achesia
Negotiator
 
Posts: 6392
Founded: Sep 26, 2009
Father Knows Best State

Postby Achesia » Mon Nov 19, 2018 9:18 pm

Assembly of Ranks, Grey Palace, Rhynovia, Rhynovia
23rd of June, 2017


“Rise for her majesty the Grand Duchess Karina Aristov of Rhynovia!” The sergeant at arms bellowed from deep within his throat as he flanked the entryway behind the throne in the great hall of the Assembly of Ranks. The chatter and deliberating ended as all landed nobles who gathered rose in respect to their monarch-apparent as the young girl stepped across the threshold at the front of the room, an entryway reserved for her, the Lord Governor, and their staff.

Lord Governor Emil Medved bowed his head as Karina walked past him where he stood leaning over the grand oaken podium bearing the seal of Rhynovia. The Grand Duchess had just completed one of her twice weekly appointments with the palace counselor. While it had been a year since she was taken from the custody of Dunet Vasile and dropped suddenly into the life of being a royal and national leader, it was still important to those caring for her that her mental health be attended to less the new-found pressures she faces be too much.

Of course, this concern or the existence of her regular appointments with mental health counselors, priests, or women’s health experts were kept veiled from the public view and the view of the Assembly. Ever did the nobles of Rhynovia thirst for a weakness, a foothold to gain power. Karina’s guardian the Lord Governor Emil Medved knew this much, playing his cards with the Grand Duchess ever so close to his chest. He surveyed the crowd of power-lusting nobles, families as old as Rhynovia itself and each still vying to control her. His eyes scanned for the hidden snarls or ill-felt looks at the Grand Duchess, ever sensing who her enemies in the Assembly may be.

Karina took her seat on the goldened and red velvet throne that dominated the dais in the front of the assembly, she looked out over her noble subjects awaiting the session to continue with its deliberations. However, the young duchess got the sudden feeling the assembly was in fact waiting on her… a suspicion that was confirmed as she looked to her Lord Governor who seemed to be muttering something to her and signaling with his eyes.

“Oh… please continue.” Karina waved her hand gracefully just as her lessons had taught her. Although she got the sense from her guardian she didn’t quite call the session to continue correctly as he shook his head ever so slightly and kept his eyes closed for a moment longer than a blink. It had only been a year so the ways of courtly decorum had not quite settled with her.

The Assembly of Ranks sat down in unison as Karina settled back in her throne. An overly thin and frail looking Duke in red military dress was left standing alone, presumably the assembly member speaking before the sergeant of arms charged the room for the Grand Duchess’ entrance. Karina prepared for another long day of deliberations amongst tired old aristocrats. This was the third such session of the Assembly of Ranks she had attended at the behest of the Lord Governor. She was to sit and watch as the governance of her nation unfolded so that one day she would have a good understanding of how the heart of Rhynovia beat.

While Karina had the utmost respect for the man who became her guardian a year ago, the request to watch quietly upon her throne as others deliberated about topics she had little knowledge of reminded her of the days Dunet Vasile would parade her in front of his business compatriots as they wined and dined over the latest industry gossip. Karina grew tired of being silent, yet the topic of water rights between two neighboring Duchies held little interest to her. She twiddled with her golden bracelet that Emil Medved gave her for her 17th birthday, a fine golden chain from far away Ghant. Karina lost herself in its shimmer as the droning of old men continued. It wasn't until the Royal Scribe bellowed the next topic and presenter did Karina perk up and sit back upright in her seat while she adjusted the hem of her maroon A-line dress at the knee. She proudly had her knees crossed just like she learned in “princess lessons”, a lesson the members of her staff were relieved to finally have sink in, the Vasile household being a modern and rather untraditional one not to have taught Karina the proper way to sit like a lady.

“Now comes forth Grand Duke Valdimir Rozhkov of Surad, with his proposal to the crown to construct the forthcoming industrial processing plants within his Duchy.”

Lord Governor Emil Medved nodded to the Royal Scribe and to the Grand Duke Rozhkov who approached the podium before the dais. Rozhkov was a major player in internal Rhynovian politics, and since being turned down as Lord Governor in favor of Emil, a major thorn in the Grand Duke Medved’s side.

“Approach Grand Duke.” The Lord Governor bid him forward.

“Thank you your Majesty” He nodded to Karina. “Your Grace.” The Grand Duke almost snarled at having to address the Medved Grand Duke in such a way, while he may be Lord Governor the Medved lands palled in comparison to that of the Rozhkov estate.
“I would like to propo….”

“Excuse me one moment.” The Lord Governor held up a finger before turning to The Grand Duchess. “I’d like to fill in the Grand Duchess as to the background of this proposal as she was not here when it originated.”

Emil Medved smiled politely as he turned towards the Grand Duchess, leaving Rozhkov mid-sentence still as the Grand Duke of Surad thought first to lose his temper as he would have a year ago. But with the arrival of the Grand Duchess the members of the Assembly had been on their best behavior so he thought it unwise to do anything to bring ill feeling towards his house.

“Your majesty.” Emil Medved looked to his ward who sat high on the throne above the assembly. He motioned to her with his eyes to sit up straighter, ever the tough love from Emil Medved as he trained his pupil the Grand Duchess for her time to rule. “The industrial complex the Grand Duke is referring to is one from an Tarisian company that has proposed investing in Rhynovia and until now has been waiting on the assembly to decide as to its location. The complex is quite large but will bring much needed investments and taxes to Rhynovia. Many have proposed the complex be built on their land but we hope to come away today with a decision. At your leave we may continue this discussion.”

“Oh… of… uh… of course.” Karina still was not used to EVERYTHING having to be “at her leave”.

“Thank you, your majesty.” The Lord Governor smiled at his ward and turned about. “Continue Grand Duke Rozhkov.” He gave his political rival a smirk.

“Thank you, your majesty,…” Rozhkov bowed his head to Karina again. “Your grace.” He bowed his head once again reluctantly to Emil. “Surad being the ideal location for such a complex as the proposed land gives easy access to sea terminals and many able-bodied laborers in the surrounding area.”

Karina cringed at how Rozhkov referred to her subjects, as if they were just a cog in his machine.

“The complex can begin construction immediately once it is approved here by Royal Charter and our esteemed investors Anacom Industries give the ok to proceed. At that time those residing on the land will be moved and construction can then begin.”

As Rozhkov fell silent so did the room, it was almost a shoe in that the industrial complex would go to Surad, so no one had doubt that his proposal would go through, or objection to give.

“Excuse me, Grand Duke Rozhkov.” The room went deathly quiet as the Grand Duchess spoke up in a soft and squirrelish manner.

Lord Governor Emil turned to Karina with furrowed brow wondering why she all the sudden decided to speak up. For a moment he debated internally as to whether he approved of her sudden outspokenness, but in the end decided that if she is to rule one day she better find her confidence in situations such as these at some time. He cleared his throat and waited to hear what Karina had to say.

“Yes your majesty?” Rozhkov stood to attention as his monarch addressed him. This was the first time Karina had spoken up beyond the normal courtly pleasantries since she began attending the Assembly, and all within the hall intently listened to what she had to say.

“You said those living in the proposed area would have to move. Tell me, how many subjects live in the proposed area?” Karina’s tone told Lord Governor Emil Medved exactly where this was going. A chill went up his spine as he could see this going south swiftly, but he could not rebuke her in front of the assembly aside from conveying signals with his eyes which Karina at the moment ignored.

“Your majesty, I believe.. uh.. something like ten-thousand live in the immediate area.” Rozhkov sounded unsure.

Karina did not know what made her more furious, the fact that Rozhkov was so ready to displace ten-thousand people who had lived in the area for generations or that Rozhkov was making this proposal without event being sure how many lived in the area. But perhaps he would surprise her and already have a plan in place for this displacement.

“Am I to assume these ten-thousand be compensated for their displacement with either money to find new homes or jobs at this facility?” Karina leaned forward with anticipation of Rozhkov’s answer.

Beads of sweat rolled down Grand Duke Emil’s forehead as he too hoped Rozhkov had the right answer. He did not prepare Karina just yet for the delicate nature of the landed noble’s sense of pride and face, and if Karina were to wound either of those for Rozhkov she could upset the internal political balance of the assembly.

“Your majesty, thousands of decent paying jobs will be created with this complex’s construction, surely those displaced will find employment within it.” Rozhkov deflected in hopes of his use of words getting past the young Karina.

But he would be wrong.

“So you mean to tell me there are no such compensations in place. Only the empty promises they may get employment in this complex?” Karina’s tone had turned from that of a soft 17-year old girl to that of a sharp knife as her bright and beautiful brown eyes, that the nation had collectively fallen in love with, stabbed down at Rozhkov.

“Your majesty… It is not that simple this complex could mean increased tax revenue which could allow us….”

“Taxes, money, land, investments. It is clear to me Grand Duke that you have determined all the ways in which you can do this thing and forgot to ask yourself if you should do this thing and why.” Karina stood up from the throne, the collective breath of the room fleeing with haste as those peers of Rozhkov watched what was a shoe-in proposal be torn to shreds by the young soon-to-be monarch. Karina remembered a year ago when she visited Rhynovia with Dunet, the day that Jae found her in the streets to try and get her DNA, the impoverished children running in the mud as they peddled used books in the market for spare change. Surely with such men as Rozhkov representing the people of Surad as merely tools to collect taxes such conditions for the children of this nation would never improve. It was despicable to the young Grand Duchess who resolved herself to not stand by and listen to such madness cross her assembly.

Her assembly… maybe she was destined to rule after all, Karina thought to herself as she never pictured herself standing up to the finely dressed aristocrats in such a way since coming to Rhynovia. Such fealty, envy, and fear in their eyes as she stood above them in her righteous anger.

“No Grand Duke, I will not hear of such a travesty being committed to my subjects, this complex will not be built on your land, or any land for that matter until an appropriate location can be found in which minimal impact is made to the people of Rhynovia.” Her glare was heated as she waited Rozhkov’s response.

“Your majesty, might I educate you on my rights as a landed noble and what I may do with my land as I please and…”

“Your rights…” Karina pounded her first on the gilded railings of dais. “Your rights… what of your people’s rights Grand Duke?” Her tongue snapped with the words flowing from her pink glossed lips. “No Grand Duke, let me be clear. While I may not yet be coronated I am your monarch-to-be, and while I draw breath I will not hear of such indignant and dishonorable proposals in MY assembly. From this moment this complex no matter the circumstance will never be built within your lands, and I command you and the rest in this hall to take this as a lesson… that if the well-being of the citizens of Rhynovia is not at the forefront of your proposals then to keep them to yourself.” Her lashes of the tongue furious as she turned and stormed from the Assembly, her normally porcelain cheeks red with fury.

Lord Governor Emil Medved had been looking on in abject horror at Karina as she rebuked Rozhkov, unsure if he should be afraid for Karina and the trouble she courts with her brazen (and what some might call tyrannical) demeanor, or to be afraid for the landed nobles of this country who will forever be accountable to their subjects and not their wallets. At the former Emil Medved found peace and pride, as truly a new day for Rhynovia was dawning.

He looked down to Grand Duke Rozhkov whose face was red with embarrassment and anger. The Grand Duke of Surad crumbled his proposal papers between his lanky fingers before throwing them to the ground in anger, the whole assembly in an uproar of mixed emotions at what they had witnessed.

Nevertheless, they rose when commanded, if not faster and more obedient then when Karina entered, now feeling more accountable to the Aristov throne then they had in years…

“All rise for the Grand Duchess Karina.” The sergeant at arms was a little late with his call as Karina had stormed from the hall many moments before.

The Lord Governor gave pursuit.

The hall behind the Assembly of Ranks was long, and many meters in front of him he could see the maroon dress of the Grand Duchess and two of her guards walking swiftly towards her suite.

“Your majesty! Your majesty!” The old man called as he struggled to catch up, huffing and puffing as a man of his age and girth could not keep up with the young girl.

Karina finally turned around, hip to one side, arms crossed, and a sour look on her face. For any other girl her age this would be a normal adolescent attitude to be exhibited. But for the heir to a throne, it was something to grow from.

As the Grand Duke approached her, he could see a small glistening tear in her eye.

“I’ve made a right mess of this one haven't I?” She asked as she nervously twirled her glistening gold bracelet.

The Lord Governor who at first felt a bit frustrated at Karina’s righteous outburst felt a sudden shift in his understanding of the young girl. She was still naive in ways, a 17-year old girl at heart who beyond the frame of her sheltered life with Dunet Vasile did not see anything beyond the lens of her ideals. But in the same aspect she had a spark of commanding presence that he had not seen since she met her grandfather in exile many years ago. She truly was an Aristov, ever idealistic and compassionate for her people. Emil Medved believed that if those in the nobility and commoners listened to her grandfather in the days of the Red Revolution that the war could have been stopped before it began. But not always do we get a chance to be heard, or express our ideals. While the Lord Governor would have preferred he be consulted on his experience with the Assembly before her outburst, he was proud to see that she had no problem speaking out, a power that he now had to teach her how to control for good.

“I thought you gave old Rozhkov a good lashing if I may say my dear.” Emil placed his hands on both her shoulders as he smiled at the girl. “You have the tenacity of your grandfather.” He gave her a big smile, a look that only could convey the pride he felt towards her.

“Really?” Karina sniffed as she too smiled. While she did not know anything beyond the rage she felt for her ideals, something in her heart told her she could not stand by and listen to such a thing pass by while she had the stage to stop it. “Do they not think of the power they wield and who stands to be hurt by it?”

Karina’s eyes were large and naive, Emil always forgot she had not been raised in Rhynovia in the pits of the landed nobility.
“In an ideal world the landed nobles are to represent the interests of their subjects.” The Lord Governor could hardly say that with a straight face. “But often their own interests cloud their judgement.” His tone said he regretted the truth of it.

“Why don’t the people have a voice in the matter? Like other nations?”

“Rhynovia tried democracy for a short time, but elected officials can be just as corrupt and self-interested as nobles. So, they turned back to the monarchy for guidance, they turned to you for hope and direction.”

Karina still felt odd about a whole nation looking to her for guidance when she was hardly old enough to read or know she was a monarch. But if destiny had brought her here then it was because she had the ideals and the reason to guide her people.

“Do the two necessarily have to be mutually exclusive?” Karina said quizzically as she wondered why some sort of compromise couldn’t be met, so the people themselves did not have to solely rest their hopes on stuffy old aristocrats.

The Lord Governor was taken aback by this question, it was not something he considered as his ideals and experiences always leaned towards noblesse oblige. What would happen should a democratic voice be introduced. The absoluteness of the monarchy was a steadfast way of ensuring the best decisions were always made implemented by the leader of Rhynovia. The Lord Governor reflected a moment about what the country would have been like if the people had a voice, and the nobles had the ears to listen back in the 1960s.

“I don’t know Maria.” He called her by her insisted nickname, a name she grew up with for 12 years of her life. “But I know one day you will be Grand Princess, and you will have the power to shape Rhynovia for the future. I trust with the tenacity in your blood and the righteousness in your heart you will do the right thing for the people.” He rubbed her shoulders in an assuring way as they smiled together.

Karina thought ahead to the day a little over a year from now when she would be coronated as Grand Princess, and the power would be hers to shape Rhynovia for the betterment of the people… those who look to her with hope.

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Achesia
Negotiator
 
Posts: 6392
Founded: Sep 26, 2009
Father Knows Best State

Postby Achesia » Mon Nov 26, 2018 7:15 pm

[Unknown], Rhynoiva, Rhynovia

It was a cold and uninviting door painted so long ago that even the oldest could not remember its original nature. Now the flakes of time fell to the withering of ages, felled by forces none have yet to conceptualize. It was for these dark insights that the man standing before the door hesitated to take the knob, for all his assurances in life he had little gall to test time. While most people would think little of a flaked door in the squalor of Rhynovia's oldest quarter, today the man faced forces beyond his based existence and that scared him more than anything he had faced prior in his middling life.

Would a man of his position fear such? He repeated this question in his head over and over as he thought of men he felt greater than he in his own history, mirrors of what he wished to be and what he had built his earthly empire of riches and titles upon. But as he continued to stare at the corroded knob he could not find the answer. As of week hence when he opened the letter he never thought the things he saw possible. The letter haunted his every turn, strut, smile, feeling, and breath. The letter had been the essence of his mortality this week, a man of responsibility and position reduced to bowing before a dated method of communication. Yet this blade the postmaster brought was not of their mastery and nor his. Little in this land did not come under his mastery or within his reach, yet in times such as this powerful men are challenged with things they can neither control nor usurp, and more often than not it is their bane. An unscalable wall where walls crumbled before, the letter than reminded him of his mortality.

“Sir..?” A second hand took the knob and twisted it, it was rough and stuck to the frame as it was grasped and tugged. But finally, it yielded to the second man who stood watching the first, a puzzled look exchanged between the two as the respect placed in a man so taken aback by a doorknob was questioned.

The man only tugged at his clothes, fine suit and slacks, and nodded with authority. It was as if to remind his subordinate that no words were needed to be exchanged beside nods between lord and servant.

“Wait here. Do not follow.” The man took a delayed but confident step across the threshold, the musty air of the antiquated and unkept building wafting into the outside like a cloud. Without much heed as if the air had some answer to him the man walked through the shadowed room where only torn curtain yielded light. When out of sight of his compatriot he turned to make sure he was truly not being followed, and upon assertion that he was alone in this must he scratched the scruff on his chin, recalling the letter. Aside from the horror of uncertainty it brought the true words on the parchment spoke of stairs.

A man of his position was used to being met at the door, his coat taken as a pleasantry by the master of the household's staff. Yet the first fear he felt in this dim manor was that he was so low unto the master of this estate that he did not warrant a guide to the stairs. He cleared his throat as if the sound of its gruffness and his own life would sooth him. But as he listened to the stillness and staleness of the air around him, the uncouth nature of it all, he found little solace in that place. And further shaken was his fortitude when the voice grabbed him from the shadows.

“Sirrr.” A long drawn out and throaty greeting came from down the hall. The man fixed his gazes through the darkness until he could make out the shape of a cloaked figure waiting in the dark, hands folded before his abdomen as he stood in respect of the guest.

The man got ahold of himself as he felt the sudden fright might drive him mad when coupled with such queer surroundings. He furrowed his brow at the strange individual dressed in black robes, a vestige of something dark and unbidden.

“Well.” He shook his head and spread his arms out, as if silently calling attention to his lordly arrival. “I'm here.” He stated the obvious as little else was obvious to him other than he had arrived to this estate he cared little to visit. It was not by curiosity or want did he happen there, but rather requirement.

“This way…” The hooded man spoke to him before descending the first step of the stairs. The creaking of the wood gave life to the otherwise deathly silence. The man looking around to see if others would be joining them in their descent further down into some mad revelation he surely had reading the letter. His fine leather shoes collecting dust as he walked across the crusted carpet floors while batting away cob webs that tied him as he moved. Looking down the stairs all was dark, except for the faintest of lights beyond his vision, only shadows dancing assured him he was not vanishing into the night. The robed man had all but disappeared yet he knew there was only one way he could have gone, down.

Where he wished to hesitate and find resolve he only continued his descent down the stairs as if it was down his own soul. Every creaking of wood reminded him of how far he was straying into the hands of the letter, the call he was given a week ago. Would this week have been a primer for him, a ceremonial conditioning of his hubris which needed to be disrobed? Or was it showing him that should he not take the knob in his hand and descend the stairs that his life would be one of doubt and torment, his mind turned against him as he was bludgeoned with fear and mania?

But he only had to see, he only had to come and listen, to witness. The bottom of the stairs while dark led to a stone basement, the contents of which while covered in dust and animal droppings were none the more noticeable. But what he did see was the brick wall bashed open, laying in crumbles along the north end revealing a passage deeper into the earth. The robed man stood there at the mouth of the bash in the wall, saying nothing until he turned and walked through, not even a nod of understanding passed between the two men as the lordly man had given his subordinate minutes ago. He was clearly the subordinate here.

It was not far along the passage did they find a light, a circle of wax candles along the floor that flickered in a flame far brighter and more clear than their wicks would naturally give. The man stopped to question this but was beckoned forward, closer to the ring of candles where others awaited. Before him stood a half dozen robes, all filled with shadowed faces ungiving in peasantry, respect of his position, or response. They each stood the same, hands folded except for his guide who now held his arms open, as if welcoming him.

“You come to attest your witness to the letter?” The robed man craned his neck, still unyielding to the shadow that covered his face. This guise that covered him and the others did not even succumb to the dance of queer candlelight below them, something most disheartening for the out of place lord as he watched the light play around their hoods, but their faces from the lip up, black!

“Yes…?” It was the voice of a man confidently losing his resolve to remain in reality. Never has he lost his words to a shake of his throat, yet he soon learned fear while the candlelight began to dance higher along the walls.

Hands grabbed him on either side, the robed figures suddenly like shadows appearing as they ushered him towards the circle, their grips tight and cold.

“Witness to you my lord” The robed man's tone curt towards the noble pleasantries. “Witness to the fire, to the salt of this earth, the ichor of this country.”

As he was brought forward, he could see what lay at the center of the circle, a bundle of wheat freshly shorn, five river stones wet, a bone that he could not ascertain its origin, and around them all sand made to draw a symbol he did not understand. Yet at the center of it all sat an obelisk, not half a man high made of black stone, glimmering in the candlelight as the fire seemed to show its black surface above all other more naturally welcoming surfaces in the chamber.

“Light of black, dark of white. We gather to witness this lords’ plight.” The robed man turned from them as he chanted, facing the obelisk with arms wide before him, calling out to something beyond that the lord could not even see, yet he knew it was there, because the man in robes knew it was there. While he kept his arms forth, the lordly man thought he saw a glimmer on the black stone, yet the candlelight surely played tricks with him.

“Summer to thee who hold him close to their personal darkness summer to thee who come before this ceremony in reverence, our own vessels bearing witness to the blood offered today.”

The man ended his chanting and turned.

“Witness.” The robed man pulled a simple knife from his cloth, the metal shaft was corroded like the knob and the wooden grip flaking in its dryness. “Witness.” He said again, motioning for the lord to hold out his hand. He knew what was next, a toll of blood to be paid for passage through this ceremony. The man now more unsure of his life than he had ever been held out his hand, a cut from a dull blade did not scare him. As he held it out fingers outstretched the two who held his arms pushed him forward, towards the black obelisk and over the sandy symbol. They took care not to trample the wheat or stones, yet they now kept his hand forward, above the glimmering black obelisk for a long moment until the knife wielding man appeared once more, this time his robes now red. The lord knew this impossible, yet the candles grew hotter and brighter. Surely, he could have borne the madness for the rest of his life over this?

“Witness…” The robed man took the corroded blade above the other's hand. The restraint given by the others was stiffened before the cut, yet as the lord stood there waiting, he squinted his eyes, hoping to be free of sight of his own crimson.

“No…” The red robed man said as he held the knife above his palm. The annoyance could be conveyed even though his brow was shadowed.
“Witness!” The lord drew his eyes wide as the knife was drawn higher. The red robed man plunged the blade straight into the yielding man's palm, before drawing it back out and stabbing it in again while the lord cried out in affliction.

“Witness us oh dreaded one, summer be upon us while we take heed, bring us the wheat of this land and the stones and the sand, while the bone of this child shall be basked in this lords’ hand!”

The red robed man cried out loudly as he let go of the grip of the knife which protruded from their congregation of one’s hand. He grabbed the bundle of wheat and placed it next to the blade in the blood red palm while the cry of pain filled the chamber. Next was the wet river stones, their water mixing with the blood, then the sand of the earth of this land sprinkled over the wound. But it wasn't until finally that the red robed man placed the bone of the child in the lord's hand did he close his palm around its contents, forcing him to hold on to his blood and country.

“Now steal him away towards your night, show him black, show him certainties that only can be revealed with your sight!”

And with that the red robed one took the handle of the knife again, slamming the lord's hand down onto the fulcrum of the black obelisk. But just as the pain would have accumulated, the lord found himself alone in a field of soot, the ashes falling around him while distant fires bellowed out psalms of widowed sacraments.

The lordling babbled in fear as he stood in a land he did not recognize, a land of other existence. He saw nothing on the horizon before him only an eternity of hell and ash. But as he spun around he was brought to silence and dark adoration while he stood lifeless and frozen before It… no a him… the Mass!

The mass of dark flesh and many eyes towered over him as his hand beckoned the lord to turn his gaze. To the east lay a field filled with beings that looked like lost souls each planted in the ground in rows of five as they shrilled in terror that beset by scythes. While the planted souls cried out cackling imps curtailed their bounties with hateful screeches of joy. With each new row they reached their terrifying song of bloodlust and the shrillness of the souls growing louder.

But without a word the Mass took an ewer from the ground, pouring fourth an ichor that bubbled and sprouted fourth. Soon the black ichor grew into the shape of a begin not unlike the lord. Moments of bubbling and shill cries manifested in then the blackness receding to reveal its nature, a young girl dressed in white who stood facing away from them, in one hand a golden mace while her other chained her to the Mass.

“Glorify him.” She said. The Mass cackling as it twisted the chain around her wrist. Yet instead of yielding to the Mass the maiden strut fourth wielding the mace high as the flames behind her gave it a glint so bright the imps cowered. Striking them down the souls planted in the field sung praises: “Glorify him!” They called out over and over. It was not until her white dress was soaked in red lust of the imp’s flesh did she finish, and the dripping crimson maiden turned to the lord.

“Her eyes!” He cried, the brown eyes haunting him as the imp blood poured over her face. She stared at him, mace in hand as the chain the Mass held now wrapping itself around her neck. Just before the snap of her bones did she call out to the lord.

“Witness me!” Her neck snapping under the links while he lost his mind in that ashen field. It was all too real, a dream not meant to be…. “HER EYES.”

“My lord… sir…”

He heard suddenly, above him stood his servant who he last told to wait at the door. The lord lay on his back in the dim estate now, staring at the cracked ceilings and missing floorboards of the second story.

“Sir are you alright?”

The lord sat up, his head pounding and heart still racing. It couldn't be… all that he saw. Nothing but a stupor, a drug they used to poison his mind.

“I'm fine…” The man meant to say. But before he could, he felt something in his palm, the palm the man in red had so deftly driven a knife. There he found a small yellowed paper, and upon opening he read. “Glorify him.”

And with a loud sheik that deafened his servant's ear he understood it all, and there the symbol that the sand made was writ in pen under the message.

The servant retracted at his lord’s sudden yell. His brow furrowed as he was concerned.

“My lord we need to get you outta here. Ingot 3-3 code bla-”

The lord grasped his collar firmly.

“No….” He said angrily. But when he looked up to his servant standing over him, he saw his face drenched in blood! The servant's eyes opened wider, they were brown like the maiden’s.

“Glorify him my lord.” He saw the servant say without sound but the motion of his bloody lips.

But as time passed so did the blood and eyes.

“My lord?” The servant questioned as he felt the tight grip on his collar.

“No… I'm fine.” The man stood up from his position on the crusted carpet. He looked around the estate once more heading for the door.
“Bring the car around.” He strutted towards the flaking entrance. With one last look he turned to peer down the hallway into the darkness, and there the robed man stood in black hands folded and face shadowed, only a smirk giving away the mystery.

“Ingot 3-4 pull around.” The servant said as he shook his head wondering what could possess his master such.

But his master silently stood on the curbside, he wondered what would possess him to continue this madness. A madness that began before time. A madness that was his life.

User avatar
Lacus Magni
Diplomat
 
Posts: 758
Founded: Apr 02, 2011
Left-Leaning College State

Postby Lacus Magni » Tue Jan 15, 2019 3:03 pm

“Blachernae”
Leo
April 2018
Palace of Augustus, Latium


The Prince lifted the glass pitcher effortlessly, pouring himself a glass of water with as many as six or seven ice cubes splashing into the glass. Leo took a heavy sip, and turned around to once more face the room where three, sometimes four, Imperial household staff members gathered some of his personal belongings, and assorted items. As the second day of such packing, all that remained to be moved were a few bags, which he packed earlier in the morning.

He lifted the glass for another sip when a staffer asked, “This bag as well, Your Highness?” The young woman stood near the door adjoining the apartment’s bedchamber and the main entryway, leaning over a black leather bag, marked with a pressing of Leo’s personal coat of arms: the Gentry and Claudii eagles in seperate quarters, with a mark of cadency over the Claudii eagle.

“I can take care of that one,” Leo nodded to the girl. “Thank you for all of your help.” The woman curtseyed to him before rushing for the door to help her co-worker out of the apartment. Leo took the final sip of his water, empting the glass as quickly as he poured it, before stepping towards the black bag. As he leaned to lift it, Leo gazed as he often did at the fireplace, and the portrait of his great-grandfather showing a stern, menacing look.

With the bag’s strap slung over his shoulder, Leo made his way for the door. In the hallway, a Praetorian stood watch outside of his door, while four household staff walked past without so much as a glance. At the end of either side of the hallway, more people were passing by, going about their work or seeing that the orders given were carried out, until further down he could see the three which had been helping him make their way for the motor pool. With a few more steps out, Leo’s guard began to lead him down the hall in the same direction.

There was little else for Leo to do at the Palace today. He managed to see just about everyone he usually did, which included having dinner with Constantine and Anastasia. Once he turned down the next hallway, a voice called out to him, “Leo!” It forced him to stop, along with his guard who only stopped once he noticed Leo wasn’t following any longer. “Leo, wait up” the feminine voice said again.

Turning around, he saw his cousin Violant parting ways with her sister Princess Poly, the latter of whom threw a wave to Leo. Violant walked gracefully towards him, looking as stylish as her reputation was, wearing a light gray v-neck undershirt, covered by a designer dark gray jacket and black leggings. As she walked, Leo gave his guard a look to move along, and as quick as that, the guard left Leo upon Violant’s arrival.

“Hello, Violant,” Leo smiled politely to his cousin just as she finished her approach.

“Simply hello?” Violant teased with a smile. “I hadn’t expected to run into you today,” she said, and upon seeing his bag and the train of employees carting things off ahead of him added, “Has Kostas kicked you out or something?”

“Oh, nothing of the sort,” he laughed, pushing a hand through his wavy, long, black hair that reached back to the back of his shirt collar.

“Are you certain?” she narrowed her eyes. “From the looks of it, and my having to shout you down to stop, one might think you’re trying to flee. It was rather rude you know, just walking past Poly and I without so much as a wave,” her teasing was clear to Leo.

“I’ve just been so wrapped up in things lately,” he rubbed the back of his neck. “You’ll have to forgive me there, I didn’t even see you until you started shouting my name.”

“Please, I hardly shouted. At least no louder than I’ve heard your sisters or mother shout your name,” Violant laughed. “But seriously, where are you off too in such a hurry? A vacation I hope.”

“Blachernae. Just for awhile at least,” Leo explained. “Well, my mother’s for tonight but after that Blachernae.”

“Oh, the new house,” Violant said with an inquisitive look. “The last time I was at Blachernae was that time I think you tried to jump across that little creek.”

Leo laughed, “Everytime I mention Blachernae…someone always brings that up. If I didn’t know any better I’d think uncle left it for me simply for that reason.”

“I have no doubt it was deliberate. Papa had that sense of humor about him,” Violant threw her head back with a laugh.

“Probably,” Leo snorted a laugh. “What about you? Did you just fly in? I feel like I would have heard from someone if I neglected to say hello to you and you were here this whole time.”

“Mhm,” Violant nodded. “I drove up from Utica nearly an hour ago, give or take. I’ll be in Alba for the next few days, and then from there to Ostracine, and probably Ghish after that. And you’re quite right. I can be very unforgiving if I don’t receive an adequate welcome. Ask your brother if you think I’m simply teasing,” she said, clearly teasing.

Leo laughed at that, as did Violant, until they stood together in silence. After only a moment, Violant broke the silence by saying, “I was actually…well, I have been meaning to ask you about something though.”

“Oh?” Leo was puzzled.

“Yes,” Violant laughed, almost as if to cover some sort of awkwardness. It was something Leo had rarely seen from her in all the time he’d known her. “Well, I was, I was curious how your son is doing. Felix, right?”

Leo’s eyes fluttered quickly due to his own embarrassment, prompting him to look down for a split second. He looked at Violant again, her sharp green eyes staring back at him with a calm, warm smile. “Yes…Felix. He’s, uh, well. I suppose. Well as can be apparently. Uh, he’s healthy.”

“That’s wonderful. Is he here?” she asked caringly. “I’d love to meet him.”

“He’s been staying with my mother while I wrap things up here. But umm,” Leo ran a hand through his hair yet again. “You’re more than welcome to meet him whenever you like.”

“Later tonight?” she quickly spat out. “I, wow, that was intrusive,” she laughed, “I really didn’t mean to impose. That is if you and Aunt Isabella don’t have plans.”

“No, not at all. You aren’t,” Leo nodded and then smiled. “I think mother would be happy to have you over. I’m sure Felix would enjoy seeing a new face as well.”

“You’re certain?” Violant rose an eyebrow. “I don’t want to put you out.”

“It’s really no problem,” Leo gave a brief smile.

“Well if you’re sure,” Violant flashed a bright smile. “I should be free by seven if that is alright. Is your mother still at Fidenae?”

“Aye,” Leo nodded, “She is. I’ll let her know you’re coming.”

“Fantastic,” Violant flashed a bright smile. “I promise I’ll let you know if I’ll be late,” she excitingly waved her hand. “I don’t think I will be though.”

“Of course,” Leo sported a tight-lipped smile. “In that case, I’ll see you tonight.”



Villa Fidenae
Fidenae, Latium


After supper, Leo and his son, Felix, were joined by Violant in the solar of his mother’s estate. The east wall was lined with bookshelves, and ornate wooden panelling between them – likely full of books none of the occupants had read or were likely to read. The west wall faced the sun, the wall here providing for a view of the setting sun given the right time of night, though now the sun shone through, lighting up the room with no help from artificial lighting.

“You must send your mother’s chef my regards,” Violant stated, but had her gaze fixed on young Felix, who smiled back at the new face. At their table sat a center decoration, and a glass of wine for each. “It was absolutely divine.”

“I’ll be certain to do so,” Leo stood from his seat, lifting Felix off the ground and into his lap.

Though before Leo returned to his seat, Violant extended her arms out and said, “May I?” Leo nodded and handed Felix off to her, as the boy began to bounce up and down as Violant rocked him back and forth in her lap. “He’s a very happy little boy,” she added, then changing her tone to a softer, babying voice, “Yes you are, just the happiest little boy in the land.”

“He smiles more than you. Though, I’m not sure that’s saying much,” Violant teased. “He’s four, five months old?”

“Seven.”

“I thought he was born in December, no?” she said, though focused on Felix, lifting his arms, causing the boy to laugh. “He doesn’t quite look seven months.”

“August. I just, uh, wasn’t aware of things until before Constantine’s wedding,” Leo shifted awkwardly in his seat.

Violant slowly looked up from Felix to Leo. With a twinkling smile she said, “Don’t feel awkward about it. You did a good thing, Leo. Who is his mother?”

Leo smiled for a brief moment, before it instantly faded away. There was an awkward pause between them, only broken by a laugh from Felix when Violant playfully poked his nose. Instead of answering her question, Leo asked, “Do you ever wish that your parents married?”

“I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about that before. Maybe when I was much younger,” she shrugged. “I love them both, and I miss papa, but the few times they the three of us were together…it was odd, you know?”

“Because of your step-father?”

“Chris?” Violant looked to Leo again, mentioning her step-father’s name. “He and papa never manage to get along, I’m sure they both had their reasons, but no. From everything I’ve seen, and everything I’ve heard, papa just…he seemed lost for awhile. Even those first few times I can remember being with him, he appeared empty. Not that I felt he didn’t care for me, I know he did, but just that he was lost. I don’t think he and mother would have managed together – no matter how much I didn’t want to be a bastard, and just wanted to be a princess like Maria.”

“Why do you ask?” she handed Felix to Leo, and then crossed her legs and waved at Felix who rested in his father’s lap. “Are you thinking of asking the mother to marry?”

“No, no,” Leo spat out quickly with a shake of his head. “That isn’t really an option.”

Violant eyed him with a look bewilderment, though shrugged it off and reached for her glass. “After this, and everything else, I’m not really that interested in courting. Nathan was prodding me about it at the wedding a few months back, my sisters prod me about it. Except Arietta, thankfully. It’s mostly just Diana I suppose. But even my mother has started poking me about it,” he laughed nervously. “I’m glad you were here, otherwise she might have asked again.”

“My mother is the same,” Violant chortled, placing her glass back on the table. “She’s always told me, ‘You’ll know when you see it.’ So that’s my go to excuse to avoid courting. It’s worked so far at least. That and I actually have a job, which some can’t seem the fathom,” to which Leo laughed in response, and she smiled back. “Do you know Prince Gabriel of Montgisard?”

“I know of him,” Leo said, still laughing from her previous remark.

“He’s an ornery little beast, and the latest to be on the receiving end of that line. Handsome enough though, he has hair sort of like yours, but my, the most recent time he and I were speaking was just torture. All he did was talk about himself, and he was just so dull,” she feigned a yawn before laughing loudly. “He nearly put me to sleep from just speaking. And then there are all the Ghantish lordlings that mother and Chris keep speaking about. I’m positive you have some familiarity there, just with their sisters. I recall Nathan speaking of some of them and you on one instance.”

“I’m sure he has,” Leo stood from his chair and placed Felix in his own baby seat nearby. As he walked back to his own seat, Leo continued, “Did he let you in on any good leads the last you saw him? I’m sure Nathan was over the moon when he heard about Caroline and I.”

“Well, I’ll make no comment on that,” Violant her hands in a playful manner. “I know your brother well, and I’m positive he only wants what’s best for you. That’s just what older siblings do.”

The two continued to speak for nearly two hours longer on assorted topics, mostly inconsequential in nature. After Violant took one last sip of wine from her glass, she looked at her watch, and Leo looked to Felix, noticing the baby had fallen asleep. “I didn’t realize it was so late already. That time simply flew by, didn’t it?” Violant giggled slightly, with a touch of the ends of her long, dark brown hair.

“Wow, you’re right. Apparently we bored Felix to sleep, so I don’t think I can thank you for that,” Leo chuckled.

“You’re hardly a bore, Leo,” Violant giggled.

Leo carefully lifted Felix into his arms and carried the boy as he walked Violant out of the room. “Let me put him down, then I’ll walk you out.” She followed Leo, who walked to Felix’s room, and as he moved to enter, she gave Leo’s shirt a tug.

He turned to face her, and she kissed the sleeping Felix atop the head and said, “Goodnight little one.” After a minute or so later, Leo re-entered the hall and walked Violant out of the villa, where the weather was calm, and cool as the sun had already set for the night. Over the trees surrounding the villa to the south, Leo looked on to see the lights from Castellum illuminating in the distance.

He almost lost himself staring into the distance until Violant said, “Thank you for having me, I had a great time.” Leo nodded as Violant picked through her handbag just as they reached her SUV.

“So did I,” Leo smirked, while she continued to rifle through her bag. “Having some trouble are we?”

She threw her head back with a laugh, “Are you that desperate to get rid of me?” After another moment, she pulled the keys with a triumphant “Found them!”

Once she unlocked the car, Leo stepped in to open the driver door for her with a polite smile. To Leo’s surprise, she leaned in to give him a hug, which he returned in kind. “Thank you again, I’m sorry for forcing my way into your plans. I’ve been waiting for a chance to speak with you about Felix and meet the little one,” which caused Leo to show a curious look that made her laugh. “If you, or Felix, need anything at all, please let me know if there’s anyway I can help.”

“Of course,” Leo said, while Violant stepped into her car. Leo took the door to help is close and added, “Drive safe.”

“Always,” she winked at him with a laugh. “I’ll be in touch,” she said just as the door closed with a wave, driving away a few moments later towards the capital.
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Postby Leasath » Sat Jan 19, 2019 10:36 pm

”Life’s Fairness”
Château d'Arrentières, Vannois
January 2019


Arrentières castle was little more than a hunting cabin; sure, it was laid in stone and a formidable fortress in the days of the late 15th century when some Duke of Saint-Nazaire or another laid down its foundations, but in current terms it was truly more a ‘manor’ than a ‘castle’ – low stone walls, containing a reasonably large brick-and-mortar building consisting of short turrets and long halls which formed the actual living area of the place.

It had been heavily remodeled and changed in the years since its creation, adding plumbing, insulation, and even heating and air conditioning over the years. As such, it was among the liked, or at least tolerated, residences of the House Niort-Parthenay. In particular, the Heir to the Throne found himself here more often than any of his family – a real achievement considering their number and comparative lack of residences to house them free of charge.

Often the young Heir would come to Arrentières alone, bereft even of his usual cadre of servants and guards; indeed, he often entrusted his security to less than a dozen men of the Imperial Guard, as well as the loyal staff of the castle who had known him since he was a boy. He had been a sweet child, quick to give thanks for the treats slipped him by this cook or that butler, and even though he had toughened considerably with age those same cooks and butlers remained especially fond of the once-little Prince.

When the Prince didn’t travel alone, he often brought his young wife, who was also showered with affection by the staff at Arrentières. While they were slightly less comfortable around the young woman, the leeway granted them by Audric seemed to extend at least in some areas to Selene.

On the exceedingly rare occasion the Prince was joined by anyone else, it was usually his cousin, the Prince Charles of Vierville. The two young men were almost brotherly, and visited the small castle often. It had almost become a rule that Audric didn’t bring his actual siblings, and especially not his parents; they in particular hadn’t been seen at Arrentières in nigh on a decade.

Exceptions exist to every rule, however, and the trip the Crown Prince took, meeting his eldest sisters along the way with his younger siblings in tow all to culminate in an awkward reunion with their mother in the courtyard of the castle, was an exception.

Presently, not long after that reunion in which Audric and Catherine had stood rarely united in their awkward silence a few steps away from their mother while Marie-Madeleine scowled, Marie-Thérèse sniffled into Cath’s chest, and Marie-Claire had hesitantly toddled forward to hug Valérie, the family was sitting scattered across the main hall of Arrentières. Silence reigned, though Claire and Thérèse were murmuring off near a fire about some particular doll. Madeleine and Catherine had sat further from the flames, at a loveseat which faced a large outer window into the courtyard they had come from; the two were silent, Madeleine absorbed by her cell phone and Catherine simply studying the cold environment outside.

Audric, eldest sibling and singular male as he was, had taken the responsibility of sitting near their mother as his own. They’d not seen one-another in person since his wedding to Selene, nearly two years ago now; they’d not spoken a word to eachother since the death of Alexandre, Audric’s father and predecessor as Heir to the Vannoisian Throne. Nearly three years had passed since then, and it seemed each of Valérie’s children had changed entirely since.

“I never…” Valérie cleared her throat slightly, breaking the near-silence of the room, trailing for a moment. Catherine had turned her head towards her mother, and little Claire had jumped at the sound of her voice; the others, Madeleine and Thérèse, stubbornly looked away. Audric simply stared at his mother. “I never told you, how – how beautiful you and Selene looked. On your wedding day. How happy it made me, darling. It was such a wonderful ceremony.”

Audric blinked once, twice; he exchanged a glance with his eldest sister, who had raised her eyebrows. After catching Audric’s eye, she quickly lowered them, and turned to Madeleine. Almost immediately, the room was in motion. Madeleine, standing, called to her younger siblings, “why don’t we go see about snatching some cookies from the kitchens?” and almost immediately the youngest daughters of the late Crown Prince were on their feet, giggling and following Marie-Madeleine toward the small kitchen area of the castle.

Catherine had also gotten to her feet, though she moved to the chairs Audric and their mother occupied; a set of comfortable, well-used leather arm-chairs, around another small fireplace set into the wall. As she settled, Valérie grimaced, looking between the faces of her two eldest children.

Audric spoke measuredly, carefully, steepling his fingers in his lap. “I’m sure Selene would be appreciative of your words, mother,” he said quietly, maintaining eye-contact with the older woman. “Though I imagine she would have liked to hear them on our wedding day, impossibly long ago as that may seem.” Valérie grimaced again, looking into her lap for a long moment.

At first it seemed as though the woman was going to cry, and Catherine was ready to stand and go to her before she spoke again. “My greatest regret in life,” Valérie said quietly, her voice rough, still looking down, “my greatest regret by far, is agreeing to marry your father. To overlook his… wild tendencies, his angry attitudes, his… his violence, so that my father could have a child who was Empress.” Her voice had not risen at all, yet her children clung to every word.

Valérie shifted, her head cocking upward to look between her eldest children. “You… you both know, I think, what he did. How he behaved. I tried to shield you, as long as I could, but –”

Suddenly, the once-Crown Princess was cut off, the strong voice of her eldest son cutting across her. “Did you?” he asked heatedly, eyes suddenly sharp. “Did you, mother? Because I certainly recall things that no child should recall, people and behaviors that no boy should have to witness. I’m certain Cath does as well,” he finished, eyes flicking to his tight-faced sister.

Valérie, taken aback, said nothing as Catherine nodded slowly. She swallowed harshly, blinking back watery eyes as she twisted her hands in her lap. “Y-you must understand, darling, I wanted to do all that I could to protect you, both of you. All of you,” she said, half-desperate, half-pleading. She looked as frail as she had when Alexandre had been alive, and it visibly disturbed her son.

Catherine took this moment to interject, her soft voice carried by honey-like tones. “I don’t think any of us blame you for what… what our father made habit of,” she said quietly, earnestly. Her comely face was downcast, her usually sparkling eyes bereft of any light. “After his death…” Catherine bit her lip, obviously rather overcome, and Audric took over once again.

“You disappeared,” the Crown Prince muttered, leaning back. His voice was cutting, though little emotion showed on his face; his eyes flashed. “We knew where to, obviously. But you left us,” and Audric waved a hand errantly, eyes still fixed on his mother. “Claire was two. I was shocked she even recognized you today, for God’s sake.”

The woman who once would have been Empress of Vannois was silent, head down, gaze in her lap. Her eldest children were quiet, looking at her rather than eachother, waiting. Eventually, after what seemed a lifetime, Valérie’s head raised slightly. “I didn’t… want to, my darling,” she said roughly, blinking away tears. “It wasn’t that I wanted to – to abandon my children, my little ones. All of you. I…”

Catherine stood, stepping towards their mother’s chair and placing an awkward hand on her shoulder; Valérie quickly placed her own hand atop Cath’s, taking a deep, shuddering breath. “I couldn’t… stay… where he was,” Valérie eventually murmured, voice cracking. “You- darling,” she looked up to Audric, locking eyes with him, “you remind me so much of him. Not the bad, never the bad… but when he was young…”

The younger Niort Princess stood stock still, her hand on her mother’s shoulder still, refusing to look at her brother; Audric himself had simply raised an eyebrow. “He was kind, and true to me, once,” Valérie muttered, shaking her head. “I didn’t want to see him change, that’s why I married him. There was no getting out after… after that…”

Silence reigned again for a long few moments, each person in the room contemplating Valérie’s last words. The children didn’t know much of Alexandre’s youth; while he was alive, they had rarely seen him, and any time they were around him was to be dreaded. To hear that he had once been kind to their oft-beleaguered mother was, at the least, a surprise. Audric and Catherine still hadn’t responded when Valérie spoke again, shaking her head. “I- I could only see him, in each of you. Certain features, tics, even things in your voices… and your grandfather, God love him, he was so kind. Always so kind. I could mourn for as long as I needed, he said,” her voice cracked again, but she powered on, “and I took full advantage. I couldn’t take… I couldn’t take anymore.”

Catherine opened her mouth, doubtlessly ready to murmur “Oh, mother,” and embrace the older woman before Audric spoke. “You left us,” he said, eyes still fixed on Valérie; her gaze shot up, and her head ticked back as though struck when she met her son’s sharp eyes. “You left your children, your son and your daughters, because we looked like our father,” he spat the last, voice venomous. Catherine seemed ready to come to a half-hearted defense of their mother, but bit her lip at the last moment. “I brought you here at your insistence, mother, and with the girls as well… all for you to abdicate responsibility unto a dead, horrible, but dead man?”

Catherine found her voice, soft as it was. “Audric, please, she suffered greatly…”

“So did we, Cath,” Audric said sharply, standing suddenly and walking to the fireplace. He stared into the flames for a moment. “You think I didn’t hear him, at night? What he did, to God knows who? Some poor, damned soul to be sure. You think he never turned a wayward slap onto me?” Audric cut himself off, shaking his head, avoiding Catherine’s now-wide eyes. It was obvious that the last comment had been unknown to anyone else in the room, until now. “We all suffered, mother. Only you ran away.”

Now, the flood gates seemed to be let loose; Valérie sobbed into her hand, leaning forward in her chair as Catherine moved a hand to rub her back. The younger Princess’s eyes were wet, too, and she looked at her brother with wide, sympathetic eyes. Audric hadn’t seen his eldest sister look on him with anything less than suspicion or contempt in what felt like a lifetime, and reveled in it for a long moment, trying to forget what he had just revealed.

After flicking his gaze from his mother and Cath to the fire again, Audric took a shuddering breath. “Don’t tell me you suffered, is what I am saying,” he murmured, looking back at his mother and sister. “Don’t tell me you suffered as if I didn’t, because Alexandre wronged us all, and I didn’t run away.”

Suddenly, as if summoned by magic, a head of dark brown hair came streaking towards the Crown Prince, almost toppling him with the force of their embrace. Marie-Madeleine, who had evidently pawned the younger children off onto a kindly servant or two, clutched her brother tightly as she sobbed into his shoulder. She said nothing, at least nothing intelligible, as Audric raised his arms to return her embrace. In her chair, Valérie cried even harder.

“It’s…” Audric swallowed past a lump in his throat, rubbing Madeleine’s back as she wracked against him, the young Princess now stuttering some variations on apologies and questions as to why he never said anything as she buried her face into his shoulder. Finding his words again, he shushed Madeleine. “It’s alright, petite colombe,” he murmured, rocking Madeleine back and forth slightly; for all that she was an often confident, brash young woman, she was ever fond of her eldest brother’s pet name for her. “It happened years ago now, it’s alright.”

Catherine shook herself from her near stupor, still rubbing her mother’s back, eyes locked on Audric’s over the top of their little sister’s head. Her own eyes were suspiciously misty, and she squeezed them closed for a moment. Keeping them closed, she looked down. “Was it… was it often, Audric? When we were in Royaumeix, or Saint-Lô?” At this, Valérie’s head finally turned upwards, taking in the sight of her eldest cradling her third-born as a father would comfort his daughter. She covered another sob with her hand before he even spoke.

The Crown Prince nodded, chin brushing the top of Madeleine’s head. “Either, both. A few times in Saint-Nazaire,” he said quietly, letting himself admit to the assaults. Only Selene knew the true, full extent; even Charles knew little beyond the fact that Alexandre had hit Audric at all, and that had left the two men drunk on expensive cognac alone. The Emperor himself knew nothing at all, and Audric thanked God for that each day. “I… do you remember, when he came home from the Coutouvre match? He’d bet on SNC, and lost something like five thousand livres?”

Catherine shuddered, immediately recalling the night, and nodded. Alexandre had been horrifically drunk, driven home by one servant or another. Valérie had been visiting Escondeaux with Madeleine and Thérèse, before Claire was even born. Catherine and Audric had been playing at some video game when Alexandre had bust into the room. “You told me to go fetch uncle Jean-Yves and Charles because they were visiting,” Catherine said as confirmation, eyes fixing on some unknown point. “A servant came and found me before I could come back I- I couldn’t find them…”

Audric nodded. “I couldn’t let him have the satisfaction of an audience, or… or another target,” he stuttered, and Madeleine’s tears were renewed into his chest. Swallowing harshly again, he continued, “I couldn’t let him hurt my baby sisters. I couldn’t protect mother, but I had… I had that, I could shield you, and Maddie, and… I couldn’t let him hurt you any more than he already did…”

As Audric trailed and trailed, Catherine made a decision she would probably call momentous; at least, momentous in that no such thing had happened between her and her only brother in almost three years. She quickly strode forward and embraced both her younger sister and eldest brother, burying her face into the top of Madeleine’s head, allowing some small amount of tears to fall. She could feel Madeleine’s shaking, and Audric’s too; she thought she could feel a tear or two falling into her hair, too.

After a long moment, silent but for the sobbing of Madeleine and Audric’s rough, deep breaths, yet another person joined them; Valérie had stood on unsteady feet, almost collapsing into her three eldest children as she tried to wrap her arms around them all. She, too, was crying; and though each child would have been – and would later be – uncomfortable at her sudden closeness, in the moment the presence of their mother was a comfort that not even years apart could dampen.
Last edited by Leasath on Sat Jan 19, 2019 10:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Allamunnic States » Sun Jan 20, 2019 11:47 am

Premier's Quarters, Roan
Federal District of Roan-Ottonia
Ottonian Federation
September 15th, 2018


"Quarters" were certainly a way of describing the official residence of the Premier of the Ottonian Federation. "Palace" might be another, given the polished marble floor that greeted Vitus of Staalmark, among others, as they entered after clearing security. Their footfalls echoed loudly as they proceeded along a route marked by Federal Guardsmen standing at attention. The black uniforms of the Guardsmen were sharp, as were the oiled and polished wood of their rifle stocks, and it was hard, even for the gaggle of Ottonian royals, to not be at least somewhat intimidated. Which was, of course, the point of the whole exercise. The royals were being made to feel as if they were not in control of the situation, while the Premier was.

Not, Vitus thought, walking along with the group that the effort is really needed; that is the truth of the situation, after all. He walked alongside his father, King Rodrik of Staalmark, wearing identical navy blue suits and cutting equally regal figures. They were in the lead, alongside Theodurik, the King of Onneria, and his daughter, Marie. Behind them were Queen Astrid of Skraelingia, as well as her son, the Crown Prince Junn, along with King Fredrik of Tyrrslynd and his heir apparent, Aldryk. Finally, bringing up the rear, and clearly feeling somewhat detached from the others, were the Archduchess Rosanna of Innia and the Tyrant of Jormundea, Rikard Grahulm. Those two seemed ill-at-ease with the rest of the royal clique.

The path brought them to a large conference room, a Federal Guard opening the door for them and gesturing them inside. They filed into the room, where seats were offered to them. Luxurious, leather chairs, to be specific, as befitting the leaders of the member states of the Ottonian Federation. Vitus immediately noticed that there was, in fact, only a single person waiting for them, and they were most definitely not Premier U'Daanyl.

Instead, standing in front of them was a brown-haired woman wearing the charcoal dress-duty uniform of a Federal Guard officer, albeit with insignia that marked her as a Staff Sergeant, and one of a fairly high office to boot. Still, the fact of the matter was that not only was this not the Premier, it was not an officer any of them were remotely acquainted with. Vitus glanced at her jacket and noticed a name tag which announced her surname as Kristiansunn. She also looked a little young for her rank; if he remembered correctly, it was hard for someone to make Staff Sergeant before about 27, and this woman looked to be in her mid-twenties, perhaps a year or two ahead of average. He also noticed that she was, ahem, quite pretty, although she might be more so were it not for the stern expression on her face.

"Welcome, and thank you for coming so promptly. The Premier will be joining us shortly." Her voice was terse and there was not even the ghost of a smile on her face; some might have defaulted to a neutral 'customer service' smile, but she seemed not to think that appropriate. "Please be seated. We will have water available for your refreshment momentarily. Your patience is appreciated."

A few of the royals sat at Kristiansunn's prompting, although Vitus dallied. "Staff Sergeant, is the Premier is not able to greet us personally?"

"He planned to, but there were unexpected matters which required his personal attention," she explained. "He asked me to convey his regrets to Your Excellencies. Still, it should only be a matter of a few minutes." A somewhat uncomfortable silence descended on the room at the conclusion of her remarks, as many of those present calculated that this excuse was more-than-likely a generous bending of the truth, if not an outright fabrication.

Mercifully, perhaps a long minute after, the door was opened by a Guardsman outside the door. First through the door was the Premier of the Ottonian Federation. At 75 years old, he had long ago traded his Federal Army uniform for a civilian's suit and tie, although he was still just as buttoned down as during his Army days. His face was weathered in such a way as to make him appear distinguished rather than frail, and his movements were steady and purposeful despite his age. Behind him followed a man in his apparent early fifties, perhaps late forties even, wearing the same black uniform as Kristiansunn, although this one lacked a rank insignia. The man was shorter and stouter than U'Daanyl, and he immediately stood next to Kristiansunn in an at-ease, but attentive posture.

"Honored guests, thank you for coming on such short notice," Premier U'Daanyl said. The royals had at least started to rise once they had realized it was U'Daanyl entering the room, but he waved them down. "Keep your seats. I'm afraid the reason I called for your presence is not a pleasant one," he said, voice level. There was some roughness from age, but the voice itself was deep and resonant enough that it carried some substantial weight.

Glances were exchanged among the reigning monarchs, specifically between Rodrik and Theodurik, who were often enough treated as the de facto leaders of the Ottonian state monarchs. "Yes, Premier, if you could explain why we were needed here in-person," Theodurik, usually the more measured and pleasant of the two, said, "it would be very much appreciated."

As U'Daanyl settled into his seat, he bridged his fingers together. "The state monarchies are going to come to an end." Eyes widened, and there was a murmur among several of the royals and heirs present, and both while Theodurik looked frightened, thunderclouds were gathering behind Rodrik. U'Daanyl's face shifted from its neutrality to one of slight crossness. "Pardon my language, but before you lose your shit, let me explain what's going on. Questions can come after that." He nodded to the apparent Federal Guard officer who had followed him in. "Director Grimmeburger, I think you'd be best to explain this."

"Yessir," Grimmeburger replied. He stepped forward, offered a seat by U'Daanyl as he did so. He took it and sat, folding his hands in front of him. "Chancellor Maarks in the Assembly has made it clear that the enforcement of republican government at the state and local levels is a priority for the coming legislative year. At present, the more radical wing of the government seems to have momentum behind their proposal in its early form." Behind him, Kristiansunn had been setting up a slide show on a projector, which now came to life, with a list of the priorities of the still-being-drafted bill from the Popular Front listed.

"As you can see," Grimmeburger continued, stepping to the side so that the words on the screen were visible, "this proposal would strip you of all assets considered to be rightful property of your respective states, and taking a fairly punitive approach to most of your other assets. It's also assuming your lack of cooperation, meaning your exile is the expected outcome of this scenario."

Rodrik was approaching a boil, and he opened his mouth to say something before U'Daanyl cut him off. "At present, I don't intend to sign such a bill, Sproek, but you need to let Director Grimmeburger finish. There's a point to this, I promise."

Grimmeburger nodded thanks. "Much appreciated, sir." He turned back to the royal audience. "Now, at present, this is the proposal that has the most widespread support in the Assembly. But it's still far from an iron-clad majority, and there's been reservations expressed about its punitive nature. We have reason to believe a more moderate bill can be passed, one that will be less harsh on you and your families and ease your transition." He took a breath, knowing the hard sell was coming up.

"But it will require your cooperation in ending the state monarchical governments."

Taking the stunned silence as approval to continue, Grimmeburger added "What we want to do is work with allies in the Federalist Alliance to draft a more even-handed bill that more moderate Popular Front members can get behind, as well as Federalists and possibly even some members of the National Front. We can set things up to ease your transition into civilian life and maybe even preserve a more fair share of your assets from seizure."

Theodurik spoke before Rodrik, whose temper had been somewhat roused, could put his foot in his mouth. "So, is this simply to inform us of the current state of affairs, or is there a question in all of this?"

Here, Grimmeburger returned control of the floor to Premier U'Daanyl. "Director Grimmeburger has informed you of the alternative I would like to pursue. The question is whether we have your support. Honestly, having the support of the people who will be most directly-affected by the bill would go a long way to selling the compromise. Even more so since it would be one I could sign off on in good conscience, in contrast to the Popular Front's bill."

Rodrik finally got a word in, having at least brought himself under control. "Could you not simply refuse to sign the Popular Front's bill, then, when it crosses your desk, and end this nonsense? It should not affect your term of office, either; I understand you've decided not to request another term from the Senate."

U'Daanyl nodded. 'Theoretically, yes. And true enough, but I cannot make any guarantee that whoever succeeds me won't simply sign off on the thing instead. Or that the Popular Front won't manage to get the votes needed to push it through regardless. Or, perhaps they'll include some concession that sways me; I cannot be sure, although the preliminary drafts I've had brought to my attention contain no such clauses. Still, I agree with the broad principle that the time for the state monarchies to end has arrived, and if a better alternative does not present itself, I will may reconsider my refusal to sign.

"Of course, if the idea of relinquishing the hereditary executive positions is so unpalatable to you, we can certainly go ahead with that plan, but be aware that you'll be risking a more painful defeat should we fail. I might note that the barometer of public opinion seems to suggest there's broad support for the end of the state monarchies, as well."

"Then propose the compromise anyway, and we'll decide if it's one we're willing to back," Rodrik countered, drawing a quiet sigh from both Theodurik, as well as his own son.

Now U'Daanyl looked somewhat more irritated. "Royal assent is the single greatest asset the compromise plan will have. Drafting it without some assurance that it will have the support of you all is likely to be a wasted effort, if we can even convince a Federalist to break with their Popular Front allies without that kind of assurance in the first place. And I remind you that for nearly twenty years now, we have not originated legislation from the Premier's office. Jaal's corpse is in the ground and that time is over."

He looked at the entire assembled group. "If we want this bill to be on a viable timetable to build momentum for the compromise and set us up for success over the more radical bill, I need to be able to bring together allies in the Assembly within the week to get the drafting process started," the Premier said. "I do not need an answer today, but I need one by the close of the coming business week. Friday. The 21st. No later than that, or the time will be lost and the odds of our success drop dramatically."

Queen Astrid of Skraelingia, who had been silent for the entire meeting up until now, spoke up. "Okay, then, Andrik, I'll bite. What would you have this compromise entail." A few double-takes ensued as she referred to the Premier by first name, a habit born of long acquaintanceship and a certain level of professional friendship.

"I'm glad you asked, ma'am," U'Daanyl replied, now somewhat cheerful. "I'm afraid I must hand the answer off to Director Grimmeburger, he's been handling more of the nuts and bolts for me, lately," he explained, indicating the Guardsman.

"Ah, yes," Grimmeburger said, clearing his throat before beginning. "Essentially the plan I'd be proposing to our legislative allies would be to keep the central pillar of the bill the same: the abolition of the state monarchies as official positions and offices with power. But with that in mind, the accompanying measures will simply be aimed at separating your families from those offices, rather than any attempt to entirely strip you of any sort of power within the Federation. To that end, anything that's deemed to be part of the direct cultural patrimony of an Ottonian state can still be repossessed with some degree of compensation. Moreover, your family's private assets will be explicitly ordered to be left untouched, and you will be given direct written assurances of legal and financial representation in the assessment process. Moreover, you will be permitted to apply for Ottonian citizenship as private citizens, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto. Such as, say, the ability to vote or run for public office." A momentary shift in tone betrayed that Grimmeburger was perhaps less-than-thrilled at that last, but he kept his tone professional, if not as enthusiastic.

"Any who would prefer not to stay, of course, will be free to leave the country without opposition."

"And of our ancestral homes?" Rodrik asked, still noticeably irritated."

"We'll include mandates that any attempt to remove you from traditional residences of the royal families must be made by states with sufficient notice for the measure to be legally-contested, or at minimum with enough time to allow relocation. We're not going to let the states make you homeless," Grimmeburger explained, poker-face back on. He continued to explain. "The upshot of this measure will be that any of you who wish to remain in Ottonia will be free to do so as full citizens. And you will, barring your own gross financial mismanagement, remain quite wealthy."

"And how do we know we won't be targeted for reprisal?"

Here, U'Daanyl stepped back in. "Ultimately? You don't. You have to trust us, although I'd hope," he said, now raising an eyebrow, "that our anti-corruption efforts and attempts to bring those who abused power under Jaal and within our own administration to justice would perhaps do something to reassure you that you are not going to be targeted for harm or reprisal. Again, Jaal is in the ground, his death ordered by a legitimate court of law and a trial of his peers. The Premier no longer rules by fiat. We have laws. There are rules. And we have spent the last two decades working to make sure that they are followed."

"Besides," he added, "I'd have to be a momentous twit to do something which would enrage almost every ally we have. I have a geopolitical balance to maintain for Ottonia's security. I'm not going to jeopardize it by doing something to pointlessly piss off three-quarters of Belisaria." He sat back. "Now, again, I don't need an answer today, but soon. If you have no further questions, there is no further reason that you need stay if you don't want to. That said, if this discussion has not ruined your appetite, we do have a luncheon prepared down the hall. I'd be privileged if Your Excellencies would join me."




A VIP Train Car, Northern Railroad
En Route to Rikardsburg
Later the same day


"...and it would not be nearly so egregious if it were not obvious he's just carrying on his family vendetta against us," Rodrik fumed. "The U'Daanyl's have been trying to bring us down ever since our forefathers blocked that up-jumped riflewoman from ruling the entire country."

Vitus had been listening to his father vent for the last few minutes. Since he had reached adulthood, he had seen more of this side of his father, realizing more and more that the unmoving, rock-like face he presented in public was frequently nothing more than a facade while controlled his temper and, Vitus suspected here, his fear.

"I actually think it's a good deal, Father." Vitus replied, finally sensing Rodrik winding down and taking the opportunity to transform it into a proper discussion. "It keeps the mob from getting everything they want and going amok with victory, and while it doesn't keep our esteemed hereditary position, it actually frees us," he said.

Rodrik looked at his son askew. "Protecting that birthright is our family's duty. Our destiny is to rule and guide the people of Staalmark, not let them be led into oblivion by some twit with a piece of paper and an over-inflated sense of self-importance." He shook his head. "I didn't think my generation would be the one to see our ancestors' sacrifices be rendered moot. And to lose your birthright."

Here, Vitus knew he had to speak his mind, and perhaps turn his father's perspective around.

"It was holding us back. It's better this way." His father's eyes looked like they might erupt from his head. Vitus held up a hand to forestall his father from questioning his sanity. "Hear me out. We've been locked into being glorified provincial governors, of perhaps a quarter of a country on the northern edge of Belisaria. Our wealth? Tied to Staalmark. Our political power? Tied to Staalmark. Our ability to deal with our equals abroad? Tied entirely to, and hamstrung by, Staalmark. Have we been able to aim higher? No, because being tied to Staalmark has stopped us."

He shrugged. "We got put in this position because we've been forced to think small. Why aspire to anything more if ultimately, all we've been allowed to be is glorified governors, administering a corner of one country for someone else? If anything, we should thank the Premier. I doubt he realizes it, but he's setting us free, to greater things. The wealth and connections we can accrue once we're free of the monarchy will give us more ability to influence the world than sitting on a throne in Rikardsburg could have possibly done."

"Honestly, I was half-considering giving up my place in the succession anyway. I realize that might have disappointed you, but I've seen and experienced too much to be satisfied with administering a backwater province."

His father was silent, and Vitus initially feared he may have broken his father's ability to think. Still, after what felt like an eternity of tense silence, Rodrik spoke up.

"I'm proud of you, son." He looked at Vitus, positively beaming. "All that education, your experience and your connections have made you wiser than I am. While I'm busy being scared of the loss of our past glories, you're looking ahead to see the new opportunities, and the heights you can bring our family to." He sat back, suddenly looking very relaxed. "Perhaps that means it was time I abdicated, if I'm that blinkered. You're right. We can let the Kingdom of Staalmark die with me. And then, you can be a new type of king, not limited by one realm."

He looked to the attendant in the train car. "Could you please bring me my phone? I have a call to make. The Premier will be pleased."
Last edited by Allamunnic States on Sun Jan 20, 2019 11:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Ghant
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Ghant » Tue Jan 22, 2019 1:12 am

"Awakening"
Inperiala Palace
Ghish, Ghant


When the Empress of Ghant woke up, it was with a gasp and a rush of blood in her chest causing it to heave. She was breathing hard and swiftly, her skin especially pale and thick with sweat. She quickly rose from her bed, throwing off the slick sheets. She was alone in her chambers, without either ladies-in-waiting or her young children nearby. The room itself was still and silent, as though there had been no activity there for some time.

Sophia looked to the clock to see the time of the day. It appeared as noon, later than she was accustomed to sleeping. Or was it? She looked around at her surroundings, to the books neatly stacked atop her desk, or the mess of clothes in the open door of her walk-in closet. It was like she had been asleep for some time, only now becoming aware of her surroundings once more.

Yet, what of myself? Slowly she staggered over to the mirror on the wall. She hardly recognized the woman she beheld in the mirror. Her raven hair was long and unkempt, flowing down around her shoulders and back, parts of it stuck to her forehead and face. There were bags beneath her deep blue eyes, her fingernails were longer than usual, and she had lost weight for want of food. She felt weak…weaker than she felt she should.

…What have I done? she felt as though she had been asleep for so very long. Sleeping even while awake, drifting along the river of life, letting the tide carry her. Once, not too long ago, she was a woman of dignity and authority that commanded respect. What was she now? Mocked and ridiculed as an absentee empress, while her husband was dominated by whores and scheming relatives.

Sophia realized that this could go on no longer. She had to come back…she had to restore herself to her former glory. Or things will get worse than they already are. Not just in Ghant, but in the world she feared. She’d be lying to herself if she said she didn’t need help. Yet who can help me? Her family was far away. Her friends were gone. Her ladies-in-waiting were listless, like rose pedals in the wind they blew this way and that.

There is one. They had not spoken in years, and yet of all the people she knew, there was one who could cut through the morass that the imperial court had become. Who can help me overcome my deficit and help me restore the proper way of things. Hesitating at first, she picked up the phone, and began to call this particular someone. The phone began to ring, and after a moments a voice answered “hello?”

Yet the Empress was at a loss for words, for her mind lay elsewhere. She thought of her husband the Emperor, and wondered if he was alright. A shameful thing to consider…I don’t know the state of my own husband. To be fair, he likely didn’t know the state of her either…did he care? Of course he does…doesn’t he? Even as the voice on the other end of the phone said “anyone there?” still her mind dwelled upon it, and the longer it did, the more sad she became…

It has been too long
Since I've seen him
And I cannot tell
If he is nervous or not.

He kisses me hesitantly
As if he does not know
If this is acceptable anymore
Because so much has been done
And so much has been left unsaid.

I smile and we exchange pleasantries
For a while.
I bite back stories of
'Remember that time when...'
Because such anecdotes are rare
And I want to save them
To use like gold coins to barter
His affection.

The years have made his
Eyes sink into his face.
He is so much older
Than I remember
And I try to count in my head
Thinking it may have been
Even longer than I've thought
Since we've seen each other.

We stay on safe topics
Like the weather
And how big our children are getting.
I do not mention
How bitter I have felt
But he must read it in my face.

Resentment ages like wine
And I know there will be no apologies.
This bridge between us is makeshift
Held together with fraying ropes
And tied with knots that can be quickly undone.
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Ghant
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