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

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Ernestria
Political Columnist
 
Posts: 2
Founded: Oct 19, 2019
Moralistic Democracy

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

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

Winter 1813
Warazdyn, The Oskaran Empire


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uhnów, three months later

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just what?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why are you talking like that?”

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

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

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

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

“Are you calling me fat?”

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

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

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

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

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

Markund International Airport , The Kingdom of Brasland
The next day


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

"Your Imperial Highness."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

User avatar
Brasland
Diplomat
 
Posts: 783
Founded: May 16, 2006
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

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

Hetzendorf Palace
Markund


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

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

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

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

“So are the Jaegers, darling.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*


Residenzschloss Friedrichsburg
Markund


Later that same day...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, Your Majesty”, she said.

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

Miss de Mahlberg looked at him, confused.

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

Georg’s mood suddenly changed.

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

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

“So, no polo?”, he asked.

“No polo”, she confirmed, impassive.

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

“Is she pretty?”

“You could Google her”, suggested Ena.

“What’s the family name again?”

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

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

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

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

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

“I see”.

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

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

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

Georg smiled and nodded.

“Perfect, what time it is?”

“Almost seven.”

“Anything else you want to discuss?”

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

“We can do it tomorrow morning, Sire.”

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

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

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

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

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


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