The Ancient Fires Still Burn (See First Post)

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The Ancient Fires Still Burn (See First Post)

Postby Qubti » Thu Jun 17, 2021 11:43 am

(OOC: This is open to the Western Atlantic. Others may join if they have an interest, but please telegram my primary nation - Excalbia - first. Thanks.)

Iskandariya, Republic of Qubti

The Old City of Isakandariya was dominated by three monumental buildings. The old Sultan's Palace, which now housed both the Presidency and the Secretariat of the Democratic People's Party. Built in 18th century, it was a curious blend of Islamic architecture - arches, thin towers, open courtyards and bulbous domes - and rococo ornamentation - though notable for the pronounced lack of human or animal figures. 

Not far from the Palace stood the Golden Mosque, which had been built in the 6th century as the Cathedral of Saint Mark - a treasure of early Coptic architecture to which minarets had been added in the 13th century. Today, the Mosque served as reminder of Islam's continued influence and that of the Grand Imam.

Further away, and closer to ancient walls and the new city beyond, stood the Arsenal - a massive 18th century fortress renovated in the 20th century to serve as the headquarters of the military and the Ministry of Defence.

Many remarked how fitting it was that these three buildings should tower above the Old City since power in the modern Republic lay divided between the political establishment - which itself was a blend of bureaucrats and political party loyalists, the military - ever watchful of the politicians, and the religious leaders - who still held sway over much of the general public.

One of the few things that united all three centers of power was their fear of losing their grasp over their constituencies. Minorities, such as the Copts, Epheronians and Valdricians were dangerous. So, too, were modern notions of individualism and pluralism. And, to make the situation worse, Qubti's closest neighbor was a Coptic Christian state that, despite conduct that might deemed authoritarian in the salons of Caldas, Knootoss or Excalbia, provided equal rights to its Muslim minority, a fair degree of press freedom and a decadent consumerist economy that, while no match for Western Atlantic great powers, surpassed that of Qubti.  

All of that made Cyretopolitania the Qubti elites' greatest threat.  

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Postby Qubti » Mon Jul 05, 2021 2:29 pm

Ministry of Special Services
Iskandariya, Republic of Qubti

“The Cyretian Army has increased its patrols on the border,” Major Omar Abdo said, gesturing to the satellite image - purchased from a commercial vendor - projected on the wall. “We will need to rely on other supply routes.

Brigadier Saadah Kamel made a dismissive sound. “We have poured tens of thousands of saters into arms for your so-called insurgents and we have gotten no return on our investment,” he said. He placed two beefy hands on the table. “A post office or two shot up. A couple of savings banks robbed. The acts of hooligans, not insurgents.”

“Sir,” Abdo said, folding his hands behind his back in a parade-rest stance, “if i may. The insurgents have not been as effective as we had hoped…”

“As you had promised, Major,” Kamel said leaning forward.

“However, that is, in part, due to the Cyretian government not… reacting as we expected. Based on the previous uprisings, we made,,, certain reasonable calculations. However, the King’s unilateral dismissal of his national security team…”

“Not to mention their disappearance,” added Bassel Gamal, the Foreign Ministry’s liaison for covert operations. “We still have no more than rumour about their fates…”

“Who cares about the fate of Cyretian aristocrats and oligarchs?” Kamel waved a hand dismissively.

“As I was saying, General,” Abdo said, with a sigh, “regardless of the… fate of these men, their removal and replacement has led to a sea-change in the Royal Government’s response to… the insurgents. Other than using the Army to secure the border - a guess, in our estimate - the Cyretians are treating these activities as… law enforcement issues rather than something requiring… sterner measures.”

“Ha! Even the Cyretians see that this is mere hooliganism!” Kamel slapped his hand on the table.

“However, it has paid dividends,” Gamal said.

“How so?” The general leaned back in his chair.

“They have had to change army deployments… more troops are on the border, leaving other avenues less protected. Their national security apparatus is in… some degree of chaos. We never expected our meager efforts here to topple the King or his government. Yes, we had hope for more… disruption and chaos. However, it has… distracted them. And the more they have to look inward, the less we need to worry about them casting their greedy royalist eye towards us. And was that not part of our goal?”

“But only part,” Kamel said, coming to his feet. “But enough to continue. For now. But I want more demonstrable achievements and less… speculation.”

“Yes, sir,” Abdo said.

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Postby Breucia » Fri Jul 09, 2021 3:15 pm

Royal Palace, The Holy City of Ref Tirion, The Most Faithful Kingdom of Breucia

Belphar Faxisys glanced at his watch and resisted the urge to audibly tut. He had never known an audience to begin on time but the toshiagh had been left waiting for nearly an hour. Across the corridor, his uniform gleaming gold and scarlet in the light of the setting sun, the Comptroller of the Royal Wardrobe gave an embarrassed smile. “His Majesty must be priorly engaged,” he said and nothing more, turning his attention instead to an urgent inspection of the braiding upon his trousers.

The toshiagh (Prime Minister in any other language) resisted the urge to say “with what?” for at that moment a buzzer rang and both men lumbered to their feet. Beyond the gilded doors the Comptroller gave a small stage cough before announcing in a sonorous voice “The toshiagh sir”. He then proceeded to shuffle backwards from the room.

Faxisys knew the protocol; he had done it enough times before. He advanced a step, bowed deeply, advanced a further three steps and bowed again.

“Your Royal and Most Faithful Majesty,” he said with his head lowered, his eyes fixed upon a small blemish on his polished shoes, “Reeve of the Faithful, Protector of the Holy Agglish, Treasured Grandson of Ruehnar, Lord of the Hunt.” Still bowing he advanced one further step. “I, your most obedient servant, request the thousand-fold blessing of an audience that I may relay to your Royal and Most Faithful Majesty the good tidings of your people and the deliberations of…”

“Yes yes yes,” snapped the King, “Get on with it. I haven’t got all day.”

The toshiagh straightened himself and looked, for the first time upon entering the room, at the king who sat, nay slouched imperiously, upon a chaise longue. His deep brown eyes smouldered with indifference as he batted away a black curl that intruded upon the kingly forehead. ‘A callow youth,’ thought the Prime Minister in some of his cleaner musings, ‘unworthy of his uncle’s throne.’ He was not offended though for such behaviour was, alas, to be expected of the sovereign.

Faxisys gave a short final nod. He turned to the chair that had been placed for his use. Experience had taught him not to wait to be offered otherwise he would stand all day. “May I?” he asked, gesturing towards it.

“If you must,” sneered the king, giving a dismissive wave of the hand like he was trying to swat a troublesome fly. Without further comment the toshiagh sat.

“I thought,” began the toshiagh, “That I might begin our audience today with an update on our proposed pension reforms. As you will know, the recent by-election loss had initially rattled some nerves however I was able to use the recent findings of the Lulen Report to….”

“Is it true?” interrupted the King.

Faxisys took a moment to pin his smile. He had been expecting this although not quite so soon. “Is what true Your Majesty?” he asked in an innocent voice.

Yorryll XXXII, King of Breucia, sat up in his chair. “I read a very curious rumour,”. He bent down to scoop from the ground a freshly ironed copy of the evening edition of a popular newspaper. The toshiagh recognised his photograph, scuttling from his car to his official residence, and beneath it an ominous if vaguely worded statement of ‘regional concern’. “It said,” continued the king, his waxed parting catching the light as he motioned with his head, “You were intending to meet with the Cyretopolitanian Foreign Minister, Muddi..”

“Massi sire,” corrected Faxisys.

“Whatever, is it true?”

The toshiagh leaned back in his chair. “Well I’ve met him before.” And he had, certainly, on the periphery of international summits and drink receptions for the great dynastic marriages of the region.

“Don’t be facetious,” snapped the king and not for the first time Faxisys was glad that he was the ceremonial of Breucia’s two hereditary dynasts. “Is it true?”

It was a common misconception from those outside the region to assume, not without reason, that Cyretopolitanian and Breucia ought to have common ground against their swaggering mutual neighbour Qubti. And perhaps they ought to; but the enemy of my enemy may still be my enemy and such a view, whilst logical, did not take into consideration the gulf of enmity that existed between the two kingdoms. Theirs had not been an entirely peaceful history and a view had developed amongst sections of the populace that, when all was said and done, there was not much difference between the followers of the cross and the followers of the crescent moon. Indeed if anything the Copts were probably worse, since at least the armies of the Prophet had allowed them to exist albeit at a heavy price; the Christians rarely showed the same inclination. They particularly distrusted the Cyretian Kings and their pharaonic pretensions seeing them not as accretions of history but a less than subtle rebuke that they, the Cyretopolitanians, were there first and they had never lost their claim to be rightful rulers of the sub-continent. So although the days of armed conflict might now be over it was another thing to say that relations were warm.

The toshiagh decided to dispense with his fixed smile. “It is sir,” he said in a quiet voice.

“By the Nine man whatever for?” If he had not feared for his position, or a resulting broken jaw, the king was minded to strike him there and then.

“Well, as your Majesty will no doubt be aware from the minutes of the last intelligence committee report, there is strong reasons to think..”

If Faxisys had intended this point to be a less than subtle rebuke to the king’s noted disinterest in the official papers sent to him then, on this occasion, it failed.

“As it happens,” replied the King, a look of triumph on his face, “I did read them. And I found in them nothing but conjecture. There wasn’t a hard fact in any of them.”

“With respect, Your Majesty, Intelligence is ninety percent conjecture. It has to be, otherwise it wouldn’t be Intelligence.”

Yorryll XXXII folded his arms indignantly. “So you mean to say,” he sniffed, “That the most recent outbreak of Islamist skirmishing in Cyretopolitania is the work of Qubti?”

“We have reasons to believe so.”

“And that you think the situation may escalate?”

“Yes sir,” replied the toshiagh firmly, “We do.”

The king sat in petulant silence. “I suppose you’ve already told him?”

Faxisys shifted in his chair. “Your Majesty will know that it was a custom long established by my illustrious predecessors that, during times of audience, that I attend upon His Serene Highness the Constable on Tuesdays and His Majesty on Thursday.”

The king jutted his chin. “So I will always be the last to know.”

“Far from it, I believe the intention was that if any developments happened on the Wednesday then Your Majesty would have the more complete information and the fuller picture.”

The Treasured Grandson of Ruehnar, Lord of the Hunt, did not seem convinced by this explanation. “Well,” he asked pointedly, “What did he say?”

“He thought it was an idea with some merit.”

“Of course he did.”

“He said that Qubti has never lost her desire to be the dominant power in the region and that she would explore any avenue to achieve that goal.”

“The old warmonger.”

“With respect, sire, nothing has yet been agreed. No approaches have been made to the Cyretopolitanian government; it remains, at this point, nothing but speculation. And nothing may come of it. In which case I will be the first to admit that Your Royal and Most Faithful Majesty was right and I was wrong, quite quite wrong. So you will forgive me if I would be so bold as to suggest that we turn our attention away from the speculative to the definitive. As I was saying, the pension reforms looked in trouble this week but…” He was interrupted by the King who leaned across the side table next to him and pressed, with some vehemence, the buzzer that sat thereon.

“I weary of this conversation,” he said by way of an explanation and dismissal, “I bid you a good day Mr Faxisys.” The toshiagh felt his jaw clenching as he heard the Comptroller bustle back into the room. He rose, gave a bow within the outer limits of acceptable protocol, and began to walk backwards from the room. When he was within touching distance of the door he dared to speak again.

“If it pleases Your Majesty, there is one small matter that I would raise before I go.”

The king gave an exaggerated sigh. “Go on,” he snapped, “But make it quick. I haven’t got all day.”

The toshiagh bowed again. “The State Opening of the Marchfield is next week…”

“Is it?”

Faxisys ignored him. “And we are as yet unsure whether Your Royal and Most Faithful Majesty is to be so gracious as to attend this year.”

Yorryll XXXII pretended to inspect his fingernails. “I’m not sure,” he replied in a languid voice, “I will try but I have so much on next week.”

“If it pleases Your Majesty, in the five years the gods have bestowed upon us the blessings of your reign Your Majesty has attended the State Opening of the Marchfield precisely once.”

The King smiled a cruel smile. “Is it that much?”

“And the government feels it might be beneficial to the morale of the people and their faith in the political system if Your Majesty was to grace us with his presence.”

The King looked out of the window as the setting sun hung a deep red in the sky making the waters of the river shine with fire and blood. “I will think about it,” he said with no attempt to convey any confidence that his mind might be changed, “But really Faxisys, I don’t know why you need me to bother. The Constable will go, he’d go to the opening of an envelope if he could. And he enjoys these things so much more than me.

Good evening Mr Faxisys.”

“Good evening Your Majesty.”
Last edited by Breucia on Sat Jul 10, 2021 11:27 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Postby Cyretopolitania » Sat Jul 10, 2021 9:14 pm

Ministry of Justice
Cyretia, Cyretopolitania

“I… appreciate His Majesty’s desire to... root out those who sought to use my people as a scapegoat to justify their own grab for power,” Dr. Ibrahim Abrika, the still-new Minister of Justice, said. He shifted in his seat and folded his hands together. “But I am… uncomfortable with the enhanced interrogation methods being used on Count Azenfar and his confederates…”

“I know, Ibrahim,” Count Anthony Massi, the also new Foreign Minister and de facto prime minister, “and I share your discomfort. However, the King’s anger… is fierce. As his desire to root out the conspirators…”

Abrika leaned back in his overstuffed leather chair and tilted his head back, as if to watch the ceiling fan slowly circling overhead. “There may be no more conspiracy to root out, Anthony,” he said after a long silence, tilting his head forward.

“That would mean…”

“That would mean the most recent attacks are the work of genuine… extremists. Not Azenfar’s operatives,” the Justice Minister said.

Massi sighed and took off his glasses. He rubbed his eyes. “Troubling.”

Abrika nodded. “Unfortunately, every community has its… malcontents.”

“But,” Massi said, “my reports suggest that these… people are little more than hooligans. Someone else must be supplying them… directing them… If not Azenfar’s cabal, then who?”

“Our investigation has not developed anything concrete,” Abrika leaned forward, “but I suspect…”


Abrika nodded. “Perhaps it is time to engage with the Breucians…”

“That may be another… hard sell for the King,” Massi said, rubbing his chin.

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Postby Breucia » Wed Jul 14, 2021 8:41 am

The 20:13 from Ref Tirion to Dfhanor

A wealthy country might have provided their Head of Government with an official jet or a helicopter. Breucia was not such a country and with two royal families to maintain Belphar Faxisys found himself on the last express from the royal capital to the official one. Anything later and it would have been one of the notoriously uncomfortable sleeper trains that plodded through the sultry desert night.

“Express” itself was a term in context; Breucia had no high-speed trains so even this ostensibly fast service would still not arrive in Dfhanor until the early hours. Even in first class the air conditioning had broken and so every window had been opened filling the carriage with fresh air and the roar of the diesel locomotive. The toshiagh and his small team, being his private secretary and chief advisor, attempted to work for as long as their laptops had power. They then attempted to to sleep but the residual heat and continual rumbling of the train rendered this an impossible task. As they stared, dazed, from the window at the passing lights they did not realise that each subsequent stop of the train had so emptied the carriage of passengers that they now sat alone. It was Adelvara Loradi, the toshiagh’s principal private secretary (whose political journey had taken her from working in a Marxist bookshop when she was at university to being the deputy assistant treasurer of the Ayn Rand Society), who noticed this and so broke the silence between them.

“So what are we going to do?” she asked the rattling, hot air. Faxisys, who had been watching as the lights of civilization had begun to diminish as the train climbed the mountains towards the coast beyond and, with it, Dfhanor, said nothing but raised a quizzical eyebrow at the interruption.

Loradi twisted in her seat and, using the table in front of them, pushed herself up. Standing on her tip toes, for she was not blessed with height, she surveyed the carriage. Satisfied that they were indeed alone she sat back down with a thump.

“Qubti,” came the reply, “What are we going to do about Qubti?” Instead of responding Faxisys glanced towards the third member of the trio. The toshiagh had first met Bertrand Mateschitz when he was foreign minister at the periphery of an event to unveil a plaque to Ernestine-Breucian friendship (in reality it was all part of dance between creditor and debtor), the Ernestine grandson of Breucian migrants, removed his glasses and proceeded to polish them on the paper-like napkin that had come with their drinks. This was more to give him time to think than it was to do anything more than smear the day’s grime across the lenses.

“We must be cautious,” he replied in German-accented Breucian, “If we are suggesting that Qubti is behind the recent violence in Cyretopolitania..”

“And we are,” said Loradi forcefully.

“Well indeed. In which case they will be on a heightened state of vigilance not least because it would appear that their first plan of operations will have failed.”

Faxisys’ brow furrowed. He’d read the committee minutes, he was sure of that, but he’d read a lot of other things since then. “Remind me again,” he said after a moment, “Why do we think that?”

Mateschitz held his glasses up to the night. Unsatisfied, he pulled out the corner of his shirt and cleaned them again. “Because,” he explained, “It seems likely that the Qubtians were hoping for a more forceful response from the Cyretopolitanians perhaps allowing, either formally or not, an intervention to protect their co-religionists.”

The toshiagh was not so sure. “What about Excalbia?”

The Chief Advisor shrugged his shoulders. “On that we can only speculate. We know that the Emperor of Excalbia likes to protect his allies but whether he could justify an intervention to the Excalbian people, when presumably their news was filled with scenes of reprisals from the Cyretian security service and pictures of burning Muslim villages.”

Faxisys nodded. “I can see that. I could also see Qubtian troops removing their insignia and moving across the border to masquerade as a people’s militia. It’s been done before.”

Loradi, a woman whose patience matched her height, drummed her fingers against the table. “Yes yes,” she snapped, “That’s what could have happened. We need to work out what we are going to do. We need a reason to invite Count Massi here that won’t arouse Qubtian suspicions.”

Faxisys pulled a face.

“Alright,” said Loradi, “That doesn’t arouse much Qubtian suspicions. What can we invite him to?”

They thought for a moment. “The State Opening is next week,” suggested Mateschitz, “We could invite him to that?”

The toshiagh rubbed his chin. “Do we normally invite people to that?”

“No,” replied Mateschitz, “But there’s no reason why we couldn’t. We would need a specific reason though.”

A silence, albeit a relative term in that train carriage, fell between them again. It was Loradi who made the suggestion.

“Isn’t it,” she began falteringly, “Isn’t it the 100th anniversary of the constitution this year?” The two men looked at each other for a moment; a blank expression on each face.

“I don’t think so,” said Faxisys, “The 100th anniversary of it being ratified is next year; it was done on independence.”

“Yes,” responded Loradi, “But it was drafted in 1921.”

The toshiagh didn’t look sure. “I think ‘drafted’ is a bit much,” he replied, “All the Ernestrians did was take their then constitution and change the wording. It was hardly an inspired effort,” he glanced at Mateschitz, “No offense.”

The Ernestrian shrugged. “None taken,” he said nonchalantly, “It is not as though I drafted it. But that fact may serve us well. If Qubti asks why we are inviting Massi then we can tell them, off the record, that the main celebrations will be next year with one hundred years of independence and we are inviting the Cyretopolitanians..” he thought for a moment for the appropriate Breucian wording, “We are inviting them to the Engagement Party so we don’t have to invite them to the Wedding.”

“Or for cocktails so we don’t have to have them over for dinner,” said Faxisys with a nod, “Not that I imagine there are many cocktail parties in Iskandariya.”

“You’d be surprised,” muttered Loradi under her breath but this comment was lost as the others began to talk.

“Yes,” said Mateschitz becoming animated, “Yes, and what we could do is invite them for tea and have the meeting there.”

It was the turn of the two Breucians to exchange a look. “Tea?”

“Yes,” replied the Ernestrian, “You know, when someone goes to Bodendorf on some official visit, and there isn’t going to be a banquet, then it is traditional that they take tea with the King. Foreigners consider this a great honour though I hear the King is very dull in person. He just talks about horses. Can’t your king take tea with the Foreign Minister and you could slip in and talk with him afterwards. As far as the Qubtians are concerned we are just following protocol with a visitor; nothing more, nothing less.”

Loradi began to turn a paper cup that once, several hours ago, had contained foul-tasting railway coffee. “Of course,” she began, “If we want to be serious about this...there’s an argument to say that it’s not Count Massi we should be inviting. If you want to talk about camels then you speak to the herder, not the herd. If we want to be serious about checking Qubti ambitions then should we not be inviting Aksel himself?”

The three were not quite alone so sitting alone at the table across the aisle was a plainclothes police officer who was there to protect the toshiagh. For reasons of professional courtesy he was pretending to sleep and trying desperately not to listen but even he could not help but wince at the idea of the heir of the pharaohs and the sentinel of Rome setting foot in Breucia.

Faxisys had seen this. “Perhaps we should stick with Massi for now.”

“Alright fine, so if it’s not their king will it be ours?,” she asked, “Will the King meet with the Cyretopolitanian?”

The toshiagh gave a bark of bitter laughter. “He’d sooner eat his own legs,” he replied with a grimace.

“Fine,” said Mateschitz, “The Constable then. At least you have the benefit in this country that if one monarch won’t do it you can always go to the other one. Ask the Constable if he will extend an invitation to the Cyretopolitanian Foreign Minister to take tea with him after the State Opening. Ask whether you can unofficially speak with the minister afterwards. If it is fruitful then good; if not then all we have wasted is some tea.”

Faxisys nodded. “That sounds,” he said, “Very much like a plan.”

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Postby Cyretopolitania » Fri Jul 16, 2021 12:49 pm

Royal Palace
Cyretia, Cyretopolitania

“His Excellency, the Count of Althiburos,” the minor court official said with a bow.

King Aksel IX looked up from where he sat reviewing official documents. He set the documents down on a small side table, removed his glasses and nodded. He sat in a large, upholstered chair dressed in a white linen suit with a black armband indicating he was still in mourning for his cousin, the late Emperor of Excalbia.

The court official, never rising from his bow, backed out of the royal presence, and Count Anthony Massi entered, bowing three times as he entered.

“Your Royal and Pharaonic Majesty,” he said as he bowed the final time.

“Minister,” the King said, “I was told you had new information on the disturbances.”

“Yes, Sire,” the Foreign Minister said, conspicuously aware that the King had not invited him to sit. “The Ministry of Justice believes that the most recent attacks were not orchestrated by… the conspirators…”

The King made a skeptical noise.

“Rather, Sire, they suspect Qubtian involvement.”

The King frowned, but said nothing.

“And, Your Majesty, your ambassador in the Breucian capital…”

“Which one?” the King asked sarcastically.

Massi briefly considered how to answer, then simply ignored it and moved on. “He reports that there are rumours that the Breucian government is… growing concerned about Qubtian activities…”

“Hmmm,” the King sat up and leaned towards Massi. “That is interesting.”

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Postby Qubti » Sat Jul 17, 2021 1:13 pm

Yafran, Cyretopolitania

Yafran was a small, dusty border town without a border to drive commerce. The nearest border crossing - with the Republic of Qubti - lay a little over 50 kilometers to the east. Not far, except for the fact it had been closed since the 1960s. However, what the law took away in legal commerce, it restored it in the form of the black market. Goods and people crossed over a series of low hills to the south that offered cover from the eyes of the Royal Customs Inspection. The Qubtian Customs Service could rarely be bothered to even patrol.

Despite the porous nature of the border for those who knew the routes, Abasi Soliman found himself trying to explain to his new “friends” why he would no longer be bringing them weapons and explosives - and more importantly - money to support their ill-defined cause against the Crown.

“As I said,” Soliman said, sounding just a bit more frustrated than usual, “I’ve heard the Army is moving in to patrol the borders… we cannot risk discovery. We will be bringing supplies in… by other means. It will take longer, but be safer.”

“How do you know the Army is moving in?” Ibrahim asked. He was young - even younger than the rest at only 15. Sadly, in Soliman’s estimation, he was also by far the brightest of the motley lot he could find sufficiently disconnected and angry to be stirred to unrest.

“I have sources…,” Soliman said.

“Not in the Army,” Ibrahim said, eyes narrowing. “My third cousin, Ahmed is in the Army. He likes it. All the Faithful who join the Army end up liking it. It pays well. It brings education and prestige, Ahmed says. He even likes the King now that Azenfar is gone. That’s why my father forbids me to join.” Ibrahim paused. “Are you sure you are not a spy?”

Soliman laughed. “Me? A spy? For who? The infidel King? The Jrawan Jews? The pagans in Breucia? The apostates in Qubti?”

The others joined Soliman’s laugh, but Ibrahim did not.

A few days later, the cell of Muslim freedom fighters carried out its last - for the time being - action in Yafran. Using all the rest of its explosives, it blew up the Royal Police office in the center of town. Unfortunately, one of the perpetrators - a promising young man with an unfortunately bitter and fundamentalist father - did not get out before the explosion. Ibrahim’s remains were too far scattered to even allow for a decent burial.

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Postby Breucia » Sat Jul 31, 2021 4:40 am

(OOC: Joint post with Cyretopolitania)

The Ormeshys Palace, Dfhanor

Geofmede Yeskalyn had once hated this time of day. When the Constable had first started to lose his hearing he had found the sensation of waking to almost complete silence to be strange and unsettling. His mind, still half-bound by sleep and dreams, would conjure images of fires or assassins and he lying there in unhearing oblivion prompting him to reach for his hearing aids almost as soon as he had the withherall to do so.

That was then. In time he had grown accustomed to the silence on waking; had found it comforting. An oasis of calm amidst the howling desert winds of chatter and noise. He rose, slowly and creakily, from the bed. Most people said that he was in excellent shape for a man in the middle years of his ninth decade but Geofmede didn’t seem to think so. Everything ached and if it didn’t ache it was because it had stopped working. In any other career he would have long-retired but this wasn’t just any other career. Geofmede Yeskalyn had made an oath; to the king (may his Name be endured), to the people, to the Nine. He would fulfil that oath until he was collected to the place of his fathers.

He was washed and dressed and eating a light breakfast of dates and honeyed bread when his secretary, Nicstaer Yinbalar, arrived. “So what,” asked the constable brushing crumbs from his pencil moustache, “Is the itinerary for today?”

Yinbalar nodded. “Marchfield this morning your Highness followed by tea with Count Massi, sir, the Cyretopolitanian Foreign Minister.”

“And Prime Minister in name only,” nodded the Constable, “I’m not so old that I would forget that.”

Yinbalar nodded again. “Of course your highness. Tea will be truncated; the diary allocates it an hour and a half but the toshiagh would be grateful if you could conclude within half an hour or so. There are, as you will imagine, time constraints and a reluctance to alert the attentions of the Qubtian secret service anymore than we will be doing.”

It was Yeskalyn’s turn to nod. “Will the Hereditary Prince of the Cinque Ports be in attendance?” The Constable had come to believe that he ought to include his son more if he was to become Constable one day. Plus, at his age, his oldest friends were now (for the most part) his children.

“He will sir, he should be,” Yinbalar looked at his watch, “On his way by now.”


* * *

The ceremony of the Marchfield was a curious mix of the properly ancient and the Victorian revival. It’s purpose had, at one time, been an entirely utilitarian gathering of nobles and priests to settle the affairs of the kingdom before the spring campaigning season. It had gradually died out under the Umayyd and then the Qubti yoke before the Ernestrians revived in the mid-19th century as a grand ceremony for telling the Breucians how they were going to run their country for them.

The ceremony itself took place at the Constabulary Castle, a grand name for the old medieval fort that stood in the centre of Dfhanor and was the reason why the city was the largest in Breucia. Dfhanor could make no claims to be ancient or a grand city of Upper Tametry. It’s importance was solely down to the Yeskalyn Constabulary and the family’s successful seizure of power in the 17th century. Without the Yeskalyn Constabulary Dfhanor would have been just another port town.

Gold carriages pulled by fine stallions, an Ernestrian addition that no one seemed sure what to do with and so it remained, collected the great and good and brought them to the Castle. The Castle was still, officially, the seat of the Senedh (the parliament of Breucia) though in reality much of the actual work took place in newer buildings of less historical importance but greater practicality. The Senedh chamber was preserved and used for ceremonial occasions or noteworthy legislation.

The Constable, leaning on the polearm that was the symbol of his office, outlined the government’s intended business before Prince Trissariph, the king’s uncle, (the king regretfully being unable to attend to the surprise of no one and the relief of everyone) who nodded at the right times. The Count Massi had been so little remarked upon that many members of Parliament were to only realise from the newspapers the next day that the man sat with the with the Royal/Constabulary Party was none other than the Cyretian Foreign Minister and not, as many thought, a businessman who had pulled strings to sit with the great and the good. The occasion having been considered a success, or something with at least a passing resemblance to a success. The Constable and the Hereditary Prince returned to his official residence and prepared themselves to meet the Cyretopolitanian.

Count Anthony Massi was a man of average height, but a thin frame and perfect posture afforded him the illusion of greater height. Dressed in a dark gray suit cut in a modern, though far from trendy, style he could have easily passed as a middle aged businessman from any of the more southerly nations of the greater Western Atlantic.

While the Foreign Minister had found his silent inclusion in the ceremonial meeting of the Constable and members of parliament a bit unusual, he was nonetheless understanding of and, indeed, grateful for their discretion in handling his visit. Qubti, in his estimation, believed that historical enmity between Breucia and Cyretopolitania gave it a freedom to act in ways that would have been circumscribed by any collaboration between its two largest neighbors.

Massi was not an expert in history and, honestly, was a bit hazy on the details of the historical suspicions between Breucia and Cyretopolitania - though he knew the desecration of the Saint Achillias Monastery and the… expropriation of sacred relics to a museum in Ernestria played a role on the Cyretopolitanian side. He also suspected that it had something to do with Cyretopolitania’s national self-image as the inheritor of both the region’s ancient Christian heritage and its pre-Christian and pre-Islamic imperial history. In any case, he knew many Cyretians did not think highly of Breucians, so he supposed it was best to keep his visit quiet until something concrete had been achieved.

The Ormeshys Palace was less of a building and more of an allegory in stone for the last thousand years of Breucian history. It was built by craftsmen from Iskandariya in the Qubto-Ottoman style of the 18th century at a time when the Constable’s court began to outgrow the original castle. It’s courtyards and pavilions were a symbol of the wealth and power of Breucia’s suzerain to the north. It had been extensively remodelled by the Ernestrians in the follow century to a style that was well suited to the boulevards of Bodendorf but which made little allowance for the weather in Dfhanor. In the winter this was tolerable but now, in the summer heat, the drawing rooms and reception areas were hardly bearable at all. It was for this reason that the Foreign Minister was led through the Palace to those areas at the rear that had been relatively untouched by the hand of Ernestrian ‘progress’. The Constable and his son waited in the cool of a marble courtyard beneath the shade of trees and awnings to the trickling sound of a fountain. Both had changed since returning from the Marchfield. Geofmede had swapped his military uniform, with its glittering orders and medals, for a high-buttoned linen tunic and trousers which were dyed olive-green and cut, deliberately, in a military style. Next to him on the glass-topped table was a green cloth cap onto which was sewn a small badge with a gold polearm. The Hereditary Prince, who earlier had been wearing a top hat and morning coat (for the ceremony had been largely unchanged since independence when such clothing was considered standard for formal occasions) into a business suit not dissimilar from Massi’s own. The Prince looked like his father, though taller with a crop of curly black hair whereas his father had succumbed to baldness some fifty years ago. They chatted amongst themselves until they heard the approach of footsteps upon the marble floor and looked to see the equerry with the Foreign Minister. They rose, the Constable batting away a helping hand from his son as he eased himself from his chair. The equerry bowed. “The Count Massi Your Highnesses,” he declared.

The Constable extended his hand. “Your Excellency,” he said in rusty if passable Tamazight.

Massi bowed, then rose to shake the offered hand. “Your Highness,” he said in his own heavily accented attempt at jBreucian, “thank you for the warm welcome.” He slipped back into his native language, “I am honored to meet you. This truly a historic occasion.” He then continued in English, “Would you prefer to continue in a… neutral language? English or French or… something else?” He smiled, hoping to convey sincerity. He was well aware that he was the first senior representative to speak with a Breucian Constable in living memory, and the protocol for their meeting was being developed on the fly.

The Constable shifted uncomfortably and gave his son a sideways glance at his son. Prince Nicryll smiled. “Your Excellency,” said the Hereditary Prince in what might be termed International English, “When my father was being tutored the lingua franca was considered to be..”

“اَلْعَرَبِيَّةُ” Replied the Constable, “Arabic.”

“Or German,” said the Prince. His father nodded. “Yes and German.”

"My Arabic is stronger than my German," Massi said in passable Arabic. "So," he said with a practiced smile, "let us begin. How can we help each other, Your Highnesses?"

The two Breucians looked at each other. “Please,” said the Constable, “Sit.” He did so. “We have tea available; mint, nettle or Qubtian [by which he meant dark tea drunk from tulip-shaped glasses]”.

Massi took a seat after a bow. “Thank you, Your Highnesses,” he said. “I would love to have some of the mint, please.”

Prince Nicryll gave an apologetic smile. “I’m afraid that we are not the ones to be doing the helping.”

His father nodded. “No,” he replied, “I’m afraid that we are the..” He thought for the appropriate words.

“The cover story,” offered his son.

“Yes, the cover story. We are to keep you talking until the toshiagh and foreign minister arrive.” He sipped his tea.

“It seems a shame,” said Prince Nicryll, “That so momentous a visit should be surrounded in such secrecy. I mean, I presume you know the reason why?”

“I surmised that your domestic… political situation might make direct engagement with Cyretopolitania somewhat… controversial,” the Count said. “Unless there is some… nuance that I have missed. If so, I apologize.”

The Constable shook his head. “No no, that sounds correct I should say,” he replied. “My hope is that your meetings,” he emphasised the plural, “Should help dispel some of that controversy and that more public engagements can follow after that.” He sipped his tea.

There were a few moments of silence save only for the trickling of the water fountain. Prince Nicryll looked uncomfortable for a moment. “Are we not going to tell His Excellency anymore than that father?” he asked. The Constable shook his head.

“It is not our place to delve into political matters.”

“Yes but if we at least indicate to Count Massi the nature of those political matters,” he smiled at the Cyretopolitanian, “Then he can better prepare himself. If his excellency has come here expecting to talk security and we instead want to discuss free trade or an opening of the border then how can we expect talks to be productive.”

The Constable pondered this for a moment. “Very well,” he said, leaning forward in his chair as though to share a secret with his guest, “Qubti sir.”

His son nodded. “You must understand sir that neither myself nor my father have any direct involvement in such things but there is a concern in the intelligence community that Qubti has a hand in the recent….unpleasantness in Cyretopolitania.”

“There’s nothing concrete,” said the Constable leaning back, “If there was it would be on the front pages of every newspaper in the region. But as it is there are strong suspicions.”

“I’m afraid,” said the Prince, “That it wouldn’t be out of character.”

“No,” his father agreed. He leaned forward in his chair again. “I should add,” he continued in a stage whisper, “That the secrecy shown today is not only to thwart Kamel’s agents. Qubti has friends here, sir.” He leaned back and said nothing further.

Massi nodded. “I suspected that… your kind invitation might have something to do with Qubti. We have come to the same belief, but as yet lack concrete evidence.” He paused and sipped his tea. “It is… distressing that Qubti might have friends here in Breucia.” He paused again. “I was, to be frank, hoping that I could broker something of a public rapprochement between our nations.” He gave a wry smile, “One that would have the additional benefit of putting Qubti on its back foot, if you will.”

The Constable murmured an agreement. “In as much as constitutional propriety allows me to have an opinion, that is also my wish as well.” Prince Nicryll opened his mouth to speak but did not get a chance to for there was the sound of voices talking from another entrance to the doorway.

Belphar Faxisys stepped into the courtyard and squinted in the midday light. Unlike the Prince he had evidently not had a chance to change since, although he had lost his top hat, he was still wearing his morning coat. A rather dusty morning coat. Next to him was a middle aged lady dressed formally, not not as formally as the toshiagh, with emerald eyes and neat black hair that hung to her shoulders. She too was dusty. It was evident that, like in many capital cities, there were a series of interconnected tunnels that lead between the main centres of government and it was through one of these that the politicians had arrived undetected. It was also clear that these tunnels had not been used in some time.

Geofmede Yeskalyn smiled. “And that,” he said, straining to his feet again, “Is our cue to leave you.” He extended his hand again. “It has been an honour to meet your excellency, I hope next time we will not have to resort to such subterfuge.”

The toshiagh appeared next to them. He bowed to the Constable. “Your Serene Highness.” He repeated the same to the heir before turning back to the old man. “Thank you for this,” he said with a half-weary smile.

The Constable waved this away. “Not at all,” he replied, “I am glad to be of some use and not just a burden to the Breucian taxpayer.” He winked at Massi. “I shall leave you to it. If you need me to wave our guest off for the cameras then just let me know. Come, Nicryll.” And with that the Constable and the Hereditary Prince of the Cinque Ports left.

Massi stood and bowed as the Constable and Prince left. He the. Turned to the new arrivals.

Faxisys turned to Massi and then looked down at himself. “Thank you for coming,” he said, “And apologies, I don’t normally dress so formally for meetings. May I introduce you to Grewalyn Palee,” he motioned to the woman next to him who extended her hand, “Our Minister for Foreign Affairs.”

“A pleasure to meet you,” she said with a smile. Almost without anyone noticing with the Constable’s departure the conversation had slipped from Arabic to English.

“A pleasure to meet you both,” the Count said, also slipping into English.

“Please,” said Faxisys, inviting the Cyretopolitanian to sit once again, “I regret that our time is limited before we arose suspicions. It is my worry..”

“And the government’s,” interjected Palee.

Massi took his seat and raised an eyebrow at Faxisys’ and Palee’s comments. “Oh?”

“Yes, and the government’s, worry regarding Qubtian intentions. I think both of our countries, your excellency, have reason to be concerned about Qubtian irredentism in the region. I’m afraid that Iskandariya has not…”

“Has not reconciled itself,” interrupted Palee, “To its reduced standing in the world.”

Faxisys smiled but irritation flashed in his eyes. It would not surprise Massi to later learn that Palee was widely seen as a contender to be toshiagh once Faxisys had vacated the position. “Yes,” he said, “And I,” Palee opened her mouth, “I mean, We believe that a more united front between our two countries might help counterbalance Qubti and dissuade her from further aggressive actions.”

The toshiagh leaned back in his chair, still warm from when the Constable sat in it. “I hope,” he said in a quiet voice, “That we can agree to something for the present crisis and leave the resolution of... other matters,” the words ‘Saint Achillias Monastery’ hung unspoken in the air between them, “Can be addressed when circumstances allow.”

“I agree that a more united front would be… helpful in dissuading Qubti from direct aggressions,” Massi said. “However, Iskandariya has long been… fond of surreptitious action. Opening, discreetly of course, channels of communication between some of our uniformed and… clandestine colleagues, it might help blunt those actions as well.”

Massi sat back and rubbed his chin. It was a gesture he had already picked from the King when preparing to broach a difficult subject. “I must point out, Your Excellency,” he said looking at Faxisys, “that I do not hold the last word in executive decision-making. That rests personally with His Pharaonic Majesty, the King. And to have common cause, I must raise, I am afraid, the subject of the Monastery.” He paused.

“Let me assure you that we are not seeking to push things too far at this early point, but perhaps some small gesture would help me, and potentially Breucia.” He paused again. “Perhaps as simple as allowing pilgrimages to the site organized under the auspices of the Church? It would mean so much to our people. And, it would represent an influx of tourism for you. And it would be a clear signal to the Qubtian government.”

The Breucians shifted uncomfortably in their seats and exchanged a look. “I am not sure,” began Palee, “That pilgrimages are as small a gesture as your excellency imagines.”

The toshiagh agreed. “I realise that it is not your faith but it is not lost on us that the Crusades started over the protection of pilgrims.”

“And pilgrimages by your church can lead to questions of property ownership, and with ownership comes sovereignty. We obviously grieve over what happened at the Monastery at Olalbel and the surrounding Cyretopolitanian village, as does all Breucia, but any resolution needs to take into account local sensitives.”

“What’s more,” added Faxisys, “The Monastery itself has been untouched for almost two centuries. It would extensive, and costly, rebuilding before it was suitable for anything but crows.”

"I understand your concerns," Massi said, "but I believe that I could work out a solution, if you are open to it. I am sure that the Church would be able to undertake the necessary work to… stabilize the ruins to make them safe for pilgrims. In return for this… gesture. And in return for a pledge on your part, shall we say, to further negotiate with the Church over the… ultimate disposition of the site, I believe that I could persuade His Majesty to officially recognize your territorial sovereignty over Fayyum and the surrounding region. Ultimately, we might be able to include that… recognition in a formal written agreement."

The toshiagh wrung his hands nervously. “Perhaps,” he said, though sounded less than convinced by this. He trailed off.

Palee seized her chance. “Maybe it would be more prudent,” she began, moving forward slightly in her seat, “For representatives from both our countries to inspect the monastery before we discuss the, as you say, ultimate disposition of the site. The toshiagh is right, the monastery and the surrounding buildings have been open to the elements, and the occasional trespasser, since the 1850s. It’s one thing to say that the Cyretian Coptic Orthodox Church is willing to fund the restoration but such open-ended promises can be liable to later regret once the scale of the task is known.”

She straightened slightly. “Perhaps that is a good place to conclude. Your king and his government now know our concerns over Qubtian efforts at destabilizing the region. I do not think our two countries are yet in a position to make any formal, public declarations on the subject though there is scope for the normalisation of relations if,” and it was a big ‘if’, “We can reach a solution to the Olalbel question. Perhaps the toshiagh would like to propose that a joint working be established to survey the monastery in….shall we say a week? Two?” She looked at Faxisys who blinked dumbly at her.

“Er yes,” he finally replied, “Well I will let Count Massi decide since they will be ones undertaking any possible works.”

Massi nodded gravely. He realized that his counterparts were not ready to move forward as quickly as he was. He also realized it was probably for the best, as he may well have been going further than the King would like.

"I think a… binational survey of the site would be an excellent first step," he said to Palee. "I will have my staff contact you to arrange the details." He turned back to Faxisys. "I would also like to propose that contracts continue on the working level to… compare notes, as it were, on Qubtian activity. If that would be acceptable."

“Agreed,” said the toshiagh rising to his feet, “Thank you, your excellency, for your time today. I believe these are excellent first steps on the normalising of relations between our two kingdoms. I propose that representatives from our professional security services continue to meet while we politicians, and your king, come to a more permanent solution.”

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Iron Fist Consumerists

Postby Qubti » Sun Nov 28, 2021 11:19 am

Dfhanor, Breucia

Karim Fathy was nominally a Qubtian businessman, a dealer in spices, grains and small electronics, who was engaged in the cross-border trade between Breucia and its ancient master Qubti. Fathy had lived in Breucia on-and-off for almost twenty years. He was no long a young man; wrinkles lined his sun-beaten face and his black hair and moustache were now sprinkled with white. He had married a Qubtian woman and brought her to Dfhanor, where they were raising their four children. He attended the small mosque in the neighborhood regularly, but not so regularly as to raise suspicions of extremism.

Like many, Fathy had been surprised by the Cyretian Foreign Minister’s visit to the Constable. His employers in the Qubtian Ministry of Special Services had been even more alarmed by rumours that Count Massi had also met with Toshiagh and the Breucian Foreign Minister. They were frantic to derail any possible rapprochement between Cyretopolitania and Breucia. Therefore, they had ordered Fathy to do everything possible to prevent a warming of relations.

The first step, Fathy had decided, would be to meet with his contacts - those within the Breucian government who, one would say, looked favorably on Qubti, and who shared its distaste for the Cyretians. So, the nondescript Qubtian businessman sat in a quiet coffee house waiting for an old friend.

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Moralistic Democracy

Postby Breucia » Tue Nov 30, 2021 10:39 am

Joint post with Qubti

Percifaelor Rovyre entered the coffee house and glanced about. He was a tallish man with black hair that circled slightly where it hadn’t not been so carefully arranged. His suit was expensive but not ostentatious as befitted a man of his station. The Rovyre were an old family; on the first boats as the popular saying went. And like any old family they maintained the grudges of the ages as though they happened yesterday. He spied his target and, reassuring himself that they were sufficiently alone, approached him.

“Ah, Percifaelor, my old friend,” Fathy said, half rising from his chair, “so nice to run into you. How is the family?”

He gestured for the man to sit and motioned to the waiter. “Two coffees, my dear fellow,” he said.

After the coffees were delivered, Fathy leaned forward. “So, how are you, my friend?” His voice lowered to barely a whisper. “I would ask, as they say, what’s new, but I believe we have both heard of… recent, unexpected developments.”

Percifaelor gave a weak smile. “It is worse than you may have feared.” Percifaelor Rovyre was not a politician; more dangerous to the Kingdom he was a member of the neutral Civil Service, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Energy no less and as such his influence had outlasted several governments. He made to straighten his sleeve and, in so doing, an ancient floppy disk tumbled from his jacket and fell silently onto the table.

“As always,” he said, reaching for his coffee, “Apologies for the format but they [they being the counterintelligence agencies of Breucia] spend so much time making sure emails are secure and wifi cannot be hacked that they still haven’t notice that my computer is old enought to still have an A Drive.” He smirked slightly at his own brilliance. “Anyway, it’s not much I am afraid. By the time the Intelligence Committee reports reach even my level they are heavily redacted but it should be enough to serve my point. The Government has concerns over Qubti affairs and yes,” he held up his hand to stop the other man, “Yes Massi did meet the Toshiagh. Where and for how long I don’t know, but they have definitely spoken.”

He leaned in closer. “You’ll know Karim that I am, through and through, the King’s man. My family have served at Court in Ref Tirion for the better part of half a millennium. Iskandariya has always been a friend to Breucia. Some people have lost sight of that and that needs to be corrected.”

“I appreciate your… friendship and your loyalty to Breucia’s true friends,” Fathy said as he casually placed a folded newspaper over the floppy disk. He picked up the paper, with the disk and placed it in his messenger-style bag.

“So many seem to have forgotten our age-old friendship. We need to remind them. And show them that the infidels,” he said the word without any evident irony, “are not to be trusted.” He sipped his coffee. “Our embassy is working on the former with some… cultural events. However, they tell me they are having trouble getting commitments from senior and prominent Breucians to attend and attract the… requisite attention.”

Fathy leaned forward, placing his cup on the table. “As for the latter, it would be helpful if we could identify some of the Cyretian spies that we know infest Breucia. Publicly outing the scoundrels would remind the people that the Cyretians harbour… ambitions against your people.” He paused. “If those of your people advocating this ill-conceived rapprochement could also be revealed to be… less than savoury… it would greatly advance the cause of our mutual friendship.”

“Noted,” replied Percifaelor after a moment, “Until my move to either the Ministries of Foreign or Internal Affairs is confirmed then my range of options is limited. I can, however, provide the names of some of the more obvious Cyretian agents. Low hanging fruit you understand my dear Karim but better than nothing.”

He sipped his coffee. “There is something you might be able to do that I cannot.” He glanced around the room one last time. “The thing is Karim they are, if you can believe it, going to reopen the Olalbel business. Waste of time if you ask me, that old ruin is the preserve of jackals and nothing more. But you know old friend how….delicate a matter that is. There are many decent, pious Breucians who would be outraged to learn that their government was even contemplating diluting our sovereignty over the site. Now there are limits on what I can do; if I went to the press I would be sure to blow my cover. But if your press were to reveal it; or better yet if it could be leaked to one of the supposed independent papers in Excalbia...well that would certainly cause some difficulties with this proposed rapprochement.”

Fathy gave a broad, somewhat predatory smile. “Outstanding idea, my friend. One I shall act upon.”

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Postby Jrawa » Tue Nov 30, 2021 2:09 pm

Abraham Timsit prided himself on having no political opinions or strong opinions. He felt that as a journalist it allowed him to go wherever the story led. In this case, he had the sense that tip he had received about the Cyretopolitanian Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister - whatever he called himself - entering into discussion about the Monastery of Saint Achillias - or rather its ruins, could be quite literally explosive. The Monastery, the territory surrounding it and the plunder of its treasures was near and dear to the hearts of Cyretians, Breucians and Ernestines. He suspected that his source was counting on that and hoping that the ensuing rhetoric, if not actions, would serve the interests of… someone. However, that was of no matter to him. He was reasonably convinced of the authenticity of the report, if nothing else based on his diplomatic contacts pleading not to publish the story.

Timsit finished his piece and forwarded it to his editor. Later that day the Semien Times would publish the story that Count Massi, Foreign Minister of Cyretopolitania and Belphar Faxisys, Toshiagh of Breucia, had met and discussed resumming discussions over the disposition of the former Monastery of Saint Achilias in the disputed territory between the two nations. By the end of the day, the story had been picked up by papers and website throughout the region.

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Postby Breucia » Fri Dec 03, 2021 1:26 pm

Dfhanor, Breucia

“...There will of course have to be an adjustment to the rate per person but it is worth bearing in mind that the range of people eligible for a state pension was, under the old rules, limited. So we realise that by expanding the provision of public pensions to the wider population there will be reductions for those currently receiving but efforts have been made to limit where possible the net reductions. And it is worth saying that none of these proposals would have any bearing on any existing private pensions the presently eligible would be receiving.”

Ercoril Wysaxalim, the Government Press Secretary, pressed a button and the graph behind him disappeared. “And for that reason the toshiagh is confident that the proposed measures will pass.” He paused to take a sip of water. “Are there any questions?”

The crowded press room convulsed as nearly every hand sprung into the air. “Funny,” said Wysaxalim with a practised smile, “I didn’t think pension reforms would be the reason you’d all be here. Yes?” He pointed to a journalist.

“Aubfaen Petpeiros, NRF, what are your comments on the recent reports in the Jrawan press about the monastery at Olalbel?” There were grumbles of discontent across the press room.

Wysaxalim swallowed and took a moment to arrange his face into a look that was both benign and condescending. “Look Aubfaen,” he said with a shrug, “I’m not sure what more I can add that wasn’t covered by the toshiagh’s statement to the Senedh this morning? We have been open and honest that Count Massi was invited to the Marchfield as part of the centenary celebrations to mark the drafting of the constitution.” There was a rumble of incredulity amongst the assembled journalists. “The diaries for the event have been made public. Count Massi attended the Marchfield as a guest of the government, afterwards he took tea with the Constable and the Hereditary Prince of the Cinque Ports, and then he went home.”

“What did he talk about with the Constable?” blurted out a young reporter from an leftist website Ercoril couldn’t remember the name of. The Press Secretary shot him a disapproving look.

“You know full well that the private conversations with His Serene Highness or His Majesty are never disclosed. However if you are suggesting that the Constable discussed active policy with Count Massi then I’d perhaps pause if I were you before committing that in writing as that’s a very serious accusation to make.”

Another hand. “Franparin Ersatra, Nylobel Chronicle. Are you telling us that there were no conversations between the toshiagh and Count Massi?”

“With respect I didn’t say that Franparin,” the outrage became audible, “If anyone here thinks that the most senior member of the government of Cyretopolitania came here and there were no discussions from our side either to arrange it or on the day itself then don’t you think that would be a source of embarrassment? Do you not think you’d be clambouring in here asking me for an explanation as to why the King of Cyretopolitania’s chief minister came to Marchfield and we just thanked him for his time and sent him on his way? No no, the toshiagh’s position, and the government’s, is that the nature of those conversations was not as described in the foreign press. Next question?”

Aaltaor Heleberos, the Political Editor of the Dfhanor Journal, raised his hand. His reputation was matched only by the number of his chins and he wheezed slightly as he spoke in a ponderous voice. “Mr Wysaxalim,” he began, “I’m sure you will have seen the pictures from Olalbel?”

“I have.” It was difficult to have missed them or to forget them. The local reaction had been less than positive and the nightly news had been filled with police lines buckling as angry protestors tried to tear down what was left of the St Achillias Monastery. Effigies of the King of Cyretopolitania, the toshiagh and (for reasons that no one was entirely sure of) the Emperor of Pantocratoria were dragged through the streets before being burnt. Angry men held up hand painted signs saying “No surrender to the Crusaders!” in a variety of spellings.

“My colleague,” continued Heleberos, “Has recently returned and the comments she received,” he looked down at a notepad. “The word that came up repeatedly was ‘betrayal’. Has the government betrayed the people of Olalbel Mr Wysaxalim?”

Wysaxalim took another sip of water while he tried to think of a response. “At the risk of repeating myself and the toshiagh I can confirm that no conversations have taken place regarding the change of sovereignty of the site at Olalbel. I can certainly understand the passions of the people there but, if you’ll forgive me for saying, they have been whipped up by malicious false-reporting…”

“Mr Wysaxalim..”

“If you’ll forgive me Aaltaor,” said the Press Secretary speaking over the other man, “But I want to be clear to your readers that no one has ever discussed somehow ‘giving Olalbel back to Cyretopolitania’ or anything of the sort.”

“What about the monastery?” asked Jaqured Xilmoira of Satelliten Fernsehen.

“What about the monastery?”

“Is it true that it may be returned to the Cyretopolitanian Church?”

“Well forgive me Jaqured but what if it was?”

Angry shouts erupted from the press corps.

“The thing is Jaqured,” the paused and then repeated the line louder, “The thing is that this country has freedom of religion Jaqured. Not far from this room is a very nice XVIIIth Century Mosque. A “marvel of Islamic architecture” as the guidebook says. Are you saying that there’s no room for mosques or churches in Breucia?”

“Well yes,” Xilmoira began, “But Cyretopolitania…” He didn’t get a chance to finish his point.

“I think, if you forgive me Jaqured, but that’s the point isn’t it? I think a small minority of people somehow wish that Cyretopolitania wasn’t our neighbour? Well it is Jaqured, it is and this government recognises that we ought to have good relations with all our neighbours…”

“So this isn’t a push against Qubti?”

“Look Jaqured,” the exasperated but easy-going smile returned, “Good relations are, if you forgive the phrase, good for everyone. For Cyretopolitania, for Ernestria and yes even for Qubti.”

“But what about…”

The Toshiagh’s Official Office

“...turn it off Loradi.”

Grimacing she turned off the television and Ercoril Wysaxalim, and the Press Room, disappeared into a black screen.

What Faxisys said next was, for the most part, unprintable concluding with “what a mess.”

Mateschitz sat, dumbfounded, on one of the chairs. “What I don’t understand,” he said after a moment, “Is how it got out so quickly.”

The Toshiagh contorted his face as though he was chewing a bee. “Oh I know, it’s because this whole damn government is riddled with Qubti agents. Well I aim to put a stop to that once and for all.” He smashed the intercom. “Get me Rovyre,” he barked. It was a tense twenty minutes whilst they waited for the Civil Servant. No one spoke much. Eventually the Permanent Secretary arrived.

“You asked to see me sir?”

“Rovyre,” barked the Toshiagh, “Get in here and sit down.” There was a hesitancy in the usually unperturbed civil servant’s gait.

“Now you listen to me Rovyre,” scooping up a collection of newspapers, and their angry headlines, Faxisys deposited them into the other man’s lap, “For this to get out so quickly can only point to a Qubtian mole in the very top of our government.”

Rovyre gulped. “Well yes sir, I suppose it would.”

“And the thing is Rovyre that people have been telling me for months but I didn’t believe them. I couldn’t believe them, but it’s been staring me in the face. I know something about you Rovyre..”

Beads of sweat appeared on Rovyre’s forehead.

“..I know..”

Rovyre adjusted his collar . He considering closing his eyes.

“I know that you’re just the man to smoke out all these damn spies.”

Percifaelor Rovyre had to use all his might not to collapse in his chair.

“You’re a good pair of hands Rovyre…”

“Why thank you sir.”

“And you’re a patriot, aren’t you?”

“Indubitably sir.”

“So as of right now you’re to set up a committee. You can have any resource you need but we need to get to the bottom of these damned leaks. Now get to it.”

Percifaelor Rovyre practically sprang from his chair. “You needn’t worry sir. I will, as they say, leave no stone unturned.”

“Good, I knew you were the right man for the job.”
Last edited by Breucia on Fri Dec 03, 2021 2:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Cyretopolitania » Fri Dec 03, 2021 2:47 pm

Cyretia, Cyretopolitania

“This is very bad,” Count Anthony Massi said as he stirred his tea.

“You excel at understatement, Tony,” Dr. Ibrahim Abrika said as he set down his cup. The Minister of Justice had become the Count’s closest confident in the Cabinet and the only person he could think of as a friend. “You have seen the television coverage, no? The Breucian rabble is foaming at the mouth, trying to tear what’s left of your monastery down with their bare hands…”

“But they didn’t, Ibrahim. And the Breucians are doing their best to… control the situation.”

“For now. And you do know that a large group of… hooligans is reportedly moving south? My sources say that they intend to cross the border and seize the monastery…”

“Of course, we won’t allow that…”

“Of course not,” the Justice Minister said. “Field Marshall Othmani has already given orders to his men to seal the border with Breucia to prevent… any unauthorized crossings. But how many of those men are sympathetic with the hooligans?” Abrika leaned forward. “If it were a historically important mosque over there, rather than Christian monastery, my fellow Muslims would be just as agitated.”

Massi nodded and exhaled slowly.

“Have you told the King?”

“He knows, I’m sure his people have already told him. But, yes, I have a call scheduled…,” he raised his wrist and looked at a somewhat antiquated wrist watch, “in 15 minutes.” He smiled. “That’s why I need the tea. And the… pep talk.”

“Ha!” Abrika laughed. “And here I am all out of… pep.”

“At least I can tell His Royal and Pharaonic Majesty that things are… under control for the moment.” Abrika nodded and Massi continued. “The next problem will be communicating with the Breucians to make sure that this hasn’t, as they say, screwed the pooch in terms of our tentative steps towards cooperation.”

Abrika nodded.

* * *

Two hours later, the following was released to the media, both domestic and international:

A Statement from His Royal and Pharaonic Majesty, Heir of the Pharaohs, Sentinel of Rome, Defender of Byzantium, Conqueror of the Umayyads, Defender of the Faith, Guardian of the Maghreb, and King of Cyretopolitania, Aksel IX.

We regret the unfortunate incident of civil unrest that has occurred in Breucia at the site of the ancient Monastery of Saint Achillias and our well wishes are with those who have been injured in the incident. We commend the Breucian government for acting promptly to maintain order and it is our fervent prayer that order and peace will prevail.

Our Foreign Minister, the Count of Althiburos, Anthony Massi visited the Breucian capital at the invitation of the Breucian Government to attend ceremonies celebrating the centennial of the Breucian constitution and, in due course, met with the Constable of Breucia. These discussions should be received with happiness by all the peoples of the region. For do we all not share a common interest in peaceful relations among neighbors?

While our people and the Breucians still hold different opinions about the disposition of the Monastery of Saint Achillias, we wish to assure the people of Breucia that neither we nor our government harbour any territorial ambitions against any of our neighbors. Our borders have stood for nearly two centuries and there is no reason to alter them. Likewise, we assure our people that we have not forgotten the hope of our Coptic brothers and sisters to one day see the Monastery returned to its spiritual purpose. However, if this hope is ever to be realized, it can only happen through peaceful means, and in a manner that respects the interests of all the peoples of the region.

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Postby Qubti » Fri Dec 03, 2021 8:02 pm

Iskandariya, Qubti

“Surely this is good news, Sheikh Naseem,” the secretary said bowing deeply. “The infidels are inflamed against each other. Tensions will rise between Cyretopolitania and Breucia, strengthening the position of our homeland and of the faithful…”

The Grand Imam, Sheikh Naseem Al Saleh, shook his head gravely. He laid down his book on the ornate wooden rehal in front of him and looked up from where he sat on a pile of cushions beneath a hanging lamp.

“That is what the government and the Army believe, Siddiq, and it is good for them. But is it good for the faithful?”

The Grand Imam gestured for his secretary to sit, then stroked his long, white beard. The secretary looked at him expectantly.

“It is good for the state, but is it good for the faithful?” He repeated. “Maybe not. The faithful are not just in Qubti, my son. What of the faithful in Breucia? If the pagans are so inflamed that they want to destroy churches, might they not also want to tear down mosques? After all are not both the Christians and the Muslims the enemy of the pagan? And if there is war between the pagans and the Christians, what of our Muslim brethren in Cyretopolitania? Will they not be caught between the two armies?”

The secretary frowned and bowed his head. “I had not considered that.”

The Grand Imam nodded. “Now you see that the government and the Army are for their own interests, not those of the faithful. That is why we must be ever vigilant.”

“Yes, Sheikh Naseem, you are right, of course.”

The Grand Imam nodded. “Fetch your paper and pen; I must send messages to the imams and leaders of the faithful. Both here and in Cyretopolitania and Breucia. We must be cautious.”

The secretary rose and bowed. “At once.”
Last edited by Qubti on Sat Dec 04, 2021 11:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Cyretopolitania » Mon Dec 13, 2021 5:12 pm

Mataouine, Cyretopolitania

Mataouine was a small village in southeastern Cyretopolitania notable only for being home to the largest Cyretian Coptic Church in the region - the Church of Saint Cyprian - and a small border crossing with Breucia. Usually a quiet place, news of the mob attack on the ruins of the Monastery of Achillias had struck the people of Mataouine hard. The Church even held the only relics of the Monastery that had escaped its destruction by the Breucians and later pillaging by the Ernestines.

Initially, the protests had been composed mostly by the devout - older ladies in long skirts with shawls over their heads and robbed men carrying icons. Slowly more and more people joined. People arrived from neighboring villages and towns with crosses and signs, and the crowd grew into a mob. Finally, young men, hardened by hard lives and unburdened by employment, joined the mob. Rather than icons, signs or crosses, these men carried clubs, knives and an array of improvised weapons.

As the mob grew ugly, some of the devout were carried along, while others drifted away, perhaps sensing that things were going awry. The mob gathered at the border crossing, where the gates had been closed and a small detachment of armed border guards stood between them and Breucia.

Witnesses would later report that the commander of the guards, a stocky, balding man with a thin mustache, had climbed on a truck and tried to persuade the mob to disperse. “Go home,” he had said, “I understand your anger. I share it. Go home, and there will be no charges, no prosecutions,” the mob had already done considerable damage to the several small businesses and warehouses on the periphery of the border post. “I can promise you this. I am one of you. A child of this region. A son of the Church.”

As the mob began to pull on the gates, the commander had tried one last appeal. “We are your brothers. Your sons. Your fathers. Your cousins! Go home! The Army is coming! They are not your kin. They will try to talk to you as I have!”

Despite the commander’s heartfelt words, the mob pulled down the gates and began scuffling with the guards, who were sadly all too reluctant to open fire. Beaten, bruised and disarmed, the border guards melted away into the night, and the now-armed mob advanced on the Breucian border station intent on violence.

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Postby Breucia » Mon Feb 07, 2022 1:56 pm

Wlhil Border Post, Breucia

Trisreak Xiljeon stared through the binoculars. “I don’t know sir,” he said after a moment, “It doesn’t look good.”

The Captain turned to him. “Hey,” he said, snatching back the binoculars, “Those are mine.” He looped the cord around his neck. “Now what were you saying Private?”

Xiljeon nodded towards the Cyretopolitanian border. “I was saying, sir, that it looks like they’re breaking through.”

“Nonsense,” said the Captain, “I received assurances from the Cyretian commander only this morning that they would resist any attempts to storm the border.” He tutted at Xiljeon but it was lost in the sound of the commotion across the way. Panic flashed across his face. He put the binoculars to his eyes. “Hmm,” he said after a moment, “Probably just high spirits, but just in case you’d better go and see what the situation is down the valley.”

Xiljeon saluted. “Yes sir,” he said. He stooped to collect his rifle and made for the door of the small border post that his unit was reinforcing.

“Xiljeon?” said the Captain still looking through the lenses.


“Best be quick.”

“Yes sir.” He entered the evening light as the last vestiges of the desert heat hit him. He looked anxiously at the other side of the border and began to jog in the opposite direction.

Dfhanor, Six Months Later

“All rise!”

The assembled journalists, lawyers and members of the public stood as the judge entered the room. He placed his papers onto the desk in front of him and gave a gruff nod. Everyone retook their seats.

“Now then,” he said squinting at the documents in front of him, “Where did we leave off from this morning’s session?”

Humdryn Valrel, counsel to the Enquiry on the Wlhil Border Incident, stood. “If it pleases My Lord, we were continuing the testimony of Private Xiljeon?”

The judge nodded. “Of course, of course,” he said, “You may proceed.”

Valrel nodded. He looked down at Xiljeon who shifted uneasily in his chair. “Now Mr Xiljeon, before luncheon you were telling the Enquiry of the events prior to the border incursion. What happened then?”

Xiljeon had rolled up his notes and nervously wrung them between his hands. “Well sir, I was ordered by Captain Carnelis to go down the valley.

Valrel looked at him over the rim of his glasses. “And why was that?”

“Well, it wasn’t just the Cyretians sir that was protesting. A group had come up from Olalbel, sir, wanting to make known their feelings towards the other side.”

“Go on.”

“So there was a police cordon further down the valley. And the Lieutenant had said earlier in the day that the worst thing that could happen is to get trapped between our mob on one side and the Cyretians on the other.”

Valrel looked down at his notes. “Certainly a strategic decision of some merit, Private, but it does rather lead to the question of why you didn’t simply radio your colleagues in the local police.”

Xiljeon looked sheepish. “We didn’t have their radio frequency sir,” he said, “No one told us.” Shocked mutters echoed around the room.

“Order,” said the judge, “Order. You may continue Mr Valerl.”

“Thank you my Lord,” he looked again at the soldier, “So am I to believe that you were not provided with the radio frequency of the local police.”

“No sir.”

“So your only way of communicating with them was to physically run down the valley and to ascertain for yourself their current position.”

“Yes sir.”

“Because,” Valrel straightened himself to his full height, “Had you managed to communicate with them you would have known that the counter-protest from Olalbel had been disbursed an hour earlier. Indeed the local police commander had already by this point, as the Enquiry has previously heard, retired to his abode for the evening.”

Xiljeon nodded. “So I was later told, sir.”

“Indeed, so what happened next?”


Wlhil Border Post, six months earlier

Like a human wave the protesters broke through the fence and flowed like an angry sea towards the border outpost.

“Xiljeon!” screamed the Captain over the radio, “Xiljeon, get back here!”

Xiljeon turned and sprinted as hard as he could but whereas he was weighed down by a backpack and munitions the crowd, faster and more nimble, were not. Everything seemed to go into slow motion. “Oh the Nine,” screamed Xiljeon, “Protect me! Let my name be endured!” The mob was like a seething mass; angry, contorted faces. Xiljeon stopped. He would not make it t back to the border post in time. He turned and looked back down the valley but the road curved behind a rock and he could not see what the situation was further down the path. He looked back towards the mob. His training kicked in and, with hands seemingly not of his own control, he flicked the rifle’s safety off.

No one was sure who fired first. The soldiers in the post thought that they heard Xiljeon firing from outside. Xiljeon, in his testimony, thought that he fired only after the rest of the squad in the outpost had returned fire. All were sure that the first shots probably came from a Cyretian protester and a stolen gun. None of that mattered as the Breucians poured panicked shots into the Cyretians.

“A dark day,” said the Constable visiting the still bloody scene the next day, “For our country and for the region.”

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Postby Cyretopolitania » Tue Feb 08, 2022 10:20 am

Mataouine, Cyretopolitania

Confusion and chaos reigned in the tiny border town. The border gates had been torn down and the mob had charged into the Breucian town of Wlhil. After gunfire had rung out, followed by screams and shouts, some of the mob rushed back across the border and into Cyretopolitania. The flustered remnants of the Cyretopolitanian border guards and few police officers met the now frightened and deflated rioters. They stared at each other, as if uncertain what to do next, until the rumble of heavy vehicles roused them from their dysphoria.

A column of Upper Virginian-made armoured troop carriers thundered down the main street towards the ruined border crossing. As people began to disperse, troops clad in body armour jumped out of the lead vehicles and ran to block the streets leading away from the scene. The hatch on top of one of the vehicles opened and a man thrust himself half out. He held up a bullhorn and said, “ This is Colonel Major Atabou of the Royal Army! In the name of His Royal and Pharaonic Majesty the King drop your weapons and surrender! Resistance is futile and we will not hesitate to open fire if you do not comply!”

Rioters and uniformed officers alike dropped their weapons and raised their hands.

“Who is in charge here?” Atabou asked from the top of the armoured vehicle.

“Commander Tachtoukt,” one pf the ragged border guards said, “was in command of this post…”

“Where is he?” Atabou demanded.

The guard pointed to a burnt truck where a blood, bruised balding man lay on the ground. Atabou looked at the man then bent down and said something to the men in his vehicle. A soldier with a red cross armband jumped out of the vehicle and rushed to the man.

“What happened here, soldier?” Atabou asked, turning back to the border guard.

“The mob rushed us… pushed into Breucia…”

“They’re shooting at us!” One of the rioters shouted, pointing towards the border. “The damned pagans are shooting at us!”

Atabou looked at the man like one might look at a mess made by his dog. “What did you expect?”

“They’re killing people,” the man persisted, “aren’t you going to do something?”

Atabou sighed and bent down again. Moments later, the column of vehicles rumbled forward again, fanning out to form a line along the border. Once in position, Atabou took the bullhorn and yelled across the border, “Breucian forces! This is the Cyretopolitanian Royal Army. Stand down and allow our citizens to return across the border. They will be taken into our custody. Stand down!”

Cyretia, Cyretopolitania
Six Months Later

The King’s Private Secretary entered the study and bowed, “Your Majesty, His Excellency the Duke of Gafsa. The Lord President of the Privy Council.”

King Aksel IX looked up from his desk and nodded. “Show him in Pamin,” the King said.

Pamin bowed and stepped aside, allowing Meddur Halliche to enter.

The Duke of Gafsa bowed. “Majesty,” he said.

“Excellency,” the King said. Then, turning to his secretary he added, “That will be all, Pamin.”

The secretary bowed again and backed out of the study.

“Have a seat, Meddur,” Aksel IX said, gesturing to a chair.

“Thank you, Aksel,” the Duke said to his brother-in-law.

“Any word from Dfhanor?” Aksel asked, leaning forward.

Halliche shook his head. “The Enquiry just resumed after breaking for lunch. And I spoke with Massi before I came over - our Embassy still hasn’t been able to gain any information beyond what’s going on in public.”

The King rubbed his chin. “This is all very bad business, Meddur.”

Halliche nodded. “I know… I know…”

Cyretia, Cyretopolitania
Six Months Earlier - One Day After the Border Incident

Count Anthony Massi, the Foriegn Minister and de facto Prime Minister stood anxiously outside the King’s study. Beside him Field Marshall Othamani studiously examined his highly polished boots. Both men gave a slight start when the doors opened and the King’s Private Secretary said, “Your Excellencies, His Majesty the King will see you now.”

Massi and Othamani walked into the study. Both bowed deeply and held the bow until the King looked up from his desk and acknowledged them.

“This is a disaster,” Aksel IX said, frowning.

“It is, Sire,” Massi said.

“Sire,” Othamani, the Defence Minister, said, “with all respect, we had been assured that the Border Guards could contain the situation until our troops could arrive. Colonel Major Atabou moved as quickly as possible. And the Breucians…”

The King slammed his fist on the table. “I do not want to hear your ****ing excuses, Field Marshal!” Othamani’s eyes widened. “You are dismissed,” the King said through pursed lips. “And I require your resignation. Pamin can give you pen and paper on your way out.”

“Sire!” Othamani said, taking a step forward.

“You are dismissed, Field Marshal,” the King said, coming to his feet.

Othamani bowed. “So has it been said, so shall it be done, Sire.” He backed out of the study, leaving Massi alone with the King.

“Sire,” Massi said tentatively after the King took his seat, “I am prepared to accept responsibility for this… fiasco and I offer you my resignation…”

“It won’t be so easy for you,” the King said.

Massi swallowed hard. “Sire?”

“I have decided,” the King stood and folded his arms behind his back, “that our system of having the Foreign Minister act as head of government does not serve us well. I need someone… unencumbered with other responsibilities and in whom I can place my complete confidence to act as head of the Privy Council and as head of my government. Therefore, I plan to revive to the office of President of the Privy Council.”

Massi let out a breath.

“I have a candidate in mind for the job,” Aksel said. “Meanwhile, I intend to retain you as Foreign Minister.”


“You have built more of a relationship with the Breucians than any other Cyretopolitanian official has done in a century. I will need to use that relationship in the days ahead.” The King gave Massi a cold smile. “And stripping you of your additional role as head of the Privy Council and dismissing Othamani should suffice to absorb the blame for this… for now.”

“Yes, Sire,” Massi said with relief in his voice.
Last edited by Cyretopolitania on Tue Feb 08, 2022 10:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Breucia » Wed May 18, 2022 8:06 am

King Pierrith IX Infant School, Nylobel

The children shifted nervously on the stage. “Now now,” said their teacher, a middle-aged and kindly woman with frizzy hair and a fashion sense that could most charitably be called eclectic, “Just as we rehearsed.” She turned to her fellow teacher at the piano.

“Miss Krisphine?” The music started and the children began, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, to sing.

When a Fèin won his pastwn, in the stories of old,
He was gentle and brave, he was gallant and bold
With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand,
For the Nine and for valour he rode through the land.

Belphar Faxisys, sitting alone at the halfway point between the choir and the assembled press, nodded along to the tune. This really was the most dreadful singing he had heard for some time but he smiled and beamed like a parent at their child’s first play. And besides, a visit to the tight electoral districts of Nylobel was a pleasant distraction from wider events.

The second verse approached and the children, with a large and audible intake of breath, started again.

No charger have I, and no pastwn by my side,
Yet still to adventure and battle I ride,
Though back into storyland giants have fled,
And the Fèinne are no more and the dragons are dead.

“Wonderful, wonderful,” said the toshiagh, mostly to himself but loud enough that the reporters could hear. From the corner of his eye he could see a hushed and urgent conversation amongst his aids. Although his expression remained unchanged his heart sank. This could only mean that ‘events’ had occurred.

Sure enough Loradi appeared. He inclined his head as she whispered to him. The colour faded from his cheeks. “By the Nine,” he said under his breath.

The children were about to begin again.

Let devotion my shield and let joy be my steed

“Splendid, simply splendid,” said the toshiagh forcefully as he stood up. The piano accompaniment clattered to a halt. The children looked around confused, several carried on oblivious for a few seconds more.

“That was charming,” said Faxisys, “Your parents must be very proud. Miss Miatumal?”

The fizzy-haired conductor turned to him.

“Miss Miatumal you and the children must be commended for your excellent work. I should love you stay and listen to more but,” he motioned towards the door, “I’m afraid that events detain me.” He turned to the choir. “Very well done to you all,” he said, “And remember, tell your parents to vote for the National Centre Party!” With that he hurried from the school hall.

Breucian Air Force Helicopter, Twenty minutes later

“How bad is it?” shouted Faxisys.

“Well it’s not ****-ing great,” snapped Loradi, “What do you think it’s like?”

Mateschitz adjusted his glasses from beneath the headset he was wearing. “The incident is regrettable but not, I would think, beyond understanding.”

Loradi turned on him. “Stop talking like you’re a robot or you’ve got a broom up your ass,” she snapped again, “You’re not in Ernestria now. We should call a ****-up a ****-up.”

The toshiagh loosened his tie. “How long until we’re back at the capital?”
Mateschitz looked at his watch. “Another hour?”

Faxisys scowled. “Not good enough, we need someone to contact the Cyretians now, their tanks could be at the border if we leave it until we’re back in Dfhanor.” He looked about the helicopter. “I think we’re going to have to wake him.”

Nelen Caelora

The hunting lodge of the Constable’s of Breucia was high in the cool air of the Strafram Mountains. Geofmede Yeskalyn was too old to hunt now but he enjoyed the peace and tranquility of Nelen Caelora away from the hustle and noise of Dfhanor.

The Constable had retired to bed early. Her Serene Highness the Princess of the Cinque Ports, his wife Chrisryll, had succumbed to bowel cancer a few years before and had been collected to the place of her Fathers. A quiet, pious man; Geofmede ensured that her name was endured during his prayers every night.

The lodge was quiet with only the Constable in residence. Outside, across the manicured lawns, an owl hooted. A fat moon hung low in the sky, the light reflecting off the distant ocean.

A telephone rang. Nicstaer Yinbalar, watching the football from Ernestria and eating hummus, scowled. He answered it. During the conversation the bowl of hummus fell from his lap and onto the floor. This went unnoticed until the maid came to clean the room next morning.

“I see,” said Yinbalar, “I see. Yes, I will wake him now. Who should he call? Massi?” The voice on the other end of the telephone chuntered away. “Yes,” agreed Yinbalar, “Better that an elected official speaks to an elected official.” There was a pause. “The King? Well we can try. Leave it with me.” He replaced the receiver and dashed from the room.

Twenty Minutes Later

The Constable took a sip of the strong Qubti tea that had been cooling on the desk before him. The only other objects on it were a large, old fashioned telephone and an old framed photograph of the late Princess with the young Hereditary Prince sitting upon her lap.

“Right,” said the Constable after a moment, “How many killed?”

Yinbalar, his face illuminated by his mobile phone, looked up. “We don’t know yet,” he said with a grim expression, “They’re still counting, but certainly dozens.”

The Constable gave a resigned nod. “Right, I see.” He picked up the telephone. There was a click.

“Good evening Your Serene Highness,” said a pleasant woman with a Kartibian accent, “Who would you like to be connected to?”

Yeskalyn glanced up at Yinbalar, who gave a determined nod. “His Majesty, King Aksel of Cyretopolitania please,” replied the Constable.
Last edited by Breucia on Wed May 18, 2022 8:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Cyretopolitania » Thu May 19, 2022 11:14 am

(OOC: Joint post with Breucia.)

The Royal Palace
Cyretia, Cyretopolitania

“Your Majesty,” a voice said softly but with a note of urgency.

King Aksel IX looked up from his book and over the rim of the reading glasses he had just recently acquired, which he was still endeavoring to keep from public view. “Yes, Pamin,” he said to his private secretary.

“There is a call from Breucia, Sire. His Serene Highness, Geofmede Yeskalyn, the Constable of Breucia.”

The King closed his book and tossed it on the table beside his overstuffed leather chair. “Good God, I don’t think any Constable has ever called the Palace before.” The King uncrossed his legs and moved to the edge of his chair. “Is it the Constable himself…”

“The young lady on the phone insists that the Constable himself is standing by to be connected,” Pamin said in a tone of certainty.

“Very well, then,” the King stood and began walking across the room to the library’s phone - a rather ancient looking corded device gilded with gold, “put him through to this phone. And get Count Massi here immediately.” He paused at the thought of traffic in the Old City this time of day. “Send a helicopter or a motorcycle or a damned horse for him if you have to. Whatever gets him here the fastest.”

“So has it been said, so shall it be done,” Pamin said with a bow as he backed out of the room and closed the door.

Somewhere in the bowels of the Palace complex, a young Cyretian operator said to the Breucian woman with a pronounced Kartibian accent, “This is the Royal Palace, please have His Serene Highness stand by for His Pharaonic and Royal Majesty, Aksel IX, King of Cyretopolitania.” She waited for the other woman to confirm the connection, then hit the button to transfer the call to the King’s private library.

“Hello? Hello?” The King said as he picked up the phone.

Yeskalyn thought himself too old to be frightened of any man, or overwhelmed by any situation, but he almost dropped the telephone when he heard the King’s voice.

“Er…” he began, and then stopped. Nicstaer Yinbalara, hoovering nearby, whispered ‘Your Majesty’.

“Your Majesty,” said the Constable, his composure returning, “Your Majesty, good evening. Thank you for taking my call at so late an hour.” He glanced at the picture of his late wife and, taking courage from her, he continued. “You may recall, sir, we last met at the wedding of Princess Jennifer and Prince…”

“Nicholas,” whispered Yinbalara.

“Prince Nicholas. I regret that we do not speak under more pleasant circumstances. I have only recently been made aware of the terrible incident that has occurred at the border post near…near…”

“Mataouine,” the King said. “I believe the town on your side of the border is… Wlhil,” he continued stumbling over the wlh blend in the Breucian word. “And, yes, as I recall we did meet at the wedding.” The King sighed. “It has been a difficult day, Your Serene Highness.”

“Yes,” said the Constable, with his own sign, “A most trying day. His Excellency the Toshiagh is, as we speak, urgently traveling back to the capital and had hoped to speak with your government but, whilst he is enroute, he asked whether I might call you to express the profound shock and regret of His Majesty’s Government, and all Breucia, to this regrettable affair. I can relay to Your Majesty those assurances that I have been given that a full and complete enquiry will take place into the matter. You have, sir, my personal condolences and those, I imagine, of His Most Faithful Majesty the King who I am sure,” lied the Constable, “Is as shocked and saddened by these events as I am.”

Aksel sat in silence for a moment. He was not often surprised, but the Constable had managed to upend his expectations. “That,” he began, then paused, “that is very kind of your, Your Serene Highness. Thank you both for your condolences and your… promise to conduct an inquiry into the… matter.” He paused again. “We, too, are… shocked and saddened by these events. We regret the loss of lives and the… destruction wrought on both sides of the border. I can assure you that we are taking measures to investigate the incident fully and to ensure that it is never repeated.” He drew in a breath. “I have already summoned Count Massi to the Palace and he will gladly accept the Toshiagh’s call this evening.”

The Constable nodded and then, realizing the King would not be able to see this down the telephone, spoke again. “I will be pleased to relay your comments to the Toshiagh.”

He paused and took a quick sip of his Qubti tea.

“If I may,” he continued, “I acknowledge that my position is somewhat more constrained that Your Majesty’s. My role is very much that of a figurehead, and a secondary one at that, so please accept any of what I am about to say with an appropriate caveat. But I hope that this terrible incident will not derail the recent effort at rapprochement between our governments and our peoples. My memory, sir, is not what it was but I understand, or I recall reading, that a visit was to be made to the monastery by a working party from both our nations. It is, sir, my sincere wish that this should still take place if Your Majesty wills it and if circumstances allow.”

“I firmly agree, Sir, that we should not allow a… few hooligans to stand between our nations and our… mutual interests. I would very much like to see the working party’s visit move forward.” The King hesitated. “And,” he paused again, “and if it goes well, perhaps a… higher level meeting might be in order. Perhaps at some… neutral site.”

“In as much as the constitution allows me to agree, Your Majesty, I would concur with this and shall relay this to His Most Faithful Majesty’s government at the earliest opportunity. If I may go on…shush Nicstaer, I know what I’m doing…but if I may, sir, and speaking simply as an interested party and nothing more, I believe that both of us have common cause to be concerned with our mutual neighbour. The events at Mataouine,” he stumbled over the pronunciation, “Are almost certainly the spontaneous actions of a few hooligans, as you say, but I fear that does not preclude more direct action from those opposed to Breucian-Cyretopolitanian friendship.”

“I, too,” the King said, “have considered that… our mutual neighbor may believe it has an interest in keeping us divided and at odds with each other.” He paused. “I am pleased that you have considered the same possibility. I hope that our governments may be able to find a way to work together to… insulate our efforts at rapprochement from interference by our neighbor.”

“Indeed sir,” said the Constable, “Indeed. As I have said, I will relay your comments to His Majesty’s Government and will inform the Toshiagh that Count Massi awaits his call. I will, for my own part, consider which neutral sites would best suit the purposes of our two states and will encourage, as much as I can, the renewing of bonds between our peoples.”

He looked up at Yinbalara and raised an eyebrow. His secretary shook his head. “Thank you for your time this evening, Your Majesty. I hope that the next time we speak it will be on sun-lit heaths and not in so dark a valley.”

“Thank you, Your Serene Highness,” the King said. “Peace be with you and blessings upon your house.” The King hung up the phone and looked up just in time to see his Foreign Minister enter the room.

“Extraordinary,” the King muttered.

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Founded: Apr 26, 2019
Moralistic Democracy

Postby Breucia » Thu Jun 02, 2022 1:43 pm

Joint post with Qubti

Illfebelle hill station, Strafram Mountains

The air was cool which was entirely the point. It was here, over a century ago, the Ernestrians sought refuge from the summer heat of Dfhanor and the coast for the chilled air high in the mountains. It was here at Illfebelle and other hill stations that they rendered the Breucian a stranger in the lands he had occupied for fifteen centuries. None was a greater symbol of this than the old High Commissionary Lodge.

Breucia had been a protectorate, not a colony; with that status came a semblance of self-government. But that, of course, was a lie. The High Commissioner’s hand in Breucia was as unrestrained as any colonial governor. And so, despite the facade of local rule continuing in Dfhanor, it was not for nothing that Illfebelle was known as the summer capital of Breucia.

The High Commissionary Lodge made no concession to the architecture of Breucia. It was as though some higher being had scooped up an Ardeal estate and dropped it onto a foreign hillside. It was a testament in stone to the hubris of the Ernestrians who assumed their rule was as endless as their ambitions. The Lodge fell into disuse after independence. It had nominally been given to the Toshiaghs as an official residence; but what use did Breucians have for a summer capital? In time it was passed over to the Kings but even they had little use for so imposing a home in so remote a location. That was, that is, until now.

Lord Richkath Loramyar, Comptroller of the Royal Wardrobe, passed by a mirror and stopped. The role of Comptroller might have meant something once when it managed the King’s private expenditure but now its chief benefits were access to the king and a very fancy uniform. Satisfied with his appearance he turned and started to climb the grand staircase. Somewhere in the distance Loramyar could hear the hissing of gas lights that no maintenance budget had ever fully manage to expunge from the Lodge. When he reached the stop of the stairs he noticed, sitting alone in the darkened corridor, the figure of a man he recognised.

“Well well well,” said Loramyar as he approached. He did not offer his hand. “Izdryn Vawraek, I did not expect to see you here.”

Half masked in gloom the other man squirmed anxiously. “I don’t know what you mean,” he replied defensively.

Loramyar placed his gloved hands on his waist. “Izdryn Vawraek,” he repeated sarcastically, “Or should I say, General Vawraek. Your family has been the Constable’s men for generations. Your noble ancestor, may his name be endured, even had a nickname? I forget what it was.”

“Cudgel of Yeskalyn,” said the General, “I know.”

The Comptroller could not hide the gloating from his voice. “And yet here you are.”

The General folded his arms. “I know my family’s past, and I am not ashamed of it. No, sir, I am not ashamed of it. We were loyal to the Constabulary. But that, sir, was when the Constable was loyal to his country.”

The Comptroller nodded. “The monastery,” he said. It was not a question.

“Yes,” replied the General, “That den of old fornicators pretending to be holy men. I hoped it wasn’t the case, hoped that some mistake had been made, but it wasn’t.” His voice dripped in bitterness. “It’s true, every damn word of it. They are planning on giving it back to those bastard sons of the Crusaders. I knew then at once I had to do something, I couldn’t just stand there and let my country be sold to the Copts. I had to try and stop this madness.”

“And so,” said the Comptroller, “You came to us. Well, your timing is impeccable. Our friends in
Iskandariya have sent us someone who might be able to help us.” He motioned for the General to follow him and the two men walked in silence. Eventually the corridor opened up and, through the shadows of the corridor, they saw light from under a distant door and the sound of muffled conversation.

“Here,” said the Comptroller, “It is in the old chapel.”
He opened the door. The chapel was squat and vaunted like a medieval cellar. Tall windows depicted the saints as they looked down upon this pagan land. The Ernestines had deconsecrated the chapel before they left; where the altar table once stood was a large wooden chair in which sat His Royal and Most Faithful Majesty Yorryll XXXII, King of Breucia, Reeve of the Faithful, Protector of the Holy Agglish, Treasured Grandson of Ruehnar: Lord of the Hunt. He was talking with someone who was sitting next to him.

The man next to the King looked up at the new arrivals. His lip curled and his eyes narrowed giving him the look of a man who just found a pest in his kitchen. Nonetheless, the man flashed a smile on his thin, mustachioed face. He stood and straightened his impeccably tailored suit. “Gamal Abasi Fahmy,” he said with a slight bow. “I am honoured to meet you.”

“Richkath Loramyar, Comptroller of the Royal Wardrobe,” he replied, “And this is…”

“Yes yes yes,” snapped the King, “Sit down Loramyar, I am about to begin.” The two arrivals exchanged a look and went and took their seats.

The King, a lanky youth of 22 with dark brooding eyes, stood up. He wore a business suit; impeccably tailored as Fahmy but in an older double-breasted style. He looked about the assembled room.

“Gentlemen,” he said, for they were all men, “Thank you for coming this evening.” He looked theatrically around the abandoned chapel. “You know, the Christians call their church ‘the hospital of the soul.’ If that is the case then we are right to meet here; because Breucia, gentlemen, is sick. And we are the cure.”

He began to pace before his great wooden chair. “Sick. Everyday our best and brightest are lured away to foreign lands, taking with the jewels of a coming generation. If they stayed there it would be bad enough, and most do, but some return bringing with them degenerate foreign ideas. Cancer is so deadly because it masquerades as one of the body’s own cells? Those that return after they have absorbed the gods-less ways of the outsider are a cancer in the body of Breucia; poisoning us with lies and twisting the minds of their fellows until they don’t know whether they are a man or a woman, their mouths spilling nonsense that a man may lie down with another man and be treated as an equal.

And all the while our politicians idly sit by and watch it happen. They watch as Breucia gets weaker and sicker everyday. The arteries of her politics clogged with corruption and greed. Her once powerful arms withered and broken. They look at the Copts and they think to themselves ‘that’s okay, we could be like that.’ They talk of streamlining abroad; cutting down the number of jobs, the number of soldiers, until nothing remains. Maybe they think we should follow the Copts and streamline the gods? Why have nine when you could have 5? Or 3? Or be like the Knootians and have none?”

Mutters of ‘shame!’ came from around the room.

“And who is to blame for this desecration of our country? Who is to be blame for this blasphemy against the Nine?” The answer was obvious and a few voices shouted it into the chapel. “The constable.”

“Yes!” said the King, bouncing on his feet, “Yes the Constable. For too long the Constable has exercised an authority that was not his in the first place. The Toshiagh, the Senedh, all of it his bastard children, his vipers that sink their fangs into the very heart of Breucia. What is needed,” he sat down with an air of finality, “Is a restoration. A proper restoration. Well we have friends, gentlemen, who have heard our cries and seek even now to help us. Gamal,” he turned to the Qubtian, “Gamal, these men are all loyal to me. They will not utter a word outside this place. Tell them what you told me, how your country can help us restore order and decency to Breucia.”

Fahmy leaned back in his chair, steepled his fingers and smiled. “As I was just telling His Royal and Most Faithful Majesty, that my old friend, Bassel - Bassel Gamal, the Minister of,” his smile broadened, “Special Services, was just telling me how much he, and our President, greatly laments the, well, to be charitable, naive manner in which the Toshiagh’s government is… allowing itself to be duped by the Cyretians.”

The lean man tilted his head and spread his hands. “Since before the Sultanate, the Cyretians have viewed themselves as the rightful rulers of all Kemetia.” He shook his head. “Their king openly calls himself a pharaoh - the heir of those who ruled all these lands from ancient Iskandariya millenia ago.” He nodded gravely. “We know, as I know you do as well, that returning the monastery to them is only the beginning. The proverbial nose of the camel under the tent. With that opening, they will wiggle and squirm their way into your society and attempt to draw it ever closer to theirs.”

A faint smile returned to his lips. “Of course, we would very much like to help our friends in Breucia restore their rightful order and secure their… heritage against the encroachment of the Cyretians.”

The King smiled a cruel smile. “We have often remarked,” he said, “That our friends in Iskandariya can always be relied upon.” He leaned back. “Loramyar,” he barked, “Tell our guest of the plans so far.”

The Comptroller sat up in his seat. “Well I am sure it is nothing your excellency would not find surprising,” he said, “But they are tried and tested. We are making arrangements for certain ‘disturbances’ to occur to undermine the Toshiagh’s government…”

“Bombs,” said the King turning to Fahmy, “Regrettable but necessary. We will ensure that the names endure of those that are killed. Get on with it, Loramyar.”

The Comptroller continued. “In a situation of public disorder and panic then it would only be natural for all eyes to look towards the military to restore calm.” He looked towards General Vawraek.

The General looked far less comfortable with the conversation. But he swallowed and got up the explanation. “That’s where we need assistance. It is one thing to decide on a coup; another thing to actually carry it out. There are forces loyal to me, and His Royal and Most Faithful Majesty,” he added as an afterthought, “But we have no experience in these things and, well, Qubti does.”

Fahmy gave a cold-eyed smile. “Yes, quite.” He folded his hands together. “If you know… for certain, with complete assurance which units are loyal to you, which are loyal to the Toshiagh, and which will sit by to wait for the outcome, then you are well ahead of the game.” He paused. “But be assured, you will find all three among your troops.

“Once you are certain who is who,” he continued, “then you can begin maneuvering the pieces into place. Make sure your loyalists are in control of key units in key places, while your opponents are sent off to impressive sounding but powerless sinecures - Defense Attaché to Excalbia, Senior Advisor to the Commander-in-Chief, and the such, and the neutrals are positioned where they can do no harm. Then, it comes to timing. If the Toshiagh plans international travel, goes on holiday, comes down with the flu… those are all favorable times to move.”

He smiled. “But these are basics. I can easily put you in touch with colleagues who can offer… specific and effective advice.”

“Good,” said the King, “Good. As always our friends from Qubti always bring us good advice. That’s a very good about about the loyalty of the troops,” he said with a look of worry on his face, “Make a note of that Vawraek, they have to be loyal to me. Me you understand?”

The General cast his eyes down to the stone floor. “As you say oh Reeve of the Faithful, Protector of the Holy Agglish, Treasured Grandson of Ruehnar: Lord of the Hunt.”

This placated the King a little. “I am pleased that we have so far done the right things, but obviously there is always more we can go. Gamal,” he turned to his guest, “Gamal, if you could put us in touch with your colleagues then that would be most helpful.”

“Of course,” Fahmy said, “Your Most Royal and Faithful Majesty.”

Vawraek looked up. “My aide de camp, Colonel Gennorin, is ideally placed to facilitate this.”

The king looked concerned. “Can he be trusted?”

The General nodded. “Absolutely. He is a competent officer and loyal to his country.”

“Yes yes yes,” snapped the king, “That’s all very well but is he loyal to me?”

The General nodded again. “He is your most devout servant sire.”

“Good,” the king leaned back, “Good, see to it then Vawraek. Make the arrangements. And be quick about it. The fate of all Breucia depends on it.”

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Founded: Oct 02, 2020
Iron Fist Consumerists

Postby Qubti » Fri Jul 22, 2022 5:44 am

OOC: Joint post with Breucia


“You have NO new messages…” said the answerphone. Leoamar Gennorin threw his phone onto the couch. There was something about it all that he didn’t like. That the Colonel was in Jurby ought not to be a cause of concern for whoever happened to be monitoring him. With his parents both dead, may their names be endured, his only living relative was his sister who lived in the city. It was not unknown for him to visit her and her family. But as far as she knew he was still in Dfhanor with General Vawraek; not waiting in a motel room for whoever had slipped up the Api Iteru from Qubti.

Gennorin rubbed the stubble on his chin. He should do something to distract himself. He scooped up the remote and turned on the motel’s TV.

“Previously on The Sword..” began the television. The Colonel angrily turned it off. He had no time for Kings and Princes and Constables and Emperors. He honoured the King mainly because the village sage had beaten it into them that they should do. But ‘honour’ was not the same as ‘respect’ and was a long distance away from ‘like’. He shook his head. This was the nerves talking. Or thinking.

He stood up again and checked his watch for the 50th time. He’d booked the right motel, hadn’t he? There was a crashing outside. Alarmed, the colonel picked up his service pistol from his wash bag and made his way over to the window. He peaked out but saw neither a Qubti death squad or the Secret Services closing in but a lean and vicious looking street cat inspecting the contents of the bin it had knocked over.

“By the Nine,” he muttered to himself, “I am going craz..” He never finished his sentence for there was a sudden, and firm, knock upon the door. He crept across the room and opened the door with one hand, keeping the other firmly gripped to the pistol behind his back.

On the other side of the door stood a tall man with dark complexion, black hair and a thin mustache. He wore a tailored suit of a modern - and foreign - cut and held an umbrella in his right hand. The man smiled. “Colonel Gennorin?” He said in a quiet tone. “I believe we have some mutual friends. May I come in?”

With the hand behind his back he clicked the pistol’s safety and tucked it into the back of his trousers. He passed a sweaty hand through his equally sweaty hair and looked round distractedly. “Yeah,” he said, trying to look past the man for anyone else, “Sure.”

As the other man entered a flurry of worry went through his mind. How did he know this wasn’t someone from his side? Was there supposed to be a code he was supposed to give? A password? ‘Well, too late for that now,’ he thought.

“Can I get you anything?” he asked. He motioned towards the motel room’s couch to invite the other man to sit. “The tap water tastes foul but is drinkable and there’s a mini bar if you want something cold.” He opened the small fridge and gazed longingly at the small can of local beer. He resisted; this did class as work after all.

“Thank you for your gracious offer, my friend,” Gamal Abasi Fahmy said with a smile as he sat, “but I am not thirsty at the moment.” He looked at the Colonel as if he could see through him and into his soul. “So, tell me, my friend, how much have they told you about the purpose of our meeting this evening?”

Gennorin laughed a bitter laugh. “Well it’s treason isn’t it? That’s why you’re here.” He half sat, half collapsed onto the motel sofa. “I’m sorry,” he said, “That’s not very professional of me. It’s just, I’m just not used to this. But I know you’ve been sent to help them, to help us,” he did not seem convinced by that last word, “Plan a coup against the Constable and the government.” Reaching behind him he pulled out the pistol that had previously been tucked into his belt and balanced it precariously on the arm of the chair. He felt the other man’s eyes bore into him. Gennorin shifted nervously. “So the current plan, or one of the current plans, is to plant bombs in Mennaes.” He stopped before realising that further explanation was required. “Mennaes is the site of the Holy Agglish. It’s an important pilgrimage place. The thinking is that people might be more sympathetic to the King’s cause if it can be shown the Toshiagh and the Constable can’t protect pilgrims. Possibly..” he trailed off. “I’m not convinced if I am being honest but I am just the liaison.”

“It is a difficult situation in which you find yourself, my friend,” Fahmy, who had yet to give his name, said sympathetically. “You want to help your people. Save them. It is hard to make the calculation that the sacrifice of a few may serve to free the many.” He paused. “Especially when it seems to serve the interests of… one man.”

Gennorin idly spun the pistol on the arm of the chair. “That’s true he said,” after a moment. He was lost in thought for a moment and said nothing but continued to spin the pistol. At last he shook his head. “Anyway,” he said, sitting up straighter in the chair, “I have my orders, and you will have yours. What sort of help is the Iskandariya offering? Are we talking logistics? Volunteers or just some helpful suggestions.” He leaned forward slightly. “I don’t know what your orders are and I don’t presume to ask but the people organizing this are…” he paused whilst he collected his thoughts, “High on enthusiasm and low on practical experience. They will need on-going guidance, if you understand my meaning.”

“We are prepared,” Fahmy said with the benign smile of a carpet merchant, “to offer all of the above, as you may have need.” He paused. “We have… considerable experience overthrowing… monarchs and would-be monarchs. And now our people live under the light of freedom from such overlords.” He paused again. “We tend to prefer… direct action in removing tyrants and kings. A few strategic moves. Control of key transportation connections. The media. A few well-placed bullets. The fait accomplis of a new government. And it’s done.” He smiled. “Well, done to your king’s wishes.”

He stared at the other man for a few moments. Gennorin was unsure whether he was captivated by the other man’s words or repelled. “Well,” he said after a moment, “Breucia has its fair share of monarchs, would-be monarchs and everything in between.” He attempted to laugh but there was no humour in his words and he quickly fell silent. “So,” he began again, “Would you attempt to discredit the current government to provoke sympathy with our, his, cause or just move straight to action? And if you go to the few well-placed bullets then how do you control the civilian element? It’s one thing to find men loyal enough to the king to put out the Constable and his regime but getting them to stand firm in the face of the populace, that’s another. How many coups have been planned to perfection only to fail because the people refuse to return to their homes?”

“Ah,” Fahmy said, “here we come to a key point: how many monarchies are really and truly beloved by their people? Especially the more they are known?” He reached into his jacket and retrieved a silver cigarette case. Lighting a particularly pungent blend of tobacco, he took it and inhaled deeply. Then blew it out. “You want to discredit the various kings and would-be kings? I wager that it is easier done than you believe. Simply let the people learn of the… true face of these… men.” He smiled. “Let people learn of their pettiness. Their betrayals. Their… predilections. People will understand that these men are oppressors. Then, when you strike, you are the liberators. Of course, you will want to make that known. And known quickly. You will need to eradicate any… counter narratives.” He took a drag on the cigarette. “Most people are followers. You show them you are in charge. That the old leaders are not worthy of their concern. And, yes, they will follow… you.”

He leaned forward. “We can help you with all these things. We have experts. We have resources. We have experience.”

Just for a moment Gennorin was lost in his own thoughts. His eyes glazed over. The hint of a smile lingered at the corners of his mouth. He then shook his head. “He’s not just a king,” he sighed, “Look, I don’t expect you to understand or care but the king people say he’s descended from a god.” He looked unsettled. “And, you know, maybe he is, maybe he isn’t, how should I know? But the thing is Mr….whatever your name is, you don’t have to tell me…but the thing is I don’t want to tear down the edifice of the faith just because the king is a slimy weasel of a man.” He paused. “Look, men like us, we follow orders. You might not like those orders but that ain’t got nothing to do with you. I was told to arrange plans to depose the constable and restore rule to the king to power.” He spun the pistol again. “It’s above my pay grade to question whether that’s actually a good idea.”

“Of course, my friend,” Fahmy said, “I will leave you instructions for contacting my associates, who will help you advance your plans. They can offer advice on planning and organizing and can assist you with logistics and supplies.” He paused and took a long drag on his cigarette. “I hope you will excuse an observation, friend. If we had waited for those ‘above our pay grade,’ as you put it, to take action, Qubti would still have a Sultan sitting on a golden throne, dressed in silk, feasting every day and attended by our most beautiful daughters, all while proclaiming himself the heir of Mohammed and, to borrow a Christian phrase, God’s vice regent on Earth. And all the time, the people would be in poverty, ground beneath the heel of tyranny and dying for want of the very bread the Sultan so casually tossed on his floor.”

Fahmy sat back and snubbed out his cigarette between his fingers. He placed it back in his case. “I do not know enough of your religion to understand the King’s… spiritual role. But should not spiritual leaders attend to the spiritual needs of their people? Removing the Sultan did not destroy Islam in Qubti; it freed it.” He stood. “Perhaps I misjudged you, Colonel. I thought you might be a true patriot and a man of action. A leader. A man among boys.” He sighed. “Let us speak no more of these… lofty things.” He pulled a card from his pocket and held it out carefully. “Call this number and ask for Abdel; he will provide all that you need.”

Gennorin took the card and stared at it. “Thanks,” he half-mumbled, “I will pass this on.” There was a pause where it looked as though the colonel was about to speak but stopped. Eventually the words came to in. “And, if, just if, your first assessment proved to be….correct. How would I contact you?”

Fahmy smiled. “Just call that number, ask for Abdel and tell him… you are interested in an upgrade.” The man gave a slight bow and moved to the door.


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