The establishment of a Pantocratorian embassy in the Fiefdom of Uncle Noel
Prince Constantine, second son of the Pantocratorian Emperor, leaned against an ugly looking anomaly in an otherwise stunning collection of sports cars from all over the world kept in a large garage in the Imperial Court of Christ Pantocrator. An avid car collector, the Prince had accepted a car as a gift from his sister Anna when she had left on her honeymoon before seeing it as a matter of course. The sore thumb on which he now leaned was that gift - a Zagreb People's Car from the Fiefdom of Uncle Noel which Anna had received as a gift from Uncle Noel himself. To Constantine's knowledge, it was the only car which had ever been shipped from the Fiefdom, and he understood why. What he didn't understand is why his father had asked to meet with him and other members of the family in Constantine's garage, in front of the Zagreb People's Car.
The sound of footsteps echoed throughout the cavernous garage as Prince Basil and his family entered the room.
"Constantine!" called Basil, not seeing his nephew in the poor light of the darkest corner of the garage, where Prince Constantine had elected to keep his monstrousity.
"Over here!" replied Constantine, waving to get Basil's attention from the corner of the huge garage. One of Basil's daughters, Marie, noticed him and pointed him out to the rest of her family, which strolled down the gap between two rows of magnificent sports cars to reach him.
"You've heard about the emergency session tomorrow?" Prince Basil asked as he got closer. He was the Leader of the Opposition in the Imperial Parliament, and Prince Constantine was one of his shadow cabinet members.
"Yes, I he..." Constantine starts but is interrupted by Princess Jacqueline, Basil's wife.
"Don't talk politics!" she snapped.
"What is... that?" asked Princess Marie, a look of bemused repulsion on her face, as she pointed to the Zagreb People's Car.
"Don't ask." replied Constantine.
"It certainly is... different... from all these other silly cars." said Princess Helen, a mischevious look in her eye as she teased her cousin.
"Silly? These are classics!" replied Constantine, biting Helen's hook without even the slightest idea that she had said it in fun.
"Oh good, car talk, almost as interesting as politics..." Princess Jacqueline murmured to herself as she turned towards the noise of the door on the otherside of garage opening. Princess Irene's grim figure stood in the doorway. "...and it keeps getting better."
"I agree with you, niece, it is silly and wasteful in the extreme that a prince who could be chauffeur driven everywhere collects such expensive toys." says Irene in a strong, cold voice as she strides towards her family.
"Good evening, Your Highness." says Basil in icy tones. The political rivalry between the two of them had severely strained their personal relations.
"Your Highness." replies Irene.
"They're not toys, they're classic automobiles." murmured Constantine.
"And why, pray, do you need so many of them?" Irene asked.
"I collect them, like you collect hair shirts." quipped Constantine. Princess Marie covered her mouth with her hand, but her wide-eyed expression said it all. Everyone fell silent.
"So... erm...." Princess Helen tried to break the ice. "Has anybody any idea why the Emperor asked us to meet him in front of this funny little car?"
"I may have some idea." came a booming voice from a door two rows of cars away, leading to some of the palace gardens. The Emperor and his daughters Theodora and Zoë walked into the garage as the assembled family members bowed and curtsied. "I trust you were all admiring Constantine's Zagreb People's Car?"
"So that's what it is... no, truth be told, Your Majesty, I think it is terrible." stated Princess Marie in a matter of factly tone, exchanging a smile with Princess Theodora. The Emperor's eyes flicked to the others, who stood in awkward silence.
"I think it is kind of... cute." said Princess Helen. Everyone's eyes fell on her, and she nervously continued. "Erm... well, not cute... quite ugly in fact, but it is small and compact, and I imagine very economical to run... not like the rest of these ridiculous shiny fuel guzzlers..."
"Ridicu... they're classics!" protested Constantine loudly as Princess Jacqueline stood in the background, shaking her head as she wondered when her daughter started caring about things being economical to run.
"My dear niece..." said the Emperor, a rare smile appearing on his face as he strode towards Helen. He raised a hand softly to her cheek.
He's planning something horrible... why else would he be smiling? Helen thought nervously to herself.
"...thankyou for making my decision so much easier." Andreus concluded.
"D...d...decision, Majesty?" asked Helen, swallowing.
"Madam Chancellor," said the Emperor, turning to his sister, Irene. "You are aware of course that the Fiefdom of Uncle Noel has requested that we establish an embassy to Uncle Noel himself?"
"Of course, sir." replied Irene. There was a sudden twinkle of recognition in her eye.
"I wasn't aware of such a request." says Basil. "As leader of the Opposition I should be infor..."
"Hush, brother." said the Emperor. "I have decided to resolve the matter myself without consulting the Imperial Government, so you hardly missed out on anything."
Except democracy... thought Constantine to himself, but he knew better than to vocalise his sentiments.
"Uncle Noel's only condition was that the ambassador be a member of the Imperial family." explains the Emperor. Now there is a look of recognition in Basil's eyes.
"André, you cannot possibly intend to send Helen!" Basil protests, fearing for his daughter's safety.
"Me?" asks Helen, as if it only just occured to her.
"Yes my dear, you. You'll make an outstanding ambassador, I'm sure." says the Emperor.
"But... but..." Helen murmured. "Has a foreigner ever gone there and lived to tell of it???"
"Please reconsider!" Basil protested, but was silenced by a gesture of the Emperor's hand.
"I have made my decision. My will is law." replied Andreus. Basil's jaw wobbled, before he nodded respectfully and stepped back. Princess Jacqueline stood stunned, and quickly spoke up.
"What?" Jacqueline said, shocked, looking up at her husband in anger. "My will is law and that's it? He is going to send our daughter to a country run by a... a... a madman! And my will is law is all it takes to placate you?"
"A madman..." repeats Helen, her face white with fear.
"Madame, your outburst is quite unseemly." the Emperor said cooly to his sister in law as Basil stands in ashamed silence. Even Irene looked uncomfortable. Jacqueline turns to the Emperor with tears in her eyes.
"Unseemly?" she said, enraged. "No, unseemly is sending your twenty year old niece to the Fiefdom of Uncle Noel because she made a remark about fuel efficiency! She's my daughter, and I won't let you!"
"Madame, I am Emperor." said Andreus curtly.
"I'M HER MOTHER!" shouted Princess Jacqueline. "You can't just send her off to some forgotten hole in the middle of nowhere and say madame, I am Emperor."
"I understand that the Fiefdom is somewhat of a tropical paradise, in fact." said the Emperor, tiring of Jacqueline's protestations.
"YOU CALLOUS..." Jacqueline starts.
"CONTROL YOUR WIFE, SIR." snaps the Emperor, before lowering his tone, and gently taking the trembling Helen by the arm. Jacqueline makes some noises to protest, but Basil grabs her and keeps her quiet.
"I'm sure it isn't that bad..." ventures Princess Zoë in an attempt to comfort everybody. Basil, Marie, Constantine, Irene and Theodora glare at her.
"Come, my dear. We need to talk about your assignment." the Emperor tells Helen, before leading her out of the garage.
A few moments later, Constantine shakes his head, and walks off, quickly followed by his sisters. Marie, with tears welling up in her eyes, quickly chases after them. Basil tries to comfort his wife, whose rage has now subsided into blubbering. Irene looks at her brother and political rival, with the faintest hint of sisterly sympathy in her expression.
"Basil, I'm sure she'll be safe. He's our ally, Basil, Uncle Noel would never dare to hurt..." Irene offers, with Basil's glare silencing her. He keeps staring at her as she leaves quietly.
(ooc: oh my god! That's the one of the most tremendous things I've ever seen! I forgot about the Zagreb Peoples' Car. Hats off to you sir, hats off! :D )
Belvidge, Uncle Noel's Private Secretary, looked out the window of the Uncle Noel Admiralty building in a rare break. He was too tired to think, too tired to drink his coffee and definately too tired to return to the heated business of what to do about the Sevaris crisis. He watched as another bank of cloud was blown in from the sea, bringing with it yet more rain. The neo-classical facade of the admirality building was, like many structures, a charade. Behind its gaudy gold in-lay was cheap concrete, in the centre of its marble pillars were bricks. It had originally been built as a headquarters of the Coaticue Federated Oil Company in the days when the island used its original Aztec name. It was another example of how the second generation white settlers had exploited the turmoil of the early twentieth century to build powerful business monopolies. This was owned by J. Montgomery Davies who built up a powerful cabal with the Aztec noblemen that had kept most of the country poor. While Davies had long since passed away before the revolution, his associates fled after the coming of Uncle Noel and the building converted into the Navy headquarters.
'Rain,' thought Belvidge, 'I sometimes wish that the Fiefdom was a tropical paradise like Pantocratoria rather than a cold, wet island.
"Mr. Belvidge sir?" came a voice from behind. The last few days had been busy beyond comprehension and Belvidge was feeling the strain. The old man..he meant their illustrious leader, never seemed to need to sleep and when Belvidge wasn't playing the part of the traditional whining secretary, he had to admire Uncle Noel for it. It was only when the voice repeated itself for a third time that his mind finally clicked into gear.
"I'm sorry?" he asked, turning to the young lady from the foreign office.
"This just in sir, looks important." she said before saluting him.
"Oh yes," said Belvidge in a poor imitation of a salute, "Er...thank you. Er...Carry on."
"Thank you sir." she said before turning and leaving the room.
Belvidge couldn't saute to save his life, he was a barrister by training rather than a military man, but couldn't concern himself with that. The message was important, he had to inform the leader.
Belvidge had been standing in the large corridor that lead to the ornate meeting room where Uncle Noel had been discussing the naval taskforce with the admirals. Belvidge expected the room to be buzzing with noice and confusion but instead found the great man on his own.
"Er...sir?" he asked as he made his way into the room.
"It has been settled Belvidge," replied Uncle Noel, "And the admirals have gone to assemble their fleets."
"We've just got a message from Pantocratoria sir." said his secretary.
"Oh?," asked the dictator, "Let's have a look at what His Most August and Catholic Imperial Majesty has to say."
Taking the note and adjusting his pince nez, Uncle Noel began to read.
"Good Lord." he muttered under his breath. Perhaps it was his tiredness seeping through but Belvidge rarely saw his leader shocked.
"Sir?" he asked, concerned that the news he bought was more serious than previously expected. Not more bad news to add to the international crisis of the coast of Sevaris.
"Well," started Uncle Noel, "I asked, of course, but I never thought they'd actually send one. Goodness me."
"Is everything alright sir?"
"The ambassador," he exclaimed, "Is Princess Helen!"
A silence that fell across the room was deafening. Even the baroque clock on the mantlepiece seemed to quieten.
"PRINCESS Helen?" asked Belvidge.
"Indeed, and what's worse she's only twenty."
"Twenty?" Belvidge could scarely believe his ears, "But sir, she's just a girl and she's....royal. What are we going to do? What if something goes wrong? Where would we put her?"
"Belvidge man, calm down." said Uncle Noel, regaining his posture, "We shall have to deal with this in a very....special way."
"How so sir?"
"Well she is an ambassador, of course," stated the illustrious leader, "But she is also a young woman and an imperial princess. We shall have to treat her as such. We shall house her in the palace."
"The Palace of the People sir," said Belvidge as the blood drained from hsi face, "The official residence?"
"This isn't just an ambassador," said the leader, "She is an important royal. To shove her in an embassy is unthinkable. No doubt she will tell her father.....sorry her uncle the Emperor if she isn't properly taken care of."
"And this, bizarrely, may be a stroke of luck. I have worked tirelessly for this country since 1948 and have sacrificed any family life. Neither my nephew or my niece seem capable of taking over after I am gone."
"Your not suggesting sir?"
"No, of course not," replied the dictator, "But this young girl may be our hope. I never had a daughter Belvidge."
"Yes sir," replied his secretary, "But that doesn't mean you can take someone else's."
"Of course not, but I shall treat her as my own. And you know these royals, born to rule. She may have the right stuff."
"I hope so sir." said Belvidge, although he could not hide his anxiety. Before all that though, they'd have to find an appropriate room.
"What sort of things do you think imperial princesses like?" asked Belvidge.
"I haven't a bloody clue." came the reply.
"Fiefdom air traffic control, this is Peacock Airlines flight 736, requesting... AGAIN... for clearance to land." asked the flight captain for the third time in ten minutes.
"Maybe the weather is interfering with the signal..." suggest the co-pilot.
"Maybe. What is up with the weather anyway? I thought this place was supposed to be a tropical paradise!" complained the captain.
Back in the passenger compartment, Princess Helen sat hunched forward in her chair, trying not to hyperventilate. Her embassy staff exchange nervous glances as they sit around trying to comfort her.
"His Majesty must have a good deal of confidence in you, madamoiselle." said one of the staff members in an attempt to reassure her. The rest of the embassy staff nod their heads and say "Oh, oui, absolument" and such.
"And we all have confidence in you, of course. We're looking forward to serving Your Highness... or should I say, Ambassador." said one of the older staff members who had served in many foreign embassies under many ambassadors in his day. Helen's only reply is a loud sob. One of her maids offers her a hankerchief, which Helen takes.
"Your Imperial Highness, ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have been cleared to land. Please return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts." came a voice over the intercom. The embassy staff returned to their seats at once, and Helen sat up straight to strap herself in, her face red from crying. She hands the hankerchief back to the maid who offered it.
"Don't worry Your Highness," says the maid. "I know we've all heard terrible things about this place, but you're a princess, and they'll treat you as such. Before long you'll be sipping tropical fruit punch and sun bathing on one of the Fiefdom's beautiful beaches!"
At that very moment, a lightning bolt flashes in the dark clouds outside the window. Helen turns to the window incredulously, before turning back to the maid, who bites her lip and turns away. The cabin of the plane tilts down as the crew begin to land.
"I wonder if pop music is allowed here." murmured Helen to nobody in particular, an absent expression on her face. Back in Pantocratoria, the only music allowed was that deemed as not being culturally subversive by the Ministry of Cultural Development.
The plane shakes as it touches down on the runway, before shuddering as it finally comes to a stop.
"Your Imperial Highness, ladies and gentlemen, we have arrived in the sunny Fiefdom of Uncle Noel. The present temperature is... hmmm... erm... 4 degrees celsius. Uhhh... the weather is.... stormy.... Thankyou for flying with Peacock Airlines."
Despite the weather, Port Noel looked like a different place. Everything, and Belvidge wasn't being dramatic, EVERYTHING had been cleaned. From the public forums to the tower blocks to the mills to the old Imperial Quarter. Everything was given a new lick of paint and the populous whipped into a frenzy. The inhabitants of Port Noel had never seen a princess before and the pretty daughters of government ministers could only produce so much gossip. But an Imperial Princess was different. Her picture had been printed in the papers and people had already began to stick her portrait next to the standard portrait of Uncle Noel that people had hung up in their homes. It was glamour on a island that was much more used to dilligence and hard work. In a world where even the highest government officials travelled around in the standard Zagreb Peoples' Car, the princess promised a hint of...well....decadence. Of imperial leisure amidst common druggery.
"They're coming in to land now sir," whispered the aerodrome official to Uncle Noel.
It was certainly a spectacle that no one in living memory had seen. A red carpet had hastly been produced and laid out. The aerodrome was filled with soldiers in dress uniforms. Marines, soldiers, naval ratings all stood in perfect order in the rain. At the very front were the Eagle Corps., an Aztec military left-over which had since become Uncle Noel's finest. The Band of the 101st Uncle Noel's Rifles were in position after a furious few weeks practising the Pantocratorian anthem. At the end of the red carpet stood Uncle Noel. It would be the first time a foreigner had seen him. The aerodrome wasn't very big but a marque had been constructed to allow him to stand out of the rain. He stood in the tent with his nephew, Trevor, and his private secretary Belvidge. Important officials and military personnel also stood in the tent. Nearby were the cars that would take the young princess to the Palace. She would travel with Uncle Noel himself, of course, as she would have to be assessed.
"How long now uncle?" asked Trevor.
"Not long now." came the reply. Uncle Noel stood in a white dress uniform, similar to that of an admiral, but filled with medals and orders. He'd once explained to his nephew why he wore such a garment for all occasions.
"Trevor," he'd told his then-young nephew, "A dress uniform is an expression of power. I look out of place and somewhat gaudy, but that matters not. All know I'm charge and that's all that matter."
He was an old man but stood bolt upright. He wore a pair of golden pince nez and, despite the fact that he wasn't particularly tall, seemed to dominate any area he was in.
But he was also, once upon a time, a revolutionary with the ability to charm others. His charisma had maintained his support for over 50 years and he fully intended to make sure that he didn't scare the young princess.
"I've heard them talk of my dark and evil island Belvidge," he commented in the car on the way to the aerodrome, "And if I can convince at least one member that I am not a monster then my job will be complete."
"And what about this whole.....heir thing sir?" inquired the secretary.
"Think about it Belvidge! A monarchy that can maintain my ideals! Not the decadent Aztec emperors of old but a monarchy that could unite the different peoples of this island. I've done it, but I can't go on forever. Now she'll need work but she could be a monarch here. A monarch in MY image."
"This sounds scary sir."
"No one said that my plan was easy. It is the steep and rocky path that leads to national unity and international respect."
The plane came to a halt and the stairs moved into positon.
"Here we go," mumbled Belvidge under his breath.
Inside the 747, Princess Helen struggled to compose herself as her attendants buzzed about her. She stood in front of a mirror, into which she stared absently as her dressers straightened her Imperial purple sash and attended to her dress and hair. One woman re-applied eye-liner after wiping away the make-up which had run as a result of the Princess' tears. Princess Helen tended to wear little make-up - her youthful face hardly needed it, but her handmaidens applied more make-up than usual to draw attention away from her eyes, which were still a little red from crying.
To the side, the elderly embassy staffer stood reading from a script.
"...and then after greeting Uncle Noel, you will hand him your letter of recommendation from the Emperor." he concluded.
Helen wasn't listening.
"I wonder what my 21st birthday would've been like..." she murmured, looking into the mirror.
Not this again! thought the staffer.
"Watch you don't cry, I don't want to have to reapply this make-up!" snapped the middle-aged woman attending to Helen's eye-liner.
"So, Your Highness, after greeting Uncle Noel, what will you do?" asked the elderly staffer.
"I hate that stupid Zagreb People's Car! This is all its fault!" Helen despaired.
"YOUR HIGHNESS!" barked the staffer. "Your Highness, please listen to me, this is very important. Uncle Noel isn't going to so much as touch a hair on your head! You're the Emperor's niece! You're an Imperial Princess! You're the first foreigner to ever be invited to this bloody place! You'll be fine... SO LONG AS YOU STICK TO THE SCRIPT! Now, will Your Highness please do me the courtesy of telling me what you will do after greeting Uncle Noel?"
Helen snapped out of her self-pity, and looked at the staffer.
"I.... I will hand him the Emperor's letter of recommendation." she replied, her voice become more confident as she went.
"Excellent!" said the staffer, smiling. "You will be absolutely perfect, Your Highness, it is in your blood! Don't worry about a thing. Now, when your ladies are ready, we can begin. We will all see you again at the embassy building."
"Yes, I will see you then, monsieur." replied Helen in a calm tone. The staffer bowed and left the dressing room.
"Where is the embassy priest?" asked Helen, a fatalistic expression on her youthful face. "I need to make a final confession."
The 747's door opened, and Princess Helen emerged at the top of the stairs. Behind her followed a bodyguard, holding an umbrella over the Princess' head to shield her from the rain. Almost completely hiding her anxiety, the Princess surveyed the 101st Rifles, the red carpet, the marque, and all the assembled figures, before taking the first step down the stairs. She counted the steps as she went.
1... 2... 3... 4... 5... 6... 7... 8... 9... 10... 11... 12... she counted in her mind, before coming to a stop. Helen then nimbly skipped over the 13th step, her long dress concealing the double step. ...14... 15... 16 Finally, she stepped on the red carpet, and almost jumped when the band started playing "God Save the Emperor". Keeping her anxiety well hidden, Helen strode across the red carpet towards the old gentlemen in the magnificent uniform decorated with an obscene number of medals.
She curtsied in front of the dictator, and was suddenly filled with a sense of dread. My God... how do I address a man whose only title is Uncle???
"Your Excellency," she said as she rose. "I am Princess Helen, and I have the privilege to be His Most Catholic and Imperial Majesty's ambassador to the Fiefdom. Here is a letter from His Majesty recommending me to Your Excellency."
She held out the letter, and was horrified to see that her arm was noticeably shaking, giving the game away after she had so successfully concealed her anxiety up until this point.
Uncle Noel stood rigidly as the young princess made her way down the steps and across the carpet. She was frightened. No, terrified. Oh she tried to hide it but one didn't rule a nation for 50 years and not have an eye for these things. She had also been recently crying he could tell.
'A shame,' he thought, 'that I inspire terror. But no matter.'
She walked with a fair amount of grace and dignity that he'd not seen since....well it had to be before the revolution. Aristocratic ladies that he'd seen in the fashionable quarter who walked as though not even doomsday would ruffle them.
He watched other embassy officials exit the plane. Some were new, no doubt young servants to keep the princess company but others were seasoned diplomats. He would watch them closely. He would watch them all closely, but he mentally recorded those requiring the greater scrutiny. The young lady walking towards him though would be the most closely watched of all.
"Your Excellency," said the girl when she was before him. He smiled. What did people call him? He had sacrificed much to unite the Aztecs and the white settlers of this island, to unite the vast cultural and religious differences that separated them. He had sacrificed even his surname, to become the all-encompassing figure of The Uncle. Everyone's Uncle.
She handed him the letter of recommendation with a trembling hand. He smiled again. Gently he took the letter and glanced over it.
"Thank you my dear," he said in a friendly tone, "I am sure that you will do your country proud in this endeavour. I can assure you that no harm will come to you here, for you have not been sent into the den of lions. Think of your time here, not as an ambassador but as my guest and think of me, not as a foreign power, but as your uncle. Indeed, your uncle has entrusted you to my care and I shall carry out that duty with diligence. I am a distant relative, you might say, with whom you have been sent to spend the summer. My dear child, do not be sad. Although you have left behind your family you have entered a new world, a world of great things. Your uncle has sent you here, not to be cut off from life, but to experience it for the first time. Come my dear, there is much to do and, alas, not an awful lot of time in which to do it. Belvidge!"
"Sir?" said the secretary
"Show her imperial highness to the car."
"Very good sir."
As they moved towards the waiting limousine, Uncle Noel caught sight of the embassy's priest exiting the jet. He looked at the young lady before him.
'A catholic?' he thought as he steered the princess towards the car, 'We'll soon change that.'
ooc: Two things really. Try not to see this as scary. While typing this out it may sound neutral but imagine warm overtones. Uncle Noel can be warm you know. ;)
And secondly, the limo looks like this:
OOC: A Zagreb People's Limo? ;)
Oh God... a distant relative? Who talks like that? Helen thought to herself as she politely smiled at Uncle Noel and then Belvidge.
"Pardon me, Your Excellency," said Helen. I'm not calling him uncle! "It is just the first time I've ever been away from my family. I'm sure I'll be very happy here, and I'm most appreciative for your hospitality."
She smiled again, and followed Belvidge into the limousine.
"I imagine this is unusual weather for you." she said, making polite conversation with Belvidge.
Alright, Uncle Noel's creepy, but he seems mostly harmless. Friendly even. Helen thought to herself. Everything is going to be fine. Everything is going to be fine. Everything is going to be fine. Oh please God, let everything be fine!
"There are so many questions I have about the Fiefdom." Helen says as she settles into the limousine.
Uncle Noel didn't follow the Princess directly into the car but and gestured over an intelligence official. Quickly out-lining those embassy staff to be watched, the official nodded and moved to a respectful distance.
'Well I'm creepy,' thought Uncle Noel as he eased into the car, 'But that will all change in time.'
Belvidge still didn't like this, her presence here was ultimately a risk. What if the old man was wrong? After all, the man was scary, what if she saw through his plans. It was all far too risky.
The car pulled away from the aerodrome, through the old gates and onto the streets of the capital. The streets were filled with cheering people. Thousands of little Fiefdom and Pantocratorian flags were waved as people cheered and waved.
"Questions highness?" asked Uncle Noel, "Certainly, ask away."
"Well, I was wondering about the Fiefdom's laws and customs." said Helen. "I don't want to appear ignorant, but there was very little information available for my briefing."
Helen smiles, and glances out the window. Her eyes widden in shock.
"My, look at all the people!" Helen exclaimed. Why are they so excited? They don't even get this excited about the Emperor back home, let alone for me! "I wasn't expecting such a large crowd, sir, I'm just an ambassador... what friendly citizens you have here!"
Helen's eyes crept to the rear view mirror to see if she could see her staff following in cars behind, before settling on Uncle Noel.
"Do not worry about the people, they are just excited. They have never seen a real princess before."
Uncle Noel turned and waved to the people outside. Without returning his gaze to the girl he spoke again.
"And your staff will be not be far behind so there is no need to check the mirror. If you think I'll kidnap you within five minutes of landing then the Empire must have a very low opinion of its ally."
"As for the island, we have largely kept to ourselves. When I was a boy it was still largely a peasant culture but today it is strong. We no longer need to focus inwards but can open up to the world."
He turns and looks at the frightened young woman next to him.
"That is why you are here your highness. If even my your uncle thinks me a monster then what hope is there for any other nation?"
'But she is clearly too terrified,' thought Uncle Noel, 'Perhaps it was a mistake to bring a foreigner here. If she thinks so low of the Fiefdom?'
The grand schemes of the dictator, like so many grand schemes, seemed to be slipping away.
He's disappointed.... maybe I'll be allowed to go home! Helen thought to herself. But then, if I went home having insulted an ally, what would be the point of going home at all? My uncle is hardly the forgiving sort... No, I need to at least try to do my job.
"Sir..." Helen started, a little ashamed in her inability to hide her emotions. "I didn't think you'd kidnap me, please forgive my poor behaviour. I cannot excuse it, but if you will indulge me, please consider that not only is this the first time you have received a foreign diplomat, or a princess, this is also the first time I have ever been separated from my family or my minders, and the first time that I have left the Empire. I am honoured that His Majesty selected me to be his ambassador to the Fiefdom, of which he thinks very highly, but I confess I question the wisdom of his decision. I am young and inexperienced, as has been made plain by my nervous demeanour. I am deeply sorry if I've offended you, sir, it was never my intention. I hope that I can mature and grow into the task my unc... His Majesty has assigned me, and I hope, sir, that you will find me a satisfactory ambassador... in the fullness of time."
So much for an air of superiority. thought Helen, disappointed in herself. Please God, don't let him send me home dissatisfied. No matter how creepy he is, my own uncle would be infinitely more scary if he found out that I had upset Uncle Noel.
"If... if your Excellency will permit me to change the topic," Helen said. "I have heard very little about the Fiefdom, as I explained, but I what I have heard has been most interesting. I hear that you have wonderful beaches..."
Helen glances outside at the dark clouds in the sky.
"...and erm, that your forests are pristine. Pantocratoria's forests always seem to be shrinking, unfortunately." said Helen.
"Well the East Coast is very good for beaches, if that's what your after. It's a popular tourist destination but it's lovely when its sunny. Now the south of the island has less beaches but contains most of the history, being as it was the first place to be settled. It's much more.....cultured? I'm sure French has a better word for it but Port Noel does have a good jazz scene. The early twentieth century piers are also worth a visit. If you prefer a glass of pinot grigo and oysters rather than fish and chips then you best bet is the south of the island."
Uncle Noel mused, he was playing the part of a tourism minister and was..well...enjoying it.
"Now the West is much more rugged. It's wetter and colder, where cold pacific winds blow in. But because of that it's quieter and ideal if you want to get away from it all. Walking holiday, that sort of thing. I actually own a beach house up there, art deco thing that some industrialist built. The North....well the North is a different matter. Do you know of the founding of the nation?"
The blank expression said it all. Did anyone outside know anything about the island?
"Well, shortly before Cortes and the Spanish landed in the Mexico, an Aztec nobleman received a dream from the goddess Coaticue, the sun god's mother, that a great calmity would destory the empire and that he must flee. Now the Aztecs weren't the greatest ship-wrights but they whipped something together and set sail. To here in fact. To honour the goddess' mercy they named the island after her, Coaticue. The nobleman, his name is complicated and I shan't confuse you at this juncture, brought with him his servants, slaves, vassels etc. but he was also accompanied by religious men to whom his dream was of great importance. The 'secular' people settled on the coast but the religious ones went north into the mountains where, by and large, they remain. The North is picturesque highness, but it can also be treacherous. They......don't like outsiders. But we're gradually winning them around. Perhaps you'll be able to visit in a few years."
"And in the centre are the forests. I'm always careful to maintain them for a nation cannot be soley judged on its GNP per capita man-hour or its gross output of steel but in its quality of life. The island's forests are beautiful and I will not sacrifice them for another housing site or industrial complex."
He looked at her, and then returned to the waving crowd.
"I am also sorry, I appreicate your inexperience. I was not much older than you when I was propelled into power so I can empathise. I'm afraid you've caught us at a bad time, a crisis between superpowers over the nation of Sevaris occured in our 'backyard' has strained us all. I'm sure you will do your uncle proud."
Helen nodded as she took in everything. She had heard of jazz music, but had never heard it actually played - apparently it was subversive. She made a mental note to visit one of these jazz bars just to spite her aunt's precious Ministry of Cultural Development. She had read about art deco, but had never seen an art deco building. She had never seen the sorts of buildings she could see through the window of the Zagreb People's Limousine - most quality buildings in Pantocratoria were a contrast of baroque, classical and Byzantine styles, all clashing in such perfect disharmony so as to create a new style all of its own, distinctly Pantocratorian.
"I'd like to see as much of it as possible, sir." says Princess Helen, truthfully. "When we reach... erm... I beg pardon, where are we going?... nevermind, when we reach there, perhaps we can discuss the situation to which you referred?"
I hope my staff know about this Sevaris crisis... Helen thought to herself.
"We are going to the, and I quote, The Palace of the People. A rather grand title I must admit but not one I chose. I didn't want to live in the old Imperial Palace since..well I'd only upset the decoration. But the people insisted I live somewhere......grand. So they raised money and built 'The Palace of the People.' I don't live there, far too grand for me, but that is where we are going. And, incidentally, where your quarters are. The embassy is nearby but the Palace is much more....becominging.
And as for the island, well it has a multitude of building styles. The Imperial Quarter is Aztec but the Anglican Cathedral is an excellent example of neo-gothic. I have always been reminded of the island of Lanzerote in the Canary Islands. The local style there is of small buildings in white and the only 'sky scraper' is a 60s tourist block. While the island made mention of the 'hertiage' of the island with the white buildings, surely the tower block also becomes a part of hertiage. Culture is not a static thing to be preserved but is ever-growing. Neo-gothic isn't part of Coaticue's history, nor is the neo-classical of the Catholic cathedral, but they all contribute to the overall culture of the island.
As I said, rather oddily at the aerodrome, this is an opportunity to experience life highness. Do not see this as total isolation."
"I shan't, sir. I do apologise for being so nervous before." replied Helen.
Uncle Noel seems like a harmless old man. Friendly even. I don't know why my mother got so worked up about me coming here. Helen thought to herself. She's probably just jealous that I'm off jetting about the world while she's stuck at home following papa to boring political thingies. I can't believe I made such a scene, I certainly wouldn't have if it hadn't been for her. What does she know anyway, what does anybody know, nobody has ever been here before. I'm the first one.
Helen Capet, Ambassador! she reflected proudly. Yes, all that misinformation about this chap was quite distressing and inaccurate. My own uncle is far worse than Uncle Noel... although at least he doesn't go around getting people to call him Uncle....
"Forgive me sir, but is that the Palace of the People I can see?" Helen asked, indicating an impressive looking building.
(ooc: I'm finally back and finally able to access internet, so this can be updated. Sorry about the delay.)
Uncle Noel glanced towards the building in question. It was an impressive building to say the least....but not the Palace.
"The grey building there is the Admirality building. An interesting building which you are more than welcome to visit sometime. No no, the Palace of People isn't too far. The best way to find it is by the sky-line. Those two large towers there are the Aztec pyramids in the city. Temples to the Gods of Life and Death, a world hertiage site if I recall. Now if you look to the right of them you'll see a massive structure, see it there? That's the old Imperial Palace. The Temples mark the start of the 'Grand Road' as they call it, along that road is the vast Imperial palace and if you continue looking right you'll see a large tower. That's the Anglican Cathedral and if you look further on you'll see another building. That's the Palace of the People. Not as big as the Imperial one, but still a site. And quite a road, our journey will take us from the pyramids to the Cathedral, a walk through the island's history if you like. Except, of course, the temples are still very much in operation."
OOC: Erm... I don't know what happened to my previous post here... it was a brief one anyway. Can we move this out of the car soonish?
"Still in use?" Helen asked quietly, images of human sacrifices to pagan gods flashing through her naive head, blotting out her equally ill-informed ideas of what must go on in an Anglican Cathedral. "Hmm..."
Helen felt almost like an astronaut visiting an alien world. After all, she was the first foreigner to see the Fiefdom in who knows how long! Her earlier fears and anxieties, although certainly still present, were gradually being overtaken by her curiousity. What a fascinating place she was in! How many of the ladies of the Imperial Court could say they had been to place with huge pagan temples which were still in use, right alongside cathedrals and palaces?
I say, could we possibly start this one again. I think I have a better idea of what I want to do and such.
And I think most of the people involved have probably naffed off by this stage!
Unfortunately they have. Princess Helen has moved on and appeared in several subsequent RPs and it would be quite impossible now for me to retcon all that away, I'm afraid. Those RPs assumed that she was returned from Uncle Noel. I would be quite happy to assume that the embassy is established, however, and we could start another RP.
It's good to see you back! Welcome back and I really hope that this time you stick around! I am glad that now, when people ask Prince Constantine what country his Zagreb People's Car comes from, he can say no more "It no longer exists..." :D
Hmmm, in that case.... How about this. That, quite contary to what we've already said, Princess Helen was never there to be an ambassador. In something akin to Prince Charles attending the ceremony to mark the end of British sovereignty in Hong Kong, Helen arrived at the island to open the embassy. She stayed for only a few days and then returned home, intrigued but probably resolute that the diplomatic life wasn't for her.
Uncle Noel welcomed the brand new ambassador, who you can pick if need be, and then promptedly returned to his isolationist ways. Who knows why, maybe his contact with the outside world was too much. maybe he became seriously ill and has only now recovered, maybe there was a power struggle in the ruling family. The marvellous thing about role-playing as a 'North Korea-esque' state is that, when something happens, they won't tell the outside world so you don't have to explain it.
Though, come to think of it, maybe that means that I have an embassy at New Rome. Now that I have re-emerged, maybe we should reverse the scenario. Uncle Noel might have to make his first trip abroad, and reaffirm his friendship with Pantocratoria with a new embassy!