NationStates Jolt Archive

...And Comes The Vision...

06-10-2005, 11:35
(Historical note: The following takes place after the visit of High King Owain and Queen Marissa to Excalbia. It will take place during Princess Christiana's visit to Marlund and during the upcoming peace negotiations in Upper Virginia. OOC Note: Participation will be welcome in time, but if you are not involved in any of on-going RPs with me, please tg before posting. Thanks.)

Sweyn Castle, Citadel Excalbia

Emperor David IV walked into the family chapel holding his wife’s hand. He sat patiently as the family chaplain, dressed in the blue and gold vestments of the Church of Excalbia, lit the candles and turned to lead the small prayer service.

The Emperor himself had introduced these Morning Prayer services and he had dragged his family, guests and members of his government to them for years. But this morning, he felt tired and uninterested. He barely paid attention to the reverend's words during the prayer and his singing was a barely audible whisper. He followed along with the reading only half alert.

The chaplain read from the first chapter of the book of Job –

…So the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant – the Emperor knew the text read Job, but he clearly heard the chaplain say - David? There is no one like him on the earth, a pure and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil.”

The Emperor turned towards his wife, who was following along with the passage unconcerned. The Emperor began paying closer attention. The chaplain continued –

… Satan answered the Lord, “Is it for nothing that – again the Emperor clearly heard - David fears God? Have you not made a hedge around him and his household and all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his cattle have increased in the land. But extend your hand and strike everything he has, and he will indeed curse you to your face!”

So the Lord said to Satan, “All right then, everything he has is in your power – the Emperor could see on the page that the sentence ended there, yet he clearly heard another phrase, one he knew was from the second chapter - only preserve his life.”

David sat stunned. He could feel the Bible slipping out of his hands. Then, he saw it. The angels carved into the corners of the chapel – they moved. It was impossible, but he saw them. And… the Emperor swallowed hard. They were turning their backs on him. Then… his blood ran cold. He saw – or rather thought he saw, since it was obvious neither the Empress nor chaplain saw it – a shadow moving along the floor. The shadow touched him.

Empress Elizabeth turned just in time to see her husband grab his chest. His white uniform sparkled in the morning sun. The shiny silver badge of a ship riding a crest of waves with crossed swords that symbolized David’s former ship command glittered in the streaming sun light as it fell to the marble floor. David turned towards her, a pained look on his face. He slipped from the chair and collapsed on the floor.

Imperial Guards rushed into the chapel at the sound of the Empress’ screams. They found the Emperor lying on the floor. He was not breathing. One of the guards immediately began CPR while another called for the physicians and an ambulance. A third guard pulled the screaming and crying Empress away from the Emperor.

Amid the shouts and echoes of running boots, David felt a rush of consciousness. His eyes fluttered. He could see Elizabeth’s mouth moving as she pulled against a blue uniformed guard, but he could not hear her. In the distance he did hear sirens. As his eyes fluttered closed, he thought he heard a terrible laugh.
07-10-2005, 22:34
… time for our next contestant on everyone’s favourite morning quiz show, Who Wants A Mill…

The broadcast feed cut-off mid-sentence. The smiling face of the quiz show host was replaced by the spinning globe logo of EBN News. The words Breaking News flashed across the logo, which was promptly replaced by the somber face of a young newsreader.

“Good morning. This is Katie Bryan at EBN News in Landing. Just minutes ago sources at the University Hospital of the Imperial College in Citadel Excalbia reported that His Imperial Majesty, David IV, has been rushed to the hospital after collapsing at Sweyn Castle earlier this morning.

“Just a minute,” Bryan put her hand to her earpiece. “Our correspondent has a live report from the capital…”

The image of the newsreader cut to a medium shot of the Jugendstil redbrick main building of the University Hospital. In the foreground a slightly balding man in a sports coat stood with a microphone.

“Katie, this Roland Penke at Imperial College’s University Hospital. I have learned that the Emperor was brought to the hospital about 45 minutes ago by ambulance from Sweyn Castle. He has suffered an apparent heart attack.” The reporter looked over his shoulder. “Word of the Emperor’s hospitalization is apparently spreading through the capital and people are beginning to come to the hospital to pray and hold vigil…”

The image cutback to the newsreader. “Thank you, Roland. We have just been told that there is about to be a statement from the Imperial Chancery.”

The picture cut again. A podium bearing the seal of the Imperial Chancellor stood in front of a blue curtain. The Imperial flag stood to one side of the podium and the Chancellor’s standard stood to the other.

Senator Davis Robb, the Minister of Defence walked swiftly to the podium from the left of the screen. “Ladies and gentleman, fellow Excalbians,” Robb paused and took a deep breath. “Earlier this morning, His Imperial Majesty suffered a minor cardiac arrhythmia while attending Morning Prayers in Sweyn Castle.” Robb read from a small card and did not look up into the cameras. “He has been taken to the University Hospital of Imperial College and is being attended by the Lord Physician and cardiac experts at University Hospital. Her Imperial Majesty is with the Emperor. The rest of the Imperial family has been notified. I have personally notified Lady Jessica. The Imperial Chancellor is currently in Upper Virginia with the Minister of State to conduct peace negotiations with Knootoss.”

Robb finally looked up from his notes. His expression was somber, though there was still a warmth around his eyes. “Her Excellency, the Chancellor, believes it is vital that she continues the negotiations in Upper Virginia. Therefore, in the absence of the Chancellor and the Minister of State, I will be temporarily in charge of the government as Acting Chancellor. I can assure you that the Chancellor will return shortly and that, in the meantime, there will be no disruption in government.”

Robb lowered his head again. “I know that all the people of Excalbia join with me in praying for His Imperial Majesty and the Imperial family.”
08-10-2005, 20:43
The Chancery, Citadel Excalbia

Senator Davis Robb, Minister of Defence and Acting Chancellor, looked over the assembled members of the cabinet. Ironically, although he had long coveted the chancellorship, now that he was acting chancellor he could not even bring himself to sit in Lady Jessica’s chair.

Normally, an international trip would not require naming an acting chancellor. But, with the emperor hospitalized in an uncertain state, these were not normal times.

“How is his Imperial Majesty?” Sir Thomas Roulis, the Minster of Agriculture asked nervously.

Robb shook his head. “It is too early to tell, Sir Thomas. The Emperor remains unconscious and the doctors are not yet sure how severe the heart attack was. He may make a full recovery; they certainly believe they got to him in time to make that possibility realistic. However,” Robb looked down, “he is not responding as quickly as they would like.”

“We should consider our options,” Marcella Gambino, the Treasury Minister said coolly.

“Options?” The Minister of Home Affairs, Talbot Lauskis, asked with just a hint of anger.

“Yes. Options.” Gambino spoke calmly, a shrewd look in her eye. “We must consider the possibility, no matter how personally distasteful, that his Imperial Majesty may not recover. We need to consider the succession.”

“There is nothing to consider,” Lauskis said, “his Imperial Majesty has named Prince Joseph as his heir…”

“Yes, Minister, he had. However, the constitution gives the final word on succession to Senate and the Synod of the Church of Excalbia,” Justice Minister Jamie Yoth said, sounding unintentionally excited.

“The Senate and the Synod have never rejected the sovereign’s choice of heir,” Sir Thomas said, his voice rising sharply.

“Perhaps,” Gambino said dryly, “but it is the responsibility of the cabinet to weigh such things and advise the Senate. After all, Prince Joseph is already the co-sovereign of Langeais and, who knows, his wife may end up the heir to the Pantocratorian throne. Surely, we should not have an emperor who has divided loyalties. There may be a better choice.”

“Langeais?” Sir Thomas’ eyes were wide in disbelief. “It is but principality! Practically a part of the Holy Empire. And as for her Highness succeeding to the Pantocratorian throne, that is so unlikely that it barely warrants consideration.”

“What are you getting at, exactly, Minister Gambino?” Lauskis leaned heavily on the table.

“Just that Prince Joseph’s loyalties, because of Princess Anna, may be divided. I also fear that, given his military background and lengthy stays in the Pantocratorian court, Prince Joseph may tend to be even more imperialistic and… undemocratic than Emperor David. Of course, Princess Rebecca and Prince James are far too young…”

“That leaves only Princess Christiana,” Alexandra Baker, the Minister of Labour and Welfare, said, her eyes widening.

“Indeed,” Gambino said.

“You can’t be serious!” Sir Thomas was half rising from his chair.

“Why not?” Gambino leaned back and smiled. “The princess is one of the most outspoken proponents of democracy in the Imperial family and she is far more positively disposed towards our agenda than any other member of her family…”

“Enough!” Davis Robb stood with his hands flat on the table. “The man isn’t even dead yet and you’re trying to name his successor! I may not agree with the Emperor’s policies, but I respect the office and I respect the human being!” Robb looked around. “This meeting is over.” He turned and stormed out of the office. Sir Thomas and Minister Lauskis quickly followed.
14-11-2005, 12:33
Excalbia University Hospital at the Imperial College

"How are you, David?" The man leaned over the Emperor's bed and gave him a gentle smile. His kind eyes spoke of reassurance and peace. His wavy salt-and-pepper hair peaked out beneath the blue cap he wore on his and softened the formality of his blue and gold vestments.

"I must be doing better, your Eminence," Emperor David IV said softly. "What were we talking about?"

"You were telling me about your vision. And, we've known each other so long, David, please call me Gunars."

"Yes, Gunars," David said weakly, "I saw a vision… the angles turned their backs on me… something dark and sinister touched me…"

Gunars Purins seemed to nod. "Very odd. Are you sure it was vision and not a symptom of your heart attack? They say a feeling of dread often accompanies such an attack."

"No…" David looked closely at the Presiding Bishop. Something was wrong. Donald Slesers was the Presiding Bishop now. Bishop Purins was… dead. "You're dead, Gunars. Aren't you?"

Purins laughed. "Yes, so I am."

"You would have never called me by my first name…"

"True, David. But that was before…" Purins smiled and touched the Emperor's hand. "Now… Well, what is an emperor next to Abraham. Or Moses. Or Peter or Paul…. Not to mention the Lord God Almighty Himself."

"You have seen God?"

"Of course," Purins smiled. "Assuming I am really a vision. I might, after all, be nothing more than a construct of your subconscious; a string of random thoughts and images created by neurons firing in your comatose brain being strung together like a dream…"

"You are no dream…" The Emperor tried to set up, but could not. His arms and legs would not move. He could not turn his head. "This is… I don't know, but I'm not imagining it. And I wasn't seeing things in the castle…"

"Maybe not, David. But if you weren't, what was the vision telling you?"

"That suffering is coming upon me," David swallowed hard; it was becoming more difficult to talk. "That I am to be tested…"

"Consider it pure joy, my brother," Purins said tenderly, "when you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

"What will happen, Gunars? The vision said I would not die…" David's face tightened as he felt pain in his chest.

"The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." As Purins spoke, the room seemed to grow dark and his voice more distant.

"No, no, no" David murmured.

Empress Elizabeth held her husband's hand as he seemed to mutter in his sleep. With a tube down his throat, it was impossible to understand what he was saying, if indeed he was saying anything at all; it might simply have been random noises. Still, Elizabeth leaned closer, hoping to hear something that would let her know her husband was alert and recovering.

Suddenly, the monitors next to the bed began giving a shrill alarm. The doors burst open and two nurses rushed in. A doctor was steps behind them. She looked at the monitors and turned to one of the nurses. "Antenolol, stat. Stand by on the defibrillator…"

A blue uniformed Imperial Guard gently, but insistently escorted the Empress out of the bedroom. Elizabeth wanted more than anything for her son, Joseph, to be there, but he was not. He and Anna were still on their way. She slumped into a chair in the anteroom. At the sound of footsteps, she turned and saw Peter. She ran to her nephew and hugged him.

"It'll be alright," Peter said unconvincingly. "Everything will be alright."

"Is Gwendolyn here?"

"She's settling into our apartment in the Castle; she'll be here shortly. We happened to be on our way already…"

Elizabeth began to weep and Peter held her as tight as he could. "It'll be alright…"
14-11-2005, 21:56
National Convention Centre, Courtland, Upper Virginia

Lady Jessica Tagaarth sat at a spartan desk in a tiny office not far from the boardroom where the future of Saxmere and the Excalbian Isles was being hotly debated. The Imperial Chancellor steepled her fingers and took a deep breath.

Every emotion, every sentiment told her to pick up her phone and call the Citadel for an update on the Emperor’s condition. Her discipline, however, told her to wait. Davis Robb had told her he would call as soon as there additional information, so she would wait.

A few tense moments later the phone rang. Lady Jessica picked it up and flipped it open.

“Davis, how is the Emperor?”

“He’s had a second heart attack, my Lady,” the defence minister’s voice sounded somber and hallow over the phone.

“Dear Lord,” the Chancellor said softly. “What is the prognosis?”

“Well,” Robb said flatly, “he had the second one in the best place possible – the ICU of University Hospital…”

“I wasn’t aware there was a good place for a heart attack, Davis,” Lady Jessica said sharply.

“I’m sorry, Chancellor.”

“Never mind, Davis; I know things are tense.” The chancellor sighed. “How is the cabinet reacting?”

“Gambino, Yoth, Baker and few others are already fighting over the succession…”

“Succession?” Lady Jessica sounded incredulous.

“They are trying to disqualify Prince Joseph and put forth Princess Christiana as the successor. Lauskis and Roulis were indignant.” Robb paused. “And, frankly, so was I. It is no secret that I’ve never considered myself a friend of the Emperor, but Gambino was practically burying the man and dancing on his grave…”

“Should I fly home, Davis?”

“No, my Lady,” Robb said with a note of resignation. “Until or unless the Emperor dies there is nothing Gambino can do; it is more important to keep the negotiations moving forward. As you said earlier.”

“True. True.” Lady Jessica felt a heavy weight pressing on her. “I want a teleconference later this afternoon with the leaders of all the parties, including the opposition and Sir Harrison; I want the entire Senate to put on a unified face to reassure the nation.”

“I understand, my Lady; I’ll arrange it.”

“Thank you, Davis.”

Lady Jessica hung up the phone and stood. She steadied herself, then headed back to the meeting room.
16-11-2005, 11:30
National Convention Centre, Courtland, Upper Virginia

Lord Admiral Derek Kunle sat down at the empty desk in the small office assigned to the Excalbian delegation. The room had been already been swept by the Embassy' counter-intelligence people and had been found bug free. However, he was not going to take any chances.

Kunle lifted up the small attaché case he had taken from the Embassy's Naval Attaché and placed it on the table. He opened it and gently flipped the lid back onto the desk. Inside were several electronic devises housed in foam packing. Essentially, these devices together were a mobile phone. And, like the chancellor's mobile phone, this phone would also scramble and encrypt his communications. However, it would give him even more security.

Kunle reached down and turned on one small devise. Though silent, a green light on the device indicated that it was now jamming any transmissions into or out of the room. All except for those on one frequency that would randomly shift. The wireless phone contained inside the case would transmit through that small shifting hole in the wall of static that surrounded the room.

He opened the phone and turned on a small screen that pointed up. It would project a video image in the air. It was not quite true 3D holographics, but it would let him speak "face-to-face" with his colleagues.

After a few moments of waiting, an image appeared; GEN Viktor Erglis, GEN Inese Miele and ADM Stephen Virities – who had just arrived in the capital from his flag ship – seemed to hover in the air in front of Kunle.

"My Lord Admiral," Erglis said with a slight nod.

"Generals. Admiral. The Chancellor has updated me on the Emperor's condition. She also said that so far there has no investigation into possible foul play."

"That is correct, my Lord," Erglis said looking down. "Things have been… somewhat chaotic here."

Kunle nodded. "Is Minister Robb at the command centre?"

"No, my Lord," Miele said, "he hasn't returned yet from an emergency cabinet meeting…"

"Very well," Kunle sighed, "then this will have to be done on my authority. The Chancellor has entrusted me with starting an investigation, so I will do so." Kunle's deep voice gave his statement the feeling of a pronouncement or an edict. "We need to include the Captain of the Imperial Guard and the Lord Sheriff before we proceed."

Miele nodded. "Just a moment."

A few minutes passed, then the floating image seemed to split. The duplicate set of military officers faded and was replaced by an officer in a blue uniform of an archaic style, holding a plumed helmet, and a man in a dark suit.

"Major General Jansons and Lord Jacob are on the line now, my Lord," Erglis said.

Kunle nodded. "General. My Lord Sheriff. As I was telling my fellow chiefs, Lady Jessica has charged me with organizing an investigation to exclude the possibility of foul play in the Emperor's condition. To that end, I would like you, Lord Jacob, to have the local police set up checkpoints on all roads in and out of the city. We need to be on the alert for anything unusual or anyone behaving oddly. We also did to close down Citadel Island; if anyone was responsible for this, they would have to have been on the Island and may still be there. We need to secure to the Castle and conduct a thorough examination, even down to checking the pots and pans for poisons."

Lord Jacob Bergmanis, the Lord Sheriff of the Citadel, nodded. "It will be done as you say, my Lord."

"And, just in case this is foul play and the prelude to something else, we should raise our defence posture." Erglis and Miele nodded. "Cancel all leaves. Order all troops to return to their posts."

"My Lord," MAJGEN Maris Jansons, the Captain of the Imperial Guard, said in a rapid voice, "in the event of… further incidents, I would like to request that additional troops be sent to the capital and assigned to the command of the Imperial Guards."

"The 61st Mobile Infantry division and the 92nd Mechanized Cavalry could be here by late this evening," GEN Erglis said somewhat nervously.

Kunle rubbed his chin. He did not like the idea of having that many troops in the capital; it might make people nervous. And he certainly did not like the speed with which the request had shot from Jansons' mouth, nor the look of… satisfaction in Lord Jacob's eyes. However, Jansons did have a point. In the event of a crisis, the lightly armed Guards and the local police could be quickly overwhelmed.

"Very well, General; send the appropriate orders." Kunle looked down. "We will also need to tighten security at the air and sea ports. We need to check everyone leaving the country – again to look for anything suspicious or anyone behaving oddly. And, finally, we need to have Imperial Intelligence run through all their sources to see if there is any indication that some foreign agency might have been involved."

"I will talk with Reverend Donnelly," Miele said.

"Good. I want half-hourly updates," Kunle said.

"Understood, my Lord."
16-11-2005, 11:57
Ministry of Treasury, Citadel Excalbia

Treasury Minister Marcella Gambino sat at her large, intricately carved desk, clicking through e-mails from her staff. Here and there, she paused to open a document or a spreadsheet and review it and make a few comments before sending it back to her staff.

A nock at the door drew her attention away from the screen. "Yes?"

A tall, blonde-haired man entered the office with a bow. "Madame Secretary, the Minister of Justice is here to see you."

Gambino's eyes widened and she turned away from the computer so that her whole body faced the door. "Send him in, Rick."

Gambino stood and walked toward the Justice Minister as he entered. "Minister Yoth," she said, "this is a surprise." She indicated a set of antique chairs set up near the window. "Please have a seat with me."

Gambino eased into a chair and looked expectantly at Yoth.

Jamie Yoth clenched his teeth. He was not personally fond of Gambino, but he could think of no one else he could trust with his information. And his analysis. Lady Jessica was in Upper Virginia; the Christian Union ministers felt like grudging partners at the best of times and today – well, they felt like adversaries. As, to his surprise, did Davis Robb. With Bodniece in Upper Virginia with the Chancellor, that left Gambino as the only "heavyweight" on the cabinet that he could turn to.

"Marcella," he said, with a heavy sigh, "did you know that the military has launched an investigation into the causes of the Emperor's heart attack?"

Gambino was surprised at the use of her first name, but surprise quickly turned to shock and anger once she heard what he said. "An investigation? On what grounds? And why is the military involved? It's a matter for the local police. Or your ministry…"

"Actually, it is a matter, first and foremost, for the Imperial Household Agency. And only secondarily for the ministry."

"Of course the IHA would have their hands in this! So, what is the military doing to investigate?"

"They've set up roadblocks all around the city and are stopping everyone at the airport. There're even rumours that they're about to close the bridges off the island…"

"Closing the bridges!?"

"And it gets worse." Yoth took a deep swallow of air. "There are rumours that troops – lots of them – are moving towards the city."

Gambino slumped in her chair. "They're finally doing, Jamie; it's a coup."

"We don't know that, Marcella," he said, trying to sound more certain than he was, "it could be just the usual IHA-military overreaction. But it does pose a danger…"

Marcella nodded. "We need to do something quickly. Any sign the Emperor is coming out of his coma?"

Yoth shook his head. "It will probably be days, if not months, before he does. If he does."

"Then, we need to move quickly to replace him."

"You can't replace the Emperor," Yoth said.

"Then, what do you do if he's incapacitated? We certainly can't leave the IHA in charge of the military, as they seem to be at the moment. If this troop movement isn't a coup, it won't be long until there is one, if we don't break them up. And for that, we need someone in charge of the IHA."

Gambino rubbed her chin. "What if the Senate votes to place the IHA under the authority of the Senate? That was part of our original platform, after all."

"Without the Emperor able to approve such legislation, I doubt the Chancellor would allow it to go forward. Even if it did, without Imperial assent, the IHA would probably just ignore it." Yoth bit his lip. "However, if there someone to act in the Emperor's place…"

"A regent?"

"Why not? The Emperor is incapacitated. Certainly no could object to the Senate naming a regent to rule in his place until he recovers."

Gambino rubbed her chin and began to smile. "If we move quickly, this could play into our favour…"
18-11-2005, 23:43
Landing Times-Courier

Emperor Suffers Heart Attack
Chancellor Continues Talks in Courtland
Defence Minister Named Acting Chancellor

Military Crackdown? Foul Play Suspected?
Troops Reported Near Capital
Roads and Airports Closed

Citadel Excalbia – The capital was thrown into chaos this morning with the news that His Imperial Majesty has been hospitalized for what is described as mild heart arrhythmia. Despite official reassurances, anxiety was raised by reports from unnamed senior government officials claiming that the Emperor had slipped into a coma.

Fears were further heightened by reports streaming into the city that military forces are closing on the capital in large numbers, with as many as two full divisions being deployed to the Citadel. At least one senior official has confirmed that the Imperial Army has been called in to take control of the city. Curiously, Davis Robb, the Minister of Defence and the current Acting Chancellor, has been silent amidst these reports.

Naturally the presence of troops in the capital and the extraordinary security measures being put in place – including the closure of roads and airports serving the capital – have raised speculation. A few senators, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have raised concerns that the Imperial Household Agency and the military may be using this moment of confusion to stage a coup in order to remove the current centre-left government. Other senior political figures have speculated that these moves may indicate that the government suspects the Emperor may have been the victim of an assassination attempt. The most immediate suspects in any assassination attempt would be the Order of the Invisible Hand and Knootoss’ foreign intelligence apparatus.

So far, official sources deny any foul play and scoff at rumours of a coup. There has, as yet, been no comment from the Knootian Embassy.
Knootian East Indies
02-12-2005, 17:20
Knootian Embassy in Excalbia

Ambassador Ronald Bloodgood ( ) sighed softly as he stepped up to the pulpit of the small embassy press conference room. Right behind him stood crossed Excalbian and Knootian flags fixed in a front of a blue background which contained the words ‘Knootian friendship / Atlantic Values’ in a narrow yellow font, only visible to the eye only at a barely subconscious level from the position of the journalists.

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of the press. My name is Ronald Bloodgood and I am the Knootian ambassador", Bloodgood started off in English with the distinct accent of the Citadel reflected in his tone. His voice was carried solemnly as he appeared to look at the assembled journalists, following instead a cue that hung in front of him from the ceiling.

"I’m sure that by now you have all heard the news about the condition of Emperor David IV. I would have you know that Jan Willem Daatman and the government of the Dutch Democratic Republic sympathise, deeply, with the Emperor and the Imperial Family. The Dutch Democratic Republic hopes that the Emperor will recover speedily and therefore I would like to join in with you for a moment of silent prayer on his behalf.”

The teleprompter rolled off into a fading green as Bloodgood bowed his head and closed his eyes solemnly. The moment lasted for exactly the appropriate time, and Blood good opened his eyes again to look at the assembled press core.

"Again, the Dutch Democratic Republic hopes that the Emperor will recover speedily and we have full confidence that the Excalbian government and people will weatherr what must be difficult times. We, for our part, are committed to continuing the process of strengthening deep ties of friendship between our two nations and promoting Atlantic values."

He engaged in a moment of silence to strengthen his point.

"I have time for a few questions from the press now."
16-12-2005, 11:24
An attractive woman in a neatly tailored suit stood. "Greta Williams, Excalbian Broadcasting Network," she said as a camera paned from the ambassador to her and back, "your Excellency, how do you respond to the rumours that Knootoss is, at least, suspected of having a hand in the Emperor's heart attack? Are you prepared to deny any Knootian involvement? And, if so, what is your opinion of the heightened security status here in the capital?"

After Bloodgood gave his answer, a tall man in a rumpled suit stood. "Jan Waverly, Landing Times-Courier," he said in a hoarse smoker's voice, "may I ask what you think of the rumours of a coup d'etat? Do you, sir, believe there is a coup underway? If so, what would be the DDR's reaction to the ouster of the current Liberal-Reform government?"

Barely waiting for the ambassador's answer, another man, rather short and thin, stood. "Alvis Ragaunas, Citadel Post-Dispatch. Your Excellency, how do you think the Emperor's impairment will affect the negotiations in Upper Virginia and the prospects for a peace treaty?"
Knootian East Indies
16-12-2005, 15:45
An attractive woman in a neatly tailored suit stood. "Greta Williams, Excalbian Broadcasting Network," she said as a camera paned from the ambassador to her and back, "your Excellency, how do you respond to the rumours that Knootoss is, at least, suspected of having a hand in the Emperor's heart attack? Are you prepared to deny any Knootian involvement? And, if so, what is your opinion of the heightened security status here in the capital?"

"I fully and unequivocally deny any such rumours. They are just rumours, and are not based on any fact", Bloodgood told the first reporter. "With all due respect madame, Knootoss does not assassinate. It has not, it does not and it will not."

He paused for a moment, looking at Greta Williams with a solemn expression.

"In answer to your second question, my government feels that it is the sovereign right of Excalbia to take measures to guarantee the security of the Holy Empire or the Imperial Family. It would not surpise me if the Excalbian Military is running an inquiry into the matter and it is not for me to comment on such an inquiry, if it existed. Any questions on the actions of Excalbian police and military should be addressed to those authorities, respectively. Next question?"

After Bloodgood gave his answer, a tall man in a rumpled suit stood. "Jan Waverly, Landing Times-Courier," he said in a hoarse smoker's voice, "may I ask what you think of the rumours of a coup d'etat? Do you, sir, believe there is a coup underway? If so, what would be the DDR's reaction to the ouster of the current Liberal-Reform government?"

"I have no information about any coup so I must refuse to comment on any such rumours. As with the rumours of Knootian involvement in the Emperors death, these things tend to be much exaggerated. I sincerely hope that all of us here in Excalba, including ourselves here at the Knootian embassy, are given the strength to act in a dignified, solemn manner in trying times for both the Imperial Family and the nation."

Barely waiting for the ambassador's answer, another man, rather short and thin, stood. "Alvis Ragaunas, Citadel Post-Dispatch. Your Excellency, how do you think the Emperor's impairment will affect the negotiations in Upper Virginia and the prospects for a peace treaty?"

"I do not believe it will have any significant effect on the negotiations", Bloodgood said dismissively. "This is really a matter for the coalition government."
25-12-2005, 19:57
Miller House, Citadel Excalbia
Several Weeks Later...

Snow was falling lightly on the lawn of Miller House, covering everything in a crisp, white blanket. Inside, the Imperial Chancellor, Lady Jessica Tagaarth, was seated on the sofa of her office sipping warm spiced cider. Across from her on the opposite sofa sat the Imperial Chamberlain, Lord Johannes Corman, holding a cup of hot tea. Nearby, a fire roared in the fireplace, giving the room a warm, orange light.

Despite the cozy scene, the mood in the room was anything but cheery. While Christmas was still several weeks away, negotiations had begun in earnest over the Emperor’s annual Christmas speech. Traditionally, the speech was used to give both the government’s views on the year that was ending and its wishes for the coming year, as well as for the Emperor’s own opinions and wishes. It was not uncommon for the Emperor and the government to negotiate for weeks over the speech.

This year, however, the Emperor was not negotiating. Instead, David IV was still in the hospital laying inexplicably in a coma. So, his chamberlain sat with his chancellor negotiating over a speech the Emperor would likely never deliver.

“Have you given thought to who will deliver the speech, Lord Johannes?” Lady Jessica said, setting her cider on the table.

“I had assumed you would deliver it, my Lady,” Lord Johannes said. “After all, under the constitution it is the chancellor who acts for the Emperor when he is incapacitated.”

The chancellor shook her head. “I am afraid I am becoming increasingly concerned about acting in that capacity over such a long period of time. My cabinet in increasingly pushing me to give the Emperor’s assent to radical legislation…”

“I am surprised you are so reticent to do so, Lady Jessica,” Lord Johannes sipped at his tea.

“Why enact legislation that I know the Emperor will repeal once he recovers?”

“If he recovers…”

“Why are so pessimistic, my Lord?”

“Not pessimistic, but realistic, my Lady.”

“So what do we do if the Emperor does not recover?” Lady Jessica leaned forward.

“That brings us back to the question of a regent…”

Lady Jessica nodded. “I suppose the Imperial Household would only accept Prince Joseph…”

Lord Johannes nodded as well. “And I suppose the government is insisting on Princess Christiana…”

Lady Jessica smiled. “Yes, but I have a thought on that. What if the government adopted an act naming a regent that specifically stated that the regent could not inherit the Sword?”

“That would be highly unusual, my Lady,” Lord Johannes said evenly. “Do you think your cabinet would accept such a provision?”

“Those who most want Her Imperial Highness to wield the Sword,” Lady Jessica said with the hint of a smile, “are those arrogant enough to think they could amend the act after the fact. How would the Imperial Household receive such an act?”

“It would certainly dampen the desire to Prince Joseph named regent,” Lord Johannes said. “And make Princess Christiana far more tolerable to her opponents. However,” he frowned, “you realize that even if everyone finds this act mutually acceptable, we are merely delaying the battle over succession…”

“That is one fight I would not mind postponing, my dear,” Lady Jessica said sipping her cider.

Lord Johannes smiled and sipped his tea. “Very well. Shall we resume our negotiations over Her Imperial Highness’ speech?”
29-12-2005, 12:25
"Hypocrite," Marcella Gambino said, biting her words. The Minister of the Treasury leveled a sharp gaze at the blue cloaked figure across the table. "You say that the Church embraces everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, yet you reject Princess Christiana on the basis of unproven accusations!"

Lady Jessica Tagaarth leaned back in her chair watching the proceedings with a sharp eye. Hypocrite, indeed, the Chancellor thought to herself. An interesting choice of words, especially since you and the Reform Party helped lead the charge to smear the princess and the Imperial Family on the basis of those accusations. While Lady Jessica inwardly chided Gambino, she kept those thoughts to herself, preferring to see how events would play out.

Across from Gambino, Presiding Bishop Donald Slesers adjusted his deep-blue vestments and shifted in his chair. "You are quite correct, Madam Minister," the bishop said, having decided not to respond to the minister's name-calling, "that I have said the Church embraces all believers, regardless of their sexual orientation, denomination, past history or any of a host of issues. However, we are not talking about welcoming someone into the Church or allowing them to take part in the life of the Church; we are talking about someone exercising leadership over the Church. Certainly even you, Madam, can see the difference."

Gambino leaned forward and jabbed her finger towards the bishop. "See here…"

"Enough," Lady Jessica said softly.

"Quite enough," Davis Robb, the Minister of Defence and unofficial deputy chancellor said sharply and quite a bit more loudly.

"Yes," Imperial Chamberlain Lord Johannes Corman said with a nod, "let us not make things personal."

Lady Jessica glanced around the table. In addition to Gambino and Robb, Sir Albert Cummings was present to represent the cabinet. Sir Harrison Grasis, the Speaker of the Senate, sat at the far end, attending in his capacity as Speaker rather than as leader of an opposition party. Beside Lord Johannes sat Lady Theresa Kent, the Imperial Exchequer, and the Lord Sheriff, Lord Jacob Bergmanis, representing the Imperial Household Agency. Finally, helping Presiding Bishop Slesers represent the Church of Excalbia was the Secretary of the Synod, Bishop Blaine Repse.

"Now," Lady Jessica said mildly, "let us come to the point. Your Eminence, would our proposal be acceptable to the Church?"

Slesers rubbed his chin. "If the regent unconditionally renounces her claim to the Sword in the event of His Imperial Majesty's death and," Slesers turned towards Repse, who nodded his head slightly, "if the Act makes it clear that the regent will only exercise the Emperor's powers over the state and that, for the duration of His Majesty's illness, his power to formally appoint bishops and chief bishops will be wielded by the Synod itself while his title as temporal head of the Church will remain his and his alone, then the Synod is prepared to accept Her Highness as regent."

Lady Jessica smiled and nodded. "Lord Johannes?"

"It is acceptable to the Imperial Household, my Lady."

The Chancellor turned to Sir Harrison. "Sir Harrison?"

"I see no basis for objection from the Senate."

She turned to her own cabinet. Robb nodded. Sir Albert and Gambino eyed each other warily and then reluctantly, though for very different reasons, both nodded.

"It is done," the Chancellor said with a sigh. "The Act will be introduced and approved tomorrow morning."
29-12-2005, 12:44
Citadel Post and Dispatch

Princess Christiana Named Regent
Senate Votes to Install Regent as Emperor Remains Hospitalised
Rumours of a Coma Persist; IHA Refuses Comment

Citadel Excalbia – The Senate voted today in a simple voice vote to install Her Imperial Highness, Princess Christiana, as Regent until His Imperial Majesty is able to resume his duties. The Emperor suffered what is still described as multiple mild cardiac infarctions several weeks ago and has remained hospitalized ever since. He was transferred two weeks ago from the University Hospital at Imperial College to specially prepared suite at Kuldiga Castle.

Princess Christiana assumes the regency amidst growing demands from Liberal and Reform Party backbenchers that the Imperial assent be given to recently passed legislation expanding social welfare spending and reforming the government. The Imperial Chancellor, Lady Jessica Tagaarth, had been resisting the idea of using her authority to grant the Imperial assent to the more controversial measures during the Emperor's disability.

In an unusual move, the Princess submitted a written and notarized renunciation of all claims to the Sword in the event of her brother's death before the Act was passed. The Act also stipulates that, as regent, Her Imperial Highness does not assume the Emperor's position as temporal head of the Church of Excalbia. Rather, the Synod of Bishops will fulfill that role until the Emperor returns to health.

Even as the Act was being passed, rumours continued to circulate through out the capital that His Imperial Majesty has slipped into a deep coma. Observers have made much of the Imperial Household Agency's refusal to comment on – or deny – these reports.
(continued on A3)
29-12-2005, 18:58
As Prince Joseph read the morning Citadel Post and Dispatch over breakfast, Princess Anna left her seat and made her way over behind him, to massage his shoulders. She had already read the paper. She leant over and kissed him on the side of the forehead as she squeezed and kneaded the muscles of his neck and shoulders.

"Joseph, why didn't the Senate name you Regent?" she asked delicately. "You're the heir apparent... it's... it's almost insulting. You'd be a wonderful Regent... not that there's anything wrong with your aunt, I just... think it's very disregarding of them to... pass you over like that."
04-01-2006, 21:12
Prince Joseph carelessly folded the paper and tossed it to the side. He reached up with his right hand and caressed Princess Anna’s hand as she rubbed his neck and shoulders.

Joseph gently shook his head. “There is a lot of posturing and excuse-making,” he spoke with just a hint of anger and looked away for just a second, “but that is just covering up for the real reason.” Joseph turned in his chair and took Anna’s hands. He gently led her around to face him. “Simply put, the Reform Party and some of the Liberals think I, like my father, am too conservative. They believe Aunt Christiana will be more amenable to their agenda.”

Joseph stood and gave Anna kiss. “However, my aunt has formally renounced any claim to the Sword, so they’ve failed – for the moment – to remove me as heir apparent.” He looked past Anna for just a moment and worried look crossed his face. “We must prepare ourselves, however; I doubt this will be their last attempt to thwart my father’s will that I succeed him.”
05-01-2006, 17:55
"If she wanted to, could your Aunt resign as regent in your favour?" Anna inquired. "If she didn't feel that the decision was appropriate, for instance, or if she could be pursuaded to give up the position? Or is the Senate's decision so final that it could compel even an unwilling regent to continue in the job?"

She listened to the answer and then continued as she massaged her husband's shoulders.

"There should be a law which makes the Emperor's heir his regent automatically, unless that heir is themselves a minor or otherwise incapacitated. In fact, there should be a whole system so that it is clearly defined who shall be regent and under what circumstances... it shouldn't be up to the fickle political considerations of the government du jour." Anna observed. "When the Emperor recovers, and the political moment has passed, the Senate should lay it all out properly in legislation... separated from the event they will be able to think more clearly and objectively... so that if anything like this should ever happen again, the question of the regency isn't left to be answered on the basis of what best suits the present government... what this government does to you, a future one may do to our children!"
05-01-2006, 21:13
“No,” Joseph said somberly and slowly, “the Senate could not force anyone – especially a princess – to serve as regent against her will. And, yes, Aunt Christiana could resign.” Joseph shook his head. “But I don’t think she would. To some extent, I think she wants this. Not to harm us; I think she still expects to me as emperor some day, but I do think she feels this is giving her some measure of… rehabilitation from the scandal. And some measure of revenge against my Father for the way he has isolated her.”

Joseph relaxed his shoulders and let himself enjoy the feel of Anna’s fingers on his neck and shoulders.

“I agree, my love. There should be a law. There have been more than enough succession controversies in our history. They likely led to at least three assassinations and several small rebellions.” Joseph smiled weakly. “On a more positive note, these controversies are responsible for the constitution; preventing them was the reason Daniel III agreed to grant a written constitution.” The prince shrugged. “I guess, though, that he never anticipated this situation.” He smiled again. “So, I guess, once the moment has passed, that we should correct this oversight and amend the constitution.”
10-01-2006, 11:35
Princess Christiana, the newly invested Regent of the Holy Empire, walked into her spacious office in the Imperial Palace. Despite everything that come to separate her from her brother and his family – and she was sure that agreeing to serve as regent would do nothing to diminish the rift – it did not feel right to establish her office in Sweyn Castle, where her brother maintained his residence. So, she had established her residence and her office in the lavish, but underutilized, Imperial Palace in the Lower City.

The office, designed as a study, was a testament to 19th century opulence. Gold trim traced the lines of the white walls and ceiling. Reliefs of cherubs with bunches of grapes, sheaths of wheat and ears of corn held the bases of crystal chandeliers. Book cases laden with leather-bound volumes were positioned around the room. A large gold and blue rug bearing embroidered flying monkeys – a kind of tree-dwelling primate native to the Isles – held the centre of the room and was anchored by twin blue upholstered, gold finished sofas, several matching chairs and an ornate wooden desk.

Janet Latsone, the Regent's long-time assistant, bowed. "Good morning, your Highness."

Christiana smiled and nodded in reply. In a concession to certain public sensitivities, the princess had withheld the title of Chief of Staff to the Regent from Janet and had named her instead her Special Assistant. Instead she had named Lady Jane Perkone her Chief of Staff.

An attractive blonde-haired woman in her late-thirties, dressed in a serious dark red suit bowed to the Regent. "Your Highness," Lady Jane said.

Christiana nodded again. Lady Jane had impeccable credentials; she was the daughter of the Baron of Perkonis, one of the oldest baronies in the Isles. She had held advanced degrees in management and public administration and been a senior bureaucrat in the Ministry of Treasury. However, she was also a choice guaranteed to cause anxiety. The Barony of Perkonis had, in the days of Alsgood, had been the last of the Highland barons to recognize the suzerainty of Alsgood's kingdom. In fact, it had struggled to maintain its independence right up to the time of Olof III and the defeat of Saxmere. Even after that time many of Lady Jane's ancestors had spent time in Turaida Castle Prison for challenging the Sword. More irritatingly to the Citadel, the current Baron Perkonis was the founder and leader of a federalist movement that was seeking to restore the autonomy of the baronies.

Christiana took her seat and Lady Jane stepped toward the desk and placed a stack of portfolios before the Regent. "Your Highness, Lord Johannes has forwarded the Senate Acts passed since His Majesty's illness to you for your consideration."

Christiana opened the first portfolio. An Act to Establish Universal Health Insurance. The Regent smiled. It was not something the old government would have passed and not something her brother would have signed. She picked up a pen and signed, H.I.H. Christiana, Regent.
12-01-2006, 20:40
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day had dropped a thin blanket of snow over the medieval town of Kuldiga. Lights shone in the windows of the homes and shops of the town and smoke gently wafted from chimneys in nearly every building. In the town square, adjacent to the cathedral, people stirred as the traditional Christmas opened for the day after Christmas. Shoppers from the capital looking for bargains or gifts for New Years mingled with locals strolling through the quaint town on their way to the annual Children’s Matinee at the Opera House.

Not far from the picturesque scene of town centre a quiet gloom hung over Kuldiga Castle. Nominally the residence of Prince Peter, the entire Imperial family had taken up residence just before Christmas. The Emperor, who remained inexplicably in a coma, had been moved from University Hospital at Imperial College to a newly refurbished suite in the Castle.

The Imperial Household Agency had persuaded the Empress that it would be best to let the Emperor recuperate out of the public scrutiny of the capital. However, the Emperor was not recuperating. His condition remained unchanged.

The Empress had moved to Kuldiga with the Emperor. While he lay in a suite equipped as a fully functional intensive care unit, she took up residence in an adjacent apartment. As soon as classes had finished Prince James had moved from the capital and Princess Rebecca had flown home from the Danaan High Kingdom. Prince Joseph, Princess Anna and their newborn daughter had come shortly before Christmas, as had Prince Peter and Grand Duchess Gwendolyn.

Princess Christiana had remained noticeably absent, though she did visit the Castle on Christmas with her soon-to-be-adopted son Tarik. Her reception had been warm from Empress Elizabeth, but rather cool from the rest of the family.

While there had been considerable joy at young Princess Elizabeth Theodora’s first Christmas, there was an overhanging sense of gloom emanating from the Emperor’s room.

On the day after Christmas, Prince James stepped quietly into his father’s room. He had been, of all the family, the most reluctant to venture into the room filled with strange smells and softly beeping machines. This day, however, he had finally worked up his courage.

The young prince looked at the nurse next to the Emperor’s bed. “Pardon me, Miss, may I be alone with my Father?”

The nurse bowed and nodded. “Of course, your Highness,” she said. She quickly checked the machines and walked out of the room with another bow to the boy prince.

James walked over to his father and took the Emperor’s hand. “Hi, Father,” he said in a hoarse whisper. “Sorry you missed Christmas.” He looked into his father’s face for any sign of recognition, but saw nothing. “I’m sorry I’ve been such a disappointment, Father. But, if you come back I promise to do better. I’ll study harder. I’ll read those books you want me to read; I’ve already started one. And I’ll play outside more. I’ll ride. I’ll play sports. I’m going to try out for the basketball team. And baseball. And American football next year.”

James sat on the edge of the bed and bit his lip to hold back tears. “If you come back I’ll go to the Academy when I’m old enough. I’ll be a sailor. Just like you. I’ll learn to fight…”

The boy let go of his father’s limp hand. “And if you don’t… I’ll still do those things, I promise. And… and I’ll get even for you. It’s their fault. The cabinet. The Senate. The Knootians. Even Aunt Christiana. They did this to you, Father. And I’ll get even with them. I promise.”

James glanced back at his father and saw a tear running down the Emperor’s cheek.
18-01-2006, 14:04
The week after Christmas brought a deep trough of Artic air over the Excalbian Isles. In Kuldiga, the frigid winds and blowing snow drove all but the heartiest souls into their homes. So, when young Tarik – the newly adopted son of the Imperial Regent and a newly created lord – came to play with Prince James, the two boys found themselves confined to Kuldiga Castle's gym.

Tarik shot baskets while James moped about missing even the easiest shots. Eventually, the prince's adopted cousin turned to James. "Are you angry at me, James? Should I go home?" Tarik's questions were direct and his tone sharp.

James shook his head. "No, I don't want you to go. I'm just thinking."

"About what?" Tarik's voice softened and he let out a breath he had been holding.

"Serious things," James answered, looking away.

Tarik smirked at James. "I didn't know you had serious thoughts," he teased.

"Is revenge serious enough?" James blurted out his retort and flushed bright red.

"Ah," Tarik said, his smirk collapsing into a grim frown, "revenge is very serious indeed. I have sworn an oath of vengeance, myself."


"Yes. Against those who killed my family."

"In New Constantinople?"

"Yes. And now that, thanks be to God, I have been made an adopted lord of Excalbia, I will some day have the power to fulfill the vow I made the night they killed my family."

James nodded in profound silence.

"And what is the object of your revenge?" Tarik asked, idly turning a basketball in his hands.

"Those who did this to my Father – those who caused his heart attack." James turned away, tears of anger welling up in his eyes.

Tarik nodded. "A worthy deed to vow revenge against such." Tarik dropped the ball and held out his hand to James. "I shall help you obtain your vengeance."

James turned and starred at Tarik's hand. The Turkish boy frowned, sensing James' hesitation. "I shall help you with the exception that if you turn your vengeance against my new Mother, I shall have to revenge myself upon you."

James stared. Fair enough, he thought. He took Tarik's hand. "OK. And I will help you fulfill your vow."

"Good." Tarik smiled. "We should swear a blood oath. Do you have a knife?"
20-01-2006, 08:59
Kuldiga Castle

Another day of frigid winds found young Lord Tarik and Prince James snuggled in fleece sweatshirts sitting on a large, soft sofa playing FIFA Football 06 on the prince's game system. As they traded barbs over the virtual passes and tackles, not a word was said about their blood oath. Yet the oath was not far from either's mind.

* * *

In another part of the castle, the two young couples in temporary residence had turned to each other for company. Prince Peter, dressed in a turtleneck and warm sweater, sat with Grand Duchess Gwendolyn on a formal sofa sipping hot, spiced cider – a concession to his wife's preference for non-alcoholic beverages. Prince Joseph, wearing a woolen sports coat over his turtleneck sipped at a glass of hot, mulled wine.

Joseph set his glass on the table and turned to Princess Anna. He held out his arms, "Let me take her for a moment, Anna." The prince gently took his daughter, Prince Elizabeth Theodora Mary. He smiled at her and held her up to look out the frosted window. "Someday, my little Elizabeth, that frozen land – and all that lies beyond those hills – will be yours."

Peter looked at Joseph, Elizabeth and Anna and gave a small sigh.

The Imperial Palace

"Is there anything else, your Excellency?" Princess Christiana closed the portfolio of papers that the Chancellor had handed her at the beginning of their meeting.

Lady Jessica Tagaarth shifted uncomfortably in her seat. "I hesitate to mention it, your Highness…"

"Please do, Lady Chancellor."

Lady Jessica took a deep breath. "I am concerned about the long-term stability of some our reforms, your Highness."

The princess arched an eyebrow. "Really?"

"It is just," the Chancellor began, "that I suspect His Imperial Majesty will seek to repeal some of the more… forward leaning acts passed by the Senate and approved by you, your Highness. And this could destablise the overall reform process and possibly even disrupt the economy."

Christiana frowned. "If His Imperial Majesty recovers…"

"Yes," Lady Jessica said, "if. But certainly we all hope…"

"Of course, of course," Christiana smiled, "I pray for his recovery. But we must also be realistic. At this point, it is unlikely he will ever recover sufficiently to rule."

Now, it was Lady Jessica who arched an eyebrow.

"You have seen the medical reports, have you not?"

"Yes, your Highness."

Christiana looked down and nodded. "Then you know as well as I…"

Lady Jessica looked down. "Is that all, your Highness?"

"Yes. Thank you, your Excellency."

Lady Jessica stood and bowed, then made her way out of the Regent's office.

Janet Latsone, the Regent's Special Assistant, and Lady Jane Perkone, her Chief of Staff, approached from the side, where they had been quietly listening and taking notes.

"Do you really believe His Majesty won't recover?" Janet spoke cautiously and softly.

Christiana shook her head.

"Then, perhaps," Lady Jane said, "it is time to think of the future."

"The future?" Janet turned to the Chief of Staff.

"Yes. If the Emperor will not recover, the Senate should appoint a commission to study the question and determine at what point he should be removed from his position. For the good of the nation."

"You can't be serious," Janet stammered.

"And the Senate should consider the question of succession. Naturally, for the sake of stability, it would make the most sense to name the Regent as the new Empress."

Janet looked to Christiana. "But, Her Highness renounced her claim…"

"True," Lady Jane said, "but surely she would not deny the will of the people, if their Senate called upon her to take up the Sword?"

"The bishops would never agree…"

"The bishops object to Her Highness' lifestyle. So, a proper marriage should satisfy them."

Janet's eyes widened. Christiana gave a small smile. "So," the princess said, "whom would you have me marry, my Lady?"

"Baron Janis."

"Baron…" Janet's mouth dropped. "But…"

"I realize he probably has no… romantic interest in any marriage," Lady Jane smiled coolly. "But, we are all adults here. Her Highness and the Baron have found companionship and friendship together. A marriage makes political sense. And, I am sure both parties would find an… open marriage acceptable. And naturally, it would be our jobs to protect that relationship and keep the exact nature of what transpires within the marital relationship… private."

Christiana's smile widened.
The Resurgent Dream
20-01-2006, 16:22
Gwendolyn squeezed her husband's hand lightly, also watching the trio sitting across from them. This entire trip had seemed to be in the shadow of death. While everyone hoped for the Emperor's recovery and most professed to expect it, she couldn't help picking up on the doubts that seemed to pervade. Thus far she had simply tried her best to be supportive of her husband and as undemanding as possible.

Even amidst all this gloom, however, she couldn't help marvelling at the wonder of a new life. Princess Elizabeth seemed so small and fragile and yet so beautiful and promising and joyful. Gwendolyn couldn't help but grin.

She moved slightly closer to her husband. "I hope that our children, when they come, are all so good tempered as the young princess."
20-01-2006, 19:31
Anna handed little Princess Elizabeth over to Joseph and smiled and shook her head as he proceeded to tell the babe about the inheritance which might one day be hers. She wasn't nearly as confident as Joseph was that her daughter would ever come to the throne - the presence of Prince Peter in the room alone was enough to remind her that Excalbian succession was somewhat less reliable and consistent than Pantocratorian succession.

"Her Great Aunt should be here." Anna observed. "I don't understand her excuses about being too busy with her responsibilities as regent; the Emperor spent last Christmas with us. Maybe she's finding the job beyond her capacities..."

She carefully regarded Peter and Gwendolyn to judge their feelings on Christiana's regency, a position which she felt naturally belonged by every right to Joseph.
24-01-2006, 08:42
Kuldiga Castle

Peter felt Gwendolyn's hand giving his a gentle squeeze. He returned the gesture and turned to give his a wife a brief smile. She had seemed somewhat oddly affected by their tiny, new cousin when they were all in New Rome. Now, however, she seemed quite taken with the infant.

Peter followed Gwendolyn's gaze back to the child. The prince let out a small sigh. He had never seen himself as a father and a family man. That was just one reason why he had always felt a bit relieved that Joseph was the heir apparent; his cousin seemed to have been born to be a husband and father and a man of serious thoughts and stability. Joseph was exactly what an emperor ought to be.

On the other hand, Peter had always felt himself too cavalier, too self-centered, too lazy to make a good father, much less an emperor. He turned and stole another look at Gwendolyn. Yet. Yet, he had always felt he would make a poor husband, but now he was happier than he ever imagined. And, to his delight, he had found he was actually good at making his wife happy as well.

"I doubt children with my genes will ever be so good tempered," Peter said, still looking at Gwendolyn, "nevertheless, with their mother's genes, I am sure they will be delightful." Peter gave his wife's hand another squeeze. If he could be a husband, perhaps fatherhood would suit him as well.

Peter's smile faded at Anna's mention of his aunt, Christiana. He turned and looked into his cousin's darkening eyes.

Joseph looked at Peter and shrugged. "I suppose Aunt Christiana is a bit concerned about the reception she would receive here…"

"More than a bit concerned," Peter interrupted. "She has always been quite sensitive – though she hides it well – to how she is perceived by the family."

"Surely," Joseph said, "she knows we do not think ill of her…"

Peter frowned. "Do you spend any time with your brother and sister, Joseph?"

Joseph looked down at his daughter. "Not as much as I should perhaps. But what does that have to do with anything?"

"If you did," Peter said, "you would know Rebecca is quite angry at Aunt Christiana. She fells betrayed by her, because she fells Christiana has betrayed Uncle David. And you." Peter shook his head. "However, Rebecca, fortunately, is old enough to separate emotions from facts. At least to some extent. James," Peter looked away, "won't speak of it to me, yet Rebecca has spent enough time with him to know he bears his grudges even deeper. Aunt Christiana, despite our best efforts, would find a chilly reception here indeed."

Joseph slowly shook his head. He turned to Anna. "We must do something to mend things before the rift grows worse."

Lacplesis Club, Citadel Excalbia

Baron Janis Tagaarth closed the folder and laid it casually on the table. He and a handful of other gentlemen sat in overstuffed chairs arrayed in a semicircle around a large, low wooden table. On the other side of the table a blazing fire roared in the hearth. The head of a large bear looked down on them from a place of honour above the fire.

Baron Jekob Perkonis swirled his brandy and took a sip. He cupped his glass in his hand. "So, my dear fellow, what do you think?" The baron's glasses had slipped to the end of his rather large nose and his peered out from beneath a bushy mane of white eyebrows.

Baron Janis picked up his own glass and took a rather long drink. "It is a bold move, Baron Jekob."

The older man chuckled. "I – and my father's before me – have waited our entire lives for the right moment. Now that it has come, we must not dawdle and play with half measures."

Baron Janis nodded. He turned towards a large, heavily bearded man to his left. "Lord James, I am rather surprised to see you here."

"Because I am anathema?" The disgraced former head of Imperial Intelligence rubbed his beard and smiled in a most unpleasant manner.

"No," Baron Janis laughed, "I have long since learned that James Reynolds is too bold and too sly to slip quietly into exile as the government intended. No, I am thinking rather that your joining with us makes you something of a class traitor. After all, your forefather was created a lord for his loyalty to the Sword. In combat against rebellious barons…"

Lord James chuckled. "Times change and priorities change with them."

Baron Janis nodded. Lord James' statement made little sense to him, but he did not expect to get more out of the man. The former intelligence chief's involvement in this made him nervous; no one ever knew where they stood with the man, nor did anyone really know where his loyalties truly lay. Yet, the movement would be facing an uphill struggle and dubious assistance was better than none at all.

Baron Jekob looked around the circle at the other barons, most younger than he, yet mostly older than Janis. The old man smiled. "Are we agreed then?" Everyone nodded, including Janis. "Good." Jekob looked at the younger Janis. "Baron Janis, we would like you to approach Her Highness, the Regent, about this matter before we go public."

Janis nodded. "Understood."

"How do you think Her Highness react, Baron Janis?" One of the other barons asked after taking a sip of his stout.

Janis smiled. "It will not come as a surprise. Nor will she be unfavourable, I think."

"Good, good," another of the barons said. Then, raising his glass, he added, "To the revival of the Council of Lords and the voice of the baronies!"
24-01-2006, 16:55
Kuldiga Castle

"If there's a rift, it's of her making." Anna replied to Joseph, stepping closer to him and offering him her hand. "She has to end it. She has to step down as regent, in your favour, Joseph. It's your job. You're the heir apparent. It's the job you were born to do. Your whole life to this point has been spent training for it."

She looked at Peter, her eyes imploring him for his support.

"We all pray for the Emperor's recovery... but Joseph, if..." she started again, but thought better of elaborated on what she meant by if. "...Christiana being regent instead of you endangers your own succession. It endangers the rights of Elizabeth and all the other children we'll have together, God willing. And it isn't just about your own succession... the Senate by de facto usurping the right to nominate an Emperor's successors endangers the entire institution of the monarchy, and the role the Emperor, or Empress, has to play in the life of the nation."

Deciding that she had to finish, knowing that what she had to say was controversial, but equally knowing that Joseph wouldn't stand up for himself and his rights in the matter unless he was encouraged, some might say pushed, to do so.

"We have to speak to Christiana, all of us together, and ask her to stand down as regent, for the good of the nation, and because it's the right thing to do. Stand down in your favour, Joseph." Anna pleaded, looking deep into her husband's eyes, and occasionally down at her infant daughter in his arms. "She must sense the rift as well, I'm sure that if you promised her that you would repeal none of her actions in her regency thus far, she'd be agreeable. If her motives in accepting the regency were not motivated out of self-interest, she'll be satisfied with the assurance that some of the new government's policies which never would've been approved by His Majesty will remain in place."
The Resurgent Dream
24-01-2006, 21:11
Gwendolyn's attention drifted back to the present moment and Anna and Joseph's conversation. She gently squeezed her husband's hand once more and gazed up at him briefly. It was his family. Whatever he said, she would support.
27-01-2006, 15:11
Joseph lifted his eyebrow and turned to look at Peter. The blood seemed to drain from Peter's face. This was just the kind of conflict he studiously tried to avoid.

Joseph looked down at his daughter, then back at Anna. "I hadn't thought to confront Aunt Christiana so directly," he said, dragging each word out. He looked back across the room to his cousin, his searching Peter's pale face.

Peter swallowed hard. Then sighed. "Aunt Christiana would not react favourably to a confrontation; it would only serve to harden her position." Peter glanced at Gwendolyn and gave a slight nod of gratitude for her support. "However, I know she cannot be happy about this rift. She's felt rather frustrated and humiliated by the Emperor's actions." Joseph started to object, but Peter raised his hand. "I am not blaming Uncle David, but I know Aunt Christiana feels that she was called on the carpet and treated more like a child than an adult sister. And I am sure she is worried, in light of all that has happened, about her standing in family"

Peter shrugged slightly and continued. "On the other hand, she's always enjoyed playing the role of favourite Aunt – the one who gets to dole out candies and treats," he flashed a brief grin at Joseph, "remember how she used to let us… get away with things when Uncle David and Aunt Elizabeth weren't looking? – so, I'm sure it pains her to think she may have lost our affection…"

"But she hasn't lost our affection," Joseph said, sounding as if he were a little unconvinced himself.

"Of course she hasn't, but she is an emotional wo… person, Joseph." Peter gave a little reflexive twitch as he almost misspoke. "And I think you can make use of that. Perhaps, if you tell her directly that you're concerned not only about your succession, but about Elizabeth Theodora's, I'm sure she will be moved…"

Joseph nodded. "But, as Anna suggested, it might be best if all of us approached her…"

"Safety in numbers?" Peter smiled faintly. "You don't need me, Joseph…"

Joseph frowned as a troubling thought crossed his mind. "You do support my succession, don't you, Peter?"

Peter blinked. He had not expected such a direct question – accusation really – from his cousin. "Of course," Peter said, "I support your succession. You… you're the right one for the job."

Joseph nodded. "So, shall we all go together to see Aunt Christiana?"

Peter sighed and nodded. "I will call her. Maybe we can have dinner together and discuss this… as a family."

Joseph nodded.
27-01-2006, 19:56
Anna took a deep breath in and smiled gravely. It had worked, they had agreed with her, Christiana would be confronted, and she felt confident enough in Christiana's good character to believe that her husband would soon be regent in Christiana's place. Nevertheless, it was difficult to be truly happy with the agreement, since the confrontation would no doubt be more than a little unpleasant, however necessary it might be. Anna hugged Joseph around the shoulders and kissed his neck, and looked down at the princess in his arms.

"I know it won't be easy... but the Emperor wants you to be his heir, and it stands to be reason that you should be his regent." Anna said quietly. "We know it isn't ambition, my love, you didn't ask for it, but it's your duty. Christiana will understand."
28-01-2006, 20:33
Joseph smiled at Anna’s kiss and joined her in looking down at the tiny Elizabeth. “I know you’re right, my love,” Joseph said, “but I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that I am not looking forward to this.”

Joseph looked over to Peter. “You will call, Peter? And join us for dinner?”

Peter nodded. “Yes. I’ll call her later this evening and try to arrange dinner tomorrow night.” He looked nervously at Gwendolyn. “We will join you, of course. We must remember, however, not to be confrontational…”

Joseph nodded. “Of course.”

* * *

Later that evening, Peter kept his word and called Christiana. The Regent was surprised to hear from her nephew, but she quickly agreed to dinner and plans were made for the two young couples to drive to the Imperial Palace for dinner the next evening.
04-02-2006, 15:05
Early the next morning in a the seat of small but ancient barony high in the Borodea Mountains a small crowd gathered in the musty chambers of the Imperial District Court. A middle-aged and slightly overweight deputy assistant Imperial attorney sat at the defence table with two young assistants. At the plaintiff’s table half-a-dozen men and women sat in serious and slightly archaic suits wearing somber expressions leavened with just a bit of hope. In the gallery, a handful of bemused locals were joined by two reporters – one an older, balding man from the local weekly journal and the other a younger stringer hoping to sell an “odd news” item to one of the national wire services.

With a sudden creak the door behind the raised dais of the judge opened. A blue uniformed bailiff stood and cried in a voice far too loud for the small room, “All rise! His Imperial Majesty’s court is now in session! The Honourable Ervin Spolins presiding! God save the Emperor!”

The judge, a small man in dull blue robes with white hair and a trim white beard sat down and banged his gavel. “Be seated.”

The judge looked around the room and sighed. He picked up a paper and began to read. “In the matter of the citizens of the Barony of Tervates versus His Imperial Majesty’s Government, the court finds,” the judge looked up from his paper and seemed to cringe, “somewhat rather unexpectedly and uncomfortably, I might add,” he looked back a the paper, “in favour of the plaintiffs…”

The crowd at the plaintiffs table seemed to gasp in unison, then let out a small cheer. The deputy assistant Imperial attorney stood. “Your Honour!”

The young reporter nearly dropped his pencil and turned to the older local journalist. “Did the judge…” he began with a whisper.

“Yes,” the older man replied, his eyes wide with surprise, “he did. He just declared the Edict Abolishing the Council of Lords unconstitutional…”

‘It’s stood since David I proclaimed it 1887... The Constitution came later and it doesn’t even mention the Council…”

The older journalist nodded. “But under the old, unwritten constitution, the council predated the Empire. It even predated the monarchy itself…”

“Order,” the judge said, banging his gavel, “this court will come to order…”

Within hours, the Imperial Solicitor General had filled an appeal and a motion for an immediate injunction with the Imperial Supreme Court.
20-02-2006, 09:32
The Baronial Palace, Barony of Skrastinu

Baron Alexander Skrastins sat smiling in a high-backed leather chair. The thirty-year old baron was well-built, athletic man with the easy smile of a person who has lived his life without trial or tribulation. Around the tasteful but well-furnished sitting room sat several other men of various ages but all with the same easy smile. All except for one handsome middle-aged man, who cautiously sipped a glass of wine.

In high school and university Baron Janis Tagaarth had been a serious young man, devoted to debate and drama and politics, and had never been interested in associating with idle fraternity boys or sports heroes. Yet, now, he found himself in a room of former fraternity brothers and athletes. The air seemed heavy with testosterone.

The one woman in the room was Baroness Celeste de Frankopolis-Skrastina, the host’s young Pantocratorian bride. The baroness made casual small talk and entertained the guests with style, while ignoring how most of her husband’s guests eyed her indiscreetly.

“Well,” Baron Alexander said, his smile still affixed to his overly handsome face, “I’m afraid it’s time for us to get down to business.” He turned to his wife. “If you’ll excuse us, my dear?”

“Of course, m’lord,” Celeste said, rising. The men in the room all stood. Celeste smoothed her bright, stylish and rather tight dress. She smiled and gave the group a coy look and small wave. Then, she gave her husband an inappropriately passionate kiss and sashayed out of the room.

Baron Alexander appreciatively watched his wife walk out of the room, then gestured to his guests to return to their seats.

“A fine girl you have there, Alex,” said Baron Harold Edole with a wink.

“Indeed,” added Thomas Baker, the middle-aged long-time advisor to the Baron of Tervates, “so few Excalbian noblewomen know their place these days.”

“Have any Excalbian noblewomen ever known their place?” Baron Harold chuckled. “Too many of them grow up on stories of Queen Hildegard.” The baron wrinkled his nose. “Warrior queen indeed…”

Baron Janis winced inside. Everything in his upbringing and own personal ethics made him despise people who looked down on anyone as inferior. It struck him as particularly despicable that they were denigrating women in his presence, considering that his mother was an Excalbian noblewoman and the Imperial Chancellor.

Baron Alexander chuckled. “That’s why you should have found a Pantocratorian wife, Harold. If Celeste is any indication, if you take them to a few parties, give them an unlimited shopping budget and pay off their family debts, they’ll do just about whatever you want them to do!”

Janis bit his tongue to keep from speaking. These fools make fossils like Baron Perkonis and traitors like Lord James seem like decent and honourable men, he thought to himself. More than anything Janis wanted to storm out of the house and, for good measure, tell Celeste just what her husband thought of her. Yet, his movement needed allies. And you can’t always pick and choose your allies, he thought with a sigh.

“As you said, Alex,” Janis said, trying not to clench his teeth, “let’s get down to business.”

Baron Alexander gave Janis a condescending smile. “Of course, Jani,” he said, sounding overly familiar.

“Well, the decision in Tervates was a victory,” said Thomas, “but will it stand up in the Supreme Court? What about the Government’s request for an immediate injunction?”

Alex shook his head. “I doubt they will grant an injunction; too many briefs have filed opposing the Solicitor General’s motions, including our own.” Seeing questioning glances, Alex elaborated. “I filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the Council for Constitutional Law that echoed the arguments I made in the briefs my firm filed on behalf of the baronies.”

“How did you get the CCL to agree? They tend to be crown loyalists,” Harold leaned forward in his seat.

Alex smiled. “Well, I am their chief counsel. And their executive director is fraternity brother of mine. We went forward before the full council had time to react, so it is a bit of a fait accompli.”

“So,” Janis said, having taken a sip of wine to calm himself, “what do you think the court will do?”

“They will probably grant an urgent hearing to the case; I expect there will be a hearing within a few weeks. As long as the Regent doesn’t derail the process.”

“How could she do that?” Thomas asked nervously.

“The Senate is currently in recess, so the Regent can issue edicts with the force of law. She could proclaim that, since under the written constitution all legislative power is invested in the Senate, an effort to seat a Council of Lords is tantamount to treason. The case would still end up before the Supreme Court, but it would complete things and would give the government the authority to arrest us…”

All eyes swiveled to Janis. He smiled and shook his head. “The Regent has no intention of interfering with the courts…”
20-02-2006, 11:01
En Route to the Imperial Palace

The armoured limousine made its way up the highway from Kuldiga towards the capital with a minimal police escort. Traffic was light, even though the snow had finally stopped and the roads had been cleared.

Inside the car, Prince Peter and Grand Duchess Gwendolyn sat with their backs to the driver facing Prince Joseph and Princess Anna. The two princes wore dark suits, with Peter sporting a rose-coloured tie and Joseph wearing bright yellow over a light blue shirt.

The two couples sat somewhat nervously, seemingly too lost in thought to speak. Finally, though he generally avoided politics as topic, Peter felt the silence unbearable and spoke. “Did you read about the court decision in Tervates, Joseph?”

Joseph shook his head. “Yes. And it’s absolutely preposterous! The Council of Lords has been defunct over a century. It’s not even mentioned in the Constitution. It is bitterness and hubris that motivates this crowd.” Joseph’s face reddened slightly. “Though they staged this ridiculous charade in Tervates, it is the Baron of Perkonis who stands behind it.”

“And Baron Tagaarth?” Peter regretted his words as soon as he spoke them.

Joseph fumed. “Tagaarth,” he spat. “I fear he is mixed up in this as well. And Aunt Christiana increasingly seems swayed by his counsel. All the more reason to urge her to step aside.”
20-02-2006, 13:08
Anna's eyes passed back and forth between Peter and Joseph as she thought about what they had just said.

"Let's not mention the court decision, or Tagaarth. In fact, let's make especially sure not to mention Baron Tagaarth." Anna suggested. "Our case is reasonable on its own merits, like we discussed yesterday. Mentioning the court case would only make it look to Christiana like you wanted to interfere in it, Joseph, and would make her think that it was the only reason you were asserting your right to what should legitimately be yours. It can only undermine our credibility... let's not give her any reason to suspect we've ulterior motives, since we don't."

Anna folded her arms to stop herself from fidgetting as her thoughts turned back to her infant daughter, being looked after for the evening by a nurse.

"We should've brought Elizabeth with us..." Anna said. "I hate leaving her with the nursemaids..."

...and we'd look more sympathetic. she added mentally, but didn't vocalise.
The Resurgent Dream
22-02-2006, 02:00
Gwendolyn looked out the window thoughtfully for a long moment. "I don't understand how...Is there really much support in Excalbia for this House of Lords idea, outside of the Barons themselves?"
22-02-2006, 08:05
Joseph nodded as Anna recommended against mentioning Baron Tagaarth. Peter looked across the car at Joseph.

"Anna's right, Joseph," Peter said, "bringing up Tagaarth would be hitting a little too close to home for Aunt Christiana; the two of them have become quite chummy."

"I know," said Joseph. He turned to Anna. "Once again, wise council, my love, thank you."

Joseph sat in silence for a moment until Anna spoke.

"We should've brought Elizabeth with us. I hate leaving her with the nursemaids..."

"I know," Joseph said. "And perhaps we should have brought her; I hate leaving her behind, too." He shook his head. "But I don't know how this will go and I don't want to expose her to an argument…"

Gwendolyn looked out the window thoughtfully for a long moment. "I don't understand how...Is there really much support in Excalbia for this House of Lords idea, outside of the Barons themselves?"

Peter shrugged and looked to Joseph. Joseph folded his hands and looked out the window. "Well," he began with a sigh, "with the Senate limited to 100 seats, the distribution of those seats has become rather controversial as our population has grown. Some rural districts feel under-represented, as do some cities, especially the smaller ones. Many of those districts and cities are in the baronies, so that certainly provides some support…"

Peter glanced at Joseph, then looked to Gwendolyn. "There's also a sense in some parts that there is too much power in the Imperial government and not enough in the local governments, so some think that a second legislative body tied more closely to the local governments would help strengthen local autonomy…"

Joseph shrugged. "Perhaps there is room for reform, but this certainly isn't the way to go about it!"

By the time the conversation drifted into a lull, the small motorcade carrying the two couples had exited the expressway and was making its way across the bridge from the Left Bank to Citadel Island. With the police escort, they found themselves driving through the gates of the lower city's massive Imperial Palace a few minutes later.

Although the visit was a private one, there was always some ceremony when a member of the Imperial family visited the Palace. A troop of Imperial Guards clad in heavy woolen blue great coats and fur caps stood at attention. Snow had begun falling again and lightly dusted the rigid soldiers. As the limousine came to a stop, a guardsman opened the door and saluted. The troop raised the rifles in salute and the officer-in-charge raised his sword to his face.

Stewards appeared with umbrellas for each four passengers and the Regent's special assistant, Janet Latsone approached and bowed deeply.

"Your Highnesses," she said with a polite smile, "welcome home. Her Highness awaits you in the blue salon; please come with me."

Joseph nodded at Janet's greeting. "Thank you, Miss Latsone, please lead on."
22-02-2006, 15:45
The Imperial Palace, Citadel Excalbia

Princess Christiana, dressed in a pale green skirt and jacket, stood and smiled as the two couples entered in the room. "Joseph, Anna, Peter, Gwendolyn," she said extending her arms towards her nephews and their wives, "what a pleasure to see you."

The regent hugged and kissed the cheek of each of the foursome, then gestured for them to sit. She reclaimed her own seat in single, elegant move and crossed her legs.

"It is so good to have you all here. I regret that I haven't been able to join you at Kuldiga, but I am afraid there is so much to done…"

Joseph nodded. "And we have missed you, Aunt Christiana," Peter said.

Christiana nodded and smiled. "At least Tarik has been able to visit with James; he tells me they have become fast friends…"

"They have," Peter said. "They're inseparable."

"Good, good." Christiana turned to Joseph. "How is your father, Joseph?"

Joseph swallowed and looked down. "There has been no change…"

"A tragedy. How is your mother holding up?"

"She is trying to stay strong for our benefit, but I know it is difficult for her. Being in Kuldiga, and out of the limelight, seems to be helping her rest. At least a little."

Christiana nodded gravely. "We all pray for your father's recovery. And for your mother's strength." The regent looked down for a moment.

"So," she said, turning to Anna and smiling, "how is my great niece doing?"

"We have some pictures," Joseph said, reaching into his jacket pocket and removing a small packet of photos. He stood up and crossed to his aunt, handed them to her, then returned to his seat beside Anna.

"Oh," Christiana said, flipping through the pictures, "she is beautiful. So, Anna, how do find motherhood?"
The Resurgent Dream
23-02-2006, 01:12
Gwendolyn returned the hug and the kiss on the cheek. "Aunt Christiana. It's nice to get to see you. You really much join Peter and myself at Kuldiga at some time."

She sat down next to her husband and listened quietly to the Excalbians talking. It all seemed rather pleasant so far. She was hardly going to bring up the purpose of their visit first. Instead, she lightly slid her hand into Peter's, squeezing slightly.
24-02-2006, 07:31
"It's wonderful, mademoiselle, it's the most incredible thing..." Anna started. She turned to Joseph. "It's the most wonderful thing that's ever happened to me, even more wonderful than marrying Joseph. When I look into little Elizabeth's eyes... I've never felt such... I suppose perfect love is the closest thing I can think of to describe it. It's like ever since I first held her in my arms, I knew that the most important thing I will do for the rest of my life is to look after and be a mother to Elizabeth... and any brothers or sisters she might have in the future. Don't you agree, Joseph?"
25-02-2006, 10:39
The Imperial Palace

“Yes,” Joseph said, turning to look at Anna. “Yes,” he repeated, turning back to Christiana, “it has certainly changed by outlook on things; I know feel that I have no higher calling than assuring Elizabeth’s future.”

“A noble sentiment, Joseph,” Christiana said, her smile fading slightly as she sensed something beneath the surface.

Peter squeezed Gwendolyn’s hand and gave a slight nod to his cousin.

Joseph pulled in a breath through his nose and let out a slight sigh. “In fact, that is one of the reasons I’m glad to have this time to talk with you, Aunt Christiana…”

“Really?” Christiana uncrossed and recrossed her legs and leaned back slightly in her chair.

“Yes, Aunt Christiana.” Joseph swallowed. “I have become concerned that some in the Senate are trying to take advantage of my father’s illness to remove me – and Elizabeth, as my heir – from the succession…”

Christiana frowned. “Surely, you are not doubting my pledge not to seek my own succession?”

“Of course not,” Joseph lifted his hands in protest, “I would never doubt your word, Aunt Christiana.”

“Then, I…”

“However,” Joseph continued, “given the control the Senate has over the succession, I fear that they,” the young prince gave the word particular emphasis, “will try to force you into accepting the Sword. For their own political advantage.”

Christiana sat for a moment, too stunned to move. It was as if her nephew had been present when Lady Jane had laid out her plan to make Christiana empress. The princess looked down at the photos of her grand-niece and felt moved by the innocence of the tiny babe. The Sword was, by rights, Joseph’s. And Elizabeth’s. Still, her pride ached over her brother’s treatment of her and her family’s willingness to set her aside.

The Regent looked up. “And what advantage would these – supposed – plotter gain, Joseph?”

“They fear, I believe, that I would be too much like my father, that I would consolidate the power of the Sword at their expense and that I would overturn all their policies.” Joseph looked at Anna and took her hand. “However, they fail to see that I am my own man; I have no desire to be a carbon copy of my father, just as he was not – is not – a carbon copy of Grandfather. I agree with some of their reforms and would be willing to let all of them – up to the moment – stand in place…”

Christiana stared blankly at her nephew. “And how do you propose that we thwart these plots, if they indeed exist?”

Joseph looked nervously down at the blue and gold carpet. “Well…”

Peter swallowed hard and squeezed Gwendolyn’s hand. “If I might, Aunt Christiana…”

Joseph and Christiana both turned towards Peter. The Regent nodded. “Go ahead, Peter,” she said.

“I was thinking that, from all that Joseph has said, that it might be best, for the family, for all of us, if you, Aunt Christiana stepped down as regent and allowed Joseph to take that role; it would be very hard, then, for the Senate to deny him the succession…”

Christiana starred at Peter. “Is that why the four of you have come here tonight? To persuade me to resign?” The princess looked down at the pictures in her lap. “Are you all in agreement on this?” She looked up. “Anna? Gwendolyn?”

The regent’s face was pale and unreadable, as feelings of betrayal and compassion warred with each other.
The Resurgent Dream
26-02-2006, 02:17
Gwendolyn breathed in deeply, looking at Anna and then down at her lap. How did she let Joseph and Peter talk her into this? "Yes, Your Highness. We all agree on this."

She paused a moment, looking between Peter and Joseph. "Your Highness, we all appreciate everything you've done as regent but it also ties you up from doing the sorts of things which have allowed you to do the most good in the past, representing the Sword on the international scene. Think of all the good you did on your trip to New Constantinople or on your more recent trip to Marlund."
26-02-2006, 08:38
"Yes, Your Highness, we all agree." Anna confirmed, taking Joseph's hand and squeezing it, although it was unclear whether it was because she felt she needed his support, or that she felt he needed hers.

Anna almost cringed when Gwendolyn added her last remark about all the good Christiana had done on her international tours. Anna agreed, of course, the Regent had a way of achieving great results for the most disadvantaged of people, but thought it stupid of Gwendolyn to suggest that Christiana was being kept from doing such good deeds by her regal duties. After all, it followed, if Christiana had been able to accomplish all of what she had accomplished before when she had just been an Emperor's sister, then she should be able to accomplish even more as an Emperor's regent, or even, as Empress in her own right. She hastened to reiterate Joseph's earlier promise so as to gloss over what she perceived to be Gwendolyn's blunder.

"And Joseph has promised that he won't go about repealing the Government's important reforms. He won't undo the work you've done as Regent, and it has been good work, Your Highness. Your accomplishments as Regent will last, unthreatened." Anna promised. "By stepping down in Joseph's favour, you wouldn't be jeopardising those accomplishments in order to ensure the succession of His Majesty's chosen heir, should the unthinkable happen..."
27-02-2006, 21:26
The Imperial Palace

The Regent shuffled through the pictures of her grandniece. Her heart felt torn between her love for her nephews, their wives and this new, tiny baby and her feelings of betrayal.

Peter and Joseph had raised her hopes that the family was reaching out to her. Gwendolyn’s invitation and Joseph sharing his daughter’s had fed those hopes. They led her to believe that this would be a simple, family evening. Realising that their visit had been but a ploy to persuade her to resign her position, Christiana had felt the bitter taste of anger in her mouth. And the sting of humiliation in her eyes.

Her humiliation felt all the worse because, she realized, that she had just been plotting a betrayal of her own with Lady Jane. True, she had rationalized it all by telling herself that Joseph was not really ready to be Emperor and that he might even want to Emperor, being content to rule Langeais with Anna. She had also told herself it would best for the nation. Yet, confronted by Joseph and Peter – even Anna and Gwendolyn – she had to admit none of it was true. She was planning to usurp the Sword, plain and simple. And feeling that she had been caught made her all the angrier.

Christiana blinked back a tear and studied the photo of Elizabeth. She looked up at the two couples and sighed.

As a teenager the princess had learned that she could not hold onto anger. Bitterness, disappointment, occasionally even resentment – these she could harbour. But not anger. In truth, it was a quality that had served her well and one she would not abandon now.

With a tentative smile, betrayed by a fixed and serious gaze, Christiana spoke. “All of you have some very good points that I had not considered; I’ll need time to consider them.” She forced a more convincing smile on her face. “Now, let us not be consumed in matters of state; dinner should be ready and I’m anxious to hear how your holidays have been.”

The Regent stood and led the two couples into the private dining room.

A Private Dinning Room at the Chop Shop, on the Right Bank

The Chop Shop was well-known, somewhat trendy, yet notorious steak house set on boundary between the high-rise office towers of the Right Bank and outlying industrial suburbs. Its steaks were widely reputed to be among the best in the capital. Its quiet private dining rooms and discrete staff were nearly as famous.

In one of those private rooms a collection of senators, from both the governing coalition and the opposition, sat around a table chatting and nibbling at starters. At one end of the table, the only person not a senator sat smiling.

“I believe the Regent is quite amenable to your plans,” Lady Jane Perkone said cheerily.

“Still,” Amanda Payne, a young Liberal senator said nervously, “we have not nearly enough votes to remove the Emperor and without the votes, this conversation is only a few steps from treason…”

“We aren’t impeaching the Emperor, Senator,” Marcella Gambino, the Reform Party Treasury Minister, said sharply, “we are merely declaring the obvious – that he is incapable of continuing as Emperor…”

“The rules on removing the Emperor for medical incapacity are less than clear, Marcella,” Jamie Yoth, the Liberal Party Justice Minister said softly, “it is not at all clear how many votes would be needed.”

“Beyond the legal niceties,” Freedom Party Senator Clinton Howe said firmly, “it is far from certain as a political reality that the IHA or even the military would recognize our removal of the Emperor.”

“You’re not suggesting,” Amanda Payne said anxiously, “that there would be civil war…”

Howe laughed. “No, not a civil war. A coup, perhaps.” He looked sharply around at the assembled senators. “Make no mistake; the public will not rise up to defend us if this goes badly. Nor will our leaders or the courts. If the IHA, the military and the Church refuse to recognize a new sovereign, whomever we name to take the Sword will be branded an usurper, the Senate will be dissolved and we will all be arrested as traitors.”

“You’re being overly dramatic,” Yoth said coolly. “There is nothing about our actions that are treasonous…”

“And you’re overly impressed with paper laws,” Howe replied tersely. “If the Senate is dissolved and the Imperial Guards come to arrest us, we’ll see how far your laws protect us.” Howe chuckled grimly. “We would probably get the new constitution you want, Yoth, but I wager it’ll be far more generous in upholding Imperial prerogative than you’d like. Why, depending on just how much Prince Joseph has been influenced by Pantocratoria, it might even provide for members of the Imperial family to act as ministers. Just think, your fate but hang on the whims of Emperor Joseph I and his Minister of Justice, Princess Rebecca.”

“Enough,” Gambino growled. “If you’re that afraid, then leave, Clinton.”

Howe shook his head. “I’m not afraid, Marcella. Nor am I predicting doom. But I do want to make sure all of us realized exactly what it is that we’re getting into.”

Lady Jane, who had been smiling through out the exchange, cleared her throat.

“Yes, Lady Jane,” Yoth said. “What is so amusing?”

The Regent’s Chief of Staff folded her hands on the table. “Well, I think it would go a long way to avoid Senator Howe’s grim scenario if we could show that the Emperor has already been found to medically incapacitated.”

“Of course,” Yoth said dismissively, “but the IHA and its doctors have insisted, both in public and in closed hearings, that such is not the case…”

“Oh,” Lady Jane purred, “but they have concluded that he is. And they’ve given the report to Lady Jessica.”

Several of the Liberal senators reacted with gasps of surprise. “Surely,” Payne said, “the Chancellor would not keep that from the Senate…”

“Of course she would,” said Gambino, crossing her arms.

“How do you know this?” Yoth leaned towards Lady Jane.

“She let the details slip in a meeting with the Regent. And I glimpsed the report itself in her portfolio.”

“Well, well,” Gambino said, as she leaned back and relaxed her arms, “this is good news indeed. If the IHA has, itself, concluded that the Emperor is incapacitated and if it has lied about that fact to the Senate, then…”

“Then,” Yoth said jumping in excitedly, “we have legal grounds to remove the Emperor and to bring the IHA firmly under Senate control…”
28-02-2006, 06:55
The Imperial Palace
Anna rose when Christiana rose and followed after her with the others into the dining room. As she did so, she grabbed Joseph by the arm, frowning. She whispered into his ear.

"She has to give an answer tonight, we can't let the issue rest!" she entreated quietly to her husband in French. "You must find a way to bring it back up!"
02-03-2006, 20:53
The Imperial Palace

“I know, my love,” Joseph whispered in French. He leaned close to Anna and gave her a small kiss. “I will find a way to bring up the subject.”

Joseph gave Anna’s arm a gentle pat, then turned into the dinning room.

The room was large by most standards, but modest on the scale of the Imperial Palace. A large table draped with a gold cloth had been set with five places. Princess Christiana took her place at the head of the table and gestured for the couples to join her on either side.

After everyone was seated, servants poured wine for everyone, except for Gwendolyn, whose preferences were well known. Christiana took her glass and stood, lifting it up to eye level. “To family. To the Empire. To the Emperor… my brother. God grant him a speedy recovery.”

Joseph and Peter, having joined their aunt on their, drunk to the toast.

Christiana took her seat and gestured for the others to be seated. Servants quickly appeared and began serving a thick, cream soup with green and yellow colours swirled into a yin-and-yang design.

“Bon appetite,” the princess said before dipping her spoon into the soup.

For a moment everyone ate in silence. “Your toast, Aunt Christiana, turned my thoughts again to family. It would be nice to have you visit us at Kuldiga.” Joseph looked up from his soup as he spoke. “I know Mother would appreciate the visit. And while Father seems to… be in a coma, they do say there is some hope he might be able to hear those around him. If he can…” Joseph looked down and swallowed, suddenly unable to speak.

“I’m sure Uncle David can hear us,” Peter jumped in, “and I’m sure he would like you to visit, Aunt Christian…”

Christiana looked to Peter then back to Joseph. “I… I will think about it. I mean, as soon I can get away…”

Joseph nodded. “Of course.” He took a spoonful of soup.

“It would be nice to have all of us together for a while,” Peter said. “I mean, before Gwendolyn and I have to return to Shieldcrest.” Peter smiled. “Do you remember how we used to always spend two weeks after Christmas at the chalet skiing? Those were wonderful times…”

Christiana smiled; she had always found Peter’s smile infectious. “Those were good times; it would be nice to have them again…”

“Yes,” Joseph said, looking at Anna, “it would be nice for all of us to spend time together. Especially now with Rebecca heading back to school soon and with Tarik and James being such good friends and with little Elizabeth…”

Christiana nodded and sipped her soup. She had a feeling Joseph was trying to maneuver things back to the question of succession, but she decided to go along and see where the conversation went.
The Resurgent Dream
02-03-2006, 21:09
Gwendolyn sat next to her husband at the table, lightly smiling at the other members of the family. She drank to the same toast as the Excalbians, although she wasn't drinking the same thing. She listened quietly for a moment as the Excalbians spoke before speaking up, addressing herself to Peter, who seemed quite intent on holding her to her agreement to go skiing which she had made in New Rome. "Your Highness, we don't have to return to Narich immediately. I am sure the my people understand perfectly well that you and I also have duties as the Prince and Princess of Kuldiga. Besides...His Majesty is your uncle. We should stay for awhile. If Their Highnesses want, we can go spend some time at the chalet or we can stay here. I have always wanted to get to know your family...your side of our family...better. I only wish that it was under more auspicious circumstances."

She looked at Christiana with a small smile as she sought to bring the subject back up indirectly. "Your Highness, you are of course welcome to visit us and Princess Rebecca as well. It is starting to seem these days that you've made visits to practically every country but ours."
12-03-2006, 21:14
Peter looked at Gwendolyn and smiled. “If you think it would be no problem, I would like for us to stay for a while.” He gave his wife a quick nod of appreciation; he knew she was not thrilled at the prospect of going skiing, but knew that such an outing could do the family a world of good.

Peter listened quietly for a moment as Gwendolyn invited Christiana to visit Shieldcrest. He nodded as his wife spoke and looked towards his aunt.

“Yes, Aunt Christiana, I think it would be wonderful if you could join us for awhile. Perhaps we could all visit the chalet. And we, Gwendolyn and I, would love to have you visit us in Narich.”

Christiana smiled and nodded. Part of her – a part she did not much appreciate – was warning her that this was all part of a plan by Joseph and Peter to persuade her to surrender the Sword to Joseph. Yet, another part – one she was a little afraid to trust – warmed to the invitations. “Well, a visit to the chalet would be nice; I think Tariq and James would enjoy having the time together. As would we all.”

The Regent turned and looked at Joseph. “Is… your father’s condition stable? Stable enough to let us all go to chalet for a while with… some peace of mind?”

Joseph nodded. “I think so.”

Christiana nodded. “Very well. Then, let’s all go to the chalet… shall we say the day after tomorrow?”

Joseph and Peter each look to their spouses.
The Resurgent Dream
13-03-2006, 06:03
"That sounds like an excellent idea." Gwendolyn said. "Aunt Christiana, perhaps you would teach me how to ski?"
13-03-2006, 15:42
Anna suppressed her impatience, although somebody who knew her as well as Joseph could tell that she was practically seething with it. Truth be told, she didn't much care to see Christiana at the chalet the day after tomorrow or any time, she was so wound up and emotionally invested in the matter of Christiana surrendering the regency to Joseph that found it difficult to like Christiana right now. Then the thought came to her that if Christiana hadn't surrendered the regency by the time her visit to the chalet came around, that they'd have the whole of that day to press the matter on her again.

"I'd like to go if we can take Elizabeth with us." Anna answered Joseph's silent question. "I don't think I'll go skiing but I love snow."
13-03-2006, 21:26
Christiana smiled at Gwendolyn, gently lifting one eyebrow. The princess was quite certain she was being buttered up, but for the moment, she was not overly concerned by that fact. “Well, my dear,” she said pleasantly, “I think your husband might want to take on that pleasure, but I would certainly be pleased to offer my assistance.”

Joseph could sense Anna’s growing frustration, but he hoped she would sense his desire to take the process of talking his aunt into giving up the regency slowly and patiently. He still feared that if he pressed to hard he would alienate Christiana and send her back into the clutches of Baron Janis and his separatists, like Lady Jane.

Suddenly, Joseph’s eyes widened. It was not just Baron Janis he had to worry about; it was also his aunt’s chief of staff. If he could persuade Christiana to go on a family skiing trip – a family only trip, then he could separate her from Janis and Lady Jane. Then, he was sure she would agree to reason.

Joseph turned suddenly back to Anna as he realized she had been talking. “Uh… of course we would take Elizabeth with us. I’m sure she would love the snow…” Joseph turned to his aunt. “It would be a nice vacation for all of us. Just the family. I think we – all of us – need a break, even from our staffs and retainers…”

Christiana gave her nephew a puzzled look. “Certainly, we would need to take some retainers… personal staff… and I do,” Christiana flushed red for just a moment, “I mean we do have official responsibilities as well.”

“Of course,” Joseph said, “we would take a few of our old, trusted staff, but as for official duties, our chiefs of staff and the such could reach us if anything really important came up.”

Christiana gave a small nod. “Of course,” she said, wondering why Joseph suddenly seemed intent to leave her official staff behind. She shrugged it off. After all, she had been hoping to have some time alone with Janet; they had yet to work things out after last year’s scandal.

The Regent smiled. “So, we shall plan on leaving for the chalet the day after tomorrow. I will arrange for a plane to fly us – all of us, plus Tariq, James, Rebecca and the Empress, if she wishes, and a small number of our personal attendants – into the mountains.” She shook her head. “Lady Jane will not be pleased. And I wager neither will Lord Johannes, but I think Joseph is right – we have all earned a small rest.”

Joseph let out a small sigh and smiled. He reached out for Anna’s hand and gave it a warm, almost joyful squeeze.

Just then, the servants entered with the main dish - thick slices of roast beef with large, round noodles and steamed vegetables.

"Ah," the Regent said, "here we are. Bon appétit!"
19-03-2006, 15:49
"That will be lovely." Anna said, smiling enthusiastically, although she was still too tightly wound to be genuinely enthusiastic. She squeezed Joseph's hand back and then started to eat her dinner.
19-03-2006, 16:50
The rest of the meal passed pleasantly, if somewhat quietly. Later, after the two young couples had left the Palace to return to Kuldiga, the Regent found herself alone in her chambers. Having decided to retire early, Princess Christiana sat in her dressing gown looking silently at the portraits hanging in her room.

One large painting in a golden frame showed Emperor David III and Empress Nichole with their three young children – Paul, David and Christiana. Not far away a slightly smaller painting depicted a much younger Princess Christiana with her young nephews – Peter and Joseph – and holding the infant Princess Rebecca. On another wall a recent portrait depicted the princess as Regent with her adopted son Tariq.

Christiana’s stomach fluttered. She tried to convince herself that the growing rift in the family was David’s fault. When the Knootian press and revealed her relationship with Janet, David had called her to the Citadel like a wayward teenager and had virtually grounded her – as if she were a child and not an adult with a son of her own. His distance from her, his icy stares and his sharp words had not helped mend her wounded feelings. He had pushed her away from Janet and had practically pushed her into the arms of Baron Janis.

Yet, try as she might, the faces on the stared back and seemed to accuse her of creating the rift.

A knock on the door startled Christiana. “Yes?”

Janet Latsone opened the door and bowed. “Your Highness,” she said, “is there anything you need before…” Janet paused, noticing the tears on the princess’ check. For a moment she felt torn between the growing formality of her relationship with Regent and the relationship they had once shared.

A look of indecision flickered across Janet’s face, then, in a few quick strides, she crossed the room and sat beside the princess. “What’s wrong?”

Christiana looked at Janet. She felt the weight of the gulf that had grown between them. She tried to focus on her brother as the cause of that rift, but with a sigh she gave up. The cold, unpleasant truth was that she had turned her back on Janet, little-by-little, and had slowly turned her into a mere advisor and employee.

Tears now ran freely down the princess’ face. “I’m sorry,” she muttered, as she fell into Janet’s arms. “I just didn’t know what to do. I still don’t know what to do.” She sobbed loudly. “Oh, Janet, help me.”

A little while later, Lady Jane Perkone returned from her discreet rendezvous with the Senate radicals. To anyone who might have asked, she just being a diligent chief of staff and checking in at the office before returning home for the night. However, her true purpose was far closer to the surface when she cornered the Regent’s chief steward just outside her office.

“How did Her Highness’ dinner with the Prince and Princess of Langeais and the Prince of Kuldiga and his wife, the Grand Duchess?”

“Very well, my Lady,” the steward said, sounding hurried.

“Really? I was concerned it might be… emotional for Her Highness.”

The steward shook his head somewhat cautiously. “It seemed quite… normal, my Lady.”

Lady Jane gave the steward a persistent look.

“In fact,” he continued, “Her Highness and the rest of the Imperial Family, including this evening’s guests, are planning a trip to the chalet for skiing the day after tomorrow…”

Lady Jane drew one eyebrow up in mild surprise. “Really? Did she say anything about who would accompany her?”

“Only her personal assistant, Ms. Latsone, my Lady.”

This is bad, she thought to herself. Then, feigning a casual smile, she added, “Where is Her Highness? Is she still up?”

“She has retired, my Lady,” the steward’s face blushed slightly, “but I believe Ms. Latsone is still with her.”

Very bad, Lady Jane thought. Then, slowly, a smile crossed her lips. Yet, it may present an opportunity, if the Senate can move quickly enough.
19-03-2006, 21:04
Two Days Later…

A Boeing 737 in the gold and blue livery of the Imperial Air Force’s VIP transportation wing stood on the tarmac guarded by blue uniformed Imperial Guardsmen. The crew was already aboard awaiting their passengers when the first motorcade arrived.

A line of black limousines bearing the Imperial Standard pulled up beside the plane. Empress Elizabeth, Prince James and the newly created Lord Tariq of Mezciems exited the first vehicle and climbed up the blue carpeted stairs to the plane. Prince Joseph, Princess Anna and little Princess Elizabeth followed from the second car. They were, in turn, followed by Prince Peter, Grand Duchess Gwendolyn and Princess Rebecca. A final vehicle discharged a small number of personal attendants, including a nurse for Princess Elizabeth and a tutor for James and Tariq.

Moments later a second motorcade, smaller but with an even more intense security escort, arrived. Princess Christiana, the Imperial Regent, exited her limousine along with her long-time special assistant, Janet Latsone.

As soon as the regent was aboard the plane, the doors were closed and the plane began to taxi to the runway. Within a few minutes the flight, officially designated Excalbia Two due to the presence of the regent, was on its way for its short flight to a small, regional airport high in the Borodea Mountains.

* * *

Meanwhile, back in the capital a session of the Senate Committee on Governmental Reform was just beginning in a small meeting room within the Imperial Senate building. Reform Party Senator Frank Moring had just gaveled the hearing open when Amanda Payne, a young Liberal backbencher frequently used as a party spokesperson, tentatively cleared her throat.

“Mr. Chairman,” Amanda said softly.

“Yes?” Moring seemed momentarily surprised. He, too, cleared his throat. “The chair recognizes the Honourable Senator Payne.”

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.” Amanda looked down at her hands, as if willing them to hold still. “Mr. Chairman, I have recently learned from confidential sources that the Imperial Household is withholding accurate information on His Imperial Majesty’s true medical condition…”

“I’m sure, Senator,” Moring said in a blasé manner. “However, we have no subpoena authority over the IHA…”

“Yes, Mr. Chairman,” Amanda swallowed hard, knowing her next words could ruin her in the party, “however, I have also learned that these reports have been shared with the Imperial Chancellor, who has also concealed…”

“Senator,” Moring said, his eyes widening and voice rising, “are you asking me to subpoena documents from the leader of your own party?”

“Yes, sir, I am.”
22-03-2006, 09:10
The Excalbian Embassy in New Rome received a formal summons for Lady Christina Freedman, the Excalbian Ambassador, to appear at the Imperial Court of Christ Pantocrator at her earliest possible convenience for a personal, most urgent meeting with the Emperor on the topic of the health of his Excalbian counterpart, and "certain constitutional arrangements on which We seek Her Excellency's counsel".


On board Excalbia Two
Anna didn't seem to be in a very good mood for the flight, especially whenever Elizabeth was in the arms of the nurse instead of her own. Midway through the flight, when she felt she had some privacy to talk with Joseph, she checked that nobody was eavesdropping.

"What do you think is going through her mind, Joseph?" Anna asked him, obviously referring to Christiana and the regency. "I'm worried... I think she's personally ambitious. Before our dinner with her the other night I thought she was simply taking advantage of the situation to approve a few acts of the Senate which the Emperor wouldn't have approved, and that she had no personal ambition for the regency, or to succeed him, but now... and perhaps I'm reading too much into it but the Empress wasn't accorded her proper place in the motorcade. I know that precedence is an obsession in New Rome, so maybe I can't help but see things which weren't really intended... but the Empress should've arrived last, she's the wife of the sovereign. And Prince Peter arrived after us... to be followed by your aunt, at the end, as if she were the Emperor himself. Maybe it doesn't mean anything, but in Pantocratoria, something like that would only have been done as a deliberate slight to the respect owed to your mother, and to you. I don't know if she's going to give up without a fight, Joseph..."
The Resurgent Dream
23-03-2006, 03:50
Gwendolyn seemed comfortable enough on the flight. She had brought a book about skiing which she read during periods when there was no conversation. Most of her conversation was small talk about family, friends, the Excalbian Court, the Danaan Court, the Shieldcrest Court, politics, diplomacy, and things of that sort.

When she felt that she and Peter had some privacy, she slipped her hand into his. "I wasn't trying to say that I didn't want you to teach me, Peter. I just...assumed that this was something that men and women did separately. I asked Christiana instead because I thought that we ladies would be skiing separately from you gentlemen."
23-03-2006, 13:34
Miller House, Citadel Excalbia

The Imperial Chancellor chief of staff knocked on the door of her office. "Come in," Lady Jessica Tagaarth said, looking up from the pile of papers on her desk.

"My Lady," the man said, bowing slightly, "I thought you should see this immediately." The man walked over to the desk and handed an paper folded in a blue cover to the Chancellor.

Lady Jessica opened it and began to read. As she did, the colour drained from her wrinkled face and her usual smile was replaced with a sharp scowl. "This is insanity," she said. "Frank Moring must be insane." She tossed the subpoena on her desk.

Looking up at her chief of staff she said coolly, "Summon the Minister of Justice. And have him bring the Solicitor General." Lady Jessica paused. "And call Sir Albert and ask him to join us."

"Yes, my Lady."

New Rome, Pantocratoria

Immediately after receiving the summons Lady Christina directed her staff to make arrangements for her to call on the Emperor at once. A short time later, she arrived at the Imperial Court of Christ Pantocrator. In deference to Pantocratorian styles and the somber tone of the summons, she wore a simple black suit with a longish skirt and had her long, brownish-blonde hair styled up in a neat, professional style.

And so, Lady Christina, His Imperial Majesty's Ambassador to the Court of Christ Pantocrator, found herself standing patiently, holding a small portfolio to her side and waiting for an audience with Emperor Andreus.

Aboard Excalbia Two

Despite the casual chatter, Peter could feel the tension on the plane. Anna looked extremely uncomfortable and Joseph did not look much better. Aunt Christiana chatted with Aunt Elizabeth pleasantly enough, but their body language was all wrong; they were clearly being very guarded with each other.

The prince's stomach churned; he had always avoided tension and conflict and now regretted his decision to back his cousin so strongly. At one point, Peter excused himself and found the galley where he was just about to pour himself a stiff drink when James and Tariq burst in looking for sodas.

Peter returned to his seat, still wishing he was half sloshed. After a short time, he was alone with Gwendolyn. She slipped her hand into his. "I wasn't trying to say that I didn't want you to teach me, Peter. I just...assumed that this was something that men and women did separately. I asked Christiana instead because I thought that we ladies would be skiing separately from you gentlemen."

Peter smiled at his wife. Not for the first time he felt she was truly his rescuer. The tension – and the desire for drunken numbness - fled at the touch of her hand. "It's alright, my dearest; I didn't take offense. But we will all be skiing together. I hope that's OK. Nevertheless, it might be nice if you tried to spend some time with Aunt Christiana; I am afraid there are still some barriers up between her and the rest of the family."

* * *

Joseph could tell that Anna was worried. And uncomfortable. The truth was, he was worried as well. While conversation bubbled around him he kept quite, until a moment came when he found himself alone with his wife.

Before he could speak, Anna leaned towards him. "What do you think is going through her mind, Joseph?" Anna asked him, obviously referring to Christiana and the regency. "I'm worried... I think she's personally ambitious. Before our dinner with her the other night I thought she was simply taking advantage of the situation to approve a few acts of the Senate which the Emperor wouldn't have approved, and that she had no personal ambition for the regency, or to succeed him, but now... and perhaps I'm reading too much into it but the Empress wasn't accorded her proper place in the motorcade. I know that precedence is an obsession in New Rome, so maybe I can't help but see things which weren't really intended... but the Empress should've arrived last, she's the wife of the sovereign. And Prince Peter arrived after us... to be followed by your aunt, at the end, as if she were the Emperor himself. Maybe it doesn't mean anything, but in Pantocratoria, something like that would only have been done as a deliberate slight to the respect owed to your mother, and to you. I don't know if she's going to give up without a fight, Joseph..."

Joseph sighed and took Anna's hand. "Frankly, I wish I knew what Aunt Christiana was thinking right now. I, too, never believed she was after the Sword herself. But I do believe that some her advisors are pushing her to grasp it. And not just the Senate." Joseph shook his head. "I don't know if she planned the arrivals herself as some sort of statement or whether it was her advisors trying to send us a message." Joseph blinked. "I hope, certainly, that it is the latter."

He looked out the window for a moment, then turned back to Anna. "That's why this trip is so important. Without her counselors, especially Lady Jane and Baron Janis, I'm hoping that she'll be more herself." Joseph gave faint half-smile. "It's ironic that it was her… relationship with her assistant Janet that seemed to touch off her division from the family, and now I'm hoping that Janet, without the competing influence of her other advisors, might help bring her back to us."

A soft knock on the panel dividing the area where Anna and Joseph were sitting was followed by the appearance of a young Air Force steward. "Your Highnesses," the young woman said, "we will be landing in a few minutes."
The Resurgent Dream
23-03-2006, 22:05
Gwendolyn smiled a gentle smile, loving and adoring. She nodded just once. "It's fine with me. And I shall certainly make a point of doing so. I am rather fond of your aunt."

Gwendolyn sat still for another moment, thoughtful. She took a look around to make absolutely sure they had complete privacy before speaking again, softly. "Peter, you know that whatever you want to do in Excalbian politics, I'll support absolutely. But I don't understand why we've agreed to be partisans of Joseph and Anna on this issue. Couldn't you help bring the family closer together more effectively from a neutral position?"
24-03-2006, 18:20
Imperial Court of Christ Pantocrator, New Rome
The Emperor received Lady Freedman in the Sun King Room of the French Suite in the palace, wearing his outdoors clothes as he had just come in from a walk in the gardens. He was already standing when the Excalbian Ambassador was ushered into the chamber, and he courteously offered her a seat after greeting her. When she was seated, the Emperor sat down himself and began.

"I pray every day for the speedy recovery of my brother the Emperor." the Emperor opened, speaking perfect English. "I must say, Your Excellency, and I know that you are constrained somewhat in what you may say on the matter as a former Chancellor, but I have been underwhelmed with the way the Excalbian Government has exploited this tragedy. Rushing through those bills was one thing, but making Her Highness Princess Christiana Regent against all His Majesty's hitherto expressed wishes to the effect that the Crown Prince should succeed him, and should therefore be prepared to serve in that capacity... the cynicism has been staggering and most disheartening."

He allowed that to sink in for a moment before continuing.

"I hope you can appreciate from my opening remarks, that I intend this to be a very frank conversation, Madame Ambassador." the Emperor said. "I am very concerned about the flagrant cynicism and disregard with which the Excalbian Government has treated the institution of the monarchy, very concerned. It has even wider repercussions than they may intend, the way the will of the Emperor is being set aside as something which may be overruled lightly by the whims of a Senate set on advancing its own agenda at the expense of the very fabric of Excalbian government. Does the Excalbian Government appreciate the damage it has done to the monarchy through setting aside the heir apparent as the first choice for the regency without cause or explanation? It would be one thing if there were some cause by which Prince Joseph could be found unsuitable by the Senate, but because there is none, the matter wasn't even considered. Instead the Government simply went and nominated a Regent more to its liking... which sets a very dangerous precedent, I believe."

"I am no expert on the Excalbian Constitution, as you would be, Madame Ambassador, but I believe that it does not envision an Emperor subject entirely to the whims of the Senate... I believe it envisions the Emperor and Senate as each being a check on the power of the other." the Emperor concluded. "It creates a dangerous precedent for Excalbia if the Sword ceases to be a check on the power of the Government, just as it would if the situation were reversed, and I cannot help but feel, no matter the high personal regard I may have for Her Highness, that the Princess Regent was selected by the Government because she was perceived to be less a check on its agenda than the Crown Prince might have been. The precedent this sets... of setting aside the heir apparent, without stated reason, for the Senate's own choice, is a dangerous one not only for Excalbia, but for Pantocratoria as well. Excalbia is one of our closest allies, and the precedent of the Senate choosing regents which best suit its own agenda is one which may be brought up in the future by the Pantocratorian Parliament should I, or my successors, ever become incapacitated."
25-03-2006, 11:01
Imperial Court of Christ Pantocrator, New Rome

Lady Christina Freedman curtsied and bowed her head at the Emperor’s greeting. She took the offered seat with thanks and listened carefully as Andreus spoke. Her years as journalist and politician allowed her to keep a fixed polite, but neutral expression as the Emperor shared his frank thoughts.

Inside, however, Lady Christina felt her stomach tighten as squeeze as the Pantocratorian monarch spoke with a plainness that surprised her. When he finished, she sat for a moment nodding, giving herself time to frame her response.

“Your Majesty,” the ambassador said slowly and gravely, “we thank your for your prayers for His Imperial Majesty; I know that my countrymen join you in them. We all hope for our beloved Emperor’s recovery.”

“I also thank you, your Majesty,” she said in the same slow but natural-sounding cadence, “for your frank views. In respect of your frankness, please let me speak frankly and privately, as a former Chancellor and, I believe, friend of the Imperial Family, and not as an Ambassador.”

Lady Christina drew in a breath. “I believe there is a distinction here between His Imperial Majesty’s Government and the Senate. I do believe my successor, Lady Jessica, has tried to manage the situation with decorum, calm and respect. However, there are strong forces in the Senate, especially within her coalition, but also in parts of the opposition, who have grown frustrated during the years that my party and the Christian Union dominated the Senate and ruled in harmony with His Imperial Majesty.

“Unfortunately, in hindsight, I believe one of the repercussions of the broad agreement my government, and that of my immediate predecessors, shared with the Emperor and his father led the opposition to identify the Emperor with the Progressive Conservatives. And once they came to power in the current government, they saw His Imperial Majesty as an impediment to their power.

“Emperor David’s influence has long exceeded that of his father or grandmother. In fact, I would say that David IV is the most powerful and most beloved emperor since Daniel III or Mary I.” Lady Christina’s eyes seemed to glisten for a moment. “I suspect future historians will refer to him as David, the Great. And because of that, he continued exert an influence on the nation greater than their own, even after they formed the ruling coalition. Now that he is incapacitated, I fear they see this as their chance to rule with a free hand. And, I suspect, they see Prince Joseph, if he were to be Regent, as a further obstacle.

“And, while Lady Jessica has tried to maintain a moderate government – hence her decision to include the Christian Union in the coalition, some of her own backbenchers, I believe, have formed their own coalition with the firebrands in the ruling coalition and members of the opposition who also oppose the Sword’s recent policies. This has, unfortunately, greatly weakened her position as Chancellor.”

Lady Christina folded her hands in her lap. “As you noted, your Majesty, the Senate did bypass Prince Joseph as Regent without explanation; however, my sources tell me there is objection to the Crown Prince in the Senate.” The Ambassador tried to read the Emperor’s face, then took a breath. “This objection seems to come on two levels. Superficially, some Senators have questioned His Imperial Highness’ ability to serve as temporal head of the Church of Excalbia, due to his marriage to a Roman Catholic and his decision to baptize Princess Elizabeth in the Catholic Church, and his commitment to democracy. This objection, I believe is only for political cover and is somewhat cynical; after all, the Synod of Bishops itself has not objected to the Prince serving as head of the Excalbian Church.

“The true objection, I believe, is that those Senators who have felt frustrated at His Imperial Majesty’s power fear that Prince Joseph has the same qualities – knowledge, confidence and equanimity combined with humility and a love of his people – that made David IV the powerful force he has been.” Lady Christina drew in a sharp breath. “In short, they object to Prince Joseph because they fear he will be like his father.”

The ambassador’s head dropped. “I fear, your Majesty, that this is merely the first step to denying His Imperial Highness the Sword. I am sorry that I have no reassuring word, your Majesty.”

Miller House, Citadel Excalbia

The Chancellor’s chief of staff knocked on the door. “Come in,” a voice came from inside the office. The chief of staff opened the door and bowed. “The Honourable Minister of Justice, Sir Quentin, His Imperial Majesty’s Solicitor General, and Sir Albert, the Honourable Minister of State,” he announced.

“Come in,” the Chancellor repeated from behind her desk.

Jamie Yoth, the Justice Minister, frowned. He had come to expect meetings in the Chancellor’s office to include tea and cookies. It was part of Lady Jessica’s grandmotherly charm, he knew, but he had found it surprisingly effective in disarming him and the other younger ministers and getting them to agree with Chancellor. The fact that she was now receiving from behind her desk, created a sense of urgency and unease. For some reason, he suddenly felt like a naughty schoolboy going to see the school’s Head Mistress.

The ministers and the Solicitor General took their seats across the desk from Lady Jessica. Without looking at them, she picked up a document with a blue backing and tossed it at Yoth. “What do you know about this, Jamie?”

Yoth picked up the subpoena and read it with a frown. “I’ve never seen this before, my Lady,” he said, passing it to Sir Quentin Dahlbeck, the Solicitor General.

Lady Jessica noted his precise wording, but didn’t react to it. She turned to Sir Quentin. “Can we challenge this, Sir Quentin?”

The Solicitor General passed the document to Sir Albert with his left hand as he stroked his chin with his right. “Certainly we could, my Lady.” The wiry, middle aged man shifted in his seat. “I dare say we could certainly delay it for months. But,” he said with a frown, “we cannot stop it; there is too much precedent to say that the Senate has a right to information from the Government.”

“But surely, this qualifies as a state secret,” Sir Albert said, tossing aside the legal document.

“Indubitably, Sir Albert.” The Empire’s attorney folded his hands. “However, the Senate does have a well-established right to know state secrets. We can, naturally, force them into a closed session with just the leadership of the committee to receive the information, but we cannot keep it from them.”

“And,” Yoth said, looking a little pale, “if we challenge it in the courts, we risk making it even more public and causing more of a stir.” Yoth leaned forward. “What is in this medical report anyway?”

The Chancellor’s eyes narrowed. “His Imperial Majesty is incapacitated. Physically, he should have recovered by now, but he remains in a coma. And our doctors are at a loss.”

“There are other, more advanced civilizations,” Sir Albert began.

The Chancellor shook her head. “We have quietly brought in ever piece of advanced equipment we can get our hands on and ever expert we thought we could trust. All to no avail. The physicians fear there may now be an underlying disability.”

Sir Albert bit his lip. Yoth leaned back, his eyes darting back and forth.

Aboard Excalbia Two

Peter nodded. “Perhaps, Gwendolyn, my love,” he agreed. “But the truth is that I don’t think Aunt Christiana wants this,” he gestured around. He gave a crocked smile. “In fact I used to believe she was the only one in the Family less suited than I am to rule. And less interested.”

Peter shrugged, but kept his smile. “She was a like a second mother to me and I dearly love her, but it always seemed to me that she was too interested in enjoying herself and living by her own rules to conform to the expectations of a monarch. At least the expectations of an Excalbian monarch.”

The young prince looked out the window as the plane touched down. “No, this isn’t who she really is; someone or something is influencing her. And the sooner we get her out of this position, the happier we’ll be.” He turned and gave his wife a warm smile. “I’m glad I have you here with me, Gwendolyn.”

The plane touched down on the single runway of a community airport in wide, high valley. Beyond the airport the church towers and high gabled roofs of medieval town sat nestled in the shadow of high peaks.

After the plane came to a stop, the doors opened and a set of stairs were moved quickly into place. A troop of Imperial Guards, clad in blue woolen great coats and fur caps, stood at attention, presenting their arms. A short convoy of three large, black SUVs and a small number of police cars stood waiting.

After deplaning, the Imperial party filed into the vehicles without ceremony. Prince Peter, Grand Duchess Gwendolyn, Prince Joseph, Princess Anna, little Princess Elizabeth and Princess Rebecca were shown taken to the lead car, which flew the Imperial standard and the flag of Langeais. Princess Christiana, Empress Elizabeth, Prince James and Lord Tariq were shown to the second vehicle, flying the Excalbian flag and the Imperial standard. The staff members and retainers filled into the last SUV, which lacked any flags and which placed behind a police car following the Regent’s vehicle.

In short order the little motorcade roared out of the airport and onto a highway leading away from town. The highway climbed up, crossing a deep valley over a bridge, then plunged through a tunnel and out to another bridge. Soon, it narrowed to a two lane road and continued its ascent through a number of switchbacks.

Finally, they turned off the road and climbed a little further toward a ledge dominated by the partially ruined remains of an ancient fortress. A little further back from the fortress, in the middle of a wide, snow covered field, stood what appeared to be a late 18th or early 19th century manor house.

As they motorcade slowed to a stop, the Imperial Guards exited from several of the lead police cars and formed up alongside the path to the front door. Opposite from the Guards stood the assembled servants. As the Imperial party exited their vehicles, several young girls – certainly the daughters of the servants and staff – approached and, with appropriate bows, presented the princess and the Empress bouquets of flowers. One girl handed Anna a second small bouquet tied to a small white teddy bear that was clearly intended for Elizabeth.

“Welcome, your Majesty,” the senior steward said to the Empress with a deep bow. Turning towards Christiana and the others he bowed again. “Your Highnesses. It a pleasure to welcome you to your estate of High Ridge.”

“Thank you, Gregory,” the Empress said with a light smile.

The steward gestured to the door. “If it pleases your Majesty and your Highness, we have prepared a light refreshment for you when you are ready.”

“Thank you,” the Empress said. “We will all settle in,” she turned to her family, “then we will gather in the dinning room.”
27-03-2006, 17:17
Imperial Court of Christ Pantocrator, New Rome

"Thank you for your forthrightness, Madame Ambassador." the Emperor said after a long pause. "You understand that such an upheaval in Excalbia's monarchy would have destabilising consequences for Pantocratoria's own institutions, and as such, is something which we would strongly discourage the Senate from pursuing, of course. I hope that the Chancellor is under no illusions about our position on the matter. Emperor David IV must be allowed to reign until he dies or abdicates, and he must be succeeded by his nominated heir unless some legitimate defect can be found in that heir, in keeping with Excalbia's long-practised tradition. I would appreciate it if you could convey to the Chancellor and to the Senate Pantocratoria's reservations with the Senate's apparent course. I would also appreciate it if you could convey how gravely important it is to the future of our two countries that they cease following their present course."

High Ridge, Excalbia

Anna positively lit up when she was presented with the little teddy bear for Elizabeth by the girl, her bad mood seemingly instantly dispelled by the present. She wasn't entirely sure herself why it cheered her up so much, but she beamed back at the girl and kept smiling for some time afterwards. She took Joseph's arm and gushed to him about how sweet the little bear was. In truth Princess Elizabeth was a little young to appreciate toys, but that didn't take anything away from the gift in Anna's eyes.

She remained in a good mood throughout the steward's greeting, and while she and Joseph settled into their room with Elizabeth, who was settled into her bed under the supervision of her nanny. Anna set the teddy bear in the bed beside the already very sleepy baby, and kissed Elizabeth on the forehead. It wasn't until she and Joseph left the room to go down to the dining room that the smile began to fade again.

"The bear was so sweet..." she said for what had to be the twentieth time since it had been presented, sighing as if trying to even further prolong the moment.
27-03-2006, 21:14
Imperial Court of Christ Pantocrator, New Rome

Lady Christina nodded. “I believe I understand your concerns, your Majesty, and the potential impact this could have on both of our countries. I will convey what you have said to the Chancellor; I trust she will be sympathetic to them and will do what she can to restrain the Senate.”

The Ambassador bowed slightly. “If that is all, your Majesty, I will return to my Embassy and contact Lady Jessica.”

Miller House, Citadel Excalbia

Later in the day, Lady Jessica Tagaarth was sitting at her desk reviewing strategy memos for the Governmental Reform Committee’s hearings on the Emperor’s health. She felt weary beyond even her advanced years. Not for the first time she regretted letting the Emperor talk her into accepting the chancellorship.

The phone on her desk rang and she picked it up. “Yes?”

“My Lady,” said the chancellor’s secretary, “I have the State Operations Centre on the line; they have Lady Christina Freedman and Sir Albert standing by for an urgent conference call with you.”

Lady Jessica frowned. “Put them on.”

After a click a voice said, “Lady Chancellor?”


“Thank you, my Lady. This is Operations dropping out.”

There was another click.

“Lady Jessica? Sir Albert? This is Lady Christina. I have just come from a meeting with Emperor Andreus. He is rather concerned about the Senate’s decision to name Princess Christiana Regent. He is very worried about the direction this might go and the impact it might have on Pantocratoria and the Alliance…”

Lady Jessica rubbed her forehead with her left hand. If the Pantocratorian Emperor was concerned about what had happened so far, he’d be downright livid if he knew what the Senate was doing. She had a bad feeling that things were coming to a head.

The Imperial Senate, Citadel Excalbia

Senator Frank Moring’s office was large, as befitting a powerful committee chairman, but was decorated in Spartan manner true to the Reform Party’s ideology. Few of the trappings of power found their way into the office, which instead was decorated with a few simple landscapes and family photos.

Moring sat with a small number of key committee members, all of whom looked anxiously towards the chairman.

“I take it, Senator, that you have some news?” Freedom Party Senator Jon Lundgren leaned forward, tapping his pen on the arm of his chair.

“Well, Jon, actually it is Senator Payne that has the information.” Moring smiled and nodded towards the young Liberal senator.

“Yes,” Amanda said somewhat haltingly. Her role in all this still made her a little nervous. “Jamie Yoth has told me that the Chancellor has decided not to fight the subpoena. He expects the documents to be sent over in a day or so.”

Senator Lundgren smiled broadly. “Excellent.”

Moring shook his head. “Try not to be gleeful, Jon, I do this because I think it is necessary, not because I relish it.”

Amanda bit her lip.

Sweyn Castle, Citadel Excalbia

Lord Jacob Bergmanis looked gravely at the faces around the table. “Are you certain, Lady Theresa?”

The Imperial Exchequer nodded. She folded her long elegant hands on the table and looked out beneath a head of gently graying hair. “Yes, Lord Jacob; Sir Quentin told me himself.”

“I can’t believe Lady Jessica would capitulate so easily,” a stocky mustachioed man in a slightly archaic pinstriped suit said with a tone of frustration.

“She didn’t capitulate,” Lady Theresa Kent said sharply, turning to the Imperial Steward. “She had no choice, Lord Alfred. Either submit quietly and fight it through her allies on the committee or fight it publicly in the courts. Personally,” she said with a whiff of superiority, “I think she made the right choice. The mistake was leaving the report with her in the first place.”

Lord Alfred Landis, the Imperial Steward, turned sharply toward Lord Jacob.

“That may be,” he said evenly, “but the problem is what to do next.”

“What do you suggest, Lord Jacob?” MAJGEN Maris Jansons, a tall man in the blue uniform of the Imperial Guard, asked softly.

“I fear,” Lord Jacob said, “that the time is coming when we may have to act.”

“On what basis?” Lord Alfred asked.

“Our loyalty is to the Sword, not to the Senate.”

“But Princess Christiana is the Regent…”

“But David IV remains the Emperor,” Lord Jacob stood, “and our loyalty is to him. We must preserve his rule and Prince Joseph’s succession. No matter what.”

MAJGEN Jansons, the Captain of the Imperial Guard, nodded gravely. “I agree, my Lord.”

Kuldiga Palace, Kuldiga

Lord Johannes Corman, the Imperial Chamberlain sat silent beside the Emperor’s bed. The reports from the Citadel were not promising. And the rumours coming from the Castle – rumours of secret meetings taking place without his official knowledge – were just as troubling.

He looked over at the troubled-looking face of the Emperor, which seemed to mirror his own anxiety. “I wish you would come back to us, my friend,” the Chamberlain laid a hand on the Emperor’s arm. For just a moment, Lord Johannes thought he saw the Emperor’s eyes flutter.

High Ridge Estate, Excalbia

Joseph smiled to see Anna’s gloomy mood dissipate. He joined her in smiling at the girl who presented the little bear. “Thank you, miss,” he said. The girl blushed and curtsied in reply.

The prince walked with Anna to their rooms, happy to have her arm in his.

After getting settled, the young couple walked down to the dinning room. “The bear is so sweet…” Anna said again.

“It is,” Joseph said, “they were very sweet to think of Elizabeth.” Joseph paused for just a moment. “It makes me realize just how much the people genuinely care for the Imperial Family.” He turned to Anna. “We have to fix this… problem… so that we can be unified and be the Family the people need and want us to be.”

Soon after the Joseph and Anna arrived in the dinning room, they were joined by Peter and Gwendolyn, who were followed by Rebecca and the Empress.

Empress Elizabeth greeted each member of her family. “It is certainly lovely to have you all here.”

Just then, Princess Christiana arrived. She greeted the Empress with a kiss on the cheek and smiled to others. “Yes, it is nice to all be together. Thank you,” she turned to Peter and Gwendolyn, “for the idea. I think this will be a pleasant holiday.”
The Resurgent Dream
27-03-2006, 22:48
High Ridge Estate, Excalbia

Grand Duchess Gwendolyn disembarked from the airplane with Peter, rode to the house, and followed him to the dining room, feeling herself so swept up in the movement that she wasn't getting a moment to speak with her husband, although she was resolved to support his course of action. She did smile briefly at her flowers.

Gwendolyn curtsied to Empress Elizabeth as she entered. "It is an honor to be here, Your Majesty."

The Resurgent Dream

"This one's from Reverend Bach in MacAlister, Your Grace..." Sabine Seifert said tentatively.

"I don't want to see another just now." answered Bishop Pablo Delfs, the Chief Bishop of the Church of Excalbia in the Resurgent Dream. The Church of Excalbia had been largely responsible for reintroducing Christianity to the Resurgent Dream after five hundred years of Danaanist religious domination, at least according to the Discontinuity School of Danaan historical thought, the school to which Delfs subscribed. Still, it was never the largest Christian Church in the Resurgent Dream and even many influenced by the Baptist theology of the Excalbians had preferred to establish independent Baptist Churches. In the last week, Delfs had received missives from seven Congregations stating that the majority of the members now wished to form an independent Baptist church and asking if they could buy the church building for that purpose. Other parishes had reported that church attendance was at an all time low and that, while many members had quite church altogether, many others had moved to other Protestant churches. All in the last week and all without any convincing explanations, although plenty of excuses had been thrown about.
The Resurgent Dream
02-04-2006, 09:27

Prime Minister Adair Scott stepped out from his office in the Hall of Government to the reception area. Like everything in the Marble Ciy, even the relatively small room had a certain severe grandeur to it, the austere dignity of white marble. Nonetheless, the desk behind which Macha Barde, the woman who bore the rather grandiose title of Personal Administrative Assistant to the Prime Minister of the Resurgent Dream, was quite quotidian. She was an older woman, thin and wrinkled with frazzled grey hair. "Can I help you, Prime Minister?"

"I want a meeting with the Excalbian Ambassador as soon as you can arrange it." Scott replied.

"You know, sir, you do have an intercom." Barde pointed out, as she had many times before.

"I wanted to stretch my legs." he said, walking back in.

"Whatever you say, sir." she answered, starting to dial the Excalbian Embassy.
04-04-2006, 16:25
High Ridge Estate, Excalbia

That seems hopelessly optimistic. Anna thought to herself in response to Christiana's remark. She returned the Empress' greetings warmly, and sat down next to Joseph. Anna's eyes fell on Rebecca and she smiled at her sister-in-law, whose feelings on current events had been neglectfully ignored, including by Anna. She felt a little guilty, in fact, for overlooking Rebecca, who was certainly old enough to be aware of the political ramifications of her family's personal tragedy, not to mention to be impacted by them.

"How are you holding up, Rebecca?" she asked gently, her smile turning sympathetic.
06-04-2006, 21:28
Tarana, the Resurgent Dream

Ms. Barde’s call to the Embassy had quickly been routed to the ambassador’s secretary. Gail Burke, though relatively new to Tarana, was a veteran executive secretary and she recognized the importance of responding promptly to the prime minister’s request for a meeting. She quickly cleared space in the ambassador’s calendar and made the appointment for early that afternoon.

Not long afterwards Sir Adam Tauins, the long-serving ambassador of the Holy Empire of Excalbia to the Danaan High Kingdom of the Resurgent Dream, stood in the Hall of Government waiting to see the Prime Minister. Sir Adam had come to Tarana at the beginning of its reemergence on the world stage and the beginning of its adaptation to the modern world. He smiled to himself to remember that when he arrived the fledgling embassy had possessed some of the only automobiles in the capital.

Now, of course, the High Kingdom was thoroughly modern. Or at least as modern as any nation with an active monarchy and aristocracy cared to be. He felt a great affinity for the High Kingdom and its people. They reminded him a bit of Excalbians. Though, in truth, he did miss the sidhe and their fellow extraordinary beings. And he missed his first science attaché, Dr. Amber Kule.

He shook his head slightly. He did not like this feeling of melancholy. However, with his appointment finally coming to an end, he supposed he it was not entirely surprising to be confronted with a raft of bittersweet memories.

High Ridge Estate, Excalbia

Empress Elizabeth smiled at Grand Duchess Gwendolyn, then took the young woman’s hand in hers. “No, my dear, it’s my pleasure to have you here. Having you with me has made this… ordeal so much easier.” The Empress’s smile faded a bit. She looked around the room, her bright eyes looking a little darker and her red hair a little duller than they had a few months ago. “All of you. Having you with me has… helped so much.”

Blinking back a tear, the Empress, still holding Gwendolyn’s hand, smiled again. “Now, let’s all of us relax and enjoy our time together.”

She leaned towards Gwendolyn and whispered, “And, my dear, it would please me greatly if you would call me Elizabeth or Aunt Elizabeth.”

After she finished speaking with Gwendolyn, she walked over and sat next to Joseph and Anna.

Rebecca turned towards Anna. Her sister-in-law’s sympathetic smile and gentle voice touched her and helped her feel a little bit better. Up to that moment, the young princess had been feeling a little left out; a young woman old enough to understand the familial and political implications of her father’s illness, but still young enough to be treated as a child by the rest of the family.

The young woman shrugged. “It’s been difficult. Especially being away from home – at school in the Resurgent Dream – while all this is going on.” Rebecca looked at her mother, then lowered her voice and leaned towards Anna. “The worst is that I know how hard this is for Mother, but she won’t let it show; she won’t let me help her. I guess she thinks she’s protecting me…”
The Resurgent Dream
07-04-2006, 18:41
Tarana, The Resurgent Dream

The Hall of Government took up one ninth of the Marble City, being nearly as large as the Royal Palace. Nonetheless, it was hardly a difficult building to find one's way around. Sir Adam was promptly shown to the Prime Minister's office by a staffer, a blonde woman who looked to be in her late twenties. He had a few moments to wait in the reception room before being shown in to the office itself but that was nothing unusual. Practically everyone had at least a few minutes to wait in the reception room with the exception of visiting Heads of State and/or Government.

Soon enough, Sir Adam saw Jabin Liberman and Todos Zahavy, two men an insider like Sir Adam doubtless recognized as important advisors to Prime Minister Scott, step out of the office and Mrs./ Barde let Sir Adam know he was free to enter.

When Sir Adam did step inside, he found Scott seated, not behind his desk, but in one of the four comfortable and rather genteel, lounge chairs in the center of the office. "Sir Adam, please, have a seat..."

High Ridge Estate, Excalbia

Gwendolyn squeezed Empress Elizabeth's hand gently, smiling softly at her aunt. "Of course, Aunt Elizabeth. I..."

Gwendolyn didn't finish that sentence. She wasn't really sure what to say so she just smiled again and let Elizabeth hold her hand. After a few seconds, her expression lightened. "I just hope you'll take it easy on a beginner like myself, Elizabeth. This is my first time here."

After Elizabeth returned to her seat, Gwendolyn sat back down next to her husband. She rested her hand briefly on his, her attention moving around the table, taking note of all the gathered family.
11-04-2006, 21:59
Tarana, The Resurgent Dream

Sir Adam waited patiently in the reception room. He nodded politely to Jabin Liberman and Todos Zahavy. He was preparing to stop the men and engage them in pleasantries until Mrs. Barde said the Prime Minister was waiting for him. With a polite nod Mrs. Barde, the ambassador entered the PM’s office.

He was somewhat relieved to see Prime Minister Scott sitting comfortably in a lounger rather than behind his desk. In his mind that signaled to the ambassador that the meeting was to pleasant rather than overly formal.

“Good day, your Excellency,” he said with a bow. As he crossed the room to the offered seat, Sir Adam added, “It is a pleasure to see you, your Excellency.”

The ambassador took the seat. “Thank you,” he added before dropping into a comfortable but expectant silence waiting for the PM to speak.

High Ridge Estate, Excalbia

“Don’t worry,” Elizabeth assured her niece, “you’ll do fine.” She leaned again leaned close to Gwendolyn. “I was never much of skier until I married David; he was so gentle teaching me. I promise we’ll be as gentle with you, dear.”

After everyone had taken a moment to talk, the Empress stood. “I think it would be appropriate to offer a prayer before we share this refreshment.” She paused to let everyone bow their heads, then she offered a blessing for the food and family gathered around the table. Then she prayed for the recovery of her husband. With her voice quaking, she concluded the prayer and sat.

The meal consisted of a selection of winter vegetables, cold meats, cheese, bread, wine and juice.

Once everyone seemed to have eaten their fill, Elizabeth turned to Christiana. “Shall we?”

The Regent nodded to the Empress. “Yes.”

Elizabeth smiled around the table. “Well, let’s get ready for our first run; we should have enough sun for at least a little skiing…”

Kuldiga Palace, Kuldiga

Lord Johannes waited nervously outside the Emperor’s chamber as the doctors examined him. After several anxious minutes, one of the doctor’s emerged from the room, stripping off his latex gloves.

“Doctor?” Lord Johannes asked, stepping towards the physician.

“Yes, my Lord?”

“How is His Majesty?”

The doctor shrugged. “There was some movement on the EEG and, unfortunately, some irregularities in His Majesty’s breathing. However, there is no clear sign that he is regaining consciousness.”

“Should we notify Her Majesty?”

The doctor shook his head. “His Majesty’s breathing has regularized; I see no need to alarm the Empress. Or raise false hopes.” The doctor glanced back towards the room. “Let’s monitor his condition for a while and see where this goes.”

Lord Johannes nodded. “Very well, Doctor.”

Baronial Estate, Barony of Tervates

Thomas Baker, the Baron of Tervates’ advisor and administrator, sat in the baron’s drawing room presiding over the meeting in the baron’s absence. In recent years the baron had been increasingly withdrawn from public life. As a result, rumours that he had been stricken with a grave illness had abounded. The truth was far less dramatic; the baron had simply grown bored with politics, especially the seemingly endless Quixotian struggle to revive the Council of Lords that he had once shared with his old friend Baron Perkonis. The baron had no heart to continue the struggle, yet could not turn his back on his friend, so Thomas Baker had become his public voice and his delegate within the clique that was working to restore the council.

Baker turned to Baron Perkonis. “Well, Jekob, we understand you have news…”

Perkonis nodded gravely. “The Regent has gone skiing with the Empress and the Imperial Family…”

A rotund figure with a reddish-grey beard chuckled. “That is news! The Regent is skiing over the holidays with her family!”

“Prince Joseph, in proposing this outing, specifically excluded my daughter, the Regent’s chief of staff,” the baron said ignoring the other man’s sarcastic tone.

“You think the prince is trying to sway the Regent in some way?” Baron Harold Edole asked, leaning heavily on the table.

“Yes. And specifically I think they are trying to sway her into setting aside in favour of Prince Joseph. Who would doubtlessly be far more aggressive in opposing our efforts than his aunt.”

There were several grave nods around the table. “What does Baron Janis think?” Edole asked.

Perkonis shook his head. “I think his personal… friendship with the princess colours his judgment. He doesn’t think she can be swayed, but I believe he is overestimating his influence on Princess Christiana.”

“Especially considering he a closeted homosexual and she is a lesbian,” the bearded figure said with a laugh. Several pairs of eyes looked sharply at the man, who laughed and continued. “However, we may not need the Regent.”

“What do you mean, Lord James?”

Lord James Reynolds smiled. “You have been thinking too narrowly of what constitutes the Imperial Family and possible heirs. The line of David III is played out – he was a weakling and a coward, his son is an over-compensating would-be autocrat and his grandson, the so-called crown prince, is a his wife’s lap dog, the puppet of papists. And let’s not forget the lesbian regent, her Turkish ward and drunkard nephew married to the temperance queen.” A smattering of chuckles drifted over the table.

“But, there is an alternative to this line,” Lord James continued. “Princess Michelle was as worthy a successor to Mary II as her brother David III. While she has made it plain she has no interest in the succession and, frankly, is now too frail to be considered, Prince Jeremiah and Princess Hope are certainly viable candidates. In fact, Prince Jeremiah has recently made some interesting comments about his cousins and the direction they have taken the Sword. It seems he feels David IV has turned his back on the constitutional model followed by his modern predecessors and has been trying to increase the Sword’s power at the expense of democracy. I think,” James smiled broadly, “an Emperor Jeremiah would be far more willing to accept the proper role of a constitutional monarch and let democracy, in both the form of the Senate and the Council, work its will.”
01-05-2006, 11:39
(OOC: To move things along a bit...)

Tarana, Danaan High Kingdom of the Resurgent Dream

Sir Adam Taurins sat with an expectant silence, waiting for the Prime Minister to speak.

High Ridge Estate, Excalbia

After changing into her skiing attire, Empress Elizabeth waited at the garden entrance to the chalet. Once everyone arrived at the doors, Elizabeth let them out – down the portico stairs, through the snow-covered garden to the slope. A short, beginners’ course ran to the left to another level area that was wooded in the distance. A somewhat harrowing alpine course – equipped with a chairlift returning to the summit – went down to the far right. The central course had a straight path down the middle, but was designed with bumps and small hills down either side.

The Empress, Princess Christiana and, of course, Peter all stayed with Gwendolyn to help get her started. After a short while, however, Peter had noticed that James and Tariq were skiing together, as were Joseph and Anna and that Rebecca was alone. With word to his wife and kiss, Peter excused himself and went to spend some time with his cousin.

The Imperial family skied until the skies began to darken. Then, Elizabeth had suggested they return to the chalet and prepare for dinner.

After half an hour, Christiana was changed and ready and waiting in library at the front of the chalet. Joseph, coming down a little early while Anna tended to Elizabeth, walked into the library. He stopped when he spotted his aunt.

“Oh, I didn’t know you were in here, Aunt Christiana; I didn’t intend to disturb you,” the young prince stood still for a moment waiver between the need to discuss the regency with his aunt and his own feelings of discomfort.

Christiana could see Joseph’s conflicted feelings. She smiled and gestured to a chair. “Joseph,” she said, “you aren’t disturbing me; please have a seat.”

Joseph smiled weakly and nodded, taking the chair across from his aunt. “It was a nice afternoon, wouldn’t you agree, Aunt Christiana,” he ventured.

“Yes, yes it was,” she said feeling self-conscious.

After an awkward silence, she leaned forward. “Joseph, I have made a decision,” she said sounding surprised at her own words. “But first, I have to ask you something.”

“Anything, Aunt Christiana,” Joseph said pleasantly, despite the anxiety in his stomach.

“Why did it suddenly become so important to you to be regent? There was a time that you seemed little interested in inheriting the Sword, much less serving as regent. Is it Anna? Does she desire to see you as Emperor?” Christiana released a breath she had not even realized she had been holding. She loved her niece-by-marriage, but thoughts of Pantocratorian-style court intrigue had clouded her thoughts the last several days.

Joseph shook his head. He could have taken offense at his aunt’s question, but he could see sincerity in her face. “No, this has nothing to do with Anna. If anything, it is Elizabeth.”


Joseph nodded. “I was telling her, as fathers might tell an infant, that the kingdom would one day be hers, when I suddenly realized that it might be true…”

Christiana nodded. Before she could speak, however, Rebecca entered the library and the Regent quickly changed the subject.

Later, when everyone was ready, dinner was served. The Empress and the Regent sat at opposite ends of the table. Joseph and Anna sat to the Empress’ right and Peter and Gwendolyn sat to her left. Rebecca sat to Christiana’s right, with Tariq and James to the left.

When the wine had been poured, Elizabeth stood, and everyone else followed suit. She bowed her head and prayed a blessing on the food and made intercession for her husband’s recovery. Then, lifting her glass, she said, “To family. And to David; God bless him.”

As everyone started to sit, Christiana tapped her glass with a small fork. “If I could say something,” she began softly. “I have decided,” she swallowed hard, “to step down as regent in favour of Joseph.” She drew in a breath. “I have already had Janet prepare the decree and notify the Imperial Household…”

Citadel Excalbia

Rumours of Princess Christiana stepping down as Regent in favour of the Crown Prince swept through the capital. For members of the Senate’s Committee on Governmental Reform the news was troubling. With hearings set for the morning on the Emperor’s health and the Imperial Household Agency’s efforts to conceal his true condition and with those hearings set – at least by implication – to consider the possibility of removing the Emperor due to incapacity, Senator Frank Moring and his colleagues felt the move was a preemptive effort to ensure Prince Joseph’s succession. And to limit the Senate’s freedom to fully consider its alternatives.

In the Imperial Palace, the Regent’s Chief of Staff was enraged. Lady Jane Perkone had been too patient, too careful to let Christiana’s fickle emotions ruin the plans that had been made. She called her father, Baron Jekob Perkonis, in Tervates and he reassured her that he had anticipated this and that they would proceed as planned. Perhaps, this unexpected event could even be played to their advantage.

Barony of Tervates

Baron Janis Tagaarth knew that Perkonis, Edole, Skrastins and Tervates’ lackey Baker had met with Lord James earlier in the evening. That thought alone was troubling enough. But to have Baron John, who had been at the meeting, call him and invite him for drinks at an out-of-the-pub on the edge of town had been worse. Baron John, he knew, was far less supportive of Perkonis’ endeavour than the older baron believed, but… the man was no friend of Janis’. In fact, Baron John had made it plain he did not like Janis’ “sort of people”.

So, Janis sat in a corner of the pub anxiously awaiting Baron John.

When the slightly older baron arrived, he sat heavily across from Janis, murmured a greeting and ordered a pint of stout. After taking a sip, he finally spoke. “Baron Janis, I… I thought you should know,” John paused and took another sip. “Perkonis and the others are saying the Senate will remove the Emperor. And they plan to summon the Council to name Prince Jeremiah his successor, bypassing your,” John made an ugly chuckling sound, “girlfriend, Princess Christiana.”

Baron Janis starred wide-eyed at John. It was a lot to absorb in a moment. “I…”

“Now,” John continued, “I’m no friend of the Imperial Family nor the Government. I have no problems restoring the Council to balance the Government in the Citadel, but I don’t take kindly to cabals and plots. Nor to stabbing men,” he made another ugly chuckle, “in the back. Even men such as yourself. I don’t know if there is anything that you can do about it. But I thought you deserved to know.”
The Resurgent Dream
01-05-2006, 21:27
Tarana, the Resurgent Dream

Prime Minister Scott had a seat himself. His cordial smile faded slowly into his usual poker faith. It was something Scott had grown famous for in Parliament. Until he announced his thoughts, very few people, even in his own party, were able to guess them. His expression was always unscrutable. It set him apart from Karamanlis, his rather expressive predecessor, although it was hard to say if it was for better or for worse. "Sir Adam, here in the Resurgent Dream we are all greatly worried for the health of His Majesty, the Emperor. Unfortunately, we cannot remain unaware of certain problems arising from his condition, political problems regarding the regency. While the Resurgent Dream never comments on the constitutional, democratic struggles within allied states, there is some legitimate concern that some parties might be involved in, if not extra-constitutional, then at lest supra-constitutional conflicts, if Your Excellency follows my meaning?"

High Ridge Estate, Excalbia

Gwendolyn was rather exhausted from having spent the entire day skiing with Christiana and Elizabeth. After dinner that night she politely retired and collapsed into her bed before she could even be undressed. She was asleep in seconds.
02-05-2006, 04:52
Imperial Court of Christ Pantocrator, New Rome

The Emperor was taking a stroll in the outer gardens, the ones at the very edge of the palace grounds, some three hours walk from the palace buildings themselves, when he heard the news. He was being followed about by the usual train of courtiers, old friends whose company he enjoyed and young hopefuls seeking advancement, along with the accompanying guards and servants. A purple umbrella was being held over his head by a strapping young fellow, still new to the job and finding it difficult to predict the Emperor's movements, such that whenever the Emperor turned, slowed down or sped up slightly, he found himself out from underneath the umbrella for a moment. If His Majesty noticed, he didn't say anything, and neither did the accompanying nobles, but the man holding the umbrella certainly noticed, and had worked himself up into such a panic that he was by now sweating profusely. Being surrounded by sweating fit young men when he was still feeling fine was beginning to make the Emperor feel that he was in rather better shape than in fact he was these days, and he had just started boasting of his constitution to his Principal Private Secretary for Court Affairs when the messenger arrived from the palace in a golf-buggy-like vehicle with the news.

"Your Majesty," he began, bowing severely and almost melodramatically as he approached the Emperor and his train of splendidly dressed and appointed hangers-on. "Word has just been received from your embassy in Citadel Excalbia. Her Imperial Highness the Regent has ordered that a decree be prepared resigning her office of Regent in favour of His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince."

The Emperor turned to his courtiers, his eyes searching their faces for the smiles or even smug expressions which he would've worn himself had he been the sort of man for smiles or smug expressions. Satisfied at finding a few, he turned back to the messenger.

"I shall return to the palace at once." the Emperor advised. He glanced to his PPS. "Get Madame de Langeais on the telephone, I'll speak with her in the Sun King Room."

"Yes, Your Majesty." nodded the Chevalier.

"Fetch His Majesty's buggy!" called a particularly loud servant as the group burst into sudden activity.
02-05-2006, 08:41
High Ridge Estate, Excalbia

Anna was also tired from skiing, although she hadn't done nearly as much of it as Gwendolyn did. She had only changed her mind about doing any skiing at all, in fact, because she thought Joseph looked so lonely on the slopes as she watched him from the front windows of the residence while she played with Elizabeth. She left Elizabeth with a nanny for the afternoon and joined Joseph on the slopes.

At dinner, at first, Anna barely concealed her jubilation at the news that her husband was to take Christiana's place as regent. Her enthusiasm was only curbed by the presence of the Empress, so obviously distraught and distressed as she was, sitting there like a ghost of a possible future to which Anna was now one step closer. The thought was a chilling one, and the fact that it suddenly came to her now that Joseph had obtained the object of her desires, the regency, was enough to quickly wash away her barely concealed jubilation and replace it with stormy mixed emotions.

She allowed herself an appropriate, subdued smile, and put her hand on Joseph's arm. She didn't notice, since she didn't look, but her hand was trembling quite perceivably. She found she had lost her appetite.
02-05-2006, 20:12
Tarana, the Resurgent Dream

Sir Adam returned the prime minister’s inscrutable expression with his own best expression of diplomatic neutrality. Despite the Scott’s lack of expressiveness, however, he could sense the prime minister’s reticence in delving too deeply into Excalbian domestic affairs.

“I certainly appreciate your Excellency’s concern for His Imperial Majesty’s health and for the… constitutional gray area in which we now find ourselves. It is unfortunate that there are no clearly defined for procedures for the situation in which we now find ourselves. If there is anything I can do to reassure your, your Excellency, and your government that the situation in the Citadel is under control...” Sir Adam let his statement hand unfinished, preferring to see what kind of assurances the prime minister might be interested in receiving.

High Ridge Estate, Excalbia

Joseph felt an incredible sense of relief at Christiana’s announcement. He could feel Anna’s joy mixed with something he took as regret, even sorrow, over the circumstances. And perhaps, he thought, a bit of anxiety over the impact this could have on their lives as a couple. He knew he felt a twinge of anxiety.

Anna’s hand on his arm comforted Joseph. Yet, the tremble in her hand reflected his own nervousness.

With the announcement out of the way Christiana visibly softened and relaxed and enjoyed the meal.

After dinner, Peter accompanied Gwendolyn to their rooms. When she drifted off to sleep before she finish changing for bed, Peter finished the task for her and carefully tucked her under the covers. Then, after changing into his robe, he stepped into the small sitting room off the bedroom and sat down with a book. He tried to read, but found himself going back to Christiana’s announcement. And its implications.

Barony of Tervates

Baron Janis sat alone in his room in one of the guest houses on the baronial estate. He had spent many years working slowly, methodically – and legally – to revive the Council of Lords. He sincerely believed it was a necessary counterweight to an increasingly centralized and powerful Imperial Government. And, these last few months had brought the dream so close to realization. So close that he had been willing to make a few compromises and take a few risks to make it come to pass.

But now. Now. Now things were complicated. The barons – really a minority of the barons, but a minority that sway the rest – were planning treason. Usurpation.

Yet, Janis found to his surprise that was not the thing that upset him the most. No, it was the way they were prepared to cast Christiana aside so easily. While it was true that he would probably never feel true… passion for Christiana, they had become intimate friends. And, he supposed, he loved her after a fashion.

Janis finally knew what he had to do. He picked up the phone and called his mother.
03-05-2006, 14:51
Miller House, Citadel Excalbia

Lady Jessica Tagaarth sat at her desk starring into the picture of her late husband. Her son Janis' call had troubled her greatly. It was no surprise to her, of course, that the barons trying to resurrect the Council of Lords were looking for an opportunity weaken the Sword; they had been trying for generations to do the same thing. She was not even fazed that they would consider Emperor David's removal an opportunity to name their own emperor. The barons had been trying to control the succession since the days of Alsgood and, at times, had even succeeded. However, their power and influence was but a shadow of what it had been back then.

The Chancellor shook her head. Under normal circumstances Perkonis, Skrastins and their ilk would be little more than eccentric cranks and their proclamation of a new emperor would have as much practical effect as if they all declared themselves to be potted plants.

Yet, Lady Jessica as she turned in her chair to gaze out the window into the blackness of the night, these were not normal times. The Governmental Reform Committee, despite her best efforts, was going ahead with its hearings into the Emperor's health and this supposed conspiracy to conceal his condition from them. If anything Princess Christiana's edict passing the regency to the Crown Prince had hardened the radicals and made them more determined to have a showdown with the Sword and the Imperial Household.

There was no chance, she was certain, of the Senate moving on the committee's recommendation – if indeed it came – to remove the Emperor. She still controlled enough votes in the coalition to ensure the defeat of such a measure. And, beyond that, she knew the Progressive Conservatives would certainly vote against removing the Emperor. So, her concern was not that they would succeed in removing David IV, but that in trying to do so the radicals would bring down the coalition and incite a reaction from the Imperial Household. The Household, she knew, was not lacking in its own hotheads these days. Hotheads would like nothing more than to sweep the Senate clean of the Liberals and Reformers.

If her worst fears were realized, Lady Jessica thought gloomily, there would chaos. And such chaos might just make the cranks and eccentrics among the barons look reasonable and might make their attempt at usurpation look… necessary. Even patriotic.

The Chancellor stood and paced about her office. She would have to try to head this off. She returned to her desk and picked up the phone. "Russell," she said to one of her assistants, "I will need a car first thing in the morning to take me to Kuldiga Palace to see Lord Johannes. Please call and the let the Palace know I will be coming. And I need to speak with Minister Robb and Sir Albert right away." There was, unfortunately, no one among the Reformers she trusted enough to confide in, so she would limit herself to her own party and to the Christian Union.
05-05-2006, 11:58
Citadel Excalbia, Excalbia

Morning came to the capital well before the cold winter sunrise. In the pre-dawn gloom, which made half-past 7 feel more like half-past 5, Lady Jessica Tagaarth made her way out of Miller House to her official car. Even with a police escort, it would easily take 45 minutes to make their way through the rush hour traffic to Kuldiga, so the Chancellor had insisted on an early start so that she could keep her appointment with Lord Johannes.

In the darkened halls of the Imperial Senate Senator Frank Moring was already making his way to the Governmental Reform Committee's meeting room. Moring, alarmed at the sudden resignation of the Regent and rumours of strange nocturnal phone calls, had moved up the committee's hearing on the Emperor's health to the early morning.

The senator, a practical and surprisingly humble man, had no desire to be the "stubborn nail" in need of being hammered back into place. He knew neither the Chancellor nor the IHA, nor probably a majority of the Senate, wanted him to pursue his present course. However, he felt an obligation to uphold the principles of representative and constitutional government. To him, one of the cornerstones of such government was he right of the legislature to know the true condition of the Head of State and see to it that a proper transition of power took place, if needed. If, as it seemed, David IV was incapacitated and if, as Princess Christiana's resignation proved to him, a regency acting on behalf of the Sword was inherently unstable, then there was no question the Emperor would have to be removed and a new sovereign installed. And, if the IHA had concealed the Emperor's true condition, then that would yet one more sign that the Household had grown dangerously autonomous and autocratic and needed to be brought to heel.

At Sweyn Castle, perched atop Citadel Mount, the morning darkness hung like a shroud over the surrounding compound. Ever since the comatose Emperor had been transferred to Kuldiga Palace, the Castle had stood – despite the presence of the Imperial Household Agency and an army of servants – like a forlorn, empty shell of a home.

In a corner room in the administrative wing of the Castle, Lord Jacob Bergmanis, the Lord High Sheriff, sat at an otherwise empty conference table MAJGEN Maris Jansons, the Captain of the Imperial Guard. "I must admit, my Lord, that I would be more comfortable if we had the Regent's consent. Or even Lord Johannes'…" MAJGEN Jansons shrugged and look down as he spoke.

Lord Jacob shook his head. "No. Princess Christiana has prepared a decree transferring the regency to Prince Joseph, but it is not official. Yet. And Lord Johannes…." Lord Jacob looked away uncomfortably. "Lord Johannes is overly concerned with forms and procedures. This is a crisis, General. Not a bureaucratic maneuver. And it needs to be treated as such."

Jansons nodded with a look of bitter resignation.

"Are your men ready?"

"Yes, my Lord. Do you really think the Senate will refuse the decree? Physically?"

"I hope not, General. But we must be prepared. However, take care to use only non-lethal force. I fully expect the Prince, once he is Regent, to require my resignation, but if there is bloodshed, he may require more."

"I understand."

Meanwhile, deep beneath the somber bulk of the Ministry of Defence Lord Admiral Derek Kunle was beginning his morning briefing with the General Staff in the Ministry's secure bunker.

As usual, the briefing began with Rear Admiral Anda Sidrane, the Chief of Military Intelligence. Sidrane, a tall, middle aged woman with fading blonde hair neatly done up in bun, leaned slightly over the table towards the Chief. "My Lord," she said with uncharacteristic timidity, "I know domestic issues aren't my brief, but we have detected unusual movements within the Imperial Guard. It seems the Guard is on alert. Early this morning, extra light infantry companies were brought up from their barracks towards the capital…"

General Viktor Erglis shifted uncomfortably in his seat, drawing Lord Derek's eye. "General?" He asked in his deep, resonate voice.

"My Lord Admiral," Erglis said hesitantly, "I have heard from a member of General Jansons' command that…"

"Yes, General? Say it, man."

"The Guard is being sent today to close the Senate."

There were a few gasps around the table, mixed with a few sympathetic nods. "On whose authority?" Lord Derek asked.

Erglis shrugged. "He didn't know, my Lord. He presumes on the authority of the Crown Prince. Or on IHA's authority acting on behalf of the Emperor…"

"When did you learn of this?" There was cross undertone to Chief's question.

"Only this morning. Right before the briefing, my Lord."
Lord Derek sunk into the back of his chair. "What shall we do, my Lord?" General Inese Miele, the Air Force Chief of Staff, asked.

"Nothing," the Chief of the General Staff said, his voice like thunder in the quieted room, "until someone with constitutional authority gives us an order. And then… Then we will see…"
The Resurgent Dream
05-05-2006, 20:07
Tarana, the Resurgent Dream

"To be frank with you, Sir Adam, my Government is very worried about the possibility of encroachments upon the traditional and constitutional authority of the Senate. As you know, we consider our shared values of representative and democratic institutions to be one of the most important elements of the friendship between our two nations." Scott said. "We would not want to see the Excalbian system of checks and balances, one important element of which is the Senate's authority over the regency and the succession, to be in any way eroded."
08-05-2006, 21:31
Tarana, the Resurgent Dream

Sir Adam studied the Prime Minister in silence for a moment. He wished Scott were as easy to read as his predecessor. “Your Excellency, I can assure you that the Sword, neither in the person of the Regent nor the Crown Prince, wish to unsettle our system of checks and balances. As you rightly observe the Senate’s shared authority over the succession is part of that system. So too, however, are the roles of the Church and the Sword itself. I trust that all these institutions will continue to respect their proper roles, your Excellency.”
09-05-2006, 20:37
Ministry of Defence, Citadel Excalbia

Lord Admiral Derek Kunle walked quickly through the spacious outer office of his suite. He paused barely long enough to nod in greeting to the numerous secretaries, clerks and staff assistants before striding into his office. He quickly closed the door behind him and took a deep breath. At a more leisurely pace he walked over to the window looking out over the city's government centre.

From his office atop the MoD's massive granite building the Chief of the General Staff could see the dome of the Imperial Senate, the Chancellor's residence at Miller House and Sweyn Castle perched on top of Citadel Mount. For a moment it was as if he could see the tension and distrust that grown up so quickly as a physical manifestation – a gloomy cloud of despair and doubt. He shook his head and dismissed such metaphysical thinking. He turned back to his desk and sat heavily.

He had told the other chiefs and his subordinates that the military was to remain neutral until or unless it received direct orders to intervene. And so it would. For the protection of its own people. However, as the Chief, Lord Derek did not believe he had the luxury of staying out of the looming battle. He had to make a decision. Pick a side. And so he did. Surprisingly, in the end, it was a startlingly easy choice.

The admiral, his dark hand setting off the sparkling white of his uniform and the bright gold of the two think bands of braid separated by a narrow gold stripe, reached out and picked up the phone.

Kuldgia Palace

Her car had barely come to a stop when a single blue uniformed Imperial Guard opened her door and saluted. Lady Jessica Tagaarth nodded to the Guard and stepped out of the car. Lord Johannes Corman stepped out of the palace doorway and bowed slightly to the Imperial Chancellor.

"My Lady," he said, "please come in." The Chamberlain led the Chancellor into the palace and a short distance to the office he was temporarily occupying.

Once he had helped the Chancellor off with her coat and both were seated next to the fire, Lord Johannes leaned forward and lowered his voice. "Did Lord Derek reach you, my Lady?"

Lady Jessica nodded. "He did. I assume Lord Jacob neglected to consult you, my Lord, on his… plans to close the Senate…”

“Quite right, my Lady,” the Chamberlain said. “Coffee?” The Chancellor nodded and Lord Johannes stood and retrieved a small pot of coffee from a side table. He poured two cups and placed them, together with jars of cream and sugar, on a low table near the fire. Returning to his seat, he added, “Nor did Lord Jacob see fit to consult any member of the Imperial Family.”

“So,” Lady Jessica said, “have you spoken with either the Crown Prince or Princess Christiana?”

Lord Johannes nodded. “I called His Imperial Highness just before your arrival. He is most distressed, my Lady.”

“Have you tried to talk with Lord Jacob?” The frail looking Chancellor sipped her coffee as she spoke.

“I have tried, but neither he nor General Jansons are answering their phones. Nor, it seems, is anyone at the IHA answering the phones, except for the receptionists, who all say that everyone is out and will call me back directly.”

Lady Jessica nodded gravely.

“I must say, Lady Chancellor,” Lord Johannes said slowly, “I find myself wondering whether the entire capital has gone mad. The Senate is preparing to vote to remove the Emperor…”

“Not the Senate,” Lady Jessica interjected, “only the Governmental Reform Committee; they’re preparing a recommendation to remove the Emperor, but I am confident it will never pass the full Senate…”

“Be that as it may, my Lady, a vote is about to be taken in the Senate on unseating the Emperor, the Lord Sheriff is – on his own initiative – about to attempt to close the Senate and that collection of eccentrics calling themselves a Council of Lords is talking of naming Prince Jeremiah emperor…”

“Prince Jeremiah?” Lady Jessica asked with a note of disbelief in her voice. “Who will pay attention to them anyway?”

Lord Johannes frowned. “If that committee goes ahead with its vote and the Senate is closed by Lord Jacob before it can defeat their recommendation or confirm His Imperial Highness as the new regent, and with Her Imperial Highness having already stepped down…” The Chamberlain looked down into his coffee. “There will be such confusion and uncertainty that even a collection of cranks might sound credible if they speak loudly and confidently enough… and…”

“And,” Lady Jessica said, “in the end every government survives on the confidence and support of the people. If they decide the Council is legitimate…”

Silence fell over the room as the firelight seemed to cast ominous shapes on the walls. Finally, Lord Johannes spoke. “Lord Derek said he would follow any orders from Miller House…”

The Chancellor shook her head. “No, my Lord, the last thing we need is the army is challenging the Imperial Guards in the streets of the capital. No, what we need is a delaying tactic until calmer heads can prevail and the Crown Prince can regain control of the IHA.”

“Do you have something in mind?”

“There is one possibility…”
The Resurgent Dream
10-05-2006, 07:56
Tarana, The Resurgent Dream

Scott nodded slightly "I am certain that they will, Your Excellency. Still...I would wish you to convey my concerns to your Government."

Scott then stoood and politely showed Sir Adam out. "Thank you very much for coming to see me, Sir Adam. It is unfortunate we haven't been able to speak more often. I am aware that Danaan electoral politics have been rather...the word would be fast...the last couple of years, especially given the tragedy of the Shattering and the new Constitution going in to effect with the Commonwealth negotiations. It certainly hope a Parliament will settle in for the long haul within the next few months."

After Sir Adam had left, Scott returned to his desk. He flipped through some papers which his personal assistant had left for his attention. Most of them were rather boring matters that he would have to get to at some point this week. One, however, held his immediate interest. Scott opened a very thick notebook labeled "Excalbian Affairs" and began to carefully seek out select sections as he turned on his intercomm and said off-handedly "Could you schedule a meeting with Kairis, ASAP?"
15-05-2006, 05:01
As things developed, Anna, like the Pantocratorian Emperor and the Imperial Government, was kept informed as best as the Pantocratorian embassy and IFIS could follow the situation - which meant that they were at least two steps behind all the plotting. She was getting very nervous, it seemed like Excalbia was on the verge of a constitutional meltdown. As she sat down to lunch with Joseph, she looked very anxious indeed.

"Joseph..." she began. "There's a lot of plotting going on... I'm worried... I think you might need to go on the television, talk to the people, try to make sure that public opinion is firmly against the Senate removing the Emperor, and against this ridiculous Council of Barons... If your staff called the news stations I'm sure that they could arrange an interview or some other medium for you for this evening. I'm so worried..."
19-05-2006, 11:41
High Ridge Estate, Excalbia

Joseph smiled glumly across the table towards Anna. "I was just thinking the same thing, my Love," he said. "Perhaps, if the people hear from me directly…" He looked down at his plate and pushed the food around for a moment before laying down his fork and looking up at his wife. He could see the anxiety in her face and he suspected she could sense his own dark mood.

"Things do seem to be rather out of control, don't they?" Last night everything had seemed so hopeful – Christiana had stepped down as Regent and named Joseph her replacement. The family finally felt unified and strong and ready to face the difficult times that might still lie ahead. Then, early in the morning Christiana had come to the suite and told Joseph about her phone call from Baron Janis.

Joseph shook his head at the memory. His cousin, Prince Jeremiah, becoming emperor? It was preposterous on the face of it. But… but, Joseph had realized with a sinking feeling in his stomach, if the Senate voted to remove his father and refused to recognize him as Regent, might they not agree with the so-called Council of Lords and name Jeremiah emperor? What would the Synod do? Would it support such a move? Or hold out for Joseph?

The young prince drew in a sharp breath. "In fact," he began. But before he could continue, there was a knock on the door. "Come in," he said.

Joseph personal secretary entered the room with a bow. "Your Highnesses," he said apologetically. Then, focusing on Prince Joseph, he said, "You Highness, your private phone." He held up a mobile phone. "It is Lord Johannes, your Highness."

Joseph nodded and the secretary walked over to the table and handed the prince the phone. "Thank you," Joseph said. The secretary bowed again and departed. Joseph put the phone to his ear. "Yes, Lord Johannes?"

A deep frown crossed Joseph's face and his brow knotted. "I… I don't understand, my Lord. Who gave such an order?" There was tense pause. "I see. Have you been able to contact him? No? I will try. But I understand." Joseph stood and walked away from the table. "Her Highness and I were just talking about an interview or an address to the nation. Yes. I see. No, I think I should. I understand your concerns, my Lord, but it is my duty. I understand. I think that is reasonable. Contact Lord Derek. Ask him to meet me. With sufficient men. No, I hope it won't come to that, but we must be prepared. Yes. Thank you, my Lord."

Joseph turned off the phone and tossed it on a nearby chair. He turned to Anna. His face was red with anger and his eyes showed the same cold gleam that occasionally appeared in his father's eyes. Yet, tears seemed to glisten at the corner of eye.

"Anna," Joseph said solemnly, "I have to return to the Citadel immediately. The Lord Sheriff and the Captain of the Imperial Guard seem to be intent on closing the Senate. In my father's name." He shook his head. "A coup and martial law is the last thing my father would want." He held up a hand to hold off any protest. "It is time I do my duty, my Love."

* * *

Less than an hour later, Joseph stepped out of the dressing room back into the suite's sitting room. He was dressed in the formal blue uniform of the Imperial Army. While he still wore the lieutenant insignia he had earned on his own merit, he now wore the Imperial blue sash and a full compliment of medals. Buckled around his waist was a sheathed broadsword – the Sword of Sweyn II – and over his shoulder hung a blue and gold cape. He looked more than a little like his father.

The secretary opened the door and bowed. "Your Highness, the motorcade is here."

Joseph nodded. He walked over to the crib were Elizabeth played contentedly. He picked her up, kissed her and placed her back in the crib. He put his arms around Anna and kissed her, then turned in silence and headed out the door.

From the window, Anna could see the waiting motorcade. Alarmingly, the motorcade had not only police escorts, but also included a number of six-wheeled armoured military vehicles. Waiting for the prince were not only the small detachment of blue uniformed Imperial Guards that had greeted them, but a company of regular Imperial Army troops in full combat gear. They all saluted the prince, then, after he was in the limousine, the soldiers climbed into their armoured vehicles and the motorcade pulled away.

As they headed down the road towards the highway, it became apparent that several armoured vehicles – their guns manned by armoured troops – were staying behind. More troops could be seen in the distance guarding gate leading to the highway.

Baronial Estate, Barony of Tervates

It was shaping up to be a glorious day in Tervates. Baron Alexander Skrastins could feel the optimism that seemed to envelop the entire estate. Soon the Council would meet in its inaugural session. Then, if all went as expected, word would come that the Senate was taking up the removal of David IV due to his incapacity. Then, he smiled at the thought, the Council would act.

He looked over at the clock on the nightstand. It was late. Yet, there was still plenty of time before the Council met. He looked down at his young wife – the Baroness Celeste de Frankopolis-Skrastina – and gave her a suggestive smile. "Well, I'm afraid, my dear Celeste, that we still have a bit more time to kill…"

Imperial Senate, Citadel Excalbia

Senator Frank Moring, Chairman of the Senate Governmental Reform Committee, banged his gavel. "The committee will come to order," he said gravely. He turned to the relatively young woman seated four chairs over on his right. "The chair recognizes Senator Amanda Payne."

Amanda nodded. "Thank you, Chairman," she said, her throat suddenly dry. "Senators," she continued, trembling slightly, "you have all now seen the medical report detailing the true condition of the Emperor." She swallowed hard. "In light of this report, Chairman, I move that we… that we," Amanda looked down for a moment, then squared her shoulders and lifted her head, "that we recommend to the full Senate the immediate removal of David IV as Emperor due to his incapacity and the that we recommend the immediate selection of a new sovereign."

Everyone began speaking at once.

* * *

Meanwhile, on the floor of the Senate, a bare quorum of the Senate was moving through a long agenda of routine business. Defence Minister Davis Robb, acting as the deputy chancellor, had just returned to his seat with a young boy in the blue livery of Senate Page approached and bowed. He handed the minister a note then quickly disappeared. Robb opened the note. It said that Lady Jessica was on the line in the cloakroom just off the floor of the Senate and needed to speak with him urgently. He casually crumpled the note and stuffed it in the pocket of his blue robe. He stood and, as inconspicuously as possible, headed towards the cloakroom.
19-05-2006, 16:02
OOC: I am assuming Anna knows about Jeremiah.


High Ridge Estate, Excalbia

Anna trembled at the sight of the heavy guard which it was obviously felt Joseph required, and indeed, the heavy guard which remained behind to guard the Empress, to say nothing of Elizabeth and Anna herself. Excalbia was on the verge of a constitutional collapse, arguably more dangerous than the attempted secession of Saxmere had been to the Confederation. Not since the overthrow of General Altman had the stability of the Excalbian Isles been so imperilled from an internal threat, and this time, Anna was right in the middle of it. In fact, she felt responsible to a large extent. In a panic she raced about the house fairly aimlessly, just working out the tension and anxiety built up in her system - anything but standing still! She would've been quite a sight for any onlooking staff.

After she had tired herself out a little, and worked up a modest sweat, she settled down in her bedroom and thought seriously. Joseph had said that the Council of Lords was talking about Prince Jeremiah as a possible Emperor. If David IV was deposed, and the Senate didn't select Joseph in his place, then, Anna hypothesised, Joseph's position, and therefore Anna's position and little Elizabeth's position was potentially very dangerous. Who would want the previous emperor's heir apparent and his wife and children hanging around, as a potential rival to a freshly annointed emperor? The army was out on the street; she couldn't put the idea that their very lives could possibly be in jeopardy out of her head completely, if not now, then in the future under an Emperor Jeremiah. Today was the first day of this whole crisis on which Anna actually felt helpless...

...Anna didn't like feeling helpless, certainly not about politics, and especially not when it came to her position and the position of her family. She wondered if there was anything which could be done to discredit Jeremiah as a potential emperor...
24-05-2006, 09:32
Kuldiga Palace, Kuldiga

The familiar apparition of Bishop Gunars Purins seemed to stand over David as he lay in his bed. "David," Purins said, "it is time to awaken."

"So," David said, "the test is over?"

"No," Purins smiled benevolently and shook his head, "the trials are just beginning, my friend. But the stage is now set."

David nodded.

"Just remember two things, David – trust in God and keep in mind that this kingdom is not yours; it is His. You are simply its guardian for a time…"

"And I will pass it on…"

Purins shrugged. "Perhaps. That is the Lord's business. Kingdoms come. Kingdoms go. Only the Kingdom of God remains. Do what is before you at the moment and trust Him to take care of tomorrow."

David nodded again. Then, hesitantly, he asked, "Are you real or have you been my imagination? My own dreams?"

Purins smiled. "Does it make a difference, David? I have told you nothing you did not already now but had forgotten."

Suddenly, David felt as if he were under water. His chest burned. His throat was full and he could not swallow. He began to thrash about, struggling to reach the surface.

* * *

The nurse had just finished checking the Emperor vitals and was turning to leave the room when the monitors began to beep. The Emperor's heart was racing and his breathing was becoming erratic. Suddenly, his fingers began to move and his legs twitch. Then. His eyes opened.

The nurse dropped her handheld computer and rushed to the Emperor's bed. She picked up the call button and pushed it. "Call the doctor! I think the Emperor is trying to wake up!"
24-05-2006, 09:32
Imperial Senate, Citadel Excalbia

Lady Gwyneth Hapsgaard, leader of the opposition Progressive Conservatives, looked skeptically at the Minister of Defence. "Are you sure of this, Minister Robb?" Despite being alone in the Senate's Leadership Cloakroom, she kept her voice barely above a whisper.

Senator Davis Robb gave a small sigh. "No, I'm not," he said softly. Then, he quickly added, "However, Lady Jessica is certain. And she's certain that this is the only way to proceed."

Lady Gwyneth turned to Sir Albert Cummings. They had both been members of the cabinet under Lady Christina Freedman's government. And, when the PC lost the last election, Cummings' Christian Union remained in the government under Liberals. Still, Sir Albert was a friend and colleague and she trusted him. "Sir Albert," she said quietly, "what do you think?"

The Minister of State shook his head slowly. "I have no first hand knowledge of much of this. However, what I do know tells me this is far from being an unrealistic scenario. And I respect and trust Lady Jessica." The rotund minister shifted in the large leather chair. "Now, if we had a few weeks, I think we could find another way to resolve this, but on this timeline, which Lady Jessica has just learned of, I see no other way."

"Very well," Lady Gwyneth said, "then you can certainly count on the loyal opposition, gentlemen."

With a nod, Robb stood and began leading the way back into the Senate chamber.

* * *

Rumours had been spreading throughout the Senate complex ever since Sir Albert and Lady Gwyneth had been summoned to join Senator Robb in the cloakroom. The leaders of two of the three parties in the ruling coalition meeting with the leader of the largest opposition party inevitably attracted attention. As a result senator had been steadily trickling onto the floor of Senate to see what was happening. By the time the three leaders entered through the rear of the chamber, nearly two-thirds of the Senate was in attendance for what would normally be a sparsely attention administrative session.

Even Sir Harrison Grasis, the Speaker of the Senate, paused with expectation as Robb and Sir Albert approached their seats on the front row. Sir Albert took his seat quietly, but Robb remained standing.

"My Lord Speaker," Robb said solemnly.

"The chair recognizes the Honourable Minister of Defence, speaking for the Government," Sir Harrison said, leaning forward slightly in his elevated chair.

"Thank you, Sir Harrison." Robb turned and faced the Senate. "Honourable Senators, I have just had a phone call from the Imperial Chancellor. With the resignation of Her Highness, Princess Christiana, as Regent and in the absence of the Senate's confirmation of His Highness, Prince Joseph, as the new Regent, Lady Jessica has gone to Kuldiga Palace to present her resignation to His Imperial Majesty."

The floor erupted in dozens of conversations in urgent, whispered tones. Sir Harrison banged his gavel on the table beside him. "The Senate will come to order!"

As the voices died down, Robb cleared his throat. "With Lady Jessica's resignation, the Government has fallen." Again, there was a commotion and again Sir Harrison banged his gavel. After a moment, Robb continued. "Therefore, I call an immediate vote of no-confidence in the Government, pending the Sword's nomination of a new Government."

"Order! Order!" Sir Harrison half rose from his seat, leading the chattering senators to finally quiet down. He looked down at Robb. "Am I correct in understanding, sir, that you are calling for a vote of no-confidence in your own Government?"

"The Government has fallen, Sir Harrison. The Sword must have the opportunity to name a new one."

"There is no Sword! The Emperor is incapacitated," a Liberal backbencher shouted.

"Order!" Sir Harrison glared at the offending senator. "Is there a second?"

Sir Albert stood. "I second the motion," he said flatly.

Sir Harrison banged his gavel. "There will be an immediate vote." He turned to the Senate's Sergeant at Arms. "Call the Senators," he said, "we will vote in ten minutes."

* * *

In the Governmental Reform Committee's meeting room, Senator Amanda Payne was speaking. "The evidence is clear," she said with renewed confidence, "we must…" Her voice trailed off as everyone turned to look at the page entering the room. The young woman handed the Chairman a note.

Frank Moring read the note. Then, he read it again. Finally, eyes fixed, he looked up. "I am sorry to interrupt, Senator Payne, however, Lady Jessica has just resigned. A vote of no-confidence has been called." The Chairman picked up the gavel and gave it a tap. "We are in recess, so that all Senators may proceed to the floor and vote."
24-05-2006, 11:21
High Ridge Estate, Excalbia

Empress Elizabeth gently tapped on the door to Anna and Joseph's bedroom, then gingerly pushed it open. Anna had been nearly distraught as she had wandered around the estate. It was clear – and quite understandable – that she was worried about Joseph. Frankly, so was Elizabeth.

"Anna," she said softly, "may I join you?"

Elsewhere in the chateau Peter said nervously bouncing his right leg. He held tightly to the hand of his wife, Gwendolyn, and looked across the room at his Aunt Christiana. "I should have gone with Joseph," he said.

"And what would you have done, Peter, that your cousin cannot do? Join him in battle? Is that what you think this? An adventure? A war?" Christiana paced nervously as she spoke. She was instantly sorry for sounding so sharp, but she was miserable; she could not help the feeling that part of this was her fault.

"It might come to that," Peter said equally sharp. "I can carry a gun…"

"Peter!" Christiana turned to her nephew. "No, it mustn't come to that!"

Peter looked down, then turned to Gwendolyn. "Perhaps I should at least go into town. Meet with the mayor and the local officials. The local military commander. Make sure everything that can be done is being done to… to keep all of you safe…"

Sweyn Castle, Citadel Excalbia

MAJGEN Maris Jansons looked once around the grounds of Sweyn Castle. The medieval Citadel stood to his right and in front of him, spread out like a 3D map was the administrative and political heart of the capital. The dome of the Senate seemed to be directly at his feet. With a slight nod of resolution, he climbed into the armoured truck. "Let's go," he said, as the small column of vehicles began their short trip into the city below.

His decision to go along with Lord Jacob had not come easily. He looked down at the decree resting in his lap. Its legality could certainly be argued, since it was being issued by the Lord Sheriff and not by the Sword. And, after all, it could be asked who wielded the Sword. The Emperor was still incapacitated. Princess Christiana had resigned as Regent and Prince Joseph had not yet formally taken the position. It was all very murky.

However, conspirators in the Senate and among the barons were clearly trying to use this as an excuse to illegally remove the Emperor and name an usurper in his place – someone who would rule by their wishes and according to their tastes. Jansons shook his head.

With the Senate – or at least some senators – conspiring with usurpers, they clearly had to be disbanded. Once the Crown Prince was installed as Regent, then he could decide what to do next.

Imperial Senate, Citadel Excalbia

Sir Harrison Grasis looked around the dark, circular chamber. It seemed most of the senators in town where there. He lifted his wooden gavel and banged it sharply three times on the table placed to the right of his large, leather chair.

"The Senate shall come to order," he said loudly. "An immediate vote has been called on a motion of no-confidence." He looked around slowly. "All those in favour of the motion, please rise to indicate your vote."

Defence Minister Davis Robb and State Minister Sir Albert Cummings both stood. After a moment, slightly more than half of the ruling Liberal Party, all of the Christian Union, most of the opposition Progressive Conservatives and almost half of the opposition Freedom Party stood.

Seeing a nod from the Clerk of the Senate, Sir Harrison said, "Be seated. All those opposed will now please rise."

Treasury Minister Marcella Gambino and Justice Minister Jamie Yoth stood, joined by the just under half of the Liberals and all of the Reform Party members.

"The motion carries," Sir Harrison said. He pounded his gavel. "The Senate shall stand adjourned until such time as the Sword has nominated a new Government or until the next session as mandated by the constitution." He looked down at Robb. "As deputy chancellor and, now, acting chancellor, Senator Robb shall continue, at the Sword's pleasure, as head of the caretaker government." Sir Harrison again pounded his gavel. "Our business is finished."

The Speaker stood and walked down from dais and straight up to Robb and Sir Albert. "Minister, Sir Albert," he said at a whisper, as senators began to file out of the chamber, "I do hope you will kind enough to come by my office and explain just what this is all about."

Robb nodded. "As soon as possible, Sir Harrison," he said.

As the Speaker turned to leave, the Sergeant at Arms approached and bowed. "My Lord Speaker," he said, "the Captain of the Imperial Guard has arrived and is saying he must address the Senate."

Sir Harrison shot Robb a sharp look. The Defence Minster nodded. The Speaker turned back to the Sergeant at Arms. "Tell the Captain of the Imperial Guard," Sir Harrison said slowly, "that the Senate is adjourned. Direct him to the Acting Chancellor."

"Yes, my Lord Speaker."
The Resurgent Dream
24-05-2006, 18:20
High Ridge Estate, Excalbia

Gwendolyn held Peter's hand tightly as she followed Christiana's movements with her eyes. SHe couldn't help but feel that this was the result of all the intriguing that she had already herself to become a part of. The Senate disbanded! Military authorities excercising direct authority in the capital! Gwendolyn had been eight or nine years old during the Danaan civil war but she still had memories of it. She remembered hearing on the television about the intense fighting in Tarana and Narich, remembered waiting up with mother and her siblings, listening intently to everything they could from the front. She remembered how her mother had read her the letters her father sent every week from his command and what it felt like when the letters stopped coming. She remembered a knock at her door and an unfamiliar officer standing there. She remembered mother sending her and the others into the other room, remembered how they had peaked around the door out of her sight and seen their mother truly despair for the first time in their lives. And now she felt she might have helped bring something like that on other little girls. "I want to go with you, Peter."
26-05-2006, 10:09
High Ridge Estate, Excalbia

Peter felt Gwendolyn's hand tighten around his as he spoke of going into the neighboring town.

"I want to go with you, Peter," Gwendolyn said.

Peter turned to his wife. He shook his head. He did not believe there was any real danger, yet. However, he simply could not expose Gwendolyn to even the remotest risk. He started to give voice to his thoughts when he saw her expression – there was anxiety and worry – but something else, too. Need. A need to do something. Peter recognized it at once. After all, it mirrored his own feelings of needing to be useful.

The prince nodded. "Alright." He turned to Christiana. "We should leave directly."

Peter stood and looked down at Gwendolyn. "I'll arrange for a car and have someone schedule the meetings for us; we should leave in a few minutes."

Minutes later, Peter and Gwendolyn stood on the steps at the front entrance of the chateau. An army officer in fatigues stood at parade rest with a worried look on his face.

"Your Highness," he said, "we've arranged for a car and an escort, but I urge you to stay here; this is a very defensible position and we can guarantee your safety here. His Highness, the Crown Prince, told us…"

Peter shook his head. "I know of Prince Joseph's instructions to you, Captain. However," Peter looked about rather theatrically, "I see no mobs, no insurrectionists, no immediate danger. And as the Prince and Princess of Kuldiga we have obligations to the Sword and to the Empire."

The captain bowed his head. "Certainly, your Highness." He gestured to a waiting limousine idling between two military vehicles. "Your car, your Highnesses."

A soldier opened the door of car and saluted.

Peter helped Gwendolyn into the car, then joined her in the rear. As they rode away from the estate, Peter leaned over and flipped on a TV built into back of the front seat, and turned it to the all-news channel.

On the TV a square-jawed young newsreader was looking solemnly into the screen. Behind him a graphic depicted the dome of the Imperial Senate with the words "Government Crisis" floating above it.

"…confirmed reports that Lady Jessica Tagaarth has tendered her resignation as chancellor. Immediately following her resignation, the ruling coalition initiated a vote of no-confidence, which passed – despite opposition from several coalition Senators, including Marcella Gambino, the Minister of Treasury and leader of the Reform Party. After the vote, the Senate adjourned until a new government can be named."

The newsreader turned slightly as the camera angle shifted. "However, with the Emperor still rumoured to be in a coma and with the widely reported – but unconfirmed – resignation of Princess Christiana as Regent, it is unclear who has the authority to name a new government and summon the Senate back into session…"

Tervates Chapel, Barony of Tervates

The 19th century red brick chapel, built in a simple style reminiscent of the designs of Sir Christopher Wren, was a relatively late addition to the baronial estate. However, its nave was the single largest meeting space on the grounds. So, it was here, rather than in the older and more ornate rooms of the castle itself that the barons had gathered to inaugurate their revived Council of Lords.

After a half mumbled invocation offered by the Reverend Peteris Fridbergs, Baron of Ikskele, and a half hearted pledge of fidelity to Sword and the Empire, Baron Jekob Perkonis stood to address the assembly.

Wearing a cloak, heavy golden chains and medallions – symbolizing his status as a baron – and a broadsword buckled at his waist the Baron of Perkonis looked more like a medieval lord than a citizen of modern state in the 21st century. He smiled broadly and looked approvingly over the crowd as light fell through the large, clear windows.

"My fellow barons, lords and ladies, brothers and sisters," he spoke with a charismatic mix of passion and determination, "history favours our endeavour. On this, the day we restore the historic rights and privileges of this council, the Senate – the body foisted upon us more than a century ago as our replacement – stands dissolved!"

A cheer went up from crowd seated in hard wooden benches. Perkonis gestured for silence. "And a cloud of doubt hangs over the Sword; David IV lies comatose, his true condition long hidden by the Imperial court; and the regency stands vacant. Today, my friends, our nation needs more than ever direction. Yet those institutions that promise such direction stand today void and vacant. Soon, the eyes of a grateful nation will be upon us as we reassert our traditional role in this land."

There was an expectant silence, which Perkonis nurtured and encouraged with a silent, knowing smile. "I move that, as its first official act, the Council name a new Emperor – one who will rule within his proper constitutional role and who will give us stability and peace!"

Imperial Senate, Citadel Excalbia

Acting Chancellor Davis Robb stalked out of the Senate chamber, his blue senatorial robe swirling behind him, and crossed the marble floor of the outer hall towards the blue uniformed officer holding an archaic plumed helmet in the crook of his left arm.

"General Jansons," Robb said tersely, "I understand you wanted to address the Senate."

The Captain of the Imperial Guard blinked. He was still absorbing what the Sergeant at Arms had told him and he had not expected to be confronted so directly by Robb, a man he had always taken as a bit of a light-weight.

"Minister," Jansons began.

"Acting Chancellor, General," Robb said sharply.

"Acting Chancellor," Jansons said slowly, "I have a decree signed by the Lord Sheriff dissolving the Senate…"

"General," Robb interrupted, "I wasn't aware that the authority of the Sword had devolved to the Lord Sheriff." Robb arched an eyebrow. "Nevertheless, the Senate cannot be dissolved, it has already adjourned. Until a new government has been formed."

"I see," said Jansons.

"I will take this matter up with Prince Joseph, who since the Senate has failed to act, now becomes Regent due to his position as heir apparent. I am sure he will be quite interested in this," Robb looked at the decree in Jansons' hand, "document."
26-05-2006, 11:18
Imperial Naval Air Station, Citadel Excalbia

Excalbia Two touched down on the runway at the naval air station as her fighter escorts roared past and climbed to the skies. The blue and gold plane slowed and taxied towards the VIP terminal, where a large number of troops and vehicles waited.

As soon as the door of the plane opened Prince Joseph, dressed in full uniform beneath a blue greatcoat, descended the stairs. He approached a tall, dark skinned officer in a navy coat and white brimmed hat. The officer bowed slightly at the prince's approach.

"Your Highness," Lord Admiral Derek Kunle said, his deep, rolling voice rising above the sound of the slowing engines.

"My Lord," the prince said with a nod. "I have been in contact with Lord Johannes from the plane. I understand the Senate has adjourned. Is there any news of General Jansons and the Guard?"

"The general and his men have been seen at the Senate; there have been no reports of any hostilities. However, neither have there been reports of his departure from the Senate." The Chief of the Imperial General Staff looked intently at the prince. "It has also been confirmed, your Highness, that the adjournment came before the Committee on Governmental Reform could take their vote on removing His Imperial Majesty." Joseph sighed and seemed to relax for a moment. Then, Lord Derek continued. "However, news has come in just the last few minutes that the so-called Council of Lords is voting on a new emperor."

Joseph frowned deeply. "Is the Solicitor General here?"

"Yes, your Highness, he came as you instructed Lord Johannes." Lord Derek turned slightly so the Solicitor General, a short man in black coat over a grey suit, could approach.

Sir Quentin Dahlbeck approached the prince and bowed. "Your Highness," he said, "as you instructed Lord Johannes, I did some very quick research on the subject. I even called the Lord Chief Justice. He shares my opinion that there is a very strong argument to be made that, in the absence of the Senate and with the resignation of the previous Regent, the regency passes to you as the heir apparent."

Prince Joseph turned towards Sir Quentin and raised an eyebrow. "A strong argument?"

"Counter arguments could be made, but both the Lord Chief Justice and I are in agreement that the argument in your favour is far stronger."

Joseph nodded. "That'll have to be good enough. What about the Council?"

"While the Supreme Court has yet to take up our appeal of the lower court's ruling that the Council was improperly banned, the Lord Chief Justice agrees that the Council, regardless of its legal standing, has no authority to name a new sovereign, much less to do so unilaterally."

Joseph nodded, then turned back to Lord Derek. "My Lord," he said, sounding suddenly very formal, "as Regent, I am issuing arrest warrants for General Jansons, Lord Jacob Bergmanis, Lady Jane Perkone and Lord Jekob Perkonis on suspicion of high treason. Arrest anyone who attempts to interfere."

"Yes, your Highness," Lord Derek bowed slightly. "My troops are at your disposal."

"Dispatch them immediately to the Senate and the Imperial Palace. I will go myself to Sweyn Castle."

Lord Derek nodded and gestured to the nearest six-wheeled armoured car. "Your Highness, my command car is at your disposal. By your leave, I shall accompany you to the Castle."

"Yes," Joseph said, suddenly sounding a little nervous, "and thank you, my Lord."

Lord Derek nodded, then turned to a line officers behind him. "Captain Raugevicius, take your men to the Senate and arrest General Jansons. Captain Miller, proceed to the Imperial Palace and arrest Lady Jane. Colonel Phelps, see to it that suitable forces are dispatched immediately to Tervates."

The three officers saluted nearly in unison. "Yes, my Lord," they said.

Lord Derek gave a satisfied nod then walked to his vehicle, where he joined the prince. Once he was in place, the heavy armoured door of the command car was closed and it drove away from the terminal at the head of a column of armoured vehicles and trucks.
26-05-2006, 19:07
High Ridge Estate

Skrastins... Anna was thinking to herself, her expression very dark indeed, her sombre countenance offset only slightly by her customary biting of her lower lip, as the Empress entered the room. There was something... someone...

"Anna," the Empress said softly, "may I join you?"

Anna started, turning abruptly and looking at the Empress in an odd mixture of surprise and guilt, as if she thought that the Empress could see what she was thinking just by seeing her stand there. Haven't I met Baron Skrastins? Or did I just read about him... She shook her head, her loose hair skittering across her face and shoulders, as if shaking the thoughts away, before looking to the Empress. She affected a curtsey by reflex.

"Of course, Your Majesty." she replied. This is Christiana's fault... if she had just refused in the first place... "I was beginning to frighten myself..."

What if somebody killed Jeremiah? she found her mind wandering. Or Skrastins... or the rest of the council? She suddenly felt ill at the thought.

"I'm..." Anna began, before wretching a little and then darting off into their bedroom's ensuite bathroom. The Empress could hear the unpleasant sounds which accompanied Anna's heaving, and then a pause. After a minute or so she could hear taps running as Anna cleaned her hands and face, rinsed her mouth and brushed her teeth. She emerged from the bathroom looking like a deeply embarrassed nervous wreck. "I'm sorry, ma'am, I couldn't help it. It's just... I don't know what's going on, or what to do, or whether Joseph's safe, or even whether any of us are safe... and it's driving me mad."
27-05-2006, 18:40
High Ridge Estate, Excalbia

"Anna," the Empress said softly, "may I join you?"

Empress Elizabeth had not been trying to startle the young princess, yet she could plainly see that she had. Anna turned abruptly towards her, looking surprised and embarrassed.

“Of course, your Majesty,” Anna said, “I was beginning to frighten myself…”

“Oh, my dear,” Elizabeth said, quickly crossing the room and laying a gentle hand on the young woman’s shoulder.

“I’m…” Anna said just as began to wretch. She disappeared into the bathroom. Elizabeth followed, standing discretely out of sight from the door.

“Are you alright, dear? Do you need anything?”

After a moment Anna reappeared, her face obviously freshly washed. “I'm sorry, ma'am, I couldn't help it. It's just... I don't know what's going on, or what to do, or whether Joseph's safe, or even whether any of us are safe... and it's driving me mad."

“I understand,” Elizabeth said, putting her arms around Anna. She held close in a gentle embrace. “These are difficult times. And I won’t try to fool you, my dear; I’ve never seen anything quite like this. And I, too, am worried. About Joseph. And about David. And the Empire.” Elizabeth looked past Anna through the window and tried to blink away a tear.

With a deep sigh, Elizabeth steadied herself and looked down at Anna. She smiled a sad but warm smile. “In spite of my own worries, though, I know that Joseph is a good man and that he is capable of handling things. He is his father’s son and I think he’s clearly inherited that unquantifiable something that makes some men leaders.”

Elizabeth reassuring stroked Anna’s hair. “And I know that he goes with God and His Will will be done.”

Baronial Estate, Barony of Tervates

Prince Jeremiah sat in the baron’s study pretending to read a magazine. In truth, he was far too nervous to concentrate on the words. Or even the pictures.

He had arrived in the barony early in the morning, in anticipation of a Senate vote to remove his cousin as Emperor and the Council’s vote to name him the new sovereign. His arrival had been kept secret and so he found himself alone in the baron’s study awaiting word of the votes from the Senate and the Council. Once the Council acted, Baron Perkonis and Baron Skrastins planned for him to make a surprise appearance to address the barons. Then, the TV crews would arrive and he and the Council’s leaders would make their case to the public.

Jeremiah found himself feeling short of breath and lightheaded, almost dizzy. He had not eaten and the anticipation was taking its toll.

He steadied himself and took a biscuit from the plate his host had set out for him.

It was almost impossible to believe what might be about to happen. Jeremiah told himself that he had never envied his cousin and had never coveted the Sword. Of course both statements were lies. He had always felt slighted, being shoved aside – almost literally – after his family moved from the capital to the rural Barony of Latgale after his uncle David ascension as David III.

At family holidays, he had found himself feeling bitterness towards his cousins, David and Paul. He was as much a prince as they, yet a simple twist of birth order had made their father Emperor and made them heirs to the Sword.

Worse yet, neither had seemed to really want the Sword. Especially David. He had wanted to be naval officer and live like a commoner. He had even married a commoner. Meanwhile, Jeremiah had enjoyed the limelight, the palaces, the pomp and circumstance.

And now, David was in a coma and his son, Joseph, who had always seemed as adverse to the attention and privilege of being a prince as his father, was plotting and scheming like a Pantocratorian to get his hands on the Sword. All the while Jeremiah’s own son was denied even the courtesy of inheriting the title prince.

Jeremiah smiled. Thanks to Lord James and the barons, that would now change. Jeremiah would take up the Sword and, in doing so, would restore tradition and order to the Empire and purge it of foreign influences.

Sweyn Castle, Citadel Excalbia

Lord Jacob Bergmanis stood nervously on the steps of the castle’s main entrance. General Jansons had reported moments ago that the Senate had adjourned before he could deliver the decree dissolving it. Jansons had learned that Lady Jessica had resigned and that Davis Robb was acting chancellor.

Then, a call had come in from friend at naval air station. Prince Joseph had returned alone from High Ridge and was on his way into the capital at the head of a column of regular troops.

Lord Jacob had anticipated no of these developments, and that lack of anticipation now provoked waves of anxiety. He had done what needed to be done for the Imperial Family, yet, now Prince Joseph was coming and Lord Jacob did not know whether he was coming in support or in opposition.

The rumble of heavy vehicles began rising from the lower city. Soon, the first vehicle, a six-wheeled armoured car, crested the ridge and turned towards the castle. Lord Jacob watched the vehicle, and those that followed, drive past the Citadel and turn up the driveway to the castle.

The armoured vehicle came to stop in front of the steps and several soldiers jumped out. They quickly moved into position to secure the area and the two nearest Lord Jacob leveled their weapons at him. He raised his hands, indicating that he offered no threat. The soldier looked at him cautiously, then one opened the vehicles second door.

Prince Joseph, looking surprisingly martial in a blue greatcoat over his Imperial Army dress uniform with a the end of a sheathed sword peaking out from under the coat, stepped out of the vehicle and climbed the steps directly towards Lord Jacob.

Lord Jacob bowed deeply. “Your Imperial Highness, welcome ho…”

“Lord Jacob,” Prince Joseph interrupted, his face hard and cold, “did you issue a decree dissolving the Senate?”

“Uh, um…” Lord Jacob was taken aback by the prince’s directness. “Yes, your Highness…”

“On whose authority did you issue that decree?”

“I… in the name of the Emperor, your Highness…”

“But without his authorization?”

Lord Jacob looked down. “Yes, your Highness,” he said quietly.

Prince Joseph turned and looked behind him to Lord Admiral Derek Kunle, who had climbed the steps behind him. “Lord Admiral,” Joseph said flatly, “place this man under arrest for treason.”

“Yes, your Highness,” Lord Derek said gesturing towards several soldiers, who – with weapons drawn – began climbing the steps towards Lord Jacob.

Without another word, Joseph walked past the Lord Sheriff and into the castle.
28-05-2006, 07:49
High Ridge Estate
"In spite of my own worries, though, I know that Joseph is a good man and that he is capable of handling things. He is his father’s son and I think he’s clearly inherited that unquantifiable something that makes some men leaders." the Empress reassured Anna as she embraced her.

Unquantifiable something? Anna thought to herself quietly as she returned her mother-in-law's embrace. What about a perfectly quantifiable someone?

"I know." Anna answered. "He was born to handle things like this. You did an excellent job raising him..."

"And I know that he goes with God and His Will will be done." the Empress added.
28-05-2006, 16:13
Sweyn Castle, Citadel Excalbia

Prince Joseph stood frozen in the door way of his father’s study. He looked at the antique desk, the leather chair and the framed portraits of former kings, queens, emperors and empresses. He swallowed, though his throat felt like it was coated with sandpaper and gravel. He walked slowly, almost hesitantly, across the blue and gold carpet.

Pulling the chair away from the desk, Joseph sat down. Softly, gingerly, as if he were sitting on eggs. He reached for the phone and realized, to his surprise, that his hand was trembling.

“Your Highness,” a deep, velvety voice said from the doorway. Joseph looked up and wordlessly nodded to Chief of the Imperial General Staff. “Lord Jacob has been detained without resistance,” Lord Admiral Derek Kunle said. “Captain Raugevicius should be at the Senate momentarily.”

Joseph nodded again. He turned his head to one side as another figure appeared in the doorway.

“Your Highness,” the tall, thin man in a dark suit of an old-fashioned cut said pleasantly, though with a twinge of uncertainty, “may I be of assistance?”

“Yes, Lord Alfred,” the prince said to the Imperial Steward, “I need to speak most urgently with Lord Johannes. I also wish to summon the leaders of each of the parties in the Senate, including the Speaker, this afternoon. And,” Joseph paused and let out a long breath, “I need to make an address to the nation this evening. On radio and television.”

Lord Alfred Landis bowed deeply. “I shall put the staff to work immediately, your Highness.” Lord Alfred looked up and added, somewhat sheepishly, “May I say, your Highness, that it is pleasure to have you back… and… in control.”

Joseph nodded, dismissing the Steward. His eyes turned and fell upon the Lord Admiral.

“Lord Derek,” Joseph paused for a beat, then continued, “I… I am not sure what will happen…”

“None of us are ever sure of the future, your Highness,” the admiral said mildly, “we can only do that which best at any given moment.”

Imperial Senate, Citadel Excalbia

A handful of armoured vehicles bearing the insignia of the Imperial Guard sat parked in the driveway at the east entrance of the domed Senate building. A few blue uniformed Guards kept curious onlookers away. The Guards, however, were visibly nervous; their commander had gone into the building, but had neither exited nor summoned them.

Soon, the sound of more heavy vehicles filled the city. A far larger column of armoured cars and troop transporters rounded a corner and approached the Senate. The lieutenant in command of the Guards detachment became somewhat alarmed when he realized that the approaching vehicles bore the insignia of the Imperial Marines rather than that of the Guard.

The Marine vehicles quickly surrounded the area and scores of Marines in full battledress deployed. An officer, wearing captain’s insignia walked confidently towards the Guard detachment.

“Who’s in command here,” the captain barked.

“Lieutenant Kevin Antweiler,” the young Guardsman in command said saluting.

“Where is General Jansons?” Captain Raugevicius asked sharply, barely sketching a salute in response to the lieutenant’s.

“He went inside, sir.”

“You are relieved, Lieutenant,” the captain said, looking past the young officer towards the entrance to the Senate.

“Sir, I was ordered to wait here by General…”

“General Jansons has been relieved of duty,” the captain interrupted, “I have an order for his arrest authorized by the Regent himself.”

“The Regent? Himself?” Antweiler looked nervously at his men, then at the Marines, several of whom – he could not fail to notice – had weapons trained on him. “Yes, sir!” Antweiler saluted, then turned to his men. “Mount up, men, we’re returning to barracks!”

As the Guards prepared to leave, Captain Raugevicius, followed by a squad of Marines, climbed the stairs to the Senate.

Inside, General Jansons had been watching the exchange between the Marine captain and Lieutenant from the windows in the second floor gallery.

“Something wrong, General?” Senator Davis Robb, the new acting chancellor asked sarcastically, having watched the same exchange.

Jansons turned to Robb. His face was flushed and he was shaking with anger. He should have known better. He should have known the military would cave into civilian pressure. For all he knew, Robb himself had summoned the Marines; after all the politician was the Minister of Defence.

Jansons had often wondered since he and Lord Jacob had begun planning this what he would do should they fail. Now, in an instant, he made his decision. Coolly, almost mechanically, Jansons drew his automatic pistol. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he was dimly aware of Robb’s scream and the other man’s fruitless lunge towards him. Jansons paid no attention, however, as he leveled the gun and fired three times into the chest of the Minister of Defence.

As Robb dropped to the marble floor amidst a spray of blood, Jansons raised the gun to his own temple and fired once.
28-05-2006, 19:45
Tervates Chapel, Barony of Tervates

Baron Jekob Perkonis smiled broadly. “My lord and ladies, fellow barons, concerned citizens,” he said loudly from a small podium erected in front of the simple, understated wooden altar, “today we can make history! We can correct a grave historical error.” As he spoke Perkonis, an older, dignified looking man became more animated and more passionate.

“When our ancestors settled this land and created Excalbia – before the Empire; before the Kingdom – they intended that they and their descendants would live in a land of liberty. They intended that every man, every woman, every family, every community would be free to live by their own rules and traditions. Free from the heavy hand of distant rulers!

“Then, the clan of Alsgood subdued its neighbors and established a kingdom. And we – all of us – lost a little of our liberty and autonomy. Then, the son of Ragarth used his new religion – a religion we all now embrace – as an excuse to turn the kingdom into an empire. And we lost more of our liberty and autonomy. Now, we are beset by an Emperor who increasingly mimics the autocratic and oppressive tendencies of his foreign allies and a legislature in which we have no voice, but which is dominated by city-dwellers and immigrants and which seeks to tax us into poverty in order to increase their own sway over the those who are becoming increasingly dependent on the government’s handouts.”

Perkonis wore a look of satisfaction as he saw many heads nodding in agreement. “With the Sword and the Senate locked in a destructive power struggle in the capital – for even as I speak, the Senate is voting to remove the Emperor, while the Imperial Household is moving to abolish the Senate,” there were a few gasps in the pews of the chapel, “while these institutions battle each other, we can reestablish the kind of society our ancestor intended by proclaiming a new emperor – an emperor who understands our history and traditions and who will rule in accordance with our ancient and proper constitution!”

A few isolated cheers slowly grew and spread until it became a roar. Perkonis raised his hands. “And so, my friends, I give you Prince Jeremiah and commend him to you as your new Emperor!”

Baron Alexander Skrastins, looking trim and dapper in a stylish suit, entered the chapel and ushered in Prince Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a middle-aged man of average height with blonde, graying hair. He wore a blue business suit and yellow tie and bore more than a passing resemblance to his cousin, David IV.

The assembly rose to its feet, even those who had pointedly reframed from cheering, to greet the prince. Jeremiah smiled and nodded appreciatively to the crowd, then walked over the podium that had just been vacated by Perkonis.

“My fellow Excalbians,” Jeremiah said, holding his hands up for silence, “I have never sought the Sword. And I have always supported by cousin, the Emperor, and before him my uncle, David III. However, I have always believed that our loyalty to Excalbia should exceed even our loyalty to the Sword.

“And in recent years, it is my sincere belief, we have gone astray. The Emperor has become more and more autocratic and taken an ever greater hand in personally setting our military and foreign policy. At the same time, he has granted the Senate increasing power over the economy and our daily lives.

“Yet, even then, I spoke out only obliquely and respectfully. And such would still be the case save for the reality that David IV is no longer the emperor, except in name.” Jeremiah waited until the gasps and murmurs ceased. “He is in a coma. A coma from which he may never awaken. My cousin, Princess Christiana, was named Regent despite her own oft admitted unsuitability to wield the Sword. As Regent she was naught but the pawn of the most extreme leftists in the Senate. Even she recognized her weakness, and so last night she resigned.

“The title of Regent would now pass to her nephew, Prince Joseph. Yet, he…” Jeremiah paused as Baron Alexander rushed to his side and handed him a note. Jeremiah read and all the colour drained from his face. He blinked a few times, then looked over the crowd. “I was about to cite the reasons why Prince Joseph would be a dubious choice to take up the Sword, but he has proven my case.” Jeremiah paused as the crowd literally shifted to the edge of their seats. “It seems my second cousin has sent troops to the Senate – and there are unconfirmed reports of gunfire – and of even greater concern, some of our friends in the local police tell us that a large number of military vehicles are heading in our direction. I think there can be no doubt that the Prince intends to arrest us. Or worse.”

Perkonis stepped beside Prince Jeremiah at the podium. “I can get His Highness, Prince Jeremiah, to safety together with the leadership of the Council. However, I urge the rest of you to quickly evacuate and head for safety; I will contact you all as soon as I can…”

Almost before Perkonis could finish, the assembled barons and baronesses began pushing and shoving for the exits.

Kuldiga Palace, Kuldiga

Lord Johannes Corman and Lady Jessica Tagaarth paced nervously in the ornately decorated hallway that led to the emperor’s suite. The soft squeak of an opening door caused both to turn and take a step towards the suite.

The emperor’s personal physician stood in the doorway, looking tired but wearing an odd smile.

“Doctor,” Lord Johannes said, “is… is His Imperial Majesty awake?”

The doctor nodded. “I don’t know how. Or why. But he is awake. He is very weak and only partially lucid; when I tried to talk with him, he kept thinking I was the late-Bishop Purins. He needs rest. And a full neurological workup.”

Lord Johannes nodded. “How soon could his family see him, Doctor?”

“Briefly, for a few moments, they could see him as soon as they get here.”

Norbotten, Excalbia

As the car carrying Prince Peter and Grand Duchess Gwendolyn entered the small medieval town of Norbotten, another news bulletin appeared on the small TV installed in the limousine. A grim faced newsreader looked directly into the screen.

“We have just received a report from our reporter on the scene at the Imperial Senate. He reports that there are both Imperial Guard and Imperial Marine troops deployed around the Senate building. He has also just informed us that there are unconfirmed reports of gunshots fired in the Senate itself…”

High Ridge Estate, Excalbia

There was another soft knock on the door to Princess Anna’s suite. Empress Elizabeth turned and saw Princess Rebecca standing at the door. Her face was stained with tears and she was trembling, but she was also smiling.

“Rebecca? What is it?” Elizabeth kept one arm around Anna even as she held the other hand out to her daughter.

“Mama,” Rebecca continued shaking and bouncing on her feet, “it’s… wonderful… awful… oh!”

“Rebecca?” Elizabeth’s face turned white.

“Lord Johannes is on the phone,” Rebecca held up the Empress’ mobile phone, “he says Papa is awake…”

Elizabeth’s head became to swim and she began to feel nervous and giddy. “That’s… a miracle…”

Rebecca nodded. “But… it’s on the radio…”

Elizabeth felt her stomach beginning to lurch.

“There’s been gunfire at the Senate… they say the army… the Guards… “

Elizabeth let go of Anna with a quick pat on the shoulder and rushed to Elizabeth. She snatched the phone and pulled her daughter close, then walked back towards Anna.

“Johannes? What’s happening?”
The Resurgent Dream
29-05-2006, 03:39
In Transit

Gwendolyn let Peter do all of the talking on the way to the car. Once they were on the way, she followed the news broadcasts with increasing worry. Her face was starting to go pale and she murmured a few desperate words of prayer under her breath. "Peter, during the civil war back home...a lot of mother had our home temporarily converted into a hospital where she, the maidservants, and some other local women worked as nurses. We brought in some doctors from Narich. My mother insisted that I be able to do the same sort of thing as firmly as my uncles insisted His Majesty learn to fight. What I mean is...if it comes to it, and I pray it doesn't...I'd like to nurse Excalbian soldiers."

Tarana, the Resurgent Dream

Owain sat down with a growing frown as he looked at the telephone on his desk. " the Excalbians. Find out where the Grand Duchess of Shieldcrest is. And get Princess Diana and my wife here as soon as possible."
29-05-2006, 05:02
High Ridge Estate
When she heard that the Emperor was awake, Anna felt instantly relieved. If the Emperor was awake, then the crisis would be over, the Council of Lords and Jeremiah would be taken as a total farce, the Senate's rumblings would be silenced, Joseph would be heir apparent again like he should be and the damage done to him by Christiana's self-delusions would be undone, the army would stand down, everything would be back to normal. Everyone would be safe again, and everything would be back in its proper place. Then Rebecca got to the "awful" part of her news.

"Was Joseph at the Senate?" Anna panicked. "Was he shot?"

Anna's reaction to the news was exacerbated by the brief moments of relaxation afforded by the good news. She started to shriek quite hysterically in French, demanding to know whether Joseph was alive, whether he was hurt, and so on, to the extent that it would've been difficult for the Empress to hear anything Johannes said.
29-05-2006, 08:35
High Ridge Estate, Excalbia

"Was Joseph at the Senate?" Anna panicked. "Was he shot?"

Elizabeth tried to comfort Anna even as she awkwardly maneuvered the phone in a fruitless attempt to hear Lord Johannes. Soon, Anna began shrieking in French and, though the Empress spoke some French, all Elizabeth could understand was the name of her son being repeated over and over again.

Elizabeth turned to her daughter Rebecca and gently slid the teen towards Anna. Rebecca seemed to understand and through her own tears began trying to calm her sister-in-law.

The Empress took the phone and dashed to the hallway. After a few moments she returned and rushed to Anna’s side. “Anna, Anna,” she said, half shouting to be heard over the princess’ hysterical shrieks in French, “Joseph is alright; he’s at the Castle; he was never at the Senate. They’re getting him on the phone now, Anna.”

The Empress took Anna’s hand and placed the phone in it. “Joseph will be on the phone in just a moment, Anna.”

Norbotten, Excalbia

More often than often, Peter’s face was an open book on which his feelings broadcast themselves to anyone willing to look. So, it was rather extraordinary that at such a charged moment his face was blank and inscrutable. He turned as Gwendolyn spoke and nodded slightly. “I understand, Gwendolyn,” he said. “I don’t think it will come to open civil war,” Peter said slowly, “but, if it does, we will both be needed, I think.”

As Peter finished speaking, the car came to a stop in front of a small stone and brick building with a clock tower. A tall, rotund man with thinning red hair ran down the stairs and greeted the royal couple as they exited the car.

“Your Highnesses,” the man said with a bow, “welcome to Norbotten. I’m Jan Sondersen, the mayor. Please come in; the sheriff and the commander of the local reserve detachment are waiting for you.”

Barony of Tervates, Excalbia

Baron Alexander Skrastins and Baron Jekob Perkonis led Prince Jeremiah to a waiting SUV. As they helped the prince into the vehicle, he noticed that the doors and windows were thicker and heavier than usual – a clear sign of a lightly armoured vehicle. Inside the vehicle, Jeremiah noticed two armed guards sharing the front seat with the driver and, in the third seat, a large man with a red and gray beard holding an unlit cigar in his hand.

“Your Highness,” Lord James Reynolds said with a nod.

“Lord James,” the Prince said as he slid over to make room for Skrastins and Perkonis.

Once the two barons were in the car, Perkonis said, “Go,” and the driver shifted the car into drive and pulled away with a spray of dust of gravel.

“Where will we go?” Skrastins asked, looking nervously out the window.

Perkonis leaned back and let out a breath. “My family has long maintained a fortress in the northern territories…”

“No-man’s land?” Jeremiah turned to Perkonis, his expression a mixture of anxiety and disgust.

“Yes,” Perkonis nodded. “Originally, my ancestors used it as a sanctuary far from the kings in the Citadel and as a post from which to raid the baronies in Trondgard, Alud and Saxmere. In recent generations it has been kept as something of a retreat.”

“How will be get there?” Skrastins asked. “We will have to go through Upper Virginia or the Confederation and the borders are sure to be on heightened alert, if not closed.”

Perkonis gave a small smile. “There is a private estate high in the mountains on the Trondgard border; there is not supposed to be a pass through the mountains there, but there is. We’ll cross there unobserved.”

Skrastins nodded.

“What about the others?” Jeremiah asked, turning to look back at the chapel. “Our families?”

“Our families will be fine,” Perkonis said dismissively. “The other barons… well, most of them are unaware of the full details of our plans and will be exonerated. The others… well, there is nothing we can do for them.”

Skrastins turned and joined the prince in looking back at the baronial estate. “Still, I wish there had been time to get Celeste…”

Perkonis frowned. “If the tide of public opinion turns against Joseph for this outrage, we will be back soon. And may even snatch strategic victory from this tactical defeat. If it doesn’t,” Perkonis shrugged, “we will be exiles and will simply send for families once we are settled.”
31-05-2006, 08:17
((making a test post to see if I *can* post and perchance to read up))
31-05-2006, 17:12
Princess Sarah ni Beaumayn waited very nervously to be received by the Emperor of Pantocratoria. Very nervously. The normally confident young woman was slightly pale and her eyes were lost and thoughtful. As opposed to sitting daintily, as she always had before, the young princess was pacing back and forth anxiously, her hands needlessly smoothing her gorgeous gown.

"His Majesty will see you now." the Princess was informed by a page who emerged from the Sun King Room. He held the door open for Sarah.

In contrast to the Pantocratorian nobles, it was Sarah's habit to give at least a perfunctory thank you to pages in these situations. However, the young man seemed to escape her notice almost entirely this time. Sarah moved quickly into the Sun King Room, making due courtesy to the Emperor. The Emperor closed a folder containing an IFIS briefing about the situation in Excalbia, and rose to his feet from behind his desk to greet the Danaan Ambassador. He moved around in front of the desk and motioned for her to be seated on one of the beautiful, but rather uncomfortable-looking couches.

"A pleasure to see Your Highness. Please, sit down." he said.

"Thank you, Your Majesty." Sarah said, sitting down rather stiffly and placing her hands in her lap.

"So, to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit, mademoiselle?" the Emperor asked as he sat down on the couch next to her.

"Well...I was hoping we could speak about the situation in Excalbia to begin with, Your Majesty." Sarah said nervously.

"Of course we can, my dear." the Emperor replied. "But before you begin, is there something I can get for you? You look thirsty."

"Just... water please." Sarah said with a faint blush. She hadn't realized quite how obvious her nervousness was.

"Of course." the Emperor said, and rose to his feet again. He walked over to his desk, pressed the intercom, and said one thing: "Water."

He sat back down next to Sarah. Within thirty seconds, the door opened and the young page entered the room carrying a tray with finest crystal glasses, and a jug of water. He poured Sarah and the Emperor each a glass, and then withdrew. The Emperor handed a glass to Sarah. From its delightful scent, Sarah could tell that it had been flavoured with rose petals before it had even touched her lips.

Sarah smiled slightly and took a sip of the water. "Thank you, Your Majesty."

"Not at all, my dear." the Emperor replied, sipping his own glass himself. He gave her a few moments with the drink to compose herself.

Sarah took a long sip before setting it down. "I can't believe we have this kind of situation in Excalbia. This sort of thing happens frequently in the smaller, less stable nations of the world but..."

"It is indeed concerning." the Emperor nodded. "All these conflicting authorities... and it is as if nobody is clear which has precedence, precipitating a constitutional meltdown in a state which most would've said beforehand was among the more robust in the region. Please, go on."

Sarah nodded. "There are a great many conflicting authorities and the Sovereign is unable to speak on the matter in his current condition. However, I must say that barring recognition by the Emperor, the Danaan Government does not consider this new body of Lords a legitimate governing body to any degree."

"Nor does Pantocratoria." the Emperor nodded.

"Are you worried about the instabilities in Excalbia affecting Excalbian troops overseas, Your Majesty?" Sarah asked.

"Not immediately, I will be if conflicting orders are issued to troops overseas. For the time being, however, I am satisfied that Excalbian troops will continue to operate under the authority of the Allied Central Command." the Emperor replied. "What are the Danaan Government's concerns in this matter, mademoiselle?"

"Only our concern for an ally, Your Majesty." Sarah stated.

"And what, specifically, are those concerns?" the Emperor enquired.

Sarah looked at him in confusion for a moment as he repeated the question she'd just answered. "Well...we're worried that if legitimate authority continues to be so unclear, it might lead to increasing civil and even military rival claimants try to exert authority."

"Mademoiselle," the Emperor began patiently, setting his glass down on the table. "You know that Pantocratoria shares those concerns, of course. Was there anything specific the Danaan Government wished to discuss with me about the situation?"

"Well..." Sarah began hesitantly. "'s hard to be more specific without more information from Excalbia."

"I have detailed information from Excalbia." the Emperor said. His eyes glanced at the intelligence dossier on his desk. He looked back at Sarah. "Mademoiselle, if you're hesitating to discuss a joint Pantocratorian-Danaan position about the events in Excalbia because you don't want to offend Minister Raoul, let me assure you that I will be managing our reaction to the events there as they unfold."

"That...isn't the problem." Sarah admitted.

"What is the problem, mademoiselle?" the Emperor asked, ever-so patiently.

"The problem is...what is Your Majesty's position on the matter?" Sarah asked.

"How is my position a problem?" the Emperor enquired.

"It isn't." Sarah said. "But you said you wished to try and work out a joint position."

"My desire is that the Emperor not be removed, that his son and heir serve as Regent, and that Excalbia get back to business as usual." the Emperor said. "My position, of course, must be more realistic. The world won't re-order itself according to my will, despite what some of my courtiers might say. At this point, my position cannot be any more complicated than that the Council of Lords has no right to appoint a new emperor."

Sarah nodded slightly. "We can agree to that readily enough. However, the appointment of a new regent seems to pose legal difficulties given the dissolution of the Senate, in whom that power is constitutionally vested. It is to be hoped that the situation will allow them to resume deliberations."

"There is a difficulty there, actually." the Emperor observed. "Only the Emperor can recall the Senate before its next compulsory sitting, or the Regent on behalf of the Emperor. Princess Christiana has resigned. Prince Joseph's regency hasn't been confirmed. Nobody can recall the Senate."

"The Speaker might attempt to hold the adjournment of the Senate void as it was a preemptive response to an illegal attempt to disband the Senate and thus, perhaps, could be considered to have taken place under duress." Sarah stated.

"If the Speaker does, it isn't relevant. The Speaker still can't recall the Senate." the Emperor shook his head. "By adjourning itself, the Senate has really made a mess of things..."

"If the adjournment is void, then the Senate doesn't need to be recalled." Sarah said. "It just needs to walk back into the chambers."

"Well, I must confess that I'm not familiar enough with Excalbian parliamentary procedure to say whether the Speaker can make rulings outside of the Senate." the Emperor replied, shaking his head. "I'll have to ask for a briefing... But moving on, the Danaan Government would take the same position, that the Council of Lords has no power to appoint an emperor?"

"Yes, it would." Sarah went on to say.

"And if it named one?" the Emperor asked.

"Then he would not be an emperor outside the fantasies of the Lords." Sarah said.

"Under normal circumstances, yes. But Excalbia has, at present, an emperor in a coma, a resigned regent, and an unratified regent. The Sword exists only in name." the Emperor said. "A Council of Lords appointed monarch would have more credibility than he would otherwise have just by virtue of the fact that he could walk and talk. Not to mention how much more fragile it makes the whole institution of the Excalbian Monarchy appear..."

"He is appointed by a body not even established by the Excalbian Constitution. He might appear to have legitimacy in the eyes of some but it would legally be no different than if a group of my friends decided to start acting as though I were queen." Sarah stated.

"It isn't a matter of law." the Emperor replied. "It's a matter of perception and the damage done to the institution, to Excalbian stability, and to regional stability. And, as you are aware, the Council of Lords is a little more than just a group of friends, and its legitimacy, irrespective of its extra-constitutional nature, was recognised by the Excalbian courts. If its pronouncements were trivial, then you wouldn't have asked for this meeting, obviously, so let's treat the matter seriously."

"We are not treating the matter lightly, Your Majesty." Princess Sarah said defensively.

"So you would have me treat the matter seriously if a group of your friends pronounced you queen?" the Emperor asked, arching an eyebrow.

"Yes." Sarah said. "But that was just an analogy."

"It was a joke." the Emperor said reprovingly. "The Council of Lords can't be laughed away. It's a serious matter. So let us talk, seriously, about a joint reaction, a joint position."

"I thought that's what we were doing." Sarah said.

"So did I. So let's return to it." the Emperor said, now getting a little impatient. "We both agree that the Council of Lords cannot appoint a new emperor and that any person they do appoint as emperor has no legitimacy. What will we do about it?"

"Well...if it comes to it...if the legitimate Regent requests it...the Resurgent Dream is bound to ensure the internal and external sovereignty of Excalbia by treaty." Sarah said.

"Who is the legitimate Regent?" the Emperor asked.

"Whoever the Senate appoints if the adjournment is declared void. If it is void, then the Speaker would not be making the ruling outside the Senate." Sarah said.

"Again with the parliamentary procedure..." the Emperor muttered. "By what authority does the Senate proclaim regents anyway?"

"By the authority of the constitution." Sarah stated.

"No." the Emperor shook his head. "The constitution doesn't mention what happens if the Emperor is incapacitated. The constitution says nothing about the Senate appointing regents, except if a newly crowned emperor is a minor, in which case the Chancellor is Regent. It discusses the Senate ratifying the succession upon the death of an emperor, and that's all."

"Then, perhaps, the affairs of a comatose Emperor might be handled according to the ordinary usages of the common law." Sarah suggested.

"Meaning?" the Emperor asked.

"Meaning it would fall to Her Majesty." Sarah suggested.

"We're discussing the Imperial Regency. The previous regent retired in favour of the Crown Prince. The Senate didn't have a chance to ratify the Crown Prince's regency before it was adjourned." the Emperor said. "He may not be the ratified regent, but if the Crown Prince requested Pantocratorian and Danaan intervention, what would be the position of the Danaan Government?"

"The Danaan Government would not be inclined to intervene in favour of the Crown Prince if he were not confirmed first by the Senate." Sarah said.

"As I keep saying, the Senate may not be able to confirm the Crown Prince until the second Monday in January, in the year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Seven!" the Emperor snapped. He then lowered his tone and continued. "And the Excalbian constitution does not explicitly require its ratification in any event. That not withstanding, since there is presently no confirmed, ratified regent, and assuming that continues to be the case, and the Crown Prince were to ask us for help to restore order, possibly to act against would-be usurpers against Emperor David, incapacitated though he may be, usurpers whom we both agree would be acting in an unacceptable manner, would the Resurgent Dream refuse such assistance?"

"The Resurgent Dream would most likely be willing to accept the Crown help the Crown Prince against any false claimant to the Imperial Throne." Sarah said.

"Pantocratoria would certainly assist the Crown Prince in such a matter. Would that affect the Danaan position?" the Emperor enquired.

"It makes us somewhat more likely to do so." Sarah said.

"We should have a united position." the Emperor reiterated, and picked up his water again. He sipped it and then rose to his feet. He turned around to face Sarah. "Was there anything else, mademoiselle?"

Sarah blinked. "I suppose not, Your Majesty."

"Good. Speak with your government, and speak with me again when you know whether we will, in fact, have a united position." the Emperor said, turning to the window overlooking the gardens. "Thank you, Your Highness."
31-05-2006, 19:55
Sweyn Castle, Citadel Excalbia

Prince Joseph turned towards the door of the study at the sound of approaching bootsteps. A young Marine stepped into the doorway and bowed.

“Your Highness,” he said, then turning to Lord Derek he added, “my Lord Admiral, Captain Raugevicius is on the radio for you.”

“Your Highness,” Lord Derek said with a bow.

Joseph nodded and dismissed the Lord Admiral. As the officer stepped into the hall, Lord Alfred Landis slid past him and into the study. He bowed and the prince nodded, bidding him speak.

“Your Highness,” Lord Alfred said approaching the desk and picking up the phone, “Lord Johannes is on the phone from Kuldiga Palace.”

The Crown Prince nodded. “Thank you,” he said as he took the phone.

A few minutes later, Joseph was hanging up the phone with a look of relief on his face as Lord Derek stepped into the office and bowed slightly.

“Ah, Lord Derek,” Joseph said, the faint glimmer of a smile on his face, “Lord Johannes says that my Father – His Imperial Majesty – is awake. It’s a miracle…”

“Your Highness,” the Lord Admiral said somberly, “Captain Raugevicius reports there has been an incident…”

Joseph smile collapsed and his head sank. “The Guards? Was there resistance?”

Lord Derek shook his head. “The Guards returned to their barracks as ordered. However, General Jansons was inside with Minister Robb.” Lord Derek looked down and swallowed. “It seems that once he realized that the Marines were there and that the Guard had withdrawn, he shot Minister Robb, then killed himself.”

“Good Lord,” Joseph said softly. “Minister Robb? How is he?”

“He is being taken to the Military Hospital, your Highness, but he is in grave condition; he is not expected to live.”

Joseph cupped his head in his hands. “Any word from Captain Miller?” He asked in a hoarse whisper.

“Yes, your Highness,” Lord Derek said, “Lady Jane was not present; her whereabouts are unknown. We have also heard from our troops in Tervates. It seems the barons were alerted and that Baron Alexander Skrastins and Baron Jekob Perkonis have fled.”

Joseph nodded.

“There are also reports,” Lord Derek’s voice grew soft, “that His Highness, Prince Jeremiah, is with Skrastins and Perkonis.”

Joseph closed his eyes and leaned back in his father’s chair.

“Our commander is asking what he should do if his men encounter His Highness…”

“If he is in the company of Skrastins and Perkonis, then he should be arrested…”

Lord Derek nodded.

“Your Highness,” a voice said from the doorway.

Joseph looked up to see the Lord Steward. “Yes, my Lord?”

“The Director of Imperial Intelligence to see you, your Highness.”

“Show him in, my Lord.”

Lord Alfred nodded and stepped aside as Ambassador Rev. Jacob Donnelly entered with a bow.

“Your Highness,” Rev. Donnelly said.

“Reverend,” Joseph said with a nod.

“Your Highness,” Donnelly spoke with his head bowed, “I feel I must apologize for our failure to anticipate these events…”

Joseph shook his head. “Your mission is foreign intelligence, Reverend. We do not spy on our own people; there was no way for you to know what was afoot.”

“Thank you, your Highness,” Donnelly said, not sounding very relieved. “However, there is something you should know – we have been following Lord James Reynolds.” Joseph’s eyes widened at the mention of the former intelligence director. “His Imperial Majesty had ordered the surveillance himself; he was concerned that Lord James was passing classified information to foreign powers. We found no evidence of any such foreign contacts; however, we did find that Lord James was meeting with a number of barons and Senators. At the time, we did not see anything unusual in the meetings. After today’s events,” Donnelly shrugged, “we finally realized all too late what the meetings meant.” Donnelly placed a folder on the ornate marble-topped wooden desk. “This is a list of all Lord James’ meetings over the last several months. We believe he is linked to both the barons behind this so-called Council of Lords and the Senators behind the move to remove His Imperial Majesty.”

Joseph picked up the folder and flipped through it. He frowned, then closed it and placed it back on the table. “Thank you, Reverend,” he said. Then, turning towards the door, he called out softly, “Lord Alfred?”

In a moment, Lord Alfred returned to the doorway. “My Lord,” the prince said, “there is no time to wait; I want all the party leaders and the Speaker here within the half hour. And I want to address the nation within the hour.”

“Yes, your Highness,” Lord Alfred said with a bow.

Ministry of State, Citadel Excalbia

Sarah Harrington, the Deputy Minister of State, pushed open the heavy door leading into the Ministry’s operations centre. The television sets arrayed around the room had been carrying news of the troubling and confusing events occurring at home through out the morning. So, when Harrington entered the operations centre all eyes turned towards her with a look of expectation.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” she said, “I know you’ve been watching the news. And so have our allies, friends and trading partners. Sir Albert has just been summoned to Sweyn Castle. Before he left, he passed on this instruction from the Regent. We need to send the following message to all our embassies immediately.”

Two of the junior watch officers broke out notepads and pens, ready to transcribe the message.

“Quote: His Imperial Majesty has awakened from his coma. However, until he is fully recovered, His Imperial Highness, Crown Prince Joseph, will be acting as the Imperial Regent. Despite reports and claims to the contrary, the Regent is full command of His Imperial Majesty’s Government, including the Imperial Guards and the military.

“Her Excellency, Lady Jessica Tagaarth, the Imperial Chancellor has resigned and the Imperial Senate has adjourned. Minister of State, Sir Albert Cummings, has assumed the role of Acting Chancellor until the Regent can name a new Chancellor and a new government.

“All Missions are instructed to convey this information to their host governments and reassure their host governments of the continuity of His Imperial Majesty’s Government and the stability of the Sword. God Save the Emperor.” Harrington took a deep breath. “Send it in my name as Acting Minister of State.”

Norbotten, Excalbia

Peter and Gwendolyn had just finished being introduced to the local police and military officials gathered in Mayor Sondersen’s office when the prince’s mobile phone rang. He pulled it out of his jacket pocket and checked the number; it was Sweyn Castle.

“Excuse me, your Highness, gentlemen,” he said with a nod. He turned away from the group and answered the phone. “Yes?” He listened and nodded. “Yes. She is right here. Yes, just a moment.”

Peter turned back to Gwendolyn. He leaned towards her and whispered in her ear. “The royal palace in Tarana is calling; Owain is looking for you. I asked the Castle to patch us through to Tarana.” Peter handed the phone to Gwendolyn.
01-06-2006, 11:33
Kuldiga Palace, Excalbia

Lord Johannes and Lady Jessica stood nearly shoulder on a plush blue carpet running the length of the marble-tiled hallway leading away from the Emperor's suite. They were both listening intently to the Emperor's personal physician, who stood with his hands shoved deep into the pockets of the white coat he wore over top his suit.

"His Imperial Majesty is growing quite restless; he's insisting on seeing someone who can tell him what's been happening during his coma." The doctor looked down. "While it's against my better judgment, I see no other option than to let you see the Emperor and give him the information he's asking for." The doctor looked up expectantly at Lord Johannes.

"I certainly don't wish to imperil His Majesty's recovery, Doctor," the Chamberlain said.

"Of course," the doctor nodded. "But, this may be the best way to get the Emperor to calm down and rest. I'll stand by and monitor his condition while you talk."

Lord Johannes nodded and followed the physician to the Emperor's room.

The room, which had been a baroque bed chamber, was filled with medical machinery. David IV lay in a hospital bed, looking thinner and smaller than he had, with several days' growth of blonde and beard about his face. He turned as the doctor and Lord Johannes entered and his eyes widened slightly.

"J…jo..Johannes," the Emperor whispered hoarsely as he raised a thin hand.

"Yes, your Majesty, Lord Johannes said taking the offered hand somewhat uncomfortably.

"Wh…what has… happe…"

"You've been in a coma several months, your Majesty." Lord Johannes' voice quaked slightly as he spoke. "The Senate named Her Imperial Highness, Princess Christiana, Regent…"

The Emperor's eyes widened slightly. "Wh…wh..yy? Jo..Joseph?"

The Chamberlain lowered his head. "It seems some in the Senate felt they could manipulate Her Highness into taking the Sword in your place…"

The Emperor grimaced and the doctor frowned as he looked at the heart monitors. The physician started to turn to Lord Johannes to cut short the briefing, but the Emperor closed his eyes and after a moment the readings returned to normal.

"However," Lord Johannes continued, "when Prince Joseph and Prince Peter realized the threat and approached Princess Christiana, together with Princess Anna and Grand Duchess Gwendolyn, Princess Christiana agreed to step aside in favour of Prince Joseph."

The Emperor nodded. "Jo… Joseph is… Regent, now?"

Lord Johannes swallowed. "It is rather confused, your Majesty. This morning, Lady Jessica and I learned that a Senate committee was voting to consider removing you due to incapacity…"

Again the heart monitors began to fluctuate, but again the Emperor closed his eyes and seemed to bring them back to normal.

"…and name a new Emperor," the Chamberlain continued. "We also learned Lord Jacob planned to dismiss the Senate, in your name, to prevent the vote. So, Lady Jessica resigned, causing the Senate to adjourn. So as to avoid a worse crisis."

The Emperor nodded. Lord Johannes looked to the doctor. There was more to tell, but the shake of the physician's head signaled the Chamberlain that he should stop for the moment.

David IV pulled gently on his Chamberlain's hand and Lord Johannes leaned closer.

"I… know there… is… more. OK." The Emperor nodded again. "But Jo... Joseph… ," the Emperor's eyes fluttered, "decree… Regent…"

Lord Johannes nodded. "You desire to issue a decree naming Prince Joseph Regent, your Majesty?"

David IV nodded, then laid his head back on the pillow.

"I shall prepare it immediately, your Majesty."

The Citadel, Citadel Excalbia

Senator Sterling Wentworth was literally shaking in his shoes as he was led into the Great Hall of the ancient Citadel. Across the polished wooden floor stood a raised dais on which sat two thrones. Above the thrones hung the Imperial Standard and the Excalbian flag. Portraits of Alsgood, the Great and Joshua, the Great flanked the banners. Two galleries ran along either side of the hall beneath its vaulted ceiling. From the galleries hung shields, sword and banners – some still stained with ancient blood- and the portraits. Brooding portraits of fierce kings and warrior queens.

Wentworth had only been to the Great Hall twice before – once when he was first appointed Minister of Education by David IV and once for a state dinner. He was, he knew, not one of the top leaders of the Liberal Party. Now, however, with Lady Jessica resigned and Davis Robb – Wentworth shuddered at the memory of hearing the distant echo of gunshots in the Senate as he milled about after the adjournment – dead, he and Jamie Yoth were the senior surviving members of the party.

Along with the leaders of the other parties, Wentworth and Yoth, the Minister of Justice, were led to the centre of the hall. As he looked about at the others, he saw great sadness on the faces of Sir Albert Cummings, the Minister of State and Christian Union leader, and Senate Speaker Sir Harrison Grasis, the leader of the Freedom Party. Lady Gwyneth Hapsgaard, the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, was inscrutable. Marcella Gambino, the Treasury Minister and leader of the Reform Party, looked angry, as did the Reform Party's floor leader Clinton Howe. Jamie Yoth, Wentworth noted, looked pale – almost frightened.

After a few moments, Wentworth heard the click of boots against the wooden floor. He turned and saw Prince Joseph surrounded by troop of Imperial Marines in full combat gear approaching from a side door. At a little distance from the Senators the Marines stopped and the prince approached on his own.

The Senators all bowed with differing degrees of deference and nervousness. The prince nodded.

"Thank you all for coming," Prince Joseph said. "I need to see Senators Gambino, Yoth and Howe privately for just a moment."

The anger in Gambino's face grew, while Howe's anger seemed to bleed into a look of fear matching that on Yoth's face. Nevertheless, the three Senator followed the prince to a small area beneath one of the galleries.

Out of earshot of the other Senators, Joseph turned on Gambino, Yoth and Howe, his eyes blazing and his mouth twisted into something approaching a snarl. The prince pulled a folded sheet of paper out of the pocket of his deep blue Imperial Army uniform. He opened it and held it out to the three Senators.

"Rev. Donnelly gave this to me just a little while ago," he said in short, clipped bursts. "It details how the three of you – and a handful of other Senators behind the move to make my Aunt Regent and this morning's move to oust my Father - have been holding clandestine meetings with Lord James Reynolds and Lady Jane Perkone. The same two individuals who have been also meeting with Baron Alexander Skrastins and Baron Jekob Perkonis, who are the forces behind this idiotic revival of the Council of Lords and its attempt to install my cousin, Prince Jeremiah, as an usurper."

"There is nothing illegal about meeting with Lord James. Or Lady Jane. Nor is there anything illegal about the Senate's actions," Marcella Gambino practically spat her words at the prince.

"Maybe or maybe not," Joseph said coldly. "However, I have discussed this with the Solicitor General," Yoth frowned at the mention of his nominal subordinate, "and he is of the opinion that this is sufficient to arrest you – all of you involved in this – on suspicion of treason and plotting the usurpation of the Sword." Joseph stepped towards Gambino. "That would destroy your party." He turned to Howe. "And yours. Not to mention that it would end your political careers, even if you were acquitted."

Prince Joseph folded the paper and returned it to his pocket, even as he continued to stand face-to-face with Gambino. "And if you refuse to do exactly as I say, I will order those Marines to arrest you and take to the stockade. And I will go on TV and tell the Excalbian people that you are traitors and supporters of an usurper."

Joseph took a step back and straightened his jacket. "However, I think the nation has suffered enough for one day and I am loathe to inflict more ill news on the people," he turned to face Yoth, "or heap discredit on the memory of Davis Robb, who was a good man, even if I disagreed with him." He took a breath. "So, I give you a chance…"

"What do you wish us to do, your Highness?" Howe asked, his voice sounding weak.

"You will support me when I go out there to win the support of the other Senate leaders. Then, you will go on TV with me and reassure the Excalbian people that the Senate and Sword stand together…"

"You do not have the Sword," Gambino said bitterly. "An unrecognized decree from a resigned Regent…"

"My Father," Joseph said with a smile, "is awake. He is signing a decree as we speak."

Gambino's face dropped.

"I can certainly do all that, your Highness," Howe said eagerly.

Joseph's smile took on a rather nasty character. "Then, when it is time to form a new government, you – all of you on the list – will take yourselves out of consideration for any cabinet appointments and you will renounce your party leadership positions; others, untainted by this mess, will take your place."

Howe's face turned ashen, but he nodded. Yoth also nodded. Bitterly and reluctantly Gambino gave a single nod.

"Very good."
The Resurgent Dream
02-06-2006, 04:18
Norbotten, Excalbia

Gwendolyn frowned slightly and took the telephone that was being offerred to her. "Hello, Your Majesty...We just finished meeting with the local leaders here in Norbotten. Things seemed to have calmed down. The Emperor has recovered as you might have heard...No...No...I don't think that was Her Majesty's first concern..."

Gwendolyn frowned as she listened to the telephone. She was silent for almost two minutes, listening to what Owain was saying on the other end of the line. "I can't talk about that right now. I'm..I'm in a meeting...It is my duty. Your Majesty..."

Gwendolyn started to go slightly pale, her frown deepening. "You do remember when we were....Yes...Yes, I know...I have to go now...Goodbye, Your Majesty." Gwendolyn hung up the telephone and handed it back to Peter with a slightly sharp look.
06-06-2006, 21:18
Norbotten, Excalbia

Peter looked somewhat helplessly at Gwendolyn as she handed him his phone with a rather cross look in her eyes. He could understand her not wanting to take a call in the middle of their meeting, but it was clear to him that her brother was rather desperate to talk to her. Given the circumstances, it had seemed best to him to take the call and reassure the High King.

After the interruption, the meeting went ahead smoothly. Mayor Sondersen made it clear that the atmosphere in the town was quite calm and that he expected no disturbances. Nevertheless, Colonel Tolliver of the local reserve guard recommended keeping the military detachment assigned to High Ridge on station. He also suggested to the Sheriff that local police station men on the road from the chateau to the local airport so that it could be secured quickly in case the Imperial Family needed to depart urgently.

Sheriff Uzemnieks quickly agreed. He suggested that, in case the airport had to be closed due to bad weather, that an alternate departure route be devised and that some of his officers be assigned to increased patrols along the route. The colonel nodded and suggested his reserve troops would join with the regular troops currently at the estate in escorting the Imperial Family, if they needed to make an overland departure.

When the plans were finished, Mayor Sondersen nodded gravely and turned to Peter and Gwendolyn. “Your Highnesses,” he said, “I hope you will find our plans sufficient.”

“Thank you, your Excellency,” Peter began. Before he could finish, the television in the corner, which had been broadcasting a steady stream of muted news, flashed blue, then dissolved into the Imperial crest. “Mayor Sondersen,” Peter said quietly, “could you turn that up for a moment?”

The mayor looked over at the television and fumbled about for the remote control. Once he found it, he turned off the mute.

The Citadel, Citadel Excalbia

With the three Senators most likely to oppose him offering varying degrees of reluctant support and with Senator Ruzhkoskiy, the obstinate leader of the tiny Social Welfare Party, absent, Prince Joseph had little trouble convincing the Senate leaders of the need to show their public support for the new Regent.

As soon as the Senators agreed, a camera crew was ushered into the Great Hall of the medieval Citadel. In minutes, the lights and camera were in place. Joseph, in his dark blue Imperial Army uniform, was placed in front of the twin thrones. Sir Albert Cummings, the now-Acting Chancellor, was placed on his right and Sir Harrison Grasis, the Speaker of the Senate, on his left. The other Senators were placed behind the Joseph.

Taking in a deep breath, Joseph waited and watched the director as he crouched beside the camera and counted down four. On the count of one, he pointed to the Crown Prince.

Across the Empire, all the television networks interrupted regular program and flashed the Imperial crest against a blue background. The crest faded and was replaced by the image of Prince Joseph surrounded by the Senate leadership.

“My fellow Excalbians,” Joseph said, looking earnestly into the camera, “today has seen both great joy and terrible sorrows. Earlier today, my Father – our Emperor – awoke from his coma. He is weak, but in good condition. Nevertheless, in order to ensure the continuity of our government during his recovery, the Emperor has issued a decree naming me as Regent.

“During the Emperor’s long illness, there have been differences of opinion over how to best manage the situation. Unfortunately, we have learned through this process that there is a gap in our Constitution and that we lack clear procedures for dealing with these circumstances. However, through out the entire time of the Emperor’s illness, all the parties involved – the Senate, the Imperial Household and the Imperial Family – despite their differences, consistently acted out of a sincere desire to promote the best interests of the nation and the people. And here today, I publicly commend the Senate, Lady Jessica and my Aunt – Princess Christiana – for their service to the nation during the crisis.

“Unfortunately, before the Emperor awoke, two members of the Imperial Household Agency – Lord Jacob Bergmanis, the former Lord Sheriff, and Major General Maris Jansons, the Captain of the Imperial Guard – gave into their own anxieties and misgivings and – unreasonably fearing rash actions on the part of Senate – conspired together to illegally dismiss the Senate.

“Upon learning of their plans, Lady Jessica – our Chancellor – tendered her resignation so as to force the Senate into adjourning in an effort to avoid a confrontation. At the same time, I immediately returned to the capital and ordered the arrests of Lord Jacob and General Jansons. While Lord Jacob surrendered without incident, General Jansons decided to turn to the path of violence. He shot and killed Davis Robb, the Minister of Defence, and then turned his gun on himself.

“Today, I join Minister Robb’s family, his colleagues and the nation in mourning this great and heroic man. And Davis did die a hero – when General Jansons drew his weapon, the Minister rushed the madman, intent on disarming him and saving the lives of other.

“Even as we mourn the loss of Minister Robb, we rejoice in the recovery of the Emperor and in the fact that, despite the challenges of this day, we,” the prince gestured to the Senators around him, “have persevered and will continue to persevere. For the good of the nation.

“I have asked the Senate leaders gathered with me here to quickly put together a new government – as broad and as stable as possible. As soon as they present their nominees for a new cabinet, I will name a new government and call the Senate back into session. And once the Senate is back in session, I will call upon the Senate to amend the Constitution to clearly define how we shall handle any future incapacity on the part of the sovereign and prevent any future crises.”

Joseph nodded. “Good afternoon. God save the Emperor. And God save Excalbia.”
The Resurgent Dream
06-06-2006, 22:40
Norbotten, Excalbia

Gwendolyn lightly placed her hand on Peter's for a moment, giving him a small smile. Anytime she seemed unhappy, even when she wasn't really, it always seemed to upset him which then made her feel bad about the whole thing. It was sweet.

She listened with Peter to the words of the local leaders before following the others in turning her gaze to the television. She couldn't help but grin at Joseph's words. Finally, this nightmare was over. "It seems as though order was restored. It's certainly good that it happened before anyone tried anything even more rash than they did."

It wasn't until they had departed the building that Gwendolyn spoke to her husband about the phone call. "My brother really needs to understand that, as Princess of Kuldiga, I don't answer to him. My duty is with you."

She shook her head angrily. "Sometimes he can be so insufferably arrogant. He's High King of the Resurgent Dream, not the world. I'm sorry. It was just...I don't know..."
07-06-2006, 13:51
Sweyn Castle, Citadel Excalbia

Prince Joseph leaned back delicately in the chair behind his father's desk; he was still quite uncomfortable sitting in the Emperor's office. He folded his hands and looked at his advisors. "Where do we stand?"

"Your Highness," Lord Admiral Derek Kunle said, tugging on the sleeve of his white uniform jacket, "Imperial Marine officers are on station at all Imperial Guard barracks; they report that the Guard is fully and firmly under your control. Imperial Army forces are currently occupying the baronial estate in Tervates. While the barons of Skrastins and Perkonis have fled with Prince Jeremiah, the remainder of the barons are in the temporary custody of the Army. Our commander on the scene reports no resistance and…" The admiral paused and looked down for a moment before returning his gaze to the Regent. "And, your Highness, he is requesting that they be relieved and that the matter be turned over to civil authorities. And," again Lord Derek paused, "frankly, your Highness, I support his request; I am very… uncomfortable having the military engaged in operations on Excalbian soil…"

"I agree," Joseph said nodding. He turned to Sir Quentin Dahlbeck, who as Solicitor General had become the de facto acting Minister of Justice. "Sir Quentin, what do you recommend?"

The Solicitor General rubbed his round chin and leaned back in his chair. "The Imperial Prosecutor for the Tervates Barony is already on the scene. However, I am sending one of my deputy solicitors general to take charge of the case; I see too great a risk of local bias if we rely on local officials to handle a case that may involve the local baron." Sir Quentin shook his head. "As for the police, I would recommend keeping the local police at arm's length, your Highness; after all, they are likely the ones who alerted Skrastins and Perkonis that troops were on their way. Now, we could send agents from the Bureau of Investigations. They, however, would need some manpower – uniformed manpower – support. Perhaps a reserve military police detachment could be activated and placed under IBI's command?"

The prince nodded and turned to Lord Derek. "My Lord?"

"Absolutely, your Highness," he said, sounding relieved. "There is a unit based in Landing – the unit is mostly comprised of police officers – that could be activated within a matter of hours."

"Good," Joseph said. Then, turning back to Sir Quentin, he asked, "Any preliminary reports from the prosecutor?"

Sir Quentin smiled. "It seems Baron Tervates is being most cooperative; he has implicated Skrastins, Perkonis, Lord James Reynolds and his own advisor, Thomas Baker. Of course Baron Janis Tagaarth is cooperating…"

The prince leaned forward. "Good. And I would like to keep Baron Janis clear of any suggestion of wrong-doing…"

"Your Highness?" Sir Quentin blinked and leaned forward.

"Yes, Sir Quentin, I fear that if he is… implicated, it could… erode the reputation of his mother, the Cha… er former chancellor, or even that of Her Highness, Princess Christiana…"

Sir Quentin swallowed and nodded slowly. "I understand, your Highness…"

"Good. Anything else of note from the investigation?"

"Yes," Sir Quentin's smile returned, "Skrastins' wife," he looked down at his notes, "Baroness Celeste de Frankopolis-Skrastina, originally from Pantocratoria is providing some very useful information…"

Joseph furrowed his brow. He recalled the baroness' name from Peter's scandalous stay with Prince Andreus in New Constantinople; her presence in Excalbia had, for a time, been something of an embarrassment to Peter. "Why would she betray Skrastins?"

Sir Quentin waved his hand. "It seems she is represented by a young attorney, who just happened to be there as part of her husband's staff. This attorney has been hinting that she plans to use this scandal and Skrastins' flight as grounds for a divorce and for seeking his title and estate…"

"His estate would be one thing," Lord Alfred Landis, the Imperial Steward, interjected, "but how could she hope to keep his title?"

Sir Quentin smiled. "It seems she is with child, and is expecting to pass the title to the child…"

Joseph wrinkled his nose and waved as if trying to scatter a foul odor. "Her motives are her own, I suppose. However, speaking of flight, have we had any success in tracking our fleeing traitors?"

Lord Derek stirred in his seat. "We believe they are headed for the northeastern border with Trondgard, your Highness."

Norbotten, Excalbia

As Peter and Gwendolyn left the town hall, he took her hand and smiled. "Hopefully, we can start getting back to normal," he said.

His smile faded a bit as he sensed Gwendolyn had something to say. He stopped just before getting into the waiting car and turned towards her.

"My brother really needs to understand that, as Princess of Kuldiga, I don't answer to him. My duty is with you," Gwendolyn said.

She shook her head angrily. "Sometimes he can be so insufferably arrogant. He's High King of the Resurgent Dream, not the world. I'm sorry. It was just...I don't know..."

Peter gently touched the side of Gwendolyn's face. "It's alright, Gwendolyn," he said, "I'm sure he was just worried about you… but I'm sorry that his call troubled you…"

On the Border between Excalbia and the Confederation of Sovereign States

The large SUV plowed its way slowly through deep snow along a narrow, winding path. In places, a precipitous drop fell to valleys on either side of the path. Still, slowly and carefully, the vehicle made its way.

After hours of moving through the mountains at an agonizing pace, the SUV darted through a stand of fir trees and emerged into a fairly level clearing in a high valley amidst the Borodea Mountains. The driver shifted the vehicle into park and the two guards in the front seat poured over a map. Finally, with one holding his finger on a particular spot, they passed the map back to Baron Jekob Perkonis. "Your Excellency," one of the them said, "we believe we're here…"

The baron took the map and studied it. "Yes, yes," he said with a smile, "we've crossed the border." He looked up and around and the clear, cold blue skies. "Gentlemen, welcome to the C.S.S.," he said. "Now, onto to the Northern…"

The baron's word caught in his mouth as he saw a number of men in white uniforms seemingly spring out of nowhere and level automatic weapons at the SUV.

"Drop your weapons and out of the car!" An unfamiliar voice called.

The guards looked back at the baron. "Do it," Perkonis said bitterly.

The guards opened the front door and tossed out their own firearms. Then, with arms raised they and the driver stepped out. Perkonis opened the rear door and climbed out, followed by Baron Alexander Skrastins, Prince Jeremiah and Lord James Reynolds, who had a great deal of difficulty extracting his bulk from the SUV's third seat.

Once everyone was out of the car, a man – obviously a civilian from the way he carried himself, despite being dressed the same as the other men, who were just as obviously soldiers – stepped forward and smiled.

"Lord James," the man said pleasantly.

James Reynolds walked past the blinking barons and prince and held out his hand to the stranger. "Rihards," he same as he shook hands with the man, "good to see you. You are just in time."

"Yes," Rihards Krauklis, Chief of Staff to President Thomas Caine, said with a wry smile, "and you're just where you told us you would be."

"What is going on here!" Perkonis took a step forward before having a gun pointed directly at his head. His anger dissolved into a look of horror. "Lord James?"

"Welcome to plan B, Baron Jekob," Lord James said, turning to face his countrymen. "This is Rihards Krauklis, President Caine's right hand man."

"Yes," Krauklis said motioning for the Knootian-trained commandos to lower their weapons, "and we're pleased to receive you here in the Confederation. And to offer you political asylum. Let me assure you, you are being received as… guests of the government. And of the Order."

Prince Jeremiah's face turned pale and Skrastins wobbled, before steadying himself against the SUV.

With a look from Krauklis, the guards and driver were taken into custody and led to a nearby vehicle that had just emerged from the tree line. Two soldiers climbed into the front seat of the SUV and another walked back and held the passenger door.

"Please, get back in and we'll discuss this further at a nearby estate owned by John Hayes."

Jeremiah, Skrastins and Perkonis climbed back into the SUV as Lord James walked away with Krauklis.
07-06-2006, 21:00
Imperial Senate, Citadel Excalbia

Sir Harrison Grasis sat behind his large, ornate desk swirling his glass as he listened to his fellow senators bicker. Finally, he set his glass down and turned to face the senators who filled his office. “Please,” he said, sounding both tired and angry at the same time, “rehashing the past is getting us nowhere. We are where we are and what has happened has happened and cannot be undone.”

He waved a shaking hand towards Marcello Gambino. “No thanks to you,” he said in a loud, high voice, “or me,” he added softly, “we have managed to end this day without a ripping the Constitution to shreds or seeing the Empire descend into civil war. But don’t take our reprieve as forgiveness; if Prince Joseph doesn’t already know exactly what members of this institution intended to do with regard to his father and the balance of power between the Senate and the Sword, he soon will.”

Sir Harrison picked up his glass and drank deeply. With his glass still in his hand, he continued, “My apologies to Sir Albert and Lady Gwyneth and those our colleagues who did not know that some of us hoped to use the Emperor’s illness to diminish the Sword and elevate the Senate; our motives were good and our hearts were loyal, but we have to admit we did our share to help bring us to this day.”

The Speaker waved his hand. “But that is all now beside the point. Blood has been shed in these very halls! Ambitious and greedy men have, with knowledge of our agenda, have plotted to use us… use this institution… to help them place the Sword in the hands of an usurper!”

Sir Harrison stood and lifted his glass towards a rather small, framed portrait of David IV. “But thank God the Emperor is awake and recovering. God save the Emperor!”

Sir Albert Cummings, nominally the acting chancellor, stood looking a bit confused, and echoed, “God save the Emperor.”

Lady Gwyneth Hapsgaard, the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, looking somewhat angry and disgusted, led the other senators in joining Sir Albert on his feet.

After the toast, Sir Harrison returned to his seat. “So, my fellows, I suggest we stop feeling sorry for ourselves and get down to the business of forming a government that can work with Sword and begin restoring the dignity and stability of our nation.”

Lady Gwyneth looked about the room with a frown. “Though I must say I am shocked to learn that members of His Majesty’s Government and my fellow senators would conspire as Sir Harrison suggests, I do agree that the most important thing is to select a new government and form a new coalition.”

“Hear, hear,” Sir Albert said. Then, with a chuckle, he added, “I already weary of being chancellor.”

“You mean you don’t wish to be considered to form the new government,” Sir Harrison said with disbelief, “I thought you would be the logical choice…”

Sir Albert shook his head. “No, no. I find it hard enough being diplomatic enough to be Minister of State, when I’m being diplomatic to foreigners. There’s no way I could be diplomatic enough with the likes of my fellow senators to be chancellor.”

A few chuckles around the room seemed to lighten the mood.

“What of the Liberal Party?” Sir Albert turned to Jamie Yoth. “Shouldn’t you have a chance to continue the current coalition?”

Yoth shook his head, his face pale as he remembered Prince Joseph’s words. “Perhaps, but I’m not the man for the job. And I think we need a broader coalition.”

“I agree,” chimed in Stephen Ogabe, the former Liberal Party Technology Minister.

“So, who do we choose?” Reform Senator Frank Moring looked around the room. “There are some serious divisions between us and if we hope to bring all of us into a national unity government, as I think we should, we will need someone who can rise above the divides.”

“A change of tune, Frank?” Senator Amanda Payne looked at her committee chairman bitterly. “This morning…”

Moring looked askance at the young senator. “This morning, we had an Emperor in a coma and government concealing that fact; I was doing by duty to the people. And now, I still am. What were you doing, Senator Payne?”

“Enough,” Sir Harrison said. “We need, as Senator Moring observed, someone who can rise above our divisions. I suggest we go back to question of who…”

Lady Gwyneth smiled. “I have the perfect candidate,” she said.

“Who, my Lady?” Sir Albert asked.

“Lord Yornis Halton. He agreed to take a seat in the Senate only because Lady Christina Freedman asked him to replace Lord John Thorne as Defence Minister after his death. And he joined the Progressive Conservatives more out of… respect than ideology. He knows all of us and we know him…”

“And he has no desire to be chancellor,” Sir Harrison said.

“Yes,” Sir Albert added, “but he has the capability…”

There was a long moment of silence, then Sir Harrison stood. “Lady Gwyneth, would you mind calling Lord Yornis and give him the bad news that he is about to become the Imperial Chancellor.”

(OOC: For press reaction to these events, please check out the new Excalbian news thread:
15-06-2006, 12:09
The One-Day Crisis, as it was dubbed by the press, ended with an uneasy peace hanging over the nation. The days that followed seemed to pass in rapid succession. The following morning, Lord Yornis Halton had traveled to Sweyn Castle with Lady Gwyneth Hapsgaard, Sir Albert Cummings, Sterling Wentworth, Sir Harrison Grasis and Frank Moring to inform the Prince Regent that a national unity government had been formed and that Lord Yornis had been chosen by the Senate leadership to head the cabinet as chancellor. Prince Joseph had endorsed Lord Yornis as chancellor, giving him an Imperial commission to form the new government. The prince had also given Sir Harrison an Imperial decree calling the Senate back into session within 72 hours. That afternoon, the Reform Party withdrew from the new coalition, leading several of its members – including Frank Moring – to resign from the party and to remain in the coalition as independents. Several Liberals likewise resigned from their party to join the opposition as independents. At the end of the day, however, it was clear that the Liberals would remain the largest faction in the Senate and that the coalition would retain an overwhelming majority.

Early the next day, media pundits began predicting the collapse of the national unity government calling it "too ideologically diverse" and full of too many "personal divisions." The Prince Regent met the rest of the Imperial family at the Imperial Naval Air Station, he was reportedly very happy to see his wife and daughter, and accompanied them to Kuldiga Palace, where each had a brief opportunity to see the Emperor.

That evening, Rev. Jacob Donnelly and Sir Quentin Dahlbeck traveled to Kuldiga to inform the Prince that it seemed Baron Perkonis, Baron Skrastins, Prince Jeremiah, Lord James Reynolds and Lady Jane Perkone had all managed to escape across the borders into the Confederation. Rev. Donnelly reported that communications intercepts indicated that Perkonis, Skrastins and the usurper had been met by the Confederation's new paramilitary Presidential Security Service on the borders. Since then, there had been sightings of Lord James in Jefferson entering a building believed to be a safehouse used by both the PSS and Knootian intelligence, but no sign of the others.

On the third day, Prince Joseph led the Imperial family to the National Ecumenical Cathedral for the state funeral of Davis Robb. Before the public ceremony, the Prince had received Robb's widow privately. In the meeting he posthumously bestowed a knighthood and lordship upon Robb and awarded him the Excalbia Cross for Bravery. The funeral itself was a moving ceremony full of ritual. Robb's flag draped coffin was carried into the cathedral by a military honour guard as a lone piper played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. As was the custom for those who perished while earning the Excalbia Cross, a soldier preceded the coffin carrying an upturned shield upon which lay the Cross and its blue silk ribbon. The pastor of the local Methodist church, where the Robbs occasionally worshiped, met the coffin at the altar and led the ecumenical service. Surprisingly, among the clergy taking part in the service was the Rev. James Earl Luckett, the former conservative Christian Union leader and former Minister of Home Affairs who had long been one of Robb's political adversaries.

The Senate reconvened on the fourth day, giving the nation its first look at the new coalition government. At the same time, the Prince Regent was in the midst of a purge of the powerful Imperial Household Agency and a search for new court officials. Even as the nation began to go back to business as usual, many questions remained in the minds of most of the people – and many of their leaders...