NationStates Jolt Archive

Ebony and Ivory, living together in Harmony... (Closed)

04-02-2006, 06:29
Lord-Emperor Cassander Drakharn went through each day in a set pattern. At 7:00 sharp, his alarm woke him. From 7:30-8:30 he received intelligence reports, both internal and external. At 8:30 he sat down and had breakfast (chosen from a menu including most meals in the known universe), while ArchChancellor Nicholas d'Arquis briefed him on Cabinet and Imperial business, a tedious neccessity that neither party particularly enjoyed (especially not the ArchChancellor, a natural late-riser).

At 9:15 he went to the balcony to oversee the flag-rasing ceremony, and accepted the pledge of loyalty from the Imperial Household Legion. From 9:20 to 12:35, he dealt with paperwork and led Cabinet, breaking only for a brief lunch. The remainder of the day, until 18:00, was left open. Cassander traditionally spent at least part of that time holding Open Court, where the various people who wished to bring matters to his attention were listened to politely, then fobbed off on the minister responsible.

Then it was more paperwork until 23:00, when he returned to his bed and allowed the sylph-spray to help him sleep without unfortunate recollections. Rain or shine, civil disturbance or parades in his honour, his routine varied very little.

"So why, in the name of all things holy, has he dragged me to this backwater at this ungodly hour?!" ArchChancellor Nicholas demanded of his Ministers. A perennially nervous man, it was rumoured in court that Cassander had chosen him to be ArchChancellor in order to make certain that there could be no coup.

No one was going to lead a revolt to replace Cassander with Nicholas. The Treasurer rose his hand. "Maybe he's here because of the recent troubles with the Harmonist Tribes." Leopold Delorean sneered as the other ministers flinched. "Oh, come on! Surely none of you believe in the childish things people say about those worthless throwbacks."

Edmund Hyazinth, Minister of Defence, shrugged his broad shoulders. His large, meaty hand wrapped around a thick mug of mead. He rose the drink to his lips and swallowed it all in one gulp. Only the slight frown on his lips showed his opinion of Leopold's statement.

"I led a punitive raid," Victor Smith broke in, rubbing his Security Force badge for a moment, "against them 40 years ago. They're strange people, Leo. Even a bow and arrow is a deadly weapon in the hands of someone who knows how to use it."

'X', the Director of Special Intelligence Services, also shrugged. Or at least, that's what it looked like. No one knew who or what X really was. Always dressed in a blue Phase-Cloak, no facial features could be made out in the perpetual darkness of its hood. It always spoke in a harsh whisper, either mechanically created or a part of the disguise was unknown. "They say," 'X' hissed, "that they commune with the spirits of the trees and that they can fly without machines or a phase-cloak. It is my feeling that these attributes are based in fa..."

"Oh, not you too!" Leopold barked, exasperated. "X, you're an educated...whatever you are. Listen to me. Of course they're strange! The 50,000 members of their assorted 'tribes' chose, upon colonisation, to abandon even simple technology and live in harmony with this planet's eco-system, whatever harmony means. We are dealing with a society of lunatics and witches, and the best way to deal with them is to have them trucked out and..."

Nicholas saw the explosion coming and placed a hand on Edmund's shoulder. "Edmund... calm down."

"My ma was a Harmonist, you worthless slog!" Edmund rose to his feet and slammed the table with a fist. "Are you calling my mother a lunatic or a witch, Leopold?" He shoved Nicholas down, sending him flying into the shoulder of Amelia Myst, Minister for Education. Leopold tried to back away, but Edmund leapt on him and pulled him up by his collar. "Are you, rich boy?"

Leopold maintained his sneer. "And I'm sure your family relationship with the Harmonists has nothing to do with the repeated failure of your department to eliminate them."

Edmund pulled him right up and looked him in the eye. "So, now I'm a traitor, am I?"

Inquisitorial Adjutant Marcus Toraloscuni rose to his feet and took Leopold from Edmund's hands. "Sit. Down." The only man in the room who could look Edmund in the eye did so, clenching the white gloves of his uniform.

After a moment of silent struggle, Edmund did slide back into his seat, his expression blank. Marcus nodded, then looked around the room. "The Inquisition has investigated the Harmonists several times for evidence of both witchcraft and taint, and has found both to be no more prevalent amongst the assorted tribes than in broad global society. There is no reason for us to fear them, regardless of how much their lifestyle may offend some of us." He glared at Leopold, whose sneer momentarily faded. "Even the current troubles spring from our interference with them, not the other way around."

Nicholas finally extricated his neck from the beautiful Amelia's hands and hissed threats upon his life. "A-all right. Remember, all of you. The Harmonists remain subjects of His Majesty and deserve to be treated as such." He paused. "Now, let's change subjects. I've never been up here before in my life, and for whatever reason Governor Ellestrea seems very familiar to me. Does anyone have any clue why?"


Cassander's normally expressionless face flashed with surprise. "You're that Alysanndra Ellestrea?" The Emperor said, staring at her. "You look..."

"Different when I'm wearing real clothes? I know." The woman laughed, her bright blue eyes flashing with mirth. She brushed her silver hair away from her face and smiled. "I bet you look different when you aren't wearing personal Imperial Combat Armour."

Cassander frowned. "I wasn't aware Alexander was in the habit of promoting the mascots of tourism campaigns to Governor."

"Oh, don't let that fool you. I've been working for the Imperial Government just as long as you have." Alysanndra smiled again and sat back on the railing of her castle, looking out over the forest. "...I have to say I enjoyed posing in skimpy swimwear and having my picture immortalised as part of a tourism campaign rather less than I enjoy running a territory. Or, at least I did." The elf glared at him. "Then some idiot in the Imperial City decided to start a forestry industry. On Harmonist land."

Cassander's expression grew a litle steely. "I do happen to be Emperor now, Lady Ellestrea."

"And it suits you." She looked him up and down. "But don't expect many people to treat you the same as they treated Alexander."

Cassander's eyes widened. "Why shouldn't I expect that?" He snarled, raising a hand.

Alysanndra looked up at him for a long moment. "Because you aren't a dangerous madman with a tenuous grip on reality." She murmured, softly. "And so people aren't as scared of you, and they're going to obey you because they respect you, not because they're terrified of what will happen to them if they don't."

The elf reached up and pulled his hand down. "And you can threaten me all you want, but we both know the elvish part of you isn't going to let you lash out at me for no reason." Alysanndra smiled.

Cassander reached up to touch his ears, in case they had suddenly developed a point to match hers. " on Novar Ohan did you know I..."

"...real humans tend not to have a subtle glow underneath their skin, Cassander." Alysanndra laughed, almost falling over the railing but catching herself. "Oh, I'm sorry. Emperor Cassander."

Cassander frowned and glanced at his hands, even though they weren't visible through his armour. " ministers haven't realised..."

"Oh, I'm sure they have. People know what it means and accept it." She smiled. "Half-elves have a tendency to put people at their ease. I guess it's an aura or something." Then her face turned a little sad. "At least...they do when they look more human than elf." Alysanndra sighed, her ears drooping for a moment.

Cassander suddenly realised. "You're not glowing."

Alysanndra shook her head slowly. "No, I'm not. That's the only thing that marks me out as what I am, Lord Cassander. Elves generally prefer half-breeds to look more like humans. Some of the more...proud...full-elves sometimes seem to go out of their way to make me feel like a failed elf." She shivered. "And humans want things that aren't human to at least look human."

Alysanndra looked down at her form. "If my body hadn't grabbed Alexander's attention, I would in all-likelihood still be obeying people whose jobs I, by any fair consideration of talent, deserved."

Cassander's face remained impassive. "I'm sure the arrogance and pride also had..." She actually interrupted him!

"Lord Drakharn, you've been Emperor for nearly a year now. And you were ArchChancellor, and Chief of Staff, for nearly 50 years before that. Right?"

"Your grasp of recent history astounds me, Lady Ellestrea."

"I'm glad. In all that time, how often did you hear from the North-Western provinces? It can't have been that often, because until now you didn't even know who was running this quarter of the continent. All you had was a name."

The Emperor glared at her. Sighing, he gave the answer expected of him. " rarely that sometimes I forgot they were part of the Empire." He smiled a malicious little smile. "Of course, including the 15 Harmonist Tribes living here, this province has only...what...60 million people?"

She rose a hand to poke him in the chest, considered his power-armour, and then reached up to poke his nose, showing no sign of embarassment or apology. "Emperor Drakharn, when I first started here this province had a total population of 10 million." The woman spun away from him. "Anyway, we have more important considerations than your desire to 'put me in my place'. Shall we go see what the Harmonists have to say?"

Cassander stared at her for a long moment, seeming unable to decide if her continued existence was truly necessary for an ordered universe. Sighing, he nodded. "All right."

Alysanndra nodded, adjusted her uniform's shoulder pads and cape a little, than leapt over the railing. Cassander rushed forward, shocked. She looked up at him, standing upright and not showing any signs of injury. "Coming?"

Cassander covered his face with his hand. See what the Harmonists want, then kill her.
Where else but Roania ad-campaign, starring Alysanndra Aliria Ellestrea
17-02-2006, 02:50
Even in full Imperial Battle Armour, Cassander was more agile than most Roanians (Roanians being, owing to a virtue of their homeworld’s lower gravity, slightly more agile on average than genestandard humans). Even he, however, was unimpressed with the idea of leaping off the wall of Alysanndra’s palace. “…Wait there, I’ll be out in a minute.”

Alysanndra laughed. “Oh, take your bloody armour off and get down here, Emperor Drakharn!” She twirled on the spot, seeming uncomfortable with remaining motionless. “Or are you worried you can’t do as good a job as I did?”

“Oh, I know I could do better than you.” Cassander shouted back, growing aggravated. “Really, Lady Ellestrea, you don’t seem to have any respect for my station.”

“I, personally, think you’re just a coward.” She stuck her tongue out at him. “Or maybe you’re really as heavy as a terran beneath that armour.”

“Oh, that’s low.” Cassander spat before he deactivated his armour. With a quick glance to make sure no one was watching, the Emperor dropped the metal to the ground and dove over the cliff-face. He twisted and turned as he fell, rolled into a ball, popping back to his feet as he landed. “…Impressed?”

Alysanndra looked him over, grinning. “In more ways than one. If I had known your body was that good to look at, Cassander, I’d have gotten you out of that armour earlier.”

Cassander’s eyes narrowed. “It’s Emperor…”

The woman shook her head. “Cassander? Accept that’s one battle you aren’t going to win. If you have a real problem with it, then I suggest you have me arrested right now. I won’t struggle.” She looked up into his eyes, a little smile playing on her lips as he clenched his fists in frustration. “Something wrong, Sander?” Alysanndra reached up and poked him on the nose.

“All right, Alys.” Cassander hissed, his eyes narrowing to tiny pinpricks of pure anger. “You may call me Sir Drakharn, if you want. You can use any of my other titles besides Emperor, if you honestly feel like you don’t want to call me by the title I, more than anyone else in this nation, deserves.” He began to shake, then he reached out and grabbed her by the shoulder, lifting her up by it. “You may even call me Cassander. I really don’t mind and it’s not something I’m going to waste my time fighting you over it.”

Alysanndra stared up at him, for the first time terrified. “…W-why are you…”

“Just don’t call me Sander.” Cassander hissed, angrily. “Only one man, one person in the history of creation earned that right. He was a better person than you or I could ever hope to be.”

Alysanndra twisted. “You’re hurting me…” She whimpered, trying to pull away.
Cassander snapped out of it, and his mouth fell open slightly. He gently put her down. “I’m sorry, Lady Ellestrea.” He mumbled, flushing. “Just…”

She looked up at him sternly for a moment. Then she stood on the tips of her feet to kiss him on his forehead, almost toppling them both over. “…call me Alys.” The half-elf whispered into the Emperor’s ear. “…and I’m sorry. I didn’t know. And I certainly wouldn’t want to be placed in the same echelon as Emperor Alexand…”

“It wasn’t Alexander.” Cassander said, brusquely. He began to walk into the forest, seeming smaller and weaker than ever before. “…it was his brother.” The Emperor stopped in his tracks for a moment, and looked back at her. “…the best man I’ve ever known, Alysanndra. And I killed him to put him out of my way. Think of that before you next tell yourself how I’m better than Alexander.”

Alysanndra stared back at him for a moment, then she started to walk again, slower than before. Her expression was sad when she passed him. “…Come on, Emperor Drakharn.” She whispered, sounding broken. “…Let’s go see what our friends the harmonists want.”

Cassander stared after her for a moment. “Right. I’m…I’m glad we agree.” He looked at his feet for a moment. “…I’m sorry, Alys. But… I don’t want you to have any unusual ideas about me. You, and everyone else, seems to think that I’m some sort of Messiah.” His words barely reached her. “But I’m not. I’m just a man. And Alexander’s crimes stain my hands almost as much as they did his.”

Alysanndra stopped in her tracks and looked back at him, looking at her feet. “…Do you feel guilt for everything you’ve done, Cassander? Do you accept that you’re just a man? Or are you just saying that in order to make me accept your apology?” She looked into his eyes. Cassander had the uncomfortable feeling that his soul was being read, “Or would you rather not admit it to either of us, but you are just to make me smile again?”

The Emperor opened and closed his mouth once or twice. “…the last, Alys.” He said, smiling at her, a little concernedly.

She did flash a smile at him. “…Then you’re already a better man than you seem to think you are.” She walked back to stand by him. “Let’s go to the Harmonist encampment, shall we?”

“…Alysanndra, would I be correct in presuming that…”

“Yes, Cassander?”

“…never mind.” Cassander shook his head. “Let’s just go.”


When Roania had first been colonised, some of the colonists broke apart from the others to adopt a more primitive lifestyle. While their technocratic counterparts moved to the southern continent to set up the close network of high-tech cities where even now a majority of Roanians lived, they had gone to the major continent to set up low-technology tribes and villages. Even with the spread of Centrist Roanian Society to the other continents, vast stretches of the northern continent remained inhabited solely by the ‘savages’. Communication between the groups was rare, the Harmonists wishing to be left to their chosen lifestyle and the Roanians perfectly happy to let them.

At least, they had been until now. Recently a rich consortium based on the continent of Agua had, through some ‘extra-legal’ dealings with the central government, received permission to begin logging a swathe of the forest in order to corner the market on the recent high culture affectation for wooden lodges. Cassander had first heard of this two months ago, and he had not been too impressed with this evironmental damage.

The slow train of the Imperial Bureaucracy was already moving to retract permission when Harmonists had begun attacking logging villages in retribution for the trees that had been cut down. Now the press, which two months before had been protesting the logging, was demanding it be stepped up and a fresh shipment of settlers moved to the northern continent to ‘show the savages we won’t give in to their demands’.

The Imperial Government had nearly collapsed from the requests and advice piled upon it from all quarters. Cassander had been about to take a leaf from his predescessor’s book and start shooting people when the Harmonists had sent a carrier hawk to him, requesting that he meet with one of their chiefs as between equals.

Grateful for any opportunity to leave the noise of the Imperial City without anyone needing to die, he had packed his bags, dragged some of the more worthless members of his cabinet from their beds, left the Imperial Government in the hands of a caretaker (Foreign Minister Leonard DePlume), and flown off at 2 the next morning.

Everything, then, had been building up to this one moment. The moment when the Emperor of Roania, determined firstly to correct the notion that any ‘chief’ on his planet was his equal, strode with one of his governors into a Harmonist village to find…

“Nothing?” Alysanndra asked a few moments later, without looking up from her novel.

“…not a man, woman, or child.” Cassander looked around the abandoned village. “…you don’t suppose someone attacked and killed them all?”

“I don’t see any signs of a struggle.” She turned a page and giggled at what she read. “…maybe that sign over there is relevant?” She pointed to a piece of wood on which some symbols had been carefully cut.

“…perhaps. What’s it say?”

“Don’t ask me. Maybe one of your ministers will know. Of course, maybe we could also wait a few moments and see if they come back…” Alysanndra looked up to watch him pick the wood up and start walking off. “Or not.”


“I’m sorry, my lord.” ‘X’ shook its head. It was impossible to be sure, but it almost sounded aggravated. “I don’t think these mean anything. They’re probably just marks from someone practicing their knife-work.”

“Or you just don’t know what they mean. It could be that.” Alysanndra helpfully added, sticking her tongue out at the cowl when it turned to face her general direction. ‘X’ gave a sound that might almost have been a grumble, than sank back into its beloved shadows.

Cassander sighed. “Children, please, behave.” The Emperor rubbed his brow. “What about you, Nicholas?”

The ArchChancellor nearly leapt from his chair at being addressed. “What? M-me? Oh, I can’t read Harmonist. But it could be some sort of territory marker?”

“…good work, Nicholas, best suggestion I’ve heard since I got here.” Cassander said. “…Inquisitor!”

Marcus looked up from where he was running through an Inquisitorial Language Database. “…you know, I don’t think we covered Harmonist at the academy, Sire.” The Inquisitor seemed oddly serene in the midst of all the confusion. Then again, it was hard to remember the last time anyone had ever seen him excited over anything. “I’m sure it’s in here, though.”

“Well, how long will it take to find it?”

“Since you can’t tell me the name of the language?” Marcus calculated. “I hope it’s not anything urgent, because we’ll be here for the next three thousand, five hundred and fifty-two years, eight months, two weeks, and three days. Unless we get really lucky. I mean, in the whole galaxy there are five million runic languages alone, and you can’t tell me if these are runes or an alphabet. And then there’s the chance of false positives and…”

“I think that’s enough, Inquisitor.” Alysanndra interrupted, her shoulders shaking a little. She covered her mouth, smiling at Cassander’s vaguely bemused expression.

Marcus looked at the Emperor for confirmation. When Cassander nodded, he turned back to the database. Cassander glanced at Alysanndra. “…Next time you want to tell one of my cabinet members to stop talking, I’d appreciate it if you asked me first.”

Alysanndra stuck her tongue out at him. “But I’m having fun.” She protested, reaching up to poke him in the nose.

“Must you do that?!” He tried to bat her hand away. “Really, you’re acting like a child.”
An argument was only prevented by Edmund snorting himself awake. “Huh? Whaz going on?” The military man sat up and blinked blearily, his expression confused. He saw the wooden tablet. “What’s this *olop-gu*s sign doing here?”

Marcus looked up. “What was that?”

Cassander waved him silent. “Edmund, can you read this?” He demanded.

“I think so. It says…”

The Emperor hurriedly pulled out a pen and pad. “Now we’ll get to the bottom of this mystery…”

“It says, “gone to the lake for mass-cleansing ceremony to prepare for your arrival, Lord-Emperor Cassander Drakharn of the Southlands. We expect to be back in one of your hours. We apologise for any inconvenience. Chieftain Cloud-Of-Smoke of the Orotagan Tribe.”

Cassander’s expression flickered for a moment. Alysanndra’s shoulders started to shake. The Emperor reached across and touched her back. “…I’m sorry we’ll have…”

She started laughing. “I told you we should have waited, Cassander!” Alysanndra collapsed back in her chair, laughing out loud, her entire body shaking.

Cassander stared at her. “You could read this? Why didn’t you say anything?!”

“Oh, you looked…” She giggled uncontrollably. “You looked like you were having so much fun. And I didn’t want to interrupt you.” She looked up at his clouded expression, and frowned a little. The young woman looked away. “…I’m sorry, Cassander.” She reached up to touch his face sadly. “I just thought you would appreciate something to do…”

Cassander took her hand and squeezed it gently. “…You’re very lucky, Alys, that I’d find it difficult to maintain my anger enough to get over my guilt at having you shot.” He smiled at her. Her ears perked up and she smiled back.

“I know I am.” She leaned forward, kissed him on the lips, and rose to her feet. She considered him for a moment, and kissed him again, seeing he was too stunned to stop her. “And you’re lucky I know you like me too much to really mean something like that.” She walked out of the room. “I’ll go have my staff set up transport for us to meet with the Harmonists, Cassander?”

The Emperor blinked in surprise once or twice, and then slowly turned pink. “…I…I guess…I mean…” He coughed. “Yes. Go do that.” He looked around at his cabinet. “What are you all staring at?!” He demanded. “Go make yourselves useful someplace! Nicholas, Edmund, you two will be coming with me.”

“As chaperones, Cassander?” Nicholas winked at Edmund, who stared at the ArchChancellor with an expression akin to dread.

Marcus leaned to the side just as the chair splinted over Nicholas’ head. “Perhaps you should just go do as His Majesty commands, ArchChancellor, before he gets angry.” The Inquisitor said, shutting the database off. Cassander had already stormed off, muttering under his breath the various painful things he planned to do to Alysanndra.

‘X’ made a sound that might almost have been a laugh, then rose to its feet and started for the door. Marcus stood up just as ‘X’ went by and ‘accidentally’ tripped over the base of the phase-cloak, revealing X to be…

A person in a full-face mask that gave no sign whatsoever of what lay beneath it. “Be more careful.” ‘X’ said coolly, pulling its cloak back up around its head and walking off again.

Nicholas glanced at the others. “…well, I’m out of ideas. My money’s still on a man, for the record.” The ArchChancellor sighed. “What a job…”